When the light vanished and the smoke cleared, Noranox’s body was in chunky pieces everywhere. Lying against the far wall was Darvis’ charred body. A mysterious nude elven female was kneeling over him. She was tall at least six feet I guessed, it hard to tell with her kneeling. Her dark nearly black hair was long, running down her back and laid about the ground. Her skin was copper in tone and from behind I could see the distinguishing long pointed ears of elf heritage. Due to the skin color I guessed she was a wood elf. Tanis and I stepped closer and were able to make out what was being said.
“Funny you showing up here as I take my dying breathe.” Darvis strained.
“Shhhhh,” The elf said pressing a finger gently across Davis blackened lips. “I told you I would always be by your side. You should have listened to the young one, dear heart.”
“I honestly...” He coughed up blood mid-sentence. “Don’t know. A costly mistake.” He coughed more violently and then fell silent.
“Farewell sweet Darvis, May the earth mother take you into her warm embrace.”
I held my breath. Through the goggles I could see a spectral creature like the one that was on Noranox squirm away from Darvis’ broken and burned body. I moved closer as the lady turn toward us. I admittedly averted my eyes. It just was not gentlemanly to look upon a female as she was without some form of courting. I did however catch a glance of her eyes as I did; they were the color of golden amber like my own.
“There is no need to look away, young one. I stand now no different than I did before.”
“Who are you?” Tanis asked.
“She is Shadow Stepper.” I answered, still looking off in the opposite direction.
“Yes I am, I have appeared to Darvis in the form a few times throughout the past hundred years. After all that time he still believed that I was a reoccurring dream. Honestly, I preferred it that way.”
“How?” Tanis asked puzzled.
“I am an Lycanthrope or as was common in certain circles fifty years ago, a werewolf.”
“You mean like in the myths, a person that can turn into an animal?”
“No, I am an original. I am a wolf that gained the knowledge and ability to take a two-legged form.”
“We don’t have time for this, we need to go back and tell Pharmis what has happened.” I said.
“No, we must move on. This battle will have drawn the attention of many creatures that lurk down here. Going back the way we came will lead to more trouble,” insisted Shadow Stepper.
“We cannot leave him here like this.” Tanis protested.
“There is plenty of stone here. We can return him to the earth, but we must be quick about it.” The she-wolf said.
We moved quickly making a small grave, stacking stones on Davis’s broken body. We moved in silence making sure every part of his body was covered. I noticed something metallic glinting off of the fires that still burn from the bits of Noranox’s body, after lifting a large stone. I sat the stone down and cleared away the rubble to discover a saber covered in dirt and muck.
I reached down and lifted it up by the handle. I immediately regretted the decision as searing pain flared up my arm. I dropped the weapon, its silver blade chattering on the stone cathedral floor. Blisters bubbled on the palm of my right hand, which momentarily began to swell. I swore... a lot. Tanis and Shadow Stepper halted and took fighting stances.
“Marcus what’s wrong?” the automaton asked.
“Silver. The whole bloody thing is made of silver.” I swore some more.
“Your hand is it going to be OK?”
“Yes, it will be fine. The swelling will go down in a few hours,” I grumbled.
“Did you say the sword was made of silver?” Shadow Stepper asked.
“Yes!” I exclaimed waving my swollen hand before her.
“How could they still be around?” She pondered to no one in particular. Worry and concern flashed across her flawless coppery face.
“How could who still be around?” I inquired irritation in my voice.
She shook her head, “No one. We haven’t much time. Young one, give Tanis your jacket.”
I started to ask why, but the sharpness in her instruction made me think otherwise. With some effort and a bit of pain I managed to remove my battle wore coat. That was two in just as many days. This job was costing more and more by minute. I was seriously starting to consider raising my rates.
I removed Lucy’s portable scrying mirror from the inside pocket and handed Tanis my jacket, which she use to wrap the weapon up. She moved quickly and ensured that no part of the silver saber was left bare.
“Good, we must make our exit. I can hear the creatures of these depths drawing nearer.”
I was impressed; my own hearing was exceptionally good, yet I could hear nothing. I concluded that Shadow Stepper was in a league of her own. She darted off in a run and before our eyes and in the span of a single breath, Shadow Stepper, was once more in her wolf form. Tanis and I kept pace following in the she-wolf wake, before long we found ourselves on the path to the surface.
We walked for about five minutes until we reach a crack in a shear wall. Following Shadow Stepper’s lead Tanis and I ventured into the darkness. The path appeared to be a slope leading upwards and after another ten minutes we entered what appeared to be a large sewer drainage pipe.
The smell was the first thing to hit me and it took all of my effort not to lose my stomach contents. Shadow Stepper continued onward, apparently unaffected by the smell of Luimere abundant waste and refuse. We followed the large pipe to its end, which lead to an amazing view of the sea. The sky was its usual grey and a light rain fell in the warm breeze. Still in comparison to the purple haze of Undercity, it was like standing in sunlight.
“Beautiful,” Tanis whispered as she took a position next to me.
I stood there for a moment and took in a deep breath of fresh sea air. To the left of the pipe was a service platform and stairway. We walked up the several set of stairs until we reached street level. I was astonished to discover that we were only a few blocks north of Lower City. As large as Luimere is I did not think we had covered that much ground below it.
“What do we do now?” Tanis asked looking around.
“I make a summons.” I said pulling out the ornate ivory case with golden filigree. I hadn’t really noticed how expensive Lucy portable scrying mirror was.
Lucy picked up after a single chime.
“Look what the cat dragged in. I thought I had lost my favorite portable to the unknown,” she said bubbling sarcasm.
“It’s good to know you care, Lucy.”
“Where are you?” she asked.
“South Langston Street, next to the sea walk.”
“How in the nether did you manage to get all the way down there?”
“A long sad story, I’ll tell you all about it later. Seeing that I left your place without any money, do you think you could arrange a lift?”
“I’ll be there in a about an hour. From the looks of it you need a shower and a change of clothes before your meeting.”
“Yes, have you heard from Winston?”
“The baby faced elf? Yes, he summoned about an hour ago. You are having lunch with Franklin at the Hurley. A temporary member’s card is waiting for you at the front counter.”
“Great that gives us a few hours to get cleaned up and for us both to tell our tales.”
“I think I may have a priest that can make a charm to counter the blood tracking.”
“That won’t be necessary, I happened upon a powerful shaman in Undercity. She was kind enough to craft a charm for me.”
“Very well then, I’ll be there soon.” Lucy closed the connection.
“Too bad, I don’t have any spare clothes handy. I have some questions to ask Shadow stepper,” I thought to myself.
“Ask them, young one.” A voice said in my head.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. “I forgot about that.”
“Are there no others like yourself up here, young one?”
“I know of a few. There may be more, though I doubt it. The city is very large.”
“I see, and your parents?”
“They both died a long time ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, young one. Where they both of the blood?”
“As far as I know, yes.”
“A pity, it must have happen while you were young. Otherwise this ability we share would not be new to you.”
I didn’t think anything for a moment. I stood there in silence staring out at the sea. Long forgotten memories of my parents flooded into my brain, all the way up until the airship crash that took them from me.
“Oh dear!” Shadow Stepper exclaimed. “You poor child.”
“Wait, you could see that? You could see my memories?”
“It is called Shared Remembrance. It is how we were passed our knowledge to the younger generation. It is what your parents should have done when you were old enough to comprehend it all.”
“This is a little disorienting. How about we switch to something I can understand. The sword, I feel I have seen its like before.”
“Before our ascension, many of the two-legged kind feared us. They hunted us without remorse, intent on killing us all. We futilely fought back, but there were far too many of them with their blades and guns. Then the ascension happened and many of us became more than just wolves.
Knowledge flooded our minds and with that knowledge so did comprehension and power. Bullets no longer harmed us; blades could not penetrate our coats. Then we learned to transition and struck fear into the hearts of those that hunted us humans, elves, orcs, goblins, and gnomes. Our newfound strength allowed us to fight trolls, Cyclops, and giants. Some of us transitioned beyond the half bestial state and took on the appearance of the species we were closest to.
We adapted, blended and learned the ways of our newfound cultures. Others chose not to join society, their minds filled with rage and hatred for all the past transgressions against our kind. They terrorized the villages and killed the hunters and their families. One child trying to protect his mother from such a raid managed to stab an assaulting Were with a silver steak knife. The young wolf reeled back in surprise; desperately he slashed at the child before retreating.
The child’s mother managed to dive in front of the boy and took the blunt the blow. She died lying on top of him. The boy received a scar across his left eye as constant reminder of the worst day of his life. Quinton Mason grew up with one thought in mind, revenge; he amassed a following of victims and like-minded individuals and formed a group known as The Sons of Silver.
The sons began to hunt and kill our kind with brutal efficiency. Many of those that refused to coexist with the other races soon found themselves pleading for asylum. We began to intermingle and breed with the other races. We soon discovered that our unions did not guarantee another Lycanthrope would be born.
Years passed and our numbers dwindled. The Sons of Silver began doing mercenary work. They killed whatever and whoever they were paid to kill. Eventually they were disbanded by the powers that be. Fearing that the band was growing too large and too powerful.
Quinton Mason however did not relinquish control quietly. The stories say that he and his closes retainers went out in a blaze of glory. Mind you young one, this was nearly four hundred years ago. The reason I was in disbelief is that the Sons of Silver all carried a saber made of silver. The blade, cross guard, and pommel all silver. Even the handle is a wrapped in a silver wire.”
The entire time as her words filled my head, the memories flashed before my eyes. It was a strange sensation not only did I witness the memories, I also felt the emotions attached to them. I sat down on a nearby bench, with a hand to my head.
Tanis came over to my side. “Marcus, are you okay?” She asked looking over my hand.
I had once more forgotten that the entire conversation with Shadow Stepper was in my head.
“Yes, I’m fine just a bit of a headache. We’ll have to see if Lucy has some extra clothes with her. It will make having a conversation with Shadow Stepper easier.”
“I imagine so; modesty is not one of her virtues.”
After forty-five minutes or so, an emerald painted Hephaestus covered in beautifully worked brass and featured two large brass pipes puffing out steam rolled into view. Attached to the truck was a full size trailer also painted emerald and featured the insignia of Raven’s Machine shop. The location was known for providing machined custom parts for consumers. From what I knew Lucy owned it, but had never stepped foot in the building.
The driver, who I recognized as Winthrop, Lucy’s butler, honked the loud horn and waved us over.
“It is good to see you again Master Moore.” He said with honest cheer in his voice.
“Winthrop! I haven’t seen you in years.”
“Yes, well the young miss doesn’t come around much, yet she still keeps us all under employ. I was elated when she summoned the Manor asking for a driver.”
“Well it is good to see you. I assume Lucy is in the back?” I inquired.
“That assumption would be correct, sir. She is waiting.”
I nodded to the old butler and we headed to the back of the trailer. As we reached the back I could hear the mechanics go into motion. A standard size door slid open as panels moved to the left and right on unseen tracks and gears. A black iron and bronze staircase folded out on large brass gears.
Lucy stood in the in the doorway in a peach colored blouse, a dark green bodice and her mechanic’s jumper still covered in grease and other unknown substances. She hopped down the stairs and gave me a long hug. It was unexpected, out of character, warm, pleasant and she actually smelled of perfume.
“Did you miss me?” I joked.
“No, I just did want to lose my favorite invention down there.” She said dryly without a hint of sarcasm. She looked at Tanis.
“It good to see my piss poor patch job has held up. How did the rifle fair in a real world application?” she asked.
“It worked well, though the fire rate in a dire situation may be a bit long.” Tanis told her.
“Dire situation you say?”
“Yes, when faced with overwhelming numbers it’s a bit slow.”
“Interesting, I will have to take that into consideration.”
Lucy looked Shadow Stepper in the eye as they were about the same height at the moment.
“Marcus, I see you got yourself a pet while you were down there.” she said dully.
“She’s not a pet. Let us go inside, I’ll explain everything.”
“Very well,” She said with a bit of a sigh. “After you.”
I entered the trailer into what appeared to be a small living room. The room was complete with bronze colored carpets and red silk wallpaper with golden inlays. On the left wall sat a brass and bronze couch made of large gears and bent metal featuring maroon colored cushions. In front of the couch was a small tea table with a metal top.
On the right wall there was a slim desk of the same style and design of the couch. Mounted on the wall above the desk were five scrying mirrors like the ones in Lucy’s workshop. A rotating chair was mounted to the floor in front of the mirrors. Further back in the trailer I could see a miniaturized kitchen and another door.
“Nice isn’t it?” Lucy asked.
“Astounding.” Tanis said.
“In the back there is a small bedroom and a shower. And yes I had to bend space a little to fit it all in here.”
“This truly is a marvel,” came Shadow Stepper’s voice from behind us.
We all turned around to see her standing in the nude as the sliding door closed.
“Who… the… what’s… It’s…” Lucy stammered completely surprised.
“This is Shadow Stepper, the wolf you saw a moment ago. She is like me, but different.” I said.
“I’ll say, you don’t have perfect breasts.” she joked.
Shadow Stepper looked down at herself and shrugged her shoulders. I looked away, admiring the wallpaper.
“Oh look, Marcus’s face is all rosy. Come with me, extremely tall naked wolf lady. Let us get you dressed before Marcus hurts himself.” She laughed.
“Shadow Stepper, is there any other name we can call you by?” I asked as Lucy walked her to the back of the trailer.
“Davis used to call this form, Crista. You can refer to me as such, young one.”
Minutes later Lucy and Crista returned from the bedroom and she was a sight to be held. Lucy had dressed her in a short khaki skirt over white and green-striped tights with brown leather folded over boots. Crista was fitted with an evergreen bodice and cream-colored shirt.
She had a woman’s style airman’s brown leather jacket with a fur collar. On her forehead holding back her rather long near black hair was a pair of clear lens goggles with brass frames and brown leather strap. Her features were akin to a wood elf, copper colored skin, almond shaped eyes slightly tilted and amber in color very much like my own. She had a long yet average size nose and a small mouth.
“Marcus, Your mouth is hanging open.” Tanis informed me.
I closed my mouth.
“She cleans up nicely, now get back there and clean yourself up. Winthrop is taking us to the Hurley as we speak. Tanis and our new friend here will get me up to speed.”
“Very well, also Tanis has a blade that we recovered wrapped up in what’s left of my coat.”
“Ok, what about it?”
“It is made of silver and possible belonged to an ancient group of hunters that specialized in hunting my kind.” I said as I walked pass them. “ According to Crista this group should no longer exist, but evidence from the fight we had says otherwise. Do you think you could test it and determine it’s age?”
“It’s possible. I’m guessing that is what happened to you hand.”
I nodded and opened the door to the back room. “Thank you, Lucy.”
She waved me onward with a brief gesture; I turned and entered the room. I felt the shift of the Hephaestus as Winthrop began to drive presumably towards Downtown. The bedroom within the back of the trailer was simple and comfortable, a kin to my own bedroom. I striped down and hopped into the small shower. Lucy was a technological goddess. The shower was hot, soothing and extremely pleasant.
After my shower I got dressed. Lucy had been kind enough to put out one of my suits I kept stashed at her place. It was one of my favorites Ash gray with white intersecting lines. She had brought along the very flashy ornate steam-powered arm armor that Richie had crafted for me.
I looked over my right hand the swelling had gone down and the blisters inside the palm were starting to heal. With a bit of effort and pain I managed to put on the armor. I checked myself in the mirror. My beard was in need of a trim, but that could wait for another day. I put on the ash gray top hat that matched the suit and fashioned my goggles on the hats lip. I looked in the mirror once more.
“Almost there, Marcus,” I told myself in the mirror. “Almost there.”