Shadow of the Cacklefiend

a Pack by Necessity

The bartender looked up from cleaning his glass as the door to the Stumbling Camel tavern creaked open, spilling sunlight into the dark and mostly empty room. Stepping into the tavern and eying the place warily was, to the bartender’s surprise, a young female Gnoll who approached the counter. He raised an eyebrow as he looked her up and down, noting her provocative clothing and saying in a gruff voice; “Can I help you?”

The female Gnoll was also looking him up and down. The bartender looked like someone who might have been impressive years ago, but had grown around the midriff.

“Yes”. She says in a calm voice “I just arrived in town and I heard you where looking to hire some help. My name is Illijaz Zoran.”

“Got any experience worken in a bar?”

“Yes, I’ve worked as a barmaid before.”

“Zat so?” Said the bartender amused. “I guess some people are inta that. Before I take ya on, I best let ya know…” He looks around conspiratorially at the virtually empty bar. “We do some…shady dealings here. You OK with that?”

Illijaz smiles slightly “I have no problems with that…”

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Yyxle Yahp’ka, famed Gnoll lawyer of Hkoker walked at easy down the street towards his home and firm office, casually munching an apple from the basket of groceries he had gone to buy from the marketplace. The streets where as bustling as usual for the early morning, crowded with humans, goblins, elves and even a bugbear or two. He finally caught sight of the familiar roof of his firm and increased his speed. The crowd was thick near that part of the street, and he was almost amongst them before they parted.

As the crowd parted, Yykle stopped dead and almost chocked on his apple as he caught sight of a group of humans wearing the red leather cloaks of the Blood Scorpion gang standing at his doorstep. He had recently been getting death threats from some unknown source for his part in defending the juggler and gang-boss of the Dagger of the Dunes, Jossi the Elf Juggler. The Scorpions and the Daggers had been at war for years, and apparently their assassins had come to make their move on the one who foiled their plans…

Thinking quickly, Yyaxle turned around thinking they might not have seen him. He turned only to see another group of Blood Scorpions coming up from behind him. They definitely saw him and their hands moved under their cloaks to grasp unseen daggers. The crowd in the street had begun to notice what was about to happen and where starting to clear out, not wanting to get in the middle of a brawl. Yyaxle was caught in the middle of a city street, where he couldn’t use his powers and with two groups of very angry gangsters trapping him in from both sides.

“Oh shit!” He breathed as he dropped the grocery basket and made a run for it sideways toward an alley. He rounded the ally corner and bowled right into another Scorpion, knocking him flat as several hundred pounds of fleeing Gnoll rocketed past. The gangsters ran after their escaping quarry.


Illijaz stepped out from the Stumbling Camel in high spirits. She would start working tomorrow at a rate of one gold-piece a day. Not bad at all. She turned to walk down the street and noticed it was strangely empty except for a pair of rough looking men in read leather cloaks barring the way, backs to her.

She took a step toward them, about to push past them when a panicked looking male Gnoll a bit older than her barreled out of a side ally and froze at the sight of the two humans just six feet away. The two men pulled knives from their cloaks and ran at the other Gnoll, one yelling “Die you Demon worshiping Gnoll bastard!”. The Gnoll dodged backwards, but a knife grazed past his arm drawing a thin line of blood.

Perhaps it was the mans racist yell against her kind, perhaps it was her Pack-Instinct kicking in, but in a flash Illijaz had ran up on one of the men, grabbed his shoulder with one hand and plunged her claw up through his ribcage. She smiled as she pulled out a few of his entrails. The other man yelled in horror as his comrade dropped dead.

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Yyxle blinked in confusion as, from out of no where a young female Gnoll impaled one of his attackers. The bloody scene seemed to be frozen for a second, him clutching his wounded arm, starring at the female Gnoll who seemed just as surprised as he was at the fresh corpse laying between them. Then the other gangster yelled the alarm and his comrades that had been pursuing Yyxle caught up. They looked aghast at their dead comrade and launched themselves at the two Gnolls in a frenzy of vengeance.

Yyxle turned at bay and dodged three knifes before punching one man in the face. The female Gnoll that had helped him stepped up to his side and grabbed the hand of a man who was just inches away from plunging his dagger into Yyxle’s neck. She growled and sliced the poor fools throat open with one taloned finger.

Despite the two dead attackers, the gnolls where still heavily out numbered and it wouldn’t be long before a lucky knife would put an end to their resistance. Yyxle felt the female Gnolls bloody hand pull on his shoulder and she shouted “Come on, fall back!”. Yyxle punched one more man in the gut before he turned around and ran for it with his new found ally just ahead.

The two Gnolls saw an arm reach out from another side alley and wave the forward before quickly ducking back. The humans where lagging behind, dazed by the fierce resistance of their target and his deadly friend. The pair ran into the ally where the person was beckoning them and stopped to catch their breath.

Standing before them was a young female elf with short hair and a charming smile that Yyxle knew all to well. “Jossi!?” he gasped in surprise.

“My, my” Said Jossi condescendingly. “What in the world have you gotten yourself into Yyxle?”. “What have I gotten myself into!?” Said Yyxle incredulously “The Blood Scorpions are after my hide because you blackmailed me into defend you in court!” Jossi laughed. “We’ve been through this. How could I have blackmailed you when I was in jail, hmm?” Without waiting for a response she looked over at the female Gnoll who stood beside Yyxle. “Who’s your girlfriend?”

Yyxle turned to look the other Gnoll who had been standing beside him for the first time and said in surprise “I, uh, have no idea. Who in the world are you?” The female looked indignant and said with no small amount of attitude “I’m the person who just saved your life!” Yyxle looked abashed. “Um, yes, thank you very much…whoever you are…” “My name is Illijaz Zoran” replied the female, and in slightly less sever tones said “And your welcome.”

“Well, now that we’re all best friends, I think its time we get the hell out of here before the Scorpions catch up.” said Jossi, and the two Gnolls heard the sounds of their pursuers footsteps getting closer on the street behind them. Jossi turned and ran down the alley and said “Follow me.”

The trio ran through the alleyway and back onto a main street heading towards the center of the city, the Scorpion gangsters hot on their heels. Luckily the street was deserted and no one was around to impede their progress, probably the rumor of a brawl had spread. The Elf and Gnolls where quickly gaining ground from their greater speed and the humans had begun to tire. Jossi lead them around another bend and the three found themselves facing the entrance to the Hkokor gladiatorial arena.

Without even a pause Jossi continued on through the coliseums open gates and into the darkness of the main structure itself, the Gnolls right behind. The inside of the colosseums infrastructure was dark and cool, with only a few torches lining the walls. At first the Gnolls where blinded by the sudden change in lighting. Their steps slowed as their eyes adjusted and they where just barely caught sight of Jossi before she disappeared down a stairway. The two Gnolls quickly followed down the stairs, but all sight and sound of their Elf guide had vanished.

The duo reached the bottom of the stairs and found themselves at the beginning of a long stone hallway that apparently was a dead end. The walls where lined with heavy wooden doors with bared windows, but due to its underground location the temperature was pleasantly cool. “Jossi!” Yyxle called out. There was no response. “It looks like your friend left us for dead.” Said Illijaz annoyed. “Well she’s not exactly my friend.” Countered YYxle “More like a forced-business partner.”

The two turned and looked back up the stairs as they heard footsteps echo down to them and someone yell “I thought I saw them go down here!” Illijaz moved toward one of the doors along the hallway “Quick, we need to hide!” she said, tugging uselessly on the locked door. Something inside growled angrily and the door rattled on its hinges, making Illijaz step back suddenly.

The two Gnolls went quickly from door to door, checking the locks. Yyxle was starting to panic as he pulled on another solidly locked door and the sound of footsteps was getting closer. If only they could find a weaker lock, he might be able to melt through it. “Over here!” Yelled Illijaz from near the back of the tunnel. Yyxle hurried towards her and looked the lock over. Excellent! It was old and rusted, easily breakable. “If both of us shove we might be able to get in.” She said. Yyxle smiled. “I have a better idea…”

Muttering a quick combustion spell, Yyxle focused on superheating the metal fast enough it would shatter. “You’re a sorcerer!?” Said Illijaz in surprise. “Now I know why those men wanted to kill you…” Yyxle only grunted. The footsteps of their pursuers where almost on top of them. “Quick, quick!” Urged Illijaz. “I’m trying.” Said Yyxle through gritted teeth. With a snap the lock mechanism shattered and the two Gnolls hurled themselves at the door and quickly shut it, throwing their bodies against it and listening intently.

The footsteps sounded like they reached the bottom of the stairs and stopped. “Search the doors, they have to be in there somewhere.” One of them said. Yyxle’s mind was racing, trying to think of what to do once they eventually found their hiding place. He felt a tug at his shirt and looked over at Illijaz who pressed against the door beside him. She whispered “We’re not alone.” and pointed into the darkness of the cell. Only then did Yyxle notice the sound of a deep growling and the rattling of chains. “Who are you?” said a deep voice from the back of the cell. Yyxle held up a claw and a small flame flickered into existence in his palm, illuminating the cell with a soft red glow.

Standing with its back pressed against the opposite wall was another Gnoll. He was taller than either Illijaz or Yyxle, but almost twice as broad in the chest. His fur was white with black stripes and he had a black face, hands and feet, the pelt pattern of one of the rare Ohnayga. He whore a bloodstained loincloth and his hands, feet and neck where clamped tight in chains that where attached to the opposite wall. He looked at them warily. “We’re being chased by gangsters!” Said Illjaz quickly “They mean to kill us for nothing!” The Gnoll looked at her, his expression one of contemplation.

“Over here! I heard something.” One of the humans yelled outside. Illijaz and Yyxle turned from the door and started to back away. Yyxle put out the fire in his palm and the cell was cast into pitch black darkness. The two Gnolls tried to breathe as quietly as they could, pressed up against the opposite wall. The jig was up…

The cell door opened and two of the Scorpion gangsters walked in, knives in hand. “Well, well, what have we found here.” leered one of them as they saw the Yyxle and Illijaz at the other end of the room. They took a step forward and suddenly the cell door behind them slammed shut. They turned, and the outline of the massive Ohnayga stood behind them, his white fangs gleaming in the light slanting in from the small barred window of the door. “What indeed.” He growled.

Two massive claws closed around the men’s heads before they had a chance to yell, and in a second the Ohnayga Gnoll smashed their skulls against the stone wall. Brains and blood where spattered against his claws and the wall as the two now dead bodies slid to the floor. Illijaz and Yyxle blinked in surprise as the large Ohnayga walked casually towards a small bed close to them, licking his claws as he sat down, chains rattling.

“Why…did you do that?” ask Illijaz in surprise. The white Gnoll just shrugged his shoulders. “Who are you?” she ask again. Yyxle chuckled “You clearly haven’t lived here long, this” he pointed at the other Gnoll “Is Khomag Soldus, the White Scar of Hkokor, gladiator supreme! I never miss your matches.” Illijaz seemed to take this in stride “How did you get here?” she looked around at the cell and the chains binding him to it. “I was born into slavery.” Said Khomag curtly. “Would…you like us to free you? We certainly owe you one for helping us out.” offered Yyxle. Khomag shook his head no and there was an awkward silence. “Why in the world not?” said Illijaz indignantly.

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“I cant leave.” Said Khomag simply. “People…are counting on me.” “There’s no use being a martyr.” Yyxle chivied. “Martyrdom is the best a slave can hope for.” Khomag responded. There was another awkward pause. “Well…is there anything we can do for you?” said Yyxle. “Just keep watching my matches.” Khomag looked up at the door. “I think you two should leave before someone comes along.”

Illijaz and Yyxle walked down the hall glumly, each lost in their own thoughts about their conversation with the stubborn Khomag. They started climbing up the stairs they had entered from, but stopped close to the top as they heard voices approaching. Illijaz pulled Yyxle over to the left side of the wall where it was darker and the two waited in silence for whoever it was to pass by.

“So, you sure this plan of yours will work?” they heard a man say. The next voice was high pitched and clearly inhuman. “Yeess, the Gnoll will take a dive whether he wants to or not. I can be very persuasive…” There was the sharp sound of fingers snapping and suddenly several men began to descend the same staircase the two Gnolls where hiding in. Illijaz and Yyxle held their breath as they passed, but by the grace of the gods the humans didn’t notice them. They watched as the group of half a dozen men, one carrying a large club, walked to the cell that Khomag was in.

“Well, looks like someone tried to do our job for us.” Said the man with a stick as he pushed open the door and saw the two dead bodies. “Right lads, hold him down!” There was the sound of growling, followed by a scuffle. Suddenly the sharp crack of bone snapping and a yelp cut through to Yyxle and Illijaz like a gunshot, Illijaz gasped and Yyxle automatically pressed a hand against her mouth.

The human voice from up the stairs spoke again. “You must be the cruelest creature I have ever met Lord Skex…” The high pitched voice broke out laughing. “It’s only a stupid slave, and a Gnoll at that. I doubt it even knows how to speak. It’s never said a word to anyone as far as I know. Come, we must talk about how to arrange the bets” The Gnolls pressed themselves against the stone wall again and held their breath as the thugs exited the cell and returned up the stairs.

“What should we do? We cant just leave him here to die!” Implored Illijaz. The two Gnolls had waited awhile until they where sure the men had passed on before continuing up the stairs and out of the Thunder Dome.

“I’ve often found it behooving to keep my wits when lives are on the line, especially my own, but rest assured, we’ll make sure justice is served with a side of vengeance.” Yyxle calmly interjected. While stepping out of the slave quarters of the Thunder Dome, Yyxle stopped and turned to look at the massive cage that comprised the colosseum. He studied the structure as Illijaz eyed him, curious to what he was thinking. The Male Gnoll knew the bars where made of metal and recalled at least four elevating platforms and two rather large doors leading to an armory. He had a lay out, and he had a plan.

“Madam, it seems fate has paired your impressive, and deadly skill with my amazing intellect.” To this she couldn’t help but smile at the compliment and humor of his vanity. “Do you have a place to lodge for the night?” Yyxle asked his new companion with more curiosity than concern.”Um, yeah, why?” she lied. “Wanted to make sure you got some rest for the day ahead. You’re definitely going to need it for what I have planned”

“By the Abyss, where where you oafs? Not able to keep up? are you getting old friend?” a voice from behind chuckled. The grin on Yyxle quickly shifted into a grimace. “You almost got me killed, AGAIN! I just might forget it if you get us two tickets to next Thunder Dome appearance of The White Skar.” He growled in the manner he often did to Jossi. She only giggled at this and produced two wooden chips with the lotus symbol that signified them as ticket tokens for cage seats,”Dreamed up a date for your lady friend over there?”, to which Illijaz added “I’m only going to say this once, I’m not his girlfriend.” Jossi simply shrugged and lithed away, disappearing into the crowd. Yyxle simply disregarded the taunting he just endured and quickly turned to Illijaz and said “Right, I’ll meet you at the statue in the pavilion at sunrise. bring any implements of combat you wish, you’re no good to me dead.” To this she nodded and they walked their separate ways. Yyxle calmly walked to his firm, this time sure there was no murderous gangsters knocking at his door. He set his clothes aside and set out his clothes for the coming day, and then with a simple spell blew out a candle and wrapped himself in a warm, cozy blanket in his soft bed and almost instantly fell into a dreamless sleep. Illijaz, sure she was out of Yyxle’s sight turned down an alley way and curled up against a pile of crates and started the arduous task of lulling to sleep on a hard dusty ground.


Khomag closed his eyes and breathed deep, enjoying the cool of the underground slave pens one last time. He stood on the platform that would raise him up through the floor of the Thunder Dome, and there he was certain he would face his death.

The Gnoll gladiator winced as he gingerly put some weight on his broken leg. The injury had been inflicted upon him last night by some of his master Skex’s thugs. Khomag had heard that some of the arena fights where rigged, but he didn’t care overmuch. He had consigned himself to death long ago, either by the fangs of some monstrous beast or on the weapon of some better foe.

He gripped the handle of his flail, the weapon that had always saved his life tightly. His razor-lined shield was held in his other hand, ready to tear into whatever horror waited to try and finish him off. Chains rattled and there was a loud groaning noise as the platform began to rise. Khomag looked up as the rays of the sun shined down to greet him like Valkyries from Valhalla. Despite himself, he smiled and raised his arms up as the roar of the crowd reached his ears.

The platform clanked into its position at the arena floor and Khomag was basked in the cheers of the Thunder Dome. All around him, sitting and hanging from the cage like structure where people cheering him on and chanting his name.


The Gnoll was looking back and forth nervously, thinking to himself “Great, she doesn’t understand the concept of being on time.”. As people of assorted races and bloodlines rushed into the bleacher seats and the less wealthy citizens that climbed on top and around the cage and clung onto it. Yyxle was about to turn around and head back, for he knew that no mater how much The White Skarr needed his help, he couldn’t do it alone.

“Hey!” called a familiar voice.

Yyxle turned to see Illijaz in elegant armor that he’d seen in one of his books on Niyyat culture. He immediately recognized it as dervish armor, but recognized that it was incomplete, still missing the right shoulder piece and the death mask. His surprise that he’d been assisted by a dervish, albeit a trainee, unfinished, he was more annoyed that the match was about to start and they couldn’t get good seats.

“I see you decided to show up. Not to sound rude, but what was the hold up?” Yyxle chided, to which Illijaz cavalierly replied “I had to ask for The Raven Queens blessings if we are to be successful. The ritual takes some time, and must be done with care, least I displease her.”. Yyxle made a curious face, but decided to continue on with the plan, handing her a leather tarp.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Use that to conceal the spell I’m going to use to cut through the cage.”
“Why don’t we just sneak in and bust him out?”
“Have you lost your baubles? There are at least fifty guards working around show time in the slave pens.”
“Then why did we come during show time?”

Yyxle turned and grinned to her, a glimpse of insanity in one eye, and genius in the other. “We’re going to bust him out during a fight, ’cause no one guards the doors then.”

As they grew closer to the coliseum, the roar of blood starved viewers and chanting of Skarr fans amassed to a cacophonous volume. Thundering applause battled baying shouts in an amazing display of violent death thirsting battle lust. The show was about to start, and almost half of the population of the town was clinging to the bars or lounging in box seats, people of many economic backgrounds, or blood ties, but all swept up in the wave of blood sport.

The Gnolls found perfect spots for their plan. It was near the top seats, at a spot that people usually avoided because of the wear and rust on the bars, and was scheduled for maintenance in a couple days. Yyxle discovered this while riffling though the coliseum documents on a “Routine Inspection of Assets”. They where settled into position and Illijaz ready to throw over the tarp at any second. As they got comfortable, down in the arena a black cloaked man cheerfully walked into the center of the arena, basking in the applause and praise. Yyxle immediately recognized him as “Smiley Sardon”, the owner of Thunder Dome. He had personally lead several inquiries as to missing persons and disappearances of animals with people accusing Smiley. He couldn’t find a drop of evidence, but he knew for a fact that even with his demonic contacts, he could not prove him of any crimes he did or didn’t commit. The man knew how to cover his tracks well.

Smiley took a break from his glory bathing, and gestured his hand requesting silence, almost instantly granted by the eager audience. He then began his speech that he presented on occasion. “Listen on! This is the truth of things. Fighting leads to killing and killing leads to warring and that, my children, was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up and everyone talking about hard rain. We’ve learned that when fighting gets to starting, it goes on in here, and it finishes here! Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves.” The crowd then quietly and without instruction repeated “Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves” as if all life within them had been sold to Smiley’s speech. Yyxle and Illijaz struggled to keep from droning it themselves.

Smiley grinned his wide mouth full of green teeth, proud with himself and the attention that he now commanded. He continued " And right now I’ve got one man and a beast his master has quarrel with. One of them with a gut full of fear, and the other a gut full of hunger. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, dying time’s here. Welcome the man, death with claws, you know him you love him, WHITE SKARR!!! And introducing the mean spirited krenshar from the dessert, with a maw dripping hate Shlagatha! Remember where you are. This is Thunder Dome. Death is listening, and she will answer whoever asks for her touch." He said while gesturing to a single guard armed with a crossbow in one of the viewing boxes wearing executioners garb. “LET THE DYING BEGIN!!!” He shouted throwing his arms up as if he was saved. Smiley then gleefully skittered out the arena, and soon joined Lord Skex in the Royal Suite who was attended by a harem of beautiful slave girls, feeding, or fanning his rotund body.

The Elevators on the dome floor chained up on opposite sides, revealing The White Skarr, and a rather large krenshar.


“Come on you over sized house cat. I would have been your daddy but Skex over there beat me over the fence!” Shouted Khomag to cheers from the crowed, roars from the Krenshar and an angry sneer from Skex. With a metallic snap the chain around the Krenshar’s collar was unhooked and the beast leaped forward at the Gnoll Gladiator.

The White Skarr grimaced as he braced himself for the beasts impact, bringing his heavy flail up ready to counterattack. He placed his foot behind him to steady himself, but the broken limb betrayed him and pain shot through his body. The Krenshar pounced knocking him to the ground, clawing and biting.

The crowed was stunned. Something was clearly wrong. How could their champion of hundreds of fights be brought low by a mere Krenshar? Yyxle, who had been watching the match with apprehension, noticed the caustic whispers of the crowed. An idea striking him, he shouted “Rigged fight!” and the cry was soon taken up by more and more people, shaking the cage violently in their anger. Lord Skex grimaced in his balcony at the nasty interruption to the show. “Quick, we have to do something! He’s getting mauled down there!” urged Illijaz. Yyxle nodded “Indeed, throw the tarp my dear.” Illijaz threw the leather tarp over them and Yyxle quickly went to work destroying the bars of the cage with his magic.

Down in the arena Khomag was pinned under the huge catlike creature, its skull-face gnawing into his armoured gauntlet while it tried to claw at his face. Khomag hissed in pain as one of the creatures long talons slashed the side of his face. Angered from the pain, he pushed up with all the strength he could muster, placing his razor shield under the beasts chest. Slowly he managed to force it up and with a mighty heave he threw the monster off of him. The Krenshar rolled up and hissed as the White Skarr got unsteadily to his feat, recovering the flail that had been knocked from his hands. The Krenshar’s face peeled back to reveal its skill and the monster roared, staggering the Gnoll and temporarily drowning out the catcalls of the spectators.

The two combatants where frozen there for a moment, sizing each other up after their brief but brutal skirmish. The pause was suddenly broken by a loud metallic groaning as a piece of the Thunder Domes cage fell away and smashed into the arena floor beside the two combatants.

Flames shooting down from his fists in an effort to slow his decent, Yyxle leaped down onto the arena with a mad glint in his eyes. He laughed in pleasure at first from the mad leap as the flames rocket down. Then, the flames suddenly extinguished. Yelling a curse to the gods, Yyxle plummeted the last few feet down to the arena, almost breaking his legs on the impact. Illijaz jumped down after him, gracefully landing on her feet braced with one hand. She had made the jump with complete ease and without any harm. With one fluid motion, she grasped three shuriken strapped to her armour and threw them at the Krenshar.

The Krenshar, Khomag and everyone watching where shocked into paralysis at the sudden intrusion into their duel. The shuriken whistled as they sliced into the air and then through krenshar flesh. The beast howled in pain and suddenly the world snapped back into focus. The crowed roared its approval and Lord Skex, who had been chewing on grapes, choked.

The Krenshar turned its pained gaze upon Illijaz and roared, the skin pealing back from its skull in a horrible display. With quick strides of its powerful legs it went for her. Flames suddenly leaped in front of the beast making it leap back in startled surprise. Yyxle smirked as he threw another fist full of flames at the beast, singing its fur as they sailed just a little to far above its hide. Cornered, the beast went into a frenzy and charged both of the Gnolls, clawing and biting. Yyxle and Illijaz moved away, throwing spells and daggers at the creature. It didnt notice the large shadow move in from behind it. Khomags flail smashed the creatures skull into the arena sands, splattering brains, blood and bone everywhere.

While the Gnolls dueled, sitting unnoticed on the benches observing the fight was the Elf Jossi with her feet propped out and enjoying some popcorn with no concern at all. She looked to her right at a cloaked person sitting beside her. “What do you think?” she ask him. There was no response, but Jossi raised her eyebrows and said “Alright, I’ll go get them.” before hopping up and heading down the stands.

There was silence as the fight suddenly ended, and then the crowed went wild. Yyxle noticed that the far gate to the Thunder Dome arena oppened slightly and he thought he saw the familiar form of Jossi beckoning for them. “Time to go.” he yelled over the crowed and went to Khomag, lifting one of his arms over his shoulder to help him get to the open gate faster.

The three Gnolls moved as fast as they could out of the arena, the shrill calls of Skex for guards hastening their pace. Sure enough, Jossi the Juggler was waiting for them outside the arena with another person, apparently a human dressed in desert attire. “Well you three have certainly caused quite the stir.” She said with a grin. “I have a safe place you can go until the heat dies down a bit.” She gestured to the man standing beside her. “He’ll guide you there. You better get going.” “Follow me.” Said the man before turning and walking down the street. Shrugging to each other, the Gnolls set off after him.

They followed the man through the abandoned streets of Hkokor, all the occupants having been away at the arena. They quickly reached one of the cities open gates and moved as quickly and inconspicuously as they could through it. Outside the city walls was a vast land of savanna, almost flat land as far as the eye could see. Only a few large rocks and a handful of trees broke up the stunning vista. “Quickly, we make for that rock.” said their guide, pointing at one of the massive rocks dotting the savanna.

The four of them walked under the hot sun, their guide first, then Illijaz and finnaly Khomag leaning on Yyxle for support on his broken leg.

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The Job of a Life Time

The hollowed rock where Josi told the motley group to meet had a smell of dry earth where no air would dare circulate without the motivation of sharp wind. Thieves would meet here for centuries to divide the spoils of their conquests and congregate for merrymaking, but now the Dagger of the Dunes owned it as a store house. The three gnolls felt like the property of Josi now, among glimmering trinkets and shimmering treasure acquired by her gang.

The fourth gnoll who was now sitting with them, was a pilgrim deciple of the Raven Queen named Zkath Ram’nahs. He held a massive hammer carrying the likeness of a crows beak on the sharp end and a mural of the Raven Queen on the flat, smashing end. He had simple regalia of the traditional Ohnayga priest. He saved the group while in transit to the rock from a roving band of zombies, through unleashing his holy wrath. He said that he was amazed that zombies where this far east and figured to stick with the group for their safety, but he was actually thankful to find some kinsmen that where not ravening wild-eyed marauders.

The lithe figure of Jossie appeared at the doorway. “Well, what a rush,” she breathed “Good to see my favorite scoundrels still alive.” As Illijaz’ eyes lit up with the prospect of her first step to the road to being a hired assassin, Yyxles face twisted to a shape of unadulterated fury for he valued his position in their society, which was now sullied to his status as a known and infamous wizard.

“Well it’s a miracle we still draw breath. I’ve risked my neck for an angsting has-been, and for what? I’m public enemy number one! The ganglords will have my neck…”
“Yes, your precious little neck. You’re always so good at looking out for number one aren’t you? It wasn’t my fault Skex was there, it wasn’t my fault it wasn’t in and out like planed.” Jossie said with apathetic breeze, picking dirt out from under her perfectly manicured nails.

It occurred to Yyxle that everything that Jossie did and said was deliberate, that everything she said would be taken by others the way she meant it to be. That everything was her doing,
even if she said it wasn’t. It was even her will that he make this revelation. With Jossie, there are no accidents.

“It has come to my attention, that there is a person within the walls of Hkokor, whom is willing to fix all of your problems, and make you very rich…” Jossie paused, looked from the hulking White Skarr to the comparatively petite Illijaz. “people.”


“What a day.” Illijaz thought was starting to reconsider he career choice. She thought maybe she could get a job with a caravan, working at a bazaar, or even marry a wealthy merchant and live a somewhat simple life, like what society viewed women. But then again, she didn’t give a damn about what society saw as what a woman should be. But this could be a bit to much. She was being smuggled into the city like some contraband drug. She was under a tarp with the other two fugitive gnolls, into the city where they would face the death penalty. The small (relatively)
spotted one was shaking nervously, eyes twitching tail whipping back and fourth, while the larger one was calm and collect, lying still on the cart on the verge of sleep. “Great warrior my ass.” she thought.

The cart was being pulled by the large, grey-furred priest, who was being led by a very enthusiastic Jossie, happy to collect the “finders fee” she was singing to herself about. The cart would bump and weave, the nervous chatter of the citizens of Hkokor could be heard whispering about savage killers loose as armored guards rushed here and there looking for signs of escape. Even from under the tarp, Illijaz could smell the roasting food from the various merchants intermingled with the dung of various beasts of burden.

Eventually they came to the upper class part of the city, with low hanging gardens, rough fabrics with vibrant dyes to create a myriad of shaded effects cast on the ground. Though the streets where almost vacant, the group got more than a few confused looks, but no matter, they where almost at their destination.

They came to a massive palace, that when seen from inside its high gate seemed it might encompass the entirety of the city in its size. Illijaz hadn’t seen anything like it. How could anyone afford to live in a hollow mountain of brick and stone like this? When the four gnolls
got to the door accompanied by Jossie, who knocked in a rhythmic pattern that might have been a code or just Jossie being Jossie, where met with a well dressed servant who was so shocked to see four mounds of furry flesh and muscle bristling with weapons and armour, that he dropped his plate carrying some food or another. “We’ll just let ourselves in. Your master wants to see us anyway.” The astonished servant blew to the side like a saloon door with the look of shocked death on his face. The priest came in glancing toward the sky first, with the largest one blinking several times, and then stammering inside, for he had never been allowed in anything that didn’t contain shackles. The spotted one looked at the shattered porcelain and smeared food on the floor and casually informed the servant “You should clean this up you know.” before galloping along after the others with a smirk on his muzzle. Illijaz did a crude curtsy and said “Sorry” before catching up with the others.

She had never seen a place this big. The entrance parlor alone was three times the size of The Stumbling Camel. The furnishings where made of drift wood from the southern sea, and beautiful and vibrant plants from the north mountains in eloquently detailed pottery. Before she could see anymore of the house, they where led down a secret passage from behind the crawlspace under the double stairs. The passage held cold stone steps as the scent of a tomb creeped up from the dark depth, it seemed like it would go down into infinity, to the darkest depths. After what seemed like half a mile of hiking down the vault stairs, they saw a small candle light in a chilly room. When they entered they saw a chamber of books, towering high and far, so many books that they didn’t know what the walls looked like, only that the roof was low hanging for a gnoll and had very small stalactites of where the paint had dripped down while being dried.

At the edge of the hall, there sat a desk with an open book and an unoccupied chair. The glow
came from a candle entering its twilight as it had grown short and melted into a puddle of
liquid bone white colored wax. “Strange,” thought Illijaz “It’s as if the light was meant for us. The book is too far away from its fixed position on the opposite side of the room.”. She noticed this because of her training that earned her the back of her torso armour, The Test of The Paranoid, which taught to always suspect danger. But no amount of training could have prepared her to know there was a cloaked man behind her until he said “Greetings friends”.

To this the four gnolls and even Jossie turned to such a fright, that it rivaled that of the poor, unfortunate door man. He was in elegant yet simple robes with a hood which he did not wear now. On his left hand he had a sigil ring depicting a coiling serpentine beast. He was bald with dark, almost black eyes and skin so pale if could pass for sculpted dust. Although not a wrinkle beset his face, you could tell his years where upon him. Despite his somewhat frighting appearance he held a smile and seemed rather pleasant. Upon recognizing him, Jossie shifted from being startled to pleased, bowing graciously to greet her host.

“You might not know me, but I certainly know you all. You are all fitted to an expedition I’m
setting up, should you choose to accept, that will make you rich beyond all imagining.” Said
the Pale Man in a soft tone, one step above whispering. “There is an item of great worth to me, it lies in the ruins several clicks south east of Bast.”

To the uttering of the last word, Illijaz herd Yyxle utter a small cry, as all blood and courage drained from his face, and his knees began to buckle as the now shatered gnoll started slowly to edge out of the room. Illijaz thought “Not a moment ago this brash young boar was leting loose boastfull talks that had real merrit, as of just yesterday, he dove headfirst into an arena with a bloodthirsty beast to save another he didn’t even know. Now he’s gelatin. Where
is this Bast? What is it? By the Dark Maiden, do I even want to know?”

“Master Sorcerer, what makes you fret so?” the Pale Man weezed. “Four champions of such mastery and glamerous majesty such as yourselves. Nothing can stand in the way of the Gods of Battle.”

Yyxles face scrunched into the expresion of scepticism. “Look, I’m flatered, we all are but we are no gods. We are a slave, a savage, an atorney and…” glancing over to the grey pilgrim
he blinked twice and thought before stamering, “and a whatever. No mortal could trumph the horrors that skitter, glide and stalk there. Bask is Abyss on Eaden. I’d face the cold stockades before what madness awaits us there.” The Pale Man stroaked this chin and thought for a second. “Ah, so you knew that going there is a death sentence.” Illijaz said with contempt, thinking to herself that for once, the cynisism of another has saved her life and that she can just leave right now and get on with her life. But what would that mean? To pop kegs and serve mugs of thick caustic ale to whiskered slobs, pawwing her with their sleazed gaze? No.

“I’m in.” said she, turning to The White Skarr, knowing that he owes her his life. The large gnoll grunted and nodded his head, as the grey pilgrim agreed to acompany them, as it was part of his pilgrimage to vanquish evil where he could find it. “I could make all your problems vanish, all those who witnessed your talents will forget it even happened. Not to mention the enormous sum that I am prepared to pay you, complete with more than humble lodgings within Hkokor” the pale man assured the spotted gnoll. Yyxle looked at his companions. Without them to protect him, he would be at the mercy of bounty hunters, and without his help, they would be in worse danger than ever. “I will come along on one condition…” he said as a look of overconfidence came over his face, “that I am named leader of this expedition.” giving a vain smirk of conceit.


As the pack of gnolls, under the title “The Cipped Fang Adventure Guild”, to avoid suspision. The pale man told them little of their goal. All they know, is that it lies in a tomb, in the ruined city of Nifas. He said that they would know it when they see it.

They purchased five camels that held enough food for ten days of travel, and Yyxle’s implements of navigation. The gnolls adopted clothing suitable for traversing the searing heat of the dune sea. The fist day of travel was fairly uneventful, as they only touched the outside of the desert. When they rested for camp, Zkath began his prayer as he always did when the sun first touched the horizon, and Illijaz would sneak extra rations of wine, and Yyxle would teach Khomag how to read and write Wayhnee, the common script.

The next day a sandstorm of strange behavior whipped up, instead of going west, further away from the grasslands, it followed them south, and slowest down, and sped up according, staying just behind them, which worried them. When they made camp on the second day, Khomag kept whatch and just as he was about to doze off to sleep, he herd a blood curdling moan as one of the camels is lifted thirty feet in the air as a sandy gust of wind spirits it into the churning, wall of billowing sand, where crunching of bone and tearing of flesh could be heard, beyond what the eye could see.

The next morning, while the group was traveling, another cammel was dragged away, this time, by a tendril of sand, as if the thing that had been stalking them had grown stronger. They now had only six days of five days of food left and where one day from their destination, and knew they couldn’t afford to lose one more camel. “We must meet this unholy thing on its ground” suggested Zkath, twirling his mace, ready for action. “And end up like one of those beasts? The thing is made of sand and wind I recon, and that wall is sand and wind. It’s suicide to rush in, knives glinting.” Illijaz pointed. They looked to Khomag, who shrugged and said “let’s bring the bastard to us.”

Yyxle clenched his fist and shot a triffle of energy into the wall, as it groaned and condenced into a semi-humanoid form, with its legs blending into the sand floor, like a tree trunk. The thing had claws that seemed to drip with chunks of bloody sand. It was a sand horror, a malevolent spirit that haunted ground where significant amounts of bloodshed happened. The thing snarled and howled like a ravenous beast, thirsting for death.

Illijaz led the attack,tossing shurikens that where immediately shot back as the thing consumed them into it’s body. She narrowly dodged them, bewildered. Khomag stepped up, swinging his massive flail at the monster, splitting it in half, only to condense behind him, pushing him off his feet, and on his face. Yyxle tackled the gritty mass out of panic, and was grabed and thrown by a fist of salt, landing next to Khomag, half concous. Zkath whispered a holy prayer, illuminating his maul with holy energy, taking a mighty swing at the creature with a valiant roar, but only for his hammer to pass harmlessly through it. The sand spirit spit some dirt in his face, filling his mouth and eyes.

Yyxle climbed to his feet, filled with hate for the thing. It was toting with them. “Enough.” he muttered as he shot a lance of fire down the center of the monster, turning the sand shot with white hot fire to glass, malformed and amorphous. Khomag whitnessing this, jumped upon it, slicing at the glassy pillar in the center of the monster to shards with the razor tips of his shield. The thing wheelies as half of its body mass lay beyond it’s control, in an unmanageable form. Illijaz tossed her long noose round the things flailing arm and with a firm tug, ripped it from the main mass. The writhing thing, now struggling to keep it’s shape,trying to drag itself away, only to look upon the grey pilgrims feet. As the thing looked up in terror, as the golden meteor of his hammer rocketed down onto it’s head, and was finally obliterated.

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