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The Assassin and the Afterlife


Agony. Sam didn't even bother to shied away from the burning dagger as Farran fervorly marred his face. Suffering. That was all he felt as soon the knife came in contact with his skin. Pain.

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Chapter 1

Sam Cortland knew that the moment he refused the help of the Adarlan's Greatest Assassin that he was on his own; he also knew that if things were to go downhill from here there would be no one he could rely on to offer him help. Not even from Celaena Sardothien, whom he was sure was still back at the warehouse packing their meager belongings, removing any trace that it has once been occupied. Not that he needed her help in dispatching the second-in-command, Rourke Farran, of the organized crime in Rifthold - he was, after all, the second best after her.

The assassin leaned against parapet of the manor down the street, his eyes in constant alert at the white, nondescript, house on the opposite side of the street, granting him an unobstructed bird's eye view of the minute cracks and the trailing vines that crept up from the otherwise well kept façade, trimmed carefully as to deter anyone from climbing it. He didn't hesitate about the fact that if a black carriage carrying his target were to pass though the cobbled stone street in front of the house, he would the first one to know about it.

The first one to act accordingly.

Sam notched an arrow testing the tautness of his bow string, checking to see if he could make a clean shot through this distance. He could.

Four shots.

That was all he needed. One shot each to incapacitate the carriage driver and the footman, one for Farran and another clean shot just to make sure he's dead - through the head preferably. After he had dealt with him, that only leaves Iowan Jayne, the real person behind the syndicate, then Celaena and he could finally head to the southern continent and get that fresh start that they have so long wanted. Just the mere thought of her made him immediately want to dispose of Farran quickly. Sam ran a hand through his thick brown hair, a tick whenever he's excited, he could feel the adrenaline coursing though his veins, had to even resist the sudden urge to shift plans and wait for Farran at the Vault, the tavern on the other side of Rifthold where Rourke keeps all of his "latest acquisitions". All he needed to do was let loose an arrow that would lodge itself into his target's trachea, hindering the passage of the airway. He would be close enough to see the life slowly eke out of the second in command's eyes.

He was about to get up when he heard the clopping of hooves in the distance bringing with them the memory of screams that emanated from the Vault, the people Farran had tortured. Sam had never felt this alive moments before killing his target, and his nerves were burning with excitement as he pulled back the bowstring. A half smile slipped onto his face; Rourke Farran was about to get what he deserved.

Several things happened all at once. As the carriage approached his view, Sam released the arrow which immediately found its way in the driver's calf - just as he had aimed - the horse reared on its two hind feet sensing the ambush, setting the entire carriage skidding to a full stop, and toppling the driver into the street. The horse, Sam had noticed, that was ill trained, else it would have plowed ahead stopping for nothing.

A dark haired footman, easily twice the size of Sam, disembarked from the wreckage the rapier on his waist already drawn, his eyes searching the alleys, anticipating where the attack might have come from. Celaena and Sam had carefully planned out their attempt on Farran under the shadow of the new moon, and it was because of it that the arrow the assassin just fired was nearly invisible as it embedded itself at the small chink in the armor where the two plates met - directly above the lungs. A dull thump was the only indication that life have finally left the footman.

Every moment was culminating into the endgame they had planned for Farran. "This is all too easy," Sam muttered, a smirk forming on his face. All he had to do now was to wait for crime lord to step out and he would be on his way back to Celaena. They would be one step closer to getting out of Rifthold, and the sooner that they could no longer feel Arobynn breathing behind their necks the better.

Sam counted down the minutes until Farran would deign to leave the carriage, counted down the minutes until he could finally get this mission over and done with.

Five minutes.



A muscle twitched in his jaw; Farran should have left his carriage by now. Unless -

Sam barely had time to process the implication that Farran might have received a tip about tonight before an arrow penetrated his suit and exited just bellow his right collar bone.

A trap!

Sam clutched his shoulder, wincing from the pain, a dozen thoughts racing through his head; he was lucky that the arrow passed cleanly through his shoulder. The assassin doubted he would have sufficient time if he were to snap the shaft that remained in his shoulders just as another just another arrow whistled through the air where his head had just been a few seconds ago. It must have been shot from a close distance for it to have passed though so cleanly. Fifty meters away, maybe less. Either way, someone must have tipped Farran. And either way, a shot made from that distance, Sam shouldn't have had a hard time spotting him. Unless he also used the absence of the moon for cover. Whoever these people were, these were not the typical ones that the assassins at the keep were used to handling.

He needed to warn Celaena, because if they knew about tonight, then they definitely knew where she was right now, and if they do, then -


He wouldn't let himself think that. Celaena was more capable at fighting than him, but even so, he wouldn't dare forgive the crime lord's second-in-command if they hurt her, and he would make sure that whomever touches her would die a slow and painful death.

Three more streets

Sam leapt from the roof. A fall this high could easily kill a normal person, but he was an assassin, he has leapt from places far higher than this one. He kept his arms tucked beside him, making sure that he land on the balls of his feet as he hit the ground and rolled, dissipating the momentum of the impact, the gaping hole on his shoulder screaming in pain. He would definitely need Celaena to inspect it later.


Sam could already feel his muscles burning, winded, as if he had run from Rifthold to the ruins of Orynth and back, but that's impossible. He calculated the distance between Celaena's safe house and to Farran's manor, it shouldn't have been more than a mile, and the King of Assassins had made him run twice that distance, when he was still associated with him, as his training - thrice if he paused for a break along the way.

Sam staggered a bit as he gingerly prodded his wound with his finger, drawing out a bit blood and brought it to his nose. Gloriella. That's why his muscles were starting to strain. It was a poison that they used primarily on subduing missions; a small dose would lead to paralysis, but in a larger scale, it would cause the heart to stop beating, ample time to deprive the human anatomy of oxygen.


He clenched his jaw, willing himself to get to Celaena; he had to. Sam could tell that the poison was already starting to spread towards his arms, he could already feel the growing numbness and his loss of control over them.

This is it; he made it.

A dilapidated warehouse situated in the middle of the slum areas of Rifthold, loomed before the assassin. Sam could see the silhouette of Celaena by the window, still packing. Good, so Farran's tip didn't know the location of their house. Yet. He scrambled up the steps of the warehouse, his lumbering body creating enough noise to alert the people pursuing him, that is if they haven't seen him already entering the warehouse. His hands were already the knob. A single twist of his hand and he would pull her into his arms and say he's alright, that everything would always be alright, and they have all the time in world, but that would lead the men straight towards her, and Sam could already feel the gloriella taking hold on him clouding his vision, tempting him to give in to the inevitable as all people do eventually.

But the image Celaena strapped to chair, bloodied, and being tortured by Farran and nowhere near from breaking made him step back from the door. He would deal with this alone, and hell would he allow Celaena to be entangled in his own shit. He has to get away from Celaena as fast as his body would permit to carry him, and the farther he was, the less chance Farran's men would find her. If it meant that this would be the last time he would see her, even if it was just her shadow, it would all be well worth it. He would have given up everything he owned, even his dying breath if it would culmintate into keeping her from harm's way. Gods, he loves her, and may the Wyrd help him, he is in love with, the stubborn, impulsive, obnoxious, amazing, and beautiful Celaena Sardothien. And if it meant that Farran would find him, then so be it.

So he ran, as far as his body would take him, his shoulders echoing in pain with concordance to his heartbeat. The gloriella is already seeping through his bloodstream. This is bad; with the rate his pulse is going, it would only hasten the circulation of his blood and wouldn't take long before the poison infiltrated every crevice of his being and -

He felt his face slam to the hard cobbled street. It was too late, the gloriella already wrapped its claws though out his entire system until he didn't know it ended and where he began. Its limbs seizing his heart as if taking pleasure in squeezing his life out of him. With the last of his strength he crawled himself to the nearest alley he could find.

Sam could only hope that he had led Farran far enough to have kept Celaena safe. He barely registered the sound of footsteps as it strode though the alley as he finally surrendered to the poison flowing though his veins, that only an hour before contained unbottled excitement, and embraced it as he would a long lost friend - a momentary reprieve from all the pain that he would surely endure.

Blood and pain, these were the first sensations that overpowered Sam Cortland as soon as he awoke to the tricking of water on the side of his head which was cascading down to his bare chest and then disappearing to the hard planes of muscle just beneath his navel. Even in his disoriented state he already knew that his hands were firmly bound behind his back.

The assassin tried to take in his surroundings; the air was damp with the omnipresent humidity that seemed to linger everywhere; clinging to his bare skin; constituting the dankness of the room, and only the muffled, disorganized footsteps that emanated from the rafters above disturbed the thick silence around him. He was suddenly aware of the lingering metallic tang of blood in his mouth, could feel the infinitesimal sensations coming back to his body.

My name is Sam Cortland, and I will not be afraid.

A door creaked open somewhere, letting in with it the chorus of jeers and revelry that wafted from the higher floors, a complete paradox of what lingered under the floorboards beneath.

A tavern.

That greatly limited the plethora possible locations of where he is - Sam could only guess so much. The Vault? If Farran had truly captured him last night then he would have sent him to the only tavern Iowan Jayne controlled. Here.

"It would seem that your body had only taken six hours before it would fully purge the effects of the gloriella." Sam jerked his head towards the deep, drawling voice, as a torch was set into a brazier awashing the entire room with illumination; the sudden outburst of light sent his head throbbing in pain.

He listened to the intervals of the creaking floorboards, gauging the distance between him and the person; he could just barely hear an audible creak echoing after the first one. Two people? The second one making an effort to conceal his presence. Farran, maybe? No, the second-in-command would want his presence to be known, especially if he knows his prey is trapped has nowhere to run. A predator the assassin thought.

"And to think that the second best among the assassins would have put up a rather decent fight when discovered, instead of scurrying in to the shadows like a filthy rat." That second voice. A voice he has known it ever since the day he arrived at the assassin's keep, the very same one that have haunted him and Celaena starting when they paid out their debts. "I would have expected more from you, Sam Cortland, having, after all, overseeing your training."

He must be missing a very important piece of the puzzle. Why would Arobynn want him subdued especially after he had paid all of his debts? More importantly, why would the head of assassins ally himself with the only person who could rival him when it comes to power and influence, the only other piece who would prove to be an impediment in controlling all of Adarlan for that matter? "Why?" Sam croaked, it took all of his conscious effort to remain composed when every fiber of his being wants to lunge at Arobynn, even with the manacles restraining from moving. That only seemed to earn him a smile from Farran, Arobynn on the other hand is the epitome of an impassive face, a skill only acquired from years of experience.

"If your master won't speak, perhaps I could volunteer the information?" Farran glanced towards Arobynn's direction, challenging the latter to say otherwise. A power shift, Sam noted. Where it was in the streets of Rifthold that the master of assassins' word had been law, it was in here and a few other select places that Arobynn had no power, it was evident who would walk out of here alive if things start to go messy. Maybe he could utilize this information later.

"Your master, as shall I put it, does not favor sharing his possessions, more specifically, an assassin that goes by the name of Celaena Sordothien." He hated how easy the words seemed to roll out of his tongue, and if Sam thought that he couldn't loathe Arobynn anymore, he was wrong. Celaena didn't belong to anyone but herself.

"I have already transferred the said amount into your account," the King of the Assassins said, "expect the transaction to be completed before sundown today." Arobynn turned to leave the cellar, the sound of his coat as it sweeped the floor the only indication that he moved, and then as an afterthought he added, "I do assume that you still remember the terms that we have agreed upon, Farran, in exchange for thrice the boy's weight in gold?" he smiled, choosing those specific words knowing it would pique the assassin's interest.

Thrice his weight in gold? But that would only mean that the sum Celaena had paid for his debt, all of it was sent to Farran for the price of his capture. That the very object he used to buy his own freedom was the same thing that took it away from him. Sam could feel his wrists getting raw from struggling against his ropes. Arobynn had planned this the moment that Celaena and he walked out of his office with all of their debts cleared, and both of them were naïve enough to have been played into his game.

"Of course," Farran grinned, his fingers twitching to reveal a long, jagged blade that slid from the sleeves of his coat. Arobynn merely shook his head before the sounds of revelry once again filled the room and dissipated as soon as it had come. "I'll make sure that the boy lives as long as possible." Sam barely registered the deft movement of the crime lord's fingers as he felt a dull pain lacerating on his chest, before the familiar scent of gloriella wafted to his nose.

"It's not as potent as the one I had laced the arrow with if you're wondering." Farran said circling the chair that Sam was bound to, disappearing from view. "just a quick anesthetic before I proceed with my methods." A series of metallic clinking seemed to emanate from whatever the crime lord was doing behind him. Farran finally swiveled around Sam, returning to his vision and sporting several six inch daggers in his hand, and plunged each of them, halfway, each into Sam's fingers, just between the space where his nails met his skin. The assassin knew that the gloriella was already taking effect, purging his system of all sensations, along with them the pain from the daggers.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

"The problem with torture is that in times of extreme duress, is that the human anatomy conditions its pain threshold, buffering the overall pain that is felt by the body. The gloriella on the other hand, prevents the human body from feeling any sort of pain. However, as soon as the effects of the poison fades away, well. . ." Sam didn't need Farran to finish to understand what would happen as soon as the gloriella is gone from his body. The influx of pain arriving to his body full force would cause his psyche to shut down. The sudden realization came to him in a blur, he needs to escape from this hell hole all before the effects of the poison wears off. Pain would lead to fear, fear to panic, and panic to his death.

Sam tried to use whatever strength he still has left, trying to break free of his binds.

Too late, he could already feel tiny pinpricks of sensation come back to his finger tips, the growing anticipation growing in his stomach

My name is Sam Cortland, and I will not be afraid.

Those were his last thoughts before he screamed in agony and begged for his death. And Farran pressed down hardly on the nails, creating a makeshift wedge, completely lifting off his nails from his skin.

What seemed like only a few hours felt like days as Sam Cortland endured another bout of torture. Farran didn't let his get body acclimated to the pain as another dagger flicked into his hands and placed it to the burning fire beside the young assassin.


My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

Sam didn't even bother to shied away from the burning dagger as Farran fervorly marred his face, a spilled cup of over a pair of swords impaled through a heart - the symbol of the syndicate.


My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

That was all he felt as soon the knife came in contact with his skin.


My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

He could feel the sizzling of his skin, every stroke, every curve of the white-hot blade as it disfigured him.

The putrid smell of burning flesh, the popping sounds of his blood as it soaked the dagger with red.

Pain a like a million stars exploding behind his eyes.

Sam restrained a guttural scream escaping from his mouth, before he could rip them away into ribbons along with the threads that sewed them shut.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

And then he could feel Farran painstakingly carve out his eyes from his head, reveling as his mouth rips into shreds, an inhuman noise racking the entire room as he bucked against his chair.

He awoke the the sound of Rourke Farran descending the stairs. He must have passed out, as he didn't realize that the crime lord even left the room. Sam felt the familiar stabs of pain on his face as blood trickled from his now empty eye sockets, until he realized they were his tears.

The crime lord's footsteps stopped a few feet away from Sam, near enough for him to hear the low hissing sound, and dull dripping sound coming from what Farran have in his hand. He didn't need his eyes to see what was on Rourke Farran's hand, his previous methods of torture was already indication enough.

Sam was already prepared for the agony of the molten gold singeing his skin, but feeling is a different matter. His throat was already raw from screaming, but still he yelled. He could feel his nerve endings die from the scalding heat of the liquid metal. First his bare legs, his navel, his chest, heading up and up until it reaches his face, until Farran filled his throat, his eye sockets, every crevice of him with the burning gold.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

Of death: the inevitability of it. How it would always win no matter how many times you cheat it.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

Of pain: the consistency of it. How a man could be stripped away of everything and still be overflowing with it.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

Of longing: the permanence of it. How no matter much you gaze upon the golden tint of her eyes, time will never be enough.


He knew somewhere deep inside of him that sometime between the arrow hitting his shoulder and with the gloriella claiming his body, that he had already failed. That no matter what he does, he would never get to see Celaena board the ship heading to the Southern Continents, with her grin, that made him fall in love with her, plastered on her beautiful face when she thinks no one is looking, but he would, enough that it would commit her face to his memory, enough that he remembered the exact way the sun would light her face, emphasizing the golden flecks in her eyes.

Too bad her gold wasn't the one's he saw before he finally died.

He could already feel the metal burning his throat, charring his wind pipe, filling his lungs with the blazing liquid.

Drowining in it.

Savoring it.

A slave trader once asked him if he ever saw the fabled assassin without wearing a mask. "Once" he replied, giving Celaena an all too believably wary look "and that was enough".

He didn't lie to the Salve trader that night. The first time he laid his eyes on Celaena he had trouble taking his eyes off of her, and all it took for him was to take that single glance before he would catch himself grabbing every opportunity to look at her face again and again.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

He smiled; he wouldn't let Farran have the satisfaction to see that he was terrified of what would happen moments before his death, let alone have Celaena see his mutilated body twisted and contorted into pain as it would be surely sent to the keep.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

It was in this final moment that he realized that that whatever may come, he would not be uttering those words to assure himself from death and torture. Not anymore. Sam already knew that his body has finally reached its threshold. Anytime he would be taking his final breath as he was quickly losing his one final hold on reality.

My name is Sam Cortland and I will not be afraid.

But he was afraid.

He was afraid of leaving Celaena when she needed him the most, of her seeing him mutilated in pain as he suffered. And that would be okay, of being afraid for someone that you love, because that it was the only natural thing to fear.

For the first time he let himself feel fear, not the selfish kind, but the one that was born out of caring for someone. Slowly, he let his body succumb to the growing shadows that surrounded him, knowing that somehow he had won a small victory in not letting Farran break him moments before his final breath.

My name is Sam Cortland and I am afraid.

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