Blacknail stared nervously at the woman who had appeared behind him. She was definitely completely naked… yet she was looking him over without a single hint of fear.
The hobgoblin found it more than a little unnerving. She was in a room with a cloaked hobgoblin while totally undressed! Why was he the anxious one?
“You’re definitely not a customer. You’d never get in the front door; your clothes are too rough looking. My first guess would be a burglar, but who would be stupid enough to rob this place? Maybe you’re a fan? Although that also seems unlikely,” she asked with a thoughtful frown.
Blacknail considered drawing his blade and killing her, but quickly discarded the idea. She wasn’t a physical threat and the worst she could do was make some noise, which was what was most likely to happen if he did attack. Instead, he snatched up the plate of food and prepared to make his escape.
“Make no sounds woman. If you make noise before I leave I’ll kill you,” Blacknail told the woman as he took a small step back towards the window.
The woman just smiled at his remark, and then stretched herself out provocatively. As she arched her back her sizeable chest heaved.
“Since you apparently came in here without knowing who I am I’ll introduce myself. I’m known as Luphera, and surely you wouldn’t want to hurt little harmless old me,” she commented a she pouted playfully.
Blacknail suddenly found himself growing quite uncomfortable. He was feeling things he wasn’t used to feeling about humans. There was just something so very attractive about the sinuous way this human moved. He wanted to lick her…
Wait what?! Blacknail shook his head to clear his thoughts. What was he thinking? All humans were pink and fatty. He must still have some of the female goblins’ scent on him, and it was confusing him.
He took an unconscious sniff of the air in the room, and his nostrils were flooded with a weird flowery scent. As he fought a sudden urge to sneeze a realization hit him. It wasn’t the left over scent of a female goblin that was confusing him; it was the sweet floral scent! It smelled somewhat similar to a female in heat.
“You’ve intrigued me, you mysterious stranger. I don’t get much in the way of excitement these days, and even for a thief you’re oddly covered up. Not to mention your voice is just so chilling. It sent a shiver down my spine,” the woman told Blacknail as she hugged herself and shuddered theatrically.
Blacknail froze just as he was about to take another step back. Against his will is eyes were drawn to her trembling body. The dark haired woman grinned smugly as she noticed his reaction.
“Are you ugly, is that why you cover yourself? You needn’t worry. I can assure you that I’ve been with uglier men. I’ve seen it all: scars, deformities, and pock marks. You get used to them after awhile, so these things don’t turn me off. In fact they can be exciting in their own way. Why don’t you put that food down and come over here to amuse me for a while. It’s early enough in the morning that we won’t be disturbed,” she told him suggestively.
Blacknail was beginning to get a strange headache. He really wanted to stay and stare at this female for awhile, yet at the same time he also felt an overpowering need to jump out the window and flee as quickly as possible. The woman noticed his hesitation.
“No? How rude, you’re making me feel unattractive. There must be something you want though, beyond a plate of food. I deal in more than just sex you know. My clients also come to me for secrets and gossip as well. Maybe we can play a game? I’ll answer one of your questions and then you can answer one of mine,” she offered him.
Blacknail found himself nodding, and he wasn’t completely sure why. He wanted to find Herad and Saeter, but he suspected it would be very dangerous to stay here. Unfortunately, leaving would require him to take his eyes off of the woman.
She smirked at his gesture of acknowledgement, then twirled around and leisurely strolled back over to the bed. Once there she sat down and leaned back in a relaxed manner with her slender legs tucked up beside her. Blacknail had to bite his tongue to fight the urge to sit down beside her. The scent was really messing with his head.
“Ask your question then,” she told him.
Blacknail hesitated for a second before answering. He really wasn’t sure this was a good idea.
“Is Herad in-ss this city?” he eventually asked.
The woman raised a finger to her lips and looked thoughtful for a second.
“The Black Snake? That’s an odd question for a petty thief to ask. You just get more and more mysterious. I can’t figure you out, and it’s actually rather infuriating. However, since you asked I’d be more than happy to answer,” Luphera told him. “Yes, Herad the Black Snake is in the city. Her arrival a few days ago was big news, and her activities lately have shaken the city. There will be blood in the streets soon I think.”
A cool surge of relief washed through Blacknail, and he broke out into a pleased grin. He hadn’t been certain he was even in the right city. For all he knew there were dozens of human cities in this area.
Actually knowing he was so close to his goal removed a weight from his back he hadn’t even known he’d been carrying. Plus, the blood in the streets thing sounded fun.
“Oh, it’s my turn to ask a question now! Let’s see, what should I ask? Well, since you’ve been terribly discourteous by not introducing yourself to a lady why don’t we start with your name?” Luphera told him with playful disapproval.
The first thing that occurred to Blacknail was that he should leave now that he had his answer. The second was that he should lie. Yet, another part of him didn’t want to displease the woman. Besides, he still needed to learn exactly where Herad was. It was a big confusing city full of the weird distracting smells.
“My name is Blacknail,” he answered reluctantly.
Luphera let out a deep sigh and collapsed onto her side across the bed. She then gave the cloaked hobgoblin a pouty frown.
“That doesn’t help me at all. Could you be any more confounding? You’re making me so curious! I just can’t stand it. Go ahead and ask your second question,” she told him.
“Where in the city is Herad?” he asked her.
“I don’t know. I could get the answer for you of course, but I’d have to get in contact with some of my people. I don’t think you want to wait for that,” she replied.
Blacknail frowned. If she didn’t know where Herad was located then there was no point in sticking around. Now that he knew he was in the right city he wanted to get right down to finding his mistress. The scent in the air was making him drowsy, and really clouding his thinking. He had to leave now, or he didn’t know what he would end up doing.
“I’m leaving,” he grunted as he spun around and walked over to the window.
He didn’t turn back in her direction until he was climbing out. Luphera was giving him a thoughtful look. When she saw him looking she sat up and smiled at him again, in a way that perfectly exposed her bare chest.
“Must you leave? I’ll just die of suspense if you leave me hanging like this. I had such great questions all thought out too! I don’t get many unapproved guests, so please feel free to climb back through my window anytime, Blacknail the mysterious. I’ll have someone leave a tray of food out, and then we’ll continue our little game,” she told him with a wink.
“Maybe,” Blacknail muttered as he tore his gaze away from her and forced himself to climb down the side of the building.
The fresh air outside quickly cleared the haze from his head. Once down on the ground he hastily slipped away down a nearby alley. Right before he was about to turn the corner and head out of sight though, he glanced back to see Luphera standing at her window grinning smugly at him.
Her expression reminded the hobgoblin of a cat that had found a mouse to play with. He picked up his pace, if only to counteract the part of him that still wanted to go back and see what would happen.
Once he was safely away from any possible pursuit Blacknail relaxed, and then started wandering the city again. It was still light out, so as before he stayed away from other people. He stuck to the back streets and used his sensitive hearing to make sure no one snuck up on him.
Just as he was beginning to despair of ever finding Herad anytime soon he came upon a familiar scent. It smelled… annoying, or more specifically like Khita. Blacknail smiled; he had never been happier to smell the greasy scent of a human.
Eagerly, the hobgoblin began tracing her trail deeper into the city. As he moved through the winding streets it soon became apparent that she wasn’t travelling alone; a man was accompanying her. Blacknail couldn’t place him but he smelled sort of familiar, so he was probably one of Herad’s men.
He pulled his cloak tighter as he followed the trail past a pair of talking men. When he skulked past them they didn’t do more than glance his way. Soon, however the scent led him out of the back streets and out into one of the city’s main roads. Blacknail peered around a shadowy corner as he weighed his options.
In front of him was a bright street full of people walking and talking amongst themselves. It was lined with stalls, and even a few horse drawn carts were carefully making their way down it. Of course, this being Daggerpoint almost everyone Blacknail saw was tough looking and armed to the teeth.
The hobgoblin didn’t really want to go out there. Not only would it be much harder to conceal himself while out in the street, but Blacknail was also pretty sure it would be much harder to follow the scent. There were a lot of people, food, and garbage out there. Not to mention the horses, which were horrid stinking beasts.
He was also sure to draw unwanted attention to himself if he went around with his nose against the ground. Humans didn’t usually do that in his experience.
With a sigh, Blacknail stepped out into the street. He didn’t really have a choice; it wasn’t like he could just stay in the alley all day. If someone saw him he would just have to run away very quickly, or hope that they wouldn’t care he was a hobgoblin. Of course, every human he had ever met had cared quite a lot…
He clutched his cloak tightly to himself has he hurried through the street. Khita’s scent had been fairly fresh so he scanned the nearby crowds for her as he walked. A man that was walking by suddenly veered into Blacknail and knocked him aside.
“Out of my way midget!” the man said as he walked by.
The hobgoblin was pushed sideways, and almost jumped out of his skin in surprise. He had to fight down his panic and resist the urge to draw his sword. Murdering the man in the middle of street would probably draw attention, even in Daggerpoint. At least he thought it would…
So, Blacknail just ignored him and quickly moved on. Besides, the man had somehow managed to drop his coin pouch into Blacknail’s hands.
As he hurried away the hobgoblin scanned the crowds. He didn’t see Khita or anyone else he knew anywhere, so he hissed in frustration. Who knew Khita could annoy him without even being around?
The crowds were beginning to get to him, and make him feel squeezed in at every side. He needed to get away and catch his breath, so he made a break for a nearby alley.
Right before he slipped away he threw one last look back, and froze. There they were! He saw Khita, and what’s his face the bandit. They were across the street looking over some things at a stall.
As he watched they broke away from the stall and headed towards a nearby shop. As Blacknail stepped out to follow them he noticed a group of five men look up from a booth down the road. They stared after Khita for a few seconds, and then moved towards where she’d gone.
The hobgoblin’s eyes narrowed as he watched them with sudden interest. They were definitely moving like hunters after prey; with eager steps and a coiled focus Blacknail knew well. He was thus willing to bet they weren’t friendly.
This was a problem. As annoying as Khita was she was still part of his tribe, thus an attack on her was an insult to him. Plus, if she was killed he wouldn’t be able to trail her back to Herad, or kill her himself some day.
As he observed the men Blacknail tried to come up with a plan. Taking out five large fighters was well outside his abilities. He was very dangerous and they seemed like normal stupid humans, but five was still probably too many for him.
Khita and her companion spent the next few minutes moving from stall to stall and down the street. She had always claimed the city was her natural environment, but Blacknail was unsurprised to see she seemed completely ignorant of the fact that almost half a dozen hostile looking men were trailing her.
Of course, those men were in turn completely unaware that they were being stalked in broad daylight through the busy city streets by a hobgoblin.
Then the girl and her escort headed off the main street and down a back alley. The leader of the thugs barked an order at his minions, and the group split up. The leader took one of his men and rushed ahead, while the last three continued following Khita. Blacknail grinned with vicious glee as he watched them separate. This made the odds much better.
The hobgoblin stalked after his new prey. His former nervousness faded away and instinct took over as the excitement of the hunt warmed his skin. The mobs of chattering people around him stopped being possible enemies and instead became part of the camouflage that hid him from his quarry.
Life was now so simple for him. All he had to do was outwit his opponents, and then he would get to taste their sweet blood. Nothing else mattered but the chase and its inevitable end.
As the three slower moving bandits slipped into the alley Blacknail was right behind them. He crept along without making a single noise but the quiet beat of his excited heart. He tracked them more by sound than sight, as he slipped from shadow to shadow and hid behind trash and the occasional crate.
The men didn’t seem too concerned about being followed though because Blacknail never even saw them look backwards to spot a tail. They were typical stupid humans who thought they were safe in their city, but they weren’t. Blacknail had to stifle a vicious cackle.
As they moved into a particularly dark alley that was surrounded on all sides by tall rough looking wooden buildings one of the men fell behind the others a bit. Blacknail sense opportunity, and made his move. He picked up his pace and silently closed the distance. Just as the other two thugs turned a corner Blacknail descended upon the unsuspecting third man’s back.
Blacknail’s target must have heard or felt something because for a split second he slowed and began to turn his head. That was the wrong thing to do.
Before the man even managed to turn around Blacknail had a dagger against his throat. An unnoticeable moment later blood poured from the man’s neck as Blacknail’s blade slid across it.
The thug began to choke and stagger as red seeped down his body, but Blacknail wasn’t looking. He had already bounded after the other two. He had to kill them before they noticed that their herdmate was gone.
The hobgoblin could hear his preys’ footsteps so he knew it was safe to turn the corner. He rushed around it and saw the other two thugs. They were peering ahead as they walked, and intent on keeping up with Khita.
“I hope Balstein let’s us have some fun with the redhead before we kill her,” one of the thugs whispered to the other.
The only reply he got was a stern disapproving look as the other man shushed him. Apparently, they actually thought they were being stealthy or something. Blacknail almost sniggered in amusement at the thought. They were about to learn what being sneaky was really like. It would be a very brief lesson.
The hobgoblin put on a burst of speed and reached out to grab the back of the first man’s shirt. He twitched in alarm as Blacknail pulled him backwards, and then rammed a dagger up under his ribs.
“Oh shit, what the hells!” the second thug cursed as his companion staggered forward.
His eyes were wide with alarm and he reached for the dagger at his side. Blacknail however was already drawing his sword, and quickly launched a violent slash at the man. His opponent managed to dodge under the blow though, and draw his own weapon.
Blacknail’s second slash was blocked by a hastily raised dagger, so Blacknail stepped forward and kicked the man in the chest. The thug was sent flailing backwards, and hit the ground hard. Sensing his opportunity the hobgoblin stepped forward and stomped on the man’s hand.
The man shrieked and the dagger slipped from his hand. Blackanil grinned and hissed savagely as instinct took over. He then dropped his weapon and jumped on the thug.
As he landed he grabbed the stunned man, and to make sure he stayed that way he then head butted him. There was a quiet crack as the hobgbolin’s forehead smashed into his opponent’s face. The movement also placed Blacknail in just the right position to tear his prey’s throat out with his teeth.
The man flailed weakly beneath Blacknail as the hobgoblin bit down on the flesh of his neck, and tasted the iron of his blood. A few seconds later after his prey stopped struggling Blacknail sat back up and sighed happily as he licked his lips. Humans didn’t taste all that good, too fatty, but there was nothing like catching your own food.
Unfortunately, he knew he didn’t have time to savor his victory. He had to follow Khita and make sure the two thugs who were left didn’t kill her. Blacknail had gotten a good look at the men and he didn’t think even odds favored Khita. The bandit leader looked dangerous, and Khita just wasn’t.
Blacknail took a quick second to loot the bodies of their weapons and baubles. Then, he hurriedly cleaned himself off and restarted his pursuit.
Just as he caught sight of his tribemates they came to a stop. Blacknail snuck up closer to get a better look at what was happening. Then, he crouched and hid behind a barrel that was up against one of the nearby dirty alley walls.
Up ahead of him at the other end of the alley the two other thugs had stepped out from a side street to cut Khita and the other bandit off, and they’d brought reinforcements. They’d somehow managed to find another man and a tall lanky woman to back them up.
Blacknail hissed in annoyance. Why did they think they needed so many warriors? As far as these stupid humans knew they had already outnumbered their prey by quite a bit. Weren’t two more fighters kind of overdoing it?
The dangerous looking scarred leader of the thugs drew his sword and pointed it at the man by Khita’s side. He had an eager gleam in his eyes Blacknail didn’t like. The hobgoblin’s two tribemates drew their own blades in response.
“What do you think you’re doing? We’re part of Herad’s band, and under her protection,” Khita’s companion told them confidently.
“Oh we know. That’s why we’re going to kill you. We serve the Wolf, and Werrick wants your bitch of a leader dead. I figure killing you two is a good start. Besides, no one is going to miss a few grunts. People stumble over the corpses of weak fools in Daggerpoint every day,” the scarred man replied.
Then, he lunged forward and slashed at Khita with his sword. The young woman attempted to block the blow, but wasn’t fast or skilled enough. Her sword was sent flying out of her hands, and she yelped as the blade whirled past her face.
Blacknail hissed in frustration. Even if he thought that he was a good enough fighter to turn the odds around, and he wasn’t, he was still too far away to reach them in time. Surprise attacks were very different than face to face sword fights. He wouldn’t be able to get a clear shot with his sling either. There was nothing he could do beyond what he already had.
As he watched, two of the other thugs moved to attack Khita’s nervous looking companion. Their leader grinned savagely as he stepped forward to finish the now unarmed young woman off. As his blade slashed towards her Khita’s eyes went wide with fear.
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