The Edge of Twilight
“Where to?”, Khurran mused in a low whisper with the others, as the Wolves quietly set up camp in the dark woods later that night. He could hear Nezrin and Devin unrolling their bedrolls feet away.
The night was chillier than he expected, and his shivering was not helped by his icy cold hands. He had spent a good deal of time washing his fine dagger in the nearby stream, trying to wash off the horrid taint of the fel-child’s blood. It had taken him all day to get over the slaying of the ‘child’, driving his dagger and ripping through its small ribcage… the horror of what it had become. And what would he become, now that Devin had chosen this path, a path of direct resistance? He had helped those elves kill a man this day… and that child. He could not stop shaking. He could have easily fallen in battle that morning, and either ended up like that ravenous, hideous slave… or had the ‘mercy’ of being beheaded by his comrades, like the one Wolf they had lost. He had been terrified that he might be asked to do a beheading. He wondered if that was why he had been so reluctant to ask the quartermaster for a sword. Could he ever do such a thing for Devin, or Nezrin?
“My advice of course is to return to the elven holdings, and continue gathering Erenlanders to our cause, in safety. But I know you have not changed your mind in this, Devin, and wish to seek our kinsmen out… so shall we follow the Wolves north, or strike for the coast and the city?”
“It seems to me that we can best aid the Wolves not by fighting as we did this day, but by gathering more people and resources to their cause. It seems to me that we can do more good by trying to connect with the Sarcosan resistance that the slave mentioned… my mother’s good name might still have currency with them. This King Rat they seek, and his underworld also sound like a valuable resource to tap in to. The smugglers would be useful resources in our cause, so perhaps we could check out the caves on that map, on our way to the city. I trust Galamir and the Wolves… but I fear we will meet a soldier’s end with them. Let us foray out on their behalf and make use of our other talents… I am sure there will be plenty of time for soldiering in our future anyway.”
Devin was rolling out his bedroll thinking to himself how he was proud of the way his men performed in combat earlier in the morning.
“They stayed focused on the task at hand and we were able to free some of our brethren.” he thought to himself. “Not a bad day’s work.”
The silence was cut by a whisper from Khurran posing the question that Devin knew was on everyone’s mind. Where to now? Devin could always count on Khurran to bring up the difficult questions and force him to make a decision. That’s what makes him Devin’s most valuable advisor. That, and the fact that Khurran’s counseling has not failed him yet. Devin listened intently to Khurran’s thoughts on the matter and then asked the others theirs. As he expected he received mix feelings. Devin pondered for a moment and then addressed his comrades.
“Although we did well today working with the rest of the Wolves, staying in such a large pack will eventually draw much attention. Once we get noticed, things will get only tougher for us. We’ll have a better chance of staying hidden if we work in smaller groups. With that said, I will speak to Galamir and volunteer us to head to the city in order to make contact with this “Rat King” fellow. We have a resistance message for him. And even though we don’t have the ring, a half a message is better than no message. Plus, Khurran is right, it would be advantageous to have a contact in the city for supplies and contraband reasons. Who knows, maybe we can work with them in setting up some kind of underground escape for those who wish to leave the city and get to the Elven forest. I will also volunteer us to check out those caves. They’re on the way. It only makes sense that we see what kind find there. Any information we can gather on the activities of the Shadow can only help our cause. We leave in the morning.”
Devin noticed a shiver shake the body of Khurran. Pulling out his winter blanket, Devin walks over to him and drapes it over the shoulders of his trusted friend. “You fought bravely today Khurran. Sleep well.”
The wrenching muscles in Devin’s stomach reminds him he that he hasn’t eaten since morning feast. “First things first.” Devin thinks to himself as he starts to make his rounds to his men to ensure they are well fed and to tend to their wounds.
Nezrin was bothered. Something about the day’s battle just wasn’t right. It was too easy, they outnumbered the forces of the shadow- something which had never happened before, and at no point did they feel like they were on the edge of defeat, with the cold wind of death and fear breathing down their necks. No, they had either gotten lucky or they had been allowed this victory in order to lead them into a more complex trap. The forces of the Shadow were cunning in their cruelty. The battle, while not a great victory, had loosened his muscles and retrained his instincts, which had long sense grown dull in the sanctuary of the forest. Perhaps he was being too cynical and dour—an overwhelming victory such as this may never come again. He should go over and join the others in their celebration. He heard Devin’s voice over a few of the other Black Wolves who were around the pit warming themselves by the elven hearthstones. Something about the Rat King they had heard of from the slave. Trap or not, he would stay the course. These men: Khurran, Devin, and that elf who’s name he couldn’t quite remember over the encroaching sleep that filled his head, had earned his trust, and he would fight alongside them for as long as they fought the Shadow and his army.
The quick raid had been relatively successful but there were no sounds of celebrations. The camp was quiet, most of the freed slaves were asleep, so sound asleep it almost seemed they were dead. Galamir quickly struck that thought from his mind but not before noting to himself to post a few more guards than normal this night. One of Black Wolves had been lost in battle today but his sacrifice was an important one besides two of the slaves had already volunteered to join the company. The extra weapons, food rations, and the pieces of armor gained from the raid will make the Wolves more dangerous to contend with. Only a fraction will be kept, the rest is to be sent south to the Burning Line. The elves there need to hold their ground.
The freed slaves, once healthy enough to travel at a quick pace will be sent deeper into the forest. Galamir could only hope that their experiences would make them hunger for revenge against the Shadow and mold them into fierce soldiers for the cause.
The hardened Dorn captain began to make his rounds, making sure the healers were still tending to the wounded and that the others were keeping their weapons and armor in shape. The few fletchers they had were working diligently on more arrows and many of the wolves were hard at work fixing whatever armor they had. Many sharpening stones could be heard grinding along their owners blades.
Galamir stopped and knelt beside a group that was relatively new to the Black Wolves. They had done well earlier today, especially the one named Devin. Earlier he had seen him move through the company offering to tend the wounded and giving any other help that was necessary. There was a presence of leadership about him that made Galamir innately trust him and that was rare in these times. The group of four had stayed with their objective to secure the cart and it more than likely saved a few lives.
“I hear your group wishes to volunteer to investigate our findings this past day,” Galamir’s voice was even more deep and rough than usual from shouting commands during the battle this morning. “It was unfortunate that the sarcosan insurgent did not survive the travel into the forest but his wounds were beyond our repair. However, we were able to gain a little more information from him. The one who had taken the ring from his hand had left the caravan soon after he gave up the information about the Rat King. It was a legate that had done this to him and he died with serious regret and remorse that somehow the legate would figure out how to ferret out the Rat King with the ring. His only solace was that he did not give up the code.” Galamir also explains that he got a more detailed description of the ring. It is brass in color and a gemstone is inset on the top. The small gemstone is the dusky blue of Aryth’s moon.
“Since you were first to volunteer, you will have your choice. Though you can only choose one. The reason is that the legate already has a days head start on horseback on his way to Baden’s Bluff. Though luckily he does not have the same information we do. But the main fact is we need someone in Baden’s Bluff as quickly as possible. If you decide to go, I do have a contact there. Go to him and start your search for the Rat King. We can only hope you reach the Rat King first before the legate does,” Galamir pauses momentarily to give Devin a moment to process the information.
“The map of the caves looks to be a days ride outside of Baden’s Bluff to the west along the coast and for whatever reason it looks like something is to happen in five days. What that is I do not know but I do feel it needs to be investigated. If you decide to take on this investigation, I can give you some better equipment since you will not be entering the city. You will also travel with us north for two more days before you head northeast toward the coast of the Pellurian Sea and the caves that are there.”
“Either choice involves some risk but the more information that we gain, the more we can hinder the forces of the Shadow and someday maybe turn the tide. What say you Devin?”