The cloaked hobgoblin found himself in another bedroom that was a smaller version of Luphera’s, and he wasn’t alone. A blonde woman in a lacy red shift was standing not too far from the window. She was deathly pale and staring at him in horror.
Blacknail slowly looked up and met her gaze. Her only reaction was a slight shiver; she seemed too scared to move. He had absolutely no interest in this woman, and she obviously wasn’t dangerous, so maybe he could just ignore her? The hobgoblin took one slow step forward.
Instantly, the blonde started screaming shrilly. The long high pitched sound ripped into Blacknail’s sensitive ears. He winced in pain, as a sharp ache developed in the back of his skull. Not only would the woman’s screams attract too much unwanted attention but it also was really annoying. He had to get her to stop.
“Shut up!” he yelled at her angrily.
She didn’t stop, and Blacknail groaned. This called for desperate measures. The hobgoblin took a step forward and grabbed the woman. He then drew his knife and waved it in front of her face.
“Quiet or I’ll stab-ss you!” he hissed in her ear.
Amazingly enough this actually caused her to scream louder, which Blacknail hadn’t thought possible. This human was too stupid and annoying to live. Why wouldn’t she just shut up!
The hobgoblin couldn’t take the noise any longer; something had to be done. He sheathed his knife, tightened his grip on the woman, and then pulled. A second later the woman was flying out the window, and much to the hobgoblin’s relief the screams finally stopped.
There was a thud and a grunt of pain from outside. Blacknail giggled in satisfaction and amusement. It sounded like she’d hit one of the men standing out there on the way down. Hopefully, it had been the crossbowman.
Blacknail knew he didn’t have a lot of time, so he hurriedly dashed out of the room and into another hallway. He’d lost his pursuit for now, but probably not for much longer. He needed to find this Najget man and kill him quickly. Then, hopefully all his problems would go away.
However, before Blacknail could even figure out which way to go he heard footsteps quickly approaching from both directions. He was cut off; there was nowhere to run.
“Cheese weevils,” Blacknail swore viciously.
He really should have just run back to Herad, instead of going to see Luphera. She was nothing but trouble, and lots of it. Especially her long legs…
Blacknail smacked himself along the side of his head to clear his thoughts. He couldn’t think of anything else to do, so he dashed up to a random door and silently opened the door a crack. Maybe he could find somewhere to hide until everyone stopped looking for him, or maybe Najget would walk by so Blacknail could kill him. That would certainly simplify things.
The hobgoblin peeked through the door and into the room on the other side. The chamber wasn’t empty; there were two women inside.
A scantily clad woman similar to the others Blacknail had run across was cowering behind a more muscular woman who was holding a sword. The swordswoman looked like she’d dressed in a hurry; she’d thrown on a jacket but wasn’t wearing a shirt beneath it.
Both of them were focused on the door, one in fear and the other with determination. Blacknail didn’t think it was a good idea to go in there, unless he wanted to get stabbed or screamed at again, so he hurriedly moved on to the next door.
The hobgoblin was unsurprised to discover that it led into another bedroom. This one was thankfully empty though, so Blacknail quickly slipped inside. Seconds later, he heard a large group of people stomp out into the hallway. Why did this place have so many beds? Did people come here just to sleep? That didn’t make much sense to him.
Other than the large four post bed with white hanging curtains, there were several other pieces of furniture in the room. A large heavy clothes drawer stood against one wall, and a small side table had been placed beside the bed. There was also a closet and another window, but Blacknail didn’t think it was a good idea to try and go back outside right now.
The sound of doors being opened and closed as men searched the nearby rooms, reminded the hobgoblin that he didn’t have a lot of time. He couldn’t see any better options so he rushed over to the closet and pulled the door open. He was tempted to try hiding under the bed, but that hadn’t really worked out all that well for him last time.
It was small and cramped inside, but Blacknail dove inside and closed the closet door behind himself anyway. Most of the space was taken up by clothes that were hanging from a rod. The majority of the clothes were dresses, but there were a lot of smaller more frilly bits as well. There was also a large brown sack lying on the floor.
Blacknail opened the sack and found it full of dirty clothes that smelled strongly of human sweat. He frowned at them and then looked around the rest of closet. There were no good hiding spots in sight. With a disgusted sneer Blacknail reached up under his mask and pinched his nose shut, before climbing into the sack. It would hide him for a few more seconds anyway.
As soon as he was discovered Blacknail planned on jumping the closest human, and then making a dash for the window. Since so many men were now searching for him inside the house, there were probably fewer humans guarding the perimeter. The longer he hid the more likely it became that he could slip through the remaining guards and escape.
He was beginning to think that Luphera had tricked him, and that he hadn’t imagined sensing some hostility from her after all. He wasn’t sure why she would be angry at him though. He’d done nothing but help her out.
Even if a man name Najget existed, she must have known that Blacknail wouldn’t be able to get to him nearly as easily as she’d said he would. If she had tricked him then she was going to regret it. He might have to flee for now, but someday soon when she least expected it he’d be back to get his revenge.
The hobgoblin had already drawn his knife, but for now all he could do was wait, and hope the humans looking for him were even stupider than normal. The clothes inside the sack really smelled bad. What had the woman been doing when she wore them that had gotten them so smelly?
The hobgoblin’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the room’s door bursting open. Several sets of footsteps then rushed inside. Blacknail instantly went still and quieted his breathing. He’d been hoping there would be fewer of them; it would be difficult to get past so many.
“I got the bed, you check the closet,” someone said from the other side of the closet door.
There was a ruckus and more than a few thuds as the men tore the room apart looking for Blacknail. Then the floor boards creaked as someone approached the closet. There was another creaking noise as the door was pulled open, and a flood of light illuminated the closet. Blacknail could make it out even from inside the sack.
“Anything in there?” one of the men asked.
“A lot of woman’s clothes,” the man by the closet answered as he looked around.
“Let’s get going then; we got a lot of rooms to search,” the other replied.
“One second, I should check this sack,” the first man said.
The man’s shadow blocked the light as he reached towards the sack. From within his hiding spot Blacknail tightened his grip on his knife. The second the man looked in the sack he was going to get a knife in his eye, and an angry hobgoblin in his face.
“You think the Faceless Assassin is hiding in a whore’s laundry sack? He’s probably on the other side of the building by now,” the second man chuckled in amusement.
The first man paused. His hand was hovering only inches from Blacknail. The hobgoblin’s heart started pounding as he readied himself to attack.
“Malthus told us to be thorough, and check everywhere,” the closer man told his companion.
“Fine whatever, just make it quick, you disgusting pervert,” the other man replied dismissively.
The man began to reach towards the top of the sack again. Blacknail tensed and held his breath. If he could take the first human out before he could make any noise then he should be able to make his escape.
“Stop! everyone who is not an employee is to leave the premises immediately. All house guards are to stop searching and escort them out,” a familiar female voice suddenly commanded from out in the hallway.
Luphera projected her voice loud enough that it echoed through the hallway outside the room Blacknail was in, and through all the adjacent chambers as well.
“What’s this?” the man reaching towards Blacknail’s hiding spot said, as he froze again.
A second later he stepped back and away from the concealed hobgoblin. Blacknail was more than a little confused as well. What was Luphera doing? He hadn’t killed the Najget person yet. Had she betrayed him, and come to finish Blacknail off herself?
“What do you think you’re doing? Stop interfering in my search!” Malthus yelled back from another room.
There was then the sound of heavy footsteps as Malthus stomped out to confront the woman.
“There is no more search, and your services are no longer required,” Luphera answered disdainfully a few seconds later.
“What? That hell begotten assassin is still running around this place! There’s no way Najget cancelled our contract now. You’re going to be in a lot of trouble when he finds out about this foolishness, woman” the assassin told her.
“What Najget wants also no longer matters to anyone but the gods; your men failed to protect him, and now he’s dead,” Luphera calmly explained.
“That’s impossible! I had two of my best men guarding him, and Herad’s knifeman never went anywhere near them,” Malthus replied with obvious shock.
Blacknail carefully nodded to himself. The annoying human assassin was right; he hadn’t even seen anyone who looked anything like the man Luphera had described.
“Nonetheless, all three of them are now dead. I don’t know how he did it, but this faceless assassin has made you and your guild look like fools, again. I understand this isn’t the first time he’s sneaked right past you and killed a man under your protection,” Luphera pointed out.
“No, I refuse to believe that the bastard escaped me. He must have had an accomplice that struck at Najget while he distracted us. That means he’s still here somewhere, and I intend to find him,” Malthus replied angrily.
Blacknail definitely hadn’t killed a group of three people. He would remember that. Had Herad sent backup, or had the humans perhaps done something stupid and killed themselves? Blacknail knew from experience that it was hard just keeping humans alive sometimes. Half of Herad’s band would be dead if he hadn’t kept getting them out of trouble.
“I know there’s more than one assassin here, and that’s the problem. You’re disturbing our business with all this violence, and it’s unacceptable. The only reason the assassin came here was to kill Najget because he allied himself with you,” Luphera replied coldly.
“We were just here to protect our employee; we can hardly be blamed for him having enemies. That’s why he hired us in the first place,” Malthus responded scornfully.
“Then why have so many of you Knifemen been coming and going? I’m not blind. You’ve been using this place as some sort of way station or hideout, and that’s unacceptable. This is a brothel not a den of assassins,” Luphera told him.
“We’ll leave when we’ve captured the masked assassin, and not before. We’ll be doing you a favor by getting rid of him anyway,” Malthus countered.
“I’m not an idiot. Now that Najget is dead, the other assassin will have no reason to stick around. He was smart and skilled enough to completely outplay you, so he’s probably already long gone. If I let you stay until you find him, then you’ll never leave. I have no intention of letting you control me the way you did Najget” Luphera argued.
“That’s not my intention! I want that bastard’s head. He’s here somewhere, and I’m going to find him!” the assassin growled with barely contained fury.
“No, you’re not. This is my business now, and I’m telling you to leave! If you refuse then these gentlemen behind me and the many others like them throughout this building will forcibly remove you in the most unpleasant method possible,” Luphera ordered the man.
“We could offer you the same deal we gave your boss,” Malthus pleaded.
“Frankly, even if I required your services, and I don’t, I doubt you could deliver on any promises you made. Your track record lately has been truly pathetic,” the new mistress of the house told him dismissively.
“You’ll regret this,” the furious sounding assassin hissed.
“I doubt it. Now get the hell out of my brothel and don’t come back, unless it’s to spend your coin on our services,” Luphera commanded him coldly.
Muttering and the sound of footsteps filled the entire floor as all the searchers started giving up and leaving. Blacknail was relieved when the man closest to him walked away and shut the closet door. The closet grew dark again, and the hobgoblin took a second to scratch himself now that there was no one around to see. He was getting kind of hot and sweaty.
After a few minutes had passed the building around the hobgoblin grew quiet.
“Go make sure they’ve all left. I want some privacy,” Luphera then announced from where she was standing out in the hall.
“As you wish,” a male voice replied before fading footsteps signaled his departure.
“That means you can come out, Blacknail. It’s just me here now,” Luphera then said aloud.
That didn’t actually make the hobgoblin feel safe, or like coming out…
He was still more than a little confused as to what had just happened, but he knew he’s been tricked. He should never have agreed to help her out. She was a lying liar.
“I know you’re there, and we have important things we need to discuss. I have a message for Herad that you need to deliver,” the woman announced.
Blacknail sighed, and reluctantly pulled himself out of the bag. It didn’t smell very good in there anyway, and he couldn’t stay there forever.
He then stalked out of the closet and to the bedroom door. Silently, he peeked out into the hallway. Luphera was there, and she was alone. She also wasn’t armed; he’d been half expecting her to be carrying a loaded crossbow or something.
She was however wearing more clothes than Blacknail had ever seen her in before. A full length purple frock with golden embroidery covered her, and she also seemed to have a new air of authority to her.
The hobgoblin took a tentative step out into the hallway. Luphera turned towards the masked hobgoblin and smiled his way when she heard him approach.
“There you are. For a second I thought you were avoiding me,” Luphera joked.
Luphera was a little unsettling most the time, but now he thought he heard something weird in her voice. It made Blacknail uncomfortable, but he really wanted to know what was going on.
“I didn’t kill Najget yet-ss, but I was totally going to-ss,” he told her, as he carefully walked over.
Luphera just smiled at him, and winked conspiratorially.
“Nonsense, I have several guards that will swear they saw you do it. I’m told it was very impressive too,” she responded with a chuckle.
Blacknail had no idea why she was making that weird eye motion, but compared to some of the other things he didn’t understand about Luphera he supposed it was nothing. The hobgoblin was also sure he would have remembered killing a man in purple with a mustache with two guards…
Well, whatever. He would have killed the man if he’d found him first, so it was kind of like he’d done it anyway.
“I’m very good-ss at killing people,” he bragged, which caused Luphera to smile.
“So I’ve heard, it’s also very impressive how you led that idiot Malthus on such a merry chase, and avoided him so effortlessly,” she said appreciatively as she stepped closer to him.
“Yes, I’m very stealthy; even when I’m right beside them people can’t see me,” Blacknail told her arrogantly.
It was even technically true sometimes, like when it was very dark or when he was hiding in a sack. All of a sudden Blacknail felt Luphera’s hand on his shoulder. He flinched in surprise. When had she gotten so close?
Wait, he was doing it again! He was letting Luphera’s words and smiles distract him. He had to focus.
“You lied about-ss how easy the job would be. I think you tried to trick me. Why?” Blacknail asked her suspiciously.
Luphera’s grin broadened and took on a slightly sinister look. Blacknail instinctively took a step back away from her.
“I owed you one, or it might be more accurate to say you owed me one. I know that it was you who killed Galive, and he wasn’t the only one that died that night. There was a woman, and while I barely knew her, she was still one of mine,” Luphera explained.
Blacknail frowned as he thought about her words. He did remember killing a woman who had been in bed with Galive. He hadn’t really had a choice though; she would have messed everything up. Had she been of Luphera’s tribe and not Galive’s? Human tribes sure were complicated.
“Sorry-ss, I didn’t know she was yours. She was going-ss to mess things up,” Blacknail explained reluctantly.
Did this mean they were enemies now? The hobgoblin’s left hand crept closer to the dagger he kept hidden in his coat, but Luphera didn’t make any hostile moves.
“That’s alright, you didn’t know, and you’ve almost paid me back now. There’s just one more thing you can do for me,” she told him as she walked closer.
Now Blacknail was very uncomfortable. He took another step backwards, but Luphera glided effortlessly after him. She was impressively nimble on her feet…
“Um right-ss, I need to go back to Herad… you said you had-ss a message for her?” Blacknail remarked nervously.
“Running away to another woman, eh? How mean. Well, you’re not going anywhere until I get a chance to properly thank you. Why don’t you take your mask off and relax with me?” Luphera asked him playfully, as she smiled knowingly.
“I can’t do that… I was told-ss not to, because um… magic,” the hobgoblin replied nervously.
The woman just smiled at his response though, and took his hand. Blacknail flinched.
“I don’t believe you. Could the real reason be because underneath of it you’re not human? Don’t worry a bit of green skin isn’t going to scare me off. It sounds exciting, actually” Luphera told him excitedly with a hungry smile.
Blacknail’s eyes went very wide. He’d been kind of hoping it would though… and wait, she knew he was a hobgoblin. He’d been found out! How had she figured it out? He was a great pretender, and had acted exactly like a human at all times. Someone must have let the secret slip. It had probably been Khita, she practically never shut up.
“Why are you so surprised? Knowing things is my business, or half of it anyway. I look forward to showing you the other half very shortly,” Luphera explained flirtatiously.
Her closeness and the scent of her skin caused a shiver to work its way down the hobgoblin’s spine, and then come to rest below his gut. He smelled a lingering trace of the perfume from before on her clothes, and it began to do strange things to his head.
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!