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"Star Keys" (Dark Ancients: the Battle Begins)

“Auggrraahh! Xmei! Lemsl slvmke sldjs!” The knobby, frazzled creature cries again.

“Perhaps we should start with his feet, Sonon. Then we’ll work our way up.” Sorin’s eyebrows rise. Turning to Grunt, the soldier’s eyes burn as fire as he stares and then goes on. “Maybe we should lance each of the odd-shaped toes you have, succubus. We might cut your feet with the tip of my sharp arrow,” he says and points.

Sorin yanks an arrow from a soldier’s quiver. Then, stepping closer, Sorin presses the razor edge into grimy flesh.

“Ooiyyeahii!” The foul one screams. Grunt’s big toe bleeds.

To the side, men grind teeth and nod.

“I’m angry with the demon!” Fletcher Nordkin blasts. “Drive the blade deeper.”

Grunt’s eyes bulge. Sorin purses lips and nods. He pushes.

“Aiyee!” Grunt screams more. Firm, the cutting blade wedges through Grunt’s toe. “Huh, huh, huh,” Grunt gasps.

“Ha, he bleeds,” Gnaf Turkought laughs.

Sorin, grins. “Yes, and I think we’ll…”

“All right! All right!” Grunt rattles. “I can speak! And I don’t like being here!” He shakes and blows. “You had best return me from where I came. Should you not, the consequences you face will be grave.”

Writhing, Grunt slobbers and snorts. Highly irritated, bleeding, his protruding eyes stare as if wanting his breath to melt foes.

“The talk is in him.” Sanjeet’s eyes lift and corners of his lips turn up.

“Ah, ha.” Thianin, a soldier, mumbles and glares at Grunt. “So, Gortian, as we know your kind called, you are not immune to pain.”

Sorin, nods. “Yes, he has feelings.” Tapping the arrow to his palm he paces. Grinding teeth, he turns to Grunt. “It is good to know you devil. Now, cooperation will keep you from suffering. We have questions.”

“I’m not going to answer any questions, not now, or, aooouuuww!” Grunt howls forever and a day.

Once more, Sorin places the tip of the arrow into Grunt’s big toe. Then, the Plebeon interrogator works it to Grunt’s middle. Twisting the barbed edge into Gort flesh Sorin sneers and then slides his knife to Grunt’s wrinkly, wet throat.

“Ah, huh, huh! Hum! Hum! Hum!” Grunt whimpers; and he pants like a nerve-wracked gnome. “All right. All right. Stop, just stop.” Bleary-eyed, tears form at corners of his puffy eyes. He sniffs. Lifting his head, he goes on. “What is it you wish to know?”

Bloodshot eyes roll as Grunt appears stunned.

Sanjeet steps forward. “What is it you call yourself? Where do you come from?”

With long, dark curly hair, with deep blue eyes and lean and statuesque, Sanjeet leans close to Grunt.

“Oh,” the gremlin starts and puffs. “I am known as Grunt. A Gort from a northeast portion of scruffy land, our soils dried up. We made our way to the caves, south and east of your territory. Hungry, we wished only to farm our lands like your people and to live in peace.”

“This is not the case, gray goblin!” Sanjeet snaps. His heavy boot stomps soft soil. “I am upset with your lies. You were one of several seen in front of the caves. You were seen by knights, some days, past.”

“Grr,” Grunt, growls. Like a slippery snake his lips slide left.

“How can you make such an absurd claim of peace,” Sorin goes on. “You climb the Naradorran. Armed, you attacked with cats. You’ve caused our people much pain. Two of our soldiers are dead, fallen because of this scheme you’ve laid upon us. Homes are destroyed. Now tell me who your leader is. How many are in your camp? What of your plans?”

Tight-lipped Grunt squirms as facial muscles twist; and he squints.

“He needs to bleed again,” soldier Thunon speaks up.

“Yes. Maybe so,” Sonon adds. The Plebeon soldier steps closer to Sorin.

“Ahkh,” misfit Grunt cackles. “Shhvit! Csrins sieldis! My leader is great! He has powers far beyond what you could imagine. Gdrrrf, hsttss.”

Shaking, spewing, Grunt’s wet spit foams about his lower lip.

Chin down, then looking up, Grunt goes on as his jaw lifts. “My lord shall reveal his name. He’ll come for me. You shall fear him. You will witness damage greater than that which you have already seen.” Twisting, turning about rope that binds him, he spits and drools.

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