The Assignment

Captain Von Delgo is a man who is lost. He is known as a turncoat, a hero and a mass-murderer. He has no beginning, and as far as he can see he has no end. Which makes him just about the most dangerous man alive. After the completion of his last job Captain is on his way out to receive his payment and rest up. His plans are delayed when a religious sect known as the Ravens pull him in with an offer. Captain faces a dilemma, he has never once failed in his assignments. But accepting this one and succeeding would change the way of the world, change everything that everyone has ever known, plunge it into chaos. But he has also never once turned down a job, and with his life quickly descending into a chaos of its own despair, he can see no reason why not to accept. After all, how hard can it be to kill an immortal?


2. Chapter 2

Dark black smoke swirled in the red sunlight, purple flames licking the trees added to the beautiful mix of colours. The forest was burning.

'Why are they burning the forest?' asked Holin in grief as he stared at the place which had been his home for so many years. He had grown up in the forest with all the other No Ones, he knew it inside and out, every tree and blade of grass he could find with his eyes closed, he could walk backwards and know where he was heading just by the different smell of the leaves. They were burning his home.

'Why?' he cried again, tears streaming down his face as he lay on the cliff edge and watched the scene below. The thick smell of burning timber was inhaled with each breath he took.

The Captain turned away from view by rolling over. 'I don't know why, Holin, but the Shadows must know that one of them is dead and the other missing. They must be looking for who killed it, and that's me. You are with me and that means that if I'm caught you will also be caught and both of us will be dead. We should go before they search the area surrounding the farm.'

'But they didn't have to burn the forest!' was all Holin could say, not understanding why the Shadows were burning it.

'They're looking for us,' the Captain explained. 'No one would kill a Shadow and then run to the edge where they would be cornered. The first place anyone would run would be to the forest. would have run there had I not come to get you.'

'It was my home!' continued to sob Holin, tears streaming down through the soot which had come to cover his face.

'It will grow back again,' consoled the Captain. 'Creature limbs when they are pulled apart and burned in different islands of Gamdagleeare Luff will not. We need to leave.'

Pulling Holin by the hand, the two made their way down a narrow path away from forest towards a thin stretch of trees which grew apart from the forest. There was little protection in them, but more than there was anywhere else.

They made their way slowly, being careful to step behind every tree that could cover them and protect them from any prying eye that might look there way. The Captain hoped that if anything looked over that they would just mistake them for trees. It was a slim hope, but there was nothing else to do. Eventually they passed out of the crop and hurried down another steep hill. They were further away from their destination than they had been that morning, instead of moving straight forward they had been forced to take a detour and now were making their way the slow route by following the island edge, which was also the edge of the world.

There was a sudden, shocking explosion behind them and the trees they had been taking shelter in exploded in a burst of flame. It was just like the Shadows, destroying everything in their way if it will help them seek revenge.

To get to the harbour you have to follow the Mainstream, a system of cobble paved roads that lead from all over the the world criss-crossing every island. As they reached the bottom of the hill they caught sight of it. A long stretch of black to their far left winding its way east toward the harbour. At the moment there was a large procession on it, almost a mile long length of people and carts all moving together towards the harbour.

Pulling to a stop, the Captain turned to Holin. 'This is what we're going to do. We're going to head to that stream you see down below, when we reach it we join in and follow along with them for a while. We don't want to stay with them for too long in case some of them question us, but there is safety among them. Make sure to cross over when you can, on the other side we'll cut across the hills instead and stay out of sight. When you're on the other side just walk along and I will join you. Also try to stay hidden and not cause attention to yourself. You're still a No One, no matter who's company you're travelling with.'

It would have been far easier to wait until the people past and then cross over the empty road, but if Shadows were following them then the Captain wanted to loose them in the stream.

'What if someone sees us and tells the Shadows?'

'I'll take care of that, that's my job. Your job if they see us and come for us is to run to the harbour and hide.'

'Will you be all right though. Can you handle them?' asked Holin, his face, already a strange sight all covered in soot and tear drops, morphed to a look of fear and concern.

'I've been through a lot,' the Captain told him, 'I can take care of myself. Come on.' Pulling his hood over his head and down low over his face, he set off in the direction of the stream. Holin followed suit and hurried after him.

As soon as they reached the heavy stream of traffic moving quickly, the Captain slipped in as soon as he found an opening. As soon as he did so he lost sight of Holin as carts, men on horses, and stragglers on foot obscured his view. They pressed in hard on either side of him, jostling him away, he hardly needed to walk. But if he slipped he would be trampled underfoot and lost. He hoped that Holin would be able to survive. If there had been a different way for them to reach the harbour he would have taken it, but you had to enter the stream. You couldn't just follow along side it.

Finding himself caught with no exit to shift along to the left, the Captain struggled along. In front of him were two men chained together to make sure they weren't separated chatting away. With nothing to do, the Captain listened in.

'...Did ya hear 'bout those poor jokers runnin' from ta Shadows?'

'Na, what 'bout 'em?'

'Appa'ently two freaks from ta forest attacked a couple of Shadows,' the first exclaimed excitedly. Then his voice dropped low as he continued, 'They say, one of 'em's dead.'

'Cor, really?' exclaimed the second excitedly, then his too dropped low. 'A Shadow, dead? By No Ones?'

'Heard there's ta be a rewarders for the where'bouts of 'em,' the first replied loudly, then shook his head in answer to the second's question.

The second's ears picked up at this news and all thought to a No One killing a Shadow was lost at the thought of money.'

''Ow much?'

Suddenly finding an opening, the Captain stepped through, missing the first's reply. He didn't want to know what it was anyway. He couldn't figure it out though how they knew, or even how the Shadows knew so soon after it happened. But if they knew, they obviously knew who to look for. Even if they didn't know exactly who was involved, the Captain planned to stay hidden for as long as needed until Holin was safe. Then it didn't matter who found him or knew.

There was a sudden piercing scream and the crowd surged forwards, trapping the Captain against the side of a tall cart that had slowly been plodding along. There were two gun shots in quick succession and the crowd pulled to a stop. They crowd twisted and turned this way and that to try to find out what was going on but it was almost impossible to look out of the center if that was where you were. Tugging, the Captain pulled himself loose and climbed up the side of the cart and looked in the direction of the shots. Fierce black horses were charging towards them down the hill the Captain and Holin had come down from earlier. They commenced to ride alongside the stream, every now and again a rider would hold up his gun in the air and fire a sharp crack which caused the horses to whine. Ducking down, the Captain pressed himself out of view.

Shadows on horses? Was it possible? It was too hard for him to make out what they were. Their bodies were covered in darkness and that was all you could see. If it were night time, which was in a couple of hours, you wouldn't be able to see them.

Finding a gap between the people by his side, the Captain peered through to see what was happening. The rider at the head of the formation had leaned forwards and was whispering quietly to the companion to his right. The rider nodded before giving a signal and charging off down the stream, two more split from the group and followed him while the other four charged up the stream in the direction the travelers were facing. They were searching for something.

Whatever it was, the Captain was sure they would find it. The people of the world were controlled by one thing, fear, and that went by the other name of the High Lord. A ruler with a love of inflicting pain on his people. If someone did something that the High Lord didn't approve of, the whole of Gamdagleeare Luff would suffer for the mistake. No one could ever object to the punishment, or anything else the High Lord decrees because there was no stopping him. He had the power, the people had none, and he would use it anyway he liked.

The sound of something on a horse drawing nearer made the Captain sink down underneath the cart and lie flat on the dirt ground. As the rider and horse passed by, the Captain proceeded to calmly crawl his way up the lane under the cart and the horses carrying it. He stopped under the cart in front of the previous when another rider right across from him outside the stream.

The crowd had continued to be still and silent, and as the rider stopped they all held their breathes in anticipation of what was going to happen. None of them knew at all. Even the Captain held his breath as the rider climbed down from his horse. There was a clink of spurs on his boots to indicate that he had landed, and the Captain listened hard as the boots walked shortly up the stream and then stopped. The Captain's heart beat in his chest, an uneven, irregular pattern that would have any man worried.

Through the breaks in the feet of the people in the stream, the Captain was able to see the rider standing still. From his view on the cobbles he could see that the rider's cloak wasn't black, like he had first thought, but was a dark blue. The robe opened slightly in a gust of wind to show the rest of the clothing underneath. It was black this time, real black, a red and black scabbard hung from a silver chain which was tied to a brown belt which it wore around its waist. The rider drew its sword and there was a sharp murmur in the crowd as they shuffled around, then they split apart as the creature moved forwards, brandishing its sword dangerously. It stopped by the cart and the Captain could hear a faint whistling coming from above, and then the creature bent down on one leg and peered underneath the cart.

There was a click as the Captain removed the safety catch from his gun and aimed it at the creature's face the moment it bent down. It wore a mask of simple design on its face, it was made completely of leather with two rugged holes cut in for the eyes to see out of and a thin horizontal strip for the mouth. The mask was old and patched, pieces of it replaced with newer, shinier pieces of leather for the parts that had broken. The rider looked from the gun facing him, and to the Captain. It reached slowly inside it's robe as the Captain readied his finger on the trigger just in case, and pulled from within its robe a scroll of parchment tied with red string and rolled it along the ground. It stopped next to the Captain chest.

The Captain's eyes moved quickly from the scroll and back to the rider, confused as to what it meant. Were they not here to capture them after all? Did they only want to deliver a message? Before the Captain could ask, the rider rose and strode back through the crowd and climbed onto its horse.

'Not here,' it said in a loud voice before urging it's horse around and riding back the way it had come from, the others quickly followed behind.

Grabbing the scroll, the Captain stuffed it inside a pocket and rolled out from under the cart just as it started to move forwards and pulled himself to his feet before he was trampled on by the sudden moving bodies behind him.

As it was, standing up didn't prevent him from being trampled on. He was pushed and shoved backwards and forwards and narrowly survived by missing feet as they dropped down to almost hit his head. He cursed under his breath as he pulled himself to his feet and surged on, if he was having such a beating then how well was Holin fairing? He just hoped the little No One was better than him at getting through. Finally after a grueling ten minutes of near death experiences, the Captain neared the edge of the stream and stepped out. He watched it amazed as it surged past him. There were thousands, millions of people all walking along the stream heading towards one little town which held one little harbour. There was hardly room at the harbour town for five hundred, let alone a million, and he wondered what they were all heading for, what their purpose was, and where they would all go.

Holding his breath to stop himself from breathing in the dirt that was being kicked up into the air, the Captain headed to a small hill to get a better view of thing. The plan was to meet up with Holin on the other side, but down among them it was hard to see if Holin was out or not. It would be just his luck if Holin had gotten lost and had come out on the side they had entered by.

He reached the top of the hill and lay down on his stomach, and was just able to stop himself from crying out loud. He had forgotten about the bashing he had taken that morning. It was strange to think he had just spent so long being pushed and shoved about in the stream and hardly noticed it, but the moment he lay down he felt it. He tried to ignore it, but it was hard to.

Reaching a hand into one of the many pockets of his coat, the Captain pulled out a nocular. Adjusting the focus he closed one eye and squinted into it with his other. There was the steady stream of people moving and the Captain followed along with it trying to find Holin. After going up and down it twice, he adjusted the focus again and the image pulled out to include a wider view. He suddenly stopped searching and focused on one section of the stream. A body was struggling to get through and then it was thrown from the stream. A thin grimace flitted across the Captain's face and was followed by a sigh of relief as he saw it was Holin. The No One stood up and looked around, bafflement on his face, then he looked up the hill and a smile crossed his face and he started to trudge towards the Captain.

Shortly Holin was standing beside the Captain as the man gripped him by the shoulder and moved him towards the height of the hill and pointed. 'Welcome to the edge, Holin.'

Below them was a town of unimpressive stature, what was amazing was the harbour. It was huge. It stretched a mile long, with docks stretching from it out over the edge into space. Tied to them and floating were the boats, one of which would take Holin off world and to safety. Some were big, some were small. Others were huge and towered above the buildings of the town. The boats aren't really boats, more of ships. Huge ships. And they don't sail on water either. They sail in the sky.

The whole purpose of coming to the edge was to find a ship for Holin to take to get him away from the world. There is not much that a No One can do on an island that hates them. The Shadows were particular, if you weren't a Shadow then you were an abomination. The Captain was an abomination because he was a man, but even a man is purer than a No One. They were everything and everyone put together, the impurest beings in the galaxy. The Shadows hated them more than anything else. The Captain's job was guiding No Ones across the world and finding them safe passage at the harbours around the edge to get them off.

It didn't matter where the ships were heading, to a No One anywhere was better than Gamdagleeare Luff. In Holin's mind there was nothing to keep him home. They had burned it so there was nothing to return to.

After some searching the Captain found a boat that would take Holin as a passenger. The Shadows hated No Ones and would kill them on sight, pest control was what they called it. And if someone was a friend with a No One, the Shadows would kill them too. So as a rule everyone else that lived on world hated No Ones just to please the Shadows, and to protect themselves. The captain of the ship, however, was pleased to take Holin after he saw what the Captain would give him as payment. He also offered to give Holin the best cabin on board after the Captain told him what he would do if he found Holin mistreated on the voyage.

'Is it safe?' asked Holin as they entered the cabin and looked around. There was a bunk in one corner with white sheets slightly stained yellow, a chair nailed to the floor, and a desk of drawers nailed also to the floor and wall. A port hole sat in the wall at the side of the bed so that if you wanted you could look out and watch the stars fly past. In all it was all right for a cabin, but if it was the best one then the Captain didn't want to see the others.

'It's perfectly safe,' the Captain told him after checking to make sure that the room wasn't about to crack open and allow the oxygen to rush out and kill Holin while he slept. It would be unacceptable if that happened. No, it was all good, as near as possible anyway. There was no use worrying Holin about things that might happen while he was on board, it would worry him and probably kill him.

'I've got to go now,' the Captain told him, turning from the port hole to look at Holin. He made a point of every time he talked to a No One to look them in the eyes, not look away and avoid their faces. There was nothing that a No One could do about their looks, or anyone, and it was insulting to them to have people shy away from looking at them.

'If anyone gives you any trouble on this ship I'll know about it sooner than they will themselves,' he told Holin as he headed to the door and marched up the stairs to the deck, Holin close behind him.

'Thank you for helping me get here, Nor-Viscoe. I would never have survived if you hadn't come with me and helped.'

On deck the air was hard to breathe as they were so far away from the edge. It was easier down below because of the regulated oxygen. Once they sailed from the harbour the shield would come up and surround the ship allowing Holin to walk on deck and survive.

'Don't thank me,' replied the Captain sharply. He didn't like good byes and he didn't like being thanked, it made him feel strange. Particularly by people who's future he knew what would happen and could prevent it.

'But I do,' replied Holin. 'You have save my life more times than I can count.'

'Then don't bother counting. I don't want to know, neither do I want to be reminded of what I've done.'

'But it's not as if you have done anything bad to me that the very thought of will ruin your life,' Holin pressed, not understanding the Captain's wish to leave the subject alone.

'Are you ready to go?' the Captain asked, changing the subject rather than continue it. There was no other way to get Holin to leave the subject except by changing it.

'I've been ready to go ever since we left,' he replied, smiling. The Captain looked away, no longer able to bare looking at him. Holin was so innocent and had no idea what was about to happen to him.

'Great, then have a safe trip, my friend. Don't come back,' the Captain warned, forcing a light smile on his face to hide his true feelings.

Walking to the edge of the boat the Captain headed down the ramp to the wooden dock. He stayed there watching Holin wave at him as the sails were released and filled with impossible air and the engine rumbled into life. Then, slowly, the thousands of tons of wood and metal that made up the boat was lifted away into space and sailed away.

Holin on board the ship waved until he lost sight of the Captain. He turned and looked around at the stars and planets flying past him as the boat picked up speed. It was darker in space than he had ever thought it would be. His senses took over and his body yawned as it believed it to be night time. He stretched, worn out after a long day. He looked forward to being able to sleep without fear of waking up with something at his throat, or not waking up at all. With one last look at the view around him, Holin headed below to his cabin where he promptly fell asleep on his bunk.

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