Chapter 160

Name:DREADWOLF Author:Stratothrax
◈ Chapter 160:

Bylrielle scowled and picked burnt carbon from beneath her fingernails. That was the problem with working all day at a massive commercial forge, you got incredibly filthy from the dirty burn of cheap shitty coal or whatever else it was the smithery masters had decided they could get away with.

Seriously, sometimes she swore they used random street trash tossed into the flame to fuel the forges, awful stuff, it smelled like death, no, it smelled like death took a shit! She shuddered at the memory and wiped at her grime-covered cheek. It didn't help and only made her face grimier. 

Her footsteps were as weary as the heavy bags under her eyes, not surprising after a twelve hour shift, but that was life when you had shit all for levels and no foothold in the city, you got what you got and that was that. The hard part came when trying to climb out of what you got to get something better. She'd hadn't even had time to visit the dungeon since arriving in Florens. She'd heard it was a meat grinder that ate up the low leveled and spat out their corpses. But lately she was feeling so burned out that it had a certain grim appeal.

Being burned out could be stated to be in more ways than one as she had been involved in more forge accidents in the last few months than the rest of her life combined. Commercial forge work on the cheap was a far flung thing from the bureaucratic health and safety of her home mega city. She used to complain about the bureaucracy, of how it stymied innovation and competition! Now it just seemed quaint, a silly affectation for a dwarven city doomed to die. 

She trudged through the near pitch black dark and found her way to a door, one of many crowded together, typical for the slums. After jamming the cast iron key (one she'd made herself) into the keyhole and wiggling it around a bit the lock finally clicked open and she shuffled inside.

With clumsy determination she managed to wipe her soot-caked boots on the mat and shuffled down the hall, one room apartments on either side, one hand raised to make sure she didn't collide with a wall. Her night sight had never been great for a dwarf.

A noise made her pause, the sound of clothing shifting. Was her husband still awake? That was almost adorable, he was waiting up for her. With a smile she pushed through the front door into their living space.

A candle illuminated her husband tied to a chair, a gag in his mouth, blood rolling down his face.

"Wha…"

A half-human-half-lapine stepped from the shadow, gave her a welcoming smile, then lifted her husband's silver smelting hammer and brought it down on his kneecap. With a sickening wet crunch his knee went concave and an animal scream of pain came from his bloodied mouth.

Without thinking she leapt forward, hands raised to grab the blood stained hammer from the half lapine's hand. A second half-lapine stepped from the shadow to the side and kicked her in the stomach. The air blew from her lungs, snatching away her cry of rage as she fell to her knees.

"Took your time coming home half pint. Too bad for your lover, gave me plenty of time to make good work of him."

"What. Have you done." she wheezed, hands flat on the floorboards.

The half rubbed his chin and spun the smelting hammer between his thumb and index finger. 

"Tried to get some secrets, figured you were both from that mega city that got taken out." He shrugged, "But after what I've done to your boy here I figure it's just you. No one would go through all that without breaking. I hope you, uh, didn't want any more children, I might have gone a bit too far."

Bylrielle glared up at him with exhausted but furious eyes.

"Don't give me that look Bylrielle. Everyone in the slums around here heard where you're from, the dead city, a survivor." The hammer lowered, "You can understand that for the likes of us desperate few acquiring a valuable dwarven secret is too tempting an opportunity to pass up."

"I was just an apprentice you carbonised cunt! I don't know anything! Whatever there was is gone, dead and gone like the rest of Dhagulduhr!"

"Hmm, see, I'd like to take your word for it but it costs nothing to wiggle a bit of steel around inside you and see if anything useful falls from your mouth."

Bylrielle grit her teeth and stood, hands forming fists. 

"If you think you're getting anything but a beating after what you've done."

She spat to the side and suddenly lunged forward, fist swinging forward into the beginning of an uppercut. The half seeing her coming casually brought down the hammer, aiming for her head.

Bylrielle waited until he was leaning into the swing then dropped to her knees, sliding and ducking at the same time her fist flew, her diminutive height putting her in just the right position. An uppercut powered by muscles spent pounding steel day after day rocketed up, an uppercut aimed directly at his dick.

A crunch filled the air as unstoppable calloused and rough knuckles found their place in the softest of spots.

The half's voice went supersonic, his masculine confidence becoming a feminine cry as dangly things that shouldn't have been crushed were very very crushed.

The half dropped on the spot and curled up in the fetal position as Bylrielle lunged for his neck, eager to finish the job with a clean snap.

Before she could reach him however, a boot connected with the side of her head, a steel toe capped boot, and she went rolling as a slim fount of blood laid trail on the wooden floorboards.

More boots followed, then more, apparently a number of rabbit eared half human half lapines had been waiting in the shadows watching their interaction, her children cowering in the corner behind them.

She barely held onto consciousness as she was kicked in the gut over and over, steel capped boots kicking at her from all directions, breaking ribs and fracturing limbs.

At last it came to a stop as the half finally struggled to his feet, both hands over his crotch.

His voice was a few octaves higher than normal.

"Don't kill the bitch, don't kill her, not until i've done things to her, things that will make her regret this. An eye for an eye, karma!"

"I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a penis for you to punch boss."

He scowled at the one who had spoken.

"Oh believe me, I think I'm creative enough to find an equivalent type of pain." He massaged himself and winced. "Genitals are so vulnerable."

"Yeah, we noticed."

"Sh-shut it!"

There was the sound of boots on floorboards and the door swinging open. Not that Bylrielle saw, she had her eyes screwed closed dealing with her own pain.

A younger voice came.



"You're wanted outside, quickly!"

There wasn't any rebuttal to that and the boots scrambled to follow, even the first half who whimpered with every limped step.

Bylrielle found herself being dragged by her hair, two of the halfs hauling her from her apartment out into the shared hall and out the back of the building.

The cool night air once more washed over her, this time cooling the warm blood on her face.

"Help…" she croaked as she passed the silent apartment doors and once outside found herself looking up at apartment windows, her voice was a bare rasp that not even those dragging her noticed.

Not that it would have mattered. She spotted someone looking down at her from one of the windows. They quickly closed the curtain and snuffed their candle.

The courtyard was a square space surrounded on all sides by the apartment building. At six stories tall the courtyard never got much sunlight and at night was a dark silent place. No grass or anything green grew, only stirred up mud from passing feet. 

The only light she could see came from a pin prick blue fire. After a moment Bylrielle realised she was looking at the end of a cigar as it moved from what was apparently the owner's lips.

A moment later the younger half they had followed out produced a candle and they were given a little light, just illuminating the cigar owner. A grizzled looking overweight half lapine with a beard and a knife in one hand. He loomed over her.

"Funny idea. Getting secrets out of a dwarf. Rarely works eh, but with a dwarf so young and with enough time…"

The half suddenly crouched down on his heels and stared Bylrielle in the eyes as the ones holding her hair pulled her head up.

"Anything you want to say now before we take you away?"

Bylrielle spat messily on his knees, saliva getting on her chin.

The half snorted.

"And that grit is why force so rarely works on dwarves. Still. In times like these…"

He raised the cigar and ground the burning tip against Bylrielle's forehead. The smell of burning skin filled the air and Bylrielle gasped with pain, tears filling her eyes,

Unfortunately she knew of this ganglord, she knew she wouldn't be surviving this, once taken no one came back.

"If you give me a good enough blowie I might see about reducing your time under my knife. That is if your tongue can waggle about your secrets as good as it can on my dick."

"I'm going to kill you, I promise I'm going to kill you," she hissed, voice strained from the pain.

"You don't seem to understand your situation Bylrielle, let me make it clear. You are so far beyond fսсked you couldn't catch a coach back to just being fսсked."

A scuffle came from behind and Bylrielle's eyes widened as her red haired daughter was dragged into the candle light.

The dwarf child was brought close and the ganglord's knife moved to her neck.



"What some fail to understand is that physical pain isn't always the best method, sometimes theres-

A head fell into the candle light, like the cork spat from a wine bottle sent rolling and skidding across the floor. 

The ganglord's voice died in his throat as the group stared at the sudden appearance of the head. A half with rabbit ears, the flesh of its severed neck twitching.

Their eyes moved from the head up to the writhing thing that stepped into the light, a thing nearly nine foot tall, a mass of writhing shifting centipedes with a pair of huge owl wings behind it, its feet that of a panthara and a harpy. 

The house cat head nested at the top peered down at them.

"Meow?"

"Wh-what the fuck is that!?"

The one who spoke died in an instant as the cat turned its attention on him, a centipede bursting through his chest and out the other side.

The rest of the gang screamed, hands raised as fireballs spat, flame lighting up the courtyard in flashes of magic.

This just seemed to make the cat happy and it playfully batted the fire balls aside, setting fire to those unfortunate enough to be in the way.

The overweight ganglord hadn't been idle however, huge meters long lances of ice formed from the air around him, hovering in place until there were nearly a dozen.

He flung out a hand and the lances darted forward like bolts from a crossbow, firing directly into the writhing mass of the chimera. They pierced straight through and out the otherside, leaving misting ragged holes dotted up the things body

The cat yowled in outrage and turned on the ganglord, its centipedes lashing at the air as its wings rose.

"Surface area then," spoke the ganglord.

The air around him became mist as hundreds and hundreds of smaller ice darts formed.

The cat lunged, centiples whipping through the air to shred the half.

Carefully aimed, the first of the darts fired off, snapping into the oncoming centipedes and cutting, cutting and severing the things the severed chunks falling to writhe against the dirt before becoming mist. 

And then the rest formed and fired.

The house cat so used to playing with prey didn't seem to expect such a complete attack and could do nothing. A literal hail of darts shredded its body from top to bottom, a cloud of black mist forming, turbulent as darts continued to pass through it.

"Weird Class. Who'd you hire Bylrielle?"

The overweight ganglord turned and clucked his tongue as he found Bylrielle rushing inside, her daughter clutched in her arms.

He jogged after her, his longer stride following the faster but shorter dwarf's, into the hall and toward their apartment.

He reached the door and leaned around it. Bylrielle was there, frantically pulling the last of her husband's ropes free and trying to drag the semi conscious dwarf to his feet, slumped on her shoulders, toward her two children cowering at the back of the room.

"I didn't hire anyone, that's nothing to do with me! let me go!"

The ganglord tilted his head in puzzlement.

A groaning sound came from the hallway, the sound of planks splintering and breaking under load.

Without a thought an ice spear formed and fired, shooting down the hallway.

Of course, in the dark, it was hard to see anything, and especially when the thing to be seen was also dark. 

The ice spear shattered apart as it struck something a few feet in front of the ganglord, ice fragments going in every direction, clattering against the floor and walls.

A growl of annoyance came from above and he looked up to see a pair of annoyed yellow eyes looking down at him.

"M-mon-

A pair of paws took hold of his arms and lifted him. Then his head along with a good quarter of his torso was bitten off in one brutal bite, chewed, and swallowed. Then the rest of him bit by bit until all that was left of the ganglord was a puddle of blood on the ground.

Bylrielle held her family behind her, putting herself between the thing that was now trying to fit through the door to get at her family. 

The meagre candle light illuminated black fur and mass, so much goddamn mass, her eyes went round as she found herself looking up at the thing above, the thing having to slump down as its shoulders brushed the ceiling.

"Monster…" she breathed.

The pair of yellow eyes studied her and then a grabbing paw began to reach, her children started crying.

… and then something moved from between the monster's legs.

A sheep girl and a goblin shoved their way from between, the sheep girl spitting fluff from her mouth as she emerged.

"Hey! don't you dare!"

"They saw us, that's a problem. You want to treat everyone like Rose? We can't just let every single person in the city who might have seen me go."

Bylrielle nearly fainted as the giant terrifying monster leaning over them spoke, it almost sounded annoyed!

"Yeah, like people didn't see you when you were wearing chains and walking around in public, or hell, even that tailor who we threw gold at!"

The giant monster made a huff of annoyance. "That's different."

"How? how is that different!" 

He paused.

"They didn't see me kill anyone, they have no reason to think i'm not just an obedient slave and won't report me to the city guard."

"So it can just be the same here!"

"Well we can't do that now we've talked about it in front of them!" said the giant wolf monster lifting his paws in disgust. 

The goblin poked the sheep girl in the side. "Also he totally killed and ate that gangster. He's right you know, best to eat them just in case, they're probably part of the gang anyway, they look like gang members."

"I'm not part of those scumsucking losers!" cried Bylrielle.

"Opal, those two are literally children."

"They start really early these days."

"And look, they've been beaten and hurt!"

"Intergang violence."

"P-please don't eat us!" wailed one of the kids with tears in her eyes,

The sheep girl softened her expression and tried to be reassuring. 

"It's okay, no one is going to eat you."

"Unless you're gangsters," muttered Opal.

"...okay admittedly unless you are gang members, that's an exception, but you aren't gang members so you're fine. Hey, we saved you!"

The family looked at her with silent disbelief. 

They didn't look very saved.

"R-really?"

"Yep, you aren't in any danger from us. We're just after gangs."

Bylrielle gave her a studied look but then turned and checked over her family, helping her husband hobble over to a chair and easing him into it. It was a miracle he wasn't screaming with his injuries, but then he barely looked conscious.

"Gangs?" she turned to them. "You want gangs?"

"Er, well… yes?"

"I can get you gangs, that fucker has bosses and is only one of many whove been harrassing the dwarven community, extortion, abuse, torture, threatening us, half the reason living here is so shitty is because of them!"

"So no one will miss them if they disappear right?"

"No, they'll jump for joy. Let me tell you about gangs, let me tell you where to find them, where to find all of them!"

Opal stepped forward, a pen and paper in hand, a wicked grin on her face.

"You have a grudge? Well, tell me all about it!"

Bylrielle snorted. "Dwarves nurse grudges like the finest dwarven whisky. If I weren't so powerless I'd kill them all myself. If you're willing to do that in my stead then that's beyond fine by me."

Opal began writing as the dwarf listed off gangs, where they worked, their territory, their leaders, their bases.  

They would have no idea what horror she was sending their way.

Bylrielle found herself starting to cheer up a bit for the first time in months.

Stratothrax

Read chapters in advance of release:

Centaurus Patreon