Friday, February 26, 2010


Garenol slowly opened the door from the last target’s room, careful to not touch the knob or door with his skin. His paranoia was always most intense when working in cities with Ivory Council members. Some of them had intense divination powers, and could touch objects and see anything living that had previously touched them. Learning this fact had been a costly lesson early in his chosen profession, and he’d ended the manhunt brought on him by his carelessness with a number of silent deaths. He shuddered at the follies of his youth and thanked the gods quietly that he was more careful now.

This last target went according to plan, almost too smooth to end in something as horrible as murder. A silent entrance into the room had not stirred the sleeping council member in the slightest. Garenol had brought swift painless death, not even breaking the man’s skin with his dagger. After slowly lifting the blankets curled around the sleeping man’s feet, he had taken the flat of the blade and rubbed the smallest amount of the viscous tar coating the blade on the man’s heel. Garenol crouched in the darkness of a corner opposite the bed then, to ensure that the man was dispatched without incident.

True to his knowledge of the poisonous extract, a boiled down mixture of Daarkian blood lichens and common peppermint, the man was dispatched without a sound. Garenol knew exactly one person in Haarkedamia that could come close to identifying the poison, and he highly doubted his father would be investigating this death. The blood lichen was a swift toxin, causing almost instant paralysis, freezing the victim in place and also rendering them incapable of vocal noise. Death came within a minute of this initial freezing of muscle functions. Garenol had waited, seen the sleeping man suddenly grow stiff as a board, breath beginning to slow down as involuntary mechanism fought the poison, and slowly lost. Garenol walked to the bed and ensured that the man was dead, holding a small polished mirror carefully under his nose, checking for steam imprint. The target no longer drew breath.

Garenol had then leapt deftly to the footboard of the bed, reaching up with a gloved hand to carefully replace the ceiling tile he had displaced. He knew that if anything, the man would be assumed to have died in his sleep, the only hint of the poison being the slightest hint of a menthol smell. Even the most astute investigator would only assume the light scent was from a traveller’s balm, some type of liniment common to those weary from travel, just like his well-traveled councilman target, now stiff and silent under the inn’s warm blankets. Garenol climbed down carefully, moving to the two pieces of luggage sitting next to the wall behind the door to the room. He shuffled quickly through the two hard sided cases, taking from the larger only the emissary’s pouch with the Confederacy emblem embossed into its thick leather front flap. He also found a small glass jar, marked on its tin hammered lid with a mint leaf: traveller’s balm. He smiled, as he would not even have to plant the container he had in his own pocket to alleviate the suspicions of an investigator careful enough to look for it. Glancing around to satisfy himself that all appeared the way he wanted it to, he quickly opened the emissary’s pouch. The folding leather pouch was filled with documents relevant to the councilman’s work as a representative of his home state. Garenol thought for a moment, assuming this information would be important enough to Jean Pareil to take the risk of stealing it. He wouldn’t be able to leave the murder completely without leads, but he felt confident that being tracked down was not going to happen. He would be gone after Polk anyway. He moved silently to the door, glancing back to the body in the bed once more in reassurance that this part of the assignment was over.

Garenol smiled in relief to see that the hallway was empty, and walked quickly to his room with the emissary pouch. Opening the door swiftly and locking himself inside, he turned with a look of relief to the bed. Finally, he thought to himself, a few hours’ rest before the real job began. He crossed to the window, producing the poisoned dagger from its sheath. It would have to be completely disposed of, as would the now incredibly dangerous sheath. He opened the window with his free hand, letting in the moist early morning air, the sky outside growing a dull gray in anticipation of a foggy spring morning. Garenol then pulled the glove off his right hand with his teeth, and carefully moved the dagger into his naked palm, careful to only handle the unblemished hilt of the weapon. He then took his other glove off with his teeth, spitting it onto the floor beside the first one as he took his sheath in his other hand. Holding both items out of the window over the alleyway behind the Bloody Fist, Garenol began to murmur in a low voice, watching as rust spread quickly up the blade of the dagger, the poison coating the blade turning to pale dry dust and flaking off the quickly corrupting blade. The sheath crumbled fast as well, drifting into the fog of the alley in gray flakes. After thirty seconds of concentration, Garenol opened both hands, letting the fine dust that was all that remained of both items drift into the open air.

Dusting his hands off decisively, Garenol turned back to the room, leaving the window open a crack, the smells drifting up through the window from the kitchen too intoxicating to shut out. He shoved the emissary pouch into his own backpack that lay on the bed. Pushing the rest of his gear off the blankets, he sat down heavily, still breathing in deep gulping drafts. The exertion of suspending himself in the ceiling rafters and magic use, combined with the stress of the day’s events to make Garenol once again out of breath, wracked with fatigue, but at least feeling accomplished. For today at least, his job had been done, and done well. Garenol leaned down and unlaced his soft boots one at a time, not caring where they fell. Stretching out across the bed’s soft quilt, he felt his muscles begin to unravel. Sleep was already overtaking him. Just a few hours, he thought to himself. Then I’ll retrieve Malus and we will sort out Polk, then get out of this damned town. I may take a little time before meeting back up with Jean Pareil, maybe go to the coast, Porl is always beautiful in the spring bloom.

He fell asleep envisioning a solitary beach, its own small corner of the world surrounded by impenetrable cliffsides. The sand underneath his bare feet glittering like an infinite wash of diamonds. Himself seated crosslegged in the sand, loose linen pants brushing up against a bottle of wine cradled between his legs, no other person in sight, a small sailing craft moored off shore, riding gently at anchor.

Malus steered the horse into a labyrinthine pattern upon reaching Tinder Town, the poorest area of Venne, pressed up against the city’s southernmost wall. The whole of the area teemed with activity, as menial laborers, street vendors and the more determined beggars rose from lean-tos and shanties and the occasional permanent tent to face another day. Malus, in his cloak and armor, looked authoritative and intimidating enough to not garner many second looks, as the people moving about their morning gave the hooves of his stolen horse a wide berth.

With enough wandering in this part of town, Malus felt for certain that any trail that led from the warehouse fire to him would be completely obliterated. Even if they saw the hoof prints leading away from the scene, he knew that there would be no way to follow a horse through Tinder Town as morning broke. People already moved in every direction here on narrow, unpaved roads. He looked behind his horse, now moving at a relaxed gait, calmed down from its fire induced panic. Already the hoof prints they were leaving behind were being obfuscated by booted and bare feet, the tracks of pushcarts and donkeys, and the gentle mist of the foggy morning, all combining into an indecipherable muddy morass. He nodded grimly, seeing his thoughts working in action.

Malus decided he was hungry, as he remembered Garenol mentioning breakfast earlier. He kept taking random lefts and rights down unmarked small streets, watching the poor of Venne rise early to prepare for the awakening of the rest of the city for the day’s holiday activities. Malus spotted numerous narrow wagons already loaded with food and drinks, hitched to small, ill-bred looking donkeys, braying in protest at the earliness of the hour. Smaller push carts lined the muddy streets as well, loaded with cheap trinkets to commemorate the occasion, carved likenesses and reproductions of Olorin’s staff.

Malus waved down a vendor who was quickly shoveling hot coals from a metal bucket into the bottom of a metal box on the back of a wagon. Malus could smell the fragrant steam coming from the contraption: roasted corn. He dug into the large bag of coins tied to the saddle’s pommel, tossing the bewildered vendor a gold coin. The man stumbled over himself selecting the biggest ear of corn he could find in the hot box, carefully peeling back the husks into a makeshift cradle, and giving it up to Malus on the tall horse. Malus rode on without pause, taking large bites from the sweet corn as he went, oblivious to the hot juices running down his chin into his cuirass. He failed to see the man behind him bite the coin quickly before pocketing it, more money than he’d see in a month.

Malus decided it would be best to wait until breakfast was in full swing for the crowd at the Bloody Fist. He would then rendezvous with Garenol, and plan out their assassination of archbishop Polk. Malus glanced up from the streets to the Crystal Cathedral, its gleaming white crystal spire rising high above the normal structures of the city, and viewable from any point inside the city’s walls. His eyes gleamed as he found himself picturing the vaults below the cathedral, filled with the kind of riches that would build such a ridiculous monument. With any luck, he would leave Venne rich enough to continue his own quest. But for now, he had to figure out how to kill one of the most powerful and well-protected men in the Confederacy. Rather than frustrate his thoughts, the challenge pleased him immensely, and the smile it brought to his face was sufficiently horrifying to ensure he and his stolen horse an even wider berth than before.

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