The Keeper and the Dragons - Cover

The Keeper and the Dragons

Copyright© 2023 by Charly Young

Chapter 5

The Shambles District-Oldtown

The were-hyena clan typically hunted during the in-between time, what the dwarves called the intempesta nox, the dead of night. This night, they hunted in the Shambles District. The rank blood smells of the slaughterhouses and rot smells of the renderer’s vats were baked into the very walls and misted the air. The slaughterhouse slaves were snug in their kennels. It was still too early for the thieves sentenced to the road crews to sweep and sluice water from the aqueduct to clean the streets. The cobblestone lanes were deserted except for the occasional reveler who took a shortcut through the district from the taverns to the bawdy houses located a couple of blocks over in the equally ancient red-light district.

They stalked two females, one human, blond, tall and slender, the other shorter with green hair, which marked her as a sylvan half-blood. The females stumbled along Butcher’s Lane, singing and giggling, obviously well into their cups. They had gotten turned around somehow and wandered away from the safety of the well-patrolled tavern district into a place where they had no business being at this time of night.

The females radiated an air of vulnerability.




A whisper of paws scraping on stone was the only sound the clan made as they shifted into their anima-shapes. The Clan Queen guided the hunt with hand signals. Clan discipline was tight—it had to be because the vulnerability of the prey acted like an aphrodisiac, inflaming their bloodlust. The queen’s finger signaled the hunt’s start. The group drifted silently toward the girls. Another signal and the low-ranked males spread out to the flanks, ensuring the prey had no escape. The Clan Queen and three elder females took up the center.

“These f•©king high heels are a terrible choice for combat,” Niamh whispered to her companion. “How the hell do you wear these things?

“Bitch, you better not scuff them,” Katherine Keenan whispered. “They’re my favorite Louboutins. I will murder you if you ruin them. I can’t believe I let you talk me into letting you borrow them.”

“My boots didn’t match this stupid dress.” Niamh cursed again. Walking on cobblestones in the goddess-damned high heels was killing her feet. She briefly entertained herself with the thought of jumping on a plane after this was all over and flying to New York and having a talk with Christian Louboutin. Maybe make him wear the f•©king shoes for a week and see how he liked it.

“Katie, give ‘em a higher dose of helplessness.”

Katherine obediently muttered a cantrip to send an increasing aura of vulnerability.

She whispered, “They are close to breaking.”

Niamh turned her head slightly to watch the Clan Queen’s finger signals.

“Okay. They are spreading out. You take the ones on the left. I’ll take the right.”

“I hope your guy Kirk is back there somewhere or it’s going to be a bit hot here.”

“He’s there.”

The clan surged forward with high-pitched yips. The two girls looked back and froze. Then they screamed in panic and ran—one to the left and one to the right.

The screams crumbled the last bit of pack discipline. The clan bolted to attack.

At the rear of the pack, three high-ranked females stood with the Queen. She held a fat egg-shaped amulet in her hand and spoke the wyrd they had taught her.

The amulet gave off a soft yellow glow as it activated.

A rumbling growl sounded from behind them. She turned to see a twelve-foot snarling grizzly bear racing toward them. The queen’s last thought before the bear hit was, “I should have known it was too good to be true—easy money is never easy.”

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