CHAVIAS - Hunting the King of Assassins
Peak Mountain, Black Mountains, Battling Border
It was several months later. Months of raids in which Chavias arrived days too late. Storehouses were cleaned out. But other buildings that’d contain food were conspicuously left standing until Chavias got there and burned them to cinders.
When Chavias entered, he found food gone but without the building being devastated, he sensed that food had been stashed aside for the villagers. So, when Chavias burned the structures the extra stores wouldn’t be depleted. Savage.
Tonight, Deiti came as the evening arrived. The smell of the NetherRunnel river floated to him on the night breeze. The sound of a soft mountain rain teased his ears as Deiti drained him until he felt too weak to stand.
Sated and sleepy, despite knowing what’d likely come, he couldn’t resist the peace of an encroaching slumber. Surrendering to the escape.
Shortly after he dozed off, Okine woke him in his habitual fashion. Blade into my torso. It was a rusted straight blade plunged into the soft tissue above his collar. Fortunately, the side opposite my heart.
This night is starting off swimmingly. He growled in pain. Lurching off his cot to escape Okine’s reach. He stumbled across the room to hang on the bars of the door to balance himself in his reduced state.
“What do you want, you worthless whoreson?” Chavias grunted. Weakly cupping the top of his wounded shoulder.
“Grand. What?” He growled.
Okine’s eyes narrowed. “Defiant. Slave.” Contempt filled those two words.
He’ll tell Radix. Like the coward he is.
Despite his constant suffering, Chavias was consoled by the sight of Savage so many months ago. It’s good to know he’s out there alive.
And that he hasn’t forgotten me…Chavias admitted to himself. Realizing he missed the boy like a pseudo-son.
“What’s your damn detail tonight?” He demanded.
“Armor. Blades. We go.”
“You’re going?” Chavias reared back. Radix rarely sent Okine and Chavias on the same mission. Knowing they didn’t trust each other.
Nor do we operate as any kind of a team.
Not like I and Savage did. They’d been nearly one person. Serving each other’s backs as a single unit. Like me and the knights once did…
Okine left and Chavias had no choice but to stumble from the stone chamber along the corridor to the black expanse where weapons, shields and armor were kept. He found his molded leather and pulled on the armor. Tying the leather thongs that held it in place.
Whatever this mission is, if Radix is sending both Okine and I, then we’re confronting something Radix considers a substantial threat.
Please don’t be the Captain.
Chavias was even more surprised when they reached the entrance and he saw the size of the swarm of cimmerii awaiting him. Including a number of Firoque, the creatures still half-human. Carrying weapons themselves.
And when he stepped beyond the entrance, he discovered Radix himself, gray robes billowing in a light summer breeze.
Chavias eyed the old demon warily. What are we doing?
“Come warlord.” Radix snapped his fingers, beckoning Chavias to his side.
Hating every step, Chavias obediently went. Knowing he could sink his blades in Radix until he looked like a pincushion. It’ll do nothing. He’d pull them out and heal.
Chavias had tried before. Many times. And suffered immensely for his efforts.
Blue Lark Guild, Dread Hideout
They took the jagged road through the Black Mountains. Crossing high ridges before cutting down the rim of the Black Mountains to enter the Netherlands. Chavias caught the winking lights beyond the dark trunks and knew they were the glimmering hearts of dancing fairies. Common in the Netherlands.
We’re heading for the Dread Hideout. Chavias recognized this Northwesterly course as the cautious route into the Merwood. Avoiding main roads so we can get the jump on something…Or someone…
Acharius? His stomach dropped. He knew of no one else in the Dread Hideout. But it doesn’t make sense. Every other time Radix wanted one of the Forever Knights killed, he’d sent Chavias alone. Knowing those missions severed off bits of Chavias’ soul.
This is too many cimmerii for even that archer. Masterful as Acharius is this is an overwhelming force for one man.
Too many could get killed in pursuit of whatever their target was. Radix wants something rather badly. But to Chavias’ surprise, they went far beyond where he knew Meredith House was. All the while Chavias prayed, Acharius wouldn’t confront the massive troupe of cimmerii flooding into the Dread Hideout.
If he intercepts us, Radix will cut him down without slowing down.
What’s he want so bad he’s willing to risk this many cimmerii? Chavias was astounded by the small army surrounding him.
There’s no way Radix would come on a run to raid storehouses. And there’s precious few of those in the Dread Hideout. This corner of the Netherwood was broken from the rest of Grier by the villains, highwayman, assassins for hire, bounty hunters, and their prey.
To Chavias’ shock, the Merwood split open and revealed a new structure Chavias had been unaware existed.
Thadeus cawed as he flew in circles above them.
Keeping me in view. Chavias watched the crow fondly. Knowing the bird wouldn’t land on his shoulder unless it felt safe from the cimmerii.
Unless I feel safe.
Chavias focused on the structure ahead of them. It’s recent.
Stone still shined. With no cracks in the mortar sealing it together. The crisp wood still sharp and vibrant. Fresh with the wax weather coating. An outer perimeter glistened with iron spikes, wet with the earlier rain. The doors were reinforced wood and it looked like there would be a second set within. Iron spears were built into the walls to point horizontally across the doors. Making it so only one man could walk between them and through the doors, at a time. Moving carefully to avoid the sharpened tips pointed at him from both sides.
Making operating a battering ram against the door perilously dangerous.
Impressive indeed. Chavias would tip his hat to this brilliant architect. His gaze landed on bloodied shields adorning the upper walls Chavias realized what this was.
He spotted the dark sign swinging off the Northwestern corner. As the moonlight brightened on it, Chavias read it. Blue Lark Assassin’s Guild.
Chavias’ eyes flipped back to the doors. And he saw Radix assessing it with the same wary look Chavias was sure he wore. We plan to confront an entire Guild?
Of assassins? Chavias’ eyes widened. A dull sense of hope had him wondering if this would finally be his end. Even with the number of cimmerii accompanying them…If this guild is full. Many of us are going to die. Shrugging, Chavias moved to the forefront.
It’s as like to be packed as empty. Guilds were impossible to discern. With no way to see in, until you were too far in.
“We knocking?” Chavias lifted a black brow as he sidled next to the demon. Nearly hopeful.
Radix’s lip curled in contempt. He looked up and Chavias caught the dark movement of a pair of flying Sarabi. Crossing above the high stone wall. Landing on the other side. Chavias heard one dropping in the narrow gap between the wall and fortress itself to the horrified shouts of men inside.
Sounds like a number of men in there. Chavias drew his curved swords and waited for Radix’s order.
The other crashed against wood, scraping over it as it attempted to catch footing. It tried to go through but even the wood roof is reinforced.
It was as if this particular fortress had been specially designed to repel even cimmerii from penetrating it. Chavias walked the length to peer around the corner to view the side. Shocked to find that two sides of it were built into solid rock, with no way to get through. Very well calculated.
He shook his head, returning to the front gate. Waiting.
It was only moments before he heard the wailing shriek of a dying Sarabi. His head spun to assess Radix who doubled over in agony. Holding a spot on his shoulder and one in his stomach which seeped black powder.
The stench was nauseating in Chavias’ nostrils.
“There’s more cimmerii out there.” Someone inside shouted. “I can smell them.”
“Sure it’s not these?” Another voice.
Annoyingly familiar.A Forever Knight? Chavias couldn’t place it. But it instantly made his teeth grit.
“Now, knock.” Radix’s dull eyes slid to Chavias.
Delightful. Chavias gingerly moved around the iron spears to get to the doors. He used the side of one fist to hammer on them. Let’s get on with this. Whatever this is…
“Open the doors.” Someone barked from inside.
There was scraping as iron bolts were lifted from their hinges. The doors swung open and Chavias found himself face to face with a span of hard faces. He didn’t much like the look of any of them. All scarred, patched fighting men. Men who’ve clearly dealt with killers before…
Two large males pushed through the crowd. Chavias caught the flare of long red hair towering over everyone in the fortress. He knew instantly it matched the annoying voice he’d heard. Mardichi. Of course.
When they made it to the front of the rough looking crew, Chavias was disheartened to see the one next to Mardichi was Alazareth Bodane.
Sebastian may be here... Dread sunk through every fiber of Chavias’ being. I did everything to protect the fool.
This is why we have an army at these doors. He was fearful this was the sad fact. Until he heard another voice. And realized it was so much worse.
“What do you want at my door!” The crowd snapped apart to make way for the one who obviously ruled here.
And Chavias drew a steadying breath. Hoping Radix didn’t sense his sudden discomfort, as Chavias shifted his weight. Chavias was suddenly afraid this man was what Radix had drug a small army of cimmerii down off the mountain for.
The man that had been stealing Radix’s storehouse raids before he could get men there. The man that’d escaped Radix’s reach to assure he could betray Radix in every way possible. Undermining his efforts and starving his firoque minions. The man that’d directed the building of this structure specifically to resist cimmerii attacks. No doubt having them believe they created defenses against King’s Guardsmen.
Savage. And he rules here. That much was clear. Men deferred to him. They parted for him. Whispered when he walked. Even Mardichi and Alazareth moved aside. Showing him grudging deference in this guild.
Savage Jaxson faced them both. Blue eyes locked on the withered man. Head lowered with warrior braids twining his blonde hair. “What do you want Radix Malorum?”
“You need to come back to us, Boy.”
There was hissing breaths in the crowd at the ancient man referring to their leader as a boy.
“I’m no Boy, old man. I need do nothing any longer. As you can see.” He gestured around. “We don’t permit uninvited guests. And since you already sent Sarabi over my walls, you clearly threaten us.” He tilted his head with a smirk. “We know how to deal with threats.” He winked as he pointed at Radix meaningfully.
“Sarabi?” A man behind Savage murmured to another. “Is that what those were?”
“Savage tore through it like it was a breakfast ham.” Another murmured laughing.
Chavias assessed the boy realizing he was now very much a man. And these hardened assassins thought he was their king.
Well done, Savage. Chavias admired the work he’d done here. Knew where goods from the raids were coming now. And knew they’d somehow move from this place to the Grier Market to undermine King Ocnomad and take commerce from his Kingdom back to this Guild. Exactly as Savage had planned to do…
Radix’s gaze slid to Chavias and Chavias knew in that moment that sure as the wind blew, Savage Jaxson is the reason we’re here.
Radix wants him dead. Or taken back to return to slavery.
But Chavias assessed this new Savage and was confident he’d never be someone’s slave again.
Savage was giving him the same measuring rundown. His gaze fixating on where blood seeped over Chavias’ leather armor from his collar. It was only half a second that Savage’s gaze narrowed on the wound, before flicking up to meet Chavias’ look.
Savage’s eyes flared gold in the black night like a burning torch. He tilted his head minutely in question. In that familiar way Chavias knew so well. The question always the same.
Do I get you out now?
And as Chavias had always done, his lips whitened, and he turned his head only once in denial. Too many people will die.
Savage’s gaze locked on Radix. “Send your man in here.” He tossed his head toward Chavias as he held his hand out to the man next to him.
What in bloody hell are you doing now? Chavias’ eyes widened.
Alazareth slapped a dagger into Savage’s palm. Confusion written over his face. “You never take a weapon to a fight.” He murmured under his breath.
Savage gripped the handle ignoring Alazareth. “Send him.” He reiterated. Nodding in Chavias’ direction, crouching. “I haven’t had a good fight in a long time...”
Have you lost your mind, boy? Chavias’ jaw ticked. He prayed he wouldn’t be forced to kill this boy.
Because I won’t let Radix have him as a slave again. And I don’t believe Savage will either.
“That son-of-a-bitch drug me around like a pup on a leash.” Savage spat. “Telling me what I could and could not do. Who I could or could not kill…”
That’s not true. Chavias reared back slightly as though Savage had punched him. I never laid a hand on you!
“No one gives me orders any longer. Come on, Old Man. I want to kill him.” He invited Radix. “Probably more than just me in here that do…”
It finally dawned on Chavias what he was doing. The one thing Savage never did. He’s bluffing. Chavias was surprised at the ingenuity of it. Ensuring Radix won’t order me to fight him, if he thinks we’re not as close as we seemed.
Radix assessed Savage shrewdly. Looking from Chavias who worked not to move, to keep his face impassive. And back to Savage who looked like a starved animal ready to sink in some teeth.
Chavias saw Radix’s gaze move to those iron spears separating them from the rough mob just inside the door. And the crowd gathered beyond them. Most of which, being the two vicious Forever Knights at the forefront who’d pick them off one by one as they eeked through those iron spears and into the inner courtyard of the Blue Lark. It’s a bad set up. Dangerous.
Even Radix saw he was being goaded into making a mistake. He knows he’ll lose too many cimmerii for this vengeance. But hatred shined on Radix’s face as he eyed Savage. True, deep hate, beyond his usual contempt for humanity.
In that moment, Chavias knew Savage had won. Radix sees the trap. A beautifully designed snare devised to meter down the number of his cimmerii.
Savage is vicious enough, he alone could hold this door with only one cimmerii able to come through at a time.
Well done. Chavias felt a surge of triumph for this victory over Radix. Perpetrated by a Dread Boy Radix had considered a mere pawn and no more.
Checkmate to Savage.
“Chavias.” Alazareth said under his breath.
Chavias’ head spun to look at Alazareth as he continued. “I’d thought so much more of you then this.” Alazareth’s disappointment was obvious.
The blow was crushing. Chavias’ throat tightened. He was awash with pain though he forced his face expressionless. Unmoving.
“Look how far ye’ve fallen.” Mardichi murmured shaking his head.
Chavias closed his eyes against the grief and soul-deep guilt. Eyes flicking to Savage to see if he’d heard. Hoping he wouldn’t have.
Savage was too intent on challenging the old demon to pay their words any mind.
Chavias was sickened to feel the disappointment of men he’d once considered two of his closest brothers.
Let me leave this place. He looked at Radix. No longer able to meet the pained gazes of his former brethren.
Radix and Savage stared each other down. When Radix took a dragging step back, Savage knew. He straightened. Absently tossing Alazareth the blade.
Alazar’s hand shot out reflexively and caught it mid-air.
Huffing like an infuriated animal, Radix spun on his heel. Cimmerii howling and snarling in an echo of the demon’s malcontent.
“Another day Radix.” Savage crowed after them. “Another day Warlord.” He added, softer.
Chavias glanced over his shoulder and saw Savage’s head tilted in that same waiting way.
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