Knights of Shadow

Tragallia the night hag wasn’t often found in her normal form, preferring instead to adopt the voluptuous form of a young human woman. But tonight, she was enjoying the freedom of being her genuine self. It was only a couple of hours before dawn and the small group of people gathered on this small hillock in Oublier were savoring the last few moments of calm before their collective enemy, the Lotharingians and their allies, began their unwanted march across the archduchy on their way to what they hoped would be a war with Fanolania. Tragallia and her friends were not anxious in the slightest about how this would play out. Quite to the contrary, they were almost giddy.

On the hillock with the night hag were the people that she considered closer to her than her own family. Over the years they had come to rely on one another for protection, and that in turn had made them exceedingly dangerous to outsiders. In claiming the Archduchy of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand as their home and base of operations they had given the lord of this land immense power, most of which he was oblivious to. There was Gus, the tavernkeeper who had the ability to turn into a wolf and was nigh unto indestructible in a fight. Malek, the swamp orcish huntsman who could turn into a number of animals and moved like a shadow on a moonless night. Mister Blue and Mister Very Blue, the xvarts who had set up shop in Resurrection as the rat catchers but who dealt mainly in stolen goods and passing along information. Niemand Shadefiend and his nephew, Sinister Shadefiend, shadow elves from a distant land who had begun to make a name for themselves as the greatest bowyers in the entire region and who could move as thieves in the wilderness with the greatest of ease. Quinn, a drider who had a penchant for poetry and causing trouble with explosive magicks, and Aleena, a young dark elven priestess that had been selected by her community to keep the drider from swerving into total madness. Elliott, a human huntsman who had aspirations of becoming as deadly an assassin as Malek was. This was only about half of the group that had labelled themselves the “Fellowship of Fiends” because the group was currently separated by the planned route of the enemy armies. But these ten formidable individuals were sharing their collected insights and knew that on the northern side of the enemy route their separated compatriots were doing the same thing.

“All is ready.” Said Malek in his deep, husky voice that forever teetered on being a whisper more than real speaking. “Our friends will set out and be captured by the enemy shortly after the Lotharingians pass here with their initial scouts.”

Tragallia cackled with delight and rubbed her hands together with malicious glee. “This is going to be glorious, my sweets! Fortune smiles upon the bold and we’ve been handed an opportunity far greater than anything we might have plotted on our own!” Pointing out across the darkened landscape with her bony, gnarled finger she continued. “The Archduke has entrusted us as knights for deeds such as this. Proving our worth in this endeavor will seal our value to him forever! The enemy will be destroyed without us having to draw a sword or notch an arrow. The world will soon see the power that we bring to Maelonbourg!”

Quinn chortled and said in a singsong sort of way, “We will not savor the blood of the fallen, for it will be tainted in death, but there will be graves aplenty for us to dance upon!”

The two xvarts laughed with the others, and one of them said “It is a shame to miss out on a good brawl, but there will be loot enough for us anyway!”

Elliott pointed off in the distance and said with a chuckle, “You notice we aren’t the only ones watching.” The others turned to see where he was pointing. “By that tree. Fellow in a wide hat with a crossbow.”

Gus nodded his head. “I guessed he would show up. Notice though that he is alone? No furies. Looks like the bird brains stayed at their nest.”

Tragallia cackled again and said flippantly, “Because there isn’t to be a proper fight, that’s why. They only show up to inflame emotion and incite violence. We’ve none of that to offer. All we bring to this event is the certainty of death and another lopsided defeat for Lotharingia.”

Putting his hand on Elliott’s shoulder, Malek said “Stay away from him, Elliott. Let him watch. Never interfere with whatever that guy does. He is more dangerous than anything we’ll ever face off with.” The rest of the group murmured their agreement. The presence of this observer didn’t dampen their mood, but it did remind them that greater forces were still at work in the world.

The dawn was approaching, and the fiends knew they had places to be to survey what was going to happen and insure as best they could that it went well. Still laughing they said their farewells, and began heading off to their designated stations.