The Shadow Pack

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


A full cycle has passed since the Dark Tide swept across Welkincor, sending hordes of refugees fleeing to the lands south. Without a home, without a family, and without hope, Givigen survived in
the slums of Nilcor's capital city through theft and stealth. Now, with a ragtag gang of miscreants, Givigen hears of a score that they dare not refuse; a way out of poverty and a chance at a new
life. The mission is dangerous and they may not make it out alive, but to obtain the brightest treasure, they must traverse the darkest shadows...

Submitted: February 03, 2018

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Submitted: February 03, 2018

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PART I

 

 

 

The slums of Tyr’Nil were cramped and ever-expanding. Refugees from the north were promised suitable housing, but many found themselves in abysmally small apartments bordering the edge of the sewer. Demand for more housing meant that dwelling spaces were hastily tossed together using whatever scrap could be scavenged to make four walls.

Of course, dilapidated dwellings and thievery went hand in hand, something that Givigen learned very early after arriving in Tyr'Nil. Although accustomed to mundane farm life back in Welkincor, pilfering came surprisingly naturally to him.

There was a time in his life when Givigen looked down on thieves. A time when the idea of ever taking something that didn't belong to him was repulsive. Had he the ability to go back in time and show himself all of the things he had stolen in his one cycle in Tyr'Nil, he would have laughed in disbelief. No way did I do that,he would have said. Nothing could ever make me.

Hunger made him steal that first bit of fruit. Hunger made him collapse in the alleyway as he tried to flee from the enraged market vendor. And after recovering from his deserved beating, it was hunger that made him attempt the deed again. It was not long before he had at least a few bites of food almost every day.

And so he brandished a purloined apple and gave it a shining against his grubby tunic as he waited for the door to open. He was two bites in when he heard the metallic scraping of several locks and latches popping loose, and the door creaked open. He pushed it just enough for his body to slip in, then closed it behind him, darkness engulfing his narrow frame.

He did not wait for his eyes to adjust. Instead, he relied on memory to lock the door back up and navigate the inky hallway. Ten paces. Turn right. At waist level there is a handle. Pull outwards, duck, two steps, close door, proceed. Five paces to the next door. Let there be light.

Tiny Welkin-fuelled lamps dotted the room, bits of magical energy sparking soundlessly around the flickering flames. The light was not bright, but just enough to illuminate five familiar faces seated around the dusty chamber. Three hyumm, or humans, like him, a beast folk and a dwarf. He nodded to each one in turn before taking a seat on a barrel and plopping his feet up on a low wooden table in the centre of the room.

Feet off, Grim. Need the table for more than drinks today.” Weasel, their hyumm leader, made a shooing motion at Givigen’s foot. It took him a moment to realize that Weasel was talking to him. He was not used to his recently acquired code name being shortened. Begrudgingly, Grimrat obliged.

Now that we are all here, let’s begin.” Weasel stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. He rocked back and forth on his heels as he spoke. “I know we’re usually pretty casual here, but today’s a bit different. I’ve caught wind of something big. Something that might get us more than a couple new shells or better furniture.” All eyes were on Weasel. He took his hands out of his pockets and clapped them together. “We’re gonna rob the Blacke Manse.”

Sparrow chortled dismissively and the atmosphere of the room brightened. Puppycat and Tumbler clinked mugs of ale and giggled like children while Bruises rapped his massive palms on the table. What utter foolery, to rob an abandoned old house.

The Blacke Manse was the largest building in the slums, located on the edge of the poor areas and the High District. The house was built three centuries prior by the family Blacke, necromancers who maintained Tyr’Nil’s graveyard and oversaw the proper ceremonies for burial of the dead. One night, the entire family absconded without a word, and the mansion was sealed off by members of the Black Legion. No one asked any questions, but rumours abounded that the family had engaged in illegal necromantic practices and were cast out by the Council of Tyr, the governing body of the city. Ever since the building was boarded up, it was left pretty much alone; guards prevented squatters from attempting to enter, and the rumours themselves prompted the general population to give the site a wide berth. Breaking in was a ridiculous notion.

Grimrat smiled as he finished the last bite of his apple and leaned to hold it close to the ground. Within seconds, a rat scurried over and rescued the fruit from his fingers. “There ya go, Fletch.” he said as he straightened out.

The laughter awkwardly dissipated as Weasel stood stone-faced before his companions. Bruises was the first to break the ice. “Oh come on, Weasel. Don’t mess around like that. You’ve gotta be mad to actually think that’s a good idea.”

Weasel shook his head. “Probably. But we’re mad to call this,” he gestured at their ramshackle surroundings, “a way of life. We all have our skills, and we are all proud of them. Maybe its about time our headquarters reflected our abilities.” He smoothed his short, reddish hair back and leaned against the table. “And maybe it’s time we stopped living like animals. I don’t want to eat scraps anymore. I don’t want to be spat on when I’m seen in the High District. I’m sure we’d all very much like a shirt that doesn’t reek of shuff and bile.”

Speak for your own shirts.” Puppycat scoffed. Grimrat could almost see the fur on the beast folk’s neck stand up. “It’s flat out wives’ tales that there is any treasure in the place. Besides, we know what happened to Skorli’s gang few weeks back.” The group exchanged nervous glances at the mention of Skorli. The rival gang attempted to infiltrate the Black Manse two fortnights prior and only one member returned. Something inside the building attacked them, leaving only Skorli to tell the tale. Unfortunately, his mind had cracked and his account of what happened was nothing but nonsensical mutterings. “There’s a reason the manse is sealed up.”

Aye, and there’s a reason Skorli’s group failed. Lack of information.” Weasel began fishing through his pack while the rest of the band shifted about curiously. Whatever Weasel had couldn’t be enough to convince them to attempt breaking into the abandoned building. Could it? Finally, he retrieved a large roll from his bags and unfurled it across the table. A few notes scattered about, some flitting off the edge of the table, and a map unravelled before them. A bloodstained map.

Where in the Daemonius did you get that?” Sparrow leaned close to examine the blood. The others crept closer as well.

Weasel smiled. “Three weeks ago, while you all were about snatching purses and apples,” he glanced at Grimrat who shot him a quizzical look, “I was breaking into the prisons.” Puppycat gasped. Weasel winked. “Snatched some notes from the evidence locker, and managed to sneak in a few words with our good friend, Skorli. Not so much words, mind you. But that’s his blood on the map, there.” He pointed at a dark brown smudge on the map, situated over a basement room of the mansion. “Seems whatever foul being is inhabiting the place is locked away in that room. Along with the corpses of Skorli’s companions.”

Tumbler, who was uncharacteristically silent most of the night, finally spoke up. “By Volken’s mercy, man! You sneaked into a prison and, what? Tortured a man for information?” The boy clutched a handful of hair in incredulity as he gawked at the bloodstain.

His hand was wounded.” Weasel stated. “He told me that he barred the creature inside and ran until he could run no more. When I asked him where the monster was, he just prodded that room with his bloodied hand and whimpered. So long as we avoid that room, we’ll have no trouble at all.”

Tumbler relaxed a bit and sighed. “Doesn’t mean it’s worth it to go sneaking about such a place. We could end up walking out with nothing but a new ghost story. If we walk out.”

Oh it’s worth it.” Weasel tossed a thick gold pendant onto the table. The Blacke family crest was stamped in the metal. Everyone stared at the piece in awe. They could eat for a week with the kind of coin it would fetch.

Found that with Skorli’s notes in the evidence chest. Proof of the wealth inside. I asked if there was more and I was met with vigorous nodding.”

Can we get in undetected?” Puppycat’s interest was visibly growing.

That’s what this map is for.” Weasel said. “Borrowed it from the archives. Most of the buildings in Tyr’Nil have blueprints stashed away there, and for a few gold coins, the younger scribes don’t mind if one goes missing for a few days. See, Skorli and company likely trounced in through a window on the main floor, probably causing quite the hubbub upon entry. I imagine that’s what alerted the creature to their presence, and brought the guards who apprehended Skorli during his escape.” He pointed out several possible entry points on the map as he spoke. “However, we will be entering through the roof.” He dragged his finger to a spot on the upper floor where it looked like some kind of chimney ventilation had been installed.

I s’pose when the Blacke family built the place, they wanted a special room to burn bodies. Upon inspection, the Council decided that burning indoors was too unsafe, and forced them to dig a burning pit outside. You know, like every other cemetery in Nilcor. Hell, probably like every cemetery in all of Nilwyn. So the room was left unused with a nice, convenient ventilation shaft sticking out of the roof. We enter there, scour the top floor, and retreat without anyone noticing. If someone other than Skorli has gotten in before, I doubt any of them would have made it to the upper level. That means untouched jewels and treasures for everyone!”

Two problems, then.” Bruises, the dwarf spoke next. “Guards. Watch overlaps. Hard to get past. And scouting. Who is gonna do it, and when are we going in?”

Weasel pointed at Sparrow and Puppycat. “You two scout. Start today, get back in two nights. We’ll figure out how to skirt the guards then. If Skorli did it, then so can we. I doubt they’ve increased the watch over a couple of miscreants sneaking about. If all goes to plan, we’ll be ready to execute the mission by Vilkenduum. Agreed?”

The group nodded.

In Shadow be bound.” Weasel held his fist straight in front of him.

The rest of the group extended their arms. “In Shadow we thrive.” They replied in unison.

Good. Meeting adjourned. Let’s meet back in two nights.”

Weasel gathered up his map, pendant and notes, and one by one, they left the dim chamber through a one-way access hatch opposite the entrance. Tumbler and Puppycat paused to chug their drinks. Puppycat placed a hand on Grimrat’s shoulder as he passed. He stopped and waited while she swallowed and wiped her mouth with a fur-covered forearm. She leaned in close to him so Tumbler couldn’t hear.

I’m with you, you know. Money does things. If we succeed, if we end up rich, the Shadowpack might break up.” Grimrat nodded solemnly, and she continued. “But I’m with you, Givigen. I’ll help you find your sister.”

Grimrat cleared his throat and shifted. Suddenly his tunic collar felt awfully tight around his neck. “Nadia...thank you.” Tumbler had just cleared the hatch and they were alone in the room. Grimrat regained his composure. “If we find—when we find her. You can stay with us. I’d be honoured to have you around.”

Puppycat smiled, leapt up to the hatch with inhuman grace and disappeared. In a moment, Grimrat was all alone.

He leaned against the table and rubbed his eyes with one hand. He thought about his twin sister every night, but it had been so long since he had spoken about her to anyone. His parents and oldest brother had disappeared during the Dark Tide, leaving his sister and himself to flee Welkincor. When they reached Tyr’Nil, the flood of refugees were broken up into smaller groups. He promised his sister they would meet up on the other side of the gates, but like many families, that did not happen. He had not seen his sister since.

Givigen had nowhere to go in the vast slums of Tyr’Nil. He wrestled some crusty bread free from his pocket, and walked around the room, extinguishing all of the magical lanterns except for one. In the coruscating gloom, he slumped in a corner and held his fist out to no one.

In shadow, he cried.


© Copyright 2018 Michael C.K.. All rights reserved.

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