I am so thankful that I pushed on forward and finished up before yesterday. After coming home from the holiday madness I was not in any state to write. I still have one more chapter to finish, so hopefully today I will find some peace of mind to do just that. This is the next to last chapter and I still have yet to write the one that ties the pieces up and talks about what the folks are doing after the events. As always nothing has been edited, and I plan on sitting down to do that after the new year. Here is a rundown of the story so far.
- Shadowed Stone
- Little Giant Girl
- Birthday Wishes
- The Gifts
- The Incursion
- The Watch
- Rough Landing
- Dragon Bone
- People of the Storm
- The Lady
- Cambridge Beneath
- Prisoner of War
- Parting the Veil
- People of the Earth
- The Pack
- Brittagus Escape
- The Lightskimmer
- The Nightlords
- Best Laid Plans
- The Siege
- Rising Light
28 – The Puppeteer
The night sky looked angry, it was as though it knew what was in his mind. He reached into the folds of his thick red and gold robe, retrieving a small circle. Numbers flashed across its surface swirling in and out of view. The hour was getting late and there was still no sign of the assassin. It was unlike Shandor to not be punctual, and this was a trait he had come to expect from him. The master would not tolerate such a delay, so why should he. As the indignant rage built up inside of him he heard a noise behind him. The assassin had slipped into the room without opening the door or breaching the window. Betweeners as their accursed sidestepping he thought as he turned to meet the man.
“Do you have it” the robed man asked impatiently looking at the pack on the back of the assassin. The other slowly took the pack down producing a pouch handing it to the robed man. Slowly he opened the pouch and the room was filled with the soft glow of orange abbreviated by brief flashes of blue. The stormfire crystal was complete and as he held it in his hands he could feel the power coursing from it. With such power came great temptation with a mere touch of his fingers and a short incantation… all of that power could be his. He quickly closed the bag, knowing the master would flay him for even thinking such thoughts.
He placed the pouch in a pocket buried within the folds of his robe. No that distinct honor would be that of the Master, and he would never know of the moment of weakness just felt. He slightly to face the assassin looking him directly in the eyes “Do you have the other?”. The assassin walked over to a table, placing down his pack and lifting out a great brass cylinder. The construction was delicate of ancient dwarven make. The assassin removed a clip from the top of the container pulling up on it, removing the brass shroud.
There within a glass tube filled with a slightly glowing greenish ichor sat the head of Baigan Derrow, traitor to the courts of Avalon. “Are you quite certain it is fresh?” the robed man asked looking over the face of the fallen shade. “Yes, I slipped it into the casing moments after removing it. The flesh was still quite warm as I flooded the chamber with the conductive liquid.” The assassin replied stepping back from the container. The master would be pleased, he knew that he would want to read the thoughts of the traitor to determine if there was anything he kept hidden away in that brain.
“Sir there is the matter of my payment.” The assassin spoke up making a gesture with his hands to indicate the expected currency. Shandor was a loyal contractor and could be trusted to execute all instructions to the letter. This was a hard thing to find, and of course was worth quite a lot. The robed man crossed to his desk pulling out a fat sack that jingled as he crossed the room again, placing it in the hands of the assassin. “I am certain you will find this more than you requested. Just think of it as a bonus for the length of time spent in the company of that fool.” The assassin took the coins placing it down in the bottom of his pack and slinging the satchel across his back once more.
“Just as you had said, the Elfen and the human showed up moments after I had taken the head.” Shandor remarked while walking towards the door. “If there is nothing else, I will be going.” The robed man shook his head slowly “No that will be all, you are as always a faithful and honorable assassin. Should we need your services again, I know how to reach you.” The other nodded as he disappeared from sight silently in a puff of purple smoke. No matter how many times he saw a betweener shift like that, he could never really get used to the sight. Things had gone according to the masters plan.
He moved to the table, picking the brass shroud up and sliding it back down over the glass chamber. Taking the pin he refastened it and lifted the entire apparatus from the table. Slowly and carefully he walked holding the container out beside him as though afraid it would somehow taint him through its mere presence. He moved down the carved stone hallway entering a small room on the left with a dim green glow. There were a series of containers just like the one he carried in his hand. Each one sat down on a shaft with a series of cables leading up from it into the ceiling. He sat down the container and it seated in the slot making a distinct click as it finally locked into place.
The robed man unfastened to pins on either side of the container and the front panel of the brass shroud slid away revealing the face of Baigan once more. Reaching up he took a bundle of cables down from the ceiling, fastening each clamp onto one of the bolts sticking out from the top of the brass tube. After each clamp had been fastened the liquid in the container began to churn making bubbling noises as he sloshed and swished about the head. Baigan took a permanent place in the machine as the heads eyes began to open and mouth move in slight motions. The master would not be able to access his every thought and desire.
He looked to the container to the left,. to the head of Astanax the traitor to the Order. The robed man was giddy thinking about the secrets he must have told the master. The Order of Merlin hiding right under their noses and the library of knowledge that was now theirs to plunder. There was still one thing that did not make sense to him. Why had the master bid for him to help the girl escape. Would it not have been better to dispose of her and the son of Astanax? “it is not my place to question the master. The master is all knowing, all seeing. The master will lead the way.” He chanted the mantra pushing away the thoughts from his head, letting the rhythm of the words purify him.
He turned away from the containers and the moving faces contained within them, to a desk set into the far wall. Sitting down at it he drew towards him a large crystal on a pedestal. Placing his hands on the base he closed his eyes reaching out through the crystal to someplace else, someplace dark and powerful. The crystal flickered to life and within its many facets there displayed was a shadow shrouded figure seated on on a throne. “Is it complete Karrek?” the voice in the crystal demanded. “Yes master, the traitor Baigan has been connected to your machine. The assassin has also delivered to me the stormfire crystal.” Karrek smiled broadly as he delivered the good news.
“You are as always my faithful servant Karrek. Keep the crystal safe until I come for it.” The crystal dimmed and with it vanished the image of the master. Karrek had pleased him, and this meant he would be rewarded. Still he could not shake the feeling that there was more to the plan of the master than he could ever understand. The human girl, Pico, had to play some key role in his greater symphony. There were so many questions running through his head, but as he pushed them away he convinced himself that the time of the master was near. The threads of fate were being stitched together one by one.
He left the small room and moved back out into the main chamber, crossing it to stand upon the balcony once again. Karrek looked out upon Brittagus, the colony trapped in time, exiled from humanity. The exile of the wizards was soon to end. The Wards would fall and with them the Master would claim his place as the ruler of the new world. Karrek his loyal servant would be rewarded at his right hand. All of the death and pain would be worth it when the new glorious world rose like a phoenix from the ashes of this hollow one. Karrek raised his hand to his cheek as a small tear of joy dripped down it and onto his hand.