Small stones bounced through the air all around Blacknail as he slid down the side of the hill. He desperately fought to keep his balance, but the rocks beneath his feet kept moving. All he could do was to try not to hit anything on the way down. A large rock rose before him, so the hobgoblin jumped to the side. After landing, he had to reach down and catch himself, but he barely managed to keep from falling on his ass as he slid down the slope.
At the bottom of the hill, the first wave of stones reached the beasts fighting down below. Most of the shards were small and harmless, but there were some larger ones, including the original boulder Blacknail had knocked free. That huge rock was rolling right towards the alpha wolf.
The mutant wolf had turned and fled from his fight with the huge boar a few moments ago, when it had noticed the incoming rockslide. The injured boar was too exhausted to escape, and it knew it. Instead of running, it turned to face the rocks and hunkered down. The other wolves and pigs were fleeing in all directions.
The wave of stones washed over the huge boar and then rushed past it without slowing. Wolves and pigs were thrown in every direction and crushed by rock. The alpha wolf dodged to the side to avoid the huge boulder, but then a smaller rock smashed into its head. The mutant canine was sent rolling across the ground and was then hit by a shower of smaller stones.
Blacknail would have cheered but he was too busy trying to keep himself in one piece. The hobgoblin was still sliding down the slope amidst a wave of dust and rock. Most the large rocks were in front of him but that didn’t mean he was safe. There was a lot of momentum carrying him down the hill, and even a small rock could crack open his skull.
A few moments and some near misses later, the hobgoblin reached the bottom of the hill. He leaped over a pile of rocks and then kept running as he weaved his way forward past all the obstacles. As he ran, Blacknail tried to backpedal and slow himself down, but his momentum was too strong. Then he stepped on a small round stone.
“Oh no,” the hobgoblin said as he tripped and his foot flew up into the air. This was going to hurt.
It did. Blacknail hit the uneven ground hard. More than a few sharp stones dug into the flesh of his back. He gasped painfully as he started rolling. Even more pointy objects stabbed into him as he rolled. When he finally came to stop, a cloud of gravel fell on top of him.
“Ouch,” Blacknail groaned as he picked himself up. He then spat to one side. His mouth was full of dust. It tasted like he’d tried to chew rocks.
The hobgoblin looked around. There were several large dust clouds hanging low close to the ground but they were already beginning to blow away. Loose rocks were strewn about everywhere, but Blacknail saw no immediate threats, so he took a second to check his body for injuries. He had quite a few new tender areas, but nothing seemed broken. It would take more than a mere rockslide to defeat Blacknail!
With his checkup done, Blacknail went looking for the alpha wolf. The creature had definitely been hit by the rockslide and it had already been wounded. This was far too good of a chance to pass off. The wolf was probably already dead, but if it wasn’t, Blacknail was going to finish it off. This was his territory and no mutant was going to get away with attacking him!
The pile of rocks covering his target wasn’t that far away, so Blacknail headed over towards it. He smacked the side of his head a few times to get the rocks out of his ears as he walked. He had no idea how they had gotten in there.
The fallen body of the giant boar was off to one side. It looked even bigger from up close, but it also looked very dead. Large bleeding gashes had been torn in it sides and it was breathlessly still. Since it wasn’t a concern, unless he got hungry, Blacknail turned away from the boar and focused on the wolf up ahead.
As Blacknail walked, he drew his sword. The alpha wolf had been hit by a wave of rock so it was probably long dead, but Blacknail wasn’t about to underestimate a mutant. They could be freakishly tough. He might have to stick it a few time to finish it off. He hoped he would; that sounded like fun.
“I’m going to make me a wolf fur blanket and a maybe a pretty tooth necklace too,” the hobgoblin bragged as he smiled confidently.
The hobgoblin approached the buried alpha wolf, and kicked a stone away. He couldn’t see much of the wolf beneath the rock, only a few patches of fur. Suddenly, the entire mound shuddered and began to rise. Rocks fell away to reveal the back of a huge furry shape. Blacknail took a step back. He didn’t like where this was going.
The creature then turned and looked at the hobgoblin. It was without a doubt the alpha wolf, and it looked mad. Its yellow eyes were narrowed hatefully at Blacknail. A few bits stripes of blood decorated its fur but it didn’t seem all that wounded. As the hobgoblin watched, the creature’s fur seemed to darken and go flat. The sudden change made it obvious the wolf’s fur had been weirdly fluffy and shiny a moment ago.
The wolf shook itself to remove some of the dust and dirt that covered its body, and then it snarled menacingly. Its lips rose up to reveal the many sharp teeth in its maw as the menacing sound reached Blacknail’s ears.
“Cheater,” Blacknail remarked resentfully. He then reached into a padded pocket in his shirt and pulled out a thick glass vial. It was his last vial of Elixir. He hurriedly popped the cork and downed the pink contents. He had a feeling he was going to need it. The alpha had obviously used some sort of weird power to protect itself.
The wolf was still fairly dirty and it shook itself again. Blacknail didn’t waste the opportunity. A hot flash of energy went through his body as he burned Elixir and lunged forward. His sword whirred around into a downward slash that was aimed right at his opponent’s neck.
Blacknail moved with incredible speed, but the wolf didn’t even try to dodge. Instead, it held its ground and growled. The fur all along its body instantly puffed out and grew shinier. It almost looked like crystalline spikes.
The sword hit the fur and was violently repelled. The force of the blow recoiled up Blacknail’s arm. The sword vibrated in his hand for an instant and then it shattered. Bits of metal flew away as the blade was snapped in half.
“Not good,” Blacknail hissed at he stared at his now completely destroyed weapon. This wasn’t going the way he had planned. He hated magic.
A moment later, the wolf’s fur softened and went flat again, and it lunged at the hobgoblin. Its jaws opened wide to reveal jagged yellow teeth, black gums, and a long slimy tongue. Blacknail immediately threw himself out of the way. The mutant’s teeth snapped shut on the empty air where his head had been a brief moment ago, and a drop of warm drool splashed against his neck.
As panic caused his heart to speed up, Blacknail threw his broken sword down and drew a long dagger. He was just in time, the wolf attacked again. It came in low to snap at his feet, but Blacknail managed to twist to the side and slash at the creature’s head. The power of the Elixir was already seeping into his body and lightening his movements, and this time his blade cut through the fur and drew blood. However, the glancing blow only left a shallow scratch.
Both combatants stepped back and eyed each other. Blacknail knew he was in danger but trying to flee never even occurred to him. He was face to face with another predator. Backing down would only put him at a disadvantage. He had to win no matter what the cost.
The potent energy from the Elixir was rushing through Blacknail’s body. It threw his mind into overdrive. His first attack had been completely ineffective, but the second had worked. It seemed like the beast’s fur was only tough when it was shiny. The wolf also moved slower then, so it transformed its hair only as a last ditch defense. Blacknail could use that, somehow.
The wolf let out a deep growl as it began to circle around the hobgoblin. Its every step brought it slightly closer, and Blacknail had to continue turning to keep his eyes locked on it. Before he got dizzy, Blacknail snarled and slashed at the wolf. It was only a feint, but the beast jumped back out of the way.
Sensing an opportunity, Blacknail drew another dagger and whipped it at the mutant’s head. The knife spun as it whirred through the air, and then it sailed right over the wolf’s head and hit a tree. The blade didn’t even sink into the wood; it bounced off into a nearby bush.
“Ya, I never really learned how to do that right,” Blacknail muttered to himself in disappointment. It had looked really cool when he saw bandits do it, though.
The throw wasn’t a complete waste. The startled wolf ducked low and its fur went spiky again for second, but then it realized the hobgoblin had missed, and it growled at him again. Blacknail growled back and raised his dagger menacingly. He was feeling confident. The Elixir was flowing through his body and strengthening it. He felt no pain or weariness. So what if the wolf was a mutant? He was Blacknail, the greatest hobgoblin warrior in the history of ever! He had no equal.
Blacknail lunged forward to attack again. He slashed at his opponent’s eyes. The wolf tried to twist around the attack and get at Blacknail, but the hobgoblin was ready. He reversed the direction of his slash and drove the beast off.
The wolf’s yellow eyes focused on Blacknail as it hunched down, and an instant later the wolf leapt up. It jumped straight for the hobgoblin’s chest. Blacknail grinned in bloody anticipation as he aimed his dagger at the creature’s exposed throat, but then its fur rose up again and hardened.
At the last moment, the hobgoblin was forced to throw himself down. He rolled across the ground and away from the wolf. Unfortunately, the mutant landed and spun around before he could get back up. With a victorious growl, it charged. Blacknail raised an arm to shield his head, and the wolf’s jaws closed down on it. Teeth sank through his heavy leather coat and into his arm.
“Bloody gods and piss everywhere,” Blacknail gasped as the pain hit him.
Instead of flinching though, he channeled his pain into anger. With lightening-like speed he stabbed at one of the wolf’s eyes with the dagger in his other hand. His mind wasn’t muddled by fear or pain, but focused by them instead. The here and now was all that mattered. He had to win.
The dagger’s tip headed right for the wolf’s iris, and the wolf reacted immediately. Instead of letting go, it dropped its weight and pulled Blacknail off balance. The hobgoblin stumbled and clenched his jaw as the beast’s teeth dug deeper into his flesh. Blacknail’s attack missed, but he didn’t waste any time. He growled as he slashed at the wolf’s eyes again.
This time, the beast twisted around and let go of his arm. The action caught Blacknail by surprise. He was thrown violently to the side and flew through the air until he hit the ground and started rolling. Disorientated, his body knocked aside loose rocks. He reached with his hands and tried to grab something, but then a solid object smashed into the back of his head. There was a loud crack. Blacknail’s head jerked forward and his neck twisted. For a moment, everything seemed fine. It was just another minor wound. The fight was still going on, and he couldn’t back down. Blacknail growled as he tried to stand up, but then his body suddenly went limp. As he fell, his vision went black.
Blacknail was sinking into cold nothingness. Like chains, the darkness held him down. It was so cold that even thinking was hard. What was going on? Who was he?
A ring of stones rose up into sight. The darkness rippled away from them like black water. Crude symbols decorated the weathered grey monoliths. Their lines and whirls were hypnotic even though they held no meaning to Blacknail. He remembered seeing something like them once…
Then there was light. At first it was a pin prick, but it grew until a blazing sun hung overhead. A giant appeared in the light. The blaze behind it obscured its features, but it was looking down at Blacknail. The hobgoblin could feel it studying him with unseen eyes that pierced everything. He felt acceptance instead of judgment, but that didn’t matter to him. He didn’t care what anyone else thought. Actions were what mattered.
Suddenly, one of the stones began to topple. As it fell, it hit the next one in line, and that stone began to fall. Soon the entire ring would collapse. All the commotion energized Blacknail. He began to struggle against the cold waters dragging him down. He couldn’t afford to stay here. He had plans! He had no idea what those plans were, but he remembered having them!
The giant noticed the flailing. It reached down with one dark hand and grabbed Blacknail. There was a sucking sound as it dragged him out of the cold water. Then, just as the third stone was beginning to fall, the giant took the hobgoblin and wedged him beneath the stone so that it stopped falling. Blacknail felt a heavy weight push down on him. He couldn’t see his own body but he felt it shift and deform under the pressure ever so slightly. There was a popping sound, and he opened his eyes.
Blacknail was lying on his back. Fragmented flashes of some sort of vision or dream ran through his mind. Had he fallen unconscious for a second? There was a rock poking painfully into his side, and a huge mutant wolf jumping at his face. Normally that would mean he had but a few scant moments to live, but everything seemed to be moving very slowly, like he was underwater. The wolf hung suspended in the air. Blacknail could clearly see its grey fur, yellow teeth, and long claws.
The hobgoblin knew his body was too battered and bruised to react properly. He wouldn’t be able to avoid the wolf’s attack in time. Death seemed certain, but Blacknail wasn’t about to give up. Purpose filled him. Vengeance still smoldered within his heart, but it was more than that. He would live! He would conquer! If his body wasn’t up to the task then he would simply find another way.
Time continued to pass, even if it was at a slower rate. The wolf was closer now. Soon it would land atop Blacknail and its jaws would close down on his neck. The Elixir was still coursing through the hobgoblin’s body. Blacknail could feel its energy empowering every fiber of his being. With no other option, he drew on every bit of it he could gather up. It burned within him with nowhere to go.
The energy was too much. His muscles couldn’t burn it nearly fast enough. The pressure built up and began to rip the hobgoblin apart from the inside. Just when Blacknail was sure he was about to burst, the energy found an escape. The power surged into Blacknail’s head and then exploded outward. There was a path for it there that had only ever seen a trickle, but now it was being flooded.
Invisible energy struck towards the wolf and ripped into it. Time sped back up.
Birds exploded out of all the nearby trees and flew up into the sky. The wolf yelped in surprise and began to writhe in midair. Instead of landing on Blacknail, it hit the ground next to him on an awkward angle. There was loud thud as its back slammed into the ground. Its fur was standing up so straight that it looked sharp in places.
Blacknail was already moving. He threw himself atop the writhing wolf without any care for his own safety. Rage drove him. This place was his, and he was the strongest!
A claw scraped against Blacknail’s chest but he twisted around it so he could get in closer. The wolf seemed to recover from whatever had confused it. It tried to push away from the hobgoblin and get back on its feet, but its thick fur slowed it down and restricted its movements.
As the last remnants of Elixir burned up within him, Blacknail grabbed a tuff of fur on the wolf’s neck, pulled himself over, and then stabbed at the creature’s closest eye with the dagger in his hand. There was no oddly tough fur there. The blade sank into the fleshy orb, and then Blacknail twisted the blade in deeper. Blood poured out of the wound, and the wolf yelped.
The beast’s hind legs hit Blacknail hips and knocked him aside. He lost his grip on his weapon, and he landed off to one side of the wolf. The furious hobgoblin immediately tried to get back up, but his muscles suddenly gave out on him. He stumbled before managing to get back on his feet.
Meanwhile, the wolf flailed about. It seemed to try to scratch the sky for several seconds, but then it let out a deep wheezing breath and flopped down onto its side. Blacknail drew another dagger from within his coat and stared at the beast for several long seconds, but it lay still.
“Ha, now you’re dead. Stupid mutt,” the hobgoblin exclaimed viciously.
He then spat a mixture of blood and mucus to the side and collapsed into a sitting position on the ground. He was really tired all of a sudden. It had been a long day.
Book Two is Out!
The second novel in The Iron Teeth series is now out on Amazon. Please support the author and help promote the book by purchasing and reviewing City of Daggers.