The walls of Westwatch lay before Blacknail. They were twice a man’s height and constructed of irregular rocks being held in place by gritty grey mortar. The materials had undoubtedly been taken from the rocky hills that surrounded the town. Like most human walls in the North, this one had been constructed primarily to keep dangerous wildlife out. Bears, wolves, and even trolls would have a hard time getting through or over it, which undoubtedly made the people within feel much safer. The wall also helped keep unwanted people from getting into the town, but not reliably. It could be scaled by a determined invader since most of its length wasn’t watched, and it was barely a barrier at all for Blacknail and his hobgoblins. Most of them had already climbed over it. Their light bodies and sharp claws made them excellent climbers, especially if they took off their boots so that they could use their sharp toenails.
The noonday sun was almost completely overhead, as Blacknail jumped down off the wall and onto the ground inside. He was now in a dirty alley, and there were rough-looking houses with thatch roofs to either side. As his minions gathered behind him, Blacknail pulled up his hood and rearranged his clothes to complete his disguise and cover his skin. His minions did likewise, and once everyone was ready, the hobgoblins began to move carefully deeper into the city.
With wary anticipation, the hobgoblins crept through the back alleys and toward their goal, the city gates. Blacknail had infiltrated the city and scouted out the place earlier in the day, so he knew where to go and the best way to get there undetected. There was a guard tower next to the gate that was always occupied by at least one sentry and several guards. That meant attacking it directly would be a difficult. Luckily, there were several spots along the wall that were unwatched, like the one that Blacknail and his minions had just climbed over.
There were a few people on the streets, but the hobgoblins easily avoided them. The city was nervous and on edge. The occupation by Werrick’s men was recent and the townsfolk hadn’t had time to get used to it. This worked in Blacknail’s advantage in some ways, though. Few people would be rushing to report suspicious activity to the occupiers.
Blacknail leaned out from behind the corner of a building to study a structure across the street. It was a long two-story building made of brick and stone. It was surrounded by an old low stone wall that looked like it was being worked on and shored up, although there were no workers present right now. This was the place that Werrick’s men had taken as their headquarters in Westwatch. It was both defensible and just down the street from the city gates. Blacknail studied it for a few moments, but he didn’t see any activity at the windows or anyone outside, so he signaled to his minions and they continued on.
The hobgoblins hurried down the road and past an abandoned cart, before darting back into an alley where they could look out at the gate. There was a simple guard tower next to a double wooden door that could be swung shut to block the way into the city. There were several armed men loitering around near the bottom of the tower. As Blacknail watched, a man on horseback approached from outside. One of the guards walked over to talk to him, and then waved him inside a moment later. None of the other guards did more than look over briefly. Most of them were leaning up against the wall or standing around lazily. They didn’t seem that organized or motivated, which was what Blacknail expected from Werrick’s men. They had all probably been deserters and bandits not too long ago.
After taking a moment to go over the plan in his head again and make sure he had it right, Blacknail looked back over his shoulder. There were two dozen hobgoblins behind him, and all of them looked ready to go. Most of them were grinning in anticipation and licking their lips. Their prey lay ahead, and they had been promised blood and loot. Hobgoblins were simple creatures. That was all they wanted from life, and Blacknail didn’t mind giving it to them.
“It’s time to wet your teeth and blades with red, but remember the plan,” Blacknail said as he gave them all a harsh glare. “Sow chaos and take out any armed humans you see, but be ready to regroup on the signal. If you run off or get lost then you will be left behind, and you will get a kicking from me if you somehow survive, which is unlikely.”
“Yes, boss!” several of the hobgoblins instantly replied. Some of them also threw him sloppy salutes. The others just nodded and grinned in delight.
Blacknail wasn’t convinced that they would obey. Sighing to himself, he pulled out a vial of Elixir and took a swig from it. He then charged across the road, as his minions fell in behind him. They raced toward the unsuspecting guards, most of whom were looking out in the wrong direction, since they assumed any attack would come from outside the city. It wasn’t until Blacknail was within thirty feet of them that someone raised the alarm. A guard near the wall had turned to look in their direction and seen them.
“Watch out! I think we’re under attack from within,” the man yelled to his companions as he drew his sword.
The other guards reacted quickly, despite their surprise. They drew their weapons as they spun around. Six of them clustered together, and they stepped forward to form a line and buy time for their allies. Blacknail swerved to meet them, as he drew his own weapon. Right before meeting the enemy, he burned a bit of Elixir and sped up ahead of his minions. Power flared throughout his body and carried him forward. Air flowed around him and pulled his hood back, as he slammed into the guards. He laughed manically, and his blade flashed as he hacked at the lead guard’s exposed arm. The man screamed and stumbled back as his flesh was cut and blood spurted out. Blacknail’s speed and fury had shocked them.
“It’s a hobgoblin. They all are!” one of the men yelled. He sounded shocked and more than a little scared, which excited Blacknail.
“By the gods, you’re right!” another guard at the back of the group facing the hobgoblins shouted in response. He was so terrified that his voice broke, and he stumbled backwards.
Sensing their sweet fear, Blacknail redoubled his assault. He didn’t need the strange magical sense that he’d gained to know that fear was slowing the men’s responses, but he used it. As he batted aside a shaky blade, Blacknail reached out with his magic and touched his preys’ minds. He could sense the glowing fear in their minds, and it was simple for him to feed that spark and make it grow into a fire.
Ducking under an off-balance slash at his head, Blacknail stabbed the attacker in the gut and then quickly withdrew his blade. The man spat up blood and fell. Swirling about, Blacknail blocked another slash and kicked the swordsman in the groin. There was a satisfying crunch and the man squeaked shrilly as he rose up an inch into the air. Blacknail was already turning to deal with his next target, and then his hobgoblin minions crashed into the guards. Frozen in fear and with Blacknail running amok in their midst, they were cut down like wheat by the wave of hobgoblins.
Another large group of about half a dozen guards had formed beneath the sentry tower. After finishing off a fallen guard by slashing his neck, Blacknail stalked over to confront them. He wanted to keep fighting. The scent of blood saturated the air, and it filled Blacknail with red-hot energy, mixing with the power of the Elixir that pumped though his veins, driving him forward. He needed to fight and dance upon the corpses of his vanquished foes. What joy that would bring!
Hesitantly, a guard with a spear stepped forward and stabbed at Blacknail. The hobgoblin grinned as he danced aside and then lunged forward with his blade raised high. He slashed down, and the terrified guard jumped back. The guard hit the man behind him and they both fell in a pile. Blacknail took this opportunity to unleash a flurry of blows upon all the other assembled guards. His sword knocked blades aside and cut through flesh, until several other hobgoblins joined him in cutting down the last few survivors. When the final one was dead, Blacknail took a deep breath to calm his fury and looked around. It was probably time for him to do boss things, so he needed to keep his head clear.
There were no guards left standing anywhere in sight, although there were corpses piled everywhere, including one that belonged to a hobgoblin. One of his arms had been mangled and hung loose. The cut must have hit a vein because the hobgoblin lay in a pool of his own blood. Blacknail scowled at the corpse for a moment and then moved on. He could afford to lose minions, and it hadn’t been anyone important. In fact, Blacknail had found the dead hobgoblin to be one of his more annoying minions. If he had been better at life he would still be alive now, but he hadn’t been, so his death wasn’t Blacknail’s fault.
Just then, there was a stomping of boots. Blacknail looked up in alarm, in case it was enemy reinforcements, but he quickly realized the noise was coming from the wrong direction. The stomping sound was rising from outside the gate, which meant it was probably allies. Indeed, when Blacknail looked over, he saw Ilisti leading a formation of troops inside the city. The vympir was fully armored in chain and plate, but he was wearing a new helm. Unlike the one he had worn when facing the troll, this one was open at the front so that his mouth was visible, even if his nose and eyes were protected. Behind the vympir’s men, came Khita and Elyias.
“Ha, I see everything is going well so far. You’ve secured the gate for us without any problems. That speaks well of your capability,” Ilisti remarked as he walked over to Blacknail’s side. He sounded excited.
“Yes, but that’s the easy part,” Blacknail replied. “Now you need to hold the gate.”
The vympir turned to study the city. “We can handle it. Have you seen any sign of the wise-men?”
Blacknail shook his head. “No, they must be hiding, but if they show themselves I will deal with them, as I promised I would. Mages die easily enough if you do it right.”
“Make sure of it,” Ilisti replied grimly. For all is supposed confidence, he sounded a little fearful of the mages.
“I will. Just hold the gate and wait,” Blacknail told him before turning and walking back to his minions.
“I’m going with you,” Khita yelled as she ran after him. Blacknail sighed but didn’t try to dissuade her. He was busy, and it wasn’t worth the effort.
At this point, most the hobgoblins were either watching Ilisti’s men or looting the fallen guards. However, they had all been keeping an eye on their leader and formed up when he yelled to get their attention. They knew they would get a kicking if they ignored him or looked inattentive.
Blacknail pointed to a pair of hobgoblins. “You two stay with me. The rest of you, start setting fires and chasing people, but don’t go far and watch for the signals. You all know the plan. Follow it.”
The hobgoblins nodded and did as they were told. Most of them had already dropped their hoods, but those that hadn’t did so now. For this next part of the action, Blacknail wanted everyone to know who was attacking. It was time to make sure everyone heard of Blacknail the hobgoblin and his tribe of savage killers. Word of his might and ability to fight Werrick needed to spread throughout the North.
The hobgoblins had orders to spread out and sow chaos, and that’s what they did. The hobgoblins ran down the streets and began busting through windows and ransacking everything in sight. There were screams as people inside the nearby homes saw them.
“Sweet, I’m getting in on this,” Khita shouted as she ran over to join them.
Blacknail sighed again, but let her go. The town was apparently going to be raided by a bunch of hobgoblins and one young redheaded woman. Whatever. He didn’t want to look after her anyway.
Blacknail led the minions he had selected over towards the enemy base. The streets were completely empty now. Shouts from the fighting and bystanders who had ran off had alerted the city that someone was attacking the gate. The townsfolk had reacted by withdrawing into their homes and hoping whatever was happening passed them by. However, Blacknail did see several people peek out at him from nearby windows. He ignored them, and led his minions to a two story home he had picked out earlier. Blacknail kicked the door open and stormed inside. There was a brief scuffle as they subdued the surprised man inside, but then they left his unconscious body behind and headed upstairs. Up there, Blacknail walked over to a bedroom window and looked out. He could see both the enemy base and all the streets around it clearly.
The walled compound that Werrick’s men had taken as their own was buzzing with activity now. Dozens of men were running in and out, and a mob was forming up in the courtyard out front. They already outnumbered Ilisti’s troops, and more men were still joining them, but that was Ilisti’s problem. Blacknail ignored them and looked for any sign of the mages. Dealing with them was his mission, however he didn’t see anyone holding a staff or displaying any other signs that they were mages. Everyone he could see looked like thugs or soldiers.
Patiently, Blacknail watched for several minutes as the soldiers finished assembling and headed off to the gate, but neither of the mages showed themselves. A few moments later, the sound of fighting reached Blacknail’s ears, but he couldn’t see what was going at the gate from his vantage point. He didn’t hear any explosions though, so Ilisti was probably fine. If he could handle a troll he could deal with some normal human soldiers.
Just as he was about to give up and retreat, Blacknail spotted movement in the compound. A small squad of soldiers rushed out and began running to the gate. In their midst was a man holding a long staff.
Blacknail grinned “There he is!”
“The guy you want to kill?” a hobgoblin asked as he perked up and looked over Blacknail’s shoulder.
There wasn’t enough room at the window for everyone, and hobgoblins got bored easily, so they had found ways to distract themselves. One hobgoblin had been sleeping on the bed, and the other had carried the unconscious man upstairs and had been poking him in the hope that he would wake up, so he could knock him unconscious again.
“Yes, we’re going to kill him,” Blacknail replied as he rushed out of the room.
“Yeah!” the hobgoblins exclaimed as they followed after him.
The group of soldiers with the mage had already passed by the house, so Blacknail slipped out the front door and quickly followed them. The street was empty except for the mage’s guards.
“Get your bows ready,” told his minions as he readied his own.
The best way to kill mages was from afar, before they saw you coming. It was easier not to die in a fiery explosion that way.
“Release all together at my command,” Blacknail ordered the hobgoblins when they all had their bows in hand. “Go!”
One of the guards heard something and turned to look, but it was too late. Four arrows zoomed through the air towards the mage’s exposed back. Two of them missed completely, but the others passed through the soldiers and slammed into the mage. As the mage dropped his staff and fell, his guards spun around.
“Now we leave,” Blacknail remarked as he dashed away at top speed. He could probably finish the soldiers himself, but that wasn’t his job, and he needed to keep an eye out for the other mage.
“After them!” one of the soldiers yelled.
Instead of going back to the house, Blacknail slipped into an alley and headed for the gate. It was time to check on the fight there, and he wanted to make sure that the second mage hadn’t somehow slipped by him.
With the dead mage’s guards in pursuit, Blacknail and his minions zipped through a maze of alleys and then scrambled up a drain pipe and over a wall. There was cursing from behind him as the guards were forced to stop in front of the barrier. Ignoring them, Blacknail led the way down another alley. There was a pile of barrels there he used as a springboard so that he could jump up and reach the roof. Pulling himself up, he crouched on the roof and surveyed the fight happening at the gate.
Ilisiti’s men were still outnumbered but they were holding their ground. They had formed up into a bent line formation right in front of the gate, with Ilisti himself at the front. The vympir was cutting down enemy soldiers left and right as Werrick’s men tried to push him and his men outside the city. They weren’t having much luck. Down the street, a few buildings were starting to catch fire, and Blacknail saw two hobgoblins chase a man down the road.
“Can we join in the fun?” a hobgoblin asked as he crouched down beside Blacknail. “I want to find some shiny trophies to take.”
“Fine, let’s go,” Blacknail responded.
He had no idea where the other mage was, but Ilisti didn’t look like he needed any help. The men attacking him were like water splashing against a rock. As Blacknail watched, Ilisti grabbed an enemy swordsman, picked him up, and bit his neck before throwing him aside. Ya, it was time for Blacknail to start rounding up his minions. Also, he needed to go look for Khita. Knowing her, she was probably doing something stupid that would ruin all his plans if he didn’t stop her.
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