Have you ever wondered what the point of gaining more followers is? Part of the reason is so that you can engage with incredibly talented people. Talented people tend to be creative, and one of our recent batches of new followers included some great creatives. Among them was the author of this short story, which we thought we would blog in four parts. Enjoy!
Steven let out a low whistle, turning his head this way and that. Magickally charged glow-globes lit the room just brightly enough to give it the proper ambiance. The walls, like the tables and cases, were lined with black felt, their smooth surface marred only by the protrusions of tiny metal hooks and hangars.
On the walls, on the tables, on the shelves, and in the cases, every manner of edged weapon could be seen. Exotic knives with rare handles, spiked gloves, swords of every kind, strangely curved axes…Steven had never seen so many different blades. One case held a variety of battle gauntlets: metal gloves equipped with sword blades, spiked poles, or other deadly protrusions. A collection of exotic halberds and pikes graced one wall, their blades gleaming dully in the magickal light. Another case was devoted entirely to throwing knives, while yet another held whip-chains tipped with barbed blades.
“The Patron prides himself on this collection,” Horus explained.
“I can see why,” Steven said.
“Choose,” Horus said. “Take whatever you require and can carry.”
“But… these are the Patron’s personal weapons.”
“Do not question him. He ordered it. That is enough. I will return with suitable clothing. You will leave tonight, after dark. You will go immediately.”
“Who am I to kill? The Patron didn’t say.”
“He didn’t?” Horus looked mildly alarmed.
“I assumed you knew. You’re to go to the estate of your father. The man the Patron wants killed is Count Morlean Donovan Diorr.”
He was starting to get the shakes.
He could feel it – like his hand was asleep and he couldn’t quite control it. He’d not had a drink since early morning. Thinking about that kept him from thinking about what he’d been asked to do.
Clad in loose black clothing and supple suede boots, bearing a pair of daggers and a short sword, Steven crept along the sandstone perimeter wall of his father’s home. He’d not been back in years. It had been… strange… to walk the streets of Dynasty City, passing familiar landmarks, going home again – to kill a man who’d shown him every kindness as a child.
Son of a bitch.
The Patron was rumored to be an exceptionally cruel man. This was, no doubt, some manifestation of his legendary perversity. There could be any number of reasons the powerful ruler wanted Steven’s father dead. It could even be simple jealousy, as Count Diorr’s holdings were rivaled only by the Patron’s. Trust the Patron to track down the one washed-up assassin whom the object of his wrath could call family.
The Patron played with lives just as he played with power. Steven could just imagine how this little passion play amused the sorcerer. Steven’s own redemption as a man hinged on his betrayal as a son.
He had never failed an assignment in his years with the Remnant.
He had no children of his own. His wife had left him; he did not know where she’d gone. His mother died when he was a boy of some plague or other; he did not know and he had not cared. His father was the only blood link Steven had.
That was the key to the Patron’s machinations, he imagined. If Steven killed his father, the only heir to Count Diorr’s holdings would forfeit them under the law as the instrument of his father’s death. The holdings would thus rightly go to Dynasty City’s ruler – the benevolent landlord Patron Orobus. The amusement afforded the Patron by Steven’s predicament was probably just spice for the pie to the damnable wizard.
Despite his trembling hands, Steven made his way into the estate without difficulty. He avoided his father’s guards, easily avoided traps long remembered from childhood, and finally found himself standing over his father’s sleeping form.
The bedchamber was the very same shared by Count and Countess Diorr until the woman’s death. It had once boasted oil paintings and fragile vases on marble stands. It was now nearly empty, save for the four-poster bed under whose canopy Count Diorr snored fitfully. Steven remembered that his father had not slept well in the years after the death of his beloved wife. Steven had no memory of his mother; he recalled only her absence and the obvious ache that caused his father.
The old man had not turned to drink. He had simply suffered, alone, his lips pressed together in grim determination to see his days through with dignity.
Steven crept to the edge of the bed.
He had never failed and assignment.
The short sword came easily from its scabbard with a slight rasp of metal on wood. In the darkness, not so much as an errant moonbeam reflected from its Dagger-sharp length.
Steven’s father, his forehead lined with age, his white hair receding from a plump, red-cheeked face, opened his eyes and stared at his son.
“Steven?” he asked.
The blade sang as it came down.
Patron Orobus was sitting alone at his expansive dining table. It was large enough to seat thirty people, made of richly polished walnut. The high-ceiling dining room was lighted with magickal globes floating high above, their feeble rays casting long shadows. The Patron sat, eyes fixed on nothing, fingers steepled, a blue cape wrapped around his shoulders. His silver mane fell unrestrained around his shoulders. A barely-eaten dinner of lamb and fresh fruit sat on a golden plate before him. The crystal goblet and the wine bottle next to it were empty.
Absently, the Patron cut his gaze to the door at the far end of the hall. It opened, untouched. His visitor entered, boots ringing on the marble tiles, face shrouded in the dim room.
“If you’re here,” the Patron said quietly, “that means…”
“I was right,” said Count Morlean Donovan Diorr, a smile on his face. He carried a heavy cloth sack and a scroll of parchment bearing the wax seal of House Diorr.
The Patron’s chair slid quietly from behind the table as he stood and went to greet Count Diorr. The portly count was wrapped in an expensive but wrinkled tunic and robe of purple silk. From within his ruddy face, his eyes twinkled with delight.
“He couldn’t do it.” It was not a question. The Patron looked at the parchment Count Diorr carried.
“He could not,” Count Diorr said happily. “Though he stabbed my bed half to death.”
“For the first time,” the Patron reflected, “the legendary Dagger Diorr has failed to complete an assignment.”
“He has,” Count Diorr agreed. “Per our agreement,” he went on, “I bring you all the gold I had on hand, as well as documents ceding my holdings to you.”
The Patron accepted the sack and the parchment without comment.
“My son will be back with the Remnant before year’s end,” he said hopefully, “provided I can dry him out. We’ll be moving to my wife’s cottage on the coast. It was left to my Steven, not to me. He always liked the sea as a boy.”
The Patron said nothing.
“Well, Patron,” the Count said, “I thank you again for the kindness you have done me. Though I think you have been thanked well enough, at that.” He chuckled softly, a rich man made poor in a heartbeat – with nary a concern for it.
“Wait,” the Patron said.
“Why, Count? Why this deal with your devil? Why have me hire your son?”
“Because he couldn’t do it,” Count Diorr smiled. “Because I knew he wouldn’t. Because he would not, in his shame, have come to me for any other reason.”
“But why?” the Patron echoed Steven’s words of hours past. “Why give me everything I want and do it with a smile?”
“Why,” Count Diorr said, “for everything.”
“What do you get out of it?”
“I get the only thing that matters, Patron. I get my son.”