Adventures in Thargothras

An unlikely assassin

Joysday, Quartar 7, 930, somewhere on the plains between Radimyr and Draganyr.

It was the middle of the night, and Cruxer was beginning to fear he was lost. On a basically flat plain, with mountains looming a dozen or more miles behind him to the west, and presumably the sea, to the north. 
He'd been hired for his skill at tracking humanoids, but he was not especially gifted at it. His other skill – the reason he'd been chosen for his last mission - was interrogation, and it was of no use to him here, unless he wanted to interrogate a deer on the whereabouts of a massive quantity of goblins, and a few humans. 

Then, the scent of goblin hit him, carried by a southbound breeze. Cruxer instinctively crouched into a predatory stance. There were rumors that his family had been once tainted with barghest blood, and that their uncanny sense of smell was a lingering vestige of that line. Cruxer didn't know for sure, but he believed it was as good an explanation as any for the way he felt and acted during the hunt. Curling his bare toes into the soft earth, between the roots of the thick green and yellow grass, he tightened his calves and launched into a sprint, following the scent as it was joined by smoke and cooking meat. In the far distance, campfires appeared, and the outline of tents under the green moonlight.

Having witnessed his quarry's location, he stopped running, as a rabbit does when hiding from a hawk, and crouched hastily so that his back no longer showed above the grass. Slowly, he waddled between the blades in a wide curve, inching ever closer to the largest tent, until he was almost inside the encampment.

By a combination of skill and sheer luck, he evaded the gaze of the few who remained at the camp. A few goblins, reeking of sweat and dried fungus-paint, a handful of humans, smelling of fear and warm steel, and another smell he did not recognize. A spicy, smoky odor, mixed with animal blood and something chemical. This smell came from the largest tent, and so Cruxer was able to place the smell as dragon. The sensation of a new scent washed over him, and he gripped his sword, a short blade hammered from iron that had never touched rust or flame, but which still held a razor edge, and listened at the cloth farthest from the entrance for what transpired within. He heard only a deep breathing, rumbling but raspy, only a few feet from his ears.

Cruxer was not a professional assassin, but he had learned a few tricks of the trade from his elder trackers over the years. With one hand tightly gripping the handle of his sword, unsheathing the blade in utter silence, he used his other hand to gently cup and pluck a ceramic orb from a belt on his shoulder. His hand guided by instinct and experience, he tossed the orb high into the air, to have it land beyond the firelight, but close enough to catch the attention of anyone on guard. The orb shattered with a vague snapping sound as it imploded on impact with the ground, and, predictably, several footsteps followed, leaving the camp to investigate the noise. Leaving the general's tent unguarded and vulnerable, if only for the few seconds he needed to get the job done. Curling a finger beneath the edge of the tent, letting a sliver of light escape, he readied himself.

In a series of movements so smooth and quiet that the untrained eye would see only one motion, and the untrained ear would hear only the rustle of fabric in the wind, Cruxer threw the cloth of the tent upwards, somersaulted into the room, letting the cloth fall behind him, and raised his sword to plunge into Ignidia's chest. What he hadn't planned for was a human woman standing on the other side of the opulently carved oak cot, glaive in her hands, striking the sword from his grasp in a roundhouse swing. Cruxer jumped back and drew his backup weapon, a slender dagger of elven make, purloined from one of his elders on a hunt gone badly. Noting that the general still lay unconscious, he reassessed his target priorities and dashed forward around the cot to strike the human. Her glaive brushed his ribcage as he closed behind her reach, and his dagger unerringly stabbed into a gap in her mail. Evidently, she hadn't had the time to dress in her full armor, which lay in a stack beside another, far less beautiful cot at the side of the room. The dagger's blade slid under the human's left arm, in a clear vector to her heart, and stopped, hitting something hard before it could pierce her skin. Cruxer reflexively pulled the dagger back to his chest, and glanced down to see that the end had broken off, leaving it useless for piercing strikes. Flipping it in his hand so that the blade pointed downward from his fist, he readied a quick jab at the human's face, but he never got the chance. Pulling her glaive to suit a close-quarters fighting style, she lunged forth and plunged her blade into his unarmored throat. The glaive bent and pulled her to her knees as his body went limp.

Letting go of her weapon, satisfied that the threat had ended, the human woman reached into her armpit and removed a short length of dagger-blade and a broken sending stone, kept where it would not be seen, but less secure than she had hoped. This was the stone that connected her to her precious daughter Seralyn. How would she coordinate with her daughter now? Hopefully, she could contact her father to send a message her way, but that could put more lives in danger if he were to expose himself. By the time he could get a message safely out of Port Westvale, Seralyn may have found her uncle and given him the dud stone, leaving him alone again without knowing her mistake. And because of her strict instructions not to initiate contact, it could be weeks before the mistake could be corrected. But there was a gilded lining to the situation. Ignidia would now trust Wilhelmina completely, and might tell her more about the grand plan at work, like why they were heading south after meeting with Kemassu's vessel….

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