Raised by the leader of assassins & protected from their methods is now hunted by them
The night air cooled the sweat on Sophestria’s brow as she crept down the alley hugging close to the walls. She cursed the moon for being so bright this night, and not a cloud in the sky to give that extra concealment; they would have her soon despite her best efforts. She had already killed six of their number, but she knew they would keep coming until they had her, it was only a matter of time. Sophestria was determined however to fight to her last breath; she would not die easy, she climbed a low wall, and on to a rooftop, laying flat she surveyed the alleyway and the nearby street. In the moonlight, dark shapes entered the alley moving carefully from cover to cover. Sophestria counted four keeping low she scrambled across several rooftops, climbing down she entered another alleyway. They spotted her though and were not far behind running silently to the far end of the alley she stopped crouching still, she slowed her breathing and waited her last arrow notched. A dark figure emerged where she had been moments ago she took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she let fly the arrow. The figure stumbled and fell.
She drew her twin daggers and waited, this was it she would take another one or two before they got her. Sophestria rolled to one side as an arrow barely missed another skimmed her shoulder as she charged her attackers; not wanting to give them the luxury of killing her from a distance. As she closed on her, foes an arrow tore through her coat and ripped flesh from her upper arm in passing. Sophestria gritted her teeth in pain and kept going as she felt hot blood running down her arm. Her assailants drew their knives and spread out to try and circle her. She went for the one she considered the weakest. Surging forward she slashed his throat before he could react and just managed to cut another’s face as she spun, they had her now. She felt the dagger enter her side, then an explosion of pain.
All went still, time itself seemed to stop. Sophestria felt bemused as she looked down at the assassins all were dead at her feet! Then looking up a bright light appeared a short distance in front. She leant against the wall holding a hand to her wounded side and watched as the light came closer, thinking she must be dying and that the goddess was coming for her. The light took the shape of a man as she watched.
"No goddess then," she said aloud through gritted teeth
“Do you want to live Sophestria?” The man asked his voice and expression had a soothing effect on her. All she could manage through the pain was a nod of her head.
“Then take my hand,” he said holding his hand out to her. She reached out for his hand when they touched Sophestria’s senses were overwhelmed with a dazzling display of cascading colours, then closing her eyes darkness engulfed her.
She woke to different surroundings she was in what appeared to be a peaceful meadow with blossoming trees and the sound of running water nearby. Looking down she was shocked to find she was naked and all her wounds healed. Blades of lush green grass tickled her toes as she stood. Looking around she spotted clothes hanging from a branch of a nearby tree; the clothing was similar to what she has been wearing a black velvet material but made from a lightweight, durable and robust material. There was also a pair of calf length boots which seemed to be leather but infused with the same material as the rest of the clothes
“They fit you perfectly Sophestria,” the man said, suddenly appearing behind her. She jumped in surprise and turned to face him.
“Are you a god?” she asked he smiled and shook his head
“Some have called me that, some a sorcerer, I’m neither.”
“Then who are you has the goddess sent you?” she asked trying to make sense of all that has happened
“I know nothing of this goddess of yours if she exists, or not I cannot say but if she does then perhaps it is her design, that I help you, who's to say otherwise,” he paused. “My name is Kendon, and I’m from a race of beings old when this world was young a kind of guardian if you like.” He studied her a moment. “Walk with me a while, and I will explain more.” They walked side by side among the trees a pleasant breeze rustled the leaves the sound soothing to Sophestria’s senses.
“What is this place it’s so beautiful and peaceful,” she asked looking around in wonder.
“It’s a plane on a different level of existence to yours, it’s difficult for me to explain to you,” he began pausing to find the right comparison, “You know when you throw a stone into a lake it can sometimes send bubbles to the surface as it sinks,” he explained
“It also spreads ripples on the surface,” she said
“That’s true, but we’ll not go into that now this is like the bubble in the water outside the world is the same as it has always been.” He waited to see if she wasn’t being overwhelmed by all that he tried explaining to her.
“I think I understand a little of what you mean,” Sophestria said frowning.
“That’s good enough, you don't need to understand how it all works, just that it does.”
They sat beside a stream the water crystal clear Sophestria could see fish darting about it was an idyllic setting, she considered if she stayed long enough, she might not want to leave.
“I have been watching you since you were a child Sophestria taken by Gorun when he found you crying alone. He took care of you all these years until he could no longer.”
“Yes, he was like a father to me, Gorun knew I wouldn’t be able to kill my first mark. The man was innocent he hadn’t harmed anyone he didn't deserve to die,” she said bitterly
“Never the less he is dead now as is Gorun for helping you escape,” Kendon began looking sympathetically at her as tears rose unbidden running down her cheeks. “Maybe you would’ve been better killing your mark then you’d be safe and Gorun still alive,” he concluded.
“What! No, I could never kill an innocent,” she retorted vehemently in spite of her tears.
Kendon nodded sagely, “I know that is why I chose you, raised by assassins trained in their ways yet remained true to yourself.” He watched Sophestria wipe away her tears and stiffen her resolve; he had one last test for her. “Did you know that Gorun was the one that killed your parents?” he finally asked.
“I came to suspect it was so these last few years, yet he did his best to atone with raising me,” she said solemnly,
Again he nodded, he had chosen others in the past, granting them certain talents but none matched Sophestria she was a shining beacon, a light in the darkness. So he was to bestow on her more than anyone before a grave responsibility would rest on her slender shoulders.
“The assassin’s guild in Havrid that raised, you is one small piece, a tiny cog in a vast network. Once the guild was content to do the bidding of the rich and powerful now, it seeks to have the power all to itself,” pausing he stood. Once more gesturing for her to follow. They came to a corner in the meadow where Sophestria could see shimmering in the air all around, the world outside could be glimpsed like a wavering mirage. “The guilds seat of power is in the citadel of Moonstone do you know of it?”
“Only by name, I have never been far from Havrid,”
“It is many leagues to the north-west of Havrid, and across the Broken Sea,” he explained, “I’m telling you this because Havrid only being a small, faraway guild. Word has not got back to Moonstone yet about what has happened here,” he paused regarding her seriously. “The guild here not having found a body still hunts you,” again he paused. Sophestria could guess what he was going to say next. “You have a window of opportunity if you wish to take it to eliminate the guild here before the news gets to their centre of power which it will. If all here are dead and no trail leading back to you, then you will be free to act alone.”
"How am I supposed to do that alone, what is it you expect of me?" Sophestria asked incredulously
"I will give you certain gifts that will make you a force to be reckoned with." Kendon began “You must stop the guild before it becomes too powerful and sends this world into darkness and chaos,” Kendon said grimly. Suddenly there was a thundering of hooves as a black stallion came galloping towards them.
“My first gift to you,” he said as the animal stopped. “He will answer to you and you alone no one else can command or ride him.”
“Why choose me?” Sophestria asked she stroked the mussel of the horse in wonder. It's nostrils flaring as it pushed against her,
“Because you are special Sophestria, and you alone can stop the guild you have a pure heart and because I can, and I want to, that’s all you need to know,” he said. “Or maybe it’s the will of your goddess if you want to think of it like that,” he added. Sophestria felt overwhelmed, she wondered if she were still in the alleyway, and this all a kind of dying dream
“I have crafted some weapons for you, be sure to find me before you leave, to collect them, now for the rest of your gifts,” he paused resting a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry you may find this uncomfortable.”
Sophestria felt her whole body racked with pain, like shards of exploding glass inside her, the next thing she knew she was laid on the grass looking at the sky. Her body still tingled but at least the searing pain had gone. Kendon stood over her and helped her to her feet.
“Do you feel any different,” he asked studying her closely
“Apart from feeling like I’ve been shredded from the inside out and put back together again no,” she said shakily.
“Good, you’re not supposed to feel any different, but you now have certain talents,” he said mysteriously
“What are these gifts, talents that will aid me against the guild?” she asked
“You may stay a while and learn what they are and how best to use them, I will help if you need it,” he began. “For now rest and regain your strength Sophestria." he finished.
The four men stood menacingly as Rob Tarn faced them protectively shielding his wife and three children, “We can't spare any more we don’t have enough left to live on ourselves,” Rob pleaded.
“Well you better find more, or maybe that pretty wife of yours could spend some time with us as payment,” the leader of the four said. Looking behind Rob to give his wife a lecherous glance.
“Please, no I’ll find the money somehow,” Rob said.
“I think we will take your wife anyway as insurance in case you cant get the money,” he said sneeringly.
“I think not; I think you better leave now while you still can,” said a voice.
Rob looked up to see a woman dismounting a black horse as the four men turned
“Well, what have we here this is none of your business who do you think you are” the leader said giving the intruder the same lecherous looks, as Rob’s wife. Though he was wary of this woman, who looked liked she could handle herself in a fight, and she was far too confident. The leader drew his weapon as did his comrades and advanced menacingly.
.“Last chance,” she said as they kept coming, drawing her sword she moved to meet her attackers briefly vanishing as she went from one assailant to the other in a blur of motion each fell dead before her. She cleaned her sword on one of her victims and sheaved it.
Rob stood disbelieving trying to take in what had happened wondering if she was going demand money from him- also.. “Thank you,” he began swallowing hard, “but I can't pay you any more than I could pay them.”
She smiled looking at the children clinging to their mother,” No need," she said searching the bodies she gave what money she found on them to Rob. “Here for you,” she began, "I'll get some one to take the bodies away," she finally said.
Rob’s wife came forward nervously, “Thank you so much you are an angel,” she said with tears of gratitude.
“An avenging angel maybe,” she said grimly.
Sophestria mounted her horse waving goodbye to Rob and his family as she rode into Havrid. “Well ‘Ghost’ those local thugs were no assassins, but the news of what happened will soon get back to the guild,” Sophestria said, leaning over and patting the horse's flanks affectionately. She felt sure that the horse could sometimes understand what she said. As if in answer to her thoughts the stallion whinnied and bobbed his head.
She didn’t want to take the whole guild on at once preferring that at least some come to her. Sophestria felt unsure of her new talents as yet and didn’t want to be thrown in at the deep end until she tested them more in real combat. She rode along the busy main street drawing the odd curious look here and there. It was past midday people rushed to and thro; children played games on the sidewalks a few old men leant on the rails pipe smoking and talking amongst themselves.
Sophestria stopped outside the Black Swan Inn dismounting she tied the reins loosely to the rail and entered. It hadn’t changed since she had last been here. Assassins and other criminal elements notoriously frequented the Inn. She made enquiries about renting a house in a quiet part of town. Having been pointed in the right direction by the innkeeper who kept giving her strange looks. Sophestria met with a shifty-looking man called Larson who rented her a house on the outskirts. She collected Ghost and rode out to locate the property. It wasn’t much of a house somewhat rundown with a leaky roof, but she didn’t plan to stay for too long.
On her second night in the house, she heard them approach her heightened senses picking them out she counted eight with another four not far away. She sat head down on a worn chair in the centre of the otherwise empty room her sword resting on her lap, and a bow and quiver of arrows leaned on a nearby wall. As the door burst open and three assassins charged forward. Sophestria pounced to her feet sword in hand, time slowed, the killers seeming hardly moving as Sophestria moved in real time slashing their throats with her sword another three one after the other crashed through the side window while three entered by the back door. She vanished from where the first three had fallen and re-appeared in the middle of the three that came through the window. Blinking Kendon had named this ability it was one she favoured and could use most often; the three fell dead in a matter of moments Reaching for the bow and quiver, she fired arrows in quick succession three more bodies lay dead. She turned swiftly as two more came through the door and one through the window. Blinking she moved away from her foes firing arrows each homing in on their mark finding the heart. Then all was silent the room strewn with bodies while Sophestria remained unmarked her breathing regular.
Sophestria removed any gold and identification from the bodies including weapons. The weapons she buried in the nearby woods then set fire to the house. Whistling for ghost, she headed east for the guild house. Hidden amongst the trees down a concealed track of the main road the guild house would be well guarded and patrolled; Sophestria dismounted and led Ghost into the undergrowth.
“Wait here boy I’ll call if I need you,” she patted the horse’s flanks. The horse whinnied stamping his hooves in agitation but stayed as Sophestria set off on foot. As she crept silently towards the guild house, she slowed her breathing in preparation and reflected on what she was about to do; this would be her greatest test so far. Until now she dealt with small numbers of enemies the guild house could have thirty or more assassins. Could her newfound abilities help her deal with that many or even more foes all out to kill her at once she didn’t know, but she was ready to find out, and she had one last talent to try out that may give her the edge?