The battle had begun; the Assassins divided and sprinted towards us in organized groups. My mind wondered for a brief moment and I was compelled to glance towards Daniel and Serenity to see if they could hold their own.
No! Focus on your battle. They can hold their own. Distraction leads to death. At least that was what I had always been taught.
My opponents reached into the belts of their armor and unleashed a volley of throwing knives towards my position. I managed to dodge but only barely; these individuals were not fools. They were fast and acted with a killer intent. What exactly motivated them was beyond me. I desperately hoped that Daniel was right about these being the walking glass marionettes he claimed them to be. Then again, he was rarely wrong when it came to battle strategy and detecting weaknesses. But this was no time to reflect. I needed to shift this battle into my own terms.
I glanced towards the furthest target, and only now did I notice that this band of assassins consisted of more than just humans. It was a sylvari, and a female from the looks of it. I knew of these creatures being able to separate themselves from the Pale Tree and become more independent, but seeing one of them in this band of assassins absolutely baffled me. I snapped out of my momentary contemplation and outstretched my arm towards the sylvari, a chilling black hand erupted from my palm and shot towards her. She was too slow to evade it and it ended up sizing her by the neck. She faded from existence then reappeared before me; her confusion was soon ended as I slid my sword across her throat.
Not very likely to be confused when you are dead.
I shoved her aside and waited for the others to attack. They all bounded towards me, the three remaining assassins leaped with blades and daggers in their hands. As they landed they all swung their weapons in unison, almost as if their style of combat was actually a coordinated dance. I was forced to dodge and evade for most of the fight, but I was surprised to find myself being able to successfully parry and duck despite their speed.
I needed an advantage in this fight; it was only a matter of time until one of my foes would manage to tear open an artery and cause me to bleed out. I began to gather a ball of shadow into my palm and quickly moved out of the way of an oncoming blade. I shoved the assassin aside and threw the orb of shadow to the floor. It erupted with a large cloud of pitch black smoke that blinded everyone around me. Only I was able to see. I took this window of opportunity and seized one of the nearby assassins and stab my sword through his chest, with the lifeless corpse in my arms I threw it towards the other nearby enemy. With one more assassin remaining and the other one stunned I began to make my way across the cloud of darkness. I was mindful of keeping a safe distance from the enemy that was still standing. He could not see, but that did not mean he would be unable to hear me.
Unfortunately my sneaking was not as good as Daniel’s. My opponent quickly turned towards my direction and stabbed his sword towards me. It was time to use a counter Daniel had taught me. I pivoted to the assassin’s side and brought down my elbow on his arm. I heard a loud crack and proceeded to throw him to the floor. Once his body struck the ground I quickly ended his life by shoving my blade into the back of his head. With that fight over I glanced over to Daniel and Serenity; everything seemed alright. Fighting several enemies at once did not appear to be a chore for them. Daniel had already downed two enemies with a single pistol and Serenity had impaled one of them with her sword, ripping the blade out of the torso she moved on to the next soon-to-be-corpse.
They were fine and my part of the battle was mostly done, so my mind then wandered to the outcome of tied up merchants.
I turned back to the dead Dolyack where the rest of the merchants were. Everyone except the woman who saw us was dead. The assassin leader had cut them down with his sword, and now he was ready to finish off the last one.
Save her! My head commanded my body to move; I sheathed my sword and sprinted towards the ancient man on all fours. I needed to reach her before he had the chance I needed to stop him. I was almost there. He was prepared his blade for an upward strike. The female merchant’s eyes widened as she saw her doom approaching.
I pounced as he swung his sword, but I was too late.
The blade sank into the woman’s chest and dragged across her abdomen; it exited though her neck and released a torrent of blood, gore, and bone. I managed to evade the blade in mid leap but the blood erupted out of her wound in uncontrolled spurts. There was enough of it to land on my face and completely cover my eyes. It was as if time had slowed down once I saw the life force drain from the body and a thick curtain of red covered my vision, then everything returned to back to its normal pace and I crashed into the floor.
My hands were shaking, and my breathing became faster. I could not move. I just remained on the floor as memories of the past swarmed my thoughts. I could see blood on my hands, there was so much of it. All over the floor, the walls, my wrists. There was nothing I could do to stop it.
This was a memory coming back to torment me, what it exactly was eluded me. All I knew was that I did not want to remember it. A dark chuckle echoed across the room. Then I was snapped back to reality and out of my trance. I could hear Daniel and Serenity calling out to me. They were telling me to move, and I did, but it was not me moving. I was conscious of the events but I was not in control of the vessel.
I could hear a low growl escaping my muzzle. I did not know what was happening, it was just a bit of blood splashing my eyes and it triggered this. My body was not listening, all that was left was spite and rage.
“Impressive work so far,” the ancient sounding voice approached. “Dispatching a scout group with little effort it seems. And you appear to be faring well with my kill squad, you and your group are not to be underestimated. It is to be expected however, you Secros are always so unpredictable… from what we hear at least. I applaud you necromancer.”
The Assassin leader gave a gentle clap and returned his hand to the hilt of his sword. My gaze did not waver. “However you have seen our warriors, we are beings that exist in the fringe of shadow and deception. You and your companion should have been eliminated the first time. You delay our search for a very important target, and that cannot go unpunished. Such a shame as well, it would have been interesting for you to join our ranks.”
For some reason that last sentence stung, for some reason I found nothing more disgusting than being a part of the same group as this monster. I wanted him to die— NO, I wanted him to suffer. I quickly rounded towards the leader and glared.
“But it is now time to die, young one. Do you have any last requests?”
I said nothing, I just stood there.
“No? Very well, may you find peace in the mists.”
He unsheathed his sword and lunged towards me. I could hear Daniel shouting at me to move out of the way.
No, wait for the right moment.
The blade drew closer. I waited; I could see the flaws in his form, the weakness in his stance. Once the blade was about to impale itself into my chest I drew my sword and with one swift movement I disarmed him. I finally turned my head and made sure that our eyes connected. I took a deep breath and released a feral roar with a lust for his blood, it echoed across the area grabbing the attention of every single assassin.
I drove my claws across the assassin’s face and sent my foot towards his jaw; it was almost a mirror image of what Daniel had done to him. My movements were too fast for him to react, despite his efforts to evade or dodge, both of my attacks connected. He was sent flying across the floor.
The blood on my claws trickled to the floor, then I raised my hand to my noise and took pleasure in taking in this monster’s scent. He was not going to escape me.
“I will kill you…” I said as I readied my sword. “You will pay, I’ll send you to the mists and you will pay!”
All the other assassins’ completely ignored Serenity and Daniel and moved in to aid their leader. They dived in to drive their daggers and swords towards my body. I simply moved backwards one step and swatted the incoming blades with my sword, they were all up close now.
I gathered the life force from the dead bodies around me and roared the spell that would aid me.
I could feel myself leaving my physical form, reaching the borderlines of life and death and becoming enveloped in a cloak of shadow. I gave one more roar into the sky, the power was absolutely intoxicating. In that moment everyone before me had become my prey. It was almost as if a sense of malice began to creep itself up my spine.
I gathered my hands as an orb of green energy began to manifest on my palms. I shot it to one Assassin, he fell to his knees, and I finished him off with another one. Then everyone began to charge at me once again and I pushed them back with bolt after bolt of green energy seeping from my fingertips. I could hear myself laughing hysterically.
They were all charging in, one by one. I would simply unleash a bolt of magic and beckoned the next one to approach. Anyone who was lucky enough to get in up close would receive a bolt of magic into their skull. I could feel my pool of life force draining though.
I cannot allow it to be depleted! I instantly thought. I could not see the reason for such alarm, if I consumed all of my life force then I could simply restore it from all the other assassins I had killed… Yet something was forcing me to make sure that one portion of my power would remain untapped. Fortunately I had a spell that would help.
I outreached my arms and snapped my fingers. Suddenly I could feel the energy of all the assassins leave them and become a part of me. My power was returning to me, I was ready to continue fighting.
As soon as the spell ended I continued my onslaught, it was savage and reckless. By the time their blades finally reached me they were swinging at nothing, their attacks simply phazed through my spectral form.
Just then I saw that one of the assassins running towards me had a bullet travel through his skull and another had massive sword driven through her abdomen.
“We got these guys!” said Daniel as he appeared behind me. “You can cut off the head of the group.”
I heeded no attention to Daniel and searched for my target.
Daniel and Serenity could handle the few that remained; I conserved my strength for the leader who was observing a safe distance away. I shoved my way past my enemies and trusted an open hand towards the leader. A dark hand of shadow raced towards him and sank its claws into his chest. Instead of dragging him towards me, I appeared before him.
Before he could even counterattack I roared once again, inflicting him with a sense of complete and utter terror. He fell to the floor with his hands on his head as the spell forced horrendous nightmares into his thoughts. I seized him by the neck and forced him to look at me in the eye.
“Do not worry,” I growled. “Death is swift… Just like falling asleep. Which is much more than you deserve!” I gathered one more orb of green energy into my palm and made sure it contained a grand majority of my life force. I deactivated my Death Shroud and was returned to my physical form. I drove the orb of energy into the leader’s face, and his body instantly became a lifeless husk, but that was not enough for me.
I threw the body to the floor and drove my fist into the unmoving face. I could not stop myself; I just continued to strike… over and over. How long had I been pounding his skull into a fine paste? How long had I been screaming into the floor? I lost track of time, it was only until I could feel someone’s hand on my shoulder did I stop.
“Anavari stop! He’s dead!”
My ears did not hear the words; I simply sensed the physical contact as another threat. I immediately rounded towards the individual behind me with a raised fist. As soon as I saw Daniel’s face I forced my body to completely stop. My rage, spite and savagery completely vanished. I was in control of my body once again; I stood there staring into Daniels green eyes as I was practically hyperventilating. I expected a look of disgust from him, at the very least scorn. I had just become everything I had tried so hard to avoid. I was nothing more than a savage beast out there, even by charr standards I was out of control. But I saw no such look, what I saw was concern. The look alone was enough to cause me to fall back onto the floor, and I sat there panicking.
I began to frantically look around the area and found the mangled body by my side. I immediately wiped the blood off my eyes and hands. The uncontrollable shaking made the task increasingly difficult. I could hear a set of armored footsteps approaching.
“Is he alright?” asked Serenity as she placed her sword back into its scabbard.
Daniel grabbed my arm and helped me rise back to my feet.
“Up you go, big guy.” I remained silent as my eyes noticed that the rest of the assassins were dispatched as well. “You feeling alright?” asked Daniel with a faint smile.
I did not speak; I only faced him and nodded. I did not even notice the look on his face.
“Don’t worry, fur ball,” said Daniel softly patting my back. He gently tugged at my arm and said, “c’mon, let’s go find a place to sleep and get ourselves some rest. Sound good?”
“Y-yes,” I replied quietly, “I am… tired.”
“Well the area is not far from here,” said Serenity peering out to the fields. “I know it’s against our rules to head to an outpost, but I suppose the circumstance call for an exception.”
“I…I am sorry you all had to-”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Daniel as we walked back onto the road. “We all snap every once in a while.”
“Rest assured that our opinion of you has not changed,” added Serenity with a smile. “Now let’s not linger on it; we still have a job to do after all.”
Those words were somewhat reassuring, but I could not deny what had just happened. I was someone else, it was not me… or was it?
I nodded and we began to continue our journey as we left the brutal massacre behind. As we walked away I focused on my pool of life force, I could sense that there was still a good amount left. A wave of relief came over me, but I do not know why.
We sat at the edge of a large hill, and quite a distance from the Citadel might I add. It was because we were all on an assignment from our Legionnaire. Itan made sure that we all understood the objective clearly.
“Separatists are on patrol, kill them.” Were his exact words. Which meant that we were the ones to come up with a plan while he was the ‘last resort’. What that basically meant was that he would be waiting for them to reach a particular destination, if we would fail in our objective then he would do all the work and we would get punished. That had only happened once, the next day we were all assigned work in the scrapyard with bruises in areas bruises should never be. Even Garfas was reduced to a limp that day, and Itan was half his size. He did not seem like it but Itan was the most experienced fighter out of all of us, he had a brutal kick as well, he was after all the Legionnaire
In the end we had about half an hour to come up with a plan, the only help we received was the patrol route. After examining the map Garfas and I immediately entered a full out verbal war.
“You idiot we should attack them from the hill right outside the Ascalon ruins!” I shouted at his face. “A surprise attack is our best shot!”
“Listen here, cub!” He roared back. “We’re waiting for them to reach the outpost further south for an ambush; the ruins are too close to the ghosts!”
“And the outpost is too close to Itan! I do not know about you but I do not want to feel sore all over tomorrow morning!”
Arguments like this became common ever since we walked home together. I believe I was the only one who could actually speak to him in such a way and not end up becoming part of the floor. It had become an odd relationship between him and me; during assignments we would argue and insult each other like born enemies. However once our work was done we would return to our normal routine of a nonstop conversation. The entire warband thought that we were most likely border-lining mental insanity, for a time I also believed the same. I never could have pictured myself getting along with Garfas, but once again my opinion towards him had continued to drastically chance.
“There won’t be a tomorrow morning if we get overwhelmed by ghosts! The group is too large to not get noticed.”
“Okay then how about this,” I offered. “Half of the warband comes with me to the hill and we dispatch a few of them, and then lure them to the outpost. Your group can have the leftovers.”
Garfas stood there shaking his head, “no it’s too risky.”
“Aw, I did not know you cared so much for my safety, Garfas.” I made sure to flash a toothy grin towards his direction as I acted flattered.
“Don’t push your luck, Anavari.” Garfas and I were now face to face again. “Okay, if you think you can pull this off then how about we make a bet?” I could see the mischief forming behind his eyes.
“…I am listening.”
“Itan told me that the patrol may be no more than ten men. If you can leave behind no more than half then I’ll buy all of us a victory meal and something I know you want.”
“Oh?” I said in partial disbelief. I somewhat made it a priority to make sure I did not share my desires and secrets with the warband. I figured they really did not care, either way I did not share anything too important with Garfas. “And what exactly is it that you know I want?”
“That book you were staring at in the market few days ago, the big green one.”
My eyes immediately widened, that is how he knew that he had my absolute, undivided, attention. I had been snooping around the market every now and then, it was until recently that I found a copy of “Fundaments of Death, for Morons… such as you.” I could instantly tell that the author was an asura from the title alone. However it was not the first time I had heard of such a tome, the author probably had a head bigger than the citadel itself but she knew what she spoke of. The merchant allowed me to read a few pages before swiping it from my hands and telling me to buy it before reading another word. It was then that I realized that I had nowhere near enough funds to buy the dusty old thing. So I had been saving up all my earnings and visiting the shop frequently to make sure no one would buy it before I even had the chance.
And now Garfas was adding this book into the bet, he’s getting to know me well. Blasted oaf knew which button to press, but I knew him as well, he wanted something out of this.
“And if I lose the bet?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. He gave a brief glance towards the rest of the wrband and smirked. That was never a good sign.
“You run a ‘five-mile’ with me and meet me in my quarters afterwards for some weapons training.”
You cheeky little…
He knew very well that I despised anything that involved over exerting myself in physical activity. I suppose he noticed the facial expression I would have whenever the warband would exercise together. Now I had to make a choice, but then again… was there any likeliness of me thinking this through? Books were on the line after all.
“Deal!” I said reaching for my dagger and sliding the blade across my hand. It was something the entire warband had come up with. Bets were frequent around our group and we needed something to make sure we would keep our word. What better than an oath in blood? It was more of a metaphorical message if anything, something along the lines of “your blood will be all over the floor if you do not hold your end”.
Garfas unsheathed a small dagger he had attached to one of his leggings and slid the blade across his palm. We shook hands and the deal was set.
“No more than five Humans,” said Garfas as he licked the blood off his cut, “If I see any more, you lose.”
“I will leave nothing for you,” I snapped as I reached for a bandage in one of my belt pouches.
Now I sat at the edge of a rather large hill that overlooked the Ascalon ruins. Half the warband was with me (Thoc included), following my lead. The Plains of Ashford was especially hot for the afternoon as well.
We had prepared a trap for the separatist well before they arrived. Several frag mines along with Thoc’s contraptions would make the job quick and easy. As soon as they were triggered we would simply have to attack them from afar. What could possibly go wrong? To my misfortune, quite a bit.
Thoc and I maintained watch as the others remained hidden. “Do you see anything?” he said looking through his binoculars.
“No,” I said as I looked through a set of my own. “But I would rather die first than let these separatists get in the way of me and that book.”
“Heh, look at you all excited.” Thoc nudged my elbow. “Reminds me of the time we stole that book from that old geezer in the Gladium canton as cubs. You were so excited to open and read it, by the time I came back with some victory food you were already done with it.”
“Well I like to see it more as ‘borrowing’,” I replied with a chuckle. “We gave the book back either way. Who knew that the hard part was returning it back to the original place from where we took it.”
“At least we got a laugh out of that,” Said Thoc. Ever since we were cubs Thoc and I would normally spend a substantial amount of time together. In truth he was my only friend as a cub, and he knew I was grateful for that.
“Indeed, those were fun times.” I peered into my binoculars. “I do believe that it is almost time to act.”
I spotted a group of Humans all clad in similar armor. I glanced towards Thoc and he nodded, we regrouped with our half of the warband and stood by. Little by little the Humans slowly made their way towards our trap, and as soon as they were near I signaled several other charr to follow me and travel around the hill so we would appear at their rear guard. Fortunately we did an exceptional job at hiding our presence. Not as good as ash legion but it was good enough.
Once we arrived I took my staff, I began to focus on the appropriate spell. Then in an instant, white markings appeared across the floor; they took the shape of a circle with a particular glyph at the center. I began to place down as many as I possibly could, then I instructed the other members of my group to throw down the set of frag mines they carried with them. In merely a few seconds we had captured the humans in a deadly trap of explosions and magic.
We began to make our way back to the top of the hill and half way we could hear the first set of mines go off. Now that the sound of explosions was echoing across the area we decided to abandon subtlety and run back towards Thoc and the others.
“How are we doing so far?” I asked as I approached the Charr. He reached for the set of pistols around his waist.
“We’re doing great!” he said. “The first frag mine took out two of them and then that set off another and then that one took out a third one.”
“Excellent!” I replied as I peered over the edge, and sure enough what Thoc had said was in fact true. Three Human bodies were scattered across the floor under the hill and seven remained alive, they began an instant retreat towards our second setup.
“Oh! Check this out!” Thoc aimed his pistol towards the separatists and instead of bullets a slimy viscous substance escaped the barrel. It shot down the hill and created a rather large puddle on the floor. I observed as the Humans walked over it and they were instantly stuck to the floor. Some tripped and found themselves completely immobilized while others attempted to remove their boots in order to leap out.
“Hm, got yourself a new toy I see.”
“Yup!” said Thoc kissing the barrel of his pistol. “You have no idea how much it comes in handy.”
“We need some ranged support over here!” I called out. Several other Charr of my warband walked over to the edge of the hill with rifles and longbows. They all aimed and I gave them the signal to fire. The separatists were defenseless against our onslaught. In mere seconds we had taken out four more, the remaining three had freed themselves from Thoc’s trap and ran right into the trap composed of mines and marks. I do not believe that an explanation is required on how they all met their untimely demise.
“Yes!” I cheered as the last separatist fell to the floor and died.
“Excited about death and gore?” asked Thoc. “Well you’re acting more like Garfas every day!”
I simply gave him a deadpan look. “Oh ha.ha,” I said. “I am simply eager to tell Garfas that my plan was a success.”
“And to rub it in his face?” added Thoc.
“And to rub it in his face,” I confirmed.
We began to make our way back down the hill to salvage whatever mines we could, I released the magic on the markings and they vanished from existence.
“Alright let’s regroup everyone!” I called out as we began to make our way back, but something was amiss. We could hear the several distant tapping noises, they grew progressively louder.
“What is that noise?” I asked rounding towards Thoc. He stood there frozen with his eyes wide open as he stared back at the area where the dead Humans where. “What are you looking at?”
He simply raised a claw and pointed towards the direction he was looking at. I finally decided to turn and discover what all the commotion was about. All that tapping and thumping made sense now, and to our misfortune it was not something pleasant.
A massive group of even more Humans approached, all of them with fury in their eyes and swords raised towards us. I could not count that quickly but by my estimation it looked about to be the size of about two or three patrols. The sound of the explosions must have drawn their attention. I believe my expression mirrored Thoc’s and the rest of my warband’s. Here I stood with only about five Charr by my side, and a large battle squad of Humans heading towards us. At least we did not attract any ghosts.
“Run?” offered Thoc.
“Run,” I said with a nod. “Run fast.”
So we made a ‘strategic’ retreat towards the rest of our warband. As we made our way back on the road, I could see Garfas keeping watch. I noticed the giant smirk on his face as he saw my group retreating, then that smirk changed into a look of surprise once he saw the massive multitude right behind us. He motioned the rest of the warband to follow him and regroup with us. The massive Charr ran over towards my position.
“What did you do?!” He roared.
“I did nothing!” I snapped. “But I think someone forgot to tell me there was more than one patrol nearby!”
“What are you…? Look out!” Garfas pushed me out of the way as a blazing arrow nearly shot into my head. I was knocked down to the floor and I felt the same Charr pulled me back up. “Stay alert,” he said. “This won’t be an easy fight.”
“When is it ever easy?!” I asked as I reached for my staff. And with that the entire warband went into battle.
I was unsure as to exactly how long the battle dragged on for. I stood by Thoc’s side as we took out the separatists from afar while Garfas seemed to be the only one running in up close. The trail of bodies and gore he left behind was impressive, not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination… but impressive. I began to notice the intricate way he would conduct his body to fight, at first glance it seemed rugged and ferocious, but now I could see the organization, the planning on every step he took.
I saw how he took out the last Human, a three step movement that involved severing all vital arteries. I could not help but stare and study it. I was not a person to appreciate death, blood, and gore (Garfas would call them him ‘bloody masterpieces’) but this drove me to a new way of thinking. Exactly what, I was not sure of.
As soon as he had cleaned the blood from his axe he began to walk towards my direction with a giant smile on his face.
“What are you so happy about?” I asked with a blank stare.
“You lost the bet, cub,” he said with a chuckle.
“What are you talking about? My group took out the first patrol, I still win!”
“But that wasn’t the bet,” replied Garfas. “The bet was that I would see no more than five Humans, I just saw about twenty. You lose cub.”
I froze. The big oaf just pulled a technicality on me, and he was right, I lost the bet. I believe the look on my face caused him to laugh even harder.
I’m going to kill him, was my only thought. I had lost the bet and am now stuck with him and a five mile run, not to mention the weapons training. At least I will know where he sleeps.
“Well you look just about ready to go on a run with me,” said Garfas as he patted my head. “How about you meet me outside the gates of the Citadel tonight?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
With that the rest of the warband followed Garfas back to the Citadel, Thoc was the only one to stay behind.
“Well it can’t be that bad,” said Thoc trying to comfort me.
“That blathering idiot outsmarted me!” I said as I grabbed Thoc by the shoulders and violently shook him. “And the worst part is that I did not get my book!”
“Glad to see you’re taking this so well,” said Thoc half dazed.