The air smelled of perfume and water music – neither of which could Sam stand for much longer. He had grown too accustomed to the harsh desert life of a warrior, and he had no mind for parties and pleasantries anymore. He barely even knew why he was here. What was he looking for? What did he hope to achieve?
He walked up the steps of the Piae Tovuus with a firm hand around Ashley’s waist, hoping that some miracle would occur and Garn would just give himself up.
He was surprised by the immense number of people who had showed up. He knew that Garn’s parties were always big, but this surely must have been some spectacle to remember. Noveria's richest and most powerful all gathered under the same room, he was surprised the king wasn’t there. Ashley was more mesmerised than anything else at the spectacular golden image, and her face lit up like the dawn.
Sam spotted Garn almost immediately speaking to the keeper of the treasury – dressed completely in dark red and black. Hmph, it seems Garn has taken up some new colours. I wonder who else knows. No doubt Garn will want to speak to me sooner or later – he did send me an invitation after all. What’s he planning?
Sam took a drink from a passing tray and took a mouthful, he didn’t know what it was but it tasted good, and then he sighted a familiar shadow. No way… it can’t be.
The man wore a full black suit, even a black shirt, and the woman by his side was dressed in a sparkly green dress. Sam took Ashley’s hand and led her over. “C’mon, let’s go visit a friend.”
The assassin seemed to pretend that Sam wasn’t there as he gulped down another drink. “You here to arrest me?” he said suddenly, lifting his green eyes up through his mask.
“Your time will come,” Sam uttered, “don’t you worry. As much as it pains me I believe we now have a common enemy.”
Arlandra looked curiously into Sam’s face, “you saw it, didn’t you? Garn’s powers.”
Sam was surprised. “How did you know about that?”
“I ran into the same dilemma out by the Elder Forest.” Arlandra’s tone shifted. “Whatever power he has, it’s nothing human, and certainly nothing we can deal with given the knowledge we currently have.”
Sam chuckled, “are you suggesting we team up? The assassin and the soldier,” he jested.
Arlandra held his serious expression, “something happened to you.” He started. “You’ve changed since we last met. You came alone. No escort, no team, no authorisation…”
Sam sighed, “it seems Garn has the council on his side, until I can convince them otherwise that Garn is not who he says he is, well, I’m on my own.”
Arlandra nimbly picked a bit of food from a platter, carefully observed it, and then placed it in his mouth. “Did you know that Christel Saan is here as well?” he said casually as he chewed. “I heard that you two were close friends.”
Sam would have been more surprised, however he knew too well that the thief was utterly unpredictable. No doubt he’s back for more of Garn’s treasures, but why is the assassin telling me this? “The assassin and the thief,” Sam said, “now that sounds more appropriate.”
“We don’t need to fight on this,” Arlandra continued. “Christel knows more about Garn than either of us put together, and, he owes me a favour, so I say we get him to help us defeat Garn’s annoying little power, then I get the kill and you get to save Taelliwey.”
Does he really expect me to believe him? The assassin of Taelliwey? “No, I’m not going to be part of your schemes. If we get Garn, we’re doing it the right way.”
From within the clamour of the party came a deep and painfully familiar voice: “Mr Ford, I’m glad I finally found you, we have business to discuss.” Garn Pallerii’s welling red eyes flashed over to Arlandra. “And Mr Knight, why aren’t I surprised, I thought I told you not to follow me.”
Garn’s voice was like the edge of a dagger being dragged across his skin. “It must be your astounding personality, I just can’t get enough.” Arlandra smiled like he had a plan, and Sam was sure that he did, but he still questioned whether or not it was a good one.
Garn signalled two of his guards over. “You are to arrest this man and follow me.”
One of the guards slowly aimed a pistol at Arlandra’s chest while the other cuffed his hands together. Arlandra didn’t fight them at all. There were a few troubled looks from the people around them, but they eventually returned to their drinks and conversations about business. The assassin turned to the girl in the green dress. “This won’t take long. I’ll see you soon.” Sam had almost forgotten that she was there. The girl nodded her head softly.
With the assassin in chains Garn turned back to Sam. “Now, shall we have that discussion?”
Sam told Ash to wait for him there and then he accompanied Garn, Arlandra, and the two guards up stairs. Garn led them through the shining hallways until they arrived in a massive room on the very top floor of the building. The marble floor reflected the light of the full moon that hung so beautifully in the sky, in a way so that it felt like they were walking on polished glass. Garn continued forward until he faced out of the giant window. Taelliwey was below him. The great city stretched away like a forest of glowing lights, it massive towers joining the stars, and the white moon towering above it all.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Garn began, not turning away from the view. “From this window you can see all of Taelliwey, right up until it touches the sea. There are thousands and thousands of people down there and I am more powerful than all of them.”
Sam took a few cautious steps forward. “Garn, this power you have, what is it? Where did it come from?”
Garn turned his head to face Sam, his lips curled into a smile. “It was a gift, no, a blessing, from a friend of mine… Well, I say friend, but the truth is I’ve never seen his face… and we’re not exactly equals.”
Sam knew that he was talking about the cloaked man from the mountains. “What do you and your friend want?” Despite the hospitality Sam felt like a hostage, so why was he the one questioning Garn?
Garn moved slowly away from the window and Sam felt the urge to take a step back. “Why isn’t it obvious?” Garn chuckled. “What we want is power… to have power in a world controlled by the powerful.”
Sam didn’t like the sound of that. “And how far are you willing to go?”
Garn’s smile grew larger. “Oh my, so cautious. You have nothing to worry about, besides, I invited you here to talk about you, not me, but seeing as he’s here, let’s talk about our assassin.” Garn leaned towards Arlandra, and with the black and red light protruding again from his hand, he used his power to lift the assassin’s chin up.
The guards had bound his hands and gagged him so he wouldn’t speak. He seemed so helpless.
“I propose a deal,” Garn continued. “I give you the assassin of Taelliwey to present to the Taellian council, you get back your precious pride, and in return…”
“I leave you alone,” Sam finished. “An enticing offer I’ll admit.”
Arlandra managed to spit out his gag. “Sam, don’t do this!” There was green desperation in his eyes.
Sam drew his revolver from the inside of his coat –the purple metal mixed with the pale blue twilight. Garn was staring at him, more curiously than anything else. And then suddenly the lights went out in a flash.
Sam couldn’t see a thing but he knew what he had to do. He could hear shuffling, a struggle, a thump, a soft choking sound, and then the struggle began to lessen. Some kind of emergency light system activated after that and the entire room was illuminated in a dim orange glow. Sam found himself aiming his revolver at Garn. One of the two guards was on the floor, either dead or unconscious, and Arlandra had his arm wrapped around the others neck, but it looked like he was unconscious now as well, and then the assassin released.
An angry line appeared on Garn’s forehead, he did not look pleased. “Sam,” he said bitterly. “I’m disappointed.”
“In the name of king Alexander of Taelliwey I place you under arrest, Garn Pallerii.”
Arlandra didn’t seem too pleased by that either. “No, Sam, shoot him! He’s too dangerous to be left alive!”
“If I deliver this man to the council as the criminal he is I can get back my rank and my honour.”
Garn’s lips twisted back into his hideous grin. “And if you shoot me you’ll become a cold blooded murderer. The council will brand you a criminal and you’ll be wanted for the rest of your days as the man who shot the generous Garn Pallerii.”
“Shut up!” Sam cried. “Your words are like snakes!”
“Sam, listen to me,” Arlandra begged. “You know what Garn is capable of. Don’t do this!”
“Quiet! You’re no better than him!”
Sam realised that what he had just said had affected the assassin deeply. It was like he had taken a blow to the chest.
“Very well,” Arlandra said coldly. “If you won’t take his life then I will!”
Sam saw Arlandra’s hidden gun jump out from his suited sleeve. He might already be too late. An alarm sounded that was shockingly loud. Sam clenched his ears. Arlandra’s gun fired and somehow Garn managed to leap out of the way so that the bullet shattered the great window behind them. Sam managed another look at the moon. How could something so beautiful shine down on this chaos? Garn used his power to push Sam back – he flew and hit the ground, and his revolver fell from his hands.
The door to the room smashed down and a band of guards stormed in. “Arrest them!” Garn bellowed.
Arlandra was on his feet and racing for the gap in the window. He tossed a handful of little beads towards his pursuers and the beads exploded one at a time with blinding flashes of light. Sam met the assassin at the window, but as far as he could tell they were trapped.
“We have to jump,” Arlandra said suddenly, looking down from the window.
“Are you kidding me! That’s like a ten meter drop!”
The disorientated guards had almost regained their senses and were bounding after them again.
“You’ll just have to trust me!” Arlandra gripped Sam’s shirt and then leaped from the building, pulling Sam down with him.
Of all the people to die with, don’t let it be with him… What Sam thought would be a hard ground and a certain death turned out to be a soft bed of cushions and pillows. What? I’m alive?
Sam looked up to see Ashley’s face in the front of the carriage. “Sam!” she cried.
The lady in the green dress was steering the carriage. “Arlandra!”
The assassin sat up suddenly. “Go!”
Guards and party guests ran outside to see what all the commotion was about. Sam heard one of the guards call out: “Don’t let them escape! Use the scorpions!”
The lady flicked the reins and the horses immediately bolted off, however it seemed that they were too slow, and after only traveling a few meters they were caught. A metal harpoon on a rope impaled the back of the carriage like a scorpions’ sting and the carriage juddered with a jolt. The horses stood on their back legs and whinnied loudly. A small army was now pursuing them.
“I hate scorpions!” the assassin yelled.
“Arlandra do something!” cried the lady in the green dress.
There was no hesitation. It seemed like the assassin knew exactly what he needed to do without thinking. He drew his short blade and leaped over the back of the carriage, holding onto the wooden frame with his left hand, and using the metal harpoon to balance his feet. He leaned as far as he could and with one strike he cut the rope, smiling as if he had won. But the wood on the carriage creaked in pain and then snapped under his weight. The assassin fell and tumbled along the ground, and Sam could only look back.
He heard the lady in green cry out. “We have to go back!”
Sam knew that wasn’t an option. “Keep going,” he said, as if it were an order. “If we go back now we’ll all be captured.”
At least two-dozen guards and several horsed officers surrounded the assassin, and he raised his hands in surrender. “Sam! Go to the village where the Sandra River meets the Eldar Forest! There’s someone there who can help you!” He was so far away now. “Oh, and Juliet! I’ll see around, alright!”
They passed the gates of the estate and were free for now. Who could this person be? Sam wondered. It wasn’t smart to trust the assassin but it was the only lead he had. He turned to the lady in green, the girl named Juliet. There were tears streaming down her face.ns188.8.131.52da2