The next few days were very boring. Herad was gone and she had taken most the other bandits with her. Blacknail spent his time doing chores and, when boredom caused his curiosity to overcome his self preservation, a little exploring.
One afternoon, Blacknail was walking over to his master’s tent. He had been out in the forest gathering some plants for Saeter. He didn’t know why his master wanted them, they certainly didn’t taste very good, he had checked.
Suddenly, the loud crack of wood splintering startled the goblin and caused him to flinch. The first noise was soon followed by the sound of panicked human yelling. That was almost never good.
Blacknail grew concerned. Then he realized the noise was coming from the nearby forest, and it was getting closer. He immediately started to run away. Just to be safe.
He made straight for his master but the noise steadily grew closer. The nervous goblin risked a glance backwards and saw a scout burst from the edge of the forest and run frantically into the clearing. The man’s face was pale with terror and he was gasping for breath.
Not good, something bad was about to happen and he wanted as far away from it as possible. Blacknail tried to run faster. His little legs pumped frantically.
“Help,” the scout yelled desperately between gasping breaths.
The goblin was pretty sure the man wasn’t talking to him, so he just kept running away.
The camp came alive with movement and shouting as others noticed the commotion. Suddenly, Blacknail heard several bandits swear or shout in surprise. He couldn’t help but shoot another panicked look over his shoulder to find out what the men had seen. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it.
He was not disappointed. The forest exploded and massive creature barreled out of the bushes. It was headed straight for the running scout.
The beast snorted and squealed in rage as it tried to run the fleeing man down. The scout was, of course, leading it straight towards Blacknail.
The creature was as tall as a man and heavy with both muscle and fat. It easily weighed more than a horse. Its body was covered in dark brown spiky hair that was especially long and bristly on its back. It also had a flat snout protruding from its face, because it was a giant pig.
Even with its unbelievable mass the boar moved frighteningly quickly. Blacknail had no doubt that anyone hit by it would be smashed into paste, and then crushed under its hooves. That was, of course, if they weren’t first impaled on the long yellow tusks that jutted forward out of its mouth.
Blacknail was running on all fours now as both panic and adrenaline set in. Both the scout and the huge pig were gaining on him. Saeter had risen to his feet and was now quickly going through his things.
Blacknail raced past an empty tent. He really hoped his master would do something soon… as in really soon! He didn’t want to be trampled to death by a giant pig!
From just behind him the running goblin heard a horrible scream of pain, which was quickly followed by a wet crunching sound and then a triumphant squeal. Ouch! Hopefully the beast would leave now that it had caught its target.
Nope, the sound of heavy hooves pounding the earth continued towards Blacknail. Why did these things always happen to him!
“Bad piggy, don’t chase me,” the terrified little goblin wailed as he ran.
Suddenly, there was the crack of a sling and a surprised squeal from the boar. One of the nearby bandits had hit the pig with a rock. With a furious grunt the boar shifted its beady eyed gaze to the woman who had hit him.
The woman’s eyes widened as they met the small black eyes of the boar. You could practically see anger and hatred rise like steam from off the boar’s back. It looked pissed.
With a dreadful squeal that tore through the air, the beast switched targets and made for his assailant.
After a brief second of looking very regretful of her recent life choices, the woman turned and fled. Her sudden departure surprised several bandits who had been standing right next to her.
“Hey, wait!” one of them squeaked.
Then the entire group of bandits turned and dashed away in every direction like a swarm of insects someone had just waved their hand through. None of them tried to stand their ground.
Blacknail slowed to a jog. Whew, he needed catch his breath. The boar was no longer chasing him, thank the spirits. He should be safe for now.
As the boar closed in on her, the woman dove behind a stack of solid wooden crates. This did not stop the boar. It hit the boxes at full speed with a thunderous cracking noise.
The beast’s long tusks scooped under the crates, and a jerk of its wide head launched them into the air. Its bulky body smashed right through the remaining boxes and crushed them under its hooves. An explosion of splinters was soon all that was left of them.
The noise was deafening. Even from far away, Blacknail winced in pain as the sound assaulted his ears.
The goblin couldn’t see where the woman had ended up among all the debris. He didn’t even know if she was still alive or not. If she was dead he would remember her fondly. She had probably saved his life after all.
The boar apparently couldn’t find her either. It snorted and stomped around the ruins of the crates for a few seconds before focusing his attention on the nearest visible bandit. A startlingly angry squeal escaped the beast’s lips and then it charged after him.
“Oh hells” the man yelled as he desperately looked around for somewhere to hide.
Much to Blacknail’s alarm, the man started running in his direction.
“Eek, not again!” the goblin cursed as he picked up speed.
All the nearby bandits were either running away or hiding behind tents and equipment. Several had made for the old farm house and one was climbing a tree. It wasn’t even a very large tree.
After seeing the boar go through the pile of crates Blacknail was pretty sure those were all terrible ideas. He just wished he had a better one.
The man and the beast were quickly closing in on the small goblin, so Blacknail took off towards Saeter. Bad things from the forest were kind of his thing.
The heavy beat of hooves closed in on Blacknail from behind. He wasn’t going to make it to safety!
“No no, what to do?” the goblin squeaked as he started panicking.
Blacknail then turned and dashed towards a nearby line of wooden lean-tos. They wouldn’t stop the charging boar behind him, but maybe he could hide there.
As the goblin dove into the nearest lean-to, the man running behind him leapt to the side. The bandit barely managed to avoid being impaled on the beast’s tusks but he landed safely.
The boar didn’t try and chase him. Instead, it hit the lean-tos full force. The crude wooden structures exploded as the beast smashed through them.
From inside, Blacknail watched the small building come apart around him. Splinters and broken pieces of wood flew everywhere as the boar narrowly missed the goblin. Blacknail’s eyes widened and he turned pale as a descending hoof narrowly missed his head.
He stiffened in terror as the powerful musky smell of the boar and a deafening chorus of squeals washed over him. The terrified goblin shut his eyes and curled up into a ball, while wishing he was somewhere safe. There were no boars in his old lovely sewer home.
Then the noise stopped and the beast was gone. It had passed through the shattered lean-tos and continued on. Blacknail’s heart beat was out of control and he started twitching uncontrollably.
Was he still alive? He couldn’t believe it. The goblin patted himself down, and was surprised to find his body still intact. Still somewhat stunned, he sat up and looked out from the ruins of the lean-to.
The wide-eyed goblin watched as the beast continued to rampage through the bandits’ camp. Blacknail noticed several arrows sticking out from the creatures hide. Those were new.
Apparently, some of the humans were actually doing something other than running away in terror now, what idiots. The goblin was going to run the second the beast turned back in his direction.
As he watched, several more arrows hit the boar. It grunted in pain and squealed angrily. The arrows were coming from almost every direction now as the bandits finally got organized.
The constant painful pricks were confusing the beast; it couldn’t focus on a single target. The squealing giant stomped and spun around in circles, as more and more arrows descended upon it.
Before long, it began to slow and stumble as it bled out from an ever increasing number of wounds. Then an arrow took it in the throat, and the boar collapsed. It gave one last gasping wheeze before shuddering and going still. Its gigantic fallen body was pierced by too many arrows to count.
Saeter approached the fallen giant with sword in hand. He quickly stepped in and stabbed it under the ribs. The sword sank over halfway into the beast’s side, but it didn’t so much as twitch.
“Well, it’s dead now,” Saeter announced as he withdrew the blade. He then scowled sourly as looked around the now ravaged camp.
Other outlaws cautiously began to approach the beast. Some of them had bows but others had just popped out of hiding and were unarmed.
“At least we’ll eat well tonight,” One of the bandits remarked, which earned him a few chuckles.
“True, but we’re going to have a lot of cleaning up to do to” Saeter replied.
Blacknail shakily got up and wandered over as well. The goblin plopped down at his master’s feet and leaned his head against Saeter’s leg for support. He just felt like sitting there for awhile, it felt nice and safe.
“We have at least one grave to dig,” another bandit added with a look towards the remains of the boar’s first victim.
Blacknail looked over as well. He had realized a very important truth today, never hit a boar with a sling.
With one of his usual annoyed grunts, Saeter took charge and got everyone started on cleaning up. There was a lot to do. The titanic boar had done a huge amount of damage, and it soon grew dark.
Saeter had put himself in charge of cooking the boar. He had a giant spit roast made and the boar was cut up and put on it. When it was done he allowed everyone to stop for supper.
Blacknail joined his master at their camp fire. The smell of roasting meat was making the goblin drool all over himself. It smelled so nice! He wanted to bite into it so badly.
Saeter saw the goblin and threw him a small piece of greasy meat. Blacknail caught it right out of the air with his mouth and instantly started chewing. The goblin shivered happily as smacked loudly. His mouth tingled with glorious deliciousness.
Unfortunately, he soon swallowed the last bit of meat and his stomach wasn’t full. The goblin opened his eyes wide and gave his master a pleading expression but the man ignored him. Blacknail cried a little as he sat next to the fire.
Why did his master never give him enough food? It wasn’t like Saeter was a cruel master, far from it.
Oh well, it was fine. Blacknail had a cunning plot in place to secure more food. He was going to go and beg from Geralhd. It worked every time.
After a brief walk around the now dark and campfire lit camp Blacknail found the man at his usual eating place. He was seated around a fire with several other men. The flickering flame illuminated their faces as they talked.
“I bloody miss the South,” a short brown haired bandit complained. “I was born in a small farming village there. In summer you could climb a hill and see nothing but endless golden fields of wheat. There were no man-eating beasts or creepy forests.”
“If I ever strike it rich I’m getting off this stinking continent,” a bald bandit interjected. “My family’s been Elorian for generations but I want to move to the Homelands. There are no dark forests full of monsters there.”
“Ugh, not me. People from Capitas are a bunch of arrogant swine. They’d all look down on you just for coming from a former colony. They think their shit is made of gold and that everyone should bow down to them,” the other man replied.
“There are other countries there; the empire fell over a hundred years ago,” the bald man countered.
“None of them are as safe or rich as Capitas, though. Even the Homelands has wars, and half the smaller countries there spend all their time settling ancient grudges from before the empire,” the brown haired bandit replied dismissively.
“There’s always the Northern Continent. It’s huge, so there’s got to be a nice place to retire there,” a third bandit who had been sitting off to one side added.
“Ha, the countries there are little more than outposts. The beasts there are supposed to be even worse than here! I’ll stick with Capitas, it’s the center of the world,” the bald man laughed.
Blacknail wandered over to Geralhd. Normally he would be wary of approaching most the bandits but the ones who had stayed behind with Saeter left him alone. Geralhd was also easy to get food out of, and not very threatening.
Geralhd noticed the goblin approach and smiled at him. He reached over and picked up a piece of meat that had been set aside.
“Sit, Blacknail. Who is a good boy?” Geralhd asked sweetly. One of the other men groaned and another chuckled as Geralhd spoke.
“Me, I’m a good boy,” Blacknail answered happily as he took a seat at Geralhd’s feet.
Geralhd smiled again and tossed him the treat. As he chewed and slurped down the meat Blacknail smirked. He clearly had Geralhd well trained.
“It’s not a bloody dog, Geralhd. It’s a goblin. They’re very different,” one of the bandits remarked in an irritated voice.
“He’s a good little boy none the less,” Geralhd answered as he shrugged and petted Blacknail’s head. It actually felt pretty good.
Blacknail smiled toothily at the other man, which caused him to look exasperated and sigh loudly.
“I still don’t understand why Saeter decided to get a goblin, or why Herad let him. It’s not like every scout in the band wouldn’t give their last prayer to be his partner; and I would have thought the boss would have said no, just to spite him,” one man told the others as Geralhd gave him a confused look.
“Why do Saeter and Herad have such a problem with each other’s company anyway? Also, why in all the gods’ names would every scout want to partner with a grumpy old man like Saeter? I mean sure he’s the most experienced of our ever so hard working scouts, but he’s also more than a bit of an ass as well,” Geralhd asked.
Most the men chuckled but one gave a nervous glance at the darkness over his shoulder before replying. It was almost like he wanted to be very sure no one unexpected was listening.
“Well, you see the answer to both those questions is sort of the same. You obviously don’t know who Saeter is, or at least who he used to be,” the man said quietly.
Blacknail’s ears twitched as he suddenly grew interested and started paying attention. He was almost done eating anyway. Geralhd leaned in closer and he raised an eyebrow inquisitively, in an invitation for the man to keep speaking.
“Oh, who did our resident old timer used to be then?” Geralhd asked with interest.
“Saeter used to run his own gang of thieves, years ago. They were one of the first successful bands, and they built a name quite a name up for themselves. That was way back of course, when things were very different. Eventually, they all retired or died until only Saeter was left,” was the other man’s reply.
“You must be joking. Who would follow Saeter, and why would Herad have a problem with that?” Geralhd asked with disbelief.
“Think about it for a second. Every bandit chief’s worst fear is being killed and replaced by one of their subordinates. Who could possibly feel secure knowing someone in their band used to be a successful leader?” the other bandit pointed out.
“That’s a good point. Herad has always struck me as more than a little paranoid. However, if Saeter used to be so famous why is he serving under Herad, instead of leading his own band? Geralhd asked.
It was different man that answered this time. He had remained quiet until now but Blacknail recognized him as one of the older scouts.
“Saeter is an odd sort bandit,” the scout explained. “He didn’t become an outlaw because he was wanted or for the money, although he certainly got both. No, he chose to become an outlaw because he was a northern patriot. He was fighting the control of the North by Eloria and Deveshur. I’d guess he’s serving under Herad because he has nowhere else to go. He’s more at home out here in the wilds than in any city, and he won’t surrender and live under the southern boot.”
He stopped and took a quick drink from the cup in his hand before continuing. Everyone waited expectantly for him to finish.
“As for why he’s not the band’s leader, well that’s simple, it’s because the age of rebellion and causes is pretty much dead. We’re fighting for money and power, and no one is more dedicated to that than Herad. Of course, that means that under her we do a lot of things Saeter doesn’t approve of,” the scout told them.
Gerahd leaned back again with a contemplative look on his face. Everyone around the fire was silent. Only the crackle of the fire and the chirp of insects could be heard.
“That’s quite the story indeed. I really can’t picture Saeter as any type of leader, but I don’t think you’re all lying to me. It would certainly explain a lot as well,” Gerald responded after a minute or so of thought.
“Well, whether you believe it or not it’s all true. Just don’t go mentioning any of this where Saeter or Herad could hear you. If you enjoy living that is,” the first speaker replied with shrug.
“I’m not a complete and utter moron,” Geralhd said with a roll of his eyes.
Blacknail was curled up close to the fire and deep in thought about what he had just heard. So his master had been a chieftain, until he had lost some sort of fight and ended up alone. Herad had let him in her tribe, but she didn’t completely trust him not to challenge her. That made sense to Blacknail, it was sort of goblin-like.
“Fine, if you can keep it to yourself then I will tell you the best part,” one of the men told an intrigued looking Geralhd. “You see Saeter’s band wasn’t just a…”
Suddenly, a cloaked figure swept out from the shadows. Everyone around the fire jerked in surprise, or sprung to their feet with looks of alarm on their faces. Saeter glared at them as he stopped and surveyed the group. Most the bandits wilted guiltily under his gaze. Geralhd gave him a weak smile.
“Oh hey, Saeter. We were just, ah, talking about some things that had noth…” he began to explain but Saeter cut him off.
“I don’t care,” he said as he glowered at them. His brows were scrunched together angrily but his voice seemed to contain a hint of worry. “Two of the men are missing. They were seen after the attack and weren’t together. Something entered the camp and dragged them away.”