what you've all been waiting for

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what you\'ve all been waiting for

Postby Cirath » Tue Jan 01, 2002 10:44 am

well, it took me long enough but here is the most recent of the stories ive been working on. Id like to thank a certain drow for all his help on this particular tale.

Enjoy. comments are welcome.

A full moon shone down on the city, making the streets of Calimport unusually bright. A young man barreled around the corner of a deserted street at a full sprint, desperately searching the moonlit avenue for a place to hide from his pursuer. In his hand the boy clutched tightly to a small leather pouch of gold that he had removed from the belt of the man who now chased him.
Almost out of energy, his breath coming in ragged gasps, the young cutpurse slipped into the shadows of a small cul-de-sac between two buildings. He nervously glanced out at the street, searching for the man who was only a few steps behind just a moment ago. As the boy searched the street a shadow shifted behind him as a form dropped silently into the alleyway from the rooftops. Suddenly a strong hand reached from behind and clamped over his mouth. The boy froze immediately, too terrified to move. Cirath leaned forward and whispered “Theft is a very dangerous business. You should have been more careful of your target.” As he finished the last sentence the moonlight glinted off of a blade as the vicious assassin brought a wickedly curved dagger up to the boys stomach and plunged it in, opening a gash across his abdomen and causing his intestines to begin spilling out in a flood of blood. The boy fell to the ground clutching the wound, eyes wide in shock and trying with all his strength to scream for help, though he managed only a few gurgling squawks. The rogue then lifted the boy’s hand, grasped it firmly, and with a powerful swipe of his blade, removed it from the attached arm at the wrist. “I believe the proper penalty for theft is removal of a hand,” he said, tossing the severed appendage aside and bending down to clean his blade on a dry portion of the boy’s blood soaked shirt. Just then, the sound of conversation entered the alleyway.

* * *

“So how are you enjoying your first night on patrol, boy?” said an older, gray-haired city guard as the three men rounded a corner.
“Um, fine sir. I’m really learning a lot,” said the youngest of the trio, a new recruit who was barely more than a boy.
“Well I’m sure it’s better than doin’ chores for your Ma,” the third man, a tall, broad shouldered individual, said with a laugh.
The three continued walking down the street, laughing and joking until they passed the opening to a small alley between two buildings. The youngest guard suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the ground in front of him, his face pale. The other two continued to walk for a few steps then turned, noticing their companion had stopped.
“What is it boy? What’s wrong?” said the older of the two veteran guards.
Unable to speak, the boy simply pointed to the ground a few feet in front of the other two. The pair turned and looked to see a small stream of blood that had just began to trickle into the street. The two spun, swords drawn, towards the source of the blood and found a boy, his stomach torn open and missing one hand, still attempting to breathe as his veins emptied into the street. Their gaze then fell upon a man standing over the dying boy.
“You boys really should mind your own business. It would be far safer,” said the killer as he dashed, daggers drawn, at the two men who had entered the alley. The guards were still stunned by the grizzly scene that they had just witnessed and didn’t even have time to react before the other man was upon them. The gray-haired guard never even got his sword up in time to defend against the blade that sunk into his right eye and punched out the back of his skull. The other soldier reacted a bit faster, dodging the first blow and retaliating with a waist high horizontal swipe of his sword. The fledgling guard, who was still watching this encounter from out in the street, shook himself from the horrified daze that held him captive, tore the crossbow from where it hung on his back, loaded it, and raised it to his shoulder to take aim. The assassin flipped backwards, avoiding the blade that rushed at his waist and lunged forward again, thrusting at the guard’s exposed throat.
The crossbow clicked as the young guard fired and the bolt whizzed by, grazing its target and leaving a small gash on his right arm just below the shoulder. Cirath jerked back in surprise and glared at the bowman. The older guard took advantage of the brief distraction to launch another attack at his opponent, thrusting forward, aiming for the heart. The younger man rolled to the right, spinning around and planting both daggers between the ribs of his unfortunate victim, puncturing both lungs then spun to face his final adversary, tearing his blades free in the process. The boy was still fumbling with the crossbow, trying to reload it, but upon seeing the enraged killer facing his way he dropped the weapon and quarrel and sprinted down the street. He ran as fast as he could, his mind gripped in terror. “Helm, save me! Oh please, I don’t want to die!” he gasped as he neared the end of the street. Suddenly his face contorted in terror as an arrowhead ripped through the front of his throat. The boy took another step, tripped, and skidded to a stop. Several yards behind the fallen boy Cirath dropped the crossbow and rose from his crouching position.

* * *

The moon had already began it’s descent by the time Cirath stepped through the doors of the Black Dolphin’s Wake tavern. Most of the evening crowd had either gone home for the night or passed out at their tables. The rogue strode casually through the taproom to a dimly lit corner that held his usual table. When he reached the table he was surprised to find a very somber-looking young man sitting there, staring into a mug of cheap ale.
“I didn’t expect to see you here tonight Alrinen,” Cirath said as he took his seat and signaled a serving girl “the traffic was pretty heavy at the docks today.”
“I wasn’t going to come, but I thought you should know what I saw today,” said Alrinen, still staring into his drink.
The rogue arched his eyebrow, obviously interested in anything that would worry his friend so. The barmaid appeared at the table with a second tankard of ale. Cirath gave her a few coppers and waved her away
Alrinen looked up to meet the other man’s gaze, “I didn’t want to tell you, but I knew you would find out eventually so you might as well hear it from me. As you know, I used to live in Waterdeep. I was a member of one of the thieves’ guilds there since I was a boy. Well, when you travel in those circles you see and hear things that the normal people never do. My guild had a few dealings with another of the city’s guilds. A group of assassins led by a man named Kang. These assassins were some of the most dangerous people I have ever seen. One in particular was said to be the greatest killer of all time. He was called the ‘Shadowstalker.’ He was like a ghost and he killed without mercy. His name was Nilan Thilusan. I saw him once, while delivering a contract to Kang. When I left the city he was one of Kang’s top lieutenants, but recently I heard that he had a falling out with the guild and left the city.”
“This is a very interesting story, Al, but what does it have to do with me?” asked Cirath.
“I saw the ‘Shadowstalker’ again, today. I was unloading a ship out of Baldur’s Gate when he came up from below decks. I almost didn’t recognize him, but it was definitely Nilan.”
Cirath leaned forward in his seat, “Oh really?”
“The reason I told you this is because I have seen what happens to his victims. I wanted to warn you to stay away from him.”
“Now you know I can’t do that, Al. I can’t let him wander in and set up shop in my town.”
Alrinen sighed heavily and dropped his gaze back into his ale. “I was afraid you would say that. He raised his head once more to meet the assassin’s eyes. “He likes to use poisons. Be careful.”
Cirath smiled, “Thanks, Al.” The rogue stood and clapped his friend on the back. “Now go get some sleep,” he said, then headed out the door of the tavern.

* * *

“How about you two? Would either o’ you care to try yer luck at a game?” shouted a halfling to a pair of men that passed by the small table that he stood at. “It’s a simple game and you could very well win a bit o’ coin.”
The two men stopped for a moment, “What kind of game?” said one of them, a short, stocky man with unkempt brown hair.
“Oh a very simple game sir! Just guess which cup the ball is under and I’ll give ya double whatever ya bet.” said the halfling, gesturing to the three cups on his little table.
“Alright, I’ll try it,” said the short man as he placed a copper coin on the table.
“You sure ‘bout this Eras? I dunno if I trust the runt,” said the second man, a tall, lanky, blonde man.
“Don’t worry so much Hal, ‘sides, its only a copper piece,” Eras told his companion.
“That’s the spirit! Now, are ya ready?” the halfling asked.
Eras nodded his response.
“Right then,” the halfling lifted the middle cup, “Here’s the ball. Watch it close now.” The halfling replaced the cup and began to rearrange the cups, slowly at first, then picking up a bit of speed without making them too difficult to follow. When he stopped the halfling looked up and said, “Choose yer cup sir.”
“This one.” The man said confidently, pointing to the cup on his right.
The halfling lifted the cup, revealing the ball, “Congratulations sir! You just won yourself two copper pieces!” The halfling grabbed the coin from the table and gave it to the man along with two others.
“Would either of you care to try again?”
“Ha! I will!” said Eras, placing a gold coin on the table.
“Now hold on there! That’s a lot ta lose!” Hal said, looking a bit worried.
“Pipe down Hal! This game is easy!” the shorter man replied.
“Ready sir?” the halfling asked.
Once again Eras nodded. The halfling raised the cup on the right, revealing the ball once more, then replaced it. “Here we go.” The halfling began to shuffle the cups with tremendous speed, causing the smile on the stocky man’s face to give way to a worried frown. Finally he stopped the cups and said, “Make yer guess.”
Eras stared hard at the cups for a moment, then pointed to the one in the center. The halfling lifted the cup to expose nothing but air.
“Oh, to bad there sir, better luck next time,” said the halfling, taking the gold piece from the table.
“I warned ya!” scolded Hal.
“I know that, ya don’t have ta rub it in my face!” Eras roared. “Come on, let’s go.” And with that the two continued on their way.
Once the two men had moved far enough down the street the halfling smiled and tossed a ball into the air, only to catch it again and place it under the center cup. “Works every time,” he said, pocketing his winnings.
“Still running those same small time scams, Alni?” came a voice from the shadows.
The hustler’s eyes widened as he looked back, then he broke for the end of the street at a full run. He didn’t get far before a strong hand grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. Alni shook his head a bit to clear the cobwebs then chuckled nervously and smiled at the man crouching over him.
“Ah, Cirath! I didn’t know it was you! Uh, ya know ya can’t be too careful in this part o’ town. Ah, well, um... ya look good! What brings ya to my humble corner?” the halfling babbled nervously.
“Shut up, Alni, this isn’t a social call.” The assassin replied
“You’re not gonna beat me up again are ya?” the halfling whimpered.
“Not if you cooperate this time. I’m looking for someone. He came by boat from Baldur’s Gate this morning. His name is Nilan, he is in my line of work.”
“Ya know, a bit o’ coin would help-” the con man was cut short as the assassin struck him with a hard, backhanded slap.
“You’ll get ten gold pieces if you bring me something useful. Maybe more if you find out where he is staying.” Cirath rose and turned to leave. “You know where to find me when you’ve learned something. And be quick about it this time,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away.
The halfling stood and dusted himself off as the assassin disappeared around a corner. Muttering, he wiped the blood from his lip and headed off in the other direction.

* * *

Nilan looked up at the sky as he strode casually down one of the busier streets of Grand Ward. He loosened the laces of his tunic and wiped the sweat from his brow. As he looked around, Nilan realized how unprepared he was for the intense heat of the region. The Calishite peasants that milled around him on the lower lanes were clad in simple, light colored cloth tunics and pants. Even the wealthy citizens who directed their slaves from the elevated byways were robed in brightly colored silks, a sharp contrast to the black leather that clothed the Waterdhavian.
As he continued down the avenue it opened to a large marketplace. Some peddlers shouted in his direction, hoping to attract the foreigner with their wares, while others haggled over prices with their current customers. Nilan continued on, ignoring the calls and the fact that he stood out as an outsider. He had been wandering around the ward for several hours, trying to learn the streets and perhaps find the home of his current quarry. From the rumors he had heard of the City of Slaves, it did not surprise him that the right amount of coin could produce almost any information he needed.
Nilan had almost made his way through the crowded bazaar when a small, raggedly dressed boy walked up beside him and tugged on the hem of his tunic. The assassin looked down at the young urchin, taking a moment to size him up.
“Ya need someone ta show ya ‘round tha city, mister?” the urchin asked, smiling.
“That depends, boy, on how well you know the city, and how much of what you know you are willing to show me” Nilan replied.
“I know this city better ‘n anyone yer gonna find ‘round this ward, and I’ll show ya whatever ya wanna find,” the boy said, his smile growing and a look of pride showing through on his face.
“Will you now? Well I am trying to find an... old friend. I was told that Grand Ward would be a good place to begin searching.”
“Yer friend sounds like he’s important if he’s kickin’ round this part o’ tha city, and anybody important is pretty easy ta find... if ya know where ta look,” the boy said, casually holding his hand out.
Nilan reached into his coin pouch and withdrew a silver piece, placing it in the boy’s palm. “He is a Pasha by the name of Sefin. Do you know where I might find him?”
“Sefin, eh? Yeah, I think I heard o’ him before. Can’t seem ta remember where his house is though,” said the urchin, gesturing for a few more coins while rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
The assassin hesitated for a moment, then reached into his pouch and retrieved two gold coins, placing them in the boy’s waiting hand.
“Oh! Ya mean tha Sefin that lives in Vahlen Sabban,” the urchin said, his pondering look melting into a pleased smile as he pocketed the coins. “I can show ya right where it is.”
The boy turned down one of the nearby streets, beckoning Nilan to follow. The assassin glanced around and walked after his guide. After winding through more than a few streets the boy stopped at the open end of an alley and waited for Nilan to join him.
“There it is. Sefin’s house” the boy said, indicating a large building down the lane a bit from the alley where they stood. “Anything else, mister?”
“That’s all, you have earned your coins” Nilan replied, eyeing the house, and the four armored men guarding it. The boy nodded, then trotted back the way he came, disappearing around a corner.

* * *

Alni rounded the corner smiling. He reached into a pocket inside the tattered shirt he wore and drew out a small handkerchief, using it to clean the makeup and putty he had worn to make himself appear to be a young human boy off of his face. When he was satisfied with his appearance he carefully peered around the corner, making sure that the man he had guided was still there.
“Now all that’s left is to wait,” he said, smiling to himself.
After a few hours watching the house the man in black turned back down the alley. Alni found an acceptable hiding place and waited for the strange man to pass. After giving him a respectable distance the halfling followed, making sure to stay out of sight, should the man turn around. He continued to trail the man south into Dock Ward where he entered an inn called Munaa’s Smiles. Satisfied with his surveillance, Alni left to report what he had seen.

* * *

Cirath slipped into the taproom of Munaa’s Smiles and made his way to an empty table. After a quick glance around the room he easily identified the Waterdhavian. The man had chosen a table in a corner of the tavern, with his back to the wall. He had a tankard in front of him but seemed to be ignoring it. He appeared to be lost in thought, occasionally breaking from his musings to instinctively glance around the room, as if expecting someone. He was not a large man, perhaps a few inches shorter than Cirath, and several pounds lighter. His long, braided hair and dark leathers immediately marked him as a foreigner and the unconscious precautions marked him as experienced and almost as though he was expecting trouble. After a few hours he dropped a few coins on the table and made his way upstairs.
A minute later barmaid appeared at Cirath’s table “Can I get you another drink, sir?”
“Yes, and you can earn an extra ten gold crowns if you can tell me what room the foreigner in black is staying in”
The girl’s eyes widened as she glanced at the coins that were being placed on the table. “T-the last room on the left on the second floor. Thank you!” she stammered, taking the empty tankard and the coins and rushing off to the bar. She returned quickly with another drink, then hurried off again. After taking a few sips, Cirath dropped a few more coins on the table and exited quietly.

* * *

Cirath spent the better half of the next morning watching Munaa’s Smiles from the rooftop of a nearby building. It was nearing midday when Nilan stepped out into the crowded street through the front entrance dressed in his customary black leathers, and made his way towards Grand Ward. Cirath followed by means of the raised byways. Normally following someone in the midday crowed would prove a bit of a challenge, however Nilan’s unusual appearance made him a bit easier to track.
The Waterdhavian walked with a calm confidence that hinted at his vast experience. He was at ease, yet alert of nearly everything around him. Though the streets were as crowded as usual, he walked alone as those around him unconsciously kept a respectful distance. Cirath observed the foreigner closely as the two made their way through the city. Nilan eventually stopped at the corner that Alni had brought him to the previous day, being careful to stay out of sight.
For several hours the older assassin observed a large house a short distance away. After watching the guard change once, he made his way around the block to further observe the structure and the path of the sentries. Cirath waited on a rooftop above the corner they had originally stopped at as the other man went about his surveillance, noting the caution that Nilan displayed. He watched as the northerner returned to the corner, satisfied with his observations, and after looking back once more, began the trek back to Dock Ward. Cirath waited until he rounded a corner, then stood and turned for the ward exit with a smile. He knew a shortcut.

* * *

The sun was setting as Nilan stepped out into the main thoroughfare of Grand Ward. As night loomed ever closer the masses that had once crowded the street began to thin out. The sunset was a welcome sight to the Waterdhavian if for no other reason than it meant a break from the oppressive heat of the day. The few merchants left in the bazaar were packing up their goods for the night and took little notice of the foreigner as he passed.
As the sun dropped below the horizon the city seemed to become a completely different place. Streets that only an hour before were filled with people were now deserted. The sounds of haggling merchants and bustling shoppers were now replaced by the occasional muffled conversation or a shuffling from the shadows, and dark figures could at times be seen dashing around corners in the distance.
Nilan caught a glimpse of what could have been a mugging or just two lovers in a back alley as he navigated the unfamiliar streets. He had a sense that he was being watched, a feeling that he had been unable to shake since entering the City of Slaves. The Waterdhavian was not surprised to find that his hand now rested on the hilt of his dagger.
The closer he came to Dock Ward, the more at ease Nilan became as the deserted streets became sparsely populated with drunks and courtesans. His grip on the weapon loosened when he finally reached Munaa’s Smiles. Upon entering the taproom he noticed that the tavern was almost completely empty, a very unusual occurrence for this early in the evening. Those patrons who were there for the most part kept their eyes on their drinks, almost afraid to look up.
Nilan ordered a small meal of some sort of roast, and a bit of bread and cheese, then sat at a corner table facing the strangely barren taproom. The young halfling girl who brought his food was totally silent and kept her eyes on the floor. She deposited the plate on the table and took the coins the Waterdhavian offered, then hurried back to the kitchen. As he ate the assassin studied the room, trying to discern the cause of the somber mood of the usually lively tavern.
Once he finished his meal Nilan climbed the stairs, on his way to his room, still a bit concerned with the lack of revelry below him.

* * *

The room was completely barren, as though no one was staying there. The only sign that it was occupied was the basin full of water that rested on a small table next to the bed. Cirath had searched thoroughly for anything that might tell him something about the man he was about to meet. He now sat on a stool in front of the narrow window, which he had opened to enjoy the cool breeze that wafted in from the sea.
The rattle of a key in the lock told him that the foreigner had finally arrived. The door opened to reveal a man a bit shorter than Cirath, with a dark complexion and inky black hair that hung in a braid to the middle of his back. The man, clad in fairly ragged black leathers that practically announced him as a foreigner, seemed only mildly surprised to find a stranger in his room.
“Ah, so I finally meet the famed ‘Shadowstalker.’ Welcome to my city, Nilan.”
The Waterdhavian’s hand shot to his dagger, “And I suppose you have come for my head,” he hissed.
“Well, that remains to be seen. I wanted to meet you, to see what kind of man warrants a reputation like yours,” the Calishite calmly replied.
“You obviously know of me, which puts me at a slight disadvantage.” Nilan’s eyes narrowed as he studied the stranger before him. “All that dared pursue me are dead, I am not a man you should want to know,” his grip tightened on the hilt of the dagger at his belt as he eyed the younger man. “If you weren’t sent by Kang, how do you know me?”
Cirath chuckled slightly. “A man, obviously not a merchant, steps off of a ship into my city freely spending Waterdhavian crescents, not to mention he is dressed in Black leather in the middle of a desert. I made it my business to know you.”
Nilan smiled slightly, “You keep calling Calimport ‘your city,’ yet I don’t recall seeing your face on the local coins. And since you already know who I am, I wonder if you will give me your name?”
“Cirath, and this is my city more than any Pasha’s, and I think you know why. You see, we are the ones who truly control the political future of our surroundings. Those who hire us like to think that we simply tools to reach their goals, but it is merely a better price, or possibly a whim that keeps a blade out of their own backs. I am the master of these streets because no one has taken them from me yet."
“Master?” Nilan replied with a slight laugh, “Master of what? You seem nothing more than a common street thug to me. I have seen many like you and they all end up face down in an alley with their throats cut or a knife in their back, despite their plans to achieve greatness.”
“That may be, but as of this moment I am still very much alive. I also know all about your interest in Sefin. I do hope you understand that I can’t let you start taking contracts in my town. It wouldn’t be good for business.”
Nilan glared coldly at the intruder, “I have no interest in taking your business. I am simply repaying a harm done to my employer. After which I will be leaving for more hospitable climes. Since you have made it your business to know who and what I am you must also know that I always...” He paused, his eyes narrowing “retire my marks.”
Cirath rose from his seat, “We shall see. However, my warning still stands. If you take a contract in this city I will have to... dissuade you,” he smiled slightly, “you understand.” And with that he stepped around Nilan and was gone.

* * *

Cirath sat atop one of the city’s taller buildings overlooking the Sea of Swords as he contemplated the conversation he had just had with the Waterdhavian assassin. The man had been calm and confident during the entire exchange. Judging by his appearance and what Alrinen had told him Nilan was several years older than the Calishite, a fact that could be both an advantage and a weakness at the same time. Though his added years might mean that he was a bit slower, it would also mean that he had survived longer in a business that did not often see retirees.
Something that Nilan had said did stick out in Cirath’s mind however. When he first saw a stranger in his room he had said something about Kang sending people for his head. Perhaps the falling out with his old guild was more severe than Alrinen had let on. If so, killing the man might prove to be more than a matter of pride. It could also be a profitable business venture.
Cirath broke from his musings to look at the moon shining brightly overhead. It was getting late, and if he wanted to go after the Waterdhavian he would have to get some sleep soon. With that thought he slipped off the rooftop onto one of the city’s many raised byways and headed home.

* * *

Evening found Nilan once again standing at the corner from which he had been observing his target for the past few days. The sun would be down soon and the time to strike would finally arrive. The manor was quiet, as it had been for most of the day. Sefin had not left his property all afternoon and had only come outside for brief walks in the small garden that, along with a fair sized marble fountain, made up the courtyard.
After he was satisfied that there was nothing out of the ordinary the assassin left his post and began to make his way to the rear of the estate. Once in position he took a moment to glance at the sky.
“The sunsets really are beautiful here,” he thought to himself. “It is almost a shame I will have to leave so soon.”
As the sun sank into the horizon Nilan approached the wall that surrounded Sefin’s estate. He took a moment to gauge the height as he slipped his hands into a pair of leather gloves which had been heavily reinforced in the palms, then glanced around to make sure he was alone. He took a few steps back, then dashed forward and leapt up to grab hold of the top of the wall. As the assassin pulled himself up he examined the top of the stone barrier and was not at all surprised to see that the top was covered in shards of broken glass which had been embedded into the mortar. He finished scaling the barricade and dropped down on the other side, all the while careful not to cut himself on the glass.
The rear of the house was much like the courtyard in front, but more expansive. A beautiful garden surrounded a small pool that was lined with large, smooth stones and fed by a small waterfall. In a desert city such an extravagance must have been quite expensive. Nilan removed his gloves and replaced them in a small belt pouch as he approached the house. He stopped by the waterfall and crawled beneath the leaves of a huge fern that had been planted there, then watched as the guard rounded the corner to survey the back end of the property. The Waterdhavian had watched the house guards carefully during his surveillance, and though they were not totally incompetent, they were generally quite lax in their duties during the early evening shifts.
Once the guard had passed Nilan rose from his hiding place and examined the door that led into the manor and the balcony above it. Deciding that the best approach would be from the second floor he unwound the length of silk rope from his waist and knotted one end of it into a fist sized ball. Once again checking to be sure that no one was watching Nilan tossed the knotted end of the rope up and over the railing of the balcony. The weighted end swung back through the underside of the railing and he slacked off on the rope, lowering it back down to his level. Once he had both ends the assassin untied the knot and looped that end around the rope, then pulled it tight, securing the line to the balcony. He ascended the line quickly and then pulled it up behind him and replaced it around his waist.
The double doors that led from the balcony to the master bedroom were standing open, allowing a breeze to waft into the room, keeping it relatively cool. The room inside was breathtaking in its beauty and extravagance. All of the furniture was beautifully carved mahogany, accented with gold leaf and upholstered in a deep burgundy colored velvet. A mirror as tall as Nilan stood in one corner in a well-polished brass frame. Beside it was a large mahogany wardrobe with a beautiful carving of a stag bounding across the doors. Just inside the door to the left was a huge four-poster bed with a fine, red silk curtain that danced lightly in the breeze from the door. The headboard was decorated with another intricate carving, this one a hunting scene. A bowman was taking aim at the same majestic stag that was portrayed on the wardrobe. A large settee sat in the corner to the right of the doorway, and was surrounded by large throw pillows on a fine shag rug that was the only covering on the white marble floor. The same marble was used for the enormous bath that filled the final corner of the room. A finely polished, round table stood near the center of the room, in between the sitting area and the tub. A number of small bottles of various shapes and sizes stood near the center of the table around a silver candlestick holder. Directly ahead was a heavy door that led to the rest of the house.
Nilan padded across the room to the door and opened it just wide enough to get an idea of what was on the other side. Through the crack he saw a rather wide walkway that spanned half of a much larger room with a vaulted ceiling. From what he could tell the rest of the house was paneled in the same white marble as the bedroom in which he stood. The far side of the marble bridge ended in a large, sweeping staircase, and to either side of the door at which the Waterdhavian stood a catwalk ran from the bridge along three of the room’s walls, providing access to other second floor rooms. From the first floor, voices could be heard.
“...shall have to invite him and his wife to dine with us tomorrow, and discuss the matter. Have an invitation delivered to his home in the morning. Now, if that is all I think I will retire to my quarters for the night.”
“As you wish, sir.”
The scuffing of slipper-clad feet sounded just after the conversation ended and Nilan quietly closed the door and glanced around the room, searching for an appropriate hiding place. After a brief moments thought he decided that the best concealment to be found was under the enormous bed, and so he slid under it and moved towards the head, keeping an eye on the room. Just as he had settled into as comfortable a position as he could find the door opened and a pair of very curious shoes stepped out from behind it. The shoes were very similar to a pair of slippers and appeared to be made of fine purple satin, coming to the wearer’s ankles. The strange part, however, was the tip of the footwear. Instead of simply ending at the toes like any normal pair of boots or shoes the foreigner had ever seen they continued into a point that curled upward. At the tip of each point dangled a single ball of dark yellow felt about the size of a marble. To the assassin they looked very much like what a harlequin of some sort might wear.
The feet shuffled over to the marble bath and stopped. The man belonging to them uttered a single word in a language that the rogue did not recognize, which was followed by the sound of water splashing into the basin. As the tub filled clothing began to fall around the odd slippers. First a vest of dark purple, trimmed in gold, then a white linen shirt, a silk sash of similar color as the vest, a billowing pair of white pants, and finally the slippers themselves were removed. It occurred to Nilan that these were the same clothes that he had seen Sefin wearing during his brief walks. Sefin moved back and forth between the table and the tub, and by the various scents that were slowly filling the air it was obvious that the bottles Nilan had noticed earlier were perfumes and other scented oils.
After a few more moments had passed Sefin spoke a second, indecipherable word and the sound of water ceased. The merchant slipped into the bath and let out a long, satisfied sigh. Nilan slid slowly out of his hiding place, moving toward the side of the bed opposite the bath. He peeked around the corner and saw that Sefin was facing away from him, his head tilted back against the base of the tub. The assassin slowly drew a long stiletto with a spiraling blade from its place at his belt and triggered a small catch at the hilt, allowing a thick black paste to slowly ooze into the groove that wound down the blade to the tip. He rose from his prone position, and walked slowly across the room towards his target, not making a sound on the smooth stone tiles.
As he approached he noticed that Sefin’s eyes were closed and that his breathing was deep and regular. The Waterdhavian pressed the tip of his weapon against the merchant’s neck, holding it just short of drawing blood. Sefin’s eyes shot open as he gasped, his mouth began to work silently, his teeth clicking together as he tried to find his voice.
“Do not speak. You are Sefin, correct?”
The bathing man nodded slightly.
“I have come to repay the injury you have caused my employer by murdering his son.”
The merchant’s eyes widened as Nilan plunged the poisoned blade into his victim’s throat, then pulled it out slowly. The bath water swiftly turned a bright red as blood mixed with it and Sefin’s mouth once again struggled to find words. As the corpse slipped beneath the red water the sound of clapping came from the balcony where Nilan had entered. He spun around, dagger at the ready, to see Cirath leaning against the doorway.
“Well, it seems you decided to ignore my advice. I warned you against completing a contract in my city, didn’t I?” Cirath said, a hint of mock scolding in his tone. “It seems you don’t take me seriously.”
“And it seems to me that you take yourself far more seriously than you deserve. I have completed my business in this city, and I plan to leave this very evening. I see no need to kill you, but if you push the issue, I will be forced to.”
“Come now, ‘Shadowstalker,’” he spat out the title, “do you really think I would go to all the trouble of making an appearance here tonight if I didn’t mean to make good on my promise?” Cirath drew one of his daggers and eyed it idly. “If I did that then I would have a new competitor every tenday believing me unwilling or unable to back up my threats. And I can’t have that now Can I?” He smiled as he posed the question, looking up from his blade.
“If you are that intent on fighting me then let us get this over with,” Nilan said, drawing a second stiletto, this one with a straight, blackened blade.
“Agreed.” Cirath said, and shot into action, also drawing a second dagger and rushing forward.
The two men met in a blur of motion, their blades ringing as blow after blow was turned aside. The stalemate continued for a few seconds, each man searching for an opening in the other’s defenses, each studying the other’s style in an attempt to discern a weakness. The combatants were so involved with their exchange that neither noticed the door that allowed access to the rest of the house slowly beginning to open.
“Daddy?” a young, female voice called from the doorway.
Both men froze at the sound, there heads turning to the source of the voice. As the door swung open a small girl appeared, clutching a rag doll. Her eyes widened as she stared at the two armed strangers standing in her father’s room. Both men flinched slightly as the girl let lose a piercing scream, then, out of the corner of his eye Nilan noticed a flash of movement and the screeching abruptly came to an end, replaced by a slight gurgling sound as a small, slender dagger sprouted from the child’s throat. Nilan’s shock disappeared instantly, replaced by an intense rage. His head snapped around, returning his gaze to the man who had just silenced the girl.
Cirath’s face held a look of annoyance as he returned his attention to his opponent. His expression quickly changed to one of amusement as he saw the embers of hatred that now burned in the Waterdhavian’s eyes.
“She was just a child! You didn’t have to kill her!” the elder man exclaimed.
“Yes well, she was a child who alerted the guards to our presence. And though from the look on your face I can guess that you would like to cause me great pain in retribution for her death, you may want to turn your efforts to our guests for now.” As the words left Cirath’s lips a pair of armed men burst through the doorway, their chain mail rattling as they ran.
The first guard, a short, stocky man with flaming red hair hefted a mace as he charged at Cirath. The Calishite spun to the side just as the mace whizzed by his head, and kicked out as he spun, catching his attacker in the back of his knees and sweeping him off of his feet. As the red-haired man clattered to the floor, gasping as the wind was expelled from his lungs, he lost control of his weapon and it slammed into his nose, spraying blood on to the white marble.
As Cirath was dealing with his opponent, a second man, wiry with dark hair and skin, bore down on Nilan. The dark skinned man thrust at Nilan with the tasseled spear he was carrying. The Waterdhavian turned the blow to the side with one of his blades, and released the other, reaching forward to take hold of the spear’s shaft as his dagger clattered to the floor. He grasped the wooden shaft less than an arms length from the head, twisted the weapon, and pivoted on his heel, tearing the pole arm from its owner’s grasp. Nilan did not stop his spin, but instead raised the butt of the weapon so that it was level with his head and whipped it around, catching the guard in the temple and shattering the weapon’s shaft on his head. As the weapon connected with the side of the guard’s head his eyes rolled back and he crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
Cirath was pulling his blade from the stocky guard’s heart as the other man settled to the floor. “I expect a patrol of city guards to be by any minute, so I don’t think I will be staying. But since we both want to finish this you can find me at the Black Dolphin’s Wake in the Dock Ward. I hope you live long enough to meet me there tonight.” The sound of several sets of heavy boots could be heard echoing through the house as Cirath spun and dove out the window to disappear into the fading light.
Nilan’s eyes moved from the window to the door then back again. As the sound of footsteps got louder he came to his senses and rushed to Sefin’s corpse. He lifted the dead merchant’s hand out of the water and removed a golden signet ring from his finger, then dove out the window himself, hitting the ground in a roll and running for the wall, pulling his gloves from their place on his belt.

* * *

“What are you grinning about?” Alrinen asked over the mug of ale he was nursing. He looked exhausted from the day’s works, but it didn’t seem to affect his normal, cheerful mood.
Cirath continued to smile as he took his usual seat and motioned for one of the serving girls, “If all goes well I should have a visitor shortly.” As the waitress approached the table he reached into his change pouch and retrieved a few gold coins, depositing them on the girl’s tray, “Just a cider tonight,” he said, offering the girl his most endearing smile. She blushed a bit and giggled, then turned and rushed off to the bar to fill his order.
“You know, I don’t know whether it’s the excessive tips or that smile of yours, but that little redhead is taking quite a liking to you,” Alrinen commented, propping his feet up on one of the spare chairs that occupied the table.
Cirath smirked at his friend, then glanced back to the bar, locking eyes with the girl before she hastily turned back what she was doing. “I think you might be right,” he replied.
The girl hurried back to the table and set a tankard down in front of Cirath, “Your drink, Sir.”
As she turned to leave Cirath caught the serving girl’s wrist and pulled her back and directing her to a sitting position on his lap. She looked to the barkeep, then back to Cirath, smiling shyly. “What’s your name, girl?” Cirath asked.
“Delia,” she replied, giggling slightly.
“Well, Delia, I have some business to attend to tonight, but perhaps afterward you would like to spend a bit of time with me. Perhaps you even know another young lady that my friend could entertain,” he said, continuing to smile warmly.
Suddenly the taproom fell silent, and Cirath looked up to the door. Nilan stood just inside the entrance, looking a bit disheveled, with a few strands of his normally neat hair hanging in his face. “That’s your visitor?” Alrinen asked warily, recognizing the famous Shadowstalker.
A mischievous glint appeared in Cirath’s eyes as he lifted the serving girl from his lap and ushered her off towards the bar. “Yes. He looks a bit winded though, perhaps I should offer him a drink,” he said, his gaze locked with the Waterdhavian’s.
Finally, Nilan spoke, his voice loud and angry. “I have come in answer to your challenge, Butcher.”
“And I appreciate your prompt arrival. Would you like some refreshment or shall we get right to business?” the Calishite replied casually.
Nilan did not answer, he merely drew his weapons as patrons rose from their seats and backed away from the enraged assassin. “This will end badly, I just know it,” Alrinen said warily as he stood.
Cirath chuckled slightly, “I keep telling you, you worry far to much, Al.”
The Calishite assassin rose slowly to his feet, also drawing his blades. “Let’s get right to it then,” he said as he strode to the center of the taproom.
He stopped as he came to a table and adjusted his footing, then, as Nilan began to approach Cirath’s foot whipped forward as he flung the chair in the direction of the older assassin, then charged in directly behind it. Nilan swatted the chair aside and brought up a blade to block one of the blows that followed it, the other attack came in low and slid into his thigh. His face contorted in pain as the adamantite plunged deep into his leg, nearly exiting from the other end. Cirath smiled as he felt his dagger bite into his rival’s leg, then continued forward, ending his charge with a fierce head butt that stunned both men for a moment. Nilan recovered first and countered with a right cross that landed squarely on Cirath’s jaw, forcing him backward a step and dislodging the blade from the Waterdhavian’s leg. Fighting through the haze that clouded his vision, Cirath swept his leg low, hoping to floor his opponent, but Nilan anticipated the move, hopping over the tripping maneuver and thrusting towards the Calishite’s heart, narrowly missing as Cirath completed his pivot. The point of one of Cirath’s curved daggers shot upward as he attempted to place it in the underside of Nilan’s jaw, but was parried out of the way at the last moment.
The combat looked to the observers like some kind of exotic and deadly dance. The dancer’s blades glinted in the candle light as they lunged and slashed about the two men, occasionally drawing thin lines of blood on one of them or opening a small hole in their clothing. The crowd inched farther back whenever the combat came near them, some of the patrons sneaking out the door to seek a safer place to find refreshment.
Countering a thrusting maneuver that was intended for his heart, Nilan dodged to his right and swung in a wide, upward arcing slice, triggering the catch at the hilt of his blade at the same time. Cirath leaned back to avoid the blow aimed at his throat but was still slightly overbalanced from his attack. The blade bit into his face, just to the left of his chin and opened a wide gash up his face, nearly shattering the bridge of his nose, and narrowly missing his right eye. The Calishite shouldered his opponent away, clutching at the wound. Nilan pounced once more at Cirath, only to receive a violent kick in the chest that caused the air to rush out of his lungs, along with a sharp pain and loud pop that he guessed was the snapping of a rib. Fire exploded in Nilan’s chest as he staggered backward, fighting to catch his breath. He landed sharply against the far wall near the door, the breath he had been struggling to catch forced out of his lungs once again as the stabbing pain in his chest was abruptly renewed. He slumped slightly against the wall, his daggers clattering to the floor as he clutched his chest in pain. Cirath saw a glint of steel and rolled over a table to his left just in time to avoid a dagger that sailed through the air. A stifled squawk rose from the crowd behind him followed by gurgling and a sharp thud as a corpse hit the ground. Cirath glanced over his shoulder, not remembering that part of the taproom to be terribly crowded, and froze as his gaze fell on the body there.
Alrinen lay on the ground, struggling for breath, his hand clinging weakly to the dagger that was protruding from his chest. Cirath shook off the shock and rushed to his friend’s side, letting his dagger fall to the floor as he knelt down to inspect the wound.
“Al! You’re gonna be ok, it’s not that bad, really,” he lied.
Alrinen attempted what sounded like a chuckle, but ended in a short bout of violent coughing that produced a small amount of blood. “Funny isn’t it. All those years I spend dodging death in the streets, and it catches up to me now that I’m finally living an honest life.”
“Damn it, Al, you’re not gonna die! Who will I get to drink with me if you do?” Cirath asked, smiling a bit.
“I told you this was gonna end badly, but you never listen,” Alrinen’s voice trailed off and his body went limp. Cirath stared blankly at the corpse for a moment, wetness building in his eyes, then a scream of anguish and rage ripped forth from the very bottom of his soul. Those few brave individuals who had not fled over the course of the fight hurried out the door as his gaze crossed the room to the source of his hatred.
Nilan had collected himself as best he could, favoring his wounded leg and holding an arm defensively over the section of his chest where kick had connected. Cirath took hold of his weapons and rose slowly, trembling with rage. He stalked forward, intent on ending this conflict once and for all. Suddenly his knees went weak and his vision blurred. The wound on his face felt as if it were being probed with hot needles and his blood burned. The last thing he saw before the blackness at the edges of his vision closed in was Nilan limping out the door into the night.

* * *

“So glad you decided to rejoin us. I wasn’t sure if I was in time to stop the poison,” said a woman’s voice that Cirath did not recognize. When his vision cleared he saw a slender robed figure was staring down at him, grinning slightly. “Your little friend assured me that you would be able to pay for the services that I have provided.”
Cirath looked puzzled for a moment, then followed the woman’s gaze to a familiar halfling face, standing opposite her. Alni looked wary, as if not sure he was pleased by the recovery. “I got here just as yer buddy was limpin’ off. Heard ‘bout the fight all the way on the other side o’ the Ward. Musta been somethin’ ta see as beat up as you and the other guy were.”
The woman, who Cirath could now see was well into middle age, her hair more gray than its original brown and the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth were quite prominent, cleared her throat.
“Oh yeah, Cylanlli here fixed ya up,” Alni said, looking sheepish, “I told her you would be glad ta pay for it.”
Cirath reached for a money pouch at the small of his back, and pulled it loose from his belt, then handed it to Cylanlli, who accepted it, seeming pleased with the weight and peered in to be sure it was sufficient.
Seeing that the rogue was confused as to the motive behind his actions, Alni spoke up. “I figured if ya lived and found out I was here and didn’t help ya then I probably wouldn’t like yer reaction.”
Cirath began to rise, still feeling a bit weak. “Your strength should return in a day or so if you rest.” Cylanlli said. He waved her away and walked over to kneel by Alrinen’s body, collecting his daggers as he passed them. When he reached the corpse Cirath ripped off a small dry portion of Alrinen’s shirt and wiped the blood off of his daggers, then returned them to their sheaths. He then se about dislodging the dagger imbedded in the corpse’s chest. The weapon was slender and well made, with a single word etched down the length of the blade: “Shadowstalker.” He slid the weapon into his sleeve, then rose to his feet.
“How long was I out?”
“Not long, maybe a few hours.” Alni replied
Cirath approached the halfling and grabbed him by the collar, lifting him to eye level. “See to this body, since I wont be here to light the pyre myself,” he said, his voice low and steady.
Alni stared into the assassin’s eyes for a moment, then nodded slightly, terrified of the rage he saw there.
Cirath set the halfling down, dropped his remaining money pouch into the little man’s hand, and turned to leave. Alni couldn’t move until the man was out of sight, then he quickly set about the task given to him.

* * *

Cirath ripped the false panel out of the wall of his current residence and tossed it aside. He reached into the exposed hole and dragged out a small chest, quickly disarming the small spring loaded needle coated with poison that protected the lock from those who had no business opening it. He opened the lid and revealed a small burlap bag, a wooden box almost twice the size of his fist and a sheathed short sword. The assassin removed the bag, examining the contents to be sure that the amazing collection of jewels were still inside. For years he had been converting the fees from contracts to gemstones to lessen his load and to make them more easily exchangeable should he ever decide to leave Calimshan. Satisfied with the contents of the bag, he next examined the inside of the small wooden box. This contained the small supply of poison that he had recently acquired from one of the city’s less reputable merchants.
With his inspection complete he placed the items in the small satchel he had brought with him, then closed the chest. He rose from the floor and retrieved the candle he had been using for light. After surveying the room to be sure he had not forgotten anything he tossed the lit candle onto the pallet he had been sleeping on and walked out the door as the flames caught and spread through the room.

* * *

Winter had fallen on Baldur’s Gate and past dark the bitter cold caused most of the city’s activity to grind to a halt. A hooded figure stepped out of the small diviner’s shop that he had found after searching for most of the day. His quarry was still in the city, though not for long. The figure placed a small, bloody rag and a slender dagger into the satchel at his side then pulled his cloak tighter, unused to this sort of weather. The inn he was staying at was not far, and he was looking forward to sitting in front of the fire for a bit.
As he walked he turned the information he had received from the old diviner over in his head until a voice tore his attention from his thoughts. Irritated at the interruption the cloaked man looked around to find the source.
“I said there’s a toll for walkin’ down this street after dark, so pay up buddy.”
A young man, barely past his eighteenth year stood in the alley he was walking through, tapping a small club against his leg and staring at him impatiently. Two other boys of similar age stood behind him, one cleaning his fingernails with a dagger, the other pounding his fist into an open hand.
“Oh how lovely, a welcoming committee,” the figure grumbled sarcastically. “I suppose I should introduce myself.” He said, raising a hand to his hood and pulling it back slowly. Under the hood was a face that might have once been considered handsome, but now bore a long, hideous scar from above the right eye to the left side of the stubble covered chin. He ran his hand over his unkempt hair to the base of his skull, keeping his gaze locked on the thug in front of him.
“Well? You gonna pay or do we have ta rough you up?” the dagger toting youth asked.
Cirath did not respond, but instead snapped his arm forward, planting the stout blade of a short sword in the skull of the thug who had originally demanded the toll. He slid the blade out as the corpse fell, then turned his gaze on the youth that had posed the question and now wore a mask of shock and terror over his face.

once again, thanks to Nilan for all his help. let me know what you think, if anything :)

-Cirath, among others

[This message has been edited by Cirath (edited 01-01-2002).]
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Postby Nilan » Tue Jan 01, 2002 1:23 pm

Great story man, I know ya been workin on that one for a long time. Seems we got quite the rivalry going, eh Butcher? *grin*

Wouldnt have it any other way.

Look forward to the sequel man


anytime I can help, just ask, i be happy to assist if i can.
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Postby Malacar » Tue Jan 01, 2002 4:35 pm

And many wonder why I call down the fury upon Nilan... This tale is a perfect example. And Nilan even sounds happy about it.

OOC - Good story. I want more! Image
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Postby Nilan » Tue Jan 01, 2002 10:40 pm

Snicker Malacar

I conceed your points are valid Image


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Postby Sesexe » Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:32 am

An enjoyable read. Thank you! Sorry I hadn't read this sooner.
Asup group-says 'who needs sex ed when you got sesexe.'
Targsk group-says 'sexedse'
mount dragon
You climb on and ride Tocx'enth'orix, the elder black dragon.
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Postby Tazad » Wed Dec 03, 2003 5:06 am

Awesome story! Now this is how rogues should be! I only wish we had some sort of mugging skill or at least some brass knuckles and a blackjack at the lower levels! LOL

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