As the sucking mud swept over the assailant's corpse, Lady Andrea Croix
gnawed hungrily on the waybread Lord Frederigo D'Honaire had handed her.
It was disgustingly tough and rubbery, being unleavened, and she hated it.
He had explained to her that it had to be that way to stay edible over
long journeys, but it certainly wasn't what she was used to, and if
Frederigo thought this was "edible", she began to wonder if there was
anything he wouldn't eat.
Just as he was breaking camp, Andrea noticed something laying discarded on one of the ponderously large tree roots that were their path. It was filthy, spattered with the mud of the fens, and thus almost unnoticeable, but there it was, a small medallion. Slowly, she cleaned it off.
Gradually, she was able to make out its features. It was silver, on a fine silver chain. She paused for a second, then got a nagging feeling she had seen such before. She probed her recollections, and then suddenly remembered.
The last time she had seen such, it was on an assasin, killed by the castle guards before it could reach her father. Her father said it was the mark of the killer's guild...
Another day's travel found them nearing the edge of the fens, but all the same they could go no further. There was still another half a day's journey before they were out of the Fens of Canmoor, and thus even if they pushed, they would have traveled into the dangerous night hours when the predators of the fens stalked.
Frederigo had already made camp, and was sleeping soundly in his sling. Andrea, however, could not find rest, not after what had happened the previous night.
This close to the edge of the fens, the mists occasionally parted to allow the moon to shine through. This was one such time, and the full moon cast its silvery light about on its third and final night. Andrea heard a howl echo far in the distance, and she shivered because she realized that Frederigo was right. They were close to the Wild Lands, having effectively flanked Astra, and though she was far enough away that they were safe, that was her savage cry. She just knew it.
Again, Lady Andrea Croix found her hands moving of their own accord, and her lips speaking words she did not know. Without realizing it, she had laid the assasin's medallion on one of the roots, and had started tracing symbols in the mud around it. Then, at the last moment, she touched the medallion, and her senses were overwhelmed...
He had been paid well for that contract, and he didn't care whether the money came from a dragon's hoard or a prince's hand. The Cult of the Dragon had paid well, and Sicarii operatives killed for whomever could afford their services.
He made his way through the swamps nimbly and quickly, using the symbols his guild had placed on the trees. They were the only safe route through the fens, and all who passed paid the tax or perished. He had no idea how these had made it through without alerting the sentries, but it didn't matter. His concern lay with the young noblewoman, his mark.
Carefully he crept up to the edges of their camp. Just a simple swift motion was all it would take. He would snap her neck while she slept, and vanish before anyone could notice. Were it not for the cowl which obscured his features, a sly grin would be seen across his face.
Something was wrong. The last thing he saw was a knight in mud-spattered chainmail, bearing a knife.
"You don't know whose toes you're stepping on, little man. Know your place..."
Then the cold numbness of death swept over him.
Andrea clutched her head at the sensation. These were...These were the last moments of the medallion's owner. She didn't know how she had done it, but somehow she had been able to summon the emotional impressions left on the item. She shook herself from the reverie, and shakily tried to decide what to do.
1/11/2000 3:37:33 PM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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