Chapter Two: The Assassin and the Captain

Once upon a time, there were two kingdoms, Xandria and Trelia; each one just as powerful as the other. For hundreds of years, these kingdoms worked side by side in perfect harmony, fighting wars together and supplying each other with resources. That was until the fairies arrived in Trelia to celebrate the birth of their princess.

Three of the four fairies gave the princess great gifts, but the last did not. This fairy placed a curse on the land claiming that on her sixteenth birthday, she would pick her finger with a spindle and fall into an eternal sleep. The only way to break the curse would be through true love's kiss. The royal family did everything in their power to prevent the curse from happening, but in the end, they failed.

A great thorn barrier surrounded Trelia, cutting it off from Xandria. Xandria sent legions to try to break the barrier, but each time, they came back defeated.

Panic arose in the once peaceful kingdom of Xandria. Differences in class and lifestyle created unfixable holes between the rich, the poor, and the nonhumans. For the first time in the history of Xandria, assassins roamed the streets supported by the rich and backed by the infamous Assassin's Guild. The only problem was that no one knew who was friend and who was foe.

What made everything worse was the fact that the fairy known as Nightstone is still at large.

Ryanon Cinderspear closed the book as she got to her feet. The noise outside her window made it next to impossible to focus. Besides, she had read this book so many times that she pretty much had it memorized.

She peered out the window, watching the street urchins beg some rich merchant for scarps, only to be pushed away. Shaking her head, she let the curtain fall. She had been like those children before-before Karlen had found her and shown her the better life.

Ryanon tied her brown hair back into a lose braid. Speaking of Karlen, there was still the matter of her payment.

The Assassin's Guild was not a terribly large place, but it was still plenty big enough that it made keeping track of where everyone was rather difficult. The guild was spread out over three warehouses, each one as old and wretched looking as the next. Karlen tried to keep the buildings looking as proper as necessary while trying not to draw attention to themselves. Besides, it did not do well to have a well put together mansion in the slums of the city.

As Ryanon rounded the corner of yet another creaking stairwell, voices echoed up from the bottom.

"Are you saying that the rumours are true then?" Karlen was asking.

"Yes, my father told the council that he believes all the riches are still there, untouched and rotting away. You know how my father is about his wealth," a male said, lowering his voice.

Ryanon carefully made her way around the steps that she knew would creak. Sometimes it really pay to live in the same house your entire life. The other assassins did not know the secrets of the guild like she did.

"Yes," Karlen said. Through the floor's cracks, Ryanon could see her boss run her hand through her thick blond hair. "I'm surprised he hasn't tried to personally rob it himself before." She paused. "So, he believes that Trelia was a wealthy as the Duke bragged about?"

"Yes, he does. Throughout history, it appears that Trelia did always have more than Xandria." The dark haired assassin stepped into view. His dark hair and heavy features made him stand out in the crowd. His beauty made it even easier for him to get wives to tell him of their husbands business. Being the captain of the guard made him the prefect assassin. He was supposed to be the Crown Prince of Xandria, but due to a reading problem, his father had forced him out of the position in favour of his younger brother. His mother hadn't taken too kindly to her favourite son being ousted and had sent him to train with Karlen.

Karlen smiled at Dak. "And our cut?"

Dak smiled a sinister smile. "My mother assures me that we will be paid greatly when my father doesn't return for this mission. She would like more than anything in the world for the man to have some kind of freak accident."

Karlen pulled Dak closer and whispered something in his ear. Nodding, Dak turned and walked out the front door. Ryanon held her breath until the Leader of the Assassins disappeared into her study.

Ryanon got to her feet and rushed back up the steps without even bothering to hide the thudding of her boots. She paused at the third floor landing, forcing the window open. With one final glance over her shoulder, she darted out the window, stepping onto a small window sill. She forced the window back shut, before turning to look down at the street.

It stank far worse out here than she had thought. The winds were driving the fishy smell form the harbours into everything. Pulling her cloak up to her nose, she jumped down off the sill and onto the neighbouring roof.

Tucking in, she landed as smooth as a cat. Getting to her feet, she peered down over the edge. Dak was making his way slowly through the crowds, in clear line of the cameras. Even though he wasn't in uniform, the people around clearly recognized him. Shaking her head and keeping low, she ran across the building to a fire escape on the other end of the roof.

Gripping the ladder tightly, she began her short climb down. If she had timed everything correctly, which she knew she had, she would intercept him at the next alley. He really was being downright mental for being out here in the middle of the day. It would do him some good to get roughed up a little bit.

Ryanon stepped out into the busy streets. People were crazy for thinking there was no life Skalavik's slums. In fact, she thought that the slums had more life to them than the rich sector. Her eyes darted around as she took in the many sights. Treasures from all over Eaken were right in front of her. Most people could never afford the goods, but it did not hurt to dream.

She was going to have to come shopping as soon as she got her payment from Karlen.

Dak was still walking in a prefect straight line in front of her. The crowd just seemed to part as he made through them. Knowing that kind of people that worked the street, Ryanon really couldn't blame them for getting out of the captain of the guard's way.

Ryanon winced as yet another person stepped on her foot. People should be getting out of her way; she was a lady after all. Plus, if this kept up, she was going to lose Dak.

As soon as she was able too, Ryanon ducked down an alley. While this alley was normally busy after hours, it was empty now. Running, not even bothering to hide her footsteps, she darted around the corner to the connecting alley.

The cameras in these parts were trained not to look at anyone in the alleys. It was the only way that the elites could get away with their illegal activities.

Ryanon skidded to a stop at the end of the alley, scanning the thick crowds, wincing as a raw fish went flying right in front of her nose. Dak had to around here someplace.

She moved further out into the street, wincing once again as fish guts caked her boots. She shook her head. Well, that was another thing that she was going to have to buy.

Ah, there he was. Ryanon kept her head down as Dak moved closer to her. His hand was resting on his sword, as he glared at the courtesan who was slowly making her way toward him. The known drug lords disappeared into their holes as he walked past them.

Ryanon kept walking. Dak still hadn't realized that she was almost right in front of him. Some captain of the guard he was.

With a jerk of her arm, she reached out and grabbed onto him, slowly pulling him closer to her. He reached for his sword, but stopped once he got a true look at her face. "You," he hissed, as he allowed her to pull him into the alley.

"Yes, me," Ryanon hissed back.

Dak twisted his arm around so that his nails digging into her skin. "What do you want?"

Wincing, Ryanon attempted her best to glare at him. "I want you to tell me what you are doing."

"And why would I do that?"

She crossed her arms over her chest. "Because we are supposed to be partners."

He snorted. "Yeah, right. When have we ever told each other everything?"

Ryanon eyed him. "I could be of some help to you."

"Or you could just get in the way. Women are not supposed to be assassins."

She drew back her foot and brought it back hard between his legs. Yelping, Dak fell to the ground. Raising a foot, she placed on it his back. "Don't ever say anything to me like that," she growling, placing a knife under his chin."You would never think about saying anything like that to Karlen and I expect you to show me the same respect."

Dak tried to rear up, but her boot was positioned in the just the right place that made it impossible for him to do so. "You bitch," he hissed.

Ryanon dug her knife down a little harder on him. It would do him some good to lose some blood. "That is not nearly as bad as what you called me earlier. I can do anything better than you can, so you just remember that." She removed her boot and knife, letting him up.

He got to his feet, rubbing his throat. Ryanon smirked at the sight of blood when he removed his hand. "I don't have to tell you anything. If I turn up dead, people will come looking for you."

She wiped her knife off on a fold in her cloak. "You may think you don't, but you will." She paused. "You know why? You cannot stand to have a job when I don't."

Dak frowned at her. "And you know what?" He wiped some more blood off his chin. "You can't stand not knowing something."

Ryanon glared at him. "Just tell me so I don't have to kill you."

"You and I both know that you won't." He shook his head. "I never took you for a fool and, yet, here you are, picking a fight with a man in close quarters."

"I can take you," she hissed, "and you know it. That's why you haven't tried anything. Besides, I don't think you have the nerve to do it anyway."
"Do what?" He moved closer to it. "Go ahead and say it."

"To kill your father."

Dak's hand came up so quickly and she found herself pinned to the brick wall before she even had the chance to react. "Who told you?" His voice was dangerously low.

Ryanon struggled underneath his tight grasp. He had better not leave any bruises on her or there was going to be hell to pay. "Why? Are you worried that they might give the job to me?"

Dak hissed.

Ryanon seized the moment by kicking him in the knees. Though he didn't drop, his death grip did lighten up just enough for her get free. "You are playing a dangerous game, you know that? Why do you put so much trust in your mother? She could be the death of you."

Dak glared at her, gasping. "I thought this was about my father."

"And your messed up family." She paused. "Come on, Dak, you really can't believe that there are still riches in Trelia. It's been how long since the curse? It's not like you can just walk in there anyway. Not even the drones have survived a mission there."

"There are things that you don't understand." He straightened his uniform. "Now, I have a job to get back to, so I suggest you get out of my way before I have you arrested."

Ryanon snorted as she stepped to the side. "You do know that I will get to the bottom of this."

He turned and smiled. "I wouldn't have it any other way, but I'm not going to make it easy for you."

She watched as he walked out into the crowd, giving him until the count of ten before stepping back out. By the time she emerged, he was gone. She really didn't expect him to hang around, but she had kind of expected him to linger to make sure that she got back to the guild okay. Granted, she could take care of herself, but Dak had this kind of honour that made it impossible to him to see a female walk home alone.

Sighing, she turned and started walking back to the guild. She hadn't meant to make him that mad.

Still, he was mental for thinking that they could break through the walls of Trelia. The land, though once rich, was completely surrounded by a wall of thorns that destroyed anything that came within their reach. The things that did actually manage to make it over the wall came back so brunt that they were almost unrecognizable. Many had hinted at the possibility of there being some kind of dragon on the other side.

Even for all the riches in the world, Ryanon could not see King Teodric Morninghelm risking everything for money. No, there had to be something else and she was going to find out.

She pushed open the guild's doors. Silence greeted her and she hoped that everyone was on a mission or just simply gone. There was work to be done.