Chapter 11: The Box (part 4)

Half an hour later, the halfling left the house and climbed onto his mount. The ride back to the guild was uneventful which was good because the small assassin was hardly prepared for any sudden danger. He was deep inside thoughts, turning over the details of the mission he had been given. All the legwork was his, there was no one to give it to him this time. It would be his first solo mission.

The job he had been given was simple enough. He had to kill the curator of a museum in Dalhurst. The man knew too much, and wasn’t cooperating with the Racieus’ client’s attempts to keep him quiet. The curator knew this however, he expected trouble, and had hired a large force of guards, all but shut down the museum, and never left the place. It would prove to be a challenge, but not one the halfling didn’t think he could handle. He returned to the guild to pack for a longer trip and alerted the guild master of his intentions. He was wished luck by Lieran, who still seemed distracted when Racieus talked with him. The small assassin looked for Eira, hoping to talk with her a little before he left, but he didn’t see her as he roamed the hallways, and didn’t want to waste a lot of time looking for her.

Shouldering his pack, the weight of clothes and the box barely registering, Racieus set out once more, making only one slight detour before leaving the city. He stopped at the seamstress’ house, greeted, as always, by her warm smile. His request for her was simple, a small ankle sheathe for his newest blade.

“I can do that for you right dearie.” The woman chirped, bustling into one of the back rooms, and returning with an already fashioned sheathe that had been made for a larger weapon. Taking the blade from the small assassin. She fit it inside, and began to make small cuts, pairing down the leather holder so that it was the closer to the size for the weapon. She added another strap to the sheathe for extra stability, and stuffed some filling into the pouch itself, to make sure the dagger didn’t wobble about. “That should hold you for now” the lady said, pulling out the dagger, as well as her measuring implements, “But I’ll work on a more permanent solution for you. It shouldn’t take too long to complete.”

The halfling thanked her, strapping on the makeshift ankle sheathe, and jogging in place for a few seconds to be sure everything held, and of course, it did. Thanking her again, Racieus left the shop and continued on his way. He took the west road out of the city, not his first choice, nor his second, but it was the fastest way to his destination. Unfortunately it was the one road that linked the major cities of western Teranore together. Inevitably, this meant that bandits frequented the long road and one could never be too careful when traveling it. As he did every time he had to go this route, the halfling thought the bandit problem could make money for the guild, either by hiring out its more than capable fighters as guards, or attempting to bring the bandits into the fold of the guild. At the very least they could try to secure a commission to go and deal with the the rogues, for a fee of course. He made a mental note to approach Lieran with his idea, as he always did, knowing full well he probably would forget all about it.

The first half of Racieus’ journey was uneventful, in fact it bordered on enjoyable, for the road was lined with beautiful sights that belied the more sinister stretches to come. The exquisite foliage was thick in many places, providing perfect areas for bandits to conceal themselves. The small assassin kept a hand near his weapons at all times as rode along, but as he neared the end of the long road, he was beginning to think he had somehow managed to either evade or ward off the bandits. Then as if fate had heard the thought and decided to have a joke at the halfling’s expense, a single man appeared on the road in front of the halfling.

“Ye be using our road halfling” the man said with a sneer, “And a nice road it is. I’m thinkin’ you could spare a bit o’ yer coin on account of our road’s pristine condition, couldn’t ya?” Racieus continued to allow his pony to canter forward, a smile plastered on his face. When the thief saw the halfling wasn’t going to stop, his hand strayed to his belt, and he growled a warning. “Easy there little one, ye don’t want to do anything foolish.”

But Racieus gave no heed to the man, the condescending smile still on his face. He was nearly upon the man when the the thief drew his sword, or tried to. His eyes opened wide as the halfling’s arm blurred and there was suddenly a knife in the air. His eye opened wider when he saw that blade suddenly lodged in his chest.

The small assassin knew the man wasn’t alone, bandits always operated in groups, and undoubtedly the rest had been flanking him while their partner attempted to hold him up. Now they’d be watching in shock as he fell to the ground, and in moments they’d be on the halfling. He turned his pony quickly, then slapped it on the rump and slid off as the mount sped away back the way it had come. The halfling, stooping quickly to pull his knife from the dead thief, jumped into a rolling dive into the same thick foliage that was harboring the other thieves. Coming up in a crouch, the halfling began to slowly make his way through the undergrowth. There was rustling as three of the hidden bandits rushed from their cover, only to find themselves alone in the road. Racieus disregarded them for the moment, instead keeping his sense attuned as he searched for an archer or crossbowman. Usually there was at least one in parties such as this. There was another rustling sound, quieter than the first, and the halfling knew he had found his quarry. Moving as quietly as was possible through the brush, the small assassin maneuvered himself behind the crouching archer, and silently cut his throat. Then he too bounded out of the brush, tossing the knife in his hand to take one of the thieves down before they could all turn to face their prey turned predator.

The other men engaged Racieus in unison, with no sense of coordination behind their attacks. The halfling jumped at one of them, slamming down a knife into the man’s boot. The unlucky thief screamed in pain, and Racieus took advantage of his drop in defense to grab an arm and swing him into his companion, taking back his knife as the pair fell to the ground. He was on them both in a heartbeat, and in another, both lay still. The halfling exhaled as he sheathed his weapons. He put two fingers to his mouth to let out a shrill whistle, a call to his pony that all was safe. No sooner had he finished though when he caught a crescendoing humming sound, and spun reflexively. A bolt thudded into the ground a few feet ahead of him, and the halfling leaned into a twisting backflip, coming a full one hundred and eighty degrees. The culprit was obviously hiding in the brush on the opposite side, and he had an advantage over the halfling, who didn’t know quite where the archer lay. There was another buzzing sound, and with a flash, Racieus had a dagger out, and a bolt was knocked away. The halfling broke into a run, making himself a harder target for the hidden bandit, eye searching for his opponent in vain. A bolt thudded into a tree, and the small assassin wondered how much longer his luck would hold out.

Then there was whinny, and a loud crash, and Racieus turned to watch his pony thunder through the bushes. The pony reared up and it’s legs came down to crush the surprised archer. The threat eliminated, Racieus’ pony trotted back out shook it’s head, snorting as it did so. It dipped its head and the halfling gave it an affectionate pat. “I think I need to give you a name” he said to the beast, as he climbed up and settled into the saddle. With a kick, the pair was once again galloping down the road towards Dalhurst, where the next encounter awaited. 

The End

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