“Shit!” Khita swore as she threw herself out of the way of the blow at the last second.
She rolled awkwardly over the dirty cobbles of the road, but somehow managed to escape unharmed and land in a low crouch. As her attacker delivered a follow up slash she scrambled backwards, and the blade grazed her shoulder.
The wound bled profusely but looked shallow, so Khita wasted no time in drawing her daggers and snarling at her attacker. The scarred man apparently wasn’t impressed though, because he just gave her an amused smirk.
“Ha, what do you think you’re going to do with those tiny little…” he started to say.
Before he could finish though Khita whipped one of her daggers at his chest, and the startled man had to dodge to one side. It only took him a second to recover, but that was all Khita needed to draw another dagger and put some more distance between them.
Blacknail took advantage of everyone’s preoccupation to clamber up the side of the wall beside him. Once up on the roof he laid low and began to inch his way closer to the fight. If he managed to get closer maybe he could end the fight with a sneak attack.
Khita’s companion was warding off his own attackers with defensive swordplay, but was slowly being pushed back. Neither he nor his opponents seemed too eager to close in on each other.
Khita threw a glance at her comrade as she took a few more steps back, and then looked at the empty alley behind her. Her scarred opponent just continued grinning smugly, and didn’t bother chasing her.
“Don’t even think about running. I have men positioned to cut you off the second you try it. You’re trapped here,” the thugs’ leader bragged loudly enough that it echoed down the alley.
He then smiled viciously and looked expectantly at the end of the street. Everyone else followed his gaze as well, including Khita. Several seconds went by… and the man’s smile slipped from his face.
“That means you should come out, you bloody idiots!” he shouted with an exasperated tone.
Several more seconds went by as everyone stared towards the end of the alley. No one moved, and the only thing anyone heard was background sounds from the city. Nothing happened, and no one appeared from around the corner of the street. Eventually the silence was broken by the sound of snickering.
“Are you ever right about anything?” Khita asked the scarred man with a roll of her eyes.
“Shut up and run!” the man who had been fighting beside her said as he made a break for it.
Khita took his advice; she quickly threw another dagger at the enemy closest to her and then took off as well. After a brief moment of shock their attackers gathered their wits and ran after them in pursuit.
“Where in all the hells are the others?” their leader asked sourly as he ran.
None of his men had an answer for him. Blacknail knew but he, obviously, wasn’t telling.
Instead, the hobgoblin just watched the action from his rooftop perch. Unfortunately for Khita, it looked like the tallest of the thugs was a good runner. He was quickly closing the distance between him and his quarry.
Blacknail was looking down as they ran below him. He sighed; stupid Khita couldn’t even run properly.
He wasn’t about to let her, or what’s his face, die though. Her death would waste all the effort he had already put into saving them. So, Blacknail drew his sling and sighted on the fastest of his tribe’s enemies. As the weapon’s crack filled the air he ducked out of sight again.
A scream of pain filled the air, and was quickly followed by a crashing sound as the man tripped and rolled into a pile of large wooden crates. Blacknail sniggered in amusement from his hiding spot. Humans had such terrible senses…
“Bloody fucking hells!” the hobgoblin heard his target swear between grunts of pain.
It sounded like it hurt a lot, which was good. The tall man’s noisy crash had distracted and slowed his fellows as well. The scarred man was livid and red with rage as he turned toward his fallen subordinate.
“You bloody idiot! How’d you manage to trip over yourself? Now we’re going to lose them. What’s wrong with you morons? First, the others apparently get lost somewhere, and now this!” their leader growled angrily.
“I didn’t fucking trip, boss. Look at my leg! It’s a bloody mess. Something hit me,” the downed man replied between labored breaths.
“As if! There’s no one here but…” the scarred thug began to reply.
Blacknail had stopped listening. Once he’d confirmed that his tribemates had gotten safely away he’d rolled over the roof and climbed down the other side of the building. He had to follow Khita and the other man back to their base before they got too far ahead of him.
The hobgoblin dropped down back onto the street and raced around the shabby building at the corner. Once he reached the entrance to the side street he caught their scent again, and he took off after them. He was tired of wandering the city. He wanted to find his master already!
By dashing frantically, and ignoring the stares of the people around him, he closed the distance enough that he could hear his quarry. Their running footsteps stood out in this quieter part of the settlement, so Blacknail was able to follow that noise even from a street behind them.
They led to him to a large sturdy looking building that was located right against the eastern section of the city wall. It formed a compact compound with several smaller buildings that surrounded it. As he closed in the hobgoblin smelled the scent of familiar people. The rich earthy tones of the forest still clung to some of them. This was definitely the right place.
Blacknail’s ears suddenly twitched as the sound of voices he recognized reached them. One of them was just Khita, but the other was definitely Herad. He’d found her! The hobgoblin grinned happily as he realized his long journey was finally over.
The sound of the conversation was coming from a nearby window, so he bounced joyfully over to it. Then, he looked around to make sure he was unseen and stopped to listen. It was best not to surprise them by entering unannounced.
“…lucky we escaped at all. If I wasn’t so good with my knives they would have had us,” Khita said.
“It sounds like you were more than lucky. Both of you should still be back there in that alley, as corpses. It’s more than a little odd that their reinforcement didn’t show up like that,” Saeter’s voice replied.
“That’s not important. I’ll have their hides for this! I can’t believe those bloody fools dare move so openly against me. This could mean war!” hissed the infuriated voice of Herad.
Blacknail winced and cringed at the anger in her tone. He’d been about to slip into the room and take credit for saving Khita, and that other guy, but now he hesitated.
He didn’t really want to approach Herad right now. He wasn’t, technically, supposed to be in Daggerpoint after all. No one had actually forbidden him, but it didn’t sound like Herad was in the mood to argue the point. There was no harm in waiting a bit…
“They must have something planned. This doesn’t sound like a subordinate getting out of hand. They wouldn’t risk this if they weren’t sure of their victory,” Saeter said calmly as Blacknail resumed listening.
“It must be those fuckers Fang and Galive. The rumors that Zelena managed to buy them off must be true. That means Werrick’s bitch has turned over half the larger bands against me. They’re not afraid of a war because they think they’ll win,” Herad speculated darkly.
“That would be bad. We’ve recruited some more men, but not nearly enough to fight so many other bands. We also don’t much in the way of allies among the other chiefs. Several of them wouldn’t turn against us, but they also wouldn’t fight Werrick for us either,” the old scout told her.
“Then I’ll have to kill Fang and Galive. That will serve as a message to the others, plus it will be very satisfying,” Herad said.
“Sounds like a great plan, but I don’t see how it would ever get done. Both of them are veteran bandit chiefs, so they’ll have measures in place against killers. Word on the street is the first thing Zelena did when she got here was buy the services of all the best assassins, anyway. With all the money she’s been throwing around I doubt you’ll be able to turn any of them,” Saeter commented.
“I could call them out, and cut them down myself,” Herad replied with more than a hint of frustration.
“I doubt they’d go for that. We probably won’t see heads or tails of them until they swarm over us like ants,” Saeter told her.
“You’re not here to tell me what I can’t do, Saeter! Come up with a solution. You must have contacts or something that will help. I brought you here for a reason, not so you could whine!” Herad hissed at him.
“I’ll see what I can come up with,” Saeter answered stiffly.
Blacknail heard the sound of footsteps as his master left the room. He was fairly confident that now would be a really bad time to approach Herad. He didn’t want wander the city forever though…
So, he needed a way to get into her good side, if such a thing actually existed. It had to be something that would impress her enough that she would welcome him, and set aside the issue of whether he was really supposed to be in Daggerpoint or not.
Only one thing came to mind. He would present her with the severed heads of her enemies. That meant he had to kill the men known as Fang and Galive, or at least one of them anyway. No one could possible stay upset after receiving such a great present! Herad would love it.
The only problem was that he had no idea where to find those men. If wandering the city for the past day had taught him anything it was that Daggerpoint was a hard place to find someone.
Threatening random people until they told him what he wanted to know would probably take too long. It would also attract attention, and thus be more than a little dangerous. How else could he find those men though?
Blacknail frowned as a troubling answer occurred to him. He had met one person who apparently knew where people could be found. He didn’t really want to go back there, but he didn’t see any other option. He would have to very careful if he talked to her again.
The hobgoblin sighed and slipped away from his tribe’s new home. It took him a while to travel stealthily through the back streets and arrive at his destination.
As he stood outside the large building he eyed the window he’d climbed through earlier warily. Should he just climb through again? Should he just leave…?
The tiniest hint of the spicy perfume from his first visit tickled his nose, and his heart quickened. A desire to seek the source of the aroma began pulling him towards the building. Blacknail snorted violently and shook his head in an attempt to clear it.
With a sign of resignation he then crept back over to the window and carefully climbed up the face of the wall. Once again, he listened carefully for a minute before entering, but once that was done he swung himself through the window and landed on the floor.
This time as he scanned the room he made absolutely sure he was alone. There was no one hidden among the sheets or anywhere else, so he relaxed. The room being empty did present him with another problem though. What was he supposed to do now, just wait for Luphera to come back?
He stood on the center of the room for less than a minute before he gave up. If she wasn’t going to come to him then he would have to go find her. Blacknail tip toed over to the entrance on the far wall of the room, and placed his ear up against the door.
It was a large building and he could hear several people moving through it, but none of them seemed to be in the next room. Feeling reassured he reached out and pulled the door open slightly. Or at least he tried, it didn’t actually move.
With an annoyed grimace the hobgoblin pulled on the doorknob slightly harder. The door still didn’t budge. He hissed in annoyance and stared and the polished bronze handle. Was it locked?
He gave it another tug, before frustration overwhelmed him. He stepped back and growled at the offensive metal protrusion. The urge to smash his way through the door in front of him was getting harder and harder to ignore.
Just then he heard noise from the room on the other side. He froze and his ears perked up as he listened. Someone was approaching. No, make that two people. He definitely heard two of sets of footsteps.
A panicky twitch went through him as he instinctively looked around for somewhere to hide. He shook the reaction off though, and started planning. Hiding somewhere in the room would be stupid; he needed to talk to Luphera.
Just as he was thinking of her Blacknail picked up the sound of her voice from the other side of the door. It sounded like she was the closer of the two people to the door. He grinned as he instantly decided on a course of action. With sudden calm the hobgoblin strolled over to stand behind the door, and waited to see what she did.
He was momentarily distracted from his scheme as the door knob turned and the door opened. He stared at the bronze handle in surprise. So that was the secret to the human’s nefarious goblin proof door …
“..I have a delightful red wine that I think…” Luphera said, before faltering as the door she was pushing open hit Blacknail’s boot and came to an unexpected stop.
She froze and the hobgoblin could practically smell her hesitation hanging in the air. The woman’s black hair cascaded over her face as she slowly peered around the door. Her eyes widened slightly when she saw Blacknail’s cloaked form.
The hobgoblin just smirked beneath his hood and raised a hand to make a shushing gesture. Luphera gave him an annoyed glare then turned back around and addressed the person behind her.
“You know what? Why don’t you stay here for a second, while I attend to some brief chores. Just make yourself comfortable out here,” she said before quickly stepping through the door and closing it shut behind her.
As she moved into the room the hobgoblin noticed that she was wearing clothes this time, although not a lot of them. She wore a flimsy looking white gown that was almost transparent. It didn’t seem very practical or warm, so he wasn’t sure why she bothered.
As he watched her the woman gave Blacknail a scowl, and then walked over to the bed while motioning for him to follow. Blacknail did as she asked and moved away from the door.
“I can’t say I expected you back so soon. I’m honestly not sure if I’m pleased or annoyed. If you’re here for more answers you’ll have to be quick, and willing to pay my price. I’m currently in the middle of another piece of business, and he’s rather handsome,” She told Blacknail with a confident smirk, which went right over his head.
“Yes, I want answers to new questions,” the hobgoblin replied.
“Oh, so you found Herad did you?” she asked.
“I did. Now I must find two men known as Fang and Galive,” he told her.
Her eyes narrowed and her head tilted in response to his words. She looked thoughtful.
“I’m sensing a pattern here. What could you possibly want with the locations of three bandit chiefs? Before I answer your question I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to answer mine,” she told him.
It was Blacknail’s turn to scowl now, as he considered his options. Once again though, he didn’t seem to have much of a choice. She clearly had the advantage when it came to this game of answers. Should he lie though? The problem with that was he didn’t know what an effective lie would even be…
“Very well, I will-ss answer first. I wish to serve Mistress Herad, and so I seek-ss a gift for her. I will give her the men known as Fang and Galive,” Blacknail replied.
If she didn’t like his answer he could always just jump out the window, or kill her. Maybe it was the flowery scent in the air, but she was looking unusually tasty for a human.
Luphera didn’t overreact to his answer though; she just looked thoughtful. She murmured something to herself, before giving him an appraising look. Blacknail relaxed in response.
“You plan on killing two of the local bandit chiefs, by yourself? That won’t be easy,” she told him.
“They’re only human,” Blacknail replied with a shrug.
“True enough, I guess. I find it’s a common flaw in most the people I meet. Anyway, my time’s running short so I’ll answer your question for you. I’ve never been a fan of either of those butchers anyway. If you manage to kill them, and not before, feel free to return and we’ll have another lovely chat,” she told him dismissively.
Blacknail grinned at her choice of words. They were more than a little amusing and he totally agreed. Saeter had told him to always say thanks when someone gave him something, including information, so he did.
“Thank-ss you,” he replied as he fell deep into thought.
He couldn’t understand this woman at all. Usually, humans were very simple creatures. They liked coins, and they didn’t like being stabbed. Luphera was more complicated than that though. Her lack of fear confused him. Blacknail also had the distinct impression that she had been pleased by how the conversation had gone, but was trying not to show it.
After Luphera quickly explained to the hobgoblin how to find both of the men’s lairs Blacknail took his leave. He hopped out the window and quickly climbed down the outside face of the building.
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