Chapter 12: Intruder

My suspicions were confirmed when one day I was called to meet with the missions' leader. I had expected that on my first mission the twins would come with me. Apparently, that wasn't to happen. It was only Blue that was called with me in my circle of acquaintances. She gave me a small sad smile as she led me to where we needed to go.

We entered a room painted with black walls. On the wall opposite the entrance were maps and written notes. Words in pencil lined the other walls, all made of different random information that made no sense to me. Two men in suits stood on either side of the room, staring up at the maps and rubbing their chins. One woman sat on the floor opposite the door, wearing a long black coat with the collar that stuck up, almost touching her very short blond hair. Warm big brown eyes stared back at me with long dark eyelashes that complimented the beauty mark under her right eye. She smiled at us, a gentle look upon her face.

I looked around at the others that waited nervously besides Blue and I. A little girl, younger than Blue, stood on my right side. She looked pretty plain with her long brown wavy hair, her lanky build, her average face. But her green eyes were filled with wisdom and grew wide as she saw me looking at her. Something about her eyes told me that she was more than just the plain person I saw. A man in his thirties stood on the other side of her, his muscles rippling under his tight T-shirt. He looked cruel and mean, but the way he smiled at the little girl as she pulled on his top was kind and caring. On Blue's side was a woman of twenties, wearing her black hair in a long braid over her shoulder. She looked incredibly annoyed, as if she wanted to be anywhere but here.

"Who is she?" I whispered to Blue, nodding at the woman who sat on the floor.

"That's Leader. She's in charge of the missions and who's dispatched on them," Blue whispered back.

Blue looked like she wanted to say more, but Leader stood up and in one swift motion, pointed at each of us in turn. The two men on either side of the room turned around, away from the maps, and walked out of the room silently.

A pause fell upon us as Leader's eyes trailed over our forms. With a satisfied nod, she began, "Yes, I think this team will be fine. Introduce yourselves."

The muscly man simply said, "I'm Panther." He was closely followed by the little girl saying timidly, "I'm Lyric" as she gripped his top tighter and looked up at him for approval. He smiled and nodded, rubbing her head.

Blue elbowed me, almost causing me to yelp my introduction. "I'm Runner."

"I'm Blue."

The annoyed girl sighed, crossing her arms and mumbled, "I'm River."

Leader smirked and pointed at a point in the map. "Right, now that those necessities are over, time for the mission, 'kay?" I immediately knew what it was that she was pointing at. "Today, Miss has given us the mission to assassinate the Named Peter, therefore destroying the family structure. One more Named family down, less of the enemy, see?" Her eyes sparked with menace. She paused as her eyes glanced over me and she nodded again lightly. "I believe you were able to look over the maps of Peter's house, Runner? You have it all clear in your mind?"

I narrowed my eyes in confusion and panic rang through my mind. But it dawned on me then. Of course, no one was to know that I was a servant there now that 'Seventeen' had disappeared. I was Runner now. I had no ties with Peter and that place anymore. So I nodded and replied, "Yes, Leader. I have memorised it all."

Blue smiled, stifling a giggle.

We set off then, leaving no time to say goodbye to Fox or the twins. As soon as we stepped out of that room, after receiving some information that Leader felt the need to tell us, we made our way straight to the base's entrance.

Having been unconscious when I was brought here, I didn't know where the entrance was or what it looked like. I observed as we followed the Northern corridor to get there. The further we went, the more security there was. The twins had said that there weren't enough people for them to be called rebels, but I could have been fooled. However, I wasn't an expert on what made a group a rebel force.

We reached a door made entirely of metal, guarded by a dozen guards, all armed with guns and swords. They nodded to Leader as she passed and one leant forwards, reluctantly opening the door only enough for each of us to go through in turn. I followed closely behind Blue as she went through. We entered cold darkness, only lightly illuminated by the little gleam that was let out by the open door we came through. Once we were all in, the door closed and all light faded away. I stood still, unsure on what to do. For a few seconds, nothing happened and the darkness weighed heavily on me, until an old, creaky, wooden door opened about twenty feet away above a few concrete steps.

I shivered from the icy air that was let in with the light. Outside, green overwhelmed the view as the trees swayed franticly.

"How are your injuries?" Blue asked me as we ascended the steps into the open world outside the shack entrance. "You know, from when I stabbed you."

I shrugged. "They're fine. My legs are fine too."

"I was going to say 'too bad' if they weren't," she giggled.

I chuckled and shook my head, ruffling her hair. It was hard to think that our first meeting was completely different from how we acted together now. She was wary of me, as I was of her. Now she was like a little sister to me. "Yes, as I expected of you."

Lyric watched us as she sucked on her thumb and I began to wonder what was so special about her for her to come on a mission to assassinate someone. She barely looked nine or ten yet. Panther didn't look concerned about bringing a child with us. But then, Blue was also considered a child, but she was an assassin and a master with a knife, knowing what parts of the body look more realistic in an attempt to kill, but doesn't actually harm. Of course, the children in this group were amazing.

We trekked through the woods, careful with our sounds and always looking out for anything that may attack. It took a few hours, and I admit that the pain in my legs began to ache again, making me consider a number of times on whether or not I should ask to stop. But we came to a break in the trees, where a huge river flowed fast and crossed our paths. Leader led us down the river side to where the river was most calm, then threw herself in. The others followed without hesitation, completely trusting her judgement and giving their lives to her. Me? I was scared and didn't want to do it. The idea of my misjudging it and being swept away to be thrown off of a water fall or something made me sick to my stomach. But I did as they did and jumped in, immediately finding that it really wasn't as bad as it looked. I made it to the other side in once piece – soaking, but in one piece.

On the other side of that river was an open field, filled with yellow and green growing corn that reached to our shoulders. Because of the potential issue of being seen, we began to run through the field as we hunched over slightly, never stopping.

I had no idea how we were going to do this. Leader hadn't told us how we were going to get into the house, though I suspected that she would leave that up to me as I knew the secret ways in an out. Hey, always escaping had come in useful as it gave me a choice in ways to get out and go back in. But I also knew how guarded the house was, and getting in would be the easy part. Getting to Peter's room without being detected was going to be hard. Also, after the murder of Thomas, of course the guards would have doubled, if not tripled. Going anywhere near our target was going to be possibly the hardest thing I would ever do.

But not only that; after we killed Peter it was going to be hard to get out without being detected, if we hadn't been already. I barely made it out after the guards found out I had killed Thomas. I knew the risks and I knew what could happen. I should have been advising them against it, but after a big part of my life had been spent in misery because of the Named, I wanted nothing more than to just get rid of them all.

Then I wondered if he would recognise me if I saw him. Would he see through my disguise and recognise me? I doubted it. But I also wondered if I would show myself to him in his last moments and let him know how much I hated him. Would he apologise? Would he beg? Would he cry and bow in front of me? Or would he just laugh in his last moments, remind me of everything he had done and how much he hated me too?

I didn't want to think about what he would do. He wouldn't let me go easily because of what I had done to his father. He had never minded when I attempted to run away because he always knew I would be brought back. But I had successfully made it out and stayed away. For sure he hated me more now than he ever had.

We arrived to a familiar countryside after a few more hours of running. My heart beat faster as the scene tugged at me. I remembered the hills, the few farms, the little streams that joined together, the patches of fields in different shades of green. I remembered it all as they were always where I ran to when I escaped. We were very close now to the house, very close to the prison I had been held to before.

Leader beckoned to me, quietly saying, "You know of this area after reading the maps, right?" I nodded. "Lead us to where you think the safest place is to get in there. Is there also somewhere we can hide out here if something goes wrong?"

I nodded again and pointed to the west of us. "Over there, there is a cave hidden by a willow tree that used to be mining tunnel. It may show up on the maps, but most of the locals have forgotten about it. Even if the guards haven't, it's a place where we can have easy views of the enemy and open enough for us to launch long-range attacks if we need to. It's easy to protect, and hard for them to attack us in. The cave itself is small and narrow, so even if they got in they would not have enough room to attack us with the guns and swords that the guards may have."

Her eyes widened and she smiled a great smile. "That will do fine! Great choice."

"The best way to get in would be through the prison," I continued. "They don't keep many people there, and even then it's the servants that they keep down there with only a few guards to protect the place. Most of the guards will be outside of the main room where the leader of the family often sits to welcome guests and outside of Peter's room, I guess."

As I spoke, the house came into view over the brow of a hill. Instantly, hatred bubbled up inside of me. I glanced at its many windows and wondered which one it was that Peter was behind.

But there was something wrong. As we came closer, we saw that there were no guards outside the house. It was open and empty outside, with no sign that anyone had walked outside of those walls in a long time. In fact, on closer look, there was no movement that passed the windows. When I had been there, there had always been more than a few dozen people walking through the house at one time. But I saw no one. Not one sign of life passed those glass windows. I looked back at my group who seemed not to have noticed the oddity of the situation. There wasn't any noise from the house either, not a voice nor a whine of the horses in the stables at the back. Nothing.

"What's wrong, Runner?" Leader asked as she too noticed something.

I shrugged. "I don't know. No one's inside."

"Is it an ambush?" Panther offered without much fear.

"How could there be?" Blue asked. "There was no way that they would know we're coming. The only people who know about this mission are us and Miss."

I ignored them and walked up to the front door, throwing away the plan of getting in secretly. I couldn't feel eyes on me, and the feeling in the air was relaxed and lonely. I doubted that the inhabitants here were hiding somewhere, waiting to get us. But they weren't inside either. Where could they be?

The door swung opened inwards at my touch, revealing an empty hall. Wind blew through the house, whispering softly to me. But still I couldn't hear the sound of footsteps or angry shouts at me, the intruder. A thin sheet of dust had begun to settle everywhere. The inhabitants had been gone for a long time, so it seemed.

"They're not here," I stated obviously, walking in with loud footsteps that echoed up the stairs.

The air grew cold as I slowly walked up the steps to the next level. Darkness engulfed the halls, chasing away the little light that struggled to get in through the closed shutters of the windows. Cobwebs hung from the torches on the walls.

The others followed me far behind. As I turned the corners of the halls, I saw Blue's face. She watched me intently, looking wary and concerned. A small frown made her lips. I saw her sigh.

Before I knew it, I had arrived at the massive door that stood in the middle of me and Peter's room. Without being truly conscious of it, I reached out and pushed open the door as the others watched me.

It was all as I remembered it. Everything was as expensive and extravagant as it had been before. Of course, it wouldn't have changed in the time, but I still hated how rich these people had been. I had expected everything to be in its place and Peter's possessions to have gone if he had left, but it looked like he had been in a rush to leave. The bed was still unmade, books had been thrown to the floor, the bedside table had been turned upside down, the vase lay on the floor as the flowers inside wilted away. It looked like there had been a struggle, but it was unclear who had won. Maybe Peter had even been kidnapped. But that didn't explain why the house had been completely abandoned.

My eyes immediately sought out the golden plaque of Peter's Name. I grabbed it hungrily and placed it gently into my hands, allowing my finger tips to slowly trail over it. I exhaled deeply, watching the fog of my breath catch on the surface and fade just as quickly. Those letters, carved in by a skilled Name plaque maker, held everything to Peter, including his status and his privileges. I could hardly believe that he would leave it behind in an unguarded house, where anyone like me could break in and take it away. He really must have been in a rush.

"It's what you wanted," Blue whispered besides me, nodding nonchalantly.

I didn't reply. Something inside me felt wrong. My mind still lingered on what it must have been to send Peter away like this, without what it was that he treasured the most. It scared me a little, but I doubted that I would ever find out. So I pushed it to the back of my mind, shoved the plaque into my belt and covered it with my top, and turned to the others.

"They're not here, and haven't been here for a long time," I said. "It's obvious that they had to leave unexpectedly. There isn't anything left for us to do here."

Leader paced the room, inspecting everything as she rubbed her forehead. "You're right. We've failed this one. When we get back, I'll get the research team to look into it and send out anyone who can find something. Even the Named can't just vanish."

I waited in the room as they all left. Blue was the only one who noticed me still standing there, but she just nodded and left me alone. Above the fireplace was a proud portrait of Peter himself. I had been there when Peter had had to model for it. Normally he was impatient and would never sit in one spot for hours, but because this painting would show off his wealth he had been happy to oblige.

I wondered where he was now. He may have gone out into the world to find me and hunt me down. I had killed his father and he hadn't been ready to become the head of the family. I nearly took everything from him. Of course he hated me. Of course he wanted me dead.

"Eh? I was wonderin' when you'd be back," came a voice behind me.