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The Littlest Kobold, Read Along – Part Four

We’ve reached the penultimate part of The Littlest Kobold.  Keep those comments coming.  Enjoy!

 

The Littlest Kobold
A Story by Michael DeAngelo
-Part Four-
Narrated by Cristina Cruz

 

“Now, you remember what to do, right?” Virgil asked.

“I think we can handle running through the woods, Dad,” Jerrick was quick to reply.  Rion just nodded with an eager grin upon his face.

Standing once more, Virgil tousled his youngest son’s hair.  “Don’t forget:  Those can’t leave your feet,” he said, pointing at Leah’s torn up outfits tied around his son’s ankles.  “We’re counting on them to distract the dog from her scent.”

Jerrick sighed but finally nodded.  “Come on, Squirt.  This’ll be just like hide and seek, but let’s try and win this time.”

As his sons took their leave, Virgil turned back to the kobold’s room, where Camille and Abraham carefully shorn through Leah’s blanket.  The Hare paced on the far side of the room, chewing on her pointed nails.

“Let’s get this reverse kidnapping started,” Virgil said.  “What’s the plan?”

Abraham’s eyes lit up, and he rose to his feet.  “You mean you don’t have a plan?”

“I have the plan,” Camille insisted.  “Like always.  Papa, we can’t let Leah walk on the ground or else the dog can track her.  So we’re going to make her a sling like Kira has.”

The kobold snarled in protest, cocking her head to the side.  “You can’t seriously expect me to lie in that thing like a baby.”

“It’s the only way to get you out of here in secrecy,” the young lady insisted.  “We can’t very well go around with you upon my father’s shoulder.”

Clearing his throat, Virgil took a step forward.  “As tempted as I am to let this conversation continue, I really do think we should move along with this escape.  Let’s make the sling and get out of here.”

Camille nodded and enlisted her brother to help fashion the looping blanket.  In only a short while, they had crafted the thing and were ready to try it out.

“All right, Papa.  Here.”  Together, the siblings placed the sling over Virgil’s head, strapping it across his chest.  They tugged on it, assuring it was secure.  At that, Camille turned to Leah.  “Are you ready?”

With a sigh that shook her whiskers, the kobold nodded.  “Let’s get this over with,” she said, raising her arms.

Camille picked her up and placed her in the sling, allowing the kobold to wriggle until she found an agreeable position.  Both children looked at her when she furled her brow, staring off at some indiscriminate part of the room.  “What’s wrong?” the young lady asked.

Leah hesitated; she brought her gaze to Camille’s again only when she was sure of herself.  “This is actually very comfortable.”

With a snicker, the young lady helped her brother drape their father’s cloak over his shoulder, covering the tiny kobold.  When she was well hidden, Virgil blew out a sigh and nodded to his son and daughter.

They stepped from Leah’s room, the kobold huddled close to her rescuer’s chest.  As they took to the dirt-floored halls, Camille often found herself looking back.  She saw there the same look she always saw upon her father’s face: fearlessness.  If Virgil carried any sort of anxiety, it certainly didn’t show.

As they made their way out into the light of day, a new sense of purpose washed over them.  They turned abruptly from the path, heading away from their camp.  Their aim was Aspica, the city of the bay.

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

Together, the trio scrambled up the hill.  Though Leah did not weigh much, Virgil worked at steadying her, and without his hands providing balance, the ascent was treacherous.  Camille led the way while Abraham brought up the rear, offering a hand on his father’s back.  When they finally rose over the final slope, they were captured by the sight of the city below on the other side.

Aspica was one of the better hidden jewels among Daltain’s cities.  It hadn’t succumbed much to industry, only a small harbor on its south side, far from where shops and homes pointed toward the water.  Likewise, only one road entered the city along the northeast.  A farm there was perhaps the most urban looking plot, for all along the western side of the road, a simple fence stretched on for what seemed like a mile.  The sun shed its midday light upon the city.

A voice resonated about the area, carrying so loudly across the wind that Camille was sure sailors could hear it out at sea.

“Find her!” the voice boomed.  “I don’t care how far you have to travel or how long it takes.  Bring me the Hare.”

They knew it was Faroon who spoke, but it was as if he was right beside them.  A glance back down the hill was all they needed to witness the folks pouring out of the circus tent.  That canvas seemed darker, as though the clouds had taken root in the sky above it.

Virgil lifted the sling over his shoulder, much to the dismay of the kobold inside.

“Hey, hey!  What are you doing?” Leah snarled, almost falling out of the carrier.

The Destrite patriarch situated the sling over his daughter’s shoulder instead.  “I thought we’d have more time before they noticed you were missing,” he said.  “I’d like to think Jerrick and Rion found a way to escape to safety, but I can’t take that risk.”

“So what do we do, Papa?” Camille asked.

Once the carrier was safely secured across Camille’s chest, Virgil tugged a pouch away from his belt.  The contents clinked together, and he handed it to Abraham.  “I’m going to go back to camp and find your brothers.  Once they’re safe, we’ll take the carriage into town and pick you up.  Use some gold to stay hidden.  Rent a room at an inn, charter a ship for a few hours.  Whatever it takes.”

“Won’t Mama be mad if we spend all the money?” Abraham asked.

Virgil blew out an exasperated sigh.  “Try not to spend all of it, please.  I’ll explain the situation to your mother.  She’ll understand.”  Both of his children nodded, remaining silent.  “Well?  Go on,” he bade.

Turning on her heel, Camille began the descent, hugging Leah against her chest.  There was no cloak disguising the kobold then.  Their only hope in keeping her hidden was a quick escape.  Abraham held his sister’s arm and led her down the hill.

Camille shivered away the autumn air, the planks beneath her creaking and bobbing.  The bay was still, save for the gentle ebb and flow of the water against the wooden pier.  Leah was still, too, only her shallow breaths reminding the young lady she was still within the sling.

Beneath her boots, she felt the subtle thrum.  As Abraham drew nearer with hasty steps, the entire pier shook.

“Still nothing?” he asked.

Camille shook her head.  “I haven’t seen a single boat out there.  Where would they all be?”  She let her words trail off into nothingness, shaking it from her head.  “Any luck on your end?” she asked, turning to face her brother.

He gave a slight bow.  “Afraid not.  Nobody is home.  Or nobody is answering.”

“It’s like we’ve come to a ghost town.  Where is everyone?”

“You should just leave me here,” a quiet voice spoke out.  Leah rolled in the sling until she could peer out to the water.  “I’m a good swimmer… I think.  I’ll paddle over to the other shore.  They might not be able to pick up my scent.”

Camille was already shaking her head.  “No.  We told you we’d get you to safety, and we will.  I’m not going to throw you into the bay just because it’s our most convenient option.  Come on, Abraham.  We’ll figure something out.”

The siblings made their way from the pier, landing upon the uneven stone street.  One by one, they knocked on doors and windows, but just as Abraham had said, nobody answered.  A quiet sigh shook the young lady as she rejoined her brother.

“It’s like you said.  Nobody is here.”

“So what do we do?” Abraham asked.

“If we can’t find anything…” Camille started to say.  “Nobody is here.  Nobody to take issue with us borrowing their house for a few hours.  Don’t bother knocking anymore.  Try all the doors.”

Abraham swallowed hard but nodded his consent.  As they rounded the bend, though, he stopped.  Camille followed her brother’s gaze and noticed the lantern light that swung about one of the northern buildings.

“That wasn’t on earlier, I’m sure of it,” he said.

“Let’s go.  Maybe we can hide out in there,” she replied.

When they arrived at that building, they could see the picture window had been illuminated as well.  A trio of children’s dolls had taken up residence there, varying in their presentation.  The outer ones were stuffed, knit things, but the center was a porcelain doll that could easily have been mistaken for a small child if it wasn’t so still.  Camille knocked, and when she didn’t hear an answer, she pushed her way inside.

As the door swung open, a line of brass bells cascaded up and over, reporting a joyous little melody.  Both children and the kobold could hear the footsteps leading their way.

“Alexander?” they heard.  A woman came into view and cast a glance at her visitors.  She adjusted her glasses then and swept her dark hair out of her face.  “You’re not Alexander.”

“Apologies, ma’am,” Abraham said, drawing forth a furled brow from the woman.  “Miss,” he corrected.

“We saw the light on, and we thought you might be open,” his sister added.  “Everyone else is gone, though.  What’s going on in this town?”

The woman chortled and looked away.  “Come in and take a seat.  No sense telling you about it in the doorway.”  She led them inside.  Her shop would have been spacious, but rows of shelves made it quite cramped, except for the counter she had among the rear wall.  It was almost situated like the bar of a tavern, with a trio of stools at its front.  The owner made her way around while she offered seats to her guests.

“I should tell you, stories don’t come for free,” she said, drawing incredulous gazes from the children.  With a smile stretching her lips, she continued, “I’ll settle for your names.”

“I’m Camille,” the young lady said as she took her spot upon the stool.  She extended her arm, but as she sat upon the cushion, Leah rolled forward.  Camille drew her hand back and grasped the sling.

“A-and I’m Abraham,” her brother interjected.

The woman arched an eyebrow but shook the boy’s hand.  As she fell back upon her heels, she placed her hands on the counter.  “My name’s Gwendolyn, but you can call me Gwenna if it suits you.”  She sighed and leaned back.  “So no doubt you two just came from the circus.”

Camille froze for a moment but blinked away the tension.  “What makes you say that?”

With a shrug, Gwendolyn gazed past the children, peering down the aisles of the shop to the picture window.  The sun was beginning to set, leaving a shadow stretching from the glass.  “For starters, there’s nothing to do here besides see the town if the circus isn’t here.  And you wouldn’t be in town alone if it wasn’t the circus you’d come here for.

“Anyway, with that particular circus, you’ll rarely get both of us.  The town doesn’t think too highly of the Cirque de Malorum.”

“Why is that?” Camille asked.

“Well, Aspica is a friend of many people, from the dwarves in the mountains to the werewolves of the Grey Isle.  But the Cirque de Malorum, they’re not kind to anyone who doesn’t have coin to spare – or to earn for them.  And don’t even get me started on the way they treat their animals.

“From what I hear,” she continued, “things haven’t improved much.  So rather than show our support, when they show up in the forest up there, we disappear until they leave.  Once, we thought maybe they’d stop coming, but it seems it’s too queer a sight to pass up.”

“Well, I doubt anyone there today will ever return,” Abraham said.

“And why’s that?” the owner wondered.

Camille pressed out a nervous sigh and reached down.  “Gwenna, please tell me you can keep a secret.”  She didn’t wait to hear an answer before she presented the tiny kobold upon her lap.

The Littlest Kobold, Read Along – Part One

Hey there everyone!  Way back in February of 2015, we featured a story called The Littlest Kobold on this site.  Since then, some pretty big things have happened for Tellest.  We’ve begun selling audiobooks, the titular kobold, Leah, became an upcoming card game character, and we’ve made a bunch of new friends.

One of those new friends is Cristina Cruz, an aspiring voice actress. We’re collaborating with Cristina in order to give her some practice, and we thought we’d bring her to you in order to get her some exposure, and any constructive critiques you might care to offer.

We’re going to be posting The Littlest Kobold once more, only this time, you get to read along with Cristina as she narrates.  If you have anything you’d like to suggest to Miss Cruz in order to help her hone her craft, please leave a post in the comment section.  Big thanks to Cristina for offering her talents here!

 

The Littlest Kobold
A Story by Michael DeAngelo
-Part One-
Narrated by Cristina Cruz

 

In the fading evening light, the forest had taken on a golden tint.  Fallen leaves were scattered everywhere, and the branches above were bare.  Autumn was a beautiful time in Daltain, but it was also a reminder of the harsh winter to come.

For the littlest kobold, it was a reminder of the crunch of leaves beneath a hasty retreat.  Panting excessively, she braced herself on the nearest tree, her furry hand cracked from running on all fours.  She looked around to collect her bearings, but she knew better than most that the unfamiliar territory would offer her no sanctuary.

The howl of the hunting dog echoed through the forest.  Despite the terror washing over her tiny body, the kobold couldn’t stifle a nervous laugh.  What kind of kobold was chased by a dog?

“We’ll find you, Hare!” a voice in the distance called out.

“Better to show yourself now and be done with it,” came another, warmer voice.

Shaking her head, the tiny kobold took one last breath and charged forward.  That time she ran on her back legs.  Her pursuers had not been dissuaded by her simple trick.

Brown and orange leaves were scattered this way and that, and her tracks would mean nothing to the hunting dog in the far reaches of the forest, though her large triangular ears caught the sound of a stream.  The water could easily disguise her scent.

She would be home in Warus before she knew it.

The kobold leaned forward and bent low, charging ahead as fast as her little legs could carry her.  That rush of adrenaline was all for naught, she realized, the moment she stepped on the hidden bramble.

A burst of pain surged up her leg, eliciting a yelp she couldn’t stifle.  The agony sent her tumbling to the ground, crashing down among the leaves.  The dog barked at the sound of her cry, and she knew there was not much time.  Climbing to her feet once more, the kobold began forward.

She was promptly upon the ground again, wincing away the pain in her right foot.  Hushing a growl, she lifted her foot and gazed upon it.  Between the padding just before her toes, a massive thorn was securely embedded and just out of reach for a simple extraction.

The light trickle of the stream sounded so close, but the kobold knew it to be out of reach.  Even if she crawled, the dog and its master would outpace her.

“Come out, come out, Hare!” she heard.

Gulping a large pocket of air, the littlest kobold skittered toward the nearest tree.  There, she lay on her back and gathered up piles of leaves until she was covered.  Sifting through the pile, she made sure even her snout was hidden.  She held her breath then, steadying herself in the darkness.

The next few minutes felt like hours.  The nearby fauna had stopped chattering, only the sounds of rustling retreats echoing out in the woods.

When the kobold heard the dog’s growl, she knew it to be right beside her.  She nearly flinched in terror but somehow kept her composure, even as the scent of the dog’s hot breath permeated the leaves above her nose.

A snicker rose into the air beyond the dog.  “Hold ‘im, will ya?” one of the men said.

Several moments later, the leaves were swept away from the kobold’s face.  She stared at her pursuer, frozen by fear.  He let a wry grin stretch his lips, showing two rows of crooked teeth.

She swallowed hard and sat up.  “If you’re looking for the kobold, I think she went that way,” she said, pointing toward the stream.  At that, she gathered up the leaves and spread them upon herself once more.

Before she was able to cover herself completely, the two men were already chuckling.  The closer one bent down and snatched her by the collar of her vest.  “Come on, Hare, back to the circus with you.”

She could offer little resistance, allowing her head to bow and her body to go limp.  Her lips parted for a moment, but she could not find the sentiment she wished to impart.

“Oi, what were ye gonna say?” the other man asked.

A brief pause had silence passing in the forest.  She finally looked up, her brow furled.  “My name is Leah, and I’m a kobold.”

“Aye, little one,” the man holding her said.  He lifted her up and sat her upon his shoulder.

The other one tapped his dog on the rump and started away.  “But to us, ye’ll always be the Hare.”

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

The scent of breakfast sausages and toasting bread pressed through the cloth tent.  Camille Destrite was sitting up before she woke.  As her eyes fluttered open, that delicious aroma was the only thing she could think of.  She was sure it was powerful enough to rise over the hills to the northeast.

Stepping out of the tent, she understood she was not the only one awake at that hour.  The two eldest of her brothers, Jerrick and Abraham, sat upon rocks that circled the cooking fire, eagerly awaiting their meal.  Leaning up against their wagon, her father, Virgil, was occupied by her one-year-old sister, Kira.  Free of the burden, her mother, Nika, prepared a hearty breakfast for her family.

The only one not in attendance was her youngest brother, Rion.

“Nice of you to join us, Camille,” her mother playfully jabbed.

“Good morning, Mother,” she returned, a sweet smile upon her face.  She reached out, trying to snag a sizzling link of sausage from the pan.

A gentle pivot had Nika away from her daughter.  “Oh, no.  You’ve already got two strikes against you.  You’re the oldest, and you slept the longest – right through your chores.  These boys have waited all morning.  If you want to eat, you’ll have to help.”

“Papa,” Camille said.

Virgil stepped forward, away from the carriage, with a smile on his face.  Nika was quick to turn and face her husband, a challenging stare pointed in his direction.  Tightening his grip on young Kira, he fell back against their wagon.  “Do as your mother says,” he bade.

Their eldest child blew out a quick, shallow sigh, and her shoulders slumped.  “What should I do?” she asked.

“For starters, you can go and get your brother,” Nika said.  “He’s been just over that ridge all morning, up before any of us.  When you bring him back, you can both eat.”

Stifling a groan, Camille took her leave, abandoning the hypnotizing smell that lingered in her nostrils.  She made quick work of ascending the hill and reached the ridge Nika had told her of.  The trees were densely packed there, shedding their leaves before winter arrived.  If they had been farther south, the heat would have kept them green and in place all year.

As Camille crunched forward, she rose over the final expanse.  In the distance, she saw the massive yellow and red tent at the base of the hill, just beyond the outskirts of Aspica.  The circus arrived in the fall, and her father had promised his children for years they would one day visit.

Camille stood in awe for a moment, for the circus tent stretched farther than she imagined.

“Cami?”

She drew her gaze from the magnificent circus tent and looked to her side.  Rion sat there upon a pile of rocks, his knees pulled up to his chest.  He faced the tent as well but remained focused on his sister once she arrived.

“What are you doing all alone out here?” she asked, approaching her younger sibling.  “Mama made breakfast.  Can’t you smell it?”

Rion swallowed hard and looked away.  “If I don’t eat, maybe I don’t have to go.”

“To the circus?” Camille asked with arched eyebrows.  “Why wouldn’t you want to go there?  Don’t you know that’s the whole reason we came all this way?  It’s why Papa rented the carriage and put Theodore in charge of the store and –”

“I’m scared,” he interjected, releasing the tight grip on his legs.  He slid off the rock and stepped toward the edge of the ridge, looking past the trees at the huge canvas tent.

Camille sat beside him a moment later.  “I think you’re braver than you realize.  And you know Jerrick and I were only teasing.  If they do have a gryphon, I doubt they’d let it swoop down and eat children your age.  Now, Kira on the other hand…”

A smile reached Rion’s face.  “It’s not that.  I –”

“And if you’re worried about the elephants, I’m sure they’re an especially docile bunch.  They want to keep their customers coming back, so they won’t allow a stampede.”

“I’m not scared of elephants, Cami.”

“Then what has you so frightened you would willingly avoid breakfast?  Mama is cooking up sausage down there!”

Rion swallowed hard and turned to his sister.  “There are clowns at the circus.”

Staring at him for a moment, Camille crooked her neck as if to see the madness in her brother’s mind.  “Yes, that is usually the case.”

“I don’t think I like clowns,” he said.

Camille sucked in her lips and clasped them together.  Despite that, a smile still started to stretch the corners of her mouth.  She did her best to stifle a chortle, but when that failed, she turned away from her brother.

“It isn’t funny,” Rion asserted.

Steadying herself, she pivoted on her heel and looked upon her sibling once more.  “No, it isn’t.  We have a real dilemma here.”  A laugh burst out of her as her inflection rose.  She covered her face in a futile attempt to shroud her reaction, but Rion stormed off, stomping down the hill toward their campsite.  Camille righted herself and caught up to him, grabbing his shoulder.  “You don’t have anything to worry about,” she promised, sincerity overwhelming in her tone.  “The clowns aren’t there to hurt or scare you, and if any of them did, just know I’d punch them in their foolish faces.”

Her little brother wrapped his arms around her waist, squeezing her in a tight embrace.  She tousled his hair and urged him on, continuing his return to the campsite.  With a bright smile stretching her lips, she turned once more to see the sprawling circus tent in the valley below.

Camille clapped her hands together and followed Rion back to their family.

The Littlest Kobold – Part One

Hello friends of Tellest!  Today, we’ve got a surprise for you in the form of a quirky new tale from our world.  The Littlest Kobold was the story that was written for our highest pledge on Kickstarter last year.  It’s taken a lot of fine-tuning, and you’ll likely notice that it’s much more child friendly and whimsical than a good deal of the things that I write.  Still, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that everything that happens on Tellest is dark and brooding.  Sometimes the tales that are told are just a bit brighter, just a smaller sample of the epic saga that is unfolding.

That said, it is a slightly longer short than that which you may have seen from me lately, so this will be our featured story for the next several weeks.  We’ll start you off with two of our main characters below.  I really hope you enjoy it!

 

 

The Littlest Kobold
-Part One-

 

In the fading evening light, the forest had taken on a golden tint.  Fallen leaves were scattered everywhere, and the branches above were bare.  Autumn was a beautiful time in Daltain, but it was also a reminder of the harsh winter to come.

For the littlest kobold, it was a reminder of the crunch of leaves beneath a hasty retreat.  Panting excessively, she braced herself on the nearest tree, her furry hand cracked from running on all fours.  She looked around to collect her bearings, but she knew better than most that the unfamiliar territory would offer her no sanctuary.

The howl of the hunting dog echoed through the forest.  Despite the terror washing over her tiny body, the kobold couldn’t stifle a nervous laugh.  What kind of kobold was chased by a dog?

“We’ll find you, Hare!” a voice in the distance called out.

“Better to show yourself now and be done with it,” came another, warmer voice.

Shaking her head, the tiny kobold took one last breath and charged forward.  That time she ran on her back legs.  Her pursuers had not been dissuaded by her simple trick.

Brown and orange leaves were scattered this way and that, and her tracks would mean nothing to the hunting dog in the far reaches of the forest, though her large triangular ears caught the sound of a stream.  The water could easily disguise her scent.

She would be home in Warus before she knew it.

The kobold leaned forward and bent low, charging ahead as fast as her little legs could carry her.  That rush of adrenaline was all for naught, she realized, the moment she stepped on the hidden bramble.

A burst of pain surged up her leg, eliciting a yelp she couldn’t stifle.  The agony sent her tumbling to the ground, crashing down among the leaves.  The dog barked at the sound of her cry, and she knew there was not much time.  Climbing to her feet once more, the kobold began forward.

She was promptly upon the ground again, wincing away the pain in her right foot.  Hushing a growl, she lifted her foot and gazed upon it.  Between the padding just before her toes, a massive thorn was securely embedded and just out of reach for a simple extraction.

The light trickle of the stream sounded so close, but the kobold knew it to be out of reach.  Even if she crawled, the dog and its master would outpace her.

“Come out, come out, Hare!” she heard.

Gulping a large pocket of air, the littlest kobold skittered toward the nearest tree.  There, she lay on her back and gathered up piles of leaves until she was covered.  Sifting through the pile, she made sure even her snout was hidden.  She held her breath then, steadying herself in the darkness.

The next few minutes felt like hours.  The nearby fauna had stopped chattering, only the sounds of rustling retreats echoing out in the woods.

When the kobold heard the dog’s growl, she knew it to be right beside her.  She nearly flinched in terror but somehow kept her composure, even as the scent of the dog’s hot breath permeated the leaves above her nose.

A snicker rose into the air beyond the dog.  “Hold ‘im, will ya?” one of the men said.

Several moments later, the leaves were swept away from the kobold’s face.  She stared at her pursuer, frozen by fear.  He let a wry grin stretch his lips, showing two rows of crooked teeth.

She swallowed hard and sat up.  “If you’re looking for the kobold, I think she went that way,” she said, pointing toward the stream.  At that, she gathered up the leaves and spread them upon herself once more.

Before she was able to cover herself completely, the two men were already chuckling.  The closer one bent down and snatched her by the collar of her vest.  “Come on, Hare, back to the circus with you.”

She could offer little resistance, allowing her head to bow and her body to go limp.  Her lips parted for a moment, but she could not find the sentiment she wished to impart.

“Oi, what were ye gonna say?” the other man asked.

A brief pause had silence passing in the forest.  She finally looked up, her brow furled.  “My name is Leah, and I’m a kobold.”

“Aye, little one,” the man holding her said.  He lifted her up and sat her upon his shoulder.

The other one tapped his dog on the rump and started away.  “But to us, ye’ll always be the Hare.”

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

The scent of breakfast sausages and toasting bread pressed through the cloth tent.  Camille Destrite was sitting up before she woke.  As her eyes fluttered open, that delicious aroma was the only thing she could think of.  She was sure it was powerful enough to rise over the hills to the northeast.

Stepping out of the tent, she understood she was not the only one awake at that hour.  The two eldest of her brothers, Jerrick and Abraham, sat upon rocks that circled the cooking fire, eagerly awaiting their meal.  Leaning up against their wagon, her father, Virgil, was occupied by her one-year-old sister, Kira.  Free of the burden, her mother, Nika, prepared a hearty breakfast for her family.

The only one not in attendance was her youngest brother, Rion.

“Nice of you to join us, Camille,” her mother playfully jabbed.

“Good morning, Mother,” she returned, a sweet smile upon her face.  She reached out, trying to snag a sizzling link of sausage from the pan.

A gentle pivot had Nika away from her daughter.  “Oh, no.  You’ve already got two strikes against you.  You’re the oldest, and you slept the longest – right through your chores.  These boys have waited all morning.  If you want to eat, you’ll have to help.”

“Papa,” Camille said.

Virgil stepped forward, away from the carriage, with a smile on his face.  Nika was quick to turn and face her husband, a challenging stare pointed in his direction.  Tightening his grip on young Kira, he fell back against their wagon.  “Do as your mother says,” he bade.

Their eldest child blew out a quick, shallow sigh, and her shoulders slumped.  “What should I do?” she asked.

“For starters, you can go and get your brother,” Nika said.  “He’s been just over that ridge all morning, up before any of us.  When you bring him back, you can both eat.”

Stifling a groan, Camille took her leave, abandoning the hypnotizing smell that lingered in her nostrils.  She made quick work of ascending the hill and reached the ridge Nika had told her of.  The trees were densely packed there, shedding their leaves before winter arrived.  If they had been farther south, the heat would have kept them green and in place all year.

As Camille crunched forward, she rose over the final expanse.  In the distance, she saw the massive yellow and red tent at the base of the hill, just beyond the outskirts of Aspica.  The circus arrived in the fall, and her father had promised his children for years they would one day visit.

Camille stood in awe for a moment, for the circus tent stretched farther than she imagined.

“Cami?”

She drew her gaze from the magnificent circus tent and looked to her side.  Rion sat there upon a pile of rocks, his knees pulled up to his chest.  He faced the tent as well but remained focused on his sister once she arrived.

“What are you doing all alone out here?” she asked, approaching her younger sibling.  “Mama made breakfast.  Can’t you smell it?”

Rion swallowed hard and looked away.  “If I don’t eat, maybe I don’t have to go.”

“To the circus?” Camille asked with arched eyebrows.  “Why wouldn’t you want to go there?  Don’t you know that’s the whole reason we came all this way?  It’s why Papa rented the carriage and put Theodore in charge of the store and –”

“I’m scared,” he interjected, releasing the tight grip on his legs.  He slid off the rock and stepped toward the edge of the ridge, looking past the trees at the huge canvas tent.

Camille sat beside him a moment later.  “I think you’re braver than you realize.  And you know Jerrick and I were only teasing.  If they do have a gryphon, I doubt they’d let it swoop down and eat children your age.  Now, Kira on the other hand…”

A smile reached Rion’s face.  “It’s not that.  I –”

“And if you’re worried about the elephants, I’m sure they’re an especially docile bunch.  They want to keep their customers coming back, so they won’t allow a stampede.”

“I’m not scared of elephants, Cami.”

“Then what has you so frightened you would willingly avoid breakfast?  Mama is cooking up sausage down there!”

Rion swallowed hard and turned to his sister.  “There are clowns at the circus.”

Staring at him for a moment, Camille crooked her neck as if to see the madness in her brother’s mind.  “Yes, that is usually the case.”

“I don’t think I like clowns,” he said.

Camille sucked in her lips and clasped them together.  Despite that, a smile still started to stretch the corners of her mouth.  She did her best to stifle a chortle, but when that failed, she turned away from her brother.

“It isn’t funny,” Rion asserted.

Steadying herself, she pivoted on her heel and looked upon her sibling once more.  “No, it isn’t.  We have a real dilemma here.”  A laugh burst out of her as her inflection rose.  She covered her face in a futile attempt to shroud her reaction, but Rion stormed off, stomping down the hill toward their campsite.  Camille righted herself and caught up to him, grabbing his shoulder.  “You don’t have anything to worry about,” she promised, sincerity overwhelming in her tone.  “The clowns aren’t there to hurt or scare you, and if any of them did, just know I’d punch them in their foolish faces.”

Her little brother wrapped his arms around her waist, squeezing her in a tight embrace.  She tousled his hair and urged him on, continuing his return to the campsite.  With a bright smile stretching her lips, she turned once more to see the sprawling circus tent in the valley below.

Camille clapped her hands together and followed Rion back to their family.

Gnolls

General description

Physical Appearance

Gnolls are anthropomorphic hyenas.  They are typically tall and the males tend to be broad.  Gnolls are not known for their compassion or a swelling of intelligence, instead relying on brute force and ferocity.  Their fur is usually marked by rings or stripes, which they paint when they expect battle.

Because of their large feet, gnolls often adopt a wide stance.  Coupled with their height, this allows them to wield a variety of different weaponry.

The average lifespan of a Gnoll is between forty-eight and sixty years of age.  This is a rarity though, for the temperament of the race often leads to violent deaths.

Clothing and Adornment

The Gnolls do not care for flash, or uniform.  Instead, they opt to don material that protects them moderately, while allowing the greatest motion for their weaponry.  The race is prone to the acceptance of pain, thus they willingly wear heavier armors if able, including chainmail, which will tug at their fur and leave bare spots.  However, it is just as typical to see them adorned in leather or cloth scraps, as their choices in weapons are more tantamount.

Despite their savage nature, Gnolls are oft to be found wearing a variety of jewelry.  Most of it is primal, including necklaces of feathers, or teeth and other appendages of the enemies they’ve felled.  It is also typical to see either gender wearing earrings.

Of all the regular clothes that the race wears, cloaks, capes and buckles are seen the most.  They also often wrap their limbs in what look like bandages.

 

Relations to Other Races

Though they appear to be, and even may be distantly related to Kobolds, Gnolls tend to ignore the more orderly race.  Their primary prey is any lone Kaja they could find, but if any other race happens to get in their way, they give them no quarter.

 

 

General Personality

Personal

The larger groups of Gnolls are very violent, to the point where they even embrace it among their own culture.  Infighting is quite common, especially when it comes to deciding on a pack’s long term goals.

Some are also very persistent.  Fearless and hardy, larger Gnolls are fierce adversaries, and are not to be trifled with.  If they enter into battle, it is rare for both sides to be left standing at the end.  The dwarves have a saying about the Gnolls: “Bleed ‘em dry, or break their legs, but suffer not to leave them dregs.”

Still, among certain packs, they are known to feign injuries or death until they can either overtake their enemies or escape danger.

The race can also be quite loyal.  It is not unheard of for the Gnolls to live among their companions for their entire lives, and often, if they are under agreement with their friends, they will enter the fray to physically defend even a foolish decision.

It is difficult to be ambushed by a Gnoll because of its very unique scent.  A potent mix that has often been described as a skunk rolling in rotten eggs, many of the goodly races know to flee when the odor rises in the air.

On the other hand, when cognizant of their powerful smell, Gnolls can be quite devious.  Because they often wear little to no footwear, they can sneak up unannounced and pickpocket among the best of the races of Tellest.  Smaller gnolls are fleet of foot as well, and can rob a dwelling blind if its inhabitants are caught unaware.

 

Relationship and Family

Just as there is a duality in the demeanor of the different sized Gnolls, so there is regarding manners of mating.

For the larger subraces, it is typical for both genders to be promiscuous.  Typically, it is a battle of strength that determines which male will end up with the most suitable female of a pack.  This holds true even to those nomadic males that might tend to the area.  In that circumstance, the males will rarely offer anything to the upbringing of the young.

Conversely, for the smaller tribes, it is more common for the Gnolls to be monogamous.  In circumstances like this, the male will assist in raising the cubs, and will tend to remaining a part of its integrated populace for life.

 

Society

All Gnolls live in packs, though the size is determined by the size of the breed.  The larger, spotted Gnolls, like the Hydoran tribe, travel or live in reserved, conservative groups, while the smaller stripped variety, such as the ones from Cynos, commune within the same large den system.

If some kind of political need arises, the spotted Gnolls will convene in a kind of mobile council, where many of the roaming packs converge.  In that instance, the decision is typically made by the victor of a brutal contest of strength.

 

Behavior toward Other Races

Many of the Gnolls actually promote grave robbing.  However, it is considered taboo and highly unacceptable to steal from the dead of their own race.  Thus, it falls to the other races to end up being pilfered from.  This is highly typical of the more rustic races, including the Orcs, the Minotaurs and the Kaja.  It has also caused some manner of strife between the Gnolls and the races that they find themselves allied with, especially the Lagano and the Goblins.  The Gnolls can be stubborn about that desecration, but they believe it is their right, as it has been so engrained in their culture.

It is largely due to that culture clash that they have become so at odds with the Minotaurs.  Because of the spiritual upbringing of the Minotaurs, the Gnolls disgraceful treatment of their dead is seen not only as sacrilegious, but an affront against Cebrum himself.  This has led to tremendous battles between the two races.

Gnolls are also often at odds with the other, smaller anthropomorphic races.  Kobolds and Kaja are continuously attacked without warning, as if they are being picked off for sport.

 

 

Language

Speech

The Gnolls are a very vocal race.  They chitter, they howl, they heckle, they grunt and they bark.  They use their power of the verbose to aid them in their day to day activities, but they are also known as a very tale-driven community.  Many of their legends and myths have been passed down aurally.  Because of this, they rely very little on any kind of penmanship or marking system.

Their gift of speech has also led them to be quite fluent in many of the other racial tongues of Tellest.  It is said that there can be no secrets held from a Gnoll, for they will always find a way to translate your words or your actions.

 

 

Religion

Personal Beliefs

Despite the constant disinterring of graves that the Gnolls are responsible for, they are actually quite invested in their own manner of religion.  Ironically, they believe they serve Cebrum’s will, while the Minotaurs despise the vile act.

Rather, the Gnolls embrace the futility of mortality, and the violent end that many of them (and their enemies) will go to.  As such, they are seen as harbingers of death, even among their own people.  If a member of their society becomes infirm or too old, they are culled without warning.  The proverb “death is just outside your door,” is said to come from Gnoll culture.  They will wait outside the dwelling of the weakened denizen, and strike them down as soon as they exit.  Though this is a violent act, it is embraced among their society.

 

 

History

General History

It is thought that the Gnolls were created by the gods at the same time as the Kobolds and Kaja.  This existence was supposedly brought about because the gods had become crestfallen with the prime races, and wanted to prove that even a primal beast made in the semi-image of the gods could be more respectable, and be able to cohabitate.  The Gnolls, of course, made this task seem wholly impossible.

 

Myths and Legends

In southern Iradel, on the continent of Saveon, there is a clan of nomadic Gnolls that dwell in the desert.  Some believe that if they are not buried beneath a stone, they will rise from their graves, and seek out those in slumber, and will drink the blood from their throats.  This myth has been substantiated for centuries by the frequent deaths where people have had their necks violently slashed in their sleep.

In Lustra, within one of the mountain ranges of Tisbon, there is said to be a tribe of Werehyenas.  It is under constant debate whether or not in their humanoid form they take the shape of humans or gnolls.  They retain a fairly low profile, so not much has been discovered of those people, thus it is impossible to verify the myth.

One of the legends that many of the gnolls tell is of Gabali, one of their heroes from Tycharma in Ravane.  Supposedly, Gabali stole the sun from the sky, and blinded the champion of the Golden Hoof tribe of Minotaurs, allowing his people to escape from an expected genocide.

 

 

Technology

General Technology

Because of their fairly primal roots, the gnolls do not actively seek to advance their technology.  They do, however, employ tools, specifically when constructing their homes or desecrating a grave.

Due to their mostly mobile societies, agriculture has never truly been explored as a fundamental means of survival, even though the gnolls are omnivorous.

 

Magic

While the gnolls are particularly savage and vicious, they have not forsaken a more spiritual bond with the world.  As such, it is not unheard of to find one that expresses shamanistic totems and magic.  This earthen embrace typically soothes the soul of the characteristically primal race.

On the other side of the spectrum, the gnolls have been known to express interest in witchcraft.  When exhuming bodies for their trinkets, some grave robbers have been known to take the corpses (or pieces of them) with them.  Some use these various body parts for divination.

Unfortunately, some gnolls have been known to use the bodies to commune with, or animate the dead, and even consort with demons.  Those that practice the darker arts are typically ostracized from their own communities.

 

 

Military/Combat

Military Structure

Gnolls in combat are fairly unorganized.  They rely mostly on their ferocity and determination.  Typically, a military is unfounded, as they live in smaller packs.  There are several recorded times throughout history where multiple packs have banded together, however.

 

Weapons and Tools

The larger gnolls favor crushing weapons such as maces and broad axes, having the strength to adequately wield them.  Their smaller kin will typically use slashing weapons, like swords spears.  Both sizes utilize polearms frequently.

 

Wars and Enemies

On Draconis, the gnolls have developed an empire in the country of Warus.  It stretches from the southern swamp to the north, where the kobolds have kept them from the Raleighn border.  Because of this rapid expansion, the gnolls are constantly at odds with the kobolds.  They also relentlessly hunt the kaja that live in their territories.

In Tycharma on Ravane, the gnolls are still at odds with the Golden Hoof tribe.  Because of the minotaurs’ inability to wipe the gnolls out centuries before, they have been able to repopulate, and are now a force to be reckoned with.