Luphera fluttered her eyelashes as Blacknail considered his options. He did really feel like killing someone. He was also very good at it, so he could probably murder Najget without any real difficulty. The feat would also certainly impress Luphera…
Wait, what was he thinking? Why would he want to impress her anyway? She was just a human woman, not a prospective mate, and she wasn’t even of his tribe! Not that he trusted everyone in Herad’s tribe though. Some of them weren’t nearly as dependable as him.
The hobgoblin’s confident look turned to one of suspicion as he met Luphera’s gaze. He didn’t even know if Najget was a real person.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” he asked her doubtfully.
“Well, I haven’t raised the alarm,” she pointed out, with a friendly smile.
It was a nice smile… No, he had to concentrate. There might not be a lot of the perfume from before in the air, but there was still a lingering trace of it, and that was apparently enough to mess with his head.
“Yes, but if you were noisy I would have stabbed you,” Blacknail countered.
“Oh, stop being so paranoid, Blacknail. Haven’t I always helped you out? Now, I just need you to do one small thing for me, kill Najget. It’s what you should be doing anyway!” she exclaimed assertively.
“Maybe,” Blacknail mused. It did sound like fun, but Saeter had once told Blacknail that paranoia was the only thing that kept you alive. His master was also really old, so he probably knew what he was talking about.
Even if Luphera wasn’t outright lying, she still might be playing down the danger involved. There were an awful lot of guards around, and Blacknail didn’t even know where Najget was, or what he smelled like.
Luphera moved closer and leaned against his shoulder, and her body was surprisingly soft. As the hobgoblin watched her warily, she gave him a pleading look.
“I would be ever so grateful for your help, and I’m sure we can work out some sort of reward. I’ve heard some very interesting rumors about what’s under that mask, and look forward to finding out if they’re right. I hope they are; it would be a novel experience, even for me,” Luphera told him seductively, as she gently dragged one of her fingers down his arm.
Blacknail immediately took a step back away from her. He didn’t like the hungry look in her eyes; he wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of an expression like that. The sudden mad beating of his heart also unnerved him, it hadn’t been caused by fear.
“You’re so shy. Not at all what one would expect from your reputation,” Luphera purred as she took another step after him.
“I still don’t trust you” Blacknail replied as he hastily backed away again.
Instinctively, the hobgoblin glanced around the room for something to hide behind, even though he knew it would be pointless and stupid. Luphera’s attention was becoming more than a little uncomfortable.
He didn’t know what to say to her, or even what to think. He just knew he wanted out of the room. He had no reason to put himself at risk to kill someone right now.
“Maybe later, I have-ss to get back,” he muttered, as he turned away from Luphera and her unsettling eyes.
“Please Blacknail, I need your help,” the woman pleaded.
Blacknail ignored her, and immediately fled towards the window he’d used to enter the building. Once outside the fresh air would clear his head. Before he could get more than a few feet though, he heard a commotion from outside the window.
The sudden sound of several people shouting filled the air. Someone was raising the alarm! They must have discovered the bodies.
“Shit,” Blacknail hissed.
Almost immediately, he heard heavy footsteps from below as people from the building flooded out into the street. There were at least a dozen of them, and there was no way Blacknail could escape that way anymore. He’d let himself grow distracted, and had talked to Luphera for far too long!
“You were followed!” someone shouted angrily from outside.
“Impossible, I took precautions. No one could have followed us back here,” a familiar voice replied. It belonged to one of the assassins he’d followed here.
“So I suppose these two corpses by the door are just a coincidence?” the other person replied sarcastically.
“That doesn’t matter now. Someone’s here, but he won’t be leaving in one piece. I want people watching every possible exit until we catch him,” a third man added.
Luphera walked up beside the frozen hobgoblin.
“It seems like you left a mess out there when you came in, and now you’ll have to find a different way out if you want to leave,” she told him.
“Yes,” Blacknail grunted unhappily. He was fairly sure he detected a hint of smugness in her voice.
“I suggest heading out into the hall and taking a left. There’s a window in that room you might be able to escape out of. I wouldn’t say it’s very likely though,” she told him.
Blacknail knew that tone of voice. It was one human’s used when they thought they were so smart, but they rarely were.
“What’s your plan?” he asked her sullenly. It was probably going to be terrible.
“Well, if Najget were to suddenly die, then I’m sure I could take control of the situation. Then you could just hide somewhere, while I have the house guards kindly ask the assassins to leave,” Luphera suggested.
The hobgoblin thought it over. Apparently, Luphera was actually that smart because her plan might actually work. Most of the humans inside the building seemed to be heading outside and forming a perimeter to stop him from leaving, which also meant picking a window and trying to make a run for it was probably a bad idea.
“Fine, I’ll kill the man for you,” Blacknail sighed reluctantly.
“You might want to get going then, time isn’t on your side,” Luphera pointed out.
Blacknail nodded and quickly headed for the door that led deeper into the structure. He was more than happy to get away from Luphera for now.
“Najget is the old man in purple with the moustache, and try not to kill anyone but him and the assassins,” Luphera called after him.
Blacknail grunted vaguely in reply. He didn’t think he was going to have much choice but to kill anyone that got in his way if he wanted to survive this mess.
The hobgoblin quickly shut the door behind him, as he stepped into the empty hallway on the other side. Once out there, he took a second to listen to the surroundings.
He heard floorboards creek as people moved all around him. To his left was a door and a heavier human, who had a sword hilt slapping against his thigh as he walked, was about to walk through it.
The hobgoblin didn’t have the time or the patience to do this quietly. He was going to have to do this fast and brutal.
Blacknail swiftly pulled out the vial of Elixir and gulped the rest of it down. Then, he stepped to the side of the door and drew his blade. When the door swung open and another assassin stepped out, Blacknail was out of his line of sight.
Then before the man even noticed the hobgoblin’s presence, Blacknail stepped into view and slashed savagely down at the man’s head. The man’s eyes widened in the split second he had before Blacknail’s sword smashed into the side of his head.
There was a wet crunch and the man collapsed into a bloody heap on the floor. Blacknail pulled his blade out of the man’s skull, and then stepped over the man’s corpse and continued on his way. This wouldn’t be the last human he killed before the night was over, and he couldn’t afford to waste any time.
As he passed by the open doorway, he saw the window that Luphera had mentioned as a possible escape route. Briefly, he considered abandoning the plan and just jumping out of it, but then he sighed and quickly reconsidered. There would be people watching all the exits, including that window.
So he reluctantly kept going and picked up speed as he dashed towards the stairs at the end of hallway. Now was not the time for stealth. The sound of people getting up and moving towards him could be heard from many of the adjacent rooms, and he planned to be long gone before they showed up.
Just before he reached the stairs something creaked slightly from below, like there was someone climbing the stairs. Blacknail smiled and instead of slowing he sped up. As he turned the corner and began to rapidly descend the stairs, he caught sight of a purple vested guard with a drawn club.
Blacknail’s downwards charge surprised the man, and the guard flinched and froze for a split second. That was all the time Blacknail needed. Instead of drawing his weapon or slowing down, the hobgoblin simply leaped towards the man and kneed him in the face.
There was a muted crack as the two individuals collided. The purple vested guard’s head snapped back, and he began to tip over backwards. Blacknail didn’t really feel like trying to roll down the rest of the stairs, that sounded very painful, so he grabbed the man’s shirt and fell on top of him.
The man’s back hit the stairs, and then repeated thuds were heard as he started to slide down the steps. Blacknail still had a tight grip on the guard’s shirt and was perched on his chest. It was bumpy going but he managed to ride his opponent safely down, until they hit the wall at the bottom and stopped.
Blacknail then hurriedly got to his feet. His opponent seemed to be unconscious, or dead. Sometimes it was hard to tell. The hobgoblin had effectively taken him out and done it quickly, but unfortunately it had been far from sneaky.
He had already attracted a lot of attention. Blacknail could already hear people heading towards him. He looked up from the unconscious man to see he was in another hallway. It was empty except for one shocked looking woman standing at a doorway.
A second later the woman gasped in shock, threw herself out of the hallway, and then slammed the door behind her. Blacknail was more than happy to let her go. He had enough problems with human women right now, and had to find his target.
He just wished he knew what Najget’s voice sounded like, so he could track him that way. All he could do now was head towards anyone that sounded like an old human male, and Blacknail thought there was a good chance of there being more than one of those here.
Quickly, the hobgoblin got up and dashed down the hallway. Where had Luphera said to go? Oh right, Najget was supposed to be past the last door to the left.
As the hobgoblin raced down the hallway one of the doors in front of him swung open. A second later another of the purple vested guards stepped out and turned to face Blacknail. He was right in the hobgoblin’s way.
This guard also had a club and he swung it at the hobgoblin. Blacknail ducked under the weapon and then shoved his attacker aside as he raced past. There was no point in sticking around to fight.
Before the guard could pick himself up, the hobgoblin had reached the door and thrown it open. Blacknail then stepped through into a large sitting room that was lit by several brass lanterns that hung from the ceiling.
Heavy bookshelves lined the walls, except for where two large windows and another door were set on the opposite side of the room. Tasteful chairs had been placed around several large round tables, and there were several comfortable looking couches as well. Fancy red curtains framed the windows, and there were a few scattered books lying out on the tables.
There was however no one that looked even remotely like a Najget. The room wasn’t empty though, there were two assassins in it, and one of them looked really familiar. Blacknail groaned in frustration. He didn’t like this turn of events at all, but at least there were windows he could jump out of.
“At last we meet, Faceless One! I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile now. You’ve been making me look bad, but that ends today… because I’m going to kill you,” Malthus shouted triumphantly, from the center of the room.
Blacknail rolled his eyes. Here was another stupid human that liked to say the obvious. The hobgoblin just wished the man wasn’t also a much better swordsman than him.
Malthus and his companion drew their blades and headed for Blacknail. Both of them were still dressed in their dark leather armor and cloaks, but they had removed their face masks and dropped their hoods.
This was actually the first time Blacknail had gotten a good look at Malthus. The other times they’d been close the assassin had been cloaked and hooded or out of sight. He was a slightly taller than average man with a thin face and brown hair that was almost long enough to reach his eyes.
The hobgoblin watched the assassins approach and tried to come up with a new plan, one that didn’t involve getting sliced into tiny green bits. Fighting Malthus would be a really stupid thing to do, so he needed to get out of here.
He couldn’t go back the way he’d come though, and Malthus was blocking the way forward. So, some trickery seemed to be called for.
“We have met though, Malthus. I’ve seen-ss you around many times, you just haven’t seen me,” Blacknail shouted contemptuously.
Malthus’ face grew slightly more lined as he frowned at the hobgoblin, but he also slowed his advance. He appeared to be trying to come up with a good comeback. Blacknail grinned beneath his mask. It had worked; the man really liked to talk.
“Yes well, now you’re going to pay for being so arrogant as to think you could get past me twice. You were simply lucky the first time that Galive wouldn’t let me do my job properly,” the assassin replied.
“I wasn’t lucky, you’re deaf-ss and stupid. While you stood there by the door like a frog on a log-ss I was cutting Galive’s throat open and laughing-ss at you. Good thing Galive wasn’t paying you anything,” Blacknail countered viciously.
The hobgoblin and Malthus were slowly and cautiously approaching each other, but there were still several tables and couches between them. Blacknail began to circle a bit off to the side, while trying to look like he was just seeking a better position.
“I’ll restore my title as the city’s best Knifeman when I string your corpse up from the city gate. That’s what usually happens to assassins who operate in Daggerpoint without the Dark Guild’s permission,” Malthus shot back.
“No you won’t; I’m a far-ss better hunter and killer than you’ll-ss ever be. You’re just a soft and weak city man, but I come from the Deep Green and I’m Herad’s chosen killer!” Blacknail bragged.
The two assassins were fairly close now. Malthus scowled as he stepped around a couch. He seemed both annoyed and more than a bit confused by the hobgoblin’s words. Maybe Blacknail needed to talk slower so he could understand. A second later the assassin’s gaze focused on the hobgoblin’s mask.
“Let’s fight properly; face to face. Why hide behind a mask now? Let me see the visage of the man I’m about to kill. Only one of us is going to leave this room alive anyway,” the man proposed.
Blacknail snorted in amusement. That sounded so dumb. Weren’t assassin’s supposed to be sneaky?
“No, besides you’ve a got a friend there,” Blacknail replied scornfully, as he pointed to the other man beside Malthus.
The hobgoblin wasn’t in the habit of doing what his enemies told him. If Malthus wanted him to remove his mask then Blacknail intended to keep it on. The hobgoblin snuck a glance at the far door. Thanks to his maneuvering, Malthus and the other assassin were no longer directly between him and it.
“Don’t worry; he won’t interfere in our fight. He’ll just make sure you don’t attempt to run. I want to take care of you myself. My pride demands it,” Malthus replied.
Blacknail’s pride demanded that he never act as stupid as Malthus. The more the assassin talked the more convinced Blacknail became that he was an idiot.
“No, he can fight too. I brought friends of my own,” Blacknail said smugly, as he pointed at the window behind the assassins.
The pair looked startled for a second and quickly glanced towards the window and the new threat, but there was nothing there. Blacknail had been lying through his teeth.
While the two assassins were looking at the window, he quickly drew the sling and stone he’d been stealthily preparing as he talked to them. With lightning fast speed he whirled the stone and sent it flying towards Malthus’ companion. Blacknail was fast but the sound of the sling spinning through the air alerted the assassin, so he had just enough time to flinch.
The stone smashed into the assassin’s arm as he raised it to protect himself. Blacknail grunted in disappointment. He’d been hoping to do damage to somewhere more vital or for a fatal strike.
“Fuck,” the assassin roared in pain, as his blade dropped to the floor. He cradled his arm against his chest and hissed in pain.
“You vile bastard!” Malthus cursed, as he realized his companion was now out of the fight.
“I didn’t trust you. Now it really will be just you and me,” Blacknail said, as he shrugged without apparent concern.
The assassin’s face grew red with fury, and his grip on his sword tightened until his knuckles went white.
“You have a bloody sling? What kind of weapon is that for an assassin?” Malthus swore.
“It works, so it’s a great one,” Blacknail replied with an amused chuckle.
Malthus’ companion was still hopping around in pain and clutching his arm. He’d made no move to retrieve his sword.
“Fuck, this hurts! I think the bastard cracked my arm,” he told Malthus.
“Fine, go get medical attention. I don’t need you for this,” the other man replied.
“You sure?” the injured man asked.
“You can’t fight, so go!” Malthus hissed back angrily.
The injured assassin nodded and began stumbling away towards the far door. The hobgoblin and the remaining human were now only a dozen feet apart.
“I’m going to kill you for that!” Malthus told Blacknail, as he turned back to face him.
The assassin’s black cloak fluttered behind him, as he kicked the last chair between them out of his way. The enraged Vessel’s eyes gleamed with hatred, and the light from the bronze lanterns overhead reflected off the edge of his blade, as he charged the hobgoblin.
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!