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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8. Chapter 8

The night exploded with swirling stars. A storm of rocks fell from the sky, crashing onto the island and along the sand, sending a wave higher than the tallest mountain on the island all the way up into space. It started to rain, droplets the size of blocks of stone smashed against the outside of the temple. Inside the priests began to chant. A low hum to begin with, then tremendous crying out. The cries weren’t anything you ever would have heard before. Not even those that cry out have heard anything that compared to it. There was a terrible pounding, and screams, repeating itself over and over again. It was building up momentum, starting slow to make it’s way to deafening noise.

The sky above flashed in many colour and everything in space turned to a whirlpool. More rocks were hurled through the atmosphere, landing again in the sand to create massive dunes. The sand erupted in a sea of spray to cover the temple. There was silence within, but it was only for a moment. The ground shook, the sand caved in, the ravens guarding the door became alive and took flight to the sky, fleeing the collapsing building.

Silence came again, this time for a longer period. Nothing happened. And then the wind came. Before the wind had been still and it was everything else that moved. Now everything else was still and the wind moved. It blew the sand away, and the temple blew with it. When the winds died down, the ground where the temple had lain was bare. The wind ceased, the meteors took to falling elsewhere, and a clam took the night. The Captain rolled over in his bed, breathing deeply in his sleep. He had felt nothing.

The Captain rose the next morning and took a bath. The bathtub was the size of a small pool, and he swam laps. He felt good to be clean again, but knew that it wouldn’t last long once he left the temple.  When he climbed out of the bath he found that someone had come by and taken his clothes for cleaning. Hion showed up just as he was finishing shaving, along with another Raven who was carrying the Captain’s clothes. They talked idly while the Captain dressed. Hion told him that they had moved in the night, but refused to say where they had landed. After a quick breakfast the Captain made his way down to see Ravenwood.

The leader was still in the same place as the Captain had left him the night before. This time he looked different. Younger, but still just as old. He rose as the Captain entered and swept his arm wide to take in the seat next to his.

‘You had a good rest?’ he asked as the Captain took his place.

‘I did.’

Ravenwood nodded, a pleased smile on his strange face. ‘Did our moving disturb your sleep?’

‘I didn’t know we had moved until Hion told me this morning,’ the Captain replied. He refrained from asking where they had landed, though. He was eager to find out, they could have moved anywhere, but he knew Ravenwood would object to being questioned.

‘Good,’ the Raven said, settling in his chair and staring off into a corner of the dark room. Seconds ticked by but neither one said anything. After a few minutes Fion entered. He stopped before the steps and bowed low. Words rushed away into the darkness as he spoke rapidly in a language familiar to the Captain but was not his native tongue. Finally Fion rose as Ravenwood ordered him.

‘Your guests have arrived, my lord.’

Ravenwood nodded satisfactorily. ‘Send them in.’

‘Guests?’ asked the Captain as he watched Fion disappear.

‘We moved in the night.’

‘What does that have to do with us having guests?’

‘They are part of those that want you to answer yes and succeed in what we wish you to say yes to.’

‘They’ve come?’

‘We picked them up in the night. They want to make sure you say yes.’ Ravenwood grinned in the dark. It stretched the skin around his mouth back to show blackened teeth.

‘I still have more questions I would like to ask before I give an answer,’ the Captain told him quietly. He still wasn’t one hundred percent sure whether he would accept the job or not. Either way, he wasn’t going to give an answer until it suited him.

‘And you shall ask them,’ Ravenwood told him, ‘but make sure you choose the right answer.’

The Captain chuckled. It was only a short chuckle, but it echoed off the unseen walls and lasted forever.

The first of the guests to arrive inside was a small, four-person party of Shape-shifters. They were dressed in white and light-burnt orange. One stood beside their leader while the other two stood respectively behind them. The leader wore an orange turban, and his clothes were like those worn where speed was essential and it was important to cover your body. The Shape-shifters generally lived in the jungle areas, changing into the local wildlife to hide when necessary, and upon turning, their clothes would stay on and blend in. The leader also wore a neat brown beard.

The others wore the same as him but with one added feature, a full-face white mask with just eyeholes. Each man also held a short, double-barrelled shotgun strapped to his back.

The next to enter were two wizards and a solitary witch. The two wizards were dressed well in robes that shimmered and changed colours as they more. They each wore a hat with a tip, and beards that came down to their waists. The first wizard held a staff of silver with ornate gold carvings making their way up and down it. He held it in his right hand. The second wizard was dressed the same, but his staff was made of black wood with raised brown lines moving up in a straight line. His beard was white, and he held his staff in his left hand.

The Captain knew which one was of higher status. The one holding his staff in his right hand. It was a sign of respect and a show of leadership to hold a staff in the right hand. No one really understood why, the wizards very rarely talked to anybody beside their own.

The witch wore a simple black dress and bonnet. A veil was a part of her hat and it covered her face. Her hands were encased in black cloth gloves with two-inch long nails coming out of the tips. She held her arms in a cross against her chest.

Ravenwood rose to his feet and moved down the stairs to greet his guests. Quiet whispering took place among the Shape-shifters and they moved away from the rest of the group and headed in the Captain direction. As a normal reaction, the Captain’s hands moved automatically to his pocket where he kept his guns. The leader leaned over to whisper in the ear of the man next to him. After a moment, the man separated from the group and came to stand before the Captain. He bowed low, then rose and asked, ‘Are you Captain Von Delgo?’

‘I am. And you are?’

‘I am Jole,’ the masked man said.

‘And they are?’ The Captain peered around the shoulder of Jole and took in the other three.

‘One moment,’ Jole bowed before heading back over to the one with the beard. He leaned over and whispered into the man’s ear. The man replied with something else in a low whisper and Jole nodded and walked back over to stand before the Captain.

The Captain’s eyes had drifted over to the witch who was now watching them. The Captain found the spot where her eyes were behind the veil and stared intently, waiting for her to do something. Jole waited beside the Captain patiently. The witch broke the gaze first and returned to the conversation between Ravenwood and the wizards.

‘Yes?’ the Captain said, glancing at Jole.

‘I have the names. Veeli is our Tescon, and Phew and Tok are  guards as I am.’

‘Weeli is the one that whispers?’

‘Veeli,’ Jole said testily, anger flashing in his eyes at the Captain’s mispronunciation.

The Captain grunted. ‘You talk for him?’

‘I do,’ came the quick reply.

‘How come?’

Jole’s answer was not as fast as his previous. The Captain could see he was hesitant. ‘Security,’ he said at last.

The Captain nodded. It was a smart move on Veeli’s part having someone else talk for him. ‘Do Phew and Tok talk?’ he asked generally. ‘Out of interest,’ he added.

‘When they are spoke to.’

‘And do you, or they, have any idea what you’re doing here?’

Jole shook his head.

‘You don’t know?’ The Captain was surprised. True it was a matter of security what Ravenwood wanted done, so it probably meant that only the leaders and the Captain himself knew what was going on.

‘Do you want to know?’ he asked.

‘I would, but it is not for me to know. I am only here to speak for our Tescon and make sure that he leaves here alive.’

‘You want to know, but it is not your place to know so?’

‘So if you were planning on telling me, I will pass. I do not need to know.’

‘Very well.’

The Captain looked away again, this time staring at the Tescon. Tescon in the Shape-shifter language meant ‘Talker’. He was the man that said what to do. He was the Shape-shifter version of the High Lord. The Shape-shifters followed the Tescon, and the Tescon followed the High Lord.

At the moment that the Captain was watching him, he was talking to one of the other guards. Either Phew or Tok, the Captain didn’t know which one. As Veeli felt eyes on him, he paused in his conversation and looked in the Captain’s direction.

‘As him, if you will,’ the Captain said to Jole, ‘what his part in all this is.’

‘What his part in all this is?’ repeated Jole, a questioning look on his face.

‘Your Tescon will understand,’ the Captain replied.

Jole bowed, and headed over to Veeli. At that moment, unwanted because it disturbed things, Ravenwood, followed closely by the wizards and the witch, joined the Captain’s side.

‘Our other quests will arrive later,’ Ravenwood informared the man. ‘But for now we will have these to entertain,’ he waved a thing arm around to indicate who he meant.

‘Captain, I see you have already met the ‘Shifters, so may I introduce Lady Gezila, Supreme Wizard Hercules and Sub Wizard Jeremy.’

At the mention of their names, Lady Gezila bowed, Supreme Wizard Hercules shook the Captain’s hand, and Jeremy bowed. After the introductions they sat down upon seats that had appeared on the platform and Fion appeared and poured drinks.

‘Now, Captain, if you will, I head you have some questions for us,’ Supreme Wizard Hercules began. His voice was deep, and thickly accented. You could drown in his voice, and it would not be pleasant.

‘Yes,’ the Captain replied, idly fingering the stem of his glass as he looked around the group. He noticed that Lady Gezila had already finished her drink and was being topped up by Fion. Jeremy was sniffing his suspiciously, and Tescon had declined anything. His guards stood in a row behind him, hands behind their backs ready to attack if things moved in an unexpected direction.

‘What are they?’

The Captain looked around for the unfamiliar voice that filled his ears, and his sight landed on that of Lady Gezila.

‘Pardon?’ he asked, confused.

‘What do you wish to know?’

‘Ah,’ the Captain nodded, smiled, and placed his glass down on the table. ‘Why do you wish this done? Why do you wish the death of the High Lord and want me to do it?’

‘For the first question, I’ll answer,’ it was Hercules. He cleared his throat. ‘The High Lord demands so much from the people under him, from us, and we do not have what he wants. What he tells us to do is wrong, but what can we do? He tells the people it is right, and because he is who he is no one dares argue with him-‘

‘My Tescon wishes me to say that the High Lord is not the one ruining our world, it is the people he tells what to do that are the problem,’ Jole interrupted suddenly, stepping forward to stand next to the Tescon.

‘But seeing as we cannot rid the world of the people, we must move to the next obvious choice. Remove the one that is in power telling the people what to do. When you remove him we will replace him with someone who will do what is considered correct among the people.’ Jole stopped here as the Tescon whispered something in his ear. Jole nodded and continued. ‘The people will change. If it is for better or for worse we do not really know for it depends on the choice of the ruler we are to pick.’

At the end of this, everyone in the group turned to face the Captain. It was the same old story, peasants unhappy with the rule and so revolt. It was an idea as old as time, and yet that was all that it was. It was an idea, it had never actually taken form into reality. This would change the world as everyone knew it, whether most of them wanted it or not.

‘Okay,’ the Captain said slowly as he formed the words said into order in his head and worked out his reply. ‘That answer why you want this done, but not why you want me to do it.’

Ravenwood spoke up this time. ‘You are the best around. You are capable of doing this.’

‘I am not the best around, don’t fool yourself!’ the Captain replied angrily. ‘If you want someone dead for the good of the people, or for the good of yourselves, then don’t go dragging in one of the people to do it. If you want this done then request the help of someone who is not part of the people. The Bounty Hunters. This is what they were created for.’

‘The Hunters are led by Mar-Goth, who so happens to be on the High Lord’s council. If we bring in a Bounty Hunter for this, Mar-Goth will know and we will all be hunted and killed,’ it was Jeremy who had spoken.’

‘There are still better people out there than me. Why am I the best choice of this?’ the Captain continued to argue. No matter which way he turned, there would be death. Each time it would be his own, either by the hands of those facing him, those that would be sent after him, or by those that he would face when he says yes. He may not be able to choose whether to live or die, but at least he would be able to choose how to die.

‘You are the best because you know the Shadows,’ Ravenwood told him. ‘You fought for them in the beginning. You know where the City of Shade is, which is far more information anyone has ever been able to gather. You are far more likely to get anywhere than others are.’

The Captain sighed. ‘I have not been to the city in well over ten years-‘

‘One hundred, to be exact.’

The Captain stopped in surprise as he looked at Lady Gezila, his mouth half open and mind whirling. A hundred years? It was impossible. He hadn’t been around for that long. Was the war really that long ago? Maybe for some people, but not for him.

‘That is not true,’ the Captain told her. ‘I am not that old.’

‘You are,’ Lady Gezila replied. ‘You are old than you think, than you look, than you belong. For a man, you are lucky, you should not have lived this long and look as you are. And yet you are.’

‘What about all my friends then?’

‘What friends?’ Lady Gezila asked with disdain. ‘You have no friends.’

The Captain shook his head, refusing to believe so. He had friends, his mind went back to them, how he had known them, how he had fought alongside them. He remembered their faces, their conversations; surely it wasn’t that long since he had last visited them?’

‘What happened?’ he asked.

‘You lost your friends when you left the Shadows side and joined the Ravens.’

The Captain glared at her, not for what she said, but for what she omitted. She didn’t mention that he had left and joined the No Ones first. Who was worse, the Shadows, or the People? The Shadows said the No Ones were abominations, and the People were the ones to listen and carry out the sport of killing them. Even with a new ruler, would that change?

‘Say it has been that long since the wars, how do you know?’

‘I have been, unlike you, watching time. It goes faster than ever you would think, and you should be dead. But you are not-‘

‘Which brings us to why you are the perfect choice,’ Hercules interrupted. ‘You have the highest chance of survival.’

The Captain looked at them, and saw that they all believed it. And yet, if they thought he had the highest chance of killing the High Lord, and all the Shadows that might get in the way, what made them think he couldn’t also survive the Hunters sent after him if he refused? Mentally he shook his head, it didn’t make sense.

‘All right, let’s focus on something else for a moment. If I do find the City of Shade, and get in, besides all the things I don’t know about the Shadows, the main thing I don’t know is what they speak. No one knows. You have to be a Shadow to know it, and I tell you that I am not that. We all know I am not one of them.’

How he had ever been able to serve with the Shadows was a mystery. He knew he had done so, he had memories of switching sides, but as the years went on switching sides was all he remembered. He didn’t know what had happened before that time.

‘My Lord Tescon says: You will find what you need, and you will succeed. He is not lacking in faith.’

‘I am not lacking in faith either,’ the Captain replied, ‘that I can survive anything you throw at me if I refuse.’

The group watching him watched his stone faced as they took in his words, realising the fault that had come across them. They had finally noticed that if he could survive the Shadows like they felt he could, they could do nothing to stop him.

‘Are you saying that you won’t do this?’ Hercules asked, breaking the silence.

The Captain smiled and watched them shuffling in their seats. His questions had been answered, the two verbally spoken, and the ones they told him unawares. He knew that if he ever wanted them dead, and providing he survived the Hunters sent after him if he refused, he had the ability to do so. They wanted the High Lord dead, all he had to do was tell someone and that news would quickly pass on to a Shadow. Their threat was useless, and yet, the idea was intriguing.

‘I’ll do it,’ he told them. There were sighs of relief all round. ‘But there are things I want in return for this.’

‘We will give you everything you request,’ said Ravenwood.

‘I’m having that in writing.’

‘It will be so,’ Ravenwood replied with a bow of his head.

After they had all signed the contract of what was to take place, what they were to pay him and where they were to place it, the Captain rolled it up and placed it somewhere safe and bid them all good night. While they hadn’t talked for that long, and it was still morning, he wanted to retire to his room to prepare.

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