There was a lamp on a dresser against one of the walls, and it lit the room that lay on the other side of the window. The hobgoblin that hung outside could thus see its occupants just fine; all four of the humans within were lying next to each other on the big bed that dominated the room.
Blacknail could clearly hear the soft sighing of their relaxed breathing as they slept. His skin tingled pleasantly as he gazed upon his helpless prey, and he started to slip through the window.
Unfortunately, he’d misjudged the size of the opening slightly, and his head got momentarily stuck. After a second or two of trying to painfully squeeze his skull through the tight frame, he succeeded and popped through. A soft thud echoed forth as Blacknail lost his balance and landed on the floor at the base of the window.
He froze for a moment to make sure he hadn’t disturbed anyone, but the only sound he heard was the gentle breathing of slumbering humans. Feeling confident, the hobgoblin crept up to the bed.
It wasn’t that fancy of a bed, but it certainly was huge. Blacknail thought it could easily fit a dozen humans lying side by side. Why did this man need such a huge bed? Maybe it was some sort of human status symbol?
Blacknail loomed over Galive’s slumbering face and smiled smugly. The bandit chieftain didn’t seem so tough now! He was just prey. In fact, it would be so easy to toy with him a little before finishing him off…
The hobgoblin reached over until his hand hung over the man’s sleeping face. His claws were a hair’s breadth from the man’s eyes when he froze. No, fooling around now would be a bad idea. It would be really messy, and would probably make a lot of noise. Blacknail frowned in regret, as he pulled his hand back and drew his dagger. It was best to do this quickly.
Suddenly, Galive stirred slightly and started murmuring something. Blacknail panicked for a second and jumped slightly in surprise, before he realized the man was still unconscious. He was just talking in his sleep. Feeling curious, the hobgoblin leaned over to listen.
“Oh ya, that’s the way. Spread that honey around,” Galive whispered.
Blacknail blinked in confusion. What was this now? What could this weird human possibly be talking about? Well whatever, he was here to kill Galive, not try to understand him.
Blacknail stopped wasting time. He quickly grabbed the Galive’s long dark hair and pulled it down, as he dragged his dagger against the man’s exposed throat. Blood poured from the long jagged wound and onto the sheets, as his knife bit deep into Galive’s flesh.
Galive’s dark eyes shot open and fluttered briefly before going dead. Blacknail smirked as he stared intently into their confused depths. When he was sure the man was dead, he stepped quietly away. That was one less bandit chief that would be trying to take his and Herad’s territory, and it hadn’t even been hard to get rid of him.
Blacknail was just about to make his exit, when the woman to the right of Galive’s bloody corpse stirred in her sleep. The movement caused Blacknail to instantly focus on her.
Some of Galive’s blood was pooling beneath the woman’s bare shoulders, and was staining her long blonde hair. It was also clearly disturbing her slumber.
She stirred again and Blacknail realized he had to do something, before she woke up and raised the alarm. He stalked back over to her, and tried to come up with a solution. He couldn’t remove the blood; there was too much of it and he wasn’t that thirsty. He also couldn’t move woman without waking her…
With an annoyed sigh Blacknail leaned over her, and cut her throat too. When he was sure she was dead, and that no one else was about to wake up, he tiptoed over to the window and made his exit. He managed to make it through without getting his head stuck this time.
As Blacknail crouched on the windowsill he observed the yard below him. The guard from earlier was still out there, but he was walking away from the hobgoblin. The man was just about to turn the corner of the building and disappear out of sight.
With his mission accomplished Blacknail was beginning to feel impatient, so he climbed down the exterior wall as far as he could and then simply dropped the rest of the way. He landed unharmed on all four limbs, and then dashed for the stone fence that encircled the temple. He hit it at full spend and then vaulted over it onto the street on the other side. With that done, he’d successfully escaped from Galive’s lair unharmed.
As he raced through the dark and dirty streets of Daggerpoint towards safety and his rendezvous with Saeter, the hobgoblin giggled happily to himself. That had been too easy. The bandit chieftain had been supposed to be so tough, but he hadn’t been a problem for Blacknail!
That other assassin guy, Malthus, had been an idiot as well! Blacknail giggled again as he turned into an alley. The fool had just stood there outside the door as Blacknail slit the throat of the man he was supposed to be protecting! It was hilarious how bad the man was at his job, or maybe Blacknail was just that good.
Obviously, Blacknail was an amazing assassin; probably the best ever! He was like Herad’s fearsome unstoppable shadow killer guy! When he returned with news of Galive’s death there was no way Herad would beat him up ever again. In fact, she would probably tell everyone how amazing he was, and then give him some pie.
Blacknail reached the corner right before his destination, so he slowed down and looked for any sign of Saeter. A brief inspection didn’t reveal any traces of him, and the hobgoblin grew slightly concerned. Had something happened to him?
“Where are you, master?” he muttered to himself.
Blacknail began to creep around stealthily as he searched. He moved from shadow to shadow as he wandered around the area near the meeting place. He didn’t find anything, until he stumbled upon a faint scent trail.
It led into a nearby building so Blacknail followed it in. All the structures in this part of the city were small and tightly packed, and this one didn’t stand out. It did appear to be abandoned though; the missing front door was subtle clue.
Blacknail walked into the pitch black interior, and then headed up the stairs to the room on the second floor. He was careful not to make any noise, because he didn’t know what to expect. Also, creeping around all sneaky-like was just more fun.
When the hobgoblin got to the top of stairs he saw a dark figure looking out a window through a doorway. He froze for a second, but soon realized that it was just Saeter.
Before he started moving again, an idea occurred to him. His master didn’t appear to know that Blacknail was here… so wouldn’t it be fun to surprise him!
Blacknail grinned gleefully to himself. This was going to be so much fun! As he stepped through the doorway he felt something tug gently on his ankle, and then heard a faint clattering noise. He looked down to see what it was, and realized that he’d stumbled over a piece of string had been tied to a pile of sticks.
How had that gotten there? Well, hopefully it hadn’t ruined his surprise.
Blacknail looked back up to see something shiny. It was Saeter’s unsheathed sword point, and it was less than an inch from his face. The surprised hobgoblin went very still, as his eyes widen in alarm. Yep, the surprise was ruined, and this had definitely been a bad idea.
“The Deep Green has yet to spit out a beast that can sneak up on me, hobgoblin, and that includes the likes of you,” Saeter whispered threateningly, before relaxing and dropping his blade.
“I was just having fun. I wasn’t going to do anything bad,” Blacknail whined.
“If I thought you were, I’d have already skewered you. Missions aren’t the time to be having fun. That’s how people get hurt,” Saeter replied gruffly.
Blacknail nodded enthusiastically in agreement. He’d certainly almost been hurt. His master grunted and his hard expression softened. The hobgoblin almost thought he detected a slight smile on the man’s lips.
“How’d the mission go; did you get Galive?” Saeter asked.
“Of course, I started a fight, crept through the shadows, went in and out some windows, and murdered the sleeping human. There was nothing to eat,” Blacknail explained cheerfully.
The old scout rolled his eyes in an exasperated manner after the hobgoblin finished speaking. Blacknail frowned at his master’s response. What was wrong with his answer? It covered all the important bits.
“You can tell Herad the details. Did that Elixir of Mahedium’s come in handy?” Saeter inquired.
Blacknail mouth fell open slightly, as the question caught him off guard. He had kind of forgotten he’d had it. There were definitely a few times a boost of speed and strength would have been useful though…
“It was too easy, I didn’t need it,” Blacknail bragged dishonestly.
Saeter gave him a suspicious glance, but didn’t bother to question the hobgoblin.
“Come on let’s get back to base, winter’s approaching, and it’s getting bloody cold out,” Saeter told the hobgoblin as he walked past him and headed downstairs.
The hobgoblin sighed regretfully as he followed the old scout. His master probably shouldn’t have waited out in the cold for him; he was going to catch the sniffles. Obviously, he’d been worried Blacknail was going to mess things up, so he’d stuck around. Why couldn’t his master have just trusted him? He was very trustworthy!
After several minutes of walking through the now almost pitch black street, Blacknail was starting to wonder where they were going. They weren’t headed anywhere near Herad’s base.
Saeter soon turned around and scowled at Blacknail.
“Why don’t you lead the way, waiting around for you so long has left my legs sore,” he told the hobgoblin.
Blacknail wasn’t sure why that mattered. Wouldn’t he have to walk the same distance anyway? Well, whatever…
“We’re going back to the lair?” he asked, just to make sure.
“Of course, we bloody are. Where else would we be headed?” Saeter huffed indignantly.
“Nowhere-ss, sorry,” the hobgoblin replied, as he quickly took the lead.
He took a second to decide on the fastest route, and then within minutes they were approaching Herad’s stronghold. The guards out front simply nodded in greeting when they recognized Saeter, and Blacknail gave them a friendly nod back. The pair then walked through the front entrance and into the room on the other side.
As usual, there were several bandits sitting around the table there playing a game of cards. This time however, Khita was one of them. Judging by the pile of coins in front of her, and the dissatisfied looks on several of her opponents’ faces, she appeared to be winning.
The young redhead glanced their way as Saeter and Blacknail entered, and smiled cheerfully at them. She seemed to having fun.
“You’re back! How did your top secret mission for the boss go? I know she sent you out to do something, all hush hush,” she asked.
“If you know that, then you shouldn’t be asking,” interjected a large male bandit that was sitting across from her.
“Bah, you’re just upset that you’re losing,” Khita responded, as she beamed at Blacknail.
The bandit scowled angrily at her, and one of his eyebrows started twitching.
“No, you’re lucky that the boss likes you so much,” the man muttered angrily.
Blacknail agreed with him, but he found himself giving the man a steady disapproving glare. If anyone was going to kill Khita, then it was going to be him! The bandit met his stare for a second, but then hurriedly looked away.
“Where’s Herad?” Saeter asked Khita.
“She was in that big room down the hall to the left, the one with all the couches, the last time I checked,” Khita replied.
Saeter grunted his acknowledgement, and then unceremoniously left the room. After one quick glance back at the man who had challenged him, Blacknail followed him out. It only took a few seconds for them to reach the room Khita had mentioned, and Herad was indeed there.
She was sprawled comfortably over the edge of one of the couches. A platter of food and drink had been set out on a side table in front of her, and several of her usual guards were also there. Most of them were standing around the room, but two had seats of their own.
Herad smiled eagerly when she saw them, and pulled herself up into more of a sitting position.
“Clear the room,” she then announced.
With a quick nod of acknowledgement the guards got up and left the room. They closed the doors behind them.
“Since you’re both back, I take it that Galive is dead?” the chieftain asked them.
“So the hobgoblin tells me,” Saeter replied.
“I totally killed him. I cut his neck deep as he slept, and he bled everywhere!” Blacknail answered cheerfully.
Herad ignored Blacknail, and raised an eyebrow dubiously at Saeter.
“You think he’s lying?” she asked curiously.
“Ha, no. He went in, and he came out alive. That means Galive is dead,” Saeter huffed.
“You never know. Maybe they found out about your hob’s secret weakness for sweet cakes, and bribed him,” she replied with a chuckle and a grin.
Blacknail scowled in annoyance. That was just insulting. He would never betray his tribe for a sweet cake! There weren’t enough cakes in the whole world for that. Of course, the world wasn’t that big, and mostly seemed to be made up of trees.
Herad saw his look and instead of growing angry she smirked. She then reached out and grabbed one of the pastries from the platter, and tossed it up into the air towards Blacknail. Instantly, the hobgoblin caught it and shoved it into his mouth.
“Thank-ss you so much mistress,” he told her happily as he chewed. All his previous feelings of irritation had been completely forgotten.
“If only all men were so easy to please,” Herad remarked, with a look towards Saeter.
“You mean control,” Saeter replied dryly.
“That too,” Herad added with another smug grin. “Saeter, I’ll have you get a report from Blacknail and give it to me tomorrow. His full reports are… different.”
“They certainly are,” Saeter agreed.
Herad then turned to the hobgoblin.
“For now, just tell me about anything important or unexpected that happened, and this time leave out any details about how things tasted or smelled. I don’t need to know about that,” Herad asked, as she grimaced with disgust.
Blackail sighed in disappointment. That was usually the most interesting part, though! He took a moment to recall everything that had happened on his mission.
He’d walked there with Saeter, there’d been some humans, he’d eaten the chicken, he’d tricked some more humans, bleh bleh, and then he’d killed Galive and ran away. Oh wait, there had been one thing.
“There was a man, an assassin. He was there to protect Galive, but he sucked at it,” Blacknail told his chieftain.
“That’s interesting. You overheard them talking?” Herad asked.
“Yes, he was sent by a Zelena human,” Blacknail replied.
“See, Saeter? I knew they were working together. Galive swore he was a neutral party, but I wasn’t fooled! That bastard lied like a village peddler; for all that he was supposed to be a priest.” Herad exclaimed excitedly.
“I didn’t disagree with you about that,” Saeter pointed out.
“I guess you didn’t, for once,” Herad commented with a roll of her eyes.
“If that’s everything, then I’d like to get some sleep. I also wouldn’t mind a hot cup of tea,” Saeter told her.
“Fine, I’d hate to keep you up past your bed time. You two can go rest,” Herad answered dismissively.
“It’s not my bedtime. I’m going to go out and find some food,” Blacknail interjected.
“You’re coming with me. Now is not the time to be wandering around,” Saeter replied as gave the hobgoblin a stern glance.
“But I’m still hungry,” Blacknail whined.
“Grab something from the kitchen,” Saeter told him as he gave him a light push towards the door.
“Fine, but I’m eating whatever I want,” the hobgoblin replied as he opened the door.
“Go ahead, just keep out of trouble,” his master said as they passed by the guards from earlier.
After almost an hour of ransacking the kitchen and terrorizing the chef, Blacknail had stuffed himself enough that he began to grow sleepy. Saeter had already left so the hobgoblin yawned and headed for his room.
Once there, he disrobed and began rearranging his blankets for maximum comfort. The hobgoblin then curled up on his bed and almost immediately went to sleep. He’d earned his rest.
It wasn’t to be as long a rest as he’d hoped, though. Several hours later, he twitched in his sleep as an unexpected rhythm penetrated his subconscious.
When the quiet sound repeated itself, the hobgoblin stirred and frowned in annoyance. He opened one eye slightly and saw that it was still dark outside. He didn’t like being awakened like this, so hopefully whatever the annoying thing was it would soon stop or die.
It sounded like footsteps. In fact, it sounded like several people were trying to move quietly, and it was coming from the roof…
The hobgoblin growled softly as he came completely awake. His tribe was under attack!
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