Throught the Night

A world on the edge of war. A boy who hosts a dormant evil on the brink of being unleashed. A tortured woman with a dark past. An ex-prisoner with an infinite stash of secrets. A blind assassin who knows nothing but bloodshed and darkness. All of these come together in an unlikely band to join the rebellion against the forces of hell itself. But when the skeletons in their closets come out to play, who will find themselves on heaven's side, and who will burn?

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3. No More Running

Jasper saw the pair rushing through the morning crowd, the woman looking constantly over her shoulder, the boy staring at the ground. They stuck out in a town like this. The woman was obviously part Taiyougo. The boy looked slightly different. He had dark skin and even darker hair. But in a small town in rural Anglesia, they looked reasonably exotic. The most common aesthetic in Anglesia was light brown hair, pale skin, and dark eyes. This meant that Jasper, a fair haired Normann with blue eyes, also stood out. But then again, the small town of Fisherman's Haven was fairly accustomed to all kinds of people, being a stop on the way to Finshav.

Jasper tailed the pair expertly. He had had the best training available. He would wait until they were out of the townspeoples' sight, and then he would pounce. It was a race. He knew that there were more than him coming for the boy. There could be assassins in the town right now. He had already had to kill several of them on his way to the village. Surely, there were more lurking around. And there was one particular assassin who would be tough for Jasper to defeat. He had to reach the woman and boy first and get them to safety. If that meant kidnapping them to do it, then so be it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

King Arkuros lounged passively on his throne. "Kill her," he said in a bored voice. The woman kneeling bound before him screamed and begged.

"Please, your highness. Have mercy. I have children." She cried. Arkuros waved a hand and the woman was taken away by the guards.

"You just can't get good help these days," he said to his son, who was standing directly to his right.

"No sir," said Kethan with a grin. "She was one of my favorite servants to play with, though."

"Shut up, no one wants to hear about your sick experiments, Kethan." This came from the princess, to the king's left. "What are we here for, my lord, if you don't mind me asking?" The princess was dignified in a way that permitted her to pose direct questions to the king without being punished.

"You'll find out soon enough. Where is your other brother?" The siblings glanced at each other. Neither wanted to answer.

"My lord, you know Raven... He doesn't seem to put much weight on the current situation," his daughter replied nervously. The king was prone to getting angry easily, especially when it came to his rebellious, youngest child.

"Don't tell me that he was with that slut again." Arkuros stood abruptly. "I don't need him to be wasting his time on alcohol and women. We're about to be at war. I need all three of you to be in top shape to play your parts. Why does he insist on wasting his time when we need him here?" His voice rose. "Slave!"

A man came scurrying in from some hidden corner. "My lord."

"Get my son. Tell him that I have a mission for him."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anira laughed breathlessly when Raven grabbed her firmly around the waist. He grinned and pulled her in for a kiss.

It was a chilly evening. Summer was still hesitant, and the frost was stubbornly clinging to the grass in the Ulmorta Manor's courtyard. Anira and the prince were sitting on a stone bench in between rows of hedges which had enchantments placed upon them so that they would never loose their verdant luster, even in the heart of winter. They were probably still green from last year's sun. Raven wouldn't know.

"I hardly see any of you these days. What is it that your father is planning?" Anira inquired, a pout on her lips. She tugged at Ravens blindfold gently and gave him another kiss, biting his lip playfully.

The prince didn't answer at first. His father wasn't exactly an open man, and didn't disclose much information even with his three children. But Raven had overheard enough from his meetings with the war council and army generals to know that his father was planning for something big. That, and the fact that Raven had been training so much in the past few weeks. He had had missions here and there, but they had been small, boring jobs. He didn't know how all of his targets had lined up, but he trusted his father.

"I'm not sure," he finally answered. "But I guess the rebellion has been cooking something up. I've had more jobs than normal lately.” She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and leaned into him, her warmth spreading through his body.

"I have been waiting so long to get out in the field. I want to show my father's old friends that his daughter has followed in his footsteps. But, sometimes I wonder if he would be disappointed in me because I decided to be a spellcaster instead of a soldier or assassin."

"Of course he wouldn't be," Raven held her tighter. Of course, he would never let her find out that he had been the one to slit her father's throat. The prince had always followed his father's orders when it came to jobs. Even if it meant killing people he knew. "Every young spellcaster in Sahelleve wants to be you. You're one of the most promising spell casters in the program. Its only a matter of time before Kethan asks you to join the Caer Vexekci."

"You really think so?" she grinned broadly and drew even closer.

 He cupped her face in his hands. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He let his hands glide over her body. He gently unfastened the buttons on the back of her dress.

"Are you ever going to come up for air?" A wry voice startled them both. It was Anira's mother.

"Mother! I- um..." Anira began, smoothing out her dress self-consciously. Raven sighed irritably. He hated it when his girlfriends had mothers. It was always a problem.

"Can I not walk in the privacy of my own garden in peace? Or must I constantly find this appalling sight?" Raven assumed she was pointing at him. "With all the time you two have spent together, I'm surprised to find that I'm not expecting a grandchild by now."

"I thought you were out of the house, mother. Give us a break." Anira whined. "If you want, we can stay inside."

"Oh, spare me, Anira." She spat. "I don't care what you do. Just take care not to get anything on the furniture. It cost a fortune."

Suddenly, the sound of hastily approaching footsteps was heard throughout the garden. An out-of-breath servant came running around the corner.

"My lord," he bowed hastily to Raven. "The king requests your presence as soon as possible."

"Great," Raven sighed in annoyance. He stood. "How mad is he this time?"

"You wouldn't like the answer, my lord," the servant bowed once more and then disappeared the way he had come. Raven gave Anira one last kiss.

"I'll see you later." And then he was gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kimiko and Hachi had been traveling for hours. The sun was high in the sky. They had passed Finhav in the early morning and had stopped briefly to buy some food, but had been on the road most of the day. It was a couple week's journey to reach the other side of Anglesia. Then they would take a boat to Gallica. That's when the real journey would begin. Taiyou was on the otherside of the map. It would take weeks to reach, but Kimiko thought it was time to leave the current country far behind. They had stayed there way too long. It had been a stupid decision to stay in Anglesia anyway. Kimiko had too many people who wanted to find her there.

"When are you going to tell me?" Hachi's serious voice broke through Kimiko's worried thoughts.

"Tell you what?" Kimiko surveyed the fields to either side of the wide, stoney road. She periodically scanned the horizon in every direction to see if they were being followed.

"You know what." He sounded angry now. Kimiko let out a long breath.

"We've been over this before. I've told you what I can. Your parents were wanted people. And now so are you." She had purposely avoided revealing more information to Hachi for many years for a couple of reasons. One being that she didn't like to talk about it. She didn't even like to think about the past. She only thought about the next move. What city would be best, what job to take, or where they could get the next meal.

"But you're hiding so much. I deserve to know more. Were my parents criminals? How did they die? You don't tell me anything! And I'm sick of it. I'm sick of moving around, pretending to be your younger brother, and not knowing anything about who I am." Hachi kicked a stone in frustration.

"Criminals," Kimiko repeated quietly. "It depends on who you ask. To some, they were criminals. But to most, they were heroes."

Hachi was silent as he digested this. "What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Everything. Where you part of the rebellion or what?"

"We're not going there, Hachi. Maybe one day, but not now." Kimiko deliberately stared onward without saying another word.

"You're just a coward. You're too afraid to face the past." Hachi stopped walking. "I know something terrible must have happened, and that you probably suffer from it every day. But it was my past too, and you're a coward for not facing me and telling me."

Kimiko stopped and whirled to face him, anger rising up in her. "Listen here-" she started, but was cut off when something caught her eye behind Hachi. The grass in the ditch on the side of the road moved slightly, and then with the terrifying fluidity of a Zarésian assassin, stood a man. A Hunter. Kimiko screamed.

Suddenly, they were surrounded by assassins. All of them were clad in camouflage to match the brown/green grass of the fields. There were four of them. Many a more capable person than Kimiko had been defeated by just one. She had no hope. Hachi faced them with all the brave naivety of a fourteen-year-old boy.

"What do you want from us?" He shouted, his voice shaking. The assassins didn't seem to be in any kind of hurry. They knew that this was an easy fight. In fact, they were probably bored. 

Just then, a fifth figure rose out of the grassy hillside several meters away.

What happened next happened so fast that it was hard for Kimiko to follow. The fifth figure drew a bow, and then suddenly, two of the assassins were down. The last two split up, moving faster than should have been possible. One came towards Kimiko and Hachi, and the other towards the mysterious stranger.

The sun glinted sharply off of the razor sharp blade that was swung towards Kimiko's neck. She closed her eyes, but the cold metal never touched her skin. She opened her eyes to see that the assassin had dropped his sword, and was staring down in shock at the blade protruding through his torso. Then he dropped to the ground, and all was silent. The stranger pulled his black out of the assassin's body and sheathed it before taking off the heavy camouflage. 

"Of course," Kimiko said sarcastically. "Kimiko, you idiot." It was the man from the tavern. His bright eyes were set on Hachi.

"There will be more of them. We need to get to the resistance." He spoke in Taiyougo, and Kimiko caught the slight accent.

"Absolutely not." Kimiko shook her head. "Look, I'm glad you helped us, but we won't be safe with the resistance. We have to lie low."

"Are you an idiot?" The man asked sharply. Kimiko squared her shoulders and looked him directly in the eye.

"Are you an idiot? First of all, we don't know the first place to look. Do you just have a magical map to their hideout?"

The man's eyebrows knotted in consternation, and he didn't answer.

"That's what I thought. And secondly, what makes you think they would help us? It's not like they're known for being hospitable. What I see more likely to happen is that they murder him," she gestured to a bewildered Hachi. "He's a weapon. They would sooner see him destroyed or used before they would protect him."

"Fine." The man grumbled. "In any case, you're staying with me until we figure out what to do."

"How do we know we can trust you?" Kimiko asked. The man looked pointedly down at the dead bodies.

"Well," he said casually as he knelt to search the nearest corpse. "I guess you can't be sure, but I mean..." he trailed off and gestured around him. Kimiko sighed and relented by not resisting further.

"Good." The man said, standing. "The name is Jasper."


 


 


 

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