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Origins Of The Silver Wolf: A Light In The Dark, Part Two
Posted on Tue, July 09, 2013 by Ullmaster
CruelSummerLord writes "

“You four seem to be adventurers, are you not?” the leader of the guards asked calmly.

“Yes, we are,” Weimar replied. “Is that a problem? Because if it is, we can be on our way-“

“No, you may in fact be the people our lord is searching for,” the leader of the guards shook his head. “He could use the help of talents such as yours…” 




 

Weimar, Luna, Ma’non’go and Seline had little difficulty docking in Hardby, or in traveling north along the main roads. The four travelers often found themselves enjoying the company of everyone from merchant caravans to traveling performers to other adventurers, many of whom were also on their way to the magnificent Free City. For all that, they traveled at their own pace, discussing what they would do when they arrived in Greyhawk and telling each other more about their pasts and homelands. Eventually, they were less than a day away from Greyhawk as the sun began to set. While they might have reached the city if they traveled through the night, they were already exhausted from the long journey they’d taken that day. 

“Where are we going to stop for the night?” Luna asked, shielding her eyes as she looked further down the road.

“I told you we should have stopped at the last inn!” Seline reproached Weimar.

“With those prices?” Weimar asked incredulously. “The owners of that place were highway robbers! Besides, we don’t need an inn,” he said, gesturing to the walled manor that stood to the right of the road. “Who’s to say we can’t spend a night in their hayloft?”

Seline looked at Luna and Ma’non’go, who all shrugged, before they directed their horses to follow Weimar as he approached the manor.

As they approached the manor, they could see that it was a fine place indeed. Stone walls surrounded a lovingly maintained estate, speckled with copses of trees, flower gardens and ponds arranged in a beautiful pattern. Guards stood at the main gate, gazing at the travelers with intensity but not hostility as they approached.

“Greetings!” Seline said brightly to the guards as she and her friends reached the gate, leaping off their horses and leading the creatures by the reins. “Do you, perhaps, have a place for a group of weary travelers who would be willing to pay handsomely for your hospitality? A rest in your hayloft would be all that we require…”

The guards looked at one another, and then back at the travelers.

“You four seem to be adventurers, are you not?” the leader of the guards asked calmly.

“Yes, we are,” Weimar replied. “Is that a problem? Because if it is, we can be on our way-“

“No, you may in fact be the people our lord is searching for,” the leader of the guards shook his head. “He could use the help of talents such as yours…”

 

 

Seline and her friends had expected to be eating their own plain fare in Count Morin Listell’s hayloft. Instead, they had been brought into the presence of Count Morin himself, accompanied by his wife Jacquileene. The Count’s sitting room was tastefully decorated with art objects, ancestral portraits and sumptuous furniture, much like the drawing-rooms Luna and Seline had experienced as younger members of House Cranden in Aerdy. Count Morin and Jacquileene would have been equally as distinguished in their finely tailored attire, were it not for the haggard and worn expressions on their faces. They looked as if they had not slept in at least two days, and it seemed as if they had barely eaten in that same amount of time as well. When Count Morin spoke, it was with a hoarse croak, as if the very act wearied him.

“Thank you for coming,” the count nodded slowly. He couldn’t have been more than thirty-five years old, but his demeanor was that of someone twice his age.

“What’s the matter?” Luna asked quietly, her soft voice seeming to put the Listells at ease. “Is there some manner in which we can be of assistance?”

“Our…our…” the count began, before he fell silent.

“Teddyrun, my boy…what if they…” Countess Jacquileene started, before tears filled her eyes and she began to cough and sob.

“Teddyrun is my son and heir,” Count Morin forced himself to speak again, “was kidnapped not two days ago. Taken from his own bedroom, in the middle of the night!”

The adventurers looked at one another sympathetically, all of them frowning heavily.

“How did this happen?” Seline asked in a gentle tone. “Have you been able to determine how your son was abducted?”

“…No,” Jacquileene shook her head. Luna’s and Seline’s tones had calmed her somewhat, and made her more able to speak. “All our guards mentioned was the sight of torches at one of the gates, and the sounds of people shouting and trying to force the gates, but no one was there.”

“No tracks, or anything?” Weimar asked in surprise.

“No,” Count Morin shook his head. “We searched the entire grounds, and there were no tracks at all, anywhere!”

Weimar fell into puzzlement at this, wondering how that was even possible, but Luna and Seline looked at each other, realizing what this probably meant. Luna thought on this for several moments, before she spoke up.

“The monster who abducted your son, whoever it was, no doubt used magic to get into and out of your estate,” Luna explained. “I believe that I will be able to track them down,” she continued, as the Listells’ faces rose in hope, “but I will need to prepare the correct spells first. I’ll only be able to do that at sunrise tomorrow.”

“Of course, of course!” Count Morin smiled widely, his hopes now raised by the adventurers’ presence. “Please, enjoy my hospitality in the meantime! If you can bring Teddyrun home, it will be the least of what I owe you!”

Weimar, Ma’non’go, Luna and Seline looked at each other determinedly, as they nodded.

 

 

Airk and Revafour were astonished by how well Amyalla seemed to know her way around Greyhawk. She’d easily led them into the city through the Duke’s Gate and the wealthier districts of the city, before turning south and then making their way through the Garden Gate into one of the lower districts of the city. The gnome and his Flan companion would probably have been utterly lost in the city’s crowded streets, and it didn’t take them long to understand why the halfling race called Greyhawk the Gateway to Everywhere. People of all kinds crowded the streets, from rich human merchants to burly dwarves, from street ruffians to lumberjacks and foresters who’d come into the city on business. Revafour and Airk had never seen so many different peoples and cultures in one place, although Amyalla didn’t seem the least bit fazed by it.

“A lot of first-time visitors react this way,” Amyalla smiled, her lips turned up in amusement as she noticed their reactions. “Matters of race and culture don’t matter much to most Greyhawkers. The only thing they care about is money.”

“So it’s a city of thieves,” Revafour muttered.

“Some are thieves,” Amyalla corrected him, “but most are just rather greedy merchants and craftspeople. You’ve both heard tales of the Wild Coast, I take it?”

The ugly looks on Airk’s and Revafour’s faces confirmed that they had, and also confirmed what they thought of the place.

“Now that’s a place of scoundrels and rapscallions,” Amyalla laughed. “But here,” she said as they stopped in front of a large building, “is an example of the better side of Greyhawk,” she grinned as she pushed the door open and gestured for her friends to follow her in.

Despite the raucous activity going on outside, the Wizard’s Hat Inn was comparatively calm and peaceful, an island of tranquility in the chaos of Greyhawk. Airk and Revafour glanced around at the clientele, who seemed as diverse as the population of Greyhawk in general, for all that they were uniformly well-mannered and calm. A trim middle-aged woman was tending the bar at the far end, and her eyes lit up as she saw Amyalla leading Airk and Revafour into the inn.

“Hello, Dwaven,” Amyalla greeted her old friend Dwaven May, hopping up on one of the barrels that served as bar stools to hug her old friend. “How long has it been?”

“Too long,” Dwaven smiled back, before turning her attention to Airk and Revafour. “Your companions, I take it?” she asked.

“Just so,” Amyalla nodded, as she hopped off the bar stool.

“Welcome to Greyhawk,” Dwaven greeted them with a bow. “Is this your first time in the city?”

“Just so,” Airk nodded. “It’s certainly...vibrant,” he finished, searching for the right word.

“And noisy,” Revafour added with a half-smile. “Tell me,” he said, glancing up at the menu written out on stone slates set above the bar, “might we have something to eat? I don’t know about you, but I could use a good meal,” he sighed, somewhat weary after all the walking they’d done.

“You make it sound as if it would a chore,” Dwarven tittered. “Now then, what would it be?”

Before Airk or Revafour could answer, Amyalla reached into a pouch at her belt and tossed a pile of coins on the bar.

“We’ll be needing two rooms,” Amyalla said in a businesslike tone, “and whatever these fine gentlemen will want. This should cover whatever they’d like,” she continued, as Dwaven gathered up the coins and nodded.

“Where are you going?” Airk asked in confusion.

“I’m going to visit some old friends,” Amyalla replied airily, as she headed for the door. “It’s been too long since I’ve been in Greyhawk, and I do so want to catch up with them?”

Revafour and Airk looked at one another, and then at Dwaven, who only laughed.

“She’s always been like that,” Dwaven informed them. “Come now, what would you like?”

The venison and potatoes Dwaven`s cooks produced were exactly what Revafour and Airk had been looking for after the long day of walking through the city. The stout Airk asked for provided the perfect end to the meal, although Revafour, predictably, requested only water.

 

 

Amyalla knew that Airk and Revafour would be in good hands at the Wizard`s Hat Inn. Dwaven May was always a dear, although it had taken Amyalla a while before she’d befriended her. After she’d fled the Duchy of Urnst, Amyalla had migrated here, to Greyhawk, honing her skills among the lower-born rogues of the city. Many of her old friends would never come to the Wizard’s Hat, and so she knew she would have to visit them in their element to see them again, as she so wanted to do.

The Green Dragon Inn, however, was where many of her other friends tended to congregate. While the Wizard’s Hat was one of the best-kept secrets in the River Quarter, the Green Dragon Inn was one of the River Quarter’s most notorious hangouts. Thieves, mercenaries, riverfolk, dockworkers, lower-class tradesmen, and others both honest and dishonest came in on a regular basis, making it an excellent place to pick up on the latest gossip. Nothing had changed since Amyalla had last come here-the old rogue Ricard Damaris was tending the bar, the air was filled with the sound of drunken songs, curses and threats, and the clientele was made up of the usual collection of thieves, rakes and knaves.

Glancing around, Amyalla didn’t see anyone she recognized, but didn’t particularly mind. It was early in the evening yet, and many of the regulars did not come until it was time for them to have their suppers.

The beer and roast fowl Amyalla ordered was not fine cuisine, but it was serviceable, at least. She was fortunate to get in early, as the inn soon started to fill with even more clients, all of whom were demanding food and drink. Sitting back and observing the crowd, Amyalla wondered if she would see anyone she knew from the old days, but then she heard the call. Looking up in surprise, she saw a burly, huskily-built woman coming towards her. Louella was perhaps the only female dockworker in all the city, having taken the job to support her family after her husband had lost his arm in an accident. Now, Louella’s husband took care of the children during the day while Louella earned the family a living. Louella came into the Green Dragon on a regular basis, as she enjoyed the rough atmosphere she could share with her coworkers.

“Saint Cuthbert be praised, it really is you!” Louella said brightly as she sat down to join Amyalla. “Where have you been?”

“Out and about,” Amyalla replied with a smile. “I wanted to see what the rest of the world was like.”

“And what brought you back home?” Louella asked.

“I’ve been seeking some new challenges,” Amyalla replied, “and some new work. I’ve made a few friends who I think can help me with that.”

“The gods know I could use your help right now,” Louella said, an edge of sadness in her voice, “as could several other people.”

“Why is that?” Amyalla asked, now slightly alarmed.

“Sienna’s disappeared,” Louella explained, referring to one of her daughters. “She went to the market to buy some food and just…disappeared a few days ago. I don’t know what happened to her!”

“Have you told the city watch?” Amyalla asked.

“They couldn’t find anything,” Louella frowned. “And I’m not the only one who’s suffered this, either-a number of children have disappeared in the River Quarter. We’re at our wit’s end as to what to do, Amyalla-what if…what if they…”

“If they’re still alive, I’ll find them,” Amyalla replied determinedly, her small hand wrapping around Louella’s larger one. “And my friends will help too,” she added.

Amyalla had no doubt that Airk and Revafour would agree to help her.

If they refused for whatever reason, however, she would have no compunctions about abandoning them then and there.

 

 

Luna sat alone in the midst of the Listell estate, her eyes closed as she faced due east. It was still the dark of night, but she knew the dawn was approaching, reaching out with her mind to the approaching sunrise. As she waited, she cleared her mind, thinking only of the approaching sun and its god, the god she had devoted her life to.

Finally, the first rays of the sun began to emerge on the horizon. Luna felt rather than saw them, felt them caress her as she began to pray. She reached out to Pelor, the god the sun represented, and prayed to him, asking him to bestow on her the blessings she would need to help those who had come to her for aid. Pelor had always taught her to believe in the light, to believe in the blessings that were meant for all those the light shone on, and she prayed for them now. She needed Pelor’s help to find little Teddyrun, and she knew without Pelor’s help the child might well be lost forever. Although Luna had not yet attained that level of grace that would enable her to commune with Pelor directly, she had gained the power to commune with Pelor’s divine servants.

She asked them for Pelor’s favour, and Pelor’s divine servants, knowing the reasons for her request, granted her desires.

Opening her eyes, Luna saw that the sunrise was shining brightly, bathing her in its warmth as if to confirm Pelor’s approval of what she intended to do.

Nodding in thanks, Luna adjusted her seat and began chanting. She was sitting at the bank of one of the ponds on the estate, a small pool about ten feet in diameter. Taking a vial out of her pocket, she opened it up and poured three drops of the walnut oil into the pool. Putting the vial back in her pocket, Luna began chanting, waving her hands back and forth in the water as she chanted. The reflections of Luna and the surrounding wildlife were distorted by the ripples her hands were making, until they were blurred beyond recognition by the constant motion of Luna’s hands. She continued in this way for more than two hours, and new images began to appear in the pond, images that were very different from anything it might have previously reflected.

Gazing into the pond, Luna breathed a prayer of thanks to Pelor that the spell had functioned correctly. The Listells had told her all about Teddyrun, which would help her find him with her magical scrying, but even then there was no guarantee of success. However, succeed it did, and now Luna gazed upon Teddyrun.

The pond reflected an image of a little boy, eight years old perhaps, wearing fine but dirty clothes, which he’d probably been wearing when he’d been kidnapped. Tears were pouring down his eyes as he lay slumped in the corner of what looked like a cell in an underground cavern. Luna could make out the bars of a cell, the rough walls of a cave, and faint, flickering torchlight. Other screams and cries played at the edge of Luna’s hearing, and she thought she could see other shapes moving vaguely in the background, but she could not be sure.

Teddyrun was clearly being held underground somewhere, but where, exactly?

Nodding once, Luna waved her hands through the pond once more, ending her scrying spell. The images in the pond faded, scattered by the ripples her hands were making, and they were soon replaced by the normal reflections of the pond’s surroundings.

From there, Luna began casting her second spell. From her backpack, she pulled out a candle of incense and a tinderbox, using it to light the candle. Putting the tinderbox back in her bag, she then retrieved a bright yellow sunstone, holding it one hand. With her other hand, she took up the pendant she wore around her neck, which was decorated with the image of a stylized sun, within which was the carefully worked face of a benevolent, fatherly man, the holy symbol of Pelor.

Holding the gemstone in one hand and her holy symbol in the other, Luna raised them to the sky, chanting even as the incense continued burning. In her mind, she saw an image of Teddyrun and his surroundings, seeking to find where they might be located. She prayed to Pelor to guide her so she and her friends would know where to go to find him, so they could bring him home from the hell he was trapped in.

The sunstone in one of Luna’s hands crumbled into dust, consumed by the power of the spell as Luna kept chanting. Her holy symbol grew warm in her other hand, telling Luna that the spell was working.

Once again, the spell functioned correctly, and a voice echoed in Luna’s mind as Pelor gave her a sign. 

North by north east…

In the hills, built stone on stone like cairn…

The innocent plead for deliverance…

At the giant’s cloven beard…

Luna’s eyes popped open as she repeated the words over and over, hastening to commit it to memory. For good measure, she wrote the words down on a piece of parchment before extinguishing her incense candle, putting her holy symbol back around her neck and gathering up all of her belongings.

She marched back towards the Listells’ estate, knowing now where they needed to go.

It was time to leave.

 

 

“Of course we’ll help,” Revafour answered Amyalla once she’d told them Louella’s story, as Airk nodded in agreement, sitting in the room Amyalla had rented for them at the Wizard’s Hat Inn. “But how are we going to find whoever’s kidnapping these children?”

“Leave that to me,” Amyalla smiled as she adjusted the hat on her head. To Airk’s and Revafour’s amazement, Amyalla seemed to grow in size to just under five feet in height, as her red hair turned chestnut brown. Her traveling attire became something rather more revealing, the dress of a harlot or a streetwalker, tattered and revealing in all the right places. Gaudy but cheap jewellery hung from her necklace and ears, and her face was decorated with just the right amount of makeup.

Airk and Revafour just stared askance at Amyalla, who had somehow changed into a human prostitute of the kind so often seen on the streets of Greyhawk, particularly in the lower-class parts of the city. The prostitute simply winked and kissed at them, before adjusting her necklace. She immediately resumed her natural halfling form, laughing at the embarrassment of her male friends.

“It’s amazing what some men will tell the women they’re with, once they get enough liquor or drugs into them,” Amyalla explained. “And of course, my hat proves its value once again,” she finished with a smile, doffing the enchanted hat she was wearing and taking a mock bow.

“…So you have a magical hat,” Airk said suspiciously as Revafour only blinked. “What else don’t we know about you?”

“Never you mind,” Amyalla smiled, as she headed for the door.

 

 

The Hanged Man Inn was one of the lowest dives in Greyhawk, inhabited by brigands, murderers, thieves and other scum. It was a gathering place for much of the city’s criminal element, many of whom came to conduct business as well as pleasure. It was also a regular stopping point for many of the city’s prostitutes, who visited the place in search of eager clients. The air was thick with pipe smoke and the smell of alcohol and vomit, the crudely repaired furniture was scavenged from a hundred different places, the carpets were threadbare and what passed for food and drink was decidedly unpleasant at best, but none of this mattered to Amyalla.

In her human disguise, it did not take her long to get the attention of many of the male clientele, who were flush with cash from a hard day’s thieving and eager to share their treasure. Glancing over them with a practiced eye, it did not take Amyalla long to find her mark, a suave thief whose demeanour was that of a gentleman vagabond, who got female attention as much for his rakish charm as for the length of his purse. The man insisted on buying her a drink, and she immediately complied, as they sat down at a table.

“Are you new in town?” the thief, who had introduced himself as Larroch, asked Amyalla as they sat down.

“New to the profession, but not the town,” Amyalla replied. “There have been…difficulties,” she explained.

“Many who’ve fallen land in these environs,” Larroch replied, sipping his drink. “They usually find their way before long, however.”

Amyalla made sure to flinch at that, temporarily dropping her defences so that she appeared vulnerable. The wan, despairing look was only on her face for a moment, and when the strap of her gown briefly fell off one shoulder, she was quick to replace it, but those brief moments made all the difference.

“I’ve always gotten by on my own,” Amyalla replied, hesitantly sipping at her drink, “until now, I hope.”

“Of course,” Larroch assured her, taking care to look the gallant rescuer even though the look in his eyes betrayed his intentions. “I know these streets all too well, my dear-well enough to know the dangers they pose.”

“Dangers?” Amyalla asked in her best maiden-in-distress voice, although she made sure not to overdo it.

“Nothing you need to worry about,” Larroch replied, “not with me by your side.”

Amyalla smiled at that, once again making herself seem vulnerable.

“Might I buy you another drink?” Amyalla asked. “The nights are cold, and I could use the warmth.”

“Of course,” Larroch smiled. Amyalla had noted the smell of cheap wine on his breath when she’d approached him, and judging by the number of empty flagons in front of him, he’d already had a fair amount of drink to begin with.

Larroch was falling victim to his own charms now, convinced that he was winning Amyalla over. He didn’t notice how little Amyalla was drinking, paying attention only to how vulnerable and desperate she seemed. The conversation continued as Larroch had more to drink, as Amyalla drew him further and further in.

“I could use a room for the night,” Amyalla finally said. “Not alone, of course-I hate to ask you, but…”

“No sooner said than done, my lady,” he smiled. Leading her up to the bar, Larroch paid the coins for a room and they headed upstairs, Larroch smiling widely at the thought of what was to come.

“I feel safer here, with you,” Amyalla said once she and Larroch were in the room. “I’ve heard stories about what happens out there at night. People…children disappearing…”

“Ah, yes,” Larroch said sadly. “Pieden’s the one behind that. He won’t go after you, though.”

“Pieden?” Amyalla asked in surprise.

“Pieden Ronard, the superior boss in this part of town,” Larroch explained, by now too drunk to fully realize what he was doing. “He’s ‘disappeared’ a number of children,” Larroch continued, “and getting good coin for it. Part of the slaving business, or something like that. No one around here, though-only in the River Quarter. He won’t hurt his own.”

“Indeed?” Amyalla asked in surprise. “And where might we find Pieden?” she wondered.

“No sooner easier said than done,” Larroch slurred, giving Amyalla the directions. “But why do you want to know?”

“I was just scared, and curious,” Amyalla replied, lying down on the bed next to Larroch. “But now, I feel safe. I know nothing will hurt me.”

“You’re always safe in my arms,” Larroch grinned, as he leaned forward to embrace Amyalla. His reflexes slowed by drink, he couldn’t react in time as Amyalla reached onto the table next to the bed and picked up the empty flagon there. Bringing it around, she smashed the flagon over Larroch’s head, knocking him senseless.

Opening the window, Amyalla looked at it and wondered whether she should climb out the window. No, that was probably a bad idea-the Hanged Man Inn was probably watched.

Instead, she took Larroch’s purse and added it to her own, and splashed some of his cheap wine on herself, before opening the door and peeking out into the corridor.

No one was there.

Amyalla immediately changed her disguise into that of a rough-looking street thug, just another one of the scores of lowlifes who passed through the Hanged Man on a regular basis. She locked the door with Larroch inside, and placed the key in her pocket. Calmly walking down the stairs, she passed through the common room and left the Inn without a second glance. While the night was full, Amyalla knew that she likely wouldn’t be bothered. She looked dishevelled and poor, and the wine she’d splashed herself with only heightened her disguise as an impoverished, drunken thug. Changing disguises, too, was a good way of keeping anyone from ever identifying her.

After she’d returned to the Wizard’s Hat Inn and had a proper bath, Amyalla was able to count the money in Larroch’s purse, and realized he’d had a very good night indeed.

So much the better for her, Airk and Revafour, she thought with a smile.

 

 

The time’s growing shorter, Pieden realized grimly, reviewing his arrangements one more time. How many do those sons of whores want this time? Ten? Twelve?

His men were waiting in the outer room of the warehouse Pieden had rented, where they kept the youths they kidnapped until they could be taken to the meeting place in the Cairn Hills. From there it was often a simple matter to disguise their prisoners as foreign slaves, before taking them out of the city as part of what looked like a legitimate slave caravan. The thugs Pieden had recruited for the job were good, loyal Thieves’ Guild men who would do what they were told without asking too many questions, and whose consciences were untroubled by the abductions they carried out. The arrangements were set for tomorrow evening, and everything appeared ready.

There was silence as Pieden came into the outer room and his men snapped to attention. Pieden opened his mouth to say something, but then all of the sharp-eared kidnappers froze at the sound of the lock on the warehouse’s front door being picked. The person doing the picking was mumbling under her breath, trying to be silent, but the seasoned thieves easily picked it up nonetheless. Readying their clubs and daggers, Pieden’s thugs gathered near the warehouse door, eager to give their own special brand of welcome to whoever was stupid enough to try to rob a warehouse of the Greyhawk Guild of Thieves.

Pieden and his men were so preoccupied by the warehouse door being opened that they were caught completely off guard by the morning star that shattered the dirty window at the far end of the warehouse, and by the heavily armoured man and gnome that jumped in through it. They only managed to react when Airk and Revafour had already closed the distance between them.

Airk lashed out with his morning star, hitting one of the thugs hard in the knee and causing him to collapse, howling in pain. One of the other thugs struck at him with his club, but Airk easily deflected it with his shield and then used his shield to strike back, hitting the thug in the face and knocking him senseless. The two thugs advancing on Revafour were forced back by the vicious slash the armoured man made with his sword, and before they could react Revafour brought the blade back and struck one of the thugs in the head with the flat of it. He collapsed on the ground, out cold, and as the other man ducked under the blade, Revafour lashed out with his foot, kicking the thug viciously in the ribs. The thug collapsed, the wind completely knocked out of him.

The last two of Pieden’s thugs had had the presence of mind to keep their attention focused on the door, pulling it open before whoever was outside could finish picking the lock. One of the thugs immediately stepped out, preparing to strike with his club, but all he got for his trouble was a vicious cut on his stomach from the dagger in Amyalla’s hand. The last thug lashed out with his own dagger, but Amyalla easily ducked the blow and lashed out with her dagger, slashing the man’s legs just below the knees. Howling in pain, he collapsed as Amyalla pushed her way into the warehouse, retrieving her lockpick from the door and shutting it behind her.

Pieden looked like a trapped rat, glancing from side to side as if searching for a way to escape, as Airk and Revafour gathered up his thugs and set about tying them up. Amyalla advanced on him, her dagger still dripping blood, using to gesture first at Pieden and then at his office. Swallowing hard, now sweating nervously, Pieden slowly advanced into the office, Amyalla following him in and shutting the door behind him.

“W-what do you want?” Pieden demanded. “Who sent you? Which faction are you from?” he babbled, unnerved by how easily the halfling and her friends had subdued his men.

“I know all about you, Pieden,” Amyalla accused him, her voice icily calm as Pieden cowered against the wall. “Kidnapping children to sell as slaves, lining your own pockets for their suffering. You’re so brave and strong, intimidating those who can’t fight back. How do you deal with someone who is capable of dealing with you on your own terms?” she demanded, her voice rising angrily as she brandished her dagger.

She expected Pieden to beg for mercy, or to angrily try and fight back. Instead, the man sank to a sitting position, tears forming in his eyes as he put his head in his hands.

“Norebo forgive me…” he began to weep. “What else can I do?”

“There are better ways of earning a living, I’d think,” Amyalla replied, her eyes narrowing.

“I’m not doing this for money!” Pieden shouted back angrily, his red-rimmed eyes flashing. “They have my son!”

“Your son?” Amyalla asked in surprise. “Who has your son?”

“The people who I’m doing these kidnappings for,” Pieden muttered. “They took my son, and they’ve shown me, with their magic, what they’ll do to him unless I do what they say.”

“And the way to do that is by depriving other parents of their children?” Amyalla asked, more calmly this time.

“If it’s the only way, then yes,” Pieden spat. “Yes, it is!”

“…And if we were to rescue your son?” Amyalla said after a moment’s thought. “Then you would have no other reason to commit these crimes, would you?”

“Certainly not,” Pieden replied, now calmer himself. “All I would want then would be vengeance on those who crossed my family!”

“I could kill you right now,” Amyalla warned him, “or turn you over to those whose children you have abducted. And yet…I have another idea as to what to do with you.”

Pieden only stared warily back at her, and his eyebrows rose as she explained her plan.

“…Very well,” he finally agreed. “But what am I to say when my men ask me about your attack on our warehouse?”

“Simply that we were enforcers sent by a noble who believed you had stolen something that belonged to him. When we realized that we were mistaken, we let you be. That explains why you’re still alive,” Amyalla explained.

Pieden sighed and rubbed his face. He didn’t know what else he could do, and realized that this halfling held all the cards. If she betrayed him to the people whose children he’d abducted, his life would be forfeit, and most likely Elian’s as well. If he informed the people who’d abducted his son, they would of course kill Elian without a second thought.

“…Alright,” Pieden finally muttered. “But know this-if Elian dies, I will seek revenge on anyone and everyone who had anything to do with his passing, including you and your friends. I cannot stand against you here and now, but if you do not return with Elian, you will pay…with…blood…” he trailed off, anger smouldering in his eyes.

 

 

The next day, Airk and Revafour were at the Wizard’s Hat Inn, preparing for their part in Amyalla’s plan. She’d explained why Pieden was abducting the children, and what she intended to do about it. The Flan warrior and his gnome friend had spent much of the day gathering the supplies they’d need on the road, since Pieden apparently met the slavers in the Cairn Hills when it came time to deliver his “cargo”.

Airk seethed with disgust as he double-checked the supplies of food and water they’d bought.

“Disgusting, isn’t it?” the gnome finally spoke up.

“What do you mean?” Revafour asked, looking up from the pile of rope he was coiling.

“The way this wretch betrayed his community,” Airk replied. “One would think he was a dwarf-the only thing missing is his beard!”

“And what’s wrong with dwarves?” Revafour blinked in surprise.

“You never fought alongside them in the Hateful Wars,” Airk explained, referring to the bloody conflict that had ravaged the Lortmil Mountains almost a century ago. The humans and demihumans of the mountains had united to wage war on their humanoid neighbours and had largely been victorious, although some of the humans and their allies were just as apt to fight each other over the spoils of victory as they were to battle the humanoids.

“So what did the dwarves do in the Hateful Wars?” Revafour asked him.

“I was born in the Lortmil kingdom of Flinthold,” Airk told him, “and I enlisted in the king’s armies as soon as I matured. Many of my siblings joined the army as well, and we fought alongside each other. I saw two of my brothers perish, one to goblins and another to aurumvoraxes. I served as a lieutenant in the armies, I escorted Flinthold’s diplomats when they traveled to other realms, things like that.”

“And when the Hateful Wars began, you were called to serve, I take it,” Revafour pointed out.

“Just so,” Airk replied. “Flinthold joined with the other gnomish kingdoms and their dwarven and human allies in fighting the humanoids. We lost many of our own, but their sacrifices were not in vain, as we were ready to crush the humanoids once and for all. Many of the allies, including Flinthold, had gained valuable new territory and resources. Flinthold, in particular, had claimed an orc-hold with some of the most valuable silver deposits in all the Lortmils.”

“Of course, that was when the allies began to turn on one another,” Airk continued bitterly. “Many of our dwarven allies, the same ones who had pledged their oaths to gods like Moradin and Clanggedon Silverbeard, turned on their allies and began attacking them in hopes of claiming the riches they’d won. Dwarf turned against dwarf, against human, against gnome.”

“In Flinthold’s case, we fell into a heated dispute with the Steelheart dwarven clan, who also lay claim to our orc-hold and the silver riches it contained. We sent an expeditionary force to claim the hold for ourselves, but we were betrayed-betrayed by one of our own!-who told the Steelhearts what we were planning. That traitor was our lead scout, who led our expeditionary force into a Steelheart ambush. We were massacred by their clever traps-they didn’t want to face us in honest combat yet, you see-and then they attacked us when we were outnumbered.”

“I was one of only three survivors of that little massacre. The Steelhearts seized the orc-hold that we’d paid for with our lives, and prospered from the silver, while Flinthold had paid dearly in blood and treasure, with little to show for it in the end. Perhaps, after having faced death at the hands of dwarven axes, you can see why I’m somewhat cynical about the bearded race?” Airk finished, an icy gleam in his eyes.

“Perhaps, but the gnome who betrayed your people did so out of greed, not necessity,” Revafour pointed out. “Indeed, Pieden reminds me of myself, in a certain way.”

“What?” Airk blinked, his anger dissipated into confusion by Revafour’s own admission. “How is that even possible?”

“You know how I came from the Duchy of Tenh, do you not?” Revafour explained. “Well,” he continued as Airk nodded, “when I came of age, I fell in love with a beautiful woman, Kathleena Nightoak. Unfortunately, I also had a rival for her hand, a warrior by the name of Tuomad Wolf-Slayer. He undermined my family by spreading rumours that we planned to betray our hometown of Atherstone to the Nyrondese, planting false evidence and using lies to enhance his own stature. Our families came to blows, and Tuomad and I were made to duel to settle the matter. Predictably, the coward drugged me, and I lost the duel. I was made to accept the responsibility of my family’s supposed crimes. I was banished from the Duchy, from my home, and I was captured by slavers not long after.”

Sickened by what he heard, Airk only stood in silence as Revafour continued his story.

“I was taken and sold in the Archbarony of Blackmoor, fortunate enough to be bought by Quendamak, a Flan elder who had treated with the Archbaron to allow his tribe to live among them. Of course, if you knew Archbaron Bestmo, you would know it did not take long for him to see us as a threat to his authority. We could not stand against the Archbaron’s forces-Quendamak was murdered and most of us were massacred. I managed to lead a small group of survivors south to Highfolk, though it was a harrowing journey. We did things to survive that we would never have done were we not fighting for our lives.”

“…And so you see Pieden in the same situation as you once were,” Airk realized. “He does these things because the slavers have his son.”

Man and gnome fell into silence at that, each contemplating what the other had just told him. 

"
 
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Re: Origins Of The Silver Wolf: A Light In The Dark, Part Two (Score: 1)
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