Salar was waiting to kill somebody. That was his job, the reason he was out here in the woods on a soggy, fog-shrouded night. The rain drifted down in misty veils, obscuring his view of the road. Occasionally, fatter drops, collecting on the leaf edges of the tree under which he sheltered, fell on his hood, spattering in his eyes. He blinked them away without regret. He preferred damp and gloomy weather. His kind of work was always easier in the dark.
He let the sounds of the wood envelope him, straining to hear the unmistakable creak of leather, the mark of his approaching target.
He released the breath he had been holding with a gentle sigh, watching it vaporize before him like a small cloud. It wasn’t just damp, it was cold. In spite of his oiled leather cloak, the wind sneaked icy tendrils between the folds, making him shiver involuntarily. He pulled the leathers closer around him, feeling the curved end of the horn bow press under his armpit. Out of habit, he patted the inner pocket of his vest where the bowstring nestled, safe and dry. Wet bowstrings wouldn’t do for tonight’s work.
Work. He grimaced at the thought of what he did for a living. Looking back at the circumstances that had brought him out on a night like this, he realized that life had brought him full circle. A long time ago, in another lifetime, he had been an imperial courier, like the man he awaited. Now he was nothing but a hired mercenary, hiding his past, killing those whose work and routines he knew so well it had become rote. He took comfort in the fact that he was good at what he did. Better than most. In his new line of work, he had dispatched nine of his former colleagues, though who was keeping count. He was living on borrowed time anyway, a traitor to the Guild of Assassins. He hoped they might think him simply killed in the line of duty but his intuition told him otherwise. The Guild was aware that he had gone rogue and there was only one way anyone left the Guild. Death.
His senses registered a subtle change in the air pressure around him. Something was approaching. Focusing his hearing he pinpointed the soft creak of saddle leather and the faintest whisper of a whinny. Destiny approached.
He extracted the bowstring from his pocket and strung his weapon in a single practiced movement. Picking out an arrow from the covered sheath at his feet he knelt, staring down the road.
His target approached, hunched over his mount, paying no attention to his surroundings.
A fatal mistake, he thought, sighting along the arrow as the figure drew alongside his position.
Then he froze. Something wasn’t right. The rider lolled in the saddle like a sack, loose and uncoordinated.
It was a sack!
Even as he started to turn, he knew he was too late. The Guild had found him.
He felt only a brief stinging sensation as the blade went in under his ribs. Then his heart exploded.
© Bryan Knower – May 2019