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Devil's Advocate: Catalyst
It was a cold night in the midst of a war, where blood shed as frequently as liquor across the cobblestone streets. Midnight sounded across the city, haunting, final. No one knew what could happen. No one knew the risks of venturing outside. No one knew just how haunting the bell that night was. Tolling, tolling on like a moan from the underworld. But I knew. I knew very well what dangers were out in the darkness but even more so the dangers that would approach this country in the light of day. It wasn’t necessarily their fault that King Dietrich had a bone to pick with King Phillip X. They were all just caught up in royalty’s war; and me? Well I guess you could call me the Catalyst. I once had a name given to me by a father and mother but that was torn away long ago. This isn’t about me, though. It’s about the war behind the war and all the innocent people entwined in its darkness.
The town’s favorite brothel was less crowded than usual tonight. The bartender could tell and I could tell that he could by the way he kept scanning the room, forlorn. I couldn’t blame him. These days business wasn’t going well now that the city couldn’t trade with Shyan any longer. I wasn’t at this God forsaken place without my reasons though. I had a meeting with a special someone and that someone was late. I can’t stay in one place for too long because I’ll start getting antsy. I have to be doing something, heading somewhere. I can’t sit around and “go with the flow” but I need a plan and I need to carry it out; and time was not on anyone’s side.
I had the cup of wine touching my trembling lips, when the door swung open with a thunk! It was a man in a cloak and boots, a big fellow with a thick brown beard. His eyes were wild and panicked. The sound of thunder followed his abrupt entrance and lit up his face.
“Da**, Bret, I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour! Where were you?!” I demanded, slamming the cup back onto the freshly cleaned bar counter. Some of the liquid spilled but I ignored it. This idiot had kept me waiting and I wanted a good reason.
“It’s Mother Maryl!” Bret shivered, eyes shooting past me to glance at the bar tender. “Come with me.”
I warily follow him out into the streets, cloak fluttering behind me as the wind picked up. Most houses were dark. It was late and everyone was paranoid. A couple of birds burst into the night sky and fly over our heads as Bret led me through town in a desperate run. His barrel chest heaved and I guessed he must have run to get me. What kind of emergency could it have been? “Is she dead?!” I huffed as I ran by his side. Our shoes clomped against the rough streets as the sky began to pour a shower of rain on us. “Was it one of Argon’s men out for revenge against the Shira Priesthood?! Was it Ellidr Steel?”
“Quick, we have to meet up with him!”
“Who?!” I demanded. It would be nice to get some answers after you’ve suddenly been pulled away from your drink.
“Ellidr!” he answered quickly.
“But did Ellidr kill her?!”
“I don’t think so. I think he’s been framed by the Priesthood!” Bret huffed and began to slow down to a jog.
“Why’s that? Why would the Priesthood kill one of their own? I mean, it gets more people to hate our brotherhood of assassins but…”
“Because they must be squirming in their seats,” Bret panted and finally came to a stop to catch his breath. I took us to an unlit corner and let him recover. Naturally, I scanned each building in my line of sight to figure out possible escape routes if they were needed. It was something engrained into your instinct after spending your life training to be an assassin.
“They’ve got something to hide. Y’know what I think it is?”
“No. What do you think?” I asked seriously.
“They’ve got themselves a Devil’s Advocate.”
The words struck me like the thunder clasping overhead. I couldn’t feel the cold rain pelting down on me. All I could feel was dread. Every hundred years or so, a child is born that is special. I don’t mean intellectually or athletically special though. I mean an inhuman, magically cursed special and the Shira Priesthood always find him. Him: meaning that the children are usually boys. Hardly anyone knows of the true purpose of what the Devil’s Advocate role carries out from within the confines of the temple walls. But we assassins know. It was Ellidr Steel, our most achieved brother in arms, who was able to decipher which women could bare a potential Advocate; and it was his job to kill them.
Thinking about it gave me the shivers. Our jobs were just as dirty as any murderer but it was for the good of the people. At least, that’s what our masters taught us. Ellidr always rebelled and went alone, randomly popping in to save our a**es…or kick them. Bret and I knew that Alexander, one of our council members, was trying to get rid of Ellidr and Cailean, who was his only friend.
But now there was a new Advocate, once again in Shira’s possession. Things couldn’t get any worse. Or at least, that’s what I thought before there was a knife pressing against my neck. I froze. It was a knife similar to one of mine. My eyes calmly stared at the man who supposedly had m y life in his hands. “Ellidr Steel…Long time no see…” My voice was drowned out by the rain. To my right, Bret was al ready on the ground unconscious. How had I not noticed that?
“There’s a new Devil’s Advocate. Rumor has it his name’s Ishmael and he’s only twelve…”
“You think we killed Maryl?” I challenged as I gazed into his grey, basilisk like eyes. They were as cold and deadly as the blade at my neck. He always meant business.
“No,” Ellidr admitted. “But Alexander’s been sending more of you each week to kill me off. I don’t care if I have to take care of this alone.”
“That’s a stupid move. Even if it’s not us that’ll help you, you need help.”
“Who the he** do you think killed the last Advocate?” he growled.
I respected the man as an expert assassin but otherwise, his morals didn’t match mine, if you can say that an assassin can have morals period.
“I know you did. Don’t brag,” I returned the threatening tone in kind. “Kill me if you want to, but I’m here to help. Bret came to me saying Maryl was killed and for a second I thought it might’ve been you. But then Bret said that it could be some of the people in the Priesthood. If that’s true, then we’ll have more to deal with than just the frontal war between the kings. You know that.”
For a long time we simply stared at each other as if competing who was stronger through our eyes. Neither of us was backing down. We were raised by the same people in general. At last, Ellidr lowered the blade and sheathed it within the shadows of his cloak. “We’ve got even more than that. The Advocate isn’t just chosen and tested….The King’s Sanctus Philosiphorum has been stolen.”
“Did you--?” I began but he nodded.
“I have nothing to do with that. I think one of King Phillip’s spies got to it.”
“Past all that guard?” I arched a doubtful eyebrow.
Ellidr shrugged carelessly. “I’ve done it before a few times. It doesn’t surprise me that much that another person can pull it off.”
Bragging again, huh? I sighed and looked up at the full moon. Was it cursing all of us? Two wars, a Devil’s Advocate, and a stolen ancient artifact? I was beginning to doubt that I would survive much longer…