Interlude: The Long Wait Ends

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Under the White 7

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Dust hung thick in the air all around Blacknail as he jumped back to avoid a blow from a boggart warrior that had just charged him from out of nowhere. Up ahead of him, the boggart noble stumbled away through the stone rubble that had fallen from the ceiling thanks to Imp’s magic and his master’s genius.

Snarling angrily, Blacknail drew on his magical strength and leapt at the warrior. His furious flurry of blows pushed the creature back. It staggered just as Herah joined the fight. She jumped in from the side and sliced open the creature’s neck with her shorter blade. Black blood squirted from the wound as her sword came free.

“I’m helping!” she announced happily as she landed beside Blacknail and the boggart collapsed.

“Just a little. I could do this by myself though,” Blacknail replied as he saw a small pack of workers appear and begin heading his way. He pointed at them. “Now, take your squad and hold them off. I need to get their leader.”

Still grinning, Herah nodded as her squad arrived and took up position around her. Blacknail left them to their job and charged off at the noble again. This time, no new arrivals got in his way. He was able to close in on her before she got very far. She was still stumbling away, but as he neared, she spun around to glare at him. There was a hateful snarl on her face and her black eyes shimmered with rage. Creepy.

“You are vermin! You are nothing before the Host. We are countless and unending,” she yelled.  “This nest is but one of dozens, and we are ever growing. We will destroy you and all your disgusting people for daring to strike at us.”

“Shut up and die, bug lady!” Blacknail hissed as he dove in. She was like a terrible combination of everything he hated. Human women, freaky bugs, magic, and people that talked too much.

Instead of accepting her inevitable death, the bogart noble raised her hand and pointed at Blacknail. There was a small black amulet with a transparent stone set in it clutched between her fingers.

The trinket looked dangerous, but rage swirled through Blacknail, driving him forward. Thus, instead of trying to dodge whatever effect the amulet would produce, Blacknail attacked with everything he had. Magic flowed up from his core and raged through his body as he unleashed all the energy he could. It’s burning might quickened his movements as he struck, and at the same time,  he let out a savage growl as he slammed a wall of magical terror directly in her face.

The boggart noble staggered as the magic tore into her mind and began thrashing about. As this was happening, Blacknail attacked with lighting quick speed. His blade sliced through the air and then came down on the boggart noble’s outstretched arm. A moment later, the hand that was still clutching the strange amulet hit the ground, leaving a bloody stump. 

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Under the White 6

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As fireballs flew through the darkness of the huge cave, the horde of hissing boggart workers tore into the line of hobgoblin warriors. Light stones held by hobgoblin mages or hanging near the twisted black spires that filled the cavern were the only other source of light. A hissing boggart worker scuttled up and bit Blacknail’s boot, so he gave it a kick that sent it flying back and then spun around to cut down another boggart that had jumped at him. That done, Blacknail turned to strike his next opponent. There wasn’t one. Unexpectedly, the boggart horde had stopped advancing.

Blacknail took a moment to catch his breath and regain his balance. Had he scared the creatures away with his deadly skills and incredible might?

That was when Blacknail noticed a black beam shoot out of the boggart swarm and hit one of Imp’s fireballs that was flying overhead. The fireball simply disintegrated, leaving nothing but darkness. The beam then flashed several more times, clearing the sky of fireballs.

“Come here, Imp!” Blacknail yelled as he stepped back into the ranks of his exhausted troops. He didn’t like this new development. Stupid magic. It never worked the way he wanted it to. Was an unstoppable yet easy to use weapon too much to ask for? No, he just needed better minions.

Imp quickly ran over to his chief’s side. “What do you want, boss?”

“What was that black stuff?” Blacknail asked him.

The hobgoblin mage just shrugged. “It was probably magic.”

Blacknail sighed. He’d figured that much out. “Can you do anything about it?”

“Hmm, I can’t think of anything.”

Blacknail sighed again. Yes, he definitely needed better minions. They were without a doubt holding him back. Feeling annoyed, Blacknail gazed toward the source of the beams. He thought he could a see a group of taller boggarts making their way forward through the ranks of workers. One of them must be the mage. 

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Under the White 5

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Blacknail grinned savagely as he raised his sword and eyed the shadowy group of boggarts that were standing in front of the passage ahead of him. Many of the hobgoblins in Blacknail’s army were strewn out in the tunnels behind him, but there were still several dozen of his warriors nearby.

“Charge my minions! We need to clear the entrance before they get reinforcements,” Blacknail yelled as he started to run. He didn’t go too fast though, since he didn’t want to get ahead of everyone else and end up fighting alone.

Blacknail charged straight toward the enemy. As he got closer, their forms got more distinct. They were definitely boggarts. Blacknail counted around a dozen workers and about the same number of warriors. As before, the warriors were all carrying long spears. That seemed to be their standard weapon.

After a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure his allies were right behind him, Blacknail picked up speed and slammed into the assembled boggarts that were trying to guard the passage into the next chamber. Two spears sliced toward his chest, but Blacknail whirled to the side and cut off the arm of one of the attacking boggarts. It screeched in pain as it stumbled back, opening a hole in the enemy line. Drawing forth burning power from his core, Blacknail pressed his advantage. Dodging another spear, he smashed a worker aside and then whirled his blade around to deflect another attack by a warrior. Then, he slashed at the warrior’s neck. His blade found a gap in the armor there and bit deep. The warrior went down, and Blacknail spun to find a new target.

As Herah and his other bodyguards took advantage of the enemies’ broken line, Blacknail continued to hack and slash at the boggarts near him. He mangled another worker that got too close and then exchanged a few quick blows with a spear wielding warrior. More boggarts began to arrive through the passage, but now the bulk of Blacknail’s force was here. A solid wall of hobgoblins hit the boggarts and crushed them in short order.

Blacknail didn’t wait for the last boggart to die, instead he got his bodyguards and rushed forward through the opening. He had to seize control of the passage so that his forces could get through and assemble on the other side.

As Blacknail stepped through the opening, he recognized the large cavern he’d seen before with Grey. Most of the floor was covered in dark muck, although there were bare stone paths leading in every direction. Light posts were spaced out so that they illuminated the entire place, and dozens of workers were scrambling away toward the far side of the cavern. There, another host of boggarts was gathering.

Behind Blacknail, squads of hobgoblins began to spill out of the passage. Squad by squad, they took up position beside their leader, until there were hundreds of hobgoblins assembled.

Frowning, Blacknail considered his options. There were still more hobgoblins arriving, but he needed to keep moving. The objective was the enemy city, and that was in the next cave over. To get there, they’d need to deal with the mass of boggarts before them. Oh well. Blacknail hadn’t gotten this far by being afraid of fighting.

“Attack! Seize that opening and kill every boggart in your way!” Blacknail yelled at his minions. At his command, the gathered hobgoblins quickly began to advance. The ground was mucky but wasn’t too hard to cross. The mud was only a few inches thick, and there was solid stone beneath it. 

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Under the White 4

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Upon receiving Grey’s report, the first thing Blacknail did was run off to talk to Gob. When he found him, he immediately ordered the other hobgoblin to begin assembling the full might of Blacknail’s tribe. Blacknail wanted every hobgoblin that could hold a spear ready to march, and as much magic power as he could get. It was time to strike back against the boggarts and hopefully end their assaults on the mines. Blacknail couldn’t let them continue to harass his forces above and below ground. He had more important enemies, so the boggarts needed to be exterminated.

“Grey is just as useful as I thought he’d be,” Blacknail remarked with a proud grin once he was done explaining everything to Gob.

“Yes, boss. Truly, it is like you’re so wise you can see the future.”

“I’m a super great leader,” Blacknail agreed with a nod. “I think we need even more lurkers now. They are just too useful to only have one. I’m putting you in charge of getting me more.”

“Er, how would I do that, boss? None of the trogs seem to be transforming.”

Blacknail grinned smugly. “Ah, I know the answer to that, since I’m so smart and amazing. You really need to get smarter. You see, Grey is part goblin. You need to get a whole bunch more trogs that are part goblin.”

Gob suddenly looked concerned. “Um, boss. How am I supposed to do that? What exactly are you ordering me to do?”

“Figure it out yourself. I have to go back to Grey,” Blacknail replied with a dismissive wave as he turned to leave. “Make sure my troops are ready to move when I get back.”

Leaving Gob behind, Blacknail hurried back underground to where Grey was waiting.

“Alright, let’s go. I want to see the base you found,” Blacknail told the lurker.

An hesitant look appeared on Grey’s pale face. “You sure? We no bring a light into the dark. It be hard for you.” The lurker was still learning to speak properly so his speech could be a little garbled, or maybe it was a lurker thing. Blacknail honestly wasn’t sure yet. 

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