Jexik had to be crazy - that was the only explanation. She knew that Kyra swore he was the smartest man since Leonardo, that he'd supposedly won more battles for the Cloaks than anyone with his brilliant strategy. But the newest Cloak summoner was starting to believe he'd just gotten lucky, and all that beef had gone to his head. For him to sit there in that jacket and claim that she could teach these heathen goblins anything was lunacy. She'd been working with them for weeks now, and the best she'd achieved was for them to poop in the lavatories instead of the middle of her training sessions (Sorry about that, boss. Won't happen again, boss) and gotten them to stop calling her "Boss".
This was going to be a long day.... and it was about to get longer.
As she had two goblin scholars (she thought the term loosely) searching the archives for more techniques to teach, she heard a yell from outside. A yell that, quite frankly, she'd been dreading hearing since she'd heard the reports. Bands of goblins and mutants... sacking settlements and imprisoning the inhabitants. They were coming in their direction, and they were here. She'd ran out of time... her new, disgusting recruits weren't ready, but she had no choice. They were here.
She took her 2 goblin scholars with her and the only other students she could find - one of her tinkering engineers and a lone goblin hunter. The hunters operate much better in packs, but she decided that would have to wait. As she burst out through the keep's door and erected a summoning wall, a gruesome scene hit her.
Waiting at the front of the keep were 4 goblins. Three of them had clearly just been removed from shackles, and the fourth, bigger one was holding a massive whip, which was obviously a motivational tool. Maybe she was going about motivating her goblin students the wrong way.
A summoning wall went up next to them, brought forth from the figure sitting behind them, from whom she couldn't seem to look away. His head appeared as if it had been pieced together from multiple slabs of skin, and he sat upon a mobile throne... of goblin corpses. Or were they corpses? She couldn't tell, but she knew that it was a symbol of authority. This man (if it was still human) was in charge, and he was to be feared.
Wasting no time, the biggest goblin whipped one of the former prisoners, forcing it to charge into the battle. It lashed out with more strength than it seemed capable of, and wounded her tinkerer. Then the one behind him struck the prisoner in the back, and it dissipated as if it was destroyed, but she noticed that it reappeared away from the battle in a pen-type enclosure, bleeding profusely. He was placing this servant back in its prison, waiting to force it to fight again or use it for some other sinister purpose.
She wasted no time responding. First, her lone human companion pulled out a small device which the Cloaks called a "null machine". He pointed it at the whipping goblin, and the goblin's expression seemed to soften as he forgot his desires to force the others into battle. She then grabbed a magic scroll that came from her archives and read it, granting herself great speed and stealth. Focusing all of her energy now, she employed the psychomancy she learned while still a member of the Bender ranks, and envisioned the mind of the engineer. Once she saw it, she transferred that knowledge to him though the psychic link. It was this trait that made her the best teacher in the Cloaks army, and perhaps all of Itharia. Immediately, the engineer sprinted forward, sneaking through the goblin ranks right up to the corpse-throne, but his attack failed to pierce the stitched-together skin. For good measure, the hunter sand goblin fired a gun shot into a prisoner, drawing blood.
In retaliation, the sewn-together man, obviously one of the Filth as they were called, summoned another of the prisoners. It was apparent though that this goblin had no will to fight, so the Filth man immediately sent him to the prison to join his companion and await his fate. He then shouted to the foremost goblin, though there was a bit more than just shouting... this servant was utterly compelled to work harder, making up for the unwillingness of the last. He ran up and lashed out at the hunter with impressive force, destroying it. He then immediately disappaeared and reappeared in the pen. The rest then surrounded her engineer, whose ruse had been discovered, and attacked it viciously. She noticed that the engineer also appeared in the prison amidst the goblin inmates.
Feeling for her trusted tinkerer, she decided that this man must be dealt with. If she could fell their leader, the prisoners would lose their willingness to attack. She summoned another hunter and pointed her staff at it. Immediately, he was imbued with the ability and knowledge to deal with multiple foes if surrounded, and the hunter also felt strength surge into him. She then connected with his mind and taught him the same speed and stealth she taught the engineer, and the hunter deftly ran in past the guards up to the throne. With his new found strength and skills, he blasted a prisoner to bits and wounded the leader. Perhaps the goblins were making more progress than she'd thought.... The man repositioned and tried to strike back, but the goblin dodged. She immediately summoned another of his brethren, knowing that these dirty creatures found strength in numbers. The new hunter immediately felt the skills of his brethren, feeling he could also deal with any number of foes around him. She then linked with his mind and taught him how to sneak in, and he did. The two goblins then ganged up on the thing on the throne, wounding it grievously. She finally realized Jexik was right - these goblins had unseen potential, and they were learning.
That kind of attack would've been the end of many summoners, but this one seemed to bask in the pain. No amount of teaching could've prepared the primitive sand goblins for what came next. After summoning another unwilling goblin that was sent back to prison, the thing stared into its summoning stone. She saw three of the goblin inmates in the pen retch and then dissipate into a black cloud. That cloud enveloped her two scholars, who had been studying the archived scrolls diligently for her, passing that knowledge onto her, but no more. They were gone, and the cloud also enveloped one of the hunters, who was also consumed. The man then took two more prisoners and held one of them in front of himself, and also gave a living shield to the big goblin. A burst of magic then destroyed the other hunter, though it reapperaed in the prison.
This sudden outburst when she'd thought she'd had the upper hand took her by surprise. Feeling now wasn't the time to attack with the two Filth holding up their living shields, she summoned another scholar to study the archives, and channeled her magical power. As she did, she noticed the grotesque man erect another summoning wall and saw the prison swell with more bodies - it appeared as though this ruthless tyrant had more troops at other encampments, subjugating their people and sending them here for his dark rituals.
This was the last straw and, after considering summoning her favorite goblin (if she had one) who had a penchant for learning and mimicry that even made her a bit jealous, she called forth her most trusted Cloak champion. A hardened warrior, he was an expert in battle tactics, able to lay down precise cover fire so troops could advance. Along with another goblin hunter which she magically and instantaneously taught hit and run tactics to, they finally defeated the large, taskmaster goblin. The hunter advanced under the great champions cover fire, attempting to corner the demented Filth summoner.
Not to be outdone, the twisted man summoned yet another formerly imprisoned goblin, only to once again banish it back to its cell after it proved unwilling to do what he needed. Instead, he called forth her own engineer to his side, who had been rotting in prison nearly the whole battle and seemed to have had his mind twisted and warped. He used the null machine against the champion, causing him to forget his battle tactics, and struck down the hunter, sending it to the dirty prison in his place.
This again took her by surprise - she vowed not to further underestimate this adversary. She steeled herself and remembered that it was this twisted, soulless, mutated man committing these atrocities. She summoned yet another hunter and psychically taught it the same stealth and speed they'd seemed so eager to learn. However, she focused harder on this one, magically teaching him to move even more swiftly. He reached the man on this throne, who thought he was safe behind his two walls and landed another solid attack, but the mutant still refused to fall. His dexterity was something she'd never experienced before, nor heard tell of in all of Itharia. But she would not give up, even after what happened next.
Maybe sensing that his strength would soon fail him, the ruthless summoner brought forth a truly hideous beast. She'd heard of the monster that traveled with the Cave Goblins, feasting on goblin, human and other races flesh alike, but she never expected to see this. It seemed the slimy Filth sorcerers had found the beast, and through magic she didn't even want to imagine, mutated it into something even more fearsome. And if that wasn't enough, as more subjugated inmates joined the prison ranks, she noticed them mutating even there into unspeakable things. One had bones protruding from every direction, and another looked as though its very breath would kill you with poison. There was another which was so grotesque, she couldn't even focus on it. But what she did see was the newly summoned beast attack the hunter, locking its massive jaws onto its head, and seemed to suck something out. No blood spilled at first, but the hunter immediately crumpled, completely lifeless, as if its very soul had been devoured. She thought this must be the fate awaiting the prisoners that do not submit to this man's will.
Her champion gave the once loyal engineer a mercy killing to spare it further abuse, but as his attention was distracted, a huge, skin-grafted man lumbered towards him out of the prison. This man was the summoner's personal prison master, and he seemed to bask in the sorrow coming from the crowded pen, allowing it to enter his body and give him uncharted strength. He struck down her mighty, unwounded champion in one vicious blow as the soul-sucking mutant was given a prisoner to feed on by its master.
The sight of her champion meeting such a brutal end was too much for her to bear. With the Filth summoner tucked behind his walls and his huge mutant, she knew she needed a plan to get him out. Her thoughts strayed back to Jexik... She'd began this day thinking he was wrong - that the goblins could not be taught. That they had no inner skills that could be unlocked. But they'd proven their mettle in this battle, taking her teachings and putting this beast of a man near death. He had been right after all, but what would he do now? She knew her own magical power was waning, but she also knew that her opponent must be low on power as well after summoning two such huge behemoths. So she enacted a daring plan of her own that she'd known Jexik was so famous for. She stepped into the line of sight of the giant tusked mutant who'd so mercilessly destroyed her goblin hunter before, and fired a concussive magical blast at it. She knew the beast's hunger for blood (and whatever else) would be too great to keep it from attacking her. As her adversary was low on magic, he shouldn't be able to bring forth anymore worthy guards, or send something else to attack her. With her two newly erected summoning walls, she should be able to summon another hunter after a small window opened when the beast attacked, who she would teach to sneak through and end the battle.
It was a good plan. However, she wasn't the tactical genius that Jexik is. Jexik would've anticipated this man's brutality, and known he could merely sacrifice prisoners to gain magical prowess, and that the Filth have fearsome mutants at their disposal that can be brought forth will little effort. The twisted tyrant smiled as he teleported a prisoner to him, and slit his throat himself, swelling his magical power. He then finally found a goblin willing to submit to him afraid of what the eater-mutant would do if he did not. She watched with utter terror as the goblin's body warped and bones snapped, and other bodies appeared around him. The prison had been emptied, and all of the carcasses seemed to fuse together, creating a massive mutant with extra limbs and body parts hanging from all angles.
As the soul sucker and the legion of corpses advanced, her last thought was again of Jexik.
"You were right... they were the key, and I failed you. Forgive me."
And she closed her eyes.