December 30, 2000
"Halt! Who goes there?" demanded the large man in deep black armor, standing next to a tall steel gate. Rador glanced over slightly to acknowledge the guard, his dark markings just detectable in the gloom of night. He looked towards the gate, examining the city's banner as it moved slightly in the wind.
Rador thought to himself in disgust "A Wolf's head! Such a symbol is not fit for such a cowardly city!"
"It is I, Rador. I am returning from a long journey across the lands. Will you permit me to enter?" boomed Rador in a disgruntled tone.
Rador shivered slightly at the bitterly cold wind. The guard began to eye him suspiciously, but let it pass as he remembered his orders to allow him in and show him to the Captain's home.
"You may enter."
"I am thankful. Where may I seek the Captain of Kyroft's home?" Rador spoke with an inquisitive look at the guard.
He responded "Follow the Main Road to the Tavern, then turn right until you reach the end of that road. Captain Sirlock's home is the building with two stories."
The gate squeaked open with the sound of metal on metal. Rador entered and made his way towards the Tavern, fully aware of the other guards watching him intently. He glanced into the Tavern as he walked by, seeing only a few men. He grinned slightly, realizing his assignment might be easier than expected. Rador's quick walk across the stone pavement brought him to his destination where he opened the gate with a loud screech, making his way towards the door.
After roughly knocking a few times, a manservant came to greet him and showed him to the Captain.
"Ah, Rador! It's been such a long time. How have your travels been?" Shouted the Captain, a large smile spreading across his face.
Rador replied, "Same as ever, I guess. And how have you been, Sirlok? Have the men been giving you trouble?"
"Not at all." Sirlok moved towards Rador, extending his hand to pat him on the back.
"A glass of wine old friend?" asked Sirlok.
"No thank you. Let me ask you a question." Replied Rador. "How long have we been friends?"
"It seems like forever."
"Indeed." Rador moved behind him as Sirlok walked to a nearby table and examined some maps that were sprawled out randomly. "Do you think people change over so much time?"
"But of course!" Said Sirlok, pondering the question.
"How much can a man change?" Rador slowly slipped his hand under his cloak to wield his dagger. Quietly pulling it over his head, he moved the other hand to grip Sirlok's mouth.
"I guess it wou--Hrrmmph!"
Rador wrapped his hand around Sirlok's lips and thrust the dagger into his back. Sirlok tried desperately to release Rador's grip and draw his own weapon, but he had been struck several times. He began to lose consciousness from the pain and loss of blood. With his last ounces of strength, he parted Rador's fingers and whispered, "Why?"
Allowing his corpse to fall to the ground Rador sighed, saying, "I'm sorry old friend, but it had to be done."
Rador moved towards the table and began to gather the maps. Hearing a loud crash behind him, he wielded his sword and looked around. Standing in the doorway was the manservant with a ghostly look on his face, a broken wine bottle splattered in front of him. He turned to run, but Rador leaped towards him, tackling him to the ground. The manservant kicked and screamed wildly for his life, but Rador tripped him and slashed him with his sword. The manservant wailed out in pain at the deep gash in his arm. He planted a desperate foot into the center of Rador's chest, knocking him to the ground and sending his sword sliding across the floor. Leaping to his feet, the manservant dashed through the front door, yelling wildly, "Murder! Murder!"
Rador thought about chasing after him, but discarded that idea as he reached for his fallen sword. As he slid it into its sheath, he bagan to pick up the maps and shove them into his pockets. He started thinking of his escape route, something he had thoroughly planned for this occasion.
As he started to open the window, he heard the shouts of the guards moving swiftly toward his position. Sliding out onto the ledge, he silently shut the window again and worked his way to the edge of the house. With a surge of power, he leaped onto the roof of the next house. As he was moving to the next house, he heard a roar of anger from the room he had escaped only seconds ago. Knowing the city by heart he made leap after leap, working his way over the rooftops towards the road from which he had entered.
After his last leap, he was thoroughly exhausted and slowly made his way down to the stone pavement. Regaining his composure after a few moments rest, he calmly walked into the tavern, cloaking his body and face. He moved to the back of the room, dodging the drunken men as they stumbled around the room. He sat at a table with one nearly unconscious man. As he lifted his head from the beer soaked table, the drunk managed to mumble, "Da I know ya?"
"No you don't, friend," Rador commented as he looked at the man appraisingly. "Have you heard of tonight's happenings?"
"Happe-hic-happenings?" questioned the drunkard.
With a slight grin, Rador said, "Come with me, I'll show you."
Helping the drunkard up and bearing most of his weight, Rador drug him out of the backdoor into the alley.
"Hey! I dun see any 'appenings!" the drunkard shouted in anger. He tried to turn without falling, and slowly brought his hand up to scold Rador. But with a vicious blow from the hilt of his weapon, the drunkard silently fell to the floor. Rador let out a small laugh and began to undress the fallen man.
Rador returned to the bar slowly as not to attract attention. Ordering some ale, he draink a little, then poured some on his recently acquired tunic. He staggered out of the tavern, slowly making his way back to the front gate.
As he yelled incoherently with slurred speech, he stealthily took notice of the guards' positions. He spilt a bit of ale from his tankard on the nearest guard, then apologized as he fell to the ground.
"Out of the streets with you, drunkard!" yelled the guard in anger, wiping at the stain made by Rador.
"I'm off t' my home!" slurred Rador, playing his part perfectly and professionally.
As Rador made his way through the gate, the drunkard could be heard yelling angrily down the street. Screaming and flailing his arms, he began to yell towards the guards.
"Thief! Thief! That man has stolen my clothes!" ranted the drunkard, the shock having forcd him towards sobriety.
Angry with himself for not having killed the man, Rador quickly drew his dagger and laid two guards dead before anyone could react. As Rador wielded his sword, he swung towards another guard, but his powerful blow was stopped by the guard's own weapon. Pushing Rador back with a charge from his shoulder, the guard swung his blade repeatedly. All of his attacks were deflected, however, by Rador's own quick parries. As Rador began to retaliate, he was suddenly struck down by an arrow, the shaft painfully protruding from his shoulder. He glanced to the steel wall to see a soldier hastily nocking another arrow to his longbow.
"There he is! Attack!" a group of guards shouted running directly at him, following the directions from the drunkard.
Rador quickly spun around and sprinted down the road as another arrow zipped past him. Shrugging off the pain, he ran at breakneck speed toward the forest in the distance. He allowed himself a glance over his shoulder at the yelling guards, and realised he was easily outrunning his pursuers. Yards from the forest, he slowed and began jogging at a crouch. Making a sharp right, he moved another two hundred yards and pushed his way into some thick brush. He sat on the ground and started to slowly pull the arrow from the wound. Wincing in pain, he made one final pull and yanked out the shaft. He opened a bottle filled with a strange green liquid and swallowed the contents.
"Which way did he go?" shouted one guard in confusion.
"Everyone spread out! He can't get far with his wounds!" exclaimed another, desperately looking around for their enemy.
Rador slowly and quietly pulled himself into a crouch. Silently making his way out of the brush, he began to sneak away from the outraged search party. Trying to block out the burning weariness flowing through his veins, he stealthily moved through the forest, his dagger ready for action.
After a few hours walk, and many potions later, Rador came across a large camp situated at a clearing in the forest. Standing upright, he stretched his aching muscles and made his way into the clearing. He looked around at the small number of highly elite troops, laughing and yelling around their campfires, and eating their meals. Some were cheering merrily while others were sharpening their weapons, preparing for the inevitable battle. Looking to the center of the camp he saw a few tents, all guarded by heavily armed veterans and surrounding the war banner of Shadowclaw. He began walking to the center tent, as soldiers finally realised he had entered the encampment. Two men rushed toward him to support his weakening body. One man began to tend his wound as the other continued pulling Rador to the tent.
Dropping him into a chair, the man left in a hurry while the other, a cleric by appearances, finished patching Rador's wounds. The healer moved to an adjacent table and picked up another potion, giving it to Rador to drink. He quaffed the contents with haste, feeling better as new strength flowed through his veins, and the cleric grabbed a plate of food. He tried to feed Rador, but had the plate slapped menacingly from his hand. Shocked, the healer quickly retrieved the plate and left the room.
"So you have finally returned," said Shadowclaw as he entered. "I trust that you completed your assignment..." His bodyguards moved in behind him, taking their positions unobtrusively.
"I have," replied Rador, throwing the maps to the ground. "Do you realize what I have given up for this mission?"
"I'm quite aware of your sacrifice," Shadowclaw mumbled as he picked up the discarded information.
Rador jumped to his feet, knocking the chair over with great force. "I don't think you do, Shadowclaw! I gave up my life, my home, my family... My oldest friend!"
Shadowclaw calmly walked to the large table in the center of the room and opened a few of the maps. "I'm well aware of what you gave up. But face it, you are a traitor. You can never return. You're an outcast, a deserter. Unfortunately..." Shadowclaw rolled up the maps and turns to Rador with a sigh. He said, "Unfortunately, a traitor such as you cannot be trusted."
Rador looked at him suspiciously. He replied, "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that I cannot trust you. You have deserted your own people, you will surely desert me."
Shadowclaw signaled to the guards very discretely, but this was seen by Rador's alert eyes. He slowly reached for his sword, already having his dagger in his other hand. The guards quickly positioned themselves behind Rador, weapons also drawn and ready.
"I advise against that. My men will destroy you before you can even get out of that door," said Shadowclaw, a smile forming on his lips.
Tightening his grip on both weapons, Rador replied, as an evil grin came over his face, "Who said I would try to escape."
Shadowclaw's smile disappeared and was replaced by a frown in a matter of seconds. Realising Rador's intentions, he leapt for his own weapon but was intercepted by Rador's quick slash. The guards bludgeoned Rador from behind even as he recovered from this stroke, forcing him to the ground in pain. As they disarmed him, he looked up at Shadowclaw who was holding his gashed arm.
"Useless! Cannot my best soldiers react any faster?! Call my cleric! You should not have done that, Rador. Take him out of here! I want him executed! Immediately!" screamed Shadowclaw in anger.
"You will not get away with this!" boomed Rador as he was dragged from the tent. "You will not!"
"But I already have! I already have."