In all of his 544 years of being, Harek had never killed a human. Being a Fairy assassin has it's perks, it's disappointments. Even great glory and legend can from it. But failure brings you even greater fame and the worst kind of grief imaginable. He was given the wrong name by a Specter, and he knew he should not have trusted this creature.
His wife, Uria, twenty children, and servants are protected under the Sideworld laws. But not everyone honors the laws.
Harek realized something was terribly wrong when the Troll in Human form did not change to reveal it's real identity, or turn to dust. The Human lay on the floor of his cottage with a huge hole in his chest, blood flowing like rapid currents of a river. Harek looked at his glowing hands that spawned the golden beam of sunlight that had cut through the man like a hot coal through snowy ground.
He took a few steps back from the body to avoid blood on his boots. He turned to the mirror which was his entrance into this world and tried to return to the Sideworld, but the portal had closed up. That was that, Harek thought. I am here until the Guild of Assassins have killed me.
No trial. The Guild did not believe in innocence or reason behind crime. Only guilt, and the guilty shall be punished by death.
Harek heard the echo of boot heels in the next room. He drew his blade from it's sheath. He tied his long blond locks into a bundle on top of his head. The symbols on the hilt of his sword told the story of his coming of age and all that had happened since the war with the Troll Alliance. He positioned himself at the door, but no one came through.
The first strike was across the back. Harek screamed, nearly fell to his knees. He turned instead to face his enemy. It was a Guk. Guks were were tall, spider-like creatures. Defending yourself against eight arms are not easy. Guks can walk through walls, an advantage Harek had forgotten about.
Harek struck to the head just as the Guk second left arm sliced through Harek's midsection. Harek touched sword of the Guk, the Guk felt a jolt to his body, fell on it's large hump on it's back. Harek swung, his blade separated two of the Guk's arms from it's body. A loud shrill cry came from it's slit of a mouth. It's large black eyes were loosing color. A white film formed around it's mouth. Harek stepped back as a long spool of venom shot past him.
Harek came down with one swift blow, the head of the Guk fell to the floor and rolled a few times before Harek stopped it with his boot. Harek reached into the dead Guk 's robes and produced a small silver case containing a mirror. Now he can get home. But not without others following him to the Fairy city of Stridle.
For killing a Human, his free roam of any mirror has been revoked. So to get back and forth between this world and the Sideworld, he'd have to use stolen mirrors. He wasn't sure where this mirror would take him, since Guks don't have an actual land or homes of their own. They find weak victims and kill them so they can move in with ease.
Harek said a prayer to the cloud Gods before he took to a new journey through the mirror. He bowed his head, both hands on the hilt of his sword, blade to the floor of the cottage. A few words in Fairy. He felt the twinge in his heart, the Human world became a swirl of blurriness. Harek felt his body transitioned between the human world and the cleft of nothing, deposited to the Sideworld.
When he opened his eyes, Harek found himself on the green hills Lyceria, the heart of Fairy country. Lyceria is wheat industry of all of Sideworld. Harek's family made their fortune on the wheat beer they produced for all the taverns in Sideworld. Harek looked around the three uneven hills and saw his beloved city below, the capitol of Lyceria. In the heart of Stridel was a castle looming over top of thousands of smaller houses with circular rooftops. In the castle was where his family were safely harbored.
The dark gray castle was bestowed upon Harek's Father, Archduke Zara, for services above and beyond to his people. In the third war between the Fairy and Troll, Zara burned down a forest of dreaming trees that the Troll wizard Kherin had bedazzled into giving off terrible nightmares to the those who lived in Stridel, paralyzing the city, opening her up to it's enemies. On his way back home for Rand R, Zara saw what was happening. He set flame to the beautiful dreaming trees outside Stridel. Thus the guards of the city defended her.
A pivotal victory for the Fairy alliance in that war.
Harek opened a pouch from his belt and swallowed three Grousen berries to heal his wounds. A Grousen, a snake like bird , lives underground and only appears above ground three times a year to lay the berries.
“You aren't going down there are you?” Harek heard a voice from above.
Harek looked up and saw a cloaked man perched in a tree limb like a bird, his head bowed. It was Specter, creatures whose magic is not significant, but has great foresight.
“What of it, Specter?” Harek untied his long blond hair, then retied it in a ponytail with the sash of his wife Uria.
“As soon as you start down that hill, another Assassin is lurking in the shadows to take your head...sell it in the markets to the highest collector. Make an example of murderer of Humans.”
“I did not mean to kill that Human,” Harek shook his fist at the Specter.
“ I'm afraid that matters little to the Assassin Guild.” The creature stirred very little in his perch, the limb bowed underneath his weight.
Harek knew very well what the Specter spoke of. Although he never participated in the hunt of Fruel the Troll that murdered three humans last moon cycle, he was hunted down in twenty-six hours and of course his head was on display for all Market Barons and Hierarchy to purchase.
“Specter, I think you should take great care for what lies next for you,” With that said, Harek laughed moments later when the Specter fell to the ground as the limb previously held him snapped in two.
The Specter dusted himself off. “I know things that can help you,” He said.
“As always, Specter, your word can be trusted, eh?” Harek began down the hill.
“Please, stop,” The Specter placed a hand on Harek's shoulder. Harek stopped. He turned to the Specter curiously. The job in the scheme of things is for the Specter not to involve themselves in the affairs of others, only advise. Something was different about this Specter. There are cases when a Specter is hired by a person to lie, stall or advise wrongly for profit. But never to physically intervene. “I beg of you, Harek, do not go down that hill. Death awaits...”
“And what of it to you, Specter? Who has passed silver to your bone-white hands?” Harek touched the hilt of his blade, drummed his fingers across it, waiting for answer.
“I am not to speak of a name...only this person needs your services. I am to take you to him. Secrecy is of the utmost importance.” The Specter let his words trail off.
Harek drew his blade and pressed it to the Specter's throat. “You will tell me his name!”
The Specter dissolved into thin air. Harek heard boots upon the ground, several in fact. He turned to meet his adversaries when he was struck across the brow with a morning glory. Six Trolls stood over top of the unconscious Fairy. The Specter reappeared
“Take him away,” The Specter said. “Kherin the Great awaits you.”
“Shut your gap, ghost man!” Fok, the General in command of the National Troll Front said. His tusks from under his upper lip lost a dribble of spit. “We don't take orders from a ghost!”
When Harek came to, he was in the court of the Troll Legion. It's King, now a fugitive from his own country for Crimes against his own kind, was the leader or chief of the rebel group National Troll Front.
Kherin was ugly, no doubt. But he was now even stranger looking than Harek remembered when he did recon for the Fairy 1st army. This small creature was now showing it's true side. A sight nearly no one knew of the Troll king. Kherin was a fat, bloated Troll, and he was an astonishingly beautiful Troll. His right side was a bug- eyed thing with jowls and a tusk from his bottom lip.
Kherin' s left side was voluptuous, albeit somewhat disproportional raven-haired beauty with a pug nose and large juicy red lips. Her long lashes seemed to be prison bars over that blotchy pale blue eye that has been said could put a Fairy in a haze long enough to subdue it.
All in all, Harek was sickened by Kherin's appearance.
“Why have you brought me here?” Harek struggled against the leather that bound his hands.
“Harek, the legendary Fairy assassin. Before my eyes,” Kherin's female and male voices intertwine, battle for control. “You are good at killing, not very smart. Isn't it obvious why you are here?”
Fok stepped forward on the crystal floor of the Troll castle. He brought the end of his morning glory across the Fairy's back. Harek fell to his knees. “Respect his Majesty, Fairy scum.”
Harek shook off the pain. He got to his feet, cleared his throat. “Please, Kherin the Great, inform me of my reasons for troubling your presence,” Harek said with a malicious smile on his face.
Kherin rose from his throne made of simple wood, a far cry from the chair that had been fashioned from pure gold. “We, as Trolls have been at war with your people for a long time, Harek. This is the third war between us.”
“A war you began thirty years time by raiding the villages to the east--”
Once again Fok took Harek down, this time by the heel of his boot in the back of the leg.
“Respect the Majesty, scum!” Fok spit a long yellow glob on Harek, landing on his cheek.
“That's enough, Fok. We are in engaged, back to your shadows.” Kherin commanded. Fok did as he was told, retired to the corner of the near bare room with four of his guards.
“What do you want from me?” Harek picked himself up.
“I want you to help me end this war, Harek. I want peace. The one that ousted me, the Troll Senate and their weasel Prime Minister Colif, want to continue shedding the blood of innocents.”
“It was YOU--”
“That goes without saying, Fairy! I want to end it! Politics and differences aside, you do wish an end to suffering of your people, do you not?”
“We are not suffering, Kherin. You Trolls are. Our land and our people will go on as they always have. We farm, we continue to pray to the Cloud Gods. We thrive.”
“Enough of this insolence! I was not going to tell you. But all of this is a great plot to have you in my services. My Specter sold you the wrong name of the Sage I wish to kill. It was on purpose. That was a real human you murdered.”
“I will avenge my good name with your blood, Troll!” Harek said through flared nostrils.
Kherin laughed, tossed his raven hair from his shoulder. “So you say, Fairy. Guards, please retrieve the prisoner. I believe Harek would like to speak to his son.”
Harek was stunned. The only member of his family not protected was his oldest son, Gilmore. He was protected by the Fairy Clergy he had joined some years back.
The Guards brought a scarred trembling Fairy dressed only in a loin cloth. He'd obviously been starved and burned multiple times. Gilmore fell to his knees, reached up to Harek. “Father,” Gilmore managed a bleak smile.
“We will kill him, if you do not do as I say. I love saying that. Almost as much as doing the deed. If your hands are not soiled by the blood of innocents, then you have failed yourself.”
Harek bowed before the Kherin. “I am in your services, Troll King.”
“Oh, happy days!” Kherin clapped his hands. “You are to take this mirror,” He handed Fok a silver case containing a mirror. Enter the Human world and kill the Sage who drew the tea leaves and persimmon that caused my outcast. Your son will be released. Back to his Temple, and worship of those silly Cloud Gods.”
“And my name?” Harek offered his hands to another guard to untie.
“I'm afraid it's the same standing with the Assassin's Guild. You killed a Human..naughty, naughty. But achieve this and your beloved son will live. Now, off you go.”
Harek was whisked away in the silver stream from the mirror. He found himself back in the same room as before, the Human he'd already killed. Harek was baffled. The old man was standing over a desk, rifling through papers. He turned to the strangely dressed small man that had his sword drawn. The old man smiled, took a puff from his pipe.
“I assume you are not here for an autograph or my latest book, are you lad?” The old man said.
“I already killed you...” Harek said.
The old man shook his head. “You killed a version of me. I am a Sage, lad. You're here on behalf of King Kherin.”
Harek nodded. He thought a second. Then said, “ Then why am I wanted for murdering a Human if I did not kill you?'
The old man sighed. “Alas, for the sake of innocents being killed, you had to be sacrificed.”
“I do not do favors for Trolls!” Harek took a step toward the old man.
The old man held up his hands. “Hold it, lad. I'm no Troll. I'm a Henning. Have you ever known a Troll to be smart enough to be a Sage? I arranged all of this to bring Kherin's downfall. In the tea leaves, I saw everything work out. Even for you, my friend.”
“If I don't bring a box containing your Lifesource, Kherin will kill my son.”
“I know. I saw that in the tea leaves.” The old man handed Harek a wooden box with the Fairy symbols for a safe passage to the land of smiles. “Give him this, it is the Lifesource of an old friend recently deceased.”
“Why should I help you and your cause?” Harek waved his blade in front of the old man's face.
“For the great good of all..Harek. It will be a long and terrible road for you...a lot to ask...I know..but in the long run, it will end this war with the Trolls and eventually Sideworld will be united.”
“For this---I will have to play the game as a wanted criminal?” Harek sighed, snatched the box from the old man.
The old man bowed his head. “Thank you, Harek, Fairy Assassin. You will be rewarded.
Harek was carried through the mirror by the silver stream. He entered the Sideworld at Kherin's castle. Only the castle was at siege by the Troll army. Troll's lay dead every turn in the castle, and Harek's son was nowhere to be found, nor King Kherin.
Harek slipped out of the castle through the kitchen, where Kherin's servants also lay dead. Outside the castle, Harek saw Fok running from three other Trolls, bleeding from the wrist where a hand once had been attached. “Serves him right,” Harek spat.
He saw the Specter at the gates of the castle, watching the skirmish. He approached him. “You said you had information for me, what was it?”
The Specter kept his eyes on the action around them. “A message from your wife.”
“She paid you to deliver a message?”
“That she did.”
“Then tell me, ghost man.”
“She assures you the family is safe, but your eldest could not be found to help with protection. You now understand why she could not find him.”
“Is he safe, ghost man?”
“That I do not know. There is more. She says, 'Travel safe, my love. I will be waiting for you when you arrive home.”
Harek wiped tears from his eyes. He missed his family, his neighbors, the Fairy festival of Life they hold every spring.
“Thank you,” He said, but then realized the Specter was gone. He was alone as a weary traveler.