“It is complete, Lord Brynn,” the man known as Kerris said unfolding the contract for Magwyer Leon’s life. The blood upon its surface was still warm and small wisps of smoke swirled up from its corners. Kerris turned around in time to see a smile spread across Brynn’s obese face.
For years Kerris had served the Brynn line, as his father before him, and his father before him. He had found it necessary to understand each of Brynn’s mannerisms quickly, if he were to keep the position of the Brynns’ personal attendant in his family line.
“You will carry on this honored privilege by seeing to Hendel Brynn’s every need, as I did for his father,” Kerris’s father had said before retiring after the death of Hendel’s father, Darren Brynn. Of course, Kerris had never found it in his heart to inform his father that Hendel was more than likely the one that slipped the poison that had killed the former lord of the Sethis district of the city of Haven. Kerris’s scruples would have kept him from serving Hendel, except that he had given his word to his father that he would keep the position.
Judging by the vile grin that played across the man’s porcine features, Kerris knew that Brynn was genuinely happy, unlike when he wore the pleasant façade to put an opponent at ease, before he stabbed them in the back.
“This is sure to make our liaison very pleased,” Brynn responded as he smoothed the blonde goatee that bristled upon his double-chin, his voice high and pompous.
“Indeed, my lord. It would seem, considering the assassin’s relationship to Leon, that the compulsion is as powerful as he thought.”
“I want you to compose a letter containing our findings, so that we may inform our patron of this wondrous news. I will look at it in the morning. I simply must be off to bed, so as not to miss out on any of my beauty sleep.”
“Very good, my lord,” Kerris responded as he watched the fat man rise from his throne with a pompous flourish. The candlelight played across the beautiful embroidery of the lord’s silken robes. Kerris shook his head slightly at the notion of beauty sleep.
* * *
I have been here for nearly seven years. Seven years since I became little more than a slave. But even slaves have the ability to defy their masters. I am little more than a prisoner of death, chained to it as a captured thief’s hands are bound just before they are severed. Each life taken is like another lash from a whip. Not that the disgusting little man would ever whip me. If I am bedridden due to injuries sustained, there would be no one to do his bloody work.
No, he has no need for physical abuse to keep me in line. He holds me in servitude by another means, one I have yet to discover. I continue to try to discern it, but with the numerous murders I am driven to commit each week, I’ve had no time for progress.
Dreamer, how I long to rid myself of these invisible shackles. If only the opportunity would present itself.
* * *
Kerris had been reading the contents of the assassin’s “secret” journal ever since its discovery over a year ago. His lordship knew of the journal, yet chose not to read it himself. In his stead, Kerris read the journal. He kept Brynn informed of the general entries, but the specific details, such as the assassin’s knowledge of his compulsion, he kept locked away in the back of his mind. How he had come privy to such information was beyond Kerris.
Aside from the astonishment that came with discovering the assassin’s knowledge, Kerris also found sympathy for him after having read the man’s journal. The assassin spoke of dreamt horrors that rivaled anything Kerris could ever imagine. Every time the assassin relinquished one of the dreams to the pages of the journal, Kerris yearned to free the man. The last entry prior to this one, having described visions of Leon’s death, had nearly thrown Kerris over the edge. Unfortunately, he was unable to retrieve the pen from Lord Brynn’s room, and without it there could be no escape for the assassin.
The night after he read that entry, he dreamt of a man shrouded in shadow and moonlight. The man came to him and told him that the time was not right for the assassin’s escape, and that when it was, he would know. Kerris accepted the dream as only a devotee of the Dreaming God could. He only hoped the time would come soon. He was unsure how much longer he could bear reading of the man’s torment.
* * *
There were too many of them. Too many to pass unnoticed anyways. Grehem’s planning had been meticulous, a perfect work of art. Yet, even perfect works had their own flaws when viewed in full light. Admittedly, the flaw was not one he could have foreseen, yet that did not stem the silent stream of curses he spat at himself.
The manor was currently on full guard for some visitors that would be arriving in secret. At least, that was what he had discerned after having listened in to a few of the guards’ conversations. Still, the job would have to be done that night. The compulsion binding him would not allow him another night. The kill would be easy enough, escape; however, would prove a bit more difficult.
Once the keep was on full alert the wall he had scaled to gain entrance would become inaccessible, even while in shadow form. The lord’s mages would see to that by activating the keeps exterior wards. As a professional, he hated the concept of playing it by ear. He preferred careful and precise planning, but he had waited far too long, vainly hoping to find some way to break the compulsion to kill, as he had done with all of his previous targets. So, if it must be played by ear, he would just have to turn the tune to one of his choosing.
After accepting his predicament, Grehem secreted himself in the dining hall, high up in the shadows of the rafters. It was, of course, a fairly well lit room, so he was lucky he had any shadows to work with. The waiting would leave him on edge, yet he was thankful for every second that passed, as it was one more second that he lived without gaining more blood on his already soiled soul. Nevertheless, all things painful and pleasant must come to an end, and it was with a wrenching of his heart that the double doors opened and in walked his target along with four other people and no less than a dozen soldiers and a single mage.
He took notice of everyone, but the only one that mattered was his target. The man wore cloth robes, green in color and simple in design. He smiled pleasantly at his guests before he sat down and allowed his gaze to take in the amazing feast that awaited them. His was not the smile that hid lies and malice. This was the smile that spoke of true compassion and sincerity. By the Dreamer, how he loathed himself for what he was about to do. Gritting his teeth, the assassin gave into the compulsion. He clenched his hands once more, drew his blade and leapt from the rafters.
* * *
No sooner had Corporal Trent taken up his post outside the dining hall did cries of “Assassin!” ring out from within. Always eager to offer aid to Lord Galon, he turned back around and rushed into the dining hall, ready to protect his lord. How quickly his hopes were dashed as he found his lord lying in a pool of his own blood. Trent was only able to pull his gaze away from his dead lord’s body to the gray robed figure standing over him when the figure threw something into the air, which quickly burst into flames. It was only once the ashes of the burnt object settled on the ground that he realized that his mage captain was shouting for them to circle the assassin and capture him, yet Trent’s body would not respond. The shock of the entire incident left him unable to act. He watched in slow motion as his comrades moved into position and began to tighten their human snare upon the figure. It all moved achingly slow, until the figure responded. It was the assassin’s actions that brought Trent back to the correct time flow and the harsh reality of the events that begun to unfold.
The assassin leapt upon the table and hurled his body over the mage captain, twisting as he flew, and dodged a spell the mage had cast his way. It splattered against the wall in a sticky mess. From his vantage point, all Trent could see was a blade ripping through the wizard’s chest as the assassin landed behind him. Flecks of blood flew across the room and splattered into Trent’s eyes. Natural reaction forced his hands up to clear his eyes. His vision was restored just in time to watch two soldiers drop dead to the ground. One of the soldiers standing closest to Trent flicked his eyes over to him.
“Trent, move your-”, his words were cut off by a blade in his throat.
The assassin, no longer blocked from the door, turned his back on the remaining guards, and the guests, whom Trent scarcely observed cowering against the far wall, and fled through the double doors. As the assassin dashed past Trent, they locked gazes, and Trent was surprised by what he found in the assassin’s eyes. Where he expected malice, greed or even hate, he found only deep sorrow and grief.
“After him!” one of the other soldiers yelled as he sprinted towards the doors. “What the hell is wrong with you?” the soldier shot at Trent as he pushed him out of the way.
Trent collapsed to the ground in a heap. He began to rise as the rest of the soldiers barreled through the door. He only made it about halfway back up, before noticing Lord Galon’s body again. He collapsed to the ground once more and wept, every ounce of his strength sapped by that one fleeting image.