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|A man who tried to escape his past is confronted with the reality that he cannot run forever.||
The Cause of All Fear
Baine sat in the old temple, a lone silhouette against the dayís dying light that faded into the shadows of the large open doorway behind him. The empty pews around him were touched by the pale light of a few candles that were on the verge of reaching their end. Baine gazed ahead, his dark brown eyes fixed on nothing, his mind stuck in the past. The pain of a loss seized him as it always did when he visited this place. The temple reminded him of better times and of a life that seemed so long ago. Sometimes he would sit for hours, unmoving and reliving whatever moments that came to him, whether pleasant ones or not.
Baine soon left the temple and his memories behind for now. He crossed under its elaborate colonnaded façade and into the busy streets of the city. People of all walks of life bustled around an open market outside, mostly humans, but he spotted the lithe elves and stunted yet haughty dwarves among them. Baine ignored the people and headed northward to his home. He didnít walk like the rest of them; he couldnít walk like them. While their footsteps were careless and heavy with noise, his were as silent as a breeze and each movement bore a precise purpose. He used less energy to move. He breathed in sync with his movements with breaths so quiet that even death could not hear him coming. His eyes analyzed each person that came near. In a instant, and without thinking about it, Baine analyzed them enough to know whether they were right or left handed; how fast they could react; if they had lived a rough life or one of luxury.
A man caught Baineís attention across the street. He was clad in leather armor and walking adjacent to Baine. To any other he would have appeared as just another face in the crowd, but not to Baine. He studied the man out of the corner of his eye without turning his head. A foreboding feeling swept over Baine. Baine picked up his pace, moving through the crowd of people with ease, all the while keeping his watchful eye across the street. A small smirk spread across Baineís face when he noticed that the armored man quickened his pace as well.
Baine led the man out of the market and into a less crowded section of the city. He winded through the streets fast but didnít let his pursuer know that he knew of his presence. When the streets became dark and the moon shone overhead, Baine disappeared into the blackness of an alley and molded into the shadows. Just as Baine assumed, the armored man came into view at the end of the alleyway, but stood still.
Baine smiled in his hiding place. He had seen it before. When men came to darkness they all hesitated, stood fast and overwhelmed with uncertainty. It was here they were truly tested as men or cowards--or fools as Baine saw it. He knew the main one do one of three things, they all did: flee, draw a weapon, or stand frozen.
Those who fled would be called cowards and most would tell them they were afraid of the dark. Those who said they were afraid of the dark were fools themselves. Baine knew the truth. They werenít afraid of the dark, they were afraid of what lurks in the dark, afraid of what they donít know. As Baine saw it, nothing caused fear in men more than uncertainty.
Those who drew a weapon or stood frozen were the fools. No one should face what they donít know, let alone stand before it helplessly. Baine lived in the darkness and uncertainty was his home.
After a long minute of silent debating, the armored man drew a short sword and stepped cautiously into the alley. Baine drew a dagger from his hip without a sound. He let the oblivious armored man walk right past him, and then he struck without warning.
Baine slipped his dagger into the manís backside with a precise deathblow between a small opening in the armor and cupped the manís mouth with his freehand.
His victim tried to react, but before the man could lift his blade or even grunt in pain, the life drained from his body and he went limp. Baine lay the body on the cold street. He kneeled down and began to cut the armor from the manís torso with quick flicks from his dagger to inspect the manís bare chest. All the while he wished silently to see bare flesh, but just as he feared he saw a familiar tattoo under the moonlight etched in the flesh of his victim--a vicious reminder of the past.
"Theyíve found me," Baine whispered to himself. He sheathed his dagger and rose to his feet. "Itís not safe for me here any more."
Baine left the alleyway, but he knew it was only a matter of time before they found him again.
No place was safe.
|A Gentlemen's Game||Trail of Hope|
|Barroom Brawl||Last Goodbye|