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Amensol's Shadow: In The Shadow Of The Sun (Part Four)

    • 56 posts
    August 1, 2020 11:21 PM PDT

    Amensol’s Shadow: In the Shadow of the Sun (Part Three)

    The 12th Tale of the Unseen Pillar of the House of Amensol, by Benonai

     

     

             “You may think,” Kole continued, “that your life has been a series of horrible mishaps or bad luck and blind chance, but I can assure you… nothing is further from the truth. Your life, my young son, has a purpose.”

             Kador stared at Kole across the table from him.  He wasn’t quite sure to believe him.  It was within reason that he was his father.  They were similar in appearance, though Kador was shorter and broader in the shoulders.  Their voices were even similar.  But, that didn’t mean that all he was saying was true.  All this political intrigue, while entertaining, seemed laughable.  The late Narian Castigue was actually a power hungry witch doctor of sorts? The population at large knew him as a frumpy, old historian who wrote books and advised the king.  King Avendyr is actually scheming to sneak secrets from other races for powerful magic.  It was all too much.  On the other hand, the magic he had displayed was incredibly real and his skills with a blade were undeniable.  But, more than all of that, Kador wondered about the genuine nature of his visit. Why would a man so keen to preserve his anonymity now, all of a sudden, care so much to meet his offspring?  There was something he wanted. After all, he just told him that he had a purpose for him.  It felt like he was being groomed.  And Kador didn’t like playing the role of the pawn.

             “The purpose of my life is my own,” Kador snapped back, slightly sneering. “I’m nobody’s errand boy. I don’t care who’s father you are.”

             Kole liked the fire in his son’s eyes, even if it was misplaced. “You remember what I told you, eh? Your lot in this life was set long ago, and not directly by me.  We all play the hand dealt to us.  There is no reshuffle of the cards. One way or another, you will play them.  We all will.  Take Dirty Sam, the Hand of God, for instance.  Seeking out a way to fulfill his bloodlust, or playing the hand he was given? Who are we to say?”

     

             The long dark corridor had been well worn, here longer than men had been, Sam thought as he headed toward the meeting scheduled by the society known as the Assassins of Red Raven.  The entrance was well off the beaten path, imperceivable by nearly anyone.  Those unlucky enough to find it and have an unfortunate excess of curiosity met the same fate as the cat with the same issue.  He’d been on the giving end of that transaction a couple of times.

             “You’re just a little late, Sam,” said his fellow assassin in front of him.  They all took turns guarding the tunnel during a meeting of this size.  It was a recruit’s welcoming along with some important assignments that needed to be handed out.

             “Well, it’s a long way across the plains, my friend.  Been pretty busy of late and it’s not slowing down just yet. I would not have even stopped in, but I needed to speak with our leader.”

             “Oh, wow.  Important work I guess,” the man said.

             “It all is,” Sam said, putting his hand on the shoulder in front of him.  It was all important work.

             Down the veering tunnel, the lights got brighter and opened up into a good sized cave.  A man was standing on a makeshift stage consisting of old ship lumber laid across beams supported by the natural stones in the room.  He was already giving out orders.

             “Many of you,” the speaker said,” are new here tonight.  You have completed your first assignment. Rest assured, you had been chosen by our leadership because of your natural potential.  We saw qualities that matched our own and we sought you out.  Having proven yourself faithful to honor your contracts, we are welcoming you tonight into our secret society.”

             A room full of cheers went up from the room.  The gang of murderers was not the ordinary band of cutthroats, but a tightly organized troop of trained assassins that did the bidding of their reclusive leader. It was a badge of honor to be accepted into this illustrious society.  Their origins were shrouded in mystery, but their reputation was not.  It was feared by the population at large, and revered by its members.  It was also accepted as a formidable force by the nations around it, having been asked to join forces against the Revenant by emissaries from the Ginto goddess herself.  They had taken part to an extent but they did not follow anyone’s orders but their own leadership, to the dismay of the Elven Council and King Amensol.

             “As celebratory as that may be, there is still the question of loyalty.  We may cast off the allegiances to our own nations and people, but do not be misled that we have no allegiances.  Our great leadership has not strayed from its original mission since the founding of the society: to meet out justice and equality beyond the boundaries of time, faction, and politics to make the world as we see fit. And, gentlemen, we are good at our jobs.”

             Another cheer broke out from the masses.

             “So, at this time, we will welcome our new brothers, and sisters, after giving one more call to any reservations to allegiance to our leadership.  Please, all are welcome to speak.”

             A man stepped forward, young and powerful looking.  His voice carried no timidity as he spoke up. “I have some reservations, no disrespect.  Why have none of us met the great leader of Red Raven?  We are to place our loyalty in someone we’ve never met?  I’d like to hear how the leadership believes the world should be before joining their cause.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

             The room was quiet for a moment before the leader answered.

             “An honest question.  The answer is nothing more complicated than we are who we are, and we operate in the manner that suits us.  We force no one to join or work for us.  We here work either for allegiance or the, shall we say, benefits of the job,” the leader said as he placed his hand down on his purse and briefly jingled the coins in it to great applause.

             “Then I must decline the offer.  The society has my respect, but I feel it important to know who it is I’m working for.  It seems to me to be a logical request.”

             The leader spoke up. “I appreciate your candid nature.  Are there any others with the same objections or any others at all before we part ways?  Last chance before you are sworn in to our society.”

             The room grew silent again. He waited for what felt like an eternity before continuing.  “Roenick, I believe it was? We thank you for your time and effort to this point and we wish you peace wherever your path leads you.”

             Sam slithered his way through the crowd toward the newcomer.

             “Hail, Roenick,” the members chanted three times.  Roenick saluted those around him and turned back toward the tunnel to the exit.

             He was stopped upon turning with Sam meeting his eyes.  Sam bowed slightly to Roenick.  "Hail, Roenick,” he said as Roenick saluted him back in respect.  Then, Roenick fell to the floor of the cave soaked in blood.

             Sam bent down to retrieve his blade from the right side of Roenick’s neck. The last bit of pressure released from Roenick’s juglar and another pool of blood formed with a splash.  Sam wiped his blade off on Roenick’s back before sheathing his dagger.  A couple members rushed over and carefully picked up his lifeless body and carried it to another adjacent room for proper burial.

             “Hail, Roenick,” the members rang out one final time.

             The leader stood silently for another moment.  “And now we welcome our new recruits to the brotherhood of the Red Raven.”

             Sam slipped back to the edge of the cave and watched the members greet the new recruits for a moment as the speaker came down  and mingled with them as well.  Elbert, the speaker, was the best of the leadership at waxing eloquently to the masses.  Of the four leaders, he was by far the best face of the society and had fulfilled that role for at least twenty years now.  Over those twenty years, more and more men and fewer of any other race had been joining Red Raven until it was almost all men.  There was the occasional rebellious elf, nomadic ogre, or bloodthirsty dwarf, but it had been quite some time since the other races had been in control.  At one point there were many giants, ratkin, Ginto, orcs, and even a spriggan who were part of the society. But, over the past few decades, those who were worthy to meet the true leader of the Red Raven had all been of the race of men. And, with men beginning to dominate the continent, it would likely stay this way.

             The leader made his way back up to the stage as Sam eased around the wall and down another corridor leading deeper into the mountainside. He heard the leader continue on with the meeting, calling out names of members with their assignments: an orc general who was building up a militia to attack an Elven Council meeting, two family members of an Elven Councilmember, a human war party heading to clear out a Revenant cave system on the continent of Reignfall, then a new settlement of Revenant near the same cave system.  Sam was used to hearing such illogical seeming assignments and, even though he understood the reasoning, it still surprised him every time he heard it.

             A smaller tunnel fed off of the main tunnel and passed almost entirely into darkness before opening up into a small room.  Around its walls were banners from the society’s past and present symbols.  The had changed very little over the last centuries, but they carried a lot of history under their cloth.  Very few candles lit the room, but it was the object in the center of the room that illuminated it the most.  A solitary glowing orb stood atop a modest pillar.  The red hues given off bounced off all the objects in the room bathing it in dark crimson. All the new recruits after their first assignments and before their welcoming were brought back to the room and paid their respects to the society, laying a hand on the orb as an initial sign of their allegiance.

             Sam walked to the orb and placed his hand on a solid mass in the side of the orb with no red glowing embers emanating from it.  It was the shape of a standing raven and close to an unmistakable likeness. He removed his hand and stepped back and waited.

             A smoky essence began to form beside the orb.  The smoke became thicker in a matter of seconds, then just as quickly began to dissipate, leaving an elderly man in its place.

             “It’s good to see you, my friend,” the old man said.  Dirty Sam stayed where he was.  There was no way to physically greet the true leader of the Assassins of Red Raven.  He was spirit in this realm.

             “I take it no recruits summoned you today?” Sam said pleasantly, as if talking with an old friend.

             “What is a today,” the old man said, laughing. “I haven’t had one of those in quite some time, my boy.  But the answer to your question is no. I have not contacted anyone still since you.  Our number have at least stayed at four since the passing of Mesna and the finding of you.  But, I fear we may dwindle to none if we don’t start finding others worthy.  This generation is lacking in quality, only perceiving what is right in front of them rather than the deeper things of this world.”

             “Speaking of which,” Sam said, cutting him off, “Narian has found out about the cache of documents that were retrieved by Allistan.  If he and King Avendyr were to seize those documents, it would be detrimental to our goals.”

             “Well, that’s what I have you for, isn’t it?” the old man added.

             Sam smiled and nodded. “The tip of the spear, eh,” Sam half joked.  “I am taking care of the Allistan incident.  When I’m done, nobody will ever find him or the boy.”

             The old man’s easy attitude focused for a moment onto Sam.  “Is it going to be a problem dealing with the boy?  I’d hate to have to send someone else.”

             Sam stared right back at the old man, his face fading into a somber look. “I have no problems.  We do what we have to do. And I’ll make sure that the documents are taken care of as well.”

             “Just remember. Time is short, for all of us, whether we can feel it or not.  Make sure you are ready to silence Narian and the King by tomorrow night.  If this goes wrong, it may be centuries of planning lost,” the old man said.

             “Trust me,” Sam replied, “I won’t have any issues dealing with them.  It’s time the kingdom of men was put in its place.  Maybe we will have better results with the next one.”

             “One can only hope, the old man said.  “But, just as I have not rested from this work for centuries, the other also does not sleep, but fights to break from his prison.  These are high stakes, indeed.”  The old man’s furrowed brow began to fade back into smoke as Sam stood by reflecting on his words.

     

             “So, yet again, you are telling me of your fantastic feats,” Kador said, looking across the table at Kole. “Obviously, the king isn’t dead so he doesn’t get assassinated. Unless the real king was assassinated and there’s also a conspiracy to have a look alike take his place and is being secretly manipulated by the Myr? The Ogre?  So, you as a young lad, charge in to save the king’s life and the king have you a bunch of money which you are leaving to me.  Please let that be the truth.”

             Kole was annoyed that this young man fell into the same trap as all of his generation, never perceiving more than what was right in front of them.

             “Fool,” Kole replied to his son.  “Have you ever stopped to think what is behind the sun?  The sun is so bright, it hides what is lurking just on the other side of it.  No one would sit to ponder that because the brightness is so distracting. Don’t be blinded by the light, the easy supposition that is handed to you.  The nature of life is always evil.  If you can be lied to, you will be, and that makes you a puppet.  Why don’t you start wondering what’s hiding back behind the bright lights, in the shadow of the sun.”