The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.38

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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Carmen’s invocation of Lily Gemarkand’s name remained at the vanguard of my thoughts me as we walked through the crowded streets of Myrrhn toward the gathering hall of The Doxies’s Union.

Lily was a queen in everything but name, the head of one of Myrrhn’s seven families. She had enough wealth and influence to shape the city. Her interest in the Doxies’s Union came about because of her estranged sister, Sapphire. But, even after Sapphire’s death she was still trying to break the Union. Was it simple ideology as Diamond Silvermane suggested, or was it something deeper, like revenge against Madame Glorianna for killing Sapphire. I could not say.

I did know that Lily’s continued interested boded poorly for The Twins and The Doxies’s Union as a whole. As powerful as the whores and joyboys of Myrrhn were, they could not match the sustained ire of one of the Seven Families…

Of course, Carmen’s presence was a sign that the one guild that could resist the Seven Families was interested in the outcome of this contest: The Nightblades were watching, perhaps even taking a hand. I hoped that they were favouring The Twins, it made sense if they wanted to keep the balance of the city intact, but I could not be certain.

The Twins were girded for confrontation, wearing the signs of their craft and station as they strolled through the streets of the city in a kind of procession. Taking a carriage at this point would be safer, but walking through the streets would create the kind of stir that The Twins wanted.

Vethri and Eiskra wore no masks, leaving the ugly scars that Gentleman Jim had gifted them with plainly visible, Some recoiled by beauty marred by such savagery, but many more saw the determination in the eyes of the women who bore the scars, and the dignity with which they walked, and they admired their toughness. The people of Myrrhn are much like the Nordan in this respect; we both admire those who survive and those who prosper after great suffering.

In Myrrhn there are a fair share of those who turn up their noses at prostitutes, and some people crossed the street to avoid our procession. Still more, however, stopped to watch, aware that an event of import to the city was heralded. Most of these onlookers were curious and well-wishing, but others watched with calculation, no doubt wondering how their own fortunes would rise or fall based on what they thought they saw. In a city as mercurial as this, it was not unusual behaviour.

The Twins stopped to greet to every member of the Union that we encountered. Eiskra did most of the talking, infectiously animated, with Vethri adding a calm word when needed. Carmen watched them closely, flashing me a smile when she caught me looking at her.

My presence did not go unnoticed. By now, rumours had spread of something important happening at Cassander’s Shield. My countrymen would be spreading the tale and my friends would make certain that my name was cleared in the murder of Rake. I hoped that the membership of the Union would see the truth in that instead of clinging to the rumour that The Twins sent me to kill him because he spoke of joining Diamond Silvermane.

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By the time we reached the Union Hall, the sun was low in the sky and our little procession had become a parade. The Union hall was packed and Diamond Silvermane, in all her glory, awaited us.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.26

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“Are you certain you want to face Ulfgorr in one on one combat Ragnar?” asked Vethri, looking me in the eye. “I know that it is the honourable thing to do, but from what you have told us about him, it seems like it will be tough to win.”

“That is putting it diplomatically. Ulfgorr will likely paint the challenge ring with my blood.”

“Then why do it?” asked Carmen.

“Its a Nordan thing,” responded Eiskra. “The nobles are big on honour and single combat, even the women.”

“Without honour I will never be free to return to Nordan lands.”

“It seems like a foolish thing to throw away your life for, Ragnar,” said Carmen. “I know you love your homeland, but even without it, you still have a good thing going here. I envy you.”

“Do you really Carmen?”

I was a little wroth, but she did not seem to care. “Do you think that I would have fallen prey to someone like Sildus if I had friends like yours, Ragnar? The Nightblades recruit ‘most of us from pickpocket gangs and the like in the run down parts of the city. I don’t ‘have very many good memories of my youth; just little victories like getting enough to eat or finding a warm place to sleep when it got cold. I used to think that I was special, just to have escaped that, but now I know better. You have so much more than I do in that regard.”

I nodded. “What you say is true: I have always been fortunate to find myself in good company. But I cannot shirk this fight. Ulfgorr will not stop until one of us is dead. Fighting him in the challenge ring ensures a fair fight, and a chance to regain my honour. I cannot pass it up.”

“Fine,” said Carmen. “What are the rules of this fight? how can we help you win?”

The rules are simple. We both enter the challenge ring. We fight until one of us is dead. No one outside the challenge ring can help.”

“Can I poison your weapons?”

“That would be dishonourable.”

“Can we spend a small fortune on an enchanted blade?” asked Vethri.

“We could, If we had time. It is not exactly sporting, but then again Ulfgorr is a wolf-changing berserk. Sadly, there are no smiths that I know if in this town who could produce a better blade than I have now in the time before the fight.”

“I’ll see if I can get Git to make something useful for you with that fire concoction of his,” said Murith. “It seemed to work well on Ulfgorr the first time.”

“It would have to be thrown though; I don’t want to warp my blade.”

Carmen laughed. Cackled more like. Everyone looked at her.

“This has given me an idea that might help you out Ragnar. I have to return to the tower…”

“Are you going to give voice to this though of yours?”

“Nope. Nightblades prefer surprises. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your honour, Ragnar.”

And she slipped out of the carriage and melted into the crowd.

“This should be interesting,” said Murith.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whore’s War 3.24

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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The Pink Pearl was newly renovated and very popular. We were ushered around the back  by a pair of burly doormen in black leather studded with ‘diamonds’. The perfectly manicured garden path let to a little patio cut off from the rest of the grounds, sheltered from the rain by the series of decks and balconies above. A little round glass table awaited us with chairs set all around.

As the doormen left, a pair of servers, one young, one old, appeared, bringing wine and port as well as a tray of cheese and grapes.

“Diamond will see you shortly,” the elder said as they departed.

I could sense more ‘doormen’ nearby, my ears picking up the sound of leather creaking and my nose the odor of the cologne that they were told to wear.

Carmen held up her hand in making a gesture or inquiry. “Five?”

I nodded affirmatively, wondering if she was just guessing or she had some other method to count the guards. I doubted her senses were as sharp as mine.

The Twins sat down at the end of the table facing the door. They were dressed in simple evening wear appropriate to a Myrhnese woman of any station; a knee length back dress, short black blazer, and knee-high black boots. Vethri wore a simple gold chain, while Eiskra wore her favourite ruby ring.

Carmen was still dressed in her ‘apprentice’ clothing, although she now carried weapons both hidden and in-character.

Vethri and Eiskra looked at each other once and settled, still as statues. I contented myself by listening to the sounds of the Pink Pearl and the streets beyond.

Diamond Silvermane waited just long enough to make her entrance. She strolled through the heavy oak door, resplendent in a cloak of white minx fur and the most impressive diamond necklace that I had ever seen. Her silver hair billowed about her head like a candle flame. She smiled at the twins, but there was little warmth in her eyes.

A pair of guards followed her out. These carried swords.

“Welcome to the Pearl, fellow whores,” said Diamond Silvermane. “The best brothel in Myrrhn.”

“You seem a little understaffed, Diamond,” said Eiskra.

“We’re just busy, darling,” said Diamond Silvermane. “But I do thank you for your concern.”

“Half of your rooms are empty,” said Vethri. “We know the capacity of this house and we know that the Silk Swan is already drawing some customers away from you now the Dierdre Dark and Troy work there.”

Diamond Silvermane laughed. “You’re right. Those two do have a loyal following, and I admit that their defection has caused us to lose their regulars. But you can see that we are busy and I assure you I am recruiting new talent; young women who will build their own followings. Now I assume that you did not call this meeting simply to insult me, girls. Let’s do business.”

“We are not going to take you to council.” said Vethri.

“Pardon?”

“We have decided not to challenge The Pink Pearl’s severance from The Doxies’s Union. We welcome the competition; Myrrhn has always been governed by market interests and we will not try to force you or your girls to join us you do not want to.”

“That’s all. No need for wine or anything,” added Eiskra.

The Twins stood, in unison. It was a gesture complicated by the fact that Vethri was a head taller than Eiksra, but they managed it.

Diamond Silvermane look confused for a heartbeat, then she recovered and stood as well. “Are you certain you don’t want to discuss this further?” she said, a little less bombastically.

“What is there to discuss?” asked Vethri. “Thank you for your hospitality Diamond, I know that The Pink Pearl is in good hands.”

“Have a nice afternoon,” added Eiskra, a little too gleefully, I thought.

And we left.

“What was that?” asked Carmen as soon as we were in the carriage.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.23

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise. This week as a bonus I was sick and exhausted to boot!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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Murith and I sat down for a drink while we waited for The Twins and Carmen. The common room of the Inn of the Willing Wench was full of boisterous men and women from far off ports and smelled of bread, spices, and Brunor’s famous lamb stew.

A light cider accompanied a bowl of stew for me, while Murith drank a dark ale with bread and cheese.

“How can you be certain that Ulfgorr will come after us directly?”

“He’s cunning, but not especially strategic. Given that Ulfgorr rarely faces anyone that he can’t tear apart or sneak around, he’s never had to think that hard about it. Wolki is the brains of the pair, and I managed to beard him in hid den so to speak; he will be wroth beyond thinking. Ulfgorr will seek him out and Wolki will order my demise. They won’t approach the act like idiots, but they won’t be extra cautious unless we give them reason to be.”

“They sound like serial killers.”

“They aren’t called that when they hold positions of power, Murith.”

The Dwarf woman guffawed, I smiled. Getting Murith to laugh is often difficult, but always worth the while.

“Here they are, Ragnar.”

Vethir, Eiskra, and Carmen turned heads as they moved through the common room. Each of them wore leggings of black leather, stitched to reveal a little of their legs down the side, black silk corsets with spikes that looked almost like armour, save for the generous amount of cleavage showing, and long gloves that matched the leggings. Vetheri and Eiskra wore sashes of a deep, rich burgundy around their waists, advertising their status highly skilled Dominatrices and the formal half-masks often used at Doxies’s Union protests and masquerades. Carmen wore a sash of a brighter red, proclaiming her status as an apprentice in the arts that Vethri and Eiskra had mastered. Her haughty look had vanished as well, replaced with that of the watchful student, complete with glasses and a severe bun in her hair.

I noted that Carmen would easily be able to hide  her weapons in plain sight, as tools of the trade and props. She winked at me and started to make a lewd gestures, but Vethri’s voice froze her.

“Carmina, show some dignity, you are an adept now, not some lusty novice.”

To her credit, ‘Carmina’ did not even flinch. Instead she feigned contrition. “Yes, Domina.”

Murith looked at me, eyebrow raised. It was a convincing disguise and one that would allow Carmen to stay near us without attracting undue attention.

“Well done,” I said to Vethri and Eiskra as they squeezed into the booth with us. “Murith and I think it best to go about our business as usual and try to discover what links Lily Gemarkand, Diamond Silvermade, and Wolki together in this. What is our next course of action?”

“We have arranged a meeting with Diamond Silvermane,” said Vethri. “We want to discuss terms. She has been surprisingly amenable.”

“Since your investigation has run into a dead end we have also decided to offer a reward for any information about Rake’s death,” said Eiskra. “One silver per tip, Two gold bars if it leads to capture of the one responsible.”

“Why such a discrepancy?” asked Carmen.

“We expect to be deluged with useless and misleading tips,” said Vethri. “The silver is a form of charity to those who want to test and see if we are serious or just trying to look good. The gold is the real bait.”

We finished our meal quickly, and then made preparations to meet with Diamond Silvermane.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’ War 3.2

Tis Thursday once more and time for some Shadow Wolf!

For those of you who missed last week’s post here it is.

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The racket was simple enough. For whatever reason Lily Gemarkand, the ruthless head of one of Myrrhn’s Seven Families wanted control of the Doxies’s Union. Her motive was profit and influence, no doubt. Once upon a time she had been working with her ‘long lost’ sister, a prostitute who went by the name Sapphire, to undermine Madame Glorianna who was the leader of the Union at the time. That plan ended in bloodshed and a clash with The Devout, followers of a mad ideal that placed conquest above all. Sapphire and Madame Glorianna both died ugly deaths. That should have settled the matter.

In her last testament, Madame Glorianna endorsed the The Twins as her best replacements. It seemed reasonable, Eiskra and Vethri knew the Union better than anyone alive, and were greatly respected by their peers. It should have been easy, but this is Myrrhn and Lily Gemarkand was not a woman to give up easily.

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The Union Hall still bore the scars of The Devout attack more than a year later. Most were concealed, shattered tiles and broken doors having been replaced with near perfect replicas, but Madame Glorianna’s office had to be replaced entirely after Lord Torvul, the Devout leader, had used his magic to blast it apart. I thought I could still smell dark magic and old blood, but it might have been a trick of the memory. It was a bad time.

“Ragnar, are you ready?” Vethri’s voice broke my reverie.

“I am.”

“Relax, old wolf, you’re just here for decoration,” said Eiskra. “Just stand behind us and look handsome.”

I rolled my eyes. Tonight was a formality. After more than a year of wrangling The Twins had asserted their dominance over the various factions in the Union, enough that they could call quorum and bring the matter of leadership to a vote. I was there because I still had some clout within the Union from my days as a doorman and an agent for Madame Glorianna.

“As if I could do anything else.”

“This is serious, you two,” said Vethri.

“Is something wrong?” asked Eiskra.

“I don’t know,” returned Vethri. “My sources say we have the votes, but someone just bought the Pink Pearl, today.”

“Who?”

“Tell me its not Gemarkand,” snarled Eiskra.

“I can’t say for sure, but few others have that kind of capital, and the timing is very suspicious,” said Vethri.

“What can she do if you have the votes?”

“We’ll soon see, I’m afraid,” said Vethri.

“Relax, Rat-ears, we’ve been through worse,” said Eiskra. “Let’s see what she has in store for us together.”

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The Twins were not really twins. In fact they did not really look, or even dress alike most of the time. Vethri was a tall Dark Elf with long ears, which Eiskra swore reminded her of a rat.

They earned the name from the distinct scars that Gentleman Jim had left them with over twenty years ago. Most noticelable were the jagged cuts extending from the sides of their mouth toward each ear, like a monstrous smile. Their necks also bore scaring from a rope garrote, almost like they’d been hanged.

The Twins were Twiceborn, like me. Gentleman Jim had tortured them, raped them, and killed them along with dozens of others than night. The Twins, however, had risen from the ashes like vengeful furies.

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The Union hall was full to brimming when we made our appearance. The Twins swept in from the back of the crowd rather than just appear before them, a bit of symbolism that I appreciated. I could sense excitement and some resentment, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Vethri and Eiskra wore neither masks, nor makeup to hide their scars. It was a statement, especially to those who knew they trade. As they took the stage, applause and cheering broke out. It was time to heal old wounds and get back to business.

But then the lady in diamond dress walked in, and everything changed.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fangs (2.9)

Tis Thursday, and time for my weekly serial.

The first story arc can be found here.

The first post in this arc can be found here.

and, here is last week’s post.

“Consider it done, Nordan,” said Carmen. “But then we are even.”

I nodded once, turned my back on the young assassin, and then began my slow ascent. It was well and truly night now, dark in the city above as well as the sun-hungry depths of places like Cliffshadow.

The conflict to replace madame Glorianna, the ‘Whore’s War’ as it was popularly known, was still simmering. The Twins were caught up in that challenge, and our little home was now a veritable fortress. The idea of going through all of the extra checks and layers of security, waking them, just to sleep in my own bed, felt a little selfish.

I felt eyes on me, not just Carmen’s, as I climbed out of the slum. I did not sense any threats, however, and thought it most likely that it was simply the people of that place, watching carefully as another brutal little conflict winded down.

I did not expect Carmen to actually follow through on finding out who started Curran down the dark path that led to him becoming a Vampire, and killing his sister Delilah. I even gave her the frame of an excuse in telling her not to pursue my goal if it might get her killed.

I fully expected that my hunt would end with Curran. Instead my thoughts turned to the problem presented by Carmen, the former apprentice of the cunning betrayer Sildus, and how I could make certain that would not raise arms against me again without killing her.

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A week passed, uneventful save for the brawls and bodies left behind as the player’s in the Whore’s War vied for supremacy and an unrelated trade war.

Then one day, sitting at the Inn of the Willing Wench, chewing on orange-glazed sea-drake and drinking Skyhall mead, when I caught sigh of Carmen approaching my table. The young assassin was dressed like an affluent student from one of the many prestigious academies that could be found within the city, complete with glasses and a bag of books.

“Hello, Ragnar.”

“Hello, Carmen,” I answered. “What would a student like yourself want with an old Nordan ne’er do well like myself?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” said Carmen, showing her teeth in an approximation of a smile. “I was working… training exercises you might call them. I have your information Ragnar.”

“You know who made Curran into a vampire?” I asked.

“I do,” said Carmen, smiling with genuine pride this time. “The name won’t mean anything to you, but I also found out where he lairs. It is all here.”

She handed me a students notebook; parchment tied together and bound by leather. I held it in my hands, not knowing what to think.

“Aren’t you going to look at it?” she asked. “I’m in a hurry.”

“I’m certain that you did well, Carmen,” I said, meeting her eyes. “I don’t need to look inside to know that you accomplished the task I set for you. You have my thanks.”

“Good,” she said, sliding out of the booth and grabbing her book-bag. “Remember, we’re even now.”

“Are we?” I asked.

“We are,” she said. “You were right about Sildus. The Guild looked into his activities. I have seen their records now.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m surprised,” she said. “But perhaps we can talk about that some other time, Nordan. I don’t want to be late for class…”

I nodded and let her go then looked down at the notebook that contained the name of the Vampire who had rewarded Curran for killing his sister. I hesitated, wondering if I needed yet another war right now, then opened it.