An Unlikely Story

by Lurking Wolf

March the 4th, in the year 695, Cristos Reckoning

Vincent Lois was having an excellent time. He smiled at everyone as he walked down the road away from the establishment of a wealthy merchant. He had been in town only a few days, and his reputation had already earned him employment.

As it turns out, merchants could be quite greedy at times. So greedy, in fact, that they were willing to pay quite a good sum to rid themselves of competition. He had just been offered a sum of fifteen garrets for dispatching a merchant. This sum included five garrets up front just as a sign of good faith. Now Lois was off to see how much this other merchant valued his life…

It took Lois very little time to find his way to the workplace of the man in question. He had gotten exact instructions on how to get to it with the greatest speed possible by his employer.

Lois entered discretely, looking curiously at some items of interest that were displayed to catch people’s attention. Both of the merchants dealt in rare items, which was the reason for the hefty sum that Lois had been offered to get rid of one of them. The one believed that he would reap great profits without his competitor to get in his way. Lois wasn’t quite sure of the logic behind the man’s reasoning, but his money was good, so he was willing to take a few risks.

As a few customers slowly moved away, Lois moved forward, looking at the merchant with a hint of a smile on his face. He greeted to merchant with all due respect.

“Good day to you, sir,” he began. “How has business been treating you?”

“Well enough, I suppose,” the merchant said. By the look of the store, Lois knew that he was just being noncommittal. This man made plenty of money, and Lois wondered if he couldn’t get a little of it out of him.

“May I speak with the owner of the establishment?” Lois asked. He was reasonably certain that he was already speaking to him, but to say this was just a polite way to request a meeting.

“May I ask the reason you wish to see him and your name?” the man asked.

“I wish to see him on private matters of business, and my name is Louis Shade,” Lois said, easily passing off the alias as his real name.

“Please come with me,” the man said after a moment of consideration. He led Lois to the back of the building. On the way, the merchant motioned for his assistant to manage to front.

They reached the merchant’s personal chamber in a few moments. Here the affluence of this man was clear to see, as many rarities were visible on the walls, and the desk that sat to one side of the room was obviously expensive, as were the chairs. They were fashioned expertly out of a hardwood, which made them of even further value. Intricate designs were sketched across the legs and up the backs, and the one on the merchant’s side of the desk was padded, which would have incurred an even higher price.

The man sat down in the padded chair, leaning forward with his elbows on the desk and his hands clasped in front of him. He motioned Lois into the other seat, which Lois took, sitting in it slightly slumped, so that he could see the shorter merchant eye to eye.

“You spoke of a matter of business,” the merchant said, smiling. “Please, do tell what you are selling. I am always in the market for new rarities to add to my stock.

“The business I have is not about anything I have to sell. My business is to inform you of an imminent threat to you. I have just returned from the shop of your competitor on the other side of the city. It seems that he heard some rumor about my being an assassin, and he wished to hire me to kill you.”

This blunt confession of evil intent shocked the merchant to no end. He stood, drawing a long, thin knife which he held at ready. Lois remained seated, but drew out one of his own daggers, keeping it in a defensive position in front of him. Aside from this act, however, he was quite relaxed.

“Please listen to what I have to say,” Lois continued as if mentioning the day’s weather. “I have no intention of carrying out my job here, and, if the right cards are played, I may not find it necessary to carry it out at all. You have an interesting situation on your hands. I am here telling you about this man’s intent, but my witness alone would hardly lead to a conviction of such an outstanding member of the community as he is. I could, for all anyone knows, just be looking for attention. I do have some proof of his intent, however.” Here Lois drew out a bag of coin, which he laid on the table. “In this purse are five garrets, an advance of the amount I am owed should I complete the task.”

With the knife still drawn, the merchant picked up the bag, opening it and spilling the contents on the table. As promised, five coins lay on the table.

“How do I know you are telling the truth? If you were truly hired to kill me, why have you warned me?” the merchant asked, looking at Lois inquisitively.

Lois picked up a small trinket from the table. It was unmistakably the figure of a person, but the artist had embraced impressionism to the point that Lois found himself hard pressed to decided whether the figure was male or female. Finishing his inspection, he answered the question. “Surely a man like you can understand that I am solely in the profession for the profit. For this reason, and because I have noticed you doing a brisk business here, I wonder if I might not be able to secure payment from you to perform the job on him.”

“I do not hire assassins, and you have yet to prove that you have actually been hired as you claim” the merchant asserted.

“As for proving my claims, I must leave it to you to decide whether you’ll trust me or no. As for not hiring assassins, I understand completely. I have little use for them myself, but think of it this way: You could tell the lord of the city about it, and he would likely find it to be just an attempt to secure profit on your behalf. In the end, all you accomplish is giving him more reason to hate you, and thus more reason to hire someone to kill you. Alternately, you could do nothing, trusting that I am a liar, and running the risk that I or some other man of my peculiar talents could be hired to kill you. You could also hire men to guard you, but I’m sure that the amount you would have to pay any sort of security would eventually far exceed anything that I would possibly ask of you to eliminate your problem.”

“Or you could be lying outright, and then I would have nothing to worry about,” the merchant countered.

“True, and I suppose you’re going to let your life ride on this hope? I give you my word of honor that I am telling the truth, and I am truly in line to secure a high price should I terminate you.” As he had been talking, Lois had slowly played his fingers down the length of the dagger’s blade, and now held it by the tip. As he finished his monologue, the flicked the dagger back around into his hand, holding it up in a threatening gesture.

“You’re trying to frighten me into believing you,” the merchant observed.

“Yes, but that’s just me. You have other reasons to believe me. You’ve seen yourself how he envies you. He will stop at nothing to become the only seller of rare goods in this town. I know it may sound somewhat unbelievable that one would kill for such a thing, but some are greedy enough to think of it.” Lois smiled at the merchant, encouraging him to formulate his own opinion.

“It’s true, he is quite envious of me. He even sent a spy some time ago to try to find out the sources of some of my rarest and most popular goods. I complained to the lord about it, but nothing was done. Still, from spying to assassination is quite a jump. On the other hand, the threat does seem to carry a bit of truth with it.” The merchant was staring off into space thinking. Lois knew that here would be the best time to make his move, but his hope of a greater reward overruled his itch to complete his mission.

“I’ll cut you a deal. You give me fifteen garrets, and I’ll end your trouble,” Lois suggested, gathering the coins from the desk back into the bag.

“That is completely unreasonable! It takes me months to come up with that sort of money!” the merchant insisted.

“Let me lay this out in simple terms for you. I work for whoever has the most money. I have already been offered fifteen garrets to terminate you. If you give me fifteen garrets, I will have twenty coins for my effort, five from your friend, fifteen from you. I will ask nothing more of you than this, and I will end your problems as far as this man goes.”

“Ten garrets,” the merchant countered. Lois gave a small grin. This was some progress, at any rate.

“You cut me to the quick,” Lois said, feigning injury. “My work goes to the highest bidder. If you give me ten garrets, I will gain nothing, and I might as well kill you for the same amount of money as it would give me to put myself further at risk by switching targets, with you knowing that I had been involved in designs on your life, thus making another threat to me. Fifteen garrets on the spot.”

“Twelve garrets will do you fine,” the merchant said, scowling at Lois.

“Please, if you want me to believe your life is worth my trouble to save, at least be willing to give me what your competitor has already offered me,” Lois insisted. “I will take fifteen garrets, and I will be on my merry way.”

“Fifteen garrets, but only ten in advance,” the merchant insisted.

“It would be an unnecessary risk to return here to collect on this job, for the both of us. For me, I might be seen and caught, for you, you might be seen with me and connected to the job. Fifteen garrets, and no one will ever know I was ever here.”

“How do you propose to do that? There are always customers in the front, and now a shipment of merchandise is being loaded in the back.”

“I have my ways. No one will ever see me, and I will end all of your problems with that man in one fell swoop. Fifteen garrets, no more, no less.”

The merchant scowled, looking at Lois intently. “Very well. My peace of mind is worth fifteen garrets, but you must do the job tomorrow night. Agreed?”

“Quite agreed,” Lois said with a smile. He stood, the dagger still held in his right hand.

“Wait here,” the merchant said.

“No, I will not wait here. I go where you go. I’ve seen it done many times that you walk out fir a few moments and return with the authorities. I go with you.”

“Very well,” the merchant said. He scowled even more. “First, put your dagger away.”

“Done,” Lois said, restoring the dagger to its sheath. He then followed the merchant through another door. They were now in a back storage area. As soon as the merchant had convinced Lois that there were no other entrances or exits, the man told him to wait at the door. Lois could see as the man opened a concealed safe, counted the coins, and put them in a bag. He returned quickly, handing Lois the bag of coin.

“By the way, how do you propose I explain the deficit of 15 garrets?” the merchant questioned.

“Quite easily, actually. Surely you have something that expensive that you sell here. Say you spent it on one of your shipments,” Lois explained.

“Now, how do you propose to get out of here?”

Lois smiled and turned back into the office. He went to the window and looked out, making sure that no one was nearby. “This should do nicely,” he commented. Opening the window, Lois stepped out and was off, leaving the merchant to wonder if he should have trusted this man who called himself Shade.

For Lois’s part, he was quite pleased. Usually a seller of rare goods like this man would have some sort of security to protect him. Luckily, this man seemed more concerned with making a pile of coinage than with his own protection. Also fortunate was the fact that he was still willing to spare a good amount of money to make sure that he would be safe. Lois could have left town now, but he had a feeling that he would be followed if he did, so he was content to prepare for the job that he would carry out the next night. Hopefully he would be able to navigate through the bodyguards. The other merchant had definitely been more concerned with security than the last one. Lois idly wondered if he should have stayed with his original target, and left it as it was. The sound of the bag of coins made him much more sure of his decision.

March the 5th, in the year 695, Cristos Reckoning

Lois watched as the sun sank low in the western sky. He had been waiting for darkness to fall for several hours now, and now, as the last visible part of the sun sank below the roofs of the nearby buildings, Lois knew it was time to make his preparations.

When he had been at the first merchant’s establishment, he had already planned to attempt a target switch for his greater profit. He had watched the movements of the guards carefully on his way in, as well as on the way out. Today he had even furthered his knowledge of his target’s security, spending a good amount of time hiding in the shadows as he watched the men change shifts. He could tell that they were being paid good coin by their employer by their alertness, but he had already noticed several problems inherent with their set patrols, which he planned to exploit to his full advantage tonight.

After closing the one window in the room, as well as checking the door, Lois moved to where a large chest sat up against the wall. It was in this chest that he kept almost all of his earthly possessions. From his money to his clothes, everything he owned had been stowed in this chest. Most of it was kept in the main section of the chest, but for some things, especially anything that would give him away as an assassin, there was a secret compartment in the bottom of the chest. It was incredibly difficult to tell that this compartment even existed if you were looking at the bottom of the chest. The compartment was small enough not to be too noticeable when viewed from above.

Lois carefully lifted the chest, turning it on its back so that he was staring directly at the bottom of the chest. He then reached around to the side. There were a series of decorative designs that adorned the chest, some of which had more than one use. Lois’s fingers found the secret triggers on both sides of the case, tripping both of them at the same time. A soft click was heard, then silence. Lois then looked at the front of the chest, actually the top from his perspective. He set one of his fingers in a spot where some of the decorations seemed to have fallen off. He slid it carefully to the side, revealing the catch to the secret lock. He tripped this, and cushioned the bottom of the chest as it opened outward, revealing the hidden area.

Lois removed what lay inside, moving it to the bed. He then closed the bottom of the chest, waiting for the slight click that signaled that the lock had sealed. As he set the chest back against the wall, it could be seen that the area where the decorations had been missing was once more adorned by the simple carvings that adorned the rest of the chest. Lois set it back where it had been, then turned to the equipment that lay on the bed.

He set about dressing himself in the loose black suit that would serve as a sort of camouflage as he moved through the shadows. It also hung in loose folds in certain places, making it hard to determine the exact size of the person wearing it. It covered him completely excepting only his hands and his head. He then took the pair of gloves from the bed, pulling them on as well. They covered only his palms, providing some protection while not impeding the flexibility of his fingers at all. He then took a coif from the bed, slipping it over his face, leaving only his eyes visible. He tucked the loose material from the coif into the main part of the outfit, eliminating the most noticeable seam in the outfit.

Now Lois took one of four strips of cloth from the bed, and began wrapping it about his left forearm. He wrapped it tightly enough so that the excess material of the sleeves would be held down, while still allowing air to cool his arms. To sweat on a mission like this could mean detection. The cloth band made sure that unwanted snags could be avoided, as well as making sure that the sleeves would roll up accidentally during combat. Finishing with his left arm, he clipped the cloth down and repeated the process with his right arm, then with both of his legs, tying down the cloth between his knees and his ankles.

Lois’s weapons of choice were already prepared. He strapped his daggers around his waist, the black of the sheaths almost invisible against his clothing. They were also strapped loosely in their sheaths, allowing the wearer to even hang upside-down without being preoccupied with making sure his daggers didn’t fall out. Aside from this, he kept with him six darts, each tipped with a generous amount of a compound made with snake’s venom. Used properly, each dart could easily be reused twice.

Aside from this, Lois traveled light. He carried absolutely nothing that he didn’t need. All things that he brought with him meant one more thing that he had to be careful with while moving into enemy territory. The last thing he wanted was to have to be overly careful. The more care he had to take, the greater the chance of making a mistake.

Thus prepared, Lois made sure that the room was in order as if he had just left for a stroll, then made his exit through the window, traveling through shadows and across rooftops towards his destination.

Lois lay stretched out on a roof, overlooking the building where the merchant did his business. As an added bonus, it just happened to be where he slept at night. Lois didn’t have to look for the man’s residence. Having a target that was both very greedy and very paranoid helped him a lot in this situation.

Lois was watching the guards who had been hired by the merchant to assure his safety. He had before seen a very obvious pattern in the patrols, and he was now verifying it before he made his move. Where he now waited was looking at the back of the building, where the merchant’s shipments of goods would be sent. A set of large doors was the only visible entrance from this position, but Lois wasn’t interested in them. They would be securely locked at this time of night, and would doubtless make a lot of noise when opened. The only thing he cared about was that there was about a ten second delay between patrols on this wall, while as he would have had only a little more than five seconds on the wall where he sought to enter.

Finally, Lois was convinced that the guards were still moving in the same flawed patterns as one of the guards rounded the corner, Lois dropped silently into the alley that separated the merchant’s business and his hiding place. He quickly ran to the wall, then slipped silently behind a stack of empty barrels that lay, waiting to be taken and refilled with whatever exotic drink the merchant kept in them.

Quietly, Lois waited for the patrolman to round the corner. He then climbed on top of one of the barrels and jumped , catching the edge of the roof in his hands. He then slid himself under the roof’s overhang, laying across the wooden supports that were set at regular intervals around the roof.

Without waiting for the patrols to move, Lois countered their rotation, walking across the supports quietly. He doubted that anyone who looked up at him would be able to tell him apart from the shadows which accompanied him during his short trek. It was dark enough that his black clothing blended in perfectly. Lois stopped as he arrived directly over his planned entrance point, a window. It was likely one of the very few windows to actually sport the luxury of glass in this small town. This man was definitely a big fish in a small pond, and was out to try to get an even bigger share of what profits this town afforded. This was one of the greater reasons that Lois had chosen to play one against the other. He didn’t like greedy people.

Lois positioned himself so he could see the entire wall from his position. He only had a five second span where no one would be patrolling this wall, and that was only after one particular guard. Due to this fact, Lois planned to do something he didn’t usually risk. He would drop down while the man was still patrolling the wall, hopefully giving himself plenty of time to get in. This carried with it the risk of being seen, but hopefully the man would be looking the other direction anyway. At least that’s what Lois hoped…

As the man neared the building’s corner, he assassin dropped silently beside the window. He had very little time, so little that he didn’t even glance over at the guard to see if he had noticed. His dagger was already in his hand, and he slid it under the window quickly. It caught the latch and opened it, just as the guard rounded the corner and started down the other wall. Knowing he had only about five seconds to act, Lois moved quickly and as quietly as he physically could. He had opened the window, jumped in and closed it within three seconds. As the next guard rounded the corner, Lois latched the window.

Lois slid himself up against the wall, out of the way of the thin band of light that could be seen on the floor. He would wait until the guard passed the window. That would give him the maximum time to move. As he waited, Lois looked at the window. He had been lucky enough to see the design earlier during his meeting with this merchant. Had he not, he might not have been able to open the window quickly enough. That type of latch was rare.

The guard’s shadow passed through the light. As it disappeared, Lois struck off down the hall. Counting doors, he came to the one he wanted. He could see a slight light coming from underneath the door, and so moved quietly. He gripped the door’s knob, and pushed it silently forward. He thanked the merchant for putting out the money to have the hinges oiled. Apparently he hated creaking doors about as much as Lois did. It was, of course, for very different reasons.

Lois found himself looking into the man’s office. As he verified that it was empty, he slid silently into it, closing the door behind him. The light he had noticed before was caused by a lone candle, left lit by the careless owner of this place. Didn’t he realize that with all of these expensive things lying around, a fire would really mess up his profit margin?

The office was smaller than that of the other merchant, but had quite a few valuable items none the less. Most interestingly was the bookshelf that sat against the wall. It was filled with books. There must have been several hundred. Few could afford such an extensive personal collection, and this guy was out to get someone else because he felt that they made too much money. Yet another reason that Lois disliked him.

Lois moved to the door at the back of the room. He tested it quietly. The door slid open without a noise, letting Lois into the back storeroom of the building. He made sure that there were no guards, then left the door open. He might need it.

Silently, Lois planted a little bit of insurance in the office, then tried the door to the merchant’s personal chambers. It was locked. Lois pondered this quietly. He needed something to bring the merchant out of that room. A distraction. As he scanned the room, Lois began to smile. Perfect.

Lois took a book from the shelf and opened it. Inside was some boring work on the most popular rarities in the Midlands. Ignoring the contents, Lois ripped a page out and replaced the book on the shelf. He rolled the page into a tube and lit it on the candle. Moving quickly to keep from being burned as the fire moved towards his hand. He shoved the paper between a book and the top of a shelf. As Lois had hoped, the paper in the book caught on fire quickly. He then moved into the storeroom and closed the door. He slid himself under a shelf that was covered by some of the merchant’s wares and settled down to wait.

He could here the books lighting one by one as the flames increased in intensity. Suddenly, he heard the sound of a door opening, but even without seeing it, one thing was clear to him. It had been the wrong door.

Sure, he had expected some guards to join in, but he knew that they would eventually be sent back to their posts, giving him time to move. What he heard, though, made this seem quite unlikely.

“You three, put out that fire! The rest of you, search this building! We have an intruder, and I want him found, dead or alive!” It was unmistakably the merchant, and he knew that someone was here. Neither of these facts meant anything good for Lois.

N a few moments, a group of guards broke through the door into the storeroom. Their leader assigned two guards to stand by the door, then split the rest of the men into three groups, each of which were sent to search a different section of the room. There were at least ten of them! The merchant had been informed ahead of time, Lois was sure of it. No one had seen him!

It took him five seconds to convince himself to get out, and ten more to wait for the guards to spread out. When they were sufficiently far away, Lois moved. In his right hand was one of his daggers, ready for use at any moment. In his left was held one of his poison darts, the tip of it protruding between his index and middle fingers. Without any sound, he rushed the two men at the door. The first died without a sound, and the second was dead halfway through his cry of alarm. Lois had to get out, and fast.

Unfortunately, Lois made a rash decision in his haste. He went back through the merchant’s office. He stabbed one of them with the dart as he ran past, resulting in a quick death, and tried to run past the others. He made it to the door, but was met by two guards, these two both with longswords drawn, ready for battle. Lois skidded to a halt. This hesitation was what ended his chances. The two who remained of the three sent to put out the fire cut off his retreat. Finally, Lois admitted defeat.

“Stop! I surrender!” he yelled, dropping his dagger and his dart on the floor. He then proceeded to drop his other dagger, the rest of his darts, as well as a knife that he had kept on his wrist just in case.

“A wise decision, Mr. Shade,” came the voice of the merchant. “I thought one as foolish as you would have fought until the end, but I suppose I underestimated you. You aren’t a complete fool.” The man stood behind the two who’s longswords had made Lois’s decision for him. His smile stung for Lois. He’d been had.

“How did you know what I was planning to do?” Lois asked, as the guards took him into custody.

“A little bird told me,” the merchant said. “And you assassins really should learn better. I know all of your tricks.”

Lois snorted angrily. “You underestimate me. I know you don’t have the brains the figure it out. When I find out who told you, I’ll have you both killed!”

“Idle threats… Unfortunately, my dear boy, you’ll be dead before you can carry out your threat. Take him away!”

Lois’s last glimpse of the man was of him laughing as the guards took him away. He would have his revenge…

March the 11th, in the year 695, Cristos Reckoning

Vincent Lois was having a bad time. Ever since he had arrived in this small town, things had gone from bad to worse.

Not only had the man he had been hired to assassinate entered the room just a few moments too early, but he had brought about fifteen soldiers with him. Lois was fuming! Someone had tipped him off, and when he found out who it had been, he would make him pay… No one crossed Lois and lived to tell the tale!

Lois was now in a small prison cell, left to fume over his situation. He couldn’t have invented a more convoluted mess to get into had he been trying! This was just too much! Resting his head against the back of the cell, Lois tried to clear his mind, but only succeeded in making himself more distracted. How he wanted to get the person who had pulled this on him! With people like this around, an honest assassin would have to be much more careful than he had any desire to be!

Lois had been so distracted for the last few days that he had even failed to come up with a viable escape plan. He knew that it would come to him when it was needed, but it was always better to have one in mind. So many things could go wrong with an impromptu escape attempt. Yet, try as he might, he could think of nothing, not through the cloud that frustration put on his mind. He was a little late anyway. The ‘trial,’ so called, would be held in only a few hours. Or was it a few minutes now? Either way… It was so hard to tell in the dungeon, as there was no light with which to differentiate night from day. He thought absently of playing dead, but he doubted that the guards would be so easily fooled. Besides, to fake dead would mean a lot of work if he was to do it right, and with the way things had gone lately, he didn’t feel very confident in his chance of success.

A sudden sound outside the cell brought Lois to a few minutes later. Or was it hours? Once more he shook his head. There was little profit in trying to figure out which was correct, as he was destined for failure from the start. As the door opened, though, Lois realized that he had little time for any thought. His trial was going to begin sooner than he had originally hoped.

As a trio of guards led him through the corridors that made up the dungeon, Lois kept his eyes firmly planted on the ground. He had little idea what he would do. This whole mess was driving him crazy!


That was it! Lois felt a sudden thrill, but didn’t show it, instead harnessing his body, all of its movements, all of the expressions and nuances with which he had familiarized himself over the years, and made sure that everything about his bearing was correct for the part he was about to play. This would be no simple task, but he knew that it could be done. For one with his training this was possible, but not without danger. In fact, he doubted that he could have conceived a harder escape attempt had he been thinking of one to suggest to a mortal enemy. Still, his talents fit the bill completely. He could do this, but he needed to be able to control himself.

For the next ten minutes, as the guards navigated the cramped halls that led upward towards the world outside the dungeons, Lois set about making sure that he had every detail planned, every eventuality accounted for, every line ready to be rehearsed. No one would be able to predict his actions in the trial, even if they had known him for years. There were certain things that a man keeps to himself, and it was these that made him all the more determined in his attempt. Today, he would make the strangest escape that the Midlands had ever seen!

The guards at first didn’t notice their charge was doing anything, but when they finally had enough light to see him, they noticed the strange distance behind those eyes… Where was the mind of this man, who some said was a great assassin? He didn’t look like much. In fact, he looked as though he had never seen a weapon in his life. He constantly glanced over his shoulder, those eyes staring beyond the guard in the rear, as if searching for something… But what was it?

The guards finally decided that he was looking for an escape, and so made sure not to give him one. However, the closer they came, the more earnest the glances became, and the wider his eyes grew. What strange torment was filling this man’s mind? Was he utterly mad?

They finally arrived at the court. Though they called what was to come a trial, they really had no intention of reaching a decision here. They had already decided what they would do in committee several hours before. Noticeably absent in the room was any defense for the accused. Only the defendant would stand before the lord of the city, who would oversee the trial which was but a mere ritual, intended to make the city appear as though it was keeping up with the new developments in legal systems elsewhere in the Midlands.

As the nervous man arrived, those who would soon bring the case against him latched onto him with glares that were as cold as ice. This man was to get what he deserved now: a cruel and painful death. Besides these, the only ones present in the room were about twenty guards stationed at different posts throughout the room and a few of the city’s officials. The lord of the city was a great, fat man, with an insatiable appetite for anything that could be termed through any stretch of the word edible.

Lois was moved up to a small booth where he was to spend the rest of the proceedings. As he came to a stop in the booth he was left in it alone, with the guards moving to watch the doors and two new guards who flanked the booth watching him, the lord stood and, without any ceremony whatsoever, began what he thought would be another routine conviction. He had much better things to do, and he still had five more men to proclaim guilty before dinner. Such was the life of nobility…

He rushed straight through the proceedings, at times having to be reminded of small matters that he accidentally overlooked, and soon had gotten as much testimony as he could bear out of the accusers. So he turned to Lois, ready to begin the last part of the trial.

“You have heard the case that these men present against you,” he drawled, boredom obvious throughout his body language. “Do you have anything to say in your own defense?” The fat lord dabbed at the sweat on his brow with an expensive handkerchief. This life was too stressful for one of his age…

Lois gave another wide-eyed glance over his shoulder, then started his plan. “Sir, I have only one thing to say,” Lois said slowly, with several glances to the empty rear of the room. As he opened his mouth to speak again, however, he was interrupted.

“GUILTY!!!!!” screamed a new voice. This voice was loud, urgent, and full of a strange passion. It came from an empty corner of the room. Lois stared at the corner, mouth open and eyes full of terror.

“GUILTY!!!!!” came another voice, this one from another corner. It was deep and malicious, with promises of death carried in every tone. Lois whirled around, grasping the railing around the booth as he tried to get as far away from the voice as possible.

“No! You kept me locked up! You helped them find me!” Lois cried, fingers clawing at the railing as if he was in great pain.

“Who are you?” the lord asked of the corner from which the last voice had issued. His eyes were as large as dinner plates, and he was pressing himself back into the heavily-stuffed chair in which he sat. The guards who stood around him closed, determined that nothing would harm their liege.

“We are Death…” started the first voice.

“And Destruction,” finished the other, now coming from directly above the lord’s chair.

“NO! Don’t let them take me! I beg of you! It is more than a mortal can… AAAUGHHH!” With this sudden exclamation, Lois was on the ground, wailing and writhing around as if in agony. “Help! They have… They have me! Don’t let them… AAAHHHH!”

Lois was against the rails that surrounded the booth, clawing at them as if driven mad by some horrific pain. He continued to babble, everything ending in a shout or scream which further compounded on the puzzlement of the onlookers. What was going on? There was no visible sign of the attackers, but the fear of the voices that had spoken earlier kept any around from trying to assist the man.

Suddenly, Lois stopped moving with a horrific scream. He had worked his way up the rails and now was draped over them, with his face staring blankly at the ceiling. He lay there for a few moments before anyone dared approach him. As they moved, however, the disembodied voices once more were heard in the room.

“He is guilty, guilty!” the deep voice sounded. Oddly, the voice didn’t stay in one place, but varied in its position as it spoke. The final word was echoed from opposite side of the room.

“His heart is black! Kill him!” the other came. Lois’s limp body twisted horribly at the words, dropping him to his knees in the booth.

“No! It wasn’t me!” Lois cried in his defense, suddenly reanimated. Hr turned to face the lord of the city, eyes pleading for mercy. “They made me do it! They seek only destruction! You must stop them before they kill us all!”

“”No, no, no!” the high voice intoned. “It was him! Kill him! Hang him! Draw and quarter him!”

“No! They made me… YAH!” Lois’s body gave a sudden spasm, and he once more rolled around the floor, crying out in agony. The guards reacted quickly this time, one of them drawing his sword as he watched the writhing figure in the booth. Lois stood now, but still seemed to be struggling with something, now seemingly unable to breath.

The lord’s face was chalk white, and he wasted no time in giving the order. “Kill him! Kill him now!”

The guard nearest the struggling man raised his sword and struck at the man. Suddenly, however, Lois was in complete control. Spinning away from the attack, he slapped the blade aside with a deftly aimed strike to the flat of the blade, then jumped on the man, giving a strange, high-pitched scream as he fell over the railing on top of the guard.

Lois’s eyes were frantic, staring at the man who was under him. “No, you may not kill him! He is ours, ours!” The voice was identical to the first of the disembodied voices that had been heard earlier, but it came from the mouth of Lois himself. “You will not kill him now, he will kill you!” With this the man took the guard by the hair and slammed his head against the floor with such force that it knocked him senseless. Drawing the dagger that the man carried as a sidearm, Lois turned towards another one of the guards. Giving a horrific cry in the voice that was not his own, Lois launched himself onto his terrified opponent.

“Guards!” the lord cried out in a panicked voice. The soldiers sprang to action, heading towards where Lois and their compatriot were locked in close combat. They were stopped, however, by another call from their superior. “No, not to him, to me! To me!”

The men looked for a moment to their superior, then reluctantly moved towards their master in silence, weapons drawn and pointed at the possessed assassin. Truly, Lois fought like a madman, using all of his skill in combination with raw rage and giving off several shouts that made everyone who was fool enough to remain in the room that he was truly not in his right mind. Many of the small group that had been observing the proceedings had already fled, and the rest were gathered in terrified huddles in different parts of the room.

Lois finished his battle with the guard, leaving his limp form against the side of the booth that he had occupied minutes before. He was breathing heavily, trying to regain his breath so that he could continue his ruse. It was working quite well at the current moment.

“Who wishes to meet Death face to face?” the high voice cried from Lois‘s mouth, its tone carrying even more malice than the message it conveyed.

“And who wishes to see what true Destruction looks like?” came the deeper one. Once more, it was coming from an empty part of the room. However, as some of the people turned to look towards the source of the voice, they were caught off guard by a sudden rush from Lois. He was making for the door with all speed. Unseen by the other occupants of the room until this point, the door had been left ajar by some of the terror-stricken people who earlier had fled the scene. None were close enough to do anything about Lois’s escape, and he soon had disappeared through the doorway.

“Go! After him!” the lord cried. Then, as the entire group of soldiers took off, he cried out again. “No, not all of you!” he insisted with a panicked voice. Only a few stayed, however, most of the rest having already left to search for the escaped convict.

For a good amount of time the men searched, but every time one would see the man, Lois would give a chilling scream, then disappear, only to be found and lost a few minutes later. Finally, they stopped encountering him altogether. No one could quite figure out how he had escaped, but he was gone, with no sign left anywhere. Lois’s escape was complete. It was several hours later when they found that he had recovered his equipment, as well as his money, and left town right under the noses of everyone.

Lois laughed quietly to himself as he lay lounged on a bed of hay on the back of a farmer’s cart. He had pulled it off perfectly. He knew that as soon as everything had calmed down, the people that he had fooled would come to realize what he had done to them. He absently wished that he could be there to see their reactions when they did. His thoughts turned, though, to what lay before him. It would soon be night, and when night fell, he would make an easy exit into the countryside. He had every intention of returning to that small city, but when he did, it would be under a different name, and quite a few years in the future.

And so Lois had earned one more escape to his record. It would not receive recognition as the strangest escape in Midlands history, though, as all those involved in it refused to tell anyone else about what had happened once they finally did understand fully what had happened. Lois couldn’t have been less concerned. It was in his best interests as it was. He idly wondered if his insurance had been successful…

The merchant was fuming! How had that assassin slipped their grasps? He had heard that he had gotten all the way to the trial, and yet he had somehow gotten away, and he had taken the money with him!

On top of this, he had caused a good amount of damage to his property. He hadn’t expected Shade to light his personal library. Now he would have to buy replacements for several extremely rare volumes. That would set him back even farther, and he still had the unwanted competition.

In a huff, he sat down to work out how much it would cost him. He stood again quickly as he felt a prick, he looked at the seat, expecting to see a splinter, probably caused by that no-good assassin. What he saw had definitely been caused by Shade, but it wasn’t as trivial as the merchant had expected. What he saw was the light glinting off the tip of a dart that had been planted there almost a week before.