Origins Of The Silver Wolf: A Light In The Dark, Part Seven
Date: Tue, September 03, 2013
Topic: Stories & Fiction

It was a common stopping point for travelers between the free cities, but as the adventurers got a fire going and ate their evening meal they felt as if they were the only people in all the world. As shadows crept in around them, the sky filled with a dazzling collection of stars, even as the twin moons Luna and Celene began their evening dance. The moon and stars contrasted with the light of the fire, lending an aura of wonder and mystery to their surroundings.

Luna breathed heavily as she sat down to rest. There had been more of the children left alive than any of them had dared to hope, nearly thirty altogether. Unfortunately, for every prisoner left alive the adventurers had found two more corpses, innocents who had perished at the hands of the hags and their depraved henchmen. Luna wasn’t sure what was worse, the ways in which many of the children had been killed or the indignities inflicted on their bodies.

Her friends had readily agreed to her plea that they take the bodies with them when they left this gods-cursed place. Luna could only imagine how many parents out there were worried sick wondering what had happened to their loved ones, and if nothing else Luna hoped that she and the others would be able to bring the parents some closure. Unfortunately, it was likely that the hags had brought some of the corpses with them from elsewhere when they’d set up in the caverns, and there was no way the adventurers would be able to return them to their families. Luna still felt better taking them anyway, knowing that, if she could not save their lives, she could at least take them away from this gods-cursed place and let them be buried to rest in peace.

The very air of the Bearded Lord’s Hollow sickened Luna now. The priestess couldn’t stomach going into those caverns anymore, feeling filthy and dirty whenever she did. The only exception was when she’d helped desecrate and destroy the hags’ shrine to Orcus, something that made her feel cleaner already. She’d spent the rest of the day healing her friends’ wounds and treating the childrens’ sicknesses and injuries, feeling a sense of relief as she did so.

Even then, nagging doubts lurked at the back of Luna’s mind. Why did Pelor and the other gods of good tolerate the evil of demon princes like Orcus and the gods of evil? Was there nothing they could do directly, particularly when evil gods like Iuz and Wastri intervened on Oerth? No matter what, the likes of Orcus, Asmodeus and Nerull constantly returned to cause yet more suffering and death.

When did it all end?

Could it even all end?

What if Pelor, for all his power, simply could not put an end to it?

She felt shame for those thoughts, knowing that she was expressing doubt to the god she had pledged her life to. And yet she could not help but feel them, sickened by all the horrors she’d seen over the last few years.

What was it all for?

Ma’non’go knew that everything was ready. The hags’ larder had provided plenty of food for the children and their guardians to eat, and the wagons the hags had used to bring their prisoners to this hellish place could be used to bring them back home. Some of the treasure Amyalla had found would also help provide burial for those children who had died here, alone and unknown, so far from home.

If anyone could empathize with that, it was the large Olman. Likely everyone in X’tandelexamenka believed that he was dead, lost in the jungles of Hepmonaland when he’d been forced to flee. Perhaps it was for the best-as he constantly reminded himself, everyone in that city who knew him was either dead or alive but dead to him. He had not spoken a word in the decade since he’d been banished, the shock and the pain proving too much for him to endure.

There was nothing left there for him, he kept telling himself. He didn’t need to think about what had happened all those years ago.

He told himself that, but he still could not speak, except through his hands. The words would simply not come. Indeed, even speaking through his hands did not come easily, except to the sisters to whom he had pledged his life. They made his heart lighter, and gave him a reason to continue.

With that in mind, Ma’non’go wondered what would happen now, once they’d returned the children to their homes. It was quite possible the axeman Weimar would stay with them, but those others, Revafour, Amyalla and Airk-what would happen to them?

To his own surprise, he found that the idea of their parting ways dismayed him.

The hags had kept their treasure in a series of trunks in their private bed-chamber, and had hidden the keys so well that the adventurers could not find them. That wasn’t too much of a problem for Amyalla, though-she’d easily disabled the locks and traps on most of the chests, and this one was the only one left. One final twist of her pick broke the needle in the lock, and Amyalla easily tossed the now-opened lock aside and opened the last of the chests.

In the dim torchlight, the glittering of the gold and silver coins was pretty enough, but not as much as the jeweled goblets or the set of perfectly cut and matching topazes. The hags had accumulated quite a store of wealth, much of it probably acquired from their victims or from would-be rescuers who they’d killed. Normally she would have been quite pleased to see all this wealth, but right now all she could think of was how they could use it to pay for the burial of those victims who had no families to claim them.

More than that, too, Amyalla wanted was to get back outside and far away from this disgusting place. She was too small to help much with gathering up the bodies of the victims or the gathering of the treasure, so she had spent much of her time entertaining the children, instead. The puppets she’d made were crude, but with some clever application of Revafour’s paints, they became much more lifelike. They made the perfect accompaniment to Seline’s stories and songs, accompanied by Luna’s music. Even when the puppets were not enough, Amyalla’s magical hat allowed her to take the roles on herself.

The laughter and smiles on the children’s faces lightened Amyalla’s heart, particularly after the horrors she’d seen. Not that they were particularly new to her-after having Kivern Goodleaf as a husband, Amyalla was well acquainted with living in cages, metaphorically if not literally. She’d often wondered what it would have been like to have children, to care for them and raise a family. Feeding and caring for the children was particularly amusing in her case, given that so many of them were just as tall as she was. Being a parent was one thing, but being a nanny was quite another…

That realization made the halfling sigh. While she had no regrets about publicly exposing Kivern and dragging House Reorsa’s name through the mud in the process, being forced to flee the way she did had kept her from ever being able to enjoy the family she’d been looking for. The Reorsa family wasn’t exactly what she’d been looking for-it had been all about money, rank and military prestige for them-and all of the men she’d rooked and robbed were double-dealing snakes who deserved the scandals she’d exposed them to.

At the end of it all, though, she was still alone, she realized glumly.

Being back outside, free of those gods-cursed caverns, was a cleansing feeling to Revafour. They would be leaving soon-all of the food and treasure they were taking had been loaded onto the wagons, the shrine to Orcus had been destroyed, the monsters were all dead and Luna had fully healed them all. In a matter of weeks this whole affair would be over and done with, and they could leave this hellish place behind.

It all seemed like a tragic waste to Revafour. These hills were so beautiful, offering a wild, rugged beauty all their own, until they were tainted and polluted by the corrupting influence of the hags and their minions. The caverns of the Bearded Lord’s Hollow had not been crafted by orcs-they were far more likely to be of dwarven make. Revafour doubted that any of the other companions who he had fought alongside likely recognized the runes of protection and welcome subtly carved into the walls of some of the tunnels, runes that he recognized as having a Flan influence. More the pity, then, that they had been so tainted by evil.

Anger welled up in him, despite his best efforts to stop it. Thinking about these things reminded him of the stories of the Flan elders, stories of betrayal and murder at the hands of the Oerids and the Suel. The murder of his old friend Quendamak, his second father, at the hands of Archbaron Bestmo still pained him, and it served as an uncomfortable reminder of everything the Flan had suffered at the hands of the new arrivals to the Flanaess, and at the hands of each other-he hadn’t forgotten about Tuomad Wolf-Slayer or Kathleena Nightoak.

What now, then? He had wielded a sword of Oeridian make, worn a cloak and armor of Oeridian design, and fought alongside the Oerids and the Suel to destroy the evil poisoning this place. Revafour was not certain what he would do once all the children had been returned to their homes-would he continue on with Amyalla and Airk? Or would he go on to his own devices, working as a guard or a hired sword? Would he find another Quendamak out there?

The idea did not arouse the same enthusiasm in him that it might have several months ago. He hadn’t been particularly close to anyone after he’d led the escape from Blackmoor-the rest of Quendamak’s people had chosen to stay with the people they’d met in the Vesve Forest. Revafour had been too angry and frustrated to stay with them-he needed to leave, to be somewhere, anywhere else.

Where else did he even need to be?

Even as he told himself that, he remembered the stories of what the Flan had suffered, and felt the anger rise up within him.

He tried to fight it, but it was still there.

Weimar smiled to himself as he contemplated the flagon he’d found in the hags’ larder. It was a magical one, able to dispense different types of drink on command, one of the “flowing flagons” of the legendary Zagig, the mad old demigod of yore. He was especially glad for its presence, given how badly he needed a drink after everything he’d seen.

Weimar needed to be careful not to overdo it, but he just couldn’t help himself this time. What was it that motivated beings with power like these hags and their minions to pick on helpless innocents like the children they victimized? He’d never been able to find the answer, not even after all of the duels and tavern brawls he’d gotten into over the years. One day he was defending one of his siblings who’d gotten into trouble with a powerful noble, the next he was smashing tankards over the heads of low-born street thugs who harassed slim young barmaids and halfling patrons. That nature had gotten him into trouble with his superior officers in the Keoish Army, too-Weimar had had no compunctions about attacking his fellow soldiers for mistreating civilians, or for bluntly criticizing overbearing sergeants who abused their charges.

It was just one thing he’d been searching for and had never really found the answer to. Of course he enjoyed himself fighting a new foe every day, spending every night with a new fair maiden and enjoying a new type of ale in every tavern he came to, but he wondered when and if it would end. Take today, for instance-would he now leave the company of the people he’d fought alongside, people who had risked their lives for him and who he had risked his own life for?

The idea appalled him, particularly after everything they’d seen.

The images of everything he’d seen the hags do to their victims, and the way he and the others had had to gather up their victims’ bodies to return to civilization, sprang unbidden to his mind.

He needed another drink.

Seline had found that the clasps on the silver bracers N’arghenn was wearing easily opened, and she had no trouble removing them. The bracers immediately shrank to fit Seline’s wrists when she tried them on, and she could feel their protective power. The wand hanging from N’arghenn’s belt, the one that had released the scalding steam, was also easily taken, and Seline knew she would be able to make good use of it.

As valuable as these prizes were, they were a poor consolation compared to all the horrors she’d seen in these caverns. She’d seen the looks in the eyes of her companions as they’d gathered up the bodies of the hags’ victims, and the images of what the hags had done to their prey remained seared in her mind. The thoughts sickened her, but she knew she would be able to deal with them. What concerned her more was how the other companions, the people she’d accompanied on this mad quest, were doing.

She’d constantly seen Airk staring off on the horizon with a faraway look in his eyes, as if he was reliving some distant memory. Revafour had that same look of eager anger in his eyes that she’d first seen when they’d fought the ogres and the verbeeg after falling down the pit trap. Ma’non’go looked confused and saddened. Amyalla put on a brave face as she entertained the children with the puppets she’d knitted. Luna was spending more and more time in prayer. Weimar was constantly sampling from that magical flagon he’d found, seemingly unable to stop himself.

Seline felt a keen sense of frustration, wishing she could do something more to help them.

She didn’t want it to end this way.

Airk dutifully worked to help the others gather up the treasure and the bodies of the hags’ victims, and to ensure that the surviving children were well-fed and guarded. Inwardly, though, his mind kept drifting back several decades to the Hateful Wars, and the ugly memories that he simply could not seem to shake.

How many comrades had he and his fellow gnomes had to bury? How many times had the gnomes and the dwarves continually betrayed and sold each other out for profit and political gain, allowing the humanoids to regroup? It was one thing to kill the orcs and goblins, monsters who would have enslaved the gnomes and dwarves they did not kill and eat, but it was quite another to face death at the hands of your supposed allies. Even now, the thoughts still filled him with rage, and sometimes it was all he could do to keep himself in check.

Gazing out over the beauty of the hills, which remained unspoiled beyond the borders of the cancer these caverns had become, and the dance of the twin moons at night, helped soothe his soul. So too, did the surviving children-Airk had much more fun than he would have ever imagined playing with Amyalla in her silly puppet shows. They would be leaving soon, and then he’d be able to put this gods-cursed place behind him.

And what would he do after that? He’d wandered for a long time after the end of Hateful Wars, working as a mercenary and adventurer, but it all seemed so hollow to him. He hadn’t even returned to Flinthold after the war ended-he could not show his face there after the way he’d allowed Kalrek to betray their unit-and he was left wondering what to do with his life.

Now here he was, fighting alongside a crew of humans and a halfling, all of whom would eventually go grey and die while he would still be comparatively young.

Airk was struck by the strangeness of the situation, and even more so by the fact that it made him more fulfilled and alive than he had been for more than six and a half decades.


It took four long, wearying days for the adventurers to gather everything up from the hags’ lair and load it into the wagons the monsters had used to transport their treasures and their prey. After that, it took another three days to drive the caravan back to Greyhawk, stopping more than once at Oakdale and other settlements in the hills to return children who lived in those communities to their families. It was as joyous as it was sad, some parents relieved that their loved ones were safe and others merely saddened as they buried their loved ones.

The caravan was attacked once on the journey back to Greyhawk, by a gang of orc and goblin brigands who were eager for the treasure and food they thought they could gain. It was the worst mistake they could have made, as the adventurers were eager for something to vent their anger and disgust on.

The monsters were crushed like flies and left to rot at the side of the road.

When the adventurers reached Greyhawk, it took them another week to return all of the living children to their parents, and to return the corpses of the victims they’d arrived too late to save. Several of these latter victims had no families to call their own-street children, in all likelihood, abducted since they wouldn’t be missed-and the adventurers paid to give them a decent burial. Pieden Ronard was reunited with his son Elian, not even thanking the adventurers as he marched off down the street. Louella was beside herself with joy, nearly crushing Amyalla in the thankful hug she gave for bringing Sienna home. Morin and Jacquileene Listell came to Greyhawk to take Teddyrun home after a cheerful reunion, leaving the adventurers a large coffer of gold coins in thanks for their deed.

Soon, two weeks after the battle at the Bearded Lord’s Hollow, the adventurers were left on their own. When Revafour mentioned that he needed to leave Greyhawk, even if just for a couple of days, it didn’t take long for the rest of the adventurers to insist on accompanying him. Heading west out of the city, not entirely sure where they were going, they soon made camp in a forested area just off the road to Dyvers.

It was a common stopping point for travelers between the free cities, but as the adventurers got a fire going and ate their evening meal they felt as if they were the only people in all the world. As shadows crept in around them, the sky filled with a dazzling collection of stars, even as the twin moons Luna and Celene began their evening dance. The moon and stars contrasted with the light of the fire, lending an aura of wonder and mystery to their surroundings.

Finally, far away from it all, the companions felt a sense of peace and relief that they had not experienced since their journey to the Bearded Lord’s Hollow. The fire grew brighter as the night grew longer, both comforting and warming all at once.

For a long time, they had sat in silence, until Revafour finally spoke.

“Why did you all come with me?” he asked solemnly, looking from one to the other of the people he had called his companions for the last two weeks.

“We were like you,” Seline replied, looking at Luna and Ma’non’go, who nodded in agreement. “We needed to get away from everything, even if only for a while.”

“But you could have gone off on your own,” Revafour pointed out. “You didn’t have to come with me, either,” he continued, looking at Airk and Amyalla.

“Why wouldn’t we?” Amyalla asked. “Where else could we have gone?”

Revafour had no answer to that.

“It’s much the same with me,” Weimar interjected. “Everyone has to be somewhere, and here is as good a place as any to me.”

“So what do you plan to do now?” Amyalla asked him.

I, for one, am not certain, Ma’non’go signed with his hands. Luna and Seline had begun teaching the rest of the adventurers the sign language Ma’non’go used to communicate, and they could now understand his basic conversations. Will our association end here, as we go our separate ways?

The look on Ma’non’go’s face reflected his disappointment at the thought, and the rest of his companions were following suit.

They sat in silence for several moments, until Airk spoke up again.

“Who says it has to end here?” he pointed out. “Think of it-I knew little of either of you before we came together,” he said, nodding to Amyalla and Revafour, “and yet here we are. Is there any reason why we should split up? What would it accomplish?”

“Nothing!” Luna spoke up immediately. She seemed rather embarrassed as everyone looked at her, surprised by her outburst. “It’s just…there’s no reason for us to split off, is all,” she continued.

“And I’d personally hate for it to end this way,” Weimar chimed in, “particularly after everything we’ve been through together.”

That made Revafour stare up at the starlit sky, a faraway look in his eyes.

“Together…” he muttered.

“Together,” Seline repeated, a determined smile crossing her face. “That’s the thing, isn’t it? We’ve all been wandering, each alone in our own ways…searching for something…who’s to say we might not have found it?”

“Companionship?” Amyalla asked.

“Just so,” Seline smiled.

A company, then? Ma’non’go signed, the expression on his face showing how pleased he was by the thought.

“Just so,” Seline repeated.

“And what, my dear, should we call ourselves?” Amyalla asked ironically. “The Circle of Seven?”

They all laughed at that, but it didn’t answer the halfling’s question.

Revafour was thinking about the question, as he resumed looking up at the beautiful starlit sky. He started at the howling he heard in the distance, the songs of the wolves as they greeted the night.

“The silver wolf,” he smiled to himself, murmuring as if he was half-dreaming. “The stars of the sky, and the songs of the wolves. Many of them may start out alone, but then they can come together into a pack.”

“Wolves howl to call their packs together, to locate one another when they’re lost and to communicate over long distances, to remind them that they’re not alone,” Weimar noted.

“Is that what we are, then?” Airk asked curiously. “Akin to wolves, come together in a pack under the silver sky?”

“The Company of the Silver Wolf?” Seline spoke for all of them.

None of her companions replied to her. They didn’t need to, as they each knew what the other was thinking.

Some of them settled down to sleep, and some of them took the first watch.

They left at dawn, the sunrise providing a fitting background to the bright new future the companions saw together.


This article comes from Canonfire!

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