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The Plagued Assassin

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

This short story was written in 2022 as part of a fundraiser for EndometriosisUK's 1in10 Challenge.



Listen well to this tale, lest you should find yourself in the path of the scourge of all Etheriankind. We who have ruled this world for ages past and ages yet to come; we who have the powers of Paradise behind us; we have but one fear - the deepest, darkest, most primal fear of all.

Woe betide any little Etherian who crosses paths with the Plagued Assassin. For he is one without mercy, who preys upon our kind with the ruthlessness of a savage and wild beast, driven insane by the recklessness of our ancestors. For any Etherian who strays too far from Paradise will suffer the full torrent of his unquenchable rage.

Our story begins in the distant past, before the days of the Great Division when all Etherians were united as one and civilisation was in its infancy. It begins with an apparently ordinary man.

Kaian, born in the Southernmost kingdom of the Mountain Kings, was once a soldier for the kingdom army under King Paresh IV, whose dynasty stretched back to the dawn of Etherian rule. But, for reasons known only to him, he retired from military duty and became a mercenary, working to defend the little people from raiders across the border.

It was during one of these self-appointed missions that the tale of the Plagued Assassin unfolds. One day, while resting in the shade of a tree a little ways from the village he was defending, Kaian was approached by kingdom soldiers. They handed him a notice, requesting his immediate return to receive an audience from King Paresh. Confused, but with little reason to disobey, Kaian accepted.

On his return to the palace, Kaian was greeted in person by King Paresh and his queen, Mahari. Kaian knelt before him and bowed his head.

“You requested my presence, your majesty,” he said.

“Welcome, Kaian, son of Kailas,” King Paresh declared. He pulled the stunned Kaian to his feet and embraced him. “You are most welcome here. Come, my friend. We have much to discuss.”

A small feast was prepared, with more food than Kaian had ever dreamed of eating. He eagerly wolfed down wild boar and honey while King Paresh made small talk.

“You have experience in protecting the little people, do you not?” he asked Kaian.

Kaian swallowed his mouthful of boar. “Yes, your majesty. I’m usually on the road, defending villages from raiders.”

“Then you have experience in dealing with savages?”

Kaian narrowed his eyes slightly and looked at his honey-covered fingers. He wiped them clean on a pristine white cloth.

“I beg your pardon, your majesty, but I don’t believe your subjects are savages if that is what you mean.”

King Paresh’s smile faded. “That is not at all what I meant. I am aware of the raiders beyond the border, those savages who loot and pillage my people. You are doing a great service in protecting them.”

“Perhaps it would be better if your army could do more to help. Mercenaries cannot be in every village at once, your majesty.”

Queen Mahari pursed her lips and made a motion to speak. King Paresh held up a hand to silence her. “I will take note of your advice,” he said, “but we have a more pressing problem on our hands, young mercenary. Are you aware of the Snatcher?”

“There are rumours, your majesty, but no children in the villages have gone missing.”

“That is because the Snatcher targets Etherian children. He strikes in the dead of night, stealthy and sly, snatching children from their beds and taking them with him. So far, we know he takes them beyond the Gates and into Paradise.”

“And what does this have to do with me?” Kaian asked.

“We need you to eradicate the Snatcher. You have tracking and combat experience. You will locate the Snatcher, kill him, and rescue the children.”

“But I am not an Etherian, your majesty,” Kaian said. “I cannot pass beyond the Gates.”

“You may not be a true Etherian, but it is true that you have Etherian blood running in your veins. Is that not so?” King Paresh smirked. “Why else would you be so proficient on the battlefield. Is that not why you turned mercenary? To hide from your true nature?”

Kaian hesitated. After a long pause, he said, “I am sorry, your majesty, but I must decline this mission. Why should I be the one to dispose of the Snatcher when many capable Etherians in your midst can safely cross into Paradise?”

King Paresh’s eyes flashed. “But what about your daughter? Does she not have Etherian blood too?”

“My … daughter …” An image of his daughter appeared in his mind, safe and well at home. “My daughter is safe,” he said.

“Not so,” King Paresh replied. “She is just as much at risk as any ordinary Etherian child. And she will remain so unless you can dispose of the Snatcher.”

“But do not worry,” he added, waving a hand at Kaian. “We intercepted her before the Snatcher could. She is safe in our care, and she will be returned to you once the deed is done. So, do we have a deal?”

With little choice but to save his daughter, Kaian agreed to the king’s demands. With his instructions given and a map to guide him, he bid farewell to the king and his queen and set off in pursuit of his prey. He journeyed through the kingdom to the foot of the tallest mountain and passed through the Gate into Paradise. True to King Paresh’s word, Kaian found he was able to survive the perils of Paradise thanks to his Etherian blood.

I could give you all the gruesome details of the events that took place in Paradise, but that is not the caution of this tale. Kaian succeeded in finding the Snatcher and slew him without hesitation. He returned triumphant with the children in tow and the Snatcher’s head in his satchel.

With the children safely reunited with their families, Kaian presented the head to King Paresh, who warmly accepted it and ordered it to be stuffed and suspended over his throne. Then came the time to close the deal.

“Your majesty, I am glad to have been of service to you,” Kaian said, “and I thank you for your generosity in keeping my daughter safe.”

“Your daughter?” King Paresh asked.

“Yes, my daughter. Pray tell me, is she well?”

King Paresh paused for a moment before recognition struck his face. He started to laugh, as did his queen. “My dear Kaian, I thank you for your dutiful service to our people. But I’m afraid your daughter does not exist.”

Kaian, confused at this revelation, pressed on. “I beg your pardon, your majesty, but there must be some mistake. You took my daughter into your care to ensure her safety. Please, tell me where she is.”

But King Paresh laughed even more. “There never was a daughter! It was an incentive, nothing more. You were so reluctant to do what was right, I had to take necessary measures to ensure your obedience.”

“Your mind was mine the moment you accepted my invitation. The power I inherited from my ancestors enables me to make you think whatever I want, whenever I want.” King Paresh’s eyes flashed. “I can make you think of pink elephants flying high in the sky. I can make you believe that two plus two equals one. I can also make you believe in a daughter that never existed. All it took was a little nudge in the right direction with a false memory. You never had a daughter, and I doubt you ever will.”

“It is tragic, it truly is,” King Paresh continued. “I never like resorting to such things, but you humans are so emotional, so malleable. Now begone from my sight. Your services are no longer needed.”

Desperate to refute the king’s words, Kaian rushed to his home. But on his return, there was no trace of his daughter. No toys stacked in the corner, no small bed close to his own, and no sign of any other living soul. His memories were so real; her smile, her long honey-coloured hair bouncing as she ran. Her mother … but there was no mother.

The true realisation of what had happened dawned on him, igniting a rage he had never felt before. A savage, untamed beast reared its head for the first time since his slaughtering years in the kingdom army.

And so it was the following morning that staff at the palace awoke to find the king and queen dead in their blood-soaked bed-chamber, their throats slit so deeply that they showed glimmers of white bone.

Thus began the crusade. First King Paresh IV and Queen Mahari, then their Etherian courtiers. One by one they were slain, some in their beds, some at the privy, some while strolling through their private grounds. All had their throats sliced wide open, and all had the same inscription daubed on the walls in their blood.

The kingdom collapsed and folded into the neighbouring territories. It was then that the culprit moved on to other targets. Across the world, all those who had been wronged by Etherian greed and abuse of power were avenged. The Plagued Assassin, as he came to be known, struck whenever and wherever he pleased. In his aching grief for the daughter he never had, he was transformed into a ruthless and savage killer. Nothing and no one could stop him in his crusade.

And so, reader and listener, heed my warning. Stray too far from the path of Paradise, step too deep into the world of greed and power, and you might just fall prey to our greatest nemesis: the Plagued Assassin.


 

© Lucinda Elizabeth | 2022

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