The two guards moved away from one another as they stared back at Garenol. The one who had already drawn his sword pointed it at the ground near Garenol’s feet. He said calmly, “On the floor now, assassin. We’d rather have you alive, but it won’t disappoint me to run you through if you resist in any way.”
Garenol raised an eyebrow at the lack of panic in the man’s voice. Despite himself, he was impressed. He nodded his head in the direction of the dead noble and said, “Looks like you are unemployed. I’ll give you one hundred gold to kill him,” gesturing at the other guard. “And more than you can carry in a wagon if you leave with me now. I have need of professionals.”
The guard narrowed his eyes at Garenol, then charged, his sword raised back from his elbow to strike with the point. At the last split second, Garenol deftly side-stepped the oncoming blade thrust, a hand flashing from under his cloak. He buried a dagger hilt-deep into the guard’s side, between two ribs under his sword arm. The man’s momentum carried him and the weapon forward into the hall, crashing into the wall opposite the door. He was already dead.
Garenol turned back to the second guard, still frozen in place, sword undrawn. He gaped at Garenol, and opened his mouth, but no discernable sound came from it. Garenol looked at him and frowned with a hint of pity. “You are lucky your captain valued your life so highly. Leave here quickly,” Garenol raised his now empty hand and gestured at the open balcony door. “The drop to the courtyard won’t kill you, go now.”
The guard stared for a few seconds longer, then turned quickly, running to the balcony as if chased by wolves. He put one hand on the railing, barely slowing down as he vaulted the rail into the courtyard below. Garenol heard him land. It sounded ugly, but he didn’t break any bones. Garenol smiled to himself as he walked out into the hallway. He looked down at the guard who now lay in an awkward heap against the far wall, the wound from the dagger spreading blood down the side of his torso into the richly embroidered rug that covered the stone floor outside the noble’s bedroom. “Pity,” Garenol said as he pulled his dagger from the man’s side.
Garenol wiped the blade on the man’s tabard and resheathed it underneath his cloak. He looked down the hallway. There were a few more doors, but no noise came from behind them. He nodded to himself, and turned right, heading towards a flight of stairs leading down to the main floor.
Malus slowly walked back around the fountain towards the remaining guards. They seemed to have regrouped somewhat, and began to spread out as Malus approached, giving each other a functional distance, and leveling their weapons towards him once more. ‘How quickly they learn in battle,’ Malus thought to himself as he continued to approach. ‘Too bad this fight will be postponed.’
As Malus drew closer, just as he had anticipated, the guards begin to surround him again, this time in a more uniform circle, with each being careful to afford their comrades sufficient space to maneuver their long poled weapons. Malus looked around at them as the circle began to close, twirling his hand axe nonchalantly in a slow circle as he leveled his sword into a defensive stance. He slowly turned and drew closer to a few of the circle’s guards, making them revolve with him. As he did so, the house that Garenol had entered came back into his line of sight. When he was satisfied at his view of the house, he stopped moving, his hand axe stopping its lazy circle around his wrist. He looked around, sizing up the number of guards left. He glanced outside of the circle towards the house. Just as he suspected, a purple glow began to rise from the windows of the Thelius manor that were visible over the outer wall. “Right on schedule,” Malus said as he crouched down, getting ready for what was about to happen. The guards looked at him with confused expressions.
Garenol hurried down the stairs, arms still hidden under his cloak. The stairs ended in a large entry chamber for the house, which was currently unoccupied. Garenol glanced around quickly, admiring the number of well-executed paintings of House Thelius members that lined the walls of the room. The room was tastefully appointed with delicate wooden furniture, carved to appear almost ethereal, as if nothing larger than a sparrow could sit upon it without breaking it. Garenol ran his hand lightly across the gently curving back of one of the chairs. The furniture was all carved in Wood’s End, the home he’d not seen in a long time. He looked around once more at the beautiful room, as he pulled a hand out from under his cloak. He opened his closed fist, and turned it over, scattering a number of small, purple glass stones onto the floor. The stones made a tinkling noise as they hit the stone floor and bounced erratically, scattering over the smooth surface. Garenol looked around once more wistfully, and turned to go, swinging the double set of wooden doors open wide into the front courtyard. Behind him, the house was starting to rumble and vibrate at a low pitch.
“Fire!” a guard barked as Garenol emerged into the courtyard. Three guards stood near the small guardhouse that stood to the left of the main gate, just inside the wall. Two of them had nocked arrows into short bows and aimed them at the door, waiting for Garenol to emerge. Between the two archers, the guard Garenol had commanded to jump off the balcony stood, listing to one side and favoring his right leg, his sword finally drawn. The two other guards loosed arrows at Garenol across the courtyard.
With unnatural speed, Garenol threw open his cloak, drawing a gently curving sword up in front of his chest. He slashed the weapon with a blinding flash of steel in a swooping arch back and forth in front of him, deflecting both arrows off their deadly paths and harmlessly away from him. The guards stood confused. Garenol pointed at the young injured guard in the middle. “You should have ran when I told you to,” he stated calmly as he extended his free hand towards the trio of guards, chanting quickly. A large ball of purple light, crackling with energy, materialized from his outstretched hand and streaked towards the guards.
Malus looked up one final time at the rising glow behind the Thelius manor’s wall. Then he closed his eyes. A blinding flash of light engulfed the small melee as the house and its walls vaporized, and the large security gates anchored into the entry arch blew out into the cul-de-sac with a deafening clatter. Malus’s eyes, despite being closed, still tinghtened with pain as the light penetrated his eyelids.
As suddenly as it had occurred, the light was gone. Malus quickly opened his eyes onto a circle of stumbling guards, blinded and half deaf. Most had panicked, swinging their spears in circles around themselves, hoping to keep an enemy at bay. A few had abandoned their positions outright, running blindly at where they hoped the cul-de-sac’s narrow street opening was, weapons tossed aside. Malus began walking briskly towards where the house had stood, recognizing the cloaked silhouette of Garenol emerging from the smoke. He barely slowed in his walk as he passed one of the guards who was rubbing his eyes futilely with one hand as he clutched his spear in the other. With a casual backhand swing of his sword arm, Malus decapitated the fumbling guard.
“Are we done here?” Malus asked as Garenol drew close. “I assume this should prove a sufficient distraction.”
“I’d certainly hope so,” Garenol replied as he sheathed his weapon. “Let’s go before the first of the fire brigades get here.”
Garenol began to walk quickly towards the entry to the cul-de-sac. Malus fell in behind him, sheathing his sword, and shoving the haft of his hand axe through a leather loop on his belt. The few guards who had remained in the large circle were slowly regaining their site as the two men departed. They did not attempt to approach Garenol and Malus.
Garenol continued reviewing the operation in his mind as he crouched in the alley, waiting for Malus to arrive. Fog was beginning to roll down the alley from its streetside entrance as the night cooled the humid air of the spring day. ‘Good,’ Garenol thought to himself, ‘more cover. That should make these last two even easier.’ As the fog thickened, he felt comfortable standing up behind the coal bin, stretching the legs that he had now crouched on for some time. The second target had been a mercifully brief detour, a house right on the street, no guards, no walls, and no courtyard. Malus had volunteered to go inside alone, dispatch the target, and meet up with Garenol in an alley near the third target.
Garenol thought briefly about having let Malus do the second target alone, and hoped that he’d made the right decision. That Malus was capable was beyond doubt, the man was unstoppable. He was also almost entirely uncontrollable, and deep inside Garenol knew that he had personally only accepted this mission so that he could keep tabs on Malus, whose horrible and violent talents Jean Pareil seemed unconcerned with unleashing at any given time. Garenol worried himself about the decision to leave Malus alone, knowing that he had only done so to give himself time to recover from the exertions that his magic required. It was with that conflict in mind that he had doubled back a block after separating from Malus, climbing the wall of a building next to the house in which Malus was working. He had clambered silently onto the roof, and laid down flat, watching the house expectantly, hoping not to hear alarms or screams as Malus did his job. He was still fatigued from the few spells cast earlier. Elemental magic, while wonderfully powerful, was physically demanding, and Garenol’s elven body was wracked with pain if he utilized it too often. Even lying on the hard roof tiles was tempting him to sleep as he watched expectantly.
Ten minutes passed before he spotted Malus stepping silently from the house’s back door, looking around carefully at the entrance to the alley running behind the house. He stepped out onto the back stoop, a dagger in his right hand and a piece of bedding sheet in his left. He wiped the blade clean, throwing the soiled sheet scrap aside. He sheathed the weapon and walked down the three steps into the alley, gathering his cloak around his rather conspicuous armored form. Garenol nodded to himself on the roof, relieved that Malus had followed through appropriately with the assignment. Now he just had to use the rooftops to beat Malus to the meeting place to avoid any suspicion on the part of his partner. He did so easily, moving over sloping roofs and narrow ledges just as easily as he would have walked down a paved road. He had dropped down into the alley silently over twenty minutes ago.
He stretched his arms and looked towards the alley’s entrance again, thinking about the next target. The report given to them by Jean Pareil’s contact had stated that the target, a merchant named Frederick Story, typically spent nights in his business when precious shipments were being stowed there on their road south into the heart of Haarkedamia. The report neglected to mention what the goods were, but that he would be in the building for three nights, starting tonight. ‘Pretty thorough intelligence,’ thought Garenol to himself as he peeked around the coal bin. Malus was coming close, the clink of his metal greaves sounding through the rising fog.
7 - Berlin
7 years ago