"The trail finished Jeyan." Malvere spoke from behind the older man. Jeyan nodded, but didn't look back. Malvere sighed, and sat beside Jeyan It was a cool day, the sun was hidden behind clouds, and there would be rain later. "Then you guessed the verdict?"
"Was there ever any doubt what it would be Mal? He killed a noble." Jeyan shook his head.
"I thought he might have a chance with Coldin defending him." Malvere offered.
"Coldin was defended him?" Jeyan looked up in surprise. "Why was he doing that Mal? It could cost him his position."
"He thought Avrin would still be useful, and that the Noble could be counted a collateral damage." Malvere shrugged. "It didn't work. They're going to carry out the sentence as soon as possible. Will...will you be going to watch Jeyan?"
"I don't think so." Jeyan chuckled softly. "I honestly don't think I can stand there and watch them hang him Malvere. He wasn't that much different from yourself you know."
"I knew him before he became an assassin Jeyan." Malvere reminded the older. "He was always the first to laugh, and usually got conned into doing dishes, but he was a nice person. Though, sometimes he seemed lost, and almost fake."
"Maybe he was." Jeyan sighed, and stood. "Mal, I can't sit here any longer, let's go do something."
"What?' Malvere asked, standing up slowly. "If it'll get your mind off Avrin I'll play along."
"I don't care." Jeyan walked down the hall. "Anything will work."
"Ah, Jeyan, Malvere, just the people I wanted to see." Malvere bowed promptly, and went white. General Keen was a large man, imposing, and loud. "You two have been given the task of disposing of the assassin's things." General Keen spoke of Avrin with disgust. Jeyan pushed down the twinge of anger. Who was it that had killed the Silent Death in the first place? Had Avrin's deed already been forgotten.
"Yes sir." Jeyan bowed, and waited for the General to leave. He made a face. "Feathers! Avai's feather and Lean's Mercy." Jeyan hissed angrily.
"Such language Jeyan." Malvere chuckled, but it was weak. "We can do this later Jeyan.."
"No, we're getting new recruits in tomorrow, so it needs to be done today." Jeyan sighed. "This way Malvere." Jeyan knew the way to Avrin's rooms well. He had been there many times, but everyone knew where the assassin was housed, or had been.
"At least he got a trail, even if it wasn't fair." Jeyan muttered to himself. He had gone to see Avrin while soon after he was placed in a cell, but hadn't been allowed to speak with him. Avrin had looked like death warmed over, and seemed to have aged since killed the Silent Death. Jeyan shook his head to clear it from thought.
The room was clean, except for a set of clothes tossed on the bed. Most likely Avrin had been wearing them before the ball. A small chest was made into the wall, and a battered chair was in one corner. Jeyan caught Malvere giving him a nervous look, and tried to smile encouragingly.
"Jeyan, you realize that you look even worse when you try to smile?" Malvere frowned at Jeyan, and shook his head. "What are we supposed to do anyway?"
"Remove all personal artifacts from the room, and burn them, I suppose. The uniform should be turned in, but everything else would be given to family. The only problem is I'm not sure Avrin has any family, except for a brother, and I think he might be dead. In any case we can't reach him, so it's either burning, or keeping them safe for the chance his brother might appear."
"Why don't we just ask Avrin where his brother is?" Malvere opened the chest with his foot, and coughed. "Gagh! Lean's mercy! What does he keep in here!" Malvere fanned his hand in front of his face, and hopped away from the chest. "Mercy!"
"Mal, you've got a nose more sensitive then a dog's." Jeyan laughed softly. "I can't smell anything except a few herbs."
"That's because you're so old." Malvere objected. "It stinks in there Jeyan! I'm telling you it does!"
"Of course it does Mal." Jeyan smiled, and laughed harder. "I'll clean out the chest, you work on something else."
"What? There's nothing else to do in here, just the bed, and chair." Malvere waved a hand at the furniture.
"You can sweep, or something like that Mal, check under the bed, and stuff like that." Jeyan kneeled beside the chest, and looked at the assortment of clothes. He pulled out the formal uniform, and set it aside. Even the assassin had been given one. Jeyan shook his head, and placed it neatly beside him. A battered pair of boots was the next thing out, and a pair of almost new clothes. Jeyan hesitated, and looked at a strange robe. He pulled it out, and frowned at the strange thing. It was threadbare, and had been patched in several places.
"Hey Mal, have you ever seen anything like this?" Jeyan asked, He tilted the cloth for Malvere to see, and the younger soldier gawked.
"Where did he get one of those?" Malvere asked himself. He took it from Jeyan, and held it up. "It's a sleeping robe that comes from the West, Jeyan. You can't get them many places, and their cost an arm and a leg since their imported."
'That's interesting-now fold it back up Mal." Jeyan chuckled and Malvere's sigh, and pulled out another strange piece of clothing. It looked like the sleeping robe, but it was shorter, and too big for Avrin. It was also in much better condition. he pulled out a set up voluminous pants, and set them aside. "Mal, are all these clothes from the West?"
"It looks like it." Malvere placed the sleeping robe on the small pile. "Maybe Avrin was from the West. It would account for the accent he had; I'm glad he finally lost it. The soldier's teased all Mercy out of him for it." Malvere sat down by the trunk, and peered in.
"I thought it smelled bad." Jeyan poked Malvere in the ribs, and pulled out a box. "It's locked."
"What's this?" Malvere pulled a small leather pouch from the trunk. "It's pretty heavy."
"Probably his money Mal." Jeyan observed. He played idly with the top of the box. "He got payed wages like everyone else did."
"It's not money it's..." Malvere pulled the drawstrings apart, and made a face. He smiled, then laughed. "It's rocks Jeyan! A bunch of rocks and such!" Malvere spilled a few of the rocks into his hand, and continued laughing. "Avrin kept rocks."
"I did to, when I was about five. I would hunt the stream beds for the smooth ones." Jeyan picked up a rock from Malvere's hand. "They're pretty rocks, you have to admit."
"Maybe, but there are marbles as well." Malvere carefully emptied the bag. "Rocks, marbles, and a broken whistle. Are you sure Avrin wasn't simple?"
"What ever he was simple wasn't it." Jeyan rolled one of the smooth stones between his fingers. "Put them up Mal, we've got to figure out what we're supposed to do with this stuff." Malvere nodded, and slid the toys back into the bag. Jeyan stood, and reluctantly headed towards the door. He knew where he be sent ultimately for answers, and it was the place he had avoided.
"Don't take too long." Jeyan nodded, and stepped into the cold cell. Avrin's head snatched up, and he twisted his head to look at Jeyan. A broken smile came across his face, and Jeyan barely suppressed a wince. Had he looked so horrid when he had smiled at Malvere earlier?
"I didn't expect to see you again." Avrin croaked. He coughed, and continued in a slightly better voice. "You're not here to visit I assume?"
"No, I-I'm here on official business Avrin. It's about your things." Jeyan paused wondering how to phrase his question. "You said you had a brother, and we normally give personal things to family-"
"My brother's dead, Jeyan." Avrin voice cracked, and he shook his head. "He's' dead, there is no one to claim the stuff. You can burn the clothes-I won't need then anymore."
Jeyan bit back his questions, and stood silently. Avrin leaned his head on his knees, and stared at nothing. The face he had seen vibrant with life only a few days ago looked like another man's face. Avrin's hair was knotted, and his breath hitched. Jeyan frowned at the flush on Avrin's cheeks, and moved forward slowly. He studied hm closer, his lips pursed.
"It got infected." Avrin explained slowly. "The bandages weren't properly tied, and it got infected." Avrin chuckled hoarsely, and then coughed. "It doesn't matter though. The date was set for sunset tomorrow." Avrin coughed again, and winced. 'I'm lucky they didn't decide to just leave me here to die."
"Avrin..."Jeyan stopped, and shook his head. "I need to be going."
"Don't look so sad Jeyan, I made my choice." Avrin smiled thinly, and Jeyan turned to go. "Jeyan, there's a locked box in my chest and the keys are under the mattress. I want you to keep that, and everything inside it."
Jeyan paused, and nodded. "I will." Avrin nodded, and coughed hard. Jeyan left quickly, his fete carrying him far from the dungeon, and out into the fresh air. He took a gasping breath, and leaned against the wall. His eyes stung, and he hook his head. He would not cry. He shouldn't even feel like he was betraying an innocent. Avrin deserved the death he was going to get.
"You shouldn't try to compress you feelings Jeyan. Sooner or later they'll come back to get you." Malvere observed almost sagely. "At least, that's what my brother would always say."
"Feathers! Why do you always seem to be around?" Jeyan asked irritably. He pushed off the wall, and shook his head. "Will you do me a favor Mal?"
"Sure." Malvere agreed readily. "Anything for the grizzled veteran."
"You should stop calling me a 'grizzled veteran'. I'm not that much older then you are."Jeyan pointed out with a slight frown.
"You have five years on me, and have seen twice as many battles as I so you're a grizzled veteran to me." Malvere grinned hopefully. "Now, what's the favor."
"Just tell the guards that Avrin's wounds infected, and see if you can manage to get something for pain to him." Jeyan looked at the sky, and watched the fading sunset.
"So it's up to Little Mal to pull some strings?" Malvere nodded "I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks." Jeyan smiled, but it wavered. "I owe you Mal."
"No, you owe yourself a good nights sleep. Now go." Malvere stepped through the door, and Jeyan shook his head again.
"I don't think I'll sleep well tonight Mal, or any other night for a long time."
Jeyan sat, and looked at the smooth wooden box on his lap. It was polished, smooth, and the key lay on the lid. He hadn't opened it yet, and it was only a few hours to sunset. He sighed, and picked up the key. Carefully he unlocked the box, and slid the lid open. A leather bound book, a charcoal pencil wrapped in paper, and a few folded pieces of parchment lay neatly in the box. Jeyan hesitantly picked up one of the parchments, and found it was a written agreement with Coldin. It stated plainly that Avrin would be retiring from the service after the Silent Death was dead.
The other parchments were official things like the first, excluding the last. It was a worn letter from Avrin's brother:
Dear Avrin-Hey, hope your studies are speeding along Little Brother. I arrived safely, and I already found some work. I also found a rock for you-one day you'll have to stop collecting rocks-. Make sure Master Sayo doesn't work you too hard, and keep safe. I'll come back as soon as I can.
Jeyan frowned, and folded the letter back up. He hesitantly picked up the leather bound book, and opened it. The pages were almost completely filled with Avrin's neat scrawl. he turned to the beginning of the book, and began reading the neat pages.
Malvere stood stiffly even though he wasn't in uniform. He stood with the small crowd watching the hanging, or preparing to watch anyway. Many of the other soldiers had gathered to watch. Most came out of respect for the man who had killed the Silent Death, and other because they had known Avrin as a person, and not an assassin. Malvere stretched on his toes to search for Jeyan, and then dropped back down to his heels. He hadn't expected the old man to be there, but he felt he should be there.
Malvere continued to check the crowd from time to time, but he didn't see Jeyan. Malvere frowned, and settled his feet firmly on the ground. If Jeyan didn't come, Jeyan didn't come. The crowd spoke in hushed whispers, but the sound resembled bees. Millions of bees humming angrily. Malvere shook his head, and frowned. All this waiting was making him nervous. He fidgeted, and frowned again.
"I didn't think so many people would show up for this." Jeyan's calm voice sent Malvere jumping forward, nearly into the soldiers in front of him.
"Lean's Mercy! I thought you weren't going to come Jeyan." Malvere pressed a hand to his heart, and regarded the older man.
"I decided to after all." Jeyan smiled ruefully. "It's funny how some things work out Mal."
"What things?" Malvere asked, but Jeyan's reply was cut off. Avrin was lead across the square, his hands bound behind his back, but no chain to lead him. He followed the men, head high, and a smile on his face. It wasn't a happy smile, or even an amused smile, but a grim smile of a dead man. The escort, for that was what the men with him looked like, stopped at the base of the hanging stand, and Avrin walked up it. He turned and faced the crowd sharply, every ounce of him trained perfection.
Coldin had pulled some strings, and was able to give the assassin an honorable end. No traitor's chains, and only the Headsman stood on the stand with him. Malvere wondered if tying Avrin's hand's was really necessary, but then it would have appeared to voluntary, and there had to be some shame in the young man's death. After all he had killed a noble. Avrin's eyes swept the crowd, and stopped on Malvere, and Jeyan. His grim smile flickered a little, but he still stood ready, proud, and nearly defiant. There was much honor in this death.
"He really did mean for this to happen Mal." Jeyan spoke softly. "He couldn't have lived with himself if someone else killed The Silent Death."
"What are you talking about?" Malvere hissed, not looking from the scene in front of him.
"By the divine Mercy of Lean, and the blessed Feathers of Avai, you, Tsuki, Avrin, have been condemned to death by hanging for the murder of a ma of the Noble blood. You may speak you're last words." The Headsman voice boomed across the yard, making people flinch, and bringing all attention around. Everyone was Silent.
Avrin watched the people in front of him, and then some of the grimness left his face. "I have no regrets, but that I had to ever kill the man. I accept my punishment, because it is no more then I deserve after what I did."
"He's right." Jeyan murmured, but he had caught what Malvere had. Avrin was not sorry for killing the noble, but the Silent Death.
"He had to."
"Avrin!" The assassin's head whipped around, and the ghost of a smile slid over his features.
"I didn't expect to see you again Jeyan," Avrin said, looking to the one man who watched him carelessly. The assembly was waiting to move out onto grounds, but none of the guards stood very close. They watched, but they knew Avrin wouldn't try to get away.
Jeyan glanced at the nearest guard, and lowered his voice. "Why didn't you say anything?" Jeyan asked, his voice tight. "Surely Coldin would have released you."
"Oh, you read it already then?" Avrin asked, his smile dropping. He shifted his feet, and licked his lips.
"I did, and why didn't you do anything Avrin? Why?"
"What do you think people would have done if they had known? Used me as a lure to kill him," Avrin hissed. "I couldn't let that happen to him, or to me. Coldin suspected something, but nothing like the truth, and he wouldn't let me leave until after the Silent Death died."
"So you killed him? You had to be the one who killed him? Avrin, I don't get it, why did you-"
"You wouldn't," Avrin spoke softly. "I grew up across the world from here, and things are different. As much as I loved him, I couldn't break my word to Coldin. The only thing left to do after Coldin held me to my contract was to kill him, and then die myself."
"I still don't see how that made it any better Avrin. Feathers, I understand you weren't raised here, but killing him before anyone else could? What would that accomplish, for ether of you?" Jeyan asked harshly.
"He was killed in an open fight after years in the shadow. He hated it, and that was how he wanted to die. An honest sword fight that he couldn't really win." Avrin looked at the sky. "It's almost time Jeyan-I bid you farewell, and may life treat you well."
"Avrin..." Jeyan nodded, and saluted sharply. "You have my respect." Avrin, unable to salute, bowed at the waist as the guards moved forward.
"I hope to see you there, friend," Avrin said before he was gone.
"Do you remember how you felt when your brother died Mal?" Jeyan asked, his eyes still fixed on the scene in front of him.
"How I felt?" Malvere shook his head. "Mercy, I felt like my world had been split in two, and I couldn't think straight for weeks. I would have done anything to bring him back Jeyan, anything at all."
"Then that's why he has to die. He couldn't go on living after had he did," Jeyan talked on, watching them fit the noose around Avrin's neck.
"You don't mean-" Malvere jerked his head to look at Avrin, his mouth working furiously, but no sound came out. The headsman stepped back, grasping the trigger to spring the trap door, and Avrin's smile changed. It was calm, easy, and he closed his eyes. His lips moved, forming words Malvere couldn't make out.
"The Silent Death's real name was Tsuki, Dalin, and he- he was," The trigger was pulled, and Avrin's body fell down. The deafening snap sent sick thrills through Malvere's stomach, but Jeyan didn't even wince. Avrin's lifeless body swung gently, and the odd smile seemed to still rest on his lips.
"Lean's Mercy, and Avai's Feathers..." Malvere breathed.
"The Silent Death was Avrin's brother, and when you kill the only one you have left there's nothing more..."