Servant of the Shadow

A World of Kulan Short Story
By Robert Blezard

Haily wasn’t sure that she could pull it off. Her masters at the Angle’s Edge Thieves’ Guild had sent her out to procure an item they considered vital to their survival.

Sure, their survival. It’s not like they cared whether she lived or died. This Zultmir fellow is one of the most powerful wizards in the Kingdom of Stonn not to mention a rumored favorite of the Jealous Arcane. And any wizard that could attract the attention of Xuar, the God of Necromancy, is someone she would normally avoided like the plague.

Followers of Xuar are not known for their mercy.

Haily looked at the tower in front of her in awe and a whole lot of fear. The stone gargoyle next to her seemed to be mocking her. Calling her a coward and worse. Of course, it was all in her head. The gargoyle wasn’t alive. Just a convenient hiding spot cloaked in shadows on an adjacent roof to the necromancer’s tower.

“This is crazy.” The halfling shook her head in frustration. “I don’t even know if I can get in, let alone find it.”

But the guild had been adamant. Find the item or all was lost. They hadn’t even told her what it was she was supposed to steal. Oh, they had hinted that it was important to the Church of Kuil and the entire pantheon for that matter. All the more reason her stomach was now doing somersaults.

“The necromancer doesn’t know what he has.” Guildmaster Vendel had told this to her in his private room. “If he did it could lead to another war amongst the gods. We don’t dare speak the name of the object. But you’ll know it when you see it.”

She had been less then pleased. She wasn’t a devoted worshiper of the North Gods. Yes, Kuil is the patron of the Angle’s Edge. But that doesn’t mean she believes that the God of Rogues and Illusion cares whether or not she exists. The guild has always been a means to an end. And now that could be her fate, literally.

“Well, no sense wasting time.” Haily stood up putting a hand on the gargoyle. Staying in the shadows she waited until two Watchers passed by on the street below. “Time to get killed.”

The halfling deftly dropped down to the street below without a sound. She checked the street again while keeping to the shadows. Then she closed her eyes concentrating on the shadowed corner, cast by the street lamps, on the other side of the street that she had seen from above. Breathing slowly, she took a step and felt herself being pulled through the darkness to the other side of the street next to the necromancer’s tower.

She clenched her hands together fighting the fear that always came with shadow walking. It was a gift taught to all guild members of the Angle’s Edge. She hated it. It felt like ice was being shoved through her skin. But it came in handy when you needed to do something real risky like trying to break into an arcane tower. And this was the easy part.

“Oh forget it.” Haily clenched her teeth together. “Guild membership isn’t worth this.”

Haily slid away from the tower sprinting down a side alley. She’d have to leave the city of course. She’d have to leave everything she had behind. Start over. Somewhere else where she didn’t have to answer to the North Gods in order to steal for a living. There was always the southern lands or even the old cities of the Empire of Swords.

Haily ran through the back alleys of Stonn City keeping an eye out for Watchers and anyone who might recognize her. It wouldn’t take long for the guild or the Church of Kuil to learn that she had chose to leave without the bag.

She turned a corner and ran right into someone. She went down in a tangle of arms and legs with the other person.

“Ow,” Haily noticed that the person in front of her was one of her kind. A boy barely out of his diapers no less. “What hit me?”

The boy looked like he was about to pass out. He rubbed his forehead groaning in pain. Damn, she hadn’t been careful. Now she was in a situation that would lead them right to her. If the boy talked.

She reached for her dagger. Then she looked at the little halfling with her hand near the hilt of her blade. No matter whether or not she wasn’t part of the guild anymore, she couldn’t bring herself to murder an innocent child. Especially not one of her own kind. There are so few of us.

Haily let go of her dagger. She quickly stood up taking a quick look around to see if the Watchers had spotted them. She tried to help the boy up but his legs were too wobbly to stand. She picked him up carrying him into the shadows of a nearby alleyway.

“Are you all right child?” Her mother would have been proud, if she knew who her mother was.

“I-I think so,” The boy still couldn’t stand. “What happened?”

“You were out in the middle of the night. Wandering through the streets. I didn’t see you and ran right into you. What are you doing out at this time of night? Where’s your kin?”

“Kin, your not serious are you. I don’t have any halfling relatives. I’m on my own, okay.”

He seemed a little less fragile now that his head had cleared. “So you’re an orphan?”

“What about it?” The boy was becoming more hostile. “And what the heck are you running from, hmm?”

“Don’t sass your elders child.” Haily tried to dodge the question. “Halflings have to stick together.”

“Don’t call me a child. And you’re not my elder.”

“Why don’t we go to the Temple of Yondalla an ask the High Priestess if she agrees with you on that, hmm.”

“N-no, that’s all right. I’m sorry. I’m just a little sore, okay?”

“Fine. Now, where do you live?”

“Um, you’re looking at it.” The boy pats his clothes, turns around several times then sits down in the alley.

“You live in the streets. Of Stonn City. Do you take me for a fool? No one lives on the streets in this city. Not unless they want to go to prison or get thrown out of the city.”

“Well, I don’t really live here. I live wherever my feet take me. I’m just passing through, honest.”

Haily sighed crossing her arms in frustration. Great, all she needed right now was a halfling boy that she was now responsible for. The guild was going to catch her for sure.

“All right, I believe you. What’s your name?”

“Kyle.”

“Is that it?”

“Ya, why?”

The boy didn’t even have a last name. She should have done the job. At least that would have been safer.

“Okay, I’m going to get you out of the city. Then we’ll try and find a nice, quiet halfling community for you to settle down in.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Excuse me?” Haily was now starting to regret not sticking the little bugger with her dagger.

“You heard me. And don’t give me that Yondalla routine again. I know they’re as likely to make you do penance for being a thief.”

“What makes you think that?” Obviously, he’s brighter than he looks.

“Oh come on. You just scream thief-in-the-night. Don’t worry, I’ve pinched a few things in my time.”

“Oh really, you don’t look like you could even lift a dagger let alone a full purse of coins.”

“I’ll prove it to ya.”

Haily couldn’t help but admire him. Kyle had this cockiness about him that she once had a long time before having to deal with pantheon politics.

“I don’t have time for you to prove it to me.” Haily heard the sound of footsteps coming down the street. Watchers! “We have to go now.”

“Oh them, relax. Watch this.”

“Don’t-” She was too late. The little halfling bound out into the street like a cat. He went right up to the two Watchers coming into the lamplight.

“Damn it.” He’d end up in jail, of course. Watchers didn’t bargain. Haily stayed out of sight waiting for them to arrest the little bugger.

Silence.

Haily didn’t understand it. Watchers are known for loving the sound of their own voices. The halfling rogue peeked out of the alley. Her jaw almost fell off.

The two watchers didn’t move, frozen in mid-step. Not only that. They were completely naked from top to bottom. Kyle had relieved them of all their clothes. He scampered back to the alley next to Haily giggling the whole way.

“How did you do that?” Haily was trying not to laugh.

Kyle snapped his fingers and the two guards continued walking down the street right by them in the buff. They didn’t even seem to realize what had happened.

“They’ll walk for a couple more blocks before snapping back into reality.” Kyle gave Haily a wry smile.

“I don’t understand. Who or what are you?”

“Don’t you know?”

“Come on, kid. I don’t have time for games.”

Kyle sighed. He seemed much older now. His face seemed older than anything she had ever seen before.

Haily backed away. “You’re not a halfling, are you?”

“I’m what you see, Haily but I’m also what you have never cared to see.”

“What?” Riddles, Haily hated riddles.

Kyle took her hand. She didn’t even try to resist. She couldn’t resist for some reason. Everything seemed to stop for moment and then Haily was standing in front of the necromancer’s tower. The rest of the city was gone. It was like they and the tower were alone in the world.

“And here we are again, Haily.” Kyle stood looking up at the tower with disgust. “Damn necromancers.”

Haily didn’t know what was real. Everything was a blur in her head. It didn’t make sense. She wasn’t standing on anything but yet she was standing.

Kyle knew her name but she hadn’t told him. Only her fellow guild members knew her true name. The halfling boy was larger than life in front of her. He turned at looked at her.

“O-oh my,” Haily felt her eyes watering with tears. “Lord K-Kuil…”

“My child.” The boy in front of her vanished. Replaced by the power of the God of Rogues and Illusions. She felt like her heart would explode her skin burn away from His radiance. “The Pantheon needs you Haily. I need you.”

“But I-I’m just a thief.” Haily was on her knees her hands clasped in front of her chest. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from Him. She didn’t feel worthy to be near him.

“You are more than worthy, child. You are one of my most gifted followers. And I am sorry that you felt neglected. I have meant to come to see you often but didn’t realize how fragile your faith was until you decided to run away.”

Haily was sobbing uncontrollably before her God. He was her God now. She felt it now like nothing she’d ever felt before in her life. It was amazing and intoxicating.

“I don’t understand why you don’t just take the item away from the necromancer. He couldn’t stop you even if he tried.”

“It isn’t that simple, dear Haily. No god is meant to possess it except the All-Mother. It could corrupt me. Besides, if I intervened directly in this matter then Xuar would know. He would become aware of the item and seize it for himself. That is what could destroy the world and that is what must never happen. That is why I need you, my dear.”

“But surely a more experienced thief would be more likely to succeed.”

“Your humility is why I’ve chosen you. You stand in my presence yet you still doubt yourself worthy of the task. And make no mistake, my child, I chose you myself. I have complete confidence in you to do this.”

Haily felt His love for her. Kuil stepped pulled her up to her feet. He held her hand against his chest. He stared directly into her eyes. Haily gasped for air as she felt like she was being born again from within.

“Every time you stand in the shadows you are a part of me, Haily. Every time you shadow walk it is my touch you feel inside you. It isn’t darkness you feel, but the light in the darkness that guides you to me. I am your Father, I am your Mother, I am your Brother and Sister, and I am your kin. I love you as much as Yondalla loves you. Never forget that.”

Haily was shaking. She opened her eyes. She was on the rooftop next to the gargoyle. The necromancer’s tower stood in front of her once again. It wasn’t scary at all. The Watchers went by but she didn’t give them a second thought. She could feel the items power calling out to her. It needed her to recover it for the pantheon. To keep the world safe from Xuar and the other dark gods.

Haily closed her eyes and shadow walked into the very heart of the tower. She opened herself completely to the shadows for the first time. She felt Him there next to her. Guiding her. She knew exactly where to look for the item. It stood on the necromancer’s mantle in his room. She had shadow walked right into his lair without hesitation. The necromancer’s warding spells fizzled. She had been blessed by her Lord and moved through the room with ease.

Haily grabbed the item off the mantle. The necromancer slept soundly behind her. She didn’t even look at him. She shadow walked away back to alley she had met Kuil, as Kyle. She tucked the item under her arm. She knew the guildmaster would be proud if not a little surprised she had succeeded. It was okay. She didn’t need his favor. She was a servant of the shadow now. Haily shadow walked back to the guild house embracing her Lord’s touch with a smile as she went.

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