Tomas held the knife up to the light.
It was beautiful, made with such precision and care. It had survived so many fights, already too many. It bore a few scratches now, nicks in the blade, but he knew that at its core it was the same as when he had first received it.
It was not like him.
He bore nicks and scratches now, yes. But he was not the same.
He had changed in some indefinable way.
His core burned now. Burned with a fiery rage, burned with the desire to right the wrong against his family. He would defeat those who had thought to use him as a tool.
He would see that they were destroyed, crushed, buried deep in an unmarked grave.
They would die.
Hiros was only the first step, Hiros and Faron Rek.
He sheathed the knife and sat down at the small desk. Paper ready he pulled out the Sigiled pen and entered the State.
The pen flared to life and he began to compose a letter home.
It warned of the plot, and told of his plans and what he had already done.
He told all that he knew, left out nothing, but spared the details. They did not need to know what had been done to the captives, they did not need to know that he planned to betray Laerian should the need arise. They did not need to know that should the need arise he was prepared to die.
Tomas blinked and looked up at the window.
He still feared death, the loss of his loved ones. But he was committed now. He would be hurt, he would experience pain, he might even die, but he had committed himself. This goal, this cause, would not be abandoned. He would not let it fall by the wayside. He would not let his fears, or Laerian’s past, stop them from saving the Islands.
He would succeed, or he would die trying.
He signed the letter, and pulled out another paper. He had a few more copies of it to write before the day was through.
Laerian stood atop the inn. It was easy to get up there, even without his scarves. The scaffolding made it easy to get anywhere in this city quickly enough.
He was known here, apparently. He was known in both his guises, the street magician and the Red Scarf, the avenging vigilante.
He knew that there were bards tales about him. He knew that everyone knew the Red Scarf, that everyone wondered who the mysterious figure was.
He knew that the Red Scarf was, by many, hated and feared.
Laerian looked west at the setting sun. It burned bright, hurting his eyes, but he still stared at it.
It was beautiful, and dangerous, intense and bright. It gave hope but could deal death just as easily.
That was what the Red Scarf was to others.
He had not heard the rumours nor the songs before today.
He had not heard the name Red Scarf before today.
But apparently Belnar had missed its masked man enough to give him songs. He had become famous and feared all at once, without even trying.
He had not even done very much. He’d saved Tomas from the dockworkers when he first arrived. He’d taken out part of a group of bandits on the way out of town. He’d done a few other things, saved those who were being mugged or beaten up.
But he really had not done enough to justify the songs about him.
Apparently when he was leaving someone had seen him.
He was going on some quest now, some epic quest to save the city from the bandits out there.
Or, the bandits had only gotten in his way and he needed to save a beautiful woman from an evil plot.
Or, he was chasing down the murderous Free Lord, a man with an eyepatch and horrible scars.
That last one had him worried.
If the bards were already singing of Tomas and his villainy, if not of the specific crime, then they had less time than he had hoped for.
They needed to hurry.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. By the time he opened his eyes again the sun had finished setting.
They had a boat to catch early in the morning.
It was time to sleep.
Hiros stepped through the far gate of the wall.
And into the inner city.
It fell away below him, bright lights in the darkness of the caverns below the mountain. Down, down, level after level of city carved into the cliffs on the far side of the cavern.
Of course it was on the far side of the cavern, and there was only one way to cross. Leaning out a bit he could see the network of bridges and crossings below suspended between this cliff and the other side.
“Do you know your way through the caves as well?”
“Yes. Lets go”
Once past the wall one had to find their way through a network of twisting caverns and tunnels. Lots of the tunnels brought you to bridges across. But some of those bridges didn’t actually lead anywhere, and some of the tunnels would suddenly slope, drop out from under you, and throw you down into the bottom of the cavern, a sure death if there ever was one.
“Lets go then”
The trek was long but finally the two emerged onto a stony ledge. The posts for a bridge sat at the edge, and ahead the lights of the den of villains glittered in the darkness of the cavern. The assassin carried a torch as he set out across the bridge.
“Sure this bridge is safe?”
“Ok, ok, just checking”
Hiros tested it first, then stepped onto it.
It didn’t break.
Setting off after the assassin he looked up. Above, at the top of the city, a large structure glowed. It was not visible from the top of the cliff on this side, and could best be seen from down here. It was supposed to impress everyone crossing into the Inner City. The Blood Red King’s palace.
Soon, if everything went to plan, Hiros would be up there looking down on the city.
Of course, if things did not go according to plan he would be dead, and the assassins would need to find a new pawn.
Such were the risks of the business.
“Are we going to go right away? Like, we waiting for anything, or are we just going to go up there, fight the guards, and then install me on the throne? Because I think it’d be better if we took some time to figure out the lay of the land, make sure that we know-”
“We’re acting tonight. We’re going to wait long enough for everything to be in place, and then we issue the challenge”
“So…how will we know when everything is in place?”
“He’ll tell me. You just need to look fearsome until then, but keep your intentions quiet. It would not do to have you assassinated before we can begin the plan. Understand?”
Hiros frowned as the pair continued across the bridge. He truly had no more say in his life.
And worse, he still did not know why they wanted him as the Blood Red King. He was to take control for some nebulous reason which had not yet been revealed to him.
And the assassin had brought along the pens.
Whatever their plans were they were perhaps coming to fruition.
That scared him. It scared him more than he cared to admit, that the likes of Natasi and the assins were getting what they wanted, that they were finally forging their new world.
And Hiros could only pray that in the new world he would remain necessary, and remain free.