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Adventure Fantasy Fiction

Many years before the lavish feast at Lord Raymond’s court…

Deacon stumbled through his home’s threshold—a thick wooden frame of ancient oak treated with scented lacquer and tree oils. Despite his decent wealth, he never kept an extravagant house. Why would one who spent most of his time overseas or in far off lands need a mansion to rot in the hot sun of Kumoziko’s capital? No, this small, quaint house was more than enough for the busy assassin.

He kicked off his fitted leather boots, splashing coarse sand around the main entrance. Damn. I’ll have to clean that later. I need to rest first, he thought, holding his side. It took three days to cross the sea and get home, yet the blow he took to his right oblique from that mercenary four days earlier still ached something fierce. Deacon was surprised he still felt the injury, given the swift regenerative abilities of the Kumzik demonic race. I’ve been bedridden from wounds before. Cuts, slashes and gouges. But a simple blow? How could I let myself be so careless? He plopped down in his favorite chair: a wooden rocker with thick padding on the seat, arms and back. It was an old gift from one of the capital’s honor guard—an esteemed client.

A much-needed glass of wine found its way into his hand, swirling the red liquid before soaking his tongue. Delicious. Another gulp from the exquisite drink. Where Deacon was lax in spending his hard-earned coin, was that in crates of foreign wines. His cellar held a dozen or so of the finest money could buy. Worth every coin. His eyes somewhat glazed over as the intoxicating nectar slid down his dark throat.

The chair creaked slightly as he rocked back and forth, enjoying the calm of his abode. It sat in the Munstani district of the capital—a quiet neighborhood mainly inhabited by retired merchants or government officials, many of whom Deacon had taken on as clients in the past. Passing them by in the streets, they often avoided eye contact. Either from fear or attempts of disassociation. Consequence of the trade. But he was ultimately left alone, and that’s all he wanted.

Deacon stood and removed his grimy black tunic—assassin’s garb. Placing it neatly with his other soiled linen, he stepped up to the basin in his lavatory and cleaned his jet-black hands. After spending months in Starklevende, he was so thankful to be back home on a continent that had indoor plumbing and clean running water. The cool, life-giving liquid caressing his hands enveloped him in a calm relaxation. Such a powerful feeling from such a simple thing. He turned off the water and looked at his side in the large wall mirror. 

It was most definitely bruised, as the marking spread from his upper hip bone to his right ribs. Despite having skin as black as night, the bruise was even blacker, which brought a chuckle from within him. That cursed Starklevenden. Bested by a brute, ha! He couldn’t help but respect the man.

But then he thought upon the botched assassination. The image flashed in Deacon’s mind: the frightful look of his target as the arrow came soaring to his chest with the speed of a diving eagle. It was moments before the hired mercenary expertly blocked the arrow with his sword. Unheard of. That fear on the merchant’s face was something that Deacon never got used to, no matter how many lives he ended. The bulging eyes, the frothing mouth, the knowing that they will never speak again, never ride horses in flowery fields, never touch or hold their children, never make love to their spouse—all because of him, and his bow and daggers. It’s all for a reason, Deacon. Don’t forget it. They die for a reason, he kept telling himself, over and over, every single time. 

It was then that he felt something poke him in his pants pocket. He reached inside and pulled out the small brooch the mercenary gave him. A wound and a prize. How funny. He flipped it over, inspecting the bronze inlaid leaf patterns surrounding a sword. It wasn’t particularly expensive, but seemed to be crafted with care. Then he remembered the mercenary’s words, “If you decide to join me, come back to northern Starklevende and give this to an innkeeper. Word will find me, and I will find you, friend.”

Jarek Defiler, his name was. What a grotesque moniker for such an honorable man. Deacon smirked, thinking of how the tall mercenary spared his life after a most vicious duel; one where they fought with all their being.

But Deacon was bested. That large longsword nearly hewed him in two, if Jarek hadn’t pulled back at the last moment, knowing he had won the bout. In a sense, Deacon owed the man his life. He suspected this brooch was a reminder of that.

A knock at his front door. Deacon’s pointy ears twitched. Blasts. Word travels faster than feet these days. He put on a clean, worn doublet and answered the call. It was Hugo, one of the council members’ lackeys.

“Do come in,” Deacon bowed with a slight air of sarcasm.

“Hmph,” Hugo grimaced, stomping past him and making sure to let his frustration and disappointment seep from every pore. He stopped in the middle of the entrance hall and turned to Deacon. “Imagine our surprise, when a raven arrives with message that one powerful merchant in the land of Starklevende is still alive and breathing, and thus was able to make a trade deal at the summer hall of Lord Buron two nights ago. A trade deal that should have never come to fruition.”

“I failed. The first in all my occupation.” Deacon passed the man and poured two cups of wine. He held one up to the angry assistant, who took it reluctantly.

“My master is most displeased.”

“As is her way.”

“You spent months on this mission. And it was all for nought. Do you have nothing to say for yourself?” Hugo took a sip of the wine. His rancid grimace flashed to a short grin for a split second before turning back into a loathsome frown.

“I say, that if the councilwoman wishes to berate me on my performance thus far, she should come here herself and inform me in person, rather than send her lapdog to scold one who has provided impeccable results up until now.” A sip from his cup behind searing, pale blue eyes. 

Hugo gulped nervously. Sweat was beginning to form on his brow. “Y—you dare insult me? I am the attendant to a council member of the capital! Know your place! I should have you flogged for insolence.”

“I know the men doing the flogging. They were my brothers at one time, or do you forget? No, you were just a pup back then.” Deacon stepped up to Hugo, taking another sip of his wine. Although Hugo dwarfed him by a foot or so, the veteran soldier and assassin lacked the chalice in his mind that collected drops of intimidation. Hugo’s chalice was growing full, however.

“I…you…How dare you?”

“Calm yourself, Hugo. The mission was a failure. It was bound to happen at one point or another. I am but a simple Kumzik demon, not a god. I am subject to the whims of nature, beasts, luck, and in this particular case, humankind.” Deacon stepped away and sat back down in his rocking chair, pointing an open hand to the large pillows near the fireplace.

Hugo sheepishly nodded before walking over and plopping down on the comfortable seats. “Humankind you say?” He cleared his throat nervously. “Are we to believe that you were stopped by external forces then?”

“Just one. A human male. Tall as a tree, strong as a bear. Still, I’ve fought stronger,” Deacon snickered, taking another sip of his luxurious wine.

“Yet he prevented you from achieving your goal.”

“Oh, indeed he did. Although he wasn’t the strongest I've fought, and although I was much faster, his technique was immaculate. The flurries of his longsword, the flexibility of his person, the sheer ruthless will…I’ve never fought such a tremendously skilled opponent in all my existence. This man was different. Jarek Defiler, he called himself.”

“Never heard of him,” Hugo contemplated for a moment. “Ghastly name.”

“Indeed. Yet not so ghastly a man.”

“Nonsense. He thwarted a most noble venture! Ghastly is a kind term for the likes of him.” Hugo waved the comment away. “A curse upon him and all his ilk.”

“No curse is warranted. The man simply did what he was hired to do: protect his client, the merchant. And he succeeded. Respect is in order.”

“Hmph…this will cause many problems for our efforts in mid Starklevende. That trade deal will cement an alliance that will be a most formidable barrier to my master’s endeavors.”

Deacon looked over the rim of his cup to the slithery assistant. “That all it is then? Another move to expand her business efforts?”

“That’s what it always is. You know this. She is ruthless in her tactics. Damned are we if she ever fixes her eyes on us. Ha!” Hugo guffawed tensely, his hand shakily raising his cup to his lips.  

Deacon leaned back and tilted his head, looking the younger demon up and down. “I remember when you first entered her employ, all those years ago. A wide-eyed youth, bursting into the realm of political intrigue and upper elite statesmen. You once told me of how you wished to bring the lower districts more running water and proper sewage canals. You even had that marvelous idea of branching off the main road to fork into the impoverished regions so they could be exposed to more commerce. Despite the council shutting it down in a heartbeat, it was a noble attempt. Tell me, Hugo. What happened to that boy who held his less fortunate brothers and sisters in such high regard all those years ago? And who sits before me now?”

Hugo looked down, rubbing his thumbs along the rim of his cup. “I…that boy, grew up. He grew up and saw the world for what it is.”

“Do you miss him?”

“Pffft. Of course. I’m not all lost, Master Deacon. I have my qualms, my scruples. But what is one to do when their righteous efforts are but a grain of sand in a desert of corruption?”

“Fight on.”

“And lose. Possibly even lose my head. You think my master holds back from those in the capital? Surely you are not that foolish.”

Deacon nodded, relinquishing the thought. Hugo was right in that regard. They both knew how the council worked. Long fingers in even deeper pockets. “Well, I don’t envy you.” Another sip of his wine.

“Oh aye. Thanks for the confidence.” Hugo stood, placing the half-empty cup on the hearth and brushing himself off. “You understand if we don’t pay for your services this time around, given you failed to provide said service.”

Deacon simply snickered and held up his cup with a salute.

“My master is willing to give you another chance, however.” Hugo reached inside his hefty robe and pulled out a small scroll, sealed with the councilwoman’s notorious swallow and wheat crest. 

“She doesn’t hesitate, does she?” Deacon sighed, taking the scroll in hand.

“That, she does not. Now, I am off. May your return find you well. I suspect we will have your answer by the morn?”

“Indeed.”

Hugo nodded and turned to the large door. Before pulling it open, he spoke over his shoulder, “We aren’t all in this game for power, Master Deacon. Best you remember that.”

“Yet you are all in it to win,” Deacon sighed again. “But I know Hugo. I know. Fare-thee-well, young apprentice.”

Hugo nodded once more and exited the domicile, closing the door firmly behind him.

Ugh. What does this harpy wish me to do now? If she didn’t pay so well, I’ve half a mind to tell her how I truly feel about her ‘ventures.’ But alas, one must be professional. Squinted eyes and clenched teeth—the life of an assassin.

He broke the seal and unrolled the scroll. After reading for a brief moment, he quickly sat up, spilling some wine on his clean floor with a curse. There before him, on that expensive parchment was a name that he knew. One he hadn’t seen in quite some time. Is this a punishment? Is she trying to put me in my place?

The name was that of an old friend, a wealthy caravan operator in the farmlands outside the capital. He was a good, honest man, often known for his charity. At one time he even helped Deacon when he was a youth, struggling in the streets. This was not a man that deserved death.

That was when he realzed: How many more didn’t deserve death? I didn’t know all their names. They were always strangers. The guilt hit him in his gut like a war hammer. Deacon often had the occasional bout of moral dilemmas; this was nothing new, always questioning his craft. But he never acted upon it. He would push through and convince himself that what he was doing was for the greater good of Kumoziko, the country he so loved. His home. But he knew the truth. Hundreds of years and I don’t expect to see the truth behind my occupation? How foolish would one have to be? I've been lying to myself all this time.

All the times before, he ignored it. Cutting down merchants, noblemen and women, soldiers, supposed gang leaders, smiths, shop keeps, farmers, even bakers. All for what? To expand the power of a select few elites?

He looked down at his cup. The reflection in the red liquid disgusted him, causing him to hurl it across the room. Red wine now slid down the wall’s surface like splattered blood. Fitting. The scroll went into the fireplace, soon becoming ash. I have to warn him. Deacon grabbed his daggers and headed towards the door, but not before noticing the brooch sitting on his end table. The dull bronze somehow sheened in the sunlit room.

Picking it up, a realization came over him: he didn’t have to be this anymore. He could be something else. Something better. But this is all I know.

Deacon then remembered the words of that mercenary. “This is a good man,” Jarek pointed to the merchant. Deacon lay on the ground, Jarek standing over him like a giant would a child. “I am but a lowly mercenary, but even I wouldn’t take a contract out for this man. Do you know of him?”

Deacon shook his head, holding his side with gritted teeth. The pain was immense.

“Yet you choose to take his life? Does that not bother you in the least?” 

“It’s my duty, human. I take a name; I end the name. The particulars don’t concern me.”

“Truly?” Jarek bent down, hazel eyes piercing into Deacon’s soul. He grew closer. Deacon could feel his breath on his face. His free hand clutched the grip of his dagger, but Deacon couldn’t bring himself to strike. Jarek sniffed, “No. No, you don’t believe that.”

Deacon scoffed. Who does he think he is?

“I sense you’re not one to shrug off lives as if they were bothersome insects. I sense good in you. Misplaced, but good nonetheless. And I wish for you to join me. I’m starting my own mercenary company, and I could use one such as yourself. Your skills are quite exceptional. Perhaps the best I've tested myself against in years.”

“What?” Deacon nearly laughed, if not for the pain in his side. “What illness has grasped your mind that you think I would join you? You nearly ended me!”

“Yet I did not. And won't, unless you wish. You are defeated. You're not a threat to us anymore. For now, at least. So, join me.”

“Begone fool. I want no part in your pathetic ventures.”

“We’ll see. Here, take this,” Jarek flipped him the unremarkable brooch. “If you decide to join me, come back to northern Starklevende and give this to any innkeeper. Word will find me, and I will find you, friend. But know this, I am not your average mercenary. I choose sides. I don’t slaughter needlessly. But when I do”—a dark smile spread across his face—“the slaughter is great. If you can stomach such outlandish morals, then please, come calling.” The tall human smiled, placing the blade of his longsword on his shoulder before turning and leaving the demon to his thoughts. The merchant’s fear seemed to dissipate as he hurried off, giving one last glance at Deacon before the road turned around the nearby cliff and he lost sight.

Perhaps his offer isn’t so foolish after all? Perhaps it is time I seek another path. Deacon stood in his house, rubbing the edges of the brooch. How can he have sympathy for one such as myself? Even when I tried to end him. What kind of man… A tear, warm and lonely, slid down Deacon’s black face. Was it one of remorse? A deep regret for all those he impassively slain? Or was it one of respect and honor?

No. I choose a greater path. Deacon gathered his things, packing a fair amount for a long journey; one which he doubted he’d return. He secured his home, leaving a parchment note with the local magistrate to protect the residence before he headed to the farmlands to warn his old friend that the wicked councilwoman had her sights on him. And after that, he figured he’d make a trip to northern Starklevende and talk to some innkeepers.

Pronunciations:

Starklevende (stark-lev-eh-nuh) – Northern territory of eastern continent, human homeland.

Starklevenden (stark-lev-eh-nun) – Northern human race.

Kumoziko (koo-ma-jee-ko) – Southwest continent, demon homeland.

Kumzik (koom-jick) – Demon race.

May 27, 2023 00:16

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4 comments

Mary Bendickson
19:01 May 27, 2023

Expert descriptions of characters and action. Draws the reader into your foreign world. The demon has heart.

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Paul Besancon
20:28 May 27, 2023

Thanks Mary!

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14:51 Jun 06, 2023

I NEED AN URGENT LOVE SPELL CASTER TO BRING BACK MY EX LOVER My Husband broke up with me after 9years of relationship. It started from small misunderstandings after which he told me that it would be good to take a break, which I think turned into a breakup. He no longer looks for me, he blocked my number and people said they saw him with another woman, this brought tears to my eyes because we are about to marry, I searched for help when I came across this spiritual man called DR ABDUL who have helped many people having relationship problem, ...

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