The Gnoll Diaries

Three-Day, Second Ride in The Rotting

Nightfall

A slight breeze rustled the leaves in the glade where Gnora and Luna waited. It was not enough to carry away the strange odor, like one-hundred forges pouring hot metal at once. Gnora absently smoothed the raised hackles of her wolfsister. The dark night stilled now and the eyes of the sky pack glittering as if nothing had happened.

The residents of Darmshall only tolerated her presence on behalf of the wandering ones who had found her and Luna, barely more than newborns, left without packs after a number of raids on the farms outside the city. Even so, she normally perferred to remain outside the smooth stone walls and the people living behind them. The guards patiently refused to let anyone out after dark, even a gnoll.

It was not uncommon for Gnora and Luna to prowl the city at night. For a time, when the houses were darkened and most city folk snug in their beds, the two beasts could imagine loping through the Dalelands of their birth under the watchful protection of the sky pack. The city walls pressed in on them like the bars of a cage on nights like this.

They watched a gate from the comfort of the shadow. Treebrother was shaking his head at the guard and speaking in soft indignant tones. Gnora frowned and twisted a hand in Luna’s thick ruff. If he couldn’t get out tonight it would be difficult indeed.

She had many of the things she would need tucked away in hiding places near her outer shelter but the others may need supplies. In spite of the highly held opinion that wolves and gnolls were thieves she was not accustomed to stealing things. “Prey on the weak,” she whispered to her companion. The outlying farm areas were scattered, separated from the larger herd of stones inside the walls. These were often protected by dogs. Gnora’s lips curled at the thought of dogs – tiny, frightened and weak. City folk may have grown accustomed to her presence inside the walls but she avoided those outside who sometimes still fell prey to those considered monsters. Her kind. Luna’s kind.

She shrugged her shoulders. Gnora did not spend much time thinking. She left that to those like Eldersister and Treebrother. She loped in the direction of her glade with Luna pacing her heels. Farm folk would have weapons used to protect themselves. Crusts of breads and bits of meat pie. They’d have lengths of rope in the barn. Maybe if she could just get out, the others would know what to do. “We hunt!” she whispered fiercely to her wolfsister. Her face twisted into what passed for a smile. Rabbits, mice, birds. She could almost smell them now, cowering in their burrows, stopped dead of fright. Uncooked meat!

She rolled up the few things she kept in the city into her blanket and strapped it to her back. She rubbed ash from the dead fire into Luna’s shaggy white fur. She gave her wolfsister a pat and loped out of the glade dappled with moonlight. The strong metal smell clung to the dark; almost as strong as the smell of wrongness. It would be good to be free of this place.

Treebrother was still arguing with the guards when she returned to the gate. He caught her eye and winked. He argued more fervently with the guards, attracting more attention. Gnora nodded and roared into the night.

“Ba mepa ge booll! Ba mepa ge daetg! Maennatgan ge mloobm ootg gaagd. Maennatgan ge gda boomb”

Luna streaked forward all howls and snapping jaws. They may stop a youngling and dwarf but would they try to stop a wolf from leaving? Luna darted in and out of the darkness, snarling. Most were uneasy around the overly large wolf, even though she was known to them. Gnora hoped the ash discoloring the wolf’s fur would be enough to make them think it could be a wilder. Other wolves answered in the distance. She flashed among the guards, clawing the night and nipping at their heels and elbows, the one wolf seeming like a pack harrying the gate.

Gnora loped through an alley and made her way to the more shadowed side of the gates, still calling out. “Gooa! Gooa bnaee! Kooma gda gaagd ek gda toosdg! Kooma gda gaagd ek gda goonb. Kooma gda mloobm gdoog booll bnatmd eeeae oot gbe!”   She skirted the lamplight starting to flicker in the houses near the gate. She whispered to the sky pack to guide her way as she attempted to slip out of the walls into the darkness beyond the distracted guards.

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