A Knife in Ordail

Introduction

A Knife in Ordail is a short story set in the Weissland port city of Ordail. It is set roughly one hundred years before the events of the White War.

A Knife in Ordail

Upon a temple roof in the shadows and seaborne bitter chill of Ordail sat Jerrod Durant, the best assassin in the city. Amongst the pillars and statues of this holy place he waited with an evil purpose. The carven images and symbols of devotion surrounded him, yet held no meaning for him. With the hood of his black cloak covering his face like the beak of a bird of prey he waited for his target. Soon a man would die, and no other assassin could be so confident. His small crossbow was gripped tightly in his gloved hand, and with it he would kill with unerring accuracy. After all I am the best assassin in the whole city, he thought.

The street below was empty now, but the target and his bodyguard would walk its cobbled stone without fear. Of this Jerrod was sure. The target was a young nobleman, named Samuel Morgan. His only flaw, the reason why he must die this cold night, was his love for a woman. But this woman was also loved by the rich and jealous Ulric Straub. So Samuel must die.

Jerrod could now see the two figures approach from the far end of the street. One was slight, the other broad. As they drew ever nearer to death and to him, their features were revealed. Samuel was thin, with curly black hair, a look of kindness on his face and his eyes seemed innocent and knowing at the same time. His bodyguard in contrast was gruff, grim and grizzled, a warrior born. Jerrod moved to aim at the bodyguard. His body moved into the pale moonlight, it reflected dimly on his brown leather jerkin, upon which he wore the sheaths of several knives, weapons of his trade. If Samuel had seen him standing above, ready to strike, the young man would have quailed in terror, Jerrod mused. But Jerrod would not be seen nor stopped for he was the best assassin in Ordail. He thought back to when he was just the apprentice to the best assassin of the city. A man known as the black arrow, for his use of obsidian-tipped, black-shafted arrows with fletches made of crow feathers. The old fool told Jerrod once “Pride and overconfidence in ones skills will be the downfall of an assassin. We are artists of death, and must keep to our code of honour, lest we become nothing more than common killers. Remember that boy, for nobody is the best, pride cometh before a fall.” Jerrod had smirked at the time, and paid it little heed now.

Taking careful aim Jerrod pulled the trigger of his crossbow, and he watched it plunge down at the bodyguard’s exposed throat like a steely bird of prey. The brawny man gargled, bubbles of blood frothed from his mouth, and he fell backwards, the bolt protruding from his jugular. The young noble looked in stunned horror, as if he had been struck dumb with that same crossbow bolt. Now was the time for Jerrod to pounce. Grabbing hold of the rope already prepared, he swooped down from his lofty perch, cloak spread wide like great wings. As he brought his feet up together to hit the target it was like a hawk would grab a mouse in its pinions. But at the last moment the terrified mouse darted aside, narrowly avoiding his demise. Without a second thought Jerrod dropped to the ground and drew a knife from its sheath. Turning towards the young man he grinned wide, as if a jester made murder more pleasant.

Samuel spoke, his breath frosted and ragged “Who—Who are you, dealer of death?”

Jerrod was almost taken aback; few men would ask his identity instead of pleading for their life. Some twisted form of honour stirred within him and he felt compelled to answer. He replied “I am Jerrod Durant, the best assassin in all Ordail. Now you must die.” He moved forward confidently.

The young man resolutely stood his ground and said “To make a living from the dead must be a hollow existence, would you grant me a last request?”

Jerrod stopped in his tracks and frowned “I would hear this request before I grant it.”

“If I am to die, will you tell me of the one who employed you to dispatch me?”

Jerrod laughed, a cruel sneer upon his angular face “Very well, you can die cursing the name of Ulric Straub. He is the one who wishes your death, yet I care not for the reasons.” With this he lunged forward, knife held downward. The young man, Samuel, avoided the blade and drew his own, a short sword of shining steel. The boy thinks himself a swordsman, thought Jerrod, deluded fool. I will slay him, he crowed, thinking more of his reputation then the fight at hand. The clash of steel was ringing through the chill night air, as they danced across the cobbled street, no killing stroke could be landed. For each slash there was a counter, for every blow a parry. When one combatant gained an upper-hand, the other brought the fight back into balance. For just a noble Samuel matched Jerrod like a master of the art.

Jerrod quickened the pace of the fight, even drawing a second blade. Samuel stayed on the defensive, parrying and fending off the repeated attacks of Jerrod. When Jerrod tried a double stab, Samuel dodged to his left and kicked out at Jerrod’s knee. The blow made the assassin back off momentarily. But then he came back with renewed anger.

“I will not be outdone” Jerrod exclaimed. He slashed out in a downward strike, but overreached himself. Samuel took the opening, stinging steel across Jerrod’s chest. The cut went through his jerkin, and a second strike plunged the sword deep into the gap of his armour, a fatal wound. As Samuel withdrew his sword, Jerrod stumbled backwards, the cold making it difficult to breathe. No not the cold, his lungs burned, no mere wound was this. Adrenaline had dimmed the pain, and it took him a moment to realise what had just happened. His eyes glazing, he spoke “I’m the best, who are you to take that from me?”

Samuel laughed. It was a haunting sound which echoed in the cold, dark street “Poor Jerrod, I am death’s kiss, eternal in execution. I breathe not for life and care not for mortal fallacy.” It was only now that Jerrod noticed Samuel’s pale complexion and the fangs he bore. When did he change? Jerrod thought.

Jerrod collapsed to the ground, his head swimming. He could feel liquid all around him, wetness on his body, sticky to his touch. Was this his blood? He could not think straight. As his life was ebbing away like the tide, he looked up at Samuel and said “Perhaps it’s true… pride cometh… before… a fall.”

Samuel smiled a knowing smile; he understood that only too well. After all that was what led him to becoming a vampire. Stepping over the dying body of Jerrod he stalked away into the bitter night. The last Jerrod heard was “Now to pay a visit to my dear friend Ulric.” Numbed as he was Jerrod decided that he just needed to rest, just for a while. Closing his eyes he thought, I was the best assassin in all of Ordail. What other assassin could be so confident.

A warning to all those who hear the call of adventure in the city of Ordail, nothing here is ever what it seems. And while some might say the streets are paved with gold, they are also stained with blood, the blood of those who put pride before all else.

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