The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 16byLady_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 is rated Mature (NC-17) for explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Nicca, Narev and Essex are property of Valine.
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Cruelty and Lust
As Shiloh cautiously crept towards number 10 Squire's Road, a sense of dread filled her. Something did not bode well. When she reached the door, a shiver slithered door her spine. Something definitely wasn't right. The door, which should have been shut and locked, was cracked open ever so slightly as if someone neglected to close it upon exiting. A sickly sweet stench tickled her nostrils as it floated through the door.
Oh no! Had Ashur's betrayal affected more than just Rhys? Shiloh had to know. She gulped down a deep breath and cracked the door open a little wider, just enough for her to slip in. Assailing her senses was that smell again. She felt around in the dark, and found the stub of a candle resting upon a table. Searching for a tindertwig, Shiloh quickly lit the candle and held it aloft.
She gasped at the sight it revealed. How could they be so cruel?!?! Every bit of furniture aside from the table was smashed to bits, leaving nothing more than scraps of firewood. The bodies of a woman and two small children were huddled in a corner, staring back at her with sightless eyes. Shiloh rushed to them, knowing they were dead. She chased the rats away that had been feasting on their flesh, killing as many as possible.
Shiloh turned away, fighting against the urge to vomit. It wasn't fair for them to lose their lives, not like this. A tear slipped down her cheeks. They were innocent; just a cover for Rhys's true identity. Shiloh recalled the day he told her about them. The woman, Shiloh didn't even know her name, had been the wife of Rhys's former partner, a man who had been killed in the line of duty. Rhys had admitted that she had been sweet on Ashur and he expected them to marry at the conclusion of this mission. Had Ashur been the one to kill her?
Walking away, she climbed the stairs to the upper floor and explored each of the 3 small bedrooms. The largest, with a large bed and flowery decorating, must have been the Master Suite. She took instant note of the size of the bed and knew Rhys had to have slept here. It was sized perfect for his near seven foot frame. Oh Rhys, what has become of you?
She searched through every drawer hoping to find a small clue of how to make contact with the people he worked for. The need to know niggled in her brain. She considered going to Master Nathan. It was possible he knew something about the people Rhys worked for. After all, Rhys had told her he preferred to stay on the good side of 'The Family.' Her search yielded nothing that might give the indication that Rhys was more than a sailor.
Disheartened she entered the next bedroom. Papers littered the floor along with the smashed remains of two small beds and chest of drawers. This must have been where the children she saw downstairs slept. Shiloh wiped her tears away as she picked up the tattered remains of a teddy bear. How could they be so cruel? She wondered anew, killing innocent children.
She had to get out of that room. She dashed out of it and forced herself into the third one. It was surprisingly intact. Her brow furrowed. Why only destroy the children's room and not the mother's? She didn't understand the clues left for her.
Shiloh's ears perked up as she heard a small noise coming from the direction of the bed. Heading over to it, she knelt down and threw back the blankets, peering beneath it. The sight her eyes beheld surprised her. A young girl had wedged herself between the bed frame and the floor. Fear gleamed within her eyes.
"Come out, sweet pea. I am here to help you. Let me take you somewhere safe," Shiloh coaxed. It took a great deal of convincing that no one would hurt her to get her to come out, but after several long minutes, the teenage girl wiggled her way out.
Her fiery red hair hung limply over her shoulders and various scrapes could be picked out on her petite form, but beneath the dirt and grime, Shiloh could tell the girl would be quite the beauty once cleaned up.
"Can you tell me your name, sweet pea?" Shiloh smiled as she reached out for her. She made no quick movements as she extended her hand to the girl's face. She flinched and eyed Shiloh warily, but allowed Shiloh to touch her. She rubbed some of the dirt off the girl's face.
"I am Nicca," she whispered. Wariness rolled off her in waves.
Shiloh soothed her, pulling the slight girl into her arms for a hug. "Sweet pea, no one will hurt you now. I promise you that I will take you to a safe place."
"Who are you? I don't think I have ever seen you before," Nicca replied as she pulled away from Shiloh. Tears began to fall anew down her dirty cheeks. "And where is my momma and the twins?"
"My name is Shiloh. I know Rhys," she told her and watched Nicca's face light up. It seemed the teenager was quite fond of him.
"You know Uncle Rhys?"
Shiloh nodded, "Yes, I do. He told me I could find him here if I needed him. Have you seen him at all lately?"
"No, not for over a week, I think. Uncle Ashur came in with some bad men. Momma told me to run and hide. I hid real good. The bad men didn't find me, but Momma's never come upstairs to get me. Have you seen her? Is she hiding in her room with the twins?"
Shiloh's heart went out to Nicca. "I am so sorry, Nicca, but the bad men hurt your Momma and the twins. Cry if you must, but they have gone on to the heavens where they are smiling down upon you."
Nicca broke down in wracking sobs. Shiloh pulled the girl into her arms and held you, soothing away her tears. "Sweet pea, I need you to grab your clothes and personal items you wish to keep. I am going to take you someplace where you will be safe from those bad men. While you gather them, I am going to search around. Stay here until I come back for you. And if anyone you do not know comes up here, hide under the bed again and be as quiet as a mouse. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Shiloh, I will."
She left the room and headed back down the stairs to the lower floor. She grabbed up the candle stub for light. Carefully she searched all the walls and the floor for any concealed doors. Shiloh took her time. She didn't want to miss thing. Her diligence paid off as she moved the table and pulled back an area rug, revealing a trap door set into the floor.
Lifting it by its metal latch, she peered down, using the candle as a light source. She set the candle aside and pulled a torch from her pack. She used the candle to light it and climbed down the ladder to a cellar. It was deathly quiet down in here. Shiloh could hear her heart pounding in her ears. A strange scent tickled her nostrils.
Once more she took her time in searching the cellar and just as she was about to give up hope that this was more than a root cellar, she spied a shelf that seemed off kilter.
Hmmm, interesting. She headed over to it and examined it, feeling all around. A smile crossed her face as she found a lever. Slowly pulling on it, she noticed a gap behind the unit and the wall. Moving over to it, she wedged herself between the two and found a concealed door. The handle was perfectly set into the stone wall. Sliding it up, she pushed the door in and slipped inside.
She found herself in a stone corridor. She wasn't sure if it was a part of the sewers, but she was determined to find out where it lead to. Holding her torch aloft, she set out, quickly moving along the passageway. She walked quite a ways before she came to an iron door. It was locked. She whipped out her picks and went to work on the door. It was by far the most difficult lock she had ever encountered. Several minutes passed before she finally managed to open it.
Next Shiloh cracked the door and peaked around it. What she saw was another cellar. She stopped for a moment to think. What had she missed? She sneaked into the cellar and checked the floor for any signs of prints. A few caught her eyes. She compared her foot to the size of the print in the dirt. It dwarfed hers by several inches. Could it be Rhys? She smiled to herself and began to move the various sized crates around, looking for another concealed door. Her perseverance paid off as she found another giant sized print near a panel. She knocked against it and the wall beside it. One sounded solid while the other was hollow. She pressed her ear against it and listened for any noises. She could hear nothing but her own breathing.
She tried the panel, but couldn't get it to budge. Looking around she figured there had to be something to open it, like the lever that opened the panel into Vico's home. She felt around all over, finally locating a small pressure plate down near one of her feet. She depressed it and guided the panel open.
The well furnished room she stepped into was bright and homey. A blazing fireplace took up one whole wall. She crept on tiptoes around, feeling as if she'd unknowingly stepped into someone's home. An odd sensation slid down her spine. There were no windows and the only door was the one she had just came through. She searched the place over and gasped as she entered the rather large bedroom.
On the bed lay an injured Rhys. Bloody bandages covered most of his torso and chest. A scream slipped from her lips. She rushed to him, calling his name. His face was deathly pale. She collapsed to her knees next to the bed, whispering his name over and over, "Oh Rhys.... Rhys."
Seeing him like this ripped a hole in her heart. She slowly reached out to touch him, his skin was cool to the touch. She took note of the slow rise and fall of his chest. It was the only testament that he still lived. Helplessness plagued her. She didn't know what to do for him. She knew he needed help, though. She figured someone had to have been caring for him. The fire that burned within the hearth had had wood added to it recently. The scent of herbs tickled her nose. She left Rhys's bedside and wondered through the three rooms that made up the tidy home. The furnishings had a very masculine feel to them. There was no lace and no frills. Perhaps it was someone from the same organization that Rhys worked for. Where could that person be, though?
Shiloh returned to the bedroom and pulled a chair up to the bed. She would wait here for his caretaker to return. She had to know if what Ashur had told her was true. Had he truly suffered because of her?
She didn't have to wait long. She heard the shuffling sound of feet and slipped out of the chair. Hiding in the shadow of a loom, she waited until Rhys's caretaker had entered the bedroom. She gasped as she recognized him. It was Father Derthur from the temple. She knew immediately she could reveal herself.
She stepped out from behind the loom and cleared her throat. The good Father jumped and let out a startled squeak. It sounded very unmanly. "I'm sorry I scared you, Father, but I need to know if Rhys will live."
"Shiloh, dear child. How did you find us?" Father Derthur asked, eyeing her warily.
"Rhys is a friend of mine. I needed to know what had happened to him. I had been told...... Ashur told me the Dhorn tortured him."
"You mean, Agent Tanners. Yes, Shiloh, that is true. I will not ask how you know Rhys or the traitor, but I will tell you that Tanners did this to Rhys personally. It has taken every bit of know how I possess to keep him alive. Now how do you know him? And why do I have the feeling that Nathan would be upset if he knew of this association?"
"I met Rhys at the docks. He accosted me at first. There are things I can't tell you, but Rhys and I have been lovers. He told me he worked for a group of people from Illeria who are interested with the Dhorn activity here. Today was the first day out since the attack and I had to talk to Rhys. I approached Ashur. I knew through Rhys that they were partners. He led me into the dockhouse and told me what happened to Rhys. Then he called in two Dhorn. They wanted to submit me to the same tortures they had Rhys. Ashur told me that Rhys was taken home to Illeria. I might not have survived Ashur and the Dhorn if it had not been for Vico saving me from them." Shiloh related to him.
"What happened to Ashur and the Dhorn?"
"Vico killed them. Their bodies were left in the dockhouse where they fell. His concern lie in getting me of there alive," Shiloh replied, "Will Rhys recover?"
"Have faith that he will. I will send you updates, my child," Father Derthur promised her. "How did you find us?"
"He told me where he stayed in the west end of city at the home of his ex-partners widow. He told me about his cover as a sailor and how she's supposed to be his wife. She is dead, along with the two youngest children. I found Nicca alive."
Father Derthur cocked an eyebrow at her. "She was Rhys's wife. That is Melania. Nicca is not Rhys's daughter, but the twins did belong to Rhys. Melania was his ex-partners widow. That is the truth, but Rhys married her in order to take care of her."
Shiloh's cheeks burned with indignation. Rhys had lied to her. "What do you know about the people he works for? From Illeria?"
"They are a network of agents whose only job is undermining the rulership of tyrannical leaders. The Dhorn are one of the worst we have ever faced. They kill without mercy, with no regard for life. Life was bad enough under your father's rule, Lady Shiloh, but he did not murder folks in their own homes. Yes, I know who you are. I knew before I healed you those two short weeks ago. Rhys informed me that you were alive after the siege on the castle." Father Derthur told her.
"I had asked Rhys to take me away from here the last time I saw him. I fear I made a grievous mistake in doing so," Shiloh admitted as she settled down next to him on the bed. "Will be live?"
"He will, but recovery will take some time. You may visit him as often as you like, dear child. Now I must ask you to go. I have to take care of his wounds. You should take young Nicca to Nathan. He will find a safe place for her until she can be smuggled out of the city. Her grandmother is a well to do matron living in Ilieriena. I shall make the arrangements myself. Now so you don't have to sneak through those tunnels any more, follow me." Father Derthur led her to another panel and opened it. He led her through a passageway that opened into a small closet. He pushed her through and into a small office.
"Where are we?"
"In the temple. Head out those doors and you will come out into the main chapel. Return to Melania's home and take Nicca to safety. Make sure you cover your tracks in her home. I will do what I can about retrieving her body and those of the twins."
"Thank you, good Father," Shiloh nodded before she headed off into the night. It didn't take long to return to the house. She closed the trap door and covered it with the throw rug before moving the table back over it. Climbing the stairs, she returned to Nicca's room. "Come, sweet pea. I have news."
Shiloh took hold of her hand and led Nicca out of the building, covering her eyes as she took her downstairs. She closed the door all the way before leading her over into the northern part of the city. She passed the temple and the marketplace before winding her way through the streets. Once she had reached the Bear Pit, Shiloh drew her along up to the top floor and Master Nathan's working rooms.
She passed by Wesh and Warent and nodded, noting their curious looks. She knew it was late and was thankful that Master Nathan was still awake and working on his books. She approached him cautiously, wondering how much she should tell him.
He looked up at her with a surprised look on her face, "Shiloh? What's the meaning of this?"
"The Dhorn killed her family and Father Derthur suggested I bring her here until he can make arrangements to smuggle her out of the city. Her name is Nicca and she has a grandmother in Illeria."
"Very well, Shiloh. Take her down to Chella and get her settled in. Once you are finished, I would like to speak to you about a few things," he instructed as he waved her off.
Shiloh's mind buzzed. Surely he had heard by now what had happened at the hideout between her and Paurie. She quickly obeyed and escorted the young beauty down into the kitchens. She wondered if he knew about what she'd done to Trissa. She'd find out soon enough so there was no use fretting over it.
"Chella, we have a new addition for a short while. Her name is Nicca. I found her hiding in a house. The Dhorn...." Shiloh started to explain.
"Say no more. Now, young lady, I am Chella. Come with me and let's get you a hot bath and into some clean clothes." Chella took over, letting Shiloh go about her business.
She returned to Master Nathan's office and took a seat across from him at his large mahogany desk. She didn't beat around the bush. "I suppose you would like an explanation for some of my recent behaviors," she stated.
"You are correct, Shiloh. What happened with Paurie?" Nathan asked her, his green eyes beaming down on her.
"He told me he was planning a top secret mission and needed someone who wouldn't be suspicious. He asked me to go to the docks and pretend to be a prostitute. He said I could earn some money in the process." Shiloh watched as Master Nathan's face darkened and a muscle in his jaw ticked. "He made me mad. So very mad. I will not play prostitute for no one. I understand the risks involved if the Dhorn catch me. I do not want to be the cause of 'The Family' being exposed."
"And why did you not come to me earlier?" Nathan asked.
"Vico carried me out of there after I stabbed Paurie. He made me calm down. I probably should have let you know, but I did not. I needed time to think. Did Paurie die?"
"Yes, he did. Alfons told me that Vico gave the order for him to be finished off. Tell me this, though, Shiloh, why were you so upset with Paurie when you have been down to the docks and have consorted with a few sailors? Yes, Shiloh, I am aware about that."
Shiloh gulped and studied her feet for a moment. She knew she had to tell the truth to him. "I have never taken money, though. And there have only been two sailors. Please don't be angry with me. It's not what you think. The one sailor is not actually a sailor. He is a spy, working for a group from Illeria. He knew who I was from the moment he saw me. His name is Rhys Sinclaire." She launched into an explanation of what had happened between her and Rhys, including Ashur and what had happened to him. "Vico saved me from the worst fate imaginable. Ashur... I mean, Agent Tanners would have tortured me for answers to their questions. I am not sure who he may have told about my identity."
"I am glad you have told me this. There are precautions I can take. Where is this Rhys?"
"He is being cared for by Father Derthur," Shiloh replied. "I feel guilty for what happened to Rhys. I never meant him to come to harm."
A tear slipped down her cheek. Nathan watched her closely. "Do not dwell on it, Shiloh. He is in good hands. You look like you need some rest. We will talk more tomorrow, Shiloh."
She nodded and left his office, heading for her bedroom. When she entered, she noticed Nicca curled up in it. Shiloh smiled. Nicca needed it more. A wicked thought entered her mind and she left the Bear Pit behind, heading for the hideout. She would return to Vico's place. A happy sigh escaped her. She needed the comfort of Vico's arms.
She figured he must still be asleep as she let herself in, locking and barring the door as Vico had previously done. She began to unlace the ties on her armor as she entered the bedroom. Shiloh smiled as she came to a stop near the bed. A smile curled his lips. He looked so peaceful and happy. She hoped she could always make him happy. She shimmied out of the rest of her armor and crawled back into the bed, snuggling into his larger, warmer body.