The Silver Wolf-Ghosts Of The Past: The Shadow Knows
Date: Tue, July 17, 2018
Topic: Stories & Fiction

Amyalla whirled around, thinking that the dogs might be responsible, but then she screamed in pain as a blade slashed her viciously across the back. Twisting around, Amyalla tried to stab whatever attacked her, but then she heard cruel laughter that no dog could make.

She also heard the cries of her friends in the darkness.

Chapter Thirteen 

The Shadow Knows

“Don’t be so afraid, my lovely,” Kalrek said as he caressed the human woman at his feet. “It doesn’t become someone so beautiful, and could upset those around you…” 

The woman swallowed hard, knowing what Kalrek meant by that. It took all the effort she could muster, but she forced a smile onto her face. She made sure to widen it as Kalrek began to caress other areas. 

“That’s a good little girl,” Kalrek said with a smile. “Worth every copper piece I paid for you.” 

The woman managed not to look away or scream, but she couldn’t stop tears from flowing from her eyes.

“Oh, you can weep all you like,” Kalrek said, smiling in an almost fatherly manner as he kissed her gently. “As much as I enjoy our time together, I have other matters to see to, matters that help our little family thrive.”

Kalrek gestured, and one of the two attendants waiting by his throne led the woman out of his throne room and back to the harem. The other attendant helped Kalrek strap on his equipment. He’d ordered Tooktrilk to divine where Airk and his companions were, and the priest had just warned him that Airk had visited Laessar’s manor. Tooktrilk also told Kalrek of the struggle that had ended in Laessar’s death. Airk had viewed the book that Laessar used to track his dealings with Kalrek, and Airk likely knew where Kalrek’s lair was.  

Kalrek knew that Airk and his companions were likely coming to attack his lair. He was eager to see his old friend once again, but he was less keen on meeting the rest of Airk’s companions. Those people were dangerous, given what they’d done to the spriggans and trolls in the Cairn Hills.

Once Kalrek was arrayed in his battle gear, he dispatched his remaining attendant with an order to gather the leaders of the various gangs of bandits and murderers who served him. In a matter of minutes, the leaders were assembled before Kalrek, eagerly awaiting his orders.

The gnomish hall Kalrek used as a lair was part of a labyrinth of many different tunnels and caves. He frequently sent different groups of raiders and merchants out through different tunnels, making it much less likely that they could all be tracked back to a single source. Unfortunately, now those tunnels were as much of a liability to Kalrek as an advantage. Airk and his friends could use any number of routes to reach his lair.

Kalrek didn’t want Airk’s companions to reach his lair, and he didn’t want his bandit groups fighting them there, either. The bandits’ loyalty to him came from fear, respect and the prospect of rich plunder. They respected him as a warlord, but they didn’t admire him to the extent that they would fight together for a common cause. Many of the bandits actually hated each other personally, and they would be as likely to fight each other as any intruders if they made a stand in his lair.

Kalrek thus ordered the bandits to set out into the tunnels leading to his lair. He said that they were to kill Airk’s friends, but to bring Airk to him alive if possible. He promised great riches to whichever of the bandits brought the adventurers’ heads to him, regardless of whether the heads were attached to anything else.

The bandits cheered eagerly, their lusts for blood and treasure kindled by Kalrek’s words. They set off into the tunnels, murder and riches on their minds.

Kalrek smiled when he was left alone in his throne room before he went to meet with his personal lieutenants. Besides his bandit minions, he also commanded the loyalty of a large group of humans, dwarves and gnomes. These were the soldiers who served as his personal guards and enforcers, the sages who researched on his behalf, and the bookkeepers who collected and distributed the plunder he received.

They were the beginnings of his kingdom.

Right now, Kalrek was a warlord, respected by the bandits who served him and revered by his personal followers.

Once he settled things with Airk, the Crown of Arumdina would be his.

And then he would be so much more. 

Did we ever truly know you? Amyalla wondered as the companions followed Airk down the passage. How much anger did you hold within you for all these years? And if you still bear it, how do we know you won’t be able to keep from lashing out again?  

Amyalla was full of mixed emotions, and she suspected her human friends felt the same way. She felt sympathy for Airk-of course she did!-but she was disgusted by what Airk had done, too. She was glad that Airk would submit to the justice of Copper Crossing when they returned with Laessar’s family-if they returned-but she had trouble looking at him the same way she did when she first met him.

Amyalla was snapped out of her revelry by a bloodcurdling howling that sent chills down her spine. Some of the howls seemed low and guttural, while others were loud screeches. Raising her dagger, Amyalla glanced around in alarm, expecting an attack from any direction. She heard a pair of human screams, one a man’s and the other a woman’s. Amyalla saw Weimar running back the way they’d come down the passage, while Seline charged ahead into the darkness.

Neither Weimar or Seline got very far, however. The very shadows around the companions seemed to come to life as a horde of strange figures, vaguely resembling large dogs, lunged at them. Some of the shadowy dog creatures tore at Weimar and Seline, while others blocked their friends from reaching them.

Revafour immediately cut down one of the dog creatures with his sword, and wounded another one. Some of the dog creatures leapt at him from behind, forcing him to turn away from the dog he’d wounded. Ma’non’go charged at the dogs, stabbing left and right with his trident as he tried to reach Seline. The dogs soon surrounded him, and he was stopped altogether. 

Seline screamed in pain as the dogs tore at her, her blood pounding from the creatures’ howling. As she scrambled to defend herself from the dogs’ bites, she couldn’t get her bearings to cast a spell, or even reach her wand.

Weimar managed to pull out one of his daggers to defend himself, and he cut one of the dogs’ throats with a lucky slash. Luna and Airk tried to move toward him, but they were soon caught fighting the dogs who blocked their way.

Amyalla’s eyes narrowed as she darted into the shadows herself, unnoticed by the vicious dogs. She emerged a few seconds later, slashing viciously with her daggers. She killed one of the dogs instantly, her dagger piercing the top of its skull. The halfling followed up by throwing a dagger into the flank of one of the dogs biting at Weimar. The foul creature turned to face her, and Amyalla plunged her next dagger right between the creature’s eyes. Airk and Luna soon overcame the dogs blocking their way to Weimar, and Amyalla joined them in finishing off the dogs still swarming the blonde man. Weimar smiled gratefully as his friends came up to him and helped him to his feet. The companions heard several pained yelps behind them, and they saw that Revafour and Ma’non’go were winning against the dogs attacking them and Seline.

When the dogs attacked, Luna and Ma’non’go put the lanterns they were carrying down on the passage floor in the midst of the companions. Now, the lamps’ light vanished, as the entire passage plunged into darkness.

Amyalla whirled around, thinking that the dogs might be responsible, but then she screamed in pain as a blade slashed her viciously across the back. Twisting around, Amyalla tried to stab whatever attacked her, but then she heard cruel laughter that no dog could make.

She also heard the cries of her friends in the darkness. 

 Seline gasped in pain from the dog bites she’d suffered, but the panic she’d felt, caused by the dogs’ howling, was rapidly fading. She could hear Ma’non’go and Revafour near herr, Revafour cursing as he tried to defend himself. Seline knew that both men were at a serious disadvantage, unable to swing their weapons for fear of hitting their friends. 

Fortunately, Seline anticipated an emergency like this, and she reached into one of her robe’s many pockets. Her fingers made contact with a lump, and she smiled in relief as she felt the rune she’d carved into it to confirm that it was the phosphorus she needed. Chanting quickly, praying that she would have the few seconds she needed, Seline caused a series of lights to appear all around her, glowing in a rainbow of colors. 

Despite herself, Seline had to admire their enemies’ cleverness. The shadowy dogs, whatever they were, could howl to confuse and panic the companions, before the dogs’ masters snuffed out the companions’ light sources and attacked while the companions were blinded. 

Fighting the companions while they were blinded was one thing, but fighting them in the light was quite another. In the light of Seline’s spell, the companions saw that their attackers were a group of humans and orcs. The attackers’ bodies were marked with scars and tattoos that matched their vicious, bloodied weapons well. Revafour wasn’t deterred by the attackers’ dangerous appearance, cleaving the first orc he attacked almost in two before gutting the second orc attacking him. Ma’non’go easily parried the attacks of the three men facing him, before methodically tearing them open one by one. 


One man got past Revafour and Ma’non’go to charge directly at Seline, but the wizard was ready for him. Quickly chanting a spell, Seline released a series of silvery-blue bolts of magic that struck the man in the face. The man immediately collapsed, screaming as the last bolt tore into and straight through his eye.

As she picked up her staff, Seline saw several more of the men and orcs fighting the rest of her companions. Airk easily blocked one of the men’s blows with his shield, and crushed the man’s skull with his morning star. Luna easily ducked an orc’s sword slash, and slammed her mace into his chest. Weimar, his arms running red with blood from the dogs’ bites, wielded his axe against another man whose skill at blocking Weimar’s blows marked him as the leader of the bandits.

Seline soon saw another man lurking in the shadows, his arms waving in an all too familiar pattern as he cast a spell. He was standing at a perfect angle for the lightning bolt he was casting to tear through all the companions at once. Seline realized the man was likely the wizard who had darkened their lanterns. She began casting frantically, praying that she would get her own spell off before the other mage did.

Seline didn’t need to, as the other wizard suddenly cried out in pain and stumbled. There was blood all along his thigh, and Seline saw the cause of it as Amyalla stepped out from behind him. The halfling drove her dagger into the man’s chest, killing him instantly, as Weimar chopped off the attack leader’s head in a single stroke.

“How did they do that?” Weimar said, gasping as he lowered his axe. “How could they see in the dark?” he continued, as Luna came over to heal his wounds.

“They wouldn’t, if their wizard cast magical darkness throughout the tunnel,” Seline said as she knelt down next to the man she’d struck with her magical bolts. “Their wizard only darkened our lanterns. Other than that...just as I thought,” she said, pulling a ceramic flask from a pouch on the dead man’s belt. “The humans probably took potions like these to see in the dark the way dwarves or gnomes can.”

So Kalrek is aware of our approach? Ma’non’go signed as Luna finished with Weimar and went to heal Seline’s wounds.

“Kalrek would make sure the merchants he’s got working for him wouldn’t try to cheat him,” Airk said, as he began rifling through the possessions of the attackers he’d killed. “He’d use diviners or household spies to monitor them, including Laessar. It’s no wonder he sent his brigands to kill us.”

“He keeps such fine company,” Amyalla said as she retrieved the last of her daggers from the dead shadowy dog creature and cleaned it with the hair of the wizard she’d slain. “I suppose he wants to become a bandit king, then?”

Amyalla didn’t intend her remark as anything but sarcasm, but she was surprised at the way Airk froze at her words.

“…What did you say?” Airk asked Amyalla.

“That Kalrek wants to become a bandit king…” Amyalla said.

Airk suddenly remembered the image of the crown emblem on the book Borrus found in Laessar’s safe. Then he remembered the image of another crown, a crown he’d learned about in his childhood, that made him realize where the emblem on Laessar’s book had come from.

Suddenly, everything made sense to Airk. 

He was filled with horror as he realized Kalrek’s true goal.

This article comes from Canonfire!

The URL for this story is: