The Splitpaw gnolls proved to be a more dangerous adversary than the Rallosians had suspected, although not exactly for the reasons one might suppose. In Part One, we meet Gippy, a Splitpaw gnoll scout. Sort of.
It was Gippy’s turn to watch that day. Gippy had paid Flemm to take his shift. Flemm forgot. And so the Rallosian Army was within a day’s march before the gnolls of the Splitpaw Lair were aware of them. Over the years, the name of the den changed constantly depending on which gnoll clan was in the ascendancy; this season, the Splitpaws were in charge and they were not happy with Gippy.
“Look at them, there are rows after rows of them in armor and with weapons,” grumbled Muddy, the current Splitpaw chief. “No thanks to you, Gippy.” Gippy kicked Flemm, who said nothing. Muddy continued, “We can’t trust you father than we can throw you, but we can throw you to the ogres now. Gippy, your job is head on out there and find out where the ogres are going. They best be going elsewhere, if you know what’s good for you.”
Grumbling the entire way, Gippy went to the armory and selected some gear. Many gnolls owned their own armor, but Gippy never saved enough to buy some and he was too lazy to make his own. Fortunately, the gnolls hoarded what they found through the Plains of Karana and lent it generously to its soldiers. “Can I get one without a hole in the chest?” Gippy asked the armorer. “You’re just lucky I don’t give you one with a target on it,” the armorer grumbled. “Now git!”
Gippy felt the other gnolls did not appreciate his abilities. There was not a single copper that Gippy could not find a way to increase somehow and use to his benefit. Sure, he had nothing saved up, but he was generous. Why, half the gnolls on the scout team were on his payroll with tasks such as responding to his name during roll call or standing watch. Although, Gippy reflected, now he would need to find someone to replace the irresponsible Flemm who had let them all down.
The ogres were making no secret of their progress. Gippy watched in a fascinated horror as they circled the aviak town and razed it to the ground. He was so busy watching them and fretting that he did not see the Rallosian scout until the scout had him by one of his ears. “Ow! Ow! Let me go!” Gippy yelped in anguish. The Rallosian laughed, “No, you come with me and we’ll see what you know.”
“This doesn’t look good,” thought Gippy miserably as he and the Rallosian scout marched toward the Rallosian Army. For one thing, Gippy knew there weren’t enough coppers clinking in his pockets to pay off anyone, let alone an ogre. He turned over scenarios in his mind and each of them had the same unfortunate endings — Gippy on a stick, or Gippy roasting on an open fire, or Gippy for dinner. It was a sobering walk.
The scout pushed Gippy to the ground before the ogre lieutenant. “What’s this? Who brought their pet dog to war?” laughed the lieutenant with a snarl. The ogres laughed with him and Gippy tried to laugh as well, but it came out as a nervous, high-pitched whimper instead. “What were you doing looking at us, dog?” snapped the lieutenant, yanking Gippy closer. So close that the ogre’s most unpleasant breath wafted over Gippy in a suffocating cloud.
“Why, I’ve been waiting for you! You’re late! The boss said you’d be here two days ago,” Gippy said, throwing as much anger into his voice as possible. The ogre curled his fist and asked menacingly, “What do you mean, the boss? Do you speak of General Urduuk, dog?” “He’s the chief, ain’t he?” said Gippy saucily. “You’re lucky he’s not here or he’d flay you alive for the way you’re treating me. I’ll be sure he hears about this!”
The ogres glanced uneasily at one another. They knew that General Urduuk had made contacts and advances with various folk to speed the Army’s advance…but a gnoll? A gnoll wearing an ill-fitting old hauberk with an enormous hole in the chest? “You don’t seriously mean you don’t know about me?” Gippy said, seizing their moment of confusion. “I guess General Urduuk doesn’t trust you. Ah, me.” He heaved a dramatic sigh and gave the lieutenant a pitying glance.
“Of course he trusts me!” shouted the lieutenant so that all his men could hear. “We’ve been at war and I…I forgot for a moment. We were just having sport with you, fuzzy face.” The lieutenant gave another laugh, this one more cautious. “So why were you waiting for us?” Gippy brushed off his legs and straightened the old hauberk before responding with a haughty look, “I’m your guide.”