The Raven: Ascension (Part 2)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 30, 2016

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Submitted: September 30, 2016

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Chapter 2

Isaac

130 years later.

 

“Fuck you Isaac”

 

I smiled as my brother, Quinn, held his wrist as his wooden practice sword lay discarded on the cobbled ground of the courtyard of Castle Umbara.

 

“You need to work on your guard Quinn” I said mockingly. I raised my own wooden sword “If this had been real you would now be bleeding to death very quickly. The brotherhood doesn’t need dead assassins you know”

 

Quinn lowered his hand and said with a raised chin “If this had been real you wouldn’t have seen me coming. You may be a better swordsman than me little brother but I’m much quieter than you”

 

Little brother. We could have passed for twins with the same brown hair and eyes but he’d been born two years earlier than me. And he was a lot quieter than me. Not wanting to admit the truth I scoffed “Bullshit”

 

“I’m sorry but I’m pretty sure that during our last night exercise I got the jump on you and had a knife on your throat before you knew what was going on”

 

“You got lucky”

 

“Right”

 

Rolling my eyes I let my sword dangle by my side as I strolled a couple of feet away from Quinn, who’d was heading to the infirmary to get his wrist checked out, and joined the heavily armed crowd watching my friend Tharos Windbane duel Mayana Uzan. They’d opted not to use training swords and so the ring of steel on steel echoed between the high walls of the castle. By the looks of things Mayana with her flame patterned, long hilted  greatsword had the upper hand over Tharos and his two Elven blades.

 

“Stand still you High Elf bastard” swore Mayana as she came forward again with a downwards swing. She was from some land across the Eastern Sea and as a result had been blessed with olive coloured skin, black hair and a foul temper. She looked terrifying in her grey hooded tunic and trousers.

 

Tharos, pale and blonde, side stepped with the speed only a High Elf could have been graced with and swung both his swords towards Mayana’s head, silver cape billowing. But the space where her head  should of been was suddenly empty as Mayana ducked and used her left foot to sweep Tharos’s legs from under him. He fell ungraciously to the floor. I laughed as Mayana  placed a boot on his chest to hold him down and placed her sword against Tharos’s golden locks, tucked neatly in a bun.

 

“Surrender Elf” hissed Mayana “Or i’ll cut your hair off”

 

Tharos looked up at her with such horror that you’d have thought she’d threatened to cut his nuts off and shove them down his throat. His hair was his pride and joy.

 

“You wouldn’t dare” he challenged.

 

“Oh you idiot Tharos” I muttered “You never say never to Mayana”

 

Fortunately Mayana seemed to be in a good mood after her victory. She removed her greatsword from his hair and hoisted him to his feet. Tharos nodded his gratitude and moved next to me once I had been seen.

 

“That looked fun” I said sarcastically

 

“Did it really?” replied Tharos. “I’ll tell you now Isaac it really bloody wasn’t”

 

“I’m not bloody surprised. What impulse made you think facing Mayana a good idea?” I asked

 

“The impulse to be the best. You don’t improve unless you face those better than yourself”


“You could have asked to spar with me. I’m less inclined to kill you than Mayana”

 

“That would be implying that you’re better than me” Tharos pointed out.

 

“I am better than you”

 

“Maybe. But you’re not better than her”

 

“Says who?”

 

“Says everyone”

 

“Really? In that case lend us your swords” I said with my hands outstretched

 

“You can’t be serious?” Tharos said. “You’re going to duel her?”

 

“I am”

 

“Why can’t you use your own sword?”

 

“I left in my room” I explained “Come on. Don’t be an arse”

 

“Fine fine. It’s your funeral anyway” Tharos chuckled as he handed over the curved blades. I marveled at how light and well balanced they were as I twirled them, earning myself a dirty look from a nearby assassin as one past worryingly close to her arm.

 

“Be careful with them Isaac” warned Tharos “I want them back intact”

 

“I’ll certainly try Tharos” I promised as I pushed my way through the crowd. “Mayana Uzan. I challenge thee”

 

Her eyes narrowed as she saw me and her gripped tightened on the hilt of her sword.

 

“Isaac Tivioli” she said, her voice as hard as Iron. “At last a challenge”

 

A murmur rose from the crowd and someone called out “One week's wages on Mayana”

 

“I’ll second that” someone who sounded like Tharus replied.

 

Ignoring them I adopted a fighting stance with my left foot in front of my right and my swords by my waist. Mayana smirked, a terrifying sight, and came forward casually. When she was a couple of feet away the huge greatsword came crashing down towards me as fast as lightning. I swung my left hand sword to meet it and managed to knock it downwards. Seeing an opportunity I propelled the right hand sword down so that, if unblocked, it would cut into Mayana’s left shoulder. However, she managed to get her sword off the ground and the two blades screeched against each other a couple of inches above.

 

“Nice try” she snarled, shoving me back and raining blows upon me, each one harder than the last.

 

I managed to parry every blow but arms were now on fire and felt like dead weight.

 

“I can’t take much more of this” I realised “It’s time to go on the offensive”

 

The next time Mayana swung downwards I crossed my swords above my head in an “x” shaped block. Mayana’s sword was caught in the middle and a look of actual surprise rippled across her face. Our eyes were only a short distance apart. In her dark pupils I saw nothing but cold fury.

 

My turn.

 

I drove my forehead towards her nose and they connected with a sickening crack. Blood exploded from her nose but I’d barely acknowledged it before I launched a savage kick at her stomach. Mayana cried out, staggered back and dropped to her knee with her head bowed.Her sword lay discarded next to her . Panting as I watched I blocked out Tharos’s urges for me to take advantage of the situation. That wasn’t my style.

 

When Mayana raised her head someone close by gasped. Her nose was was at an unusual angle to the side. Crimson blood covered her face from the nostrils down. Tears grew in her eyes.

 

“Are you able to continue?” I asked.

 

Slowly,  she licked away the blood running onto her top lip.

 

“I am”

 

Her hand snatched up her greatsword and she sprang to her feet faster than she should . I prepared myself to attack. This time, however, Mayana stood rooted to the spot, her sword held out in front of her.

 

“Three weeks pay on Isaac”.

 

Quinn emerged from the crowd. My eyes flickered to him and he nodded. I felt almost bad for hurting him earlier.

 

I strode forward, swords cutting deadly, glittering arks through the summer air. As we danced the balance of power swung to and fro almost regularly; I would attempt to feint with my left sword and strike with right only for her to block it and use the momentum to thrust towards my shoulder. Fortunately I was too quick even for this attack and I parried to the side.

 

After a while I sensed that she was starting to tire. Her attacks were losing some of their tenacity, her blocks a fraction off of being too late. The huge,heavy greatsword was starting to take it’s toll. Sensing blood in the water I went in for the kill. I began swinging the two blades rhythmically and towards all parts of her body. Left right left right, head ribs leg stomach. Mayana could hardly contain me.

 

There it was; a strike to her legs that managed to through. The tip of my sword cut a fine red line across her shin. Blood started to trickle out.

 

“Fuck me” Mayana screamed. Now she really was crying. Tears ran down her cheeks and mixed with the blood, giving her the impression of a banshee.

 

A red mist must have covered her eyes because she swung wildly towards my neck. I spun out of the way as a matador would do with a bull. The attack caused Mayana to momentarily over balance and I capitalised on it by stamping on the back of her right knee. She buckled and dropped, her back now facing me. Almost lazily I placed one of the blades against her neck.

 

“Surrender. You’ve lost” I said.

 

Mayana did nothing. She just kneeled there, her breaths deep. The huge greatsword lay on the ground once more but her hand was still tight on the hilt. I feared she may be foolish enough to attempt to start fighting again and although this was supposed to be a practice match Mayana may want revenge.

 

After a few tense seconds Mayana at last let go of the hilt. Her shoulders sagged and now she openly wept.

 

“I yield” she whispered.

 

Satisfied I turned and walked into the crowd, accepting the pat on the backs and congratulations of my fellow assassin’s. Some moved over to Mayana to console her and escort her to the infirmary. I watched her go, two of her friends flanking her, and then headed for my room in the castle’s main keep.

 

As a child I always thought Castle Umbara was built like a fortress of legend atop a peninsular overlooking a beautiful freshwater lake. The high outer wall was made of sturdy and smooth grey stone but was only about a hundred meters long due to the fact that the path leading to the castle had sheer drops either side. A gatehouse with two portcullises was the only way in or out of the complex. Between the wall and the keep was the courtyard in which we trained and where the castle’s reserve of gunpowder was stored in a featureless wooden building. The keep looked down upon all like some unmoving overlord ,engulfing everything in its gargantuan shadow. Four circular towers stood upright at each corner of the keep like the sentries that manned them. A giant oak door marked the entrance.

 

“Oi. Isaac”

 

Wrenched from my thoughts I turned to see Quinn and Tharos jogging towards me with huge grins on their faces.

 

“What are you so happy about?” I asked, handing Tharos back his blades and watching him sheaf them.

 

Tharos’s smile seemed to grow as he pulled a football sized bag from within the folds of his cape. He shook it and from within came the unmistakable clinking of gold coins.

 

“You little brother have made us very rich” said Quinn.

 

“Bloody hell. How much is there?” I exclaimed

 

“About twelves week’s wages”

 

“Twelve weeks?”

 

“That’s right. Four weeks each” Tharos declared.

 

I frowned at him.

 

“Didn’t you bet on Mayana?”

 

Tharos’s smile curdled like sour milk.

 

“No. Definitely not”

 

“I think you did. I distinctly remember hearing you bet a week's wages on her” chipped in Quinn.

 

“How the fuck would you know? You were getting your bruised arm looked at. Isaac do you really think I’m that much of a lowlife that I would bet against my best friend?”

 

“Yes”

 

Red faced, Tharos looked from me to Quinn. My brother shrugged. The sea blue tunic he wore rustled slightly.

 

“Alright, fine, you bastard” said Tharos, throwing his hands in the air “So I bet on Mayana. The odds weren’t in your favour Isaac. She’s never lost and until a couple of minutes ago I would have eaten you for breakfast. Forgive me if I side with logic rather than luck”

 

Tutting I said “Tharos. Tharos. Have you learnt nothing? I defy logic”

 

“Clearly” said Quinn

 

“I’ll be taking our winnings now” I said.

 

“So I get nothing?”

 

“Nothing.”
 

“Even though I leant you my swords?”
 

Taking the money bag from Tharos I opened it and pulled ten gold coins from the overflowing bag.

 

“Wow Isaac. You’re so generous.”

 

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit Tharos”

 

“Right. What exactly am I supposed to get with this?”

 

“If you try hard enough you might be able to pay for a woman to finally rid that pixie dick of yours”

 

“Fuck you”

 

Despite himself Tharos smiled as he took the gold and slid them into his trouser pockets.

 

“So what are you two going to do?” he inquired

 

“I’ve got to sharpen my sword” I said.

 

“And I’ve got to see the Grand Master . Apparently he has a contract that he feels I’m best suited for” said Quinn.

 

Tharos made a face “Sounds amazing. I think I’ll go back and see how much more I can win and hopefully keep”

 

“With ten coins?”

 

“I’ve won with less”

 

With that Tharos left us. I resumed walking towards the keep. Behind me I heard Quinn following.

 

“You never said anything about the Grand Master having a contract for you” I said over my shoulder.

 

“You never asked and it didn’t come up in conversation” Quinn said.


 

By now the oak door was looming over us. I pushed it open, blinking to help my eyes adjust to the sudden change in light. Inside was a two meter high stone corridor, completely bare save for half a dozen torches on the wall. Their red and orange flames cut ever changing patterns into the inky black shadows.It was much cooler in here thanks to the stone. I started forwards.

 

“Any idea who the unlucky bastard is?”

 

“Probably some noble who stole one too many sheep from his peasants”

 

“What is it with you and the nobility?” I sighed.

 

“They live in huge castles, built from the ridiculously high taxes they impose on the common folk, wining and dining all day while their peasants live in huts of wood or straw and fight over scraps of food. It’s hardly fair”

 

“Life’s not fair Quinn”

 

By now had arrived at the base of a huge staircase.

 

“I know that Isaac. If it were ma and pa would still be alive”

 

That stung. Our mother and father had died when I was five and Quinn seven of a fever that had gripped our home town of Malas that spring. We had no other relatives, at least not to our knowledge, so we had to spend the next three years living on the streets. It was a hard life. You had to fight to survive and fight we often did until the Brotherhood of Shadows had found us and trained us.

 

That had been ten years ago but still the thoughts of that feral existence made my skin crawl.

 

“I’ve got to go” went on Quinn “It doesn’t pay to keep the Grand Master waiting. I’ll see you later?”

 

“Yes. Have fun.”

 

Quinn turned to go.

 

“Quinn” I blurted “Don’t you dare come back dead”

 

“I won’t. Farewell.”

 

“Farewell”

 

Feeling rather sad, I once more went off to my room.


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