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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24. Chapter 24

Stone paved the way and the Captain followed, his boots clicked but it was a sound muffled by the abundance of noise from the city around him. Carts wheeled along the ground pulled mysteriously by black forms in the shapes of horses and cattle. Every size imaginable of a shadow moved and floated, twisted and morphed with each other, and the Captain felt a chill every time one of them brushed his skin and morphed with him. His clothes made him feel conspicuous and he twitched every time a Shadow faced him. They were a mass of different colours; each Shadow had an aura around them that let each other identify who was who. The Captain’s own aura was translucent. No one could see it unless they looked hard, and every time he walked past a Shadow, they would stop and stare for perhaps a moment too long before turning away.

A wall of dark grey stone rose up ahead, the first set of gates allowing the peasants to enter the second level of the city in which the nobles lived. The walls on this side were plain, rough stones, a hodgepodge of misshapen forms only fitting together through mortar. Ivy grew up it in patches, sometimes covering whole sections, in other parts thin vines that wouldn’t be able to support any weight. The gate itself was made of red wood and lined with silver. Two guards stood on either side of the gate, just above it on towers, they wore chain mail that shone and helmets made of gold with red feathers. They were stern men that glared at the moving crowd below them as the Captain moved up the street and knocked on the gate.

‘I would like entrance,’ the Captain spoke boldly, his words breaking through the hubbub around him. The guards looked, down, their faces juggling different looks as they tried to decide an answer. The doors swung open and they looked away, someone else had made a decision for them. The Captain slipped through and the doors immediately swung shut behind. Ignoring the other guards milling about the Captain stalked the streets, acting with all-purpose to ward off the guards that he was too busy to interrupt. Somehow, in his shell of a body he felt nervous. There was nothing to feel pain inside, all he had was his mind and he was not even sure how he had that. Did other Shadows feel nervous? No, they were always confident, he remembered, they were never scared, they did not feel joy or fear. They just knew, in some small corner of their souls that they believed they were the best and that everything else was beneath them, and that was where the desire for conquest came from –a belief.

‘Sir! Before you depart, perhaps you could come with me for a moment.’

The Captain turned, his face a blank mask. A soldier stood before him, one hand outstretched reaching for the Captain’s arm. 'It won't take a moment to register your paper. Provided you have them,’ he continued. ‘You seemed to have forgotten to register when you walked through.’

The guard’s tone was pointed. The Captain’s eyes fell to his other hand, the one resting on the hilt of his sword. An old-fashioned weapon that would do nothing against another Shadow, it was just part of the costume. It was just a part of the Shadow’s body. It was a threat that the Captain could hardly miss. The Captain’s own hand twitched, moving an inch to the gun belt concealed beneath his coat, it was enough for the guard to grip the handle of his sword.

Their eyes connected, the Captain’s devoid of emotion as the guard’s retinas enlarged. ‘Come with me, sir, to the gate house,’ the guard ordered, his whole body stiffening. The corners of his form began solidifying into a male, human body, the centre of which still swirled as blackness.

‘I have no papers,’ the Captain confessed, his voice low and innocent, oozing fake charm and confidence. ‘However, there is a man in the castle that knows me, and if you will allow me to continue my walk we will return and he will vouch for me.’

‘The High Lord will not allow you to enter his presence without chains, sir. You have to come with me.’

Further down the cobbled street the noise had died down, and the Captain looked past the guards shoulder to see what was happening. There was a massing of guards taking place. They were arriving from further points of the wall and dropping to the street, landing without a sound. Their swords almost magically appeared in their hands as they took up position in a half circle.

Narrowing his eyes, the Captain shifted his position, turning slightly sideways so that his right gun hand was out of sight of the guards. ‘You know who you’re talking to,’ he said, knowingly. Indicating the group standing at the gate he said, ‘Do you think they will be enough?’

‘You’re not as strong as you think, Von Delgo.’ The guard laughed. ‘You can’t take us all. It was a fluke you were able to kill two of us, not even the High Lord knows how you managed it. But I have to admit, seeing you now as one of us you might have a chance to knock one of us down, but not before we riddle you with arrows. You think being a Shadow will save you? You’re not an immortal one, and even those can be taken.’

A faint smile played along the Captain’s lips. ‘Thank you for that last piece of information,’ he said. ‘I was in doubt before how this game would play out,’ the guard frowned as the Captain continued, ‘but now I know it’s possible to win.’

There was a blur of colour as the Captain reached out and grabbed the guard around the neck and twisted. There was a satisfying crunch as the Shadows head snapped out of place and now stared back at the guards watching from the gate. Spinning the Shadow’s stunned body around the Captain knocked him to the ground, chainmail clinking as it hit the floor. The Captain grinned with satisfaction at the sound, stooping to snatch it from the guard’s body. It tore free and the Shadow writhed on the floor, swiftly changing through all the many forms it had taken in life. It rose, deformed fingers snatching for the chain vest. The Captain ducked out of the way of the searching fingers, whipped out his gun from its holster and fired a whole chamber into the rings of woven metal he held in his other hand. It shattered, turning to glass and splintering as it fell through the air before lighting up in flame. The Shadow’s body withered again, his face a mass of multiple personalities, blurring from one into another, eventually settling on a pale, blank face with empty holes for eyes, nose and mouth. Then it fell apart into ash.

There was silence for a moment and then an alarm blared out. The Captain turned around and looked at the shocked faces of the Upper-Class shadows behind him who had witnessed the whole thing. Each one had the power to take him apart if they were lucky. If they all charged at the same time there would be no way to find their life object.

The Captain turned and ran. Through the streets, a sudden stillness of death stole over the city as the Shadows took form and swept after him like a tide of writhing snakes. The Captain’s feet pounded on the cobbles, throwing up dirt and hay as his body stretched and rode the momentum of force that propelled him. His legs stretched, running over the street like light escaping the darkness. Time slowed down as the Shadows rose up to face the intruder. The city turned black as their forms blotted out the sun and they rode through the shadows created by the sun. The Captain rode the sun, switched from one building to the next, crossing through doorways and sliding under carts and barrels, over washing lines and verandas. He reached the last gate to the castle and pushed through the deserted posts.

The castle loomed just up ahead, a tower of stone that close up reflected the city’s age. It was a marvel of workmanship decaying with a century of neglect. Once smooth stone had weathered away to reveal the cracks beneath. Budding gardens that were slowly being overrun with weeds spread out on either side of the pathway heading to the main archway into the castle itself. Trees loomed tall; their branches touching each other, offering shelter from the elements. Some of them rose higher than the first floor of the castle and grew over the parapets. It was the perfect way to enter the castle and the Captain climbed quickly, swinging across branches, his boots scratching against the bark and unable to gain a stable hold. He climbed, hands scraping against the rough wood, pulling himself up further into the branches and stepping quickly from one tree to the next. It was a balancing act as he ran, hopping and trying to land as softly as possible so that he didn’t slip and fall. He reached the parapets and clambered over.

Below him, the gardens became a dense night as the Shadows swept in. They surged towards the castle gate. The Captain watched for only a second, long enough to feel the eyes of the Shadows below looking up. There was a cry and the Captain glanced towards it, the door of one of the towers had opened to reveal a group of five Shadows. They raised their crossbows as the Captain turned and ran along the walkway. Crossbow bolts whizzed past his head and body, thudding to a stop in the stone and splintering. He crashed through the door, slamming it shut and pushing the bolt. The heavy wood door shuddered as more bolts rammed in it. A dark stairwell rose to the further heights of the guard tower, and another set behind a close arch led downwards. The Captain moved quickly through the arch, his fingers moving just as fast to load a new chamber into his gun. Holding a gun in both hand he entered the ground floor of the castle, directly behind the main gates that shook as the Shadows behind tried to push it open.

The Captain ran across the killing field of the castle, the area between the first and secondary wall. The keep rose up behind that, the central heart of the castle, the main habitation area of the High Lord and all his men. An open door jutted along the back of the secondary wall and the Captain ran towards it. Behind him archers locked their bows upon him and let loose a volley of sharp tipped arrows meant to slice through bone and stone with ease. A Shadow rushed through the door just as the Captain reached it and they both crashed together, the Captain pulling his weight to push the Shadow on top of him. The volley of arrows arrived, half of them finding their mark on the on Shadow’s back. His body convulsed, his face switching between forms as the Captain pushed him off and turned and scrabbled to his feet. The Shadow exploded into ash as the Captain ran through the open door and disappeared into the dark.

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