BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “The Duel of the Cloaks” by E.J. Tett
Paen’umbam had watched his target die and had mourned. Mourned not the death, but the fact that he had not been the killer. So, he waited for his second chance.
* * *
Decades later, bishops removed the corpse from its original resting place in Southern Gaulan to Mircea. A country skilled in necromancy. A country so skilled in the old arts that the body, once animated, would be almost as good as new.
The corpse, one Bayard Chaput, had been a renowned knight when living. A hero. A cloaked warrior, capable of bringing down the most dangerous of fiends. He had died, not by the hand of an enemy, but from a tragic accident where his horse – the largest, most fierce of all destriers, threw him from the saddle. Bayard had broken his neck.
Paen’umbam retreated. He knew that heroes didn’t just die. He knew Bayard would be back, that som
ebody, somewhere, would bring the knight back. Paen was a sicari assassin, his patience was unrivalled. He could wait.
* * *
The battle raged all night. Metal clashed against metal, men screamed and shouted and cursed. Blood, sweat and tears flowed freely. Clouds drifted across the sky and cloaked the moon and Paen watched as knights slaughtered knights across the battlefield. He slipped between warring bodies, silent and unseen, wrapped in darkness, and bent to take a taste of those already fallen. The flavour of human meat on his thin, dry tongue was something he relished. The flesh provided him not with sustenance, but with pleasure. He cared not which knight killed which knight so long as his own target survived.
Bayard was there, gore splattered and muddy. Paen could hear the knight roaring like a man possessed. Battle-crazed, dead eyes shining, his armour blood-flecked and dented. Bayard cut down everyone in his path.
He came too close. Paen smelled death and decay seeping from the knight’s every pore, he saw the grey pallor of the skin around the man’s eyes, saw his sunken cheeks and his crumbling fingernails. And he knew when Bayard spotted him.
Their eyes met, briefly. And then Paen was gone, teleporting away from the battle and slinking back into the darkness, gathering the night around himself like a cloak. He watched from a distance, hiding in the forest. Waiting.
* * *
Morning came. Paen watched men pick through the battlefield and head on into the forest. He trailed after them a while, thought about killing the stragglers and then decided against it, turning back to seek out Bayard.
The knight must be with the other army, heading back into the mountains to tell the townsfolk of his victory. Paen knew he could get there first – a simple teleportation to some shadowy place and lie in wait – but he wanted more than that. He didn’t want an easy kill. He wanted a hunt, a fight. A kill worthy of himself.
So he turned and headed back through the forest, thinking about Bayard Chaput and all the grisly ways he could end that man’s second life.
The sound of a twig snapping underfoot. Paen hissed and spun around in time to see a knight swinging a sword. The weapon skimmed the surface of his skin, slicing through the acid slime that protected him.
The knight gasped as the blade bubbled and melted. Paen laughed as the man, wide-eyed, foolishly threw the sword to the ground. Then he attacked, leaping forwards and sinking his teeth into the man’s face, pulling a chunk of flesh away from the cheekbone before tearing at it again, all the while the knight screaming, screaming…
Moving on, Paen left the corpse to rot in the forest.
* * *
The white cloak flapped at the knight’s heels as he strode through the town. From the shadows of the town-hall, Paen watched.
In taverns along the street, people revelled in their champions’ victory on the battlefield, laughing and singing and brawling nosily as humans had the habit of doing. Paen could smell ale and piss and vomit, could see men falling over one another and women clinging to each other’s arms.
The moon showed in the sky, though it was not quite dark, and as Paen watched, he saw Bayard stop and gaze upwards. Seeing his chance, he pulled the shadows around himself and then pushed the darkness outwards into the street, letting it surround the knight.
He rushed up silently behind his target, sunk his claws into the gaps in the knight’s armoured shoulders and spun the man around, ready to sink his teeth into flesh.
Bayard’s fist struck him in the jaw and sent him reeling backwards. Paen heard the sword being drawn from its scabbard and he ducked down as the blade passed over his head. As he straightened, the knight swung the sword again and this time he vanished in an explosion of darkness and reappeared at the man’s back.
A mailed fist hit his cheek, then Bayard thrust out with his sword. Paen felt the tip of the blade touch his rib cage and he curled his lip at the knight as the blade started to steam and melt. He looked into Bayard’s eyes and was surprised to see the knight smiling grimly.Quickly, Bayard spun around but Paen lashed out, catching the knight across the face with his claws. He struck again before Bayard could recover, watching as spots of dark blood arced into the air.
With a hiss, he teleported away up onto the roof of the town hall, snatched at the flagpole and ripped it from its base. Darkness billowed around him like a cape; he disappeared and once more confronted Bayard.
The knight roared, struck out with his broken blade, and Paen thrust forwards with the splintered pole, finding a gap in the armour below the man’s abdomen. Breath and blood sprayed from the knight’s lips.
Paen pulled the pole out and then, as Bayard dropped to his knees, thrust it down into the soft flesh between his neck and breastplate.
A crowd had gathered to watch, the drunken revellers now quietly sober. Paen became aware of them as Bayard Chaput dropped dead at his feet. He lifted the body and teleported back to the rooftop.
With a grin, he bit off the knight’s ear and spat it down into the street.
His eyes narrowed and he said, “Resurrect that.”
BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “The Duel of the Cloaks”, written by E.J. Tett, published by XEI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.