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The Dagger, Part II – Of the Sword

March 23, 2013

Blood fell into the water.

It was carried downstream by the powerful currents, flowing, disappearing into the white-water as it mixed. It poured from the wounds like water from a ewer. Fingers pressed forcefully around the dagger’s hilt, he moved forward gingerly, his hands and knees in the water, his body mottled with wounds over his back and torso. His left arm hung limp at his side as he tried to propel himself along the river, only for every single movement to feel as if lightning was striking his joints.

Every cut and bruise was a reminder of this night. He had never been so foolish in his life, and yet somehow, he had allowed himself to walk into a trap. He cried out as he hit the water.

There was a copper taste to the blood in his mouth. Nostalgic emotions of a time when he was but a simple learner in the art of assassination came flooding back to his mind. The smells assaulted his olfactory senses, like his life was flashing before his very eyes. Every breath he took was like a knife in his lungs. Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself along the rushing water to the nearby rocks, reaching his hand out and feeling the cold, wet stone as he tried to heave his body over the wetlands.

Oddly, the jagged rock was comforting. He rested against it, turning sideways to look up at the rising sun over the horizon. The skies were a hue of orange and yellow light, spread over hundreds of miles. Below, at the bottom of the ravine, he could see the small town of Faircross. Lanterns were switching off as the sunlight hit the meadows, and the farmyards. They were just waking up. He wondered if they knew what had just happened in their small hamlet. Blood had spilled on their land too, and in their homes.

Bayn had no guilt as he lay against the landscape, his head pressed to the cold stone. The skies above were darkening, even as the sunlight spilled across the world. He shivered, even as the warmth touched his body. He had lost too much blood. He knew what was coming. He had seen death in its many guises before, and he could feel the light fading from his own eyes.

He grimaced as his lungs burned. His back arched, he started to turn on his back, and gave the sunrise one final look, memories of that cold betrayal fresh in his mind. He knew he would never see the faces of those who deceived him, and sent him to his doom, but he would forever remember their names.

Galinor, Imen, Wulf Anders, Gyndry Verne, Brona Easter, Naste Bana, Lurkil and Argond Sunhill. Names he would never forget ever again, even in death, as it came to claim him. As his blood ran cold, mixing with the water of the stream, he closed his eyes and waited for the end. It would be good to see the faces of those who had been lost in service to the guild.

But it was a bittersweet passing.

As he closed his eyes, the night replayed over in his head.

 

The walls came alive. Figures stepped out of the darkness, shrouded in some sort of cloud, invisible to the naked eye till Bayn saw the first swing of the sword. Instinct kicked in, and he lifted his dagger up, the clang of metal striking metal. It sent sparks through the air, and as he parried, a second figure came to his side, blade directed at his side. He moved with grace, dancing around the arc of the sword, and threw a hard punch at his attacker. The man went down with a crunch, but Bayn had little time to celebrate his victory.

He was surrounded by agents of death, men and women whose faces were hidden in the darkness of the chamber. The figure on the bed had not yet moved, but Bayn had little time to appreciate his surroundings. They were striking at him before he could drink them in, and throwing his arms up, the gauntlets of his shadow-armour deflecting each smack. Now they were coming fast and strong, and he was forced to go back to his training. He pictured every attacker, their weapons coming down to meet him, their eyes, and their lips, the way they curled when they were bringing their death down on him. Bayn was good, but he was losing ground.

There was barely room for him to move in this small chamber, but he fought good, and hard. When they pushed, he pushed back. It was what he was waiting for all his life. Sooner or later, he would come up against an enemy that was harder to beat, and all of his training and life experiences culminated in this moment, right here.

Even then, the challenge was great.

They shoved at him, he shoved back. His arms ached, but he was giving just as much fight back to them. He used the room as a weapon, slamming heads into cupboards, into the walls, and smashing urns and bowls over their heads. He kicked out, shoving them over the bed and chairs, breaking those chairs over the back of others as they fought back. He was ushered into the living room where there more waiting for him. Their blades at the ready, Bayn brought out his own short-sword, and parried, defended, and swung in attack. He caught one of them across the face, blood seeping from a cheek wound as the young guard hit the floor.

It only spurred them on more. Attack after attack weakened his resolve even more, and Bayn found himself backed into a corner, near where the fireplace still burned with the embers of a warming fire.

The first one struck; quickly Bayn sidestepped and brought the blade down to meet the shoulder. It entered the guard’s body with ease, slicing through skin and bone. He cried out, but had little time to feel pain as Bayn swept it through his shoulder to the neck, taking a chunk of his throat with it as the blade came free. Blood sprayed his uniform, and the body dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Two came forward in anger, but it was their own undoing, their bodies falling to the ground as Bayn held his short-sword and dagger forward, urging the others to make their move. Three down, but he didn’t count how many others had attacked him.

The room became a cacophony of dance moves as he battled one after another, their blades meeting, but each time, the guards showing their amateurism against his prowess. He was a trained killer. In a heartbeat, he could destroy them all, but he was beginning to weaken, his legs and arms aching from the long night.

One of them managed to get a hit. Blood dripped down his arm, where the skin had split the muscle was ripped. The attacker was soon on the floor, blood gushing from the side of his neck, but Bayn had very little chance to admire his work. There were few left, but they were faster, younger and stronger, each hit knocking the muscles in his arms and legs. He took more hits, blood oozing from the wounds, but he wasn’t done yet. When they were finally down, he took a moment to admire his work, and headed for the door of the house. As his hand reached out, he could hear the sound of voices outside.

More guards were coming. Quickly, he stepped over the bodies and returned to the bedroom. Those that were still alive were groaning as they held their wounds. Moving to a window at the back of the room, Bayn saw the rear escape was untroubled, just the woodlands of the surrounding ward his enemy.

Something clicked in his mind. Bayn was a keen observer, and noticed things around him. It was his job to see everything as a shadow assassin. He had to know where people were placed, if there were obstacles in his way, and every object in the room. It was how he worked, how he was trained. He was supposed to remember everything, but it took him extra long to realise there was something different about the bed.

It was flatter than he remembered.

He spun around, but the blade was already inside him by the time he raised his arm to defend. A long, thin Katana, the blade moved all the way through his body and out the back. The cold steel touched his insides, and he felt a shiver throughout. He looked up at his attacker. A woman, she held the hilt tightly in her hands, her eyes on his. Brona Easter. She was a sister of the night, like he was a brother. Now, she was his doom. The blade held inside him for a bit longer, before she started to twist. Bayn could taste the blood in his mouth, but he never looked away from her once. Cocking her head to the side, she smiled, just a little, and then yanked the sword from him, holding it back. The blood dripped off the blade and onto her armour, like crimson cherry.

He stumbled a little, but Bayn still had his senses. When she didn’t attack straight away, he realised she wasn’t alone. Behind her, two figures had emerged from the cupboards. Their forms silhouetted against the darkness, they stepped in close enough for him to see their faces.

As she was a sister of the night, they were brothers.

He had been betrayed.

The next few moments seemed to pass by as if they were a dream. Bayn felt like his body was being lifted towards the heavens, and each strike was but a stroke of Sky God’s hands. He felt cold, hard metal pushing into his body, punches to the face and ribs. He was beaten so hard by hammers and maces he felt as if he was going to explode. By the time they were done, he was in the garden behind the house, blood dripping from his own lips. His blade still in hand, he fought back, but was quickly subdued and thrown onto his back. Blood was weeping from every wound.

He looked up and saw them all around him. He had little chance now. His own brothers and sisters had betrayed him, but he had to know this day was going to come. This was how the Dagger’s Guild operated. He wondered who could have put the hit out on him, or if a hit was put out at all. He asked himself over and over in his mind, and knew he had too many enemies to count.

The Sky God’s themselves could have ordered the hit on his life.

The killing blow was to come. Large and proud, the Orcish warrior Lurkil stood over him with her war hammer in hand, but there was no glee in her eyes. Just sadness set in her eyes as she held the weapon over her shoulder and sniffed. “Is this to be it, then?” he asked her. “You will be my doom bringer?”

She frowned at him. “What did you expect would happen, Bayn? You have become far greater than the sum of the Dagger’s Guild. They couldn’t allow you to rise any further than the heavens would allow, my brother.”

“Brother and sister no more,” Bayn spoke, spitting out blood. “Do it, and know that I go to my resting place as a warrior.”

Lurkil hesitated for a moment, and then nodded her head. “This is my kill alone,” she said to the others. None of them argued. They were gone from her side in a few seconds, and left with them a silence that seemed deafening for Bayn, as he lay on the ground and waited for that kill. “You have been one of the best shadows, brother. Know that I do this will a sad heart, not because I want to, but because it is the will of the Shadow Lord himself.”

Bayn closed his eyes. “And may he come to a bloody and violent death himself.”

“Indeed.” The Orc waited no more, lifting the hammer higher and then chanting a prayer under breath.

The next thing that happened perplexed Bayn. It started with the sound of a thunderous roar in the skies, and was followed by a flash of light that turned night into day. All around them the ground shook, and Lurkil was thrown backwards by the sheer weight of the hammer. For a moment, Bayn froze. It was as if the world had given him a second chance. He could barely move, but he climbed to his feet, and threw himself forward, nearly slipping on the wetness of the mud. Above, the clouds opened up like a shout from the Sky Gods, rattling the inside of his skull as he ran for the rising hillside.

Lurkil didn’t have time to react. She was on the floor, trying to ascertain what was happening. He didn’t look back. Bayn just kept running and running.

 

He opened his eyes. He was still resting against the rock. Memories of the night plagued him, as the skies lit up with the illumination of the sun. He was close to it now, and could feel the last of his own light becoming dark. His heartbeat slow, the blood pumping through his veins merely a reminder he was once alive.

He couldn’t keep his eyes open. His stomach growled and his throat burned with the taste of his metallic blood. Turning his head, he stared at the sunrise one last time, at least knowing his final minutes were in the company of the Sun God. Still, as he lifted his hand to guard his eyes against the powerful rays seeping through the early morning clouds, he noticed he was still holding the dagger in his hand. Blood covered the blade, his fingers unable to unfurl from the hilt.

A smile formed on his lips.

He was forever a Shadow Brother. Forever an assassin.

Forever.

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3 Comments
  1. alrightyjen permalink

    Beautifully written. You’ve always had a way with words & this story only proves you can write. And you do it really well.

  2. A fitting end, Daz! Great work. Loved it!

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