The small, dark, fur-covered, dog-like body of a gnoll scrambled across the slick gray stone floor toward the gilded throne at the end of the room. Careful to look down and avoid the gaze of his seated master, the gnoll approached the steps in front of the throne. The room was quiet except for the noise of the gnoll’s claws as they scraped and clicked across the stone with each step.The sniveling gnoll quickly knelt at the base of the steps directly in front of his Lord.Slowly looking up, the gnoll said, “Master,” in a snarling, ani-malistic voice. “Your spies have found information that will lead them to what it is you seek...or at least a part of it,” he said sheep-ishly as he looked down at his fur-covered paws again. The gnoll was unsure how his master would take the last bit of news, and bad news was not tolerated well. Those who brought bad news were often never seen again.Without saying a word, the seated individual stood while tap-ping his fingers on the hilt of the sword strapped to his waist—as he was always prepared for battle—while pondering the gnoll’s news. He slowly looked down at his sword’s hilt and, with one hand, started to pull the blade from its sheath. In the darkness of the barely lit room, the sword’s blade began to emit a fine blue aura around it.Without looking up, the gnoll could see the blue glow on the stones surrounding him. He knew what this meant. Fearful he was about to taste his master’s blade like so many before him, he braced for the final blow.However, the killing blow never came. With a quick click, the blade retreated into its scabbard once more. That single click was probably the most satisfying sound the gnoll had ever heard. That one sound signaled that he was not going to die this day—a com-forting thought.The gnoll’s master took his place upon the stone seat, with its gold accents and trim, once again, his battle helmet resting on a point extending from the top of the throne so that it was in reach should a fight come to his lands.
“Arise, my servant, so that you may clearly hear my orders,” he spoke with a firm tone as he leaned forward with his elbows resting on his armor-clad knees.The gnoll scrambled to stand in reverence of his master. “Yes, Master. Tell me what I must do. I will not fail you.”With a sly smile on his dimly lit face, the master replied, “You know your place and the price of failure. This is why you have not failed me yet and why I give this task to you today. Take fifty of my troops and divide them into three bands. I want you, as my newest general, to lead and recover the piece my spies have found. Do not return here without it.”“As you command,” the gnoll muttered, both overcome with excitement and fear with his apparent promotion to general.The gnoll quickly understood the situation he faced and the repercussions of his actions. To defy his master meant certain death. To not return with what his master sought meant certain death. He was lucky and yet, at the same time, cursed and he knew it.“I will see your commands through to the end,” the fearful gnoll general cried, hoping to appease the merciless master now towering over him with his shimmering sword drawn before him.
“Good,” said the master as he once more slid his sword back into its home by his side. “Now go. See that my will is done and that I have what I seek sooner rather than later.”
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