The sweat of the nights work was dripping like black blood down the face of Death himself. Holding that so sharp of daggers, he felt elated. The blade gave him will and purpose. It fulfilled his very essence, it filled his dark heart, it filled his black soul. That brought a smile to his face. They called him Malice, or Shadow, or Death. They said his soul had rotted in the pits of Hell long ago, they called him soulless. They said much about Malice, but never did they say it to his face.
He stood in the doorway of a small room, his dark eyes fixed on the dark shadow that was its occupants bed. His pulse surged through his temple, drowning out all sound, masking his awareness of everything except the blade in his hand, gripped tight, and focusing his mind on the prone form, asleep, unaware, oblivious. Malice licked his lips, his mouth sticky, his eyes focused as if he stood in a long, dark tunnel.
‘Not tonight, my friend, not yet’. The words formed only in his mind, no breath issued from pursed lips. ‘I am not finished with you’. Words and thoughts mingled, flashes of steel in moonlight. ‘You are still too useful’. lips now moving, almost imperceptibly, visions of eyes wide with terror and the gurgle of a mans last breath. His finger running up the edge of the blade. His thoughts moved back through the miasma of his mind, back to events of earlier....
The movement of thick dark clouds over the moon played with the shadows that cloaked the streets of Solis. There in the offal and human stench, the root of all evil (or at least the major branch), Shadows people played their games. Night after night the gears meshed, the cogs turned, the machinery oiled and running smoothly. But not these last nights, not recently.
Malice stood where no light could penetrate, watching the man before him, noting the most trivial of movements, watching for signs he was spotted. For hours he had followed this man though the filthy back streets and alleys, for hours he had plotted his demise. For days he had wondered who it was that gave out the secrets he so jealously guarded. Tonight he would find out. Soon he would know. The anticipation dried his mouth, made the hairs on his neck stand up, pulsed round his body like fire. He felt again the keen edge of the long thin misericord, soot blackened, as dark as the night and shadows he lived in, and focused again on his prey.
'You stupid fool Feyde, did you really think you could keep your little Guild sneak from me? No, fool, instead you have led me straight to him.' Malices' eyes narrowed. His tongue wetted his pursed lips and a smile of anticipation began to show. Feyde had stopped at the junction of two alleys, glanced around, then put one hand against the wall. He made water there, that must be the sign all was well. A second figure emerged from the depths of the alley, hooded, cautious, like a hunted animal. The two met.
'So Feyde, the traitor shows himself at last.' Malice mused to himself. Feyde, one of the rare breed of non Guild thief, had been doing very well for himself lately, much too well for a man working alone.
Now to work. Malice moved forward silently, up against the opposite alley wall edging along palm width by palm width. When only a man’s height separated them did he risk another look. Feyde was holding a parchment, tracing a line with a grubby finger, the other was speaking in low tones. Malice watched and listened, hardly able to hold himself back. Both of them, he would be rid of a traitor and an opponent at once. He steeled his jaw, hardly daring to breathe as the traitors quiet words reached his ears, condemning himself to a fate none would wish on even their enemies.
The deal done, coin changed hands and Feyde slunk off into the dark. A heart beat later, the traitor shuddered and dropped to his knees, four inches of bright steel protruding from his throat, fear and vomit rising in his chest. Perfectly delivered, it was not a killing strike, not yet, not swiftly and easily. ‘Oh no, never swiftly, never easily, not for traitors’ thought Malice
"Come, come little man don't be so frightened. Your death won't be so sudden!" The voice of Malice was cold and edged with venom. A strong hand reached forward and griped the hood covering the face. One jerk and the traitor was revealed. Ever the face of Malice was surprised. Sujekso died less swiftly than he would have prayed, an example must be made to the other Guild apprentices. ‘All in all a very satisfactory nights work’
The images of the remembered events brought a fresh wave of elation welling deep within him, spreading like quick poison. He held onto the door frame for support, to stop the swoon, but couldn't even feel the rough wood, only the coldness of his blade seemed real to him.‘Too useful to me Feyde’ his eyes staring, cold, yet burning with the flames of Hell. ‘Not yet’, black thoughts becoming the murmur of half formed words, silver edged on a single dark breath. "Not yet" The rush passed. He moved back out of the room, his body so attuned to stealth that only the air was disturbed. The band of weak light across the floor thinned then disappeared altogether with the closing of the door.Now the only light in the room came from the stars through the half shuttered window and even that was partially blocked by the figure perched on the ledge. Observant to all that had passed in the small room, contemplating the quiet words he had heard issue from the mouth of Death, Feyde sat, deep within his own shadowy thoughts.
Copyright 2000 R.S. Barnes & A.J. Warner