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    The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: Finding My Voice
    Posted on Wed, November 16, 2022 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "

    Rage boiled within Ma’non’go at that realization. He’d had a bad feeling ever since he’d seen those human bodies in the Glimmering Hall. The story the duke’s journal told of how the Hall was betrayed reminded him of everything he’d suffered back in Hepmonaland.

    He’d lost one family due to that betrayal. Now he was on the verge of losing his second family to it, seemingly powerless to prevent it.

     Chapter Six

     Finding My Voice

    Besides giving clues to opening the treasure vault, the dwarven duke’s journal also told the companions how to find his family’s escape route. It turned out to be a magical one-way portal that transported its users to a nondescript building in the Hall’s commercial district. The building was a short march both from the entrance hall and from some of the merchants’ tunnels leading further into the underground wilderness. The portal’s users could either flee to the surface or deeper into the underground.

    Using the portal allowed the companions to easily leave the Glimmering Hall, closing its doors behind them to keep its undead inhabitants sealed. They planned to travel east to the Road of Tears, a north-south pass that connected Veluna and the Duchy of Ulek. Once they reached the Road, they’d travel north to the Velunese town of Vala Real.

    “Tell me why, again, you wanted to visit Veluna so badly?” Revafour asked Luna as the companions walked down a valley trail, a pure mountain stream flowing merrily alongside them.

    “I’ve always wanted to see what I could learn from the wisdom of Rao,” Luna said. “My heart belongs to Pelor, but he’d want me to learn what I can from other faiths. Pelor’s light shines equally on all of us, and we all deserve a chance to be heard. Our church believes it’s a sin to enforce one set of beliefs too rigidly. We should seek out new experiences when we can.”

    Revafour chuckled at the enthusiasm he saw in Luna’s eyes as she spoke. He was happy to visit Veluna too. Of all the states the Oeridians and Sueloise founded after the Great Migrations, it was perhaps Veluna that showed the most justice and respect to the native Flan. Many of the Flan’s traditional spiritual rites and ceremonies existed comfortably alongside the Raoans’ religious practices. Revafour was eager to see how it worked in practice.

    “We’ll likely get a good price for the gems and jewelry we found in the Hall, too,” Revafour said. “Airk told me they were probably worth about two thousand ducats worth each, on average.”

    “Ducats?” Luna said. “That’s the Great Kingdom’s old gold piece currency.”

    “It’s also Tenh’s,” Revafour said. The Duchy of Tenh was his homeland, one of the few lands in the Flanaess where the Flan were a majority.

    “And Tenh refers to its platinum pieces as magnuses too?” Luna said, astonished. Before the Great Kingdom of Aerdy was taken over by the Ivid Overkings, it referred to its platinum and gold coins as magnuses and ducats. When Tenh was ruled by the Great Kingdom of Aerdy, it had to use its overlords’ currency.

    “Yes, we do,” Revafour said, scowling. “Let me guess-you thought we were so backward we couldn’t adopt a new currency? Did you think we’d use platinum eagles and gold buffaloes?”

    Luna paled at that, shaking her head vigorously.

    “Of course not!” she said. “I’m so sorry, I-“

    She fell silent as Revafour grinned teasingly.

    “I’m the one who should be sorry,” he said. “I just couldn’t resist. When we freed ourselves from the Aerdi’s rule, we decided to keep the old currency. There wasn’t much point in changing it, not when most of us weren’t all that concerned with wealth. If other countries still wanted coins in trading with us, we decided to keep what everyone was familiar with.”

    Luna scowled back at Revafour, but there were hints of a smile on her lips as she swatted him playfully on the arm. They both laughed, reveling in the sunshine, the beauty of the mountain valley, and the birdsong that started to echo through the morning air.

    Soon, the singing started to fill Luna’s body with a numbing sensation and her mind with a foglike somnolence. She suddenly realized the singing she heard wasn’t coming from any bird. The trees on the other side of the stream suddenly rustled as the singing creatures burst out of hiding, murder in their eyes.

    The creatures had the heads, upper torsos and arms of ugly haglike women and the lower torsos and legs of eagles, as birdlike wings sprouted from their backs. Those wings carried them over the stream towards the companions, eager to use the swords and spiked clubs they carried to slaughter their prey. They looked filthy and repulsive, but they sang with an otherworldly beauty. Their songs were so enchanting, in fact, that listeners were often completely mesmerized. The listeners were easy prey for the creatures, who ripped them apart while they stood enthralled.

    The creatures were harpies, and Luna realized just how much trouble she and her friends were in. A dozen of the foul things streaked at the companions, all of them singing together. Their combined power was almost overwhelming.

    Weimar was the first of the companions to react. He had his bow in his hands almost immediately, and he quickly shot off two arrows. His first shot missed its target, and his second merely grazed the leg of the harpy he shot at. The harpies’ song sapped his will almost immediately, and he soon dropped his bow, completely entranced.

    Seline retrieved the components for a lightning bolt spell as soon as she recognized the harpies, and she quickly cast the spell as the monsters approached. The bolt blasted through one harpy and struck a second one dead on, felling them both on the spot, but the rest of the harpies scattered and continued singing. Amyalla and Revafour each felled another harpy with their sling and bow, but the monsters’ singing soon entranced Amyalla.

    Shouting in anger, Revafour fired another arrow at one of the harpies, but she easily dodged it as she swooped down towards him. He leapt back, startled by the harpy’s sudden descent, dropping his bow as he tried to draw his sword and counter the harpy’s blow. He was off balance as he struggled against the harpies’ song, and the harpy easily swooped past him. She tore a deep gash in his right arm, leading him to cry out in pain.

    Luna cursed to herself as she focused to try and cast a spell. She hadn’t prepared any spells that could silence the harpies. She tried to summon a magical mace to crush the harpies, but her spell was lost as the harpies’ song overtook her too. She dropped her shield and stood mutely, lost in the harpies’ music.

    Seline blasted two harpies with a flurry of magical bolts, killing one, but the second harpy kept coming to slash her arm and shoulder. She was about to cast another spell, but soon the harpies’ music entranced her too.

    Airk crushed the skull of the harpy that swooped down at him with his morning star. He chased off another harpy that landed to attack Weimar, but he knew the companions were in serious trouble. He, Revafour and Ma’non’go were the only ones still able to fight, but half the harpies still lived. It was all Airk could do to fight the influence of the harpies’ songs, and soon Revafour succumbed to it. Tricked into dropping his bow by the harpy’s coming down at him, Revafour couldn’t get back to it in time to avoid being entranced.

    Three of the harpies attacked Airk from every direction, and it was all he could do to fend them off. He blocked one harpy’s attack with his shield, but another harpy struck him in the head with her club, and a third tore a long gash down his back with her sword.

    Ma’non’go killed the first harpy that attacked him, but the second one was more skilled. He thrust and parried against her, but he saw that most of his friends had succumbed to the harpies’ deadly song. The only one who hadn’t was Airk, and he was struggling against three of the creatures.

    Rage boiled within Ma’non’go at that realization. He’d had a bad feeling ever since he’d seen those human bodies in the Glimmering Hall. The story the duke’s journal told of how the Hall was betrayed reminded him of everything he’d suffered back in Hepmonaland.

    He’d lost one family due to that betrayal. Now he was on the verge of losing his second family to it, seemingly powerless to prevent it.

    His anger finally exploded, as he screamed out loud.

    The harpy he was fighting briefly let up her attack, startled by his cry. Ma’non’go screamed again as he ran her through with his trident. Another harpy came flying at him from the right, but he turned and held out his trident. The harpy screeched in horror, unable to stop herself before she impaled herself on it.

    Planting his foot firmly to tear his weapon free, Ma’non’go turned to run and help Airk. One of the harpies, distracted by Ma’non’go’s approach, had her throat gouged open by Airk’s morning star. The last two harpies tried to fly away, but Ma’non’go ripped through the wings of one of them, causing her to scream in agony. As the last harpy rose into the air, Ma’non’go threw his trident at her. The trident hit the harpy in the back and knocked her back down to the ground. As the harpy thrashed in pain, Ma’non’go pulled his trident out of her back and thrust it in again deeper, putting her out of her misery.

    Instinct drove Airk to kill the last harpy whose wings Ma’non’go raked. As the adrenaline of battle faded, though, it was replaced by his utter shock at the realization that Ma’non’go had just spoken out loud.

    The rest of the companions were broken out of their trances by Ma’non’go’s scream. It took some time before the trance’s effects wore off and they could move again, but they all heard Ma’non’go’s cry and saw him help Airk finish off the harpies.

    Ma’non’go’s gaze shifted to each of his friends in turn. He was just as shocked as them, scarcely able to believe what just happened.

    “I…can…” he said.

    Dropping his trident, Ma’non’go sank to his knees and put his face in his hands. Tears flowed down his cheeks as his friends came to support him.

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