The terrified scream echoed out from the dark hallway behind Blacknail and into the building beyond. The now annoyed hobgoblin had been stealthily stalking towards the door that led to his target, but he stopped for a moment and hissed in frustration. One of his minions had messed up. Now the enemy had been warned and the assault had to be sped up. Thankfully this was Daggerpoint and it was still dark out. No one from outside would be coming to investigate. Getting involved in other peoples’ problems was a bad survival strategy here.
“We move now. Kill everyone and leave no witnesses,” Blacknail ordered the half dozen hobgoblins behind him before drawing his sword and dashing forward.
The sound of running feet on wooden floorboards broke the quiet as the inhuman killers abandoned stealth and suddenly began sprinting toward the door at the end of the hallway. Blacknail reached in first, and he grunted in effort as he kicked it. There was an earsplitting crunch and thud as it burst open, and he dove inside. The room on the other side was dark, but there was enough moonlight coming in from one small window that the hobgoblins could make out the outlines of the chamber’s contents. Rows of beds lined both walls, and most of them were occupied.
“What in all the hells,” someone yelled as they scrambled out of bed and tried to make sense of what was going on. The other occupants of the room were reacting in a similar manner, but it was dark and they had all been asleep until a moment ago, so they were moving slowly and without organization.
Without pause, Blacknail lunged forward and cut the closest man down as he fumbled around blindly. Behind him, his hobgoblin minions flooded into the room. Blades sliced through the shadows and found soft flesh. More screams and curses filled the air as the confused and disoriented humans began to grow terrified. The scent of blood filled the room, and giggles of delight could be heard beneath the screams as the hobgoblins delighted in their grisly work. They were predators in their element.
“Oh, gods. What’s going on?” someone pleaded.
Then, there was a flash as a man at the back of the room managed to light a lamp. The unexpected illumination flooded into the room, reflected off raised blades, and revealed the attackers.
“Shit,” the lamp bearer cursed softly as everyone froze for a brief moment and looked around for the first time. He had just rolled out of bed so he was completely nude, which made it obvious he was trembling in fear of the sight before him.
“Keep fighting. They are ours,” Blacknail yelled as he stabbed a man that tried to run past him. He didn’t want his minions to falter just because the odds had changed a little.
A big bald man wearing nothing but a loose shirt produced a sword from somewhere. Blacknail stepped forward to engage him before he could strike out at another hobgoblin. The man hesitated and then swung wildly at Blacknail’s head. Blacknail ducked under the blow and gutted his opponent with a precise horizontal slash. A disbelieving grunt of pain escaped the man’s lips as he fell and his guts slipped out of his abdomen. They made quite a mess on the floor.
As Blacknail moved on to cut down his next victim, his minions struggled with the other humans. Some of them had dropped or lost their swords and were biting and clawing at their opponents. One unlucky hobgoblin was punched in the face by a large pot-bellied man and collapsed into a heap. However, Blacknail advanced up the center of the room and his swift blade cut through any resistance that formed. Filled with terror, the humans fought desperately but they were swiftly overwhelmed. Confronted with inhuman opponents that most of them only knew from stories, they didn’t plead for mercy as they fell, and Blacknail didn’t give them any. Soon, the floor was drenched in blood and all its former occupants were dead.
“Now to the next room,” Blacknail growled as he turned back towards the door. He didn’t have time to waste.
The hobgoblin chieftain ran back out into the hallway and towards his next objective. The attack on Cedric’s headquarters was going well. Thanks to Luphera’s information Blacknail knew exactly where everything was. After taking out the sentries in a coordinated attack, he had divided his followers into teams and sent them to take three different objectives. Even now, his minions were rushing through the building and killing all the humans they found. They were outnumbered – Cedric had over fifty men in this building alone – but the hobgoblins had the advantage of surprise and momentum. Quite a few enemies had died in bed or before they could even figure out what was going on in the darkness around them. Blacknail grinned as he felt a throb of sadistic glee. Hobgoblin night-sight could be very useful if used correctly by a great leader, and he was better than a great leader.
Another door appeared out of the darkness in front of Blacknail. He kicked it, but it was unlocked so he lost his balance as the door slammed into the wall behind it. Cursing, he stumbled forward but then caught himself and looked around the room. This one was already lit by a lamp. The people within had used the warning they had been given to start to organize, but there were only three of them. Blacknail was unsurprised. This was Cedric’s room, and leaders usually didn’t share their chambers.
“What in damnation are you supposed to be?” the man in the center of the room swore as he looked Blacknail over. He matched the description of Cedric, a tall man with short black hair. The other two residents of the room, a man and a woman who looked like servants, were helping him strap a boiled leather breastplate over a simple shirt and trousers that he must have just thrown on.
“Your death,” Blacknail replied with a mirthless laugh and a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
Cedric grunted as he reached over and picked up a sword of the bed beside him. His servants both finished attaching his breastplate. The woman stepped back away with a fearful look on her face, while the male drew a long dagger.
“No, you’re that hobgoblin. The one they call the faceless killer. I’d heard you were dangerous, but you can’t be doing this alone,” Cedric remarked as he raised his weapon and took up a defensive stance. It was at that moment that several of Blacknail’s minions caught up and slipped into the room behind their boss.
Their arrival surprised Cedric and he grimaced. “That answers my question I suppose.”
“Yes, it does,” Blacknail laughed as he stepped forward and attacked.
His opponent easily dodged the blow by leaning back, but Blacknail turned the slash into a flurry of attacks. Cedric blocked one and then dodged the others, before slashing at Blacknail’s chest with a two-handed strike. His sword was a longer and heavier weapon, so Blacknail dodged instead of blocking. Meanwhile, the servant with the knife tried to circle around and get at Blacknail’s exposed side, but two hobgoblins intercepted him and forced him back. Another hobgoblin circled around to approach the female servant. Before he got too close though, she pulled out a long knife of her own, and the hobgoblin hesitated.
There was a metallic ringing as Cedric blocked a downward slash from Blacknail. The hobgoblin jumped back and looked for an opening. He feinted a stab and turned it into an upward riposte when Cedric tried to parry it. Blacknail’s weapon caught on his opponent’s breastplate and then slid up and away without doing any damage.
Cedric took a step back and glared at Blacknail. “What are you here for, creature?”
“To deliver a message to your master, all his friends, and all of his enemies,” Blacknail shot back. He was getting a little tired of this fight. It might be time to order his minions to help. He didn’t have any Elixir left to burn and he didn’t feel like taking any risks.
“Fighting the Wolf is a fool’s errand.”
Blacknail laughed with dark amusement. “Says the man whose corpse will soon be a warning to others.”
“Not likely,” Cedric growled as he lunged forward and launched a flurry of attacks.
Both the human servants had managed to keep their hobgoblin attackers away so far, but as the man slashed at the hand of one hobgoblin another jumped forward and stabbed him in the gut. He gasped and collapsed with the sword stuck in his belly. The woman gasped but didn’t drop her guard. This development left Cedric’s side exposed to Blacknail’s minions. He let up his attack and shifted into a defensive stance.
“You can’t fight all of Werrick’s men. He has allies and friends everywhere. The North belongs to him,” the bandit lieutenant told Blacknail.
“He has no friends in the Green. He has no allies nearby to save you. The North belongs to whoever holds it,” Blacknail replied as he stepped forward. His minions smiled and pressed in to pressure Cedric’s flank.
On the other side, the woman was now desperately flailing with her knife. She had kept the hobgoblin assaulting her at bay so far, but she couldn’t keep it up. Her assailant was playing it safe and constantly feinting with his longer blade to wear her out. Suddenly, she stumbled and the hobgoblin facing her reacted. His blade sliced down and cut into her arm. She yelped and fell backwards, dropping her weapon as she instinctively clutched her wound. Her opponent followed up by kicking her in the head, and there was a cracking noise as she fell over sideways. Unconscious, she didn’t stir as she began to bleed out onto the floor from the gash on her arm. Blacknail grinned and focused on Cedric. A female opponent was no different from a man to him, and he wasn’t even slightly interested in mercy when it came to anyone who worked for Werrick, even indirectly. Mercy was human thing anyway.
Cedric looked grim now, and he had good reason. He was surrounded by hobgoblins on three sides.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked Blacknail. “Werrick will unite this land and build something better. He is the greatest man I’ve met, and I’m sure he could use your skills or at least pay you off.”
“I don’t care at all. The Wolf attacked my tribe and killed my master. He took what was mine, my most precious things. I can never get them back, so I will take from him in kind,” Blacknail hissed as he motioned for his minions to attack. It was time to finish this. As he lunged forward from the front, Blacknail’s followers closed in on Cedric from the other directions.
“You will fail, you pathetic creature,” the man growled as he glared at Blacknail.
“You’ve already failed,” Blacknail hissed back as he slashed at Cedric’s front leg.
The man had no option but to block the attack, and then try to twist away from the other hobgoblins’ blades as they took the opportunity to attack all at once. He failed. With pleased hisses, Blacknail’s minions stabbed and slashed their opponent. Some of the blows bounced off the breastplate, but others sank deep into flesh and cut into organs. Shuddering, Cedric coughed up a mouthful of blood and then tottered over backwards. A moment later, Blacknail walked over and kicked him in the ribs. He didn’t move or appear to be breathing, so the hobgoblin turned away.
“I win,” Blacknail announced to no one in particular as he walked over to the bed and used a sheet to wipe the blood off his blade. Now that all the enemies were down, some of his minions copied him. He’d made sure they knew the importance of keeping their blades clean.
“Take his breastplate off and carry it for me. It’s mine now,” Blacknail told one of his minions as he stepped back out into the hallway.
It seemed like the mission had gone perfectly. Their main target, Cedric, was dead, and it didn’t sound like there was anyone still putting up any resistance. Blacknail walked over to a window and stared out of it. The moonlit rooftops of Daggerpoint lay before him, and they looked a lot less shabby in the dark. As he stared at the scene, the hobgoblin felt his heartbeat slow and his fury slip away. He took a moment to reflect.
This was a blow against Werrick. The death of his lieutenant would weaken his hold on the city and make him look weak. A weak chieftain would face many more challengers and have fewer options than one that seemed invincible. Blacknail could also use the fallout to manipulate others into doing what he wanted. Yes, everything was going perfectly, but he didn’t feel any better. He was still hollow inside. Werrick was still alive. Saeter was still dead.
Blacknail growled and stomped off to organize his minions. Thinking about this was pointless, and the mission wasn’t quite over yet. He had meant what he’d told Cedric about leaving a message. The ruin and horror he was about to make this building into would be Blacknail’s message to Werrick. All his minions already had their orders, and were undoubtedly already fulfilling them, but Blacknail wanted to make sure they stayed on task.
Bodies were moved, furniture was torn apart, and everything that was both shiny and light enough to carry was gathered up by hobgoblins as Blacknail stalked through the building and oversaw the work. His minions went about their tasks with obvious glee and they tried to outdo each other. In one room five mangled bodies had been hung from the roof with rope, while in another the bodies had all been hacked into pieces and strewn all over the room. When it was about time to leave, Blacknail went back to Cedric’s room and cut off the man’s head. He carried it by its hair over to the front door, and while all his minions watched, he impaled it on a wooden spike that one of his minions had driven into the ground. No one that approached the building in the morning could fail to notice the bloody detached head, and no one that learned of what had happened inside the building could fail to realize that this hadn’t been a normal fight. Word would spread and carry fear and uncertainly with it all the way to Werrick.
“Victory is ours. This is just a taste of things to come,” Blacknail told his gathered minions. “I will lead you to all the best and tastiest prizes you can imagine. We will hunt our enemies and spread our tribe’s territory far and wide!”
The crowd of hobgoblins cheered, and Blacknail grinned in satisfaction. He knew how to motivate hobgoblins and keep them loyal. He just had to keep on winning, and this had been a great victory. Not a single hobgoblin had died. A few had gotten injured, but that was it. The humans had been completely caught off guard and unable to defend themselves as Blacknail’s minions had cut them down in the dark.
Since they had accomplished their mission and they had already loitered here too long after making so much noise, Blacknail led his minions through the streets as it began to grow lighter out. The sun was just beginning to rise. Instead of going to the safe house, they headed toward the city wall. Once there, they climbed over it and slipped out the city. It was possible that they might have picked up some observers and Blacknail didn’t want to lead them back to the safe house. He also wanted to check in on the forest camp. He’d left Herah in charge of watching Avorlus there.
The birds were signing their morning songs as the victorious hobgoblins slipped into the forest. The streets had been empty and they hadn’t run into any problems on the way out of the city. Blacknail located a familiar animal trail and they followed it through the trees and over to the hill where they had set up the camp. It was only about half an hour from the walls. The only way up the hill from the direction of Daggerpoint was easily watched. It involved using a fallen tree to cross a stream that lay at the bottom of a deep chasm and taking a narrow path up a steep rock face. Thus, they were spotted well before they reached it. Blacknail had left sentries out to watch in case the guild tried to track down Avorlus. The sentries acknowledged their companion’s presence but stayed at their posts as they passed them by.
Soon enough, Blacknail reached the top of the hill and saw the camp before him. It was a simple collection of tents that had been set up among some large rocks, and various bags and piles of loot lay around the place. As he had expected, Blacknail noticed Herah and Avorlus sitting by the firepit, but they weren’t alone. Something red and annoying was sitting beside Herah. It was Khita… What? He had left her behind in Daggerpoint! How could she have possibly found this place?
“Ah, there you are Blacknail! I was beginning to think you were never going to show up!” the redhead young woman remarked cheerfully as she stood up to greet him.
“How did you get here?” Blacknail spat back in frustration.
“Oh, Herah came and got me. She wanted to talk to me about some stuff.”
What? Blacknail wasn’t completely sure why but he didn’t like this development. It smelled like a conspiracy against him.
“I saw that you’ve captured another mage. I don’t know why you want them all, but I’m sure you have a plan.”
“I do and it’s a great plan. This mage knows how to make my Elixir. He’s why I came to this city. I need Elixir to kill my enemies easier.”
“Well at least this one isn’t tied up and naked, unlike the last. Is it because he’s a man?”
“Excuse me?” Avorlus asked in alarm as he threw a nervous look at his captor.
Blacknail hissed and stomped the ground in exasperation as he glared at Khita. “That wasn’t me. Imp did that, and it made sense. Who knows what dangerous magic thingies that woman was keeping in her clothes.
Why did Khita keep bringing this up? During the battle at Shelter, Blacknail had knocked out the raiders’ mage. While he had been resting after his glorious victory, Imp and some other hobgoblins had captured her, and then taken some simple and completely justified safety measures that Khita wouldn’t stop bringing up.
“Ah, sure. That sounds believable,” the redhead replied as she smirked.
Blacknail hissed again. Why did humans have to make something as simple and pure as stripping and tying up your prisoners so complicated? They injected sex into even completely innocent activates. It was disgusting. There was a time and a place.
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!