A young woman entered our plaza, flanked by a chaperon and a pair of guards, and I sat up straighter. She wore green silk and gold jewelry, and seemed unaffected by the heat or the noise. A disreputable part of my brain immediately pictured her naked in my bed, and, having imagined her naked, an even more disreputable part of my brain saw her staked out over coals and glazed in garlic butter. I shook my head to clear both images, but my mouth watered.
The woman looked around the plaza, saw me, and turned in my direction; I forsook the meager shade of the pushcart that served as my office and met her with my best bow. I stared at her feet and said, "Baffle, son of Slaughter, at your service, your Ladyship." When I rose and met her eyes, I found her smiling at me lopsidedly. She was younger and prettier than I had first thought.
The girl turned to her elderly, black garbed, and obviously uncomfortable chaperon, and whispered something; the chaperon turned to me, and said, with obvious disapproval, "Her Grace, the Duchess of Greenbourne, wishes to know what manner of creature you are."
It was clear that the chaperon regarded me as filthy and ill-mannered, in spite of the fact that the former was not true, and I had not yet chosen to demonstrate the latter. The girl, on the other hand... The girl seemed to be truly curious, and struck me as pleasant, in addition to being utterly delectable on a couple of levels. I chose to ignore the chaperon and look the girl in the eye. "I am a gnoll, your Grace, called by some a hyena-kin."
The chaperon bristled and the guards stood a bit straighter, but the girl was too busy being curious to be formal. "And where do you come from?"
I smiled, which made the chaperon blanch, and made the guards nervous. "I come from the land of hyenas, your Grace, far to the south. It is a place of bright sun, tall grass, and too little water."
She thought about that for a moment. "You are called Slaughter? Is that a family name, or an epithet?"
"It is my mother's name, your Grace. Such is the custom of my people."
Her eyes widened. "Your mother is called Slaughter?"
I smiled again. "Slaughter, daughter of Flense, daughter of Torment. The females of my people are warriors, and their names match that."
The girl continued to goggle. "Your FEMALES are warriors?" She looked at me intently, and I could tell she was suddenly aware that I was taller (though slighter) than either of her guards, more than a foot taller than she herself.
I couldn't resist. "They are much bigger and stronger than the males."