September 18, 2004
Raydor heard a wolf howl in the distance as he trotted through the forest underbrush, dodging low branches and stepping around fallen twigs. Any noise could alert a hunting wolf to the presence of a snack. A light breeze cooled the sweat upon his brow as he jogged. Ahead, he could see a small clearing, and he slowed to a walk as he scanned the area, panting deeply. He searched the area with his eyes ahead for traps or ambushes. He knew the woods around Alendora better than any other, and completed his task quickly. On the opposite side of the clearing, hiding within the shadows he saw what he had been expecting. As Raydor walked to within feet of the edge of the clearing, staying within the shadows, he knelt momentarily to regain his composure, looking up at the full moon glowing above him.
Looking upon the mysterious face of the moon reminded Raydor of his own secretive past. The people of Alendora knew of his presence, but anything else was just a shot in the dark. He knew the forests of Alendora better than even the elves that inhabited the area, after his years of living within them. None of the locals knew where he lived or what he did within their forests, but there was nothing to rouse suspicion - nothing that could be proven, at least - so they left him to his own. The only evidence of his presence was during his treks into the forest city for supplies. His skills of stealth far surpassed any hunter or huntress living around Alendora, though some still claimed to have seen Raydor or caught him off guard, but only the foolish thought of these stories as anything more than a vain attempt at fame.
Standing slowly to his full height, Raydor strode into the clearing ahead of him, keeping his eyes on the dim human-shaped shadow watching him. Slowly walking to the center, he casually studied the area around him. He withdrew his sword and dagger from their sheaths attached to his belt and placed them on the ground in front of himself. He took three steps back and raised his arms into the air.
"All of them, Raydor," the shadow ahead commanded, in a low, feminine voice.
Casually, Raydor removed a dagger from his boot and a scabbard of shurikens from underneath his tunic, and added them to the pile. The dark form emerged from the brush and stood in front of the small arsenal upon the ground. The thick cloak billowed slightly with the wind around the wearer, giving the stranger a wraithlike appearance. Raydor tried to peer into the black hole of the hood in an effort to identify the person that had summoned him. The hood was pulled far down and he could not make out any features.
"Do you know who I am?" the voice asked.
"Perhaps. I have known many women," Raydor replied with a suggestive grin growing upon his lips. "Should I remember you?"
The cloak of the stranger flew open as the woman released the throwing knife in her hand. Raydor's quick reflexes threw him forward into a roll, the throwing knife flying high over his lowered shoulders. He somersaulted as his hands landed upon his boot dagger atop the pile, and he was almost instantly on his feet, holding the tip of the dagger against the woman's throat. His jaw clenched and his brow furrowed in anger, Raydor glared mercilessly into the dark abyss of the hood, trying to find his enemy's eyes. Her hair was blond and worn in curls, golden locks falling down to her shoulders atop the hood.
"I should gut you now and leave you to the wolves," He said through clenched teeth.
The stranger raised her head, allowing the moonlight to illuminate the smirk upon her face. "Aye, you could. But your curiousity would then not be settled."
Raydor's mouth dropped into a frown, then removed the dagger from her chest and turned toward his weapons. Raydor growled, "Why have you summoned me, Sariya?"
"I have a mission for you," She said as she pulled her hood from her head. Under her cloak she was wearing a white blouse with a diving front, exposing a dangerous amount of cleavage. She possessed a charming smile that went well with her blue-green eyes, and a small but bold nose.
Raydor slipped his dagger into his boot and bent to retrieve his weapons. He thrust his dagger and sword into their sheaths and slung his scabbard of shurikens over his shoulder. Walking the direction he had come out of the clearing, he said over his shoulder, "Nay. You know well that I will not accept. You have wasted your time, as well as mine. Go home."
"Not even to help Torranus," She asked anxiously to him, stepping forward, standing now where Raydor's weapons had been moments before. He stopped and clenched his fists. As if in response to his anger, the wolf howled deeply again at the moon. Knowing she now had his attention she continued. "Raydor, we both know of your past. But I also know of your dealings since you confessed to him. Every day Torranus thanks the Gods for his good fortune, believing it is retribution for losing his loved ones in the battles of Kyroft. He knows not of your deeds. I know of the debts paid to the partners on occasions when supply costs rise. I even know of the furniture you stole from the man in Derah, who still swears upon Vryce that it was a band of thieves. You have done well, and the Tavern has flourished. Customers have begun coming from all over the land. But you cannot repay your debt to Torranus like this. A flourishing business will not help dull the ache in his heart. A day does not gone by that he does not mourn."
Memories of the last few years flashed into Raydor's mind as she spoke of his secret deeds. He spent months travelling the continent, asking for repentance from the families of the lost, which he had caused. After his final confession to Torranus, Raydor still felt unforgiven. So for the following years, Raydor used his skills any way he could to help Torranus' failing business at the Prized Boar Tavern. He knew nothing about running a business, but Raydor's military expertise allowed him to adjust the circumstances of the Tavern. Protecting the trade routes along which Torranus' supplies were to come along, working for business partners in exchange for Torranus' payments, giving gold to customers to leave as gratuities for the Tavern. The furniture he stole from a crooked carpenter in Derah had been easier, and more satisfying, than Raydor had expected. He loaded the entire covered wagon and hauled it to Alendora in a single night.
He took in a deep breath and looked up to the full moon glimmering over head. Another howl from a wolf seemed to set Raydor's mind. He turned toward Sariya and let out a heavy sigh. "Tell me the mission," Raydor said as he walked slowly toward Sariya.
Raydor's keen eyesight, even under limited visibility, was uncanny. Even with the moon covered with clouds, Raydor could make out the shapes of men patrolling around the Fortress of Shadowclaw. He waited until they passed around the southwestern corner, then stood and continued toward the fortress. He held his sword in his left hand, his right bent behind him, holding his backpack steady as he jogged quietly. Wearing his usual black cowl, his boots were a soft and dark brown leather, a dagger was pushed to the hilt into the sheath sown on the inside of his left boot. About his waist was his scabbard of shurikens. Upon another belt was the sheath to his sword, and his dagger pushed into its sheath. The black shirt he wore covered high up his neck and his entire arms, ending at his dark iron studded swordsman's gloves. His pants were patched with a dark forest green, a light green, and an earthen brown as camoflauge.
Slipping through the dark marshy wood, he glided south along the western wall, feeling the large bricks of the fortress below his knees with his gloved hand. After a few moments, his hand came across a stone jutting prominently from the wall. He grinned wickedly to himself and wrapped his fingertips around the brick, pulling it lightly. It slipped heavily from its place within the wall as Raydor scanned the area for patrolling guards. Setting the stone on the ground, he peeked through the hole in the fortress wall.
He looked around the empty cell, a feeling of terrible nostalgia passing over him. It was just under nine feet to the opposite wall, and the cell door in the right corner had been left open. Below him pushed against the wall was a tattered and soiled cloth, stuffed with old hay. The guards laughed as they had told him this was a bunk. From the door sill to the left wall was a declining trench of smoothed rock, which served as a toilet.
He was looking upon the same cell he spent endless hours as the torture victim of Shadowclaw's guards and soldiers. Looking to his left, his memory delved into the horrible past of this place. Raydor knew only that he spent more than two years in this same cell for nearly destroying Shadowclaws plans to overtake Kyroft. Spending so much time in the cell left Raydor sensitive to sunlight. His skin paled and his eyes grew weak from only having the faint light of torches in the hallway outside the door. After the guards found the tiny tickmarks Raydor scratched into the back wall behind his so called "bunk" with a stone, and beat him mercilessly for it, did he stop counting the days. He survived on the small amounts of gruel and water he was fed, and the occasional bug or rat that was unlucky enough to get within reaching distance. His eventual escape with the use of a dagger stolen from one of the guards took weeks. It was nothing more than a sliver of dull metal after digging the mortar from between the larger brick above the bunk.
Raydor pulled himself through and landed quietly on the cloth below him. He walked quietly to the door and knelt in the shadows, listening intently for the guards. He could hear their laughter and unintelligable shouts, and the unmistakable sound of gold coins clinking upon the stone floor. A few coins would jingle, then there would be a moment of silence, what Raydor imagined was filled with the the casting of lots. Suddenly a burst of shouts, cheers, and laughter came, until another guard would reach for the dice and it would draw silent again as the rest placed their bets. He waited patiently for their game to end, all the while his mind filled with memories of his long endured time within the cell which he was crouched.
The guards' game of dice ended with a long barrage of shouts, cheers and laughter. Raydor could no longer hear the bets of gold coins clinging against the floor, and the shouts died down to a dull roar, the laughter still as loud as ever. Between laughs, he could barely make out the sound of boots scraping along the dirty floor of the hallway. Readying himself, Raydor waited for the guard to pass the cell, then slid out and snuck behind the guard. Raydor waited for the roar of laughter before impaling the guard with his sword. Dropping his other hand under the guards arm and around the chest, Raydor dragged the guard back to the cell, dropping him into the trench. He took the ring of keys from the guards belt and moved toward the door. He peeked around the corner, then slipped out, closing the door behind him. Silently, Raydor moved down the hall away from the other guards, unlocking the doors to the cells. One by one, the prisoners slipped cautiously from their cells, looking around with confusion. They didn't know who this man was that had opened the doors, but they knew they were free, and followed him quietly as he continued to unlock cell doors.
As the last cell door swung open, the newly freed men gathered around Raydor. Removing his backpack, Raydor motioned to the ex-prisoner standing closest to him. He dropped the keys silently into his opened hand and set the pack on the ground. He began whispering into his ear, Raydor repeatedly looking over the mans shoulder, watching for other guards. The man gripped Raydor's hand, shaking it and nodding his head furiously, then dropped to one knee and threw open the backpack. Within were three-dozen shortswords, each wrapped in oiled burlap. The self appointed leader of the prisoners quickly passed them out over his shoulder, the men passing them around to each other until the pack was empty. A few that still lacked a shortsword withdrew the torches from their mounts on the wall and buried themselves within the crowd. The leader stepped to the front of the group with Raydor and made their way quietly down the hall toward the guards. Stopping at the cell from which he entered, Raydor with drew the guard's broadsword and handed it to the man beside him, a makeshift talisman of leadership.
Raydor walked to the back wall and proceed to climb through the openning as the group of freed men, with their leader wielding his broadsword, charged down the hall toward the unknowing guards ahead. He could hear the shouts of battle and the sharp clang of metal against metal as he crouched outside the fortress. As he replaced the large brick, the sound died to a distance rumble, then he turned and made his way toward the northern wall. He walked leisurely but quietly, allowing the freed men below enough time to fight their way to the enterance of the prison. Raydor peeked around the corner to see that the five guards at the northern gate leaving their posts to help attempt to quell the prison uprising. Catching up to them silently, Raydor withdrew his sword and decapitated one of the guards with a mighty swing of his sword. Hearing one of their comrads fall behind him, the gate guards came to a gravel-skidding stop. Looking wide-eyed and confused at Raydor standing over the fresh corpse, the remaining guards turned their gaze quickly to the senior campaigner. The man stole a quick glance at the prison, then back at Raydor. Uttering a curse under his breath, the campaigner looked again at the prison, raised his sword, and charged toward Raydor. The remaining guards following suit.
Raydor dodged the blow from the campaigner and stuck out his foot. Unable to slow himself, the campaigner went sprawling on the ground, his weapon knocked from his hand by the hard ground beneath him. Raydor moved quickly towards the following guards charging toward him, withdrawing the dagger from his belt, and prepared himself. Parrying the first blow, Raydor deftly slashed his dagger across the throat of his attacker. He stepped forward and swung down hard with his sword, knocking the block made by a veteran away easily, and cut deeply into his right shoulder, nearly severing his arm. Screaming in pain, the veteran crumpled to his knees, and Raydor made a quick final stab into the veteran's throat with his dagger. The remaining guard stood with his weapon grasped tightly, shock and fear nearly radiating from him. Raydor started moving toward him, the guard shying back as he did. His eyes flicked over Raydor shoulder, and Raydor's reflexes instinctively threw him into a sideways dive. The campaigner's slash caught on Raydor's flapping cowl, but nothing more. Raydor tucked into a roll and was on his feet instantly. He advanced on his attacker, but his enemy's reflexes were sharply honed. He spun on his feet and blocked Raydor's swing, then began his countering melee. Raydor dodged, and parried his attacks swiftly, returning the attacks just as quickly. Several of Raydor's strikes hit home, but the campaigner was well experienced and had much more endurance than his companions. But soon the campaigner tired, his attacks using less strength and speed.
Raydor took advantage and laid upon the man a quick and powerful series of blows. Raydor's sword bit deeply into the campaigner's thigh, and a second blow nearly severed his wielding hand. The campaigner's sword flew out of his limp grasp and he sank to his knees. He nodded faintly. Raydor solemnly returned the gesture and thrust his sword deeply into the campaigner's heart. He eased the man's body to the ground with his blade.
Looking up for his last opponent, Raydor spied the ex-prisoners advancing out of the dungeon below. The last guard had lowered his sword unconsiously, his mouth agape and his eyes frightened. Raydor turned toward him and raised his sword. The guard raised his sword again, visibly shaking, and started backtracking in a large circle around Raydor toward the northern gate. Grinning wickedly, Raydor took a few quick steps toward the guard. He froze in place and gripped his sword tightly, his knuckles turning white. Raydor opened his mouth slowly into a sadistic looking sneer, and flinched toward the guard. Screaming loudly, the guard clenched his eyes and threw his sword to the ground as if it were a snake with a loud clang, shying away from it. After a moment of silence, he peeked one eye open at Raydor, who still stood in front of him, weapon raised, mouth still opened into the evil grin.
Raydor opened his mouth widely as if he were gasping, then quickly whispered, "Boo."
The guard stared in confusion for only a second, then turned on his heel and sprinted out the gate. Raydor heard a roar of laughter from behind him and lowered his sword as he turned toward the group of prisoners. They were half-a-dozen less, and everyone wielded weapons now, most of them broadswords taken from the corpses of the guards. Forming a half-circle around Raydor, they waited patiently for him to acknowledge them. He removed his slashed cowl and cleaned the blood from his dagger before placing it into its sheath, then dropped it indifferently to the ground. Reaching under his tunic, he unbuckled his scabbard of shurikens and repositioned them on the outside of his clothing.
"You have done as I asked," Raydor said loudly to the men in front of him. "I need your help no longer. You are free to go."
The would-be leader again stepped to the front of the pack and replied, "Aye, we have. But most of us have been here long enough to know that we no longer have homes." He dropped his head for a moment, as if to let everyone consider his statement. "You say our only debt was to help you here. But Shadowclaw owes us all a debt that is yet unclaimed. And all of us will help you in claiming."
The prisoners let out a cry of triumph, wielding their swords above their heads. Raydor looked upon the crowd and nodded. He turned and led his newly founded group of soldiers toward the spiral stairway. As if on cue, dozens of soldiers poured into the courtyard from the stairway and charged toward the freed men. Redoubling their cry, the men charged the advancing soldiers.
Less than a dozen remained when they reached the top of the stairway, the would-be leader still among them. With Raydor in the lead, they quietly made their way down the hall. Half of them cautiously made their way down the eastern hallway while Raydor, the prisoners' leader, and three others followed the path south to the altar. Finding nobody, they started heading back toward the eastern wall, to await the others. A muffled scream broke the silence, sending Raydor and the others running to help the others.
There was splattered blood across the hall and against the western wall. Raydor brought them to a halt, readying his weapons along with his small group. Looking into the darkness of the eastern hall, Raydor saw three pairs of red gems floating a foot above his head. The gems moved toward him with unnatural movements and silence.
"Red eyes," one of the prisoners hissed.
Raydor didn't ask how the man knew the name of these creatures, but instead ducked as one swept toward him, trailing its heavy cloak in its wake. He began to dance with the creature, sending whipping attacks at its eyes while trying to dodge its swooping attacks. He didn't know what it could do to him, but he could sense something moving inside the cloak, and he didn't want to find out for sure what it would do.
A flourish and feint gave him the edge he needed, and he managed to shatter one of the eyes with the tip of his sword. The cloak collapsed, empty, and the light in the remaining eye dimmed and went out.
Raydor looked around. The ex-prisoners had finished the other Red Eyes, but two of their number were badly wounded, blood streaming from cuts, and another lay motionless on the floor. He had been the one who knew something about these creatures.
"Take them to the altar and tend to their wounds as best you can," Raydor said.
They were half-carried down the hall as Raydor inspected his surroundings. Moving down the hall, his eyes searched the hall intently. His keen eyes caught the faint outline of a partition. He tried to pry it open with his fingertips, but pulled his right hand back as if burned. The others watched intently, and the leader of the now small group stepped forward urgently.
"What is it," He asked quickly, concern and fear inflected within his words. "Are you all right?"
"I am," Raydor replied almost too quiet to hear. "But the wall here ... it's cold. Very cold."
Raydor slowly placed his hand against the wall, the bitter chill of the stones stealing the heat from his hands quickly. He put his other hand on the wall and began feeling around, peering intently as well. The others watched in fascination and confusion. A hand appeared in the corner of Raydors vision, and he smiled to himself absently. The hand touched the wall, but pulled back instantly. The leader slapped the man's hand, glaring at him. The toucher looked back at their leader, with an innocent look and a shrug of his shoulders.
Raydor's fingertip on his right hand slipped into a small hole in the wall, and he knelt to inspect it. After a moment, Raydor reached into the pocket of his pants pocket and took out a small bundle of leather with a thin strap tied around it. He untied the strap and opened the leather to reveal a small lockpicking kit. Taking out the necessary tools, Raydor made quick work of the lock, hearing the satisfying click as it unlocked. He quickly put his tools away, then stood and withdrew his sword and dagger. Signalling to one of the ex-prisoners, the man put his fingers into the crack in the wall and barely pulled open the partition. Raydor lowered into a defensive crouch and awaited an onslaught.
He peeked his head around the corner to see several pairs of Red Eyes floating around a large chamber. Braziers in each corner lit the room, and he could just see an iron staircase leading up to another floor. Looking back at his group of prisoners, Raydor put a single finger over his pursed lips. He motioned to the leader, and after a few minutes, and many confusing hand signals, he ran back towards the altar. Again Raydor peeked into the cracked partition as he waited.
The leader returned with both arms full of small bottles and vials. Looking at the labels tied to the necks of the bottles and vials, Raydor withdrew three elixirs and motioned the others to imitate. They each took the same and looked at Raydor patiently. He opened two vials and mixed the contents, watching as the others mimicked his actions. Taking the last bottle, he counted to three with his fingers, then signalled to throw the bottles into the open partition. With anxious nods, they all opened their last bottles and looked at Raydor for the countdown. He raised each finger in succession, then squinted his eyes as he poured the vial into the bottle and lobbed it quickly into the room. Ducking low, the others mixed their elixirs and mimicked Raydor.
The bright flashes were bright even through closed eyes. Inhuman wails came from the chamber as the Red Eyes were blinded. Unfortunately, two of the prisoners, who had not understood Raydor's hand signals, were blinded as well. Raydor, along with the remainder of his men see charged into the chamber and quickly demolished the defenseless creatures.
He waved his arm toward the staircase and quickly climbed them, the band of men following closely on his heels, Raydor's lieutenant in front of them. Stopping on the top, Raydor took a quick glance over his shoulder at the men, then threw his shoulder into the door. It flew open and slammed against the wall on the other side. A shockwave flew through the air toward the doorway and Raydor barely had time to move out of the way. The leader of the prisoners couldn't move in time and was struck directly in the chest. The force threw him backward into his comrades, sending them tumbling down the stairs. Raydor heard the door slam shut and lock behind him as he scrambled to his feet.
Raydor was locked in the private chamber of Shadowclaw, supreme leader of the dread mercenary company. From this room, Shadowclaw had plotted the assault or defense of many kingdoms, and the trophies on the walls bore silent witness to his success. Raydor ignored all of these.
"Well, it is none other than the mighty Raydor," Shadowclaw said casually as he walked away from the door, tossing the key indifferently atop his desk. Hamentor, his pet mage, was standing directly opposite the door, chanting to himself as several different colored aura began to engulf him. He muttered to himself one last time and made some gestures while a bright red aura rose from the doorframe. "I should have killed you when I had the chance. Alas, trying to exact revenge for the damage you caused during the Kyroft battle was a mistake. If not for the the maps you had retrieved for me, I might have lost."
"Careful Shadowclaw," Hamentor the Ageless advised cautiously as he sent an appraising look toward Raydor. "He is mighter than he was before, and much wiser."
Shadowclaw let out a loud, sarcastic laugh. Glaring at Raydor, he replied, "He was never a match for me before. Nor is he now."
Raydor rolled his shoulders back and forward, dropped his dagger into its sheath upon his belt, and took up his usual fighting stance. He sent a sideways glance toward Hamentor then set his rage-filled eyes upon Shadowclaw. Through a wicked grin, Raydor quietly said, "Let us end this."
As Hamentor also prepared himself for battle, Shadowclaw moved into his own fighting stance, raised his chin to Raydor. "I will enjoy spilling your blood," he said.
As the last word fell from Shadowclaw's lips, Hamentor sent a shockwave flying toward Raydor, but he too was already charging at Shadowclaw. The shockwave hit the wall and turned a layer of brick to dust, leaving a large indention in the stone wall. Raydor's hand flashed down to his scabbard and withdrew a shuriken. It went flying through the air, finding its mark within Hamentor's eye. Raydor sent a barrage of quick and powerful attacks at Shadowclaw as Hamentor screamed in pain, clutching at the shuriken buried deep into his eye socket.
Shadowclaw deftly parried and blocked Raydor's melee, returning with his own. Raydor too blocked his attacks, but Hamentor cast his spells madly, arcs of electricity flowing from his fingertips and into Raydor. Raydor screamed through his clenched teeth in pain from the blast of electricity. Shadowclaw took advantage of the situation and redoubled his attacks. A thrust cut deeply into Raydor's right flank. He swung his own sword, removing a large chunk of Shadowclaw's forearm. He screamed loudly, quickly losing the strength needed to wield his sword.
With Shadowclaw's blade still into his skin, Raydor gripped it tightly with his right hand and took a few quick steps back, wrenching it easily from Shadowclaw's weakened grip. He withdrew the sword from his abdomen in one painful jerk, then flipped it through the air, catching the hilt into his hand. Hamentor sent another bolt of electricity coursing through Raydor, but Raydor turned toward him, hurling Shadowclaw's sword through the air. The mage made an attempt to duck under it, but the hilt struck hard against his shoulder, sending him sprawling backward to the ground.
Raydor advanced toward Shadowclaw, who had removed another sword from a wall display. But with his forearm cut so badly, he wielded it in the opposite hand, holding it awkwardly in a defensive position. Raydor's melee was too powerful and quick for Shadowclaw's inexperience offhand. He left a long slash down Shadowclaw's thigh, across his abdomen, and a deep cut on the shoulder that nearly removed his useless arm. Raydor swung hard and knocked the sword painfully from his hand, the force breaking two of Shadowclaws fingers. Shadowclaw's expression was overcome with fear and surprise as Raydor steadied himself for a last decapitating blow.
As he swung, Raydor was struck in the back once again with a searing bolt of lightning. His swing lowered from the pain of the electricity, but the force still severed Shadowclaws right arm and cut deeply into his ribs. Shadowclaw crumpled to his knees as his eyes glazed over. Raydor ripped his weapon from Shadowclaw and his corpse fell forward. He turned toward Hamentor and was struck in the chest with a shockwave. The force sent him tumbling backwards, landing on hard on his back. He rolled to his belly, then crouched on all fours. Diving left, he avoided another shockwave and removed another shuriken from his belt. He let it fly through the air, praying to himself silently that it struck his target.
His prayer was answered as the shuriken stuck half way into Hamentor's neck. He let out a bloody gag as his hand went to the shuriken stuck in his throat. He staggered forward gasping for air toward Raydor. Raydor stood and looked indifferently at the man coming at him. Hamentor started to fall forward as he neared Raydor. He smoothly moved to the side as Hamentor collapsed to the ground. He let out a blood-gurgled final breath, then lay still.
Raydor looked from the corpse of one enemy to the other, panting heavily as he tried to regain his composure. He walked painfully across the room and retrieved the key from Shadowclaw's desk, then toward the door. As he unlocked the door, he could hear the feet of the others shuffling behind it. Standing to the side, he had barely opened the door a crack before the last few men burst through, weapons held ready. They stopped quickly and surveyed the room. Raydor chuckled aloud and they swung defensively around, looked at him a moment, then began to laugh and cheer themselves. Their leader embraced Raydor in a tight bear hug, laughing loudly. Raydor grimaced painfully and he released his hug instantly, inspecting Raydors wounds. He called over his shoulder to one of the men and he came quickly. He began to tend Raydors wounds, but he irritably waved him away. Raydor looked around the room intently for a long moment, then limped to the desk and began searching. The ex-prisoners stood watching, pondering Raydor's actions. Finally, the leader walked to a bookcase and began to search through it. The others each moved around to different areas of the room and began searching.
Raydor was laying on his back, admiring the full moon glowing above him, his fingers interlaced behind his head and his feet crossed and propped atop a large rock. He was in the same clearing he met Sariya the last full moon. At last, Raydor slowly stood, nursing his broken ribs, cut abdomen, and wounded leg gingerly. The ride back had been painful.
"You can come out now, Sariya," Raydor said over his shoulder. He turned slowly and saw Sariya's dark outline emerge from the woods as she pulled down her hood. She walked into the clearing and stopped less than a yard from him. She eyed the bandages wrapped around his thigh and from his armpits to his waist. He leaned heavily on his good leg and removed the pack from his shoulder.
"Is that it," Sariya inquired, motioning at the pack in his hand with a nod of her head. "Is that what you promised?"
"If it were not," Raydor replied casually, a small smile upon his lips, holding the bag toward her. "Would I be here?"
Sariya took it greedily from his hand and opened the pack. Dipping her hand into it, she felt the cold stone as her fingers wrapped around the object. She pulled out a statuette and dropped the bag to the ground. Holding it to up to the moonlight, she inspected it intently. The statuette was a made of a light blue marble stone, made into the likeness of Vryce cradling a young girl in his arms. The girl was made to resemble Torranus' lost daughter. Nodding to herself happily, she bent and picked up the bag and replaced the statuette into it.
"This will make Torranus happier than he has been in many years," She commented.
Raydor simply replied, "Aye."
"What will you do now, Raydor?"
He looked up again to the moon overhead, peering intently into it as if he were seeing it for the first time. "The Gods will lead me."
A flash of metal in the corner of Raydor's sight caught his attention. His reflexes were ready to jump instantly at what he saw, but Raydor willfully held them at bay. He kept his eyes turned up at the moon as Sariya buried a dagger into his upper abdomen, twisting if viciously. He clenched his jaw to the pain he could feel one of his lungs filling with blood as he forced breathe into them. He felt burning poison in his blood, and suffered. Turning his head to Sariya, he looked deeply into her eyes. Though he saw anger and satisfaction, tears twinkled in the moonlight as they rolled down her cheeks.
"There is but one way to repent for murder," She said coldly, her voice wavering. "That way is death."
She withdrew her dagger and stepped back quickly. Raydor dropped to his knees coughing up blood and spitting it to the side. She turned her back on him and walked to the edge of the clearing.
"Sariya," Raydor called to her, wheezing and coughing. She stopped and turned on her heel, looking over her shoulder at him. Though his voice was weak and wheezed between clenched teeth, he forced his tone and said, "Don't tell Torranus it was I."
She considered his words, then gave him a quick nod. She turned again and left the clearing. Raydor fell on his back and looked up to the moon. He painfully forced his hands behind his head, interlocking his fingers, and took in one last painful breath.
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