Chapter 4 – Ally from the shadows
Shadow leapt away from the thug and his flailing weapon, tucking and rolling some distance away as he landed to face the source of the voice. To his surprise, the new opponent was a lovely spotted Phylinx woman. And one who knew her weapons he surmised by the ready arrow that was pulled tight against her bow string. Fortunately for him, she wore an inspector’s uniform.
He looked the inspector in the eyes and nodded, laying down the knife he had obtained from the Gnoll. "I am no thrreat to you, inspector-r-r," he promised as he stood erect, holding his hands up and open to show he had no weapons. "These crriminals were stalking my frriend and me. They seemed up to no good, so I put an end to their-r-r evening crriminal activities." Shadow glanced at the goblin then looked for the Gnoll. He had not gotten far before falling from blood loss. His still form lay in the middle of the street.
"That's refrreshing cousin. Why, do you say, were these 'crriminals' stalking you?" the Phylinx woman asked keeping her keen eyes on both of her captives.
"You there, Goblin! Down on your-r-r face! I have some questions for-r-r you asss well."
The thug glowered at her and growled, “beggin’ yer pardon?” But his protest was greeted with Kanth’s raised bow with the arrow drawn ready. At that, he raised his claw-like hands and stooped down onto his stomach.
Kanth then turned to the male Phylinx, "Wherre is your-r-r man companion? We need a worrd with him, yess?"
"My frriend must have kept going. He is an inspector-r-r too. We noticed some poor-r-r fellow being coherrsed and extorrted. We werre following to make surre he would stay safe... that is, until Vorrn hearrd these two following us. Then we split up,” said Shadow still breathing heavy.
Kanth then stepped over to the black Phylinx with her bow lowered slightly. "No sudden moves frriend. Pull up that goblinoid and pin him to the wall. We'll both have the answerrs to our-r-r questions." With her command, she swiped her tail across Shadow's face in a seductive manner. The scent of her pheromones, along with a bitter-sweet perfume filled his nostrils as he inhaled deeply. She had witnessed the odd migration of the six men leaving the guard station, and after approval from the Chief, had set off after them. She recognized Vorn from the match earlier with the brute of a trainer, Vinibar, and also knew Shadow indirectly through the lad Dallar. This goblin however was unknown, though she meant for him to give up his story, by force if need be.
Shadow complied, smirking. He stepped over to the goblin and kicked its dagger toward the inspector. Still wary of any weapon the cretin might be holding, he grabbed the goblin up by the hood of his cape. "You hearrd the inspector-r-r. On your-r-r feet!" With a stiff arm, he pinned the goblin mercenary to the wall and looked over his shoulder for further instructions.
Kanth'Garrr stepped over beside Shadow. Her scent now very powerful in the air beside him. He noticed, now that she was close, her odd colorations. She was a jumble of orange, peach, brown, black, and a smidgen of white on her neckline. She appeared to be tortie, a very rare species of the Phylinx.
From this angle Kanth could easily see the long scar running from Shadow’s jaw line to his collar bone. Whatever had hit him there just missed his jugular. "Nice scar-r-r there,” she purred only loud enough for his ears. “Rremind me later-r-r and we'll discuss its orrigin.” Shadow was not impervious to the feminine feline pheromones. He smiled at Kanth' Garr curiously, but forced himself to concentrate on the matter at hand.
"Now monguloid! What businesss have you of stalking a fellow inspector-r-r and his companion?!" She sneered into the goblin's face, spittle flying from her lips onto his pallid flesh; her arrow pointed at the foul little beast's throat.
"I - I wasna followin," the beady eyed goblin said, trying to work up a smile. "I'z was walk’n home wit me freind when he'z attack'd us. By no means dids we mean foul, fine lady." his jagged, crooked teeth made his wide-mouth smile look vile. "Tis'na me fault our paths took us on the same road. He's the beast ya'd be warry 'bout. Jest looks what he's did t'me friend." he pointed at the still figure of the Gnoll lying not far off.
Pulling back the goblin slightly, Shadow slammed his head into the wall to add emphasis. "Tell the truth! People don't walk home with daggers in their hand. You and your friend were prepared for battle!" He was glad to see the Gnoll had died. At least they wouldn't have to worry about reinforcements.
Smiling inwardly, but still keeping the grimace of distaste on her cleft feline lips, Kanth' Garrr took a couple of steps back to where the goblin's dagger and the wickedly curved Gnoll blade lay in a pool of blood on the muddy ground.
The silence surrounding them, parted only by the rasping breath of the goblin, seemed a bit ominous. She let the slack back into her bowstring, holding the arrow against the bow with her fingers. With her free hand she lean down and picked up the pair of blades.
"My darrk frriend is correct mongrel. These blades; I saw, you and your-r-r frriend had drrawn. And being behind a fellow inspector-r-r, I suspect nothing other-r-r than foulness.
"Who sent you, what were your-r-r commands, how were you paid? And speaking of such, where is your pay?" She tried to quell the smirk building up, but it forced its way to the surface anyhow.
"We'z was meanin' nothin' foul, fine lady," the goblin squirmed, its wide mouth parted in a sharp toothed grin. Its attempt to appear innocent instead gave it a vile and dangerous look. "T'was a creepy night so we'z kept our weapons plain'n sight t'discourage thugs an such." He nudged his chin at Shadow as if to point. "He's is the murderer, not I. He's the dangerous one. I'z is a simple carpenter an' craftsman."
Kanth moved closer holding the bloody Gnoll blade aimed at the goblin's bulging eye.
"I toll you th'truth!" He squealed, and squirmed in Shadow's grip. Kanth continued her slow advance. "You `specters are all alike," he yelled and fought hard against Shadow and threw him solidly into the female inspector. The dark Phylinx warrior stumbled and tripped over Kanth's forward leg and fell to his knees. Kanth's stance was sure, and she wasted no time preparing for an attack as the goblin turned to run.
With a growl of distaste, the feline woman tossed the daggers aside and took aim with her bow. She directed her sights slightly low in an attempt to maim the creature with an arrow in the buttocks or hamstrings rather than to deliver a death-blow. "The blades are yourrs dark one," she called to Shadow.
As soon as Shadow hit the ground, he spun his body, flinging his leg in a wide arc. Expecting such an act, the goblin lifted its legs high, but Shadow caught his sandaled foot, and the goblin stumbled to his hands and knees. "Tougher-r-r than I thought," he exclaimed looking back at the goblin who so easily shoved him to the ground. Thankfully, the ugly mug was not as coordinated as he was strong.
The creature scrambled to his feet and began racing off, but Kanth’s arrow struck the thug in the thick of his leg. Howling and cursing, the hooligan darted off, and disappeared around the building’s corner.
"Foul creaturre," she muttered as she speedily knocked another arrow while stepping forward. "Why our-r-r people helped you in the time of trials I'll never-r-r know."
Shadow quickly took to his feet running parallel to the goblin’s path; careful not to get in the way of flying arrows. In his eagerness, he neglected to grab either dagger. Shadow felt his whiskers bristle as another grin came to his lips. It was like a game of cat and mouse... and the big, playful Phylinx so liked being the cat.
The proud feliness cursed under her breath as she stepped around the edge of the building spotting the fleeing goblin.
"Now fool, flee this one!" she exclaimed as the bow string twanged, letting loose another arrow toward her target.
In comparison to the goblin’s short legs and hunched gate, the Phylinx’s long strides allowed him to close the distance almost effortlessly. Just as Shadow reached for the rank smelling cretin, Kanth’s arrow streaked through the air, whistling as it sailed. The arrow struck its mark, though in the fog it was difficult to see if it was effective. Regardless, the goblin did not slow its pace as it darted down another path out of view of the archer. A third arrow was notched and ready, though Kanth would need to run fast to catch her quarry.
The odor of the goblin drifted in it's wake, assailing the pursuant Phylinx's sense of smell. Shadow switched to breathing through his mouth because it was so foul. He began to wonder if he even wanted to touch such a filthy creature again, but his hands were already soiled.
The gap was closed and Shadow saw his chance. "Time to stop now, my mouse..." he said as he leaped. He flew through the air, extending his claws out and threw the whole of his weight against the back of the goblin to send it face first into the ground and cease its departure. Caught off balance, the goblin slammed into the ground and his breath was forced from his lungs. Shadow had a solid grip and his mouth was frothing from all the excitement.
"Blasted fog..." Kanth caught up with her new, dark acquaintance and their adversary pinned beneath his mass.
"Exceptional take down," she compliments the fierce black feline upon the squirming and gasping hob beneath him. "You may want to wipe your-r-r mouth, you've gotton a bit excited," she commented noting the fresh foam around his morbid smile, her countenance beaming at the sight of the cat and his prey.
"Here," she said offering a large net with a rope leash to Shadow as he began to regain his footing. "This should keep the little vermin from trying that again."
Shadow pulled his left claws out of the back of the goblin. The pointy claws had gone in quite deep, so it took a little prying to pull them from the fibers of the cloak and undergarments. He glared at the blood on the tips a moment before reaching for the net. "Thank you," he said grasping the net, then wiping his mouth on his sleeve. "I do so love a good chase," he admitted as he started to affix the net with the leash about the goblin. Still gasping to catch its breath, the goblin could do little to resist.
A quick search of his person revealed that the goblin was far from unarmed. A small but lethal blade had been tucked in a pouch on his belt, as well as a small punching dagger, that could be easily concealed in a closed hand. After removing the goblin’s weapons and storing them on his own body, the Phylinx secured the thug. Then Shadow stood up and off of the thug and brushed himself off in a weak attempt at ridding himself of the goblin odor he was certain to be plagued with. "Now that this is under contrrol, I think maybe I'll leave this one with you and head off to find my frriend, if I haven't lost his scent."
Shadow smelled the air, making sure to be a few steps upwind of the goblin first. He pointed a direction in the fog and said, "I think he headed that way."
Not wanting to lose her prey, that was unfortunately taken down by someone other than herself, Kanth placed a hand before Shadow to impede his departure. "You're not going anywhere without me. I still have a few questions for-r-r you, friend. Now, if you'll help me carry this squirmy little beast, we'll both go and find your inspector-r-r frriend."
Shadow nodded thoughtfully, scooping up the leash on the goblin and yanking the foul creature to his feet. "As you wish. Your-r-r assistance would be welcomed, if things get ugly." He turned in the direction of where he thought he smelled the cheese, or whichever direction he felt Vorn would be, and started walking in that direction. He said with a scowl to the goblin, threateningly, "If you are too noisy, I will yank out your-r-r tongue and feed it to the dogs."
Kanth reached over and snatched the arrow lodged in the leg of the goblin, breaking it off at the flesh. She growled with contentment as the creature yelped in pain. "By Siverandora’s merciful hand, I hope things do get ugly. This little spat didn't satisfy me."
Following many threats the goblin finally fell into formation and staggered along with the two Phylinx. It was not long before Shadow's senses picked up the faint smell of the sour cheese Vorn carried. The occasional smear on a wall told them they were on the right track. As the road began sloping down towards the canal, the goblin became more on edge. His eyes darted from left to right and his pace slowed, not that he was moving at a generous trot anyhow, but slower still.
Through the fog, came the sounds of men speaking loudly over an incessant yapping of a dog. At least three voices were plainly heard, though their words mixed and distorted in the distance.
"Two hundred paces, maybe more," said Shadow, estimating the distance to the sounds.
"Darrk one, pause a moment. What is your-r-r name? I'm Kanth.”
"Kanth," the Phylinx responded slowly and quietly. "I am called Shadow, and it is indeed a pleasurre to beat about a r-ruffian with you."
"I'll help you, if you let me go," the goblin blurted out quite unexpectedly. "I know this part, an I know the folks." The tone of idiocy was gone from his voice and was replaced with a genuine nervousness. "I ain't done you no harm, and if'n I get caught with you, I'm dead."
"It seems as though our-r-r little friend here has some fear-r-r of what we may be coming up against." She bat the head of the goblin playfully as she glared at him. "Why do you fear-r-r for your-r-r life here and not before when you had two Phlynx on your arse?"
“Please, you must let me flee. You don’t know the things they’ll do if I’m seen with ye. I been caught by ‘specters before, an it t’was not they who scarred me. These be zealots, an evil sort, like that of Endrak. They keep me fit cause me night eyes been useful to ‘em. I be beggin you.” There was no mistaking the look of panic and pain on the goblin’s face.
To Shadow, she said, "What should we do with him since he seems to want to cooperate now? My senses tell me that there's danger-r-r ahead."
"Cut me loose an I'll say what I know. But if you keep goin, yer walking into a trap."
"Shadow, where do you rrecomend we stash this stammering little troglodyte until we have seen what the rucous ahead is?"
Kanth turned to the goblin, "Who says we'll be 'walking' anywhere? I think I speak for-r-r the both of us when I say to shut your-r-r hole about being cut loose or-r-r spill what you know now and I'll decide your-r-r frreedom. Honestly, I believe you should be speaking to my superior-r-r... maybe a little dungeon-time for you."
Shadow sneered. "If it is a trrap, therre is no time to waste. Do with him what you will. I must help my frriend." He looked up for another low roof to spring up to. Few city folk expect the forest tactics of the Phylinx. So often people forget to look up at all, even if it is just to greet the sun with their face.
“Wait, you must listen. The path we walked was to waste time and alert our fellows. Each turn was to confuse your senses. If you charge down that path, there will be twenty men waiting for you to commit. There is a guard station only two blocks that way.” The goblin motioned with his chin, unable to free his hands from the tight bindings. “The Drakes will not risk a battle with them. But please, eyes could be on us now! My sister and her child are still with them. They care nothing for goblin blood and they will spare her no pain.”