Chapter 14: Nameless

Is there some mystical shore, some far-off place,

to save me from this murderous embrace?

I came to leave the blood behind and found it followed me.  Found it follows me.

I lied awake, watching the sun rise and for some reason I thought of my wife.  You always had so much emotion…and even though it was so often misguided, it drew me to you.  Our time together was too brief.  Cut short by the cruel hand of fate that has guided my life.  Everything you did was so purposeful.  You has so much feeling and so much to offer.   We could have been perfect together, forever.

Dark clouds and raging torrents.

I’m sorry that I pushed you away…I didn’t know what I wanted.  I didn’t know how to want you.  Your abandon attracted me.  You were freer than I had ever been.  Freer than I will ever be…

These invisible chains that bind me…this narrow path I walk…can’t I just…walk the other way?

I closed my eyes to hold back the tears that threatened to fall.  No freedom at all.  Why do I feel the need to constantly replay the worst parts of my life?  Why can’t I learn to let go?

It’s over now.   Time to move on.

This is a story about blood.

The sun shined bright in the bluest sky and I rose to face the day.  Intrepid wanderer or soulless…

Or tired soul.

I can find life.  And rip it out by the roots.  Tear it up.  Smash it up.  Burn it all.  I want to destroy.

I pushed open the door to the Troll’s Breath and as it closed behind me, my eyes had to adjust to the dismal interior.  The barmaid recognized me and nodded in my direction, so I took a seat at the bar.

“Mead, was it?” she asked.

“I don’t have any money,” I replied.

“Don’t worry about it, love.  Brand is downstairs when you’re ready.”

“…thanks,” I said as she walked over and poured me my drink.

The place was nearly deserted.  One guy I didn’t recognize sat at the bar, drinking, and two more sat at a table in the corner.  There was no fire and no music.  No conversation and no…life.

I drank my mead quickly, smiled in my grim way at the barmaid, and headed downstairs.

The same large man now sat in a chair outside the door and when he saw me coming he stood up, blocking the entrance.  I hung back while he knocked on the door and said, “That Northman with the messed up face is here.”

“Send him in,” came the reply, and I started to walk towards the door but, again, the man blocked my passage.

“Need to make sure you ain’t got any weapons,” he said as he checked me for pointy objects.  His hand came to my leg, and feeling the armor there he looked at me questioningly.  I rolled up my pant leg so he could see it and he said, “The fuck is that?  Ya know what?  I don’t even wanna know.  Looks like shit.”

“Thanks.  Am I free to go now?”

“Yeah, whatever.  Go on.”

I walked through the door and saw Brand and Caspar and one other man whom I recognized but hadn’t caught his name.

Brand grinned at me and said, “Been expecting you.  What the hell took so long?”

My stomach rumbled.

I pushed back out into the afternoon sun and again my eyes needed some time to adjust.  I started walking, sunblind, towards my usual spot to think about my new target.  Assassination mission number two, and don’t fuck it up, or we’ll fuck you up.  That’s what I’d been told.

I’m not just some simple murderer, but I guess I have to start again somewhere.

I said, “Who?” and he said, “No Name.  It doesn’t matter.”

I said “Why?” and he said, “No Reason.  Just do as you’re told.  The pay is good.”

I said “When? “ and he said, “Tonight.  He’ll go to see his mistress.  If you do it right, she won’t have to die, and we can blame her.  If you do it wrong, you’ll need to take her out and we can blame the wife.”

I said “So whether I kill her or not, I’ll still have ruined her life,” and he said, “What did I tell you?  Just do as you’re told.  I have no use for a killer with a conscience.”

I nodded and turned to walk away.

Maybe they loved each other I thought.  Maybe I can kill them while they embrace each other and they can die happy.  If they are both to be condemned then I may as well send them off in each other’s arms.  I laughed to myself as I walked down the street thinking that Brand was right.  No use for a killer with a conscience.  No use for an assassin with a soft side.  My thoughts from this morning were still fresh in my head is all…and I almost wished the plague had taken me too so that we could still be together.

How do you find vengeance against a disease?  How do you fight back against a sickness?  Do you find the source?  The first carrier?  Do you find the necromancer in his tower blighting the beauty around him?  Do you find the man that killed your mother and raped your life?  Do you find the witch that bound you to this fucking trinket, for better or for worse?

Or do you just…move on.

Night fell fast and I had changed into the clothes that Brand had given me.  The clothes of a merchant.   It was cold enough that I could wear a hood so I passed through the gates to New Turtannus and told the guards I had to meet up with Roxie for business.   The mistress lived on the corner of Arch and Market, near the park.  They said No Name passed through the park on his way there, and that would be my time to strike.

I waited there, the shadows my only friend, my only guide, behind a fountain of marble.  What a difference between New Turtannus and Old, although it comes as little surprise.  I’d imagine they think as poorly of us as we do of them.  Funny how things work.

Before long, a man approached.  He walked with a cane and wore a feathered hat.  His clothes were made of silk and he smelled like a woman.  Average height.  Overweight.  This must be him.  He walked within a few feet of me and had no idea.  I could hear his breath.

I could kill him now and quietly slip away.   He would crumple to the ground and lie in a pool of his own red, red blood and no one would see anything.  No one would know anything.  The mistress would be blamed.  He had lied to her.  She had wanted his money.  It didn’t matter how or why.  I knew Brand could make it happen.  Her life would be ruined.  She’d probably be hanged.  And in those final, failing moments of light she’d be thinking, “Why?  Why me?  My love, will I ever see you again?”

I won’t subject someone to that kind of despair.  I won’t…

No Name walks out of the park and knocks on a door.  A beautiful woman answers and she falls into his arms.  They laugh and walk inside, hand in hand.

I’ve made up my mind and tonight I must take two lives.  Two lives that could never have peace in this world can maybe find it in the next.  Why had this man been condemned?  It didn’t matter, Brand had said.  Probably sport, or politics, or money.   It didn’t matter to him but it matters to me.  I don’t even know why or when I started to care.  How many people have I killed without a second thought?  A killer with a conscience is no kind of killer at all.

I walked up to the door and turned the handle.   It wasn’t locked.

I opened the door and found two faces sitting at the table staring at me in wonder.

I closed the door behind me, threw back my hood and said, “Don’t say a word, and I’ll tell you why I’m here.”

The two sat in silence as I explained their plight and when it was over, they hugged each other tightly and I ran my sword through both of their bodies simultaneously as they embraced.

Two hearts bleeding together, and two hearts dying at once.

Beauty and love and death juxtaposed in glorious form.

And as I walked back out into the night, my conscience was free.

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