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Tale From The World of Argyle - Shadows in the Night

Author: 
Simeron Steelhammer (Benjamin La Count)
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
195

The seasons change fast in the mountains. The first snowfall of the coming winter had settled across the lower Argonian Mountains, blanketing the entire area with a beautiful white coating of snow. This mixed with the remaining gold, red, orange and brown of the hardwood leaves and the green needles of the evergreens to make a truly amazing sight. Dor had healed well over the passing months and once again, remembered why the people here loved this area so much. Most people thought of gnomes and dwarves as only loving caves and stone. While it was true that the cool rock of the mountains was their first love, they also loved what the mountains gave them topside too. These mountains were home, top or bottom, inside or out.

Dara was busy with housecleaning and gathering supplies for the winter in their home, as were most of the women folk. Most of the men not working in the mine or taking their rest before their shift were out hunting game or on patrol duties. Dor was busy wrestling with a stubborn plow blade that seemed to never come to an edge when he heard Dara come running into the smithy.

�Father! Father! They�ve returned!� she squealed in a girlish glee.

�Who has returned little gnome girl?� he father chided.

Dara caught herself then and calmed noticeably. When her father called her �little gnome girl�, that was his way of saying she was NOT acting the way a dwarven female should. She noticed that he had been saying it a lot since the horrid day the raiders came but she didn�t know why.

Dor looked at his only child, growing more and more into a lovely dwarven female each day. In a few more years, he would have to begin screening potential husbands for her. He didn�t like that thought much but, such was the way of the world. He�d make sure that not only did her husband have great wealth and skill in his family craft, but that he was also the right sort of dwarf to be giving him grandchildren.

�The Lightning Company father.� Dara answered in her best �little dwarven girl� voice.

�Well why didn�t ya say so in the first place? I swear I�m taking you back to Argon proper when the spring comes girl. You�ve picked up too much gnomishness.� Dor said with a huff but, Dara knew he didn�t mean it.

Dor moved outside and could already see the riders of the Lightning Company coming up the main path through town with many children, both dwarf and gnome alike, swarming around them. In the better part of the year since the company of adventurers had first come to Iron Rock, they had helped the small hamlet many times in many ways. Whether checking for sickness in people or farm animals, bringing treats for the kids, business to the merchants or hunting down the occasional Owlbear or other large predator, Greywolfe and his people always seemed to be around the hamlet every few weeks now. They seemed to have adopted the small community and as their list of services rendered grew, so did their acceptance within the community itself. This didn�t bother Dor one bit either for, though he would still not admit it out loud, he had grown fond of the group too. Greywolfe rode up to the smithy and climbed down off his horse while the rest waved to Dor and headed to the Sturdy Oak Inn to get rooms. Dara was right next to her father as the tall human ranger clasped the dwarven smith's arm in his own.

�Well met Dor Bloodstone! Master Smith of Iron Rock.� Greywolfe smiled to Dor.

�Well met Greywolfe Farwalker, Leader of the Lightning Company and Friend to Iron Rock.� Dor said back with a smile.

�I have something I would have you examine Dor. Its one of those orc scimitars those well-trained orcs were carrying. We found a half dozen of them a day�s ride from here on large worgs. They fought like regular army soldiers.�

Dor didn�t like the sound of that at all. As he took the weapon from Greywolfe, he examined the craftsmanship of it. It was a fine weapon, far superior to what orcs normally fought with and was well cared for too. Its long, curved blade was ebony in color and smooth save for a jagged edge for about two hands worth of the blade tip. Its balance was near perfect and the pommel was as well crafted as the blade. Overall, he figured that he himself would have to take extra time to make such a weapon.

�It�s a fine weapon Greywolfe. Far too good a weapon to be in orc scum�s hands.�

�These are not normal orc scum Dor. They fight as good as regular soldiers and understand battle tactics well. The group we encountered used short bows to hit our cleric and mage while our fighters closed with them. Then only four of the six engaged us in melee while the other two kept up the arrow fire on our spellcasters.� Greywolfe said with a frown.

�That�s not good at all.� the burly smith said, almost to himself. �Do you think there are more about? Perhaps they mean to try for the mine again?�

�I don�t think so. I�ve not seen any of their tracks nor do the forest animals seem to be upset as they would be if large numbers of them were about. They might have been a scouting party however.�

�Best talk with the town elders just in case though.� Dor said to Greywolfe�s nodding head.

Dara had overheard the whole thing and was growing worried. She watched both the men head to the town hall, gathering some other men as they went. Soon, runners were sent to the mine and to find the hunters while the women brought food and drink to the hall for the coming meeting. Dara was helping out as usual when she noticed the human mage of the company talking to his calico cat. That triggered a memory of the bad human mage that had ordered the raiders around before and held her captive. He had talked to a black raven a lot.

�Excuse me.� she shyly said as she approached the mage.

�Yes Dara, what can I do for you?� he replied to her then he faced the cat who was mewing.

�Percy please, let Dara speak first, I promise you can go hunt those mice you saw in the barn later.�

�Y-Y-You speak t-to that c-c-cat?� Dara stuttered. She had never seen such a thing in her life.

�But of course I do child.� the aging mage replied. �Percy is my friend. A mage�s familiar.�

Maphisto could tell by the blank look on her face that this meant absolutely nothing to her so, smiling, he tried to explain it to her in a �dwarven� way.

�You see child, Percy came to me when I put forth a call with my magic for a guiding spirit to come to me. He helps me see things, hear things and in other ways from the magical bond we have with each other. In return, he gets cared for, a warm place to sleep and many other things too. We both benefit from it. And one of the things that this bond gives us both is the ability to talk to one another just as I am talking to you now.�

�I think I understand.� Dara said not truly sure of herself. �But can any mage do that?�

�If they have the magical talent and the right spells, yes. Why do you ask?� Maphisto was very curious now.

�Because when that other mage, the bad one, was here, I thought he kept talking to a crow. And just the other day, I saw a crow near the inn.�

�I�m sure there are lots of crows around here child, just like there are lots of calico cats.�

Percy let out a loud MEROOW!

�Oh Percy, not like you no. Your quite the special one I know.�

Percy, satisfied with that went back to cleaning himself.

�But Maphisto, all of the crows have already flown to warmer areas around here. That�s why I remember it.�

Maphisto realized then what the implications were. He also realized that their situation just got more dangerous. If he could have only know just how much more dangerous, nay, deadly that situation really was.

�Greywolfe, Dor, a word with you.� the mage said as he approached the two.

He quickly retold the story Dara had told him and explained just how bad it was. Aleron had to be nearby and had been spying on the village for at least several days. This could only mean that indeed, he had plans to return here. Yet no sign of a massing of troops had been found. Something was dreadfully wrong.

The elders of the town and the members of the Lightning Company decided that patrols would be strengthened as well as all hunting parties. For the protection of the miners, every third one would instead now be a guard. While this whole slow iron production some, they agreed that that was more agreeable then having the miners ambushed. The Lightning Company would stay in Iron Rock until the spring, helping out as much as they could and going on patrols. Finally, all women and children would stay in the town proper till such time as they once again felt it safe for them to venture outside its borders.

All told, it seemed to go well. For two weeks, nothing happened. Greywolfe found no tracks in the snow or the mud that followed when it melted. No sightings of raiders of any kind or disruptions to the iron production in the mine. The people of the hamlet began to breathe a little easier but, just to be on the safe side, continued with their plans. Then, one of the hunting parties ran into a group of hobgoblins. In the battle that followed, both sides suffered some wounded but, no deaths. The hobgoblins broke off the attack and disappeared into the woods while the hunting party took the wounded back into the town and reported the incident. More patrols were sent out but, nothing was found save for the battle area. The tracks simply disappeared after a short way into the woods.

�Something is very wrong here.� Greywolfe said sourly. �Hobgoblins can�t fly so there should be LOTS of tracks for me to follow but, they just stop.�

Dor frowned. This smacked of magic and some really powerful magic too. Being a dwarf, he really didn�t care for the stuff, save for enchanting items. The fact that it now appeared to be giving enemies an advantage made this feeling even stronger.

�Isn�t there some way you can detect the use of magic or something mage?�

�Well, yes but, it doesn�t work in the way you�re thinking Dor.� Maphisto said to the clearly annoyed dwarf.

�Well then how DOES it work then.�

�I have to have a target. I can tell if that target is magical, not if magic HAS been someplace.�

Dor growled and shook his head. Maphisto had a hurt expression cross his face and Dor saw it.

�It�s not your fault Maph, I know. But this is damn aggravating. We�re like chickens in a coop just waiting to be caught and our neck rung and I for one don�t like it at all.�

�Nor do any of us Dor but, right now it�s the best thing we can do.� Greywolfe replied with a large sigh.

They returned to the town and held another meeting that night where everyone in town attended. They told them what they had found and discussed various suggestions on how best to deal with the problem well into the night.

The following day was overcast, gray and dreary. The hunting parties returned well before sundown and none of the patrols found any sign again of the hobgoblin raiders. But, as the sun disappeared behind the mountains, the miners and their guards from the day shift didn�t return. As the night grew darker, the townspeople grew increasingly more and more concerned. Finally, Greywolfe and the rest of the Lightning Company decided to go investigate. What they found turned their stomachs and filled them with disgust.

Strewn about the mine area were the mutilated bodies of every miner and guard. It was clear that many had fallen in battle and worse, that those that didn�t die outright were brutally savaged. Some had been staked out on Xs made from the timbers of the beams used to shore up the tunnels with the iron spikes through their wrists and ankles. The skin hand been literally flayed off their bodies. Other had been disemboweled and dumped into the ore cards like sacks of potatoes. But the most horrid of it all was the ones that they found inside the mine itself. Those had been cooked and partially eaten.

Just then, there was a soft twank sound several times. Maphisto and Serina, the cleric, both crumbled to the ground with a groan and a thud. In a flash, Greywolfe had both of his hand axes out looking around for the source of the sound. Gath pulled his longsword and shield and fell back to cover their fallen comrades while Trinna and Sophia checked to see what happened to them. Orrick and Samuel flanked Greywolfe, both with short swords and shields ready. They tried to find their assailants in the darkness beyond their lanterns but could only see hints of movement in the shadows.

�Maphisto has been poisoned Greywolfe! Small darts or hand crossbows!� Trinna called.

�So has Serina!� Sophia added.

Just then more twanking sounds rang out and Gath cried out and stumbled a bit, but kept his feet.

�Move away from the cave NOW!� Greywolfe yelled. �Help Gath and carry Maph and Serina. I�ll cover your backs.�

�You can�t hold them off alone.� Orrick protested.

�If you don�t move now NONE of us are going to make it back to the village!�

As the companions turned to flee back to town, the lantern�s light vanished into inky blackness and all around them they heard movement, then more twanking sounds. Greywolfe heard Orrick cry out as well as Trinna and Sophie. He heard Gath grunt as the sound of metal on metal rang out and the sounds of bodies hitting the ground. Samuel was next to get hit but, he must have struck one of the attackers because Greywolfe heard a male voice he didn�t recognize say something like a curse in a language he didn�t understand. He broke free from the darkness into the darkened night and only then realized that he had been incased in a globe of darkness. He heard Samuel cry out in pain and then a body hit the ground. He turned, looking for one of his attackers but only saw a flash of light as a ball of energy struck him, knocking him to the ground. His axes fell from his hands as he dropped first to his knees then to the ground, unable to move but still conscious.

He could only watch as a man in flowing black and red robes walked up to him with a large black raven on his shoulder.

�We meet again Greywolfe Farwalker.� Aleron smiled mockingly. �Only this time under better circumstances for me.�

Greywolfe tried to move with all his might but his muscles simply would not answer the call. He tried to roll over, to kick or swing his arms, anything to strike a blow or maybe cause him to be able to break this spell but, nothing happened.

�Oh come now sir. Give me more credit then that. I know my profession as well as you do. Magic is true power.� Aleron continued to taunt the ranger. �Isn�t that right my dear.�

�I would say so Aleron. I would say so.� came a voice from behind him.

He tried to turn his head but couldn�t. He was rolled onto his stomach and his arms and feet were tied together over his back, it was painful and as soon as whoever was holding his limbs let go, he rolled over onto his side. It was then that things became clear to him. It was then that his heart sank deep into his chest for, before his eyes stood a beautiful female elf with hair as white as the snow and skin as black as pitch. She was obviously drow. As the strength returned to his limbs, he could see about a score of drow men moving about, securing his companions and taking all of their stuff and placing it in various containers for later inspection. He also noticed several hobgoblins and orcs in high quality armor and with high quality weapons. The female drow looked to Aleron.

�Hmm, this will make the taking of the town far easier then we had hoped for Aleron. With this meddlesome group out of the way, they won�t know what hit them until its too late. All because our little ranger friend here can�t track.�

She let out a hideously evil laugh, mockingly as she looked at Greywolfe.

�Oh now Xiltara,� cooed Aleron, �be fair to Greywolfe. He did say that hobgoblins can�t fly. He just didn�t figure on your men using their powers of levitation to lift them up and over the snow and mud.�

He too laughed a mocking laugh as Greywolfe tried his ropes, only to found them bound tightly as well as firmly.

�Take him away.� Aleron motioned to two hobgoblins as he waved his hand absently.

�As agreed, they will be given to me for slaves?� Xiltara asked Aleron as Greywolfe was being painfully drug away.

�Certainly my dear, just as all that are left alive in that little town will be. I just want the mine, I don�t care WHAT you do with the people. I figured you understood that after the ones we caught today.� chuckled Aleron.

 

Tale From The World of Argyle - Shadow�s in the Night © Simeron Steelhammer (Benjamin La Count)

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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