With an impatient growl, Blacknail took off after Scamp. He ran through Mahedium’s lab and then out through his living chamber. The hobgoblin then burst outside and landed on the ground in a crouch, as he quickly looked around for the goblin.
There was no sign of him, so Blacknail hurriedly sniffed the ground for his scent. Mahedium stepped out behind him. He looked flustered and annoyed, but there was also a gleam of excitement in his eyes.
“Where did he go?” the nervous mage asked.
Blacknail didn’t bother to respond. He just took off after Scamp as soon as he caught his scent. He moved at a brisk walk as he tracked his quarry. Mahedium followed him.
Why was Scamp allowed to run around like this? It was stupid. When Saeter had taken him in Blacknail hadn’t been allowed to leave his master’s side without permission.
Scamp’s trail led to a group of empty tents that encircled a fire pit off to one corner of the camp. The four tents were made from animal hides stretched over wooden poles. A large pot of something was hanging over the unlit campfire. Blacknail scanned the area quickly, but didn’t see any obvious signs of Scamp.
Then, he heard a faint sound from one of the tents. As silently as possible, the hobgoblin crept over to it and gently slid the entrance flap open so he could look inside. Blacknail didn’t see the goblin, but there was a man sleeping under some blankets in the tent. Blacknail frowned; he had been sure Scamp would be in there.
The unconscious bandit who lay within the tent stirred as cool air blew in through the open flap. Then he blinked and opened his eyes, to find Blacknail’s green face staring down at him.
“What in all the hells?!” he yelled out as he jerked away from the hobgoblin.
As he moved away from Blacknail, he pulled his coverings with him, and the hide blankets slid away to reveal a green lump. Tentatively, a small hand rose from the green mass and patted the area around itself as if searching for something. After it apparently failed to find what it was looking for, Scamp’s head rose up and looked around. The goblin cringed and grimaced when he saw the hobgoblin staring down at him.
Blacknail growled triumphantly. He’d found his prey. Mahedium stepped up beside the hobgoblin and stuck his head in the tent as well.
“Ah ha!” the mage declared as he noticed the goblin.
“Wha? What the fuck are all you bastards doing in my tent?” the man inside the tent yelled as his fear and surprise turned to anger.
“Sorry, it’s important,” Blacknail replied politely. At least the man hadn’t thrown anything at him.
“Don’t let that goblin get away, it’s stolen some dangerous magical items!” Mahedium said at almost the same time.
The tent’s owner stared at Mahedium for a second, then what the mage had said sunk in and an alarmed expression appeared on his face. He quickly responded by diving as far away from the goblin as he could get while Blacknail was blocking the tent’s entrance.
“Return my mana crystals!” Mahedium commanded as he scowled disdainfully at the bandit.
Blacknail didn’t bother with words; he just leapt at Scamp. The useless little thief was really getting on his nerves.
“No, my bright pretties!” the goblin troublemaker yelled as he rolled under one of the tent walls to the outside.
Blacknail hissed angrily as he landed on empty ground. Infuriated, he spun around and pushed past Mahedium as he exited the tent and continued the chase. Once outside, he whirled around until he saw Scamp’s fleeing form.
The little goblin was making for a group of bandits who were standing around and talking to each other beside a pile of crates. Blacknail sprinted after him at full speed. When he got his hands on Scamp the little idiot would never dare cross him ever again!
Blacknail’s target ran through the legs of the humans in his path as he frantically tried to keep his lead on the angry hobgoblin chasing him. Several of the bandits swore and flinched as he hit their legs on his way past.
Blacknail didn’t slow down as he approached the group of men. He was going to catch that stupid runt no matter what! How dare the little goblin challenge him. This was Blacknail’s camp and as a goblin Scamp should do what he told him to, or else!
“Oh shit. Move!” one of the men ahead of Blacknail yelled as he saw the hobgoblin speeding towards them.
Several of the bandits turned and then tried to move out of the way when they saw Blacknail speeding towards them. Most of them were too slow. Blacknail pushed and twisted his way through them. The men swore angrily as he shoved them aside or knocked them over.
Scamp was now running towards three men seated around a camp fire. The bandits appeared to be eating stew from a pot. Blacknail continued chasing the goblin, and with his longer legs he was steadily closing the distance between them.
Once again, Scamp manoeuvred through the clump of men. Blacknail was only a few feet away though, and pounced at the goblin. Unfortunately for Blacknail, he missed as Scamp threw himself to the side and out of the way. The hobgoblin landed on all fours in the middle of the men and startled them. There were surprised shouts as they all shot to their feet.
As Blacknail scrambled to get back to his feet and continue the chase, something landed on his back and then he felt warm liquid splash all over him. One of the bandits had accidentally knocked over the stew pot, and it had spilled onto Blacknail.
Instinctively, the hobgoblin tried to shake himself dry, which sent droplets of wasted stew flying everywhere. Most of the goop was too sticky to be so easily removed, but the bandits around him gave several more alarmed shouts and tried to back away as the slimy droplets flew everywhere.
Blacknail gave an enraged scream and bounded after Scamp again. Forget teaching him a lesson, he was going to rip the goblin apart with his bare hands, and enjoy every last hour of it! How dare the useless goblin not obey him!
At the sound of Blacknail’s scream, the fleeing goblin cast a nervous glance back. When he saw Blacknail chasing him, he yelped in fear and turned to race towards a nearby pile of firewood. The hobgoblin was hissing with rage and practically frothing at the mouth, as he bore down on the smaller goblin.
Scamp dove into the wood pile and disappeared within. Blacknail was right behind him. He jumped onto the top of the wood pile and began tearing it apart. Pieces of firewood were sent flying in every direction as the enraged hobgoblin started madly digging his way down into the center of the wood stack.
Soon, a small crowd had gathered to see what was going on. Mahedium had followed Blacknail and was now standing to one side of the commotion. As he looked on, the mage was biting his thumb and clearly very nervous.
“What in all the bloody hells is going on here?” Red Dog exclaimed as he walked over.
“Ah… the other goblin Scamp, I believe his name is, stole some of my mana stones. The hobgoblin, Blacknail, chased him down to get them back. Now though, I fear circumstances have caused him to become more than a little enraged. He’s trying to dig Scamp out,” Mahedium explained fretfully, after he had taken his thumb out of his mouth.
“He’s making a damned mess is what he’s doing. Where in all the hells are Saeter and Varhs? This is their responsibility,” a scowling Red Dog asked.
“Well… there’s another problem,” Mahedium told him.
“Story of my life it seems. Go on tell me,” Red Dog told him with a sigh.
“The goblin may somehow have the ability to trigger the flawed mana stones in its possession,” Mahedium explained reluctantly.
One eyebrow rose on Red Dog’s thick face as he gave the mage a look full of disbelief.
“And what exactly does that mean?” he responded.
“Well, since the crystals are flawed the effect of the goblin activating them is unpredictable,” Mahedium replied.
“Guess,” Red Dog replied dryly.
Mahedium hesitated. He clearly didn’t want to answer this question.
“Most likely they will explode, but really anything could happen. They might do nothing, emit harmless light, disintegrate the user, or produce a sound that kills everyone who hears it… but he probably won’t actually trigger crystal. He would need a good reason to do that,” Mahedium told the other man hopefully.
“Like say fear for instance?” Red Dog asked sarcastically.
“Um, yes…” Mahedium responded.
Red Dog turned back to the wood pile that Blacknail was ripping apart. He stared at the hissing and enraged hobgoblin for a few seconds before turning back to Mahedium.
“I would be very afraid if I was him,” Red Dog told the mage.
Mahedium just stood there and looked worried for a few seconds before saying anything.
“What are you going to do?” he asked the other bandit.
“Me? I’m going to back the fuck up til I’m outside the range of an explosion, and then I’m going to plug my ears,” Red Dog replied.
Mahedium didn’t seem reassured by Red Dog’s words. He turned back towards Blacknail and started biting his thumb again.
Several minutes passed as Blacknail dug. He was trying to budge a particularly large and stuck piece of lumber when he heard something that broke through his rage.
“Blacknail you filthy beast, stop that now!” an angry sounding voice yelled.
The hobgoblin instantly stopped. By this time he had cut his way fairly deep into the timber pile, so he had to straighten up and turn to glimpse the source of the voice. The other option was to dive deeper and join Scamp in hiding.
Herad was standing a few feet from the edge of the wood heap, and she was glaring angrily at him. The rage that had built up inside Blacknail quickly withered, as it was smothered by cold fear.
Frantically, Blacknail thought back to the last few minutes, and tried to remember if he had done anything to piss her off. He winced slightly as he remembered running through the one group of bandits. That wasn’t so bad, though. Blacknail was almost certain Herad wouldn’t feel the need to kill him over it, but then again with Herad you never knew.
“Come down here,” Herad commanded.
Blacknail warily did as he was told and hopped down off the stacks of wood. As he moved, he noticed that Herad wasn’t alone for the first time. A very worried looking Varhs was standing beside her.
The younger scout was rough looking as usual, all the bandits were, but he looked slightly pale underneath the dirt and fuzz on his face. As the cowering hobgoblin approached Herad turned to Varhs.
“Varhs, I’m told your pet goblin started this mess. When you asked to keep the goblin you were warned what would happen if you didn’t keep it out of trouble. I don’t like wasting my time on crap like this, so what do you have to say for yourself?” Herad asked Varhs.
She sounded more disappointed than angry, but her voice was still cold and unyielding. Varhs gulped before answering her.
“I’m sorry boss. Scamp’s a good boy; I don’t know what’s gotten into him all of a sudden. I’m sure that if everyone were to just calm down I would be able to call him out and get the stuff back. Everyone’s just making mountains out of molehills here,” he replied with an accusatory glance at Blacknail.
This infuriated the hobgoblin. He wasn’t to blame at all! All he had done was try to catch the little thief. It was too much for Blacknail, he spoke up.
“Scamp’s mess is all your fault. You don’t train him-ss right. No beatings or orders, just treats! You’re a terrible master. He is still wild and needs hard-ss training” Blacknail furiously countered.
Both Varhs and Blacknail stared at each other angrily for a few seconds before Herad bothered to respond.
“What do you think Saeter? You usually have an opinion on everything” Herad asked snidely.
Blacknail blinked in confusion for a few seconds then followed her gaze to his left, where his master now stood. The hobgoblin hadn’t noticed his approach.
“This isn’t my business, but Blacknail’s right. Varhs’ goblin isn’t trained properly,” Saeter responded calmly.
“Hmmm, we agree for once. The goblin goes and Varhs pays the price then,” Herad mused aloud.
Varhs looked like someone had just kicked him in the balls. His faced was twisted up with pain and regret.
“I’m sorry boss. It’s only been one time though. Give me another chance. I’ll make sure Scamp behaves. I beg you!” he pleaded.
“I don’t give second chances, and I hate begging. You’ve wasted my time enough, and it won’t happen again,” she replied with a cold judging tone. Her eyes were dark and contained not even the slimmest glimmer of mercy.
Varhs’ cringed and a desperate look appeared on his face as he turned to Saeter and Blacknail.
“Come on Blacknail, I know you’re mad but Scamp’s a goblin like you! You can’t want to see him disposed of. I’ll take the punishment, but please why don’t you take Scamp,” Varhs begged them.
Blacknail gave Varhs a befuddled look. Scamp was nothing like him, and why should he care about other goblins? He would be happy to see the wretched thief gone.
“I don’t want a badly trained goblin,” Saeter simply said.
“Fine Blacknail, I’ll give you treats if you train Scamp. You’ve been criticizing me and how I do it. Let’s see you do better!” Varhs offered.
“What kind-ss of treats? I have all the meat-ss I need,” Blacknail asked curiously.
“Stuff from town; types of meat and tasty human food you’ve never had before,” Varhs told him.
Blacknail considered it. He would get to try new delicious foods and beat sense into Scamp as much as he wanted. He threw a questioning glance at Herad. The chief had to give her permission.
“I’ll allow it. Blacknail knows how to train a goblin, and he’s ruthless enough to correct any problems that crop up,” Herad told them as she stood there with her arms crossed in front of her.
“Fine-ss, but I train him how I want,” Blacknail answered.
Varhs looked relieved and seemed like he was going to thank Blacknail, but Herad cut him off.
“This debate has already taken up too much of my time. If you know what’s good for you then you’ll call your goblin out right now, and pray he listens,” Herad told the scout menacingly.
Varhs jumped to obey. He swiftly run up to the wood pile and began calling for Scamp and reassuring the goblin that he would be safe.
A few minutes later, a very scared goblin emerged from the wood pile. He was shivering and his eyes were huge. The crystals were still in his hands, and he flinched as he noticed Blacknail staring at him. The hobgoblin was actually smiling but for some reason Scamp didn’t find that comforting.
Varhs reached down and held out his hand, and Scamp placed the crystals in them. Even after all the trouble they had caused him, the goblin seemed hesitant to give them up. Once he had the mana stones Varhs returned them to Mahedium, who looked very relieved to have them back.
Much to everyone’s surprise the mage then handed one of the stones back to the goblin.
“I’ll let you keep it if you can make it glow again,” he told the whimpering goblin.
Scamp gave the mage a bewildered look, but then he stared at the stone in his hands. When nothing happened be began to grip it tighter until he almost seemed to be trying to crush it.
“Nothing is happening. You must have imagined it. There’s no way goblins can do magic,” Red Dog remarked with a snort of disbelief.
Mahedium threw him an annoyed glance. By this time most the camp seemed to have gathered to see what had been going on. Even Vorscha and Geralhd had wandered over.
“It takes training to burn a crystal, on purpose anyway. I don’t tell you how to stick a sword in someone’s face and make off with their coin pouch, so don’t attempt to lecture me about the nature of magic and mages,” the Mahedium replied condescendingly.
Before Red Dog could reply, there was a flash of light as Scamp’s crystal came to life in his hands. White light blazed from between his fingers. It was bright enough to reveal the shadows of his bones, but after a few seconds it winked out.
“Ha, as a first major discovery this is undoubtedly an odd one, but it is one none the less. The guilds believe that humans are the only species able to burn and utilize mana stones, but obviously I have just proved them wrong! Clearly those inbred thugs aren’t as good at magic as they believe,” Mahedium bragged loudly.
The mage had a smug smile on his face as he reached into one of his pockets and pulled out another light stone. He tossed it to an off guard Blacknail, who fumbled it and almost dropped it.
“Try and light it up,” Mahedium told him.
With an indifferent shrug, Blacknail looked down at the crystal in his hands. He stared down at it and concentrated. What had Scamp done to make his light up?
The hobgoblin began to squeeze the stone as hard as he could. Several minutes went by, but nothing happened. Feeling frustrated and annoyed, Blacknail tossed the useless rock back to Mahedium.
“Hmm, it does seem like goblins are similar to humans in that only part of the population is mage born. I would need much more comprehensive testing to be sure, though,” Mahedium mused aloud.
Red Dog rolled his eyes and snorted in annoyance. He was glaring at the mage angrily.
“This just means you’re going to have to lock your crystals up. Other than that it’s a pretty bloody useless discovery,” Red Dog told him.
“I can think of several uses for this. For instance, I could use the goblin’s blood instead of my own as a catalyst to start crystal formation, and it would be interesting to test if the ability is exactly the same in both species,” Mahedium responded dismissively.
“Vorscha come here, and you two be quiet. Everyone else get your useless asses out of here,” Herad suddenly announced as she walked over to Red Dog and Mahedium.
She threw an angry glare at the nearby crowds, and they quickly started to disperse. Soon, only Red Dog, Saeter, Geralhd, Vorscha, Mahedium, Varhs, and Blacknail were left. They all stood in a loose half circle facing Herad.
“Since you’re all here and I’ve already wasted too much of my time, I’m going to go over our future plans right now,” Herad told them. “I told you earlier this year that I would probably be heading north to Daggerpoint before winter set in, and that’s still the plan.”
“Why? I thought we were claiming this territory as our own.” Vorscha asked.
“That’s what we’re doing…” Herad started to answer but Blacknail was distracted by a grumble from his stomach.
As the humans started discussing the nitty-gritty details of something he didn’t really care about, the hobgoblin began to think about food. He had a bunch of dried meat in one of his pouches but he sort of felt like something sweet instead.
Oh, there was that clump of berry bushes out in the woods. Hmmm berries, that would really hit the spot.
The hobgoblin glanced around. It didn’t look like anyone here would miss him, or had even noticed him, so he was just going to go step out and grab a snack. He would probably get back before the humans got to anything important anyway. They really did love to hear themselves talk.
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!