Blacknail grunted in annoyance. It was too late to try and go after his master, but he had just woken up from his earlier nap so he wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep anytime soon.
He didn’t really want to sit around and watch a bunch of dirty goblins gulp down stew either. Even Blacknail couldn’t believe how messy they were.
The hobgoblin was used to doing chores when he had spare time, so out of habit he looked around for something to do. His gaze stopped on the pile of wood. It shouldn’t be left out in the rain, so he decided to build a shelter for it.
He got up and began to construct a lean-to against the remains of one of the nearby brick walls. He used some of the larger branches the goblins had brought him, and tied them together with twine to form the roof.
Then Blacknail stood back and admired his handy work proudly. The goblins behind him murmured in appreciation. The hobgoblin froze. What in all the hells was he doing? Why was he building these little green pests furniture?
With a disgusted grunt he sat back down by the fire. He slouched over and rested his chin on his palm as he gazed into the flames. For a few minutes he enjoyed staring at the crackling dance of the blaze, but he quickly grew bored.
He had depleted some of his stock of rope earlier so he decided to replace it. He walked out into the bushes by the road and began to gather plant fibers. When he returned the goblins had not only replaced all the wood he had used up but actually made the pile substantially larger.
Blacknail ignored them and began to twist the fibers together to make rope. As he worked several of the goblins copied him. The hobgoblin gave them a disdainful look. As if they would be able to do it properly. It had taken him weeks to learn to do it, and he was a genius.
A few minutes later when Blacknail next looked up he saw several of the goblins working together to make near perfect rope. He felt his jaw grow slack and fall open in shock. That wasn’t possible; there was no way these feral little runts should be able to do it so easily!
Then, Blacknail remembered the other hobgoblin’s axes. They had used similar cord to keep the stone heads attached. Obviously, the goblins had already known how to make twine.
That made sense. They had probably had practiced for years to manage the feat, while under the threat of strict punishment. Still, maybe they weren’t as dumb as they looked.
It was some time before Blacknail grew tired. Before then he had not only made two more lean-tos and replaced all his rope, but also constructed a door for the den’s entrance. He’d made it from more branches and tied it down using twine and stakes.
He was planning on sleeping down there anyway, so having a door directly benefitted him. He obviously hadn’t done it for the goblins. That would be stupid…
Several nearby goblins were playing with their new door as they squealed in excitement. Blacknail shooed them away, flipped the door open, and reentered the den.
Once down there he scowled. It was dark enough now that even with the door open and goblin night vision he was having some problems seeing. That wouldn’t do.
Blacknail walked around the room until he found a section of the wall where the stones were crumbling. Using the deceased horned hobgoblin’s axe as a hammer he opened a small hole there. Then he shoved a nearby goblin into it and forced the gibbering runt to dig its way to the surface, as he motivated it with pokes from his sword. His fireplace was thus completed!
It only took a few seconds to fill the newly dug shaft with wood and light it with a burning branch from the other fire. He removed the goblin first,of course, a burning goblin would undoubtedly make a truly hideous amount of noise. Blacknail had gotten the idea for the fireplace from the one in Herad’s house.
With the light from the fire and the help of several eager goblins, Blacknail was able to clean the place up a bit and lay out his blankets. The final touch was to scatter flybane around to ward off the bugs. With that done Blacknail had created a comfy place he actually wouldn’t mind sleeping in. In fact, it was actually pretty nice.
Moving around so much had caused his wounded shoulder to hurt, so Blacknail laid down on his blankets and went to sleep. Just before he slipped unconscious he thought he felt several warm bodies cuddle up next to him. It could have been a dream though.
As the sun was just peaking over the tree tops the next morning Blacknail opened the new trap door he had built and stepped outside to greet it. He had everything packed and was ready to continue his journey to Daggerpoint.
Feeling fully rested he made his way through the bushes and back onto the road. He was going to have to travel quickly if he was to have any chance of finding Herad and the others’ trail. With that thought the hobgoblin broke into a fast jog.
Just as he was about to leave the bushy scrubland behind him he heard a shrill screech fill the air. Blacknail looked back to see a flock of harpies circling the goblin den from high up in the air.
He then heard the unmistakable yelp of a terrified goblin. He hesitated and grunted in annoyance as he watched the harpies circle. Stupid bloody feral good for nothing runts, it served the goblins right for attacking him.
The hobgoblin took another step forward but then froze. He was totally not responsible for them just because he had killed their chief. That wasn’t how it worked!
Blacknail let out a long resigned sigh and turned around. He raced back to the clearing in time to see one of the circling harpies dive. Below it a goblin was desperately attempting to scramble through the bushes towards the entrance to the den. It didn’t look like it would make it.
Blacknail was prepared though. He had already pulled out his sling, and he immediately sent a stone whirring towards the diving harpy.
His hasty shot missed, but it definitely caught the raptor’s attention. The sound of the stone shooting past it startled the harpy, and caused it to abandon its dive. Instead, it fluttered in the air for a second before winging its way across the clearing. The goblin it had been aiming for reached the trap door and slipped under it.
The other harpies that were still circling up above began to screech angrily. Blacknail eyed them warily as he pushed his way through the scraggly bushes and back towards the den. When he burst into the ruins of the old home one of the flock detached itself and dove towards him.
Blacknail whipped another stone at it, and this time it hit. The harpy squawked in pain and dropped from the air. There was a loud thud as it smashed through the bushes and into the ground.
Blacknail gave the mangled body of the downed raptor a brief look over. He was fairly confident it was dead. That had been quite the lucky shot, or maybe he was just super skilled?
That only left five more harpies. Blacknail hoped they would give up now that they knew how dangerous he was. He was really strong and fast after all! They wouldn’t gain anything from attacking him.
Suddenly, the air above him was filled with the furious screech of vengeful harpies. Moving as one the entire enraged flock descended upon the hobgoblin.
Blacknail swore as his eyes widened in alarm. Maybe that hadn’t been a lucky shot after all…
A surge of panic rushed through Blacknail as he sprinted for cover. He could hear the harpies descending upon him, so he quickly measured the distance to the den’s entrance as he ran. It was obvious he wouldn’t make it, so he swerved and threw himself aside at the last moment.
The first four harpies missed and blew past him in a gust of wind, but the last one caught the edge of his cloak with its hind claws. The furious raptor then began to slash at Blacknail with the long claws on the end of its wings. Luckily, its efforts were hampered by the hobgoblin’s clothing.
Blacknail rolled and ripped his cloak off, with the harpy still attached to it. He then drew his dagger and stabbed at it. The flailing creature slipped away from him so he only managed to graze it. That was when the other harpies swung back around and whipped past him once more.
He tried to roll out of the way again, but this time one of the raptors managed to slash him across the back as it flew past. The cut stung, and Blacknail could feel his clothes grow damp as blood seeped from the gash.
The hobgoblin’s roll ended as he hit one of the nearby crumbling walls. He placed his back up against it, and then brought his dagger up into a guard. Bleeding and tired, Blacknail prepared himself to face the winged terrors again.
When the first harpy rushed at him he grabbed his cloak from off the ground and swung it at the creature. Instinctively, the surprised harpy gripped the long piece of fabric, so Blacknail whipped the cloak around and sent the raptor hurtling off into the nearby brambles.
The other three harpies that were still in flight dove at him, so Blacknail flipped over the wall at his back. This forced the furiously squawking raptors to fly over him harmlessly. Blacknail smiled mockingly at the stupid feathered beasts. They weren’t so tough.
That was when the first harpy that had attacked him pounced on his back. Blacknail shrieked in pain and tried to throw the creature off, but it had its claws dug in deep. As he futilely tried to reach around and stab the harpy with his knife it suddenly and unexpectedly released him.
Blacknail rolled through the dirt as he hissed in pain, but the urge to survive raged through him and drove him to act. He landed on his feet with his dagger up, as he spat loose feathers from his mouth.
“Stupid man faced birds I’ll cut you all up!” the hobgoblin roared.
He had expected to immediately have a face full of furious harpy but it didn’t happen. It soon became obvious why. A goblin had shoved a spear up the raptor’s ass.
A wave of angry shrieking goblins had rushed out of their den, and were in the process of finishing off the two grounded harpies. The green mob filled the clearing.
Several of them were mercilessly stabbing each of the flailing raptors with stone tipped spears. Several more rushed over to Blacknail and surrounded him protectively. They waved their spears and jeered at the three harpies that were still flying around.
The now very outnumbered winged beasts apparently didn’t want to keep fighting. They twisted in the air and started flapping towards the woods. A few seconds later, as Blacknail watched they let out one last angry shriek before disappearing into the trees. Blacknail let out a deep sigh of relief as the goblins around him began cheering at the top of their lungs.
Now that the fight was over he grunted in pain as he awkwardly tried to stand up straight. That fight could have gone a lot better…
There was no way he was going to be able to start after Herad and Saeter now. He had to clean and patch all the new wounds he had just gotten. Not to mention he wasn’t exactly feeling up to a long run.
Oh well, it wasn’t all bad. At least he had a safe place to sleep and recuperate. Of course it was full of annoying little runts…
He kind of, but not really, owed them one though. So he could also use the time to teach the goblins a trick or two. Just so they could survive without a hobgoblin around to look after them.
After getting a nearby goblin to grab him some more food and patching his wounds Blacknail went straight to work. The most important thing was that the goblins were able to protect themselves. That way he could leave without having to worry about them being attacked as soon as his back was turned.
If the harpies came back the goblins would need slings. Even a small goblin could do a fair bit of damage with a sling, and they worked well against flying targets. Then again a rock to the face worked against almost everything. He didn’t have nearly enough cloth to make slings though…
How else could he do it? Well the goblins had shown they could make twine so maybe he could use that.
Less than an hour later the hobgoblin was laughing excitedly as he launched a small rock across the clearing using the twine sling he had just made. It had worked; he truly was a genius!
Immediately, Blacknail grabbed several nearby goblins and forced them to make twine. He had to smack them a few times to keep them from slipping away, but once they knew what he wanted they went to work. The grey haired goblin that had guided him to the creek was there, and Blacknail didn’t have to hit him at all. That was an impressive amount of intelligence for a goblin.
When he had the enough twine he then got the goblins to watch him make another sling and use it. The weapon apparently impressed the goblins, or maybe they just liked mimicking the hobgoblin, because soon the air was full of flying rocks. That also meant the ground was soon littered with goblins who had welts and bumps decorating their heads. He should have seen that coming…
Even Blacknail had to dodge the occasional rock that shot past his head. He couldn’t figure out which goblin, or conspiracy of goblins, it was that kept doing that. His plan to discipline them by giving them all a good kicking also failed. There were just too many of them, and the little runts were quick when they wanted to be.
“Stupid ungrateful idiots,” he muttered to himself.
Clearly he had to rethink things. How did Herad control so many bandits? She had lieutenants like Saeter and Red Dog! Could he train a goblin? The grey haired goblin had shown something that mimicked intelligence… kind of.
He was also standing right beside Blacknail, which placed within easy reach. With his mind made up the hobgoblin began instructing the grey haired goblin on how to use a sling.
“You boss goblin now,” the hobgoblin told his wide eyed follower.
“You boss,” the goblin repeated.
Blacknail sighed. Well, language wasn’t important anyway. It was time for phase two of his goblin proof plan.
Blacknail handed Grey Hair a spear, and then had him go around smacking the other goblins with it. If they tried to fight back Blacknail gave them a solid kick, and that was that. Thus, did Grey Hair rise in the pack hierarchy.
After repeating the process two more times Blacknail had trained himself some loyal lieutenants. Now if the stupid tribe of goblins didn’t do as the hobgoblin wanted it was his lieutenants’ problem, because he would take it out on them. That was much less smacking that Blacknail had to do, and while it started out fun it quickly became just more work.
His plan worked flawlessly, because he was a genius. Soon Blacknail had the goblins under his, almost, complete control. He kept them very busy while he recuperated. With the help of his new lieutenants he managed to force most the goblins to practice slinging stones without anyone getting hurt.
Next on the list was fortifying the den some more. First, Blacknail started constructing some more stone axes. He copied the horned hobgoblin’s simple design. A sharpened stone was wedged into the split top of a length of wood, and then wrapped in twine. He had goblins use the axes to cut down saplings.
The work went quickly with two dozen goblins all working together, especially since if one of the goblins wasn’t working fast enough they got poked by one of the hobgoblin’s spear wielding lieutenants. Blacknail knew how to motivate goblins.
The wood from the saplings was used to reinforce the trap door, and then to add two smaller trap doors to the back tunnel and the fireplace. With the leftover poles he was even able to make himself a raised platform to sleep on. It was good to be chief.
Once that was done he taught the goblins how to make snares, and how to use them to catch rabbits and squirrels. This greatly increased the amount of meat the goblins caught, and Blacknail cooked stew again that night.
After a fire lit feast under the stars Blacknail and the tribe withdrew underground. The room below was barely recognizable now. The flickering orange light of the fireplace illuminated the old cellar. Thanks to the den’s new doors the fire also warmed the cold stone walls of the chamber.
Most of the trash had also been removed, and the place now smelled of Flybane instead of goblin… stuff. The less he thought about that the better.
From his place on his newly constructed bed Blacknail yawned and snuggled into his blankets. He felt good enough that tomorrow he would probably be able to hit the road again. For now though he just wanted to enjoy this rare moment of comfort.
He was just about to fall asleep when heard a goblin approach. He opened his eye to see a female approach and began to lick his face. She was tall and skinny for a goblin, and had short black hair. Blacknail found her attractive, and he smiled in anticipation as blood rushed to his lower regions.
It had been quite a while since the last time a female goblin had shown interest in him. Blacknail rolled over and sniffed the female. Lust built up in him as he took in her aroma. He growled in appreciation and his heart beat quickened. Just as he was about to mount her two other female goblins moved over and began to lick him as well.
Blacknail’s smile grew even wider. He was definitely enjoying being a hobgoblin, and was without a doubt glad he’d come back to help this tribe.
His master and Herad would be fine without him for a few days. How dangerous could this place Daggerpoint be?
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!