The guard stood in the mouth of the narrow cave, looking out to the wilderness beyond. The trail hacked open by his century was beginning to fill in with weeds and vines, but it was still easily passable, and open enough that he spotted the marching troops well before they reached the cliff wall. Reinforcements had arrived!
"Centurion, welcome to Stonehell."
"How goes the campaign?
"Slower than I'd like. There have been some difficulties that I didn't initially expect. The narrow passages make moving units difficult, and there are too many locations where our enemies can circle back around. Plus there are a surprising number of inhabitants."
"Good slave fodder?"
"Some. The kobolds are useful. But there have been several groups of roving adventurers with powerful magics. They've been depopulating chunks of the dungeon, and now that you're here, we can begin to fortify them."
"We lost 2 patrols?" And there's now some cloud of sparkling energy blocking one doorway?"
"The omens are not favorable." The priest warned the commander.
The warlock huffed. "Omens. Bah. You're here to bring the Warrior's favor upon us, not worry like some auntie."
"As are you" the commander growled. "What do you offer?"
"The power of Tezragul, demon of the sands, bringer of death."
"You fool! You would summon that which you cannot control!"
"We would bind it within a mortal vessel, and trap it within a cage of spells and your blessed wards until we're ready to set it free."
Trustee Sniv stood in the hobgoblin stairway hall south of the Korners. He never liked leaving his domain, but the newly arrived Hobgoblin commander wanted a meeting. His bodyguards looked woefully inadequate when compared to the meatheads the Commander had with him.
"I'm concerned about the stories of those humans and dwarves stomping through our home."
"Oh, they don't cause any trouble here." Sniv assured the commander.
"And I want to make sure it stays that way." He waved vaguely at his troops "my men need a safe place to relax... to spend their pay."
"The Korners are always available to any and all who don't cause any problems."
"I'm very glad to hear that. We're expanding our holdings, and we'd like to hire you for some construction work."
"What sort of work?" Sniv asked brightly.
"Gate installation, mostly. We have the materials, but your people as so adept at construction..." A heavy sack of coins is dropped into Sniv's greedy claws.
"I think we can handle that."
"Good, and in addition this payment, I'm assigning a few of my troops as guards in the Korners to make sure no one causes any issues."
"I have guards." Sniv's brow furrowed.
"And now you'll have more! This will help make sure that none of my men become over indulgent with that mushroom brew of yours. And just like your guards, they'll only be armed with small clubs, nothing too lethal."
One of the hobgoblin guards grinned at Sniv. "That's... very... generous of you." Sniv replied, gently bouncing the bag in his claws. "I'm sure that the Korners will feel that much safer."
The volunteer stood in the circle, stripped nude, his skin carved with runes that oozed dark blood that pooled at his feet. Iron chains cuffed to his wrists were bolted to the 4 pillars supporting the intricately carved ceiling. The priest painted wards of protection, lit candles, and muttered prayers while the warlock grinned with savage pleasure. "Are you ready yet?" he asked impatiently.
With a final brush stroke, he nodded.
"Finally." Chanting in a language none of the other spoke, the warlock sliced open his hand, and pushed the wound against the mouth of the chained host. "Drink." The carved flesh began to glow a dull red, then a fiery orange, burning brighter until it glowed white. The warlock stepped back, and the glowing form screamed. Flesh tore, blood splattered, and when everyone blinked away the blindness from the light, a monster stood on 6 chitinous legs that sprouted from the torso of the scarred hobgoblin. A great scorpion's tail curled over the demon, waiving, and then moving faster than anyone could see shooting out toward the warlock. The stinger stopped mere inches away, right at the edge of the binding circle.
The commander stepped closer, but not too close to the circle. "Now what?"
"Now we wait for the adventurers to make their assault."
"Is it safe?"
"Not even remotely. Best pray that our priest has done his job."