A Murderer, A Spy, An Innocent
I sat in the abandoned clocktower I called a home. My clothes were still bloodstained, I hadn’t even cared enough to wash his blood from my hands. I’d played the game, and I had lost. Any minute now the city’s watchdogs would be barking at my door. I’d go down fighting, this I had sworn to myself. But my confidence couldn’t drive away my fear of death, not completely. I glanced at the broken window, seeing torchlights in the distance. My time was soon. I suppose you’re wondering how I got myself in this situation. Well, for starters, My name is Dorian. I am, or rather was, a blade for hire, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t good at it. I made a killing from my job, no joke intended, though in order to avoid raising suspicions I never bought a nicer house than the run-down clock tower I reside in. I’d never really planned on killing for a living, I mean, who does? It just sort of happened. I needed the money and I was good at the work, plus the fact that I didn’t put much if any value into my life at the time. Without the gold I needed, I didn’t want to live. Not getting the gold meant not being able to afford a king’s pass, and that meant never seeing Erun again.
Up until this past year, we had been nearly inseperable. But then, everything had changed when Thania’s army invaded our land. We were a weaker nation and might as well of not had a militia to begin with. We were quickly desolated, and the land was divided into three separate regions; natives of the land, Thanians, and other races that didn’t belong in the other two categories. I was a native of the land, and Erun had Thanian blood, and so we were shipped away to our respective states. The only way to get into another region without being impaled by dozens of arrows or falling to your death was by the possession of a king’s pass, something that was rare to come by unless you knew where to look and who to buy from.
That leads us back to my job of paid assassin. My job took me all throughout the native sector. I’ve travelled it so well that I know it like the back of my hand, maybe better. So, when I got a contract that required me to visit one of the well-known parties of the Grey brothers, it took me little time to form a plan on how to make my entrance and exit. There were three Grey brothers; Darrus, Jaime, and Edward. All three of them were nearly identical, the exception being the youngest brother, Edward, who had a small but distinct scar just under his left eye. My target was one of this three, Darrus. It was well-known that he was a sadist and a murderer. Plenty of people had grudges on him for one reason or another, so it was no surprise to me when I was told who to kill. The only details my client gave me were that Darrus had killed someone he held dear, and that he wanted revenge against the bastard. The only reason Darrus had gotten away with his many crimes was because he was a noble, and so he could afford to bribe the city’s guard to turn a blind eye to his murders. Jaime, the middle brother, had at one point been a spy, and so his reputation was tarnished as well. Edward, the youngest brother, was the only one who had managed to stay out of trouble. My client didn’t specify what to do with the other two brothers, but I made a silent vow to myself to spare Edward, the only innocent. To me, he showed that the world wasn’t at all as bad as it could get. In it for me was all the money I’d need for a king’s pass and more.
My client had provided me with an invitation to the Grey brother’s party, informing me it was a masked ball. This was good, as I had a fair share of wanted posters around the state with my face on them. According to my client, all 3 brothers would be dressed identically, and I would have to find a way to get them to reveal their identities. The party was only two nights away, and so I got to work on what I would wear. I found my finest clothes, and bought myself an inexpensive plaster mask. The mask was painted black and completely smooth and featureless except for two small slits for eye holes. It was nothing fancy, but it would serve my purpose just as well. Soon enough, the night of the party rolled around. I pulled on my nice clothes and gathered some of my lighter equipment. A small, handheld crossbow and a dirk were the only two things that I could inconspicuously carry underneath my charcoal-colored cloak, but I was sure I could get the job done just as well with these two weapons. I made sure the invitation was still in my pocket, and made my way to the party. Nothing of interest happened on the way there, and as soon as I arrived I could see that several guests as well as guards were inebriated already. I presented my invitation to one of the guards and proceeded into the heavily decorated manor. I made my way through the house, mingling with the other guests and eventually entered one of the two private libraries. Very few guests were in here, but a chair had been pulled into the furthers corner of the room, and in the chair sat a well-dressed man in all white, with a bone-colored mask depicting a feminine face to match. I knew immediately that it was one of the Grey brothers.
“Lord Grey.” I said, bowing respectfully. “But the question is, which one are you?”
He looked up from the book he had been reading and closed it, rising from his seat. My heart pounded in my chest. I had a one-in-three chance of killing the right brother right here and now. A one-in-three chance of reuniting with Erun. I could feel my palms beginning to sweat and tremble. I closed my left hand around the hilt of my dirk for reassurance, my heavy cloak concealing the movement.
“I suppose it isn’t often that you speak to someone of my rank. Then again, most mercenaries never live long enough for the chance.” with this statement, he tore off my mask, letting it fall to the carpeted floor. I stood, bewildered in front of him, unmoving.
“How could you possible know who I am?”
“You’re not a ghost. Have you failed to notice the countless wanted posters of your face posted around town?” I kept my silence.
“You’re here to kill me.” He continued calmly, his piercing blue eyes cutting through me. “No one wears that sort of thing to one of our parties. We knew you were an outsider from the moment you strolled in, we just didn’t know what sort of outsider until just now.” I had to act right then, before he called the watch in. Throwing the cloak behind my shoulders, I unsheathed my dirk and charged at him. He froze in shock and horror. He tried to back up, but it was far too late. I drove my blade deep into his stomach, and he fell to the floor. I cradled him in my arms, easing his fall. I might’ve been a killer, but I wasn’t heartless. Gently laying his head on the floor, I loosened the straps holding the mask to his face, and removed it. Barely noticable, just under his left eye, was a small tell-tale scar. Edward began to sob, shaking uncontrollably. Realizing my error, I slowly removed the knife from his stomach, pressing a hand to his wound. I heard the small group of guests run out of the room, screaming for the watch. I couldn’t stay. The feeling of failure and the guilt of killing someone that I knew didn’t deserve it materialized into a pain in the pit of my stomach and the back of my throat. But now wasn’t the time to cry. Now was the time to leave. I removed my hand from Edward’s stomach, lightly cupping his face as I whispered apology after apology. Even if he didn’t die from blood loss, he’d die of infection.
As he reached up to hold my hand in his, I stood up. As much as I hated to leave him, the youngest and only good brother to die alone, I had no choice. My eyes darted around the room, searching for a window. In between two bookshelves was a thin curtain leading to a balcony. Even better. I ran to the balcony, the curtains flying open. I glanced down. The fall was too high to even have a chance of surviving. To either side of me were two expertly sculpted gargoyles in the shape of a winged, horned man, gripping onto the side of the building with their maws opened in a silent scream. Past them was a row of more simplistic gargoyles. On the left side, near the end of the manor, was a tall oak tree. The perfect route. I climbed onto the balcony, carefully stepping from one gargoyle to another. As I reached the last one, I felt it shift under my feet. They weren’t made to support the weight of a full-grown man. I took a deep breath, moving as far back as the cool stone wall would allow me. I had two choices; one was to continue on and risk falling, and the other was to jump for the nearby tree and hope for the best. I decided on the latter, not having anything to lose. I slowly shifted my weight towards the foot I had in front of me, and in one swift motion jumped towards the tree.
I grabbed the nearest branch, dangling from it for a second as I tried to calm down my heart rate. I pulled myself up onto the branch, wishing I had time to rest. I quickly found the best route down the tree, and once I reached the ground I ran, taking as many turns as I could through the city in hope of throwing the watch’s hounds off of my scent. My clock tower appeared before me, and I raced inside, barring the door behind me. Never before had the old, musky scent been such a comfort to me. I charged up the stairs, taking care to tread lightly on the weaker ones prone to breaking, and finally reached the floor I claimed residence in, practically falling into the rickety wooden chair near my window. I didn’t feel like crying. I didn’t feel anything at all except fear. Somehow, I knew I wouldn’t get away with it this time. I lingered far too long in the manor. The dogs would have my scent and they would find me, it was just a matter of time. I stared blankly out the window, the orange flames of torches appearing in the distance, drawing closer with every second. My fear of death lifted as they reached just outside my tower, being replaced with pure adrenaline. I tore off my heavy black cape, tossing it to the floor, and peered out the window. The rosey-cheeked face of a city guard greeted me from below, looking up at me.
“If you do not come down immediately, we will burn this tower to the ground with you in it!” The guard barked at me. Despite his facade of fearlessness, I could see a nervous sweat on his brow. I was dangerous and he knew it. Turning back to my room, I grabbed my finest sword and my standard-sized crossbow, slinging the latter over my back. I calmly walked down the stairs, the blood rushing in my ears telling me to run. I’d save my energy. I unblocked my door, swinging it open to be met with a dozen guards, crossbows aimed at me. I heard a click, followed by a stinging pain in my left thigh. I looked down. A wooden bolt stuck out of my thigh, and I winced in pain as I snapped it off, tossing the other end to the side. The guards looked at me expectantly. I took one step toward them. They moved back slightly. I took another step. As I did, my left leg gave way, and I fell to the ground. The bolt had been coated in a sedative. My last few seconds of consciousness were occupied by the faces of the guards contorting in laughter, and then blackness.
When I came to, I was somewhere dark and cold. I looked around. Grey bricks made up my floor, ceiling, and walls. I tried to roll over onto my side, but was restricted by cool metal chains around my wrists and ankles. I knew exactly where I was. Underneath the same manor I’d been before. No doubt Darrus had bought me out. I could hear footsteps slowly approaching my cell, and braced myself for the torture he would no doubt inflict upon me for killing his brother. But the physical pain would be no match to the pain of never getting to see Erun again.
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