Emperor Kurlahk stood and applauded as Shedakor and Sshkkryyahr entered his dining hall. He’d insisted that they come straight away and regale the emperor and his intimate party of revelers with tales of the recently won war.

Shedakor walked towards Kurlahk while Sshkkryyahr hung near the back. She remained on the far side of the long dining table where dozen guests were seated, all members of the ruling caste.

He strode with a cocky swagger, despite the fresh leather thong of his eye patch criss-crossing his face. It chaffed the white, puckering scar tissue that recently formed where Iluchus’s spear had sliced him open and taken his dominant eye.

Kurlahk sat with a grin and insisted that the heroes tell them about the campaign. He leaned forward eagerly.

“There is not so much to tell, Emperor Kurlahk, except that the mighty rule the weak. The strong lead and they take what they want by force,” Sshkkryyahr said.

“True spoken,” the emperor laughed with a goblet in one hand. Wine sloshed out as he chortled. “The morehl empire is certainly the strongest. The Obsidian Grotto takes as it will. We rule as is our birthright, granted by the gods.”

The drider raised to her full height, imposing her size upon the party. She stepped up onto the table and towered over the others. “Not gods… only Death. Not Kurlahk’s empire, and not the morehl empire.” She glanced sidelong at Shedakor and snapped, “Our empire. Kill him.”

Shedakor snarled and snatched his flintlocks while Sshkkryyahr employed her many legs and their jagged ends to attack the guests and eliminate them in short order. At close range the gunman fired both weapons in an eruption of blue.

Emperor Kurlahk stood to his feet; he patted his chest and checked his body. Neither of the bullets found their mark. He whirled and flung himself for the dining hall’s rear exit, quite surprised that the morehl who never missed had failed despite such close proximity.

Sshkkryyahr snarled and shot her consort a disapproving look.

Shedakor cursed a string of profanities and set his jaw. Since losing his eye, his ruined depth perception affected his aim. He holstered the weapons and drew two more, firing in rapid succession while the Emperor sprinted for his life.

Both were meant to be kill shots. One bullet went wide, but another clipped Kurlahk’s thigh and spun him to the ground.

While Shedakor fell upon the king with a blade, the gilded one that belonged to Charbann, Sshkkryyahr watched him disapprovingly. “Hurry and finish him. The guards will be here any moment.”

He plunged it through Kurlahk’s vitals and then cast the unique weapon aside while the drider wiped the blood from her dagger-like feet.

The door burst open and the praetorian guard rushed into the room. “Quickly, he’s getting away!” the murderers shouted, pointing towards the exit that the emperor had tried to reach.

One guard remained in the room to protect them while the rest sprinted towards the fictitious intruder.

Sshkkryyahr grinned deviously, and the room fell quiet. The crime had been perfect… almost… and now they would rule the Obsidian Grotto.