Chapters 1-3 of my latest story, the title is temporary and hopefully I will finish it
"Hey Rindo! What the-" he runs closer to Rindo and lowers his voice, "hell are you doing in this kind of place?" he finishes.
"Oh hey, Gio. You know, just making some money." Rindo winks at Gio and turns back to the cards in his hand.
"How often do you win?" asks Gio.
"Often enough to make a profit, but not so often that people take notice of me."
"Rindo! You-!" Gio grabs Rindo's hand, dragging him from the card table.
Gio drags him outside and roughly shoves him against the wall, looking in Rindo's eyes. He turns away from Rindo and stands with his back to him. Rindo sighs and looks down. Gio turns again and faces him.
"What will you do when someone finally notices?" Gio's voice was almost shaking.
"I'm not an amateur. I only stay in one place long enough to make enough to move to the next. Why are you here, anyway?"
"The Royal Court sent me here." Gio put his right hand on his head, his fingers in his hair.
"You don't mean..." Rindo's eyes widen and he begins to sweat.
"Yeah. Oh, and Saran told me to tell you to visit sometime." Gio looks around to see if anybody is listening.
"Come on, I have a room at the inn, we can talk there," says Rindo, as he takes Gio by the arm.
They walk close to each other while looking out for anyone that might be tailing them. When they get to Rindo's room at the inn they check for bugs. Gio stands in front of the only window in the room, and Rindo stands as close as he can to him. They look around the room once more before resuming their conversation.
"How is Saran? I haven't seen her or Sasha in a while," says Rindo in a normal voice.
"They're fine," replies Gio, and then whispers "you know what they want don't you?"
"That's good to hear. Do they still go to the academy?" asks Rindo, and then he too whispers, "not unless the king sent you directly."
"Yes, and Saran is at the top of her class."
"Did he send you?" whispers Rindo.
Gio looks down and puts his hands in his pockets. Rindo looks carefully and notices a paper with the seal of the king on it. Gio hides the paper again, and Rindo's breathing becomes faster.
"Is Sasha keeping up in her classes?" asks Rindo, trying to sound normal.
"She spends most of her time in the library and sometimes misses classes because of it," replies Gio. He then whispers, "are you going to be okay?"
Rindo goes over to the bed and sits on the edge while Gio goes into the bathroom; bringing back a cup of water, handing it to Rindo. He takes a sip and leans back on one arm while Gio sits down next to him.
"Rindo?" Gio looks at him.
"Did the king give you a message?" asks Rindo, staring straight ahead.
"No. He told me to take the seal and show it to you. He didn't tell me to bring you back, either."
Rindo looks at Gio and notices he is confused.
"What is this all about? What does he want you to do? What is-"
Rindo brings his hand back like he is going to smack Gio's face, but taps it instead. Gio looks startled and Rindo starts smiling.
"Let's just relax a while. We can stay here a couple of days, and then we can both go to the Royal Court. How does that sound?"
"Will you tell me what this is all about before we leave?" whispers Gio.
"Sure. Hey, how long has it been since I left Cedar Springs?" asks Rindo.
"A few years, why?" Gio starts relaxing.
"Do the girls miss me?" Rindo starts staring straight ahead again, his face calm with a hint of sadness.
While they talk, the sun starts to set. An alarm goes off, startling Gio. Rindo gets up and leads him downstairs, where dinner was waiting. The large room is dark except for the candles on the tables, and a light above the bar. Gio sits down across from Rindo, and has a troubled look on his face.
"This is... awkward," he remarks.
"What? You didn't want a candle-lit dinner for two?" asks Rindo.
"Can't we take the food back to your room?"
"Sorry, no can do. Mayer doesn't like food in the rooms," replies Rindo, smiling again.
"Who is Mayer?"
"A friend of mine," Rindo leans across the table and whispers into Gio's ear "and the only person in town that would give me a room for free."
"What is with all of the couples in here?" asks Gio.
"Oh, sorry about this. Fridays here are always date nights. Couples can eat here for half price." Rindo winks at him.
"Are you using me as a date so that the meal will be cheaper?" he whispers.
"Nah, I eat here free too."
"Are you sure you have been making money at cards?" asks Gio, giving Rindo a sideways look.
Rindo laughs and shows him the wallet. Gio's eyes open wide, and Rindo puts the wallet away.
"You..." begins Gio.
"Cheapskate?" laughs Rindo.
Mayer walks over to their table, and takes Rindo to the side. He is tall and thick with short dark hair. His eyes are dark and piercing, and looks like a no nonsense kind of man. Gio watches as Rindo shrugs and walks back to their table.
"Wanna call this a date?" asks Rindo with a wide smile.
"Let me guess, you have to pay for me, don't you?" asks Gio.
"Since you came all the way here, I thought it would be nice if I could treat you to dinner. Besides, you don't have any money, do you?"
Gio checks his pockets for his wallet, but it's gone. He glares at Rindo, and he just laughs. He checks his pockets again to make sure the rest of his things are still there. He sighs in relief as he feels the paper with the seal and a necklace. Gio catches his wallet as Rindo tosses it to him.
"Don't worry," he says, "I will pay full price for you, but we have to share my room."
"I could pay for my own. How much does it cost?"
"My room is the only one. Mayer makes it a rule to keep all of the other rooms uninhabitable while I'm here. It's just less trouble that way." Rindo looks towards Mayer, and Mayer nods at him.
"Doesn't he lose money like that?" asks Gio.
"Losing some money for a few days is better than losing the entire building. Besides, he gets compensation." Rindo looks down at the table then back up at Mayer.
"What are you talking about?"
Gio starts to get nervous again, but Rindo puts the tip of his index finger on his lips so he won't talk. He then looks at Gio and uses the same finger to point toward Mayer. Gio gets up and walks to the bar where Mayer punches him hard in the face. The other customers look around nervously, and some start to leave. Mayer announces he is closing for the night, and everyone else leaves. Rindo gets up and starts toward the stairs. Mayer is behind him with Gio over his shoulder.
Rindo goes down a short hall that has a picture hanging on the wall. Mayer locks the doors and joins him. Rindo shifts the picture onto its side and opens the door that leads to the basement. He starts to descend, then looks at Mayer.
"Give him to me. I will go down first while you get some food. We haven't had our dinner yet," says Rindo.
Mayer puts Gio down and heads toward the kitchen and Rindo picks him up and goes down the stairs.
When Gio wakes up the room is dark and smells a little musty. His head is on Rindo's lap, and there is a cold, damp washcloth on his face. Gio doesn't know where he is or how he got there, and barely remembered being knocked out.
"Are you awake, Gio?" asks Rindo softly.
"Mayer knocked you unconscious," he says.
"Okay..." says Gio, his voice trailing at the end.
Rindo gently shakes him, trying to keep him awake. Mayer brings down warm food, and shuts the door behind him. He turns on the light and walks heavily down the steps.
"Mayer, I need some help with my friend over here."
He walks to the small table near the center of the room, and sets down two trays of food. He goes to a back room in the basement and grabs a bucket full of cold water, and pours the whole bucket on both Rindo and Gio. Rindo tries to stand up quickly, but Gio is still on his lap. He is beginning to wake up. He glares at Mayer before turning back to Gio.
"Are you awake this time?" he asks in a soft voice.
"Rindo? Why am I wet and on your lap?" asks Gio.
"How is your head?" he says, ignoring Gio's question.
"Hey Mayer," says Rindo, "Get some of my clothes from my room for me and Gio. Do you want us to get sick in this drafty basement?"
Mayer rolls his eyes and goes back upstairs, making sure to lock the door when he leaves. Gio sits up and looks around, and starts to ask questions, but Rindo makes him stay quiet. He takes Gio to the small table and helps him into a chair. Gio sits down and stares at the food.
"Not hungry?" asks Rindo.
Gio takes a piece of bread from the plate and dips it in the stew. Rindo watches him while they both eat with a worried look on his face. Mayer returns and locks the door behind him. He has brought down Rindo's whole suitcase of clothes with him. He sets it on the floor and goes into the other room. Rindo and Gio finish eating before changing their clothes, and Rindo calls to Mayer to come back when they are done changing. Gio touches his face and winces, then looks at Rindo as if asking with his eyes "how could you let this happen to me". Mayer starts to walk towards Gio, and Rindo stands between them.
"I'm not going to hurt him," says Mayer, holding his hands in front of him, palms facing outwards.
Rindo steps aside and Gio stands his ground. Mayer approaches him, and then claps his hand on Gio's back.
"No hard feelings, okay?" he asks in a warm voice.
"What the hell is going on here?" demands Gio.
"I'm sorry Gio... I never knew you were going to get involved in all of this. Why did the king have to pick my best friend?" wonders Rindo, his voice trailing off.
"Just tell me what this is all about."
"You might want to sit down and get comfortable. It's kind of a long story..." says Rindo.
Mayer goes back to the other room and brings out three cushions, then sets them on the floor so that they are all facing each other. Everyone sits down and Rindo clears his throat. He looks a little nervous, but he keeps his voice steady.
"It all started two years ago," he begins.
Gio is paying close attention, and Mayer has his eyes closed, listening in case someone tries to enter the basement.
"I wasn't allowed to tell anyone why I had to leave Cedar Springs, and I hope you and the girls can forgive me for that, Gio," he says.
Gio nods his head as a reply, and Rindo continues slowly.
"One day when I was practicing with my daggers... well... a scout for the king saw me. I thought I was alone in our secret spot. You know, the one on the hill in the forest clearing."
Gio nods again, listening intensely.
"Anyway... the king summoned me to the Royal Court shortly after that. I guess that they had been keeping an eye on me for a while without me ever noticing. I saw the king himself, and he..." Rindo stops.
"What did he do, Rindo?" asks Gio, his voice full of concern.
"He 'hired' me. Against my will. He threatened both you and the girls if I didn't work for him, and that's why I had to leave."
"Go on, I have to hear the rest," says Gio after Rindo stops again.
"I was to travel to many places, and the Royal Court would pay for everything... if I did what I was supposed to. And if I didn't... you and the girls..." Rindo winces.
"Rindo... please, I have to know what this is all about."
"As long as I was gone, you, Saran, and Sasha were guaranteed safety. What I had to do was go down the list of targets... and... eliminate them. I have no idea who the people are, but I'm being forced to kill!" Rindo's voice is almost hysterical as he admits it for the first time.
"Rindo... I never knew..."
Gio is shocked, and doesn't know quite what to say. Mayer clears his throat and speaks quietly in his deep voice.
"Rindo, I did what I promised. The names on the lists that you get are mostly criminals, spies, and heretics. I'm still not sure why the king chose someone so young, and why he threatened you. And we have to be careful, the king has spies in the city."
"So no one is supposed to know about you?" asks Gio.
"That's right. And you weren't supposed to tell anyone when you left with the seal, were you?"
"Yeah, I had to tell the girls I was going to go find you and bring you back. Why does everything with the king have to be a secret?"
"Is there anyone looking after them?" asks Rindo, concerned.
"Yeah, I wouldn't leave them alone."
"Who is it?"
"The librarian, Mrs. Katzci," says Gio.
"That's fine. I have to find a way to get back to them without putting them in danger."
"You guys should leave tomorrow so the king's spies in the city don't get suspicious. Gio, stay hidden and try not to be seen near Rindo," interrupts Mayer.
"So am I caught up now?" asks Gio.
"Pretty much. Is there anything that you know that we don't?" asks Rindo.
"I don't think so."
"You guys can rest easy tonight, but after you leave in the morning be sure to sleep with one eye open while on the road. You don't know who could be following you or who your enemies might be. Rindo, keep doing your job so that your sisters are safe, and Gio... Sorry for punching you earlier," says Mayer, smiling an apology.
The rest of the night was uneventful, and they slept peacefully. Rindo had decided to give the bed to Gio, and so Gio is surprised to see Rindo sleeping in the bed next to him. He shoves Rindo off the bed to wake him up.
"Why the hell were you sleeping in the bed with me?" demands Gio.
Rindo yawns and stretches, the sunlight from the window shining on his messy red-brown hair. He rubs the side of his head that had hit the floor.
"That hurt, you know," he replies sleepily.
"You said I could have the bed."
"The floor got hard... and cold," says Rindo, starting to get ready.
He pulls on a plain black T-shirt and a pair of dark jeans. The last thing he puts on is a silver chain with a K on it, and the left side of the K ends in a point so as to look like a sword. Gio's eyes widen when he sees the strange necklace, and Rindo hurriedly tucks the necklace between his shirt and skin.
"Rindo, what is that necklace?" asks Gio, still sitting in bed.
"If I show this at a bank, I can withdraw almost as much money as I want,” he said, turning away as Gio started getting up and dressed.
“Does it mean anything in particular?”
“Why do you want to know about it so bad?” asks Rindo, somewhat irritated.
“I was just curious. Besides, you owe me something for sneaking into bed with me in the middle of the night.”
“Was it really that bad, waking up next to your childhood friend?” asks Rindo, sounding a little offended.
Gio is caught off guard by the question, and looks nervous. He tries to think of something quickly.
“You said I could have the bed, and didn’t say anything about sharing it.”
Rindo laughs loudly at the pathetic excuse and because Gio took him so seriously.
“Come on, let’s go downstairs and get some breakfast before we leave,” says Rindo, smiling.
They start going down the stairs, and before they are halfway, Mayer starts coming up. They turn back up the stairs, and Mayer takes them back to Rindo’s room.
“There’s someone downstairs looking for you,” whispers Mayer into Rindo’s ear.
“Are you sure?”
“For now go up to the attic and hide there. Gio can stay in the room, they aren’t looking for him,” he replies.
Rindo exits the room quietly, and heads for the stairs to the attic. Gio makes himself look comfortable, and Mayer leaves the room, stopping in the hall to grab some towels. Rindo walks to the far end of the dusty attic and gets behind a stack of boxes. He intends to wait there until Mayer calls for him. He takes out the K necklace and stares at it while he waits.
Gio doesn’t wait long before he decides to go downstairs to see the spy that Mayer had mentioned. He casually goes down the stairs, and when he is almost at the bottom Mayer turns to look at him quickly, then turns back to the man he is talking to at the bar. The man at the bar also notices Gio, and makes a comment about it to Mayer.
“You said that no one was staying upstairs.”
“He’s my nephew, and you didn’t ask about family, just patrons,” replies Mayer.
“Do you have proof he is your relative?” asks the man.
“See that bruise on his face there? He wasn’t working hard enough to clean last night, so I had to do something about that. You yourself should know that it isn’t necessary to hit employees.”
The man rolls his eyes and looks at Gio thoroughly. Gio is nervous, but tries his best not to show it.
“What’s your name?” asks the man.
“Nineteen next month, sir.”
“Good boy,” says the man with a smile.
“Satisfied now?” asks Mayer gruffly.
“For now. But remember this: my people will watch this establishment until further notice. If we see Rindo enter or exit, well, consider this your warning,” says the man while turning away to leave.
When Mayer can no longer see the man, he tells Gio to sit down at a table and wait until he calls him upstairs. Gio sees a table with two trays set out; each with a couple of eggs, toast, and strips of bacon. He sits at that table and starts eating, knowing that Mayer left it out for him and Rindo so that they could leave immediately after eating.
Mayer walks up the stairs slowly, just in case someone is watching through the windows. He opens the attic door and continues up the stairs slowly, whispering for Rindo. He hears Mayer and steps into view, covered in dust. Mayer explains what happened, and Rindo frowned, trying to think of a way to get out of the building without being seen. Mayer grabs a black cloak from a hangar and hands it to Rindo. He puts it on, and Mayer tells him to go to the basement, that he and Gio would meet him there.
Gio grabs Rindo’s tray and carries it to the basement behind Mayer. He sets it down on the table. The cushions from the night before are still there just a few feet from the table. The food for Rindo is cold, but he still waits before he eats.
“Gio, you will leave today,” begins Mayer.
“What about Rindo?”
“You need to stay just on the edge of town and wait for nightfall. Rindo, you know what to do, right?” he asks, looking Rindo full in the face.
Rindo looks down, knowing what might happen. He looks back up at Gio and tells him not to worry, that everything will be fine. He himself knows that it’s possible for things to go horribly wrong. Rindo goes to the table and brings his tray back. He doesn’t care that it’s cold; he just eats while staring into space.
“What’s going to happen tonight?” whispers Gio while leaning towards Mayer.
“It’s best if you don’t know,” he replies.
Gio left shortly after the meeting in the basement, and now it’s Rindo’s turn to leave. He is concealed by the black cloak in the darkness and is alert. He creeps in the shadows and avoids main roads, all but disappearing. Feeling eyes watching him, Rindo slips his dagger from his boot. From the doors opening to the road appear people from the town. Rindo’s heart starts beating faster, not knowing if this is some kind of trick that the spies are using, or if the people that are now walking about are all spies.
Rindo feels a hand grab one of his shoulders and he stabs at it. The person that had grabbed his shoulder turns him around so that they can see each other’s faces. In the dim light Rindo sees Mayer staring him in the eyes.
“Hurry, you have to find Gio and leave! There’s something wrong with the entire town!” he says in a hurry.
“Mayer, what are-”
Mayer pushes Rindo forward and tells him to run and try not to hurt anyone. He doesn’t even have time to apologize before the people notice him and they start chasing after him. Rindo suddenly feels a piercing gaze from the top of a nearby roof, and is so overwhelmed that he throws his dagger in the direction of the eyes. He hears the dagger hit the roof and knows that it missed his target, but he keeps running anyway.
He runs until he sees Gio, and then he only stops long enough to grab his hand and drag him along.
“Rindo... the man from the inn...” Gio says breathlessly.
“Gio, just keep running!” replies Rindo, focusing on running.
Gio forces Rindo to finally stop when the lights from the town can’t be seen anymore. They are both trying to catch their breath, and looking around nervously.
“The whole town...” begins Rindo.
“That man from the inn earlier, the one that was looking for you...”
“What about him?”
“Is Mayer okay?” asks Gio, trying to organize his thoughts.
“He should be... but the whole town...”
“What happened in the town? There were a lot of people out, but why?” asks Gio.
“I don’t know. Mayer told me to run and find you, and then the whole town was trying to come after me.”
“What are you talking about?”
“At the inn, it has something to do with him. He said that if he found out you were staying there...” Gio trails off.
“What did he say would happen?”
“He didn’t say exactly, just that his presence there was a warning.”
“So it was him...”
“He was the one that was watching me from the roof. It had to of been him. I threw my dagger at him, but he was too far away,” says Rindo.
“Does he know you from somewhere?” asks Gio.
“I have no idea. No one is supposed to know me and what I do,” Rindo thinks for a moment before adding “except for the people that give me the lists and try to keep track of me.”
“Then you think that the king might have something to do with what happened to the town?” asks Gio.
“I know about as much as you do right now,” says Rindo with a sigh, and then he adds “we should start heading to the next town, because I don’t want to sleep outside tonight.”
“Do you know where the next town is?” asks Gio.
“Yeah, it’s also where my next target is. All we have to do is follow this road and we should reach it before dawn.”
“What will we do when we get there?” asks Gio as they walk.
“I can give you some money so that we can stay at separate inns, and then we sleep until nightfall. I have to eliminate my mark in less than three days so don’t stay too close to me,” replies Rindo.
“I don’t want to stay in separate inns, and I promise not to get in your way when you’re working”
“Gio, I don’t want them after both of us, because right now they only want me. You need to stay free as long as you can so you can help me gather information.”
“Why are people after you, anyway?”
Rindo stops for a moment and looks up at the starry sky. The moon is nowhere to be seen, but he can see clouds coming from the west.
“Hey, we won’t make it into town tonight,” he says after a while.
“Why not?” asks Gio.
“There’s going to be a bad storm in about an hour or so. See the clouds coming in over there?” Rindo points at the sky to the west.
“Rindo, why do you have people after you?” asks Gio suddenly.
“I wish I knew... I do as I’m told, but they just won’t leave me alone.”
“Where am I supposed to go? I don‘t even have any money!”
“Gio! This has nothing to do with you! Stay away from me! I don‘t want you to get involved too!” says Rindo, his voice getting quieter.
Gio starts walking again, determined to get to the next town whether there is a storm or not.
“Hey, who knows, I might get myself caught up in it anyway,” Gio calls over his shoulder.
He continues to walk for a couple of minutes by himself. Rindo stares in disbelief at Gio’s back. He thinks for a moment then lightning flashes in the west. The wind starts to pick up, warm and humid. The storm is closer than Rindo had estimated.
“Hey Giovanni!” yells Rindo.
Gio continues walking, ignoring him. Rindo runs to catch up with him, and then grabs him by the shoulders to look him in the eyes.
“You know something, don’t you?” he asks.
“Rindo! Get a hold of yourself! We need to find some shelter, and then we can talk about what I think is happening. You seem familiar with this area, is there any place around here where we can get out of the storm?”
“Ugh...” Rindo utters as he falls to the ground.
Gio looks him over, trying to figure out what happened. He hears thunder, and in the light of the next flash of lightning, he sees what made Rindo fall. There was an arrow shaft poking out between the folds of his cloak. Gio looks around wildly before he notices a tree where someone could have shot the arrow from. Rindo is unconscious, so Gio picks him up and carries him over his shoulder. It’s awkward because Rindo is slightly taller than him, but Gio manages to walk quite a ways even in the storm while carrying him.
“Gi...o,” Rindo painfully says, trying to lift his head up.
“Hey, stay still, we aren’t in town yet. Rest if you can, the rain should let up soon.”
Rindo puts his head back down and remains quiet. There is a break in the clouds, and Gio sees that it is a little after dawn. He looks for the town that Rindo said would be straight down the road. He doesn’t see the town, but he does see a farmhouse nearby. He starts in that direction, shifting Rindo’s weight on his shoulders. Gio starts yelling for help before he reaches the house, hoping that whoever lives there will wake up and help him. He is still yelling when he reaches the door, but there are no lights in the windows and he can’t hear anyone moving around inside. He is desperate to get Rindo some help, so he tries to open the door. It’s unlocked and opens easily, the hinges barely making a sound.
Gio fumbles for a light switch on the wall with one of his hands. He turns on the lights and sees a clean house, definitely not what he was expecting. He is tired from carrying Rindo all night through a storm, and so he quickly lays him down on the couch. Gio makes sure he is still breathing, and then starts looking for where the arrow had gone in. He can’t see because of the cloak how bad the wound is, so he quickly rummages through the drawers in the kitchen for a knife. Gio cuts away part of the cloak and Rindo’s pants revealing dried blood, and an area of purple that had traveled up and down Rindo’s right leg. The arrow hadn’t gone too deep, but it didn’t need to. Gio quickly realizes that the arrow had been poisoned.
Rindo makes some faint sounds and then is quiet again. Gio rushes about the house getting things. He finds some disinfectant and clean towels, and he also gets a bucket of water. He puts a towel under Rindo’s leg, pours some of the disinfectant on the wound, and finally pulls the arrow out as fast as he can. The wound starts bleeding profusely and Gio does his best to disinfect it and then wrap it with another towel. Rindo lies still the whole time and Gio worries about what kind of poison was used. He keeps pressure on the towel to help stop the bleeding, and has to change it because of all the blood. After a few minutes when the bleeding almost completely stopped; Gio looks at the wound. Some of the purple on Rindo’s leg has disappeared, but Gio is still worrying about the rest of the poison.
Gio gets a cup of water and holds Rindo’s head up so that he can drink. His eyes open, and he tries to sit up. Gio gently pushes him back down and shakes his head.
“You need to rest,” he says.
“But what happened?” asks Rindo, trying to reach where his leg hurts, but Gio moves his hand away so that he can’t touch the wound.
“You were shot with a poisoned arrow, and I’ve done the best I can to make sure that the wound won’t get worse; but I don’t know what kind of poison it is so I can’t do anything else.”
“Are we in town?”
“No, but I think we are close, why?”
“Go and find a doctor. You should be fine by yourself, but you should hurry.”
“I can’t leave you here alone! Hey...” Gio puts his hand on Rindo’s forehead. “You have a fever!” he says and runs to get a cool wet cloth.
When Gio gets back he sees that Rindo is trying to stand up. Instead of trying to make him lay down again Gio slips Rindo’s arm around his shoulders.
“Where are we going?” asks Gio.
“I have to see where the town is from here.”
Rindo lets go of Gio and staggers on by himself. Gio follows behind him also looking around. He isn’t looking for a town like Rindo; he is looking anyone that might have followed them.
“Who lives in that house?” asks Rindo.
“That farmhouse I brought you to? I have no idea, it was empty when we got there.”
“That’s odd...” he remarks.
“I didn’t really give it a second thought, I just wanted to get that arrow out of your leg.”
“We shouldn’t stay there any longer than we have to. Go back and grab anything that we might need. Oh, and, where the hell is my suitcase?”
“Well... you see... I couldn’t carry both you and that, so I kind of had to leave it there,” says Gio reluctantly.
Rindo puts his palm over his face for a few moments.
“You do realize neither one of us has a change of clothes now? And look at my pants!”
Gio starts laughing.
“I was serious about you going back to the house and grabbing stuff to take. Maybe there are clothes there that will fit us,” says Rindo.
“I’ll get some food too. I won’t have to carry you again, right?”
“I should be fine. How fast is the poison spreading?” asks Rindo.
Gio thinks about it and notices for the first time that Rindo hasn’t even tried to look at the damage. He asks to look at the wound again and sees that there is no change.
“I’m not sure if all of the damage that is going to be done has already been done, or if the poison is just slow moving. How are you feeling? Do you still have the fever?”
“Don’t worry, you won’t have to carry me again. Now go and get the things. I want to get this leg taken care of as soon as possible. I will be useless if I can’t walk.”
“Will you be able to handle it if someone else tries to kill you while I’m gone?” asks Gio, worrying.
“It doesn’t really matter, it’s not like you would be able to fight them anyway. If it makes you feel any better I will hide in the bushes over there,” he says, pointing to the thicket by the side of the road.
“I will be right back,” says Gio finally.
Rindo goes into the bushes like he said he would, and Gio looks back to see if Rindo is visible from the road. He can’t see him, so he turns back to the farmhouse. When he enters the house he gets a strange feeling, almost like someone is watching him. Trying to ignore the feeling he takes the disinfectant and finds a bag to put supplies in. There is no food in the house, and he doesn’t even try to look for clothes like Rindo wanted him to. Gio grabs a sheet from upstairs that could be ripped and made into bandages. He hurries back to Rindo and is relieved to see that he is still there and that nothing had happened.
“Bag looks empty. Find anything useful?” asks Rindo.
“Got a sheet so I can make bandages for you and the disinfectant. There wasn’t any food in the entire house and I left as quickly as I could because I got a really creepy feeling in there.”
“You too, huh?”
“Something happen out here too?”
“I could feel someone staring at me, but it left when you got back.”
“Here, let me clean and bandage your leg before we leave,” says Gio.
Rindo lets him attend to his injury, and then uses him to stand up and they start walking. Rindo has a noticeable limp and is slower than usual. Gio also walks slower so that he will be there if Rindo needs any help.
“Do you remember anything about where you walked last night?” asks Rindo.
“As far as I can tell I walked straight down the road. Why, are we lost?”
“That house bothers me... it just happened to be conveniently placed and empty.”
“Convenient? You weren’t the one carrying you all night in a storm! And I still haven’t slept yet.”
“Neither of us has eaten either, which is more reason to find a town as quickly as possible. Even if it isn’t Sasfro...”
Rindo stops and looks up, noticing for the first time that the number of trees was increasing. He looks worried and glances behind him. The farmhouse is out of sight, which makes Rindo feel a bit at ease.
“Why did we stop?” asks Gio.
“Can you try climbing one of those tall trees? Might be able to see something.”
“I can try,” says Gio, looking up.
He finds a tree with branches low enough for him to reach and begins his ascent. When he is near the top of the tree he begins to have the feeling of being watched again. He looks around but can’t see anyone. Gio can’t continue any farther because the branches are too small for him to use. He climbs back down to Rindo without having seen much.
“Are there any towns near here?” asks Rindo.
“I couldn’t see anything. Should we try going back to that house and following the road the other way?”
“I really don’t want to go back there, and besides, this road has to lead somewhere.”
“It felt like someone was watching me again when I was in that tree,” says Gio suddenly.
“I didn’t feel anything. Are you sure you aren’t paranoid about me being attacked again?”
“I’m really tired... Can we rest here for a couple of hours?” asks Gio.
“Yeah, I don’t know how much farther I can walk right now anyway,” says Rindo, sitting down in the middle of the road and stretching his legs in front of him.
“Maybe I will dream of a way to find a town somewhere so we can get you treated and we can get some food,” says Gio, laying down by Rindo, using the bag as a pillow.
"What if the trees are an illusion?"
"But I climbed one," replied Gio.
"Look around us, almost every tree looks exactly the same."
Gio looks around at the trees and goes up to one. He touches it and most of the trees in the forest disappear.
"We go straight to reach Sasfro," says Rindo.
"How did you know about the trees?" asks Gio.
"I don't remember that many trees in this area, and I believed you when you said you went straight down the road."
"So the feeling of being watched..."
"I have no idea who it could be. Let's just get to town so I can see a doctor."
Gio stands up and helps Rindo too. They continue down the road to the town of Sasfro with Rindo leaning on Gio's shoulder. They enter the town and Rindo gives directions to where the doctor lives. He doesn't want to go to the clinic because whoever is following them might be there.
"Maybe we should get a room at the inn first and then call for the doctor," suggests Gio.
"We need money first."
"You still have my money."
"Okay. I will have to go to the bank eventually. Neither one of us has any extra clothes and just look at mine..."
Rindo gives Gio directions to the nearest inn where Gio is finally able to rest and Rindo is able to see the doctor.
"Now, what have you done this time, hm?" asks the doctor as he walks into the room and sees Rindo.
"Surprisingly, I did nothing," says Rindo.
"Let me see your leg."
Rindo stretches his leg out and the doctor moves aside what is left of the lower half of his pant leg.
"Is it bad?" asks Gio, trying to get a look at the doctor's expression.
"Nothing I can't fix," he replies.
"So what is it?" asks Rindo.
"It's a slow moving poison that that probably won't kill you at this low dose. How long has it been since this happened?"
"It was last night," says Gio.
"And look at it," the doctor points to the purple area. "If it was anything else it would have killed you by now. Since it looks like it has spread I will bring back the antidote, and then you will be better in no time."
"Why would the person that shot him use that kind of poison?" asks Gio.
"They weren't trying to kill me apparently," says Rindo, "just trying to slow me down."
The doctor excuses himself and retrieves the antidote from his clinic. When he comes back he injects it into Rindo's upper arm.
"You should rest for a couple of days at least before going back to work," he says while giving Rindo a quick wink.
"I'm going downstairs to get some food," says Gio after the doctor leaves.
"I guess I'm just going to wait here."
Gio leaves and Rindo crawls into the bed furthest from the window. He hears his stomach growl and wonders when the last time he ate was. Gio comes back with a couple of sandwiches, which they eat in silence. They are both exhausted from the past couple of days, and they both go to sleep after eating.
Gio is the first to wake up just as the sun starts setting. He checks on Rindo who is still fast asleep. He goes downstairs and brings up dinner, eating by himself while waiting for Rindo to wake up.
"Hey Rindo, get up," says Gio, getting impatient.
"Hrm?" asks Rindo groggily.
"I got you some dinner. You should eat."
"Nope. Not hungry," says Rindo, folding his arms across his chest while sitting up in bed and looking away from Gio.
Gio just laughs. Rindo turns his head enough to look at him with one eye open and asks "What's so funny?"
"The medicine must be working," he says with a smile.
"How is your leg today?" asks the doctor.
"A lot better."
"Good, good. You should still rest for today, and then tomorrow you can do whatever you want."
"Sorry Doc, I will rest later today. Still have things to do today," says Rindo with a smile.
Rindo walks out of the room in the clinic and joins Gio in the waiting room.
"Come on, we have to get some money. He doesn't work for free, you know."
"And we need some new clothes. These are starting to stink," says Gio, holding his nose.
Rindo tells Gio where the bank is because he still needs a shoulder for support. When they are outside of the door Rindo whispers into Gio's ear "I have to use my necklace, make sure no one sees and when they ask for the name please give them yours."
They walk in and wait in line. The teller calls them up and Gio gives his name when asked just like Rindo wanted.
"I'm sorry sir, but you don't have any money in your account at the moment," says the teller.
Rindo nods to Gio. Gio looks around and doesn't see anyone around that would be able to see the necklace. Rindo takes it out of his shirt and quickly shows it to the teller. Her eyes widen and she looks somewhat shaken.
"How much would you like to withdraw sirs?" she asks.
"200 should be enough," says Rindo, smiling.
"There you are sirs."
When they leave Rindo looks around to make sure no one noticed the necklace. He looks satisfied and tells Gio where the clothing shops are.
"I should be able to walk enough by myself to get a few things. Here's some of the money," he says while handing Gio some bills.
"Meet back here in about an hour?"
Rindo waits for Gio. He is wearing a plain black shirt under a black leather jacket with the collar turned up. He is also wearing dark blue jeans and black boots.
"Are your clothes dark enough?" asks Gio as he gets back.
"Hope so. Most of my work is at night and I want to blend into the shadows. What about you? You look like you are on vacation!"
Gio is wearing a lightweight shirt with buttons all the way down the front. It has palm trees and beach scenes repeated on it and light green shorts. He is also wearing plain tennis shoes without socks.
"The lady said I would look good in it," says Gio, bringing his sunglasses down so he can see Rindo without the gray tint.
"Oh Gio, the palm trees really bring out the green of your eyes," says Rindo sarcastically.
"I get the point, I'll go and get something different."
Rindo rolls his eyes. "I'm coming with you."
Gio goes back to the store where he bought the clothes and returns them. Rindo looks around and sees something on a rack that would make Gio happy.
"Here, try this on," he says, giving Gio the shirt.
"Okay," was the reply as Gio grabs the shirt without looking at it.
Rindo continues to browse. He grabs brown hiking boots and a couple of pairs of light blue jeans. Gio walks out of the dressing room shaking his head at Rindo. He is wearing a pastel blue shirt with a khaki vest.
"Looks a lot better than that tourist getup you had on. Here, take these too," he says while handing Gio the pants and boots. "Anything else you might need you can get yourself."
Gio pays for everything and they head back to the inn. Rindo takes out his necklace when they are in their room, the door is shut, and the curtains on the window are drawn.
"Very few people know about the assassins that work directly under the king. The bankers are told to do what the person holding this necklace asks and that is all they know. We don't even have a name. There are, however, some people that hunt us."
"How many other people are there like you?"
"Ten at the most. It's really hard to tell because we never have meetings. Some of the people I do know... they have dangerous abilities. That's why I thought back in that forest that the trees could have been an illusion."
"Do you have anything special like that?" asks Gio.
"Not that I know of. Just about anyone could throw a dagger. The thing I'm concerned about is why you were sent and weren't told to return or to bring me with you. It just doesn't make any sense."
"Maybe they thought I would just go back home?"
"I don't think so... and then there's that arrow. Why would someone want to slow us down? With the illusion too. It can't be a hunter because I would have been killed, and I'm not sure if it's an inside job or not..."
"If it isn't a hunter or someone from that group, then who would care about you?" asks Gio.
"Remember what happened when we left?"
"That guy that was looking for you, right?"
"Yeah, I'm not sure if he's an assassin or not."
"I really don't think he could be doing all of this, it just doesn't seem violent enough for him," replies Gio.
"Oh? You have a strong feeling about that?"
"I have a feeling too. A feeling that they are going to try to recruit you like they did me. Guess we both have to be careful," says Rindo, looking down.
"You need to get some rest now."
"Yeah, yeah, I know what the doc said."
Rindo lays down on his bed and goes to sleep while Gio sits on the edge of his and thinks. Who is after us? What do they want? I would never make it as an assassin! He keeps thinking about the things Rindo said.
"I can't believe the burden you have been carrying by yourself all this time," he whispers.
"It could have been worse," replies Rindo.
"Hey! I thought you were sleeping!"
"Kind of hard to when someone is over there talking to themselves."
"You were never planning on sleeping," says Gio.
"Not a bit. Hey, do you want to wear my necklace to see how it feels?"
Rindo takes his necklace off, the K with the knife-edge dangling as he hands it to Gio. He takes hold of it with a shaking hand, staring at it.
"You don't have to if you don't want to. I just thought you might be curious about it. Kind of feels weird to take it off..." says Rindo.
Gio puts it on and shivers.
"It's heavy," he says, taking it off.
"I hope you never get used to it."
"I hope so too," says Gio, still shivering.
"Today I have to take out my mark. I want you to stay here and sleep tonight, okay?"
"You don't think you will get attacked again?"
"Not by whoever is after us. Oh yeah! I almost forgot I threw my last dagger at that guy on the roof. Hey, you should get a weapon too, especially since you are traveling with me," says Rindo.
"What kind of weapon should I get?" wonders Gio.
"Doesn't matter, just make sure you can use it."
They walk through the town until they get to some shops that sell various weapons to defend one's self with in these dangerous times.
"You can look around and see if anything feels right to you. I'm just going over there," he points across the street "to get some daggers. Take your time and the shopkeepers might also let you try some out. All you have to do is ask."
"I want something light if I have to carry it with me all the time," says Gio to himself while walking into the shop.
"Welcome, are you looking for something in particular, sir?" asks the shopkeeper.
"Something light would be nice, and I have to be able to use it too."
"Well, what weapons are you thinking about?"
"Maybe a bow or something?"
"Let's see..." says the shopkeeper, looking around. "Ah! Here it is. Would you like to try this out?"
"That doesn't look light at all! And what the hell am I going to do with a book?"
"Here, just try it out," says the shopkeeper, shoving the book into Gio's arms.
"Do I hit people with it?" He looks inside the book and says "I can't even read this! Huh?" Gio is tracing some of the symbols with his index finger and they are starting to glow. He drops the book on the floor in surprise.
"Hey Gio, how is the weapon searching going? And what's with that book on the floor?" asks Rindo suddenly from behind.
"Don't scare me like that! This book already freaked me out and then you suddenly..."
"Book, huh?" asks Rindo, bending down and picking it up. He opens it and looks at the pages. "Can you read this?"
"No! I don't think anyone could. It's a bunch of squiggly lines."
"Well, why did you freak out like that then?"
"The... it..." Gio tries to explain.
"He traced some of the lines and they started to glow, sir-" the shopkeeper said, eyes widening when he sees Rindo's face.
"What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"No-nothing. I didn't see you come in is all."
"So about this book," says Gio "How does it work?"
"It seems like your friend can teach you that. Would that be all for today?"
"I guess so... but is this book really a good idea?" Gio asks Rindo.
"I think you can handle it," says Rindo, putting the money on the counter. "Come on."
"Let's look at this book you bought," says Rindo, taking the large book and opening it in his lap. "I've seen something like this before, but only once. I'm surprised that you found this."
"So how do I use it?"
"You can't yet."
"Here, take the book and do what you did in the shop, and don't throw it on the floor this time, okay?" says Rindo, handing the book back to Gio.
He does what he was told to do, and the symbols start glowing again. He looks at Rindo, confused.
"What does this mean?"
"Watch." Rindo traces the symbols like Gio had done, but nothing happens. Gio looks even more confused.
"This book is not meant to be read." Rindo sighs "Guess they did have a reason to send you to me."
"Tell me what this is all about."
"It's all about will power and strength of mind. That is where all of the abilities begin, and once recognized can be trained. It's really difficult to explain, but try your best to follow me."
"You can ultimately create illusions that become real to the people around you. That is the gist of it, anyway. The book responds to you, so you should be able to use it to help create things. The problem is, I don't know what you can do."
"How do we find out?" asks Gio.
Rindo rests his head in his hand as he thinks. He sits up straight and snaps his fingers when he thinks of something.
"You can try it out in a fight!" he happily exclaims.
"That... is the stupidest idea I've ever heard."
Rindo laughs, takes the book from Gio and closes it. He puts it on the table that is between their beds.
"Like I said, you can't use it yet. But, lucky you, I'm a great teacher so you will be able to use it in no time! First things first, go and get us some food," says Rindo, smiling wide.
While Gio is downstairs Rindo opens the book again. He tries tracing the symbols again and still nothing happens. He concentrates and tries to will the symbols to glow, but all he manages to do is make a faint outline appear. He closes the book again and puts it back on the table when he hears Gio coming back up the stairs.
"Sorry, but we need more money to get some dinner."
"I will go and get this sorted out. Don't mess with that book, okay?" says Rindo after sighing.
Gio nods and Rindo heads downstairs. Instead of talking to the owner of the inn he goes outside where the sun is getting ready to set. He sighs and walks back inside and up the stairs.
"Come on Gio, I've changed my mind."
"Let's go somewhere and get something to eat and just walk around town. I also want you to come when I go after my mark. Stay hidden, but try to follow what is going to happen."
"Sure," was the reply.
"Oh, and be sure to bring that book with you."
The sun has set and Gio is getting anxious, the book in his arms is getting heavier. He is walking slower and Rindo turns around to look at him.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"I can't do it..."
"I just can't watch you kill anyone."
"Go back to the inn then. Oh, and if you want to, you can try to do something with that book. Just be careful with it, okay?"
"You be careful, too. I really wish that you didn't have to do this."
"I wish I didn't have to either, but there's nothing I can do about it right now," says Rindo with a sigh.
"I'll see you at the inn later."
Gio turns around and walks back to the inn. Rindo looks for his target, starting in the middle of town. He sees a girl sitting on the edge of a fountain, staring at him. Rindo walks towards her and looks her over.
"I've been waiting for you," says the girl.
"A pig-tailed girl is my target...?" he asks, incredulous.
"Almost," she says with a wink.
"What do you mean?"
"Here, take a look at this."
She hands Rindo a sheet of paper that has the king's seal on it. It asks for the delivery of two obsidian daggers to Rindo.
"Why can't they do things normally? Sending a weird girl as my target just to give me something?"
"Not only that! I'm supposed to stick close to you and keep my eye on you," she says playfully.
"Not a chance," says Rindo, turning to walk away.
"Hey! Wait! I at least need to make my delivery!"
"Fine, hand me the daggers and leave."
"My name is-"
"Don't care," says Rindo, cutting her off sharply.
"What? You don't like girls or something?"
"Not little annoying girls."
"Fine, take your daggers and leave, but you will see me again!" she says, shoving a package at Rindo, pouting.
"Okay, let's see what I can do with this..." says Gio to himself, opening the large book on the bed.
He stares at the unreadable text, wondering what he wanted to do, and how to go about doing it. He runs his finger over the first line, and it turns a blue. He tries thinking about green and then runs his finger over the next line, and that also glows blue. He thinks about red and tries the third line. To his surprise, that line begins glowing green.
"What the hell is up with this weird book?"
"Are you talking to yourself now?" asks Rindo, walking in.
"You got back earlier than I thought you would."
"Yeah, things didn't go as I expected."
"What do you mean?" asks Gio.
"It was just a weird girl that delivered some daggers to me, and then tried to tag along."
"That is strange... What did she look like?"
"She was a little girl with pig-tails."
"She was annoying and pouted, and that's it."
"Wonder if she will turn up again..." says Gio too quietly for Rindo to hear.
"So what happened with the book?"
"I tried to make the lines turn different colors. I got blue the first two times and the last time, when I wanted it to be red, it turned green!"
"That must have been about the time I walked in, right?"
"I just know I'm going to use it to hit people," says Gio.
"There, there, it's okay," says Rindo, patting him on the back.
"So what do your new daggers look like?"
"Don't know, haven't looked."
After a few minutes Gio convinces Rindo to open up the package that the girl had given him. After untying the rope holding the leather and cloth around the daggers, he sees the daggers for the first time. They are so black that the light in shining on them seem to be swallowed into the darkness.
"I'm not sure I want to use these..." says Rindo nervously.
"Did that girl say anything else about them?"
"Nope, just said that they were obsidian. Though, I've never seen light-eating obsidian before."
There's a knock at the door, and when Gio answers it he sees the innkeeper. He looks up at Gio for a bit, and then he pushes his glasses up.
"There is someone downstairs that would like to speak to you."
"Did they give you a name?"
"No, she said that you would know her," says the innkeeper, pushing his glasses up again.
"Tell her I will be down shortly."
The innkeeper leaves back down the stairs, and Gio quickly shuts the door. He looks to Rindo for help. Rindo shrugs and tells him that he should just go downstairs to see who it is. Gio sighs, not knowing anyone who could possibly be downstairs waiting for him. When he gets down there, he sees someone that he doesn't know, but he has a suspicion of who she might be.
"Did Rindo tell you my name?" he asks.
"Nope, but I still know all about you. I assume he mentioned me when he got back?"
"Yeah. How do you know about me?"
The girl twirls one of her pigtails and thinks for a minute.
"Can't tell!" she says brightly.
"Can you tell me why you are here then?"
"I just wanted to meet you," she says, smiling.
"Likely story," says Rindo, walking into the lobby.
"Were you standing there the whole time?" asks Gio.
"Yeah, and if Mayer were here, you would both be knocked out. If she" Rindo looks at the girl, "has to talk, then let's just go upstairs where it would stay private."
"Actually, I should be going now," she says.
"So soon?" asks Gio.
"Don't worry, you might see me again," she says with a wink, walking towards the door.
"How troublesome," says Rindo.
"I still don't know her name."
"Oh well, hopefully we never see her again. Come on, I have an idea," says Rindo, heading up the stairs.
Gio follows, wondering what Rindo might be thinking about. When they get to the room Rindo grabs the book and tosses it to Gio. He catches it and looks at Rindo, puzzled.
"We are going to train."
The pigtailed girl quickly looks behind her at the town while heading to a small copse. She walks to the middle where she looks up past the branches to a robed figure. It jumps to the ground and faces her.
"How did things go, Maia?"
"I met with both Rindo and his friend Giovanni, and the delivery was a success," she replies.
The wind blows the hood of the dark robe off, and the figure's black hair catches a moonbeam.
"Good. Do you know where they plan to go next?" he asks.
"No, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out."
"Don't get caught, because I won't save you again."
"I understand," she says with a smile, knowing that he really would save her. He pats her on the head.
"Just remember why we are doing this."