Assassin

An assassin pays the price for his past.

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1. Short Story - The Assassin

The oak doors crashed open revealing two broad, well armoured guardsmen who, between them, were dragging a filthy, grimy looking and putrid smelling peasant. As I lurked within the shadows of the splendiferous Monarch’s hall, I could hear the man, who fashioned a black bushy beard, grunt and groan. He had obviously been beaten badly. Blood trickled down the side of his face. He did not seem to care. It was as if he had become accustomed to the sight of his own blood. He was thrown down at the foot of the throne and managed to scrabble to his knees despite it being extremely painful for him to do so.

I drifted forward, using the dancing darkness at the fringes of the hall to my advantage. I needed to reach an auspicious vantage point and found the door leading to the above balconies.  I slipped out silently, and padded up the flagstone stairs.

To my surprise, the first balcony was vacant and I snuck in. The balcony was an opulent one, crafted with marble stone, decorated with valuable and eloquent furnishings. It was a cosy, enclosed spot and it was perfect for my task. I waited.

After a long wait, whilst having to endure the stomach wrenching sounds coming from the filthy man, King Vestyr finally emerged from one of the large side doors. The disgruntled expression etched across his face and his uncombed white beard told of how he had been rushed and acquiesced to this hearing. His amethyst coloured robe drooped off of his ageing body whilst the heavy weight of his crown looked to have forced the stoop he had acquired. I would wait until he sat.

“I have many matters to attend to, so this will be quick!” The King’s voice boomed out over the hall. A small scrawny man had emerged holding a single piece of parchment in his quivering hand.                                                                                                   “This man was caught late yesterday evening, within the keep’s library. He had not been permitted and his means of ingress was through a side window, which we found shattered. We know naught of his intentions and despite our best efforts to draw them from him he has remained silent.” A small part of me pitied the man kneeling in front of the King. Once my deed was complete, almost certainly he would be accused. I tossed the inclination to rescue this man aside and knew by the look on his face he had already resigned to what fate awaited him.

Being sure that I still concealed myself within the darkness of the balcony, I drew the bow from my hip and notched an arrow into place. I pulled back the string of the willow bow until the tautness threatened to snap it in two. I released. 

The arrow whistled through the great hall and struck its target. The King slumped to the ground as the smell of blood filled the nostrils of the hysterical onlookers. My duty fulfilled, I swiftly departed.

As I returned to the townhouse and pushed into the hallway, a lavender scented smoke drifted through the house and out through the unlatched bay windows. I loosened the leather belt which tightly curled around my waist and entered through into the study, where I found Fiazo buried behind a plethora of books and parchment.

He carefully removed his opticals, placing them on Volume one of “Dr. Montez’s studies of mountain avifauna”. I never comprehended his affection for winged vertebrate, I couldn’t fathom how one could spend hours, even days, studying such a prosaic topic, yet I never dared question him out loud.

“Aah, Alfaro, you have returned! I presume your…task, went as planned?” I nodded in response.                                             “Good. Well done boy, your part in this is over. You have done well.” Fiazo hauled himself from the cushioned armchair he was resting in, all the while bobbing his head in joy with my days work. He sauntered from behind the mountain of paper to the large, padded chest which lay at the opposite end of the room. As he fiddled with the lock he beckoned me over with a wave of his hand. As I reached his side he won his quarrel with the fastening on the chest and thrust it open revealing a cornucopia of gold, silver and bronze coins. Different currencies from each realm across the Kingdom. A velvet pouch nestled in the corner, and within was the reward for my task.                                                                                                                                                                       “Pleasure doing business with you once more Alfaro. They will lockdown the city you know. All main gates and passages will be barred, there is a postern gate to the east of the city, just past Trill’s Inn that lacks a lock of any kind. It will be unguarded on your arrival, simply push it open and you are free to leave. Remember and shut the gate at your back. Suspicion will escalate and neither of us wish that.” He reluctantly dropped the small sack of coins into my hand and headed back to his chair.

I nodded in his direction as I made an exit for the hall and then removed myself completely, finding myself back in the thoroughfare of civilians hurrying to and fro, to this job and that. Nobody seemed to notice the events which had occurred only an hour before. Commonfolk dashed around at their masters’ command while tradesman promoted their trade at the top of their voices.

There was however, an increasingly large military presence. Every third man I edged past in the bustling city streets wore the King’s colours, a purple and red cloak accompanied with black tinted armour. I tried to remain as ordinary as possible and appeared to have succeeded as I was completely disregarded in my typical garb. I knew the monumental golden bell that sat atop the King’s Knoll, neighbouring the immensely towering Mocharch’s Hall, would begin to sound, signifying the end of a reign. I wanted to escape the hysterical panic of the peasantry that would follow and made my way to the postern gate Fiazo described.

After working through the maze of streets and alleyways, with the surrounding scenery becoming ever more decadent as I progressed, I eventually reached the exit articulated to me by Fiazo. Trill’s Inn sat decadent and decaying to my left reassuring myself that this was indeed the correct gate. As Fiazo had said, no guards lingered, which I did find odd. As the two blood moons began to creep onto the horizon and with the light fading, I strode over and up the small steps leading to the postern gate. The sturdy looking wooden door was already slightly ajar and I boldly thrust it open to which I found a man. He was dressed all in black and his dark hood enshrouded his face. He looked up from the ground.                                                                                               “I have been expecting you Alfaro”. A swirling realm of pain and darkness followed as I collapsed to the ground.

He groggily awoke and found himself sitting at the head of a teak Banquet table. He gazed down the stretch of the table discovering two rows of people. The rows lasted for as far as his eye could see, it was an endless rank of people both male and female who were all dressed in dark, formal attire. He tried to rise out of his seat but leather straps fastened him in place. Bewilderment grew inside the assassin and as he looked back at the person sitting to his left, he saw an aged man wearing a golden crown. The old man turned his head towards him, in a slow, haunting manner. His icy glare was fixed to the eyes of the assassin. Terror engulfed Alfaro as he realised who this man was.                                                                                                                                          “King Vestyr?” timidly enquired the assassin. The man acknowledged the question with a faint smile and just as he did, a droplet of blood eased its way out of his right eye and ran down his cheek. Alfaro drew his glare away from the image. He looked around. The same was happening to all of the other banqueters. Then he knew as he studied the faces. These men and women sitting here at the table were his victims. People he had killed for gold. He looked back to his immediate left. Skin dissipated from Vestyr’s face, leaving the white skull in its place. The assassin was writhing hysterically in his seat trying to escape the constraints that tied him down. The skull of Vestyr cocked its head to the side and let out a wry, haunting smile that reduced the assassin to tears.                 “Alfaro” he whispered. “You have sinned. Repentance shall not liberate you.” He swept his hand in a horizontal fashion, as he looked along the row, of what had now become skulls.                                                                                                                       “Suffer as we have suffered”.

The chimerical scene vanished.

I stood back in Monarch’s hall, however this time I stood on a ledge above, looking down at the floor below. Confusion engulfed me, I did not remember how I had even reached this position. The oak doors crashed open revealing two broad and well armoured guardsmen who, between them, were dragging a filthy, grimy and putrid smelling peasant. I had seen this before. I had been here barely two hours ago, experiencing this exact scene. I looked down at the people bustling below and squinted my eyes as I searched for the hiding position I had used. I saw myself dancing through the shadows to reach the balcony which now sat opposite me. I watched myself climb the steps and sneak into the first balcony. How was this possible? How could I be watching myself? I waved over at myself as he drew the bow to carry out the assassination but I did not seem to notice. I shouted but nobody heard me. I tried to move but I was fixed to the spot. It was as if I was encased in a glass box, looking down on events as they unravelled. I could see them, but they could not see me. I could hear them but they could not hear me. The arrow whistled through the air and hit its target. I closed my eyes wishing that I could wake up from this nightmare.

I opened my eyes. The oak doors crashed open revealing two broad and well armoured guardsmen who, between them, were dragging a filthy, grimy and putrid smelling peasant. It was happening again. I saw myself once more, dancing through the shadows. I was trapped, condemned to eternally witness my final assassination. I averted my eyes from the ordeal.

I wished to die. I looked up. The oak doors crashed open revealing two broad and well armoured guardsmen who, between them, were dragging a filthy, grimy and putrid smelling peasant.

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