A solitary figure is leaning against the moss-covered stone wall of the deserted lane leading to edge of the city. It is very late at night and only the moon that seems to be hiding behind the clouds is slightly illuminating the abandoned and muddy road. The dark blue cloak that he is wearing that is flapping in the wind and the heavy robe underneath that saw better times have done nothing to conceal his agitation and irritation. He shifts his weight from one foot to another as he listens anew to the sounds that he earlier picked up. Beneath his robes, his muscles tense as his sword-arm reached for the cold metal hilt of his blade as if it had a mind of its own. His hardened ebon eyes darted carefully from the far end of the road for any sign of movement to the other end and back. He cursed beneath his breath at the vulnerability of his situation. True to character, his patience grew thin.
“The old fool really has a way of driving me to the edge. The harlot should be thrown into the pits of hell without any more ado.”
The note delivered to him earlier in the day was unmistakably from Nèohar. It had not revealed much save that he agreed to meet him in his house. There was nothing unusual about the letter except that it contained encrypted instructions on which route he should take. He does not like unfamiliar territories especially those in the outskirts of the city that reminds him of how Nèohar, who was then in the prime of his youth, saved him from the gods of death in the life-forsaken streets of Ìhbian a few decades ago. The Fates looked at him unkindly. But Nèohar, ah, Nèohar. The thought of the old man brought a faint hint of a smile to his hard face that is marred and etched with all the years that saw nothing but bloodshed and betrayal, and to the cynical and piercing eyes that longed to see a new day. There are very few people that he trusts now.
“I would not have come if not for the Order… Surely, what had befallen the realm must be much worse than what it already is…” he continues to talk to himself. Besides, he can never let tragedy strike Nèohar, regardless of how inescapable it is. Only the old man knows of his even darker past but has continued to look at him with favor. Casting another cursory look at the alley that he just left, he walked fast to the opposite side of the road and went inside a small passageway looked like any ordinary door. Darting a quick glance to his right and then to his left, he starts to walk again so fast that his feet did not seem to touch the pavement.
In his study, Nèohar shivered as a sudden surge of fear hissing with coldness in the dark humid night creeps up his spine.
“Òhrudin… Òhrudin… please hurry.” he said in a voice that sounded almost like a whimper, as if the warm breeze would deliver the plea to the intended. He stood up and walked around the room that has seen far too many of these clandestine meetings. He touched the gold trimmings that adorn the corners of the small chest that sits on his table. He opened its lid and caressed the rolls of parchment that sat quietly under the velvety linings that hid them from view. He lifted the miniature strongbox that held far greater treasures than the whole kingdom ever did. He gently removed his sword from its scabbard and watched as the moon caressed its blade with its light. He placed it on his table and sat down. He clasped his hands together, held the box to his chest and waited.
Òhrudin stepped out of the shadows and took several strides toward Nèohar from behind the heavy curtains near the window.
“Òhrudin? Is that you?” Nèohar asked.
“Hush! Do not tell me that your eyes begin to fail you, my old friend.” he replied and hugged Nèohar. “We do not have time to spare. We have to leave at once. With greed playing its aces, no one is left to be trusted. Not even me. But we must depart for…”
“I know my friend. But I have to do something first. In time you will understand. But for now, do something for me. I need you to hide this and bring this to the place where things will be made right. The hands of the great clock are not slowing down and it will not wait for you. So, leave now.”
Òhrudin saw something move in the darkness and his hand on its own accord clutched the haft of his sword. On instinct he had assumed a defensive stance, placing himself between his friend and their hidden foe. He had crouched in front of Neohar and in one graceful move, unsheathed his finely-crafted sword. He intensely peered into the dark as he tried to sense the other’s presence. He was now sure he saw… no, felt movement at the bushes beside the far end of the road. Had he imagined it? It was so quick… so quiet… but his instinct told him otherwise. In situations such as these, it has always been instinct that has saved him time and again. It was this he trusted. It is this that he leans on to now. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder.
“What must happen must happen. What I am asking you is far greater than my safety. So please leave now. Take that to where it truly belongs so that destiny will freely spread its wings in flight.” Nèohar told him in a tone that the old man never used on him before.
“But…” Òhrudin tried to reason with Nèohar.
“Do as I had said. Proceed to where I told you to go… look for him… all will be explained… before it is too late…Farewell…my friend…”
The shadow moved with the slight breeze. Any moment now, the moon would take a quick respite behind the clouds. Timing was essential. The assassin couldn’t afford to let the old man gain an upper hand. Timing was the key. Surprise would be the greatest advantage. The shadow slithered up the west wall to scour the place for any sign of movement. With the silent confidence of someone highly seasoned in the art of war, the assassin stepped quietly from the shadows, in a black robe that would have contrasted starkly with the pale moonlight. Without so much as an inadvertent crunch of the pavement, the assassin made it into the chambers of Nèohar. And the waiting begins.
Angered at how fate could be so cruel as to put his dear friend in such a perilous position, Òhrudin stormed out of Nèohar’s study. Such was fitting for someone like himself but not for one like Nèohar. He wanted to scream and plunge his cold blade deep into the dark of the night. But he knew that the Order would not be pleased by any reckless move from him. He clutched the box tightly and stealthily took the route that he earlier used.
Nèohar was ready. He held his breath as the shadow shifted almost imperceptibly, tightening up like a predator tensing before the strike, and then coalescing into the menacing shape of a viper. In the stillness of the night, no more than a strangled cry reverberated in silence as the long dagger was plunged into the exposed side of victim’s neck and wrenched it from side to side without as much as a bat of an eyelash. With ferocity that only a trained assassin could muster, the assailant twisted the neck that heralded a merciless death where only the night was the lone witness.
This is just a teaser. The actual manuscript is still in the works.