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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Under the White 3

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A week went by without any further scuffles with the boggarts. There were a few sightings of dark figures lurking near the guard posts, but they didn’t attack again. Instead, they seemed content to watch the hobgoblins and bide their time. Blacknail really wished he knew what the creepy creatures were thinking. They acted nothing like either humans or hobgoblins.

Meanwhile, work continued on the underground projects at a fast pace. The trogs were good workers when properly motivated by hobgoblin taskmasters and occasional food scraps. Under Blacknail’s watchful eyes, they worked diligently on the floodwall in the river cave.

It was during this time that the transforming trog woke up. He’d been wrapped in a blanket and stashed away at the back of the trogs’ barracks with a goblin guard. The moment he opened his eyes, the goblin ran off to get his hobgoblin supervisor, who then ran to find Blacknail.

Blacknail immediately suspended the work on the wall and went to check on his newest and most unique minion. The transformed trog was indeed awake and lucid. In fact, he was naked and sitting on the fur blanket he’d been sleeping under while staring in disbelief at his own hands.

Like most newly transformed hobgoblins, he was so skinny his ribs were clearly visible and he had an extremely lanky build. His skin was a pale – almost white – grey with only a barely noticeable green tint. He was also bald and hornless, which made several ways he seemed different from a normal hobgoblin more noticeable. His pointy ears were longer and slightly floppy, and his eyes were bigger than normal too. Also, his nose was rounder and shorter than that of a proper hobgoblin, which made him look quite ugly to Blacknail. As the transformed trog licked his lips, his teeth were revealed. Like a trog’s, they were very needle-like and spaced far apart.

Smiling, Blacknail walked over to his newly awakened minion. “Hello, you’re not going to try to kill me, are you? A lot of new hobgoblins do that, so I have to punch them in the face until they stop.”

Looking up, the transformed trog just blinked at him in a confused manner, and then he went back to staring at his own hands.

“Hmm, I see you can’t talk yet. Hopefully you aren’t too stupid to learn,” Blacknail mused aloud. The transformed trog’s features definitely gave him a sickly appearance, so maybe he was dumb too. There were a lot of humans that combined both those traits, and a few hobgoblins as well.

Blacknail spent a few more minutes poking and studying the transformed trog, but he just sat there and looked confused, so Blacknail quickly got bored. He left and ordered another hobgoblin to go take care of the new minion and teach him to speak and follow orders.

When he wasn’t monitoring the construction of the floodwall, Blacknail frequently stopped in to visit the transformed trog. On the fourth day, the trog had learned to speak and understand most of the basic commands. Apparently, he wasn’t dumb after all. Thus, Blacknail threw his minion some warm clothes -including his first pair of pants – and then took him out on a tour of Ironbreak. 

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Under the White 2

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There was no sign of any living boggarts in the tunnel ahead of them anymore, so Blacknail began cleaning his weapon and checking his minions over. After he was sure the injured had been treated, he led his troops over to the fallen guard post. The boggarts had completely demolished the barrier during their attack. It needed to be repaired right away, so Blacknail had some of the nearby hobgoblins grab the trogs that had shown up and get them working. Proper supervision was the key to efficiency when you were dealing with minions. You just had to make sure everyone was watching everyone else. Then, none of them would dare slack off.

Leaving the workers and a fair number of guards to their task, Blacknail headed back the way he’d come. Since he was down here already, he wanted to go check out the crystal cave again, to make sure no other mutants had shown up to steal his energy. It was still his by right of conquest, even if he wasn’t there to use it.

Heading through some tunnels, Blacknail and his guards made their way through the river cave and soon then reached their destination. Blacknail left his guards at the entrance and entered alone since he wanted peace and he didn’t sense anything dangerous within. As before, the energy flowing out of the fissure in the wall was somehow both calming and invigorating. It felt wonderful. Taking, a seat on a large flat rock, Blacknail shut his eyes and let his core begin drawing in as much energy as possible. Soon, he felt himself grow completely relaxed and his mind stilled. The sound of his deep breaths filled the chamber as Balcknail relaxed and restored himself. It was quite nice in this cave. He ought to come here more often. Unfortunately, he had pressing matters to attend to, so he couldn’t stay forever. Sighing, Blacknail eventually gathered his will and climbed back to his feet. He wasn’t sure exactly how long he’d been resting, but it was possible that several hours had passed since he’d first entered the cave, or ten minutes.

Grumbling about lazy minions, Blacknail led his guards back into the river cave. Since he was feeling wistful and invigorated, he actually took the time to examine and study his surroundings as he walked. The river cave was really a rather impressive sight. It was the biggest cavern Blacknail had ever seen, larger than even the mushroom forest cave. The most notable features were the rushing river that ran through it and the smooth stone columns that reached up from the floor to the ceiling. The columns seemed to have been worn down by untold centuries of water. Looking down, it was fairly obvious that the smooth but uneven floor had been worn down by water as well. Wait a second…

“This cave floods!” Blacknail announced in surprise as he stopped and looked around. 

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