By Deverian Valandil
[ 7:00 ]
The trap door swung open and Dace climbed out into the stables, lugging a large form behind him. As he stood, he noticed two guards nearby, each screaming in terror as they were held in place by several wavy black tendrils that magically sprouted from the ground.
“Dace, hurry up and grab the horses,” called Melik, who was sitting with Flink atop a pony. “These guards came around just before you did; it won't be long before more arrive.”
Flink stared at the vine-like things entangling the guards, “What did you do to them?”
“A simple spell, ‘Evard's Black Tentacles'.” The gnome squinted past Dace, “Where's Terrence? And who's that you're dragging behind there?”
Dace slung the unconscious body over one of the horses they had stolen earlier in the day and grabbed the reins as he mounted the other steed, “Terrence is dead. He was killed during a struggle with one of the Shadow Thieves.” The assassin didn't elaborate. “We might need a hostage, so I brought the unconscious guard with me.”
“What about the thieves?”
“Terrence killed Myrk, the other escaped. Believe me, that one would have been too much trouble to make a good hostage. And I doubt the guards would go very far to protect a thief.”
A streak of worry appeared on the gnome's face, “Without Terrence, the plan is ruined! How will I explain this to my employers? Have you any idea what they will do to me?!”
“Do not worry, gnome, Flink will be here to protect us.” Dace kicked his horse into a quick gallop, “If you want to leave this city unscathed, then I would advise you to lead us to your employers. I still intend to fulfill my contract.”
“I can't take you to them. They are a very demanding group, and they don't like uninvited guests.” The gnome and halfling followed, “We've already failed the mission! If it's payment you're so concerned about, then just take some of my own coin and leave.”
“And what would that say about my work ethic? I do have a reputation to think of,” said Dace, earning him a frown from the gnome, “It is unfortunate you feel that way, Melik. You signed a contract with me, and I plan to see this mission through. Now show me to them.” [ 7:05 ]
* * *
Vellin stared at the maps and scribbled notes strewn across the table. In their flight, the mercenaries had left behind several building layouts. His frown intensified as he recognized the address scrawled at the top of one of the floor plans. It was for the summit building where the foreign envoys were conducting the trade talks.
“Inquisitor,” called one of the guards, “what are we do to with the bodies we found in the back room?”
Turning away from the table, Vellin sent an uneasy glance at the two dead men on the ground, “When the corpse carts arrive, have them shipped to the temple of Tyr . We need answers more than ever.” He cast a disdainful look at Atamir, still frozen near the stairs, “And send the Captain to speak with me when he regains movement.”
He stepped back as Myrk and Terrence were hauled off on stretchers, and reached for the magical earring given to him by Selena. Focusing his thoughts, the paladin reached out to his associate telepathically.
‘Selena, I've just sent two bodies to the temple; see if you can question their spirits for any information involving today's summit. Have you found any more information on Verskul, the dead wizard?'
From the temple on the north side of town, the elven woman responded, ‘I contacted members from the Cowled Wizards in Athkatla, but they have no knowledge of him. Which of course means that he is either a closet-wizard or that he was powerful enough to mask himself from their attention throughout his life.'
‘Very well, keep me informed. Once I've finished at the Silver Spike, I'll be heading to the town hall. These mercenaries apparently had maps and detailed notes on how to penetrate the building. This morning's murder was just a prelude to a grander scheme.' With that, he ended the mental connection. [ 7:07 ]
The paladin returned upstairs to the main hall and eyed the thugs and criminals that had been apprehended during the raid, now standing in a long line against the wall. In particular, Vellin was getting a suspicious feeling from the thief he had apprehended at the door of the tavern. His paladin-sense was giving him a similar vibe to the one he'd detected back at the prison during the jailbreak.
Leaning back on the wall, Derrick had his eyes locked front and centre, but he could still feel the Inquisitor's hard glare upon him. He shifted his footing, trying to look as plain as possible among the other arrested patrons. Any hope of anonymity was lost as the paladin pulled Gend the waiter out of the line-up. The waiter almost immediately pointed at Derrick, whispering quietly to the Inquisitor as if he thought no one could tell what he was saying.
The paladin shoved Gend back against the wall and gestured toward Derrick. Two of the guards pulled the thief away from the others and dragged him to a table across the room. Vellin ordered that the remaining suspects be sent to the city jail, then joined Derrick at the table.
“The waiter here tells me you're a Shadow Thief, and my sixth sense tells me we've already crossed paths today.”
“I'm not the man you should be looking for,” Derrick began, “I'm just a-”
He was interrupted by an angry shout from the stairs to the basement, “You were the one responsible for this morning's murder!” Atamir said as he bounded toward them, “You have much to answer for!”
“Hold, Captain!” called the Inquisitor, blocking the officer's path, “He isn't the only one with much to answer for. Tell me, what gave you the right to circumvent my authority on this investigation?”
“I don't answer to glorified bucket-wearers who-”
“Enough of this. Time and time again you have defied my orders; now you have gone too far.”
“What are you talking about?! Thanks to my initiative, we have a living suspect right here.” Atamir jabbed a finger at Derrick.
“And we have two dead ones in the basement. From what I've learned, your men also allowed at least three of the suspects to escape… and with a hostage as well!” Vellin's face darkened, “Minimal results at the price of obstructing my investigation. I cannot allow you to further impede my work. You are hereby stripped of your command until further notice.”
The Captain's eyes bugged out, “What? You have no right to-”
“I have every right to do so; I carry the will of the city council and the Dukes of Baldur's Gate. Guards, please escort this civilian away from the crime scene, and send a page to inform the barracks of the change in command.”
Two nearby guards hesitantly stepped forward, each taking Atamir by the arm. Before they could pull him away, the Captain leaned in, scant inches from the paladin's face, “Don't think that you can just dismiss me like a thrall. I'll be back on the case before you know it.”
“Perhaps.” Vellin replied as he sat down, “But not today.” He made a gesture and Atamir was led away.
Derrick, who had watched the exchange with detached interest, finally spoke as the Inquisitor returned his attention to the matter at hand. “I'm not responsible for this morning's murder. Someone is trying to frame me, and the mercenaries who escaped from this place are somehow involved.”
The Inquisitor listened carefully but didn't sense any falsehood in the thief's words, “I'm actually inclined to believe you. I found it strange that the dwarf's tavern would be completely empty at lunch hour. Add to that the conveniently disappearing witness and a number of peculiarities about the victim, and I'd wager that it's all just one facet of a more elaborate scheme.
“But I still wonder about your connection to this entire matter. Did you have any relationship with the wizard Verskul?”
“The Athkatlan wizard who was slain in Rombis' tavern.”
When Derrick shook his head, the paladin gave a simple nod and stood. The Inquisitor turned to one of the guards, “I must hurry to the summit building. The mercenaries who escaped might still attempt to penetrate the trade talks.”
Derrick stood also, “Well then, if you have nothing else to ask me, I'll just be on my way then. After all, you're obviously not going to charge me with murder, so there's no-”
“Actually, there is still the matter of the incident at the jail this afternoon. And the fact that our prisoner ended up dead in the rooms below. And the fact that you never denied being a member of the Shadow Thieves.” With a casual motion, four more guards appeared at his side, “Take him to the prison and keep him under close observation. I don't want any more surprises from this one… he has a tendency to attract corpses.” [ 7:16 ]
* * *
The air had grown significantly colder as Dace waited stoically, watching the gnome press a finger against the wooden door. Melik had led his associates to a large single-story warehouse alongside the city harbour.
“Hurry up and open the door. Inactivity dulls the senses.” Dace said, watching a nearby seagull picking at a dead fish on the pier.
In the cracks and grooves along the door panel, the wizard quickly traced out a symbol that glowed for a moment. Dace narrowed his eyes at the light within the building, which flooded out as the barrier slid open.
As the mercenaries stepped inside the building, they could feel a slight tingling sensation in the air around them. Despite the sparse, barn-like interior, they could tell that the place was rife with magical wards and protections.
Seated at a round table in the centre of the warehouse were three masked figures, each wearing loose, hooded robes and facemasks that concealed their features. They made no audible comment as the mercenaries approached.
Dace eyed all three of the robed figures with suspicion as he came to a stop a few feet behind Melik. The only differing traits of Melik's employers were the mask colours; gold, silver, and platinum.
“Have the diplomats been dealt with?” demanded gold-mask.
Melik wiped his forehead, “No sir. We ran into a slight complication with several officers of the city guard…” He glanced at Dace.
“They know of our plans?” growled silver-mask, “If your bungling brings any measure of harm upon us, I swear that all of you will suffer ten-fold!”
“No, wait!” shouted Melik, raising his hands in supplication, “We can still carry out the mission! We have the four explosive crystals, so all we need to do is sneak someone inside.”
“Indeed,” gold-mask said as he stood and began to pace, “What of this prisoner you have brought here?” He pointed at Lt. Ponn, who was still unconscious and had been dragged in by Flink. “And exactly how do you intend to place the crystals when the paladins will now undoubtedly be on full alert?”
“I have a spell that may be of use, but it's quite complex, so I may need several hours to rest and memorize it.”
“Very well, there are a few cattle stalls in the east wing of the warehouse. You may rest there,” gold-mask said. “As for this prisoner, secure him in one of the wine rooms below. They're empty and will serve as makeshift holding cells.”
Melik and Flink exchanged worried glances, then moved off on their respective tasks, leaving Dace standing alone before the masked triad. Each side stared at the other for several uncomfortable moments.
Silver broke the silence first, “Are you waiting for something else, or are you simply standing around befuddled?”
“You three should have put more research into the company you hired. Melik is too reliant on planning and order,” Dace began, “A single mistake and he all but collapses. I suppose you do not yet know of the con artist he hired for the mission? That one was too undisciplined… too unruly, and it got him killed.”
“And I suppose you're the perfect balance between the two of them?” Gold snidely asked.
“I am just here to fulfill a contract, gentlemen. Perhaps we should consider writing out the middle-man?”
“You intend to single-handedly wipe out the entire summit? And here we thought mass murder was a difficult business.”
Dace ignored him, “We can be reasonable here, gentlemen. You only need to disrupt the summit meeting, not necessarily kill all the envoys. Mass murder isn't the most endearing action to be taken by a group like the Knights of the Shield. That is your group, is it not?”
Another moment of silence. “So you know what we are. I suppose Melik told you.”
“No. I recognized the Shield Knight symbol he traced to open the door to this place.”
“Are you going somewhere with this, or do you just plan to astonish us with your powers of observation?”
“Melik has already failed you. I, on the other hand, always fulfill my contracts. I can infiltrate the summit building and achieve what Melik could not… for the right price, of course.”
Gold leaned forward slightly, “Impede the summit, then we'll talk. We can scrounge up some gold if you show results.”
Dace glanced over at the platinum-masked man, who had yet to say a word. “May I have that in writing?”
“No,” Gold stated flatly, glancing to the side as Flink came up the stairs from the basement, “we are behind our given schedule as it is, and have little time for formalities.”
“I see. Off I go then.” Dace moved off and motioned for Flink to follow. The assassin was three steps from the door when he abruptly halted and looked back at the employers, “One other thing; Melik tells me that he gave you a Shadow Thief's dagger the other day. Exactly what did you want it for?”
The masked figures didn't respond for several long moments. Dace had the feeling they were conversing inaudibly behind their metallic faces. Silver finally gave a forceful reply, “That is none of your concern, mercenary. You would do well to avoid inquiring into our private business.”
All three turned away from the mercenaries and continued to confer amongst themselves in silence.
“Interesting,” the assassin mused as he led Flink back outside, “they intend to betray us.”
“What? How do you know that?” exclaimed the halfling. His questions went unanswered as Dace padded on through the streets. [ 7:27 ]
* * *
An owl's hooting echoed through the nearby alleys, almost like a mocking laugh to Derrick's ears. The shadowed streets of Southside Row seemed empty, undoubtedly a result of the stronger guard presence from this evening's events.
There were four guards on horseback surrounding Derrick, escorting him toward the town jail. In his mind, the thief had formulated and rejected about half a dozen different escape plans for his predicament. Unfortunately, none of them would have worked as long as he was shackled at the wrists and ankles.
The hooting suddenly became louder, and seemed to catch in his ears as he recalled something: owls don't live in dense, coastal cities like Baldur's Gate. Quieting his movements so he could hear better, the thief could make out a pattern in the ‘bird' cries; it was a Shadow Thief message code that was saying a single word: Ambush .
Three crossbows ‘twanged' from the surrounding shadows, and three of the guards fell from their mounts, each sporting a bolt sticking out of their necks. Guard number four took a moment to stare in shock, then drew his sword and yanked on the reins, directing his steed back toward the Silver Spike.
A figure stepped out from a nearby alley and raised a crossbow toward the fleeing guard. Derrick blinked; it was guild leader Orwin. He took a moment to aim his weapon, but the horseman had already rounded a corner and was out of sight.
“Blast it all,” said the guild leader, taking Derrick by the arm, “we cannot stay here. Follow me, guild traitor.”
“No, you've yanked me around enough today. Despite what you said before, I think you have agents all over the summit meeting today, and-” Derrick pulled his arm away and took a menacing step toward the guild leader.
On cue, five guild assassins appeared at Orwin's side. Each of them was holding a long sword to bear, making them comparatively mightier against the single blackjack that Derrick was still carrying.
Orwin smirked, “You can't even come close to harming me, Derrick. And if you think you can usurp my position in the guild, then you're a fool.”
“I don't giving a flaming donkey's arse about the guild or your paranoid delusions. I'm only trying to figure out who set me up at Rombis' place. I can already think of one connection between the dwarf and myself: the Siron job.”
The Siron job was the mission that both Derrick and Orwin had narrated to Myrk… the same mission in which Orwin had slashed Derrick's leg while outrunning a flesh golem. The mere mention of Siron, the minor noble who had commissioned the guild for the task, brought back the stinging discord both men felt for each other.
“That's foolish. If what you say is true, then why hasn't anything happened to Cerdan or myself?” Orwin asked.
“The guild house is shielded from magical scrying, isn't it? Maybe this whole murder set-up was meant so I would lead them to you.”
“And who exactly is ‘them'?”
Derrick shook his head, “I don't know yet. But I do know that it is directly related to some kind of attack that is going to take place against the foreign envoys today.” A frown crossed his face, “As much as I loathe doing so, I'm going to have to ask for your help again.”
“Oh, of course! You show up at my doorstep out of nowhere, beat up a few guards, start making unfair demands of me, kidnap a guild whisper-man- speaking of which, where is Myrk? Since he wasn't with you, I take it he either escaped or was killed.” The look in Derrick's eyes was answer enough. “In my eyes, you are not in a state of grace. So why should I help you?”
“Even if there isn't a conspiracy against us for the Siron job, we know for certain that something harmful is going to happen at the summit meeting. If those negotiations break down violently, it will put a halt on all open trade and relations with foreign states.”
“So? That would improve the guild's profit on the black-market and smuggling operations.”
Derrick shook his head, “We both know that the guild's power doesn't come from money; it comes from connections and information. If the foreign states like Athkatla or Tethyr become hostile, it could hinder the guild's activity… especially since someone is trying to implicate the Shadow Thieves in the matter.”
Orwin glared at him in silence. As much as he disliked Derrick, he couldn't ignore the possibility that there was an active threat to the guild. “I'll admit there are a few agents working the summit, but they are all under deep cover; I am unable to contact them through normal channels on such short notice. But they'll be watching the diplomats closely, and I am confident that they can handle any problems that may crop up. If you want to stick your nose into that business, you'll do so alone. I'm already short on manpower as it is, and we are already facing a possible threat to the guildhouse.”
“Can you at least tell me how I can get inside the building? Or how to recognize your agents?”
“You think you're such a clever person; get inside yourself. As for the agents, they'll respond to the phrase ‘hear the nightfall'. Use it sparingly… I don't want you shouting it from the rooftops.”
“Great. If I didn't own a store full of artifacts and charms, I might just be worried about my chances.” Derrick glanced at the guild leader's goons, “You know, you won't be able to hide among your cronies forever. Eventually, you're going to face the consequences for the Siron job.”
“I already have; I was given a promotion, control of a guildhouse, and a fat ‘retirement' fund. What do you have to show for your life? A room full of trinkets and shiny objects? Face it, Derrick, you never had the ambition for a ranking spot in the guild.” He gestured to his thugs, “Move out. Make sure he doesn't follow.”
The guild leader and his assassins faded into the shadows, leaving Derrick standing in the middle of the muddy street, alone in the cold once again. [ 7:38 ]
* * *
Rassa inspected the cell for the hundredth time, looking for something – anything – that could be used to help her escape from the wererat camp. She only hoped their invasion wouldn't begin until after midnight . By then Orwin would be suspicious enough to either reinforce guildhouse defenses or even send a full-scale assault team to sweep the sewers.
She gingerly poked at the blood-soaked bandage around her shoulder. The injured arm was stinging terribly, and the woman could only hope that the wound hadn't become infected.
At the far end of the camp, the large wererat leader emerged from his make-shift tent of garbage. Rassa leaned forward with interest as she saw the creature's companion; a young human woman wearing a green veil and mage's robes.
Squinting through the encroaching shadows, the guild lieutenant struggled to read the woman's lips as she appeared to give instructions to the wererat. Rassa could only make out three words through the woman's veil: ‘crystal', ‘attack', and ‘Derrick'.
It was the last word that upset Rassa the most; if Derrick was indeed part of this invasion, then she needed to escape quickly and warn Orwin of his treachery.
The guild lieutenant slumped down and began examining her cell once more. [ 7:41 ]
* * *
“Are you sure we should leave Melik out of the loop like this?” asked Flink.
Dace didn't look away from the display case or the glittering, colourful amulets it contained. The two mercenaries were browsing in a small curio shop whose existence was only known to a few specific elements of the criminal underworld.
“We work in a dangerous business,” he finally responded, “‘honour' and ‘camaraderie' are nothing more than hollow words in our line of work.” The assassin tapped the glass and pointed at two amulets of teleportation within.
The bored curio storeowner removed the artifacts, placed them atop the counter, and quoted a price from memory. Dace produced a large sack of gold and handed one of the amulets to Flink as the merchant counted the money.
“And besides, the gnome was fool enough to accept a job from the Shield.”
Flink looked at the amulet for a moment, and putting it around his neck. “Why is it so bad to work for the Knights of the Shield, anyway?”
“Now think about this. They are an organization of power-hungry nobles, merchants, and politicians. They already have connections to criminal expertise, manpower, and money. So why, then, would they stoop to hiring an untested, independent band of mercenaries like us?” Dace paused to put the other amulet around his own neck, “Because they want us to take the fall for the summit murders. That Shadow Thief who came to us, Derrick, wanted to know what we did with Myrk's dagger… I would wager that the Shield Knights took it with the intention of incriminating us.”
“But if they're going to betray us, then why are we still carrying out the mission?”
“We are not. They only ordered the summit murders as a diversion for some other crime or they would have struck the envoys long before their arrival. We are going to the summit because I want a little ‘insurance' against our employers.” He made his way to the door, “By the way, how many of the explosive crystals do we still have?”
The halfling drew out the wrapped shard and held it out, “I've got one right here and Melik as another. We have four in total…”
“No. We have two in total,” Dace said as he took the crystal and carefully hid it in a pocket.
“Huh? What happened to the others?”
“Unimportant. I will only say that I arranged a ‘surprise' for the city's finest back at the Silver Spike.” [ 7:46 ]
* * *
In another part of the city, a pair of guards drove a horse-drawn wagon northward to the Temple of Tyr . In the back of their cart, draped by two thin blankets were the corpses of Myrk and Terrence.
“This isn't what I joined the watch for,” muttered one guard, “carting bodies around like resurrection-men. They don't pay us enough for this.” He leaned back and pulled the blanket off one of the bodies, “Wonder if they have anything to make it worth all this effort?”
He checked Terrence's clothes and found a few items on his person. The guard let out a low whistle and held up two glowing green crystals for his partner to see, “These must be worth a purse or two.”
“The paladins might not appreciate you robbing corpses.”
“Come on, maybe if I just take one of them? I get off duty by eight; I could sell this and we'll split the gold. No one will know, we'll say he only had one crystal on him to begin with.”
He tossed the crystal to his partner, who almost fumbled the shard when he let go of the reins to catch it, “Eh, alright. Better to have it in my pocket than in some priest's.”
The guard smiled and tucked the other crystal back in the corpse's tunic. [ 7:49 ]
* * *
Inquisitor Vellin passed his horse off to one of the stable boys outside the Ducal Palace and made his way inside the building. The Ducal Palace was the closest thing the city had to a castle, but it actually served as a town hall of sorts. It was from here that the three Dukes of Baldur's Gate, the chosen leaders of the people, commanded the city.
The main foyer was a huge, lavishly adorned festhall. Bright tapestries, expensive antiques, and various forms of decorative art lined the walls, displaying the best works that the city had to offer. Several dozen servants and pages scurried about, desperately trying to get things organized for the envoys' arrival.
Vellin caught the attention of a young paladin nearby, who trotted over and immediately gave a quick salute and a chipper smile, “Evening, Inquisitor! Good to see you here at last. I'm Sir Treysen, knight of Torm.”
The paladin nodded and returned the gesture, “I must speak with whoever is in charge of security for the summit.”
“Yes, that would be me.”
“You?!” An incredulous look flashed across Vellin's face. Treysen looked to be barely out of his youth… surely no more than twenty-five winters. He didn't even have a beard!
Treysen nodded, “Yes, me. Don't be fooled by my face. I'm much older and more experienced than I look, so I'll take your facial expression as a compliment.”
“I see. What is the situation currently?”
“We received the warning of a possible assassination from one of your clerics. I already ordered the Dukes evacuated from the building and taken to secure locations under heavy guard.”
“And what of the envoys?”
“Their evening tour of the city has been cancelled. Instead, they will be brought directly to the palace, and the diplomatic talks will continue as planned.”
“Should they not be relocated along with the city Dukes?” asked Vellin.
“No, the Dukes were only attending as a formality, anyway. The city's interests will be represented by the local chancellor once he arrives.”
The Inquisitor frowned at Treysen's decisions, “I saw few knights stationed outside, and those I did see were only honour guards… not inquisitors.”
“Most of the inquisitors and cavaliers were dispatched to protect the Dukes,” he held up a hand as Vellin began to protest, “Relax. No need to worry sir, we are still three dozen men strong, and the foreigners will have their own bodyguards, so we likely won't be want for sword-arms should trouble arise.”
“All the same, I want an evacuation plan ready for the diplomats, in case someone slips past the palace defenses. Without more inquisitors, a magically concealed enemy may enter undetected.”
Sir Treysen nodded, “I suppose there could even be an insurgent in the building right now and nobody would know.” A page raced up and handed the Tormish paladin a message, “Ah, the Chancellor will be here shortly with the foreigners. Come, friend, we've much to do.” [7:56]
* * *
Bryn peeked around a corner at his father's pawnshop down the street. The building's interior was dark like those around it, and there was still no sign of Ayva, but he wasn't about to toss away what little wit he had left and brazenly march inside.
He was about to tread a little closer to the building when he heard some heavy galloping on fast approach. A horseman cloaked in black rode past at blinding speed, forcing Bryn to press himself against the wall and hope to remain unseen. The boy frowned as the rider reared his horse to a halt directly in front of the pawnshop's entrance.
Bryn slowly backed into the dark alley again and squinted through the night's curtain as a second newcomer, a woman, emerged from down the street, also moving toward the pawnshop. It was Ayva. [7:57]
* * *
Derrick dismounted the steed he'd taken from one of the fallen guards earlier, and gave the animal a chance to rest. The horses used by the city guard were bred for an urban environment; mostly short pursuits against people on foot. Derrick had been resolutely pushing the steed at top speed across the city.
He heard footsteps from behind and instinctively went into a crouched ready position, then relaxed when he saw that it was only his assistant Ayva. He waved to her, “I take it you received my message? Is Bryn safe?”
“Yes, he and Jena are well on their way to the Friendly Arms Inn.” said Ayva, “It's good that I found you here; someone tried to attack me just now, after Bryn left.”
A mixture of concern and interest crossed Derrick's face, “What did he look like? Was he human?”
“No, it was a human woman. I couldn't see her face, but she looked like a mage. She claimed to be hunting for an artifact in your possession… something called the ‘Sigil of the Fallen'. Do you have it?” Ayva winced inwardly. She had asked the question a little more forcefully than she intended.
“No, I've never heard of it,” Derrick answered honestly, “Someone has been after me as well.” He glanced around, “We shouldn't risk letting our words reach any untrustworthy ears that may be lurking about. Come, we'll continue this inside.” [ 7:59 ]
* * *
At the other end of the street, Bryn watched quietly as the cloaked man produced a key and unlocked the pawnshop door. The man followed Ayva as she went inside, and Bryn finally got a clear look at his face. The boy's eyes widened and he began to step out of the alley to shout a warning to his father.
“Da– mmf!” A massive, oily grey hand clamped over Bryn's mouth, muffling his cry.
Derrick went inside and closed the door behind him, not noticing his son.
A second hand grasped Bryn by the collar and hauled him several feet up in the air. Turning his head, the kid found himself staring into the hairless face of a hideous, towering creature with the head of a fanged wolf and the many-sored body of a troll.
“Tremble with fear, boy,” the monster growled, “you're going to join the teeming ranks of the Night Parade.”
[ 8:00 ]
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