The Deadliest Weapon

August 9, 2017
Prologue

Rain hammered down on the roof, snare drummers pounding out their cadence. Midnight cloaked the land in a black dress. The moon hid her face behind the clouds and left the terrain in shadows. Puddles swelled at the side of the cobblestone road.

Way Stone stood statuelike in the rain. His hood was pulled over his head, covering his black hair. His eyes were fixed on a single villa, where the princes of Sarenzenith were staying. Triplets, two identical and one original. Bayllefire, Eldari, Caecilius. They held so much power, more than they would ever understand. Five years old and more feared than a thousand armies. They would take their father's place, one of them would become Magic Keeper. One of them would hold the weight of the world. All he had to do was kill two and take one.

A hand gripped his arm and he pulled his eyes away from the villa. Even before he looked he knew it was Kitiara. She was helping him take one of the princes. Black hair fell around her ivory face in slight curls and eyes just as dark as her hair sought his sternly. She wore trousers and a tunic, the garb of a man, yet she wore her hair loose to show she was a woman. Society be darned if they thought a woman to be useless.

"Are you ready, Stone?" she asked.

He gave no answer. He was about to tear away a boy from his family and kill his brothers. Guilt weighed his heart heavily, but he strode forward. He couldn't turn back now.

The darkness fell around them as they made their way through the night. They would feign traveling and enter the house, then threaten one of the princes at knifepoint. Kill his brothers, maybe the babysitter, and leave. Simple as that. Stealing candy from a baby would be easy, and so would stealing a baby.

Way raised a hand to the door and rapped his knuckles to the wood sharply. They heard movement inside and light spilled out into the night as it opened. A fat lady stood on the other side, wearing a simple blue nightdress with her mouse brown hair pulled into a bun on her head. A friend of Taranath, trusted enough to take care of the children while the Magic Keeper and his wife were away on business.

"What do you want?" she demanded. She didn't trust them. So she wasn't as stupid as they thought.

"My wife and I were traveling and we could find no other place to stay," Way said. "We don't mean to impose, but would you be kind enough to provide us shelter from the storm?"

She pursed her lips. "Fine," she bit out reluctantly. "Only for tonight. You'll have to sleep on the couch." She bid them enter and they shed their sopping wet cloaks and boots. "You don't dress like a woman," she pointed out.

Kitiara looked at her as she hung her cloak on the rack. "It's dangerous for women to be traveling. I only dress this way for safety; it deters most attackers."

The lady nodded, but her eyes still gleamed with distrust. She would let them stay for the night, and that was all the time they needed. They would take the boy and leave by dawn. She was a fool to let them in.

"Nana, I can't sleep," a small voice complained from the doorway to a bedroom. The boy was dressed in his nightclothes, soft silk of sky blue. Dark hair stuck up on his head in tousled ringlets. In one hand he held the arm of a stuffed elephant and its plush body dragged against the ground. So young, so innocent. "Who are they?" His grey eyes, too serious for his young age, scanned Way and Kitiara and their dark clothes.

"No one you need to worry about, Bay," the lady said. "Go back to bed." Instead of heeding her advice, he walked forward and tugged on her skirt. She picked him up and balanced him on her hip. So this was Bayllefire. Eldari and Caecilius must be sleeping in their beds.

"There's still some leftovers on the counter," the lady told them. "I'm going to tuck him in and I'll be back out." She carried him towards his room, but Way pressed a knife to her back.

"Don't move," he hissed into her ear. She froze, her mouth open in a silent scream, and Bayllefire's eyes widened. "Kitiara, take the kid. I'll take care of his brothers." Kitiara took Bayllefire from her arms and held him close to her body.

"Hello, Bayllefire," she cooed. "How are you? Are you ready to see your brothers die?"

"Don't touch him!" The lady growled so fiercely Way nearly dropped his knife in surprise. He wanted to turn back, to leave her and the children. They were children! They weren't ready to die. He breathed deeply.

And plunged the knife into her back. Blood sprouted out of the wound like scarlet fountains as he ripped the blade out. Bayllefire screamed. Way shut out the noise, the fear and horror in the boy's voice. He strode into the triplet's bedroom. Eldari and Caecilius jolted upright in their beds, their eyes wide in the dark. The blood on the blade glinted as the moon peered behind the clouds to gaze at the boys.

Kitiara entered the bedroom, Bayllefire still in her arms. He struggled, kicked, screamed, but she would not let him go. Way wanted to shout at her, make her take him away. He couldn't watch this. He couldn't watch his brothers' deaths.

But he couldn't stop. He had to do this, had to finish what he started. Bayllefire screamed again as he stabbed Caecilius in the chest. His ribs snapped at the impact of the weapon and he fell dead to the floor. Eldari was next.

"Bay!" He kicked at the attacker, his feet flying madly, but Way pinned him to the bed and drew his blade across his throat. Blood gurgled as he fought for air, but it was in vain.

"Dari!" Bayllefire screamed.

Way turned to face him. Blood splattered his clothing and he looked around madly until his eyes met the boy's. He had taken away his family, slaughtered his brothers and made him watch. Made him listen to his little brother scream his name while he could do nothing to stop his death. There was no greater sin.

He would send him to Othena, the realm of elves. He would take him to the king, let him be raised there. Because after the trauma he just witnessed, he deserved the best life possible. Even though his was just destroyed.





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