The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 47byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: This fanfic is based off the Neverwinter Nights community module by the name of "A Dance with Rogues" created by Valine. I fell in love with this story and felt compelled to write something that compliments it. This story contains explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Nicca, Ni'as, Narev and Essex are property of Valine.
The malevolent feeling simmering within Shiloh's gut hadn't lessened even once they reached the dragon's lair. She noticed the huge white beast resting upon a massive pile of coins, gems, and other pretty shiny things the dragon valued. Typical dragon, she chuckled just as the chill of pure ice cold terror slithered down her spine. It caught her unawares.
"Something's not right here," she growled, pulling her weapons.
"Shiloh," Pia shot her an uncertain look. "What's wrong?"
"Something bad, but I'm not sure what yet. Something else is here. I don't know what, though," Shiloh shook her head as she sent a mental message to Bastian. She felt his power filling her immediately, boosting her strength and speed. She watched as the dragon rose from its hoard, taking wing only to land a few short few from her.
"Have you found a way to get me out of here, human?"
"Yes, I have, but there is something here that must be dealt with first, my Lord Wyrm." She replied, holding both her blades up in front of her.
Pia restrung her bow, readying it. She pulled an arrow, nocking it in place. "What is it, Shiloh?"
She feared to say what she was thinking. In her gut she knew. She had wondered when they'd meet again. The two prior meeting had gone in Shiloh's favor, but she wasn't so sure about this one. Too much was at stake.
"I've felt something slinking around my lair for several days now," the dragon growled. "Its presence befouls my home. Its stink of the hells and brimstone angers me. I would turn its fire into ice if I could find it, but alas it is most adept at hiding. One would think its blood would freeze for all the cold."
"It's Narev. He's toying with me," Shiloh growled as she caught a whiff of sulfur. "Come out, you stinking coward."
A wicked laugh slipped from the tiefling's lips as he materialized behind her, "You should never leave your back unguarded, stupid bitch."
The twang of an arrow losing split the silence in the cavern just as Narev jabbed a serrated blade at her unprotected back. The arrow sank into the hand wielding the blade. He snarled in pain, snapping the arrow shaft in half before whirling about in time to see Pia nocking another arrow. It gave Shiloh the time to attack.
By the time the fire haired tiefling realized his folly, Shiloh was on him. She ducked under his defenses, bringing both Bloodlust and Darksbane up to bare against his throat, crisscrossed. "Fuck you to the hells," she screamed, slicing deeply as she draw them back.
He wretched, gasping for air as blood dripped from his lips, splattered from his severed arteries, coating Shiloh's skin with a wide swath. She cried out as it singed her skin, leaving angry welts on her exposed flesh. Narev's body slumped to the cavern floor, a pool of blood spreading beneath his head.
"Lord Bastian, I praise thee. Accept this gift from your humble knight and servant. I offer Narev's soul to you for all eternity. Lord Bastian, I praise thee," Shiloh chanted, kneeling by the body of the defeated servant of the Deceiver of Souls. She slammed Darksbane into his chest, piercing his heart and delivering him to her Lord. Then she lifted his body as if he weighed nothing, tossing it into the air. "Catch!" She called to Hovazz, the white dragon.
A blast of icy cold turned the projectile body into ice before the dragon extended his neck to catch the morsel. One bite, two bites, then gulp and the tiefling was nothing more than a memory. "I needed a nice snack," a rumble that resembled a laugh came from the dragon. "So you said you have a way to get me out of here."
"That I do. Wait here one moment while I go set it up." Shiloh headed to the cave-in, placing the implosion bottle on one of the larger boulders obstructing the way out. She moved back one hundred paces before she called Pia over to her. "I need you to hit the bottle... from here with this special arrow. Once the bottle is shattered, the component inside coupled with the arrows special tip will turn all that rock into itty bitty pebbles. Just don't miss."
"No pressure, right..." Pia sighed as she nocked the special arrow in her bow, aiming at the bottle she could barely see. She inhaled slowly, holding her breath as she drew back the arrow by its intricate fletching, sighting down it. It was all lined up, arrow straight, arms steady, even the bottle seemed so much clearer.
The twang of the bowstring sounded as the arrow released. Flying true and straight until it impacted the bottle perched on the rock. The effect took a few tense moments to come to fruition, but whence it did, a putrid yellow swirl encapsulated the rocky barrier. Deep rumbles echoed through the cavern shaking the very ground beneath their feet as the blockage was reduced to mere rumble. Boulders easily larger than most houses turned to pebbles.
The cavern continued to shake as Hovazz bounded about as if he were no bigger than a puppy. "Hsssssssssssssssssss," he bellowed. "I AM FREE! FREE! FREE TO FLY!"
Shiloh and Pia exchanged wary glances, "This doesn't mean you'll ravage the countryside, does it?"
"You really think I'd forfeit my new found freedom in order to exact revenge on those that did this to me. I would not throw this away so foolishly," he peered down at them. "You humans can be very shifty, though and I must guard my freedom as zealously as I guard my hoard."
"Well, not all of us are shifty," Shiloh replied as Pia snickered, bumping Shiloh in the ribs. "Owww, what was that for?"
"I believe I made you a promise," Hovazz stated. "Now where is it you wish me to take you?"
"Betancuria," Shiloh replied, relieved to finally be going home.
"That is quite the journey. But although I am loath to be in that warm climate of yours, I will take you there. All the way," he promised.
"Did you hear that, Pia? We're going hooooome!" Shiloh exclaimed, doing a little happy dance.
Pia merrily joined her, "Yes! Hooray for us!"
Hovazz spread his mighty wings. "Come, little females. Find a safe spot to sit. I will fly at great height."
Pia and Shiloh clambered up onto the dragon's back, finding a comfortable place to sit amongst its back spikes. The two girls huddled together, holding onto the dragon for dear life. Even though Hovazz flew at great speed, the journey took over two days until they leave behind the icy areas of the north, and yet another day and a half before finally reaching Shiloh's father's kingdom. She felt very uncomfortable at first, the height making her shiver, and the motions of the dragon beneath her only adding to the feeling of being very, very small and helpless should anything go wrong.
Pia spent most of her time hugging Shiloh tightly during the flight, as much uncomfortable with riding a dragon as Shiloh. The only time Hovazz would stop during the journey was every so and so many hours so his two passengers could visit the bushes. Hovazz made doubly sure to avoid any signs of human life, and we never encounter anybody.
At the end of the fourth day, when their supplies were beginning to run low, they finally reach Betancuria. From above it looked different, and for a while Shiloh forgot about being scared and watched the landscape below her curiously. It all looked so familiar, yet so... small!
Hovazz cautiously circled above the city for a few moments. Not a sole noticed their presence, the mighty white shape invisible in the cloudy sky. Then he turned south and swooped down to drop the two females off.
Hovazz flashed on last pondering look at Shiloh, bidding them a fond farewell, before taking off again. Soon the grand white dragon was back in the air, gaining height rapidly. Shiloh and Pia watched him disappear before starting back to the city.
"Oh it's so good to be back home!" Pia spoke up first, doing a little dance of joy. Shiloh watched her with a wide grin on her face.
"Gods, I thought that flight would never ever end. I thought for sure I'd turn into an icicle and then the dragon would eat me." Shiloh giggled before hugging Pia, joining her happy dance.
Pia laughed merrily, "Me too. Ahh... My butt hurts from all the sitting! This is worse than a night with... uh... never mind."
"You mean to say Vico, right? You can say it, Pia. It doesn't really bother me to hear the bastard's name. I'm through with him. I'm strong. I'll continue to be strong."
"That's a good girl, Shiloh." Pia smiled, her eyes turning soft. "But... seriously. I am very, very grateful for what you've done for me. I am so very grateful you rescued me. I never would've made it home without you."
"Pia, you are special to me. You're a very special friend and I know that you'll always be there for me," Shiloh hugged Pia once more, running her hands up Pia's back to play in her short ponytail.
"I feel the same way, my sweet. Sometimes your behavior is a bit disturbing, but deep down I know you have a good heart and I will always be your friend. I'll always be here for you."
"Come on. Let's get back to the city. We need to visit Alfons first and then I think we should celebrate." Shiloh suggested as happy tears welled in her eyes.
"Yes, we should. I think we've earned it. Let's go to the Bear Pit. It's my treat!" Pia beamed a smile, grabbing Shiloh's hand.
The impatient bard took off towards the city with Shiloh in tow. Within an hour they were at the south gates, filing in alongside some merchants bringing their wares to sell at the market. Quickly they crossed the southern portion of the city, making their way to Drago's Warehouse, where Shiloh sold off excess equipment. From Drago's they crossed the sewers, making their way into the hideout.
They bounded into Alfons's office, making their way over to him. He looked up from the book he'd been pouring over, a surprised expression on his face, "Shiloh!! I've been worried! Where have you been?! And Pia! Gods it's good to see you!" He hugged both of them tightly. "Where have you been all this time?"
"It's quite the story, Alfons," Pia smiled. "But I have to thank Shiloh. I owe her my life."
Shiloh flashed Pia a fond smile, her eyes going soft and liquid. Alfons crossed his arms over his chest impatiently, "Tell me already!"
Pia launched into the explanation of what had happened at the Academy, where they'd been and amazingly, how they managed to make it home. Alfons rubbed his beard, his eyes turning into saucers, as she told her tale, "Holy smoke! Now that is what I call an adventure! I cannot say how good it is to have you two back! Wow, you two are really amazing! I suppose I shouldn't say that too much to your face's in case it decides to go to your head."
Shiloh guffawed, "No, you shouldn't, Alfons. Anyway, it is so good to be home."
"You must be dead tired! Well, take some time off and rest. Both of you," A fond smile crossed his face. "Oh Shiloh, Nathan wants to see you. He's been worried as well."
"Nathan, worried?" Shiloh cocked an eyebrow. "Wow, that's a new one if I've ever heard one."
"Just check in with him. I'm sure he knows you're okay." Alfons replied.
"Sure thing, Alfons," Shiloh replied, "Besides that actually was our next stop. We were going to have some of Chella's fabulous cooking and celebrate with a few fine bottles of wine."
Alfons smiled, "Have fun, but stay out of trouble." Then he turned his attention back to the book before him.
Shiloh and Pia merrily scampered out of his office out into the hideout then into the sewers. They made their way through the sewers to Stan's house then walked the short distance from south Betancuria to the northern part of the city. A block up the street was the Bear Pit. Shiloh and Pia dashed towards it, unmindful of the rain coming down at a steady pace. They splashed through the puddles on their way until they made it to the restaurant's front door. They giggled as they ducked inside, almost ignoring the waitress who met them just inside the door.
"Hello Shiloh and Pia," the dark haired girl smiled. "Are you here to eat or to see Nathan?"
"Both," they replied in unison before breaking down in a fit of giggles.
"Well, you might as well eat first because Nathan is in a meeting with someone very important and asked not to be disturbed for a while. He came down here personally to deliver the message. He did say that if you stopped by to eat first then he'd see you."
Shiloh frowned, "How does he know we're back?"
"Oh, a Family member saw you and Pia enter South Betancuria earlier so he brought Nathan the news. He's had people searching and keeping an eye out for you since both of you disappeared." The waitress replied.
"Thank you, Lara. Now we will take that table," Shiloh replied, following behind the petite brunette.
"Is this to your liking? And would you like menus or are you just having wine?"
"Menus, please, and a wine list," Pia piped up. "Although, I already know I want a serving of Chella's pot roast with 2 of her big rolls."
"And you, Shiloh?"
"That actually sounds quite delicious. I'll have the same and bring us a bottle of Betancurian Red, please." Shiloh dug into a belt pouch, pulling out a few gold coins. She pressed them into Lara's hands, "For you, sweetie."
Lara smiled her thanks then went to place the orders. After a few minutes, Chella bustled into the common room, making a bee-line for Shiloh and Pia. "My little Shiloh, where in all that is holy have you been? And Pia, it's good to see you."
"Alfons sent me out on a job, Chella. I'm fine." Shiloh smiled as the motherly woman hugged her tightly.
Chella let go of Shiloh after a few moments then gave Pia an equally warm hug before sitting down with them. "You don't know how relieved I am to see you two. I told Nathan if you didn't show up soon that someone would have to find you or find out where you'd gone or if someone had taken you. You risk entirely too much."
"Chella, I was sent by Alfons to find Pia. We were fine. Nothing bad happened to us and here we are at home safe and sound. We're waiting to see Nathan. Lara said he's in a meeting with someone and isn't to be disturbed. Who could be so important that we aren't allowed upstairs?" Shiloh asked.
Chella shrugged her shoulders, "I haven't a clue, my dears. We'll just have to wait, I suppose. Now, I've gotta get back to my kitchen. I'll see to your orders and have Lara bring them out when they're ready. It shouldn't be more than a few minutes."
"Thanks, Chella," Shiloh beamed a happy smile at her surrogate mother. She watched the portly woman return to the kitchen, pleased to be home again.
"She really dotes on you, doesn't she?" Pia remarked.
"Yes, she does. When I first came here, she made me feel welcome and safe. I had lost everything and she took care of me. Sure she was a hard task master when it came to getting my work done, but she always had something special for me at the end of the day. She still takes care of me even now," Shiloh smiled.
"It's probably because she thinks of you as her daughter, Shiloh. She had a daughter once. A beautiful girl who made all the men around her swoon, much like you do, but she died of the plague some years ago and Chella never really got over that loss." Pia explained. "She loves you as if you were her own."
"And I love her as a second mother as well." Shiloh replied warmly. "I hope our order gets here soon. I'm hungry enough to eat the table!"
"Beware the splinters, though," Pia giggled.
Shiloh laughed loudly, turning a few heads at the nearby tables. She covered her mouth with her hand as Pia giggled softly. "People probably think we're already drunk and we haven't had a drop of wine yet," Shiloh quipped.
"Oh, here's our food and our wine. Thank you, Lara," Pia also handed the girl a few gold coins after she placed the entrees, wine goblets and bottle of wine on the table before them.
"Oh, Chella says it's on the house." Lara beamed, placing Pia's coins in her pockets.
"Oh, this looks so delish," Pia cooed as she dug into the hearty dish of lean meat, potatoes, carrots and celery. "Mmmmmmm, tastes like heaven."
Shiloh poured wine into their goblets before digging into her own meal. "Of course, Chella's cooking never disappoints. Nathan better hope I don't steal her away from him to run the kitchens in the castle once I take over. Then again, I just may have to. I couldn't live without Chella." She downed a goblet of Betancurian Red. "Once we leave here, we can spend the night at my apartment. It's just down the block."
"I really like the sound of that, Shiloh." Pia smiled, draining her own glass. Soon conversation gave over to the need to fill their bellies with good food and wine. Shiloh pushed her empty plate aside, filling one last goblet of wine as she noticed a dozen Dhorn Commandos storming through the front door. Accompanying them were a half dozen war wizards and a zealous Commander.
"Nobody move," the Commander shouted as half the Commandos and War Wizards made their way to the upper floors. "I need an employee of this place."
Lara foolishly stepped forward. "I work here."
The Commander snapped his fingers as one of his remaining War Wizards approached her. "Take her to the cells!"
Lara screamed as the wizard cast a spell, teleporting them both out of the common room. Shiloh pushed her chair back, pulling her swords from their sheaths as the sounds of heavy fighting came from the upper floors.
The Dhorn Commander then shut the front door behind him, locking it. "Clear the room," he ordered. His remaining half dozen Commandos began attacking the patrons, striking most of them down where they sat. Some tried to fight back, but it was futile in the face of such overwhelming strength.
Shiloh leapt from her chair, unable to sit by and watch the needless slaughter of such innocent bystanders, engaging the first Commando she came to. Pia followed suit, shooting arrows from her bow. She made every shot count, taking out three of the Commandos in rapid fire succession.
Shiloh dodged the swipe of her opponent's halberd, nimbly dancing out of the way, before striking his unguarded back. She sank her swords in, frantically whispering to Bastian. Yanking them out, she watched as he fell in a heap at her feet. Whirling about, she tumbled to her next victim, meeting the slash of his longsword. She parried it, sidestepping. Then she attacked full force, bringing both weapons up to strike at once. The blades rent gashes in his armor, sinking into the flesh of his chest. He coughed blood, staggering away from her before he too fell to her feet.
The Commander came at her swiftly, but she was more than ready. She feinted to the left, twirling her swords in her hands, before striking. Steel clanged off steel, sending sparks flying through the air. Shiloh brought her foot up to kick at him, shoving him back at a few feet, giving her the opportunity to tumble around him to his back. Grabbing Oathreaver from her waist, she fashioned a garrote, slipping it over his head. She cinched it tight bringing him back against her. "You picked the wrong people to fuck with," she snarled in his ear. Then she slammed Bloodlust deep into his neck, severing his arteries. He fell to the floor, choking on his own blood. She left him there as she engaged the last Commando. The man already had an arrow sticking out of his shoulder and Shiloh could see Pia nocking another for her next shot. But Shiloh wasted no time, dancing wildly around him, cackling insanely, taunting him with her audacity. She flurried her two wicked blades about, coming under his defenses as she stabbed maniacally at his armored chest. Each time her blade pierced him, she twisted her wrist, doing just a little bit more damage to his body. Her last and final hit pierced his heart. She sank Bloodlust in deep, hearing his scream before his legs buckled beneath him.