There are fates worse than death…
Hello, this is the seventh chapter of my serialisation of Accidental Immortal, on my blog, while for the first week it will be published every day, after the first seven posts they will be published four times a week so that the serialisation will be completed at the same time as on Wattpad, if not a little sooner!
If you would like to start from the beginning, please head over to chapter one. There is also a contents list at the bottom of each post.
Chapter 7 – Assassin
Arkan gazed out of the window. The High Priest was taking his time reading the scroll. Arkan relaxed his shoulders and lounged against the stone window sill, giving every impression to the man behind him that he was in no hurry. The street directly below was quiet but it was to be expected during market day. He watched with interest as two figures turned into the street wearing festival garb. He was careful not to show any outside sign of his attention. Had they made a wrong turn? There was something about their manner that showed them out of place.
The High Priest coughed slightly behind him, drawing Arkan’s attention away from the view and he wandered over to the wooden shelves, closer to the man’s desk on the far side of the room. He nonchalantly picked up a hand carved statue of a dragon, turning it over in his hand with gentle movements, all the time noting the man’s narrowed glances in his direction with an inward smile. Let the priest play these silly games. He had all the time in the world. While he stood there, he was perfectly balanced on the balls of his feet, ready to move in an instant. He was aware of everything in the room. From the hidden daggers in the padded arms of the chair to the eyes looking through the walls unaware that he was watching them as they observed him.
The priest was the perfect example of his order. His red robes were impeccably turned out, his hair shorn off except for a long braid of black hair entwined with the same colour-red material. His skin was paler than normal, showing the order’s distaste of setting foot outside the temple unless they needed to. His whole attitude was of entitlement, Hundreds of years of deference to the order did not beget modesty or humility. The man was a leech. Arkan buried his feelings. He was here to observe and play diplomat not to start a diplomatic incident.
If Arkan wanted to, the High Priest would be dead before he even dropped the pen to get to his daggers. As for the wall watcher, that had to be Fenish Gerd. A capable guard but no match for the King’s Assassin. Arkan again hid his smile. It would do no good to let the High Priest know what he really thought of him. His smile slipped. Was he getting complacent? It had been too easy to get in unseen and it was a trifle flamboyant to appear at the High Priest’s door. The king would find it funny and it did add mystique to his reputation. He laughed at himself, it was good to reflect on such things, it kept him alive!
The High Priest looked up, placing the pen exactly perpendicular to the paper. He began to tap the desk as if lost in thought. Arkan waited patiently, his thoughts turning to planning the evening’s entertainment in his mind. He could call on Luna. She’d been giving him signals for the past six months. Luscious Luna, the moniker fitted her perfectly. How her husband left her alone for so long was beyond him. He had noticed her long conversations with the king, but then again what woman would dare not reply to a king’s conversation. Jealousy briefly shot through his mind.
The tapping had stopped and Arkan moved soundlessly to stand directly in front of the desk. He smiled with disarming charm at the older man.
Summarising the scroll, Arkan’s soft tones filled the room. “The king has requested that you join him for the banquet tomorrow night.”
“I am not sure if I will be able to come. I have some passing business to attend to with the merchant’s guild.”
Ah, that was it. The old crook had found out that Dearik Sequi was to be seated closer and therefore be honoured higher for the night.
“That is fortuitous, we also have Dearik attending. Unfortunately, you will be seated on the King’s right while Dearik is on the left. We can move you if you require?” A look of sheer delight lit up the man’s face. Arkan hid his distaste for the man’s machinations.
“No, no. That will be fine. I am sure I will have time to speak to him during the evening’s entertainment.”
“I’m sure you will, Sir.”
The High Priest waved his arm and Arkan found himself summarily dismissed. He was bristling with annoyance when he entered the waiting room but he closed the door quietly behind him. By the time he twisted the handle on the second, he was in a better mood than when he had entered the temple.
Arkan opened the heavy wooden door quietly from habit. A young woman stood there with her hand raised as if she were about to knock. Behind her he saw the doorkeeper hunched over as he concealed a small gold item in his pocket. What would a lowly second rank brother be doing with a precious object? He looked fully at the woman in front of him.
“What do you want?”
“I’m sorry to bother you but I’m here to see the High Priest.”
Arkan looked at her closely. Her dress was the expected festival garb but she held herself strangely. She stood straight as any woman of the nobility but her shoulders were squared, almost as if she were a man. His body tensed inwardly as if it knew something he didn’t. Her features were fair. Unusually so. Underneath her scarf, he watched as a tendril of hair freed itself from its confines. She pulled the scarf from her head in annoyance, draping it over her bag in one movement. Her hair flowed down her back like a waterfall. He blinked, she had blond hair! And her face, it was even more appealing than the luscious Luna. Who was she? What was she doing here?
He glanced behind him to see if anyone else had seen but the main door was still closed and the doorkeeper had gone back into his room. He was Intrigued. He needed to find out more.
“He has finished his audience for today. You will have to come back tomorrow.”
“Oh look, I know how this plays out. I keep coming, I bribe the doorman until I have nothing left and I still don’t get to see the Priest. Am I right?”
Arkan let a small smile play around his lips. She was perceptive.
“Indeed it is highly unlikely that a woman will see the High Priest straight off the street. Why do you think he would deign to see such a person?”
“This!” Lynsey pulled back her sleeve and revealed a bracelet. Arkan leant forward slightly to get a better look. He contained his excitement. An Osiris band! He’d only seem them in scrolls.
“That trinket? Why would he be interested in that?”
“I can’t get it off!” The girl’s voice went higher in her frustration.
He gently took her arm and pulled down the sleeve.
“There are better places to try and take that off. A priest from the Order of the Dragon is not one of them. Have you tried the Mages? A Healer or even a Jeweller!”
She looked at him ruefully. “Well no…” Her voice trailed off.
“Come, This is not the place. Have you anywhere to stay?”
“Not really, I came with the Bardoon and I have a friend waiting outside.”
“Great, if you have some baubles to bribe then I know of somewhere safe to stay. You will need to put your scarf back on or you will get burnt.” He waited a moment for her to put it on. He was wrong, her movements were graceful but they were just different.
They walked briskly to the entrance gaining a confused look from the doorman. No doubt returning from hiding his treasure, Arkan thought. He made no mention and they were let out without a word.
The street was hot compared to the temple and Arkan was happy to be in the sun again. His black suit absorbed the heat but it was lightweight and covered most of his body. The slight breeze ruffled his hair. The girl easily kept pace with him, even with her cumbersome skirts. She was strange but she had good taste in clothes. The green matched her colouring perfectly. As they negotiated the stone steps down to street level. He couldn’t help but reflect on the morning. That silly man believed he was getting preferential treatment when all the time he was being played. He was getting a message delivered by the King’s Assassin and premier seating at a forthcoming banquet but the king was getting a map of the temple including the location of a basement entrance and number of guards. A success indeed.
Where was the girl’s friend? This wasn’t the best place for unaccompanied women. Arkan frowned, stopping at the foot of the steps. He looked around. This woman was obviously half of the duo he’d seen through the window but the street was deserted. His brows furrowed deeper. Had she been caught by slavers? A lone Bardoon woman would be thought ready pickings without her tribe to protect her.
A footstep behind him made him whirl around. How had she done that?
“Who is this?” the woman asked.
Before the girl beside him could reply, Arkan shook off his surprise and stepped forward. “Arkan Blade ma’am. I’ve offered my services to help you find a place to stay and help with your problem.”
“Has Lynsey Walker shown you the bracelet?”
“Indeed she has. Miss…”
“Miss Illyara, it is not advisable to show that piece of jewellery to a priest of the Dragon Brotherhood. Never mind the High Priest. Now I suggest we move from this place before we draw much more attention to ourselves?”
He gave a whistle and a coach pulled up before them silently. A lot of effort had gone in to making it quiet. The horses shoes were muffled, the wheels covered. A necessary perk of his office. Not anything that could be used for work off the record, it was far too ostentatious for that but when the king wanted his citizen to know he employed an assassin, then it was ideal. The black coach gleamed, its sumptuous interior was covered in blood red velvet, the horses, Ferestrian, their coats brushed and their manes braided. It was quite a sight. He was gratified at the girls’ faces.
“My Lord.” Illyara exclaimed. “I’m sorry if I appeared rude.”
“It’s nothing, we must get going.”
Arkan opened the doors for the girls and followed them in shooting instructions to the driver as he entered. The coach set off immediately.
Through the black velvet curtains, Illyara and the other girl, Lynsey were staring at the city. Illyara as befitting a Bardoon sat ill at ease but was respectful in her manner. Lynsey seemed relaxed, almost casual. She had a far off look in her eyes.
“May I take another look at your bracelet ma’am?”
Lynsey pushed back her sleeve and proffered her arm to give him a closer look. It had to be an Osiris band. He held out his hand above hers and she nodded her head in permission and Arkan pulled gently but it wouldn’t budge.
“That won’t do any good, I’ve already tried that.”
“One must try. How did you get it? Have you noticed anything different?”
She hesitated for a moment but then shook her head. Interesting … why the hesitation?
“Where are you from Lynsey Walker?”
Again she held a faraway look but she answered. “From Earth. I’m not from here.”
From the direction her eyes were pointing and her body language she was speaking truth. But Earth didn’t exist, it was a legend, a story told to children to help them get to sleep. But then again, so was the Osiris band. He stared at the gleaming band on her wrist. Who was she, how did she get here and what did it mean?