The Volumes of GrittenoghMature

The assassins of Grittenogh decided a long time ago to catalogue the lives of all those that they would kill, even if it was a small passage. Little did they know that by creating such a grimoire the lives of those inside would be more than dusty words.

The candles burn dimly in the western tower of Grittenogh Castle. Inside a dark figure finishes an entry in a leather bound volume, his quill scratches the page but it seems too quiet. At the end of his passage he neatly fills the bottom of the page with an embellished signature, Vlad. He snuffs the three candles in the room and leaves, barely allowing his coats to sound. Out of habit his hand reaches for a dagger concealed in his left breast pocket and he continues down the darkened steps.

He stands motionless at the foot of the stairs, watching the dark courtyard and the students who fill the tavern which is adjoined to the kitchens. The light from that room is orange and smoky, fluttering into the night air as the door swings back and forth after someone leaves. The sound of laughter is largely muffled by the stone walls and the thick wooden door but standing in his own area of silence Vlad hears the sounds that many would disregard, the clinking of tankards and the stab of a dart in it's board. Behind him he can hear the ruffle of someone else who isn't as careful with his noises. He's about six foot in height, solidly built and carrying a heavy set of keys and a gun. Vlad moved, making sure his coats didn't make any noise again. He crept into the darkness behind the  mystery man without his noticing.

"Are you lost sir?" Vlad puts on his most educated voice so seem as a teacher of the sciences as villagers in the surrounding towns and hamlets believed this place to be.

Vlad can see the man clearly now, whilst still remaining half in shadow, his face is of the squashed kind, ruddy and bristly with beard. "Nah, I'm lookin' for some'un though." His voice matches his face and is deep and raspy, shattering the little silence that the man carried about him, he mis-pronounced his words and Vlad feels the way he must speak should distance as far from this man's tongue as possible while still being understood.

"Well if you tell me who you're looking for I'm sure I can track him down quicker than you'd be able to, seeing as you don't know the campus."

"Yeah, some 'fesser 'ere Mister 'Aligan."

"Mister Haligan, hmm, I think he's actually doing some lectures in another university at the moment, is it something important?" 

"Yeah actsh-lee, an' I'd prefer ta see 'im in person, right away too." 

"As I said, he isn't here, but if you want me too I can get a pigeon with your message to him as soon as possible, if it's that important."

"It's more important, me son was murder'd lass night an' the local police can't make 'eds nor tails of it. I was tole, ya know, through the grapevine, that Mister 'Aligan is a bit of a master at this sort of thing, ya know, deducin' an' stuff"

"He is Sir, I can get a pigeon to him as soon as the sky looks clear for a few hours, so most probably tonight, and he should be able to return by morning. Please, tell me, how is the corpse being kept?"

"E's been put in a butchers cool room, coldess place they ca find on such short notice mister, thanks an' all fer 'elpin' I juss wanna find out oo did this an' give 'em their rites ya know."

"Only too well, What name should I put on the end of your message to him?"

"John, I'm John Thomas Senior, me son was junior. Anyways bess be off, the wife's still in 'ysterics." man left as loudly as he had arrived. Vlad knew that name from somewhere, John Thomas Snr? He was the owner of the Farley Tavern many students frequented after they'd been barred from the one here. It never closed and you were never banned.

Vlad walked accross the courtyard, he'd been sure that the man was going to be trouble. His instincts never failed him. It was a good thing that the people of the surrounding area didn't find out what was really at this castle. It wasn't a university, of sorts. More a college of skills. Well assassins. There was students, that wasn't a lie, and there were professors, of sorts. Mister Haligan was an imfamous killer before he arrived here nearly twenty years ago and after a change of name, clothes and a bit of an education he'd actually become a professor of untraceable crimes.

There was a sudden gunshot not far to the east. That man! Vlad was still never wrong! He rushed in his silent way to the sound and saw John running away. A student, George Austin, from Haligan's classes was splayed on the floor. There was a lot of blood and the sickly saltiness filled the air quickly, but the steady breath from the student maintained the feeling of life. The figure of John was disappearing not as fast as it could have been. Vlad took out his own pistol and took a steady aim. He must be about four hundred yards away. He fired and John fell, not dead, just wounded. Some more students who'd arrived were sent to him to 'take Mr John Thomas and the fallen George to the infirmary'.

Neither was going to go off without a good 'warning'. Doubtlessly this student had actually killed the man's son, it was a task that each would student would undertake, spaced so only the professors would know if they were successful. No student would own up to being caught, so it was the only way they could test. It was well know to the professors that it was week seventeen on the calendar and week seventeen was George's turn to try.

Vlad returned to the main courtyard and hummed in his head, he felt at ease knowing that there were only clumsy students and flies near him. He would send for Haligan as soon a possible. He took to the nothern tower where the coop was an chose a suitable pigeon with a coded message tied to his foot. He could find Haligan in town of Cedarstone, this pigeon was trained to that town and from there it would reach him. He set the pigeon into the night and returned to the ground floors. He walked along the stony halls and took himself to the professors quarters in the northern building. He locked the door behind him and removed his clothes, keeping his undershirt and his belt for his gun and a dagger on just in case. He slept lightly but very easily. The air was cool on this night.

The End

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