Author's Notes: I wrote this story in a rather emotional mood, heavily disturbed by the events in my life. There may be a few errors in the midst of the story, so please feel free to correct them. Please Read and Review. Thanks. I don't really know whether i will finish this as I often have writer's block and aren't that free in real life ( I'm a student ).
CHAPTER 1 --- Last Game
They sat in the wooden shelter, the attap roof leaking drops of moist rainwater. Three cloaked men dressed smartly in glossy cloaks sat in each corner. The first was a young master. He lacked eyes, but for what he could not see, he could tell with the arcane sense. This young adult was dressed in a brown trench coat; his side flanked by eight snobby dwarves, each armed to the brim with axes and pickaxes.
The second had a cloak of white and yellow, and was old in age. His left hand was wrapped around a wooden staff and he carried about an aura that was both mystifying and most impressive. At his disposal, were five elfish swordsmen and rangers. These mercenaries were dressed in a thin green material that was sufficient only in keeping them warm.
The last stranger kept its silhouette shaded in a black hood and robe. Behind him were a group of half a dozen men dressed like-wise. The only part of him that revealed, was a pair of protruding clawed hands, bony and wrinkled.
In this crowded shelter, in the middle of the mass of creatures, sat two humanoid figures. A child and his guardian, both innocuous at sight.
But looks deceive. Most of the time. The three groups of races were surprisingly solemn and silent. They awaited the arrival of another, the one they will strike a deal with.
The silence blanketed the shelter. Three parties all patient. The wait will be well-rewarded. But only one of the three present will receive what they demand. The wind blew both rain and chill into the poorly erected hut. The child sneezed and the guardian, a bearded man, wrapped his arms around the child to warm him.
The guardian stood up, dusted his cloak and announced amidst the howling of the wind. "He is here. The bid has begun."
The young master raised his hand in query. "I do not see him."
The guardian eyed him coldly and shot back. "Do you need to see him? Rest assured that if you win the bid, your task will be carried out. Smoothly."
The shade let loose a smirk which sounded more of a cackle. "I offer fifty hundred crezi for the head of our dear dwarven prince."
There was a dry cough and all attention was drawn to the old man. Pushing onto the staff for support, he stood up and faced the guardian. "Mr. Contractor, sixty hundred for the death of our fellow friend, Mr. Shade."
The child shuffled his feet against the creaking planks of the floor. It looked to the guardian and hid in his cloak for warmth. The guardian wrapped it around the child tighter.
"I'm sorry, but there will not be any contract of sorts, until the price is at least a hundred thousand crezi."
The dwarven prince protested strongly. "There will be no need of such a high price."
The guardian ignored the comment and turned to the other two. "Who is willing to pay the price for the death of any one of you here?"
The shade hurriedly reached into his robe and pulled out a bag of crezi. "Here, here. The death of the prince is sealed then?"
"The bid is not yet closed. Any higher offers?"
The dwarven prince snarled and threw two bags of crezi to the guardian's feet. "Take it. It's all I have and no higher."
The shade brandished another two pouches of crezi and shook them by his ear. "This should be enough?"
Listening to the clinking metal within the cloth, the guardian grinned and rubbed his hands. "The contract is sealed then. Unless, of course, there are higher offers. It appears that the Empire is wealthier than I thought. To patronize little poor me with such grand contracts."
The dwarven prince's eyes bulged in their sockets and signaled for his men to surround him closer. The old man did likewise.
"The elven empire might be slightly richer. I offer you five acres of the most fertile lands in our country."
The guardian shook his head disappointedly. "I'm sorry, but money is all I accept. Mr. Shade, can you repeat our most recent contract?"
"Of course, I'm most obliged to. Three hundred thousand crezi for the beheading of our prince here. And do you accept this offer, Mr. Contractor?"
The guardian nodded. "Going once … going twice … going … gone. Mr. Shade has won the contract."
The guardian bent down to gather the pouches of crezi and turned to make his leave with the child. The shade stepped into their path and halted them.
"What about our deal? I paid you."
The guardian raised an eyebrow mockingly. "It is long accomplished."
The shade turned his head to the dwarven prince but found him whole. "He is not dead."
"Oh, he is. Shake him, will one of you dwarves?"
They did as they were told and the head slid off the neck neatly.
"Is it done?"
"No. What about the rest of the dwarves? And the elfish lord here. Kill them too."
The guardian frowned and shook his head. "The contract was only for the head of the prince. That was the only requirement. Now leave, or I will finish you and your men. Retreat back to your king and tell him the deed is done."
The guardian cradled the child in his arms and disappeared into the fog.
Back at their housing, the guardian sat the child down on a wooden chair and smiled.
"You did your job well, little one."
The child giggled. "Will there be other games for me to play?"
"Yes, there will be, there will be. The world will be in turmoil soon, and the playground will widen each day for you to play." The guardian caressed the little child on his head.
"Master will have need of you." He whispered and left the child in the house. The guardian will need to be back at the castle to serve the master. There will be servants attending to the child's needs and his daily portion of the poison will be taken care of.
The guardian arrived at the door of the housing and climbed up the royal carriage awaiting him. As the horses galloped forth and pulled the weight of the carriage behind them, the guardian could not but feel pity for the child.
This child at heart, was in fact, not a child. His name was Dante. Four centuries and over had past, and he is and has always been a child. Rightfully, he is very much older than the ten years of age he appears to be on sight.
The guardian sighed. Dante's legend is as old as the occult itself. The first Master had instated himself in the position of absolute power through Dante's birth and coming of age. When Dante was born, the first Master had discovered a piece of Godstone amidst the ruins of the wilderness where the gods had once fought. A Godstone, is a fraction of the remains of a god, shattered into debris across the wilderness. A peasant then, he had imbued the Godstone into a pair of gauntlets stitched from ironwire.
The first Master then consulted the half-deities, whose existence would later be terminated by Dante, on how to wield this set of holy and sacred equipment. The half-deities marveled at the gauntlets and set out on a quest to select the appropriate wielder.
"The keeper, must be one of an untainted heart, or within twenty-five days of ownership, he will drown in agony and anguish."
The intelligent and brilliant first Master went on to concoct a poison that could keep a child forever a child, thus making him immortal. A child's heart has yet to be tainted by the sin of mortals, and thus, would be the ideal candidate for a keeper's make.
The child was Dante.
The gauntlets, imbued with the power of Godstone, had improved Dante's reflexes to a state of near perfection, where he moved and killed at a speed unimaginable. The first Master harboured ill intentions at heart, and felt that this discovery would make an impressive chess piece. In the poison he fed Dante, he buried deep, a curse that would bind the child to his will.
A perfect assassin was born. A child assassin.
The first contract, for this infant, was to slay the half-deities. The first Master decided that the knowledge of this matter that they beheld, was too dangerous and could be used to pit against him. The first Master bent the child to his will, fusing his intentions into the child's mind.
The following evening, the half-deities were no longer in existence. When the first Master aged and his lifeline faltered, the second Master took over his duties, and with that, Dante too.
For four centuries, Dante was a child, imprisoned by the poison into his childish mind; enslaved to accomplish the tasks as demanded by the contract. It was the forty-fifth commander that now directed him.
But life for Dante was the same. The occult grew stronger than any of the kingdoms, but its power was drawn from the dark and it needed to remain anonymous, until the time was right.
The horses halted on the asphalt path and the carriage pulled to a stop. The guardian sighed and leapt off. He hurriedly paced up the steps and down a maze of corridors and tunnels. When he finally reached his destination, he was a great depth beneath the ground and in the occult chamber.
The guardian knelt down before the forty-fifth Master and paid his respects.
"Come forth, Martes, and tell me of the contract. And bring me the crezi. I believe Dante did not fail me?"
"No, he did not, my Master."
Martes brought forth the three pouches of crezi and placed them on a silver tray before the Master's throne.
"Who were the fools that Dante toyed with today?"
"The dwarven prince who was beheaded, the shade of the empire and the elfish lord, my Master."
"Good, good. We are nearing our goal. You are dismissed. Go collect the recent batch of Forac shipped in yesterday."
"Yes, my Master."
Martes bowed forth and retreated, back first, out of the occult chamber.
A little after midnight, Martes dragged his frail body into the house. Three servants greeted him by the door; one supported him to his room; the other two helped to carry in the cartons of Forac.
"Dante! Dante! Come to my room! There's a new game for you to play!" Martes cooed softly.
Dante was chewing at a plush toy when he came sprinting into Martes' chamber. As an immortal, there was no need for Dante to sleep or to eat. He had enhanced senses and thus, Martes' soft words could be heard at a far distance.
Martes cleared his throat and sat on the mattress. "Tomorrow, at around three in the afternoon, I want you to make your way to the outskirts of Erasis, by yourself. A man will pass by in a carriage. Fifty-three mages will be guarding him. In this game, you are required to assassinate the man, in the most silent way ever, you get it, Dante?"
Dante bit his lips and nodded. "What is the reward for winning the game, Uncle Martes?"
Martes winced slightly. He hated it when Dante had to call him that. Fancy a creature, hundreds of years old, referring you as Uncle.
"Your reward is another glass of this - Forac." Martes smiled and clapped his hands. A servant entered the room with a crystalline glass of the poison. Dante grinned and skipped forth to gulp down the drink. Finishing it off with a tiny little moustache of the violet poison on his upper lip, he laughed joyfully, baring a tiny pair of fang-like canines.
It was always the same. Somehow, the Forac had Dante hooked and addicted. If Dante had not a sip of it for three days, he would begin to show symptoms of weakness and uneasiness.
It was the perfect bait of the bloodline of Masters. The secret formula of ingredients to concoct the poison was passed down personally through each generator of Masters. There was no way it will ever go wrong.
But he was wrong. Dead wrong.
Martes awoke the next afternoon with an acute migraine in the head. There was an occult meeting in an hour's time. If he was lucky, he would not be late. He crawled off the bed and dressed himself. Bearing with the throbbing headache, he limped up the carriage waiting for him and gritted his teeth. Every bump and shake of the carriage accumulated to the annoying disturbance in his mind.
The trip was long and rough and by the time Martes stepped onto the entrance of the occult chamber, he was weak and trembling down to his bones. He pushed open the large silver gates and strode into the chamber. He was late and expected a furious scolding.
But the forty-fifth Master did not reprimand him.
A dead man can never have the opportunity to scold anyone again.
Charred occult members of all ranks were strewn across the floor and when Martes bent down to touch one of them, the body dissipated into mere soot.
The truth was too much for Martes as he collapsed on his knees. He struggled to think of a way, of a way to avenge his Master. Yet, a dead man can never avenge the death of another.
Martes found, to his amazement, a flaming arrow piercing through his heart.