The boggart workers swarmed out of the dark tunnel and into the abandoned building’s basement. Blacknail stepped forward to try to hold them back, but although he managed to cut two of them down, the rest pushed him back with the weight of their armored bodies.
Behind Blacknail, his minions quickly stepped up to join their leader, and together they formed a combat line that met the boggarts head on. The hob holding the lamp was the only one that fell back, since they all needed that light to see.
Lashing out with his blade, Blacknail mangled a worker and then skewered another. His forces were managing to hold their ground, and this limited the number of boggarts that could swarm out of the tunnel. The creatures were tightly packed though, and they didn’t hesitate to climb over one another as they threw themselves at the hobgoblins. Boggart after boggart was slain, but their attack didn’t relent. Obviously, there was a large number of the creatures in Daggerpoint. Blacknail had expected that, since he’d heard that the creatures had been attacking anyone who tried to hunt or quarantine ghouls in the South. Thus, Blacknail had decided to beat them to the punch and hunt them down first. A boggart managed to lunge forward and bite Blacknail’s ankle. The hobgoblin chieftain suppressed a screech of pain, and violently stomped the creature’s head until its skull shattered. Yes, this was all going according to plan. Mostly.
Suddenly, the mass of boggart workers shivered and moved to make room for two tall warriors. The bigger boggarts had spears held out in front of them as they emerged from the tunnel. Blacknail grimaced. This development wasn’t a surprise, but it was still annoying. The plan would still work.
Remaining behind a rank of its own smaller brethren, who served as shields for him, one of the warriors lashed out at Blacknail with his spear. The hobgoblin was forced to duck under the blow and then kick away a worker that tried to attack him at the same time. He hated when boggarts did this.
Meanwhile, the second warrior used his spear to attack a hobgoblin to Blacknail’s right. The hob tried to block the attack, but it still grazed his shoulder, and he was forced back. This opened a hole in the hobgoblin line, allowing the workers to surge forward.
“That’s far enough, you tiny black beetles,” Blacknail roared in response. He knew he needed to do something now. His minions were in serious danger of being overwhelmed.
So, as the hobgoblin chieftain snarled at his foes, he reached into his core and pulled out as much mana as possible. He then shaped the power into a wave and hurled it at the boggarts before him. The magical power hit the creatures and soaked into their minds, bringing cold terror and mind-numbing fear with it. The boggart horde rippled and faltered.
“I’m going to rip you apart!” Blacknail screamed as he began striking at the mass of enemies before him.
The power of Blacknail’s magic infused blows sent mangled boggarts flying, and as he yelled, he assaulted the boggarts with another wave of magical terror that attacked their minds. This was too much for many of the stocky workers. Their attack stopped as the swarm fell into chaos. Many of them began desperately trying to flee out of the range of Blacknail’s long sword.
As the enemy broke before him, Blacknail grinned madly and pressed his own attack. He kicked one of the last workers directly in front of him out of the way, and then he slashed at the warrior with the spear who’d attacked him before. The warrior blocked the blow, but Blacknail didn’t care. Growling hungrily, he used a burst of strength to push the warrior off-balance and then punched it in the face. There was a crunching sound as Blacknail’s fist impacted the carapace, and the boggart spasmed. Thankfully, the carapace on the creature’s face wasn’t very thick, although the strike had still hurt Blacknail’s hand more than a little. The pain was a minor concern though, and it was barely noticeable through the excitement of battle.
Taking advantage of his foe’s stunned state, Blacknail quickly raised his blade and decapitated the boggart with one swift strike. At the same time, the other hobgoblins rallied and trampled over the workers in their way as they threw themselves at the second warrior. One hobgoblin went down with a spear wound to his arm, but then the warrior was overwhelmed by a flurry of blows from the other hobs.
As the last warrior went down, the workers broke completely. The last few that were still trying to fight turned and fled. Soon, the entire mass of boggarts was fighting itself as all the workers attempted to push their way back into the tunnel all at once. This gave the hobgoblins plenty of opportunity to attack their backs, and dozens of workers were quickly hacked apart. By the time the last living boggart had managed to escape, the floor of the basement was littered with boggart corpses and bits of shattered black carapace. It was a rather satisfying sight.
With his bloodlust slowly fading, Blacknail looked around and then eyed the tunnel. It didn’t seem like there was going to be another attack, and he had no desire to chase the boggarts underground into unfamiliar caves.
“Let’s get out of here,” Blacknail told his minions as he turned and began walking to the stairs. He wanted to see what was going on above.
None of his minion’s objected to that plan, so they all hurried after Blacknail as he exited the decrepit and ruined workshop. The streets outside were much the same as the last time Blacknail had seen them, although there were a few more humans in red around. They were all keeping their distance from the workshop though, which made sense considering the danger the plague posed to them. Blacknail sheathed his weapon and began walking over toward Khita’s position.
“Oh, you’re back? Are you done this time? I’m tired of sitting out here, doing nothing,” Khita said as he approached. The three guards in red beside her were silent. They still seemed nervous.
Blacknail gave the redhead a look. “Then you should have come with me into the building or not come with me to Daggerpoint at all.”
Khita just huffed indignantly, as if Blacknail hadn’t told her the simple truth.
Suddenly, Blacknail felt someone tug his shoulder and yell in his ear. “Get down!”
Surprised, he let himself be dragged down toward the ground by Herah. This probably wasn’t a weird assassination attempt by her. If she was going to kill him like this, she would have done it right after the meeting with Luphera. Around him, several other hobgoblins all ducked at the same time.
This turned out to be the right thing to do, as a blast of swirling energy flew over Blacknail’s head a moment later and then smashed into a building behind him. There was a deafening boom as the magic exploded and then clattering noise as broken stone and brick rained down around the hobgoblins.
Shocked, Blacknail glanced toward the source of the attack, and saw a boggart warrior wielding a glowing staff. It was standing in the entrance to another abandoned building. However, as he watched, it stepped aside, and boggart workers began streaming out of the building.
“Stupid Khita,” Blacknail hissed as he climbed back to his feet. If he’d been hit, it would have been all her fault since she’d been distracting him with her stupidity. Normally, he would have sensed the attack or something.
Unsurprisingly, everyone else was just standing around with stupid looks on their faces and no one seemed to be doing anything about the mob of boggarts that was swiftly building in size, so Blacknail had to. Typical.
“Form up on me! Anyone who misses this fight will be beaten like a drum,” Blacknail yelled as he drew his sword and flourished it up above his head. There were still groups of hobgoblins scattered around the street, and he wanted them at his back.
Hobgoblins quickly began hustling over from various buildings and alleys, but Blacknail knew that many wouldn’t make it in time. From a ramshackle hut over to Blacknail’s left, another wave of boggarts suddenly emerged. These new attackers charged right toward Blacknail and reached him within seconds. A melee quickly broke out as the hobgoblins and humans defended themselves. Soon, the streets were full of chaotic fighting between scattered groups.
Blacknail slashed at several boggart workers that tried to swarm him, but he was forced to jump back as another blast of force zoomed by. The magical attack hit a hobgoblin and a worker that were fighting beside him, sending them both flying. Ouch.
Hissing in frustration, Blacknail eyed the enemy mage. He had been keeping an eye on him, but now he knew the creature needed to be dealt with right away. Blacknail couldn’t fight effectively if he had to worry about incoming magical attacks, and the boggarts could probably afford to keep trading workers for hobgoblins. It seemed like the boggarts had everyone else outnumbered.
Leaving his allies behind, Blacknail immediately broke out into a run as he charged across the street toward the mage. Boggarts moved to intercept him, but he dodged them or kicked them aside with ease. The mage itself tracked Blacknail with the tip of his glowing staff. Apparently, he knew who the greatest threat was.
As a blast of rippling power shot toward him, Blacknail threw himself sideways. He managed to dodge the attack by inches, but the swirling air around the blast knocked him off balance. He staggered for a moment, before recovering and resuming his charge.
A mass of a dozen boggarts formed a line in front of Blacknail, but he didn’t slow. Instead, Blacknail threw a wave of terror inducing mana at them, cut two down, and then pushed straight through the rest. Now, there was nothing between him and the mage.
Caught off guard, the boggart spellcaster hurriedly tried to shoot another force blast at Blacknail, but the hobgoblin was quicker. He grabbed a nearby boggart and tossed it at the mage. The creature squealed as it flew through the air. This surprised the mage, throwing his aim off. His magical blast hit the worker, sending it flying, and then zipped harmlessly past Blacknail.
Sensing sweet victory, Blacknail grinned as he lunged forward and slashed at the mage with a fierce two-handed swing. His blade came down on his opponent’s staff, knocking it aside. A swift follow-up slash then planted Blacknail’s blade in the boggart’s torso. It spasmed and made a gurgling sound as the hobgoblin pulled his blade free, and then it flopped over.
The fight was far from over though. Turning around, Blacknail saw that his minions and the local guards were still fighting a lot of boggart workers. Several tall black warriors had also appeared from somewhere. Growling angrily, Blacknail headed back to help his minions and Khita. He wasn’t too worried about himself, but there were so many enemies that he was probably going to lose a lot of minions before the battle was over. He really hadn’t expected the boggarts to be here in such force. They were supposed to relying on the plague to destroy the city.
Over to Blacknail’s right, a group of a dozen workers ran out of a building. They were headed right for Herah, so Blacknail quickly intercepted them. Charging among them, he hacked and slashed at the black figures until they were forced to stop and deal with him. One jumped at Blacknail, but he reached out and caught it in mid-air, dashed it against the ground, and then stomped on it for good measure. A quick blast of magical fear then sent the survivors of the group skittering back into the shadows.
With the nearby boggarts all fleeing, Blacknail had a clear path to rejoin his minions. They were struggling against a mob of boggarts that outnumbered them two to one, including a single warrior. That didn’t last though. Blacknail hit the back of the boggarts like a charging boar. He screamed as he launched a savage horizontal slash at the warrior’s back. His blade cut down, smashing through carapace and parting the flesh beneath it. The force of the blow knocked the creature over, and the blade continued on, hitting a boggart worker. Pulling his sword back up, Blacknail stepped over the fallen boggarts and rejoined his allies. His presence quickly turned the fight against the boggarts, and more of them began to fall.
There was no shortage of reinforcements for the swarm of black creatures though. Other groups of guardsmen in red went down under mobs of vicious black boggarts, and more were still emerging from the shadows to join the fight. Slowly, the black tide began to push Blacknail and his allies back.
A hobgoblin to Blacknail’s left fell as a boggart landed on his back. Reacting quickly, Balcknail stabbed the creature in the side and tossed its twitching carcass away. He then kicked another worker that tried to gore the fallen hobgoblin, which gave him time to reach down and pull the hobgoblin back to safety, where he could recover. As the fight continued, Blacknail found himself having to focus more and more on protecting his minions as they grew tired from the boggarts' endless assault. This couldn’t last. Soon, they would be overwhelmed, but there was little Blacknail could do but keep fighting. He didn’t have nearly enough mana to use fear magic constantly. His core already felt low on power.
Beside Blacknail, Herah suddenly slipped on some wet boggart blood. As she fell, he caught her and used his arm to block a boggart that tried to bite her face. Herah’s face was one of Blacknail’s favourite parts of her, so he didn’t want it damaged.
The boggart’s fangs pierced Blacknail’s thick leather jacket, but only barely. Growling in anger and pain, Blacknail swung the creature around and used it to smack another boggart out of the air. Herah then put a dagger in the boggart’s eye and it came loose.
That was when a new swarm of boggarts appeared and charged toward the hobgoblins' flank. Blacknail grimaced in frustration. He couldn’t be everywhere. This was going to hurt his minions a lot. In fact, it might be time to consider grabbing his most useful minions and retreating before he got encircled.
Blacknail’s cynical thoughts were interrupted by a fresh bout of yelling from down the street. The voices sounded both very human and quite angry. It also sounded like there were more than few of them. Glancing over that way, Blacknail saw a wave of heavily armed humans charge down the street and slam into the boggarts. Most of the men were wearing the red uniforms of the Governor’s men, but there were more than a few men who looked like generic ruffians and bandits mixed among them.
The massed line of heavily armed humans hit the smaller boggarts hard and immediately began pushing them back and trampling them. The gathered mobs of boggarts that filled the streets hesitated under this new assault. Their own attacks faltered as they tried to adjust and figure out what was happening. Blacknail took advantage of this pause to lunge forward and began cutting down every boggart within striking distance. Half a dozen fell within a few moments, but then the swarm finally reacted. As one, all the boggarts suddenly turned to flee. They scuttled away into the shadows, leaving their backs exposed, but Blacknail let them go. His own troops were exhausted, and in no shape to give chase. Several collapsed the moment it looked like the fighting was over.
The human force that had just arrived spilled past Blacknail and moved to seize control of the streets. Blacknail eyed them warily and had his minions back up against an alley so that they had an escape route, but they weren’t attacked. Blacknail had thought that unlikely, but it was better to be safe when unpredictable humans were involved.
Soon, the Governor and Luphera appeared, and a squad of men escorted them over to Blacknail. Interestingly enough, they both had their own guards. The Governor was surrounded by his soldiers in red, while Luphera was protected by several large men in black, who resembled the other human fighters who joined the battle. It seemed like Luphera had brought her own troops.
“What’s the situation here? I’ve ordered my men to stay away from all the buildings, lest they be exposed to the plague,” the Governor said as he met up with Blacknail, who was hard to miss thanks to his height and horns.
“I was right. There are ghouls and boggarts here,” Blacknail bragged. “I just saved your city.”
The Governor frowned and looked down at one of the nearby boggart worker corpses, of which there was no shortage of. “So, I see.”
“We did just rescue you in turn,” Luphera pointed out, which earned her a nasty glare from Herah.
“Without me and my hobs you’ll all get the plague and die,” Blacknail huffed in reply. He’d been paying close attention to Luphera - her face, not her other more distracting parts, like her huge breasts – and he was certain he knew why she was being so difficult. It was an act.
Luphera sighed over-dramatically and nodded. “That does seem to be true, so let’s get down to business, shall we? We all have a lot to do if we want to save the city.”
“Yes, please tell us exactly what happened here. This situation needs contained,” the Governor added as he followed Luphera’s lead. As the man was talking, Blacknail saw Luphera turn and give him a wink. Yes, she was definitely playing a game here. She’d also noticed that he’d noticed, or something.
Blacknail felt a headache coming on. Human social interactions could be far too complex. Honestly, he wanted to stab someone, because that would simplify everything in a way hobgoblins naturally understood. There was also nothing like the iron scent of blood to clear the mind.
Turning away from Luphera, Blacknail quickly explained the situation to the Governor.
“Well, it does seem like we will require your services if we are to face this new threat,” the Governor admitted after Blacknail had finished speaking.
“Without a doubt,” Luphera agreed solemnly. She then turned to give Blacknail a subtle grin. “It seems like Daggerpoint is going to be undergoing some changes.”
The Governor turned to her, and her poker face instantly reappeared. “So, you will support me if I attempt to uphold the new laws required for our… treaty with Blacknail to work?”
Luphera nodded. “I will, and I’m sure I can convince some of the chiefs to go along.”
Blacknail watched Luphera out of the corner of his eye. It seemed like she wanted Blacknail’s forces in the city for some reason, and she didn’t want the Governor to know that. Well, he was just glad she was his ally, probably. Had her hostile behavior toward Herah also been some sort of manipulation? Ugh, he had no idea. This was why he avoided Luphera, or one of the reasons anyway.
The Governor sighed. “Then, I suppose we shall soon see what fate the gods have in store for us in these dark times.”
“I have a large force of hobgoblins arriving soon,” Blacknail told the humans. “They should be able to hunt down any ghouls that the boggarts create and fight off any more boggart attacks as long as you support them. They will need food and probably some money too.”
“This alliance is sounding more and more like an occupation,” the Governor muttered to himself.
“I’m sure we can afford to pay these forces a basic amount for their services,” Luphera reassured the man. “I’m sure they won’t demand much.
“What about you?” Luphera asked Blacknail. “How long will you be staying?”
“Not long. I’m very important and I’m needed elsewhere,” he answered.
“Oh, then who will be leading the troops you leave behind?”
“One of my smartest hobgoblins, and he will have several human helpers.”
Luphera grinned eagerly. “I can’t wait to meet them.”
Blacknail frowned. Hmmm…