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?

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20. Chapter 20

It was drizzling with rain; it was soft rain, the kind people often fall asleep to. The Captain didn’t need sleep. He had already wasted too many hours sleeping when there was work to be done. He paced the room Hel-Cohre had given him, it was a mess of clothes in various points of disarray, papers were strewn across the floor, stacked in piles along with books, and large maps of the islands decked the walls. He stopped in front of the map of Gamdagleeare Luff and drew a red line from Hel-Cohre’s house to a small desert in the centre of the island. It was a likely place for the City of Shade to be; there were only so many places it could be. But if it was so large, how come no one had seen it before?

After jotting down the name of the desert, the Captain snatched his long brown coat where it was hanging on the door and slipped it on. Despite the humidity of the jungle, he still wore it. No matter the weather, it was a vital part of him and he couldn’t leave it behind. He remembered fondly the day it had been given to him, his very first item of clothing. As he picked up his belt and holsters and began buckling them on, his mind was thrown back to his very first encounter with the Shadows. How strange it was to think of his friends as enemies. That had perhaps been the main reason he hadn’t seen them in so many years. There was no way that a man like him and monsters like them could live together and continue to be friends. Heh, he growled, if the High Lord found out that he had been friends with some of them then they would hunted down and destroyed.

Rechecking the map Hel-Cohre had given him, he tore it from the wall, rolled it up, and tucked it away out of sight. He slipped through the door and walked quietly up the stairs to the second floor. Outside the sun was hidden by thick, dark clouds, and the rain had lessened the humidity. The outside jungle was full of noise as he passed through the gate surrounding the house and began the long trek towards Gamdagleeare Luff.

Night came faster than the Captain had expected, with the rain still pouring down the sun was still impossible to see behind a thick layer of clouds. He made camp for the night, bedding down beneath a rough shelter of leaves stitched together. At night the jungle was even louder than it had been during the day. A fierce cacophony of noise that drilled its way inside the Captain’s head, refusing to let him sleep. Rain poured between the stitching of his roof and leaked in under his bed of moss leaves, soaking him to the skin.

Offering as little relief as possible, the sun came out late morning and did nothing to ease the Captain’s discomfort. The rain ceased and the air became so humid it was like surging through soup. The sweat poured off the Captain’s body in torrents that matched the previous night’s rainstorm.

As well as the sweat and the humidity to aid in the Captain’s discomfort, there was also the abundance of thick jungle vines. They covered almost every inch of the jungle, hanging from trees and preventing him access anywhere. Most of the vines were brown and green, ranging in size from the circumference of his fingers to his upper arm. They were smooth and shiny, the shine given off by a sticky sap that coated them. Already he had walked into a couple of clumps of hanging vines that he hadn’t noticed that had curled around him, the sap sticking to his clothes fastening him tight in their clutches. Once prey was caught, they began tightening up in order to crush their food. Only by waving his sword madly about him had the Captain been able to cut his way loose.

However, as he discovered freeing himself from the clutches of the last tangle, the vines bled. The blood oozed from the cuts, hardening instantly onto everything it touched. By the second narrow escape, his sword was so covered in the rock hard cement of sap that it was unable to cut through anything.

Despite the setbacks of pausing to clean his sword, he made good time. Lines on his map showed that another few hours walk would take him to a short meadow where he could have a break from the severe jungle. From there it was just another couple of hours walk to the shoreline. Gamdagleeare Luff would be so close the sand on its beaches would be visible to his eyes.

‘Gah!’ the Captain screamed as sap from a crooked cut sprayed up into his face. The thick yellow mixture dripped down his face, covering his left eye and almost his entire face. He twisted from the blast, his hands trying to wipe away the mess before it set. He managed to wipe it from his mouth and nostrils before it set. Yelling curses to the jungle, he dropped his sword as he began clawing at his face. his fingers slipped, sliding on the smooth surface of the thick sap that hardened on his face. It was too smooth and perfect to get a grip.

‘I… I wouldn’t do… that,’ hissed a low whisper from behind the trees covering the Captain’s back.

Stiffening in surprise, the Captain’s fingers slowly curled into balls as he lowered his arms.

‘And why not?’ he asked, his own voice barely above the same tone of voice. Hair on the back of his neck prickled, but he made no move to turn around. His faces was quickly heating up beneath the thick mask covering his face.

‘You… might end up… losing more than the… hmm, mask.’

The Captain nodded, noting now a dull ache in his cheeks. ‘Thank you,’ he said, his shoulders relaxing. ‘So kind of you to watch out for my face’s wellbeing-‘

‘I… care not for your face… but that… it would help, hmm, for people to seeee, it, to know, you’re the wanted one.’

‘The? The wanted one?’ Damn. The Captain mentally shook his head. Hel-Cohre had told him people were looking for him, he just hadn’t figured they would be checking the jungles.

'I’ll drag your mind back,' the voice drew in a sharp breath, 'to when… you killed two... defenceless Shadows, in… cold… blood.'

'Huh!' the Captain scoffed roughly, his fingers starting to itch as he wanted to hold something familiar in his hands. Preferably his gun. 'They attacked me! I was protecting my friend! Who are you, anyway?’ He needed something to keep the man talking while he thought. He needed something, but he wasn’t sure what sudden moves would do.

'You admit it!' The voice screamed. 'That is enough evidence! When... I tell... the High Court… you will… die.'

‘Uh, do you have a name?’ the Captain asked, the fingers on his left hand twitching violently. His gun was just a few inches away yet he was being watched. And he had no idea where the man was.

‘Mar-Goth… is my name… Your body… stiffens… Captain Von Delgo. We… have met before… Our reputations… precede us both.’

The Captain’s fingers hung limp, the gun was too far away to make a move for it. Anybody else he might have been able to go for it, but not Mar-Goth. He was a man to be fought in the open where he could be seen.

‘I…’ the Captain sought for something to say without spitting distastefully at the name. ‘I didn’t know the bounty was so large to interest you.’

‘I don’t care… for the money. The High Lord… is my master. Your name… however… disgusts me and I wish… to cleanse it from… tongues.’ Mar-goth spoke with almost as much distaste as the Captain had tried to keep from his own.

A long time ago they had a history. Nearly everyone on the island had a history with somebody else. This was back when the Captain was still in the army. The High Lord’s right hand man, Mar-Goth, was quietly rising through the ranks of Bounty Hunter, honing his skills and quickly gaining a reputation that put people fearful in his presence. The Captain was one of the few that did not fear him. He had his own reputation and could hide behind that every time Mar-Goth drew near. Fear had never been introduced into the Captain’s life before because Shadows had no need to fear. Back then was when he had believed he might have been a Shadow. But seasons changed and he defected. That was when he discovered that he wasn’t nearly as invulnerable as he had once believed. And Mar-Goth, realising that the only one standing in the way of head of the Bounty Hunters Guild was merely a useless man, dropped all fear of the Captain.

‘Do I get to see you, Mar-Goth? If I remember correctly, it’s been a very long time since our last encounter? How are we going to play this?’

A thin silence whispered its way through the air as Mar-Goth didn’t reply. The jungle noises, which had annoyed the Captain so much the last couple of days, faltered, the creatures scared into hiding by the presence of strange beings.

A rustling took up the slack and the vines in front of the Captain parted to show a tall, extremely pale, man dressed in various shades of the jungle. Except green, the Captain noticed. Green was the holy royal colour of Gamdagleeare Luff. Only the High Lord and the members on his council wore it.

‘Captain Von Delgo… here I am.’

Both men studied each other. One truly was a man, at least that was the only thing the Captain could think of that justified him. The other was something else. A different race. Man-like in appearance, but smart, ruthless, with powers close to the Shadows own of being able to create things from their bodies.

‘Neither of us have changed,’ the Captain spoke softly in amazement. ‘How long has it been?’

‘Time is not relevant to this conversation, Von Delgo.’

The Captain stared, shell-shocked. It was the first full, uninterrupted sentence he had ever heard Mar-Goth utter.

‘What… is… is what you are… doing so close… to Gamdag… leeare… Luff. Did you think that… the safest place to hide… from killing… my Lord’s own… was his backyard?’

The Captain shrugged, his face a black page hiding his true feelings. No one had to know, it was part of the element of surprise. ‘What is the plan here, Mar-Goth? How do you take me in?’

‘A… pick up… or drop off…’ Mar-Goth said calmly, staring bright-eyed at the Captain. His eyes were suspicious under the pale irises and pupils. He was smart, and the Captain knew that the mystery of what he was doing in the jungles outside Gamdagleeare Luff would continue to bug him until the secret was out.

‘A drop off? You’re not taking me all the way to the High Lord yourself?’ Captain asked in surprise. ‘But that’s… what?’

‘A deal,’ Mar-Goth shrugged. ‘I… merely capture… you… from there I make…sure… that… you are in… trusty hands who will then… take you to… the High Lord.’

Captain felt his heart beat through his chest, every thump beating blood throughout his body. A hand over, there was possibility there.

‘How far away are the people you plan to hand me over to?’ he asked, the twitch in his fingers returning.

Mar-Goth glared, suspicion pouring blatantly from his face. ‘Far,’ he whispered. ‘Don’t think about… it, Captain.’

‘The drop off takes place only after you’ve caught me, you haven’t done that yet.’

The Captain reached up to the mask of sap that still covered his face. His fingers sought for a hold, anything, nails scratching grooves into the mold. They caught a hold and he dug his nails in. There was a pull on his skin. His face felt a warm breeze as he pulled. His skin stretched, ripping and tearing loose as he yanked. He cursed wildly as the mask ripped free, pulling patches of skin with it. His face stang horribly as the once cooling breeze turned sour on his bare skin.

‘I… told you… it was unwise,’ Mar-Goth purred, grinning horribly.

The Captain breathed firmly through his nose, glad of the freedom. He could also see through both eyes now, though his left eye was slightly blurry.

Dropping to a stance, the Captain prepared for the first attack. Mar-Goth sprang forwards, a knife materialising from the shadows of his cloak into his hands. He swung a punch that the Captain dodged. Mar-Goth lashed out again, his knives slicing snakes across the Captain’s arm that he swung out in a punch of his own.

Grimacing as his sleeve changed to a dark red, the Captain dived forwards. Grabbing a hold of Mar-Goths arm, he brought it down as he raised his leg. There was a snap as Mar-Goth cried out, his knife slipping from his hand. The Captain dropped, kicking out with his feet at Mar-Goth’s own. Mar-Goth fell to the ground but the Captain was already up, running to grab one of the knives.

Mar-Goth sprang, using his feet to propel him forwards. His long fingers snatched at the heels of the Captain’s boots, missing as he hit the ground again. The Captain snatched the knife, spinning madly and brandishing it as Mar-Goth rose to his feet.

His face changed to a glare as he straightened and beheld the Captain. ‘Submit… Now. It is said dead… or alive… you may choose which one… you… prefer,’ Mar-Goth spat through clenched teeth.

‘I don’t give in, Mar-Goth. I never have. If you want me you’ll have to come and get me.’

Fine!’ he snarled. ‘So be it.’

With deliberate moves, he turned slowly, his steps taking him further away from the Captain. The Captain tensed, gripping the short knife tightly in his hands. It was about the length of his elbow to the tips of his fingers, wide and curved slightly at the tip. It was made of a dark metal, which reflected none of the sun shining on it. Instead, it seemed to absorb the sunlight.

A gleam of sunlight on metal underneath Mar-Goth’s cloak caught the Captain’s eye. There was a brighter flash of light as Mar-Goth spun, his spin closing the distance of a couple of yards to a foot within a second. His sword came down as the Captain dived back, his knife slicing in front and blocking the blow. Mar-Goth pushed, the blade of his sword grating against the knife, in an effort to make the Captain stumble. The Captain’s arms shook with the tension of keeping his blade in front. With shock, the Captain realised that the force was no longer against his knife as Mar-Goth stepped back. The Captain stumbled forwards, right past Mar-Goth who was already swinging his sword to come down on the Captain’s back.

Twisting as fast as he could, the Captain fell to the ground, hitting the soft dirt hard, before rolling. Mar-Goth’s blade sent a shower of dirt into the air as it hit an empty space. He swore as the Captain rolled again. His knife lose in the fall, the Captain pushed himself to his feet and held his fists defensively in front of his face. They were useless against a sword unless he could somehow cause Mar-Goth to drop it.

Mar-Goth sprang, sword clasped tightly in his hands. The Captain dodged the first swing, jumping back barely in time to miss the second as Mar-Goth swung the blade up and around. While there was an opening, the Captain’s hands shot out and grabbed Mar-Goth around the head. Pulling the bounty hunter forwards he cracked his head against Mar-Goths. They both broke away, stumbling as lights exploded behind their eyes. Shaking his head to try to clear the blinding lights, the Captain saw Mar-Goth holding both hands to his head. His sword lay on the ground between them. Darting forwards the Captain kicked the sword out of the way before barrelling into Mar-Goth.

Hitting the ground on top of Mar-Goth, the Captain began unloading punches on the dazed man. Mar-Goth squirmed, pushing his hands up to cover his bleeding face. The Captain ignored them as he straddled the man, throwing whatever punches he had wherever there was an unprotected piece of face.

Swinging wildly, Mar-Goth scored a lucky punch to the Captain’s face, striking his cheekbone and skimming across his nose. The sudden metallic taste of blood in his mouth surprised the Captain. He blinked, the shock of the sudden numbness of his face breaking his concentration. Ceasing the moment, Mar-Goth moved, his hand sliding over the Captain’s face and forcing the man back. His hand struck the Captain’s nose again and more blood flowed freely, drenching both men.

The Captain collapsed backwards, receiving a quick kick to his side as Mar-Goth drew himself to his feet. Groaning, the Captain began to roll to his feet when another hard boot connected to his stomach, pushing him off the ground with the force. The Captain cursed as he hit the ground in a heap. Mar-Goth swung out again, but the Captain was ready. He pushed himself up and away from the kick, grabbing Mar-Goth’s leg and pulling him forwards. The bounty hunter stumbled, forwards and then found himself flipping over backwards as the Captain pushed the leg up and in the opposite direction. Mar-Goth hit the ground face first.

Stumbling, Mar-Goth pushed himself up shooting away from the Captain by flipping backwards. Then surged forwards, pushing away the Captain’s defences but pummelling the Captain with a quick succession of punches to the chest. Each blow pushed the Captain back. He swerved, raising his arms uselessly to defend from the attacks. Mar-Goth switched positions, jumping to the other side and throwing out punches to the side of the Captain’s face and body.

Tears sprang in the Captain’s eyes but he couldn’t blink them away. A sharp blow to the side of his stomach sent the breath shooting out of him. He gasped, feeling empty air as his feet fell away from beneath him. Landing hard on his back, he tried to roll away from Mar-Goth but rough hands caught him and dragged him to his feet.

Another punch to his chest sent the Captain coughing and spluttering. He collapsed to his knees; Mar-Goth’s hand wound through his hair prevented him from falling over. The Captain stared vaguely into Mar-Goth’s blood shot eyes. There was a warm trickle of blood making its way into his eyes; mixed with the tears he could barely see anything. A fuzzy shape appeared behind Mar-Goth, quickly speeding forwards. Mar-Goth’s fist hit the Captain, a force that sent him sprawling backwards as he was released. The Captain unwillingly let his eyelids fall shut as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Captain came to in the dark; he spent a lot of the time in the dark, he could remember. It very rarely stayed light in the world. It changed all over the place. It never stood still. It also wasn’t real. On his face he could feel coarse material covering his eyes, which was a relief as he knew his eyes were open. Moving his cheeks and wiggling his nose, he attempted to see if he could move the mask at all from his eyes. It moved slightly up so that by peering down his nose he could faintly see through the bottom.

A sigh escaped his lips as he lay his head back down on the ground. It was rock, and the sky above looked like rock. His only guess was a cave. The air around him was silent, so he couldn’t tell whether he was alone or not. People could be silent if they wanted to. Like Mar-Goth. Where was he anyway?

Struggling to move into a more comfortable position the Captain discovered his hands had been tied together. The knots were so tight he almost couldn’t feel his hands. Rubbing his writs together he tried to loosen the knots, but all it did was cause the rope to burn into his wrists.

‘Here!’ growled a voice close to the Captain’s ear. ‘Stop struggling!’

The Captain froze. He wasn’t alone after all. But it wasn’t Mar-Goth speaking.

‘Who are you?’ I ask.

‘We are the six,’ was the reply, slowly fading into silence as the owner of the voice crept away.

Six? How big was the cave? Captain twisted, looking this way and that in the hopes of seeing more, but there was nothing.

‘Where are we going?’

‘To a check point where we’ll hand you over to the Shadow’s and get our money, and then-‘

‘Shut up!’ hissed a different voice and the cave descended into silence. Minutes seemed to pass before another voice, a different one, spoke up in the dark.

‘Alright, we’ve found the entrances to the tunnel, just where Mar-Goth told us it would be. Pick him up and stick him on the cart. You three, you’ll push him.

Hands hoisted up the Captain and dropped him onto what he could only presume was the cart. Straps were placed over his chest, waist, thighs and legs as matches were struck for lamps. Light glowed through his blind fold, a dull comfort. At once, a creaking began and the Captain could feel the cart under him rumble as it began to move forwards. Something dripped in the distance; one of many noises breaking even with the huffs already generated by the bounty hunters laboured breathing. The Captain had no idea how far they had to travel, but as it was a free ride, he just lay back as comfortable as he could and let the motion lull him to sleep.

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