Illustration by Jason Rees

Short Stories


The Lair of the Shadowhounds

by J L Rees


The wheels of the cart cracked and creaked. The horse pulling the passenger cart snorted as it pulled up in Illindor.

Illindor is a small town North East of Caeropolis.

Caeropolis is the capitol city of Quaydosia, the eastern continent of Darlunia.

Fredgar Brandybottom the halfling stepped off the cart. The day was dreary and a light rain speckled the puddles it had formed on the road. He had been listening in on conversations of the other passengers, they seemed to be in a bit of a panic. The panic had stemmed from tales and whispers of dark creatures hunting and eating people at night.

“Well I hope I don’t meet any of those while i’m hear” he thought to himself and looked up at what would be his home for the next few days, The Fizzy Dragon Inn.

This is where his quest had brought him, hot on the trail to free the Champions of Darlunia. This is where the wizard Gerald Whitburrow will tell him where to find them.

A shiver shot through his body.

“Hey you going inside or what? It’s chilly out here.” a voice from his belt it was Axium one half of his dagger.

“I like it out here stay out here.” the other half of his dagger Aquium.

“Do you guys have a name as one dagger?” Fredgar asked them realising that after weeks since finding them he’d never thought about it.

“The Balance, Equilibrium or Frostfire. You know Fire and Ice power and stuff.” the replied in unison.

Fredgar pushed open the Inn door, the smell of stale beer filled his nose. He walked through the bar and surveyed the room. In the corner sat an old gentleman with a pint of beer and a smaller mug on the otherside of the table but nobody sat there. The old man stood up and beckoned the halfling over.

“Welcome sir, I’m Gerald Whitburrow and I believe you wanted to talk to me about the Undead wars.”

“I did. I’m on a quest to help free the champions of Darlunia, Valkis has need of his axe.” replied Fredgar.

“ I’m not sure about his axe you may have better luck talking to the Caeropolis guard, they have teams of elite soldiers that go and find these types of artifacts. As a matter of fact one of them should be here in a day or two. I don’t know if you’ve heard but there are dark creatures here.” Gerald prattled on for what seemed like hours without actually saying anything of interest at all.

“Well I better be off, I have somewhere to be.” he eventually said standing up.

The old man stumbled off and out of the door.

“We can feel something not right with that guy, he gives off an evil aura it’s only slight though.” Frostfire whispered from Fredgars belt.

Fredgar noticed that the man had left a small book on the table next to where he’d been sitting. Picking it up Fredgar made for the door to return it but not being a big drinker his legs fumbled beneath him. Stumbling, he fell into a fellow patron.

“Watch where you’re going little man.” complained the drunk, followed by a sharp shove in Fredgars chest.

“I apologise.” said Fredgar.

“Don’t apologise to this guy he shouldn’t have been in your way.” Came from the halflings belt.

Fredgar looked down at his belt .

“’ll get us into trouble”

“This guy couldn’t do anything to you, he’s an ugly, toothless drunk” replied the daggers.

“He’s an ugly, toothless drunk? He has nothing to lose then.”

“You what?” The Drunk looked puzzled answering the halfling who stood talking to his belt.

A chair slammed into Fredgar face with a force that hit him across the bar room and under a table. He pulled out Frostfire and split them up. Staggering to his feet, he blinked a few times and aimed Axium at toothless. A beam of fire shot from it and drenched the drunk in flames. The man screamed and dropped to the floor, rolling about trying to put himself out.

“Aquiums turn” The intoxicated halfling shouted.

It was a good thing he had used the other dagger now, it put the flames out quite quickly. Toothless’s friend jumped over the table and grabbed Fredgar by the throat and hand. Axium dropped to the floor with a bounce and slid under a chair. Toothless’s friend had more teeth but was missing half his ear.

The guy noticed the book on the floor under the table and picked it up.

“Missing something little man?” The man ripped a page from it as he said it.

Fredgar picked up Axium, aimed Aquium in a matter of seconds the fight was over. Stood in the middle of the var was a frozen statue of earless. Fredgar pried the book from his fingers.

“It’s okay, he’ll thaw out in a few hours. He’ll be fine.”

The door swung open a cold wind swept through the room. Everybody turned to the door.

“Just me sorry I think I left my….What happened in here?” Gerald looked around shocked.

Holding up the book Fredgar called ”Here.”

Gerald appreciativly took the book, as a reward for handing it over he gave him a small vial of yellow liquid. He didn’t tell him what it was though, which concerned Fredgar a bit.

The next day Fredgar made his way downstairs from his room and sat at the bar. Looking around it was like nothing had happened the night before.

“Don’t worry about it sir, happens all the time.”

Fredgar looked up to see the happy and friendly face of Bill Applebush the Inn keeper.

“Any luck talking to Gerald last night?” he continued with a slight smirk on his face.

“Not really.” Fredgar replied.

“Well what ever you do don’t stay out at night looking for things you might not find. There’s been a few missing persons of late. People say there’s creatures that roam the streets at night looking for victims. Sad to say but my friends son, only a little lad he is, about 6 years old. He went missing was playing in Gladburg Forest he was and just vanished.”

“A little irresponsible letting a 6 year old play in the forest at night isn’t it?” Fredgar’s hangover was making him irritable and didn’t want to talk about missing people and he thought an insult was the best way to end the conversation abruptly.

“One of those Shadowhounds they say. Well have a good stay Mister Brandybottom. Good day.” Applebush meant it sincerely.

After an hour or two Fredgar's head was feeling a bit better but his soul wasn't. He thought he should never have spoken to somebody like that. To show at heart, he was a good person Fredgar decided to try and help find the boy.

Off to Gladburg Forest Fredgar went, in search of the lost boy. He'd gotten a bit more information about the location from Bill before he'd left. It wasn't long before he came to where the boy was last seen. The entrance of a cave stood before him like the open mouth of a whale. The memories of his past adventure into a dark place rose to the surface and a fear started to build up in him.

“Come on let's go adventuring.” Frostfire encouraged.

One step in, then another, the glow of frostfire illuminated the cave. The floor started to slope down then there was a sheer drop. By the looks of it, it was a good few times taller than Fredgar. He slowly and carefully climbed down to the bottom of the rock face and took a look around. Bones a lot of them, whatever was down here doesn't seem to like it's vegetables.

Knee high in bones Fredgar waded through them kicking a path as best he could. From the side of the cave came a dull rattle sound. He pointed the dagger in it's direction but couldn't see anything.

“Just my imagination playing tricks.” He said out loud.

Dropping the daggers to his sides the darkness grew again. Red eyes stared from the darkness.

“Probably just bats or something.” he told himself shuffling through the bones.

There was a quiet growl from all around him, a hiss, then silence again. Fredgar froze, he felt the darkness creeping up his spine.

“Burn them all with fire.”

It was Axium.

Fredgar's hands lifted up Frostfire the light filled the room, it wasn't the regular light it was bright orange, it was Axium. Axium was raging hard he wanted a fight and he wanted to fight whatever was in the darkness. The halflings fingers split the daggers, one in each hand again.

The red eyes were embedded in strange skulls. The skulls attached to what looked like huge dog bodies. An instant later the creature had vanished.

“Axium, Aquium can you see anything or feel anything?” Fredgar hoped they'd reply with a helpful answer.

“There seems to be 3 of them, but they keep phasing in and out of our realm.” said Aquium.

“They can phase in and out of my flames when I stick them.” Axium replied with anger.

Axiums rage crept its way up Fredgar's arm, he could feel it taking over his body. Everything went black. Fredgar awoke standing in an area he didn't remember seeing earlier.

“What happened?” he said to himself.

Aquium answered “Axium had a bit of an itch to fight, basically taking over your body to do it. He slaughtered the shadowhounds though.”

“That's good. He seems a bit quiet where is he?” replied Fredgar.

“Asleep. Yes, even we need a rest now and then.” answered Aquium.

The halfling cautiously walked further into the cave. There was a small light, torchlight it seemed just around the corner. As Fredgar reached the corner he peaked around slowly. A shadowhound and a human with pale skin were circling a young boy.

“Vampire” Aquium said.

“Tales and legends say a vampire needs fresh blood to stay alive, even fresher to reverse the aging process.” the dagger added.

“Do we use garlic? Or a stake?” asked Fredgar.

“Are you cooking a meal? Why would you use garlic and a steak?”

“Nevermind. I'll just attack.” The little guy was feeling quite deflated after being mocked by a knife.

The halfling crept around the corner and quietly got closer, just as he was about to pounce the shadowhound's head bolted up and it looked directly at Fredgar. It vanished. It was behind him.

The shadowhound picked up the investigative little fellow in it's teeth and shook him senseless. Dropping his prey the shadowhound vanished again. Fredgar got to his feet and stumbled against the wall. He looked down, he was covered in blood.

“Hmm..halfling blood. I've not had that for centuries.” The vampires eye gleamed with an evil hunger for blood.

The shadowhound appeared again and sank his teeth into Fredgar foot. Fredgar's feet came away from beneath him and he fell on his back with a thud. The hound dragged him across the floor to the vampire. The vampire picked the halfling up by the throat and tilted his head to one side.

“You want something with a bite?” Axium had woken up again.

Flames raged from the dagger. The vampire fell back and dropped poor Fredgar on his very sore feet. He crawled away as the vampire regained his composure. The Boy in the middle of the cave ran to the side and curled up into a ball and waited, hoping for the whole ordeal to end.

The hound reappeared realised the daggers were magical and tried to phase out. It was too late though Axium had already picked Fredgar up and filled him with rage. Foaming at the mouth like a crazed animal Fredgar leapt for the shadowhound ripping at it with the daggers. The hound slashed ferociously at it's attacker but to no avail. The bezerked little halfling was tearing at it until eventually the hound was no more.

Axium fell asleep once again. Our hero dropped to the floor every part of him ached and pained him. The vampire walked over to him, grabbed his hair and wrenched him to his feet.

“Now then, let's try this again. Mmm... Halfling blood I haven't had that for centuries.” The vampire tilted his head once again ready to feed.

Another effort to get away, this time it was Aquium that took over.

The dagger lunged forward thrusting Fredgars hand up. It punctured the vampires chest.

“You won't find anything in there little one.” said the vampire.

Again Aquium thrust up, nothing.

A rock bounced off the vampires head. Another flew past, it came from the direction of the boy.

The vampire turned to the boy and seemed to glide across the floor. Fredgar could barely lift his head, his eye bulged, blood ran from his nose and ears.

“Leave him alone.” the command barely came out.

The boy kicked and screamed as the vampire grabbed hold of him.

“You're vile!” said Aquium “What type of creature kills young children?”

“vile, vial” thought Fredgar, fishing around in his pocket for the vial Gerald had given him.

There it was in his pocket his fingers grasped hold of it and pulled it from it's hiding place. The vial shone so bright and clear it was like a star in the night sky. The vampire turned. Fredgar took off the lid and threw it at the vampire. The liquid left a trail through the air like the tail of a comet. This was no comet, or twinkling star in the night sky. It was liquid sun light. The vampire burst into flames then crumbled to dust.

Back in Illindor the boy was reunited with his parents. Bill called Fredgar over, this came for you while you were in the cave and handed him a note.

Dear Mr Brandybottom,

I regret to inform you that as your house sitter I was unaware that I would be cat sitting also and as such I resign from this position as I am allergic to felines.

Yours regretably

Mrs Thorn.

“Great my house sitter has just quit. I have to go home.”

Fredgar promptly paid Mr Applebush for the room, paid a little extra for the damage he caused in the bar fight. As he left he bumped into a member of the Caeropolis guard.

“Sorry.” Apologised Fredgar and immediately left the Inn.

“No worries, my fault not looking where I'm going” replied the spikey haired Guard.

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