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The Assassins

"But how to get past the guards? The Palace Guard is composed of the toughest, the most skilled and the most intelligent soldiers in the Kingdom!", asked Tu-Jahn of the Old Man.

The Old Man smiled and it seemed that the mischievous face of a boy shone through the mask of wrinkles and lines that made up his face. "An intelligent enemy is dangerous, but also easy to fool. Because he is intelligent and aware of it, he will trust to the level of his logic oblivious to the fact that other men might think as he." The smile faded away to be replaced by a piercing gaze that made him look like an old vulture, poised far above the plains: hunting for a suitably juicy carcass to feed on. "I do not believe you comprehend my boy." said the Old Man in a soft, almost gentle voice.

Tu-Jahn, Second Talon of the Silver Claw, Bladehand of the Stone Mountain shivered under that coldly hungry gaze. He searched frantically in his mind for something that would make him understand what the Master was trying to say. Then at last it dawned: "Master, do you mean the hide-and-seek game?" he asked, almost falling over in his eagerness to get a look of approval out of those cold, grey eyes. The Old Man smiled again, this time it was a smile of memory, the light in his eyes soft and gentle making them look like rain clouds on a windy morning.

Of all the things about the Old Man, Tu-Jahn never ceased to marvel at the fluidity of the expressions on his face. Like a brook on a summer morning, the wizened face could be kind and grandfatherly one moment to become cold as death the next or change to the blind insanity they all feared the most. The Old Man had not had his episodes for many moons. Some believed it was because he was getting old, Tu-Jahn personally held that they were not uncontrolled fits of rage as most thought them to be, rather they were cold, calculated and completely on purpose. The purpose being to keep them on their toes, weed out the weak and of course, satisfy the bloodlust that grew on every Assassin. He shivered inside his mind as he recalled the last episode: he had barely escaped with his life unlike many others of his Claw.

"Ah yes, so you understand. Even though you do not comprehend yet. When there are two hiding places and two people playing and it is the second turn for the seeker, at the first level he looks first at the spot which was empty before and at the second level he looks first at the spot he found him last time and so on and so forth...", his red tongue came out and licked his lips. "Those Guards are fools because they are over-aware of their skills. A little doubt is always good for practice. And a little ... fear." the smile burst forth again, only this time it was the grimace of a wolf about to bite. Tu-Jahn tensed almost reflexively, ready to jump through the open window at a moments notice if the Old Man showed any sign of having a fit. Everyone knew it was pointless to even attempt to fight him, not even Arvor the Second Master of the Mountain would have more than a few seconds before he was cut down. None could hope to stand before his skill nor withstand the limitless malice that tempered it. It was unnatural... it was... he was shaken out of his thoughts by a blur moving at the edge of his vision, he could just manage to dive aside in time to see a throwing dagger embedded in the wall behind him vibrating sinisterly at the spot where his throat would have been a moment ago. "Do not let your mind wander again fool, I shall not aim to miss next time", rasped the Old Man his eyes darkening to seem almost black with malice. Tu-Jahn believed him. He knew the speed of those hands. He had seen them in action enough times. To his surprise he found he was shaking. "An Assassin is always calm because he knows there is no loss worse than to be found out.", he mouthed the Words of Talbot and breathed in the Natural Cycle to calm his nerves, an evening with the Old Man was enough to leave even the oldest of the Assassins pale and sweaty.

"The Palace Guards are fast, but slower than us. They are sharp for they believe that they can find all concealed weapons. They hide their informers in the streets leading to the Palace, they hide posing as shopkeepers or stable-boys in all corners of the city. The Empress believes she knows the location of every sword, dagger or sticking-pin in the City. But therein lies their weakness. They look at the walk for a swing or a favoured gait for they believe that a sword or a knife weighs the side on which it is worn. They think their gates of Lodestone pull at all weapons equally. They do not know of our Silver Blades. Therein shall you find the answer. Think and you shall know. But do not know too much else you shall die."

Tu-Jahn understood little but his face was calm and smooth as the surface of the Black Lake. He nodded, performed the customary salute and walked down the hall to the Eyrie of the Talon to prepare for his mission.


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