THE DREAD LORD HOB; Scourge of the West, Defiler of the East, Plague of the North, Overlord of the South, and King of the Nighttime World was in a bad mood. But then, abject failure and acts of cowardice as perpetrated by his dark legions tended to rub him the wrong way in even the best of situations. And this was not the best of situations.

Lord Hob, who had always thought of himself as a fair and even tempered man, brooded silently to himself as he paced alone inside his command tent. The tent was exactly twenty-three paces wide, and each time he turned to pace toward the east wall, he’d walk to his mirror.

It was a glorious mirror. It stood eight feet tall and three feet wide, and as he would approach it, the Dread Lord would pause and gaze deeply at his reflection. It was the only thing, the sight of himself resplendent in his white armor and black cape, that kept his bad mood from graduating into a full on rage.

Being the fair and even tempered man he’s always thought himself to be, it was uncommon for the Dread Lord Hob to progress any further, emotionally speaking, than an allover feeling of intense annoyance. But today he feared that if he didn’t get himself under control, he would go immediately from his tent and commit horrible acts of violence upon his cowardly horde.

Not that he was opposed to violence, just the opposite. Lord Hob was known far and wide for the brutal and creative ways he’d been known to inflict bodily harm upon others. But he preferred to be the one in charge of his emotional self when violence was on the table. If someone was to die by his hand it would be because it was the logical thing to do, not because he was in a tiff.

He paused once more at the mirror and patted at his perfectly cut and sculpted jet black hair. Not a strand out of place. He smiled and resumed pacing.

The Dread Lord Hob was a man who could keep his emotions in check. It was one of his many attributes in which he’d always felt a certain sense of pride, most especially after rising to the title of Overlord of the South when his predecessor, the Dread Lord Glatchington, had mysteriously died a most violent, and mysterious, death.

The Dread Lord Glatchington was a man who had known about rage, having spent most of his life deep in the thick of it. Lord Hob, who at the time was Glatchington’s second in command, had borne witness to many a foam-mouthed murder spree in which anyone in reach could quickly find their life snuffed out for no other reason than being in the vicinity when Lord Glatchington had dropped a spoon or found his soup a shade too hot.

It was from Glatchington that Lord Hob had learned how not to behave. And so he resisted the urge to give himself over to the rage that skittered within reach. But still, those in charge of his army had failed, and so punishments would need to be handed out. Lord Hob would just have to wait until he had sufficiently calmed himself before deciding on what was fair and just.

His pacing brought him once more to the mirror and as before, he paused. He ran a hand over his strong, square chin. He needed a shave. Yet, the stubble made him look somewhat . . . Roguish? Sure. Rough and tumble? Most assuredly. Sexy? No doubt about it.

As he began to rate just how sexy the stubble made him look, a stench of such monumental proportions hammered its way into the tent and leapt upon the Dread Lord Hob like a Boltonian on a bronze penny.

The people of Bolton were renowned throughout all of Gund for their lack of pride when it came to earning a buck, which by coincidence is what Boltonians called their single bronze penny due to the imprint of a deer head on one side, and the deer’s hindquarters on the other. There was a time when deer antlers were the main currency used in Bolton. The more points on the rack the more the antlers were worth. But the Boltonians quickly realized that one would need a series of carts that hooked together in some sort of train in order to haul around what cash they’d need for just a simple trip down to the shops. So they began using coins instead, which they found quite convenient as they could store them in little pouches that hung from their belts and could then sell all of their carts for more of the coins. They toyed with the idea paper currency at one point, but quickly found themselves the laughingstocks of all of Gund for such preposterousness.

Boltonians loved money. Where most cities in Gund were known for their industry, their art, or their sport, Bolton had a reputation for greed. Nothing made a group of Boltonians dive to the ground like tossing a few coins in the dirt. And yet, for all their greed, they spent like the world was ending and therefore, in general, was one of the poorer cities in Gund.

The odor that now assaulted the Dread Lord Hob as he gazed lovingly at himself in the mirror was so overpowering as to send most men to the ground in olfactory pain. But the Dread Lord Hob was not most men. He knew what the stink signified. He had, after all, been surrounding himself with it for years now.

Only an ogre could produce such a foul odor.

To be continued . . .

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