The hobgoblin threw his cloak on and went to find Elyais. Before he’d left to go on his last mission, Blacknail had given his minion a list of chores to complete.
Blacknail had saved Elyais life, or something, back in Daggerpoint. He’d forgotten the details but the important bit was that he’d taken the man in as his minion. All the other important bandits had minions so Blacknail needed at least one.
Eventually, Blacknail found Elyais outside one of the barracks. The blonde young man was standing several feet from a group of men playing dice. There was a small crowd around the players, watching them play. Elyias was at the very back.
“What are you-ss doing?” the hobgoblin asked as he stepped up right behind the young man.
Elyaias hadn’t seen him coming. He rose almost half a foot into the air as he twitched in fear. A look of unrestrained terror appeared on his face for a split second before he got control of himself.
“Ah, what the hells?” he gasped in shock. “You! You’re not supposed to be back yet.”
Several other bandits noticed Blacknail and gave him wary looks, but they soon turned back to the game. They were used to him.
“Some enemies showed up, so we came back quickly,” Blacknail explained cheerfully.
“Damnation, what’s with my luck? I can’t ever catch a break,” Elyias muttered to himself in a muted manner that Blacknail could totally hear.
“Have you been a good-ss minion and done the jobs I gave you?” the hobgoblin asked him.
Blacknail knew it was important to keep your minions occupied. His master had certainly made sure he had been busy all the time. You also had to be firm but fair with minions.
“Err, ya. I did, Blacknail,” the young man answered. “Your firewood has been replaced, and I made sure no one went near your tent.”
“What about all the traps? You emptied-ss them?” Blacknail asked coldly as he stared into the man’s eyes.
“Ah, no… I was going to but when I got out there something had torn most of them apart,” Elyais replied uncertainly.
Blacknail scowled at the man and stared him down. He was disappointed in his minion. The young bandit wilted under his gaze.
“Then you fix them-ss!” Blacknail suddenly hissed angrily in explanation. “I know you can make the string and set up the traps!”
The hobgoblin’s long tongue wormed its way out from between his teeth as he spoke. Elyais paled and furtively glanced around for anything that would help him or distract the hobgoblin. He didn’t find it.
Meanwhile, Blacknail had to fight to suppress a smirk. He wasn’t actually that angry. He’d been the one that had destroyed the traps, and he’d known Elyais wouldn’t fix them. It was all part of the teaching process.
“I’ll get right on it, I swear,” the blonde young man exclaimed fearfully. “Just let me grab my gear.”
“Fine, but I’m checking the snares-ss tonight and if they’re not done…” the hobgoblin drawled threateningly.
Blacknail then snorted disdainfully and stomped away with over exaggerated anger. He could feel Elyais watching him leave.
A few seconds later, the hobgoblin walked around the corner of a building. Once he was out of sight, Blacknail stopped and swiftly turned back around. He then peeked stealthily back at the group of people around Elyais and listened in. He was pretty sure Elyais was going to be bad and slack off.
“There’s got to be some way I can give that creature the slip,” the young man complained to the bandit next to him.
His compatriot was a tall man with a pot belly and long black beard. He was dressed in rough furs. Unlike Elyais, he had been part of Herad’s band since before Blacknail had joined.
“I wouldn’t try it if I were you,” the large man replied with an unfriendly smile. “Just do what he says and don’t piss him off. Let me tell you, some extra work is nothing. Fresh meat like you usually goes through much worse.”
“That’s right,” a bald woman with a vicious scar across her face added. “I’ve seen pretty boys like you forced to do all sorts of things. Although, maybe you’re the type that wouldn’t mind having a big strong guy to look after you and keep you warm at night.”
“No, thanks,” Elyais responded as he grimaced in distaste.
“Ha, then get to work,” the bearded bandit laughed.
“I will, right after this round is finished. I want to see who wins so I know who to play with when I join in later,” Elyais replied distractedly as he watched the gamblers in front of him.
There was a clatter of wooden dice and then murmurs of appreciation from the crowd as one of the players got a good roll.
“You’d be much better off not playing. Even if you somehow ended up winning that would be worse than losing for you,” the bearded bandit told him.
Eylias muttered vaguely in response and stepped closer to get a better look at the players. He seemed too focused on the game to pay the other man much attention.
From his hiding spot, Blacknail sighed and shook his head. Elyais was going to get himself in trouble. He obviously wasn’t that smart. It was a good thing he had Blacknail to look out for him!
Well, that was a problem, or entertainment, for later. Blacknail didn’t feel like harassing Elyais anymore right now. It would be more educational, and amusing, to punish him later when he didn’t fix the snares in time.
The hobgoblin turned around and headed back to his tent. It had been over an hour since he had last eaten a full meal so he was hungry again. Time sure went by quickly when you were having fun!
On the way back, Blacknail passed by Vorscha’s home again. Herad and Vorscha were both long gone, but the large woman’s minion and mate Geralhd was now outside. The skinny human was leaning against the building’s entrance way while talking with Red Dog and another man.
Red Dog’s hands were moving energetically as he spoke to Geralhd, and their conversation was loud and boisterous enough that it drew Blacknail’s attention. Maybe something important was going on?
“Fuck, and I was planning on going to town soon. I guess I won’t be getting roaring drunk and visiting the brothels after all,” Red Dog cursed.
“Get yourself a lover in camp. It’s cheaper and you won’t spend so many cold nights alone,” Geralhd told him.
“No thanks. I prefer my women to be… less dirty and not so well armed. Give me a flower scented whore over the women in this camp any day,” Red Dog replied with a wince.
“I find that comment to be more than a little insulting,” Geralhd replied as his face took on an affronted expression.
“Ha, who cares? Everyone knows you only shack up with Vorscha for protection. Although, I wouldn’t mind feeling up those big tits of hers once or twice myself,” the third bandit interjected with a laugh and some rude hand gestures.
The speaker was a man of average height but he looked to weigh a fair bit. His arms and legs were thick, if somewhat soft looking instead of muscled. His round face was covered by a short, patchy, brown beard.
Geralhd glared at the bandit angrily. They were about the same height, but Geralhd was much lighter and his face was clean shaven. He was one of the few bandits in camp that bothered with shaving regularly.
“I’ll have you take that back, Urick. You shouldn’t talk like that about Vorscha or me,” Geralhd exclaimed furiously.
“Are you going to make me, pretty boy? Because I don’t think you can,” Urick replied with disdainful sneer.
From where he was watching, Blacknail sighed and rolled his eyes. Why did Geralhd keep picking fights with people bigger than him? It was stupid. He should just stab them from behind.
“Don’t start a fight, Urick. I’ll be very pissed if you make me intervene,” Red Dog told the other man.
“Bah, I haven’t started anything,” Urick spat. “Pretty boy here is the one that’s getting too big for his boots.”
“If he doesn’t apologize then were going to have a problem,” Geralhd told Red Dog.
The bandit lieutenant just looked amused by his comment. A smirk appeared on his lips.
“It’s not my job to make people say sorry,” Red Dog replied dismissively. “If you want a nice flowery apology then that’s your business. I’m not too worried about it, or Urick.”
“Hear that? This is your problem, pretty boy,” Urick announced cockily. “You don’t realize that, besides the gal you’re shacking up with, no one likes you or has any use for you.”
Soundlessly, the hobgoblin walked up behind Urick and put a hand on his shoulder. His touch caused the big man to flinch in shock and turn his head around to see who it was.
“I like Geralhd. He feeds me so that I don’t get hungry,” Blacknail interjected meaningfully as he stared into Urick’s eyes and grinned toothily.
The unwashed man’s green eyes widened and went completely still. His mouth hung slightly open as he stared uncomprehendingly at Blacknail. While Urick’s brain was trying to catch up the hobgoblin turned and flashed Red Dog a grin.
“Hello!” Blacknail announced cheerfully.
“Apologize, Urick,” Red Dog said grimly as he narrowed his eyes and scowled at Blacknail.
“I don’t want…” Urick began to say.
“Shut your trap and apologize!” Red Dog hissed.
The bandit hesitated for a second and threw Red Dog a confused look, before complying. Blacknail just kept on smiling.
“I take back what I said,” Urick muttered grudgingly.
“Your apology is accepted,” Geralhd replied gratefully as he grinned cheerfully.
The two other bandits scanned his face for any signs of smugness but didn’t find any. He seemed genuinely happy to have the conflict resolved.
Blacknail smiled and patted Urick on the shoulder in a friendly matter. They were all friends here, for now! The bandit looked confused; he still hadn’t managed to completely close his mouth.
“Come on, let’s go,” Red Dog told Urick as he pulled the other man away.
“See you around,” Geralhd told them.
“See, we can all get along if we try!” Blacknail announced joyfully.
“I don’t know how that idiot has survived this long. He must be the luckiest fool in all the North,” Red Dog muttered to himself as he walked away.
Blacknail thought that was kind of mean. Red Dog needed to relax more.
“Why did you make me apologize?” Urick asked the other man peevishly.
The big man looked annoyed and his hands were balled up into tight fists. Red Dog gave him cold glare.
“Geralhd’s harmless, but you shouldn’t give the hobgoblin a reason to dislike you. That monster will kill you for giggles and you won’t see him coming. It would also get away with it just fine. It’s smart enough not to leave proof and to make itself useful to Herad,” Red Dog explained quietly.
The hobgoblin wasn’t able to hear anymore because a beaming Geralhd took a step down from the doorway and spoke up.
“Thanks for the support, Blacknail. It was nice of you to stick up for me and show Urick that I have lots of friends,” the unusual bandit told him.
“No problem,” the hobgoblin replied as he waited expectantly.
“Here, have a treat,” Geralhd announced as he reached into a pocket.
The man withdrew a piece of candied meat and tossed it to Blacknail.
“Thanks,” The hobgoblin replied as he smiled smugly and caught it.
He had been pretty sure Geralhd would have a treat on him and that showing up would earn him it. He had the man well trained, so there was no way he was going to let some big stupid human injure him.
“Urick is such an asshole. I don’t know how Red Dog can stomach being around him. Someone should stick a knife in his back,” Geralhd muttered darkly to himself.
“Sure,” Blacknail replied distractedly as he chewed.
Urick was now on the list, which meant the hobgoblin would get to him eventually. Blacknail didn’t mind killing him for Geralhd, but why was he so bloodthirsty? Whatever, humans were weird.
“Since you’re here, do you mind running an errand for me?” Gerlahd asked. “I have some letters I need delivered. Mahedium is constantly sending out packets, so could you give mine to him?”
“No problem,” Blacknail answered happily as he finished chewing and wiped his hands on his shirt.
A chore like this was sure to earn him another treat and it would only take a second. The hobgoblin grinned as he was handed several pieces of folded paper.
“What are these for?” Blacknail asked curiously.
He had never really understood the point of writing. Remembering things and sending people with messages worked fine for him. Most humans must have terrible memories if they felt the need to write so much down.
“I keep in contact with some my family. I may be in exile but I hope to one day return when my bounty expires. Who knew killing a twat in a fair duel could get someone in so much trouble?” Geralhd explained with a frown. “Also, I left some of my clothes and other stuff with my friends. I have to keep reminding them I’m still alive so they don’t sell it.”
That sounded very complicated to Blacknail. Why hadn’t Geralhd just buried his stuff somewhere no one would find it?
“Alright, I’ll give these to Mahedium,” the hobgoblin told the young bandit.
If he let Geralhd start talking too much the man would never stop.
“See you soon,” Gerlahd replied as he waved Blacknail goodbye and stepped back into his home.
Felling happy to be helpful and fed, Blacknail wandered his way through the camp toward Mahedium’s lab. The log cabin stood apart from all the others and most of the bandits avoided it.
Many of the humans were superstitious and wary of the mage. There were a lot of rumors about the dark sorcery that went on in his cabin, but mostly they avoided the area because of all the explosions. The roof of Mahedium’s lab had caught fire three times.
After making sure Mahedium wasn’t doing any dangerous experiments, Blacknail made his way up to the cabin’s door and stepped inside. If he knocked it might disturb the mage, so he just stepped inside.
The first room of the house was the living quarters. It was a rectangular room with a scattering of furniture. A bed, a table, and a bookshelf dominated the room. Loose papers and open books lay on all the surfaces.
Blacknail ignored it all and walked over to the door on the opposite wall from where he’d come in. That was where Mahedium would be, in his lab. As he moved a familiar yet unexpected scent reached his nose.
The smell really didn’t belong. Blacknail’s lips curled up into a grimace and his fingers curled up slightly as he contemplated the smell.
Quickly, the hobgoblin pushed through the door and entered the lab. It looked like it usually did; only a few items had been rearranged inside.
Tables and shelves full of equipment filled the room. Glass beakers, metal tubing, and crystals were everywhere. There were no windows, light was provided by glowing mana crystals hanging from ceiling or set in tabletop lamps. Mahedium had made them himself.
The mage himself was leaning over a table and staring at a glass jar full of bubbling liquid. Beneath the beaker a small fire was burning steadily.
The hobgoblin ignored all that and continued looking around for the source of the smell. A quick look from the door didn’t work, so he took several steps in to the room.
“Blacknail, what are you doing here?” Mahedium asked as he stood up and removed the spectacles he had been wearing.
The mage blinked several times and looked confused to see the hobgoblin. He was an average looking man with short brown hair. Mahedium didn’t even seem particularly old or young, just average.
He was dressed in heavy trousers, a tan shirt that with long sleeves, and a thick leather apron. The apron was covered in burn marks and several unidentifiable stains of various colors.
Blacknail stepped over and handed Geralhd’s letters to the mage. He briefly looked them over before taking them.
“From Geralhd,” Blacknail explained distractedly.
The hobgoblin peered past the mage and continued to scan the surroundings for his target.
“Ah, of course. I had mentioned to him that I was going to send a bunch of letters out to Daggerpoint and other places, and he said he might slip a few letters in with my own,” Mahedium thought aloud.
Blacknail ignored him and kept peering around the room. The mage noticed his odd behaviour and frowned.
“Are you looking for something?” the mage asked.
“Yes, I smell it,” Blacknail replied grimly as he sniffed the air again.
A look of comprehension suddenly appeared on Mahedium’s face. He turned away from Blacknail and glanced toward one corner of the room. The hobgoblin followed his gaze and noticed a small cage sitting on a table.
“Ah, I had Varhs capture one for me,” Mahedium told the hobgoblin. “I wanted to run some experiments on Scamp but he wouldn’t let me. So, I had him trap some wild ones and test them for the mage gift.”
Blacknail peered into the darkness that concealed the contents of the cage. There was as shuffling sound from within as something moved. The hobgoblin’s eyes adjusted to the darkness and the form of small creature became visible. It was a goblin! This was unacceptable!
Why did people keep bringing goblins into camp without asking him? It was incredibly rude! How would they like it if he brought in a bunch of random humans and let them spread their scent, wander around, and pee everywhere?
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