Sweat trickled down the small of the man's back, making his loose fitting robes stick to his skin, to the wound in his shoulder. As he ran, the bolt from the crossbow shifted inside of him painfully, but this scarcely worried him. His cold grey eyes flicked to the protruding bolt and he slowed to a trot. The night air around him was cool and refreshing as he pulled back the wound, the moon shining brightly overhead contrasted with the black emptiness of the surrounding sky, broken up by the tiny blips of light hanging about in every place. The stars were beauteous things, something to be envied and marveled at by all of humankind. With a swift hand, he pulled the missile from his shoulder and threw the thing to the ground, tendons and muscle tissue being torn from their place in his arm as the barbs of the bolt passed through. Pain coursed through his body, but the years of training taught him that it is better to simply remove the thoughts of pain from his mind. After all, he had more important matters to attend to. He picked up his pace and continued nearer to the edge of the roof.
The man flew from the rooftop upon reaching the edge, landing and rolling gracefully and silently, not allowing even the many delicate instruments of death he possessed concealed under his flowing black robes to make a single sound. Shadow-like, he made his way through the alleys and crowded streets, all drawing him ever nearer to this goal tonight. Approaching the palace was not as it was for most: A high, impressive building, a column of strength and support that was once their, now filled in its wake by corruption greed and cruelty; but rather another obstacle, one that the man knew he could overcome with grace. His pace regressed once again to a trot as he reached the foothold of the imposing tower before him. It was as if this was the place the stone beast had chosen to place down its foot, planting its leg firmly into the ground, unmoving for any, defiant to the elements themselves. Nervously, cautiously, his hands brushed over the cold stonewall of the turret. The smooth stone underneath his gloves produced a cold which bit into his exposed fingertips, a harsh portrayal of the coldness of the heart of one so corrupt as he who lived here in this castle. Just then, his left hand caught a divot in the stonework. "Careless masonry," thought the assassin as his ascent began. Carefully yet quickly, he scaled the vertical siding of the tower. With every foothold he took, the ground became farther away. The thought occurred to him of how lethal another well-placed crossbow hit would be at this altitude, and as thoughts shifted from focus to crossbow injuries the pain from his shoulder wound erupted, surging throughout his entire body. Every nerve ending in the area was screaming, burning as if pressed against the metal siding of a furnace. His grip on the pockmark in the wall began to ease; he began sliding back just a touch. He could not regain control of his muscle and he was sure he would soon let go. Searching for solace, he turned his head toward the clear nighttime sky, so perfect in its contrast of bright moon and stars with blackness of space, and the words of his master came once again to his head. "You simply mustn't fail, that is final. We are of a special breed, one that has woven its history into a complexity so unimaginable I myself do not understand it. One simple mistake, one discovery, and murders throughout the ages will begin to unravel themselves. However just and righteous our cause, people are corrupt and always will live as so. They will have us all hanging from the gallows." The image of him and his brethren hanging in disgrace after all their delicate work to defend the people brought him back into focus, the pain subsided, his grip tightened again.
The climb continued, his position on the tower was now well over the highest surrounding rooftops. Reaching up, the assassin's fingers met a flat surface, meaning he had reached a window. Stealing a glance above the windowpane, he spotted but one man. He was invisible to the outside in his jet-black robes, his long messy hair a matching color. Flowing from the top of his head down with the pure essence of shadows, they were the perfect nighttime murder garment. From his waist belt he procured a hook, roughly the size of a man's neck, attached to a long, fine line of rope. Building momentum, he began swinging it behind his back, and peaked once again over the top of the windowsill.
There stood the lone sentry, guarding a think wooden door. The man's armor was light plate mail; it was just heavy enough to catch with a hook, but just light enough so as not to weigh him down. With deadly accuracy, alike that of a diving hawk, the assassin's hook flew, catching the guard through the back of the neck. His immediate reaction was shock, as the hook had not yet pierced his flesh, but with a swift tug of the wrist, the assassin brought the hook through the front of the guard's throat. With a heave, the assassin propelled the fresh corpse over the side and pulled himself up into the room. Now he must tread upon padded foot, for he was in the house of the enemy with no cover of nightfall to foster his silent stride. The guard hit the ground with something of a thud and a sickening crunch. It would surely have busted him up well, hiding the hole torn through his throat, making the whole scene look as a tragic accident.
The most immediate obstacle presented to the assassin was the door. He recalled brief training in the field of lock picking, yet the fine details were, in his mind, grey as his menacing cold eyes. Reaching into his robes, he drew a small metal pin. Inserting the pin into the lock, he felt around, the metal tip being his eyes inside the lock. "One two, three, four, five," he counted the tumblers under his breath. His training only ever brought him to face three before, so with novice hands he began the delicate work of an expert. Prodding inside the lock, he identified the first tumbler again and gently pushed it upwards. Any false movements or unnecessary force would bring it down fast, snapping the fragile pick. A relieving "click" awarded his nerves. The second tumbler presented much similar difficulty, as with the third. When he reached the fourth, his perspiration began. The thing was stiff, and would not budge. Pushing hard, he heard not the "click" he expected, but the ominous "snap," indication that he had lost his first lock pick. Filled with stuck tumblers and broken pick shards, the lock was officially inoperable. This was a barrier. The assassin needed to gain entrance to the castle, but his foolishness had cost him dearly. Just then, footsteps outside the door met his ears, followed by voices trickling into audibility.
"…He said the kegs should be in the dungeon. That could just be the worst place possible for them," came the voice from the other side of the door. The assassin pressed his ear to the hard, rough wooden door. He felt his body flatten against the thing, straining his ear to clearly hear what "kegs" they were talking about. This could be of use to him. A second man's response was in louder, more seemingly self-confident tones.
"Why so? Down there nobody can access them, save through the dungeon doors and the ladders in this tower." The assassin checked behind him. There was indeed a ladder poking through a trap door in the floor. This must have been what the sentry had been guarding in this otherwise useless room. A few crates lay about, straw matted most of the floor. The cold stonewalls encircling the tower room made for a reverberating cold effect. The assassin just now took note of this cold and the apparent dryness in the room. He re-focused his ear, tuning in to catch every syllable of the conversation. The confident man spoke again. "Nobody could access them without being inside the castle through many guards which, as you know, is a good thing when one is dealing with this stuff. We even have these new locks installed on the doors, I don't even have the bloody key!" The guard pounded hard on the door, a show of its strength and integrity to his partner in patrol, but a quick awakening to the assassin. He had been so acutely tuned into what they were saying and the idea of explosives being a few floors below his current position in a dark dungeon was intoxication to his concentration. He leapt back from the knock, making a slight scuffle on the floor.
"What the hell was that," said the lower, gruffer sounding guard. The assassin's heart clutched; did they now know he was in there? He had to think quickly or else he would surely be done for.
"Let's go inform the governor," replied the second man, now sounding brisk and serious as the other.
The assassin took a moment to open palm his own forehead. He had given away his whereabouts, and now, stuck behind a broken lock on a reinforced door of a tower room, it seemed to be the end of his mission. His thoughts ventured to possible methods of escape which would not require scaling back down the wall, as there would soon be alerted archers watching for any suspicious activity, and a man climbing down the side of the building where a sentry recently "fell out the window" and there was now a broken lock due to a failed picking attempt from the inside, they would without a doubt have probable cause to fire upon such man. That's when it hit him. The dungeon could be accessed directly via that ladder, no key required, no guards to stop him. He opened up the trap door and, ever cautiously, began his descent into the dark set of rooms that lay below him.
No torches had been lit in these lower rooms, making it nearly impossible to see. He went down based on feel alone, taking extreme caution to carefully place each foothold, for each step could easily be another dead giveaway. He wondered why there could possibly be no torches lit in these rooms? It mattered not. He dropped down the final few steps of the ladder. His plated leather boots met the wet, musty dungeon floor in a wet "smack." He grimaced to think he could've just given him self away yet again, however carried on with his search for an exit. He saw torches lining the walls of a narrow corridor, inlets in the wall made space for prisoner cages, most bearing a torch on the outside so as to give the guards sufficient vision in inspecting the men they keep captive here. Most lie on the ground, sprawled about with limbs appearing broken. The assassin crept by without a word and the captives were too beaten to give a second thought to him. He saw one larger inlet which had absolutely no candles or torches by it to cast illumination upon it. His first thoughts were a possible torture device. The way the rest of the dungeon glowed flickering orange seemed to clash with this one unlighted area, and it seemed as if the place was purposely devoid of flames. He approached cautiously, grabbing a torch from its socket on the wall. As he crept closer, the light cast by the fire began lighting up crates and barrels stacked hastily. A small train of powder came from the one barrel, perhaps stacked a little too hastily. The assassin had a keen sense of smell, although the dungeon had an overpowering stench, which seemed to assault the nostrils. It smelled of filth, blood, sweat and human waste. He leaned in close to get a smell of the powder, and the odor brought back memories of Carnival. In particular, he remembered vibrant bursts of color, exploding into the beautiful night sky, adding to the perfectly contrasting harmony of a clear, starry night with the bright full moon illuminating the lands as if it were merely dusk, not night. The flames spewed red and yellow sparks everywhere in the sky, as if some invisible dragons had been flying about showering the sky in a rain of gorgeous sparks.
"Gunpowder," came the assassin's low, devious sounding grunt of a whisper. He possessed a voice to fit his blades; cold, curt, to the point and at times even cruel. He filled a small sack on his waste belt with the delicate explosive and noticed a flint striker on the crate next to him. He scooped this up and dashed back for the ladder. He heard a voice from one of the cells as he passed, so he slowed his pace down and made for the source of the sound.
"You think yourself a great man, do you?" Came a half-dead, defeated sort of voice from a man fit to it in every way. "You think yourself above us other men, able to perform feats of espionage and daring, savior of the common people? You are nothing! You are a filthy rat, undeserving to die under the boot of a passer by." This angered the assassin greatly. He was the protector of the people and this insolent being dared defy him his title?
"And who are you to speak so condescendingly to me? A man locked in a prison cell, beaten by the guards of a tyrant who will surely die tonight? You are the groveling half-dead imbecile, one who is biting the hand that feeds him in agitating his savior. I do God's work, you fool! Without me, you and the rest of the citizens of this city would be under the rule of one corrupt governor to another, always faced with their oppression and-"
The man cut him off -"You truly believe your work righteous and holy? You believe God condones this kind of thought? You think that gaining a sick thrill off running your blades through countless men's throats all to achieve some man in higher power's ideal of 'what is right?' You are the oppressors! Without you assassins we would live in a world without this senseless slaughtering! The leaders are angered with your actions, placing the blame on the common people like me, placing us in cells for your sick acts! You traffic souls for a living, you self-proclaimed angel of death. Here's to you burning in hell." With those venomous daggers of words he spit from his toothless mouth square into the assassin's left cheek. It ran down slow, sticking every inch of itself to his jaw and cheekbones. He pulled his sword from its scabbard with a menacing sound of metal sliding by metal as he wiped the phlegm from his stony face. "How many will you run through to silence the voice of truth, assassin?" Questioned the captive, on his knees yet bold and defiant in his ragged emaciated form. "How many, damn you!"
A smile played across the assassin's face at these words as he lowered his head, his hood hanging low over his eyes, giving him an imposing appearance of power. He replied to the man's rhetorical question with a most literal answer.
"Just one," he said as he reached for the man's head. He pulled his sword back and held the man's mouth open. He tried to scream, but all that came out was a strangled yelp as the assassin ran the cold steel clean through the back of the man's throat, piercing up and out through the top of his head. He jerked it upward violently, severing all it came in contact with, pulling the sword upward and to the side. The blade ran with thick crimson, dripping down onto the man's head again. His face was one of mortal terror at the moment he died, and thus it stayed in the dim, flickering light of the torches as he fell backward. Silenced.
The assassin emerged cautiously from the trap door at the top of the ladder. The moon was still shining brightly, only from a different place. The dimly lit room now had less moonlight to illuminate it, so the assassin took care to step in places where he could see the straw on the floor so as to mask his footsteps. He caught sight of the lock again and began filling it with the highly explosive powder. A sliver of moon light teased to the left of the keyhole; just enough light to guide the way through his task sat just too far to illuminate the broken lock. The assassin silently resented the thin window at this time. Deciding the darkness would matter little, he began to tear at a piece of cloth from his black robes. This would then be pushed against the chamber back to carry the flames to the farthest tumblers, blasting free that wretched locked door. He held his flint striker inches from the protruding cloth after preparing the thing thoroughly, and with assured confidence in his makeshift plan, ignited the lock. The flash lasted but a blinding second, however the immense "crack!" resonated for what seemed to be an hour.
There were two immediate problems; the "crack" seemed to have awaken every person within the castle walls, and flames began licking threateningly at the hay and crates surrounding the door. The assassin now had a difficult decision to make: Kill his target, but let the fire consume the castle, or let that merchant governor of corruption run free to further batter the people of this city. He decided it better to save his city, so he made a break for the governor's chambers. Charging up the stairs, he heard shouts and hurried footsteps converging upon the source of the explosion. Like cultures sweeping in on a carcass these men were out for blood. The assassin spotted a staircase spiraling up, hung with elegant tapestries and wall hangings, with small windows every few steps. It was steep but undoubtedly, it would take him up to the governor's chamber. He darted for the stairs, charging farther and farther upward, almost reaching the top. An aberration appeared at the top of the staircase, unclear at first in the shadow of the doorway. As he stepped into the light, it was an armored guard brandishing a rather large spear. He stepped directly onto the staircase, halting the assassin's flight.
"It would seem we have reached an impasse," growled the guard in a tone of morbid thrill. He thrust the spear, throwing a quick jab towards the assassin. He managed to jump out of the way and draw his sword, still baring some of the man's blood on it.
"You've been busy, have you?" Spat the guard as he thrust again, the assassin deflecting his blow into the wall with his sword. "Cutting down my comrades, no doubt!" Upon screaming these words the guard jabbed a protruding stone candle cradle, knocking it down onto the assassin's injured left shoulder. He cried out in pain and clutched his shoulder, leaving him exposed for an attack. The guard thrust the spear, but in his rage overshot to his right, barely grazing the assassin's right side. Pain seared from his sliced side, it felt as though the spearhead had burned him rather than sliced him. He struck hard with his sword, fighting in rage rather than control, and the guard, although his spear wasn't at the ready, was able to deflect the attack. He brought his heavily plated wrist to the assassin's sword and the thing decimated the surface of the guard's vambrace. He smiled, obviously pain wasn't tangible to him. The assassin punched with his left, coming clean into the guard's helmeted head, slamming the metal into his face, bending the polished steel work. The guard's smile widened as he craned his neck back slowly, and he spit a bloody tooth into the assassin's face. The assassin was stunned, he did not know what to do to this beast. He threw away the sword and backed down a few stairs as the guard readied his spear again. The assassin this time pulled from his belt a small hammer with a curved spike on the end. This was used specially for opponents with heavy armor, and he liked to call it the Talon. The assassin bore his eyes into the guard's skull, and his smile broadened wider yet. The assassin feinted a move and the guard took it, throwing his whole body into a spear thrust, and the assassin grabbed for the wood of the spear. He reeled himself in close, and with a spinning slash, dug the Talon deep into the guard's thick chest piece, planting his foot firmly into the guard's unarmored crotch. The assassin pulled with all his might, sending the guard reeling back in pain and tearing his chest piece from his body, leaving his chest exposed to the chain mail layer. The assassin swung again and the Talon this time gripped flesh, tearing down the man's generously proportioned stomach. The blood spilled fast, but instead of grimacing in pain, the guard's face went dead pan. He looked up at the assassin and omitted a roar, one fit for a lion. He began thrusting like mad with his spear, each coming dangerously close to the assassin's chest, neck, head, anywhere that was open. He was barely deflecting the fast stabs and needed to change the stakes. He leapt backwards with elegance, rolling backward mid air and coming aground on the previous landing of the staircase where his sword lay. He thrust it upward at the guard but it merely pierced his heavily plated shoulder. The guard took one last thrust, pushing the spear forward with all the strength his hulking body could muster, and struck out of pure rage. The assassin caught his foolish loss of self control and took the spear in his free hand. This time he knew better than to come in close so fast. He instead brought his knee up to the spear shaft and snapped the thing in two. He spun around the business end of the spear and brandished both his new short spear and the Talon. The guard threw down his useless spear shaft as he pulled the sword from his shoulder plates. The pair prepared for close quarters combat.
Hulking down the stairs the massive guard bore down on the small murderer. He was strong, smart and very talented in what he did, however he never was a big person. He was outsized by roughly one foot and one hundred pounds, locked in an uphill close quarters battle. He swung his hammer, the Talon biting into the neck of the guard's helmet and the hulking man stopped dead in his tracks; however this is simply speaking figuratively, for then as the assassin stepped down two stairs feeling as if he'd just defeated the brute, the guard's arms raised to the battered, punctured helmet which still bore the talon sticking from its side and pulled the thing from his head. The fierce Talon had barely slashed the man's neck through the siding of the helmet. His face contorted with rage, he threw down his sword and made a projectile of his helmet. It met the assassin's face square on, sending him tumbling backwards down the staircase to the bottom where he landed with a deep thud. He had lost his short spear somewhere in the descent. The breath had been knocked from his lungs, his eyes shot wide open and air eluded his gasps as his hands shot for something to grab to pull himself up with; the brute was now upon him. His fists thrust into the assassin's ribs, slamming his torso repeatedly, mercilessly as his breath starved lungs were further emptied, his internal organs seemed to be displaced. The fists caught him in the face, the metal gauntlets doing true work on the chiseled jaw and face structure, breaking the nose as blood spurted from the mouth and nostrils. The guard leaned back having sufficiently beaten the intruder to a finely ground paste underneath him. The assassin peered into the sky, his ribs broken, his face battered and bloodied, every breath like a stabbing pain as the hulking giant got up off him. The brute spotted the assassin's knife and pulled it from its place on his belt. With a second's pause he thrust the knife into the assassin's throat and pulled it out again. Throwing the thing aside, he left to tell his master of the short work he had made of the castle's infiltrator.
Laying on the floor, the assassin's body had gone numb and he couldn't feel a thing. 'This is it, here comes the bleed out,' he thought as hope abandoned him along with feeling. His neck punctured, blood was flowing fast from his jugular and death seemed more and more imminent; there was no stopping it. Knowing this was the end, he raised his eyes up to take a look towards the heavens, towards the moon above in the night sky. The large glowing orb gave him some comfort, yet a feeling of slipping away. Gazing at its hypnotic light, he noticed a slight trembling in the area around it. A trick of the eye, perhaps? The trembling of the space around the moon grew more and more violent, the neighboring stars began taking up this infectious shaking act, the assassin's eyes still fixed, however, upon that moon. This surely was no trick now, he knew something drastic was more imminent than death itself. The quaking heavens began shifting ever so slightly within the trembling as the stars slowly began cascading downward. As he lay bleeding out on the floor, ribs broken, gaze unmoving from the moon, the stars began to fall.
His eyes widened, fear clutched his broken body as more feeling vanished and his senses dulled yet more. A roar began sounding somewhere behind his ears, behind his eyes, the stars slowly falling, beginning one by one on a majestic descent from their seats in the heavens, plummeting downward and gaining speed all the while. The assassin's life flashed before his eyes. He saw himself as a young boy, hardly six yet still straining under his new master's whip. This was when he was first taken to be an assassin. His whole course of training from ages six to fifteen, nine years of his life spent in the assassins' sanctuary, passed in an instant, the roaring growing louder all the while, the stars descending from their places leaving blazing, glorious streaks in their fiery wakes. He was presented his first knife, the very one that punctured his throat what seemed like hours ago. He then saw his first assignment, and things became more manageable to watch, slowing down in pace so as to be more easily observed. Visions of him stalking his prey danced before his eyes, then the kill. It was a clean job; he stalked the man into an alley way and, when the fool was unaware of his killer's presence, the assassin's hand closed over his mouth as a knife ran slowly over his throat. The fifteen year old murderer ran the blade along his own tongue, savoring the taste of his first kill's blood. 'Disgusting' he thought. He felt a sort of silent agreement, however who else could possibly be watching his own life with him? More feeling left his body; he felt as if he could lift his bones from his leg, but decided it best not to try this. He saw his first romance now. Her long brown hair, her bright blue eyes the color of crystal clear tropical waters. They mesmerized him as nothing else could as he gazed for hours into her face when they met secretly in the night. The abilities of infiltration he had learned from his profession had come in great use, and she seemed now a different world to him than his work. When he was with her, all was about emotion, feeling, even passion. He would stay with her the whole night and think about her all day. She was the comfort and love in a world ruled by cold steel and crimson. He could have stolen her away one night as they often spoke of doing and started a new life, away from her father's oppressive rule and away from the assassin's dealing of death lifestyle he didn't even chose for himself. That is, if he hadn't killed her father on a contract. She fell to her knees, her father's crimson soaking the boy she loved. She screamed for the guards and in an instant the assassin was engulfed in a hail of crossbow bolts. He lived but was pierced many times, and that night while hiding out in the sanctuary he realized his life as an assassin and now the loss of the girl he loved had left him without love, without compassion for the lives of others. Tears came down his face as he pictured those beautiful blue eyes torn with grief at the fallen form of her father as her blood drunk lover pulled the knife from his throat.
His gaze now came from the depths of his passed life back to the orb in the present, but things had drastically changed. The sky was bathed in streaking infernos from where the stars had fallen, all of them now dethroned from their original places. He recalled a scripture verse he once read in his early studies…"'and so,' God said to the man who questioned his role, 'when your world's fabric unravels and the heavens themselves are bathed in a sea of holy fire, you will know my wrath, for you will soon meet my judgment.'" His last thought before he slipped once again into the recesses of his own past was, "This is it. This is my judgment day."
His life continued; it was the day after his flight from his love's castle. He now stood with pride, his last bits of humane feelings of love and remorse slipping out subtly in his tears the night before. He was seventeen, experienced, hardened, and in all ways heartless. He saw many more killings, all of which had some great purpose at the time, however not to him. To the assassin sliding the throats these were but petty things, senseless dealings of men's souls that were no more than cut-throat business contracts in the most literal sense of the term. He remembered now, with a wince, the sheer joy he took in this blood bath. Although it did, in the end, impact the world for the better, something about it just didn't settle right now that he was the one lying helpless and alone on the cold stone floor he couldn't even feel beneath him. He was forced to view the children now, something he rarely saw before, ever so helpless as their tyrants of fathers were torn from this world. To everyone around them, they were dead. To the victims themselves, judgment was running its course as those stars, ever beautiful came careening from their high above seats in the skies, a spectacle only the gasping, dying forms on the ground could see, who appeared already taken from this world to all who could see them. There was a feeling of discontent and frustration as if unable to decide, yet it was not within the assassin, rather around him, as if the presence that brought him to view his life was feeling this way. He was brought back to the world in the present, or rather, what the dieing saw as the present as he had decided earlier, by a loud bang; it appeared a star had crashed through the castle roof. All around it was ash, and from these smoldering rubbles, the angelic figure of a man climbed out.
He was tall, to say the least. He stood at twice the height of the assassin. No hair was upon his head, and his skin was a rich brown. He wore a spectacular white and gold cuirass which seemed to emit light. His arms were bulging, the angelic man was muscularly built however not oafish like the guard, rather god-like, looking like one of the statues of Greek gods only with ebony skin. This tower seemed to be a double sized perfectly sculpted human being. His eyes opened, revealing no eyras or pupils, only pure white, emitting that same glow as his armor. When he opened his mouth to speak it sounded as if two voices overlaid each other, one lower than the other, adding to his sense of intimidation.
"Rise, fallen mortal," said the commanding voice, "for I am your guardian angel. I will guide you to the afterlife."
Gazing down upon his body, the assassin was rather surprised it was even there. It now had no feeling, not even pain. He looked at his bloodied right arm, his black robes stained with scarlet blood dripped everywhere. He had not even noticed the pool of blood he now lay in. He tried to get up, but nothing happened. The limbs which once carried his blades so gracefully to the throats of marked men were now rendered useless. He could not move anything. He could not even open his mouth to scream. Silenced.
"Do my words fall upon deaf ears? You must rise, not in life but in death. Take the first steps from your body and the world as you know it. Begin your ascension," commanded the angel.
The assassin was puzzled. The world around him lay in ruin as he had never seen before; the castle was battered and broken, the ground was either smoldering embers or flames and it was getting worse. He was now, somehow, on the open ground lying in this pit of charred earth. He wanted to leave, to clench his fists with the vigorous anger he felt inside of him. That's when he saw it. Almost transparent, and for but a fleeting instant, his soul's hand left the bloody heap of his own. He felt as if he was shot with another crossbow bolt, only this time directly to the heart. A part of him withered, dieing as his soul emerged from his body, but another part was excited as if being born for the first time. The dying part gripped his soul and pulled it back in as pain coursed through his body and took some time to subside.
"It is what happens to those incapable of rising from the dead," explained the glorious angel. "The creatures close in fast, and they shall feast upon you - body and soul - if you are unable to rise, and you shall be condemned to live in this underworld as one of them, another grunt in the army of the Underlord." As he said this, a flesh-torn, dying hand erupted from the surface of the destroyed ground. It clawed at the burned soil, pulling from the ground a corroded, rotten head. Hairless, revolting, eyes as empty sockets; dead yet undead at the same time. The assassin leapt back, taking half his soul from his body at this hideous sight, and as the demonic feeling inside him thrashed about, it pulled him back into his body and dug its claws in. The assassin felt the pain of needle sharp claws sinking into his flesh, holding him in place for the creatures. Ready to give up, he gave one last lurch outwards an emerged finally from his body as a pearly luminescent soul. He dripped white, glowing blood from his back from where his inner demon had torn the skin from his back attempting to hold him in. He looked to his body and it now seemed a petty thing; cold, sin riddled and rendered useless now, he would leave it in this place for the creatures emerging from the ground.
"Rise!" shouted the angel. He and the assassin ascended, leaving the underworld and all the earthly sins behind. The last thing the assassin saw was arms emerging, engulfing and pulling his body beneath the embers. He felt no pain.