Book of the Fathers 8a

From: Bill Thompson (interlit@pacificcoast.net)
Date: Fri 15 May 1998 - 02:57:32 EEST


Chapter 8a
        I walked back to the edge of the Bazaar with Marie and together we
surveyed our targets. Very little had changed in my brief absence and I was
just beginning to wonder how I was to spend the rest of the day without
being obvious when he walked around the corner. A horse brother, their walk
is unmistakeable. He approached the man with the mark on his arm and they
began to speak, heads bowed close together.

        "Damn," I said. "There's too many people here. The background noise
is drowning them out."

        Marie looked at me oddly for we were well out of range for
conventional hearing. "They'll probably leave soon," I said. "When they do
I plan to follow the Horse Brother. I want you to stay with the fellow in
the Diner. After he's gone to ground meet me at the sign of the Copper
Kirtle.

        She nodded and slid into the crowd, disappearing from my sight. I
began to work my way through the same crowd towards the horse brother. I
had positioned my self in a stall that had displays of daggers and other
edgeware when I noticed that the man from the diner had left his seat and
was also coming this way.
        As luck, fate or some trickster spirit would have it, he came to
the same stall that I had chosen. We stood there side by side, both of us
watching and being watched. At the time it was all I could do to keep from
laughing. In an effort to maintain some sense of decorum I thought, "Why
pass up the chance." So I asked the Lawgiver for the use of his mystical
Vision.

        I examined my fellow customer and saw little. I could only assume
that he had cloaked himself. Still, as I looked at him I did feel
something. There was a soft glow around his left forearm. I focused on it
and felt something dark and oily that made my stomach recoil and bile rise
in my throat. I had only felt something like this once before and it had
left such a strong impression that I knew it instantly.

        This fellow was carrying a Vadeli soul reaper. And I had set a
sixteen year old girl to follow him. I looked out into the crowd, trying
desperately to find her, hoping to call her off the trail but she was
nowhere in sight. I was tempted then to give up the chase on the Enerali
Horse Brother but I needed to know who he represented. Still the thought of
that knife taking her life had me in a near panic. Too well do I remember
the time when Father had me use one. I didn't know what it was but I knew
how my flesh crept away from it's touch.

        It was decided. I couldn't let the Horse Brother get away and I
couldn't let Marie face a soul reaver. I could however even the odds for
her. I enhanced my sight and looked carefully at his arm. From the shape of
the wrinkles and the way that the cloth hung I had a pretty good idea what
the dagger looked like. I turned back to the display cabinets and in the
third case I found one that I thought would do the trick. I palmed it
quietly and as I turned from the cabinet I brushed against him. A low
voiced apology without meeting his eyes and I moved to the next cabinet.
The proprieter was in for a surprise when he closed that night.

        It was only moments later that the two men in the square finished
speaking and went their seperate ways. I had moved to another stall and
from there I watched as the man from the diner followed my mark. I held my
place and just when I began to despair, Marie stepped into sight. She gave
me an odd look and went on her way.

        I slipped into a space between the stalls and shaped myself into
the cur from the docks. Back in the street I found their scent and was
away. For the rest of that day and into the night I played hide and seek
until finally I found myself lying along a rafter in a large meeting hall.
I had lost the fellow from the diner hours before and hoped that Marie had
been able to stay with him.

        I watched for a while as people milled about beneath me. My body
ached from weariness and my reserves were running out. Then the people
beneath me began to assemble into a definate pattern. They were expecting
someone. I woke slightly from the mild lassitude that had settled on me.
Something tickled my nostrils and I had to stifle a sneeze. I shifted my
head ever so slightly to change the angle of the light from the lamps
below. My new perspective showed me the dust that was drifting down and
settling on my head.

        Drifting down! Slowly I tilted my head back and looked into the
darkness above. It was hard for my eyes were used to the light from the
room below. seconds slipped by in an eternity. In a rafter above me I saw
a trace of movement. My heart nearly froze in my chest. Once again it had
been my inattention that had saved me from notice. I had fallen into a
langour and because of that I had been so motionless that I had been
overlooked.

        I tapped my dwindling reserves and enhanced my sight. It would not
enable me to see in the dark. But it would make it as though I were closer.
Indeed closer was what I needed for when my prayer took effect I could see
that the figure above held a crossbow that literally dripped with eldritch
power. Below me I heard an uproar and above I saw the crossbow tip down.

        Cursing the fates I slid my hand into my sleeve and felt that
quicksilver dagger come into my hand. I breathed a prayer, hoping that the
creator had a soft spot for fools and madmen. Then I released a sightline
port and felt my body wrench in and out of the prophet's grasp as I
appeared above the crossbowman.

        My sightline was true and I fell onto the lurker from above. My
dagger found its mark once, twice, maybe a third. The crossbow flew from
spasming hands and his final paroxysm thrust us both from that narrow beam
and we fell. The lights below me spun through my vision as we tumbled. A
rafter caught me in the shoulder and I both felt and heard the snap as my
collarbone gave way beneath the force of impact. The ground came up very
quickly then and for a moment I think I blacked out.

        Only just for a moment and then I was back. The pain in my shoulder
and neck forgotten as I thrashed about trying to force air into lungs
paralyzed by the impact. I remember laying on my back, my mind screaming
"Breath" and my eyes caught movement above. I realized that he had not been
alone and I struggled to my feet.

        Everything seemed to happen so slowly. Even now the tableau is
fixed in my mind. Some people were still sitting, unsure of what was
happening. Some were staring at a crossbow which was spinning slowly on the
floor. Others were staring at me as I stood shakily above the body I had
brought down, bloody knife in hand and pain etched across my face. And a
few, a very few had begun to move towards me. Lastly, just coming in the
far door was a tall white haired Enerali. I knew him immediatly, and I knew
that if I did not act he would die.

        I tried to shout but the rising clamor drowned out what little
voice I could muster. I saw movement behind him and in desperation I cast
my mind towards him and ported my body with it. I appeared directly before
him and as I tried to tell him I felt a searing pain pierce through my back
and stomach. I looked down in surprise and saw the barb and a span of the
quarrel protruding from my mid-section. I grasped at it thinking that this
did not belong here.

        The floor was hard on my knees and he was towering above me. I
looked up to tell him that he must get down but words failed me. As I knelt
there, eyes imploring him to run he crouched and I saw a hand raise a
dagger behind him. I tried to lunge up but my strength was pooled in blood
on the floor. I forced my eyes to focus and saw that hand release the
dagger up into the rafters. My neck was growing weak and I could no longer
hold my head up. As it lolled foreward my sight traveled along that arm to
see Marie. She stood there, her eyes focused on her hand and an expression
of horror painted in broad strokes upon her face.

        The room was growing dim when I felt an amazing coolness spreading
through my stomach. The room came back into focus and I saw him kneeling
beside me, hands covered in blood. Across the room the bolt which had
struck me down was resting against the wall where he had thrown it. I
staggered to my feet and looked dazedly about the room. The other assassin
was laying in a broken pile on the floor. From his shoulder there stood a
dagger that I had left in a display case in the market.

        I stepped to Marie and shook her. Her eyes were fixed in revulsion
on the corpse and her hands made wringing motions as though to wash off the
blood that none save her could see. I knew how she felt for though I had
been only ten, using a soul reaver cuts the wielder nigh as much as the
victim. It is a cut that no magic can heal save the magic of time and
distance.

        I looked to my healer and said," You must be more careful my lord.
You are surrounded on all sides by enemies."

        Then with the last of my strength I gathered Marie into my arms and
ported us to a circle that I had prepared the night before. Only then did I
allow the darkness to claim me.

        Sometime in the night Marie came back to herself and found me on
the floor. She bound up this wound which, though vastly better, still bled
slowly. Then she moved me from the floor to the chair. When I awoke an hour
later and thanked her she replied,"Just protecting my investment."
But I saw how her hands still made that motion so I gathered her into my
arms and we sat quietly together, each of us lost in thought.

        Time came that I must leave and I told her that she should meet me
at noon where my brothers and I had taken residence. She agreed and warned
me that I should not try to skip out on my debt because she knew me now. I
smiled at that for I do not even know myself.

        Richter stirs and Geoffrey's breathing has changed. They will have
questions for me and now I can't claim the lack of breath to not answer.

More later...

Bill Thompson

"Ask me a riddle and I reply:
"Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.""

------------------------------

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