Little more than human ghouls, they emerged from their nest on dark of night, moving silently through the alleys and over rooftops and walls, content to feed on the populace.
Zweis Radu watched the predators from the safety of his pleasure barge in Specularum Harbour, staring at the scrying mirror.
"Zweis," her whining voice drew him back from the darker entertainments he had discovered to ones that fed her needs. "I want more dates."
Zweis dropped a cloth over the mirror and turned his attention to his lover for the evening.
"What happened to the dates?" Esmarelda Tiza held the large empty bowl out before Zweis with a pout until he relented and tugged twice at the bell-pull summoning a servant. "Another bowl of Ylari dates."
Zweis watched the servant depart and snatched up a Candied fruit.
"While we wait on the dates," Zweis slid between her thighs intent on tasting her forbidden fruits. "Perhaps we can discuss what your Uncle Tiza is doing for the King these days."
The predator grabbed her from behind, dragging her back into the dark alley with a squeal of distress that ended with her throat ripped out, its teeth locking around her juglar and crushing and tearing until her distress became silence.
It dragged the food across its shouders and retreated further into the darkness.
Zweis Radu looked at his naked paramour and considered her prospects. She was Lord Valdo Tiza's neice. He could and would use her to loiter around her Uncle's office making herself increasingly useful to the old fellow and ply her with candied fruit, Ylari dates, and the more pleasant aspects of his personality. As to the darker aspects of his personality. His manly appendage hard, Zweis smiled and returned to his mirror of Scrying to search for the nest.
They took turns brutalizing the living and then fed apon the dead.
Zweis covered the mirror, and sampling the Shire Brandy, returned to bed. The one thing Zweis knew was he was not so far gone as to indulge in that kind of insanity. They did however pose a threat. And their destruction would be good for the Radu family name.
"Good morning my flower." Zweis smacked the pale buttock attatched to a naked body asleep on his bed leaving a hand print and eliciting a painful groan. "Time to go visit your Uncle Tiza and make yourself useful."
"But first," Zweis pulled the bell and a servant appeared. "Breakfast for two."
"One." It was Cartha. "Anton wants a word."
"Nothing?" The old man looked about his proginy until it became uncomfortable. "The Duke infiltrates the Veiled Society...and you have nothing."
"Perhaps if we took..." Anton cut Antonio Radu off. "Were you going to suggest that we could find the Duke's operative if we took the masks off?"
"This is the Veiled Society," Antonio looked down. "This is not a Masked Ball hosted by the fucking Torenescu!"
"Now..." Anton leaned back in his seat. "Rumor has it that last night the Iron Ring snatched half a handful of Traladarans from the Nest."
"Zweis!" Zweis Radu looked up. "I put you in charge of investigating the Iron Ring. Have you learned anything useful?"
"They were not taken by the Iron Ring," Zweis cleared his throat. "They were snatched by Ghouls."
"Undead?" Cartha choked on the chicken he was eating. "In Specularum?"
"No...not undead," Zweis waved his hands in the air. "People...Idiots...living like animals and snatching people as food...or worse."
"Idiots like the Miller's boy we killed?" Zweis mouthed the word 'worse!' to Cartha. "Fuck me!"
"I've identified the nest." Anton nodded. "Its in the old cellars of the Blue Water Mead-hall."
"All right." Anton had decided. "We will buy up the Blue Water Mead-hall and eliminate the Problem."
"Actually," Zweis Radu stared at Cartha who was nodding in agreement with the old man. "I was thinking we should inform Minister Valdo Tiza that we tracked them to their nest."
"No," Anton crushed Zweis' plan to ingratiate himself with Minister Tiza. "You, Cartha, and Antonio will personally eliminate the nest."
"We go in through the front doors." Zweis watched Cartha force the doors with his boot while smiling at Antonio. "This is how real men do it."
"Now," Cartha stepped into the dark hall and pulled his sword. "Which of you has the torches?"
"<light>" Cartha's sword became a burning torch lighting the room. "Thats how smart men do it."
"Cartha," Zweis surveyed the web filled room as he struck up a fire and lit an actual torch. "Spider."
"Where?" Cartha drove his sword upward without even bothering to look and stabbed a giant spider in the web above him. "Oops."
"There is a door at the back." Zweis lifted his burning torch higher igniting the web before Cartha could move. No more spiders. "Alright we're clear."
"Previous meal?" Antonio kicked a pile of bones and rags revealing a leather bound book which he bent to pick up. "What have we here?"
"Examine it later Antonio," Zweis followed Cartha toward the back as Antonio stuffed his prize into his backpack. "We still have predators in the cellar to deal with."
"Stairs down!" Cartha examined the stone stairs. It was much older than the plaster walled Mead hall. "Interesting."
"Stay close with the torch Zweis." Cartha descended slowly taking his magical light with him." When this spell fails we will be in the dark."
"Cartha!" Cartha swung the sword through the man-sized creature that seemed to come from nowhere slicing it from groin to head with terrible efficiency. "Thats one."
"Zweis," Cartha rolled the naked corpse revealing what had once been a man. "How many ghouls did you say there were?"
"About a Thyatian handful." Zweis had reached the bottom of the stairs. "...so five remaining."
"Antonio!" Antonio appeared at the top of the Stairs. "Stay close. This is going to get ugly real quick."
"Zweis!" Zweis turned to watch as two ghouls tackled Cartha, the large warrior impaling one on his sword only to be crushed under the weight as the second bit down on his ear. "My bloody ear!"
"I'm coming." Zweis Radu pulled his dagger and drove the blade through the Ghoul's spine until it died. "Antonio!"
"Cartha," Zweis dragged the corpses off the warrior to reveal a man who had gone down hard. "Are you alive?"
"Yes," Cartha struggled to his feet and placed a rag against the wound. "My ear is killing me."
"Thats because this bastard..." Zweis pried the prize from between the ghoul's teeth and held it up to Cartha. "...had in his teeth."
"Is that your ear?" Antonio had caught up. "What in Halav's name happened?"
"Tell you later." Zweis listened. There was something ahead. "Are you ready for round three?"
"Lets get it done." Cartha entered the chamber to discover a pit of chewed-on corpses in the midst of which a pair of large ghouls were feeding. "Looks like this is it."
"Come and get some you bastards!" Cartha gripped his sword leaving an opening large enough to be filled by a ghoul.
"Come on!" Cartha smiled as the ghouls snarled like savage animals and rushed him, his sword dancing in the open chamber beheading both. "That it?"
"Another door." Zweis looked around. It had been an old temple. "Room's empty but there is a tunnel."
"Where does it go?" Zweis followed it. "Zweis?"
"I'm here." Zweis returned. "It exits into an alley way fifty feet up disguised as a postern."
"What now?" Antonio was feeling ill at the sight of corpses. Zweis looked at Cartha holding a cloth to his ear. "We visit Patriarch Alexi and get Cartha's ear healed."
"All right," Cartha slipped past Zweis and headed for the postern. "Lets see this alley of yours."
She lay curled against Zweis Radu, and placed another Ylari date in his mouth.
"Its all over the city," Zweis Radu chewed slowly pausing to kiss the small of her neck. "How Zweis and Cartha Radu put down a nest of Ghouls that had been preying on the populace."
"Uncle Tiza was shocked when they came into his office talking about it." She passed him another date. "My Zweis, a hero of the people."
"Hero of the people?" Zweis licked her neck. "Why...that's terrible."
"Everyone will expect me to marry." She looked at him as though he were about to propose. "They'll find me some well-to-do spinster from a fine rich family and I'll have to settle down and I'll never get to see you again."
"You could marry me." Zweis smiled at her suggestion. It could never happen. " Zweis...?"
"I'll think about it." Zweis searched the bowl for a date and found it empty. "Fetch some more dates will you my Lady Esmarelda Radu?"
"Lady Radu?" Esmarelda Tiza smiled as she got to her feet and walked naked out to the kitchen to fetch her lord his dates. "Lady Radu."
It was quick. The powerful muscles of the unseen ghoul grabbed her from behind snapping her neck as she retreaved a handful of dates for the bowl but they dropped from her hand, scattering across the floor. The monster slung her naked form over its shoulder and moved carefully out onto the deck of the Pleasure Barge.
"Lady Radu?" Cartha dropped her body over the side. "I think not."