flashback of tough times, quickly interupted by an unexpected guest at the bar
Illuminating the wooden platform, the glowing lunar light shone bright through the sifting smoke clouds. The faint glimmer of celestial luminosity was less visible through the dark smoke screen. Moonlight danced across the decrepit shacks, which were scattered across the quaint town. The cabins lay built among the labyrinth of dusty deserted roads. In its epicenter, a grassy field, the town common, was completely relinquished. In the center of the field, a tall wooden frame stood. Not just a frame, gallows.
The noose hung loosely over the gallows, awaiting its next victim. The hanging executioner’s thirst for blood was unquenchable. Hundreds had already perished at the grainy hands of the constricting rope. Their life, the very essence of their being, had been squeezed from their lungs as the noose tightened under the pressure. The murder rope still as strong as ever, never weakening after each execution, hung from the wooden frame and the trapdoor lay directly below.
Silence hung in the gloomy night air, an eerie and ghostly cessation of sound. Towering storm clouds began to form and slowly, as if trying to creep into the city, glided through the spooky stratosphere, a premonition of what was soon to come. As if by cue, commotion filled the town. Torches could be seen in the distance, approaching the gallows. A giant shadow tore down the city streets, a mass of darkness. The unruly mob cheered and shouted, with anticipation, with hatred, with exuberance. Torches in one hand, weaponry in the other, the compilation of the hoi polli congregated in the once deserted streets. Leading the way, a handful of city guards, clad in gleaming silver armor dragged the prisoner. Chains hung locked about his wrists and ankles, allowing him no room for movement, a cloud of dust kicked up in his wake as his feet slid across the ground. An oversized cloak, as dark as the night itself encased the prisoner. The over folding hood obscured his identity from the people, although most already knew who he was by reputation. The crowd continued down the street until they reached the commons. Like a wave crashing upon the rocks, the crowd fanned out around the gallows, filling in every last crevice and interstice until they formed a clamorous ring around the hanging rope. The brave guards brought the prisoner to the gallows and dragged him on top of the wooden platform. Each guard reached to his side and drew out a long deadly sword. They knew what he was capable of. The chains were unshackled and they fell to the floor with a heavy din. The noose was lowered and placed around his hooded head. A man stepped forward from the crowd, sporting a long black overcoat and a fancy top hat. Reaching into his pocket, he produced a scroll. He cleared his parched throat as the parchment unraveled in his hands.
“Dartanyon Falco,” he began with an echoing shout, which silenced the onlookers. The hooded figure turned his head towards the man. The reader paused and glanced at the closest guard, giving him a subtle look. Rushing toward the prisoner, the sentinel reached forward and pulled the hood off the prisoner’s head. Unruly jet-black hair covered the man’s head, flowing down to his shoulders. Verdant orbs shone through the caliginous night, burning with rage. A thin layer of stubble lay unshaven on his highly angular and handsome face.
“Yes,” the prisoner answered, tauntingly.
“You have been found guilty of the murder of Count Azador,” the man continued. At this point mixed feelings consumed the crowd as some cheered and others yelled furiously. He waited until the commotion died down to continue.
“The penalty for which is to be hung ‘til dead. Do you have any last words, assassin?”
“Yes,” Dartanyon replied, grinning faintly.
“Well, what are they?” the man demanded, clearly irritated with the prisoner. His grin widened, his intentions worked like a charm.
“I think it would only be fair to charge me with all the murders I have committed, so that justice will finally be seen for my heinous actions,” the assassin rejoined, emphasizing the last words to show he had no remorse for said actions.
“And how many would that be?” The man asked, deciding he would play the assassin’s game.
“As of today that would be…36,” Dartanyon exclaimed, pretending to count on his skillful fingers. “And many more to come,” he added, a threatening tone in his voice.
“More? How many more in fact, so that I may add ‘Attempt of Murder’ to your resume,”
“However many get in the way of my escape.”
Fear was visible in the eyes of the man in the jacket. The deadly prisoner had claimed he would try to escape. The dread quickly faded from sight as the man realized his position: the assassin was standing on the trap door with the noose already hung snugly around his neck. There would be no escape. It was all a clever, but hollow threat. However, he did not want to take any chances with the virulent convict.
“I’d like to see you try!” the man exclaimed with a grin. “Pull the lever!”
One of the guards lurched forward to yank the pinch bar, which would release the trapdoor, but his mission was interrupted as a lighting fast, and powerful foot shot out and connected with the ball of his ankle. The top-heavy guard fell backwards, and the prisoner snatched his deadly blade from the guards flailing hand. Shell shocked, the other armored guards could only watch as Dartanyon cut the hanging rope and it hung loosely around his neck, no longer threatening his well being. Another guard snapped back into his senses and charged at the armed assassin. His run was short-lived, as he too lost his footing, for the floor was no longer under him. The clever assassin kicked the level as the guard placed his full weight on his leg, causing him to fall painfully through the wooden portal. Dartanyon began to dash down the wooden stairs as he came across two more intimidating guards. One threw a stab at the prisoners unguarded chest, but the deft assassin quickly side-stepped, grabbing his attackers arm in his arm, and spinning the man about, right in the path of the second stab coming from the other guard. Blood poured from the wound as both guards stared wide-eyed at the man’s bleeding chest. The guard was in awe at what he had just mistakenly done; he was caught completely unaware when a sword came across his throat, spilling his live force down his silver breastplate. The crowd backed away from the assassin, like water to oil, as he came down from the wooden platform. The last remaining guards stood in front of him, blocking his escape, but in a blur of silver and blackness, the guards lay on the cold dew covered grass, blood pouring through many vicious wounds. The crowd finally realized that they had overstayed their welcome, and bolted from the scene, screams filling the night air. One person remained unmoved, because his legs simply would not carry his bewildered body. He stood there; perfectly still, seemingly petrified, scroll still clasped tight in his white knuckled hand. Dartanyon nonchalantly strolled toward him, brandishing a blood stained sword in his seasoned hand.
“Are you going to kill me?” the man whispered, the only sound he could muster.
“I only kill who I need to, either for money or my own safety,” the assassin replied, placing the sword to rest on his belt, blood still dripping from the deadly blade. Then the assassin turned his back on the man, and casually walked away.
“You’re still under arrest!” the man shouted.
“Then come get me,” Dartanyon called over his shoulder, still walking away down the dusty street that led out of town, knowing that the man would never come.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Suddenly, a melodious and feminine voice broke his concentration and snapped him back to his senses.
“What will ye be having today, sir?” the waitress asked, tilting her head as to get a look at the man she would be serving. However, the assassin never moved his head, never made a move to acknowledge the waitress. With his head still in his hands he muttered,
“Bring a mug of your strongest ale, no, make that a pitcher.” He needed a lot of help to recollect his thoughts after his unfortunate demise.
“No problem, sir,” she replied with a different tone now audible in her voice, clearly she was annoyed at the way the man rudely treated her. The assassin picked up on this change of tone, and paid it no heed. True, he knew this waitress, he could recognize her by her sensual voice. Her name was Briza; many times the assassin would try his charm on the young vixen, to no avail however. There was no way he could allow her to recognize him. Many guild members from his old guide often came in ‘The Drinker’s Guild,’ and she did have a pretty, but big, mouth. The assassin, thinking their little exchange was over, went back to his thoughts. He was abruptly interrupted by something that sent a shiver down his spine.
“And what will you’re friend here be having?” The melodious voice questioned him once more. The assassin’s head snapped up faster than the waitress could ever have imagined. In a blur of black, the assassin’s dexterous hands flashed to his belt and retrieved a pair of daggers. The voluptuous waitress jumped at how fast the movements of the cloaked man were. Her eyes widened and so did his. He could not believe her words. How could someone have snuck up on him that quickly, or that quietly? The assassin was more puzzled than afraid when he saw the man across from him. He wore a lavish red cloak, filled with all sorts of designs and patterns. Unlike the assassin, this man chose to wear his hood down, resting on his shoulder blades. Short black hair sat atop his head and a small but expertly trimmed goatee hung from his chin. His eyes, the assassin could have sworn they were black, seemed to be the darkest shade of brown. His aristocratic face had a smug smile and a good-natured look to it.
“Thank you, lass. I’ll just have a water.” The flamboyantly dressed man replied, his smile widening.
“Are you sure ye don’t want something wee little stronger?” she badgered him, returning the grin with a small wink.
“Oh, believe me, after you’ve been where I have, water is all you’ll ever want,” he retorted grinning to himself more than to her this time. The waitress, seemingly confused, shrugged her slender shoulders and turned to retrieve the order. The newcomer turned to face the frightened assassin. It was the first time in his life that Dartanyon had ever been scared.
“Wh-Who are you?” the cloaked assassin demanded, not brandishing the daggers visibly above the decrepit table, but holding them tight in his grasp under the oak table, ready for anything.
“Oh, Dartanyon, have you forgotten me already? Why, we’ve only just parted ways an hour ago,” was the response given by the bearded man. The quizzical look on Dartanyon’s face only grew more skeptical. The other man leaned closer to the armed assassin, clearly not intimidated by his threatening stance. “Our little deal?” the man reminded, flashing an exaggerated wink. The assassin’s verdant eyes snapped open, almost doubling in size.
“Satan,” Dartanyon muttered, realizing the man’s true identity.
“Yes, Dartanyon, but here on the mortal plane I refer to my humanoid appearance as Damien,” the Lord of the Underworld stated.
“What do you want from me?” the assassin inquired, his voice quavering with fright. “I still have time, don’t tell me you’ve gone back on your word.”
“Oh no, I would never do that,” Satan started, his voice was drenched with sarcasm, “Who do you think I am? A liar? A thief? For if I was I would surely rot in Hell.” The fearsome devil leaned in closer towards the agitated assassin. “And I assure you, I am not rotting,” He added, with a sinister grin. Satan then leaned back in the decrepit bench, sending a creak to resonate among the low rafters. Glancing over his companion’s sturdy shoulders, he spied the beautiful barmaid gracefully strolling back towards the two men, mugs held in each smooth hand.
“Here ye go, sirs,” Briza declared, placing the slightly cracked mugs on the wooden table with a resounding bang. Froth bubbled over the rim of Dartanyon’s ale, as the cold crisp water sat still, small ripples flowing in the glass.
“Thank you,” Dartanyon mumbled, retrieving a small gold coin from the folds in his cloak and casually tossing it to the waitress.
“Yes, thank you,” Damien replied, reaching over and taking the mug up in his slender hands. Swallowing down a big gulp he added, “That really hit the spot.” A sigh of relief escaped his parched mouth.
“Ye’re welcome, sirs. I’ll be hoping to see you around here again,” the flirtatious waitress commented, tossing a hinting wink towards the lavishly dressed man as she began to walk away.
“Oh, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me,” Satan replied softly, once the barmaid was out of earshot. “A lot sooner than you’ll ever know,” he added with a chuckle. This was meant as a means to intimidate the assassin more than to warn the waitress, who was casually doing her job, unaware at the warning the Lord of the Underworld had just uttered. Satan sat there, staring at the beautifully sculpted Briza, as she leaned forward to serve another patron, clearly flaunting her perfect curves. “Of all the seven deadly sins I’d have to pick ‘lust’ as my favorite,” Satan exclaimed, still tracing her curves with his beady eyes. Snapping out of his perverted thoughts, the devil turned his attention back to the assassin. “But enough about me, let’s get down to business.” The playful tone had vanished from his voice and Dartanyon noted that.
“What business? We had an agreement when I left that infernal abyss,” the resurrected assassin remarked, clearly confused as to the purpose of the devil’s appearance.
“Yes, and I have merely come to check up on my…prospects.” Satan replied, looking for the mot juste to classify the assassin.
“I still have plenty of time, don’t think I’ve forgotten any detail of our deal.”
“I never said you did, but yet I was tempted to see what your first step was in seeking your vengeance,” retorted the lavishly dressed devil. “And this is where you go first?” he finished, glancing around the tavern with a look of distaste, “I expected more out of you. I have followed your career quite closely over the past few years and heard much of your reputation, for many of my guests have done nothing but curse your name since they arrived.” Picking up the mug of water, Satan gulped down the rest of the refreshing water in one swig. He sighed a sigh of relief. “You know,” he started, staring into the empty mug with a ponderous visage, “It’s true, you never do appreciate something until you lost it.”
“So what is your purpose here?” Dartanyon exclaimed, beginning to get irritated with the devil. His dexterous hands were still grasping the vicious daggers. His knuckles began to white as his grip tightened. Anger had now replaced his fear. Satan clearly picked up on the subtle change of emotions. A small, almost unnoticeable smile appeared on his thin lips.
“I’m just here to help, to inspire, to make you strive for the completion of your mission,” he replied calmly, leaning back in the weak chair, sending another loud creak from the bench. “For as soon as you complete your part of the bargain, our deal is over and you are back where you belong.”
“No,” Dartanyon remarked, sitting upright, defiantly confronting the smiling flamboyant man. “The deal was I was given life to seek revenge, we established a deadline, but never spoke of what would happen if I finished my mission premature.” Now the smile on the handsome devil’s face was clear, brimming almost from ear to ear, contorting his features and stretching out his beard.
“I see there’s no tricking you with words, only intentions, Dartanyon Falco,” Satan stated, staring deep at the large scar across the assassin’s neck.
“Everyone can be deceived, for I believe you met with a similar fate once long ago,” Dartanyon replied to the double-sided comment. The brimming smile quickly faded from his impish visage. His black beady eyes now obtained a scarlet hue, seeming to burn with anger. His lips locked together in a look of complete hostility.
“It happens to the best of us,” The demonic being sighed, shrugging his lavishly covered shoulders. “See, we are not so different, you and I. Both betrayed and seeking revenge,” he added, throwing yet another exaggerated wink at the assassin.
Dartanyon had never considered that. True he was a murderer, a thief, a liar and a rapscallion, but he never once considered himself in league with the devil himself. Before he had a chance to contradict the fiendish demon, the melodious voice interrupted him once again.
“Is there anything else ye would like? Another mug?” Briza inquired, standing next to the cloaked Dartanyon. Without thinking, the obscured man turned his head towards the comely barmaid, lifting his head slightly to properly address her. Suddenly remembering he must not let anyone discover his identity, he quickly threw his head back down, staring face to face with the large decrepit oak table.
“No, I’m fine,” Dartanyon replied in an impersonating voice.
“Alright then,” the waitress said acknowledging the patrons satisfaction. “Will ye friend be coming back and be wanting anything else?” she asked. With reflexes faster than any she had ever seen, the cloaked man snapped his head up, and stared straight across the table, his gaze passing right over the empty bench and continuing into the worn-down back rest. Dartanyon blinked his eyes twice, to make sure what he was seeing was correct. Satan had simply vanished into thin air.
Dartanyon Falco, who had once been at the top of the hierarchy of assassins in the City of Thieves, reached down and snatched up his newly poured mug of ale and gulped down a much needed swig.