Blazing yellow light rained down upon from a sun that hung high over the hundreds of buildings that made up the city of Baikon. A sharply sloped roof posed no problem to a man who sat, clear gray eyes surveying the area, upon the crown of the building. Folding around him for miles in any direction, Baikon pinnacled with huge temples and libraries built of fine, imported stone. Low housing districts, much like the one he sat in at the moment; lay near the many guild headquarters of weaving, art, and other labor.
Although by no action did he reveal it, the man was very bored by this post; nothing happened except that some merchants cheated various tourists. Elsewhere on the street, the occasional dog nipped at the heel of a passing man and was scolded, or children wrestled mockingly. All boring for a man used to running and fighting, living a life of action and energy. By no movement did he betray his presence; he sat so perfectly still that his cloak, covered in blotches of auburn, bottle green, and olive, destroyed his outline and made him nearly impossible to see.
The slightest rustle of movement and suddenly a figure was beside him, tossing a full head of scarlet hair to face the patrolman. Her cloak was reminiscent of his own, except her pattern were slightly different and darker shades of gray and black. Taking this in, he muttered under his breath.
"Doesn't even bother to put on her day cloak…."
"No time. I was busy all last night in the Old District; there was a terrorist attack by a lone archer in the Library of Phokus. Had to wipe him up, then report to the boss. But I've needed to ask you something, Kius." Turning his tanned face to face her, his deep eyes met her hazel ones and she easily held his gaze. A cool fall wind brushed over them, for despite the city's southern location, a border with the sea kept the temperatures moderate year-round.
"So is it true that you plan to pick up that new kid? The… draconian?" Bitterness swept Allenia's voice as she said the word. A kind of cold fury crossed her face, leaving a snarling, livid husk where once sat a vision of beauty. Hazel eyes hardened into flawed emeralds.
In response, Kius tossed her a sly glance, his eyes alighting with a kind of joy. Far too easy to incense, he thought to himself. "Perhaps," he said carelessly. "The girl shows excellent skills at stealth, but is far too heavy-handed with a dagger."
Although her expression softened somewhat, clearly she was still riled. In apparent anger, she turned away in silence, pursing her full, ruby lips. Sighing exasperatedly, Kius crept to her side and cautiously tossed an arm around her shoulders.
"Look, I doubt that I'll end up recruiting her. I know you dislike and distrust draconians, and for good reason." Her eyes met his and she broke into a small smile, and then blinked in memory.
"Sorry, I forgot, but Darik wants to see you at his office now. Something to do with the problem of the errant sacrifices of Mayun?"
"Ah, shit. Time and time again I've told him that the priest tossed several lethal spells at me-"
"C'mon, you know that this is merely an excuse to distract you. You understand Darik fears you will usurp his position, I hope!"
Kius glanced down at the tempered steel badge at his waist, with the picture of a golden wolf upon it. Five small scratches upon the wolf's body indicated his rank as an adept of the guild. "I'm plenty happy with my rank. Besides, what can Darik possibly do?" He shrugged. "I am an assassin, so who's going to able to kill me?"
Reassuringly, he patted the belt of weapons at his waist and the wand of red oak strapped to the side.
Still looking worried for her oldest friend's security, Allenia looked at his face. Searing black stripes lined his face, a mark of his race. No such scars marred her own body; she was fully human. Raising a hand, she traced one of the black lines to his lips. His own hand took hers, and their eyes met.
"No one can kill me."
After a hurried good-bye to Allenia, Kius rushed through the city. Winding through both the crowded streets and abandoned alleyways with ease, people hurriedly cleared out of the way for him, a member of His Blade. Clearly most feared him, especially for the marks upon his face and body. But no one dared challenge one of the legendary police-assassins.
Perhaps it was the scars, or the weapons at his waist, or the badge upon his belt, but almost certainly not. Even aside from these obvious signs, there was a cold hardness upon his face, the confident and lithe way he strode about, but something made fear and power radiate from this man like heat.
Slipping through a narrow alleyway, Kius found himself standing before a magnificent building, the West Office of the Military. Walking up the pale white steps, a security guard shrunk back in evident fear. Snorting in amusement, Kius entered the building.
Taking an immediate left with an air of growing impatience, Kius broke into a jog down the corridor. At the third door on the left he turned and knocked on a heavy oak door.
Sliding the door open, a fairly large room met his eyes. Four people sat at a rounded table. Carved ornately into the table-top was a wolf, with flecks of obsidian for fur and shimmering diamonds for eyes. Marble fans curved down from a proud face.
"Sit, sit. We all have much to discuss." A small, shrewd-looking man waved a hand airily at the only unoccupied chair.
"Obviously, Darik. I take it that's why we have a full council?" asked Kius, with a respectful nod to the table in general. Other than Darik, who lead the Wolf House, the others were the highest ranks and equal to Kius himself. Two were women, who nodded back, smiling slightly. The other, a fairly old assassin considering the mortality rate, sent him an uneasy smile. This was none other than his first master, Lien.
Taking the seat between the two women, Oria and Giana, Kius looked up at Darik, who sighed and readied himself.
"Now that Kius is here, we may start," said Darik, throwing a slightly annoyed look at the assassin. "First off, the Blades assigned to watch the yearly events have turned in the reports of the most likely children to succeed as a Blade. Each Blade with four years experience is expected to take on an apprentice if possible, as well as any older who wish for another." Another steadying breath.
"This morning… Harun was found dead in his bedchambers."
Each adept reacted instantly. Oria blinked and put a hand to her eyes, pinching a dark eyebrow tightly. An audible gasp escaped Giana, who struggled to contain her shock. Lien leaned back in his chair and inspected the ceiling, but Kius stood up and took a deep breath before speaking.
"How? Was there any evidence to go off?" Darik raised a hand to silence him.
"A weapon was found near him, covered in blood. Not only that… we believe it to be the weapon of a Blade."
"Preposterous. Treason from within, do you expect?" asked Lien severely, his eyebrows meeting in a sharp V. "Harun was the leader of Bat House, so apart from being guarded by two level-threes at the very least, the assassin clearly needed to get past his own defenses once he put up a struggle."
Darik looked at him severely. "How do you know he put up a struggle?"
Lien held his gaze. "I know one of the guards who the killer evaded last night; he told me this morning."
Oria interrupted. "Wait. Did the killer murder anyone else, or only Harun?"
"After a thorough search of the house, we found the body of one Blade who was guarding him. The man was a Craftsman, or third-level, but there was no sign of a struggle. Clearly he was taken by surprise."
"But…but how?" asked Giana. "Is it even possible? Harun never let his guard down… this was clearly a skilled assassin."
"That's why we are having this counsel. You see… Saring suspects inner treachery. This could be the beginning of an uprising, and it's our job, as leaders, to prevent that at all costs. For now, just be extra vigilant. Watch for any sign of disobedience or rebelliousness, especially for young, talented assassins. That's how the last uprising began." Darik stared around, meeting each of their eyes in turn.
"You may all go," said Darik, turning to look at the wall blankly, his voice breaking ever so slightly. As Kius made to leave, however, Darik raised his voice again.
"One moment, Kius." Kius was glad to hear the catch in his boss's voice was gone, and now was strong and reassuring again. Darik was close to Harun, but even the leader of a House couldn't allow emotion to interfere with his duties.
"Yes?" Darik remained silent for a moment, and Kius took the chance to adjust the hidden quiver under his cloak. During the meeting it had shifted, and an arrow feather poked him in the neck.
"For the last couple years you've managed to avoid getting an apprentice. This… reluctance has to stop, or I will take action. Luck holds for you," he said, raising his voice slightly as Kius let out a small sigh of resentment, "As a senior officer you are allowed to pick your own apprentice. Don't waste the opportunity." Kius nodded.
"I won't. When do I have to register him by?"
"Three days, then you can begin basic training. By the by, most people will be watching how you train, as you've never done this before." He turned and flashed a small smile at his fellow assassin. "Don't screw up too badly."
"I'll do my best," he replied, returning the smile. Once again, he turned to leave. Once again, his leader's voice stopped him.
"One last thing. We found the thieves of those ceremonial silver daggers. Take care of them tonight, will you?"