The Assassin

Written: 2010

Setting: Renaissance

The Assassin crept up slowly along the steep face of jagged rocks that lined the side of the dark, looming mountain. His target had chosen for his palace to be backed up against the mountain, thinking to give it better protection from outside assault. That may well be, but the Assassin was not an army, and he did not need one to do his job, and break into the building.

He had prepared meticulously before he set out. Studying the structure of the building, where the entrances were, how well guarded they had been by the last scout’s report- All were vital to the success of the mission. You had to know when they changed the guard- Was it quick when they did, or slow? How the guards acted when on duty- Where they alert, or did they tend to nod off on occasion? That was just the beginning, to get into the building. Once you were in it became an entirely new puzzle. How would you get to the target, and how would you be sure that you could finish the job? If you were expected to escape afterward, how could you accomplish that and still succeed in taking out your target without fail? An Assassin had to know these things and there were many, many other things to consider, but how to get in and accomplish your mission, and still get out once you had, was the main priority that towered over all else. Other details contributed to these three goals, but only contributed, and never superseded them.

He reached the edge of the rocky precipice, taking great care not to alert those below. The palace roof did not reach quite so high as he was, but it only took a bit of gravel, or a small slide of dirt to alert the guards standing watch on the balcony below him to his presence.

The balcony was on the second floor of the mansion but just near a stairwell to the third, in which the palace’s master rested while his bodyguard kept a watchful eye out for any intruders. Intruders, such as the Assassin. If everything went according to plan, his only encounter would be with those bodyguards, and the alarm would not be raised until after his target was found dead, and he was well away from this place.

Satisfied that he remained unknown, at least for the moment, he slowly grasped the small hilts of the two short knives placed just under each one of his arms. He had three more pairs as well, should they prove to be needed. Two placed just below the first pair on each arm, and the other pair kept secured behind his lower back. They were all placed to ensure the speediest draw and throw time and had served him well on many occasions.

He didn’t anticipate that more than one pair would be needed but insurance was a necessity that had to be observed. It was foolish to not expect exceptions and failures to a plan. It was a fact, to be acknowledged like all others, as well as one very necessary to those who practiced his art. You would fail; the key was turning that failure into something you could use, and then take advantage of. You adapted, and therefore flourished.

After making sure that the guards had not moved from their previous positions since his last check, he quickly jumped off of the precipice- landing down onto the roof and instantly rolling behind the guards. The confused guards turned towards where he had hit, expecting to see an animal of some kind.

Their mistake became apparent when he dropped down behind them on the balcony, and thrust one of his two shortknives into the back of each guard’s neck, smoothly covered their mouths and pulling them close as soon as he had done so, to ensure that they didn’t do anything to alert others before they met their demise. Each guard’s body slowly leaked its life blood until finally, their bodies went limp and he released them from his deadly hold.

As their bodies fell to the ground, he extracted his knives from their necks, bent down and quickly but carefully erased any trace of blood from their blades. He never allowed his blades to stain if he could help it. It rarely happened that he was so pressed as to not be able to clean them, and that represented both his skill and efficiency in accomplishing his missions. His knives were very much both a practical necessity, and his personal pride. His knives represented him, and losing one meant losing a part of himself.

Re-sheathing the now clean daggers, he looked up to the moon to make sure that he was still on schedule. The moon gave off a very faint, white glow over the roof of the palace. Just barely peaking its head over for him to see. It told him that it was still early into the night, and that he had the time that he needed to accomplish his mission.

He made his way down the hallway, listening carefully for any sound of a stray servant or a watchful soldier on patrol. His feet made no sound on the rough tile floor, for he was a ghost, there but not there, merely a passing breeze or an apparition gliding along without a thought for the physical. He reached the stairway without trouble and, surprised to not find a soldier standing guard, made his way up the stairs cautiously, with all of his senses alert for any sign of a trap. He was in his target’s home now, and it was not a place that afforded the Assassin any bit of leisure or complacency. His duty was set, and he had to accomplish it without fail.

Reaching the top of the staircase without incident, he scanned the hallway before him. But something was not right. There should have been a guard there as well, just as there should have been one guarding the base. The fact that there wasn’t one was odd enough to make him consider changing his original plan – but he dismissed that thought with a shake of his head. He had his plan, and he would stick to it. Not doing so would be foolish, and he certainly was no fool.

The master of the house’s room should be up the hallway and to the left, and the honored guest’s quarters should be up the hallway and to the right. Only those with power and influence would be in such places, and so this floor was reserved for them and those who served them, including their bodyguard. Now, soldiers trained as bodyguards were forces to be reckoned with. They were every person of power’s counter to people like him, and so they were trained to know how they thought.

Planned. Operated. That might be why they had not placed any soldiers at the stairwell. If an enemy was already inside that far, then he could only be an assassin, and soldiers would be of no use against them for anything but as a temporary distraction. But, if that was the case, then where had the bodyguards placed themselves?

He thought this just as he entered the junction between the three hallways. He quickly took in everything he saw, which was…nothing. He saw nothing but hallways and doors to the rooms beyond them. He had just enough time to realize this before he heard the small scuff of a boot against the floor directly behind him. He turned, quickly drawing his two blades just in time to block the two bodyguards’ swings. Their surprise gave him enough time to push the left one’s sword towards the right one, just as he stabbed him with his second blade.

He quickly moved to the now-dead bodyguard’s right side, keeping the dead soldier’s body between the Assassin and the other bodyguard’s sword. This bought him the time to release his blade, now buried in the first bodyguard’s chest, and swing around the side to confront the other one on even footing.

The bodyguard raised his blade, very careful now that his partner was dead, and set himself in a defensive stance, beckoning the Assassin forward with his sword. The Assassin, however, had no plans of giving the bodyguard a fair fight. Most likely someone had heard the clash of steel moments ago, or the bodyguard’s had sounded an alert before their attack. Either way, the Assassin had to complete his mission and leave as soon as he could, lest it become impossible for him to do so.

He feinted towards the bodyguard’s left side, and when he brought his sword up to block, the Assassin let fly one of his shortknives straight into the bodyguard’s neck. He was a bit off, hitting him in the collar bone instead of his throat, but the bodyguard was down and that was what mattered. Not taking the time to clean it, he pulled his blade from the other man’s chest and, after removing his knife from the other guard, quickly ran towards the master of the house’s quarters.

Avoiding any traces of subtlety, he broke down the door and charged into the room. He looked around and, quickly realizing that the master was gone, scanned for any likely places that an escape tunnel might be placed in or behind. Recently more and more palaces were being made with a secret tunnel in the master’s room for emergencies; usually leading into a protected area of the house that could be defended until help arrived. Older buildings, however, had to have one built around the already existing makeup. With this palace being of the latter variety, he was expecting that the tunnel led to somewhere just below the room on the second floor.

Spying a likely purely decorative bedding adornment that seemed rather large for the beds size, he moved it to the side to reveal a circular tunnel, carved into the wall, leading downwards and to the left. Likely it led to the banquet hall then, which was placed just below the master’s quarters. He could enter the hall from just outside the room via one of its windows, or follow the palace’s master down the shaft.

Deciding against following his target, he reentered the hallway and opened the simple window that lie at the end. Crawling up onto the roof, as quick and silent as a spider, he made his way downwards until he was even with were he thought the banquet hall to be. Being careful to avoid notice from any of the guards still on watch, he slowly dropped into the large hall.

There he was, his target, just now extricating himself from the smaller sized ending to the tunnel, was surrounded by a half-dozen guards, one of which he was talking to quite intensely. Once fully out of the tunnel, his target sent the soldier on his way, most likely to sound the alarm and summon more troops. The Assassin hid behind the end of the banquet table as the soldier went by. Killing him now would make his escape easier, but at the expense of alerting his target that he was in the room. The trade off was not worth it, and so he let the messenger leave the banquet hall unscathed to deliver his message.

As his target’s entourage moved towards one of the side exits in the hall, he positioned himself behind a pillar so that they would have to pass right by him to get to the door. Taking out two of his knives and readying two more, he waited until his target and his guards passed to spring up from behind the pillar. Cleanly slitting the two back-most guards’ throats and then throwing the other two knives that he had prepared into the back of the forward twos’ necks, right at the chink where their helmets met their backs.

With four of his guards having been felled in the blink of an eye, his target turned around with his mouth opened in shock. The final surviving soldier however had his combat training kick in. Charging the Assassin with a spear, the soldier very nearly managed to run him through, tearing his dark padded cloth and scouring a deep furrow in the Assassin’s side. The wound in his side feeling to him like liquid fire, he nevertheless finished the job, killing the spearmen and letting him fall to the ground with his fellow soldiers.

Turning to his target, the he suddenly felt a sharp jab of pain in his middle. Gasping in shock and pain, the Assassin looked down to see one of the dead soldier’s swords rammed up to the hilt into his stomach. The house master, trembling and terrified, looked up at the Assassin’s pale but resolute face and then let go of the sword and started backing away. The Assassin, with his knives held at the ready, took a step forward. Then another.

Accomplish your mission! His psych screamed, and he obeyed. Even with his body screaming for relief, he continued walking towards his target. One step. Then another. Then a third. All the while his target backing away, until finally he backed up into the banquet hall’s stone wall, halting his retreat and making his eyes grow wider and wider as the Assassin continued to approach him. To his target, he must have looked like the angel of death. Bleeding profusely from his side, and with a sword rammed to the hilt in his middle the Assassin, barely conscious, suddenly jerked forward- stabbing the target with his two knives, and completing his mission.

Gasping for breath and with spots closing in on his vision, he turned as dozens of the palace soldiers came running through the banquet hall doors and surrounded him. He looked up, gazed into the eyes of every single one of the dozens of soldiers, took out his blades, and charged them.

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