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|This is a story about an assassin in training, who is thrown into a wild adventure and discovers painful truth and a whole lot of new people.||
(A/N: This is an experiment with having the story in FP, sooo…hope it turns out good!)
It all started the day I got back from a gruelling six longmonth training course from the academy. The course took a major toll on me, physically and mentally. I was a Byzu, the second highest ranked among other students. I went to the Academy of Assassins, a semi-secret organization led by a rebel leader. You could say that my story and perhaps my destiny started that day I got back. Or you could say that my destiny was always there. Whichever the case, this Byzu wasn’t ready.
As I walked the long trail up the hill to my lonely cottage early afternoon, it seemed odd to me that I was not happy to be home. In fact, my cottage seemed more dull than ever before. Around my cottage, a drab, small stone building that I had lived in for many years, sat a great forest. The forest, vastly stretching to the horizon, was a speckled carpet of green tops and snow-covered branches. It was winter, and the day was not very cold, but chilly enough to wear an extra robe. I could see the unbroken carpet of beautiful white snow ahead, with its flawless yet bumpy form. I was almost at the top of the hill and up to the gate when a nearly forgotten voice rattled my mind with the effort of remembering.
“Hey! Sypher!” The voice came from behind, and my fine-tuned body spun around and drew one of my swords at the same time. The figure almost slipped trying to stop, seeing the bare metal. I was somewhat surprised at the reaction, because I had learned that most people would need a few seconds to register the threat.
“Oh! Sorry, um…” my face turned extremely red, as I could not recall the name of the fearful brown-haired girl a dozen paces from me. Good looking, too. Which made it much worse. Her fear turned to anger and disappointment, and she quickly put her hands on her hips.
“Come on, Sypher! Don’t you remember your friends’ names? It’s Clover, you nut,” she huffed. The sword disappeared smoothly into my outer robe, and I suddenly remembered who this Clover was. Soft brown hair blowing in the wind, caressing my face. A year before I left, we had met at a stable in town, and discovered a common interest in horses. One thing led to another, and we were riding together.
I tried to smile, but six longmonths of serious training had wiped away the ability to smile or extend pleasantries. “Well…I haven’t seen you in a long time,” I said quickly, wondering if the time I spent recalling the past was a sign of diminished intellect. Suddenly Clover ran towards me with open arms, tears falling down her face. I let myself be hugged, not quite remembering what to do. I didn’t have to be embarrassed a second time, because she had put my arms around her. So I squeezed gently, wrinkling my nose at the delicate, sweet smell coming from her hair. Was it so long ago that I was home? It seemed so.
I continued to gaze at the top of her head, and letting the pleasant presence wear away the pressure I had accumulated in the past longmonths. Finally, she let go a little and looked up at me. Very beautiful, was my first thought. She had dark brown eyes, slightly tanned skin, a slim nose and moist lips with an attractive pout. The flesh on her cheeks partially glistened; her tears were freezing upon her skin.
“Come inside,” I offered, wondering at the same time if I remembered what my home inside looked like. She nodded quickly, smiling again as I led the way. “I’ve missed you, Sy,” she said softly. I almost stopped in surprise as emotions sprang up from within. “I’ve missed you too, Clo,” I said, trying to lose the hard edge in my voice.
As if she could read my mind she said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve heard all about what you’ve been through. I’ll definitely help you get back to normal life.” Then she cocked her head a little, possibly wondering if I heard.
I smiled a bit. “Thanks,” I said. “And that’s something I look forward too.”
Chapter One: Home
I opened the gate, noticing the bemused expression on Clover’s face. I didn’t ask her about it, but I decided I would once we got inside. I stared at my cottage, a single door house. It was made of stones and cement, and at the moment I could see the lone window beside the door. I stopped at the door, but Clover jumped in front and pushed the door open.
“Come on,” she chirped, grabbing my hand and pulling me inside. It was dark except for the sunlight blasting through the front window. I could make out several pieces of furniture with my enhanced vision, and I watched Clover run to one side carefully to throw open a window. Taking the hint, I opened the other windows, one in each side of the house. Clover saw what I was doing and went while stepping carefully, to the fireplace and fumbling for something.
I stopped beside the last window I had opened and looked around, studying my home. I found it rather hostile, as if it was wondering why this person would be in here. It was also a drastic change from my former living quarters, often the grass under a tree, a rough rock, or standing or crouching in small places. I heard a tink of metal on rock, and I saw beams of small orange light join forces with the minimal sunlight to battle the darkness. Apparently they succeeded, because in a few seconds a stronger, more yellow light was cast upon the room. I saw the colors of the furniture, mainly dull hues with wooden backings.
The shadow of Clover moved, and I directed my attention towards her. She walked toward me with a somewhat quizzical look; I hugged her and she smiled. “I kept the place clean for you,” she said quietly. I rested my cheek on her head, and she responded by pulling me tight. We stood there, in the middle of the house just holding each other for a few minutes. The fire began to consume a log and gave of sufficient heat, crackling as it did so.
Then I pulled away gently and Clover released me, then walked over to a large cabinet on one side of the house and taking off her robe. Underneath she wore a dark blue garment of wool, a leathery vest, and a long skirt with a dark blue color similar to her top. I dropped both my outer robes onto a wooden chair nearby, and right after I did so she called me. “Sy, clothes go in the closet,” she said, taking the robes from me as I picked them up. “Do you remember where you keep your food? It’s in the pantry.” I thought for a moment before walking over to a cupboard attached to the wall. The boards opened to reveal bread, dried meat, and something wrapped in a cloth. Curious, I opened it and my eyes widened in surprise. It was cheese. “These things I haven’t had since…well, since I left,” I said. It was Clover’s turn to be surprised. “What did you eat? Oh wait—don’t tell me. I’m not supposed to ask.”
I shrugged. “Sorry.” She shook her head in disagreement.
“It’s alright. I know it wouldn’t be the code you’d live by, but…” her voice trailed off, making me worried and feeling concerned. Two emotions I haven’t felt in such a long time.
“Clover? Is something wrong?” I asked awkwardly. She turned away, causing strange pain in me.
“Don’t you remember? Before you left this place. Sy?” her voice was harsh, and the words came out hard.
But I remembered.
The man came to town one early summer night, a messenger of some king. Clover and I were in town having dinner after a long horse ride. We were both enjoying the company of each other, when a man on a horse came charging in. The town mayor, a tall and strong man, asked his business. The ruler that owned our town and surrounding area had declared war on another kingdom.
Clover and I joined everyone else in saying that it had essentially nothing to do with us, since we had farmed and settled this land for several generations. That was before the messenger told us what kind of kingdom we were at war with. A kingdom that pitted families against wild beasts for entertainment, a kingdom that derived pleasure from pain, a kingdom that drove wooden stakes into people who displeased them.
The messenger did not bring a conscription order, but rather a notice. He asked if any able person would join with our kingdom’s forces to fight this evil kingdom. I felt the urge in myself to join, as did several others. Still, I was the only one that went. My heart was soft at the time, and I felt as if I would be doing the world a great favour by battling this evil kingdom.
“Yes,” I whispered hoarsely. “I…I’m sorry.” I couldn’t say anything else. I remembered and relived Clover’s reaction. To my surprise, she did not continue to say anything about it.
“No, I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t bring it up. It is in the past and that’s where it’ll stay,” Clover said, and turned around with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes. “Let’s go riding, hm?”
Chapter Two: Remnants of the Past
We ate some of the food that was in the pantry before leaving. Arm in arm, we walked down the hill. Most of the way down Clover was hanging on to me, because she could not get very good footing. I realized that the ground was very icy, and before she had not even seen my weapon.
“Ok Sy. Either the snow you’re walking on isn’t ice, or something’s wrong with me,” Clover said as she slipped again. I smiled, not in amusement but to offer her my path. She looked down gingerly and took a small step before totally losing balance. My arm shot out and stopped her from hitting the ice. She gave me a look of awe and mystery, but I pulled her close and started walking again. Eventually she just held on and slid on her feet down the hill.
The town was totally unfamiliar. A blend of mismatched colors with lots of snow, smoke puffing out from each chimney. The only thing familiar was the stable, but even that I had a hard time placing. Clover told me the town was called “the quiet spot” by the few townsfolk, but officially it was called Taria.
“That’s the stable,” Clover said, confirming my suspicion. “And there,” she pointed at a two-story building with a porch and snow-covered sign, “is our favourite place to eat.” I nodded in acknowledgement and followed her to the stables.
Inside, a jolly man, chubby and rather short ran by. He burst into a door on our left, in a flash of blue overalls and a dark red cap. “Bailey!” Clover called. “Is everything alright?” I could hear a horse whine nearby, it brought back distant but pleasant memories. “I’m betting that he forgot something,” I said. I didn’t know who Bailey was, and I was pretty sure that he wasn’t there before I left. Clover looked quizzically at me before watching the door Bailey had disappeared into. I studied the room, wanting to reacquaint myself with the stables. It was a wide room that served as a workplace, with a wooden table and chair near the far wall. The table had a short stack of papers with a few books, and was quite organized. There were three doors in the room, the entrance, one to our left, and the last on the right side. I figured that the horses would be kept on the right side, and the storage for equipment on the left.
Bailey burst out of the room with a wild, crazed look in his eyes. He glanced at Clover and sputtered, “I forgot something!”
“What is it?” Clover asked. Bailey turned fully to address Clover, and I could see all of his face. He had green eyes with blue speckles, chubby cheeks and curly brownish hair underneath his red cap.
“Well…I hate to say it, but I forgot Herby!” Bailey wailed loudly, as if he would forget what he forgot. Clover took concern instantly.
“What? Forgot Herby? What do you mean?” she demanded. I wasn’t quite sure who Herby was, but I suspected it was a horse. And to lose a horse…
“Well,” Bailey began, his voice rising with panic, “I was supposed to take him to Myneham so I set him outside, then went back for a saddle. When I came out, he was gone!”
“So why were you in the storage?” Clover asked, again confirming my location suspicion. Bailey threw his hands up in despair.
“I don’t know!” he said.
“Wait a minute, calm down. We can track him,” I said. Bailey’s glance shot up, it was apparent he did not notice me beforehand.
“How? We don’t have anyone with those skills anymore,” Bailey said defensively.
“Got a spare horse?” I asked. Clover looked back at me and I added, “Or two.” Bailey nodded, not comprehending. It didn’t matter, as he didn’t have to know.
There were about eight cells in two rows, all with hay and horse manure. There were five horses, magnificent beasts of brown and light brown. I didn’t remember a thing about horses. At the Academy, we worked with horses for a shortmonth before launching into the gruelling training. Clover saddled up a horse, one that was familiar with her, and Bailey began to saddle up another. I watched as he quickly tightened straps and inserted a piece of wood attached to leather straps into the horse’s mouth. Clover called my name softly to get my attention, as she had noticed my awkwardness. She mounted and took the reins, kicked open the gate and rode up to a large door at the back of the stable. I took my place on the horse that Bailey had prepared, with some trouble as the horse shied away from me. A moment’s instruction from the still confused man and I was outside.
“We’ll be back soon,” Clover called to Bailey, who wanted nothing more than to shut the doors. Clover turned in her saddle to me, and with a knowing smile asked, “Where to?” I smiled back before studying the snow for tracks.
“We’re fortunate,” I concluded. “There have only been about twelve tracks, three of those animal. Oh wait, those three are horse tracks.” Clover watched me as I studied the ground more thoroughly. I looked up at the edge of town ahead, and kicked my horse in the side as Bailey had instructed. We rode in silence for a few minutes, Clover right behind me. I followed the horse tracks down a trail at the edge of the forest for about twenty minutes, noticing different spacings between each hoof imprint. Then something caught my eye.
“Great,” I muttered sarcastically as I half-jumped off my horse. Large prints, not horse or human entered the trail. Clover slid off her horse to take a look.
“What is it?” she asked. I could see that she didn’t know what to look at.
“This,” I said as I pointed, “would be the horse we want. This,” I pointed again, “is probably a bear’s print.” I looked up quickly and shot a glance around as Clover gasped. I could see nothing strange in our surroundings.
“The bear,” Clover said quickly, “would it attack the horse?” The question seemed pointless to me, but I quickly remembered that I was not around trained assassins or hunters. “Yes,” I said. Clover ran back to her horse. “Let’s go!”
Setting the speed at a gallop, we barrelled down the trail in hope that the horse was safe or at least alive. A few minutes of hard riding brought us to a ferocious struggle between a human and an enormous bear. The human was of average height, and wore a dark travel robe similar to mine. The hood was thrown back, and bobbed violently with every movement. Quick flashes of a small sword kept the bear at bay, but the amount of sweat and the steamy breath meant the battle was almost over. A horse lay on its side just off the trail, not moving.
“Stay here! Keep the horses steady!” I yelled to Clover as I jumped to engage the bear. The human was male, with nearly black skin. I had never seen a black human except when I learned about camouflage. Perhaps in another time I would have hesitated before lunging in, but the man was clearly defending the horse. My own battle sword came out, a long and thick two-edged sword cleverly concealed close to my body.
The bear’s right paw became a blur as it swept downwards towards the human, who stepped back quickly and slashed at the bear’s paw, inflicting no wound. However, the human did not see the left paw as it, too, became a blur of death. The sword went flying as did the human. Still silent, I skimmed along the ground with my sword pointed at the bear’s neck. It did not smell or hear me, and ceased all action once it lost its head. I kicked the bear’s body, because it did not fall. Looking back, I could see Clover gaping at me. Priorites had to be taken care of, so I turned my attention to the man.
“Hey! Are you alright?” I yelled to the man. The man sat up slowly, holding his head. He opened his eyes, black-within-white sphere’s directed a dazed gaze up at me. Seeing the bear’s head not far away, and the blood slowly dripping off my sword, he threw himself at my feet and muttered repeatedly something in a foreign language. I was about to tell him to stop that and get up, when Clover’s voice split the air with a mixture of accusation and disbelief.
“You killed the bear.” One look into her dark brown eyes told me that she didn’t understand what had to be done. I decided I would try to explain it to her, even though I knew she loved all animals and probably wouldn’t listen.
“It was either him,” I gestured to the man who I retracted my feet from, “the horse, or the bear. Would you have picked differently?” Clover’s gape returned.
“You killed the bear!” she said again, this time sounding uncertain. The man now got wind of what was going on, and crawled over to the horse laying on the ground. “Yes, I did. I’m sorry it couldn’t be otherwise, Clo. I’m really sorry.”
Clover burst into tears and hid her face in her hands. Sighing inwardly, I turned back to the man.
“How is it?” I asked him. He answered in a deep, very respectful voice and a bowed head. “The horse is lame, Master.” His accent was foreign, but his ability to communicate was excellent.
“Please do not call me ‘Master’. I am only human.” To my great surprise, the man relaxed completely and his voice became smooth. He looked up at me with awe. “What may I call you then?” he asked. His teeth flashed when he spoke; a dramatic flair. “You may call me Sypher. There,” I pointed back at Clover, “is Clover.” The man bowed his head, this time in acknowledgement. “You have saved my life. I am forever indebted to you.” He stopped as I held up my hand. “Later. Which leg is lame?” I asked as I could not tell.
“The right hind leg. It may be broken,” the man said, feeling along the leg with great care and respect. He touched a spot near the middle of the leg and the horse twitched, the first motion I had seen from it. I heard Clover nudge the horses up to our position, and she slid off the horse and stood, waiting. I too, waited, and watched the man. He had fought bravely against the bear, not backing down. He must have held the bear off for several minutes, a testimony to his courage.
“How is the horse?” Clover asked. Her voice was normal, showing only concern.
“I believe I can get it to walk,” the man answered. I then realized I should have asked his name. But instead I turned around and sheathed the metal, hiding it within my robes. The man stood and walked over to our horses, who sniffed at him. He touched a few places on one of the horse’s leg, then walked back over to the fallen horse. Raising his hand over the horse’s body, he seemed like he would strike it. Even though I suspected he would strike the horse, it still surprised me when he did. My surprise turned to amazement as the fallen horse rose up and snorted, as if disgusted at the delay. Clover gasped as the horse rose up.
“Is it fine now?” I asked. The man nodded.
“Let’s bring the horse back, Sy. I’m sure Bailey would be happy,” Clover said with relief.
“May I go with you?” the man asked. “I would be pleased to repay my life.” But I didn’t think he would want to be left out here alone. Clover was about to say something, but I spoke before she could.
“A few questions. Who are you, why are you here, and why were you fighting the bear?” I could hear my voice turn cold and hard, but I couldn’t help it. I took this to be interrogation, and I didn’t play well at soft, questioning tones.
The man was shocked, but quickly composed himself. “My name is Samuel. I come from Myneham, and I was supposed to retrieve a horse from Taria. I heard loud hoofbeats, and drew my sword in case it was robbers. The horse came running, and I saw the bear hit the legs. I figured I’d try to save the horse, since that is sort of what I do.”
“How long were you fighting?” I asked. My voice was less cold now, because I believed the man. He shrugged. “Until you came.” I looked at Clover for her decision. She nodded with a small smile. “Come with us, Samuel.” I said.
We rode back down the trail to Taria, taking it slow for the sake of the now-safe horse. I didn’t think Clover would forget that I slew the bear, and I was grateful she did not say anything about it. I didn’t think Samuel would forget, either.
|The Path to December (Chp 3)||The Path to December (Chp 4)|
|Path to December (Chp 5)||The Path to December (Chp6)|