Chapter 2: The Lifehunter's FeastMature

Chapter 2

The Lifehunter’s Feast

 

            This familiar thrill never seems to deteriorate, thought Jack, as he crouched on the tower overseeing his target’s manor, How lovely. He cracked a small toothy grin.

            His target was the ever boasting nobleman, Lord Carenson, a glutton who seems to think food is life’s only salvation. However, in his case, food is what has other nobles fantasizing of having his head on a platter. He gorges himself at parties, looking absolutely grotesque, and stuffs his face with roasted pig at negotiations with his province’s enemy and rival, Sinowas. While this is more of an inconvenience than an actual hindrance, the last session with Sinowas involved an illegible document concerning land around the border. Where as this land was once called Borrowton, the document had it as what appeared to be olive oil, pig fat, and high coined wine. Needless to say, niether Leandynue or Sinowas were pleased. In fact, Leandynue’s king was so displeased, he actually made contact with the Silent Legion to have Carenson’s head roasted over a fire. The Legion, of course, gave its silent agreement to do so.

            And here Jack was, examining the manor’s architecture, making a theoretical mental map of what the inside looks like. For someone who’d sell his soul for a golden ham, he appeared to have the money to afford a small garrison to defend his keep. Maybe it was to protect this imaginary golden ham. It didn’t matter to Jack. What he saw were not guards, but walking corpses.

            Jack stood up. He took a look down. Roughly one hundred yards of falling distance between him and the ground. Jack smirked, No problem.

            With that, he took a step as if he were casually walking down the road, raised his arms up like a bird raises its own in preparation for flight, and plunged down.

            Jack felt the air all around him being shoved aside by his plummeting body. He closed his eyes and went through the plan again. Infiltrate the fat cow’s manor, walk around as if you could take a piss out the window and not get thrown out on your ass, silently slaughter the poor bastards hired to keep watch, kill the fat cow and place his head on a stove for roasting. Jack loved his work.

            The ground was closing in on Jack. Any normal human would simply make a thump and be a piece art created in blood, guts, and cracked bones.

            However, Jack was not a normal human.

            Right before the assassin hit the ground, a black mist emitted off of Jack, and parts of him disappeared along with this ominous mist. Before he could hit the ground, Jack had completely dissipated into nothing.

            One would see this happen and think the man had been taken by some evil before he met his fate at the impact, but those with any kind of magical knowledge would know that this is one who can transport his body and soul, though in his case just the body, to any location, though most likely a place nearby. Jack appeared to be one of these individuals to have found the apertures in the universe, though “find” would not be entirely correct in his case.

            Jack reappeared with the same black mist on the other side of the wall surrounding the manor and subtly ran across the yard. His tight fit black longcoat, black shirt, dark grey pants, and black boots kept him hidden in the darkness. The only parts that could even slightly give him away were the thin ridged armored shoulder piece strapped tightly to his left shoulder and the red marking engraved on his exposed pale hands. The black hood overshadowed his bright red eyes, so the chances of someone catching their glow were doubtful.

            Jack reached the wall and almost ran face first into it, only to once again disappear and reappear on the other side of the wall using the same magic. If people saw, they could easily mistake him for an evil wraith created by a nefarious necromancer.

            Jack found himself in a hallway, with all the candle lights still lit to mask the darkness. Jack smiled, and walked casually down hall with his hands in his pockets. Every time he reached the light emitted by one of the candles, the same black mist that would seep off Jack would appear and snuff the flame. Every step taken was silent, though from the way he walked, he should have been giving off some sound, yet none came. It was as if silence itself had submitted to Jack’s will, and now he wielded it like a swordsman wields his sword.

            The manor itself was unimpressive to Jack. Yes, it had the fine floors and the velvet rugs. Yes, there were portraits on the walls of great heroes and great battles. Yes, the furniture was of the greatest quality. But it all seemed trivial to the assassin. Why waste so much coin on things you’ll never use, their only purpose being to glance at? What absolute nonsense, he thought.

            Jack began to think of how much money he would have if the Legion would stop taking his pay. He theorized thousands upon thousands. Enough metal to do his work for free.

            Jack shook off the fantasizing and continued on. No point in dreaming of leaving an organization if you are still doing their work.

            He stopped at the sound of footsteps coming from the turning point in the hall. He stood in the shadows as to not be seen. From the sounds, he could tell it was two to three people. He could hear them almost dragging their feet, so they were probably guards.

            They finally reached and turned the corner, revealing themselves to be guards. Their faces told a story of a long day’s work but with enough pay to satisfy them enough to stay. They didn’t see Jack, who was now leaning against the wall, camouflaged in darkness. Jack smiled with a killer’s anticipation for blood.

            The front guard stopped, and turned to the rear guard.  “What are we doing protecting that smug bastard’s home at this time?” he exclaimed, “We should be at our homes at this time, making sure no thief comes and has a field day with our valuables.”

            The rear guard just shrugged and said, “It don’t matter to me what time I work. I’m just glad for the coin. Besides, I live at the whore house.” He let out a little chuckle, thinking of the women and their smooth, tight skin, their breasts hanging over his face. He then frowned as he remembered the wenches bled him dry everyday. Damn whores, he thought.

            “You just don’t know what it’s like to have a child on the way,” inferred the front guard, “Then again, you’ve probably fathered many bastards, so I shouldn’t judge.” He snickered at the thought of a bunch of children running around with his fellow guard’s ugly features, his obvious once broken nose and his lazy eye that failed to stay up for even a moment.

            “Oh, I hope you git fucked by some deranged lunatic on your way home tonight.” The rear guard turned and began walking back the way they came when heard the sound of an armored man falling. He looked back to find his fellow guard in a pool of his own blood. His wish had come true.

            The guard held his spear in both hands now, suddenly nervous of what was out there. He was about to call out whoever was out there when a hand came over his mouth. “Sorry, but this isn’t one of your pretty whores,” Jack whispered in the guards ear, “but who knows. Maybe some higher being will be compassionate enough to grant you a whore in the afterlife, though an afterlife doesn’t seem likely if you don’t even exist.”

            With that, blood from the top of Jack’s right hand came out to form a blade. He brought this bright red creation to the guard’s throat and slit it. Then, all in an instant, the dark mist swallowed the man’s body, leaving only a couple drops of blood on the carpet. Jack smirked and kept on in his original direction.

            A group of five guards came into the main hall and dispersed to travel along their usual routes. One guard, Jodfrey, walked down the hall and turned into the door on his right. The room contained what appeared to be simple refined furniture, all set up to be a sitting room. The guard walked in and closed the door softly behind him, taking caution not to make any noise. He strolled over to the chair near the fireplace and made it his pleasure to build a fire and grace the seat with his rear, “It’s damned near freezing out there. Why in the hell would that bastard lord assign us to guard duty this late? I could be drinking my earnings away, getting it back in a game of Bits, and then probly’ losing it again!” he said with clear  humorous irritation.

            Jodfrey positioned himself closer to the fire to attain more of its heat.  Jodfrey had grown up in the deserts of Sysral, where the sun found it amusing to torch every patch of shown skin.  His tanned skin was proof enough. He left the province after coming into a confrontation with one of the city state’s law enforcements.  Jodfrey found that working for a criminal lord was counterproductive to his long life.

            Jodfrey breathed in the heat, warming his entire body, when he saw something black in the flames. At first, he thought it was just a small pile of ashes blowing away, but then he noticed it wouldn’t disappear. It stayed, squirming around in the flames as if dancing around the fluid spires. He leaned closer to the fire to examine it, not knowing he wasn’t alone in the dark room.

            Jodfrey scrutinized the flame, bewildered at what it could be, even theorizing whether it was sorcery. At the end of his thoughts, Jack leaned over him and said, “You won’t get a good observation from this distance. Allow me suggest something.” Before Jodfrey could turn around to see the man with the malign words, Jack slammed his hand into the back of Jodfrey’s head and planted it into the depths of the fire. Darkness emitted off of Jack’s arm, protecting it from the flames. Jodfrey jerked and tried to scream in the ashes, but Jack held him in place with a smile full of held back laughter. Eventually, Jodfrey ceased all movement, and Jack released his hand and walked away, dissipating into the black mist. 

            Two guards were walking down an interior hallway, tired and somewhat spooked by the manor. The candles could only emmit enough light to cover a small area, and the dark corners of the manor seemed all the more abysmal for it. The guards stopped at every creek in the structure, sometimes even each other’s footsteps, worried that something lurked around them, which wasn’t entirely false.

            The two guards patrolled the halls, one of them lagging behind the other. The front guard was not fond of this, as every step from his companion was only percievable through sound and the front guard would occasionally mistake it for an intruder. He could have sworn he heard third step right after the second in his companion’s cadence…

            He brushed it off. Merely his imagination toying with him. Only the memories of horrific stories around the fire at night influencing his thoughts. He came to all these conclusions, setting his mind at ease, even blocking out the sounds of the footsteps. It was these conclusions though that influenced his senses, for there were no footsteps but his own to be heard at all. 

            He continued on with this ignorance until he felt a finger tapping on his shoulder. “What?” he demanded as he turned around, but his reply came from a thin and hooded figure in a black longcoat in the form of a bright red blade being shoved into his stomach. He coughed up blood, and looked into the shadowed face of his killer to find the smile and red left eye of Jack.

            The assassin twisted the blade inside his victim’s stomach, turning it sideways. Then, as if an artist painting with dromatic motions, slashed through the guards left waste, splattering blood on a painting of a renowned aristocrat. Jack observed his handiwork. He admired at the blood that now dripped from the candle under the painting. He admired at the blood that continued to run strong from his victim’s corpse. He admired at the blood running down his cheek, tasting it as it ran by his mouth. It was at these moments when Jack felt alive, when he painted pictures of death and created new art. He walked back into the shadows, the candles’ flames disappearing with each passing, the blood still falling from the painting.

            Jack continued to produce many art works throughout the manor.  Some were sudden and strong, like the painting that shouts its colors at the viewer. Some were more detailed and given more thought, like the painting that inspires poets. Some expressed tragedy and fear, like the painting which uses dark colors and certain painting techniques to enforce a depressing mood into the fragile-minded. Bloody piece after bloody piece. Jack never even thought of holding back his dark desires for his victims’ sake. After all, if one is to experience joy, another must suffer. And none were spared Jack’s wants. Every maid, every servant, and every guard contributed to Jack’s twisted joy, each one of them subjected to the silent massacre. All but one: the cook.

            The cook was a pudgy woman, as stereotypical cooks are. Her appearance also seemed to contrast Jack’s completely. Whereas she was short and rounded, Jack was thin, which gave his rather average height an imaginary boost. Whereas her tanned face was old filled with fat cheeks covered in warts and closed up eyes, Jack’s face was pale with a more traingular shape with thin cheeks, widened eyes, and a young yet clear complexion. Her hair was thin and pure black, while Jack’s hair would be descrided as a mid hue of black with a bedraggled thickness that fell into one point near the center of his eyes with curved clumps hanging around his ears. The hair on the back of his head fell into the same chaotic twists and clumps, though it was not as long and only covered the edge of his neck. Whereas men would find a civil like manner and ugliness in the cook, women would find a roguish charm in Jack. She stood with heavy legs. Jack stood light as a feather, with confidence and silence. Her movements were feministic with masculine compliments, while Jack moved with a masculine grace and a feminine touch. Her hands were strong and wide, while Jack’ were long and thin, with barely any fat on them, appearing quite boney. Her loose fit clothing was kept in shape, while Jack’s tight fit clothing appeared worn out, as evident by the torn ankle low cape of the longcoat and smudges on his black heeled boots. Her eyes were almost black, but Jack’s were a seemingly glowing red color.

            Jack had found her rummaging through the kitchen, preparing her lord’s breakfast for the morning. Jack remembered the information about his target, how he was a noble glutton who valued food over sex. Just as any other lord would not pass the chance of a late night tussle in the sheets, he knew his target wouldn’t pass up the chance to have a tussle in the kitchen.

            “Please don’t kill me,” sobbed the cook. She had only wanted to prepare a good meal for her lord, and now she was tied up to a chair with bindings made from Jack’s blood, praying to Heaven that she had tried her utmost best to stay clear of any sinful deeds.

            The assassin gave her a bored and disappointed glare, “Of course I won’t kill you,” he said as if he were implying the obvious, “If I wanted you dead, your head would already be stuffed in that roasted pig you were preparing.” He smiled at the thought of it, seeing the horrified faces of so many noble men and women as they cut open the pig, “I have other plans for you, my dear…”

            The cook’s eyes went up in horror, “Please sir, don’t. I beg of you…” She never though she’d be a victim of such grotesque methods.

            Jack’s face turned to disbelief, “Now that’s just disgusting! If I wanted my way with you, don’t you think I would’ve tied you up in a position befitting that? Also, sex is only enjoyable if both parties want it. I wouldn’t even pay a whore for the service as I know it isn’t me she wants.”

            The woman calmed down a little, resting her shoulders and mind. Jack walked up to her and took her chin in between his thumb and index finger and looked into her eyes, all the while smiling, “My plans are more along the lines of trickery and death. Do you understand now?” He smirked, showing his teeth. The cook looked deeper into his eyes and found what she would consider the heart of Evil itself.

            She was released from her bindings and allowed to move freely again. Jack walked away, saying, “Remember, I’ll be watching from the shadows. Don’t even think of betraying my orders.” Jack looked back at her, his eyes serious, “If you do, I’ll take you beyond death, and don’t think your lord will be able to escape from me.” With that, he disappeared into darkness.

            The cook walked up the stairs, down the halls of the second floor, moving towards Carenson’s room. She remembered the assassin’s words. I’ll be watching from the shadows rung in her head, and she looked around with panick in her face. What if he suspected her of already betraying him? What if he was just toying with her, playing with her emotions? She had no choice but to move on. She had believed him when he said he would take her beyond death.

            She reached Carenson’s door. She knocked hard and waited. After a minute of waiting Carenson opened his door with a look of bewilderment. He was a grotesquely fat man in his sleeping attire. His mouth was decorated with a mustache and a patch of hair beneath his lower lip. His nose was wide, as if his gigantic nostrils were meant to suck food through them and not smell them. His eyes were old and squinty, but almost seemed as if they were meant for crying, which they probably did when a turkey was cooked all for himself. His neck wasn’t visible, as the fat apparently had to throw it out to make room for more fat. He was balding, with strands of grey finding itself in the brown patches.

            He looked down at his cook and asked, “Miss Stokeson?! Why in the name of Heaven have you woken me up this late?” He then came to a rather joyful conclusion, “Is it something new in the kitchen?” Somewhere in the darkness, Jack was shaking his head with disgust.

            Miss Stokeson replied, “Y-yes, mi’lord. A rare breed of elk was brought here by one of the guards. He says he wants a bonus on his pay this time around. I believe his name was Jodfrey.” She was squeezing her hands, unstable from nervousness.

            “Jodfrey? Oh, that boy…” he recalled the greedy guardsman. Carenson remembered him as being lazy and always cold. “I’m surprised he actually went out and got an elk. I would have expected him to have just come crying to me if he desired more pay.” He let out a belch that must have been dinner. Once again, Jack was somewhere shaking his head, wondering how humanity could produce such a disgusting specimen. “Well,” he said, “lead the way.”

            “Yes, mi’ lord,” Miss Stokeson responded. She led him down the empty halls, taking notice that the candles were no long lit. Carenson asked, “Do say, but why is it so damn dark? Why are the candles out, and where are the guards?” All these questions came out at once, causing the cook to rush answers through her mind, scared of what the assassin may do to her if she comes up with an answer too inadequate.

            She finally came out with an answer, “There seems to be a breeze tonight, mi’ lord, so the candles’ flames were probably unable to stand against it. The guards may also be getting lazy with their shifts.” She knew that both were a lie, as the candles were his doing and the guards’ souls no longer even existed in this world.

            Carenson seemed to accept both answers, and continued to follow Miss Stokeson down the stairs to the first floor. As he followed his servant, he examined his manor. He would like to think he knew his own manor, but there was this ominous feeling that scraped at the back of his mind, trying to tell him something. He scrutinized the walls, the paintings, even the furniture, yet everything seemed to be in order. However, the darkness that seemed to have swallowed the hallways did not bring him peace. Yes, it was night time and the candles were not lit, but it seemed like the shadows were somehow darker, somehow alive. He forgot all of this once his eyes caught the light of the kitchen.

            Miss Stokeson opened the door for her lord and ushered him inside. The kitchen was like most others in noble houses. It contained two tables crafted from fine wood, yet still sturdy enough to hold an entire deer or pig. On the tables were smudges from past meals and other food related preparations. Along the walls were counters and multiple stoves. On the counters were the usually kitchen supplies, such as knives, batter mallets, and other such tools. The light that arose from the kitchen was faint but enough to light up the whole kitchen. It gave off a dark and heavy yellow color. Carenson walked in with anticipation for a hefty sample of tomorrow’s meal, but was met instead with confusion, as there was no elk on the table for butchering.

            He looked at his cook, who now stood on the opposite side of the table from Carenson, and asked, “What is the meaning off this? Where is the elk?!” With that, the door slowly closed, revealing Jack from behind the door now in the light.

“I’m afraid there is no gorging yourself tonight,” he said in a jocose tone, “ nor will there be anymore for you.”

Carenson turned around and saw the black clothed figure, suddenly dreading ever waking up. He looked back at Miss Stokeson, only to see tears rolling down her face, her mouth forming the words I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

            Carenson panicked. He had no idea why this mysterious man was here other than the fact that he wanted to kill him. He watched as the assassin got off the wall and started to walk slowly towards him, smiling as if he enjoyed Carenson’s fear. It was the kind of fear that sent a man's mind into madness, into irrational thinking. His body was shaking, his fat literally so. Carenson did the only thing he could think of. He grabbed the knife that had been lying on the table, looked at Jack, and charged him with a yell and hysterical movements.

            Jack showed no fear of Carenson, and when the fat lord reached him, Jack simply rammed his left knee into the lord’s ginormous stomach. Then, he brought his elbow down on Carenson’s giggling back, slamming him to the floor with a flop. It was all done in a matter of seconds. Carenson reached for the knife with his right hand, but Jack stomped his heal on the hand. Jack proceeded to apply pressure on hand while twisting, rearranging the bones that resided in it. Carenson began to yell and gasp, which contrasted to the joy filled laughs that erupted from Jack.

            “By Heaven,” Jack said as he brought laughter in control, “you’re so pathetic! You call yourself a lord of Leandynue?” Jack continued to twist and apply pressure to Carenson’s hand, bringing forth more grunts and yells from the piggish lord, “You couldn’t even slaughter a baby horse with two broke legs, could you?” Jack kept on laughing after his taunts. Torture seemed to be today’s main course.

            Jack lifted his foot from the now crushed noble man’s hand and, without delay, kicked Carenson’s forehead, tipping the grotesque man over on his back. Jack then, with the same foot, planted it on his fat throat. This however displeased Jack, “Disgusting.” He lifted his boot up again and slammed it into Carenson’s chest. Jack found it more to his liking as it actually had solid ground to stand on rather than a soft liquid like substance. “That’s better,” he said, “Listen up, Carenson. Your king is very displeased with you. He doesn’t like the fact that you eat up half the country’s animals to satiate your sick hunger. He also doesn’t like the fact that you have displeased the nobles of Sinowas. You know how tolerant they are, of course.”

            Carenson knew all too well. When they found the document for the trade covered in his dinner, one of the Sinowasians drew his sword across Carenson’s throat. If it hadn’t been for his personal guard, the fat and blood of his neck would have spilled on to the floor.

            “Well,” Jack continued, “your King Gwaine apparently lost his tolerance first, as it was him who called my organization. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Silent Legion, correct?” Carenson’s eyes widened with fear at the sound of the name. He had heard the stories and rumors surrounding them: the fact they took on any contract with the proper pay, how they never failed to reach and terminate their query… how none were beneath their wrath.

            Jack took notice of Carenson’s face and snickered, “So you know what fate awaits you now? That your soul now belongs to me? That my next decision will determine how many meals you have left?” Jack continued to taunt Carenson, enjoying the mental suffrage he was causing him.

            The fearful noble then noticed the strange red marking on Jack’s left hand. It took him a moment to recognize it, upon doing so realizing just what Jack was.

            “Ho…mun..cu..lus..” he managed to cough up. He recognized the color and representation of the marking. Not all homunculus markings contained the same sharp and jagged triangular shape as Jack, nor do all of them separate into three parts, forming what appeared to be a vortex. Each marking could be seen has the signature of a homunculus’ creator. But each symbol was also a solid crimson, and each one was only large enough to cover the top of a hand. Most concealed their symbols, pending where they were placed on the body, to hide the truth of them being homunculi. However, Jack seemed to show no issues with his symbol being out in the open.

            “Hmm? Oh, do you mean this?” Jack acknowledged, bringing his hand in closer to his target’s face, “You would be very correct in your claim. I am indeed an homunculus. A stain on the assumptions of everything human, a black smudge on the white pane of the universe, a creature viler and more terrifying than any demon! I am all these things indeed.” Jack’s histrionic revelation was both strange and malign to Miss Stokeson, who was now standing by one of the kitchen’s many stoves, wondering when the nightmare would end.

            Jack examined the fear in Carenson’s face, pleased with the results. Carenson was now on the verge of tears, his fat cheeks trembling with what seemed like violent quake. There were very few who did not fear homunculi, and this one proved to not be a part of the exception. Jack smiled at a thought that arose from the darkness in his heart, a thought that was most deplorable.

            Jack lifted his boot off of Carenson’s chest, causing the glutton to squirm away towards the table in haste. “You know,” Jack said, “I honestly don’t feel like killing you.” Jack walked to a now confused Carenson and kneeled in front of him, bringing his face in close with the noble, “I actually have a better, more beneficial use for you.” Jack stood up, moving away from his trembling target, “You see, as you already know, I’m an assassin, and I consider death my line of work. I like compensation. The Legion provides me with housing and some pay, but they keep the majority of it in their own banks.” Jack stepped back and sat on to one of the wooden tables, taking a leaned back and relaxed position. Carenson still laid on the floor, staring at his presumed killer. “So here’s my proposition,” Jack revealed, “I’m going to allow you to keep your pathetic life. In return, I want payment of my preference at the end of every two spans. Failure upon this payment will result in your untimely end.” Jack leaned forward as he made his proposal, showing a slight smile with eyes full of dark intent.

            Carenson slowly rose to his feet, looking at the assassin with astonishment. He could not believe what he had just heard. In return for my life, I shall give onto him his desired payment every two span? What nonsense! I would be ruined in the end. But the noble, like most beings, valued his life over his valuables. He stumbled over to Jack and reluctantly held his hand out in agreement.

            The assassin turned opportunist looked at the hand, then let out a burst of laughter. “You actually expect me to shake your greasy hand?” Jack continued his fit, “I’d sooner grab the hand of a demon than experience that slimy cushion you call a palm.” His laughter ceased gradually, knowing he had gravely insulted his former target. He snickered a little more at the thought.

            Carenson took his hand away. To be abased in this manner was unthinkable to him, especially by a man who was obviously not of noble blood, especially from a crime against humanity such as an homunculus.

            Jack made a gesture towards the door. “Well, you may leave now. Remember that I’ll be back for compensation in two spans. I wouldn’t forget if I were you,” Jack teased Carenson. Will this bastard continue to taunt me in this degrading manner, Carenson thought.

            Carenson walked slowly towards the door, constantly and nervously looking back at Jack to assure himself the murderer wouldn’t try anything. Jack only gave him gestures that said to leave with haste. Carenson finally reached the door, his hand on the nob. He had been degraded, threatened, ruined emotionally and possibly financially, but he would keep his life. That was a blessing adequate in its own right. He theorized plans where he would double cross this bastard assassin and reclaim his fortune, showing a glimmer of hope for the future.

            Then Carenson heard Jack say, “By the way…” When Carenson turned his head to hear what this criminal had to say, his sight met an incoming blade. Before his head departed from the fat slab he called a torso, all those thoughts he had felt at the door, his fantasies, his hopes, all of his reliefs disappeared from his mind. Their replacement was the revelation of betrayal, fear, realization he had been made to be an oaf. But the new emotion that plagued his mind in the end was despair, of which his last thoughts suffered from. And then, as his head landed on the floor, as his blood poured from his headless body,  there was nothing. “I lied,” Jack finished with a grin.

            Miss Stokeson let out a shriek. She looked at the headless body of her lord, horrified at the event that had just taken place before her own eyes. She turned her attention towards Jack, who was now standing with his right arm held up to his side. In his hand was an ebony scythe, one designed to look like a weapon rather than a farmer’s tool. The staff, which was straight for the most part with a few jagged edges, revealing it to be made out of some dark grey wood, was long enough to reach Jack’s forehead. It was rapped in dark clothe, with some of the rappings hanging off their ends. At the top of the staff was a straight, cylinder shaped metal piece that was a little over half the length of a man’s foot. From this piece stemmed two blades. Going up was a short blade that curved down towards the staff. It held a dark grey and ebony color on the top but gradually be a lighter grey as it reached the other side of the blade. Its purpose appeared to be more for hacking an enemy rather than slashing. On the opposite side of the top piece was a blade of arm’s length. It stemmed off at an oblique angle moving away from the staff, then the bottom of the blade went away from its branch and formed itself, while the top did the same, except a small part of the top blade went over the top end of the staff. Its coloring was the same as its sibling, but its use was clear: it was meant for slicing through flesh, which is what it had done to Lord Carenson.

            Jack’s smile showed full his teeth. “How foolish of you to expect honesty from a soulless husk like myself,” Jack gloated. Carenson’s corpse fell forward, its impact leaving a hard thump. Jack smirked, still showing his teeth, and slung the scythe onto his shoulder, “Whoa! I think the floor cracked a little from that fall.” Jack closed his lips, concealing his teeth but keeping the smile. He looked over at Miss Stokeson, who was now against the wall with here hands over her mouth, crying and shaking with silence. “Did you enjoy the show?” he asked with slight sarcasm.

            “You killed him… but you had promised him…” the cook managed to say, still traumatized by recent events.

            Jack began to walk slowly towards Miss Stokeson, his right arm hanging loosely at his side with the scythe's blade propped up behind him and his left hand in his pocket “As I said, I lied,” he said with a casual smile, “You see, killing isn’t just done by physical means. In fact, killing can be performed in many different ways,” Jack continued to trudge slowly towards Miss Stokeson, “What I had done was give that fat bastard hope for life, some relief for letting him keep his life, some joy even. When I revealed my treachery in his last moment, I killed all those emotions simultaneously, replacing any joy he felt with despair. The death he felt was greater than any physical pain I could have granted him. Hell, thanks to Krishniik here, I even destroyed his soul, not even granting him an afterlife. He doesn’t even exist now. I’ve granted him the ultimate death.” Jack finally reached the terrified woman and leaned in, bringing his face close to hers. “Do you understand, my dear?” he finished.

            But then, that means.., she thought to herself. She came to the realization that the assassin must have lied to her as well, that he would not allow her to walk away either. Her life began to through her mind, each memory as significant as the next. The time she watched her mother die of illness. The time she watched her father be hanged by bandits. The time when she had to survive in the streets of Trexlan, until Lord Carenson took her in. The time she was taught how to prepare a noble’s meal by the former cook. All those years of servitude to Carenson. Now, she awaited her own end.

            However, it never came. The scythe, or Krishniik, as Jack had called it, vanished into the black mist. Jack pulled his hood back over his head, stuck his right hand in his pocket, and began to walk away. “I said it was foolish to expect honesty, not that honesty didn’t exist in me. You’ve done everything I’ve asked, so you get to live. Besides, I’m sure as hell not going to be the one to tell others what transpired here tonight,” Jack said with assurance.

            He arrived at the door and opened it. He began to proceed his way out when Miss Stokeson asked, “Who are you?” She hadn’t fully meant to ask the question, but her impulses demanded an answer.

            Jack turned his head, revealing his right bright red eye and a toothy grin. "My name, you say?” he replied, “I’m Jack the Lifehunter. Remember that.” Jack then turned around and walked into the darkness outside the door, leaving the cook alone with her lord’s corpse.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Jack walked down the exterior hallway, taking one last detour of his work. He examined each bloody scene, marveling at the memory of each kill.

            “You leave quite the mess, Jack,” a voice said from behind Jack. When he turned around, he saw a figure emerged from the same black mist Jack does. “Our Lady thinks your work a bit to the extreme,” the man said. Jack recognized both the voice and the man and scowled.

            “Haran Bashi. What a pleasant surprise.” Jack said with bored sarcasm.

            Bashi was a tall and muscular man with clothing similar to Jack’s. However, instead of the tight pure black jacket and the mid grey thin shoulder piece with a black under shirt and dark grey pants that Jack wore, Bashi’s wore a skin tight piece of clothing that covered his body from head to toe. He wore a black ripped clothe that fell from his waste to his shins. He wore healed boots like Jack, but they didn’t contain the belts like Jack’s and were more tight. Whereas Jack’s clothing was pure black or dark grey, Bashi’s clothing was black with a blue tint. Bashi, as evident from the clothe on his head, was bald. He wore a white skeletal mask that covered his forehead down to his upper mouth. The mask’s eye slits were horizontal and thin, and the bottom of the mask was shaped like human teeth.

            “You wouldn’t have to see me so often if you would just follow the Legion’s rules.” Bashi said in response. His voice was rough, containing sounds coming from his throat that could be the cause of a smoke pipe.

Jack was now facing his fellow assassin, irritation eating his emotions. Not him again, he thought. Bashi seemed to show up at the end of all his contracts. “Why don’t you enlighten me on my offenses?” Jack said with casualness, showing that this was something he had done multiple times.

Bashi pulled out a note and began to read off of it, “Breaks the oath of silence upon talking to both his victims and target. Breaks the oath of necessity upon using the Abyss to devour souls that were not the target. Breaks the oath of concealment upon refusal to bear his mask, showing his face to his prey, and revealing his name.” The note then dissipated into the black mist, or the Abyss. “If you would just follow the rules and proceedures, there would be no problem. Instead, you take matters into your own hands. Our Lady is most distressed from it.” Bashi stood on the opposite side of the window from where Jack stood. They kept to the shadows formed by the wall and stayed out of the moon light the fell through the large window.

            “Yes, well maybe I’d rather follow my own path than follow one predetermined by some power hungry bitch.” Jack said with hostility. He did not enjoy these conversations, as Bashi held the Lady of the Abyss in high regards while Jack clearly did not.

            Bashi assumed a defensive stance. “Retract those words, now!” he shouted. From the Abyss arose two daggers in his hands, each blade pointed away from the thumb side of the hand. Jack summoned his scythe in his right hand and held it behind him. He held his left arm up towards Bashi. Both assassin’s looked into each others face, Bashi’s hidden and revealing nothing and Jack’s showing an eager smirk. They stood in their spots, awaiting the other to make a move.

            But neither did anything of the sorts. Jack sent Krishniik back into the Abyss and stuck his hands back in his pockets. “It’s no fun if your target has accepted death and knows he will die,” he remarked, “Don’t you ever change, Bashi?”

           

Bashi, as much as he desired otherwise, knew Jack’s words to be true. He knew Jack was far more dangerous than he was, both in physical abilities and magical. “Damn you,” was all he could manage.

            Jack smiled at his fellow assassin’s discomfort. “Perhaps if you were built with the same quality as I, you could wield the Abyss with the same aptitude. But as it stands, any trick of my caliber would cause the Abyss to rip you apart.” Jack turned to walk away from Bashi, knowing he had humiliated him.

            “Your talents are nowhere near our Lady’s,” Bashi rose his voice, “Remember that. One day you will over step your boundaries, and she will be there to punish you, and you will kneel before her greatness.”

            Jack looked back at Bashi, “Well, I don’t consider her my Lady. In fact, you can tell Madeline just how much of a damn I give,” Jack said. His emotions were now filled with irritation and anger.

            Bashi grunted, “Very well, then.” With that, the loyal assassin left through the Abyss, leaving the unruly assassin by himself.

            Jack’s mind was filled with displeasure. But then, he remembered all he had done that night and irritation was replaced with ebullience. He smiled at the memory when he slid his blade across the flesh of his victims. He chuckled at the memory of the guards, who were all grown and respectable men, cried for their mothers as Jack tortured their minds. He almost skipped a little at the memory of his dealings with Carenson.  Atrocity is the best cure, he concluded.

            Jack left through the Abyss. Left the manor stained in blood. Left the manor where so many suffered for one’s entertainment.  For the Lifehunter, there was one thing that brought him joy, one thing that made the day worth living and the next worth looking forward to, one thing he desired in life: death.

 

The End

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