The Edge of Twilight
Devin knew he had to act swiftly. “Sharra, Nezrin, Khurran … grab your weapons, we are going help this one out. Grabbing his short bow Devin was quick to nock an arrow.
The sound of battle was clear now and Khurran was by Devin’s side instantly. “Are you sure about this Devin? We could call more attention to ourselves than we truly want or can handle,” the Sarcosan seemed a little nervous about running into battle with the six orcs.
“We have no time to discuss this Khurran, we need to go now!” Devin was short with his long time friend but time was everything if they were to help the enemy of their enemy.
Nezrin was out before the rest of the group, he had been waiting to get out of the safe house and wasn’t about to worry like Khurran was. Nezrin got into position in the alley, the rain beginning to soak his clothes, quickly checking if any other patrols were nearby. The streets were cold, wet, dark and empty except for the combat ahead of him. Kneeling down, he waited for the hail of arrows that were going to strike the unsuspecting orcs.
It was only a matter of seconds when the distinctive sound of bows and whistling arrows speed down the alleyway. Finding their mark and driving deep into their targets. The orcs had no idea what had hit them. One fell immediately and another was severely wounded before Nezrin closed the gap.
The lone figure, wearing dark grey clothing, had already killed one of the orcs but his was surrounded now. Fighting in a defensive position would buy him time and it was something he knew that might be worth it. His eye had caught the body of one of orcs fall with arrows embedded in it. My brothers have found me and not a moment too soon, he thought. Distracted by the shot of an arrow barely missing his head he flinched and allowed the orcs to strike a couple of blows that threw him against the alley wall. Crumpling to the ground, he would make his last stand from one knee defending himself with all the hatred he could muster for the shadows forces.
Nezrin slammed his way into the orc that turned to face him. A flurry of punches landed in key spots as the orc looked lumbering and slow trying to defend itself. Nezrin didn’t let up until the orc was bloodied and flat on its face twitching, bleeding and taking its last gasps of breath. Sharra and Devin followed Nezrin and dispatched the orc closest to them. Devin stabbed with his sword gaining a glancing blow off of the armor that the orc was wearing but more importantly he opened the orcs defenses allowing Sharra to quickly move in and find a soft spot for her axes. Her first axe hit home where the arm and shoulder met and then her second finished off the orc at the neck. A grotesque gurgling sound was heard as rain and blood mixed. As the orc fell one of the last two orcs trying to kill the man in grey was now dieing on his sword. The final orc seeing the situation as dire decided to flee.
Nezrin yelled to the man in grey, “Get after that last one now!”
Shaking his head the man in grey cough up some blood, “No, I am afraid I am in no position to do that.”
Nezrin scowled at the man but knew he had no choice to get after the orc himself.
Khurran further down the alley had taken his shots with his crossbow but now saw one of the last orcs fleeing. Momentarily he hesitated not wanting to take off after the orc but he knew that if that orc made it to a guard house alive they would surely have to leave the city before their misson was done. Backtracking, Khurran took off hoping to cut off the fleeing orc before it got anywhere safe. Sprinting until his lungs began to burn Khurran caught sight of and heard a large shape crossing the alley. Turning up the alley, Khurran pushed himself to run faster while drawing his short sword. By the time Khurran turned out of the alley, with hopes of not being too far behind the orc, he saw Nezrin standing over the orc soldier and spitting onto its corpse. “Without their swords their nothing but big dumb animals,” Khurran could hear Nezrin say.
With the orcs dispatched Devin had quickly gathered the man in grey and brought him back to the safe house. He told Sharra to get the other two and that they should start cleaning up the mess. The orc bodies were heavy and it took a while but with caution the bodies were separated from their heads and dumped into the canals. The armor was left on to allow the orc torsos to sink to the bottom. When the dirty work was done, they returned back to the safe house and Sharra began to tend to their visitors wounds.
The man was wearing drab clothing that had strips of black at various areas around the waist, shoulders and feet. He was heavily wounded but not beyond repair. His long thin black hair was drenched with water and matted with blood. His whole body looked angular from his thin frame to his somewhat gaunt face and pointy nose. He was relived to still be alive.
“You are either very brave or very foolish. However this does not matter to me, I am just thankful you came when you did,” his voice was slightly raspy. “Though I am curious as to why you have helped me?”
“We hate orcs as much as anyone else,” stated Devin. “An enemy of the orcs is a friend in my mind. Too bad Baden’s Bluff seems to be crawling with them. I might have expected more would have been around but the alarms raised further up the bluff must have distracted them from their duties on the docks.”
“Heh, and rightly so. A strike against the shadow was made tonight. May the shadow cry out in pain for we are justly avenged,” the man in grey was nearly foaming at the mouth while saying this. His eyes lit up with joyous anger.
“You were apart of what happened?” asked Devin. “How did you get alone down here on the docks? Who are you?”
“Let’s just say I was separated from my group and I was attempting to make my way back home before those orcs accused me of being out where I shouldn’t have been. Of course they were right but I wasn’t going to just let them take me. I would have gladly died on this glorious night,” he paused to cough briefly and clutched a wound in pain. “As for my name, I am hesitant to tell those who I have met only very recently.”
“You owe us your life, I think it would be a small thing to tell us your name,” Nezrin interrupted.
“Right you are,” the man in grey said. “Very well, I am called Dunath. In return may I know the names of those who risked their lives for me?”
“I am Devin, the one treating you is Sharra, the Sarcosan is my trusted aide Khurran and our final companion is Nezrin,” said Devin.
“It is nice to meet others who are so willing to strike at the shadows forces here. Too many of the other resistance groups do not take their chances. Instead they sit back and are willing to wait for some other opportunity to arrive. They wait and they wither.” Dunath said in a bitter almost indoctrinated way. “You would be fine additions to our fight against the shadow.”
“I, for one, would welcome any chance to get out and crush a few legate skulls together,” said Nezrin who seemed intrigued by Dunath’s invitation.
“As would I,” said Sharra in a very cool, assassin like way as she continued to bandage Dunath.
Khurran couldn’t help but take note of the reference to other resistance groups by Dunath. Who was Dunath with? From what he knew the Baden’s were more likely the ones who quietly worked in the background to resist the shadow. Was Dunath part of some splinter group, a dangerous faction of the resistance?
“We cannot just accept those who say they wish to join, the shadow is cunning and precautions have to be made. However, there are eyes in the city who will note your progress if you are to stay in the city for period of time. The only thing I can tell you is to go to a tavern called the Sea Witch and ask for Tyvan. Things will be discussed and you will continue to be observed,” Dunath sounded hopeful.
Devin still wanted more answers about what went on but decided to take a different approach to fill in the blanks. “There was an awful darkness, blacker than a caverns depths, that flew above the city when the alarms were raised. It swept down over the docks here and then up the bluff. Even though I was watching out the window I could not see and I dared not to look. Do you or anyone know what that was?”
“Yes,” Dunath frowned and seemed to shudder. “That is the beast, Zaindal. A great wyvern resurrected by the foul Sunalael. Beholden to the ruling legates, Zaindal serves them and terrorizes the city. It is a dark cloud that hangs high over the city and is a constant reminder of the cruelty and unnaturalness of the shadows forces despite their attempt to gain the peoples trust with healing.”
Nezrin pulled Devin aside, “I think we should take Dunath up on his offer. I am sick of waiting for Radovin and I feel like there are too many exchanges we have to make. Dunath gives us an opportunity for action and to put ourselves in the thick of the fight.”
“No, we cannot afford to take such a path,” Devin shook his head at Nezrin’s suggestion. “We have a mission to get to the Rat King and we need to get to him quickly. The Legate who took the ring must have already been here for several days. We cannot take the time to look into other ways to take the fight to the shadow.”
Nezrin was bothered by this and his impulse got the better of him, “Have you ever dealt with the Rat King?” interjected Nezrin. Devin gave Nezrin a sharp look.
“I have heard of the Rat King but he is just another pawn of the Baden’s and he does nothing to truly fight the resistance. Are you looking for him?” questioned Dunath.
“Yes, we have had some business with him,” replied Devin.
The rest of the night and morning were spent resting from the fight and keeping watch. Devin made sure that Khurran stayed near the back window keeping Dunath from making any unwanted exits. Devin was closer to trusting him but couldn’t shake himself from being overly cautious. The rain had finally stopped mid-morning and the streets below were puddle. Increased guard contingents moved through the Wormdocks and the whole city seemed like a bee hive that had been violently disturbed.
Devin knew only too well that what had happened last night directly led to increase in guards and his worst fears were met when he caught sight of two human officials knocking on doors further down the street. They seemed to be asking questions but not harassing those who lived here on the docks. Some heads shook in acknowledgement and a few fingers pointed down the street toward the safe house.
The next moments were a flurry of activity as Devin warned the rest of the group of the impending danger. Khurran quickly formulated a plan to play a newly arrived merchant with Nezrin. Devin, Sharra and Dunath all hid in an area that the investigators could not initially see with weapons ready if it came to a fight.
Khurran deftly played the part convincing the investigators that they had heard something but they had not dared look outside towards the commotion after something strange had flown overhead. His bookish looks and slight frame made it easy for Khurran to convince them that he was no threat. Nezrin did his part by whittling some wood, as if he was crafting something for the marketplace. They would never know that this was the same piece that would eventually be a charm. The charm was called a shield maiden and Nezrin had been working on it whenever he got the chance to do so. Khurran had called his attention to it when he found it among the papers that old man from Ardesh had given them.
With the investigators gone the group could relax a little. At least Devin wanted them to relax a little and continue to heal up. Tonight Radovin would be showing up and they could get another step closer to the Rat King.