The prim servant with the mustache and the fancy clothes led Blacknail around a corner and down to the very end of the hallway. He then stepped to the side and gestured towards the door there.
“The mistress is waiting just inside for you,” he announced politely. Blacknail resisted the urge to wipe the pleased look off his face by kicking him in the groin.
Instead, the hobgoblin stared at the door for a moment, before sighing and pushing it open. He would have much preferred it if he’d been able to sneak in, instead of being invited like this. All this preparation for his arrival resembled a trap far too much for his comfort. Luphera probably didn’t want to kill him, but that didn’t mean her intentions would be in his best interest, especially if she got handsy. She had tricked him into doing things for her more than once. Not this time, though. Blacknail had changed. He was going to stay in control of the situation. He was a leader now, and he wasn’t going to let a human woman tempt him into doing anything that undermined his pride.
The door in front of Blacknail swung open to reveal a lavish sitting room that was much larger than the one in Luphera’s old suite. Tasteful bits of ornate furniture ringed the room and art decorated the walls. A pair of cushioned couches sat in one corner and there was a long low table in front of them. The first thing Blacknail noticed was the plates of food on the table. The second thing he noticed was that Luphera was sprawled out on one of the couches. She was laying on her side in a bold but lazy posture, and she smiled confidently as Blacknail walked in. As per usual, she was wearing thin silk clothes that revealed the shape of her. Although this time they were blue and instead of a dress she had on loose trousers.
After studying her for a moment, Blacknail shifted his gaze and focused on her eyes. Looking at her body muddled his thinking, but her eyes revealed her intelligence and confidence. Luphera had power. It wasn’t the type of power that Blacknail was used to, but it was very real and very dangerous. Blacknail had to concentrate on that, and not on the curviness of her hips…
“Ah, Blacknail. I’d been hoping that you’d come visit me again. It has been so very boring here without my favorite gentleman caller around. I found myself longing for the excitement of your company,” Luphera said as the door behind Blacknail shut with dull final thump.
Luphera continued to smile invitingly as she sat up and pushed some of her long blonde hair behind her ear. As she moved, the long neck of sleeveless shirt shifted and more of her ample bosom was exposed. Blacknail did his best to focus on her eyes.
“How did you know I was here?” he asked her. That was still bugging him.
Luphera laughed. “I deal in information and I have people everywhere.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“If you want something from me then you need to pay for it, although this won’t cost you much. You just need to stop being so rude and greet me properly,” Luphera replied in a playful tone. Blacknail didn’t like being told what to do – he was a leader, not a minion- but this was just a small thing.
“It’s good to see you again, Luphera. You smell as nice as ever,” Blacknail said as he grinned at his host. The scent of her perfume filled the room and was hard not to notice.
“Thank you, please hang your cloak and jacket on the hook by the door. They aren’t needed. It’s nice and warm in here,” she replied as she gestured towards a brazier that was sitting in the far corner of the room.
After forcing himself not to growl, Blacknail did as she had asked. It was warm in here, and again this was a perfectly reasonable and normal request for her to make. Taking off his jacket made him feel exposed for some reason, though.
As he turned around to face Luphera again, she got up from the couch and walked over to him. Blacknail couldn’t help but notice how her hips swayed as she walked. Herah’s didn’t move like that. Wait, why was he comparing them?
“See that wasn’t so hard,” Luphera remarked as she picked something up off a cabinet and handed it to him. “These are for you. Think of them as a gift from someone looking to please a handsome leader.”
Receiving a gift thrilled Blacknail. Obviously, Luphera knew how amazing he was, and she had mentioned that he was leader! Blacknail took the items and looked them over. It was a full set of clothes, including socks. They were nice looking if very different from what he usually wore, much softer. The shirt was white and long-sleeved. The pants were black and surprisingly snug. Usually human clothes were very loose on him and fit poorly, although that wasn’t surprising since every piece of clothing he owned had been looted from dead people.
Luphera smiled invitingly. “Try them on.”
“Right now?” Blacknail asked uncertainly. He wasn’t usually concerned about nudity. Until his master had taught him otherwise, he had spent most of his life running around naked, but he liked the idea of having as many barriers as possible between himself and Luphera right now.
“Well, you’re not loitering around here in those dirty rags. This is a classy establishment. The least you can do is wear something clean.”
Blacknail grimaced. His clothes weren’t dirty! Sure they had dirt on them, but it was the good kind. They barely stank at all, especially when compared to humans.
“Most humans don’t like people changing in front of them,” Blacknail pointed out. He’d had this explained to him several times. Vorscha in particular had told him she didn’t want to see his skinny green ass, even though she had usually been very practical for a human. He missed her.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” Luphera replied. She twittered with obvious amusement.
“Can I change in the next room?” Blacknail asked. It might be better to play this safe.
“I can hardly stop you,” Luphera laughed. “However, why would you bother? Are you afraid of little me?”
Blacknail was not afraid of anyone. He huffed and immediately began disrobing. However, when he looked up to see Luphera licking her lips he had to suppress a shudder. It was possible he may have just been tricked, so he pulled on his new clothes as quickly as possible.
“Yes, these look quite good on you,” Luphera commented as she walked over and adjusted his clothing a bit. “It was definitely worth all the trouble of having them custom made and coming up with a style to fit your figure and features. You look absolutely chilling, like a uniquely sophisticated beast.”
Blacknail held very still as she smoothed out some wrinkles on his shirt. His new clothes were so soft they almost tickled his skin. It was distracting. He had never worn anything like them before.
“Will you tell me how you knew I was here now?” he asked. He really wanted to know. It didn’t seem possible.
“Yes, of course, since you’re being so well behaved. It’s not complicated,” Luphera replied as she walked back over to her couch and sat down. “When I received word of a figure matching your description being seen around Daggerpoint again, I immediately placed that window you entered through under surveillance by someone in the neighboring building. You’ve used it every time you’ve come to visit me.”
“I’m too sneaky. No one could have seen me,” Blacknail countered gruffly. Although, he supposed they might have noticed another hobgoblin that wasn’t nearly as handsome as him and somehow mistaken them.
“There were a few other hints that you were back in the city as well, such as the arrival of a group of Herad’s old minions and some rather large explosions.”
Blacknail huffed. So it was Geralhd’s fault. “The explosions didn’t have anything to do with me. I just watched them.”
“Yet we tend not to see very many destructive displays of magic such as those in this city, except for some reason when you’re around. You have a way of livening up the place,” Luphera said as she leaned sideways against the arm of the sofa she was sitting on.
“I’m just not lazy, unlike some people,” Blacknail told her.
“I find the excitement you bring to be one of your more charming traits. But surely you have some other questions. Alas, you never just visit for the pleasure of my company.”
Oh, right. He was here for a purpose. Blacknail scratched his nose and considered what to say. Maybe he should try to turn the tables a bit and be charming. He was so handsome that it had to work, especially with his nice new clothes.
“I did come just to see you. You’re the best smelling human in the entire city, and you’re also so smart. You know practically everything,” he told her as he put on his most charming smile. He wasn’t sure how effective it would be since he had never tried it before.
Luphera pouted. “So you don’t want anything from me?”
“Everyone wants stuff from everyone else. Humans and hobgoblins are the same that way, although hobgoblins are more honest and direct about it,” Blacknail replied. They usually just took what they wanted without asking.
“Like you are right now?” Luphera asked with an amused smile.
“Exactly! I’m completely honest.”
Luphera sat up and patted the surface of the sofa next to her. “Well, if you’re here to relax and enjoy some conversation with the best smelling woman in Daggerpoint why don’t you come sit down.”
Blacknail hesitated. He may have made a tactical error. Was it too late to flee for his life? He didn’t want to get too close, but on the other hand that was where the food was and he was getting sort of hungry. There was even a plate of cheese slices…
It didn’t seem like he had much of a choice, so Blacknail sighed quietly to himself and reluctantly walked over to sit stiffly down next to Luphera. Then he helped himself to a slice of cheese. It was very good, but Blacknail wondered how much it was going to cost him.
“Now, what did you want to talk about? I’m shivering in anticipation of your conversational topic of choice,” Luphera whispered as she leaned up against Blacknail and titled her head so that it rested against his shoulder.
“Um, so how are things here?” Blacknail asked her. He was being subtle and indirect.
Lupherea suddenly sat up straight so that she wasn’t leaning against him anymore. “Ha, they’ve been better. Business has been good, especially the physical part. There is more money moving through the city now, but my real area of interest has been drying up. There is a lot less intrigue in a city controlled by one man. Everyone is holding their breath and waiting to see what happens next.”
“Werrick rules Daggerpoint,” Blacknail remarked in a deliberate attempt to steer the conversation. Being subtle was easier than he’d thought it would be.
“Ruling is probably too strong of a word, but yes,” Luphera replied with sly smile. “All the remaining bandit chiefs and gang lords have bent the knee. He left a lieutenant and the man is nominally in charge of the city, although the Governor still runs the inner district as before.”
“What about you?”
“I’m neither a bandit nor a gang lord. I wasn’t asked to swear to anyone, and if something mysterious and assuredly fatal happened to Werrick or his men I would quietly cheer and uncork a bottle of my best wine. The city is growing boring and stale. There are no opportunities for me to prosper in such a place.”
“This lieutenant, where does he live and what is his security like?” Blacknail asked in as neutral a tone as he could manage.
Luphera leaned back, raised a leg, and placed a bare foot on Blacknail’s thigh. “Oh, why would you want to know that?”
“You made me curious?” Blacknail replied uncertainly as he stared at her manicured toes. He didn’t want to give himself away, but it was hard to focus.
“Well, I’ll do my best to satisfy your curiosity then. The name of Werrick’s top man in the city is Cedric. He’s holed up in a mansion on the edge of the inner district, and he has quite a few guards, although he relies far more on borrowing Werrick’s strength than using his own. He doesn’t have nearly the forces necessary to keep everyone else in line,” Luphera explained before going into more detail.
She withdrew her foot and continued talking for several minutes. Blacknail nodded along. Occasionally he grabbed a piece of fruit or cheese from the table as he listened.
“Is your desire for knowledge sated now?” Luperha asked once she was done speaking.
“No, I don’t know much about Werrick, other than the obvious. I bet you do, though.”
“Ah, there is an interesting man, even if he isn’t my type. I’ve met him only once briefly, but he’s too important for me not to have learned everything I can about him. Before I reveal anything more though, how about you do some sharing of your own? It’s only polite for you to entertain your host.”
“Me? What do you want to know about?” Blacknail asked in surprise.
“Yes, you. I find you absolutely fascinating. You’ve never told me anything about yourself. I’m sure it’s a riveting story.”
A frown appeared on Blacknail’s lips as he thought back. He’d spent most his life a tiny goblin in a sewer. He didn’t feel like sharing this story, so he twisted the truth a little instead.
“I wandered the wilds South when I was younger,” he explained to start off his story.
Luphera listened to him make stuff up until he finished with his arrival in Daggerpoint the first time. “What have you been up to since our last meeting? You were part of Herad’s band, but Werrick wiped them out. Obviously, you survived.”
“Yes, I survived, although my master Saeter didn’t. Werrick killed him,” Blacknail hissed. He couldn’t help himself from showing some anger as the emotion flooded over him.
“Alas, so Saeter really is dead. He was quite the man if half the stories about him were to be believed.
“He was the best man in the entire world, and I will avenge him,” Blacknail replied as his eyes narrowed in fury.
A flash of interest appeared within Luphera’s eyes but then it quickly disappeared. She reached out and put a comforting hand on the hobgoblin’s shoulder. “But how did you survive?”
Blacknail mentally went through some sword drills to calm himself down. Saeter had been the one to teach them to him. “I’m very hard to kill. I fought Werrick but had to go save some of my human minions. I guided them through the forest. None of Werrick’s men could hope to catch me in the Green.”
Luphera sighed dramatically. “The endless Green, so close and yet so unreachable. You have such interesting tales of it. Here in Daggerpoint, it lurks just out of sight and we try not to think about it, yet it has all of us city dwellers completely surrounded. We could visit it at any time, but only the blandest of its edges. We would never survive the journey to its heart, where its true splendors await.”
“Mostly it’s full of trees and things that want to eat you,” Blacknail pointed out.
Luphera rolled her eyes. “Werrick’s attack on Herad was months ago. Where did you go after that?”
“I found a safe place out in the woods, and made some human friends. They liked me because I helped them kill some other humans.”
“Such is the way of the world,” Luphera laughed. “But I’d heard that you have some other friends as well. Where did you find them?”
She was probably talking about the hobgoblins. Blacknail shrugged without concern. If she knew about them then she knew about them. “I just sort of found them out in the forest. I’m a natural leader so they decided to follow me around.”
Luphera leaned over and stroked Blacknail’s nose with a playful finger. “And now you’re here seeking vengeance with new friends and allies. You seem very confident. Since you’re so smart and such a great leader, surely you have some other exciting resources that you haven’t told anyone about.”
Blacknail shivered in delight. “I have a cave full of gold and some mages.”
“That is so interesting. I knew you wouldn’t disappoint me.”
Blacknail groaned. Why had he admitted that? The gold was supposed to be a secret. Luphera was starting to get to him, and her sweet perfume was starting to clog up his brain. He needed to steer the conversation back to where he wanted it to go.
“Can you tell me about Werrick now?”
“Of course. I’d be glad to help my favorite hobgoblin,” Luphera answered as she snuggled in close to him. “Werrick was the second son of a minor noble that held lands on the western border of Hulgaron. While he was away fighting for his country his family lands were decimated by the war with Eloria. When news reached him he deserted and managed to convince his entire squad to come along. He then came north and set himself up as a bandit captain, but even then he wasn’t satisfied. His drive and ambition pushed him to seek out more power and prestige for himself.”
“What does he want? He is already the most powerful chieftain” Blacknail asked her. He wanted to understand his enemy.
“Well, I can’t read his mind, but I imagine he wants to be a king. He is a man of noble stock after all. Normally such a thing wouldn’t be possible, but these aren’t normal times. What’s left of the border lords are holed up in their castles and little more than bandits themselves, and the neighboring countries have bled themselves dry in their wars.”
“How is a king different form a chief, and what wars are we talking about?” Blacknail asked. He barely understood some of the terms and references she was using, and he felt like the details were important here.
“Well that will take a long time to explain. If you want to know all that then you’ll have to stay the night,” Luphera purred as she grabbed his arm and pulled him closer.
Blacknail felt his elbow rub up against Luphera’s chest. He suddenly felt an uncomfortable feeling down below his belly. It was an itch he desperately wanted scratched and Luphera’s scent was intoxicating. Desperately, he tried to remember that she was just a fat pink human, but it didn’t work. The memory of the soft feel of her skin filled his mind instead. The color suddenly didn’t seem all that important, even if green was far superior in every way.
“I guess I should stay then. It’s my duty as a leader to learn as much as possible,” he told her as he stared at her breasts through her semi-translucent shirt. He was a great leader.
Book 3 is Out!
The third novel in The Iron Teeth series is now out on Amazon. Please support the author and help promote the book by purchasing and reviewing A Bloody Road. Every review and purchase helps a lot!