by Sir Various
An initiate to a dark order finds salvation in an unexpected way. Published Dark Edifice 6
by Sir Various
Raven slid down the slope of a wood-shingled roof, halting adroitly on the edge. She turned to face the peak of the house and then dropped off the roof, catching the edge of the shingles. Using the momentum of the fall, the assassin swung into the window below, using the frame to stop and perch on the sill.
Other shadows, initiates like her, danced across nearby rooftops. The final test to join the Order required a murder, and the Master of the Order chose this town for his students. Raven heard faint cries and gasps as townsfolk woke to meet death, and distant echoes of life-ending screams began to come more frequently.
This building was the home and forge of the local blacksmith; the Master felt this particular target more…appropriate…for her personal test. His words were alluring, haunting her even now, just as tempting as when he sought her out.
Destroy what you love most, my Raven, he had said. Slay your heart's desire, and surrender to the darkness inside you.
She paused a moment. Was it really so long ago? It felt strange to come back to the smithy after so many years. Would the blacksmith’s son remember her? Erik had always enjoyed her sense of style, the bright colors she always wore. She dressed for death now, black and void like the night. The girl he had courted so long ago was different, pale and thin, corrupted by the temptation of death. The blackness in her soul had threatened to consume her back then. Erik had almost won the fight, but in the end, the lure of the Master was too great.
Could she do this? Erik had never hurt her. It was his father, the blacksmith, who drove her away, his command civil but his knowing eyes accusing. Her fascination –no, obsession- with death worried them, perhaps terrified them. Below her, the smithy door mocked her with the same final closing the blacksmith had used, shutting away Erik from her heart.
No, she made the choice freely. She must accept the dark path of fate she chose of her own free will. Her Master required this final test. She would finish it.
The thick curtains blew inward with the chill of the sea wind, the soft scent of flowers from the mother’s garden perfuming the air. The wind wrapped itself around the furniture, and she imagined the shapes in the room as the breeze swept around obstacles. Raven could hear the occasional light sounds of gentle snoring above the whistle of the wind. Light did not hinder the assassin; like her blade, her senses were honed to a razor edge.
Raven glided to the edge of the bed. She could feel the breeze move the edges of the blankets, and the breathing of the sleeping woman placed her location on the bed. The woman’s mate was not present, but the assassin knew where he would be. The sleeping figure before her would die first.
Feel the darkness, my Raven, feel it strangle your heart. Use it, use it to kill, use it to become what fate desires of you.
The assassin crawled upon the bed, her thin petite form able to maneuver between the limbs of the woman. She straddled her target and leaned forward close, breathing in the scent of the woman, confirming her identity; although, Raven already knew who she was. The assassin raised her long silver blade up to the chin of the blacksmith’s wife. While remaining intimately close, she pushed the blade slowly, yet with firmness, like the deep passion of a male lover, up and through the woman’s skull.
The dead woman’s dreams would be reality now, and her slumber would never be broken by daylight again. The assassin needed more vivid effect, however, and while the murder was quick and merciful, the scene must be more dramatic. Raven stood, and slid off the bed silently. She turned, and with several quick motions, pierced the torso of the corpse. The heart should still force the dead woman’s blood out for a few seconds or minutes more. The assassin stood back, and she could hear the pooling blood and dripping life spread around the bed.
The trap was set.
The other targets remained. Silently gliding across the bedroom floor, she left through the door and into the hallway. Erik would be in the nearby room, but he would live, for now. The blood of his mother was meant for him to find.
Her heart filled with desire and sadness, as she knew her past lover would be in pain from the murder of his mother. She would ease his grief with a kiss from her blade.
To be one with the darkness inside, my Raven, you must push away all that is good.
She flowed down the stairs, silent and quick, and made her way toward the heavy sounds of hammering. The forge was warm, the heat emanating from the entry long before she arrived. Raven felt the waves of air push outward from the smith’s heavy blows. However, before she was able to pass the threshold into the forge, the smith’s hammering stopped.
The blacksmith had noticed her presence, it seemed. He hid from immediate view, and she could not locate him without stepping fully into the room. The sound of fierce flames in the forge drowned any chance of hearing the blacksmith’s footsteps, and Raven could not feel any movement of air from him over the heated air pressure. She was prepared, however.
Raven pulled a worn leather bag from its resting place on the wrap around her waist. She pulled off the thong that held the bag shut, and crouched. Holding the bag tightly, the assassin swung her arm upward toward the center of the room. The finger-wide metal triangles inside the sleeve arced across and around the room, their sharpened edges tumbling downward in a shower of tiny blades. She listened for the sound of metal cutting flesh. As she heard several blades hit the noise-hidden blacksmith to her right, she sprinted and leapt immediately at him. The blacksmith moved then, and she missed her target, landing nimbly in the now empty space. The blacksmith swung a heavy object at her, and she avoided it by ducking; she felt the flow of air around the blunt head of his hammer as it passed over her. He was swift despite his bulk.
Now that the blacksmith had revealed himself, he engaged her fully. It was a deadly ballet, her swift form like a dancer, avoiding his powerful swings. Blood covered the blacksmith’s torso as her blade punctured his flesh, but they were shallow; he was smart and did not move in close, using his superior reach to fend her off. His skill was impressive, and she marveled at his ability to stalemate the fight; this blacksmith was not merely an artisan, as the Master had insinuated in his instruction. She did not underestimate the crafter now, and she focused more intently on the fight.
Do not relent, my Raven. The darkness inside you is your strength. When all the light is gone, you will become the night, and you will be unstoppable.
The sounds of the roaring fire hid an abrupt change the blacksmith made in his assault, and to her surprise, his hammer struck her left shoulder with a crushing blow. The strength of the strike launched her into the anvil, and her arm became useless.
Raven suppressed the pain, as trained, and quickly stood up before he could continue with his advantage. She scrambled awkwardly upon the anvil behind her and poised herself for his next assault. Her left arm, now a liability, posed a critical threat to the completion of her assignment. Fortunately, she had prepared for this eventuality, as well.
As planned, Erik burst into the forge, springing her trap by distracting the blacksmith. The interruption was the key she was waiting for, and as he turned to look at his son, she leapt swiftly at the smith. The impact of her leap pushed the blacksmith back into the supply-laden tables behind him, her razor-honed blade sliding easily through his thick chest. She could hear her former love’s agony echo through her as he screamed from the doorway. Oh, it cut her deep, deeper than the cut she gave his father; she had used Erik, taken advantage of him, and raped his heart so violently. There was no forgiveness for this, but she knew and accepted this. She would still love him for a moment longer, before ending his torment.
The blacksmith was still alive. He bellowed the command, his voice thick and wet yet strong, startling her. His death was not finished; her test was not yet complete. The last task, the last part of her test, was the death of the blacksmith’s son. What better way to soothe the darkness than to kill the son in front of the father. She must murder her own heart as well, murder any good left in her. Tears blurred her gaze, wetting the cloth around her mouth. So many hearts broken; after the death of her lover, her heart would be the last one to break. She poised to leap at Erik, to give him the final embrace of a deadly lover.
Arms like steel wrapped around her, the blacksmith restraining her with his own final embrace, unyielding and inflexible. He pushed mightily off the bench and stumbled to the anvil, carrying her with him. Raven struggled to free herself, to no avail. His arms were like the metal alloys he made, rigid and solid with the desperation of a dying father.
No! Raven could not break his prison. The anvil struck her back, and the blacksmith used his heavy weight to restrain her further. He again spoke the command to his son, the command to flee, and raised his hammer high.
Imprisoned by the dying blacksmith, the writhing darkness around her heart loosened. Her soul bloomed with release, as she knew Erik would live. The blacksmith, with his last act of fatherly love, had set her free from the prison the Master had bound her heart. Her lover fled then, finally, away from death and love, away from her. As the blacksmith’s hammer fell, she closed her eyes.
High you will fly, my Raven. You will be set free.