Chapter Twenty:

It was after midnight when Navihm was awoken from his sleep. His body showed no sign of his alertness to an observer, not even a flicker of his eyelids gave him away. A familiar sound had roused him; the soft shick of metal against leather. Someone had unsheathed a sword or dagger.

Navihm cracked one eye open, scanning the dark corners of the room. He lay quiet for a few minutes. There was no movement. Perhaps he had dreamed the noise. He was about to get up and investigate further when he noticed his sword was missing from where he’d stowed it last night. He’d placed it within easy reach of his bed, now it wasn't anywhere he could see.

All of a sudden there was a rush of movement behind him. Navihm rolled, landing hard on the floor, tangled in his blankets but missing the sword swung at his head by a hair’s breath.

He quickly kicked off the sheets and rolled under the bed. None too soon as the assailant had already leapt over the bed and landed heavily where Navihm had just been laying. Navihm quickly regained his feet, slipping under the bed to the other side, but was forced to hit the ground again when the assassin swung a wide sidecut over the bed with his sword.

Navihm shuffled quickly along the floor to the foot of the bed where he sprang off the ground a tackled the assassin. 

They hit the wall hard, cracking the attacker’s head against the stone. Navihm grabbed his sword arm and slammed his wrist against the wall, jamming his other forearm under the man’s chin. The assassin was turning a bright shade of red and had a heavily bruised hand when he finally released the sword, which Navihm recognised as his own. 

Once he lost the sword, the assailant fought desperately, kicking out at Navihm’s legs and jabbing and scratching at his face and side with his free hand. He managed to dig his nail into Navihm’s eye and wiggle himself free.

He wasted no time gasping for air once Navihm’s arm was no longer blocking his airway, instead kicking out and catching Navihm in the gut with the boot of his heel. Navihm, blinded by blood, managed to keep his feet but backed up to give himself time to recover from the winding he received courtesy of the sharp kick. He realised he’d made a mistake when his back hit the opposite wall. He was boxed in.

Not quite being able to see through the blood stinging his eyes, Navihm sensed rather than felt the assassin in front of him. He instinctively crouched, ducking the dagger swipe aimed at his throat and lashed out with the leg, sweeping the assailant’s legs out from under him. Navihm heard the clatter of metal against stone and realised the other man had dropped his dagger.

The assassin vaulted off the floor, aiming to tackle the Genti much like Navihm had done before. Navihm was expecting that and had already moved out of the way. The would-be assassin charged headfirst at the stone wall, hitting it with a sickening crack. He landed in a heap on the floor, his head resting at an odd angle.
Navihm didn’t stop to gape at the sight, instead charging out of the room towards Kaia.

Kaia hadn’t slept much that night. Instead, she lay awake and stared at her ceiling. She felt safe enough with Navihm sleeping in the room opposite and extra guards patrolling her corridor and the rest of the grounds, but she couldn’t seem to fall asleep. She couldn't quite determine what was making her feel uneasy.

She turned to stare out her window.

It is my empathy, she realised.

She couldn't sense any emotions from any of the servants or guards or even Navihm. Muted as their emotions were as they slept, she should be able to sense them as background noise, especially when she was concentrating as she was now. The silence was unnerving.

She was distracted from her thoughts by a flicker of movement by the window. She sat upright in bed, peering into the darkness. At the same time, she reached over and grasped a porcelain ornament off her bedside table. Maybe Navihm wasn’t as paranoid as she thought, always sleeping with a weapon close. She would feel a lot more confident with her dagger rather than a statue of a dancer.

She was so focused on the dark pool of shadows by the window, she almost missed the indistinct figure surging towards her. At the last second, she saw a flash of light reflecting off steel and managed to dodge the worst of the assault, getting only a shallow slice to the face, rather than a severed throat.

She swung out blindly towards her attacker, shattering the heavy base of her ornament on his head. Armed now with the sharp point of what used to be the dancer’s legs, Kaia lashed out and drove the porcelain figure deep into the man’s thigh.

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  • Australia


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