Authors: Shawn E. Crapo
He returned to his hiding place near the street, seeing Ferrin’s mansion on the next block. It would be a mad dash across the street, he knew, but it was the only way.
With one last look at the area, he chose a good, dark alley on the other side of the street as his destination. He snuck quickly across, his footfalls landing softly and silently on the cobblestone, barely making a sound. He immediately crouched in the alley, blending in with the darkness and taking another look around. There was no activity or any sign that he had been spotted.
Satisfied, he turned and sped down the alley toward Ferrin’s mansion. The buildings in this area were becoming more lavish, and Garret knew that the guard presence would be doubled, so his caution would grow as he neared. When he finally reached Ferrin’s block, he stopped to scan the area.
Several Jindala guards, in groups of two, were on patrol around the mansion itself. They were spaced about fifty yards apart, he calculated; a good enough distance from each other to pass through or take them out group by group. He decided that simply sneaking past was the best plan, as he did not want to alert them to the absence of any of their comrades.
Garret gazed at the mansion, looking for any sign of movement on the grounds around it. There were guards randomly strolling among the trees, but no large groups. Apparently, the Jindala were confident that their mere presence would thwart any attempts at rebellion. This was good, Garret knew. With the death of Ferrin, the people would be more willing to rebel, and the city could be easily retaken when the Knights finally arrived.
He crossed the street along the shadow of a tree, barely visible in its cloaking darkness. When he reached the other side, he leaped over the stone wall that surrounded Ferrin’s property, and stopped to rest behind it. Fortunately, the trees cast shadows everywhere, and his presence within the mansion’s grounds would go unnoticed with little effort on his part.
He eyed the nearest guard, a well armored swordsman with a black tunic and turban; likely belonging to a special unit assigned specifically to guard Ferrin. Garret pulled his dirk, pulling his cloak tighter around him, and crept closer to the guard. His heart pounded with anticipation as he drew nearer. It had been decades since he had killed a man in silence, having only fought in open battle. Nevertheless, he continued, coming within a foot of the guard as he patrolled the grounds.
When the guard reached the shadow of a large oak, Garret reached out, placing his left hand on the man’s right shoulder and spinning him about. The guard barely had time to groan as Garret plunged his dirk into the soft flesh under his chin. He stiffened, falling limp. Garret cradled his body as it fell, resting it gently on the ground. He then wiped the blood off of his blade on the man’s tunic and rushed to the shadow of another tree.
He could clearly see the mansion’s windows now, and scanned them all, looking for the most likely window to Ferrin’s bedroom. He crept from tree to tree, closing the distance to the walls, still seeking the right window. When he reached the rear of the mansion, he spotted a small balcony, complete with a stone railing and double doors leading inside. Garret smiled, knowing this was the most likely entry.
He glanced around for guards, seeing nothing, and then dashed to the stone mansion wall underneath the balcony. A wooden trellis was fixed to the stone, leading all the way up to the balcony and continuing upward to the roof. Garret chuckled to himself as he studied it. How easy Ferrin had made it to penetrate his personal home. Foolish.
Garret grasped the trellis and began his ascent. He silently climbed, avoiding the prickly vines that grew along the trellis’ length. Even in the moonlight he was barely visible, appearing as nothing more than the shadow of a swaying branch cast against the lavish stonework.
He climbed one handhold at a time, careful to test the strength of the lattice work as he did. There were places where the wood was slightly decrepit, but no serious weathering. After a minute or so of climbing, he safely reached the level of the balcony and waited. No one was in the area that he could see, but he would not take any chances. If he were caught, the mission would be over and he would have to flee, his target forgotten and allowed to continue his treachery. Garret could not let that happen.
He extended his leg to the right, placing his foot on the railing. It felt sturdy enough to hold his weight, but its surface was somewhat slick. He would have to be careful not to put his full weight on it, lest he slip and plummet to the ground below. It was at least thirty feet to the grassy surface and a man his age would likely be seriously injured from such a fall.
Putting those thoughts aside, he let go with his left hand and moved closer to the railing. Just as he was about to shift his weight, he suddenly heard voices approaching from beyond the double doors. He changed his plan, backing into the shadows and grasping the hilt of his dirk.
Ferrin stepped out onto the balcony, a Jindala noble at his side. The two were dressed formally, which was unusual for this time of night. They must have been in a meeting of some sort and had stepped out for a breath of fresh air. If Garret was to succeed in his plan, he would have to kill them both. The Jindala noble, being armed, would have to die first. However, Garret could not see into the doors and had no idea whether there were guards inside. Grudgingly, he decided to listen to their conversation and wait for the opportunity to strike.
“I understand your concern, Sallah,” Ferrin said. “But I can assure you that I have the situation under control.”
“I have already received word that Gaellos has been attacked,” Sallah replied, “and the soldiers there have been killed.”
“It’s of no consequence,” Ferrin said. “This Onyx Dragon is just a man. Queen Siobhan’s son, at that. Our forces will have no trouble stopping his crusade.”
Sallah sighed. “He has already defeated our forces in the North,” he said, “and has even killed Tyrus. He was our most powerful sorcerer.”
“Surely The Lifegiver will send more troops,” Ferrin assured him. “If he wants to rule this land, then he will send everything he has.”
“I fear what he will send,” Sallah remarked. “The Lifegiver has the power to animate the dead, among many other things. If this rebellion continues, he may resort to the unthinkable.”
“I am not sure what you mean, Sallah, but we will take care of the problem before that happens.”
Sallah said nothing, but folded his arms across his chest in concern. Ferrin stepped forward, placing his hands on the railing. “Fear not, Sallah,” he said, turning back to the Jindala noble. “The problem will be resolved.”
Garret watched wide-eyed as Ferrin reached behind him, silently drawing a small dagger from his belt. The Jindala turned to walk back into the mansion, oblivious to Ferrin’s plans. Suddenly, Ferrin struck, plunging the dagger into the man’s back, twisting it and drawing it in and out to ensure its lethality. The Jindala struggled, squirming and groaning in Ferrin’s grasp.
Garret stepped onto the balcony, making no secret of his entrance. “Ferrin,” he whispered.
Ferrin turned quickly, bringing the dying man with him. His eyes widened as he saw Garret’s black assassin’s robes. He recognized him immediately. Garret pulled his dirk and finished off the Jindala with a quick stab to the heart. Ferrin let the man down slowly, keeping his eyes on Garret.
“What are you doing here?” Ferrin demanded.
“I came here to kill you,” Garret replied.
“Why?” Ferrin asked.
“I know it was you who convinced Maebh to allow these devils onto the island. Your greed is outmatched, Ferrin, and I knew the prospect of making gold from the deal would appeal to your senses.”
Ferrin scowled. “You are wrong,” he replied. “It was not I. Queen Maebh made the decision on her own. It was she whose love of gold blinded her to the truth.”
Garret sheathed his weapon, shaking his head. “How am I supposed to believe that?” he asked. “In all of the years I’ve known you, I have never seen you pass up the opportunity to line your pockets, regardless of the consequences.”
Ferrin closed his eyes, nodding in agreement. “You are right, my friend,” he admitted. “I have been greedy. I always will be. But not at the expense of losing my freedom, or the freedom of my people.”
Garret was silent. His thoughts were clouded now, swimming in confusion at this turn of events. He had come here to kill a traitor, but now saw a man who was willing to risk his life to protect his people. Or so he said.
“Look, Garret,” Ferrin said. “We have had our differences, and our Kingdoms have always been at odds, but we are brothers. Our people are one, and we must ensure that they are safe.”
“Eamon plans to claim the throne,” Garret said. “And his exploits here are beginning to convince the people to rally behind him.”
“If he wants the throne, then I support him. He is every bit the man his grandfather was. He will make a great king.”
Garret nodded. “Yes,” he agreed. “And the Knights he has chosen thus far are the best warriors the North has to offer.”
“I have no doubt of that,” Ferrin said. “But one question remains; what do we do now?”
Garret furrowed his brow. “That is a good question,” he said. “Do you still have a personal security force?”
“Yes,” Ferrin replied. “But they are Jindala. They are loyal to The Lifegiver, not me.”
“You didn’t think this assassination out very well, did you?”
“No,” Ferrin chuckled. “I’ve been waiting for Sallah to arrive for quite a long time. Once he was here, I had to take him out quickly. I didn’t really think of the consequences. I suppose I should probably flee.”
“That would be advisable,” Garret agreed.
“I can help you with that,” a voice said from the trellis.
Garret and Ferrin looked into the shadows, seeing Adder step onto the railing and join them on the balcony. Garret sighed in frustration.
“I told you not to follow me,” he scolded. “You may have put both of us in danger.”
“I knew you were coming here,” Adder replied. “And I knew that Ferrin was not the enemy. I only followed to make sure you didn’t kill him. But I wanted you to see that he was loyal.”
“Ferrin,” Garret said. “This is Adder, leader of the Thieves’ Guild.”
“We are familiar,” Ferrin replied. “He is my son.”
Garret gasped. He wasn’t aware that Ferrin even had a son, much less one like Adder. “That’s why you know me,” he said to Adder. The thief smiled, nodding.
“My name is Fordran,” he said. “And I am at your service, sir.”
“Can you get your father out of here?” Garret asked.
Fordran nodded. “Not a problem,” he said, and then whistled. Within seconds, three more thieves melted out of the shadows and surrounded the men on the balcony. Garret was once again surprised. These thieves had skill.
“I will take my father to Gaellos,” Adder said. “He will be safe there among our brothers. I suggest you disappear as well.”
Garret looked to Ferrin. “Good luck, my friend,” he said. “I will return to Gaellos when I am finished.”
“Do it swiftly,” Ferrin replied, knowing exactly what Garret’s mission was. “She may be greedy and shallow, but she is still the Queen. She deserves mercy.”
Garret nodded. “I know,” he said. “It will not be an easy task, though.”
“Just remember,” Ferrin said. “She is not the one you love.”
Garret fell silent, knowing Ferrin was right. He would do his duty, but he would do it quickly to minimize her suffering, all personal feelings aside.
“Come, father,” Adder said. “Our chariot awaits.”
Ferrin rose to join his son and his companions. The thieves strapped him into a leather harness, directing him to the railing. Adder’s comrades leapt over the edge, landing softly and scouting the area for guards. When they signaled that the way was clear, Adder and the remaining thief lowered Ferrin to the ground.
“We will see you in Gaellos, Scorpion,” Adder said, throwing one leg over the railing.
“Good luck,” Garret said as the thief disappeared into the darkness.
Garret shook his head with distress. With this new turn of events, his mission became more urgent. Queen Maebh herself had made the decision to allow the Jindala into her kingdom. It was her choice alone. Even with her typical greed and love of attention, it didn’t seem like a choice that she would make. Something had influenced her; something other than the Sultan that Siobhan spoke of. Maebh was, perhaps, under the influence of something greater; The Lifegiver himself, or some other force that had not been considered. Either way, something wasn’t right, and Garret was determined to discover the answer.
Returning to the trellis, the assassin exited the balcony and made his way to the darkness below. Like a shadow, he disappeared into the night.
The Knights continued their covert excursion into the heart of Bray. The water had grown deeper, and they began to feel the effects of trudging through the cold, brackish swamp. Azim seemed to be the most affected, having lived his entire life in the hot desert climate of Khem. Cold, damp weather was new to him, and he longed for the warmth of the sun. Despite his misery, he stayed at Daryth’s side, leading Eamon and his company through the labyrinth of wooden walkways.