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Hearts and Homes 7

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Hearts and Homes 6

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“Are we almost there yet?” Khita asked Blacknail as she ducked under a low hanging branch.

“Yes, I already told you that!” the hobgoblin hissed in response. This was the third time he had answered her annoying question.

“Then how come we haven’t gotten there yet? We should have if we were actually close.”

“Because that’s not how it works! Shut up and walk.”

It hadn’t even been an hour yet and Blacknail already wanted to kill Khita. He really wished Gerahld hadn’t explained all the reason he couldn’t. Tannin would be highly suspicious if she disappeared and that would ruin all of Blacknail’s plans. Why was he never allowed to kill Khita? It was if the world was trying to keep her alive just to annoy him.

“We’re here,” Blacknail hissed as he stepped out of the bushes at the edge of the forest.

The rocky hills that made up the local goblins’ lair lay in front of them. Khita took a moment to look around after pushing a bush aside. The young redhead was wearing tall slim boots that went up to her knees and a leather vest over her long green shirt. It was the same outfit she had worn during the trek North but it had been washed and patched.

“This is a terrible secret base. It’s just a bunch of rock piles,” Khita replied as they began walking toward the hill. They had attracted the attention of quite a few goblins but they all recognized Blacknail and kept their distance. None of them wanted to attract his attention. Khita also didn’t seem too disturbed to see the goblins either. Blacknail had to speed up his pace in order to prevent her from walking ahead.

“I just conquered it. It will get better soon,” Blacknail replied defensively. What did she expect? A fortress?

They passed through a pair of hills and the center of the clearly came into sight. Gob was standing on a flat patch of rocky earth there. The hobgoblin was surrounded by a squad of goblins. Each of these goblins was holding a spear and standing straight. Gob noticed the newcomers but after glancing at Blacknail to make sure he didn’t need anything he turned back to the goblins he was teaching and went back to work.

“Wow, you didn’t waste any time before rounding up the local goblins. There sure are a lot of them,” Khita remarked as she looked around. She didn’t seem scared at all, even though she was among so many unfamiliar goblins.

“They started it.”

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Hearts and Homes 5

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The corpse of the man Blacknail had just killed lay on the ground. Blood leaked from his torn open throat. The other two men the hobgoblin had poisoned had also stopped choking and gone still. A mere minute ago, they had been talking in a friendly manner with Blacknail, and then the hobgoblin had killed them without mercy or warning.

There was a look of complete horrified shock on Elyias’ face. His eyes were wide with terror as he took a fumbling step back away from Blacknail. “Oh gods! What the hells? Have you gone crazy? Are you going to kill me now? I knew this was going to happen, but no one listened to me. Oh gods, why didn’t they listen?”

“You’re fine,” Blacknail reassured his minion. “Didn’t I tell you about this part of the plan? I thought I had told you…”

“Plan? You can’t just kill people!”

“They betrayed the rest of the band, so it’s fine. That’s the kind of people you’re supposed to kill. Herad did it all the time.”

“You were the one that convinced them to do that! You led them out here, so you’re just as responsible as them.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m the leader; I can’t be a traitor. It was a test and they failed,” Blacknail replied as he rolled his eyes in a condescending manner. Humans sure could convince themselves of some crazy things.

Elyias stared slack-jawed at Blacknail. He didn’t seem to know what to say at first but then he opened his mouth. “Why did you bring us out here if you were just planning on killing them? It makes no sense. You’re insane!”

“It makes lots of sense, too much sense for a minion like you,” Blacknail answered. “You’re here to help me carry things, and I brought them out here because they were in the way of my plan.”

“What plan? Is it to see how many humans you can lure out into the woods and murder?” Elyias yelled. His voice echoed through the trees.

“No, that’s dumb. That plan is for later. I don’t want to kill you humans. You’re part of my tribe and I’m trying to help you.”

“By lying to us and poisoning our food?”

“Phh, I’m trying to help most of you, the ones that deserve it. Like you, you’re a good minion. Aren’t you?” Blacknail asked as he stared meaningfully at Elyias. The human minion got the message.

“Er, yes?” he responded carefully in much lower voice.

“Good. Going to Daggerpoint through the forest was just a stupid idea. We all would have died,” Blacknail replied. Elyias was always fun to have around. His reactions were so amusing and he was easy to control with threats. 

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Hearts and Homes 4

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Of course, the problem was all the humans. Their weird mental issues really complicated Blacknail’s plans. The tight alley was dark and shadowy as the hobgoblin leaned against the side of the building he had just been spying into. It seemed unlikely that anyone would stumble his way, so he had plenty of time to think.

What did Blacknail want for himself? Food? Shiny things? No, he wanted to kill Werrick. Blacknail’s mouth began to water whenever he thought about it. The memories of Saeter’s last moments were still fresh in Blacknail’s mind, and they demanded action. Blood had to be paid with blood, but killing Werrick would be very difficult and dangerous.

None of the survivors of Herad’s camp were anything like Saeter. Blacknail had travelled with the humans for a while now but it hadn’t filled the hole in his heart. Going to Daggerpoint wouldn’t satisfy him at all. His master couldn’t be replaced by anyone else. It was pointless to try. Only vengeance was left to him.

Werrick would be difficult to kill, though. He was a powerful Vessel and he had a horde of minions. Being sneaky wouldn’t be enough, which meant Blacknail needed more power, and the easiest way to get that was by increasing the size of his tribe. Werrick had a large army so Blacknail needed one too. Unfortunately, while that idea was very appealing, it would be hard to actually accomplish.

After observing his human minions for a while Blacknail had come to the troubling conclusion that most of them didn’t like having him in charge. Even though he had done such a great job as their leader and saved their lives too many times to count they didn’t trust him, and it was obviously because he was a hobgoblin. What a bunch of stupid herd animals.

Blacknail sighed as doubt clouded his mind. There was no way he was ever going to build a human army the way Herad or Werrick had. Being the strongest wasn’t enough. Did that mean his goal was impossible? Maybe he was just thinking about this the wrong way. What if he thought about this like it was… a hunt? Yes, that could work. He had certain tools available and it was all about using them correctly in order to corner his quarry. Most of the tools were humans, and they were defined by their fear and their greed. Controlling them was simply a matter of introducing the right type of motivation at the right time. He also had some other tools available, like the goblins, even if they were useless for anything that required an attention span of over a minute.  

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Hearts and Homes 3

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The swarm of feral goblins glared at Blacknail with hate-filled eyes. More and more of them were slipping into sight from behind rocky hills and grey boulders. Most of them gathered up behind their leader, the yellow eyed hobgoblin, until there were almost forty of them. They shook and fidgeted as they worked themselves into a fury and glared at the intruders. In the center of the group, their hobgoblin chieftain watched Blacknail with his bright yellow eyes. He stood confidently but seemed willing to wait.

“Let’s run away,” Scamp said as he cowered behind Blacknail. He clearly regretted coming out of the bushes that bordered the forest behind him.

“Run and I’ll make you into a loincloth,” Blacknail hissed in reply as he studied the enemy.

This wasn’t a small tribe at all, and they far outnumbered Blacknail’s own paltry force. Even with another hobgoblin to back him up they would quickly be swarmed over by the mob in a straight up fight. Even a good sword wouldn’t stop an angry green wave. Blacknail wasn’t too worried, though. It wouldn’t come to that, because that wasn’t how goblins acted. They were only slightly smarter than humans, but they were far less likely to commit suicide for no real reason. Still, it would be a terrible idea to let the enemy have time or let them think they had the advantage. If they sensed weakness then the wild goblins would attack all together.

“We’re going to charge. Follow me or I’ll rip your guts out,” Blacknail ordered his followers. He then eyed Gob and made an aggressive gesture that he hoped conveyed his meaning. The other hobgoblin didn’t have a great understanding of how to talk.

“What?” Scamp asked disbelievingly.

Instead of responding, Blacknail drew his sword and launched himself forward. Another roar echoed out from his throat as he closed the distance between himself and his target.

“Die, you snotty runts!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

The enemy goblins flinched in surprise. Instinctively, they huddled closer together for a moment for safety. The yellow eyed hobgoblin froze for a split second but then quickly raised his axe. This didn’t faze Blacknail. He grinned savagely as he dove forward. Meanwhile, the massed goblins realized who Blacknail’s target was. The sudden noise and the attack startled them. Caught off guard, they didn’t have time to do anything but react. Screeching filled the air as the goblins dove away from the charging hobgoblin. It was one thing for them to seek safety in numbers from an enemy but it was something completely different to place themselves directly between two fighting hobgoblins.  

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