Nightfall (Complete)

Final compilation of the short story about Nilassa. Enjoy!

Nilassa pulled her hood over her head as she strode down the street. There was no need to conceal her face, as there was no one nearby but her, yet arrogance led to death. Stick to the basics – that was the key to surviving in her line of work.

The description she’d received for tonight’s chosen had been vague, more so than usual. Her target was supposed to be staying at a local tavern, carrying some kind of odd-shaped weapon and wearing a moth-eaten cloak. That wasn’t much to go on, considering the description applied to basically every lone wanderer in the kingdom.

However, The Night Mother had assured her she wouldn’t be able to mistake the target for anyone else. Whatever that meant, she didn’t know. Yet she had left with no further questions. Asking questions lead to… inconveniences – and you didn’t want inconveniences.

She slipped down an even darker alley, ending up outside a run-down tavern. The Whipping Taskmaster, the sign said. Tasteful.
There were voices and singing coming from inside, and the small windows shared some of their warm, inviting light with the street outside.
Nilassa took a deep breath, and stepped through the door.

Even though the tavern had reminded her of her uncle’s old shack from the outside, it had – luckily – none of the rats or the cobwebs inside.

The room was bustling with the type of noise you’d expect from your everyday Nihillian Tavern: drunkards cheering, prostitutes seducing innocent boys barely of age, and bone-headed fighters trying to start trouble.

When Nilassa had been nothing more than a runt of the Night she – like most of the others – had imagined it would be difficult to commit murder in a place like this. Yet, as she had soon learned, the opposite held more true. While the liveliness of a tavern admittedly did make it harder to sneak around, it also made it easier to stab someone in the back and leave before anyone noticed. People where usually too drunk, or too interested getting inside some dim-witted virgin’s pants, to notice someone being murdered right under their noses. At least when the murderer was one of the Night Mother’s.

Nilassa walked straight up to the tavern’s serving counter, snapping her fingers.

“A jug of your finest wine, and don’t let it be that horse-piss you call Nihillian’s finest.”

The innkeeper, looking offended, soon reclaimed control over his expression as he saw the golden coin she slide over the counter – and responded with a smile worthy none but the deities themselves.

“Coming right up, milady.”

Luckily for her, she thought as the man readied her drink, the weather was poor outside today – and none would raise an eyebrow at her hood, even inside. Well, to be honest, not many would look at her hood twice even on a perfect day these days, what with so many odd people and criminals lurking about.

Today, every tavern in Deoryn had its own fair share of hooded folks as either guild-members, assassins or people even more malicious and wicked than the former. The common people didn’t want any part in that. She raised the mug in thanks after the innkeeper handed her the drink, and turned around.

Now, where was the bastard? She noticed the odd shiv – hidden poorly in the boots of every other moron – and even one or two daggers, but no oddly shaped weapon. Neither someone in a cloak, understandable as it was, by Deoryn, it was hot in here.

It was quite possible that she just couldn’t find him from this view, she realized, as the fat fella dancing on the round table in the middle of the room practically blocked the entire further end of the tavern. She gulped down the last of her drink, and rose to move toward the other end. As she got around the heavy dancing man, she sat down on one of the stools by the windows.

There were less people here, but still quite enough to blend in without raising suspicions – or so she thought, yet one of the visitors looked straight at her. A man wearing a ragged cloak. She instantly turned her face towards the window, pretending to study something on the outside. Deoryn’s ass! What the hell was that, Nilassa? It’s like it’s your first mission. Casually looking at the window? If the man didn’t find her suspicious before, he did now. She drew a deep breath, trying to calm herself. It didn’t matter, she told herself. Their targets never knew they had been chosen; to him, she was just another patron at the inn. A weird one, for sure, but nothing else. That was all.

After a minute or so she dared glance at him once more. The man had dived into some scrolls, lying on the table before him. If she wasn’t sure whether that man was her target before, she was now. No obvious weapon visible, but he did carry a circular object by his right hip, wrapped in some kind of intricate leather. She groaned. She hated going up against the left-handed if the mission turned into a confrontation. It just messed with her head in some way.

Anyway, a kill should never lead to a confrontation in the first place. Confrontations are to be avoided at all costs. That was the main rule when working for the Night Mother. Just go in swiftly for the kill, and escape unseen. It was supposed to be quick and easy, and it usually was. It should have been this night as well. But the problem was that this night wasn’t just another night, as she came to realize the moment the tavern maid lit up the candle standing on top of her target’s table.

Nilassa nearly fell off her stool when the man’s face uncovered. It had only been for but a moment, as he had blown out the candle as soon as the girl lit it, yet that moment had been long enough. The man had a scar over his face, a scar as thick as a finger, reaching from the top of his forehead all the way down his chin.

Let Urikal lead the Night Mother straight to hell! She had called this mission’s target unconventional. Unconventional her ass. Unconventional, Nilassa thought, would have been a guy with three hands, a shape shifter, or possibly even one of the warrior-monks of the Eastern Sea – no matter how un-likely that would have been. Unconventional, was not to kill bloody Skylar Sunkeeper himself. She was a Lady of the Night, not a freaking goddess.

She had heard the stories – everyone had. The man could split the skulls of his enemies without even lifting a finger; he could tear the flesh of a werewolf’s bones with his bare hands; not to speak of the most famous tale of the man, where he split the god damn land itself in two pieces; even children knew the story of the creation of the two great continents.

She had killed the Black Prince without even stretching a finger; she had even managed to send the Slaver of Aszhar to Urikal – even though the scar he had given her still tormented her. But by the gods, how could she kill someone like the Sunkeeper? The man was as close to a human deity one could get. She was sweating, and it wasn’t because of the heat.

She looked down at her trembling hands as a thought struck her. Had the Night Mother known as she sent her?
She could almost hear Lady Vada snort at her ignorance with that thought, even here, a hundred miles away.
Of course she had, you block-headed moron. She is the Night Mother, not some feebleminded street-rat. Anyway, none of that mattered right now; she had to decide what to do – apparently sooner than she had hoped, as her target now rose, putting his scrolls back in a leather bag, and made for the door.

Shit, shit, shit.

Well, Nilassa, either you fail the assassination and quite possibly get ripped to shreds by the Sunkeeper, or you’ll return home with a failed mission. The outcome is the same, no matter how you look at it.

Might as well try and bring down a legend.