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                               Excerpt from Priests of Moloch


     It was dark there, deep beneath the mountains of Iarlaithe, too dark even for the keen and cunning eyes of goblins, so they had kindled torches and thrust them into cracks and niches in the cavern wall. There, beyond the reach of the sun, hundreds of goblins had gathered.
     They were Grey Goblins with dull grey flesh and an attendant stench that coiled through the air to overpower the smell of mud and dark rock. Pale orange eyes darted furtively about the cavern. Goblin voices whispered.
     “Best ta go home,” they said.
     “Poor doins if’n we stays,” they complained.
     “Ain’t no reason ta go on,” they insisted.
     Atop a large, flat rock, a mottled, grey-brown goblin paced back and forth on short legs while gesturing wildly with his long, powerful arms. “He ain’t comin’ back, I say. That human boy done killed ‘im. Time ta go home.”
     Then another goblin, unlike any there, pushed his way through the crowd to the base of the rock. Tall and man-like, his skin shone a dull, copper-red in the torchlight, contrasting sharply with the coarse, dark hair that hung in a single braid across a broad, mailled shoulder. Thin lips curled back in an unpleasant snarl while bright yellow eyes glared at those about him. Whispers stilled, darting eyes averted, and the grey goblins shifted from side to side in a nervous mimic of their normal gait. “Runnin’ away, Morg?” the Red Goblin snarled, “After all this way? She-goblin!”
     Morg laid a long-fingered hand to the hilt of his sword. “If yer insults me again, Klabaga, I’ll kill yer!” he warned.
     Klabaga sneered, “Yer’ll never do it! The whole lot of yer ‘ave gone coward since the human boy killed the Glamorth!”
     A collective shudder rippled through the crowd at the sound of that last word, and even Morg took a step back as though staggered by the vision it conjured.
     “No ordinary human boy, that!” 
     “Not ordinary?” scoffed Klabaga. “I looked him right in the eye, didn’t I? And didn’t he run when the Glamorth came? That’s ordinary enough, ain’t it?”
     “He ran right to that bridge and fought with but rocks. And anyhow, if there weren’t nuthin’ special ‘bout him, why didn’t yer kill him when yer was ‘lookin’ him right in the eye’?”
     Klabaga shrugged. “The Glamorth wanted him. Anyhow, some of yer got too eager, and the human boy gave ‘em what fer.”
    “That’s what I’m sayin!” enthused Morg, “He must’ve killed twenty and wounded more‘n that. I sez we go home ta our wives and children afore we end up dead.”
     Klabaga trembled with rage at the cowardice of his companions, but he knew Morg was right about one thing; there was nothing ordinary about Evan MacKeth. Beyond the flesh and blood and bone burned a fierce, unfamiliar light, and Klabaga suspected it was that light that had enabled the human boy to destroy the Glamorth. But the death of the demon didn’t change the plans of the Red Goblin. “Yer afraid of a dead human boy? What’s he got ta do with the rest of us?”
     “I dunno,” puzzled Morg. Even Klabaga wondered why the Glamorth had been so determined to kill Evan MacKeth, and why the boy had ventured into the dark underworld in the first place. “But it don’t make no never mind. I‘m Chieftain now and we is going’ home!”
     “So you’re Chieftain? Then I gives the challenge!”
     The other goblins had just begun to make room when Morg leapt upon Klabaga with a howl, driving his opponent to the cavern floor. The spectators scattered as the pair kicked and bit and gouged at one another in a violent tangle at their feet. Shouting and jostling, the Greys took up positions to watch the fight.
     Klabaga drove his knee into Morg’s belly, but hard muscle and maille deflected the blow. Despite their appearance, there was nothing soft about Grey Goblins. Morg pounded his long-fingered fists into the Red Goblin’s face, clawed at his eyes and bit at his arms like a wild beast, but there was nothing soft about Klabaga either. He kicked his opponent in the throat and disengaged.
     Scrambling to his feet, Klabaga parried Morg’s blade, and the Greys hooted with delight as the cavern echoed with the sound of steel against steel. Morg feinted low, reversed his wrist and aimed a terrific blow at Klabaga’s chest, but this too his opponent avoided before blocking another wild slash calculated to decapitate him. Someone shoved the Red Goblin from behind, propelling him into his enemy, and for a moment they grappled in a macabre dance.
     The Grey pulled free, struck at Klabaga’s face with his sword hilt, and followed with a quick succession of blows that increased in speed and intensity as his enemy steadily retreated. Morg’s face twisted into a crooked grin as he sensed victory: Klabaga was barely holding his own. But then the Red Goblin stopped, his eyes glinted as though amused, and suddenly Morg’s attack degenerated into a desperate defense.
     The goblin commander staggered from the power and precision of the martial skill that Klabaga now turned against him, and in that despairing instant he realized his opponent had merely been toying with him. Now the game was over. Morg cast about for an escape, turned to seek refuge in the sea of swaying grey shapes surrounding him and fell in a gout of dark blood, never to rise again.
     With a movement, as precise as it was brutal, Klabaga severed Morg’s head from his body. Holding the grisly trophy aloft, he addressed the crowd. “Who’s Chieftain now?” he challenged, “Answer me, ya slack jawed lot! Who’s Chieftain?”
     “Yer is!” asserted the closest goblin, trying to stay clear of Klabaga’s crimson smeared sword.
     “That’s right!” the Red Goblin crowed, “and which of yer will challenge? Yer, Orglyx? Yer, Glak?”
     Klabaga leapt up onto the rock. “Who wants ta go home now? Show me the goblin what wants ta go home!” No one responded.
     “Did ya come all this way cuz of the Glamorth? I don’t think so. Why’d ya come?” He searched the faces of the huddled grey crowd, but there was no sign of understanding in those dull eyes. The Greys cast anxious glances about the chamber as though searching for answers among the rocks. Why had they come? It seemed just a great bother now, especially with all these questions.
     Klabaga knew what had brought them: fear. The demon had come recruiting warriors, and this lot hadn’t dared refuse. But the Red Goblin had different motivations and a distinct purpose for this journey. The Greys, though they were ignorant, were necessary for what he had in mind.
     “I knows why yer here,” he offered, and the Grey Goblins looked up, eager to accept insight into their own behavior. “Vengeance brung ya; vengeance fer yer da’s and granda’s, yer cousins and uncles what was kilt by the da’s and granda’s, cousins and uncles of that dead human boy!
     “Vengeance yer’ll find in Ugrik’s army when we burns the man-city of Gwenferew. That’s why yer came this far, and that’s why yer’ll go farther. It’s jest the beginning, the start of our time, when we takes war ta the world of human men.”
     The Greys began to stir, snarling, hissing, and shoving one another as their lust was stirred by the Red Goblin’s words. He led them further.
     “She-goblins will sing songs ‘bout us and elders will offer us their daughters. They’ll carve our names on the Clan Pillar. Follow me, and yer’ll have human slaves fer yer pleasure, human skulls fer yer pillows, human blood ta spice yer gholjaka. Else run home and have nothin’! Red death ta human men!”
     “Red death! Red death!” the Grey’s replied.
     “Ulu! Ulu! Ulu!” they chanted.
     “Who follows me?” demanded the Red Goblin, and the cavern erupted with eager exclamations of support. Goblins danced madly about the chamber as though they had never wavered in their focus or desire.
     Klabaga shouted orders as he sheathed his bloody sword. Then he led his soldiers north through the dark underworld toward a place called Clon Miarth to find cruel revenge and a reckoning with fate.