Read The Archon's Assassin Online

Authors: D. P. Prior

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Epic, #Sword & Sorcery, #Shader

The Archon's Assassin

BOOK: The Archon's Assassin
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SHADER

Book Four

THE ARCHON’S ASSASSIN

D.P. PRIOR

First Edition, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63452-854-2

Copyright © 2015 D.P. Prior. All rights reserved.

The right of D.P. Prior to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All the characters in this book are fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not be, by way of trade or otherwise, lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form, binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed upon the subsequent purchaser.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Beta readers:

Ray Nicholson, Valmore Daniels, and Scott Morrison.

Cover art: Anton Kokarev (
kanartist.ru
)

Cover design &manuscript formatting:

Valmore Daniels (
valmoredaniels.com
)

Map of Aethir:

Jared Blando (
theredepic.com
)

Map of The Nousian Theocracy:

Mike Nash (
mikenash.com
)

Photo of the author:

Theo Prior (
dizeazedproductionz.blogspot.com
)

Conversion of italics from Pages to Word:

Paula Prior (
flurriesofwords.blogspot.com
)

 

 

NIGHT OF THE GUILDS

City of New Jerusalem, Aethir

Year of the Reckoning: 912

(Four years after the defeat of Sektis Gandaw)

N
ew Jerusalem was burning.

At least, the docks were.

Black smoke mushroomed into the night sky, smothering the stars and choking up the air with acrid fumes. People were screaming in the distance, and someone was shouting out for the militia. Sad bastard. They weren’t coming; not tonight. Not in the middle of a guild war.

The Senate were the first to admit these things needed to happen from time to time. Best policy was to sit it out and wait for the status quo to resume once the power struggle was over. It would either be the Night Hawks or the Dybbuks, this time round, and it didn’t matter which to them.

Ilesa Fana breathed in ash carried on the wind, and coughed into her gloved hand. She glanced both ways to make sure she’d not been heard above the clangor of steel on steel, the cries of rage and pain. Then she slipped into the shadows of the buildings lining the water’s edge.

The other Dybbuks up ahead had found what they were looking for: a two-story warehouse with the kind of doors you normally only saw on senatorial strongholds. They were steel-plated, riveted round the edges. It was something you didn’t get outside Malkuth’s principal city—that kind of workmanship left over by the first settlers from Earth—but Ilesa had seen her fair share these past few years. Enough to know the Dybbuks had lost this last desperate gamble.

“No way,” she said, abandoning stealth and striding to the doors, where Master Plaguewind and the fat man were engaged in a hushed conversation. “No way we’re getting in there.”

She wiped her sweaty palms on the seat of her britches, brought one hand to rest on the hilt of the sword at her hip, the other on the pommel of her dagger.

The men—the ten they’d brought with them—were jittery, and one or two looked ready to run, or maybe make a move of their own. It had been a long time coming, this “Night of the Guilds”, and everything was up for grabs.

Master Plaguewind turned toward her. He was like a particularly dense shadow in his ankle-length coat. There was fire in the glass eyes of his mask, reflected from the burning buildings on the fringes of the docks. The beak-like nose jutted at her like a dagger. If he had a mouth, it would no doubt be curled in a sneer, but none of his features were visible beneath the molding. There wasn’t even a mouth-slit. It was the tilt of the head to one side that told her what he was thinking before he gave it muffled voice.

“You think we’d be here if we couldn’t open them?”

The fat man took a crystal disk from his jacket pocket and inserted it into a slot at the edge of one of the doors. He glanced at Plaguewind, whipped out a handkerchief, and mopped the sweat from his glistening head.

“That’s it?” Ilesa said. “Now what?”

“Now we enter,” the fat man said. There was the hint of an accent, but mostly he sounded posh, like a lord or a senator. His clothes were posh, too: a charcoal-gray suit with hairline stripes, shiny black shoes, and a necktie shaped like a butterfly. She hadn’t liked the look of him since he’d set foot in their hideout the day before yesterday, apparently at Master Plaguewind’s invitation.

A low drone started up, and the doors slowly slid apart. The fat man collected his disk and slipped in first, like he owned the place.

Plaguewind’s head tilt this time reeked of smugness. He leaned on his staff and waved Ilesa in next.

She paused in the doorway, looked up into Plaguewind’s glassy eyes while angling a glance at the fat man’s back. “You trust him?”

“Much as I trust anyone.”

“He’s a shogging defector.”

Plaguewind threw his arm about her shoulder, and nodded for the men to go in.

“We’re all defectors, Ilesa. One way or another.”

That cut her to the bone. She knew what he was referring to, and it was a cheap move. She never should have told him about Portis, about what had happened, about how she’d abandoned her brother, Davy.

In an instant, she relived the wolf-man’s slavering jaws gnashing at them, felt the change come over her. She could still taste the blood as she ripped out its throat; still smell its musty hide. She’d protected Davy that time, but those weren’t the only wolves. Second time round, she was too late. Sure, she’d made their bastard father pay for what he’d done to Davy, but the boy was ruined, and Ilesa couldn’t handle that. Still couldn’t, truth be told. That’s why she’d left him there alone.

“You think you know me,” she said with venom. “But you don’t.”

“What?” Plaguewind said. “What do you… Oh, Ilesa, it isn’t always about you. I meant in general, for the kind of work we do, the things we have to do to survive: jumping from ship to ship; going where the strength is.”

“You even know who he is?” It was an effort to stay on track, because she was still seething. Trouble was, once the Davy button was pressed, it didn’t matter if she’d misread what Plaguewind was saying; it would take an age for the fire in her veins to burn off.

Plaguewind seemed to understand that. In the time they’d known each other, he’d become a master of deflection.

“Remember how Shadrak the Unseen took out the Pinchers?”

Ilesa snapped her head back toward the open doorway. She could just about make out the fat man’s bald head amid the men going in.

“No! That’s him? Albert the poisoner?”

“Best there is,” Plaguewind said. “And now he’s working for us.”

“You sure about that? I mean, why—?”

Plaguewind stopped her by raising his hand. She’d grown so accustomed to taking his orders these past few years, she bit her tongue without even thinking about it.

“Ilesa, you are my second, and I trust you.”

That was unexpected. Praise from the master. Suddenly, Plaguewind went down a notch in her estimation. Didn’t help her confidence in the faith he placed in Albert. All it told her was he was a poor judge of character. Trust you! For shog’s sake, she was hard-pressed to trust herself.

“Not absolutely, mind,” Plaguewind said.

Least he wasn’t a total shogwit, then.

“So, I’m your second, but you don’t trust me enough to explain why our arch-rival’s top man is probably right now leading us down the garden path. Is that it?”

“I do have secrets, Ilesa,” Plaguewind said. “Even from you.”

He wasn’t kidding. After all the hours he’d spent training her to hone her… ability, all the jobs they’d done together, all the times he’d watched her back and she’d saved his skin, she still didn’t know the first thing about him. Save for his body-language. There was no one better at reading each subtle inclination of his head, each minute hand signal, each shrug of his shoulders. But that was the extent of her knowledge. She still had no idea who or what he was beneath that mask. Some said he was horribly disfigured after a spell had misfired. Others that he was marred by the Demiurgos in return for the gift of magic. She’d even once heard he was a stygian from the nightmare realm of Qlippoth, somehow crossed over the Farfalls undetected by the Maresmen patrolling the border.

“Trust me,” Plaguewind said. “I know what I’m doing.”

He turned to enter the building, when an ear-shattering boom rolled across the water. Hot air blasted Ilesa against the warehouse wall, and her knees buckled. She felt Plaguewind’s hand on her arm, keeping her up.

“Inside,” he said. His voice was mushy in her ears. She could barely hear him, yet he looked to be shouting. “They’re rallying!”

Ilesa blinked her eyes into focus on the river. A barge was on fire, and there was fierce fighting on the far bank. Dozens of men were in the water, wading across, flaming torches held high, daggers glinting between their teeth.

Plaguewind dragged her inside the warehouse, left her reeling on her feet. Her ears were ringing, and her nose and throat were thick with sulfur.

“Shogging black powder!” Plaguewind said, singling out Albert. “You forgot to mention that, fat-boy.”

“Black…?” Albert said, fanning himself with his handkerchief. “I had no idea. Honestly.”

Plaguewind’s chin dropped to his chest. He was pissed off, but giving Albert the benefit of the doubt.

“Seal the door.”

“Good idea,” Albert said, fishing out his disk and scuttling over.

“I know,” Plaguewind said. There was ice in his tone.

“They’ll smoke us out,” Ilesa said. “Burn this place.”

“No,” Plaguewind said, strolling to one of the crates stacked in rows all across the floor. “They won’t.”

He slid the lid off and beckoned for Ilesa to look. It was crammed full with dried black and brown leaves, and gave off a pungent aroma, tinged with sweetness.

“Somnificus?” she said. “In all of them?” There must have been more than a hundred crates. If they all contained somnificus, why, that would mean—

“Millions of denarii,” Albert said, ambling back from the door. “If you know how to eke out sales and control the flow.”

Plaguewind nodded, his beak-nose slicing the air, making him look like a demented bird. “He who controls the somnificus…”

“Controls the guilds,” Ilesa finished for him. It was a cliché often spoken of, but no one really believed there was a stash like this. She looked from Plaguewind to Albert. “How…?”

“The Night Hawks have been shipping it in from Portis for donkey’s years,” Albert said. “My job was overseeing the overseers, make sure none went missing. Shadrak’s idea. He’s what you might call a control freak.”

Portis. Ilesa couldn’t think of it as home anymore. Too many bad memories. Too much left behind. Let those old wounds open up, and she’d likely bleed to death.

BOOK: The Archon's Assassin
12.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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