Authors: T C Southwell
Tags: #assassin, #destiny, #ghost, #killer, #haunted, #prequel
Blade Prequel II
Published by T
C Southwell at Smashwords
2010 T C Southwell
Edition, License Notes
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hesitated at the entrance to Pitcairn Alley, its darkness daunting
her a little. The Death Moon was only half full, and clouds made
the night darker. A breeze stirred the rags and bits of paper that
littered the lane, carrying the stench of decay and excrement to
her. The alley made her journey home much shorter, however, and she
sensed no presence in it. The greatest danger was tripping over
something foul, or slipping in the turds that beggars left.
Entering the alley, she picked her way through the garbage,
avoiding puddles of dubious, dirty liquid that might have been
water or piss. No beggars slept here; it was too foul even for
A dark form
lying on the cobblestones made her pause, and she peered at it,
unable to make out what it was. Stepping closer, she poked it with
her toe. Drunkards sometimes did not make it home, and occasionally
carried purses with a few coppers in them. The moon edged out from
behind the clouds, casting its magical light on a huddled,
black-clad man. He lay on his side, one arm bent under him at an
unnatural angle, his face pressed to the dirty street. Blood caked
on his exposed cheek and spiked his long hair, which straggled from
a leather thong to lie against his cheek, glued there with
her tongue and shook her head. Doubtless he was the victim of
cutthroats, and probably dead. He certainly looked dead. On the off
chance that they had missed it, she groped at his belt for his
purse. To her surprise, she found one that clinked, and tugged it
loose, hefting it. If what was inside was silver, it was a tenday's
worth of food and lodgings. Eager to evaluate her windfall, she
opened the leather pouch and peered inside, her eyes widening at
the glint of gold. Unable to believe her luck, she emptied a few
coins into her palm and stared at them. The purse was full of
goldens. At least ten, judging by its weight. More than a
moon-phase of good food and clean board. She glanced at the man,
pitying him. Whoever he was, he had no more use for the money.
purse away, she stepped over the corpse and hurried on down the
alley, eager to get home and count her newfound riches. By the time
she reached the end of the lane, her steps slowed and she glanced
back. What if he was alive? He would die for sure if no one helped
him, and no one would, she was certain. Even if his family was
rich, and searched for him, they would not find him in time. If she
helped him, on the other hand, they might give her a reward. Then
again, how could she? He was surely too heavy for her to drag all
the way to her lodgings. She could call, though. They might help if
he was a wealthy man. She quickened her steps, then slowed again.
What was a rich man doing in Pitcairn Alley? That made no sense.
The affluent did not come to the poor quarter.
Lilu paused at
the end of the lane and looked back, undecided. Her curiosity was
thoroughly aroused, but it had got her into trouble before now. The
most sensible course of action was to go home and forget about him.
Why could she not just walk away? What was it about this half-dead,
if not entirely dead man that made her want to help him so much?
Her desire to do so was illogical, and, although she was a
soft-hearted person, for the most part, good sense should have
warned her to stay away from a potentially dangerous situation. Who
knew who he was? He might be a killer.
A soft pop
made her glance around. A tiny dragon, aglow with scintillating
light that shimmered over her skin in many-hued, ever-changing
patterns, hovered on blurred wings beside her. Symbell drifted
closer, her green eyes alight as she gazed past Lilu up the lane.
Gold edged her wings and legs and vibrant blue rimmed her nostrils
and eyes. Symbell trilled, and her words whispered in Lilu's
tilted her head. “Why?”
But he might be dangerous.”
chirped and burst into song, filling the dingy street with magical
notes of the sweetest purity. The moonlight shimmered and
brightened, gilding rooftops and cobblestones. Dirty glass panes
glowed, bits of filthy paper sparkled and puddles glinted like
liquid silver. The gloomy street became a magical wonderland when
filled with a radiant dragon's song of revelation. If anyone was
abroad tonight, or awake in a nearby house, they would find their
drab world transformed into a pearl-hued paradise.
at the fallen man and gasped. Radiance drifted around him, drawn to
him in a glowing nimbus that swirled and shimmered, shot with pale
hues of unimaginable beauty. It radiated from him too, surrounding
him in a shining aura so pale and pure it was hard to look at and
not cry. Lilu was drawn to him, and fought the powerful urge. She
looked at Symbell, who continued to sing, her throat puffed up as
she produced her sweet, magical notes. They hung in the air,
carrying echoes that owed nothing to the presence of boundaries.
Lilu gazed at the comatose man again, certain now that he lived,
and her eyes widened as the shimmering aura around him coalesced,
becoming sharp-edged and distinct.
silent, and in an instant the magic vanished as if it had never
been, and the gloom, filth and stench closed in once more.
whispered, “He's God Touched.”
and held out her hand, and the radiant landed on it, her wings
becoming visible as they ceased to beat. She folded them and craned
her sinuous neck, purring when Lilu stroked her silken skin,
causing the coloured patterns in it to swirl. Symbell arched her
neck and nipped Lilu's finger, then leapt into the air with a buzz
of wings and vanished with a faint pop, leaving a glowing spot in
the air. Lilu giggled, then her mirth faded as she turned to look
at the stranger again. The amazement of Symbell's miraculous
revelation stunned her, and she walked back to his side, striving
to come to terms with it. Only a very few were God Touched, legend
said; perhaps one in seven generations. Perhaps as few as one per
age. She stood beside him, a lump blocking her throat.
tried to brush the hair from his cheek, but the dried blood held it
in place. He stank of excrement and decay, his short leather jacket
and trousers streaked with it. Someone had beaten him almost to
death, and it looked like his arm was broken, perhaps his leg too.
Lilu took hold of his wrist and tried to pull him into a sitting
position, but he flopped. He did not appear to be a big man, and he
was lean, almost thin. Wrinkling her nose at the stench and wishing
she had a handkerchief to cover it with, she bent and slid her arms
under his knees and shoulders. Her back twinged when she
straightened, but he proved to be even lighter than he looked, and
once she was upright he did not seem so heavy.
down the alley, bowed under his weight, which she could barely
carry. Her lodgings in a merchant's back room on Tarbriar Way
seemed a league away, and she was certain her strength would not
last that long. She was quite surprised when she arrived at the
sagging door to her room, and, fearing that if she put him down she
would not be able to pick him up again, tired as she was, she
fumbled the key into the lock with the hand that supported his
knees. Mercifully the lock opened easily, and she reeled inside,
made it to the bed and dumped him on it, panting. A few moonbeams
crept in through the window to silver a patch of grimy floor, and
she rubbed her aching back before lighting the lamp beside the
Eager to get a
good look at her find, she lighted all the candles and set them on
the bedside table, filling the room with golden radiance. He lay on
his side, his back to her, and she sat on the edge of the bed and
rolled him onto his back. Lilu's breath caught at the sight of his
face, and she gazed at him, her heart pounding. God Touched. It
showed in the purity of his features, so lean and clean, with a
well-shaped mouth and high cheekbones, a narrow, chiselled nose and
fine brows. He looked no more than seventeen years old, a mere
youth. Dried blood streaked his cheeks and clogged his nostrils,
and he breathed through his mouth. His nose was crooked, so it must
be broken, and the sides of his temples were grazed as if he had
been kicked there. Someone had tried hard to ruin his face.
Lilu gazed at
him for several minutes, basking in the wonder of her find. Rising
to her feet, she brought her water basin to the side of the bed and
dipped a ragged grey towel in it, using it to rub away the dried
blood on his face. It smeared into a pink mess, and she had to
rinse the towel many times. When his face was clean, she gazed at
it. Becoming aware of the stench again, she unlaced his jacket and
struggled to pull it off, throwing it in the corner. Beneath it, he
wore a matching linen shirt, which she removed also, finding a
tight leather vest under it. She noticed that her hands were
bloody, and a glance down at herself found more on her dress. So,
he had been stabbed, too. Her eyes were drawn to the
silver-patterned belt that clasped his slim hips, and her breath
rode in sheaths on his hips, and she glanced at his chest, dreading
that she would find what she expected. The black dagger tattoo was
stark against his pale skin, almost an affront. He was an assassin.
Worse, if what little she knew about assassins and their secretive
ways was correct, the belt he wore meant that he was the Master of
the Dance. The best, and therefore the deadliest assassin in
Jondar. In her room. On her bed. Half dead. Who in their right mind
would try to kill the Master of the Dance? Surely he would hunt
them down, and if not him, his Guild. Would they? Two more daggers
were strapped to his wrists in leather sheaths, and she unbuckled
them, then his belt, setting them on the table. Removing the vest,
she found, was a chore. It was glued to his chest with half-dry
blood, and she was puffing by the time she held the limp
Adding it to
the pile, she removed his boots and tugged off his trousers, under
which he wore a pair of baggy flannel shorts that made her smile.
Beneath all his menacing leather finery, the shorts seemed
ludicrous. He had a wound in his flank and another in his abdomen,
as well as the one in his scalp, where someone had hit him hard
enough to split the skin. His right arm was clearly broken halfway
between elbow and wrist, and his left leg between knee and ankle.
Whoever had done this had not intended that he should live, and the
beating had been administered with brutal efficiency.
if he had been able to fight back at all, but, considering that all
his weapons were still in their sheaths, he probably had not.
Cowards. Who, indeed, would have the courage to attack the Master
of the Dance? Leaning closer, she smelt his breath and found it
laden with wine fumes. He had not stood a chance. Yet he was so
young. She had heard that the new Dance Master was unusually young,
but had not dreamt that he could be quite so youthful. Gossip named
him the Invisible Assassin, and spoke of his mastery. She had not
paid it much heed, but in Jondar one could not avoid hearing the
tales that circulated amongst the fishwives. He was just a boy. She
stroked his cheek, surprised to find that he had not yet even
sprouted a beard. Amazing.