After sending Gob and Imp outside to get reinforcements, Blacknail and several minions waited for them to return at the first intersection in the cave. An unknown number of trogs warily watched from the shadows beyond the light. One of Imp’s assistants had remained behind with a crystal. Blacknail ignored the shifting darkness and the hissing of the unseen trogs. They weren’t important now. He had much more dangerous things to worry about. In fact, the presence of the Trogs was reassuring because it meant nothing more dangerous was around.
Thankfully, Blacknail didn’t have to wait in the dripping darkness all that long. The alarm had already been raised earlier up above, so Gob was quickly able to round up more troops and return. As Gob and Imp’s group came into sight, Blacknail counted thirty more hobgoblins and three more mages holding glowing light stones. Half the hobgoblins had the warrior mark, but all of them were armed with swords or spears. Blacknail almost felt like waiting for more, but decided it would slow them down too much. Imp’s magic should be enough.
Once he reached his chief’s side, Gob immediately stopped and saluted. Blacknail gave him an approving nod. “Good job.”
Blacknail then turned to Imp. “Did you bring your best battle magics? Every enemy we blow up is one less enemy trying to kill us.”
“Wise words, boss. But, you said not to get anything that would kill everyone in the cave or bury us under rock,” Imp replied with a frown.
“Fine, did you bring the best magic you can actually use without killing us all?”
Imp nodded. “Probably. We tested it once and nothing too terrible happened.”
“Just be ready to attack at my command,” Blacknail replied with a sigh. He hated magic.
“What enemy do you think is down here?” Gob asked as he studied the surrounding darkness with a frown. There wasn’t much to see.
“Like a great leader, I’m always expecting enemies everywhere,” Blacknail replied vaguely before ordering his troops to form up. There was a chance that his suspicions were wrong, and he didn’t want to look silly in front of the minions. There was also no point in spooking them by revealing the truth. Hobgoblins weren’t known for their bravery.
With Imp at his side to illuminate the way, Blacknail led his troops deeper into the caves and toward the underground river. The heavy thud of footsteps echoed behind him as his troops marched in a three-hob wide column.
When they reached the huge cavern that contained the rushing river, Blacknail led them down the rocky incline beyond the entrance and into the cave proper. Crabs and other beasts shuffled as they hid among the stone pillars that dotted the cave, but they didn’t attack the passing hobgoblins. Blacknail used his power to terrify any beast that got too close, but he barely had to do anything. Such a large formation of tightly packed hobgoblins wasn’t exactly a tempting target. There was easier prey for even the hungriest of creatures. Thus, Blacknail’s troops reached the other side of the cavern and the passages that lay there unmolested.
Blacknail called for a stop as he eyed the tunnel that led to the mushroom forest suspiciously. “We’re going to move quickly now. Turn up all the lights and keep in formation. Expect attacks from the shadows. Don’t even think about hanging back though. Anyone who falls behind will be gutted and left for the crabs.”