The bitter salty aroma of burning crystals was thick in the air – it seemed to cake Arlandra Knight’s body as he moved prudently through the camp. There was a deep pit at the very bottom of his stomach, and a voice in his head telling him that Juliet had been captured. Just as a hero would react by assuring himself to save his accomplice, Arlandra knew that Juliet had to be saved, but he couldn’t decide if it was because she knew too much about him, or because it was merely the human thing to do. Memories of the Order flashed before his eyes, following by the burning image of fire, and the despairing cries of a dying breed.
Whether he was human or not, Arlandra knew that Juliet had to be saved, and that was reason enough for now. He pulled from his belt what he called insurance. Good old dynamite.
After moving back through the camp – trying to piece together a somewhat desperate escape plan in case things went bad – Arlandra found himself standing again at the sight of the imprisoned orc.
The beast no longer struggled as it had before. It looked as though it was asleep, as if it had succumbed to its chains after an eternity of fighting, evident in the sheen of sweat that gleamed over the creature’s pale-green skin. Arlandra felt sympathy for the creature, but then a plan came to life in his mind, so he approached the orc.
At the sound of Arlandra’s deliberate footsteps the orc raised its head and opened its yellow eyes. “Human!” It cried.
“Shhh!” Arlandra raised his hands and hushed the orc.
It looked around with an exhausted expression on its face. “Other humans are gone,” it said, in a deep grunting voice.
“Yes,” Arlandra said. “They’re gone now but they won’t be for long.”
“You are not like the other humans. Are they not of your clan?”
“That’s right. You are right. These people are no friends of mine, just as they are no friends of yours.”
“Not my friend,” the orc mumbled.
“Exactly, no friends. But we, we could be friends. You see, my other friend is in trouble and I need your help.”
The orc glanced at his feet as if contemplating something. “Free me from these chains, and by clan-law my life will be yours.”
“Clan-law, right.” It suddenly occurred to Arlandra that this beast of a creature could easily rip him to pieces as soon as the chains were undone. When they were off Arlandra took three very long steps back, and for the first time he saw the orc standing straight and tall. He wondered if a bullet would break its skin. He assumed so. The orcs skin was stretched tight and thick over the muscles in its chest.
“By clan-law are you sworn to do exactly as I tell you?”
“I am Ul’Shaan of the Maak clan. My life is sworn to you.”
This might actually work, as long as the orc does as I say.
Ul’Shaan was too large to be able to move quietly, so Arlandra had to find Juliet by himself. Just as he was about to move out he heard a voice yelling out. The sternness of it ricocheted through the camp. Arlandra hoped it would have been Juliet’s voice, however it wasn’t.
“Assassin!” The voice of a man called, hoarse and booming. It sounded wild, as if coming from a drunken man. “Assassin! We know you’re back there. We got your girl!”
His girl had technically served her purpose. She had led him to the camp and soon enough he would have Garn. So how far was he willing to go to save her?
In the moments before, Juliet had just finished planting the second of the EMP charges when she spotted out the corner of her eye an opportunity that she simply couldn’t pass up. She had been keeping an eye on the man who she assumed was the manager of the camp – or something of the sort. The man was relatively fat and his suit was too tight to work in. His bushy moustache looked like it had been combed only a few moments ago.
Of the opportunity, Juliet was watching the manager from outside the window of his office – a relatively small and portable building stockpiled with papers – when out of the blue he just stood up and left. Juliet had thought nothing of it until she caught a small movement in the door where the wind nudged it on its hinge. The manager had left the door unlocked – in fact it was opened.
When the manager and everyone else were all far from sight, Juliet slowly crept along the outside wall and slipped easily through the doorway. The inside smelt like man, in fact, Juliet was probably the only woman in this entire vicinity. She tried to make a mental note of every important document that she could find. There were so many, and surely one of them could be used against Garn. In the end it didn’t matter. Hopefully the assassin would eventually find Garn and put an end to him. However Juliet liked to have insurance.
She looked across the office and found something, a piece of paper, that had been set aside from the others. She walked over to it curiously, picked it up, and read:
‘Please join us for a special occasion masquerade ball in honour of Maryanne Lynn, owner of the Taellian treasury. Saturday, June 15th, at seven o’clock in the evening. The Piae Tovuus Taellian treasury…’
Now that is interesting. Juliet stopped. The door swung open behind her. A shot of icy fear crawled over her body. She stuffed the invitation into her jacket pocket and spun around. To no surprise she found the manager – or rather he had found her – and he was more shocked than she was.
Juliet felt as if she were encased in a block of ice. She didn’t know what to do, and she resorted to trying to talk her way out. “Umm… hey!” It was a desperate effort, one that didn’t work.
The manager’s face turned red. “Guards! Come here at once! Restrain this woman!”
Juliet tried to run but found herself stuck in the empowering grip of one man’s arms, and another had a rifle aimed at her head. The manager took a handful of her hair in his big hands and yanked it backwards. A terrible rush of pain screamed from her scalp. The man looked at her with wide eyes and red cheeks. There was something wrong about him. He’s a mad man!
“Who were you with?” he started, with bitterness in his tongue. “You didn’t come here alone so who were you with?”
Juliet summoned her courage – because this man scared the life out of her – and met his eyes with a cover of defiance. “Taelliwey’s Assassin. No one you’ll be able to catch.” She spat.
Juliet noted the change in the man’s face at the mention of Arlandra. Was the assassin really that good? Oh, he must be. He’ll defeat all these smelly men and save me.
The man tightened his fingers in her hair and she succumbed to a weakened cry.
“We’ll see about that!” he challenged. He turned to his guards. “Take her, and follow me.”
“Where are we going?” the guard asked.
“We’re going to catch an assassin.”
Arlandra carefully listened to the repulsive voice of the brute of a man who he had by now assumed was some sort of commanding officer. After managing a peak around the corner he found that the man had taken Juliet hostage, and was holding a revolver against her temple. She still kicked and struggled, and there was a gleam of sorrow that reflected off her iris, even from where he stood Arlandra could see it. Fool of a girl.
Even if everything went according to his plan, there was still a massive chance that Juliet would be killed in the crossfire – either shot instantly at the slip of a trigger finger, or caught in an explosion, or crushed by a falling object. Arlandra had no doubts that Juliet most certainly could die, however he really wanted her to live. She was the first person in a long time who had made him feel human again.
The annoying voice of the officer cried out again: “You better come out here assassin! I’m running out of patience!”
It was almost time. Arlandra glanced over to check that Ul’Shaan was in position. He placed the orc a few meters away, crouched behind a pile of barrels, ready to strike. Excellent.
The voice cried out again. God he’s annoying. “You got ‘till the count of five. Otherwise I’ll blow her head off. I don’t lie. I’ll do it. One!”
Arlandra kneeled down, poised with his detonator held firmly in his grip.
He checked his pistol, the one that he kept hidden in his sleeve. It seemed to be working fine.
Arlandra took a deep breath, and pulled his mask over his nose.
The assassin stood up and removed himself from cover, revealing himself for everyone to see. He didn’t have his sword out. He simply raised his hands slowly, with the detonator in hand.
Arlandra heard the feint click of a cocked rifle hammer from somewhere within the mass of guards and workers. “Uh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” He showed them the detonator. “See this? If I hit this button the entire camp goes boom.”
The officer remained with his revolver pressed hard against Juliet’s temple. “Show me your face, assassin.”637Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRo5cUKa0cX
Arlandra let out a chuckle. “Not going to happen.”
“Okay then. What is it you want?”
“Funny that the man with the hostage is asking me that question.” Arlandra waited but there seemed to be no response from the man, other than his inflamed cheeks glowing gradually redder. “Why, isn’t it obvious?” he finally stated. “I want to see this place burn.”
That was the signal he had told Ul’Shaan to look out for. And just as he had planned the hulking bellows of Ul’Shann’s attack soon followed. The first stage of the attack included crashing through the pile of barrels, Arlandra didn’t know if they were full or not, but they certainly didn’t stop the orc. The barrels went up in a deafening appeal, and then rained down without mercy over the officer and his guards.
Arlandra waited for the split second that the manager turned his gun away from Juliet. At that exact moment he extended his arm, flicked his wrist and fired his hidden pistol. The bullet whizzed through the air and collided with the manager. Thank god I didn’t hit Juliet.
Arlandra figured the man would be dead from a clean headshot, however as the manager stood doubled over and clutching his ear, he realised that he had shot the poor man’s ear off.
The barrels finally ceased moving and the men were now raised and ready with their machine guns. Juliet took the very first chance to get away and ran desperately into Arlandra arms. Good, he didn’t want her over there during the next phase of his plan, which was about to take place in about three seconds.
Bang! Excellent timing. Just as the men were lined up with their guns, an explosion of fire and splinters ripped through their ranks from the building behind them and ruptured their positions. There was no recovering from that. Good old dynamite. Arlandra had Ul’Shaan plant the explosive just before the officer and Juliet had come out. Good thing he did, too.
There was just one final phase to the plan. With the guards disoriented – or more or less ‘broken’ – and the camp in chaos, Arlandra had to disappear. Ul’Shaan followed closely as the assassin took Juliet’s hand and ran for the exit. The orc behind them almost blocked their view with his giant hulking mass. Arlandra hit the button on his detonator – the final piece to this chaotic puzzle – and almost immediately he began to see the effect. He expected the machines to shut down – to slow to a dull and broken pace and then simply stop, but they didn’t. In fact, the machines began to do the opposite. They started to gain power. Arlandra watched in wonderment, as the giant saw became a spinning blur of destruction, and a generator vibrated furiously and spat black dust over everything.
Eventually they found their way to the entrance that Arlandra had come through. Ul’Shaan was instructed to keep running into the forest, and he quickly disappeared into the dark collation of trees and plants and shrubs.
Arlandra suddenly stopped running once he had reached the gate way, and so Juliet stopped too. He urged her suddenly to stand against the outer wall. “Stay there,” he instructed, as he himself stood against the wall on the other side of the gate. He waited, waited and listened for the rapid crescendo of shouts radiating from within the camp. Suddenly two men ran out, dressed wholly in the full paper-brown garments of the other guards. Arlandra was on them before Juliet could even blink. He moved like the shadow of a soaring bird of prey. With the bottom of his dagger’s hilt, he knocked one guard over the back of the head. As the first guard fell to the ground Arlandra gripped the other by the shoulders and hurled him with all his might into the wall. Just like that both guards were unconscious.
“Help me hide the bodies,” he breathed as he began to drag one of the guards by the feet. “Hurry, there isn’t much time.”
It was difficult, but Juliet managed to lug the second guard through the dirt and into the shadow of the trees.
“Good,” the assassin said, “now take his clothes.”
“There’s no way –” Juliet started.
“There’s no time to argue.” Arlandra took the man’s coat, trousers, and other clothes. Soon he was unrecognisable as an assassin. Juliet did the same.
She came to realise that she didn’t really know what she was doing – just following orders from an assassin… a man who, a few days ago, had tried to kill her.
“How did you know that man wasn’t going to shoot me?” Out of sudden realisation it came to her that a million things could have gone wrong in Arlandra’s plan that resulted in her death.
Arlandra found and held her gaze. “I didn’t,” he said sharply.
To her surprise Arlandra ran straight back towards the camp, where he stood near the gate and pretended to be hurt. “Just follow my lead and don’t talk, we’ve still got a lot to do before Garn gets here.”
The next moment a band of workers and guards, like themselves, came storming forwards. “Which way did they go?”
Arlandra was doubled over, puffing. “They… they ran into the woods. The assassin is dangerous. Don’t underestimate him.”
“Right, this way!” The band of people ran off into the woods. When they were gone Juliet looked at Arlandra. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw a certain crease near his eye as if he was smiling.ns126.96.36.199da2