“Gods! What in all the hells…” the man whispered as his eyes went wide with shock.
Blacknail flashed the man a toothy smile, and then stabbed him in the face with his knife.
Fang screamed as the blade sliced down his cheek. He clutched his face and tried to pull back away from the bed. Blacknail didn’t let him; he grabbed the man’s hair and pulled him down.
Blacknail had forgotten Fang was a Slosher though, and very strong. The entire bed flipped as the man pulled the hobgoblin out from under it and into the air. The violent motion wrenched Blacknail’s arm, and he hissed in pain as his shoulder made an unpleasant grinding noise. This wasn’t going the way he’d planned.
The hobgoblin swung through the air, as Fang roared in pain. Blacknail tried to right himself using his feet, but just ended up kicking Fang in the face several times. The large man snarled viciously and tried to reach over and grab Blacknail’s neck with one hand. The hobgoblin let him, and then he stabbed the man again. Stabbing things seemed to solve most of his problems.
His knife gouged into Fang’s shoulder and nicked his neck. The bandit chief roared in pain again and threw Blacknail across the room. Blood from Fang’s wounds flew through the air, as the hobgoblin smashed into a wall and then slid to the floor. Ow, why did humans have to be so big and strong?
“Gods! What the fuck are you, a demon? Have the hells opened up for me?” Fang cursed as he staggered and tried to stand straight.
Blood poured from the cut on his neck. He was clutching it tightly with his hands, but that barely slowed the crimson flow. That was bad for him, but good for Blacknail.
Blacknail didn’t feel much better though. Every bone in his body hurt and the impact with the wall had knocked the air from him, explosively. The first rule of a challenge was not to show weakness though.
“Yes, I’m a demon! Tonight-ss you die,” Blacknail hissed dramatically in his scariest voice, which was actually just his normal voice.
The hobgoblin pulled himself up off the ground. He was unsteady on his feet and wobbled a little, but he managed to start walking over to his target.
“Fuck you!” the man cursed in reply.
Fang was injured and in his underwear, but he was still a Slosher. He looked around the room for something to use as a weapon. There was a vase on top of a nearby stand, so the man grabbed it and then threw it at his attacker.
Blacknail slid out of the way of the porcelain projectile and continued to close the distance. Fang then picked up the wooden stand itself and hurled that. This time one of its legs nicked Blacknail’s shoulder. He stumbled slightly and winced. There was no real damage though, beyond another bruise.
Fang took this time though to reach down with his one free hand and grab his pants from off the floor. Blacknail grinned with savage amusement. What was he planning to do with those?
His smile slipped though when the man managed to fumble through the trousers and pull out a small dagger. Blacknail would have been more concerned, but Fang’s eyes were starting to look unfocused and he’d grown very pale.
Still, it was better not to take any risks. Blacknail tucked his own knife away and drew his sword instead.
Fang grimaced in anger and frustration as the hobgoblin approached. Blacknail raised his sword and then slashed down at the man. Fang raised an arm defensively and tried to block with his dagger, but Blacknail was too fast for him.
The sword cut into the man’s arm, and then Blackanil kicked him in the knee. There was a crunching noise as Fang collapsed onto his side. He shrieked in pain, and blood sprayed from his arm. The hobgoblin didn’t give him time to recover. He mercilessly began hacking and slashing at the fallen man until Fang’s struggling stopped, and he went limp.
Blacknail only stopped when the gory mess at his feet was clearly a corpse. Then, he lined the blade up just right… and cut the man’s head off. Then, he tried again because it didn’t quite come off right the first time.
When the head was completely severed Blacknail gave it a brief shake to get some of the blood out, and then he wrapped it in a sheet from the bed. He was interrupted from his work by the rather loud sound of the door at the top of the stairs exploding inwards. Almost immediately, he then heard the sound of hurried footsteps.
“Horse reek,” Blacknail swore, as he stuffed his grisly trophy into his backpack.
The hobgoblin pulled his hood up and sheathed his sword. He knew he only had seconds before he would be mobbed by a horde of very large and very angry humans, so he dashed towards the nearest window. He had no idea what was outside of it, but it had to be better for his health than staying there would be.
It had gotten dark out while Blacknail had been napping. The hobgoblin grabbed the window frame and used it to swing around. Luckily for him, the exterior wall had a ridge he could grab. He used that to pull himself out of sight of anyone inside, and then he began scrambling down the side of the building.
Below him was one of the grimy alleys that lay beside the tavern. There didn’t seem to be anyone there at the moment, but Blacknail could hear swearing and yelling from the room he had just left. He was willing to bet people would soon pour out of Fang’s lair and flood the streets.
The climb down wasn’t easy or fast, even for the hobgoblin. He couldn’t go straight down because parts of the wall were too smooth to grip. Instead, he had to carefully feel his way around and scramble sideways to find footholds as he descended feet first. He disliked how long this was taking; he didn’t have a lot to spare.
The first story of the building was smaller than the others and recessed, so Blacknail had to jump down. His injured shoulder flared with pain as he landed on the ground. The hobgoblin just grunted and began running away as fast as he could.
He could hear humans all around him, several of which seemed dangerously close by, so he dashed into a nearby alley that sounded empty.
Behind him all the windows of Fang’s lair started glowing brightly one by one as his men woke up and tried to respond to the turmoil around them. Angry shouts and cries of alarm began to fill the air.
As Blacknail desperately tried to flee through the now dark city streets he hissed in pain. His pace slowed as his ankle began to hurt. He tried to fight past the pain, but his foot also felt weaker and unsteady when he put weight on it.
He lurched sideways and limped into a small alley, as he heard a group of humans approach from ahead. The tight pathway was free of debris or clutter. This made traversing it easier but it also meant there was nothing to hide behind, and that mattered. The sound of footsteps echoed behind Blacknail as a mob of humans hurried his way.
There was no way the hobgoblin could outrun them, so he looked around for anything that would help him escape or hide. There was nothing on the ground, so he looked higher up. He hissed in annoyance as he noticed the large overhangs on the low roofs that bordered the alley. There was no way he could quickly get over them and onto the rooftops.
The sound of pursuit grew closer, and as Blacknail began to panic an idea suddenly occurred to him. He sprinted towards the nearest wall and then ran up it. His ankle flared with pain but he disregarded it; he wanted to live.
Using his momentum he jumped up off the wall and grabbed the overhanging roof. Grunting with effort, Blacknail then pulled himself up under the roof and against the wall. There were wooden supports along the wall he could hold on to.
He hung there as a dozen thugs suddenly burst into the alley. They had torches that burned the shadows that encircled them away. Together the mob of humans hurried down the alley. Since the path was straight and empty they didn’t seem to be looking around too much.
The light from the torches didn’t reach into the dark recesses of the overhanging roof. Blacknail was tucked away in those shadows as he watched the men pass him by. If anyone looked his way they would have seen his eyes reflecting the light. No one looked though.
He let out a deep breath of relief as they turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. That had been close; if humans weren’t so blind and stupid he might have been caught there. There was no way a hobgoblin, or any animal really, would have missed the smell of blood in the air.
He didn’t hear anyone else close by so Blacknail let himself drop back down to the ground. He then hurried back onto the street and away. Several times he was almost caught by groups of searching thugs but he always managed to slip away at the last minute.
There didn’t seem to be any pattern or cooperation among the human search parties. They all appeared be running around randomly.
Eventually Blacknail got far enough away that he left the search parties behind, and the city grew quiet. Once free of pursuit he slowed down, and began hobbling through the dark city towards Herad’s residence. He would be safe when he got there, and could lie down for a while…
He definitely wasn’t going after the other Bandit chief anytime soon. This hadn’t been an experience he wanted to repeat. If only that ugly human bastard hadn’t dropped those coins! It seemed unfair that Blacknail’s perfect plan could be ruined by something so random.
Herad would just have to be happy knowing Fang was dead, and having his bloody head as proof. Two heads probably wouldn’t fit in his bag anyway.
The hobgoblin trudged through the dark and empty city streets for several minutes before he got to his destination. As he approached the front of Herad’s lair Blacknail saw two men standing guard outside.
Light shone out from a window beside them and illuminated the lair’s yard. The bored looking lookout glanced his way as the cloaked hobgoblin drew nearer. Blacknail caught a whiff of their scent and was very relieved that one of them smelled familiar. He was far too exhausted to try and sneak in right now.
“Halt, who goes there?” the first man asked as he placed a hand on the sword at his side.
“Me,” Blacknail replied unhelpfully. He was too tired to say more, not to mention he was feeling rather cranky.
“Who?” The man asked suspiciously.
“I’m Blacknail,” was his only response.
“What the hells? The hobgoblin? I’ll believe that when the gods reveal it. Ha, there’s no way a hobgoblin could be wandering around the city!” the first man replied.
“I can if I want to,” the hobgoblin replied, as he pulled his hood down and glared at the man.
His eyes shone with barely suppressed anger and frustration. Both men took a surprised step away from him. The second man went pale as the moon, and then threw his partner a questioning look.
After Blacknail was finished talking to Herad he was going to smack these idiots. He began walking past the guards and up to the door of the building.
“Hey, you can’t just go in there!” the man told him.
“I can if I want to. I’m here to see mistress Herad. Get in my way and I’ll gut you like a rabbit,” the hobgoblin hissed as he marched past the guards.
They didn’t try to stop him; they just stood aside and watched without moving. The dried splatter of blood all across his face might have had something to do it. The unfamiliar smelling one turned to the other.
“That’s not a real hobgoblin is it? I mean, I heard some of the other guys talking, but I thought they were joking!” he said nervously.
His partner frowned and gave him a condescending look. He clearly didn’t think much of the question.
“He was green, you idiot. Of course he’s a hobgoblin; no human has ever had chompers like those, that’s for damn sure!” the other man replied.
Blacknail flipped his hood back up and made his way inside. The room there was plain and several people were sitting at a table while playing cards. Their reactions to Blacknai’s sudden presence varied, but every one of them looked surprised.
None of them were Saeter or Herad, so the hobgoblin kept moving. Behind him several men pushed their chairs back and got to their feet, as an anxious sounding conversation broke out.
Blacknail could hear Herad’s voice from deeper within the building. He followed it through the bare corridors. As he walked everyone he saw moved out of his way without a word.
Moments later he stood outside a closed door. One of Herad’s personal guards stood beside it. The sound of conversation between the bandit chief and several of her minions could clearly be heard from within by the hobgoblin.
“…It’s suicide to try and fight them all. My men and I joined your band because it sounded like you had a sweet set up down south. We didn’t agree to fight all of Daggerpoint for you!” a deep voiced man said.
“You swore to follow me, so you don’t have a choice,” Herad replied with frosty calm.
Herad still sounded more than a little angry, but Blacknail was too tired and sore to care. He was also willing to bet his present would cheer her up.
“Open the door,” the hobgoblin hissed to the guard.
The man flinched as Blacknail’s voice issued forth from under his hood. He looked startled for a second, but then relaxed as a look of comprehension came over his face.
“Saeter’s hobgoblin? What the hells are you doing here?” he asked.
Blacknail sighed in frustration. Why were most humans all so stupid? His reason for being here was really obvious.
“Open the door-ss. I’m here to see Herad,” he told the man.
“She doesn’t want to be disturbed. She told me not to open the door for anything short of an attack,” the guard replied.
“I understand-ss. I could stab you a few times if you want-ss,” Blacknail offered helpfully.
“Ha, no thanks. You don’t scare me, you runt, I’ll let you in though. If you piss the boss off it will be on your head, not mine,” he replied with a confident smile, as he stepped aside.
The hobgoblin gave him an annoyed look, but said nothing as he moved forward and politely knocked on the door. The argument going on inside subsided.
“Come in,” Herad called out from within.
Blacknail took a second to remove the severed head from his backpack. It was still wrapped up but the cloth was now completely soaked through with blood. The man standing beside Blacknail stared in revulsion at the object in the hobgoblin’s hands.
The door swung open as Blacknail pushed it open and stepped through it. The spacious room on the other side had only one small window, and was thus mostly illuminated by a black iron chandelier that held a dozen bright white candles.
A large square wooden table stood beneath the chandelier in the center of the room. The light from the candles revealed several people sitting around the table, but left the rest of the room in shadow.
Herad, of course, was seated at the far end of the table in the largest chair. Saeter was sitting to her right. Blacknail threw them both confident looks as he walked in.
Muted whispering broke out as the people around the table took in his cloaked form. Saeter, of course, recognized him immediately and frowned in concern. Herad raised an eyebrow in surprise as she gazed at him and noticed the bloody object in his hand.
“You’re dripping on my floor, Blacknail” she told him with apparent calm.
“Sorry, mistress,” he replied as he walked past the table and approached her.
Blacknail wasn’t fooled by her voice. He knew she was angry at him, and getting angrier. A subtle clue was how she was stroking her sword hilt. He had best get right to the point. As the hobgoblin came to a halts in front of her Herad leaned forward and addressed him.
“What are you doing here? I don’t remember giving you permission to do that, hobgoblin. I also seriously doubt that Red Dog sent you; that wouldn’t be much like him,” she whispered as she glared at Blacknail with her icy blue eyes.
“I wanted to serve, mistress. I heard there was something you wanted, so I went to get it for you. It’s a present, ” Blacknail quickly explained.
The corner of Herad’s mouth twitched as the hobgoblin finished speaking. She turned and looked at the bloody object that dangled from his hand.
“That’s your present? This had better be good, hobgoblin. Otherwise, you’ll regret coming here, briefly,” Herad told him.
Blacknail hurriedly pulled the cloth off, and held up the severed head within by its hair. There were gasps around the table as everyone took in the sight. Fang’s face was splattered with blood and loose strands of hair were stuck to it. His skin had gone corpse white, and his jaw hung loosely so his mouth gaped open. Most disturbingly, his dead eyes stared forward unblinkingly.
The hobgoblin’s mistress looked at it with disgust. Blacknail realized he had better explain. She probably didn’t recognize him.
“For you, mistress. I give you the head of the man named Fang,” he hissed dramatically.
Book 3 is Out!
The third novel in The Iron Teeth series is now out on Amazon. Please support the author and help promote the book by purchasing and reviewing A Bloody Road. Every review and purchase helps a lot!