The massive architectural wonder that was the last human stronghold loomed in the background of Shaemoor gloomily accented with low hanging gray clouds. Dhalik had heard the stories of Ascalon City and wondered if it looked just like this city did now, with the stifled flames of lanterns replaced with the eerily cerulean aura of undying Ascalonian ghosts. In any case, this city looked like a dark fortress housing the restless spirits of those trapped in fleshy cages.
The sound of the light drizzle becoming full-fledged rain interrupted all attempts at meditation. It beat heavily on the wooden frame of the inn like it never intended to stop. Pools of water collected between the cobblestone roadways and flooded dirt patches. They were transformed into muddy goop that the adults avoided like the plague, while the children used as an excuse to make a mess out of their clothes. Smaller woodland creatures scurried back to their holes and dens to avoid being swept away by the forming currents that were merely an annoyance to the common traveler, but a blessing to the many farmers who had been praying for a good rain for their crops’ sake.
Perhaps the dragons will soon release these ill-fated souls from their mortal prisons, Dhalik thought as he sat in the room he rented upon arriving earlier. He knew that at least one of these “ill-fated souls” in that grand city would be released from their mortal prison soon enough by his hand.
It was a simple resting space. An old rickety bed was crammed in the corner of the small room, built with old wood that the silver-haired young man swore was rotting. There was a small table originally placed next to the window, which Dhalik decided to move closer to the bed where he placed his twin weapon-set. Two daggers crafted by a quality norn smith in Hoelbrak, with a smooth and extremely sharp hunting tip and serrated base for when the job required less refined butcher-work, and two low caliber pistols of high caliber design, their birthplace being in the nearby haunted-looking castle.
The two chairs in the room were pushed to both sides of the doorway, and Dhalik’s small knapsack, belt, and coat were placed there. He sat in the middle of the room, with legs crossed, his eyes dark with resolve. He didn’t plan on doing this much longer, even if it meant his end, but this last job was sure secure the help he needed to find the Flame Legion warband that changed his life. Divinity’s Reach was a huge city. He’d find his mark. He’d complete the mission.
He closed his eyes and attempted to ignore the impending storm, thinking how appropriate the weather was…but the sound of paper rustling forced him back to reality. A shadow swept along the space between the bottom of the door and the hard creaky wood floor, but no footsteps were heard. An envelope slid under the door, a small gust of elemental wind pushing it forward. It stopped just beyond arms-length from the assassin and he breathed out slowly. The meditation would have to wait a bit longer.
It was time to go to work.
“I’ll take these.”
Dhalik dropped the golden coins into the open palm of the shopkeeper. He had successfully chosen out decent replacements for his most damaged pieces of armor and clothing. It was midday, and all manner of tools and devices mixed with the clamor of roaming citizens filled the streets with life. Noise, was the more appropriate term in Dhalik’s mind. There was a consistent breeze of cool air, but the amount of bodies rubbing past each other in the eastern commons nullified that luxury.
A heavy-set blacksmith specializing in medium armors had his wares on display and boasted loudly about his craftsmanship and reputation. Another potential buyer was eyeing the items laid out and spoke heavily of the quality he found from this particular smith. Dhalik determined that this man was indeed a paid actor, but after testing out the weight, stitching, and metal work of a few pieces, he knew it was worth the asking price.
Gloves. Gauntlets. Boots. Pants. Coat…
The list of things to acquire was almost complete. Discretion was more important than ever now that he knew there was a warrant out for his arrest. He knew why and didn’t blame the Ministry Guard or the Seraph for attempting to bring him back to the city. He was a danger to have running around. His last target could attest to that, if they still existed in this world.
“That one. No, the one next to it. The dark gray one.”
Another shopkeeper shuffled past her workers to retrieve her customer’s request. She had plenty of garments up for sale that day, and didn’t have to guess why someone would need a hooded coat. The woman was middle aged and looked at Dhalik’s face. Young. Hard. Like most youth were, at least the ones who adventured or were forced to venture far beyond civilization. Or rather, beyond relative safety. She sighed to herself at the thought and produced the coat he asked for.
“The weather has been rather fair lately,” she commented. She smiled lightly at him, but her attempt at conversation was one-sided. He barely made eye contact and his face read dismissive and uninterested.
“How much?” he asked. A small, but vibrantly colored butterfly fluttered down from the rooftops and situated itself on the woman’s stiffly coiled hair bun. Dhalik stared at it awkwardly for a time, before looking into the crowd behind him. The smile deteriorated from the shopkeeper’s face and she told him the price which he placed down on her table. She retrieved the funds and noticed the young man had paid five-gold too much, but when she looked up to call him back he had disappeared into the sea of market-goers.
Dhalik slipped the coat on as he blended into the crowd, adopting a gait akin to that of a regular citizen, not that of someone on the move. A small group of town folk, who looked to be laborers from Shaemoor, strolled together chatting and snacking on carnival treats. It must have been their day off. The assassin trailed behind them leisurely for a time, before slipping into an alleyway. A man covered in rags sat against a building wall, propped up by his elbow on a box of non-valuables. He was falling asleep, his head threatening to fall out of his hands. The bag Dhalik dropped on him woke him with a start and wide-eyed he opened it to find Dhalik’s old clothes, patched with care thanks to the Donason wife. The raggedy man laughed hoarsely in surprise and thanked him as he pulled the hood over his head and turned the corner.
The events of the previous day replayed over and over in his mind. The centaur ambush that left two men dead in the fields, and of course what he did. Dhalik stopped abruptly and looked at his hands, still in disbelief. He could see Phillup’s face now. Staring at him.
“What are you?” Phillup had asked him as if there was no more danger. The remaining centaur was baffled at what it saw. It knew it had seen the man using shadow magic, but now this? The creature watched for a moment more before turning and heading for the hills. Dhalik took the reins and brought the cart to a stop. The yaks were spent, and the assassin was unsure if they were about to have heart attacks from the exertion.
The ex-Seraph grunted and blood trickled from his mouth, his breaths grew more and more ragged and Dhalik removed his weapons from the wooden chest kept in the cart’s rear. He used his dagger to cut both ends of the arrow that pierced the man, but did not remove it for risk of him bleeding out.
“So now you kill me, right? Assassin?” the man spat his words out like skale venom.
“Save your strength. And I’ll save mine,” Dhalik merely responded. He looked the man in the eyes searching for understanding. Phillup had said he was a man of justice, and this criminal had been just, whether he meant to be or not. He was in no position to propose a different bargain, so he nodded slightly. The assassin did not say so, but it was clear. He was going to leave this man’s life to fate. If for some reason the Seraph learned of Dhalik afterward, it was obvious the Donason family would be in danger.
A Seraph scout had noticed the lone centaur retreating and a small brigade was sent out to help any survivors from the evident attack. They rushed to help the dying man who appeared, slumped in his seat due to blood loss. There was no time to lose and the operation began right there in the field. Phillup’s eyes fluttered open and they asked who else had been with him. The man told them of the two humans who died further down the way…and nothing else. Dhalik watched from afar before turning toward his original objective.
The silver haired man frowned and continued forward. He was headed northwest through the slums to the crater that spanned across the westernmost district, known as The Great Collapse. Too hastily was the construction for the new Canthan district performed, and what was believed to be a change in soil condition caused the sink hole. The devastation had not yet been rectified, but the man who fashioned the now un-useable firearm at his hip was there.
Afterward, he planned head to the center of the capitol, deemed the Upper City. The sector where those of the noble class resided. Dhalik knew the risk of a Seraph altercation increased the closer to the palace one got, so it was best to venture there after dark. The second man he needed to visit would be there, and Dhalik guessed he would not be too thrilled to see him. Then again, not many people were when it was him knocking at the door. Such was the nature of his work.