389 United Era
Drenan did not see the Overseer approaching until he was nearly upon him. The black armor the Overseer wore, which matched his own, veiled his presence on the moonless night.
“Everyone is in place,” the Overseer said.
“The tavern’s secure?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“You’re sure?” Drenan said, even though he already knew the answer. The tavern stood alone, away from the village, surrounded by four Overseers and four dozen soldiers. He had planned this mission carefully and was taking no chances. He would not squander this opportunity to rid the empire of its last real threat.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Drenan nodded. “Get into position.”
The Overseer turned toward the tavern and faded into a shadow after a dozen feet.
Drenan allowed the Overseer time to take up his position with the soldiers under his command, then signaled to the two assassins, wearing close-fitting black clothes, standing next to him.
They both nodded and silently moved toward the tavern.
Drenan placed his hand on the hilt of the black dagger tucked into his belt and reached out with two threads of Energy until he felt the heartbeats of the two assassins. Their pulses reflected the calm with which they moved.
The minutes passed while he waited alone in the sea of wild grass, away from the solitary building. He thought about his previous failures to kill Danavin. His fingers drummed lightly on the bone dagger. Not tonight, he thought, forcing his fingers to stop. Tonight, he would finally avenge Therese and Cara.
Unable to see anything but the tavern’s dimly lit windows, he listened. The only sounds disrupting the peaceful night were the babbling of flowing water to his left and chirping insects in the distance.
The assassins’ pulses quickened.
Drenan gripped the dagger tightly, and his other hand formed a tight fist. The scars on the backs of his hands stretched uncomfortably.
One of the heartbeats stopped.
He took a step toward the tavern.
The other heartbeat stopped.
The thought of failure forced its way back into Drenan’s mind. His hatred for Danavin compelled him to go and finish the man himself, but he clenched his jaw and ignored the urge. The plan was already set. The Overseers and soldiers were in place. He’d prepared for this possibility.
Drenan took one quick look toward the sleeping village down the road, then siphoned more Energy from the dagger. Using the heat pooling inside him, he sent Energy to the front wall of the two-story wooden structure and set it ablaze.
He continued feeding Energy to the fire and waited tensely as it grew. He forced himself to remain where he was, trusting his unit to stop Danavin from another escape. However, as the fire spread, memories of countless missed opportunities overwhelmed him and compelled him to move. He drew the dagger from his belt and strode through the grass toward the tavern.
An explosion boomed, freezing him in mid-step. “Danavin,” he said through clenched teeth. He broke into a run, the small scales of his armor permitting fluid and unrestricted movement. When he arrived at the road, the Overseer and leather-clad soldiers guarding the front of the tavern were moving around the sides of the building. “Hold your position!” he yelled, and the soldiers returned to their formation in the middle of the road. There was a stone annex attached to the side of the wooden building, and he moved quickly down the cart path between the annex and the creek.
At the back, corpses littered the ground around a gaping hole in the annex. Rubble was scattered into the distance as far as Drenan could see by the light of the fire.
The village alarm bell rang in the distance.
Drenan picked his way through the rubble and fallen soldiers. He entered the remains of the kitchen and stepped over the body of a woman lying in a pool of her own blood.
“He’s dead,” an Overseer said.
“Where’s his body?” Drenan said.
The black-armored man gestured at the door that divided the kitchen from the common room. It was engulfed in flames.
Drenan drew Energy from the dagger in his hand and, using Synthesis, shattered the door. He stepped closer to the doorjamb and peered into the burning tavern.
His eyes locked on a blackened body slumped by the stone hearth, clothes burning.
A long object lay on the floor next to Danavin, untouched by the fire.
Drenan reached out with a thread of Energy and lifted the sword, drawing it through the flames toward himself. He grabbed it by the black bone blade, avoiding the decorative steel threads woven around the hilt to form a decorative cross-guard. He gasped at the deep beckoning force in the bone.
The bone blade felt cool in the surrounding heat. He held it up and inspected it. Light from the flames reflected from ribbons woven throughout the black bone. He knew that in sunlight those ribbons would be yellow.
Prize in hand, Drenan tucked his dagger into his belt and surveyed the damaged wall. It was imperative that no one suspect their involvement here. Time was short. “Get rid of the bodies outside,” he said. “Quickly.”
The Overseer stepped through the hole in the wall and called for the others. With help from the other soldiers, they gathered the corpses into a pile, and the Overseers used Energy to burn the bodies, reducing them to ash.
While the Overseers worked outside, Drenan picked up the woman and tossed her into the tavern. He scanned the room and found a body protruding from underneath a burning table. Nearby were two thin swords. One of the failed assassins. He retrieved the swords in the same manner as he’d retrieved Danavin’s, then searched the room for their throwing knives. He found them embedded in the wall near the stairs. After he’d collected them, he siphoned more Energy from Danavin’s sword and burned away the table and body hidden underneath. Where’s the other one? He didn’t want there to be more than two sets of remains found in the building on the morrow. Maybe upstairs? But searching up there was impossible.
“Draego’s Fire,” he swore through clenched teeth.
He was running out of time. With one more quick scan of the tavern, he decided it didn’t matter. It’ll be unrecognizable by time the fire’s out; an unlucky patron.
Drenan turned from the room and burned away the blood pooled on the stone floor where the woman had died. He frowned when he looked up at the hole in the stone wall. He hated the idea of leaving evidence behind, but the locals were on their way. He walked through the rubble, cursing Danavin for the mess, and signaled to the others that it was time to leave.
Drenan gave the assassins’ weapons to an Overseer, then led the group back to the sea of grass. At the top of a small rise, he stopped and turned around. Several torches floated down the road from the village toward the burning tavern.
A smile crept onto Drenan’s face. Finally, his wife and daughter were avenged.
He turned, sword in hand, and followed the others into the night.
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I haven’t set a publication date yet, mainly because I don’t know for sure how long it will take for the many pieces to fall into place, but as soon as I know I will proclaim it. My goal is sometime this fall.
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Stay tuned for sneak peek # 2…