Chapter 1 Part 1

Hey guys, thanks so much for looking at my story. This is my first attempt at writing a publishable novel, so all I ask is that you review the chapters I post online with constructive criticism regarding my writing style and whether or not a specific passage is important enough to remain in the official story.

The ShadowBlade Legion

By: Juliette Hinegardner

Eighty* years ago

The assassin moved silently, clothed in expensive black silk from head to toe, almost invisible against the night. Only his eyes and nose were uncovered, so that he could see and breathe. He had been in this business for a long time, hoarding enough funds to become legitimate. This was going to be his final target. The mark on the prince's head was enough for any person to buy a duchy, with funds left over to buy slaves and pay servants to run the vast property that came with the title.

Barely making more noise than the average panther, he walked through the open gate, almost touching the lethargic, sleepy guards on either side of him. Neither stirred. The assassin smiled to himself. This was too easy. It was almost as if someone wanted him inside... No, that couldn't be right. 'Maybe you should leave. It's a trap,' he thought to himself. Then greed overtook his better senses. A hundred thousand gold coins was a fortune even some kings would envy. Realizing that he had stopped, he angrily shook his head and began making his way to the castle, making sure to watch for any patrols. As he moved closer to the castle, his feeling of unease continued to escalate. He got to the main entrance, and wary of any onlookers, skirted the wall, looking for a safe place to climb. A few minutes later, he found what he was looking for.

He climbed up the seemingly bare walls with no apparent difficulty. When he reached a window, almost five minutes of stealthy climbing later, he peeked inside to determine whether or not it currently had an occupant. Fortunately for him, there was no one to be seen. With difficulty, he managed to open the window from the outside. He sneaked inside, creeping over to the door. Once there, he opened it, hoping that no one would be outside it. He needn't have worried. The room he was in seemed to be located in a deserted wing of the castle. Once more, he debated turning back, and he walked back to the window, just to see two soldiers taking position underneath it. Cursing his luck, the assassin realized that he would simply have to continue on, then find a different exit. He walked out of the room, quietly closing the door, grateful for the shiny, rust-free hinges. He walked around, looking for something to indicate to him where the prince was currently sleeping. He heard the jangle of armor and weapons. Quickly, he ducked into the shadows and stood as still as he could manage, even holding his breath as the patrol passed him by.

"Prince Agno wanted us to patrol this floor, because he wanted to get some sleep tonight, and was worried that an assassin would come along," the older of the two soldiers explained to the younger. The younger was probably only recently inducted, and was probably currently training, while the older almost looked old enough to retire.

"Why this floor? The Prince almost always sleeps on the top floor, so if he was worried about assassins, why sleep down here, where it's less safe?" The young man asked.

To which the elder responded, "It's to distract the supposed assassin, where he would..."

The soldiers got to the edge of his hearing range, and the assassin followed them as best as he could, while still maintaining his stealth. After nearly ten minutes, he saw a door that was guarded by four guards. The assassin grimaced. He could easily take four soldiers of average ability and training, but seeing as these soldiers were guarding their prince, they were either highly skilled or highly trained, and more likely than not, they were both. Even if he did manage to defeat all the soldiers, and was still capable of finishing his job, he would lose the advantage of surprise over Agno. He quickly decided that his only chance was to distract the guards, but it almost certainly would not be easy. All it would take would be for two of these guards to walk off, then the assassin could kill the other two, with none of the four knowing what was happening. But how to distract them? He looked around, then he grinned as he saw the perfect opportunity- an unguarded armory.

The assassin entered the armory and set several weapons and pieces of armor in highly precarious positions, then quickly exited the armory, making his way back down the hall towards Agno's room. Just as he ducked into the shadows, unsheathing his knife, a series of clanging crashes resounded down the hall, and three of the four guards rushed toward the armory to inspect what had caused the loud noises. Estimating that he had no more than one and a half minutes, he crept up behind the remaining guard, and quietly stabbed him in the throat. He opened the door that led into Agno's sleeping chambers, and began his stealthy, though quick, journey to the bed that would result in the death of a very prominent prince. Less than half a minute later, the assassin was at the bedside, looking down at the sleeping prince, filled with disdain for the untroubled sleep of his target. He raised his knife- the same one that had ended the life of the guard outside no more than half a minute ago- and brought it down almost contemptuously, planning to end it with one quick stab. Unfortunately for him, someone caught his arm as it came down, and a knife was placed at his throat. The assassin froze, knowing that his career, and most likely, also his life, was now over.

A voice, young and confident, came from the person behind him. "Do you know how easy it was to set this trap for you?"

The assassin did not answer, preferring silence over possibly irritating the owner of the voice.

"Well, let me tell you, it was not very difficult. In fact, it has probably been the easiest endeavor of my entire life. And the plan itself was simple. But that someone as renowned as you for being so clever, having fallen for such bait as mere greed, strikes me almost as ludicrous. Tell me, assassin, what was your true motive for coming here?"

The assassin still refused to answer.

"Come now, you can tell me. After all, I am the man you were sent to kill. Ironically, it was I who also hired you to come here, so if you had succeeded, you would never have gotten paid. Just a little revenge on my part, in case you happened to outwit my trap."

The assassin was now getting to be a little bit worried. The man behind him, claiming to be the prince, was rambling, instead of simply killing him. Was this his way of causing the assassin to relax, so that the kill would be easier?

Agno, if indeed it was the prince, continued, as if he did not notice the assassin's silence. "This was all a test, did you know? You were under surveillance from the moment you entered the village nearly ten miles out. I thought, perhaps you may like to know just how well you performed. Would you?"

The assassin, yet again, stubbornly maintained his silence, despite his burning curiosity and fear.

Agno sighed. "I chose to set up this test to see how well you did your job. You proved your capabilities of stealth, your cunning, and most importantly, that you know when you can't win. I'm not here to kill you, I am here to offer you a position in the Legion."

The assassin was stunned. The Legion was comprised only of the thousand best soldiers in the kingdom, and had never lost a single battle.

"You'll have to start at the bottom, but I'm sure that with your skills, you could easily take a position in the Perisu."

That was laying it on a bit thick, the assassin thought, as the Perisu was the name of the leadership council of the Legion. Only eleven people could hold a seat in it at once.

He decided to risk speaking. He said, "And if I refuse?"

"You'll be tried and executed for the attempted murder of myself," Agno responded.

"Then I will take your offer," the assassin said, hating himself for falling into the trap that had been set up for him. Then he felt something jab into his leg, and the world went black.

*Formerly thirty, but I realised that the dating could not possibly work with that number.

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