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The night air was hot and thick, the rain coming down in torrents, creating thick suffocating sheets and isolation. Not many dared to venture out into this unyielding storm, and those who did soon ran back into the safety of shelter. In The Quay, the red light district of the city, many of them took refuge inside the taverns that dotted the streets. On the very edge of the water front stood a tavern built on wooden stilts to keep it safe from the every changing water level. Very few had ventured into it and those who had quietly talked amongst themselves, ignoring those around them. Two men sat in the chairs that faced the rest of the room, and kept their backs towards the thin walls. One was a burly, heavily built with a bald head and a nasty scar running across his face. He had no weapons and only wore plain clothes with leather boots. The other didn’t have as heavy a build but his shoulders were broad and his muscles were well developed. He wore thicker clothing, and some armor, though he covered his eyes and most of his face. However what was seen of his face bore distinctive tattoos, and one arm disappeared into a massive metal clawed hand. A blade handle was tucked into his belt, but the blade itself was missing.
“I’ve heard quite a bit about you, and all of it has been quite mixed. Now I’m only in this piss hole of a place because my employer has taken an interest in you.”
The man stopped talking, waiting for the hooded one to answer him. Instead something could be seen moving, winding and coiling, underneath his clothes. Its head came out from under the hood, and emerged a snake. The coils of its body could be seen around the man’s neck, though the man seemed unfazed by it. It raised its head and its hood puffed out, a crystal cobra. The scales covering its body glistened in the dim light, and its eyes glowed like sapphires. The forked tongue flickered in and out.
“I am the voice for thiss one, and I should warn you that it iss not a smart idea to take an interest in him. Now what is your name sir?”
“Colbalt, and what shall I call you?”
He seemed wary of the snake, though he tried not to show it.
“My name cannot be said in your clumsy human tongue, and he doess not have one. Your employer can call him what they would prefer, though he hass only one condition, it iss appropriate.”
“I see, though my employer has asked if it is possible to discuses this with you in person, if that is not against your rules or beliefs.”
The hooded man tilted his head, and the cobra’s tongue flicked in and out again. He looked at the deadly animal on his shoulder and nodded.
“He hass agreed to this, and we shall be there in one dayss time. Understood?”
“I will let them know.”
He watched as the man picked up the glass from the table and drank some of its contents, and the cobra retreats back under the man’s clothes. Realizing that this meeting was over he stood up and left the man and his snake. Colbalt quickly ventured back out into the continuous downpour. The hooded man left soon after, disappearing into the storm.
Colbalt strolled into his employer’s study, soaked thoroughly from the rain. His employer was a wealthy noble known as Lord Daveth, an important member of the upper social society, known as the “Slaughter Son.”
“What do you have for me?”
His voice was cool and collected, planned and precise.
“I’ve got him coming here tomorrow, but I should warn you about him.”
Lord Daveth turned away from the window and raging storm to face the shivering man standing in the middle of the room.
“And that would be?”
“He’s mute, but he’s got a crystal cobra that speaks for him.”
“A crystal cobra? He’s got a talking snake?”
Colbalt shifted nervously under the Lord’s fierce gaze.
“I think it’s some form of Talent, besides people know he has very powerful and unnatural abilities.”
Daveth turned back to the window.
“Why haven’t you used a name for him yet?”
“The snake says he doesn’t have one. You can call him what you like.”
“Then we prepare for his arrival.”
Colbalt bowed and left.
The sun did not rise that morning as the storm was still blocking out the sky. Many of the orphan children were running around in the streets, searching the bodies of the drunks who passed out on their way home and drowned in the gutters. Some merchants were still able to set up the goods in their stalls without the flood water being able to damage anything. The hooded man walked along streets, carefully avoiding the rotting garbage and the sewage. A fish mongrel shouted profanities at her sulking husband, silently waiting for her to finish her enraged ranting. Dogs fought over scraps of decaying meat in the back allies, killing each other in brawls. Near the gates to the nobles’ homes heavily armed guards stood ever vigilant, all trained with the abilities of Talent. These massive gates stood 10 meters, whiter than bone, and stronger than any metal. The hooded man slipped into the shadows, using the storm as a shield, and scaled the walls with ease. He knew who Colbalt’s employer was the Slaughter Son, Lord Daveth, a very valuable member of upper class society. Keeping to the back alleys he stayed away from the sight of others. Daveth had only awakened a few moments when he slipped into his study, startling him and making him drop the warm cup in his hands. A crystal cobra appeared from under the man’s clothes, focusing on Lord Daveth with it piercing eyes.
“You are Lord Daveth, yess?”
Its voice was slick, but powerful, drawing you in, making you listen to its words.
“And you have summoned thiss one to speak with?”
Daveth collected himself, and picked up the dropped glass.
“Then he iss here to listen to your proposal Slaughter Son.”
Daveth straightened his posture at the use of the unofficial title.
“I have the need for certain information about my brother.”
The words left his lips in a near hiss, and the cobra chuckled softly.
“If you wished for him to kill your brother, you could have simply asked.”
“I do not wish my brother dead, I wish to expose him. I know he was responsible for our parent’s death, not me, but I cannot prove it. If you could find the information then my name would be cleared and his soiled.”
A humming noise came from the hooded man, a sound of approval. He sifted and stretched his shoulder and Daveth realized how much larger he was than him. Daveth was not a small man, but the other radiated power and confidence.
“A more public form of death, a way to kill him without touching him. Thiss is a very calculated plan you have created.”
A maid knocked on the door, clutching a tray with a pot of tea. Waving her in, she hastily placed the tray on the massive wooden desk, curtsying to Daveth and the other before leaving.
“Am I able to persuade you to do this, or have you decided against it?”
The hooded man nodded to the cobra who flicked its tongue.
“He hass agreed to thiss contract of yours.”
Daveth nodded as he poured himself another cup of the hot spiced tea.
“Your payment will be given to you when I have the information I need.”
“Thiss one wonders if you are going to be calling him something.”
“You will be my brother’s demise, you will prove my dominance, you will be my retribution, you will be my integrity and so you have become my Guardian.”
Daveth’s new “Guardian” grinned, exposing brilliant white teeth.
“He iss pleased with thiss, as he hass been called many trivial namess, none with as much meaning and justification behind it.”
The cobra laid its head down on the man’s shoulder, resting itself. Daveth sipped the tea, not knowing if something else was going to be said.
“Your Guardian iss going to meet you in you trust in him with placing hiss trust in you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Thiss one wears a hood to help keep himself hidden.”
Before Daveth was able to say anything else Guardian raised his hands and slipped his hood off. The tattoos did not cover anymore of his face, but features even more stunning were exposed. His skin was a soft brown, hair just as handsome, though his eyes were what you couldn’t help but stare at. They were a soft gold, and it almost looked like smoke was emitting from them. He was speechless, frozen where he stood. A thin smile continued to grace the lips of Guardian, teeth slightly exposed.
“I-I have a lead for you.” Daveth stammered.
The cobra raised its head again.
“What would it be?”
“My brother’s personal bodyguard was with him night he killed my parents. If anyone would have any evidence it would be him.”
Guardian bowed to Daveth, slipped his hood back on as the cobra disappeared underneath his clothes, and he jumped out the window. Daveth sipped the spiced tea that was rapidly cooling in the cup, sitting down at his desk to start the day. The rain still came down in a violent torrent, keeping Guardian hidden form curious eyes. He slipped in between the many people, taking the busy streets to help him quietly slip into the palace’s guard’s quarters. Getting the information that he needed would be nothing more than making a few simple threats and brief display of his abilities.
King Basen sat at his throne in the Royal Court, listening to generals of his armies argue amongst them about the best way to invade a nearby country. His lovely queen sat next to him, watching the pointless squabbling.
“Milord, what would you say would be the best plan of attack?” one general inquired.
His straightened in his seat, taking in a deep breath before speaking.
“I believe a diplomatic approach would be best. Gain their trust, see what they have to offer, discover all of their weaknesses and if they have anything of value then invade them.”
The court let out a small amount of laughter, and agreed that this was the best option. Basen motion to his bodyguard, Garison, who leaned forward to listen to what the King had to say.
“I am going to retire for the afternoon, all this talk of war has tired me. But I need you to go and inspect the new recruits. I can’t have any with serious problems, now can I.”
“Of course Milord. It will be done.”
The king stood up with his queen, dismissing everyone before leaving for his private quarters. Garison walked through the palace’s lavished hallways, not stopping to flirt with the serving maids, or one of the many princesses visiting the Kingdom for strictly diplomatic reasons. He was a busy man who had many things he needed to do. So he spent his afternoon filtering through the newly recruited boys, and oversaw part of the train. He didn’t eat supper with the rest of his men; he merely went to his quarters to rest awhile. After removing his armor he caught a glimpse of something slithering under his bed. Garison bent down to see what it was when a metal clawed hand wrapped around his arm, pulling him up and throwing him to the floor a few feet away. He didn’t dare move a muscle, swallowing hard as he looked up to his captor. A cobra came out from under the bed and curled itself around the other man’s free arm.
“Who are you?” He hissed between gritted teeth.
“That iss not important. What iss though iss the king and queen’ss murder.” The cobra’s tongue flickered in and out.
“Everyone knows what happened to them. Their son Daveth killed them in cold blood.”
“He did not and we know it, so should you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Panic filled Garison’s eyes.
“Stop lying and cooperate with uss and no harm will come to you. We only need answerss not livess.”
The metal claw’s gripped tightened around his arm, points digging into his skin. Garison howled in pain, trying to pull his arm away.
“We will not ask you again, what happened to the king and queen?”
Garison looked around franticly, eyes wide in horror, and searching for a way out. The claw tightened some more, enough to start drawing some blood.
“Okay, okay, okay! I tell you! Basen did it! He killed the king and queen! He wanted the throne before Daveth! He wanted to be king before Daveth!” Garison screamed.
“How can we tell that you are not lying to uss?”
“His Queen was there, and so was I and a few other guards. The queen was going to marry Daveth, she loved him. She’ll spread word of Basen’s treachery, and I can convince the others to as well. Please, I beg you, let me go.” he sobbed the confession.
The metal claw let go of his arm, which he grasped and held close to his body.
“Thank you for your time.” The voice mocked him in its cold tone.
And Garison watch as Guardian disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. He scampered into the hallway to tell the others what they must do.
That night it had continued to rain, endless streams of water pouring out form the sky. At dawn when Daveth had awoken it still pelted his window in a rhythmic beat. He waited in his study for sometime before the Guardian arrived, soaked to the very bone. He removed his hood almost immediately this time.
“Have you any news for me?”
The cobra poked out from under the collar.
“The personal bodyguard and the others involved are going to admit the king’ss treachery, and clear you name Lord Daveth.”
Daveth blinked in disbelief.
“You did it that quickly?”
“Thiss one iss very persuasive.”
“Well them is seems I must pay you now.”
He pushed a box towards Guardian, who picked it up and placed it in one of his pockets.
“We thank you for your businessess.”
“And I thank you for your assistance.”
Guardian started to walk away before turning around.
“You know Lord Daveth, you remind thiss on of a friend he had before he made his vows.”
Daveth smiled at the comment despite trying not to.
“Well if I am ever in need of assistance again I will make sure to call you.”
The Guardian smiled and slipped back into the rain, which had finally started to let up.