Vol 3: Chapter 1, Part 1: The Darkness Looms

Shianne crashed through the door of her room at the Drunken Donkey Inn, kicking it closed with wood-cracking force. She let out a furious snarl as she threw her bag to the floor near the bed and limped into the adjoining bathroom. Wrenching open her shirt, she pulled it down far enough to reveal the sticky, wet slice she had taken to the ribs. The blood matted her fur and scorched her beige shirt a dark red.

Sucking in a sharp hiss of pain, she began rinsing the wound. Shedding the rest of her clothing she stepped into the shower and with a touch of the heat crystal, let the sputtering stream of hot water and steam clear the rage from her mind. Her muscles ached and the cut would require a healing salve, which she was damn lucky to have in her pack, considering her current situation.

Since parting ways with Beddigan, William, and Ragnon in Reene, all of Shianne’s life had become about running. She wasn’t accustomed to feeling out of control of her own life, and she didn’t like it one bit. 

As she rubbed soap into her fur, careful to avoid the wound on her side, she thought back to that dawn, where she had given in to her darkest desires and slaughtered every wolf in that village. She had done it under the guise of helping her friends escape into the Losley Deadwoods, but truly, she had done it for herself. She had done it for that little Kit who had been torn away from her parents and imprisoned while her people were subjugated under the boots of the Wolves.

But the moment that it was done and over, she had realized that her life would never be as it once was. Her identity as Death’s Whisper was now common knowledge and she was being hunted by nearly every country’s government, as well as by those seeking vengeance or retribution for people they had lost to her job as assassin.

Finished showering now, Shianne wrapped a fluffy towel around her body, and made her way out of the steamy little bathroom and into the common area of her room. Sitting on the edge of the bed she dragged her bag closer with a wince, and dug around for her healing salve. Her heart panged a bit at the sight of her dark fur. It had been necessary, of course, that she had procured another of the masking crystals, once she had found passage back across the Lorring Sea, back to Katheyra. It was much easier to blend is as a Wolf, even in the Republic, or anywhere in these lands, than as a Fox. But she had absolutely loved those fleeting moments when she could wear her natural colour fur proudly; even when it was splattered with Wolf blood.

Once she had applied the healing salve and tossed the towel in the general direction of the bathroom, Shianne dressed in dark breeches, shirt, vest, and cloak, strapping on her various weapon sheaths, and coin and crystals pouches. She winced again as she bent down to retie her bag.

“That’s going to take a while to heal.” She muttered, standing back up and walking over to the window. It had been dusk when she had returned to the room and dusk had now faded to night.

It wasn’t just her life that had changed in these past weeks. Life had begun to change for all in Katheyra as well. This change was most evident in the capital city of the Republic, San Vincent’s Port, and Shianne had been lurking around the great city, monitoring with growing concern, the number of Wolves, particularly Military Wolves, that had taken up residence.

Though there was no such decree yet, rumor had it that the Council was considering accepting Mormant’s offer of Wolves from their Military for use as a city guard. A Turning ago, this would have been unheard of, but something had changed on the Council, and those in power now looked to Mormant as a powerful ally, and not as much as the potential enemy that they were.

“Fools.” Shianne cursed under her breath as she caught site of the two Wolves in Military garb that she had been following for days. The slice on her ribs ached from where one of them had caught her as she tried to abduct him for questioning. She wanted answers. Who on the Council was corrupt? How close were the Wolves to having a fleet of those Fast Ships ready? Was a war truly coming? Pulling the cowl of her hood up, she headed for the door to her room. Pressing her ear to it she listened for the heavy footfalls she knew would accompany the soldiers as they made their way to their double room, right next door to her own.

When she didn’t hear them in the hall she made a frustrated sound and leaned against the door. They must have stopped in the ale house downstairs for a drink and sup. Moving to the bed she took the opportunity to lay down and ease the tension on her injured ribs.

It had only been a couple of weeks since she had seen to it that Beddigan, William, and Ragnon made their escape into the Losley Deadwoods after making landfall in Reene. It was shortly after that, that she received word from Beddigan’s sister Clottie that she was to meet her as soon as possible in the capital city of Katheyra. Their meeting had been eye-opening and fear-inducing, to say the least. Clottie had told her all that Lady Lisanne had told Beddigan, William, Ragnon, about the way of the world – it’s size and scope much larger than any of them had realized. As well, Clottie had warned her that war was coming and that the Wolves looked to take Katheyra next. And lastly, Clottie had taken her paw and informed her that Beddigan, Ragnon, and William had set off on a dangerous journey, north of the Snowcap Mountains, to seek aid in the coming war from those who inhabited the lands that seemed so far away, but were actually quite close.

It pained her to think of Beddigan so far away, but also overjoyed her to know that he was safe from the claws of the Wolves, for now. Without having to worry about her surrogate older brother, she had thrown herself into figuring out the Wolves’ plot. Well, that and the fact that she couldn’t get a job to save her life. She was blowing through her savings quickly, but she knew of other ways of procuring gold when the time for that came. For now she would hunt, follow, watch the Wolves, and do her best to slow them down while Beddigan searched for help elsewhere.

Thumping in the hall and mumbled voices caught Shianne’s attention and she silently rolled up off the bed, stifling yet another wince at the pain in her side. Creeping to the door she reached it just in time to hear the Wolves thud past towards their room. Slipping out into the hall she slid through the dimly lit hall and came up behind them just as they were entering their room. A hard shove wasn’t the stealthiest of moves, but it was the best way to get them both off their feet and into the room, so she did it anyways. Three quick punches to the chest and face of the Wolf nearest her, sent him sprawling face down, knocked out. Unfortunately, this gave the other Wolf time to draw his sword, and now Shianne had to rock back to avoid getting another slice to her chest. She groaned and leapt over the fallen Wolf to give herself enough time to free her daggers, causing her hood to hall back over her shoulders.

“You!” snarled the Wolf, “Back for a little more then, huh?” Shianne grinned and tossed a dagger aimed to just miss the Wolf’s shoulder. It distracted him just long enough for her to leap back over the other Wolf’s sprawled body and sweep his feet out from under him. She carefully knocked his sword out of reach before dragging his scrambling form back, a dagger held dangerously close to his throat.

“Well I just couldn’t keep myself away from such a handsome Wolf.” She giggled as he snarled, struggling against her as much as he could. “nuh uh,” she tutted, pressing the blade of the dagger a little harder against his throat, “I need to have a little chat with one of you, but I’m not above cutting your throat and waiting for your friend to wake up.” The Wolf stared up at her with hard eyes.

“Ain’t got nothing to say to you, filthy traitor.” Shianne grinned down at the Wolf.

“Oh, but I think you do. What are you and your friend, and all your other little friends doing in Katheyra?” The Wolf glared at her. “And don’t tell me it isn’t any of my business, because then I’ll have to cut you.” She added sweetly.

“It be no secret that the Council seeks to employ us as city guards. Finally get this filthy, dangerous country in order. Make it more civilized.” Shianne suppressed the urge to cut his throat as he sneered at her, very much seeing the fox he knew her to be, behind the wolf-like fur.

“There hasn’t been any official news about that though. So what are so many of you already doing here?” she asked, a hard edge to her voice. The Wolf chuckled, low in his throat and Shianne tightened the knife to it once more.

“We’ll clean up this City, and the rest of this country. You’ll see. Just a matter of time now for the bureaucrats to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.” Shianne stared at the Wolf for a moment, as he looked up at her and grinned. “They’ll all be calling us Master just like you lot do.”

In a moment the Wolf was silent and bleeding, and Shianne was racing back to her room to clean her dagger and gather her things, before the other Wolf came to. She hadn’t meant to kill him, as it would continue to draw attention to her she didn’t need that. But in that moment, she was overcome by the rage again. It had been starting to fade in this last bit of time, as the world’s problems became her own, but still tended to lash out when provoked.

She quickly dumped the coin and crystals she had stolen from the guards into her bag and slipped back out into the dim hallway. She nodded from under her cloak to the sleepy old badger behind the front counter and made her way out into the inky darkness of night.

If what the Wolf had said was true, she needed to get access to someone on the Council of Elders and see just how soon Mormant Military rule of the city was to come to the city and the Republic of Katheyra. And who was behind these dealings with the Wolves.

Sticking to the shadows, Shianne walked along the dirt lane leading towards the Inner Circle of the city from near the Southern gate. She looked up at the stars peeking through the clouds that threatened rain. She took a moment to smell that sweet, impending rainfall on the air and take a breath, considering her next steps. Resuming her gait, she sighed and muttered to herself,

“If they were truly given guard of the most important port city in Katheyra, then the Wolves may have already won.”

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