The Assassin

Every hall, every room, every balcony, every street were all silent.  It was soothing; no noise.  The silent watchdog roaming the city was the only living thing for miles in every direction.  Even the wind crept quietly outside the windows.  It was exactly what he wanted, silence.  A place to relax, a place where he could sleep.  Well relax anyways, sleep might be expecting too much.  With the drugs and magic he’d been using he hadn’t needed sleep for the past two years.  Now he sat in the throne room, head bowed, rethinking the past few months and how he, an assassin, had inherited a kingdom.

Three months ago maybe four he had come across this place in the middle of the Traon Koern Desert.  It was quiet even then.  He had been traveling on a horse that belonged to his last job.  Putting the horse on some of his stronger drugs he had been able to ride hard for two weeks, pushing it all the way.  The only reason he had chosen to check out the city was that his last employer had decided not to pay, now there was a bounty on his head.  So he had stolen a horse and ran into the desert.

He had been looking for some sign of civilization, a mage camp or a band or raiders, or an oasis of some kind.  Spells and drugs were good but they weren’t adequate substitution for food and water.

The city had almost passed him by compeletely; it blended in with the landscape.  Same color and in the distance it looked no different than a sand beetle.  He had turned the horse to run towards the city and kept his eyes peeled for mirage raiders, they always camp near water and food.

As he got closer he realized how big this sand beetle was.  The city loomed up in front of him, the walls many stories tall, made of rough sand stone, desert stone that was toughened through the repeated attacks by sand storms.  The towers with minute slits for windows looking over the sandy surroundings.  As he rode up on the walls he jumped off the horse and plunged a retractable climbing spike deep into the wall.  Within half a second he had thrown a grappling hook over the top.  In another second he had retracted the spike and was approaching the crest of the wall.  The city stretched before him, dimly lit.  He traveled along the top of the wall looking for guards or watchmen.  He crept to one of the corner towers and slowly, quietly, went down to the ground level.  He slipped out the door and into the shadow.  He froze.  Staring right at him, and grumbling, growling deep and low, was a twenty-foot tall creature resembling a dog made of brick and sand.  It’s eyes were glowing gems the size of a man’s head.  It’s teeth were as long as a grown mans arm, and as sharp as razors glinting with saliva in the moonlight.  It was walking toward him as it would a cornered rat that was about to be dinner.  Without a moments thought he ran full sprint down the other alley-way with the creature besting his pace.  He ducked in a doorway and sat there just long enough for the creature to go skidding by then he ran the opposite way.  He turned onto a smaller side alley that the creature couldn’t fit into.  It led to the main road that went all the way up to the fortress in the middle of the city.  A crash behind him was the tell that let him know the creature was still in pursuit.  He ran toward the front doors with the growling and the crushing of the creatures feet on the ground behind him.  He glanced over his shoulder to see the creature lunging in for the kill.  He jumped to the right catching some of its saliva on his arm, still trying to get to the doors.  Another lunge, he jumped back to his left.  He looked again to see the creatures head lowered, gaining.  He looked up toward the fortress and saw a small window in the third floor just large enough for him to jump through if he could reach it.  He looked back as the creature lunged straight fir him.  He jumped up, landed on its nose and pushed off toward the window.  He was still a little low to get in.  He pulled out his spike, plunged it into the wall.  He pushed off the wall, holding onto the spike, flipped upside down and bent back just enough to sail right through the window and bring the spike with him.  As he touched down there was a loud crash as the creature collided with the window and surrounding wall.  After a moment he walked back to the now open wall and looked down to see the creature growling angrily at him then turn and walk back to patrol the city with a glare over his shoulder.

Over the next four days he found that there were thirty people in this fortress and at least twelve more trapped out in the city.  There was no way those twelve were still alive, though, with that beast out there.  Which, as it turns out, was conjured to protect the people, but their mages weren’t strong enough to control it, so it had decimated the city.  There was enough food to last the thirty people about four months, which meant he could live fifteen years there if he wanted to, or longer, depending on if he got bored with the city.  A couple preservation spells and he could stay indefinitely.  This meant of course that he was the only one that could live there in the fortress.  He then started planning on how he was going to pick off all thirty people without them catching on.  The food was in store rooms in the cellar.  For the most part everyone was staying in the inner rooms on the first floor.  A mage with his rock familiar, the last elder of the city and an apprentice paladin were staying in the upper rooms of the fortress.  The other twenty-seven were all commoners, servants, and a couple inexperienced thieves.

The mage and paladin had to die first.  With the mage’s and paladin’s different abilities to cast protection and strength and awareness spells, and similar training for the paladin, they would be the most annoying if they caught wind of him.  He would start after the sun set.  He spent the time on the roof looking over the city.  It seemed that it had been a market for the large majority.  There were also a few ghettos clustered in the corners of the city.  As the roads came closer to the center of the city they all got cleaner and wider and converged on a large city square which encompassed the fortress.  Each side had its own stands for city speakers to make announcements from and market shops lined the outer edge of the entire area.  The city must have bustled at one point.  Now it was a small shell of its original beauty and productivity.  Each of the stands were now broken and fallen over.  Most of the shops had their roofs fallen in and the roads were dusty, cracked, and covered with rubble made from their wonderful protection mutt.  He could see outside the walls for miles from this vantage point.  It would have been a great place for a tower guard or sentry, but he hadn’t found any easy way up to the roof.  I guess there wasn’t much need here for outside protection.  As he looked outside the walls the sand stretched to the horizon in every direction.  There was nothing but sky and sand everywhere he looked.  This city was more like a small country in the middle of an ocean of sand.  Isolated from the world.  Separated from everyone and everything else in this universe.  Perfect.

After the sun set and before the moon rises he put a sleeping spell on the twenty-seven people on the main floor and moved up to the second floor.  First he thought he’d take out the elder, then the mage, and end with the paladin.  As he reached the second floor he found the rock familiar patrolling the hallway.  The familiar was about a foot tall and a foot wide at the shoulders.  Its sunken eyes glowed a dim blue.  He knew he had to take out the familiar before he could get to the mage or any of the other three.  This rock familiar looked just like a miniature rock golem.  Rock golems are known for two things; having unusual magic sight, and a weakness to cold.  Assumedly the rules would apply here as well.  This meant a rush in and kill.  The familiar would detect any kind of approach that would take longer than a heartbeat.  He pulled out a vial from his belt and crouched ready to spring into action when the familiar was close.  He had brought with him a bucket of water to help the effects of the spell take hold of the familiar.  He pushed the door to the hallway open and stepped inside as the familiar got to the other end of the hallway.  He stood silently as the familiar turned, paused, and threw a rock right at his head.  He dodged to the right and lunged forward.  Two more rocks right at his chest.  Dodging left and right as he gained ground on the familiar he gripped the bucket tightly ready to dump its contents on the little creature.  Two steps away a rock flew right by his ear.  He took one more step, doused the familiar.   A rock bounced off his right shoulder, the stinging pain filled his mind.  Another magical effect of this creep.  He had learned to avoid pain stimulators for the most part, and trained to focus through them, but this caught him by surprise.  Mechanically he dropped the vial on the familiars head and fell to the ground gripping his shoulder.  After a moment he looked up to see the familiar as quiet as a ghost.  It was now more of a statue.  He heard footsteps coming from one of the rooms.  Still gripping his shoulder he got up and did a twist back flip to a one hand stand above the door that was making the noise.  He figured that it was paladin since they are trained more meticulously than mages.  When the door opened he grabbed a knife ready to plunge it into the back of the paladins neck.  The head below him was glistening, and the air around him grew cold.  This was very strange.  Usually mages pick familiars that they are similar too in magical skill, but this mage had picked a rock familiar when he was a frost mage.  He put the knife between his teeth and grabbed a thawing spell from his belt and dropped it on the mage.  As it hit the mage knew his time was up, he had seen the familiar at the same time.  He let out only the slightest sigh as the knife severed his skull from his spine.  He mumbled a quick chant as he slumped to the ground.  The assassin paused, waiting to see if the chant would affect him in any way.  He didn’t feel anything, didn’t notice anything different.  Nothing, the mage was weaker than he thought, fool.  Next was the elder.  Less than difficult.  His shoulder stung much less and he was able to ignore it completely.  He went into the mages room and out the window.  He went to the next room to see who it was occupied by.  The paladin was sound asleep.  He went to the next room and saw the elder groggily tossing and turning, waking up just slightly.  He sat up in bed and looked around.  No noise.  He rubbed his eyes and looked around once more.  He was satisfied, he laid back down and rolled over.  The assassin snuck in the window and silent as the grave dispatched the slumbering elder.  He snuck out the window again to check the paladins room from the outside.  The paladin was still asleep.  He quietly opened the window and crept into the room.  The paladin rolled over in bed.  He snored and grabbed his pillow tighter.  He moved closer and closer while he slid his knife slowly out of its sheath.  The paladin snored again and didn’t move.  He now stood over the paladin knife paused over his face.  The assassin smiled as he thought of how easy this had been.  Then he felt a hand grab his wrist and saw the paladins eyes open.  The smile vanished from his lips.  He pulled his hand away and back-flipped out of the paladins reach.

“Who are you and why have you come to kill us.”  The paladin slowly sat up and got out of bed.

The assassin responded with a glare and silence.

“You will have to try a bit harder than a simple apprentices knife pull to slit this throat.”

He had an accent not quite familiar to this region.  In all his traveling he had only heard it once or twice, but he couldn’t remember where.

“Instead of my end this night yours seems to be eminent.  Come and dance our convergence under such a welcome moon!”  He grabbed a sword from beneath the bed and stood ready to fight the assassin.  The stance was different form anything the assassin had ever seen.  No matter, the assassin could slaughter  any fighter that stood against him without armor.

The assassin circled the paladin and the paladin kept his sword on the assassin.  They paced this way for a only a few moments before the paladin struck.  A jab with the sword, which made the assassin jump back and to the side, then an elbow to the ribs as he went by.  The assassin was more shocked than hurt, and stepped back.  This gave the paladin an opening to strike hard at the assassins ribs with the sword.  The assassin saw the sweep of the blade in time to counter and land behind the paladin.  He drew another knife and with both hands plunged the knives down toward the bare neck of the paladin.  As the knives touched the paladins neck he fell forward and rolled to shove his sword straight for the assassins gut.  Another sidestep and the assassin kicked the paladin in the ribs.  The paladin grunted and rolled away.  The assassin threw a small knife at the paladin and hit him in the thigh.  The assassin smiled.  The paladin stood up and pulled the blade from his leg.

“This is your best effort to strike me?  Ha!!  You stand no chance!”  The paladin threw the blade against the wall.

“You seem to misjudge me warrior.”

“Hungh?”

“That was no ordinary blade.”

The paladin’s face started to go pale.

“The poison on that blade will kill you within the next few minutes.  You underestimated me!”

The paladin chuckled, “This life is not the last plane of existence assassin.  You cannot harm me more than life can take me.”

The assassin frowned at this.  This paladin was too unworried about death.  He must have been a part of some religious cult or something.  That was one thing the assassin had avoided his entire life.

“Come assassin, we go together!”  The paladin dropped his sword and charged the assassin, surprising him and took him down with a grab and a kick.   The assassin avoided the grasp, flew across the room only to catch his balance at the last moment before he hit the wall.  He pushed off the wall toward the oncoming paladin and bounded off him.  The paladin caught his ankle and spun the assassin around the room and threw him into the door.  After this the paladin went to one knee and was gasping for breath.  The assassin got up and walked toward the paladin ready to finish this annoying pest.  The paladin jumped up at the would be death dealer and reached for his arm.  The assassin dodged and threw a dagger into his opponents shoulder.  The paladin grunted and fell to the ground.

“The poison has hit, you’re dying warrior, and you haven’t even scratched me.”

The paladin rolled over and looked at the assassin with a pale face and spoke, “I might die, but my soul will be forgiven, when you die will yours? I await you!”  With this the paladin closed his eyes and let the killing nature of the poison take him over.

After this the assassin went around the hallways and checked up on the guards and peasants huddled in the main hall on the first floor.  In his walks he also went back up to peer out the window he had come in to see if the large creature was still there.  It was, while it wasn’t always at the courtyard below, it was in the city, the top of its head could be seen roaming the streets.  The assassin went back to figuring out the patterns of the guard and the rotations that they walked on.  Of course this was after the sleeping spell wore off.  He had only put a short spell on the people in the main hall, he wanted to finish the take over of the keep that night.  And sleeping prey just wasn’t as much fun.

There were a few guards that caught wind that something was amiss and went out on patrol to see if they could find anything.  Of course they weren’t going to discover him, he was the hunter here.  He found that there was about a ten minute gap between the groups of guards meeting up or checking in when they went around the back of the keep.  He took out the first group there.  He then went back in to finish off the rest of the few guards that were standing watch outside the main room.  This was easier than the elder, this was easier than any job he had ever pulled.  Each group of guards had no idea what was going to hit them until it was too late.  He could have done it without them knowing at all, but he wanted the realization on their faces before they died.  He then went in to take care of the people huddled together inside.  He had considered just showing himself and his intentions, and watching them panic and scramble about.  It would even be fun to try and hunt them all down when they fled the room.  But he decided that he would rather not have to try and play hide and seek with the children that were there, they always managed to get into the most annoying places when they were scared.  So he decided in just dusting some poison in the air and letting it fall down to put the last 27 people to sleep.

This would have been great too, if after it was all done and he had counted the bodies they had come out to the number he had started with, but something was wrong.  He had counted the corpses and found that there was one short of what he had first counted.  Could he have missed one?  Had he miscounted in the beginning.  No, he had never been so careless in his life and this would not be a place to screw up.  He had been too focused, too careful.  He could not have miscounted in the beginning.  There must be a solution, something must have happened.  Then his head shot up and he sprang to life.  He ran up to the mage’s room and scanned every inch of the place for some clue, then he saw it.  Behind a bookshelf, off to one side by the window, there was a small stand for a spell book.  The stand was empty, and the window was open.  He looked around the room again, the only thing that seemed out of place was that the bed had only one pillow on one side, and not on the other.  He dismissed this at first, then as he walked out of the room he looked back.  He walked back in the room and looked for the pillow everywhere.  It wasn’t there.  This seemed too strange.  He leaned out the window and took a big whiff of the air.  His eyes shot open.  One of the children had taken a pillow and flown out the window.

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