As the darkness fell, Dee was already geared up and ready to slip into the centaur camp to thin their numbers, before she stopped in hesitation. Taking this course of action seemed so obvious to her. Thin the enemy ranks, gain a bit of power for herself by absorbing their souls, and make the battle tomorrow easier for the order. Was there anything that could be objected with the plan? What had made her pause though, was that it was the assassin inside her that made this plan. Was the assassin training so ingrained in her, that she didn’t even notice when it took hold? What’s worse, she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
What if her going on a killing spree was against the order’s plans? Not that they would mind the enemy losing a bit of their strength, but her actions might prompt a reaction of some kind. Perhaps the centaurs would be instigated to start the battle earlier when they found the bodies? She dismissed that idea straight away, as the order had to be ready for a surprise night attack, especially this close to the enemy. That was the basic of tactics, wasn’t it? Always be ready. She couldn’t and wouldn’t constrain her actions in fear of some potential phantom plan she might ruin with her actions, otherwise she would never be able to do anything. And a plan that was ruined so easily was no plan at all, and would not survive contact with the enemy.
What about the moral side of things then? Dee had never been really bothered by such things herself, but for some reason the order frowned on killing people except in battle and as a judgement for crimes. Dee didn’t quite see the distinction herself, or at the very least it seemed to be on flimsy ground at best. Either someone deserved death or they didn’t. What was the point in the theatrics of a trial or the so called honor of a battle? Would it not be more efficient to just slip a blade between the enemy’s ribs while they slept? Yet, for some reason the order seemed to frown on such practices, even if the darker sides of the order did do that very thing when necessary. Was it the stealthy nature of the kill that bothered the order? Was there some sort of benefit for doing things openly? Dee herself didn’t really see the point personally.
Yet, everyone from Faylen to Razark had tried weeding the habits of an assassin out of her. Why was that exactly? She had gone along with it, mainly because her memories of everything she had to suffer at the hands of Zabaniya made her want to distance herself from the group. But now that she had gained some distance and some perspective, were the methods of the Zabaniya so wrong? Obviously the beating and killing of children for training was something to be avoided, but the actual assassination part? The order killed for their own reasons and benefit and not just for their vaunted justice, probably more people than Zabaniya did. Good assassins were actually more discerning about their marks, even though they killed for reward. Didn’t the order do the same, just that the reward was less obvious?
Her thoughts were interrupted as her tent flap was pushed aside. She and Noyala had tents next to each other at the edge of the camp, where the other tents were placed a bit away from their tents. Noyala pushed a dark clad man inside the tent, with a curved sword pointed at the man’s back. “Look what I found skulking around.” The Sidhe woman said with a chipper voice. She also noted Dee’s dark attire and equipment with interest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what Dee had planned.
While the man was hiding his powers from others, he couldn’t really hide them from Dee, and she recognized the man. She had in fact killed him before, or at least destroyed his body. She noticed that his body felt a little…hollow. She had felt the same thing last time but hadn’t known why. “You’re getting sloppy assassin. It doesn’t do the Zabaniya name justice to get caught so easily.” She said in a mocking tone.
The man remained calm. “That would be because I wasn’t really trying to hide. I learned from last time that you react…violently when put on the spot and surprised. This time I didn’t mask my approach from you. Though I do admit she wasn’t supposed to notice me. I might not have been trying too hard to hide, but I wasn’t advertising my presence either. No need to alert the paladins to my presence.”
Noyala gave a small smirk. “Next time you might want to be more aware of your surroundings.”
Two things struck Dee while Noyala needled the assassin. First of all, his presence here was quite coincidental. She had just been wondering about her assassin past, and now here he was. She believed in coincidences, she just didn’t trust them. This smelt almost fateful though. It was doubtful someone could read her mind without notice. Second thing that struck her was that she had been too lost in her thoughts to notice his approach. Oh she would’ve noticed him eventually, but that didn’t change the fact that Noyala had noticed him first, and he had gotten close enough to at least try a ranged attack on her life.
Dee’s awareness and senses were supposed to be her strong suit. Was she growing too soft? Was the confidence she had gained from her training and increased power dulling her senses? Was she really straying too far from her assassin past? Razark also highlighted awareness of one’s surroundings and being careful, but it was a different kind of awareness from the almost animalistic senses that assassins had to develop to constantly dance on the blade between life and death.
With a frown she addressed the assassin. “What brings one of your kind here? I think I’ve made my feelings about your little organization clear.”
The man shot a questioning glance at Noyala.
“You’re the one who got caught. Now you have to deal with the consequences.” Dee pointed out a little flippantly.
The man shrugged. It wasn’t really his problem, as Dee was risking more by letting this information leak. Something she had noted, but decided to use to test Noyala a bit. “The master has a message for you. He wants to have a few words.” The man slowly reached into a small pouch on his belt, and pulled out a crystal orb covered in magical runes. Dee’s eyes narrowed as she noted the heavy enchantments on the object. Something like that could be really dangerous depending on the specific enchantments.
Her worries were allayed a bit when Noyala made a small whistle. “Oh wow, someone really wants to talk to you badly. That’s an Orb of Secrets!”
Dee just raised her eyebrow questioningly. She could read the magic in the item somewhat, but even her senses had trouble understanding the purpose of the item. The enchantments were too complex and layered on top of each other, making reading them almost impossible. One thing was clear, someone had gone through a lot of trouble to create this item.
Noyala noticed the questioning look. “Right, this one is on the cutting edge when it comes to magical artifacts. Even I’ve seen only couple at the Sidhe Winter court before. Normally magical communications over long distances are a pretty dumb idea, as the longer the distance, the bigger the chance of someone sensing the communication and listening in or stopping it. Even most specialized items have trouble really guaranteeing safety, and they tend to be single use. Orbs of Secrets are a little special. They form a sort of reality pocket shared between two paired orbs. The holders of the orbs can send their minds into that pocket to discuss freely. These things are stupendously rare and expensive.”
“Any chance this is a trap?” Dee asked to confirm. She didn’t really think so, as there were cheaper ways to try and trap her. She could now recognize the communication nature of some of the enchantments.
Noyala considered for a short moment. “It’s possible. Not very likely though. These things are delicate magic. Adding something on top of all that would be…difficult and potentially explosive.”
Dee considered for a while. This was a risk. Risk she didn’t have to take. But the whole situation had the feeling of fate getting involved in things, and she got the feeling that going along with the risk also carried the possibility of profits. Her draconic pride suddenly surged within her, almost whispering to her that if these puny people wanted to trap her, then let them try. She would trample their feeble attempts and show them what happened to anyone that dared. For once, she was inclined to agree with that part of her.
“Watch him closely. Preferably restrain him with magic. I’ll accept their invitation since they’ve gone to such lengths to give one.” Dee said pointing at the assassin, only getting a wicked grin as a response from Noyala.
As her mind entered the orb, Dee found herself in a relatively luxurious room. The room was covered in diaphanous silk sheets working as curtains separating the area into parts, while the floor was covered in embroidered and tasseled pillows. She soon noticed a large painting in the middle of the room from between the curtains. The painting seemed as if it was alive and depicted an armored demon plunging a lance through the chest of a very familiar archangel. Even though the demon’s white fur was completely covered in blood, it didn’t take a genius to recognize who the figure in the painting was supposed to be. The foxtails and ears made it obvious. The scene was vivid and covered in crimson as many other angels lay dead on the ground below the two struggling figures.
“I see you’ve already noticed my artwork.” A deep and sonorous voice came from behind her.
The voice had not caught her by surprise as the man had done nothing to hide his approach. “Interesting motif. It doesn’t seem accidental.” Dee replied without turning around.
The man barked a small laugh. “It’s not. I’ve tried to create a weapon, and the painting describes the purpose I have for that weapon.”
“The only purpose?” Dee asked with a small shudder. Something in the man’s voice gave her cold shivers, for what reason she did not know.
“The main purpose. There are other things I have in mind, but those are not really for me to decide.” The man replied, the smile clear in his voice. The two were playing a game now.
“And who gets to decide?” Dee asked, knowing the answer but wanted it voiced.
“The weapon of course. A weapon you need to swing around and who has no mind of their own is mediocre at best. A true weapon does what is required because it chooses to do so. A weapon that chooses its own fate will pursue that fate with far greater effort than one that is forced by an owner.” The man’s voice held great disdain when it uttered the word owner.
“Might I remind you that I stopped being your weapon years ago.” Dee countered the man’s words.
The man replied immediately. “You might have become without an owner, if you truly ever had one, but you never stopped being a weapon. Why do you think I sent you away?”
“Sent me away?” Dee finally turned around to look at the older dignified looking man. The man looked like a greyed but not quite elderly human, something that was unlikely to be accurate as only their minds were here. They could change their appearance at will, and the man’s voice didn’t quite match the body.
The man gave a small laugh. “Surely you don’t think the order found you on their own? Have you heard of them making further raids on our compounds since? Or before then? And they just happened to hit the base that held Wraith, the assassin they wanted to get rid of.”
That was something that had bothered her before. It was one of the reasons she still held the fear of all this being some kind of dream or elaborate ruse by the assassins. “So you sent me away? Why?”
“A proper weapon needs time and experience to develop. And develop you have. Both when it comes to your power and personality. There’s more work to be done, but you’re on the right path. For the most part at least. Like I said, I want you to take on the purpose I have envisioned because you choose to do so, and not because I forced you to do so.” The man explained patiently.
“For the most part?” Dee asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, that’s partially why we’re meeting now. It is only natural that your teachers want you to take a path that they think is correct. You yourself clearly don’t have fond memories of us, so you probably also feel the desire to throw certain parts of yourself away. Namely those parts that have to do with us. You’re coming to a crossroads of sorts soon enough, if you aren’t already there. I’m here simply to remind you that there are other options besides throwing that part of yourself away completely or becoming our thrall.” The man walked past Dee and looked at the painting.
“What are you saying exactly? Playing games is fun and all, but let us be direct for once. I already have enough trouble trusting anything you say, let’s not make it even more convoluted.” Dee didn’t mind games, but preferred not to play them with someone that she shared such a dark past with.
“The others might not have noticed, and even if they have they don’t quite realize the extent of it. However, we who so often come in contact with death can’t help but notice the power you gain from the deaths of others. Why limit that to the battlefield? You don’t have to throw your senses and skills as an assassin away just to avoid being controlled by us. We can work together without stepping on each other’s toes. Be a good templar during the day, but at night let your darker side out.” The man suggested.
“And why would I need you for that? Even assuming I wanted to keep the assassin part of me alive.” Dee asked pointedly.
The man laughed. “For one, because we can help. For another, because we can keep you from getting rusty. I’m guessing you weren’t too happy with how close Asahim got tonight. Yes I already got word of that. One of his special abilities I’m afraid. The reason he got so close is because you no longer think like us. You don’t need to always think like us, but you have to be able to do so when required. At least retain the sense of danger if nothing else. You could do some work for us when you have time. You’d benefit in various ways, not the least of which is the power you’d gain. I would make sure your marks would be palatable and challenging enough to keep you on your toes.”
Dee shook her head. “Working with you is not exactly part of my plans. But you’re right in one thing. I have become rusty. That is something I need to fix.” ‘Also, maybe throwing away my assassin past completely is a mistake.’ She thought to herself.
The man shrugged simply. “We shall see. Keep the orb. It might become handy.”
The man watched as Dee disappeared from the room. After a moment of quiet, another female figure, much older this time, walked out from behind certain curtains hiding an alcove. Hiding someone’s presence in this space was much easier than outside. Even Dee hadn’t noticed anything. It had taken several powerful artifacts and spells to get Asahim so close to her in the real world, even with the millions of people surrounding her as a distraction. She wasn’t as rusty as they wanted her to think, and it had taken some fairly specific things to work just right for the whole thing to work. The little demon’s senses really were scary.
“So that was her? She’s the one you’re pinning your hopes on.” The older woman asked. The woman’s dark skin showed from small gaps in her disguise. ‘Sloppy work.’ The man thought to himself, while observing the majestic bearing of the woman that screamed of someone used to having people obey her every word.
“That’s the one. She’s also the best to fulfill your request.” He voiced out loud instead.
“Is she capable of doing it? She seems so young. I won’t lie; I’d feel a lot more secure if you handled this personally. Someone with a hero Authority of an assassin should be more than capable.” The woman said with a skeptical voice.
The man gave a small chuckle. “There’s much more to her than meets the eye. She has the power and skill required, or at the very least she will when it's time. She can solve your little problem. The question is, will she? You heard her. She isn’t someone that likes taking orders, not from me at least. When it comes to me…well I could theoretically solve your little problem, but real immortals are a lot harder to kill than certain ‘fakes’ I know, and extended battles aren’t my forte.” It was quite clear he was referring to the woman with the word fake.
The woman hissed in displeasure. “Watch your words cutthroat. This fake might have more teeth than you think. If you can’t order her around, then maybe I should find someone who can? You clearly aren’t willing to do it. I don’t care if she kills the cursed shadow or the blessed light, but one of them has to go.”
The man’s face split in a wide smile as the woman disappeared in a huff. He rather liked the direction this was taking. He couldn’t leave himself as exposed as a fight with a true immortal would leave him, but for Dee it would be perfect training. He was also intrigued which way she would end up going in this situation. He also had no doubt that the woman that had just left would find some leverage to pull Dee into the web of lies that was the four seasonal courts. Eventually that would force things to a confrontation. How much of the courts would remain after that confrontation was a mystery.
“How long was I gone?” Dee asked Noyala as soon as her mind returned.
“Only a couple of minutes.” Noyala replied, slightly distracted by all the magical ropes she was using to bind the assassin.
“Sorry to spoil your fun, but you can let him go now.” Dee said with a small chuckle. The Sidhe woman seemed to be having such fun.
“Aww, you came to an agreement of sorts?” The sentence was half a question, half a statement of the obvious. And a little bit of disappointment for her spoiled fun.
“Of sorts. Now I have a few centaurs to kill.” Dee said grimly.
“I was actually instructed to help you with that in case it came up.” The bound assassin pointed out while lying on the ground.
“Ooh, we’re doing a night raid?” Noyala seemed almost eager.
“Yeah. It’s been too long since I got my murder on, and I have some very specific targets in mind.” Dee said, quite glad and somewhat surprised of Noyala’s attitude to the whole thing. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad that the woman knew bits of her past.