Around noon on the Twenty-third Day of Fourthmonth, the score of Shugak hobgoblins stationed atop the wall at the northern gate of the city that had once been Larbonne were called away grumbling from a meal of frog stew. Hobgoblins don’t particularly like frog stew, but eating it vastly annoyed the bullywugs with which the hobgoblins were ostensibly allied.
Hobgoblins do not as a rule like being interrupted during any meal, and there was rampant cursing and threatening language as the lookout summoned the platoon to the outer battlements by the gate tower. Muttering faded to mute shock as six humans on five horses thundered out of the distant tree line and approached the gate on a road no human boot nor horse’s shoe had touched in months. Some of the hobs readied crossbows, but most just scratched their heads.
The riders reined in far below at the base of the towering gate doors, new portals of swamp oak wood plated entirely in black iron. The hobgoblins leaned out for the look straight down at a human female with long, golden hair, who cantered her horse back and forth in front of the gate, hammering on the doors with a steel mace. Resounding booms echoed off the old stone walls.
“Gaddakka ker!” the platoon leader cupped his hobnailed hands to his mouth and bawled in broken Daulic, the tongue of the local human tribe. “You won’t beat down the door with that stick, pale wench!”
The leader translated his words into hobgoblin so the platoon could join his chortling.
Two of the riders below were supporting a third, slumped in another saddle, while two other humans shared one horse. The blonde female rode back to the cluster of them so she could crane back her head to see the spiked and horned helmets leaning out above them.
“Show us your teats!” one of the hobs yelled to much guttural laughter.
The human male riding with another small female clinging to his back cantered forward and stood in his stirrups. He shouted, surprisingly, in the tribe’s own tongue.
“Shut your yaps, you nattering gobshites! Fetch to us your master, for we do not speak to hut dogs!”
A score of watery eyes widened before narrowing again for the thrice-damned sun. Crossbows were trained on the impudent human, a little swarthy mite without much meat on the bone. The platoon leader growled for the archers to hold, and shouted down.
“I hear a bleating calf begging the butcher! Look and see the crazy human asking for his death. Your sinewy neck will lace my boots ’ere long, pink thing!”
“Rodents!” the man shouted. “Warts on the ass of a mule! Delay me with another word and I’ll have your empty skulls to keep my pocket change! Summon to me now your master! Skulk shuddering to the one who is called…”
The man paused and looked to the small woman sharing his saddle, who said something quietly. He turned back to the top of the wall and spoke the one name that gave the hobgoblins pause.
“Balan! Bring before me the Devil Lord of this place!”