Dark shapes moved through the gloom.
Goblin soldiers muttered, uneasy at the vile smells that wafted towards them as the Corrupted One gathered the goblin captains to the rear of his wagon. Crudely built from massive lengths of timber, its solid wheels had sunk into the muddy ground as it was dragged here days ago, drawn by manacled teams of slaves: maimed ogres, tortured into submission decades ago for work in the mire. Their sightless faces twitched as they crouched in their chains at the front of the wagon, squatting in their own filth like huge maggots.
Torches burned from sconces fixed to poles in the ground as the goblin leaders watched the Corrupted One work. As he dragged out bodies from the depths of his wagon he laid them across the ground, muttering to himself a high-pitched litany.
Standing with the rest of the Grand Council, Mickle Gorestab scowled as the air grew cold about him, knowing that this was sorcery of the darkest sort. Beside him, Ograff Bludrip shuffled his feet, his large hands gripping the hilt of his sword for reassurance. Ghosts of the dead elves lying before them seemed to whisper in their ears, while phantom fingers, as cold as ice, plucked at their arms. Mickle's eyes darted from side to side but he could see nothing, though their armed escort, watching from beyond the torchlight, seemed even further away than before. Mickle grunted, knowing they probably were.
"I wish we had never needed his help," Ograff murmured, his large face sick with nausea.
Mickle swallowed, though his throat felt dry as he steeled himself as firmly as he could against his fears. Vile though it was, they needed the Corrupted One's help. Without it they would never get past the city’s walls. And he knew - oh, he knew, with a twitching of his hands - that the burning of Cyramon and the wholesale slaughter of its pestilential citizens would be worth all of this.
The air seemed to thicken, congealing about them. Mickle stared through the flickering, unreal gloom towards the elf. The bodies he had gathered from the slain lay at his feet as he raised his face and glared at the stars - at the harsh stars that burned intensely in the sky. He shrieked suddenly. Mickle involuntarily clamped his hands to his ears in a vain attempt to seal the awful, blood-chilling sound of the Corrupted One's cries from his head. The bodies before him seemed to glow, seemed to spread before his eyes, their outlines shifting and growing softer as if somehow they were starting to melt.
Fascinated despite the nausea that made him want to be sick, Mickle stared as the elves were transformed from solidity to a liquid, then into a shimmering translucent gas like feeble, enthralled ghosts before the Corrupted One's arms. The shrieking ended and Adragor, exhausted, slumped to his knees, his head bowed onto his chest. As he fell, so the ghosts of the elves dispersed, floating and fading towards the goblins, who flinched away from them, dazed as the shapes disappeared inside them.
Mickle removed his hands from his ears. It was then that he noticed the change that was taking place in his body - how his fingers were becoming paler and thinner and... elf-like!
Startled, he turned to Ograff, the shock of what he saw, as his eyes bulged with disbelieving horror, paralyzing his throat.