The Circle and The Stone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 8 (v.1)

Submitted: January 24, 2012

Reads: 54

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Submitted: January 24, 2012




Chapter 8





“Will he live?” the Marksman asked as he watched the old man lay unconscious before him.

“I don’t yet know” the attendant answered. “he’s old beyond imagination, it’s almost impossible”

“It seems possible” he said.

“Who is he?” the attendant asked as he held his patients wrist in an attempt to feel the life still left in him.

“That’s not for you to know” he curtly answered.

“I apologize” he said as he turned his full attention to the ancient man. He was found wandering through the town several days previous, drifting in and out of a strange unknown haze and though normally no one in this place would have cared less about an old man a close to his death, he was different, far different. And it was the weapon strapped over his crooked back that drew attention to him.

“When can we speak with him, or should I say, when will we speak with him” he said in a voice that warned the attendant of his intentions, an intention that the attendant certainly didn’t want to experience. He nervously looked up to the man and in fear for his life and answered his question.

“I can’t yet know,” he said in desperation, as he knew the reputation of not only them, but of the governor himself. The Marksman looked down at him and within a flash produced his crossbow, fully armed with a tuned bolt, and pointed it at his temple. The speed at which he drew astounded him, though it really shouldn’t have, as he knew there talent for death was the only ability they needed.

“Again” he tersely reiterated “When!”

The Marksmen proceeded to push the single sharp point of his bolt, which was patiently waiting for its freedom, gently into the thin of his skulls soft skin. 

“Tell me now” he said with no temper or emotion.

The Attendant was simply one of the few men who had any knowledge of the human body. They were needed, but only by the governors and there servants, and if they were ever caught in care of a citizen, their death was certain. They were unique, but not expendable, and it was this thought that caused him to suddenly urinate. His trousers became soiled as the bolt pushed slightly further into his head.

“I don’t know!” he shouted in fear as he suddenly broke down. He began to sob uncontrollably, and immediately knew that this weakness in his character was about to be his end. The Marksman looked down at him in pity and released his bolt, as he knew that the old man, if it was whom he thought it was, certainly didn’t need this unworthy attendant. The bolt wasn’t fully cocked; it had just enough tension on it to penetrate the bone of the skull at point blank range, yet remain inside the head protruding through the opposite side of its target. The body fell to the side spouting blood through the fresh appendage that it suddenly inherited.

The area that served as more quite triage lay deep beneath the governing powers center of control, a control that they had acquired and held for over five hundred years. It was the center of power in the North, the middle of the world, as they knew it, and the force of unconditional loyalty; the world was dictated from this place and from no other. It was deadly law, and it was proven again this day. The room was dank, quite, and cold, only interrupted by the shallow breathing of it’s only patient; an innocuous and incoherent old man dressed in nothing but rags but garnishing the most deadly of all weapons, the crossbow of a Marksman. The young Marksman quietly stared at the decrepit old figure, now fighting for breath, as he heard the heavy steps of others quickly approaching from behind.

“Marksman! Heel” a loud voice rang out from the ancient stone hallway. He swiftly turned towards the voice that he had heard on many previous occasions and stood at loose attention. The pace of the footsteps slightly increased as the small entourage continued through the hallway and approached the quiet scene. Their were six in all, five closely following behind a sixth; the Governor himself. It was his voice the Marksman heard, and it was his he feared. The man was not an imposing figure, quite the opposite; he was a small man with dark eyes and long grey hair and he had assumed power by political alliances that always lead to the death of the former leader. It was natural cycle in the North. They slowed to a halt only a few feet from the old man and the dead attendant and The Governor surveyed the situation. He looked down at the attendants limp body and the pool of blood that was slowly gathering under the fatal wound.

“You had better hope that this man is who you think he is” the governor quietly hissed out “because if he’s not you’ll be shortly joining your prey” he finished with a steely stare to the Marksman.

“He was not worthy sir” he stated as he looked forward avoiding the Governors eyes.

“I’ll make that determination” he coolly said.

“Yes sir” he answered.

“Now, what do we have here” He said as brushed past him and focused his attention on the old man. He bent over him and peered closer at his eyes, listening to his shallow breathing and looking for any sign of his identity, but found none except the weapon that was lying on the floor beside him. It was here he re-focused his attention to.

“This is why he was brought in” He said to the Marksman.

“Yes sir”

He reached down for the crossbow and held it up for examination. It was a fine weapon, ancient and in need of maintenance, but still in tact and he believed he had never saw a Marksman bow of that age. It was almost an anomaly but not improbable, but if the old man was its original owner; that was simply an impossibility. He turned the weapon over and noticed the small inscription by the release trigger and turned toward the Marksman.

“It certainly is his weapon” he said to him.

“Yes sir, I know that for a fact” he said with a slight relief at the fact that he now knew he wouldn’t be joining the attendant.

“So who is the old man and how did he get it?” he queried

“I was trying to find out sir, when the unworthy attendant broke down” he answered.

“And I’m sure with a bolt pointed at his temple it didn’t help matters much either” he quietly said in more of a scolding tone than one of anger. He knew what the Marksman were, and he also knew their ways, and though he wouldn’t change a thing about them, he sometimes wished he could curb their thirst for death as it didn’t always serve him well. The Marksman just stood in silence at the Governors comment and avoided his gaze as he returned his focus to the old man.

“Find another attendant,” He ordered to one his guards.

“Yes sir” one answered as he promptly turned on his heel and left them.

The old man was growing weaker but his eyes suddenly opened and he gasped for more air. The Governor glanced at the Marksman and than lowered himself to the dying man.

His skin was paper thin and grey and his dark eyes were receding deep into there sockets, and his long matted hair fell almost to the floor from the wooden bench he was laid out on.

“Where do you come from, old one?” the Governor asked with a deep tone of authority. The old mans gaunt lips turned a slight smile as he remained still but spoke.

“You must be Governor,” a frail voice said.

“Yes I am and you are?” he demanded.

He ignored the question but continued to speak.

“Far in the lost territories one still exists”

“One what?”

“Prey!” he spat out with a darkness the Marksman immediately sensed and it confirmed his belief that he was who he thought he was.

The Governor turned up towards him and said nothing as he knew the man would answer.

“He is a Marksman sir” he simply stated. “and the original owner of the weapon”

He turned back to the old man and continued on now convinced of the old mans identity as he knew that Marksman’s held strange gifts and he also knew that one could always sense another; it was a talent they all shared.

“Seth” he said to the old man “How is it possible your still alive?”

He didn’t immediately answer as he wasn’t sure himself, but he knew it was a covens magic that banished him between worlds and he knew one prey still lived.

“I don’t know” he answered “and it matters none but a Coven is still alive and well in the Lost Territories of the south and they have a Sentient, a dangerous old Sentient”

“What of this creature Seth” the Marksman asked and the Governor allowed the question.

“It will kill you if you hunt it” he answered.

“Doubtful” he simply said to the Governor.

“And you have hunted how many, child?” Seth said with as much of a laugh as he muster.

The Marksman said nothing as he knew Seth was correct; there hadn’t been Sentients for over a hundred years and it was believed that the old man on the bench had killed the last ones.

“Answer your brethren,” the Governor ordered.

“None Seth” He said with slight embarrassment.

“This one is different” he weakly began “It possess abilities that go far beyond any other Sentient, though you wouldn’t even know what those are, and it’s been alive far longer than you could imagine” he finished.

The Governor glanced up over his shoulder again for some clarification.

“I don’t know sir, we only know of the history of our brethren as we were never taught to hunt Sentients. They’re in the past.”

He turned back to Seth and continued.

“How do you know this?” he asked.

“I’ve sensed it” he answered


“With respect Governor, again it matters not, but they are still alive and thriving well” he said as his breathing now grew increasingly shallow “Listen to me young Marksman, this Sentient is alone in its world so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Take my weapon, it’s now yours as I certainly have no more use for it, and find it. It will probably kill you first but I assume there are still many of us” he barely managed to finish.

“There still are Seth” the Governor said.

“Good, than kill it and remember: where there’s a Sentient, there’s a Coven, and where there’s a Coven there are Protectors. And these Protectors rival us” He warned.

“I understand” the Marksman said.

“You better, now Governor, with respect the young hunter has an immediate task at hand as I have given up my weapon”

The Governor knew what he was alluding to and though he could have immediately put a stop to it in an attempt to gather further information but he chose not to as he knew the dark traditions of the Marksman. He also knew that to control them he needed their loyalty and to interfere with their strange interworkings could strain that relationship.

“God speed Seth” Governor said as he rose from his side. He turned and nodded to the young Marksman and he brushed past remaining guards as they fell into step behind him.

The Marksman was now left alone the greatest of them all; the legendary Seth and he felt it a great honor to do what he was about to. The cross bow hadn’t been cocked in a hundred years, he surmised, and he hoped the mechanisms and bow strings would hold one last time before he had chance to repair and rebuild it. He set the cams at the lowest possible tension and cocked the old bow, it fought the action and barely managed hold together as he produced a short bolt from his own quiver and placed in Seth’s weapon. It began to slightly warm and lightly vibrate, as it should have, and he spoke to him as he lowered the weapon to his frail old body.

“Marksman” he began “another holds your weapon”

“Another holds my weapon” he answered.

“To lose your strength is to lose your life”

“To lose my strength is to lose my life,” he countered

“To feel death is to embrace the dark”

“To feel death is to embrace the dark,” he repeated

“Embrace the dark, Marksman” he finished as he released the bolt into his forehead.

He left the bodies where they lay, one died in fear, the other according the traditions of past. Seth’s time was over and according to the Way, there would be no burial, no ceremony; nothing. It was just another body to be discarded in whatever way those who were concerned about it deemed fit, as he could care less one way or the other. None of them ever did. He walked down the long hall that led to the stairs that would eventually bring him to the surface of the compound, proud of his actions and honored at killing Seth. It was turning out to be a good day after all he thought, as a one of Governors guards stepped out from the base of the stairway and into the hallway.

“Cyrus” he said “The Governor has summoned you”

He said nothing and simply followed him up the stairs. There was no apprehension this time in dealing with him, as he had proven himself correct in his assessment and actions regarding Seth. They continued to climb the winding stairs until they reached the natural light of the large and ornate hallway, that lead to the Governors quarters. It was an area that he had never been before, but the hallway was familiar as access was allowed up to a certain point. They passed another guard who stood at his post near the private hallway that lead to the residence, it was the guard who left for a fresh attendant, and now obviously aware it wasn’t necessary, and entered a large open room that was used for official business. The Governor was seated at his large desk as Cyrus and his summoner approached. He waived the guard away as they stopped a few feet from him.

“Sit Cyrus” He said in a more normal conversational tone than earlier.

“Thank you sir” he said as he proceeded to fill one of the two large chairs that sat directly in front of the oak desk.

“Now” he began as he let out large breath and placed his elbows on the impeccably shiny surface. “I suddenly have a problem, a large problem and one that simply won’t go away. You know your history so you know of the Holy Wars”

“Yes Sir, it was during the Time of the Sentients” he stated

“Right, and guess what?” he asked.

“Sir” he said with a slightly bewildered continence.

“I don’t want another one” he plainly said. “Do you understand this Marksman? I don’t want another!” he finished as he raised his voice emphasizing every word in his last statement.

“Sir I don’t understand,” he asked with risk.

“Listen, you’re going to the Lost Territories as I’m sure you’re aware of, but you’re going to look and gather information. Do you understand me? Gather information. I’m going to tell you something,” he said as he threw his head back and sat up straight “One lousy Sentient and a Coven? Kill it if you want but many Covens and Sentients get out of there and get back here. I know if there are more than one they’ll never dare come back here anyway and that’s all I care about. Understand me again: If you start another Holy War it’ll be your head”

“Seth would have told us if there were more” he simply said.

“Seth was barely coherent, and your kind have a way of drowning out the big picture and obsessing with the small one and in his case one Sentient and one small Coven and I can’t trust that; I need the truth”

“I’ll bring you the truth Sir” was all he said as he rose from his chair and stood at half attention.

“Now get out of here” the governor tersely ordered “you smell of death”

He gladly left the palatial office, as it was as far from his true environment as he could be, and proceeded down the ancient halls. The afternoon sun greeted him outside the building and as he cleared the last of the immediate security perimeters, he found himself walking up the wide path that led to his real world. It sat within the complex, alone by choice, and misunderstood by all but them. It was the last vestige of the once powerful Marksman and they called it the Corral. Here, tradition ran deep, and though not a Sentient had been interned or worse in the large old barn for over a hundred plus years, it continued to remain the very center of the Old Ways. Cyrus greeted the side entrance with a sense of calm and contentment, just as his father before him had when he would enter the shrine. It stood proud as the testament of the Holy Wars and the passing of the Time of Sentient’s, but it’s weathered exterior which was kept in that rough condition by choice, betrayed its interior. He reached for the horse’s tail that adorned the entrance door and pulled it open, entering a new world. The rough stone and simple barn wood ceased to exist the moment he walked through the threshold, as ornate hand carved hardwood covered every wall and corner, and all complimented by finely polished marble floors. Stained glass panels, that exemplified the Holy wars. They told the story of their original inception to their final victory; from simple soldiers to deadly hunters, from Protectors to Marksman. As a child, he would stare up endlessly, taking in the natural light that they allowed to permeate, and wondering if he would ever join his grand father on one of the panes, immortalized for ever as one of the greatest Marksman of all. He pulled the door shut behind him, sealing off the outside world, and stared up again but now searching for the glass memorial of Seth.

Fourteen panes over, as he remembered, and two before his father, the largest of them stood out. It was his memorial and it was still missing its last vital component; a well aimed bolt near the outer edge. Seth’s body was never found all those years ago, so he never received a proper remembrance, but today Cyrus would be the one finish his memory and answer the last question in regards to greatest of them all. Using his own cross bow, he drew one of Seth’s old and worn bolts, and with lightening speed, he cocked the weapon, slapped in a bolt and with one hand fired up to the ceiling. The dead quite of the large hall was suddenly interrupted by the violence of the bolt, instantly slamming deep into the wood that surrounded Seth’s place in their dark history. It was a perfect shot.

The collage was now complete, all those immortalized in glass now bore the scare of a bolt, deeply embedded beside their effigy. It was the last honor, their circles closed.

“That’s bold of you Cyrus” a tired and weathered voice rang out. He turned toward the voice but smiled as he knew he hadn’t really broke any tradition, just performed one with out any real permission.

“It’s the bolt of Seth” he stated to the elder.

“Regardless” the old man said as he quietly approached, “Yes, the return of Seth has intrigued us all, and we already know you took his weapon, and that’s your perogative; our way” he continued as his still sturdy but slowly failing body took a seat on the long bench that surrounded the perimeter of the hall. “But, young Marksman, the final effigy is ours to decide and ours alone” he finished as he looked up to him with dark eyes.

The Elder’s name was Sim, a Marksman whose time was slowly coming to an end, and one of five on the Marksman Executive. He dressed in the dark leathers and clothes of a Marksman, but it no longer had the dangerous effect on any, as it did with Cyrus and the other thirty or so younger enforcers.

“I meant no disrespect Sim” he simply said to him.

“None was taken” he returned “You have the right, but we give that right to you, remember that” he finished as he pointed a finger up at him. Cyrus wisely said nothing as enough on the matter was spoken.

“Now” he continued on “What did he say to you?” Cyrus reseated his crossbow and took his own seat on the long bench.

“Not a lot really” he began “he only told me that one still exists, some where in the south”

“Did he offer an explanation as to how it’s possible he was still alive?” he asked.

“No, Sim, there just wasn’t enough time, he was far to close to death” he answered.

“He was half delusional, and obsessed with this sentient, that’s all he told us about before he offered me his weapon” he finished. Sim knew by respect and tradition that once the weapon was offered, all discussion was permanently over.

“Do you know what form of Sentient?” he asked

“He never said, he only said that one still existed and a very dangerous one at that” he went on “and he also said that covens and Protectors are also still alive”

“Of course” he said “where there’s a Sentient, there’s a coven and protectors follow in hand”

“The Governors sending me south to find out the truth” he added with a dark tone in his voice. Sim looked over to him and with those words he saw Cyrus’ fate, and it was one he was about to stop.

“Cyrus” he cautiously began “We’ve had peace for well over a hundred years, we never really won the holy wars, as all have been led to believe. Did we eventually drive the covens out? Yes, but destroy them? No. We on the Executive know of the coven Seth spoke of, and we know of the Sentient” he admitted.

“And you kept this to your selves?” he said with a slight anger.

“Yes, and now the Governor will know the truth from us, there’s no need for you go south” he warned as he looked into him. 

“What kind of animal is it?” he asked ignoring the warning.

“A cat” he simply answered. Cyrus smiled and let out a small chuckle.

“A cat? What kind of trouble can a cat are to kill”

“Cyrus” he began “you know nothing of hunting Sentient’s, even I know little of them, but we know this; they’re the most dangerous of all adversaries we ever had and the covens and there Protectors are equally dangerous. A long time ago, one of us was drawn into a trap by a crow, a simple crow Cyrus, and the steed he was riding was also a Sentient, a spy sent in this very building from a coven it’s self. We only know of one Sentient in the south, and one coven so leave it all alone, I’ll deal with the Governor and put this all to rest” he finished.

“You sound more like the Governor than you do a Marksman” Cyrus said in disgust as he rose from the bench. “Look up Sim” he said in reference to the effigies, as he turned and began to walk away.

“Cyrus!” he shouted at his back “I’m not asking I’m ordering! Leave it alone or I’ll personally order your execution! I’m not toying with you marksman!” he finished as Cyrus continued to march away, ignoring the deadly threat. He slowed for a moment and looked up to the ceiling. Clean areas of the it still stood out for future effigies, if any were ever needed again, but they never were. The collage was static, the war over, and the hunters of the Sentient’s faded to worn memory. He spied an area high up beside the last glass pane, and in mid stride removed his cross bow and in another fluid motion, it was cocked and loaded. He glanced over his shoulder at Sim, and smiled as he released its deadly bolt. It was another perfect from the hip shot, invading the hard wood precisely where it should have, had there have been a fifteenth effigy in place. Sim looked at him as a dark rage swept through his mind, Now you’ve finally crossed the line he thought to himself and now you’ll pay the ultimate price.

“You’ve just thrown away a promising life!” he shouted to him. Cyrus reached the door that he entered only a few minutes ago, and as he swung it outwards, he looked back at Sim and simply shrugged his shoulders. The young Marksman and his two subservient apprentices were going on a hunt, regardless of what the Executive thought. He left the Barn, and began to walk the path to the real stable area that lye behind it. He knew his two apprentices would be their tending to the steed that the three used, they better be he thought to himself, as he issued the days chores in the morning before he left in search of the old man that would drastically change his entire day. He came across the stables and entered through the large doors that graced each end of it and found his men diligently tending to the animals.

“Boys!” he shouted as he approached, and both immediately stopped their respective jobs, turned to the voice, and stood at half attention. They remained silent, dressed in the garb of a Marksman, but they were only apprentices, and they obeyed Cyrus as slaves would a master.

“Gather your gear and provisions for a long trek; were going on a hunt” he ordered and in silence they immediately began to put away the tools they were only a moment ago using, and began to saddle up the horses. Cyrus grabbed his own and tossed it over his steeds back, settled it in, and strapped it to the animals body. He untied the steed from the post and mounted him from the side.

“You have precious little time to meet me on the path south” he began “say nothing to no one, stop for no one, and keep your bolts to the ready, do you understand me?” he warned.

“Yes sir” they both simultaneously answered. Neither was even about to think of asking for a reason for the rush, or why within the boundaries he ordered their bolts to the ready. Cyrus jabbed his steed and bolted through the stable and out the double doors. His speed certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the two as they looked at one another in silenced and doubled their efforts. Within moments, they to were riding out of stables, but they took a different direction, the direction towards the housing area where they would hastily gather the basic supplies they needed, and meet him at the rendezvous point. Cyrus tore through the small city, ignoring all, and within a few minutes he found self outside the boundary and facing the rolling hills that led to the different paths that crisscrossed across the land. He slowed down a little, as he knew he escaped Sim, and with in moments he stopped at the cart path south, and it wasn’t long before he heard the familiar hoofs of his subservients approach. They road side by side across the rolling hills and slowed as they came up on Cyrus, and halted only a few feet from his own steed.

He examined them for a moment, satisfied at their quick response to his bidding. The crossbows lye across the necks of the steeds, half cocked and with a bolt in place, just as he ordered, and saddle bags held tightly against the rear of each animal. They were ready, and these two were ready in more ways than just simple preparedness.

“Boys” he said as he addressed them “We ride hard until dusk, and than I’ll explain all of this” he finished as he turned his steed down the path. The two looked at one another in silence, as no offer of any explanation was given to an apprentice as to task any hand. Apprentices were bound in silence, with the exception of acknowledging orders, in the presence of their teacher. There were always two per Marksman, and these two, just as Cyrus had went through with his teacher, had never in the nearly three years of their tutorial, ever spoken a word to him. At dusk, he actually looked forward to hearing the voices of the two men he taught, as they were to become Marksman tonight. Together the three rode quickly out of the immediate territory, and headed in the general direction of the Lost Territories of the South. The territories were not so much lost, they were more ignored and for good reason; it was where the covens were banished. They left them alone to live among the stragglers of society, the strangers from other lands who would never survive with-in the Boundaries, and those who willingly left the small city to live outside the Governership. The powers of the North had not the where with all to be constantly burning bodies, so they let the south survive alone, an exile for those who couldn’t make it there world. Dusk began to approach as they entered the light forest that led to the other world, and though they had several weeks travel ahead of them, tonight would be the first stop in there journey. Cyrus slowed them to a halt and surveyed the area, listening for any sound of another, and heard none.

“Dismount boys” he ordered “and start a fire, we stay here tonight” They diligently obeyed him and began to unpack the necessities for the night. The sky grew dark as a healthy fire began to glow around the surrounding trees, leaving them in an odd silence as they sat around it. One, as he was stilled called, cleaned his bow as Two sat erect in with eyes closed in meditation, feeling some unknown. It was time Cyrus thought.

“One” he ordered “remount you weapon to your steed and Two come back to us” One immediately rose from the ground and obeyed the order as Two opened his eyes and looked to Cyrus. One finished properly remounting his crossbow on his quiet steed and stood at half attention beside it, awaiting Cyrus to inspect the simple task.

“There’s no reason for further inspections anymore One, come and sit” he dismissed. One obeyed as Cyrus began to address them both.

“You’ve been under my control for three years now” he began “and not a mistake ever from either of you. That’s impressive, but I’ll take the credit for it. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, as I was when I was a simple apprentice, you become a Marksman the moment your tutor deems it so. There’s no ceremony, no ritual, only the sense that one has of your abilities. When you’re declared a Marksman, your name is entered in our book, it’s that simple.” He explained as he rose from the fire, and stood a few feet from it.

“One and Two” he ordered “stand before me”

They rose from the ground, and stepped around the fire and stood at attention shoulder to shoulder in front of him.

“Your time of an apprentice is over, and you’re now released from your silence. Welcome to the fold, Marksman, we’re now equal” he finished as he lowered himself to one knee and bowed before the two Marksman. They looked at one another and smiled; it was finally over.

“Thank you Cyrus” One said

“Yes Cyrus, thank-you” Two added. He looked up at them and grinned.

“Let’s sit, if you wish, and finish this talk”

“Of course” One said. They took their respective places around the warm fire as Cyrus began.

“First off, your names?” he said as he really never knew whom these two where. Apprentices were simply thrust upon a Marksman by the Executive, if one wished to be a tutor, and by then they were already marked to silence.

“Mik” the former One said.

“And I’m Sim” the former Two added.

“Sim?” Cyrus questioned to the shorter of the two men “Did you know you have the same name of an Executive”

“Actually,” he answered “he’s my father” Cyrus was floored at the revelation, and the irony behind it. He lowered his head and chuckled to himself. Sim said nothing and looked to him a confused continence.

“It’s natural, isn’t it?” he said.

Cyrus waived his hand dismissively and then answered him.

“Of course it is, my father was a Marksman, it’s just who your father is in relation to the reason were here” he said with a chuckle and continued “Your both Marksman now so the following choice is obviously yours, and yours alone. I told you we were going on a hunt, but I didn’t tell you what were hunting. Or should I say, what I’m now hunting, it’s up to you if you want to join me. You see, I’m hunting a Sentient and your father put a death sentence on me for doing it” he finished as he looked to Sim. Sim said nothing as he knew the immediate implication of his former teachers words: Only Marksman carried out death orders on other Marksman.

“First,” Sim began “though the old man may be my father, it’s not my concern at the moment to kill you. They no nothing of you elevating us to Marksman, so neither of us have been asked to hunt you, right Mik?”

“That’s true” he agreed.

“But when we return Cyrus…” he warned.

“Neither of you would be a proper Marksman, without taking on that duty if it’s asked of you; I taught you better than that” he said to them.

“Yes, you did” Mik said ending that conversation “Now, what about this Sentient” he began.

“Yes” Sim interjected “we killed them all over a hundred years ago”

“That’s what I thought also” he began to explain “but we had a reminder from the past suddenly show up this morning, I know your familiar with the legendary Seth”

“Mik?” Sim interrupted “your turn” he said with a grin as Cyrus grew momentarily confused.

“I’m quite familiar with him” he said, “he was my grandfather”

Cyrus was floored for the second time in the last few minutes. This is just to co-incidental!, he thought to himself as he looked at Mik.

“Your grandfather?” he said to him “I can’t believe it”

“Well believe it” he said.

“Mik” he began “Your grandfather showed up in the city early this morning” he simply told him. Mik looked at him, he himself now confused.

“Impossible, he’d have to be over a hundred and fifty years old” he incredibly stated.

“Some how it was possible, and believe me, he looked over a hundred and fifty years old”

“He’s actually alive?” Sim asked. Cyrus shook his no and went on to explain.

“He gave up his weapon to me” he said, and they both immediately understood Seth’s end. “But before that, he told us about the Sentient in the south and the witch’s coven that lives with it, which is why were here” he finished.

“Okay” Sim said “Then why did my father give the order for your head if Seth wanted you to find it?”

“Because he and the rest of the Executive knew of it, and they kept it to themselves; they didn’t want to deal with it. The Governor himself gave me the order to go south and find out the truth, but he decided he would go to the Governor and tell him there little secret; they don’t want me stirring the pot I guess” he finished with a grin.

“That’s ridiculous” Mik stated “We’re Marksman, it’s in us to hunt”

“I certainly did teach you well didn’t I” he said with a smile.

“You did Cyrus, and we both want thank you for it” Sim said. Cyrus slightly bowed his head in recognition, and began again.

“So here’s your choice” he started “You can both return North as Marksman. If you choose to do so, go to Sim senior and say to him ‘always one more’ and he’ll know by those words that I’ve elevated you. It’s the Marksman word and one that only we know of, and one that will always remain a secret.  Or you can join me in the hunt and live by those same words, and act as a true Marksman. I have no control of you anymore, it’s your call” he finished, awaiting a reply. They took a moment to contemplate his offer, and they both looked at one another and knew the answer.

“Always one more” Mik said.

“Always one more” Sim reiterated.

“Good, because I don’t want either one you hunting me as you know they’ll send the both of you out” he said.

“A couple of minutes as true Marksman, and we already have a death mark” Mik said with a slight laugh.

“They don’t know, remember” Cyrus shrugged “but if they did…” he finished with grin. “I have a question for you Sim” he continued “well many questions for both of you, since I don’t really know you, only your abilities, but how does your father have such a young son?” he asked as he stirred the embers in the fire and reached over for fresh wood.

“His concubine” he simply answered.

“Never knew he had one, doesn’t surprise me though” he simply said.

“Your father was Carwin, wasn’t he?” Mik asked.

“The one and only” he answered.

“Who did you apprentice under? We never could find that out” he asked.

“Darwin, the one on the Executive, I was his Two and Minos his One” he again answered the question.

“That makes sense now” Sim said in understanding. Minos was one of their instructors, so therefore no questions were ever allowed. To become a Marksman, one followed a blind path, a path that eventually led up to the moment they were now experiencing.

“So what of this Sentient” Sim asked.

“We find it, we kill it” he said, not exposing Seth’s warning about it. “It’s just a cat”

“Only one?”

“So far anyway, and a coven of course” he answered.

“That’s where the issue may be, Cyrus” Mik said to him.

“I agree with you there, so we have to be very careful. We’ve been taught how dangerous they can be, especially the Protectors that go with them, but according to Sim senior, the Executive knows of them and they pose no threat to us as they once did. 

Let’s face it, it amazing the Covens never took over the North during the Holy War, we know how close they came, the Governors of the past would never admit it, but we knew” he said, as all three had been taught the truth. “They fought an unconventional fight, and it was only because there relatively small numbers they had, that prevented them from destroying all of us, but it was us, and only us, who stopped them” he finished, pointing out the truth.

“We steer clear of any Coven?” Sim said in discussion.

“I think that’s best” Cyrus said “there’s only three of us, and if we have a full coven to deal with, that’s thirteen, with in turn gives thirteen Protectors. Not good odds, if they still practice as they used to”

“And that we have no way of knowing” Mik added.

“But the other side of that is the fact they’ve never fought against us, so they don’t know what were capable of” Sim said.

“Well let’s flip that around” Cyrus began “We’ve never fought them, and we’ve never hunted a Sentient before. We don’t know what were in for” he was saying as he interrupted by Mik.

“Were going to find out regardless” he said and they all nodded in agreement.

Cyrus looked into his protégés, now Marksman, and felt a sense of accomplishment. He believed they may  be the ones to eventually kill the last Sentient and perhaps himself also, and he felt honored at the prospect of one of them full-filling there duties in his own death: He taught them.

“Kill some we will” Cyrus said “perhaps many” he finished with a smile.

“Perhaps” Sim simply said “Perhaps” he now finished the conversation with an unsaid fresh warning that only a marksman could iterate.













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