Two days passed Arlandra and Juliet by as they pranced around in their disguises on a thinning stretch of faith that they would not be caught. As always the sun posed as their greatest enemy. It reigned like a burning god of death in the sky, just waiting for Juliet to fall against its attack. Although she sweated and sagged in the thick brown coats of the camp guards, she always relied on Arlandra to keep her safe.
The assassin had found an abandoned storeroom for them to take shelter in for most of their wait. The ground was dusty, and the walls and roof were broken and cracked, however it was safe and dark, save for the few holes where the sunlight shot through. Juliet didn’t mind the dark – it made her feel like she was the only person on earth, and that she didn’t have to hide anymore.
As the long hours dragged on she realised how daunting it was to wait, and after some time she felt that she could not sit still. That was until Arlandra returned to her on the afternoon of that day. When he removed his headgear, she saw that he was covered in an even layer of sweat, and his breathing was unusually heavy.
“He’s here,” Arlandra announced.
Juliet was surprised by the suddenness of it. Arlandra had kept moving, he was like that, it seemed like he was always doing something.
“There isn’t much time,” he continued. “Keep your head down, stay close, and follow my lead.” He finished with a shimmer of a smile. “This’ll all be over in no time.”
It felt hotter outside than it did before. That was always strange, but Juliet was too overcome with a dark anticipation to let something like heat bother her. Arlandra swept through the camp at that pace that seemed only to belong to him. It wasn’t too fast, nor was it slow, but it wasn’t normal either. It was as if he had learned to walk by watching shadows grow and creep along the ground as the sun gave them life and took it away again.
Arlandra was obviously heading for the main entrance into the camp, where, as a guard, he would greet Garn on his principled way in. There was only one thought that continually ran through Arlandra’s mind: Don’t screw up, don’t screw up, don’t screw up…
The seconds seemed to speed along, and as Arlandra and Juliet joined the line of other guards that would welcome Garn in, he felt as though those seconds were gradually disappearing, even minutes were starting to go. Then he caught the first glimpse of Garn’s face and time simply stopped. Garn Pallerii, I almost have you.
Garn walked ominously down the line – sweeping across the earth like the shadow of dusk. His every movement seemed to flow like water in a stream or leaves in the wind. His eyes had changed colour as well, from a forgiving purple into a deep and menacing red.
Time then started to grow, and with every solemn step that Garn took Arlandra’s heart took on a beat faster. There it was – that rushing feeling in his chest. Arlandra was finally going to take Garn’s life.
Garn moved into striking distance. Arlandra took a slow, deep breath. He placed his hand over the hilt of his sword and welcomed the feeling of belonging that it gave him. He drew himself into Garn’s red eyes as they glared back at him like swirling pools of blood. And then Arlandra Knight drew his blade and it soared through the dry air like a hawk, aiming to strike directly at Garn.
Garn should have been killed. The first strike should have driven deep into Garn’s pale neck and then the second should have seen Arlandra’s sword thrust through Garn’s black heart.
The sword, however, hung in the air only less than an inch from Garn’s body. Arlandra tensed, and he let out a frail gasp of breath of he pushed against the sword with all his might. There was despair in his eyes and all over his face, and Garn simply smiled – that terrible, dreadful smile.
“Is that you, assassin?” Garn’s voice was thick with mockery. “I want to see your face.”
Arlandra immediately tried to pull away but Garn raised his hand and suddenly he was lifted onto his toes by some abysmal force. The air around him began to glow red. No, Arlandra begged.
With a skinny hand Garn pulled off the rugged guard’s mask that the assassin wore and exposed Arlandra’s fearful face and messy dark hair. He squinted at the light, and was thrown forcefully to the ground. He cambered and coughed as he rolled through the dust.
“So this is the infamous Assassin of Taelliwey,” Garn said, “whimpering at my feet.” He drove his boot into Arlandra’s face and the assassin was kicked onto his back – blood welling up in his nose. “I ought to kill you right now. Oh, how I wish I could kill you. Fortunately for you, however, I have been told to leave you alone. It seems my accomplice had plans for you.”
Two of the guards lifted Arlandra to his feet.
“My men will show you the way out.” Garn began to continue walking, but then turned his head. “Oh and don’t try coming after me again. It won’t work.”
As Arlandra was pushed out of the camp alone it dawned on him that he had lost, however he had somehow come away with his life, and that was all he needed to strike back.
Juliet had found her way out of the camp on her own. It seemed that all the commotion had died down and she was simply forgotten. As she moved through the spongy green expanse of the Eldar Forest she couldn’t stop thinking about what Garn had done. That was no human ability that he possessed. There was no science. That was magic. Dark magic.
At first Juliet thought that she’d be afraid of the dark woods of the forest, but the more she looked at them the more beautiful they seemed to become. It was all really quite open. A blanket of luscious grass covered the ground, rich green moss coated most of the trees, and flowers of all shapes and colours sprouted up beneath her feat. She found herself smiling, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. She felt sorry for Arlandra. He was so brave and noble, and all he wanted was to put an end to Garn’s reign.
Juliet found Arlandra sitting against a tree, gently sunken into a pallet of flowers. The assassin held his sword against his lap, its silver glimmering like a mirror, and he used it to stare blankly at his own reflection. His dark hair was dusty and roughed up, as were his cheeks, and his nose was clotted with dried blood. There was no sense of destiny in his features, only an unfulfilling end that seemed clouded with darkness.
Juliet knew that he realised she was near, however he showed acknowledgement of her presence. He didn’t even move his face. So Juliet waded over the cushion of grass and flowers until she was at last by Arlandra’s side. She sat down, sinking comfortably into the bed of colours and softness. Only then did Arlandra lift his head and turn his eyes towards her. She had never seen his eyes so close before. They were bright and green, and were enhanced by the lovely collision of nature around them. Juliet expected them to be grim and sad – however she just managed the slightest glance of light hidden beneath the green pools. He hasn’t given up, she realised.
Then she randomly placed her hand in her pocket, and found a scrambled piece of paper that had been forgotten and dismissed. Curious, Juliet unrolled the paper, and remembered that she had found an invitation when she searched that man’s office.
She leaped blissfully into the air and the sudden movement startled Arlandra. “What is it?” he asked.
“This!” she replied, cheerfully. “An invitation. This is how we can get to Garn. He’s throwing a party in Taelliwey, maybe we can find someone who knows about Garn’s powers.”
Arlandra stayed in the flower bed and considered this for a moment. “Taelliwey, huh?” He rose up with a hint of regained pride in his stance. “Alright, let’s go to Taelliwey.”ns22.214.171.124da2