a tale of the house of oak
A shot rang out. Followed by a second.
To a normal human, there is barely more than an instant between the two. To a Sherak, there is plenty of time for regret.
She faced this strange man she was told to kill and found herself conflicted. He wasn’t like the others, children who fancied themselves killers with barely a decade of killing behind their names.
This one reeked of the death of many. He was more like a Vampyr than Man. He had no regret. She could see this in his eyes. Cold, merciless, without doubt or reservation.
She was for the first time in decades filled with the anticipation… no anticipation was the wrong word, the fear of the hunt. The fear a hunter has when going after prey more dangerous than they are.
She had been hunting men for nearly two centuries. They had grown soft, fat, by using their technology. She was nostalgic for the men of previous eras, strong, hardy, distrusting, cunning. For a time there was challenge, especially when she was so young in her power.
But it had been a while since any Man could show her anything, teach her anything new, surprise her in any fashion. Mostly they died, pitiful, mewling becoming a less than satisfying snack.
Not this one. He was full of tricks. She could see his experience surrounding him, a miasma of experience and treachery. One of the gifts of the Sherak, to see men as they are, their life’s story written around them, a cloud of experience, guiding the attack of the Sherak to the most dangerous, most skilled, stopping the threats in order of preference.
And then she saw it. A flash of light while he gestured with his cane.
His treachery causes her left shoulder to explode with the force of a high velocity round from a nearby rooftop. If she had been any slower, it would have ripped right through her chest, tearing one of her hearts from her body. His smile confirmed his involvement.
He distracted her with his questions.
The second round found nothing but empty air. She disappeared, muscles bursting with speed, she stopped in the shadows behind a bus, and used it for cover.
“I trust I have your attention now, assassin.” He spoke just louder than a whisper. She could hear every word clearly.
“The Lady Ign has decided to terminate my contract. You have attempted to fulfill your duty to her. Instead I would like you to relay a message to her.”
“If I were going to relay this message, and I am not saying I will, what would that be, my target?”
“Say my name, Assassin and I will say yours. My name is Marcus Darby.”
“I am a Sherak, and we do not share our names, for names have power.”
“Then I will call you what I will then. I will name you ‘White Dress’ though I was forced to stain it.”
“It matters not what you call me Marcus Darby, for I have not stopped trying to complete my contract. What were your words for my lady?”
“Before she decided to have me killed, she asked me to remove impediments to her expansions into the lowlands outside of the center of the city proper. The men you killed were those gang leaders and their lieutenants.”
“I am effectively the power in those areas. I moved my agents into those regions and expressed strongly my desire to take over all illegal operations in those areas. There were few detractors.”
“The Lady Ign was certain you would be successful. She indicated you were capable.”
“Hence her dispatch of a Sherak instead of the shadow-jumping Boomsha. I feel so special. Let’s do this.”
Jumping to the top of the bus, she takes to the air outside of the lighting from the bus yard. She tumbles through the air before landing slashing where she saw Darby only seconds before. Her downward attack strikes nothing but empty air as she lands in the gravel. Impossible.
A glint of silver from the corner of her eye is the only indicator of the ball from Darby staff wheeling out of the darkness. Turning at the last second she manages to remove some of the force from the blow. He never stops moving after that. Strike after strike, some high, some low. A coordinated, and practiced attack and against anyone else, they would have been devastating. He was a practiced warrior. Fast, strong, ruthless.
He struck one time in three. She allowed this to gauge his strength and speed. She slowed her perception, expecting him to step away at the right moment and allow his shooters an opportunity while she was distracted.
They did not shoot. The two of them broke contact and bounded away.
She could hear his breathing and her hands and legs stung where his blows landed. He retreated into the darkness. Surely he did not expect it to protect him. We can see in the dark as easily as the day.
She twisted her foot to gain traction and sprung forward, this time on her terms. Her claws slashed out and his defense turned her attack against her, dodging and pushing her off balance. He followed with a solid kick to her hip. It would have crippled a normal man. Knocking her off-balance she was unable to complete her series of attacks and the remainder were weak, though one did tear through his long coat. He shrugged out of it, revealing his under armor, military-grade, designed for hand to hand, for speed and mobility.
His cane dropped down in front of him, both hands on it, using it as a short bo staff, he had proven to be more than adequately skilled in its use. Only one drop of sweat from his brow indicated any level of exertion, let alone a fight for his life.
Why hadn’t he had me shot from a distance? Why would he give up the advantage? Was there a message in it? Was he simply toying with me? Could Lady Ign have sent me to die?
Enough of this foolishness. No matter how much he intrigues me, I must finish this now. He retreated back to the center of the now empty bus terminal yard. He stood in the center, breathing deeply with a look on his face, the most dangerous look she had seen on the face of a man in a long time.
In our next exchange one of us will die.
House of Oak: Red Star, White Sun © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved