This is the first story I wrote. It's very long and so I will post in sections. I'm not changing ' and "s back from question marks. I do not have the time. Sorry. No sex in this one, but a lot of killing/assassinations/fights. The inspiration in places screams ASSASSIN'S CREED.
I didn’t know that my life’s work would come to this. I now belong to the shadows, unknown to all- an inexistent shadow of myself.... and yet, not even that. I’m a different man now. He changed me. Made me a silent killer against my people, driven to a point of not caring what was done to me- how badly I was beaten, tortured and broken. I am simply Ayanami’s creature. A thing to do his dirty work. He forced me to my knees before him, but one day I will kill him, whether it be when he sleeps or in battle. He wouldn’t hesitate to do that to me, for he knows that I have hidden powers that I cannot control.
I am Vincent Frau Hacku and I will kill Ayanami.
I fought alongside my men in battle. My violet eyes shining, sword flashing in the sunlight as I charge forwards with the front line to meet my foe. We were the best army in the world, ranked first of six run by the Chancellor in protection of his people. “Hacku’s Guard” they called us, and I fought for my men as much as they did for me. They wanted to please me and I was popular with them all.
When I became general of what was known as “Chancellor’s Guard”- it being commanded directly by the Chancellor- I learned alot about the other armies of the world. Each army had a fort much like our own and they were positioned in six places around the globe. Between these 6 fortresses were often smaller forts with lesser nobility residing there, many had their own small armies that often met in clashes with the Chancellor’s armies. These were the most common incidents and I was made to be aware and ready for these often, as well as prepared to break up fights between others. I was also shown around the fort and the surrounding area. We were situated in the middle of a desert, however, closest to the Chancellor’s keep. There was a wide view of the surrounding land in all directions and the ground looked all the same except for the occasional shrub or collection of trees and the well-travelled road that was often used by peasants from the south gate to the coastal town of Nightingall 30miles away. We were incredibly hard to invade without the intruder being spotted first. I had my own quarters in the south-western corner of the main fort next to the prison area- used for POWs and slaves and wrong-doers. My chambers weren’t lavishly furnished; a warrior’s home, with a small armoury and the likes. I also shared the barracks with my honoured soldiers. The prison had a holding wing and a specialised zone for dangerous prisoners as well a large exercise area. There were also stables, training grounds, guard and cadet barracks, a guard room for men to relax in and a dining hall. The surrounding area of the fort was home to many small farms and country homes where peasants had seeked refuge under the protection of my Guard.
It was a humid summer morning when I was helping train some of my soldiers for an expedition soon approaching that they entered through the main gate as if they were welcome guests. I heard a cry of pure terror as I turned to see one man stride forward and kill unprepared guards as if they were scarecrows. Behind the man a line of seven more came, swords drawn for battle. And behind them, about a hundred more guards.
They attacked quickly and mercilessly- killing as they went. I only had time to shout, “Draw swords and attack. Now!” before the leader came directly to me. I drew my sword and readied myself, standing perfectly still. Balancing the weight of a sword in my hands. He attacked at speed, surprising me. I stumbled back a couple of steps as a guard tumbled out of the wall-staircase beside me clutching desperately at his bleeding ribs screaming “Traitors! The guards on duty are traitors!”, before another man, one who I thought was a good man, ran out and silenced him with a strike to the neck. I was horrified, and yet, so angry. I forgot all my own training as I roared a cry of anguish for my men and charged straight at my opponent. I believe I unbalanced him for a minute, as he frantically deflected my blows, but he quickly gained ground, pushing me further and further back towards the wall. With my back now against the keep walls, I had a good view of my men’s numbers dwindling. And finally, they surrendered. Dropping their weapons and putting their hands above their heads they were herded into a line against the guard barrack wall. Eventually I was the last man fighting, I was so tired, forcing every parry and dodge from my limbs but I could feel myself failing. I could feel the eyes of my terrified soldiers and cadets on me as I fought like a wild animal in a cage. I heard footsteps to either side of me running but I carried on concentrating on the man, who didn’t appear tired at all. Suddenly, I was being restrained and forced to my knees by three men and I made a desperate last attempt to remain stood and fighting. On my knees before by enemy I stayed, looking at the dusty bloodstained floor, panting. I was trembling from fatigue and I knew I couldn’t carry on, although I probably wouldn’t have been able to stand up regardless of what form I was in since I was being restrained so tightly. The men put shackles on my wrists and stamped on my hand to release the sword I was still clutching. I had no energy nor will to cry out from the pain that shot up my arm. I then realised that the blood upon the floor before me was my own, that I had a large gash across my side from some point in the struggle. Not that it mattered, just another scar I thought smugly. I’d have to be drained dry of blood before it killed me anyway, still, it made the increasing fatigue ever worse for me.
I felt the unmistakeable tip of a sword at my throat, forcing me to look up. I looked at him through a curtain of golden hair. The man before me was wearing a long black coat with black knee high boots and riding breeches and had silver hair and intent violet eyes like my own. I was startled. “Get him on his feet”, he commanded, and the grip on my arms was back again, pulling me up. I scrabbled about, trying to get my legs to remain underneath me but I settled for slumping in their arms instead. I grunted at the pain in my left side and winced as I was dragged towards the prison gates.
Behind me, I heard the unmistakable voice of my Major and close friend as he cried “No! Vi...Hacku! Where are you taking him you...”, and then silence. I heard gasps and shuffling but I couldn’t bring myself to see the fate of my old friend.
Within the prison yard I found that the small amount prisoners that would’ve been exercising were being forced into a line against the wall by some burly guards. My guards. I was taken into the main building and dragged down our most infrequently used passage. It was the area used for dangerous prisoners. Chains and shackles hung from walls and the sound of dripping water echoed along with the sound of boots on stone. There was but one window at the end of the corridor and dark cells lined the walls giving the area a sense of being a dungeon rather than prison. I was taken to the cell at the head of the corridor and chained to the wall, no attention being paid to the pain I was suffering. Every time I moved the chains clinked, making me feel more like a chained animal than human. The man looked down at me, smiling an odd, malicious smile. From behind him came the sound of hurried footsteps and a tall, lean man with black shaggy hair and a sarcastic, jokey tone to his voice appeared at his side saying in a raised voice, “Ayanami. Sir. We need your direction”.
“Ah. Yes, Kaien. I’ll be with you now, Major.”, he muttered absently while still staring at me.
“Thankyou, sir”, Kaien said before making an elaborate, sweeping bow to him. But in mid bow, Kaien brought his eyes up to meet mine and grinned. “Sir,” he greeted me insincerely, and he left.
“Guards. Watch him.”, Ayanami ordered before turning on his heel and striding away.
I don’t know how long I stayed in that cell in silence under the watchful eye of Ayanami’s guards, but the light had faded from the window and torches now burned in holders on the wall, making the wet stones and my blood shimmer like precious gems. Ayanami finally approached from a curtain of darkness, his eyes flickering in the torchlight. Behind him came Kaien and another two guards. The guards carried some sort of large bowl between then, and it was set down in the far corner of my cell. They set alight to its contents and they began burning fiercely almost instantly, adding to the light in the chamber. The sudden brightness in the room hurt my eyes and I had to shield them for a minute while they adjusted.
I stood up before Ayanami and his men could hurt me trying to force me up and waited. The two guards came to me and undid my shackles but one held me firmly in place while the other stripped me from the waist up so that my scarred and thin yet muscled body was visible. I heard one guard gasp in shock at the extent of my scars and the large gash on my left hand side that had now stopped bleeding. I was then chained back up to the wall by the metre-long chains, but this time facing the wall. I stood slightly sideways looking over my shoulder to see what they were doing. I saw Ayanami pull a long metal thing out of his jacket and put it in the fire. Then I realised. It was a branding iron. I began to panic and look around frantically at the people in the cell. “I suggest you keep still or this’ll hurt more than it needs to,” Ayanami threatened, with a great big grin on his face. “Put your hands on the wall. Now. Do you want us to restrain you?”. I turned and braced my hands against the cool walls and looked at the floor. I heard footsteps behind me and two men braced me against the wall, holding me there firmly. Then, I felt it on my back, against my left shoulder blade. My arms almost gave way from the pain, my body shook and the chains rattled as I kicked the wall furiously. I retched drily and bared my teeth as I groaned tiredly from all the pain I had suffered. The guards released me again but I remained against the wall panting. I fell to my knees and stayed there, trembling from pain and anger. “Ouch.” Kaien said from behind me, his voice ringing clearly in the silence. The guards turned me back around and chained me facing Ayanami, I looked up at him, loathing him. “So. You’re mine now. You will do what I order you to do or I’ll kill your men. Don’t worry, they work for me now. I’ll be nice to them. Hopefully.” Ayanami told me.
I exhaled through my mouth in a sigh. “Sir.” I said in a deep, quiet tone.
“Good. What’s your full name?” He asked darkly.
I readied myself and stood up, chains clinking. “No comment.”
“Tell me your name.” He stepped forwards, threatening.
He punched me in the stomach and I doubled over to lean over his shoulder. “Yes” he whispered savagely in my ear.
I gasped and then groaned before collapsing at his feet. I coughed up blood and spat it onto the floor. I readied myself for more pain as I whispered, almost inaudibly, “Go to hell”.
He grabbed me by the arm and made me stand. He slammed me against the wall and jammed his elbow in my throat. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. He punched me in the stomach over and over again until I was on the floor again, retching and gasping for breath. He pulled back his foot to kick my stomach but I said quietly “Vincent. Vincent Frau Hacku.” He placed his foot back on the floor. The guards behind Ayanami looked flustered and traumatised but I ignored them and focused my attention on Ayanami who was now pacing backwards and forwards infront of me. He stopped abruptly, and I flinched back from him.
“I’ll be back in the morning. I have something for you”, he muttered and then left, his men following behind him.
I felt the spot where I had been branded a slave. It was already healing, as was the cut across my ribs. Contented, I sat in silence and fell into a kind of trance, it is the closest I can get to sleeping, and it is not dreaming, just staring off into space and contemplating. It was morning before I knew it.
The morning light streamed through the small barred window high above my head. The torches had burned themselves out as had the fire pit that was used in my branding. I felt my shoulder blade. The mark was completely scarred now and the skin felt new and smooth there. I was brought to awareness by the sound of clunking locks and footsteps coming down the passage. Ayanami emerged from around the corner carrying a largish package of some sort. But that wasn’t what caught my attention; he was completely newly attired. He wore a knee length ultramarine trench coat with golden embroidery around the hems and two rows of brass buttons down the front. The high necked collar of this coat held a small brass badge of his coat of arms and a flap came over one shoulder- obviously a lesser noble of some deion. Upon his head he wore a matching hat, the rim had yet more golden embroidery on it. Around his waist was a belt holding the sheath of his knife and sword- an elaborate golden hilt was protruding from his sword sheath. He stepped into my cell and looked down at me from under the rim of his cap, smiling that smile again. He tossed the package at me and I caught it with a clink of my chains. I began unwrapping the plain paper to reveal a set of jet black garments. Ayanami had stepped behind me in order to undo my shackles, but not before warning me, “Remember- their fate is in your hands.” I grunted a reply. “Put them on.” He ordered. I stood up, a little shakily, and began changing into the new clothes. A black coat, reaching halfway down my thighs had similar golden hemming and buttons to Ayanami’s jacket, as well as the badge at my neck except there was no elaborate flap over my shoulder and the like, a matching cloak that fell to the floor swayed around my shoulders when I moved. Between each pair of buttons was a small chain reaching across my chest that tinkled irritatingly as I moved. I found a pair of black breeches and gloves, as well as knee high boots to match the coat with more buttons and decorative chains down the outer sides.
Finally, I pulled out a black wide-rimmed hat. But beneath this was a mask. The black painting of the face made the golden paint rimming the eyes stand out beautifully. Down the left-hand side of the face was a long golden painted line- in the exact placing of my own scar and the eye holes held transparent violet fabric in correspondence to my own eyes. Ayanami looked me up and down and smiled. Again. I hated him for making me hide my identity in this way, these clothes surely looked terribly menacing to most people. But then, wasn’t that the idea? “Since you are going to be with me most of the time you’re going to be seen by all your old soldiers, and so, I found it reasonable to hide your identity. You will not talk to anybody unless I say, which won’t be often at all so don’t get your hopes up. You are to obey my every command or I’ll make you suffer. Follow.” He told me quietly. I followed at a well-paced stride through the dungeons and into the main prison building. He took me into the prison armoury. Placed on one of the work benches was a selection of my old weapons, sword, dagger, throwing knives, poisons, and a slightly stealthier knife to be carried up my sleeve. I put a belt on and stuck my array of weapons in scabbards and pouches until I looked and felt like a pure killing machine. Ayanami grabbed my wrist. I didn’t fight him, just stood and waited. On my wrist he put a black wristguard with red rims, and put a similar one on my other arm. Around my middle finger he placed a small ring that attached to a small contraption on the guard itself, as I stretched out my hand, a blade the length of my hand shot out. Ah. The perfect weapon for killing silently, was it not? Ayanami made an amused sound and I turned on him, making a growling sound under my breath, but almost as if he’d seen it coming, I turned to a sword at my throat. In surprise I stepped back a couple of steps and slammed straight into a wall. I lifted my chin to avoid the tip of the blade. I grudgingly put my hands up to show my submission and he lowered the blade. “Be careful”, Ayanami said as he walked off infront of me. I followed out into the yard of the prison, and then into the courtyard of the keep itself.
Despite the early hour, most people were up and about. I was surprised to see my own guard training alongside Ayanami’s men, if a little stiffly. We walked to the edge of the training grounds, and Ayanami and I received alot of grudging glances. It hurt me to see my men so beaten down and defenceless and hateful of me. Granted, they didn’t know I was me- I believe they suspected me dead, murdered by Ayanami. Kaien approached from sparring with a couple of young soldiers who I didn’t recognise. He sheathed his sword and commented to Ayanami, “I see our friend is under control then.” I put my hand to my sword hilt in a gesture of ‘not quite’ but he simply looked affronted and carried on, “You gonna see what he can do, Aya?”. And before I knew it, Ayanami was drawing his sword. The clanging hushed and I felt all eyes turn to us. Kaien backed away a few steps, and I wished desperately to do the same, for that look of pure enjoyment at battle was enough to turn a man to a grovelling heap. I remained standing though, and drew my sword in my right hand and my dagger in my left. I balanced myself, pain flooded back to me, the thought that last time I stood like this was watching the slaughter of my companions. I would conserve energy, not go insane today. Relax.
He stepped forwards, a warning gesture. I stepped forwards also, a little dance. On the sidelines I heard one boy say to his companion, “He has the exact fighting style of Hacku- a dagger for defence and sword for attack. But he’s an assassin, surely.” The shock of his words brought me to a halt. I looked at the young lad, so solemn. Pain flooded me yet again. The boy looked straight back at me when he realised I was staring at him, but then his eyes widened in horror. I wondered why for a second, but then, Ayanami’s weight hit me. I was sent careering sideways, I scrabbled back onto my feet and stumbled forwards towards him, disorientated. He was coming for another attack; I held my dagger before me and danced forwards lightly. I remembered my training, and fought, blade on blade, Ayanami wasn’t pushing me back, but neither was I pushing him. He suddenly lunged forwards, holding his blade horizontally, I spun away, my cloak fluttering behind me. But I was a little late reacting and his sword cut into my right arm as I moved. I growled loudly and almost dropped my sword. “Concentrate, concentrate.” Ayanami muttered at me in a low voice, never breaking eye contact and smiling wryly. I was furious, and let myself attack with intent to kill. It wasn’t hard for a man like me. I charged forwards, but as I reached Ayanami I dropped both sword and dagger- to his surprise. I spread my hands wide as I ran and my wrist blades flicked out immediately, flashing in the sun. My cloak billowed behind me as I plunged my blades into his stomach. A look of shock fell onto his face, and I smiled, but then he grinned, looking at me with an insane look on his face. He broke out into laughter, much to my shock. I pulled back, taking my blood-stained hands away from his body, repulsed. I backed away a few steps before turning and running as far away from that thing as possible. In mid-laugh, however, he shouted “Run if you want, but you know what’ll happen to the others!” I stopped, my head bowed, and I looked over my shoulder at him. Two guards ran from either side of me and held me still. I shook them off and stalked over to my discarded weapons and picked them up before placing my hands behind my back and waiting to be shackled again. Ayanami was coughing now, blood darkening his lips as he went down on one knee holding his stomach. A woman ran over and took his jacket off him, exposing his chest and waist, he had scars like mine, significantly less but there, and in the middle of it all were two huge holes. The woman took a bandage and wrapped it tightly around his waist, and then I was taken away back to my cell and chained up. I don’t know what happened to Ayanami over the course of those days that I was left alone in the dungeon. At one point Kaien came to me, no longer with the joking look in his eyes. He kicked the bars of the cell and left again. Another day, a small troop of young trainees from my days as general visited, standing clear of the bars and looking at me carefully. I stood under their scrutiny and bowed mockingly. “That’s not the general, Jay, he’s just an animal.” At that comment I took a step forwards so the chains pulled tight. I was furious and tired. I had to do it, “Leave me. Please.” I said wearily. The boys suddenly fell silent from their quarrelling and stared at me. “Just go.” I tried again.
“The Major’s been killed. I’m sorry, General.” One boy addressed formally.
“I figured. Leave. That’s an order.”
“Sir!” They all chimed together.
“I’m not alive anyway. You know that.” I muttered as I settled myself against the wall again. I think they took my meaning.
Footsteps late one night dragged me from my slumber. I focused my eyes towards the end of the corridor. From the curtain of darkness a figure approached, I knew it was him immediately. His footsteps were slow and threatening- a nightmare monster coming to get you in your bed, and you have nowhere to escape to, so you tremble under the covers helplessly… I stood and bowed as low as I could in my confines, sweeping my arms wide in a flurry of gloved hands and clanking chains. “Sir.” I said, trying to force my voice into a respectful tone, although I ended up with more of a low, shuddering growl. Ayanami was limping ever so slightly, and I took satisfaction in the thought that I could hurt this man. He cocked his head at me and smiled wryly from beneath his cap. He looked immaculate, with a new jacket exactly the same as the previous and perfectly groomed. I stood studying him carefully as he entered my cell and removed my shackles, only to replace them with a more dainty set with a thin chain about a metre long behind my back. They tinkled gently at every movement, much like the chains on my jacket. I was going to tire of this quickly. Ayanami came behind my back and pulled the chains tight around my wrists and pushed me forwards. I walked stiffly into the main courtyard of the keep with Ayanami’s dagger pressed at my back. I looked around. I think all of my and Ayanami’s men, regardless of rank stood before us in a circle around me. Ayanami handed me over to a couple of guards who held me still while Ayanami spoke.
“You saw what occurred here a week ago, this man injured me. For you, that injury would be fatal. But not for me, nor our friend here if that were to happen to him. I let you know now that he is dangerous,” He paused “..but he is under my command and will act accordingly. For your protection he will permanently wear these chains, and is not permitted to speak to anyone. Be aware.” With these words he left, strolling away to his own (my old) chambers. Conversation broke out amongst the men around me. I could see several I know eyeing me warily, I walked to the edge of the circle to make my own way around the keep, but a group of surly youths stood in my way, purposely. I was significantly taller than them but they were stockier, giving the appearance that they were more muscular. The oldest –of about 19 years old- came and squared up to me openly. Conversation ceased and the crowd closed in around us. I brought the confining chains over my head so I could move more freely and unsheathed my dagger. No-one had said I couldn’t fight. The man yanked his belt-knife from its old sheath and stepped forwards. I stepped back a few steps, pushing the crowd back with me. The man smiled a horrid smile at me and said loudly, “Go.” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about until three men behind me grabbed my arms and twisted them behind my back. I almost cried out but hissed between my teeth instead. One man had picked up my knife I’d dropped and was now pressing it into my throat. I felt a warm trickle flowing freely down my neck. I don’t think the guys had bargained on my having wrist-blades since they were holding onto my wrists in a perfect place to get them. I stretched my hands suddenly and the blades flicked out effortlessly into exposed flesh. I heard a cry of shock and pain and I was released. I immediately drew my sword and spun on my ambushers, slitting three throats in a slice. I turned on their leader. He wore such a great expression. Pure horror. I laughed, a low and slightly insane laugh- I was enjoying this- and sprinted straight at him. He turned and ran through the crowd, shoving people out of the way. I glided through the waiting gaps into the open space where he fled towards the main gate. I sheathed my sword and instead flicked a few throwing knives from my belt. One at a time, I threw them into his exposed back. He shouted out and ran slower and more frantically at every hit until he fell to the ground in a cloud of dust. I fell upon him and dealt a finishing blow with my sword before collecting my knives and sauntering off again, well pleased. The old me was back. Behind me I heard shouts of the guards, “Get on your knees” and “Halt!” I stopped and turned slowly. Four guards were running after me with their swords drawn so I got on my knees and put my hands in the air to avoid another battering. One punched me in the stomach while another grabbed my chains and forced my hands behind my back, twisting my arms in an unnatural and painful way. The third occupied himself by threatening to slit my throat and the fourth almost did with his blade at my throat. I grunted as the chains were yanked furiously to make them into shorter bindings, jolting my body harshly. I was made to stand up and was partially dragged, partially pushed towards the prison, yet again. As I was taken out of sight of the lingering crowd and into the building where violence ruled I was taken into my lovely little corridor area and suddenly shunted into the bars of a cell lining the walls. The sound of my back slamming the bars shattered the silence of the dark tunnel. “You just killed four men like it was an everyday thing!” the guard spat in my face.
“I’m tempted to make that five.” I muttered darkly.
The guard punched me in the jaw and I let out an involuntary yelp. “You see,” he sniggered “I control you now. You’re just a slave anyway. You belong in this dungeon.” He punched me again, and again, and again until I was sagging against his grip on me, blood dripping from under my mask. The other three guards had stood clear until now and were helping each other drag my limp body into my prison cell and to chain me to the wall. I rested my back against the wall and tried to force myself into a calm state. I wiped blood from my chin and sat in silence under the guards’ scrutiny. They were obviously new to the job, I could tell by the way they argued with a mere slave, showing how terrified they were. It made me think of myself when I first started my work in the military. I laughed to myself when Ayanami came around the corner and gave the lads a fright, all bowing and “sir” this and “sir” that as they scuttled away. When they had gone I removed my mask, all blood stained as it was. I spat a globule of blood onto the floor with a tooth to accompany it and said, “Novices are always the most dangerous.”
Ayanami grunted a reply before saying, “I’m no novice.” As he approached the door.
“Don’t bother again today. Please. I can’t take it,” I begged weakly. “You’ve broken me.” I hated admitting it but I couldn’t face anymore fists or blades today. He opened the barred door and entered my cell, smiling. I spat on the floor, glaring at him and growled in the back of my throat. “You really don’t trust me, do you?” Ayanami said mockingly.
“I’ve no reason to.” I replied, baring my bloodied teeth and feeling the fear under my anger. He took another step.
“You’re right in that.” He muttered to himself, looking away as if despised, and kicked me in the ribs. I gasped, my breath whistling out of my lungs. “Stand.” Ayanami commanded, still looking away. I stood, with some difficulty, leaning heavily against the wall. He cocked an eyebrow at me, and I knew what he meant. I went down on one knee awkwardly and picked up my hat and mask, I put them on and straightened to my full height.
He unchained me completely and I rubbed my chafed wrists gratefully. They were badly bruised and cut but my wristguards didn’t cause me any discomfort. I followed Ayanami out into the sunlight and had to wait for my eyes to adjust after so long in the hole. Of all places he led me straight to the stables and down the lengthy corridor between the rows of stalls. The smell of horses was quite comforting; the sweet smell of hay and leather. Stablehands busied around us quietly, bowing courteously at Ayanami and simply looking at me oddly. One did however address me, saying “Sir.” a bit too fondly. That earned a surprised look from Ayanami for both of us. He stopped at a stall holding an elaborately harnessed black Friesian stallion, “This is yours,” he told me, stroking the horse gently. The stallion looked alert and forward-going. I was looking forward to riding him. “Now come to my office with me, we have.... a mission.” I departed reluctantly from the stable. I longed to remain in a familiar environment. Ayanami took me to my old quarters and I immediately stiffened. Why here? He took me inside, and past the 6 doors on either side of the large round room and straight to the main door. Inside, I recognised some of what was once my old office. The weapons that hung on the wall were mostly mine with a few exceptions. The desk that stood on a raised platform in the corner was also mine. I didn’t recognise the bloodstains that splattered one wall as being there originally, though. “Major Howard put up a good fight.” Ayanami said idly while he wrote something at his desk. Howard had been a very close friend of mine; I had made him my Major to keep him close by my side at all times. I clenched my fists and strode over to where Ayanami sat. I drew my sword and held it to his throat. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he reminded me, “guards have their orders.” I cried out in frustration and hacked my sword into the desk, sending splinters flying and left it there, stuck in the desk. I stood before him breathing heavily, hunched slightly.
“I have been invited to a dinner party with Lord Heighward. It appears that my taking over of your territory has been accepted, and very quickly. People like to make friends of dangerous enemies I suppose. Anyhow, you and Major Kaien Zelt are to come with me as protection, Kaien posing as my guest and you will be my bodyguard-come-assassin- of course no one will know your true identity or purpose. We leave now, the journey is approximately 3 hours and we must be there before noon.” He stood, and I turned towards the door, “And Vincent,” I stiffened at his use of my first name, “you need this.” I turned back around and Ayanami was holding my sword to me by the blade. I snatched it in hopes of cutting him a little, to no avail. On the way through the rounded room Ayanami knocked on one of the doors and Kaien came out, fully attired in black. “Hiya, Vincent.” He said cheerily. I turned away in disgust and left for the stables to get my Friesian. A stableboy had already brought Ayanami and Kaien’s out, both elegant pure white horses with arched necks and fancy blue tack. When I took my black out into the open I noticed that his tack was violet, with golden embellishments. He stood well while I mounted from the ground and arched his neck when I gathered the reins. Ayanami and Kaien mounted and rode alongside each other ahead of me. Once we were out the gates Ayanami set a pace of a quick canter, my black fell into step with the others easily despite his stocky appearance.
We arrived on time through the iron gates along with a small amount of other minor nobles. Ayanami received most of the attention from the Heighward stableboys in comparison to the other nobles. I took my horse into the stables myself and untacked him before following the main stream of people to the dining hall. It was very elaborate in relation to our own guard infested one. Flowers hung from the high rafters and a fire burned merrily along one side of the long table that was positioned slightly to the side of the room. A large array of food was already set out and people were talking amongst themselves while eating. I saw Lord Heighward sat at the head of the table, and Ayanami sat to his left with Kaien. Unlike everyone else, Ayanami sat quietly and did not eat. Kaien ate little but talked merrily to the young woman opposite him. When I looked around the room I saw many nobles had infact brought bodyguards with them who stood against the wall behind their masters. I followed their example.
Talk was general. Boring stuff nobles have to talk about. Did you know that someone’s lost their holdings, and yes it is terrible but have you tried these pastries they’re so delicious, and the likes. Ayanami continued to sit late into the night in silence. He drank heavily of the wine but it didn’t appear to affect him, he stayed almost unnoticed until all conversation turned to his conquering of General Hacku. Questions were thrown at him- how did he defeat the most revered and dangerous warlord at his own game? Where is he now? Ayanami lied his way through the night while I stood listening to all. One defiant young noble named Lord Gaurile proudly stood and announced loudly, “What did you do to Hacku and where is he now, for he was a good man, my friend.” To which Ayanami replied,
“I made him mine, I made him suffer, and maybe he suffers still.” Silence fell around the hall and all looked up at Ayanami. I shifted my position, for my back was aching and my legs were beginning to tremble uncontrollably. I swayed dangerously where I stood and gained the attention of one of the ladies in the room. I immediately forced myself to stillness and pretended not to notice her. “Ayanami, good sir,” she called gently across a few nobles. Silence fell again, “Is your guard ok? He appears to be swaying slightly.”
I stepped forwards and bowed deeply to her before saying, “I thank you for your hospitality, my lady, but I am truly fine.” I stepped back again and leaned myself against the wall for balance. Many nobles were staring at me in a shocked way, and I was wondering why when I realised I had spoken in the exact gruff, yet articulate manner of Vincent Frau Hacku who so many of these people had known well. One man stood and said cheerily, if a little drunkardly, “Shall we not test our bodyguards against one another?” Mutters of approval started and an area was cleared in the hall for a ‘battle ring’. Ayanami stood and pushed his chair back clumsily, and I realised the full extent of his drinking habits. He staggered over to me and I could smell the wine on his breath as he whispered, “You first.” into my ear. I pushed myself off the wall and wandered unsteadily into the centre of the ring. “Who will face this demon?!” Ayanami announced proudly and yet wryly to the gathering crowd.
A man stepped into the arena, he was slender and his golden hair was drawn back in a warrior’s tail. He wore the colours of Aregar- cream and blue on his carefully cut garments. He drew an incredibly thin blade and made a show of whipping it around in a series of moves. I simply drew my sword and dagger and stood, waiting. Once he’d finished his little display he began to dance towards me, the moves of a very experienced fighter. Behind me I heard Lord Heighward announce, “This is not fight to death, warriors. I warn you.” And with that, my opponent launched himself at me.
I leapt back with a suppressed “Shit!” and sidestepped his onslaught. He turned quickly and attacked with a precise series of attacks. I regained my balance and quickly deflected his blows, even snatching a swipe at his right forearm, causing him to hold his sword more loosely and swing more slowly. I carried on fighting off his blows but I was becoming sluggish and tired. Behind me I heard alot of hushed muttering, and then suddenly I heard an exasperated, “Vincent Frau Hacku!” shouted by an unknown female voice. I turned around in shock to find the source of the shouting and searched wildly. I almost completely forgot that I was fighting and remembered a second too late. My opponent got his arm around my throat and rested his sword atop his arm against my throat. I tried to fight him off, turning my dagger in my hand and trying to find an important place to stab him, but he quickly twisted my body so any small movement was agony. Even my panicky panting was a painful process, my whole body was heaving and blood and sweat were dripping from beneath my mask. The man forced me to my knees, much to my objection and held me there. Ayanami was glaring at me, a look that said, ‘you’re going to pay for this.’ The floor had become slippery with blood- mainly my opponent’s and I could feel his grip failing on me. I waited. Heighward began to come forwards to declare the winner. The second I felt his true strength slip, I launched myself into a standing position, spun on my heel and swiped my sword straight at the man’s neck, taking his head off. A huge gasp and several screams lifted in the audience. Heighward was spattered with blood but I didn’t care. I was furious. The voice once again said, “Vincent?” I simply turned and threw my sword in the direction of the voice and stalked away.
I walked down the nearest corridor and followed it until I found an exit into the fort ground. I paced backwards and forwards in the darkness before taking my anger out on a nearby tree with one of my throwing knives. Ayanami strode out of the door next and came straight up to me, he staggered a little but seemed to have overcome most of his drunkenness. He drew his sword and got me up against the tree. I’d put my tiny knife in the blade’s way just in time and kicked him savagely in the stomach to get him away from me. “Find a new assassin, you bastard.” I roared to the night over my shoulder in his general direction. My kick had winded him slightly and he straightened up from bending over his stomach and swayed where he stood. “You just killed three of your guard.” He retorted quietly. I froze. I couldn’t leave him or he’d kill them all. I’d have to suffer on their behalf. “Gaahh. Ayanami, my lord I apologise profusely.” I bowed elaborately, not daring to show any sarcasm. “What can I do to repent? Sir.”
“Do exactly as I say, and act accordingly. I will spare your men. This time.”
“Sir. Yes, sir.” I replied defeatedly. Pain from my injuries rushed back and I hissed through my teeth at the pain it caused to match Ayanami’s pace back to the hall. I truly didn’t want to know how Lord Heighward would react to my killing a man in his presence, let alone his guests. Ayanami walked in with his head held high. I looked about suspiciously as I walked. I noticed the decapitated body had been removed and the blood cleaned by servants in my absence. As I stood near Ayanami who had once again seated himself even though most people stood talking, a young lady with long red hair and a deep blue dress approached me, holding my bloodied sword. I took it carefully, cleaned it on my cloak and re-sheathed it. I bowed deeply to the woman and stood watching Ayanami. The woman stayed at my side. “Who are you?” She asked discreetly. I swung my head in her direction and stood silent, looking at her. She squirmed under my gaze and looked away. It was then that I noticed the absence of Lord and Lady Heighward and the presence of a large amount of his guards around the room. I stood alert instantly. The woman looked at me, “What’s wrong?” she asked. I couldn’t let her get involved. “Stay out of this.” I growled before striding to the centre of the room. I guard walked up to me and met me in the centre of the room. “Come with us peacefully and no harm will come to you,” He said flatly like he’d rehearsed. “Make me.” I said, my words practically dripping with acid. The young guard looked affronted for a minute, then launched himself at me head-on. I moved lithely to one side and pushed him as he passed so he fell face down on the hard stone floor. I fell atop him and got one arm around his throat and used my other to twist his arm behind his back. “Struggle and I’ll dislocate your shoulder. Believe me.” I whispered savagely into his ear. He struggled. I pushed forward and down on his arm until I heard a satisfying crunch. He screamed and his whole body convulsed beneath me. Guards had begun rushing at me in all directions. “Hold!” I commanded, forcing myself to spit the words out infront of so many people, if I got out of this alive Ayanami would give me a hiding. They stopped. The man beneath me was sobbing uncontrollably, I released him arm and it flopped to the floor. I drew my dagger and put it to his neck. I felt his body tense up suddenly and his breath came in uneven gasps. I stood the man infront of me, laughed, and drew the blade across his throat, beneath my mask I was smiling insanely. The whole room seemed to gasp. A woman fainted. The boy fell from my arms with a thud. The guards drew their swords. I drew mine. One against twenty. I attacked. My smile had become and uncontrollable laughing fit as I slaughtered the men around me. I reduced their numbers down to about eight before something thudded heavily into my upper right back. My knee gave way and I stumbled forwards towards some spectators as a wave of pain washed over me. I winced and gritted my teeth and stayed down on one knee, panting heavily. The guards had stopped attacking and now stood around me in a circle with their swords pointed at me. I grunted at the pain and slid my sword and other weapons across the floor to the man who looked like their leader in submission. However, I still remained on one knee rather than two as a display of defiance, but that was quickly suppressed when another arrow thudded into my back and forced me to all fours as I cried out involuntarily. “Hold him.” I heard a familiar voice order behind me and I turned to see that it was Lord Heighward as I had suspected, holding a crossbow in his hands and pointing it at me. Two guards came forwards and supported me before the noble which was when I noticed Ayanami stood between two experienced looking guards looking very angry. I flinched when Heighward savagely cocked another arrow in his bow and strained backwards against the guards, dragging them a substantial distance backwards before they regained control. Heighward grinned at my terrified reaction and shot the arrow into my thigh- it made a horrific noise in the silence before gasps erupted around the room. I cried out wordlessly and began my furious panting again, cursing myself for appearing so weak. I doubled over and remained there until Heighward began talking.
“Why are you here?” He asked harshly, kneeling infront of me.
“I’m just a slave,” I groaned as he grabbed a lock of my hair and forced me to look up. I let my hat fall to the floor.
“Now that’s interesting. You’re a bloody strange slave!” He laughed. “Why are you here, assassin?”
“I’m not an assassin.” I lied, though it was strictly true- I didn’t kill for money.
“Now,” he said, his eyes flashing dangerously and giving the arrow embedded in my leg a good twist. I yelped and tried to drag myself away from him, but the guards held me there while Heighward jerked the arrow in my leg, “why would a slave be so heavily armed?” Yank.
“Just.... I can’t talk.... here...” I gasped, sweating heavily.
“No, you’re right. We’ll take you to the dungeon instead.” He whispered maliciously, for my ears only. With that my hands were bound and I was dragged out of the room. I snatched I quick look at Ayanami through a haze of pain making a break for escape before I was taken through the main door and round to the left and into a courtyard. I couldn’t stand because of the arrow in my leg and breathing was a painful business, causing stabbing pains at every breath. The world seemed to tilt around me but I tried not to show it in my posture. Four horses were led out of the stable in the courtyard and the sound of their hooves on the grey flagstones sounded like the clash of sword on sword to me. Before we mounted up Heighward ordered that the three arrows be removed from my back and leg. The guards restrained me and one grabbed the arrows in my back and carefully removed them without breaking the shafts. The third one was more difficult, the arrow head broke from the shaft just at the surface of my skin, and one guard had to dig around in my leg with a knife to fork it out. I growled at the two men as they did this, my growls occasionally ending in a cry as the guard with the knife ‘accidentally’ slipped. Finally, Lord Heighward mounted a white horse, while I was forced to cross the pain barrier and climb onto a bay horse’s back. The two guards who had come mounted on either side of me and led my horse while I tried to remain on the horse with my hands behind my back. We trekked onwards, my pain never subsiding. The thought of what laid ahead frightened me more than I'd care to admit.