A Killer's Gaze
Betrayal, Something so simple yet so complicated. It can be a range of things, from lying to your friend over something small. To killing them in their sleep or somewhere in between. Sometimes not even directly. Gabriel was in a guild. Not any in particular, in fact it is a guild was very different from the rest. Thief guilds, Assassin Guilds and Mercenary guilds. All separate from each other. Then one guild, completely independent. The guild members were known as the shadows. Fitting name, for those who can blend with the shadows as if it was second nature. The Shadow Guild was a guild that taught survival, at least that's what they tell everyone. In reality the Shadow Guild has all three trades. They teach the skill of thieves, the stealth of assassins and the power of mercenaries.
Do not be fooled that these shadows are a large threat to the other guild types. Not many know how to find the guild as that would defeat the purpose of being shadows. The guild is small, perhaps a maximum of thirty people. While the specialist guilds would gain up to one hundred a year. Also there are other guilds. Guilds that also have a low threat level but do teach all of the three professions. If you can call them that at least. Each guild would have its own name, for instance one is the Wolves. Being silent and cunning, but dangerous and fearful. The city in which the guilds dominate is a city called Strongbell. In the heart of Frieri it has the highest trade rate and is easiest to access. A river flows through it giving the trades a faster travel route. However it is also ripe for the picking of a few thieves. Often coin and merchandise would disappear by the hand of a group of thieves. However it is not so much that trades would stop in the city.
Anyway back to Gabriel. As you may have guessed Gabriel was part of the guild but only because he had no home at the age of five. The young boy had two influential parents in the city. Being rich and able to provide happily and to have the best guard, perhaps even better than the kings. They lived in a mansion in the north of Strongbell. Tall outer walls surrounding it and with just shy of three hundred guards protecting the place. Strong steel gates with one of the best locks money could buy keeping the gates shut when needed. It wasn't only the best protection in Strongbell. It was also the best advisers and tutors for the boy. By the age of three he could read fluently and read books that were up to three hundred pages deep. Of course people wondered where the money all came from. Some thought it was from the thieves guilds while others thought that the king gave them money out of fear not knowing that stopping would ruin their power.
Over time there were many conspiracies on the family. Maria Grasper, Gabriel's mother had been attacked by groups of men multiple times when shopping in the local market. It had gotten so frequent that she no longer went out but instead her maids would and she would stay safe at home. Their influence spread all across Strongbell. Even to the apparently uncorrupted city guards. The conspirators were often found and publicly executed behind the family house so that people would know that the consequences were always death. The thirty year old woman was married to a man called Esian Grasper. He was a merchant of high value and had established most of the trades within the city. He had as many enemies as he did friends so attempts on his life were something of normality to him. However it became unnerving how frequent they became. It had seemed that the main suspects for the assaults and attempted murders came from the thief and assassin guilds. Which was to be expected as they had to keep their reputation up so people of Strongbell feared them.
Gabriel was an unusual young boy. One whose hair was of pearl white and messy as it always had been, while his eyes were a brilliant turquoise. His eyes could capture anyone's attention and make people wonder why there were that colour. Neither of his parents had turquoise eyes. He was smart for his age and would rather read a book in the mansion library than go outside into their large garden. His favourite place in the house was the library and he used to sit for hours reading through the books. He was thin and healthy, if ever he fell ill then the family doctor would know what was wrong and try to put it right straight away. He often heard children outside the house and felt loneliness because his parents wouldn't let him out because of fear for his safety. On his fifth birthday something happened that would change how his life would be…
The king was an old restless man that had seen the rise of many nobles and also the assassinations of many too. He heard about assassination attempts on the Grasper family in the city Strongbell while he was in Martar, the capital of Frieri. He had been intrigued to see how the guilds were punished and had even turned up to one of the public executions to see what kind of example it made. He did so because in Martar he had a similar problem with the guilds but had made a deal with them. He would pay them to leave him alone and should they do so he would allow them to other parts of the country where there were huge rivalries between other guilds and they could set up a guild there too. As was to be expected he had received complaints on these terms but eventually people accepted them and the king had even started asking for the guilds purposes. He had also heard about a ghost guild that worked in secret and trained in all aspects of assassination, thievery and mercenary work. He hired an assassin to find out who they are and to inform the king on how to contact them, for he wanted the most skilled person for the job.
Gabriel woke up to find his servants waiting for him at the end of his bed. It was what happened everyday so Gabriel didn't expect anything other than his normal routine. Which was getting up, cleaning his room, then washing and getting changed. Have breakfast, spar with his mentor, learn from his mentor and then lunch. After that he would usually either attend meetings with his father or spend time with his mother. However today wasn't a normal day. It was the boy's fifth birthday. After awaking the servants took him to get washed after they already cleaned his room. Gabriel stepped out of his tall double bed and walked with them to the bath where they washed him and he got changed.
The boy now wore a shirt with a red waistcoat and dark trousers. He was given a blue sash that hung around his waist. He then walked through the winding corridors of the mansion and found his way to the dining hall. It was a brightly lit room with two chandeliers a large table that could seat up to thirty people was the most dominant feature in the room. The white haired boy walked in and sat in the centre of the table and waited. Waiting was something that was usual in this house but today was different. Soon a man, dressed in a blue shirt and black trousers walked in with a woman at his side. The couple both had dark hair and both were regal looking. The woman wore a long red dress that complimented her body. They greeted their boy happily and sat at opposite ends of the table where the man clapped his hands.
As quickly as his hands clapped several servants carrying plates walked in. On the plates was a variety of meats, vegetables and fruit. All for breakfast, it was a rare occasion for the small family. The two adults, being in their mid twenties, had married the year Gabriel had been born. Their fortune was one to be challenged. The finest meats imported from the hills of Toruna. The best fruit and vegetables from the farms surrounding Strongbell and the finest furnishings from the crafters in Martar. The smells seemed to overwhelm the young boy as his head was darting from side to side looking at the huge feast in front of him. Before he could start his father spoke to the servant who just placed the plates down to ask if the food had been tasted beforehand and sure enough it had been. Esian nodded to his son and almost immediately food was piled on his plate.
While they ate Gabriel spoke, obviously enjoying the huge feast for him. "Father? When can I have my gifts?" his voice was high but it held a young questioning tone that any father or mother would always answer too. However Esian winked at his son and said one word, soon. The family were happy in each others presence and the servants could see broad smiles on all three faces. Especially Maria's as she finally looked relaxed and peaceful, the current threats and attempts left here wary and jumping at shadows. She often wondered for her son's safety but today she felt completely safe and happy. Eventually the meal had to end and with it ended the feast that was for Gabriel's fifth birthday morning. The servants came in and picked the plates and dishes up efficiently and quickly. Esian saw something strange hidden within a males shirt but dismissed it thinking it was nothing. A trick on the eyes he thought.
They walked back into the main room in the house. There in the centre were three gifts. Two of a similar size and another slightly thicker and taller. One glance at the boy and the two adults could see he was itching to open them so they told him to go for it. Running straight to the taller and thicker gift he pulled away the paper hiding the contents. Within was an outfit made of leather bearing the colours of their house. Red belt, blue collar and the typical brown of the leather. Gabriel took off his waistcoat and put on the leather layer. It was a perfect fit and was obviously meant to protect the child. He tested the manoeuvrability, something his mentor had always told him to do. At the age of five he was already accustomed to fighting and death. Having seen his aunt die before his very eyes only a year before he knew protection was important. Esian smiled at his son proudly knowing that one day he would be destined for greatness.
Meanwhile in a seemly normal house there were assassins going over last minute plans. Each man wore black and masks to cover their faces. One man who wore a cloak around his body spoke to those around him. He leaned on the table in front of him both palms on the map. "Right. We have been paid good money for this and I hope that no one here will mess up." His voice showed authority and respect among the other men gathered. "We have an asset within the mansion and he will attract their attention by a hidden knife. Once he is captured a scout will run to each group and tell them to attack. I want Alpha and Bravo to go through the hallway. Charlie and Delta in the rooms next to the lounge. From there Echo team will break into the room directly. Moving in together will trap them. Now we must assume that that there are more guards than we anticipated so be careful and strike true. Any questions?"
One man in a dark outfit asked a question and it was answered efficiently. Soon after each group were sent to their stations except Echo. They stayed and the man spoke again. "I am riding a lot on you. You are my elites, do not disappoint me." The men saluted with their swords and left the room quickly and silently. Now the only person in the room the man let out a small smile. Thinking it would be easy money and they could take any goods they wanted. Anyone argued. They died. Anyone resisted. They died. Anyone ran. They died. No mercy. He left the room striding into his quarters down the corridor.
The room in which they stood had two large sofas and a small table in the middle. Large chairs to the side of each sofa, for the parents, while the bookshelves surrounded the room. Directly in front of the table in the centre was a fireplace. It was burning with an intensity that was as warm as Gabriel's heart felt on that day. He was overjoyed with his birthday so far and he ran to his parents like any child would and hugged them. The young features showing happiness in everyway they can. There were still two more gifts though and he slowly turned around to face them. This time he didn't run. He walked and picked up the one closest to him. Through the paper he could feel something like a handle. He carefully unwrapped the item. Making sure not to drop it.
The servants walked into the room. Obviously to clear up the mess that Gabriel had left for them but they also walked in to deliver some snacks for the small family. Esian once again saw the young man and didn't know who he was or why he sensed danger around him. He walked to his guards and told them to arrest the servant, without even seeing if he had reason to. The guards obeyed without a question and the moved onto the man without even hinting that they were. Soon he was in custody and Esian could relax once more. Maria noticed this and noted her concern to him, she was not a stranger of schemes so she knew why Esian had reacted how he did, but she wondered if there were any more around.
Gabriel walked over to his parents and hugged them saying thank you. He then noticed the amount of guards now in the room and asked. "Father. Why is there more guards here than before?" His curiosity showing through.
Esian's look showed everything but he spoke anyway. "Well, you know that male servant who was quite young and kept getting close to you when he had nothing to give you or any of us?" Looking his son in the eye while talking always seemed to be hard for the older man. At this Gabriel nodded so Esian carried on. "Well, I believed he had a knife concealed in the folds of his shirt so I had called for guards to take him away. Due to that threat more guards have turned up to protect us."
"Why would anyone want us dead?" Gabriel's voice rose on the last word of the question.
"Some people may see us as a threat. Either to their security, though I don't see how, or their wealth and power. There is another reason too. I believe that it is to rob us of our possessions and claim them so the thieves themselves would be as rich and powerful as us." Esian spoke in a matter of fact way that sent shivers down Gabriel's spine.
One of the guards tensed as he saw something move outside the window and he put a hand to his hilt. Other guards saw his and searched the corridors and rooms around the lounge. It was midday who would attack now? Suddenly, they heard glass smash in the room next to them and then more glass smash in the hallway. They knew what was happening people were trying to kill them. Hired professionals. The guards rushed in and surrounded the family holding their longswords with both hands ready to strike at any moment. It was as if the assassins knew that the servant's kill would be denied. Soon the doorway into the room was full of dark clad figures. All moving silently towards the family. Esian turned to Gabriel and gave him the necklace he wore, saying it would protect him and then both parents told Gabriel they loved him.
Now for Gabriel's presents. The white haired boy held his twin swords in both hands and looked at the men advancing. It felt natural. An extension of his arm. His training with weapons was one of the best but he still had much to learn. Esian looked down at his son and what he saw shocked him. No fear in his eyes, no emotion at all. Something cold and calculating. A killer's gaze.