|More from BlueDagger||Adventure||PG-13||Positive|
September 20, 2011
When Feng, Wei and Nekku are hired to kill a noblewoman attending a party at the Royal Palace of Ba Sing Se, they are attacked by an assassin, claiming to be part of a group called "The Shroud."
Ehan strolled through the halls of the fortress. It was a large fort, nestled in the Kolau Mountain Range, made entirely of dark black rock. Situated high in the mountain range, it snowed almost constantly. The fort was kept warm Waterbenders, channeling water from a hot spring into the walls. Ehan was heading towards the large room in the middle of the fortress, where the leaders of The Shroud would be meeting. He did not know why, but he had been summoned to the meeting. He figured he would find out, soon enough.
He turned the last corner, and came to a large set of double doors, with each fourth of the set of doors having the symbol of a different element on it. He opened it carefully, and stepped through to the inside.
Some of the most important members of The Shroud were gathered in the large room, sitting on the floor, around a table with a large map of the World on it.
Across the room was the only man sitting on a chair. He was dressed in yellow-brown robes, the only one not wearing black in the room. He was a middle aged man, with long, slightly graying hair.
Ehan fell to his knee at the sight of the man.
"Abhiraja, my lord," he said. "You summoned me?" The man looked down, and spoke with a deep voice, that echoed with authority.
"Yes, Ehan. We have a task for you. An important one."
"You are being tasked with the assassination of an... Important target."
"Who, my lord? What makes him important?"
"The Shadowborn." Ehan looked up, wide-eyed.
"The Shadowborn!? Why?"
"We have been hired to kill him. For a substantial amount of money. No more questions are to be asked. You share half of the profits with your team. And yes, you will have a team. Do you accept?"
"Yes, my lord. I accept."
"Very good. Meet with Rayu in the secondary meeting hall. He will give you the details. Now, off with you. The masters and I have much to discuss." Ehan nodded, and, with that, left the room.
"Now, men. Shall we get back to our discussion?" Abhiraja shook his black hair out of his face.
Revealing a blue, tattooed arrow, running down his forehead.
The Bar and a Job
Wei took another swig of her ale, and put her elbow on the table.
"Alright then, tough guy," she said. "You wanna go?" A heavyset man with a beard and a scar sat opposite her.
"You really think you can beat me, little girl? Ha! Let's go, then, if you're so confident." He put her elbow there, too, and they locked hands. A man was standing near them, at their table.
"On the count of three," he said. "One... Two... Three!" And with that, both contenders began to push. The man pushed Wei's hand down near to the table. She was about to lose. And suddenly, she began to actually try.
She pushed harder, angling her elbow better than the other man. She let go suddenly, and he pushed forward, then, when his arm was unbalanced, she pushed forward. The man's hand hit the table.
Wei leapt up from the table, arms in the air.
"Heck yeah!" she exclaimed. "Hand over the cash," she said, putting out her hand to the man. He reluctantly produced five gold pieces, and handed them over to Wei. She took the money, paid for her drink, and walked out of the bar with her drink in hand, laughing to herself.
She finished her drink outside of the bar, and deposited the cup. As she walked down the street that would take her home, a man stepped out of an alley.
"You," he said. "Come with me." Wei raised an eyebrow.
"What do you want?"
"I have an offer." And with that, Wei ducked into the alley. The man spoke once they were hidden.
"I am an emissary from the noble family of Gryse. We have an offer for you."
"First things first. How much money?"
"Very good, keep going."
"The Gryse family has been wronged. By a local crime lady, known as Lady Ming. She runs much of the crime in the Middle and Upper Rings, and has recently committed crimes against the Gryses. We want you to end her."
"Actually, no. My masters had a special request. You are to end Lady Ming during the upcoming party at the Royal Palace of Ba Sing Se."
"This event is extremely important to her. My masters want revenge. If you could kill her on that night, one of the best nights of her life, my master would be very pleased."
"What does she look like?"
"You'll know when you see her. She has short black hair, and is always dressed in some sort of long, orange dress or robe, and surrounded by her friends."
"Alright, then. Consider it done."
"Thank you. I will seek you out the day after the party."
And the small man hurried out onto the road, heading towards the Middle Ring. Wei watched him leave, and then continued on towards home, smiling and pleased with herself.
When she got back to the small square her, Feng, and Nekku's house was situated in, Feng and Nekku were outside the house. Feng was guiding a stream of sand through the air, mimicking the actions of Nekku's water. He dropped the sand as Wei arrived.
"Hey, Wei. How's it goin'?" Feng asked.
"Pretty good. What are you doing?"
"Nekku is teaching me to Sandbend, through his Waterbending."
"Nice. Now, both of you, come with me. This isn't for the ears of the public."
She dragged them both into the house, and had them sit down at the table, as did she.
"Guys... We're going to a party!" The two boys looked confused.
"A party?" Nekku asked.
"Yeah, a party. The best kind of party. The party where we get money. I got us a job." Their eyes lit up.
"Nice! Who's the target, and where's the part?"
"Ah, yes. Good news and bad news. The target is the so-called 'Lady Ming,' and her assassination is worth a ton of money. Bad news... Well, the party is in the Royal Palace of Ba Sing Se."
Feng and Nekku remained silent. Nekku spoke up.
"Well, how the hell are we getting in there?" She shrugged.
"I'm the drink a lot and kill people person. Feng is the idea." She looked at the older assassin. "So, Feng. You have a plan, don't you?"
"Right... Of course, I... Yeah, no, actually, I don't."
"Son of a..." Wei said, hanging her head in dismay.
"Wait! I have an idea!" He said, suddenly. Wei looked up. "We sneak in. Disguises are what we need... Alright, here's the plan, guys."
Several hours later, Feng, Wei, and Nekku had found their first target. Two noblemen and one noblewoman were walking through the Middle Ring, quite obviously heading towards the party. As a shortcut, they had gone through an alleyway. The three young assassins just happened to be crouched on a roof above the nobles.
Feng nodded at the two others. Wei jumped down expertly, landing on the noblewoman, who was lagging behind, knocking her out with a single, deft blow. Nekku and Feng jumped down as well, Nekku knocking one nobleman out with a block of ice he created. Feng jumped down in front of the last nobleman, who looked shocked. Feng smiled, propelling a small rock out of the ground, at a speed just enough to knock the man out.
When they were all down, they dragged the unconscious forms of the nobles into the shadows. Once there, they took the nobles' clothes and invitations to the part, then all went off to the side, to get dressed.
Once they were all dressed, then continued on towards the part. Wei struggled with her long green dress, tugging at it.
"Ugh. How does anybody actually wear this crap?" Feng adjusted his collar.
"I know what you mean... But these will get us into the party. Don't lose your invitation.
They walked a good ways, through the Middle Ring. As they got to the wall separating the Middle and Upper Rings, they showed their invitations to the guards, who let them through. Eventually, they made their way to the Royal Palace of Ba Sing Se.
"Just follow my lead, you guys." He started to whistle a tune, as he and the others walked up and towards the huge building's doors.
The palace exterior was bustling with excitement. Nobles of all kinds were heading into the palace itself, workers were bringing in supplies, and guards were everywhere. Feng lead the trio up to the palace's great doors. He approached the guard, holding up his invitation. Wei and Nekku did the same. The guard nodded.
"Alright. You three can go right ahead." They smiled and continued through.
The inside of the palace was an even more amazing sight than the outside. It was huge, with incredible architecture, and artwork the likes of which Feng had never seen was covering the walls. It was packed full of nobles, there were servants rushing back and forth delivering food and drink, and there was a long table in the center of the room, at which nobles were seated, with the Earth King himself at the head of the table, his pet bear by his side. Wei wasted no time calling a servant over.
"What do you have to drink?"
"We have tea, milady." She sighed.
"You don't have anything... Stronger?"
"Ah, yes. Here." The man got a bottle, and poured it into a glass, handing it to Wei. "Wine, the likes of which you have never tasted." Wei sipped it, and her face lit up, as she looked at the wine again.
"Damn, that is good. Thank you."
"It is my pleasure," the man said, bowing as he left.
Feng pointed at a man in green robes, sitting near the head of the table. "Guys... That's Long Feng." "Feng?" Wei asked. "As in you?" "No. Long Feng. He's the head of the Dai Li... We gotta make sure he doesn't see us."
Wei continued to sip her wine, as the trio of assassins scanned the crowd of nobles. "Wei," Nekku whispered. "Do you even know what this lady looks like?"
"Yeah, just give me a... Oh, there she is." Wei pointed ahead, at a tall, elegant looking woman, with short black hair, dressed in an extravagant orange dress. She was laughing with a few people.
"Alright, guys," she said, as she pulled a knife she had concealed in her sleeve out. "I got this."
"Yeah," Feng said. "Good luck, have fun."
Wei handed her wine to a passing servant, and began to walk towards Lady Ming. She stopped suddenly, however.
"Wei?" Feng asked. "Wei? What is it?"
But soon, he saw why she had stopped. Lady Ming had a large, earthen spike sticking out of her stomach. The only ones who had noticed so far were her friends and the trio of assassins. One of the ladies she had been talking to screamed, and everybody looked.
The lady coughed blood, and fell over when the spike was retracted, dead. As it fell, it revealed the killer. A man dressed in black robes, with a symbol of three crossed swords embroidered into them, with black, medium length hair. He smiled at the dead body at his feet. The ladies Ming had been talking to ran away. Suddenly, everyone in the room was on their feet, screaming, and running out of the room. Feng caught a glimpse of Long Feng.
"Get His Majesty out of the room, now!" he yelled to some Dai Li. "I'll get the guards in to handle this. Protect His Majesty!" As he said it, a palanquin carrying the Earth King opened, and some Dai Li pulled him away.
"What!?" the king yelled. "What is it!? Why did that man attack her!? I need answers!" He got none, however, as he was whisked away.
Feng looked back at the man, who was still smiling at the body. He began to laugh. Feng examined the symbol on his chest...
A man dressed in black, smiling at his kill. Looking up at the man.
Feng grabbed his head, stumbling forward a bit. Wei put a hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah, I just-" He was interrupted by the man in black, who had stopped laughing, and was now pointing at Feng.
"Ah, the famous 'Shadowborn.' We meet at last."
"Are you talking to me?" Feng asked.
"Why, yes. I am." The man assumed a fighting stance. "My name is Ehan. And you are going to die."
The three young assassins took a stance, as well.
"And what exactly makes you think you can beat us?" Wei called.
"I don't think I can beat you. I know I can beat you." And, with that, he launched a slab of rock connected to the ground, heading straight at Feng.
Killers Against Killers
Feng wasted no time, propelling himself into the air with his Earthbending, and launching up to the roof. He grabbed onto the roof, and propelled himself off of that, kicking towards Ehan. The man raised a large earthen slab. Feng tumbled through it, landing on his back on the floor. He got up quickly, and brought three rocks from the ground. He compressing them into small bullets and shot them at Ehan, who raised another rock slab.
Wei charged at the assassin from the side, throwing two knives at him, as Feng jumped into the air, coming down on Ehan with a stream of sand trailing behind. Ehan blocked Wei's attack with a boulder, which he then launched at Wei. He pushed down on the floor, sending himself under, Feng's stream of sand hitting where he would have been.
Nekku, who had been charging at Ehan, as well, stopped, and the three assassins looked around. The man was gone, for now. Most nobles were cowering around the room, under tables. Ehan had sealed the room with rock walls. Feng and his friends could hear the guards trying to get in, but Ehan was somehow keeping the rocks up, despite the Royal Guard's best efforts.
Suddenly, Ehan emerged from the ground behind Feng. He grabbed two boulders as he did, launching them at Feng while in the air. Nekku quickly put his water above Feng, using it to knock the boulder off course. Ehan launched off of the roof, brining two pillars down, one headed for Wei, the other for Nekku, laughing as he did. Wei jumped out of the way as her pillar hit next to her, and Nekku put a stream of water down on the ground, converting it to ice and back as he slid across it, ending up next to Feng.
"Wow," Ehan said, laughing. "You three are better than you seem. Well. You won't be for much longer!" He punched once with each hand, then spun around and kicked. Three large boulders came off of the wall. Feng dodged quickly, but was caught in the leg by a boulder. Nekku ran to Wei, tackling her, getting her out of the way of another boulder.
Feng sat on the ground, clutching his leg. Painfully, he stood up, swearing.
"Ehan... Ugh..." He swirled his arms around in a circle, converting the earth on the floor into sand. He continued to do so, until he had a massive ball of sand above him. Ignoring his throbbing right leg, he punched both his hands out, sending the ball out in five large streams. Ehan leapt into the air, dodging one, landing and darting to the side, dodging two more, and brought a wall of stone up, blocking the last two. He smirked.
"Is that the best you-" He was stopped mid-sentence, as a last stream of sand hit him square in the stomach. He was sent flying across the room, hitting the wall, hard. He lay on the ground, the breath knocked out of him. He stood up, slowly.
Nekku got up, helping Wei up as well. Wei charged in at Ehan, running across the room, charging at him, with both her daggers ready to kill. She struck out at him, but, at the last moment, he brought a hand up off the floor, a rock glove coating it. He blocked one dagger, bringing another rock-covered hand up as well, blocking the other. Wei continued to strike, but he blocked each strike. Suddenly, though, she kicked him in the stomach, and, while he was distracted, sent a cut in, deep. He realized what was happening, and blocked the attack, but her dagger left a gash on the side of his face.
Ehan grabbed his face, stopping the flow of blood.
"Dammit," he muttered. Before he could do anything more than swear, however, Nekku came rushing at him, sliding on ice, as before, then propelled himself in the air, sending a rain of ice spikes at the assassin. Ehan brought a shell of rock around him. When the spikes stopped falling, he lowered it. "You kids really are better than I thought you'd be..."
He was cut off by the crash of rock. A dozen Dai Li agents crashed into the room, surrounding Ehan. The trio of assassins backed off from him, running back to the crowd of nobles, who were now standing up, relieved that the Dai Li had finally gotten here.
Long Feng lowered a section of the wall, and pointed at Ehan. "You. You have made yourself and enemy of the Earth Kingdom with this attack. Dai Li. Detain the man."
Ehan, still clutching at his face, laughed at the agents.
"Well," he said. "Looks like it's time for me to make an exit." He nodded at Feng. "We will meet again, Shadowborn. Just remember the name of The Shroud." And with that, he punched at the roof, making a large hole. The Dai Li all launched their rock gloves at the same time. Ehan, however, was gone, having launched himself through the hole.
Long Feng turned to the crowd.
"Worry not. This man will be detained. I am going to ask all of you to leave the palace grounds immediately." The people obeyed his orders, filing out of the palace. Feng, Wei and Nekku attempted to blend in with the crowd, following the rest, out of the palace.
Feng stole a glance at Long Feng. He turned his head away, immediately.
"Wei, Nekku," he whispered. "Guys. I swear... Long Feng was staring straight at me."
"What?" Wei said. "There's no way-" She looked at him. "Whoah, he is. Just... Focus on the door. Let's leave. The Dai Li creep me out." Feng nodded.
It was nearly morning by the time Feng, Wei, and Nekku finally got back to the house. Without even changing, the three of them got into bed and fell asleep. The next day, the Gryse representative found Wei again, and paid her greatly. Later, Feng, Nekku and her went to a restaurant, a nice one, for the Lower Ring. They discussed what had happened while they ate.
Wei took a gulp of her ale, and asked,
"So, Feng. Who was that guy? He called you 'The Shadowborn.'"
"I dunno... He said to remember the name of 'The Shroud.'"
"An assassin, being sent after assassins..." Nekku said. "Who would want us dead that bad?"
They pondered this, but, having no answers, gave up. They decided that, if someone did want them dead so badly, they truly would be seeing the Shroud again.
If I didn't make it obvious enough, yes, we will be seeing both Ehan and the Shroud again.
Hints to Feng's past, there. Small ones, but, hints nonetheless.
Wei really does like alcohol. Yes, it was the ale that helped her win that arm wrestling match.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Part 1: Beginnings|
|First Blood - Bar Fights are Fun! - Civil Unrest - What Goes Around - Comes Around - The Shroud - Battle on the Wall - Starry Skies - Sister Dearest - One Last Sale - Horizon Part 1: Stormy Sky - Horizon Part 2: Farewell|
|Part 2: Journeys|
|That Long Road - Morning Never Comes|