The Assassin’s Daughter   2 comments

If I’m going to call this blog “A Storyteller’s Musings”, I think it’s about time I told a story. Don’t you think? Therefore, without further adieu, may I present a two part short story of mine for your consideration, or just to poke fun at if you wish.

The Assassin’s Daughter
A Short Story by Peter Burton
© 2012
All rights reserved: No part of this story may be
reproduced, or reprinted by any means without the
written permission of the author

Sharing of this story is authorized as long as it remains
unaltered, and the author is properly credited as the author.

Part One

Few men in King Wynnguard’s army of conquerors and mercenaries could claim to be as ruthless as Lord Ancourt; and most of those who did perished at the end of his sword. Through bribery, connivance, and brute force the tall wiry man with the cruel ice-blue eyes had clawed his way to command of the king’s second company. Made up of troops famed throughout Annwyn for its lack of mercy, the second legion enjoyed a reputation for utter brutality in battle. It was reputation that eventually earned their leader a small dukedom, and fulfilled his desire for nobility. Therefore, it was no small wonder that Ancourt resented the duty now pressed upon him.

The downpour he and six of his most vicious men rode through towards the next village had continued unabated, almost from the day they set out on their mission. If such a thing could be believed, it seemed as if the sky wept from knowledge of the duty they had been given. Nearly three months’ worth of constant drenching did little to improve their dispositions, and nothing to dampen their resolve to see it through.

Cursing, Ancourt wiped the rain from his eyes with the back of one gloved hand. No one occupied the streets of the small hamlet in this deluge, so they would have to find shelter themselves. Looking about, he spied the lone tavern and motioned for his men to follow. The innkeeper had better have a few empty rooms to let, or his payment would come in the form of steel instead of gold. Another week of riding lay before them, and he was not about to spend one more night getting soaked in his already waterlogged tent.

Ordering his men to watch their horses while he made arrangements, he marched into The Assassin’s Daughter intent on letting the owner know exactly who was in charge. He pulled the drenched mail hood down to his shoulders, revealing a wet, tangled mass of long sandy-blond hair. Shaking the rain from his scabbarded sword to draw attention to the weapon, he looked about the room, searching for the master of the establishment. None of the several patrons held his gaze for more than a heartbeat. The prospect of evicting several of these peasants from their rooms and into the wet night pleased him.

“Tavernkeep,” he shouted, even though the man stood only a few paces away behind the bar.

“Yes, my lord.” The small balding man hurried over to where Ancourt stood waiting. Far too soft and overweight, by the time he reached the warlord the pathetic creature was panting for breath.

“My men and I require shelter, and stables for our mounts. You can accommodate us, I trust?” A sneer of disdain wrapped itself around the question.

“Of course, my lord.” The innkeeper smoothed the few wisps of gray hair that still clung to the top of his bare pate and smiled. “We’ve many nice rooms for you and your men, and I’d dare say my stables are the best in all of Annwyn. I’ll have my stable boy see to your mounts immediately.”

Ancourt was slightly disappointed and flattered at the same instant. He relished the rare opportunities peasants gave him to enforce his will, but appreciated one who knew enough to show the proper respect that was a lord’s due. The innkeeper knew his place and did not seem perturbed to obey without question. The warlord suspected the man may have been a soldier in his youth.

Within moments the aged tavern owner cleared his best table of its former patrons, sent his wenches for dry linens, and served their meal himself. Ancourt felt intrigued with the precision the man displayed, and the genuine care he took to see to their comforts. He was certain of it now. This man used to be a military man at some point in his life, and retained his sense of duty. It proved refreshing and did much to relieve his sour mood. While his men chatted with each other, or made clumsy attempts at wooing the wenches, he leaned towards the innkeeper.

“Tell me tavernmaster, were you ever a soldier?”

“Your perceptions are keen, Lord Ancourt. I was a soldier of sorts, long ago.” The man smiled again without the slightest hint of falsehood. Ancourt found himself liking this innkeeper. “May I ask why you are about on such a dreary night, my lord? I know a soldier’s life is a harsh one, but it seems to me that a man of your importance would not be this far from the capitol without good reason.”

“You know me?” Ancourt leaned back in his chair, amused and flattered.

“Indeed, my lord,” the innkeeper nodded, “your victories over the Dulomnus clans in the east and the Valkari of the north are well known. Perhaps I can be of some small assistance to you in your current endeavor; as one soldier to another.”

Ancourt measured the man with his eyes, as he had done to countless others in his climb to his present position. Deceit stood out to him like a beacon fire on a moonless night. More than once the talent allowed him to discern friend from foe. Nothing in the man’s demeanor gave the slightest hint of deception, or scheming. Only a dutiful sense of honesty, and a desire to aid a fellow soldier in fulfilling his duty. Still, the warlord knew better than to place his full trust in anyone, no matter how agreeable they seemed.

“Very well, innkeeper, but first I would have your name,” he said. “That way, should you prove false, we would know who to hunt down and punish.”

“Fair enough, my lord.” The man didn’t quail, or bat an eye at the threat. “It is no secret; my name is Galin, as anyone in the village can tell you.”

“Well then, Galin,” Ancourt motioned to a nearby chair, “mayhap you can aid me. You know of the lottery?”

Galin drew the chair close, and nodded as he sat down. “Aye. That I do, Lord Ancourt. But what does that have to do with the commander of the second army?”

“The giant Torgar comes to claim his tribute in four moons. King Wynnguard has charged me with fetching the winner.”

The old man whistled low. “Dear Gods! Who won this year, a princess, the daughter of a Baron, or an Earl?”

Ancourt laughed. “No. I’ll tell you a secret, as long as you swear never to repeat it to another soul.”

Galin leaned closer, curiosity lighting his deep blue eyes. “Upon my honor as a former soldier, it will not leave these walls.”

“No maiden of noble birth has ever been entered into the lottery.” Ancourt took a deep swallow from his tankard before continuing. “As you well know, we cannot risk war with the giants, and Torgar demands a virgin maid once each year. Why should we risk civil war between the king and his nobles by allowing one of their daughters to be sacrificed to those monsters when peasant girls are plentiful enough?”

“Then the assurance of the king, that all partake of the lottery, is a ruse?” Galin asked.

“Of course.”

“I am puzzled, my lord. If all the lottery winners are low born, why would you and six other men be needed to return with the winner?” Galin rubbed his chin stubble.

“That, my friend, is where you may be of help to me. This year’s winner is the daughter of Mordacye Synon.”

The innkeeper blanched, glancing about to make sure no one was eavesdropping on their conversation. The few other patrons of his establishment sat several paces away from the group of soldiers, intent on keeping the ale in their stomachs from being invaded by a length of steel it would seem. Even so, he dropped his voice to a whisper.

“Mordacye the assassin?” His low voice quavered a bit around the words.

“None other. Does this disturb your courage, or are you still willing to assist us?” Ancourt whispered back, wondering if the man’s bravery shared the same preservation as his discipline. “I can assure you that any information you provide will stay with us, and a sizable reward shall be yours if we prove successful in our mission. Enough for you to retire, or purchase fifty more taverns such as this.”

“Nay, Lord Ancourt, my courage remains, but this Mordacye is not a man to take lightly, even in his declining years. Like all assassins, he is a devious man. When he left the guild to marry twenty years ago, he bought this establishment. After his wife died of a plague ten years later, I purchased the tavern from him. I kept the name because by then it was well known.”

“He retired to a village a week’s ride north of here, where he lives like a king on the wealth he acquired during his days as leader of the most famous assassin’s guild in the five realms. His daughter serves him as if he is a king, and if she is your quarry I can only offer one piece of advice.”

“And what advice is that, innkeeper?” Ancourt eyed the older man, his respect slipping away with each word. Despite Galin’s protests to the contrary, it was obvious he feared this murderer for hire.

“Do not allow him to touch you, nor accept any food or drink while in his house. Do not allow him to hold anything in his hands. It is said he hides venomous needles betwixt his fingers. He can poison an enemy with dust or liquid thrown into their faces and his knowledge of such toxins is unmatched. It is also said that his most famous and difficult missions were accomplished by their use. So effective are his venoms, that no man has lived three heartbeats beyond being exposed to them.”

“That is useful,” the ruthless commander mused. “Poisoned blades, or food and drink I suspected. Venoms that could kill just by contact with the skin I did not.”

Galin looked solemn. “Remember my advice, Lord Ancourt. Touch nothing that he offers to you, no matter how tempting, and see his hands remain empty at all times. And if it pleases your lordship, make no mention of my name to him.”

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Posted March 4, 2012 by Peter Burton in Stories

Tagged with , , ,

2 responses to “The Assassin’s Daughter

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  1. Great story. You do a wonderful job of giving the characters depth in such a short space.

    Michelle4Laughs

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