He heard them coming only seconds before they turned the corner. Startled, Blacknail immediately ducked behind a large barrel of rainwater and out of sight. A man and a woman with sheathed swords and leather armor then stepped into view, and headed his way.
Blacknail’s stomach twisted as he watched them from concealment. He wasn’t in a very good hiding spot, and if the two thugs got too close or walked behind the barrel they would see him. He cursed himself for not paying attention.
The hobgoblin held his breath as the two humans walked right by him. One of the pair suddenly stopped walking, and threw a look backwards at the barrel. She stared at it for a few seconds, and frowned when she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“What are you doing?” her partner asked.
“Nothing, I just thought I heard something, but there’s nothing there,” she replied before turning back around and walking away.
“This is Daggerpoint, if you jump at every shadow you’ll be spending the entire day on your toes,” the man remarked.
“Maybe, but that just means it’s also one of the places where you’re most likely to get a knife in your back,” she replied, before they both turned the corner and disappeared again.
Blacknail sighed with relief as soon as they were gone. When the humans had passed him by, and he’d become exposed, he’d instinctively crept around to the other side of the barrel and back out of sight. His instincts had served him well, but then again they almost always did.
The hobgoblin stood back up and then continued on his way. He still burned with anger, but now he was struggling to keep it contained. Nothing good ever came from letting his fury loose.
He prowled through the alley and towards Luphera’s window. When he got to corner that overlooked the passage behind the building he stopped and peered stealthily around it.
The sun was now starting to rise. The tips of its rays had just begun to shine over the grungy buildings of the city. This gave Blacknail a very good view of the two guards that were standing by the back entrance of his destination.
Both of them were large armed men with purple vests, and one of them had placed a lit lantern on top of a nearby crate. The windows of the building behind them also shed light out on the back street. None of the sources of illumination were that strong, so together they cast a confusing maze of shadows onto the dirty cobblestones and mud of the alley.
Blacknail studied the guards from the mouth of the alley. Why were there all these guards around suddenly? There had never been so many before. Were they expecting him?
It didn’t matter though. There was no way he was going to let a few stupid humans stop him. He would get the answers he wanted. He didn’t know why he felt so driven to question Luphera, and he didn’t really care.
The hobgoblin glared at the guards furiously for several seconds, and then several more. Okay, he had no idea how he was going to actually get past them…
There were a lot of shadows to work with, but it would still be difficult to sneak past them up into a window. No, he’d have to get rid of them somehow. How would he do it though?
He could sneak up to them and try to take them out quickly before they could raise the alarm, but that would be risky even with Elixir. A distraction might work, if he could come up with a good enough one.
He didn’t feel like sneaking around anymore, though. He was angry and wanted to hurt someone, and these men were undoubtedly connected to the assassins that had awakened him in the middle of the night! He really liked sleeping on his bed.
So he would use a distraction, and then attack them! Why do one when you could do both? Even so early in the morning Daggerpoint was never a quiet city, so a little noise ought to be fine.
The hobgoblin waited until the men were looking the other way then made his move. He stalked silently out of the alley and through the shadows. He kept the cool stone wall at his back until he reached an empty wheelbarrow someone had left at the side of the street. He ducked down behind it and carefully prepped his sling.
Blacknail then took out his vial of Elixir, lifted his mask, and gulped it down. Ugh, it still tasted like dirt, but he was going to need every bit of speed he could muster. When he was sure no one was looking again he gently lobbed a stone from his pouch down the street, so that it clattered against a wall on the other side of the guards.
“What was that?” one of them asked, as he took a step closer to the noise to get a better view.
“Probably a rat, they get pretty big here,” the other man replied without concern.
That was when the second stone from Blacknail’s sling took him in the back of the head. The thug immediately crumpled as a muffled cracking echoed through the alley. His companion jumped and began to turn back around, but Blacknail had already sprung out of hiding.
With savage ferocity he descended on the man, and Elixir burned through his flesh and bone as he leaped. With inhuman speed the hobgoblin’s blade slashed through the air and sliced into the man’s unprotected neck. The guard barely had time to gasp, before he was dead on his feet. Then he crumpled and hit the ground.
Blacknail froze and scanned the windows around him for any sign that he’d been seen or heard. When he didn’t see anything he switched to focusing on listening. A few streets away a horse neighed, and the pounding of footsteps and creak of wheels came from everywhere. None of that was unusual though, so it didn’t sound like he’d alerted anyone.
The hobgoblin then crouched down over the body of the man he’d hit with his sling, and listened for any signs of breathing. Nope, nothing; the human was dead. Blacknail grabbed the corpse’s feet and dragged it out of sight behind a pile of wood. He was breathing slightly harder when he went to get the other body.
“Stupid fat city humans, they should-ss get outside more,” Blacknail muttered as he strained to move the second corpse. The people of Daggerpoint were even more bloated than normal humans.
When that was done, he scowled at the blood trail he’d left in the dirt. A few seconds later he shrugged and turned to look up at Luphera’s window. It probably wouldn’t matter; most humans were blind and couldn’t smell at all anyway. Why did they even have noses?
Quickly, Blacknail began climbing up the stone work and wooden struts until he reached the opening on the second floor. He didn’t have a lot of time. He wasn’t stupid enough to believe that even humans wouldn’t eventually find the bodies; soon the guards he’d taken out would be missed.
Blacknail reached the window and peeked over the windowsill. He didn’t see anyone there so he pulled himself up and crawled inside. The bedroom was basically the same as before. The furniture was still lavish and comfortable looking, but only the faintest hint of the incense remained in the air.
Blacknail remembered his first visit here, so the first thing he did was double check the bed to make sure no one was hidden among the sheet, and then just to be sure he looked under the bed as well. There was no one in either of those spots, so Blacknail relaxed.
After taking a second to scratch an itch, he then turned towards the room’s only door and headed carefully over to it. As he approached someone on the other side spoke up.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink? I have both wine and tea?” Luphera asked someone.
Blacknail’s ears perked up as he recognized her voice, and his heart beat a little faster. His prey was close. The only reply to Luphera’s question however, was a disdainful grunt from someone with a deep masculine voice.
“What, do you think I’ve poisoned it or something?” she chuckled at the unseen man.
“I’m not one of your clients, Luphera. I’m here to keep a watch on you until all this is over with, not fraternize,” the unseen man responded in a rather unfriendly tone.
Blacknail stalked silently over to the door, and very carefully pulled it open ever so slightly. He then peered through the tiny crack into the room on the other side.
Luphera was seated on a lavish purple couch, and wearing a delicate white dress. She had a bored look on her face as she regarded the only other person in the room.
A large man stood by the far door, with his arms crossed in front of him. Blacknail instantly pegged him as a companion to the men he’d followed here. He was dressed the same, but looked a bit different than any of the attackers. His eyes were narrowed as he glared hostilely at Luphera.
“Is that what I do, fraternize?” Luphera asked with obvious amusement.
“No, what you are is a whore and a gossip monger,” the man told her coldly.
“And you’re an easily replaced murderer, so I wouldn’t be so quick to judge another’s profession,” she replied coolly.
Blacknail eyed the two humans as they glared at each other. He was fairly sure these two weren’t friends. He wasn’t the best reader of human tone and body language, but he was fairly confident about this. Of course, that didn’t mean Luphera wasn’t involved in the attack.
“What I am is loyal, unlike you, and our master knows it,” the man countered.
“I’m not loyal? You’d think that after all these years of service Najget would trust me more. He certainly values my services,” Luphera mused.
She then turned away from the man for a second and looked around the room. To Blacknail it almost seemed like her gaze stopped on him as it passed by the door, but that was impossible. He was much too sneaky to be discovered.
“Silence, whore. You’re not supposed to use the guild master’s name, ever,” the assassin growled angrily.
“You and the master are far too fond of your little drama. As if there’s anyone around to hear it but us,” she replied condescendingly as she turned back towards him and rolled her eyes.
Blacknail heard it; he grinned happily from behind the door. He’d just discovered a secret! He had no idea what a guild master was, but he was sure it was important. A secret name sounded very… sharp. Maybe, he should make one up for himself, like Sneaky Death Killer!
“Shut your mouth, I’m through getting lip from you. If you speak to me again then you’ll regret it, no matter how useful you are to the master,” the man snarled furiously.
“You would very much regret raising your hand against me,” Luphera replied coldly with more than a hint of condescension.
“I guess we’re going to find out,” the assassin growled, as he raised a fist and stepped towards her.
Blacknail wasn’t sure what was going on here, so he considered his options. He had a limited amount of time, so he should use any opportunities that came up. He also had to make sure he could act without raising the alarm, though.
He tried to remain detached, but his snarl grew tighter as he watched the man march across the room towards the woman. For some reason he felt protective of Luphera, and he didn’t know why. It wasn’t like they were of the same tribe. He supposed that he just liked talking to her, or maybe her perfume was rotting his brain.
It wasn’t because he… liked her, though. Blacknail shuddered. She was just another fat pink human woman.
“What, you’re just going to hit a defenseless woman, Farghus?” Luphera sneered.
“And I’m going to enjoy it,” the man replied.
The big brute loomed over the woman as he approached. Luphera didn’t react to him, except to deepen her scornful scowl. She did however flinch and shield her face when he swung his heavy fist down at her.
There was a cracking noise and a crash as Luphera was sent sprawling onto the floor. However, she didn’t scream or even moan in pain. She just pushed herself up and stared back up at the man with eyes that burned with dark fury.
Her dress had slipped off her left shoulder as she’d fallen, and also slid up to reveal her long slender legs. Blacknail found himself staring at them, and quickly looked up. This meant he met her eyes though, and the controlled fury within them tugged at something primal inside him.
“That was stupid,” Luphera spat angrily, as she cradled her sore arm.
“Why, you going to do something about it?” the man laughed.
“No, I’m not going to do anything about it. I don’t need to,” Luphera replied icily, and louder than she had to.
Rage and the dark instincts of a predator guided Blacknail’s silent steps, as he stalked forward with murderous intent. Luphera’s assailant never knew what hit him.
One second he was sneering down at Luphera, the next Blacknail’s hand was wrapped around his mouth and chin, as the hobgoblin’s other hand pushed a dagger up under his ribs where it tore his insides apart. Then Blacknail started twisting the knife, because he enjoyed the feeling of it.
The man choked and blood bubbled out of his mouth as his body’s strength drained away. He couldn’t say anything or scream for help though, because Blacknail held his mouth closed. He tried to reach up and free himself from the hobgoblin’s grip, but he was already too weak to do anything but struggle futilely.
“Shhhh, no talking please. I’m trying to be quiet,” Blacknail whispered into his ear.
Blood poured from the gash in the man’s side, and seconds later he collapsed. There was already enough blood on the floor that there was a wet smacking noise as he hit the carpet beneath him.
Calmly, Luphera got to her feet and gave Blacknail a polite nod of greeting.
“You’ve completely ruined that rug,” she told Blacknail, as she fixed her dress.
Blacknail just stared silently at her menacingly… because he had no idea how to respond to that.
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. I was hoping you’d drop by tonight after all. That’s a lovely new mask by the way,” she told him.
“Thank you,” Blacknail replied stiffly.
He had no idea what was going on here. Was Luphera friend or foe? He hadn’t really attacked the man to save her, but rather because he’d sensed weakness and an opportunity. He decided just to ask her, since he was here to get answers from her after all.
“Who was he, what’s going-ss on here? Also what do you know about the men who attacked Mistress Herad?” the hobgoblin hissed at her menacingly.
Luphera didn’t seem scared though. One of her eyebrows rose, as she considered him for a second.
“That was one of Najget’s hired assassins. He’s the owner of this establishment, and several others like it. He’s also the one who sent those men after Herad. He uses this place to collect information, and I’m one of the best brokers in the city. I despise the man though, and will gladly help you kill him,” Luphera explained.
Blacknail stared at her blankly for several seconds. That had been really frank… he had kind of been expecting to have to play some sort of game or trick the information out of her.
“Why would he challenge Herad?” Blacknail asked suspiciously.
He’d never heard of the man before, and Herad was rather vocal about her enemies and what she wanted to do about them. So, why would he try and pick a fight with her? That sounded like a great way to get killed.
There was also something about Luphera's posture and tone that bugged him. He thought he detected some hostility from her, which didn't make sense. Why would she be angry at Blacknail? Hadn't he just saved her?
“He wasn’t challenging her, and the attack wasn’t entirely his idea. Lately, he’s become a little paranoid about the loyalty of some of the employees, so he’s been hiring men from the Dark Guild. They pretty much own him now, and since Zelena bought them out that means she controls him,” Luphera explained.
Blacknail had definitely heard of Zelena. Herad had made her opinion on the other woman really obvious quite a few times. Blacknail didn’t know where she would get that many burning needles though…
Blacknail shook his head to clear it and looked back up at Luphera. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on here, but it seemed like this Najget worked for Zelena. That meant he was an enemy, and thus Blacknail should probably kill him. It's what his mistress would want him to do.
“I see, so…” the hobgoblin began to ask, before Luphera cut him off.
‘…so, you need to go downstairs and kill Najget. He usually stays hidden in various hideouts across the city that even I don’t know about, but right now he’s here and vulnerable,” Luphera told him.
Blacknail was caught off guard again. He didn’t like being told what to do, but that did sound about right…
“This may be your only chance to get him. He has a few guards, but I’m sure Herad’s faceless assassin won’t have a problem getting past them. You have quite the reputation after all,” she told him appreciatively, as she met the masked hobgoblin’s eyes and smiled charmingly.
Blacknail found himself standing a little taller, and grinning happily. Obviously, he'd been imagining any hostility from her. He was a great killer, and this probably was the right thing to do…