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Amensol's Shadow: In The Shadow Of The Sun (Part Two)

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    June 13, 2020 9:38 PM PDT

    Amensol’s Shadow: In the Shadow of the Sun (Part Two)

    The 10th Tale of the Unseen Pillar of the House of Amensol, by Benonai

     

                Kole leaned in as he continued to speak to the young man across the tavern table from him.  Only a handful of people knew about the things he was about to share, and it was dangerous to not mind your surroundings.  The loudness of the tavern at this hour was a great place to speak and not be heard.

              “Bear with me as I give you a little more backstory on why I am here,” Kole said.  The young man scratched his beard, acting as nonchalant as he could.  The glowing scars on Kole’s arm had piqued his interest, but he wasn’t about to fawn over this stranger.  “Have you ever heard of the Assassins of the Red Raven?”

              “Yes, pretty much any around these parts have,” the young man replied.

              “Do you know anything about them?” Kole asked.

              “Well, generally, those that meet them aren’t around long enough to regale their encounters. So… no.

              “There are not many who do.  And they play an important role to this story. Many know the name, the bizarre gossip about them. Not many understand why. But if you know any of the folklore surrounding them, then surely you have heard of The Hand of God…” Kole said, and leaned in just a little closer.

     

              The sunsets along the coast were always the most beautiful, he thought as he wiped his blade off on a scrap of cloth he tore from the lifeless body at his feet.  It would take at least a half hour before any of the soldiers missed their captains.  Such was the nature of worker bees.  He stared again at the failing streams of light as they danced off the waves. He never got tired of watching the ocean. The race of men were seafaring people. It was in their blood, their culture.  He grabbed a red glove out of his pocket and threw it down on top of one of the bloody bodies.  There were five captains of the army of men lying dead around his feet. They were the leaders of a war party that had left out of the Human capitol to strike the camps of Revenant soldiers posted in Reignfall.  His mission was to intercept and thwart the planned attack on the Revenant, ensuring their survival.  It was a message to the army of Men; the Assassins of the Red Raven do not approve. And the red glove was his personal message, not just the red painted raven left by the other members. After many such jobs, the gossip in the cities referred to him as the Hand of God.  Nobody knew him.  Nobody saw him, except those he knew couldn’t tell.

              He wiped away any telling tracks, brushing the sand with a nearby branch.  This was the sixth war party he had subdued and they were getting more frequent, not taking the obvious hint. The king had continued to send them out to cull the Revenant Army’s numbers.  The race of men and the Revenant were at war, but his mission was not about politics.

              He took in one last view of the quiet shoreline before closing his eyes to take in the mildly salty breeze blowing around him, then ducked through the brush and headed back to his camp.  He had been successful at making it to his target before they were able to set sail for Reignfall, the westward continent.  Many strange and vicious things roamed there, but just the difference in cuisine from the locals was enough to turn him off.  Ratkin, the savage rodent peoples, do not taste like chicken, no matter what the local tavern says over there.

              The woodland that led away from the coastline was not thick, but almost resembled a manicured grove, and it was easy to see a fair distance underneath the tall foliage.  But he heard them before he ever saw them.  A band of Revenant warriors were patrolling the coastline, no doubt searching for easy prey.  He took out his knife and held it to his left side. It never seemed strange to him anymore, taking out one side of a political battle to protect another, then turning around and reversing it.  These Revenant would kill anyone who came near them.  Ambushing parties were their specialty.  Long ranged projectiles laced with poison were commonly used.  Some could die before they even knew they were being hunted. 

              He moved along the backside of a thin line of cascading trees, maintaining obscurity while getting closer.  Only six and already camped, he thought.  He snickered at how lax their security was.  He sheathed his dagger and picked up two cubit long fallen branches on the ground and placed them under his arm.  Then, he whistled.

              The leader of the Revenant patrol immediately barked out orders before even looking for the source of the commotion in the darkening woods.  Three of his fighters ran for their blow darts and bows, laying by their mats.  He and the other two soldiers grabbed their swords from their sides and ventured toward the sound.

    WHACK

               The sound came from the east of camp. The three warriors ran in the direction of the sound.  The assassin grabbed the second stick, the first being a direct hit from 30 yards into a tree to serve as a distraction.  His leather soles were eerily silent as he bounded through the wood in the direction of the rangers.  He finally came into full view of the three from 20 yards away. He hurled the large stick as hard as he could end over end.  It crashed into the back of the neck of the closest Revenant.  While it was still mid-air, he had drawn his large dagger and loosed it toward the second. It sank deep into the soldier’s back. He had already made his way to the first downed savage and, with an elongated step, managed to land his passing step directly on the back of his bruised neck.  A sickening crack came from under his foot as the life was crushed out of his enemy.  He made it to the second before he fell over, weakly trying to dislodge the large dagger from his back.  The assassin pulled it free, in stride, and slowed just long enough to bring it around and slit a couple finger’s depth into the front of his neck as he passed, just to ensure the job was finished.  By this time, the third had turned from the light commotion and was alerted to the killer’s presence.  He sucked in hard and began to yell to his party and managed to get out a slight sound before the dagger flew into his windpipe.  It pierced the skin on the other side of his neck.  No air came in or out.  The assassin walked calmly up to him, watching for the other three.  He reached up and grabbed his dagger and pulled it out with a twist.  The third body fell to the ground.  He bent down and pulled a pipe from the dying soldier, along with three darts from a thick pouch around his waist.  The assassin sniffed them.  They’re freshly dipped, he thought to himself. How thoughtful of them.

              The three swordsmen were hollering through the trees in their Ginto language.  One stopped looking and turned to his companion.

              “There’s nothing here.  Probably just some game running through.  Vesna, you and Forelto head out to see if you can catch it.  I’m not eating these awful rations one more night,” the leader said.  There was no reply.  He spun around looking for his charges. His eyes found a leg sticking out from behind a tree.  He moved around to see the body of Forelto lying unmoving on the forest floor.  His sword  came back up as he spun around again looking for an assailant.

              The assassin sent his third dart flying. It found the shoulder of the Revenant captain.  He grabbed at his arm and pulled out the needle.  His eyes grew large, then began fading back to normal.  The assassin watched on as he slowly made his way to the ground, trying to fight the toxins.  He moved around from behind the tree and casually made his way to the bodies seizing up on the ground.  There was no need to finish them.  It only took a couple minutes before the poison stopped their lungs followed shortly by the heart.  He rifled through the spoils for a time, then headed back on his way to his campsite.

     

              The assassin finally made it back to his camp high on the side of a mountain.  He had found a small cleft far from the bottom that made it impossible to see from the ground and wasn’t too difficult for him to climb.  He drug a canvas bag out of his larger satchel and emptied it onto the ground by his bedroll.  A dark gemstone rolled free.  It looked to be a polished stone of some kind at first glance, until at closer inspection, it was almost translucent.  It even emanated a slight reddish glow, barely visible until it was dead of night.  The assassin leaned over and touched it with his left hand and knelt down beside it.

              “Greetings, Sam. It’s Sam now, right,” asked a voice calling from somewhere in front of him.

              “It’s Dirty Sam. They’re calling me Dirty Sam, remember?  It was the way I came back from that job a couple years ago, when I was covered in mud head to toe, and I didn’t have time to clean up before I made it back to the hideout. Ah, good times,” Sam said, chuckling at the crazy memory.  A haze was forming in front of him.  The voice came again, out of the haze.

              “Ah, yes.  You had saved Kaolyen down in the Murk from the dwarven assassin duo from Amberfaet, then had to kill two of his bodyguards to maintain your cover.  Such loss of life is a shame,” the voice said.  A body formed from the fog and took full shape.  It was a cloaked man, old and wrinkled, but not frail.  He stood in one spot as he continued to talk to Dirty Sam, the so called Hand of God.

              “And were you able to complete your mission with minimal casualties,” the old man asked.

              “Yes, yes.  I was able to isolate the captains again.  The forty or so men will be forced to march back and check in with the army commander. This is the fourth time this year they have tried this.  The king is not getting a strong enough message.

              “Well,” the old man replied, “as long as they continue to think Red Raven works for the Revenant, they will continue to fight against it.  They will grow stronger in their replies.  At some point there will be a boiling over.”

              “The king is a fool.” Sam said, shaking his head as he used his dagger to dig up some buried coals.  It was never good to have an open fire at night.  He always started a fire in the morning, buried the coals along with his meat for later.  “If he cared about his people, he would quit sending them out to die.”

              “By your hand, isn’t it, “the old man cut in.  “Many would say, and do, that you are the problem.”

              “My resolve is steady, old one.  I know why I abide by the way of The Red Raven.  Its interests are aligned with mine.”

              “So be it,” said the old man. “What does your resolved heart say to you now, I wonder.”

              Dirty Sam sat back with his uncovered food.  He put it down beside him as he quieted his mind and body for clarity. “Ok.  My heart tells me that the king of men can not be the first to get his hands on the lost pieces of the Dragon Accord he searches for in Reignfall.  It tells me he can never have them. It tells me if I could have killed Narian Castigue when I had the chance, we wouldn’t be in this mess now.  But, it tells me that killing Narian now would not stop the king’s quest for the knowledge and power.  Knowledge and power are very sharp blades and should be wielded by one expert in their use.  Otherwise, accidents happen.”

              “And you seek this power instead,” asked the old man.  “Are you expert in handling this weapon?”

              “Well,” Sam shrugged and smiled at the summoned being, “I am pretty good with a blade.”

     

              “Wait a moment,” the young man said, leaning toward Kole and interrupting his story.  Kole sat back and took another swig of his elven ale.

              “You are telling me that Narian Castigue had some dangerous power that the Assassins of the Red Raven were trying to steal from Reignfall before the King got it and, what? Destroyed the world?  Narian Castigue, the King’s resident bookworm and historian?

              “My dear, dear innocent lad,” Kole condescended him, “I’m telling you that at one time everyone who knew of it wanted what Narian was promising, with him alive or dead. That’s why he moved into the King’s house. It was too dangerous for him elsewhere.  In the end, Narian died doing what he loved, I guess; self aggrandizing over his contributions to the world, and belittling those around him.  I hear he had a rather large contingent of servants who hated him.

              “Alright,” said the young man, “so I am deep into my second pint here and I have yet to hear how you fit into any of this, or why you picked now to show up. I’m not even sure I believe that you are my father, and I certainly don’t know why you would care now, not knowing me my whole life. I don’t even know how you found me.  What is it? You need money or something?  A few gold pieces to help you retire?”

              “Like I said, be patient while I explain.  It’s important that I tell you all of this,” Kole said with a slight growl in his voice.  This man reminded him too much of himself, and it was endearing and infuriating at the same time.

              “I guess it’s the right time for me to enter the story,” Kole said. He wasn’t making eye contact with the young man across from him.  His hand fidgeted with a gold piece on the table as he became lost in his memories.

              “I am the son of Honnai and Carinna, two of the best and most loved heroes of the great war, and whom you probably have never heard of.  I never knew my father, who never knew his father, as you never knew yours.  My mother died in battle when I was ten.  And my story only gets worse from there..."


    This post was edited by benonal at June 21, 2020 2:42 PM PDT