The night conceals much. It blankets the world in darkness and drives many beings to homes to seek sleep. For others however, it is a time of much activity. An opportunity to engage in activities that they participants would prefer to remain hidden. So while many retire for the night, some rise. One such being was Krel.
Krel was a half-orc, a mixed race that was barely tolerated by most and hated by many. They were often associated with criminal elements and indeed many were involved in organized crime. Krel was no acception and gladly embraced the stereotypes of his race.
Childhood was difficult for the half-orc, like it is for most but he survived; as the strong do. He learned many skills along the way that helped him thrive in a world that was brutal and violent. Fighting, hiding, thieving and intimidating were all tools he used to accomplish what he wanted and to remain among the living at least and to enjoy some of the luxuries of life at most.
Krel got in with a group of thieves very early on called, Kings of Chaos. They were well known throughout the world and were the scourge of the city of Holgar’s Helm. The guild was powerful enough that they could bribe the magistrates and guards so that they could continue to operate nearly openly. In many ways, the Kings of Chaos were more powerful than any political power in the city. Krel was a significant part of that power.
Large and intimidating, yet still quick and able to disappear in the shadows, Krel was the epitome of a thief. Over the years he worked his way up to a leadership role in the guild and was respected as much as he was feared. This particular night he was sent to deal with a city official who was pushing for running the Kings out of the city. The guild could not tolerate such a position obviously and rather than waiting for the wealthy man to gain support and influence, he had to be dealt with. Krel was selected to deal with the problem.
The thief moved through the streets under the cover of night with five guild members. Each of them carried a number of daggers that were suitable for both throwing and wielding, a hand crossbow that was effective at close range and each also carried with them a sword. Short swords were the most common among thieves as they were small enough to wield in close quarters and maneuvers quickly but still deadly. Krel carried all of those weapons. His short sword was crafted expertly and he even paid a mage to enchant the weapon which sent a surge of strength through his body whenever the blade drew blood from a new victim. In a pinch, Krel would even cut his own flesh to activate the blade’s ability and give him an advantage. Many knew of his sword and many had their lives ended by it.
The group of Kings made their way to the estate of their target with ease. Some saw them but knew better than to interfere. Others never even noticed them float through the night like a mist through the slums towards the estate district; the neighborhood in which all the wealthy resided. It was guarded by city guards and many of the homes were further protected by privately hired guards.
With Krel in the lead and the five thieves behind, they encountered the first guard of the neighborhood. The King’s stepped from a shadow and allowed the guard to see them. The man spotted them, stepped back sharply and gripped the hilt of his long sword before he recognized the half-orc and slowly let go of the sword and held his hands to his sides open. Krel nodded and the kings lowered their crossbows before moving past the guard without fear of resistance.
The scene was replayed twice more and both times the guards were not interested in losing their lives to Krel and the Kings that night and let them pass without a word.
The group of thieves reached the estate of a wealthy and prominent resident, Han Freund, and his family. The property was surrounded by a wall nearly eight feet high and the Kings knew there would be a pair of guards within the walls. The target was typically located on the second floor in a large suite. They knew his wife or mistress would likely be in the bedroom as well depending on who he fancied that night. The thieves had bribed a servant who worked within the home and they were relying on her information.
The wall was not a particularly effective barrier for the skilled thieves and one by one they scaled the wall, working in unison, and then slipped over and into the estate. Once inside they separated.
A pair of Kings rushed toward the main entrance of the home and with no warning struck the guard there with a pair of bolts from hand crossbows. Another pair waylaid the roving guard who roamed the grounds and without a sound buried daggers into him and pulled his body into a hedge. The last thief and Krel focused on the main bedroom. The thief threw a grappling hook to the roof of the home and tested its grip then scaled it while Krel observed and ensured they were not spotted.
Once he reached the roof, the thief ensured the rope was secured and also scanned the property for any alarm. It appeared they had yet to be discovered.
Krel quickly climbed the rope and once level with the second floor, he moved along the home to a window that opened to the main bedroom. It was locked but he easily opened it with one of his daggers then stepped in with surprising silence in spite of his size. It only took a moment to assess the situation.
Indeed, Han was asleep in his bed with a woman next to him. The orc blood in Krel’s veins provided him with the ability to see better in dark than humans and he easily identified the target. The sleeping couple still didn’t stir with the thief in their bedroom and he smiled knowing they were at his mercy. He crept across the room and studied the double doors that were the only way into the room besides the window. With one strong lift, Krel threw a wardrobe in front of the door effectively blocking it and preventing the pair from escaping. It also abruptly woke them from their slumber.
“What’s going on? What’s the meaning of this?” Han shouted as he bolted upright from his rest. His wife screamed and hid behind her man also covering herself as if her modesty was the real threat.
Han could not see especially well in the dark but could make out the outline of the large half-orc in the room who was slowly moving toward a single lit candle in a lantern on the wall. He nonchalantly took the light and lit more candles in a few of the candelabras that were attached to the walls. In spite of the sobs from Han’s wife and his shrill pleas for answers, Krel was slow and careful in his movements. The rest of the Kings heard the disturbance but only smiled and watched the property for anyone who might try to intervene but were not anticipating anyone.
“I am Krel,” he began, “And you have earned this through your opposition to the Kings of Chaos.” The half-orc pulled up a chair, drew his sword from his hip in a dramatic arc then sat with the blade across his lap. “I am here to remind you that the Kings are a very important part of this city and perhaps you are ignorant to our contributions to Holgar’s Helm. We ensure that trade remains open and flowing and that many of the city’s shops and merchants are able to conduct business safely. We have supported many of the town’s leaders and even helped fund the defense of the city from pirates and attacks. It’s disappointing that you would seek to end all the positive contributions we make.”
For a moment, Han felt brave, “Contributions?” He roared as he rose in his bed, “You steal and kill and extort money from our citizens and care only about your own wealth. You are nothing but criminals and I will see you all hanged!”
Krel stood slowly but then swiftly threw a dagger which sailed just above Han’s head and buried itself deep into the wall. Both Han and his wife froze and clung to each other. Krel kicked the chair across the room and pointed his dark sword directly at Han’s face mere inches away. The half-orc felt the sword’s desire for blood.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Krel explained in a slow and deep voice. “I hoped we could come to an understanding tonight. Apparently we cannot. But seeing as how you would gladly see me and my friends dead, I have no choice.” He stepped away from Han as he paced a couple steps as though he regretted the course of action he was on.
“No, please, spare us,” Han cried.
“Why should I spare you? You want me dead.”
“I didn’t mean that. I just want what’s best for the city.”
Krel sat down on the bed by the sobbing couple who clung to one another like they clung to life.
Krel signed deeply. “I’ll tell you what. I’m in a generous mood. Besides, I love a game of chance. How about I flip a coin and you call it? Call it correctly and I’ll let you live tonight and trust that you won’t cause us any more problems as payment for my generosity. Call it incorrectly, well, I imagine you know what will happen then. What do you say? Want to play a game of chance?” Krel smiled and his voice was excited.
“What choice do I have?” Han whimpered.
“You always have a choice! You can choose to play and possibly live or not and die right now. So what do you say? Will you call the coin flip?”
Han hesitated, shaking violently. His wife pushed him, “Do it!” She screamed. “Ok, I will call it.”
“Heads or tails?”
Krel smiled. He drew a coin from the sheath that held the dagger he threw, built into his tunic, and tossed it into the air. It tumbled over and over and the couple watched it carefully. Krel didn’t even glance at the coin but instead carefully observed the terror he created in his victims.
Krel caught the coin easily without even looking, and gripped it tightly in his fist. He smiled as he watched the couple stare desperately at his hand. He quickly opened his fist and looked at the coin then closed it again. Neither Han nor his wife saw which side it landed on in time.
Krel laughed as he stood and held his sword out to the side as if he was going to strike. “No! No!” The couple cried, pleading frantically for their lives.
“Shh,” Krel whispered. “Be brave. You could not control the outcome of the coin flip, but you can control how you deal with it. Don’t embarrass yourself.
The couple whimpered as they closed their eyes and clung to one another, waiting for their fate.
“Do not cross the Kings of Chaos again or you will not get the generosity of a coin flip,” Krel warned as he stepped out of the window and then leaped to the rope before lowering himself to the grounds of the Han estate and disappearing back into the night.