SHORT STORY:

SHINDO'S DATE NIGHT

STORY BY: SHINDO

**Northern Alterac, Supposedly Abandoned Manor**

*Snowfall in the dead of night. Footprints broke the snow leading into an abandoned manor out in the woods. Likely left behind before the early wars of the world. Where there have not been any activity here for years, lights danced off of the windows from the inside.*
*Within the manor, fourty or so men and women gathered. Questionable characters all wearing some sort of orange bandana on their person. Some even mercenaries. All gathered to answer a call of riches and plunder. All in a large room before a fireplace.*

*A man spoke aloud. Nothing too noticeable about them. They looked like the common roguish figure. Likely who summoned them all here.*
“Ladies and Gentlemen. Mercenaries, bandits, highwaymen and common thieves. We are gathered here today to reform a subsect of the infamous Syndicate for a sole purpose.” *The man went on as the many guests listened in.*

“Plunder. Riches. Power. Alterac belongs to the Syndicate. Always has. But the Eagles to the south and their Alliance allies stripped that from us. But we can take it back!”
*A map on the table, he pointed to it.*

“We take Owlhearth. It’s Lords, it’s Ladies. It’s people and infrastructure. Bunker down and work our way sieging south. Run those Citrine fools out.and work our way down.”

*One of the other bandits called up.* “What about the Hangman? That creature in the dark killed anyone wearing the wrong colors and strung them up for all to see!”

*The man held a hand up as the crowd started to mutter about the myth. Was there really a monster hunting them? Was it just overzealous guards who did all this?

“The Dregen, I assure you, is gone. No sightings have been called in months!”

*The man tried to quell the doubts.* “With a force like this, placed strategically, we can take over these northlands in three days' time.”


*Suddenly, as the man finished his plea, another cloaked figure walked up to the head of the table and spoke to the gathered rouges.*
“Or you could all be throwing your lives away for a chance at a quick coin.”

*Confusion started to bubble up as swords and daggers were starting to be drawn at the stranger’s words. But they didn’t seem concerned.*

*The stranger pulled his hood down to reveal a helmet adorned with grand plumage. Black in color, as was the rest of their armor. The man removes the cloak and places it over a chair. To everyone’s surprise, it was Shindo Malphur of the Citrine Eagles. Lord of Owlhearth. Standing before them, back to the fireplace. He had no weapons drawn, but sounded sincere in his speech.*

“You all gathered here, in Owlhearth, to take part in some grand scheme to take over the land. What was your next step?” *Shindo said, looking at the leading man questionably.*

“We…we’d…” He stammered before trying to lunge at the Justicar with a knife. Quicker than the eye could see, Shindo caught the man’s knife-hand, twisted it and slammed their head into the fireplace’s bricks. Holding them there. The rest of the gathered force held their weapons. They weren’t going to try to be the next one to strike after that.

“What was your next step?” Shindo asked again, twisting the arm further. Causing a cry out of the man before he spoke.
“We’d pillage the lands and hold up any trade caravans!”

“At some point, those would stop coming. Then the Eagles would come. What was your plan then?” Shindo continued, letting everyone realize just how out of their depth this man and his plans were.

“We’d…we’d bunker down. Hold the line!” He cries out in pain. More pathetic looks of doubt start to fill the room.

Shindo leaned in and informed the man. “The Eagles would have ended your whole line before giving up these lands. But before all of that, you’d have to kill me.”
“Do you believe you could do this? Kill me?”

The man muttered “...no…”

“For your friends here, comrade.” Shindo said, pushing the arm the other way further.

“NO! I CAN’T!” The man screams. The room of rogues and bandits lowered their weapons. Their resolve quelled.

Shindo let the man go, falling to the floor. He addressed the rest of the room.
“Allow me to explain how this will pan out for those unsure of their next move. You all believe The Dregen, the Hangman, is gone. That is because most of you or like-minded individuals have left the area in peace. But I assure you, if you rise up, the Dregen will return, and you all will be on borrowed time.”

*One of the highwaymen forced themselves to ask.* “How do you know the Dregen…?”

*Shindo looked at that one man and said nothing. Which spoke leagues to the rest of them.

 

“You could all give your chance at glory and gold, and likely die in the process.” Shindo continued.
“Or…you could do some good for the land and wash your ledgers a bit.”

The concerned looks turned back into confusion as the man who gathered them joined the crowd to listen to the Justicar. Like they had a choice.

“I am offering everyone here a working position at the Foundry.” Shindo cleared up for them.
“If you decide to take it, you will report to the Foundry gates in two days time. For those who decide this offer is not to your liking? You will retire your blades and masks and flee from these lands before We find you.”

“How much is the pay? We could probably make more holding up the carts to your Foundry!” A woman this time called up.

Irritated, the Justicar stated boldly. “And you would lose the hands you plunder with before being strung up for all to see. This is not a negotiation. You will live a proper life with a proper, honest job. Or your Path will end.” He said to the room before waving a hand to the fireplace.

The light of the flames started to dim before going pitch dark. Heat still emanated from the fireplace, but the light was gone, causing a stir in the room.
“Two days time. Choose your Path.” Shindo said last before the fireplace relit itself…and Shindo was gone. The room quickly exploded with shouting at one another. Mostly at the one who gathered them. He may have just doomed them all.

 

Their options were limited and the dawn of their first day was upon them.