Blacknail’s left arm tingled numbly as it resisted his attempt to move it properly. He could only get it to shiver and twitch, which wasn’t nearly enough. He was in the middle of a sword fight and would have really liked to have both his arms working properly. Being hit by lightning sucked.
Grunting, Blacknail eyed his two foes. The sword-wielding Vessel was grinning triumphantly as he brandished his weapon, while Zelena had a more serious look on her face. She was eyeing him carefully as she kept the magic jewelry in her hand pointed his way. Undoubtedly, she was already preparing to hit him with another blast of lightning. Blacknail was going to have to do something about that, but what? Hmm, magic would have to counter magic.
Reaching down into himself, Blacknail grabbed control of the mana within his core and began circulating it through his body with increased intensity. Instantly, the tingling in his arm abated somewhat, but that hadn’t been Blacknail’s goal. Gathering some of the power up, Blacknail turned to growl at Zelena while he threw the invisible power straight at her.
Unprepared, Zelena gasped and stumbled back as the magical terror washed over her. Her raised hand fell as she shivered uncontrollably for a moment. Her fearful reaction enflamed Blacknail’s predatory instincts. He wished he could have lunged forward and torn the woman apart, but he wasn’t given a chance. Seeing his ally falter, the human Vessel charged in to attack the hobgoblin.
Steeling himself, Blacknail was forced to defend himself using a one-handed grip on his sword. It was less than ideal, and his lack of leverage quickly allowed the human to push him back. There was one upside though. Now that he was in close-quarters combat, Zelena couldn’t get a clear shot on him anymore. Yep, all he had to worry about was getting a sword shoved down his throat. Yeah!
Stumbling back over a loose brick, Blacknail hurriedly ducked under a vicious slash that had been aimed at his face. He then had to sidestep and dodge several more attacks from his enemy’s blade. He desperately tried to counterattack, but with only one hand, his attacks were easily blocked or dodged.
Growling in frustration, Blacknail was pushed back toward a solid wall. The stone was crumbling, but that wouldn’t stop it from getting in his way. Desperately, Blacknail tried to step sideways, but Zelena cut him off and raised her hand menacingly.
“Don’t even think about it. There is no escape for the likes of you,” she told him in a venomous tone.
Stuck in place, Blacknail could only jerk his head backwards as the human Vessel stepped forward and attacked again. His blade was a blur of speed as it sliced toward the hobgoblin’s face.
Blacknail’s dodge wasn’t quite fast enough. The sword bit into flesh and tasted blood as it sliced into Blacknail’s cheek. Yelping as he jumped back against the wall, Blacknail raised his weakened hand and clumsily felt up his face. Both his eyes were still working, good. The cut on his cheek wasn’t too deep, good. His nose… There was a chunk missing from the tip of his nose! Blacknail gagged and felt sick. No, this couldn’t be happening! His nose was his best feature, and now it was ruined forever. Would Herah even want to sleep with him anymore if he didn’t have a perfect long pointy nose?
“My nose! Your deaths will be beyond pain!” Blacknail hissed furiously as he glared at his petty human attackers. How dare they cripple him so. He would tear them apart with his bare hands and then suck the marrow from their bones!
The hobgoblin’s rage allowed him to pull up even more mana, which was helping his arm heal, but it was still very weak after being hit by Zelena’s lightning. More fear-based attacks probably wouldn’t be effective since he’d already used them on both his attackers and couldn’t rely on the element of surprise anymore.
“You’re finished now. A wounded animal that doesn’t know its already dead,” the Vessel announced as he approached Blacknail with his blade raised.
There was nothing the hobgoblin could do but ready his defenses. He was very aware of the cold stone wall behind him. There was nowhere to run and he was outmatched. His odds of surviving this weren’t great… No, he refused to die here without avenging his nose! Also, there was Saeter and Herad. He couldn’t forget about them. They needed to be avenged too, and he was so close.
The enemy vessel stepped forward and launched a flurry of attacks that immediately put Blacknail on the defensive. As he desperately defended himself, the hobgoblin took two shallow cuts on his arms that began leaking blood. Any moment now, he was going to falter and take a fatal blow. Blacknail glanced hopefully over toward Ilisti’s fallen form, but the vympir was still completely out of it. What a lazy useless bastard.
Suddenly, the combatants’ blades crashed together. The impact caused the steel to ring and sent a shiver down Blacknail’s arm. Then, the weapon slipped from his grasp. He could only stare in horror at his fumble.
“Now you’re mine!” the vessel laughed triumphantly as he raised his blade to deliver the finishing blow.
That was when a red-topped blur shot out from behind a pile of rubble and straight toward Zelena. The female mage spun around, but was too slow to prevent her attacker from stabbing her in the side.
“Die, you stuck up bitch!” Khita laughed as she pulled her weapon back. “This will teach you to mess with the Red Cat!”
The who? No, Khita’s nonsense wasn’t important. Blacknail concentrated on his enemies.
Zelena gasped in pain and shock, although her wound didn’t look fatal. Meanwhile, her ally glanced over to see what was going on and hesitated upon noticing the new arrival. That moment was all Blacknail needed. He might have been disarmed, but he didn’t need a weapon to kill humans. He was a hobgoblin, a natural killer. Lunging forward, he dove in under the man’s raised sword and tackled his opponent to the ground.
Gasping, the man tried to defend himself, but Blacknail was in close now. Driven by rage and cruel instinct, the mutant hobgoblin pulled himself up and chomped down on the vessel’s exposed neck. His long sharp teeth parted flesh with ease and a flick of his neck tore open a huge gaping wound. A half-gurgle scream filled the air, before Blacknail silenced it by taking another big bite. Now the man was reduced to a shivering pile of meat whose life was quickly draining away.
The taste of blood and the feel of flesh in Blacknail’s mouth was deeply satisfying, even if humans didn’t taste great. Still, he let himself swallow the meat and then purr happily as he got to his feet, leaving his defeated foe beneath him. Normally, he wouldn’t eat humans, but he deserved to take something back from the stupid human that had crippled his nose. Really, the man had gotten off too easy.
Up ahead, Zelena was still dealing with Khita. As Blacknail watched, she threw the redhead back with a blast of force. Holding her bleeding side, she then glanced toward Blacknail. A look of pure horror appeared on her face as she saw the blood-soaked and manically grinning hobgoblin stalking toward her. Stumbling back, she grabbed an amulet that hung around her neck. Blacknail prepared to dodge an attack, but none came. Instead, Zelena’s image became hazy and then disappeared a moment later, leaving Blacknail blinking in surprise.
“Um, where did that blonde whore go?” Khita asked in surprise.
“I don’t know,” Blacknail replied as he looked around. “How are you even here? I thought you ran from the cold.”
The redhead chuckled and stuck her chest out proudly. “As if that could keep me away from a good fight. Once I got warmed up, I ran back into the cold and took one of those fancy amulets off a fallen knight.”
There was still no sign of Zelena, but Blacknail had bigger concerns. Climbing up onto a small pile of rubble, Blacknail looked over toward the fight with Myagnoir.
Things there weren’t going particular well. Lacking Sir Masnin’s leadership and shinning example, the remaining fighters from the first group had scattered before the Doom of Coroulis’ rage. No longer encircled, the great mutant drake was now retreating off the road and into an alley between two tall buildings. Werrick’s riders were already abandoning their next charge, as they realized they wouldn’t make it in time. Myagnoir had been gravelly wounded, but it was far from finished and was getting away.
Blacknail growled furiously and his fingers curled up into claws. This was all Werrick’s fault! He’d set Sir Masnin up to die by not supporting him properly and he’d sent valuable fighters after Ilisti instead of using them to fight Myagnoir. The selfish bastard was ruining everything.
Khita climbed up beside Blacknail and observed the fight too. “Well, that sucks donkey balls.”
As Blacknail watched, Werrick’s riders came to stop alongside the scattered remains of Sir Masnin’s force. The Wolf began yelling orders, but it was obvious that Myagnoir had escaped. Then, the air shimmered next to Werrick’s horse and Zelena appeared. The two quickly began talking and then the male femage pointed straight toward Blacknail and Khita’s location.
“Huh, that’s even worse,” the redhead observed as the hobgoblin groaned.
At least Blacknail’s arm was feeling better now. He flexed his fingers and they responded almost normally, although they were still weak.
Blacknail took a moment to watch what Werrick was doing, and he really didn’t like it. His archenemy seemed to be giving a rousing speech to the other humans, who were responding and getting worked up. It also didn’t appear that he was pointing them in Myagnoir’s direction. No, he punctuated one particularly loud bout of yelling by gesturing toward Blacknail’s location.
This was not good. It was obvious that most the humans in the expedition had barely tolerated the hobgoblins’ presence, and Blacknail had known that Sir Masnin was the only one keeping everyone else in line. However, the paladin was gone now, and it seemed like Werrick was having no problem taking over and turning everyone against Blacknail. In fact, he seemed to consider getting rid of Blacknail more of a priority than finishing off Myagnoir. Werrick’s riders reformed and began moving toward Blacknail.
“Ugh, what do we do now, boss?” Khita asked him. Blacknail snorted. So, he was her boss now?
“We run away,” he replied as he hopped down from the pile of rubble and ran over to Ilisti’s side.
Thankfully, the vympir was awake. He groaned and gave Blacknail a questioning look. “What happened?”
“A big lizard smacked you with its tail before eating Sir Masnin. Now everyone is trying to kill us. You need to get up,” Blacknail told him.
This earned them a confused stare, but the hobgoblin and the redhead simply grabbed his armor and pulled him up into something resembling a standing position. He wobbled a bit but didn’t fall over.
Staring into the vympir’s eyes, Blacknail gave him some stern advice. “You need to run and hide for a while. Don’t let the humans find you.”
Ilisti nodded and straightened up, so they let him stand on his own.
“We’ll buy you some time. It’s us they want,” Khita added proudly.
Blacknail stared at her. That was not part of his plan, and why was she including herself? Werrick couldn’t care less about her. Did she want to be hunted? Stupid human.
Werrick was on his way, so they didn’t hang around. The allies split up and ran into the ruins, with Khita and Blacknail going one way, while Ilisti went to find somewhere to hide. As he ran, Blacknail could hear the pounding of hooves as Werrick closed in. At least all the rubble and tight turns would slow the horses down a lot, and Blacknail had a plan. He needed to make it out of the lost city and rendezvous with his hobs.
Glancing over his shoulder as he ran, Blacknail saw a horseman ride out from behind a building.
“This way. I found the treacherous creature!” the rider yelled to signal to all his companions.
Blacknail bristled as he grabbed Khita and pulled her around a corner so they couldn’t be seen so easily. Treacherous creature? He’d never betrayed the expedition! He’d never had a chance. It had been Werrick that had done that. All these stupid humans were going to pay for being so dumb.
There was shouting from behind Blacknail and Khita as they ran toward the gate they’d come in through. This was quickly followed by some yelling over to Blacknail’s left. It seemed like the horsemen were spreading out to flank them. All the nearby ruined homes and bushes made it difficult for Werrick’s men to find them, but it also made it almost impossible for Blacknail to see what Werrick was planning as well.
“This way!” the hobgoblin told Khita as he veered right away from the noise.
Running down a narrow side street, the pair passed several small buildings that had mostly fallen apart. Empty windows and shadowy doors surrounded them, but they saw no signs of movement.
“We’re not going to run into Myagnoir, are we?” Khita asked nervously. “That thing’s still out here.”
“No, it went in the other direction,” Blacknail replied. Or, at least he’d thought it had. All these bleached stone buildings looked the same and he’d gotten a little turned around.
Suddenly, there was a clatter of hooves, and a knight on horseback rode out onto the street ahead of them. Blacknail and Khita immediately scrambled to a stop as the armored warrior turned his mount around to face them and yelled to get his allies’ attention.
“Boar crap,” Blacknail cursed as the knight began charging toward them. They wouldn’t be able to outrun the rider in the open.
“Through here,” the hobgoblin yelled as he ran over to one of the nearby homes and jumped through a window.
Landing on his feet, Blacknail kept running through the empty building. The only thing in his way was some wooden debris on the floor and a lot of dust. All the home’s furniture had long since fallen apart. Behind him, Khita jumped inside the building just as Blacknail vaulted through another window on the far side of the room. Once outside, the hobgoblin found himself on another side street. The old crumbling buildings were tightly packed together here, so there was no way the knight could come over here. Good, that meant they were safe for a moment.
Khita landed next to Blacknail, and they both began running again. Blacknail was fairly certain they were headed for the gate. He would have asked Khita, but she was useless.
Using his long pointy ears, Blacknail listened carefully for any sign of pursuit. He could hear at least two group of riders off in the distance, but neither was ahead of them. The riders kept yelling at each other, so locating them wasn’t hard. Hmm, was heading for the gate the best idea? They might be able to climb over the city wall if they could find a spot where some of those thick vines had grown up over the outside. Well, the way to the gate seemed open for now, so they’d try that first.
The narrow residential street the pair were on led to the city wall, so Blacknail and Khita took it all the way there before turning left toward the gate. They could see the top of it above some rows of ruined buildings, but there was no straight road leading to there. Still, with no other real choice, they sprinted in the direction of the gate.
Unfortunately, that was when Werrick finally caught up to them. As Blacknail glanced down another side street as he ran past it, he saw the bandit lord and a dozen riders charging right for him. Not good! There was a vicious snarl on the Wolf’s face, and none his followers seemed willing to talk over their differences either.
As the stampede of horsemen turned the corner and began chasing the pair down, Balcknail considered his options. They were all bad. Khita and him were already running with everything they had, but the riders were still closing in. Stupid vile horses! Blacknail hated all of those hateful beasts. How was riding a big animal like that fair? It wasn’t!
The huffing and wheezing of the knights’ mounts reached Blacknail’s ears as they drew in closer.
“Run the filth down! Avenge our fallen,” Werrick yelled to the cheers of the other riders. They sounded as if they were only a few feet away, but were actually at least twenty seconds behind.
Blacknail grimaced as he tried to circulate mana through his body to increase his speed. It didn’t work very well. He was running out of mana. It had been a while since he’d had a chance to recharge, and he’d been using his powers an awful lot today. Meanwhile, Werrick’s group drew ever closer.
The hobgoblin knew that he could speed up a little, but then he’d leave Khita behind, and he wouldn’t actually be able to escape anyway. It was the later part that mattered there. Maybe he could pick Khita up and throw her at Werrick? Ugh, knowing the redhead, she’d somehow survive that, and then he’d be run down. Damn them to every hell! He was so close to getting what he wanted. If only Werrick hadn’t started his terrible plan before Blacknail could start his own amazing one. Well, that was probably the entire point. Werrick was smart enough to know that Blacknail held all the advantages when they claimed the silver.
That was when things got much worse. Dashing around a turn, Blacknail and Khita found themselves facing a dead end. A huge pile of stone blocked their way toward the gate. It looked like a watchtower had fallen off the city wall, and now its bulk was completely blocking the road.
As the hobgoblin and the redhead slowed, one of the riders next to Werrick dashed ahead and closed in on them from behind. Sword raised high, he prepared to strike at Blacknail.
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