Men of Honor
He slipped silently through the night, staying only to the shadows. His blackened attire allowing him to meld as one with the darkness around him. Had he a choice, he would have opted for a moonless night; as the moon shown high and bright in the sky on this particular eve. Illuminating the ground below in a shade of soft white. But circumstances did not allow for such luxuries, he would have to use his training to it’s fullest and make due. He scaled the outer castle wall with relative ease, he had studied and practiced this particular ascent for months, shocked at how effortlessly the action came to him now. The royal guard was on unusually high alert this night, he began to wonder if they suspected anything. It mattered not at this point, he leaped over the outer wall and out on to the rook.
An archer stood out overlooking the town below. His feathered leather cap cast a peculiar shadow on the stone wall. The last sound he heard was his own gargled breath as the knife calculatingly penetrated his side. Striking the exact point it’s killer had intended, a gloved hand cupped his mouth preventing his muffled screams and gargles from escaping. His body fell limp to the floor. The killer opened the small hatch and silently shuffled down the ladder. There was much more light here than he would have liked, making the moon seem but a minor inconvenience. Commotion came from all directions, he heard men talking and shouting orders, something was certainly amiss. Taking a moment to adjust to this new environment, he found his bearings and began his way towards the king’s chamber.
Armed men clambered around in animated bustle, some looked and sounded almost eager. Others seemed deathly afraid. Then he heard what he had suspected all along. “How certain can they be he will come tonight?” Said one man. Another answered. “About as certain as it gets! Archimonde says they captured and tortured one of ’em and he spilled the whole thing.” This did not bode well, but there was no turning back at this point. His honor would not allow it. Darting in and out of rooms, crouching in corners, he inched further towards his destination.
He shot into a small dining area, presumably for soldiers. When he heard a startled gasp behind him. Before the poor woman could scream for help, he brandished his blade and silenced her swiftly. He did not pleasure in killing anyone, let alone those innocent few who crossed his path at the wrong time. He drug the body under the table and neatly put the chairs back in to place, darting back out the door as soon as the opportunity arose. He dashed up the staircase leading to the king’s chambers, making sure to not let his nerves get the best of him, he tried to remain calm. He crouched and rounded what would be the final corner.
When all of a sudden a large man appeared from out of the doorway of the royal chamber. Stunned by being caught off guard, the killer made a brisk dash towards this new threat, hoping to silence it quickly. Though as he approached, he realized this man did not shout for help. In fact, the only sound he made was the unsheathing of his sword. A simple blade for a man adorned in full chainmail, but he held it with a practiced precision that caused a brief moment of concern for the man in black. He thought he saw a smile cross the face of the large knight, and he wondered if this man were mad? The assassin lunged forward with incredible agility, but the knight was ready. He parried the small blade with a gauntleted hand and swung in a horizontal arc in return. Barely bounding out of the way in time, the assassin took a step back and put his dagger at his side, unsheathing his own sword in it’s stead.
The two met in a whirlwind of steel, the symphony of combat filled the royal halls with macabre music. The armored man was strong and resilient, but the assassin was swift and agile. After what seemed an eternity of parries and near misses, he landed a slicing blow on the upper leg of the larger man. A thin slice of blood trickled out from the area where his armor ended, at the meat of the thigh. But the man did not flinch from this, in fact it seemed only to incite his fury. A heavy double-handed blow crashed down in a vertical arc, and the assassin’s entire body shook with the force of the impact as he barely blocked the attack in time. A second similar blow sent the assassin to his knees. The larger man kicked at the chest of the assassin, sending him reeling back. He bounced to his feet and lunged forward, the armored man swiped at his sword and sent it to the side, swinging another vertical blow down, this one more reckless than the last.
Dropping to his knees, the assassin quickly pulled his dagger from his side and stuck it into the under arm of the larger man. Catching him again where the chainmail did not cover. The knight gasped, but he did not shout in pain, nor did he stop his attack. His now damaged arm fell limp to one side, and his good hand grasped his sword. Swinging now with more desperation than before. The assassin lunged again, switching up his attack at the last second and striking at his other leg in the same location as the previous blow. The knight hobbled for a moment, and that was all the assassin needed. He circled around and leaped up onto the broad shoulders of the knight, grabbing under the chin and pulling his head upwards. Blood sprayed the linen lined walls. The assassin stepped backwards and the knight hit the ground with a loud thud. His lifeblood trickled out, blending into the all ready red carpeted floors.
Gasping for breath, the assassin thanked whatever gods may be listening for keeping him alive. He quickly regained his composure and made his way into the royal chamber.
“Don’t go. Not tonight, just stay here with me. I beg you!” Lenore said.
He turned to her, taking her small hand in his. Knowing that whatever words he was about to say would not stop her tears. “It is my duty, I must. You know this Lenore.” He said.
“But Tyriel, you have given so much for that man. Must you give him everything? What about me?” Proclaimed Lenore.
He kissed the back of her hand gently, with grace that belied his hardened stature. “Like I said, it is my duty. Not just to the king, but the entire kingdom. I can’t fail them, not tonight. If what Archimonde says is true, an attempt will be made on the king’s life. And this time it will be a serious one. Not just some retired bard looking to make some coin. A real assassin, from the guild.” Tyriel said, nobly.
“All the more reason for you to stay with me. We can…We can leave together. We can go stay with my family up the river. I just have a bad feeling about this one.” Lenore pleaded.
Tyriel laughed a mellow laugh. “You always have a bad feeling. When have I ever not returned home to you my love?” I will do everything in my power to be back here by morning, I promise.”
Lenore threw her arms around him and pulled him tight, silently hoping she wasn’t holding him for the last time. “Just…Be safe, for me.” She allowed herself an uneasy smile.
Back at the castle, Tyriel recalled his conversation with Lenore. He missed her all ready. The king was in one of his moods, and rightfully so. If people were out to kill you seemingly every day of your life, you would be in a mood as well. He grumbled something incomprehensible to Proctor, leader of the royal guard. Then pointed in Tyriel’s direction and shouted. “Do whatever you must dammit, but Tyriel stays with me at all times, is that understood?” Proctor glanced at Tyriel and reluctantly shook his head in favor of the agitated king. Tyriel sighed, wondering what a peaceful life would be like. Wondering if he should have listened to Lenore.
He began the tedious process of strapping himself into his armor. He had never had a squire, though many had offered or been offered to him. He simply didn’t see the need for it. But now, no longer in his youth, he joked that it’s about time to get one. Pulling his gauntlets on, he reached for the scabbard containing his family sword. The same one his father had used to protect the realm before his time, he admired the blade for a brief moment, then took a sharpening stone to it. It’s brushing motion soothed him, and for a while he forgot about all the worries surrounding him. He slowly stood and put his sword on his back, he watched the king as he stirred about in his room like a small child waiting for his parents to come home. Feeling the need to leave the king to his own accord, he walked out of the royal chamber.
As he exited the doorway, he saw a flash of black out of the corner of his eye. Reflexes honed through many years of training caused him to turn in the direction of the assailant and get into a defensive position, his sword was in his hand without him even realizing it. He saw a moment of shock in the eyes of the would be killer, before the assassin ran at him in a full sprint. He glanced at his fathers blade, hoping that he had made it as sharp and true as it could be. He thought of Lenore one last time and smiled.