“Ha, I can’t believe my luck,” Mahedium exclaimed as he worked.
“Made a discovery have you? Perhaps Highwart plant is a goblin love potion or something?” Saeter asked with a roll of his eyes.
The mage didn’t bother answering, or even appear to hear the other man. He just started chuckling to himself, as he stared at Blacknail’s blood sample. Saeter scowled and looked worried.
“I think our mage has lost it,” Saeter remarked.
Even Blacknail found the mage’s behavior more than a little odd. The hobgoblin got excited over blood sometimes, but only when it was fresher, and there was a lot more of it.
“He needs to stop sniffing his own herbs, if you know what I mean,” Khita said.
Blacknail had no idea what she meant. Saeter apparently did though, because the corner of his mouth curled up into something that sort of resembled a grin. Mahedium ignored Khita and turned to Saeter.
“I’ve made an incredibly exciting find. It has nothing to do with herbs though. After the surprise revelation that Varhs’ pet goblin had the mage spark, I decided to run some tests on Blacknail’s blood just in case, and I just found something,” he announced with obvious excitement.
The young mage was practically vibrating with enthusiasm. In one hand he held up a small vial of purple liquid.
“Oh, is goblin blood like deadly poison or secretly magical?” Khita remarked.
“No, that’s idiotic. Stay silent while the grownups are talking, please,” Mahedium replied irritably.
“What did you find?” Saeter asked curiously, as Khita glared at Mahedium.
“Before I say anything I want to be absolutely sure I’m right, so I need to perform a few more quick tests,” the mage answered as he quickly gathered up several things from his desk.
Once Mahedium had what he wanted he hurried over to where Blacknail was sitting. The hobgoblin eyed him warily. He was fairly sure he didn’t want the mage running any more tests, or performing any weird magic, on him. The eye test from earlier had been uncomfortable enough.
“Open your mouth, please. Normally I’d just take a hair sample. Since you don’t have much in the way of hair though, I’m going to have to take a look at your teeth,” Mahedium told Blacknail.
The mage raised his hands in front of Blacknail’s face and waited expectantly.
The hobgoblin met the mage’s gaze and gave him a dubious stare. The man couldn’t seriously be planning on shoving his hands in between his jaws, could he?
“I don’t want your fatty human hands in my mouth. They’ll taste bad,” Blacknail replied as he stuck out his tongue in disgust.
“I keep my hands very clean, and I just washed them,” Mahedium responded.
“You’re still human, and oily,” the hobgoblin muttered.
“Just get it over with, Blacknail. I’ll get you a treat right after,” Saeter told him impatiently.
The hobgoblin sighed but did as he was told. Maybe he could convince his master to get him one of those meat pies from earlier…
Mahedium raised his tiny light crystal up to Blacknail’s mouth. As it flared to life he raised a small knife and began to carefully poke and prod around the hobgoblin’s teeth. It was more than a little annoying, and Blacknail gave Mahedium an irritated look. As he had suspected the man’s fingers also tasted horrible, like old sweat.
“Huh, I expected them to be dirtier. You actually keep your teeth fairly clean,” the mage commented as he worked.
Blacknail’s eyes narrowed. Why wouldn’t his mouth be clean? It was humans that were weird and smelly.
“I know it’s tempting, but don’t bite him,” Saeter told Blacknail.
A few seconds later the mage withdrew his hand and smiled proudly to himself. Blacknail shut his mouth and rubbed his jaw. Holding it open like that had been kind of painful.
“I was right! An elemental test of his blood revealed traces of crystal integration, and just now I discovered his teeth show subtle signs of fairly recent crystallization,” Mahedium announced.
“So he’s a mage too?” Saeter replied warily.
He didn’t seem too happy at the idea, which kind of hurt Blacknail’s feeling. Hadn’t he earned his master’s trust yet? The hobgoblin wouldn’t mind becoming a mage. There were so many things he wanted to blow up! It would be glorious.
“No, that’s not indicative of the evidence I found. If he was a mage he wouldn’t show the secondary signs such as crystallization of the teeth. Not to mention, I tested him for that not too long ago and found nothing. He’s also not a mutant, for obvious reasons. So, by process of elimination we can conclude that Blacknail is actually a dormant Vessel,” Mahedium explained happily.
“Hey, that’s what I just said; his blood’s magical,” Khita muttered as she glared angrily at the mage.
No one bothered to respond to her. Blacknail sighed in disappointment. So he wasn’t a mage… and he wouldn’t get to start blowing things up with magic. At least he was a Vessel thingy though. That made him super strong or something right?
“How’s that possible? He’s never shown any signs of that, and he’s certainly never taken any Elixir,” Saeter asked with a voice full of doubt as he crossed his arms in front of himself.
“I don’t know how he was initially exposed to some form of Elixir, but at some point he undoubtedly was. As to him not showing any signs of being a Vessel, well the answer to that is obvious. He hasn’t had any Elixir to fuel himself, so the ability is now completely dormant,” the mage replied.
“So it’s utterly useless, since we have no way of getting him Elixir or even knowing what the right type is,” Saeter pointed out with more than a little evident relief.
“Maybe… I’d like to run a few more tests, and there’s someone in town that I may be able to consult with. It might be technically possible to find the correct type,” Mahedium told them.
“Well, good luck with that. Just don’t be expecting to draw too much more of Blacknail’s blood. With the way things are going he’s going to need it right where it is. If you want to play around with a Vessel’s blood feel free to ask Herad, though,” Saeter told the mage.
“I have as of yet not decided on the proper time or method of asking Herad for a blood sample…” Mahedium admitted reluctantly.
“And that’s why you’re still alive,” Saeter told him.
His remark caused Khita to chuckle, which earned her a glare from Mahedium. Blacknail wasn’t quite sure what was going on, so he decided to ask.
“What does me being a Vessel mean?” he asked the others.
“Nothing really, don’t worry about it,” Saeter replied.
“It means if you find this one type of magic potion then it will give you magical powers, and you won’t die, or explode, or anything,” Khita added
“Good, that’s good,” Blacknail mused aloud.
He really wanted magic of his own, and he definitely didn’t want to explode. It sounded like he needed to find this Elixir stuff.
“There’s absolutely no way to find the right Elixir though,” Saeter told the hobgoblin.
“That’s not completely true. I just finished telling you that I may know of someone who could help,” Mahedium argued.
“Fine, you do what you want. If you manage to find anything then tell us, but don’t expect any help looking. Also, if you tell Herad about any of this nonsense then I’ll make sure you regret it for the rest of your life. Thanks to Blacknail’s recent idiocy she already has enough weird notions in her head about using him. If you tell her about this…,” Saeter warned the mage.
He stopped talking when Blacknail poked him urgently on the shoulder, and he threw the hobgoblin a confused glance. Blacknail’s eyes were wide with concern. He hadn’t noticed it at first because he’d been distracted by the conversation, but now he definitely heard the sound of familiar footsteps approaching.
“Ah, Saeter you’re so predictable sometimes. I knew you’d try to keep the hobgoblin away from me,” Herad said as she walked through the doorway and into the room. “I’m sorry if I’m intruding, but the things you were just saying sound so intriguing. I’m having weird notions am I? We’ll have to talk about that later. Right now though, I want my mage there to tell me more about the rather interesting conversation you were all just having.”
There was a rather nasty looking grin on her face that was directed Saeter’s way, and from under her dark bangs her eyes gleamed with furious excitement. Blacknail winced in apprehension and took a step away from Saeter. His master should have kept his big mouth shut.
“Fuck,” Saeter grunted quietly, before turning around and facing his boss.
“Explain, now,” Herad commanded Mahedium.
“Right, of course,” the mage stuttered in reply. “As you undoubtedly heard just now, after running some tests on Blacknail’s blood I discovered that some time ago he must have ingested a sample of Elixir. Obviously, he managed to survive the transformation into a Vessel, but he hasn’t been showing any signs…” the mage quickly explained before Herad cut him off with an annoyed glare and wave of her hand.
“I heard that part, and I don’t much care. I don’t need another Vessel, I need access to Elixir. Get to the part where you mentioned knowing someone that might be able to supply you with some,” she told him with a disdainful sneer.
Mahedium opened his mouth as if to talk, but then closed it again. His forehead grew creased and he seemed reluctant to speak. Herad made an irritated growling noise, and he flinched before finally answering.
“Since my arrival in Daggerpoint I’ve been making inquiries about any other rogue mages that might be in the city. Most of the leads I’ve found were… dead ends, unfortunately. None of the mages in this city are very knowledgeable about the magic they flaunt. They’re the lowest sort of combat mage, with not a scholar among them,” Mahedium bitterly told her.
As the mage talked Saeter’s eyes flickered towards the exit. He looked to be considering trying to slip away while Herad was distracted. Blacknail didn’t blame him.
“Even the market for spell stones and Elixirs is very limited and expensive. It contains nothing but the occasional piece of loot taken off a corpse. I highly suspect most of the crystals get purchased and then returned unused to the market when their owner is murdered,” Mahedium continued.
“But you said you found someone,” Herad pointed out impatiently.
“Yes, there was one merchant who seems to have a steady source of several Elixers, including Braxwells and Whitestrom. He refused to even discuss where he got it at first, but I was… persistent. Eventually, I managed to get him to deliver a message to his supplier. I only got a short reply back, but it was enough to confirm my suspicions that someone in town is creating the Elixir. They’ve agreed to meet with me in order to facilitate an exchange of knowledge,” the mage concluded.
“Tricky…” Saeter remarked softly.
“Yet, more than worth a little risk. A reliable source of Elixir could change the odds against us completely,” Herad added with a hostile glare at Saeter.
Blacknail blinked in surprise at Herad’s reaction to Saeter. He was more than a little surprised she hadn’t sheathed a few of her knives into his master’s chest already. She seemed really focused on getting her hands on this Elixir stuff. He almost thought he detected the tiniest bit of sour smelling desperation from her…
“True, but that doesn’t mean we should run right into this. Anyone with a monopoly on such a lucrative trade isn’t going to just give it up, and is more than likely working with one of the other chiefs. It’s probably a trap,” Saeter replied as he frowned in concern.
“Obviously, it could be a trap. I don’t need you to tell me that, Saeter. We’ll just have to take precautions, and turn it back on them if they’re stupid enough to try something,” Herad told him scornfully.
Blacknail smiled as he listened. He thought that sounded fun. The idea of the hunter becoming the hunted amused him.
“When and where’s this meeting supposed to take place,” Saeter asked Mahedium.
“Two days from now at a residence in the Central District of the city. I’m allowed to come armed and bring one companion,” the mage answered.
“You agreed to enter a location of their choosing, with only one man for back up? I honestly thought you were smarter than that, Mahedium! This magic stuff is sure makes idiots out of people,” Saeter told him.
“I’m not stupid, Saeter. They’re allowing me to bring my gear, and I’m a combat mage. I’ll have someone with me to watch my back, and enough magic at my disposal to level a small building. Besides, meeting in a public place wouldn’t do me any good; I’ll be visiting their lab. We’ll need equipment and resources in order to accomplish anything,” the mage replied.
“What if they take you by surprise?” Saeter asked.
“I’ll just have to make sure that doesn’t happen. You’re worrying too much anyway. I’ll be going to the Inner City which is neutral territory. If they cause a disturbance there it will draw the attention of the Governor,” Mahedium responded.
“Ha, I have way more experience with this city than you, boy. The Governor and his men may enforce peace within the center of this snake pit, but they’re powerless outside of it without the backing of the band leaders. They also don’t care about murder, just that it doesn’t happen on the streets,” Blacknail’s master countered scornfully.
“It’s worth the risk, Saeter. You’ve said enough, don’t you think? So shut your trap,” Herad ordered the old scout before turning to the mage. “Who were you planning on taking with you, Mahedium?”
“Yesterday I couldn’t have told you, but just now I decided on taking Blacknail,” Mahedium replied.
“Absolutely not!” Saeter barked immediately.
Herad threw him a dark look and the old scout took a step back. Saeter looked like he really regretted speaking.
“It’s very simply not up to you, so be quiet. Blacknail is no longer your servant,” Herad told him coldly, before turning to Blacknail. “It’s up the hobgoblin himself, and me. You’re both my minions,”
Blacknail froze as everyone looked his way. Oh oh, this wasn’t good. He really didn’t like being in the middle of a fight between Herad and Saeter. No matter which side he chose it wouldn’t be good for him. Why couldn’t everyone just get along?
“I had intended his presence to serve several purposes. You just mentioned that I should be concerned about being taken by surprise. I think we can agree that’s unlikely to happen if Blacknail is with me. They will be unprepared for the superior senses of a hobgoblin,” Mahedium reasoned.
Saeter just scowled and grunted vaguely in response. Blacknail however grinned happily to himself. Mahedium was right; hobgoblins were both superior and more sensible than humans.
“If they have good intentions and we can come to a deal, then Blacknail will also serve as a test of their skill as well. If they can make an Elixir for him they can undoubtedly make one for Herad as well,” Mahedium explained to Saeter.
“You could just take a blood sample with you,” Saeter told him.
“I thought you didn’t want me taking anymore samples from Blacknail,” Mahedium replied scornfully.
“Blacknail will go with Mahedium, and he’ll even get a pay raise for volunteering. To reflect his increased usefulness,” Herad said with a meaningful look at Blacknail.
The hobgoblin gave her a confused look back, before realizing what she wanted a second later. Oh well, surely Saeter wouldn’t blame him since Herad was giving him an order, sort of.
He kind of wanted to go anyway. From what he had heard this might be is best shot of getting some magic of his own. That would be so useful…
“I’ll go with Mahedium-ss. I’ll fill these men with fear, and stab the people who try to hurt him,” Blacknail told Herad with an enthusiastic nod of his head.
Saeter scowled grumpily at the hobgoblin’s reply, but he didn’t say anything. Herad threw a smug grin his way. She seemed to take a lot of pleasure from gloating over Saeter.
“I’ll go too. I’m also great at stabbing people,” Khita added from where she was standing off to one side.
“You’ll be staying here; safely out of the way,” Herad told the younger woman without even looking at her.
“But…” Khita started to say before Blacknail kicked her in the back of the knee.
Khita stumbled and glared with narrowed eyes at the Hobgoblin, but he didn’t care. She seriously didn’t know when to stop talking. You didn’t argue with Herad; you shut up and did as she told you.
“It’s settled then. Mahedium will take Blacknail, and together they’ll enter this rogue mage’s laboratory. I’ll prepare a squad of men that will wait nearby. If there’s trouble then Mahedium will signal us using magic,” Herad told everyone.
“Thank you for your support in this, Mistress Herad. I predict this endeavor will benefit us both greatly. As for a signal, I could always aim a force blast upwards. That should make a lot of noise and throw a quite a bit of debris into the air. It would be hard to miss,” the mage remarked.
“What could go wrong?” Saeter muttered grouchily as he glanced at Herad’s turned back.