Blacknail yawned luxuriously as he slowly stretched out his long slender body. His movements caused the sheets beneath him to rub pleasantly against his skin. He then smiled contentedly as he sank into the soft fluffy mattress.
He was really enjoying having a bed of his own. He’d never had one before, only a blanket to curl up onto. This was much nicer, and bouncier.
As he laid there his stomach grumbled slightly, which raised a dilemma. Should he get up and grab some food, or try and get back to sleep? On one hand the food here was very tasty, but on the other hand the bed was amazingly soft. It was thus a difficult choice to make.
Sloth eventually overcame gluttony, and the decision was made for Blacknail. The hobgoblin fell back to sleep before he could make up his mind.
When he next awoke, red tinted sunlight was leaking into the room from behind the curtains that blocked the window. Blacknail gazed lazily at it and yawned deeply again, before grinning happily to himself.
It wasn’t just the bed that was his, the entire room was! Herad had given him it, and it was just down the hall from hers. Most the other bandits had roommates, but he had his room all to himself. Blacknail had been told this was because he was special, which probably meant he was Herad’s favorite.
Having his own space was definitely a good thing; humans tended to smell funny, so he didn’t want to share a room with one. Unlike his master, most of them didn’t even try to hide their weird human scent. Saeter usually smelled strongly of herbs, soil, and the forest.
Judging by the amount of light that was coming in through the curtains it was around noon now. Blacknail rarely got out of bed this early in the morning anymore. Mostly, he just lounged around inside until he got hungry, or it got dark, or both.
He still did a lot of training; he just did it in the afternoon, when it was harder for people see. Herad wanted to keep Blacknail’s presence a secret, or at least make sure he remained mysterious. Blacknail understood her reasons, and even approved of them. The less people knew about him, the more they would fear him. It was a very hobgoblin way of thinking, and Blacknail liked being feared.
Saeter had also originally tried to find chores for him to do as well, but had given up eventually when he hadn’t found anything appropriate. The city was a much easier place to live, and Blacknail liked it that way. Fewer chores meant more naps.
After they were done training, his master had to go do his own jobs. This left Blacknail free to slip away and out into the city. He hadn’t been told he wasn’t supposed to go out, and he liked it that way, so he wasn’t about to ruin it by asking for permission.
Sleeping in his room was great, but so was the city. There were so many tasty treats out there for him to eat! It seemed like Daggerpoint contained endless different types of food for him to try.
As the hobgoblin was contemplating the contents of his next meal, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching. He sighed in irritation when he realized they were headed his way. It was unlikely to be someone bringing him food.
A few seconds later the door opened and Saeter stepped into the room. The hobgoblin gazed up at him curiously from his bed. What did his master want this early in the day?
Saeter grunted and gave Blacknail an irritated scowl when he saw that the hobgoblin was still in bed.
“Get up you lazy green lump. You don’t get to sleep in till sun down today,” Saeter told the hobgoblin with obvious satisfaction.
“Why?” muttered Blacknail in annoyance.
He wanted to sleep in until sundown. It sounded like fun.
“Herad wants to see you,” Saeter replied smugly.
“Why?” the hobgoblin asked again, as he slowly picked himself off the bed.
He shouldn’t keep his chieftain waiting, it would be bad for his health. Knives were funny that way.
“It’s a surprise,” his master told him.
Saeter then threw Blacknail his scabbard and belt. Blacknail caught them and started putting them on. If whatever Herad wanted required a sword then it would probably be interesting at least.
“Come on; we don’t have all day,” Saeter told the hobgoblin as soon as he was finished dressing.
Blacknail then followed his master out into the hallway, down a flight of stairs, and out into the yard behind Herad’s hideout. The enclosure was usually used for training, but this time as Blacknail walked outside he immediately noticed that Herad was standing in the middle of the yard.
The bandit chieftain was wearing her usual black leathers, and carrying her usual plethora of blades. Her dark eyes stared out from under her short black hair as it waved in the wind.
Mahedium was the only other person present, and was standing off to one side. He was wearing a long grey coat today, probably because the air outside had a chilly edge to it. The sky overhead was full of grey clouds that hid the sun away.
Blacknail didn’t see any sign of a single other person. Both Herad and the mage seemed excited. The hobgoblin was now very curious about what was going on, and more than a little apprehensive as well.
“Finally, you sure like making me wait, Saeter. Or, maybe you’re just getting slower in your old age,” Herad remarked as Saeter and the hobgoblin approached.
“I must be getting old then, how could I ever resist the attraction of your company?” Saeter replied without an ounce of humor or disrespect in his voice.
Herad eyed the grey haired scout carefully, and her hand dropped towards one of her daggers. Blacknail held his breath, but after a few seconds she relaxed.
“Mahedium has something for you, Blacknail” she told the hobgoblin.
Now that it was safe, Blacknail shifted his gaze to the mage. Maybe, Herad was giving him a gift in return for his earlier present! He hoped it was edible. He still hadn’t had breakfast.
“Hmm, I do indeed,” the mage remarked as he stepped over.
Mahedium then reached into one of his coat pockets and withdrew a small vial. Blacknail stared at it for a second and frowned. The liquid inside was light blue, and he didn’t think it looked very tasty.
“Finally, after several days of research and hard work Avorlus and I managed to re-create your Elixir!
We’re almost completely sure it will work!” Mahedium told him with an excited grin.
“Oh, good…” Blacknail remarked skeptically. He was excited about getting his own magic, but he’d caught that ‘almost’ Mahedium had said.
Then there was that color… Elixirs were edible; or drinkable at least. What did Elixir taste like anyway? He hoped the color meant it would taste like blue berries. Wait, what had he been worrying about?
Mahedium handed Blacknail the vial and gave him an expectant look.
“Just pop it open and drink the contents. You should be able to feel a difference right away since you’re already a Vessel,” the mage explained.
“Thank you,” the hobgoblin politely replied happily.
He couldn’t wait! Blacknail grasped the vial and quickly twisted the top off. Soon, he would have magic of his own; he’d be a magic hobgoblin! Nothing could stop him from drinking this.
“Oh, and if you suddenly develop a headache, nausea, diarrhea, break out into a rash, or start losing your hair tell me,” the mage added as a side thought.
Blacknail froze, and gave Mahedium a startled look. Suddenly drinking the vial didn’t seem like such a great idea to him, magic or not.
“It’s poison?” he asked in concern, as he held the vial above his lips.
“No, all those symptoms are very unlikely. I’ll be right here if anything happens, anyway,” the mage replied.
“And you have cure?” the hobgoblin asked in relief.
“Um, no… I have some basic soothing herbs and water here though, and I’m told that sometimes helps,” Mahedium explained helpfully.
What? That didn’t really seem all that helpful to Blacknail. He looked over towards his master, but Saeter had a carefully neutral expression on his face. The hobgoblin still didn’t feel like taking the Elixir…
“Stop wasting my time, goblin. Drink the damned potion! Don’t make me come over there and shove it down your throat,” Herad ordered him with a snarl.
Blacknail looked over to see her staring at him coldly. He raised the vial again. It didn’t seem like he had any choice but to drink the stuff. Quickly, he gulped the liquid within down. It tasted nothing like blue berries. In fact, it tasted more like salty dirt, yuck.
No one said anything as they all waited for something to happen, especially Blacknail. The hobgoblin was holding his breath while he stared at his arms, and searched for any sign of a developing rash.
“Try moving around,” Saeter suggested after a few minutes.
Tentatively, Blacknail began walking around. Then he jumped on the spot a few times. It didn’t feel like he was about to become sick, or explode…
“Ah, good. It would appear that we found the right mixture. He’s not showing any signs of rejection. Master Avorlus will be very pleased,” Mahedium commented proudly.
“Just as long as he keeps supplying me with Elixir. Now run around the yard a few times, Blacknail,” Herad commanded him.
The hobgoblin immediately began jogging around.
“Faster you lazy green runt, or I’ll have you dodging arrows,” she yelled a few seconds later.
Blacknail broke out into a sprint.
“Do we have any idea what type of Elixir he’s using, or if it has secondary effects?” Herad then asked the mage, as she watched Blacknail run.
“Um no, we don’t. It’s impossible to say just from the recipe, not to mention it seems to be a completely new experimental mixture,” Mahedium replied.
Blacknail was listening carefully. Elixirs could have secondary effects? None of the Vessels he’d seen had done anything special. As he ran, he began to feel an odd familiar burning sensation in his legs. The hobgoblin ignored it though, and continued to listen in on the others.
Herad frowned as she considered the mages words.
“So we won’t know what, if anything, it does until he starts breathing fire or jumping ten feet up into the air,” she remarked.
“Pretty much, although most elixirs don’t apparently have much in the way of secondary effects. Like your own Ressertein recipe, they mostly just grant increased physical vigor, or so Avorlus has told me,” Mahedium replied.
“Blacknail’s pretty fast, but I think he’s doing a fair bit better than usual,” Saeter suddenly interjected.
Herad and the mage looked over at the hobgoblin that was running around the yard. There was a small dust trail rising behind him as he moved.
“Huh ya, he’s definitely a fast little beast. It’s hard to tell if that’s from the Elixir, though. Let’s test his strength,” Herad said.
“You can stop now, Blacknail. Come over here,” Saeter yelled out to the hobgoblin.
Blacknail immediately stopped and made his way back to the others. His chest rose and fell as he breathed heavily, but he wasn’t feeling all that tired.
“Blacknail come over here and take my hand,” Herad said, as she raised one arm in his direction.
Blacknail had never actually touched the chief before, and the idea made him more than a little uncomfortable. Hopefully, it was a sign of her favor, and she wasn’t about to hurt him.
When the hobgoblin hesitated to approach Herad gave him an impatient glare. Blacknail quickly reached out and took her hand. Immediately, Herad’s fingers closed tightly around his wrist and held him in place. This didn’t seem promising…
“Now goblin, you have to try and pull your hand away from mine. If you can’t then I’m going to punch you in the face a few times,” she told him dispassionately.
Blacknail’s eyes went wide. This was definitely not good. The hobgoblin grabbed his own arm and lowered his stance as he began frantically trying to pull his hand free. His heels dug into the earth as he squirmed and fought to free himself.
Herad’s fingers seemed as strong as iron though, and he couldn’t get his arm loose. She scowled in annoyance at Blacknail’s futile struggling. Slowly, she then raised a clenched fist.
The hobgoblin redoubled his efforts, and then all of sudden the burning sensation from before washed through his entire body. Fear spurred him on as he pulled desperately on his arm, and Herad moved. She kept her grip on him, but her body twisted as she kept her balance, and her feet slid forward slightly.
Before he could react Herad grinned, and then released him. Off balance and in the middle of pulling, the hobgoblin was sent sprawling over backwards.
“Ouch, cheese rot,” Blacknail hissed, as he landed painfully on his ass.
“Hmm, that last pull was definitely above normal human, or hobgoblin, strength. It seems to have worked,” Herad remarked.
A grinning Blacknail picked himself off the ground and jumped into the air experimentally a few times. He had super strength! He thought he was jumping a little higher than before, but nothing like ten feet. He then began breathing out as hard as he could.
“Do you have something in your throat?” Saeter asked him.
“Uh no-ss, it’s nothing,” the embarrassed hobgoblin replied, as he turned away to hide his face.
He apparently didn’t breathe fire either… which was too bad, that would have been amazing!
“So now I’ve got both a Vessel hobgoblin, and a reliable source of Elixir for both of us. Good work, Mahedium. It’s nice to know that not all my subordinates are completely useless,” she told the mage, as he nodded respectfully back.
An eager smile spread across Herad’s lips, and she turned to look towards the direction the rest of the city lay. There was a building blocking her view, but she didn’t seem to care.
Blacknail recognized that bloodthirsty smile. He shivered in excitement. That look meant Herad was about to start a fight, and that Blacknail was about to have a lot of fun!
Not only had he finally gotten some magic of his own, but it looked like his tribe was about to go to war. This was the best day ever!
“This shifts the odds our way by a fair bit, and if I leverage this right I ought to be able mess up Werick’s plans. I’m done playing defense, now it’s time to go for their throats. I’ll isolate them and take my enemies out one by one. Then the chiefs that are left won’t dare raise a hand against me, no matter what Werick offers them,” Herad bragged.
She then turned to Blacknail.
“You’ve already proved that you’re a half decent assassin, so I’m going to unleash you. With Fang dead, my biggest enemy is Galive, so I’ll be sending you after him. I want Zelena dead as well, but word is she’s surrounded herself with over half the bodyguards and assassins in the city,” Herad told the hobgoblin.
Blacknail smiled in anticipation. Now that he was a Vessel he was sure it would be much easier to take out Herad’s enemies. If nothing else, he was now an even faster runner. There was no way he’d get himself into trouble like the last time.
“Blacknail needs training before you throw him out there, or he’ll just get himself killed,” Saeter interjected in concern.
“True, but that’s easily fixed. You’ve already been teaching him how to fight. I’ll just have to beat all the bad habits you’ve taught Blacknail out of him,” Herad remarked.
Blacknail’s felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. This didn’t sound good.
“He’ll need more than just the ability to fight. He’s a natural stalker and hunter, but totally ignorant of a lot of things. He’s going to need some new equipment, and training in things like lock picking as well,” Saeter countered.
“I’ll let you handle that stuff; I don’t have time for it. I will however show him how a true Vessel fights. It’s time that Blacknail and I had that spar,” Herad told Saeter.
The hobgoblin’s eyes went wide in alarm. This couldn’t be happening! There was no way he could fight Herad; she’d cut him into tiny little pieces. He turned to Saeter and threw him a desperate pleading look.
Blacknail’s master was frowning, but when he noticed the hobgoblin’s attention he just shrugged helplessly. Blacknail grimaced in dismay. He’d really been hoping Saeter would save him! Herad was going to kill him…
Behind Blacknail, there was the sound of a blade being slowly drawn from its sheath. He shuddered in dread, as he turned around to see Herad pointing her naked blade towards his throat.
“Draw your sword, hobgoblin. It’s time to test your mettle,” she told him.
Blacknail peed himself a little. He was too young and smart to die!
Herad didn’t wait for him to respond; her blade sliced towards his head. The hobgoblin yelped as he ducked under the attack. He then scrambled backwards.
“You can’t run, hobgoblin. Draw your sword or I’ll skin you alive, you little green coward,” Herad growled viciously.
Blacknail considered his options. Herad was way too into this, but she probably wouldn’t actually kill him if he did as he was told. If he tried to run away though…
Blacknail thus reluctantly unsheathed his own blade and faced Herad. He even managed to keep his trembling to a minimum. The bandit chieftain immediately reacted and attacked again.
The hobgoblin raised his blade to intercept it, but then Herad’s blade disappeared from his sight. He then reeled in shock as something smacked into the side of his head, and knocked him sideways.
From where he was lying on the ground, Blacknail looked up with cloudy eyes to see Herad sneering down at him. She’d hit him with the flat of her blade. Out of the corner of his eye the hobgoblin saw his master wince.
“Pathetic. We’re going to keep doing this until you can burn your Elixir at will, and until you know one end of a blade from another. Now get up or I’ll smack you again,” Herad told him condescendingly.
Blacknail whimpered in self pity. This was the worst day ever!
Herad evidently heard him, because she gave him a disproving look and then attacked again. Blacknail’s eyes widened fearfully as her blade sliced towards his face. She hadn’t even given him time to raise his own sword; there was no way he could dodge or block it!
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