Dark Contract



  • The Master Assassin

    Chill was the nocturnal breeze as it swept through the streets of Cademia under the soft light of the moon. Hood drawn up to hide his face a lone man hugged his gray cloak tighter to guard against the cold as he stood at the mouth of a darkened alley. His brown eyes darted nervously up and down the empty street before returning to the stone wall beside him.

    A week ago he had drawn an X the size of his palm on the aged stone, a symbol written with his own blood, and every night since then he had returned to that very spot deep in the night when everyone else lay sleeping. Every night before he had merely passed by, glancing at the image and walking away, but tonight he saw his response, a small black skull burnt into the stone just beneath his mark. And so he waited.

    Look for his sign, wait for his arrival, bring only half of your payment, come alone, and Do Not Lie. Those were the instructions he was given for the meeting, and they had done nothing to calm his nerves. This man was extremely well recommended in certain circles, even when virtually nothing was known about him. Still, the service was far from legal; Darius supposed that a measure of secrecy was required.

    His breath caught as he heard foot steps coming from the darkness of the alley behind him, and he turned to see who it was. From the shadows an old man emerged, hunched over, and walking with the aid of a gnarled cane, his face was hidden by the hood of his tattered brown robes. Darius exhaled shakily and stepped out of the elderly man’s way, but the man stopped before him in a fit of coughing. The nervous young man looked down the street quickly, he was alone but he feared that the old man was attracting attention he sorely didn’t want, “Excuse me young sir.” The man’s tired old voice made Darius turn back, but he was greeted by a sweet smelling cloud of white powder. In moments his vision turned to darkness and he slipped into a deep sleep…

    … The moonlight poured through three ached windows into the otherwise pitch black chamber, the light coming from the second window falling across an unconscious man sitting in an ornate high-backed chair.

    “Gnnn…” Darius opened his eyes groggily, squinting in the darkness as he tried to think through the fog that clouded his mind. His hood was drawn back, revealing youthful features and shoulder length sandy blonde hair, he tried to stand but he found that his feet were securely tied to the chair upon which he sat and his left wrist was bound to one of the arm rests by an iron shackle while his right arm was free. He began to panic, struggling against his restraints, when he noticed the presence of another person in the shadows of the room, “Who are you, where am I?!”

    Silently someone stepped partially into the light revealing a black cloak, though his face remained draped in darkness beneath his hood, “You are the one who summoned me, I get to ask the questions.” The voice was quiet, reserved, and completely calm.

    Darius gazed about the room in fear, searching for a possible escape, when he noticed that the windows looked out upon several houses. He licked his lips, “I could yell for help you know, someone would hear me.”

    “No they wouldn’t.” the shadowed figure replied blankly, “This room is enchanted at the moment, no sound from outside can come in and none from within may leave. You can try yelling if you don’t believe me, but I will kill you if you do.” The blood drained from Darius’s face and he swallowed hard, “So then, who do you want killed?”

    The young man blinked at the suddenness of the question, “I umm… There is a man named Roland Karlon, he has wronged me many times and—

    “And I don’t care.” The assassin interrupted, “I don’t want details Darius, only who he is and where I may find him.”

    “H-how do you know my name?” the young man stammered incredulously.

    The shadowed figure shrugged, “I know where you live. I know where you work. I know all about your wife Elissa and your daughter Juliann. And should you ever think of betraying our contract, I just want you to know that I know those things.”

    A cold sweat appeared upon Darius’s brow, “But we… We don’t have a contract.”

    The assassin laughed humorlessly, “We have met Darius, at this point someone has to die. Are you going to make this easy and tell me that person should be you?”

    “No!” Darius blurted, louder than he intended.

    “Good. I’d have taken no pleasure in such an easy kill. Tell me now, where do I find this Roland?”

    Again Darius licked his lips nervously, “He’s a blade smith. He has a small shop at the southern end of the market district. I brought your payment, the whole thing.”

    The assassin reached into his dark cloak and produced a small white silken pouch that Darius recognized as his own, “So I noticed.” The man poured the contents into his hand; several beautifully carved precious stones, and then placed half back into the pouch, pocketing the rest. He tossed the pouch gently into Darius’s lap, “Only half, I will claim the rest after fulfilling my end of the bargain.” The young man tried to say something, but was instead taken by a fit of coughing. His lungs felt tight, as if he had suddenly become very sick. He covered his mouth until he finished his last ragged cough, but when he looked at it he saw it slick with red fluid. The assassin reached into his other pocket and pulled out a key which he tossed to Darius, “I almost forgot. I poisoned you some time ago, if you do not take the antidote you will be dead in a matter of minutes. There is a table behind you holding a tray with half a dozen flasks of water, one of them is actually your cure.”

    The assassin turned to leave and Darius paused in his frantic rush to free himself in order to call out, “Half a dozen? How can I tell which is the cure?!”

    “You can’t.” The assassin called back as he reached the door, “We’ll just hope you’re thirsty.” Secure in the knowledge that Darius could not hope to follow him and live the assassin disappeared into the night.

    **

    The market district was always crowded and busy in the early afternoon, and this day was no different from any other. A tall broad shouldered man placed a newly crafted battle axe on display in the window of his shop during a slight lull in his flow of customers, as he did he caught the eyes of an attractive young woman, who smiled to him as she passed and he smiled back.

    Roland Karlon was almost as well known for his philandering as he was for his weapons, and he actually took great pride in both pursuits. The handsome man had charmed many women in Cademia, beautiful young woman unsatisfied with their plain husbands but too proud to associate with the rag tag rabble that called themselves “adventurers” and sometimes stopped through the town. Roland was happy to be of service whenever he could.

    The smith chuckled to himself as he walked about his shop, while a few potential customers examined his wares. You had the true adventurers who knew that his wares were not the best to be found but that they were of a good quality sold at prices that were very hard to beat. Then you had your average common man, the young lad who was not truly courageous enough to have his own adventures, but liked to entertain the fantasy every so often and would buy a piece of exciting equipment that he would never actually use. And finally you had the jealous husband or lover, someone whose love had come to Roland in her “time of need”. They were easy enough to spot, as they watched him more than his weapons. To them he only smiled politely, partially because he knew just how much it bothered them.

    He’d had need to fight such men before, but Roland was a skilled and accomplished warrior who was happy to send them home with a knot on their heads and some extra bruises for their trouble. Just as he finished that thought his last victim passed the store, gazing balefully through the glass at the smith as he passed. Darius had not entered the shop since their little encounter, and Roland couldn’t blame him after that trouncing. Still, it served him right. The man had attacked Roland with a dagger after confronting the smith about an illicit affair with his wife. Roland just shook his head; it wasn’t his fault if Darius couldn’t keep his lover happy.

    “Excuse me sir.” The voice of a patron Roland hadn’t noticed earlier made him blink in surprise. He turned to see a young man of average height, fair of skin and dark of both hair and eye, dressed in a plain brown tunic and pants. In his right hand the man held one of the throwing daggers that Roland had on display.

    The smith smiled apologetically and spoke in a sincere and confident tone, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. That’s a fine blade you’re holding, one of my better daggers if I may say so. Are you interested in it?”

    The young man nodded with a grin, “Yes I believe I am. Is it really only fifteen gold pieces?”

    “That it is. You know as a throwing blade it’s part of a set.” He winked good-naturedly, “I’ll tell you what, I could be persuaded to sell you all five for just fifty gold, you won’t find a better deal in the whole city.”

    The young man raised his eyebrows, “That’s a wonderful deal.” He frowned briefly and handed Roland the dagger, “Still, fifty gold is fifty gold. You wouldn’t mind if I had a look at a few of the other shops in the district before making a decision would you?”

    Roland laughed heartily, setting the blade back on display, “Not at all. I can see you have an eye for quality; I know you’ll be back. Just remember,” he took on a cautionary tone, “there are others who would love to take advantage of my generosity, so I would hurry back before someone else came along and bought them instead.”

    The dark haired man smiled, “Then I will be sure to be quick,” he extended his hand and Roland accepted it, “if I don’t see you again then I wish you well.” The man tightened his grip for a brief moment and Roland felt a slight prick, then the young stranger put both his hands in his pockets and casually left the store, blending into the crowd outside.

    The smith looked down at his hand and noticed a small cut that was bleeding slightly. He began to wonder how it had happened, but his thoughts became muddled and murky, the veins in his hand began to turn black and his whole body became numb. He wanted to cry out for help, but he no longer had control of his body and by the time one of his other customers noticed him falling forward it was already too late.

    **

    News of the previous day’s events spread quickly. The weapon smith Roland had been killed in broad day light, in open view of a crowded street, with several people present in his store, and no one was exactly sure how it happened. It was the seventh in a recent string of unsolved murders, though there seemed to be heated debate as to whether they had all been committed by the same killer or if there were several on the loose.

    To Darius it didn’t matter. All he was certain of was that now that shadowy man was owed the rest of his payment, and the young man did not wish to be the eighth victim. He had slipped out of bed silently in the middle of the night and dressed himself hurriedly in the dark without waking his beautiful Elissa. With his gray cloak donned he walked down the hall across the marble floor of his manor towards his study, all that remained now was the retrieval of the assassin’s payment.

    The young man opened the oak door as quietly as he could and slipped into the room. A breeze swept through from the open window near the bookcase to the left of his desk so he quickly closed it to cut of the chorus of the night. Every little sound seemed to thunder in his ears, he was almost surprised that he hadn’t woken the entire house with the racing of his heart. Sitting at his desk he tried to calm his nerves as he pulled out the silver key for his locked drawer. With an audible click that made Darius cringe the drawer was unlocked and he pulled it open gently, only to gasp when he saw what was inside. His ivory pouch was now empty, the gems it held gone, and beside it was a small symbol burned into the wood, a black skull.

    This post has been edited by Ragnar0k : 02 March 2007 - 09:15 AM



  • As I read through Selax’s “Character Killing Service” thread and began to wonder what I could possibly suggest to him to improve the Nexus Lord my thoughts almost immediately went to Rythan, my own assassin character, and I realized that both of them shared the same failings in my eyes.

    Cool as they might be, the two make terrible assassins in a “real” sense. Yes, Rythan could be virtually invisible at night, but what about during the day. If you saw a man dressed the way Rythan was and approaching you, you would immediately go on the defensive. You would either go running or fight him in a very attention grabbing fashion.

    It’s true that the Nexus Lord can teleport in to seemingly impossible areas, but he is the only one who does so. When he kills someone people can be certain it was indeed him who did it, which allows people to start figuring out his strategy, to try mounting a defense. If he is expected his chance of success is greatly reduced.

    To solve these problems I began to list many possible ways to fix them, but as I finished I realized that applying these would completely alter the characters, and so instead I felt that I should put all of those things together and make an entirely new “true” assassin character.

    No one knows what he looks like, he wears no signature clothing, has no tell tale technique. A great deal of planning goes into every kill he makes, and he always completes his job with a great deal of “real stealth”*.

    Real Stealth- Anyone can disappear in the dark, but a master can just disappear into the crowd in the middle of the day.



  • Well written, but I'm glad I don't know any of the characters.

    I doubt Roland would have noticed me if I were making a purchase from him, and I don't think I have magical assistance! frisks self



  • Nicely done, Ragnar0k, you did what I couldn't figure out how on earth to do: create a skilled assassin. (That's actually why I used teleportation: I couldn't think of good security systems or good ways to beat them and so skipped it.)

    Quote

    As I read through Selax’s “Character Killing Service” thread and began to wonder what I could possibly suggest to him to improve the Nexus Lord my thoughts almost immediately went to Rythan, my own assassin character, and I realized that both of them shared the same failings in my eyes.

    I look forward to hearing what ever suggestions you may have. :)

    This post has been edited by Selax : 02 March 2007 - 04:48 PM



  • Wow! The perfect murder!
    Is Rythan magically assisted, or is he a good actor?



  • @crazychick_bot, on Mar 2 2007, 05:30 PM, said in Dark Contract:

    Wow! The perfect murder!
    Is Rythan magically assisted, or is he a good actor?

    Actually that is my new character Seralcard, a master assassin, not Rythan at all. Sorry for the confusion but I wanted to keep Seralcard as mysterious as possible.

    I actually needed to speak to you CC, because I wanted your Investigator (wow I can't believe I forgot her name, Palmora? I'm a terrible person, but I'm away from my own computer and under time constraints) to play a very important lead role in my upcoming TS or Chronicle (she'd be co-starring with Sideline, hopefully.)


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