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Old 02-19-2009, 02:13 AM
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inknform inknform is offline
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Default STORY: The Will of the Emperor (a first-person narrative)

((okay, now it`s my turn for "story-only" time))


Sleep. It crossed my mind a few times, only to be quickly diminished by the resounding voice of Jaxsen bouncing around in my head. Each spoken syllable could have been framed and hung on a wall of The World`s Most Annoying, Yet Commanding Tones. I`d say it was up around the area of someone holding their nose as tightly as possible while blurting out instructions in five different languages at the top of their lungs. Yet I had been the lucky one to endure his rantings for the last couple of years. Jaxsen was one of the greatest of my many masters within the Shadow Eye Guild, but social interactions with him could fell a giant.

He, however, was the least of my problems at this particular time and sleep would just have to wait until I was dead. An uneasiness weighed heavily on my shoulders this night.

I had done my best to keep the blood from rushing to my head at a rapid pace, pulling myself up every few minutes to get my bearings and then slowly descending my torso back to the correct position. You trained for this a million times over. I`d reminded myself every so often, knowing that an attack from above was one of several ways to completely throw off your target before he had a chance to draw a weapon. The corridors` wooden support beams were sturdy enough for all of my one hundred and twenty something pounds to handle, of course it helped that I would check them just to be sure.

The light breeze blowing through the dark hallway was quite refreshing against my skin, especially since sweat began forming from the muscle tension in various parts of my body. I know I am going to hurt tomorrow, of course, thats if I make it out of here. Part of the training, as any good soldier of the Empire, is to ignore the pain which would only stand in the way of the greater good. The Greater Good? I was never sure exactly what that was, considering hypocrisy ruled and not a one would ever speak out against the authorities within the realm. I was just happy to be part of something...but whether it was "good", per se, was beyond my comprehension.

Keep focused Mia

The assignment was fairly cut and dry: sneak into the Morningstar Cathedral and remove the the Zealot known as Marcus. At the first mention of a "cathedral", I all but jumped up with excitement. Religiosity was not my forte`, nor was I ever going to be swayed by another fanatic of the local church and their double speak with regard to their unstable, insane gods. I had enough of my own problems without being lectured to. Oddly enough, this particular Zealot was not for the Empire, but against it, leaking false information to outside sources in exchange for monetary securities. I suppose even those who claim to be servants to a "higher power" have their price. Is it any wonder I have not conformed yet?

However, the only blemish in this otherwise spotless plan, was that this had been my first live assassination. Typically, an Agent`s primary objective revolved around less direct interference to the mark, and more covert means of obtaining the goal. Gathering information and using it against the opposition was the name of the game in our circle. Besides, working in the shadows was quite safer than a full-on confrontation. Death wasn`t always the answer, at least to an Agent anyway. Whether we cared for it or not though, the will of the Emperor, Ajen could not be disputed. Any Agent going against the grain of his Lordship`s wishes would find themselves in a very grave situation.

Death, for a traitor, would be a reprieve.

Talk about a mental distraction. I tend to find myself dreaming of so many more things than my current state. Had killing been the only resolve for this circumstance? Maybe. Possibly. Especially for one has unhinged from reality as Marcus was.

The echo of footsteps snapped me back from my moment of reverie. Such a pity. The hallway was rather long and slightly curved to the contour of the outer walls of the Cathedral. The building itself was quite beautiful, but nothing I could spent my days in. I poised myself, shifting my body a little to make sure that my legs were still working. This would be one of the worst moments for a muscle cramp, or possibly worse, dropping one of the three silver daggers I had in my possession. How would I explain that?

From the sounds of the approaching footsteps, I could almost make out two pairs of shoes. Even more so, one slightly lighter in step and at a quicker pace, as though they were trying to match stride with the first set. Nonetheless, whomever was accompanying Marcus would, unfortunately, have to die right along with the poor fool.

Leave no witnesses, as our loosely-based motto would go.

My eyes slowly closed, as I realigned my focus and listened intently to the oncoming targets. A male`s voice was mumbling something in anger, as the footsteps quickened ever so slightly, shushing the other`s voice who was inaudible at that moment. The second pair of footsteps, seemingly smaller strides, kept up well. It was rather unfortunate not having the luxury of night vision, as I was well aware that they were only but dagger`s throw from my line of sight. The dimly lit corridor didn`t help, but I still had the advantage of vertical attack.

Closer. Step, Step, Step, Step. Closer.

"papa, slow down a little, my feet are starting to hurt in these shoes!"

Her tiny voice echoed through the hallway and hit my heart like a thousand finely sharpened spears. My eyes shot wide open and, my legs, which held onto the wooden support beams, began screaming for relief. I ignored it, but couldn`t ignore the one apparent fact that my target`s company was his little girl. Why in the nine hells did it have to be on this night? My mind quickly rationalized. Maybe it wasn`t Marcus who was coming up into my view, maybe it had been...

Before that thought could even conclude, both figures below came into view. Marcus was walking at a steady pace, holding a thick leather-bound book in one hand, his dark red cloth robe trailing along the stone floor. He looked about as scheming as the next religious right, and yet seemed pretty intent on staying his course. I grasped both daggers as my focus seemed to be entirely on the middle-aged clergy for that split second, until a sudden attention shift had me staring at the little girl in the emerald dress, her hand holding onto her father`s other free hand.

She couldn`t have been anymore than eight or nine years of age, with long, ebony locks of hair that curled at the ends. Her emerald dress shimmered in the dim torch light, giving off an almost angelic aura, as did the various pearl and ruby necklaces which tied it all together. Her visage, had all the signs of innocence, undefiled and pure.

I was once that child.

Both father and daughter walked quickly passed where I had hung above them, waiting, watching, as my intended targets left unharmed.

Why, of all nights, did it have to be a child...

Last edited by inknform; 02-20-2009 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 02-19-2009, 06:56 PM
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Default Chapter II

There was absolutely no way that I could allow him to still remain breathing. A religious Zealot still lingering about had been far worse than a mob of armed street thugs. They didn`t bother with sheer force alone, but their words derailed the truth, bent it to their own wicked will, and spat it back in the face of society. How much chaos would erupt at the expense of so many? How much flak would I receive for fumbling the plan of my masters? Or worse, the Emperor.

NO. This cretin had to be eliminated. Daughter or not.

I arched my torso, lifting my upper body up so I could grab hold of the wooden beam, thereby freeing my legs to swing down for a soft landing onto the cold, stone floor. Ouch. I think I had been up there longer than expected, as my thighs screamed with a sharp pain, only to find myself still pursuing the mark rather than basking in the glory of the kill. I didn`t enjoy the hunt, but only the satisfaction of knowing that one less rancid scum of society was off the street and out of the system. And where had the bastard been going in such a hurry that he couldn`t even slow down enough for his own flesh and blood? Ah well, it wasn`t my business to know or care about the trivial points of life. However, if a chase was, in fact, in the cards then so be it.

I have time...to kill.

Having been through this cathedral on a dry-run days before, I had a pretty good idea of where Marcus was headed. On the other side of the large oak doors, was a spiraling stairway to the top of the main tower, which housed several doors to unknown rooms. Unknown, because most of them were dead-bolted with a series of intricate locking mechanisms which had been next to impossible to disengage. The Steel Empire didn`t miss a beat when it came to security, although, ironically enough, when it came to lock-picking tools either. Either way, I was pretty sure that several other doors had been sealed with more than physical security means. Magic was, no doubt, being used as an additional precaution, making it that much more difficult.

I hated magic.

My ear listened intently for the fading footsteps, until I was sure it was clear. I gracefully attempted my luck on the door. "Already unlocked? Nice..." I tried my best to keep it to a dull roar, but some things still surprised me. I quickly slipped in through the cracked door and closed it behind me with a soft 'clink' of the metal latch. The footsteps echoed off the stone walls from way above the spiraling stairs. I couldn`t believe how quickly they were moving, as though time itself was slowing for me and staying constant for the rest of the world. I shook off the idiotic thoughts, and moved swiftly up the stairs, taking care to stay with my back firmly along the wall as I ascended the dimly lit tower.

Last edited by inknform; 02-26-2009 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 02-21-2009, 03:54 AM
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Default Chapter III

There must`ve been several thousand steps leading up to the very top, which had been, at the least, ten or twelves stories high. Fortunately, my target had made his way through the second level entry door. Could this one still be unlocked as the first was? I quickly slipped over to the closed door, listening to make sure that the footsteps had left enough distance. The door pushed open this time, as though it was never latched to begin with. My guess was that they had designed these particular doors for the simple reason that if you could already make it into the cathedral and main tower, what was the point of further security measures?

Of course, I had been wrong before.

The pungent aroma of rose oil assaulted my senses as the door cracked open and I stepped out into the partially lit hallway. The footsteps of both Marcus and the child came from my left, as I watched their shadowed forms disappear into the darkened corridor. What was it with the lack of lighting in this place? Not that I was complaining, considering the shadows were my only ally in this sort of business. Nonetheless, I couldn`t imagine anyone wanting to live like this. The dark certainly had it`s advantages, but there was a loss of so much as well. An absence of color, of warmth, leaving everything with a feeling of cold separation. I certainly was no stranger to that, living much of my childhood in such a home, void of any true warmth.

I kept my back to the wall and my ears opened. I had to give my eyes time to adjust to the changes in lighting, but my hearing had always been sharp...on key. I suppose you could say that was one of the few things that my lost heritage had passed down to me. Even as a child, I picked up on music fairly quickly, impressing even myself with well thought-out pieces on the piano. My mother, a woman I had never been able to know, was quite fond of the piano and violin from what I was told. Who knows, maybe if life as a spy doesn`t work out...

I shuddered at the thought, mentally reprimanding myself in the process. I couldn`t imagine life as a travelling musician.

Another door opened at the end of the hall, casting a washed-out yellowish glow along the wall and floor, as both figures entered into the brightly lit room and closed the door behind them. Perfect. I had to make mention of the "lack of lighting" earlier, didn`t I? Interestingly enough, the light from the room on the other side of the door barely leaked through the cracks of the door and it`s frame. What true craftsmanship to have such a fit. In either case, I slipped my way up to the door and peeked through the keyhole, the light causing me to squint until my pupils adjusted. From my narrowed vantage, it appeared like a library or study of some type, but that didn`t seem to be much of surprise to me considering that was all I saw on my first secret visit here only days before.

No one does that much reading.

My eye surveyed as much as it could from the tiny keyhole, as my ears continued to keep attentive to any nearby voices from the room. After a moment, I could hear the low mumblings of Marcus, although couldn`t quite make out what it was he was saying. It almost sounded like a foreign dialect. He then passed in front of my view, about five or six feet from the door, with his head down staring at an open book in his hands. He continued to pace back and forth until he was out of my sight once again. At that point, it became slightly frustrating being at such a disadvantage as I was. Would they care if I just stormed in, daggers blazing? That would have been an option, if it hadn`t been for the presence of the little girl.

That`s the last thing I needed on my already scarred conscience. A dead child.

I moved away from the door, and leaned back against the shadowed wall, taking a deep breath. For once, I was at a loss. I had never killed anyone in cold blood, especially not on a guild-assigned task. On the one side, I could wait until he comes back out of the room and then strike while I still hold the advantage of darkness. Or, there is always th-

Hmm. There is nothing worse than being in the midst of sorting through an intricate plan, only to be disrupted by the unexpected unlatching of yet another door.

Near the opposite end of the hall, a large door opened, and out stepped a robed figure holding a small candle. From the distance, his features could hardly be pin-pointed, but he seemed slightly older. It mattered little though, because whomever this figure was just became my personal skeleton key. I slipped my way over to the other wall and crept along at just enough speed to not cause a stir in the silence. Although, I did my best to keep in time with his footsteps in an effort to conceal my own. The robed man stopped at the door which I had initially entered from, that lead into the spiraling stairway. This was my chance.

As his hand grabbed the door handle to pull it open, the cold, steel edge of my dagger found the warmth of his neck. I kept my hand firm, as the dagger`s edge threatened against his aging skin.

"Don`t move...and you just might live to corrupt another day." I whispered into his ear, with a tone of distain leaking through like acid. I could feel his body tremble slightly, but his composure was rather solid. Had he expected something like this? Or, had I expected some sort of dramatics to come pouring from the old fool? At least I was certain that he was not going for any weapon, considering one hand held the brass candleholder and the other still held onto the door. The robed man slowly turned his head toward my direction and I could almost make out a grin across his lips. I applied a bit more pressure to his neck, causing him to tilt his head back slightly.

"Now you have something I want...father" I whispered once again, responding to his wry grin with a deceitful smile of my own.

Last edited by inknform; 02-26-2009 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:02 PM
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Default Chapter IV

As though it wasn`t bad enough that members of the clergy, the clerics, of the church within the Empire`s realm left a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn`t wait to spit out, this man...this robed embodiment of all things evil, could only stand here frozen with a smirk on his wrinkled face. When his life was only a flick of my wrist away from being over, he glazed from the corner of his eyes, trying to get a better look at my eyes from the dark cloth wrap which shrouded my visage. His attempts to bring the candlelight up and closer to me had failed in the worst way, as I hammered down onto his wrist with my other free hand, causing him to unclench the brass tri-branch candelabra and sending it clanging to the smooth stone floor. At least one of my problems had been resolved, the flame was no more.

"Ugh!...What is it you want?!..." He said in an almost hushed ferocity. Obviously, I`d irritated him enough that the smile was wiped from his face, so naturally, I couldn`t help but delight in the moment.

Sub-mission accomplished.

"Compliments will get you no where...quick, cleric. Just be happy that I didn`t break your arm in the process." On the other hand, at his age, I probably fractured something, besides his ego.

"For crying out loud, girl, if you`re going to kill me then be-"

I cut him off, mid-sentence, with just enough pressure against his throat to make my point. His voice was a bit loud, probably too loud since this hallway`s acoustics were quite impressive.

"First of all, I need you to shut your mouth and do as I say...do you understand?" I quietly demanded into his ear, not wanting to add to the already broken silence in the hallway. "I`m not here for you, anyway, so lets keep it like that..."

I heard the unlatching of a door down the hallway, and quickly pulled the cleric and myself back into the shadowed door inset directly behind me. The door near the end of the hall opened, which happened to be the one occupied by the Zealot, Marcus. I could feel the cleric shifting around slightly.

"Move just one more inch, and you`ll be missing more than one vital body part..." I had to give it to myself, my threats, whether empty or otherwise, came off pretty harsh at times. But, if I can`t bluff my way through a situation well enough, then what good was I?

A silhouetted figured emerged half-way outside of the doorway. "Hello?...Velan, is that you?...have you brought the necessary ingr-...oh, forget it, I`m obviously talking to myself..." He abruptly closed the door.

The voice was nasally, slightly high-pitched, and every bit as annoyed as ever. Had he been waiting for this man to retrieve something? Figured it was time to find out.

"So, tell me, are you this...Velan?..." The name even caused an acidic taste in my mouth, and I didn`t know him from a hole in the wall. "If so, just nod once..."

The nod came. Slowly.

"Good. So what was it that Mar-...that the other religious nut wanted from you?" I hadn`t wanted the old man to know who my primary target was, and I hoped, for his sake, he didn`t catch that slip of the tongue. "If you have it on your possession, then slowly present it..."

The old man shifted his arm around and slowly raised up a hand-sized tin box to my eye level. It had several runic etchings along it`s side and the lid was pyramid shaped with an ebony tip. With my other free hand, I attempted to grab the tin, but the old man`s fingers snapped firmly around it.

"No...you must`nt..." He frantically whispered.

"Let go you moron..." I growled through my clenched teeth as the tin box dislodged from his grip, and I quickly slipped it into my leather pouch. "Pull another stunt like that, and you`ll loose those fingers, I swear..."

I truly hated this old man.

After composing myself and resisting the urge to cut his throat right then and there, I decided it would be more beneficial to stay the course. I needed him, as much as it pained me to think about it, and I had to keep focused as well.

"As I stated when we first...met...you have something I need. You`re going to get me into that room at the end of the hall..." I motioned my free hand in the general direction. "...and I know you can. I also know that you all have a secret panic phrase if you are in trouble and calling to another member of the congregation..." Part of that was true, I knew they had circulating pass phrases to identify one from another, but I was unaware of exactly what theirs was. No matter though.

"I would strongly advise that you not use that panic phrase since our...association is well aware of and up-to-date on this church`s activities. Oh, and of course I would kill you if you tried..." Figured I would let him meditate on that, even though I`d threatened him enough times already. "If you agree with this, nod and I will continue...".

He nodded, several times, in fact. My guess is he was just getting as tired of this as I was. Too bad for him, because he was still needed.

"Good. We`re going to make our way...together...toward the door at the end of the hall. You will knock, announce your presence, and advise that you have urgency which requires his attention." I paused, trying to think of anything in particular, but continued anyway. "If you understand, start walking slowly."

My intention was to get Marcus out of the room, away from his child, so at least my job would be that much simpler. I couldn`t subject this little girl to such a thing, no matter how I looked at it.

I escorted the old man at knife point, watching for any sudden flinch or possibly a weapon of his own. I hadn`t even checked him for anything, but then again, something told me he wouldn`t have used whatever he had. We made it to the end of the hallway, and I leaned against the shadow of the wall, a couple of feet from the door. I motioned, with my head, for him to move forward with his part of the bargain.

Before the knock could even come, a stern voice from the other side burst out. "Yes? Velan, come in!...I was wondering when you`d get here..."

Um...yeah...so Marcus was now, what?...a psychic?

Last edited by inknform; 02-26-2009 at 02:33 PM. Reason: mr typo struck again!
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Old 02-25-2009, 07:19 PM
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Default Chapter V

"Well?...come on in?, did you forget your key?..." Marcus`s muffled voice came even louder through the closed door. I narrowed my eyes at the old man and shook my head slowly, as he stood there shrugging his shoulders. If he entered through that door, then I`d lose my chance, so that was not an option.

The old man took in a big breath of air. "Marcus, I am in need of your...assistance downstairs. There is a matter of the utmost importance." His voice was too hasty, which could make the urgency that much more believable.

"Oh, for crying out-...HOLD ON!..." Shuffling papers and footsteps could be heard on the other side of the door. It also sounded as though Marcus was addressing another person in the room, possibly his daughter, to stay there for just a few minutes.

Moments later, the door unlocked from the inside and opened to a crack, allowing the glowing yellow light from the room to cast upon the old man`s face. I think I liked him better in the dimmer lighting.

"This better be good, Velan...I have an extreme amount of work ahead of me to prepare for this speech tonight. You do realize that the necromancers from the marshlands will be gathering outside the borders of the Empire, or have you forgotten?..." The Zealot`s voice came swift and condescending. "...oh, nevermind..."

Meeting? Well I`m sure the guild would be happy to know about this meeting, but my mission was pretty straight forward, with little time for intel. Velan shifted in his spot for a moment, and I hoped he didn`t decide to make eye contact with me. Regardless, I listened intently for any change in dialog. For any hint that this assignment was going awry.

"Uh...no, Marcus...I haven`t, it`s just that there are a few...discrepancies that need to be taken care of..."

Discrepancies? Had that been a signal to the Zealot that there was more to his story? Had that bastard decided to-

"Alright, alright...fine, lets get this over with."

Maybe not, his voice didn`t seem too suspicious. Marcus stepped out from the room, the yellowish glow from the rooms lighting, brightened his pale visage, his slicked back hair, and thin mustache. He certainly had the appearance of a man who would stab you in the back at first opportunity. An opportunity that he would no longer have after this night. He closed the door and made sure it was locked. I slipped a few steps back, further into the darkened corner.

"Okay?...so lets deal with this discrepancy, shall we?..." Marcus started walking slightly ahead as, the hesitant, Velan turned to stare directly at me with a wry grin stretched across his face.

Oh no he isn`t...

The old man bolted toward Marcus, who was already several feet ahead of him, as he began waving his arms frantically. "Marcus! Marcus! Watch your back, there`s an a-..."

I quickly ended his outburst with four inches of sharp metal through the back of his neck. It was well worth all those hours of ranged weapon training, and the dagger found it`s mark rather easily.

"What is this mischief?...Velan!..." Marcus swung around to his fallen associate, as he eyes grew wide with screaming rage. "ASSASSIN!" His voice echoed furiously off the stone walls and down the corridor, as he turned his head trying to pinpoint the dagger`s source.

"Show yourself!...you cretin!...blasphemer!...devil`s advocate!...you will die where you stand!..."

At that point, I knew it was my chance to remove this threat to the Empire or, at the very least, to cease all the dramatic name-calling. Zealots seem to have a knack for throwing in stylistic insults, as though it made them seem that much more holy. Although, my thoughts were that it made them seem that much more of an idiot.

Already being positioned in the corner, I performed what would be considered a double-wall jump, pushing off on one corner and then while in mid-air, pushing off on the other to gain enough height to grab the small ledge of the wall. I hung there for just a few moments, shimmying slightly away from the corner and closer to Marcus. He started back for the room he had come from earlier, and I quickly launched myself from the wall, halfway across the hallway, landing onto his back. The force knocked us both against the adjacent stone wall, as I wrapped my arm around his neck and held firmly.

"Now you know how the rest of us feel with your poisonous, choking words of hate and corruption..." I said in a low growling voice as my arms continued to squeeze tighter around his scrawny neck. Needless to say, I was furious, and waited for quite awhile to get to this point. Unfortunately, patience was a virtue I still had trouble adjusting to.

Marcus writhed around in pain, grabbing at my arm with bony fingers and using the wall to crush my body and release my death hold. I wasn`t about to give in though, no matter how much the stone hurt like nobody`s business. Pain, at just about all costs, was to be ignored, especially when on assignment. It`s all in the mind, as we were so frequently reminded by our masters, and yet there were times where I`d wished my mind would shutdown.

"You...wh-what do...y-you..w..w-want?..." He said through gurgled words and small gasps of breath.

I stayed silent, not wanting to drag this on any more than was necessary. I wasn`t here for anything other than to do my job and leave. No fuss. No mess. Just a clean kill and body disposal...well, disposals, with the sudden demise of the old cleric. The fool just couldn`t keep his mouth shut, could he?

Marcus began to slow his struggle, as I imagined the life was quickly leaving him. What a relief. I thought, as he suddenly fell to his knees, gasping for air that wasn`t there. Just a few more seconds and it would be over, and I could finally get out of this dreaded place. Who knows how many of his followers would miss him, but I`m sure another Zealot would resurface and seamlessly transition into his place. There were plenty of power-hungry individuals within the Steel Empire, and members of the church were no exception.

Although, in my focused attempts to rid society, and myself, of this particular religious psychopath, I`d failed to see the door to Marcus`s room open just enough. My position had me facing away from the door, and my eyes too hell-bent on ending this fight, that even the faint yellowish glow from the room missed my attention. What a shining example I must be to all my peers within the Guild, always keeping such an aware eye on my surroundings. Is it any wonder I hadn`t died sooner?

The sudden sharp pain that coursed through my body, burning like a wild fire, had me stopped in my tracks. As the body of Marcus began to fall forward, I felt the fiery surge through my blood and the tiniest of pricks just above my shoulder blade. My grip was quickly releasing from around his neck and a fog started to cover my head, blurring my vision in the process.

"What the h-..." I tried to mouth, as my arms lost all feeling and my grip released, causing me to slide off his back and onto the cold floor. It was as though my mind flashed across time, but my body stayed completely still, until there was nothing left but the fainting sounds of echoing footsteps, a loud gulp of breath, and a small frantic voice that caused even more pain than I had initially felt during the struggle.

"Papa!, papa!...are you okay?..."

Last edited by inknform; 02-26-2009 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 03-02-2009, 07:30 PM
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Default Chapter VI

The dreaming.

A place I found myself time and time again during hours of meditation. A place of peace one moment and horror, beyond ones understanding, the next. A place, no matter how real and horrible, drew me closer. There was no rhyme or reason for it`s existence, but it was there nevertheless. Pulling me into the depths of it`s eternal grasp, its shroud of darkness that engulfed my entirety, refusing to let go. I saw faces in the mist that once belonged to me, to my family, to those that were lost long ago. Pieces of me have scattered about the land, pieces that I could never possibly find again. In the dreaming, the porcelain mask which hid me from the world, was beginning to crack beyond repair.

************************

drip, drip. The drops of water came every few seconds, echoing throughout the enclosed space. drip, drip. I could feel the tiny fragments of water splashing onto my shivering body, atop my shoulder, and run down my arm. I couldn’t see, blindfolded by whatever dark cloth was wrapped around my head. My mind, still numb, ran rampant with unanswered questions. I knew I was sitting, struggling to move, only to realize that my feet were bound together and hands were both shackled behind me, behind what felt like the back rest of a wooden chair. I shook my head furiously trying to resurface my senses and break free of the semi-unconsciousness. A moldy smell assaulted my nose every few seconds, causing me to wince. My body continued to shiver, and a slight draft tensed the muscles in my legs, torso, and arms. The realization hit me like a thousand cuts from a sharpened blade.

I was completely naked.

My heart sped up, and my teeth began chattering uncontrollably, as fear and anger crept throughout my body along with the biting cold. Where the hell was I? How could I have let this happen? Again, my mind tossed out more unanswered questions. The more I struggled, the more my mind became angrier, and the harder it was to even concentrate on the current predicament. I had to control myself if I were going to figure this out. I began to slowly inhale and exhale, realigning my focus in an attempt to slow down my rapidly beating heart. As much as the cold chill rushed against my exposed skin, I kept my eyes closed and continued to control my breathing, allowing my mind to clear of all the confusion. This type of meditation came easy for me though, since I had enough practice from day-one of my initiation into the Guild. The idea was to not only keep your mind at ease, but also to control your body’s temperature and reaction.

Mind over body.

After what could have been several minutes, the struggle and involuntary movements came to a halt. There was only the sound of the whistling breeze blowing throughout and the dripping water smacking against the uneven stone floor and…waves crashing against the building? I was still unable to see, due to the thick blindfold covering half my face, but my ears picked up on the echoes bouncing off the walls to determine proximity. The space seemed rather large, and there were several breaks in the sound as though caused by obstructions. I wriggled both wrists, feeling a little bit of give from my left wrist due to the water running down my arm from above. I continued twisting, and pulling, hoping to set the one hand free, feeling the soreness caused by the friction against the metal. The pain, however, was the least of my problems.

Footsteps could be heard in the distance, muffled, but still audible. I tried to quicken my efforts to free my hand, but the harder I pulled and faster I twisted, the more difficult I made it for myself. Patience was the only key I had in at this time. At that moment, a door unlatched and creaked open for a few seconds, followed by shuffling footsteps, and the door creaking closed. I sat there unmoving as the echoing footsteps, uneasy and staggered as they were, drew louder and closer. I could hear the sloshing and light clinking of liquid inside a glass container, my guess, being held by the unidentified figure heading my way. My wrists continued to pull from the wet, metal brace, as the footsteps stopped only inches from my position. With another sloshing sound, the puckering of lips, followed by a loud belch of wine breath that could kill, the figure grunted before continuing.

“S-so, lass…” the man with the low, gruff voice paused for a moment. “…hah!, I bet you think you`re s-some thing special, eh? Breakin` in da church to do what?...kill an official? haHA!...” The man took yet another swig of the wine bottle. “…you ain`t nothin` but another pretty face. Of course, I`ll have to admit that the rest a` you is just as tasty….” A low chuckle came from the man`s voice as he smacked his lips together. “and it was a pleasure having the chance to strip you from those rags. Makes it easier to ravage you before I slice you up…”

I tried my best to ignore the drunken man’s incessant rantings, knowing full well that he was trying to mess with my head. However, something he said in his last words struck a deep nerve, causing my muscles to tighten.

“I`d love for you to come closer and try it…bastard son of a whore…” I said through clenched teeth, trying to keep my wits about me as I mentally played out the next few steps in my head. Although, I might have waited until he had finished his last gulp of wine before throwing a challenge his way.

In an enraged shock to my response, he involuntarily spewed the wine out, spraying it all over my face and upper torso. My expression was anything but composed at that moment, as I could smell the stink of the alcohol and feel the liquid run down my body. I don`t know what caused me to gag more, the fact that what was once in his mouth ended up on me, or the smell of his rank breath when his reaction had us face to face.

“wench…I`m gonna do just that, and MUCH more, believe me...you`ll be begging for a swift death...”

I held my breath until I decided it was time to end this game. A wry grin formed across my face, as I quickly calculated his position in relation to mine.

“Well…” I said in a composed tone of voice. “As much as I would thoroughly enjoy whatever it is you think you could do to me, I have a little secret for you…”

The drunk man let out a low chuckle, apparently agitated but at the same time curious. “yeah, yeah wench, spit it out so we can get on with s-“

Before he could even finish whatever wicked, undesirable thought he was trying to lay on me, my one wrist slipped out of the wet iron band as the other shackled hand swung around and cracked him in the side of the head. A loud shriek burst forth from his mouth, as I quickly grabbed the other free end of the shackles and wrapped the thick chain around his neck, twisting as tightly as my strength would allow. He fell off balance to his hands and knees, writhing around, trying to free the chain from my grasp. The adrenaline surged through me, as I felt nothing but the intense red heat of vengeance. The choking, gurgling sound as he struggled, sent a greater burst of energy through my muscles, tighten the stranglehold even more. He continued to flail his arms, hitting my ribs and legs several times to push me off, but I felt nothing. My mind had been focused on removing the object of my anger once and for all, and as his body fell over in a heap to the cold ground, unconscious or dead…I sat breathing heavily for a moment.

"...nobody, touches me..."

I reached up to pull down the blindfold, catching the shimmering glow of various torches placed along the perimeter of the dimly lit room. My eyes took a moment to adjust, as I could begin to make out a large cavernous room filled with stacked barrels of all kinds. My first guess, considering the smell, was they were mostly filled with wine or ale, but my eyes focused on yet another barrel with different markings. There wasn`t much I could do from my vantage point, so I searched the fallen drunk and pulled a curved dagger from his belt as well as ring of keys. Only moments later, I sliced through the ropes which bound my legs, and tried each key against the lock on the shackle until I found the correct one. I slowly stood to my feet, stretching out the ache that settled in my muscles and bones. I certainly wasn`t going to run around with no clothes on, so the only thing I had at my disposal was the long, stitched leather coat that the drunk had on. I pulled it off his limp body, put my arms through the sleeves and fastened all the buttons except for the top. Apart from the smell, it wasn`t half bad, and helped keep most of the cold out, which is what I needed at this moment to keep myself from collapsing.

I held firmly to the curved dagger, as I made my way over to the barrels with the unusual markings. At first, I questioned even contemplating the idea of searching through this place knowing that I had to get out fast. Of course, if there was any information that could shut this place down for good, then I was going to find it. Who knew if Marcus was still in the City though, or he may have laid low since a mark had been put on his head. Either way, curiosity got the better of me as I stuck the dagger into the grove along the edge of the barrel’s top, prying it open. I pushed the wooden top to the side, an overwhelming smell of decay just about knocked me over. I grabbed one of the nearby torches adorning the wall, and shed light within the darkened barrel. My eyes suddenly widened at the monstrous contents.

Decaying human remains…

Last edited by inknform; 03-02-2009 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 03-04-2009, 08:45 PM
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Default Chaper VII

It took very little to surprise me, especially considering the situations I allowed myself to fall into even before being recruited by the Shadow Eye Guild. The detachment from a family which was crumbling before my eyes, the reckless abandon I experienced while trying to carve a notch into my own measly life, and the people who took advantage of my obvious absence of street smarts. For the last few years, I couldn’t figure out why the Empire would have chosen someone like me to work in the underground networks, to be an Agent, to be the eyes and ears which reside in the shadows. But, then as time went on it became apparent to me as to the reason. I was easily forgotten and no one of any significance within the Adeimar family, or within the realm of the Steel Empire. I was an anomaly, disappearing into the folds of corruptions and deceit. The perfect cover.

However, as unmoved as I appeared to be by the workings of the world, the sight of decayed remains stuffed into a wooden wine barrel under who-knows-where, had me on edge. It was just plain inhuman.

I didn’t hesitate to re-cover the barrel, keeping my nose as far away from the smell of death as possible. In fact, deep down, I had a certain adverse reaction to passing death. Not so much having to take a life, within reason, but defilement of those who have long died. Even the stories I had heard with regard to lifeless corpses, the undead, walking the lands outside of the boundaries of the Empire made me cringe. How could such things be allowed in the social and biological structure of humanity? How could one who had passed on into the realm of endless sleep, be forced to roam the surface in physical body and yet void of all spirit and soul? My mind certainly went into several directions, but I quickly had to reconvene thoughts, to focus on finding my way out of where ever I was being held. A small semblance of concern, however, tapped at the side of my head. What happened to Marcus? Did I lose him completely? Did I fail at the one thing I had been summoned to do?

“Serves `em right by sending an Agent rather than a damn assassin…” I mumbled to myself. It was the only justification I could muster up.

I headed toward the only door in the room, kneeled down so I was eye-level to the thin keyhole, and narrowed my eyes to get a good view to the other side. As far as I could see, there had been one armed guard pacing back and forth only a few feet from the door. Unfortunately, I could tell that there was a large dead bolt securing the door from the outside, which meant keys would be useless. My best bet, at that point, was get the guard to open the door, but that was probably easier said than done. However, if anything would get him to open the door, it would probably be a really unusual circumstance. Something that he would`t expect to happen, yet couldn’t just run from the fact that it was happening. An idea was weaving itself nicely in my head; however, it also really repulsed me to think about it. But, I had no other choice in the matter if I wanted to get out of this place.

My attention turned to the stacked barrels that were closest to the door, which I quickly crept over to, and by the permeating smell of rotting flesh, I knew I had a winner. I walked around to the other side of the barrel, pried off the lid, and pushed the barrel onto it`s side. If the crashing of the wooden barrel onto the stone wouldn`t grab his attention, then possibly the mixture of blood, water, and bits of skin leaking profusely under the door would. I staked my life on the latter.

Within seconds, there was a loud grunt and incessant cursing from the guard on the other side of the door as he frantically unlatched the door. I quickly positioned myself on one side of the door, as the guard threw the door wide open, stepping over the chucks of body parts lying on the wet ground. I had to hold my breath to keep from vomiting. The guard walked into the room, looking at the ground and cursing under his breath.

“Vigo!...what in the nine hells ha-…Ughh!

My senses couldn’t hold out any longer, as I quickly sprang at the guard and cut deep into the back of his neck with the curved dagger. I didn’t stick around long enough to listen to the gurgling sounds of the blood choking him as he fell to his knees. I wanted out. My feet carried me almost as swiftly as the wind, as I leapt out of the room and ran down the narrowed corridor, with the dim light of torches as my only guide.
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Old 03-17-2009, 06:56 PM
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Default Chapter VIII

My feet just couldn’t carry me any quicker than they had up that winding stone staircase. The thought of all those rotting body parts left a disturbing feeling; lives that had, for one reason or another, been shattered and torn apart…literally. I didn’t know who they were, or what they had done, but all I did know was that no one deserved to be dismembered and left in a barrel. From the nature of my findings, I couldn’t imagine that they were being used for scientific purposes, but for something more devious. Maybe it was more own feelings for the situation, or maybe my better judgment was finally kicking in. Something didn’t smell right, and it was more overpowering than the disposed flesh. At this point, it was time to uncover whatever plan was hatching within this place. I was initially instructed to take the zealot Marcus out of the picture, but as an Agent of the Empire, I knew I could do so much more to expose his organization.

The long ascent found me at a landing, where a large wooden door leading into another room was latched. I first put my ear up to the door, listening for the echo of footsteps but found none, and then slowly opened the door. Another hallway laid stretched out in both directions, and one thought came to my mind: the inhabitants of this place must’ve been extremely fit/. I chuckled at the thought, but became somewhat annoyed by the maze-like qualities, and not even sure if I was still within the confines of the Morningstar Cathedral. Would I even be able to find Marcus and his band of brain-washed followers? Would my findings in the bowels of this building be linked to the Zealot?

I could only hope.

My back stayed flush with the wall, as I crept within the shadows of the darkened corridor. From the looks of the faint light cast through the narrow stain glass windows high above, it was either sunrise or sunset depending on which direction the wall was facing. My sense of time was skewed, uncertain as to how long I was out for, and the thought of vulnerability made me sick to my stomach. Who knows what may have been discovered from my confiscated clothing, or the small amount of equipment I had on me at the time. Typically, an Agent would not carry anything incriminating on their person, but you never really know what could show up with thorough investigation. I wasn’t worried though, because whatever little evidence any could find on the underground guilds would shortly vanish without a trace. It should always be as though we never existed.

The corridor seemed to go on for an eternity, until at last, I reached the end. Unfortunately, there were three tall doors, spaced apart about four or five feet, and all void of any latch or handle. My guess is they were only capable of being opened from the other side, or they were magically sealed, but either way would pose a problem. The one spark of hope, however, was that the small inscribed symbols along the door frames were indicative of the Morningstar Cathedral’s magically sealed doors, which meant I never left the premises. Magic was not something that the Empire completely felt at ease with, however it was tolerated in certain circles and only under strict supervision. Doors that were magically sealed most likely held something that others were not permitted to see. I was certain that these were the very doors I needed to gain access to.
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Old 04-01-2009, 06:23 PM
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Default The End

Further investigations lead me to something even more interesting, and substantially larger with regard to blowing this whole operation wide open. The discovery of Marcus` private study allowed deeper digging into the plans that, for the most part, had been directed at usurping the Emperor’s power. As I read through many of the letters, notes, and general outlines written by the Zealot himself, I had to ask myself one question: Why?

Why even bother trying to overthrow such a mighty power when you’ve only really rallied a small army of followers? According to the vast amount of correspondence within his files, the number of followers at Marcus` disposal pales in comparison to what the Steel Empire has within all its sects. However, my guess was that he didn’t expect to win any battle with numbers, but with dark magic. His long standing association with the various witch covens throughout the land and even sleeper cells within the Empire has brought enough information to his attention to play his cards in a smart way. Marcus was a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, so smart in fact, that even if I did kill him as ordered, it would do little to disrupt the real powers behind this plan. The witches and warlocks laying in wait were more a threat than any Zealot within the church. The Emperor would be quite please to catch wind of this information and accolades would be thrown the way of my guild for such information obtained. I honestly cared little for reputation, but this entire assignment has been one headache after another and getting at least one thing accomplished would be more than enough at this point.

Marcus had to die, and I knew exactly where he was going to be.

In an attempt to draw less attention to myself, I figured the best thing to do would be to blend in. Yes, the shadows were my ally, but disguise can be even more advantageous. Why hide in the dark when I could hide in plain sight? I was fortunate enough to find a small storage closet which housed several long hooded robes, which allowed me to discard the tattered, musky coat I had been forced to wear. Something told me I would probably never find my original clothing, but that wasn’t a real concern. The robes were sufficient enough to get close to Marcus and finish him off for good. According to his scheduler notes, he would be taking confession in the main sanctuary, which was a perfect place to make my escape after the fact. I quickly grabbed the robe which was the closest fit to my frame, fastened the waist, and lifted the hood enough to obscure my facial features. I grabbed the six inch letter opener sitting on the desk, slipped it into the cuffs of the robe, and made my way toward the sanctuary, which was nearly on the opposite side of the cathedral.

My blood boiled with anticipation.

I made it through several of the corridors unchallenged, as most of the priests and elders who passed my way were buried in a large book or manuscript and paid little attention to their surroundings. It wasn’t until I reached the entry doors into the sanctuary that there were guards posted. I made sure that my head was angled down enough that the top of the hood cast a shadow over my face, but that I could also see what was going on in front of me. Both guards armed with halberds, but lightly protected, turned to open the tall wooden doors as I approached. I kept a steady walking rhythm as I passed through the threshold, and the massive doors closed abruptly behind me. There was an odd silence within the sparsely crowded main sanctuary, and a line of men, women, and children stood waiting outside the confessional booth along the inner perimeter. The fact that the words of Marcus were being used to poison the minds of all of the people was sickening enough to think about. I couldn’t imagine that there was really any confession taking place, but more recruitment, for a cause that only a maniac would understand. There were guards posted outside of the little door leading into the priests side of the confessional, which told me that Marcus was definitely present. It was now only a question of reaching him.

I did what I could to make my way through the line until my position landed me at the front. Several stares were shot in my general direction, as angry church-goers couldn`t quite figure out why I was even there. But, before any stupid question were passed along to me, a young man exited the confessional and I slipped into the vacant booth. Here was my chance.

“And what shall the gods pardon today, my child?” Marcus asked this general question in such a monotone voice, that there was barely any emotion attached to it.

I leaned forward, making sure my face was nondescript, but close enough to the thin mesh screen that was the only thing between me and my target. “I am sorry, but could you come closer father, I have trouble hearing.” I pleaded in a low, raspy voice, grasping the letter opener firmly in one hand.

There was a slight hesitation from his end, but then his face was close enough where I was able to see the color of his eyes. “Now, please share with me what ails you my child. We are here to help you with all of your troubles”

At that moment, I couldn’t explain such a hesitation that I felt, but it was there. It was as though the slow, even voice of Marcus brought on a whole other set of emotions, digging deeper within my psyche and uncovering things that never saw the light of day. What was he doing to me? Was this some kind of trickery used by the church to force people to divulge information they would otherwise keep secret? These questions flooded my mind, and began to anger me in the process, but I had to keep my composure lest I fail.

“Is everything okay with you? Is there nothing that you need confess to your god on this day?” His voice came smooth again, but with a slight overlay of impatience in his tone.

I drew slightly closer to the screen, and only a whisper escaped my lips.

“Forgive me father, for I will sin…”

With a thrust of my arm, the silver letter opener pierced through the mesh window and buried itself deep into the right eye of the Zealot, hitting the gray matter within his thick skull. I braced myself for a scream, but none came. Only blood poured from the wound, and the shocked look on his face left little room for any other emotion. It was a silent kill, as silent as it possibly could be. I made my way out of the booth, sliding the door closed behind me, and quickly headed for the front doors. The screams finally came, but they were only of those onlookers who couldn’t believe that someone would kill their spiritual leader, their advocate of the almighty, their direct communication with the Lord.

What’s done is done; and a grin was the last thing that formed along my lips as I slipped out into the crowded streets.
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