The Noble Thirst 2

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The darkness of night enveloped Blacknail. Off in the murk, insects chirped and an owl hooted forlornly. Blacknail was leaning up against a tree and studying a distant source of light. Through the trees and down a hill, someone had lit a campfire. This was the deep Green. Humans didn’t camp out here unless they were very brave or very lost.

“Is that the man you are looking for?” Scamp asked. A dozen hobgoblins and two humans stood behind Blacknail.

“It’s a little too far away to tell,” Blacknail answered disdainfully. What a dumb question.

Khita stepped forward. “This is the right place. The villagers we asked said he was out here. Although, I guess they could have been lying. They were mucking hostile, like everyone else in this dumb place.”

“Let’s go see if it’s him,” Blacknail said as he began walking forward.

Blacknail and his followers had travelled west for weeks to get here. They had come to find one of the few famous bandits that still hadn’t allied with Werrick. There weren’t many holdouts according to what Blacknail had learned from Luphera, but they were far from Werrick’s territory here.

It had taken Blacknail a few days to rest after getting back from Daggerpoint. He had used that time to study all the changes that had taken place in the goblin camp and to plan for this excursion. There were a lot of new hobgoblins to intimidate and new building to explore. He had also visited Shelter and met with Tannin. The villagers had thrown him a feast! They had been grateful for all the gifts he’d brought them from Daggerpoint, especially the two cows. However, Blacknail had to leave and head east to fulfill the next stage of his plan.

After reaching the town of Westwatch, Blacknail’s group had resupplied and asked around. The people there had been more than willing to discuss the bandit chief that both raided the area and occasionally sent people to buy supplies there. Humans were weird. However, in the next village they had reached the people hadn’t been willing to talk to strangers. They had practically run Elyias and Khita out of town. Blacknail had thus been forced to track down the Red Hand himself, and their quarry had proven elusive.

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The Noble Thirst 3

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The Noble Thirst 3, The Noble Thirst 4, and The Noble Thirst 5 are now available on Patreon!

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The Noble Thirst 1

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The winding path before Blacknail ran through the tall trees, past the bushes at their edge, and out into the midday sunlight. The hobgoblin followed the trail and stepped out onto the top of a hill. Immediately, he was confronted by the sight of a valley surrounded by forested hills. Within the valley lay a crude looking village. It had been a long journey, but Blacknail had finally gotten back from Daggerpoint.

From atop the hill, Blacknail could see over the settlement’s walls. He frowned thoughtfully. What he saw within them surprised him a little. The large clearing was still full of rocky hills, but the amount of buildings around them had more than doubled. Black smoke rose up into the sky from several chimneys. The older longhouses made from woven branches and bark were still standing, but now there were plenty of buildings made from mud bricks and large felled logs. There were only a few areas within the walls left clear of construction, but an odd sight caught Blacknail’s eye. There was a crater where a longhouse had used to be. Had there been an accident? One lost building wouldn’t be so bad. Blacknail had actually been expecting to find half of the place on fire when he got back.

Looking over a bit, Blacknail saw that the forest outside the settlement had also been pushed back almost a hundred feet. A lot of that ground was still filled with tree stumps but some of the soil looked like it had been torn up and cleared of rocks and plants. Blacknail knew the trees had probably been cut down for firewood, but he wasn’t sure why the ground had been cleared. Maybe Gob was just trying to keep the goblins busy?

“How many goblins live here now?” Blacknail muttered to himself. Feeding them all might be difficult come winter, and he knew a lot of the little green pests were free riding of all his hard work, even if it was hard to find out which goblins those were. They all claimed to be hard workers…

Scamp interrupted Blacknail’s thoughts. “Dunno. Lots.”

The other hobgoblin walked up beside Blacknail and peered over at the settlement. There were several other hobgoblins behind him.

“I wasn’t asking you,” Blacknail replied dismissively as he began walking down the hill.

After dropping off Geralhd and the others at Shelter, Blacknail had met up with the hobgoblins that had been following them in secret and headed here. Most of the hobgoblins were carrying piles of tools such as axes or shovels. A lot of gear had been dropped off at Shelter but Blacknail had kept some for his own use. In particular the steel-headed axes would be useful for chopping down trees in order to build and provide firewood. Stone axes just weren’t anywhere near as good.

“And now I’m back here in this dirty death trap,” Elyias moane

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Interlude: Biting the Wolf

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The room was silent as Edic watched his boss read the message that he’d just delivered. Werrick was standing behind a desk, and there was a scowl on his face that revealed carefully contained fury. It only got worse as he continued to read.

Edic glanced off to the side where Zelena was sitting in a chair. The beautiful but cold blonde woman looked relaxed as she patiently waited for her master to finish. Edic was less sanguine about the present situation. He didn’t like being put on the spot when his boss was angry. Although Werrick had a reputation for fairness, he could be very intimidating. He was a huge man and famed for his martial prowess. You didn’t keep several small armies of outlaws in line by being non-violent. Edic was used to being around dangerous people, but Werrick was different. He wasn’t a noble and he didn’t follow the chivalric code. Edic was the last son of a now deceased knight from lands near the border. He was a knight himself, even if his lands were worth almost nothing but the title they granted. He had seen which way the winds of fortune were blowing and decided to forswear the king who had never done anything for his family and offer his services to the rising power.

“This is an unwelcome development,” Werrick observed in a frosty tone as he finally looked up from the piece of paper.

“Yes, sir” Edic replied neutrally. He wanted to draw as little attention to himself as possible.  He was just the messenger.

“Have you read this?”

Edic flinched and tried to hide it. “Yes, sir. I have. That’s why I brought the report to your attention right away.”

Werrick’s scowl grew deeper. “My subordinates have been slaughtered, and worse, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The perpetrators are long gone and have escaped into the forest. Sending men out into the deep Green to follow a hobgoblin sounds like a great way to never see those men ever again. This entire mess makes me look weak and foolish. Cedric’s position was an important one. Having him in Daggerpoint reminded all the local bandits of my power and control. I need them to fear me. There are too many for me to fight all at once.”

“We can send out orders for everyone to be on their guard, and Cedric can be replaced with ease,” Edic quickly responded. “The hobgoblin will have a much harder time getting into a properly fortified building full of men that are waiting for him. We can adapt to this tactic with ease. It won’t work again. Cedric was lazy and arrogant.”

Werrick huffed. “That’s what I like about you, Edic. You’re constructive. That’s one of the better traits to have in lieutenants, I believe.” 

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A Familiar Fate 9

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When Blacknail got back to the inn everyone was waiting for him. Geralhd, Khita, and Beardy were standing beside the table he’d been sitting at, and they looked upset. There was a scowl on Geralhd’s face and Beardy was grimacing. Blacknail walked over and nodded in greeting.

“Where did you go?” Khita asked. She only sounded slightly annoyed.

“I needed to follow some people and then kill one of them,” Blacknail explained.

Geralhd winced. “Uh, who?”

“Are you kidding?” Beardy asked as he threw his hands up in exasperation. “You’re supposed to be staying out of trouble.”

Blacknail shrugged. “He was a spy for someone who wanted to kill all of you.”

“What? Why would anyone want to kill us?” Beardy asked. He sounded like he didn’t believe Blacknail.

“That’s what I wanted to find out. When I asked, they said a whole bunch of Werrick’s men got themselves murdered and chopped up into little bits. They were looking for the people who did it, and someone saw you and remembered that you were Werrick’s enemy.”

“We’re not his enemies! Herad is dead and we don’t work for her anymore. We’re just minding our own business now. We certainly didn’t kill any of the Wolf’s men!”

“That doesn’t matter. They thought you were involved and were going to gather some friends so they could capture you for questioning,” Blacknail told him.

“It sounds like you had your reasons for wandering off, but I have to ask, did you kill Werrick’s followers,” Geralhd asked the hobgoblin.

Blacknail shook his head. “I’m just one small hobgoblin, smaller than a human. I don’t even have Elixir anymore, and almost a hundred men were killed. I couldn’t do that alone.”

Khita gave Blacknail a knowing look, but Geralhd and Beardy nodded along. On the way to the city, Blacknail’s hobgoblin minions had stayed back and out of sight of the human bandits. They had no idea that he’d brought them with him.

“Then who did do it?” Geralhd mused aloud.

Blacknail shrugged and suppressed a smirk. “Who knows? It’s a mystery.”

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