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    The Silver Wolf-A Light In The Dark: Chapter Five: Honor Among Thieves
    Posted on Mon, September 04, 2017 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "“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.


    Chapter Five

    Honor Among Thieves

    The Hanged Man Inn was one of the lowest dives in Greyhawk. It was a gathering place for many of the city’s murderers, thieves and other criminal scum, many of whom came to conduct business as well as pleasure. The Hanged Man was also a regular stopping point for many of the city’s prostitutes, who visited the place in search of eager clients. The air in the inn’s common room was typically 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.

    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 the men with a practiced eye, it did not take Amyalla long to find her mark. The mark was a suave thief whose demeanor was that of a gentleman vagabond, getting 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 defenses 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.

    “Could you please buy me 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. 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 some coins for a room. They were soon 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 saying. “He’s ‘disappeared’ a number of children,” Larroch continued, “and gotten 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 the contents of Larroch’s purse and added them to her own. Splashing some of his cheap wine on herself, Amyalla opened the door and peeked out into the corridor.

    No one was there.

    Amyalla immediately changed her magical disguise into that of a rough-looking street thug, just another one of the scores of lowlifes who passed through the Hanged Man Inn 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 disheveled 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. They would do what they were told without asking too many questions, and their 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. The men looked at each other and grinned, 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 other end of the warehouse. Their surprise only increased at the sight of the heavily armored man and gnome that jumped in through broken window. 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. He 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 armored man made with his sword. Before they could react, Revafour brought the blade back and struck one of the thugs in the head with the flat of it. The first thug collapsed on the ground, out cold. As the second thug ducked under Revafour’s next strike, Revafour lashed out with his foot, kicking the second thug viciously in the ribs. The second 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 struck back, 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 Pieden, her dagger still dripping blood, using to gesture first at Pieden and then at the office he kept in a back room. 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 said simply.

    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. Airk and Revafour 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 several decades ago. The humans, dwarves and gnomes of the Lortmils had united to wage war on the orcs, goblins and other humanoid races that infested the mountains like a plague. While the humans and their allies had largely been victorious, driving most of the humanoids out of the mountains, some of the victors had been just as apt to fight each other over the spoils of victory as they were to fight 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 led patrols, 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 edge of a dwarven axe, 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 by name. Unfortunately, I also had a rival for her hand, a warrior by the name of Tuomad Wolf-Slayer. He undermined my family by spreading rumors 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. Fortunately, I was bought by Quendamak Running Griffin, a Flan elder who’d signed a treaty with Archbaron Bestmo to let his people live in Blackmoor. Quendamak gave me back my freedom, and Iived among his clan for some time. Life wasn’t easy in the fens of Blackmoor, but with Quendamak’s guidance, we made a new home for ourselves.”

    “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 power. That arrogant wretch broke the treaty we had signed with him, and led his forces against us. We tried to resist as best we could, but it was hopeless. 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,” Revafour concluded shamefully.

    “…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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