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Felix Epitaph

Tragedy Action Fantasy


3  

Felix Epitaph

Tragedy Action Fantasy


Perils Of The Art

Perils Of The Art

24 mins 269 24 mins 269

Her amber eyes flickered dangerously as they appraised her negotiator. If he had any wits about him, he’d just take the task lying down, but no. He had to draw attention to the fact that she was not a man, nor royalty, and that his services came at a premium to some vengeful slut who wanted to kill her husband. She took one step towards him threateningly, but he didn’t even flinch.

“I do not think you know what’s happening here, woman. I have two men up in those trees who’ll put a couple of arrows through your bunghole if you take one more step forward. If you have the coin, then pay up, or run along.” Suddenly she wished that she hadn’t been so foolish as to schedule the meeting here, in the midst of all these trees, but anonymity was paramount for her sake. Shayara strained her ears to catch anything, even a heartbeat. Then the man’s scarred face warped into a half-smile. “There is a third alternative, but I do not think you’ll much fancy it, eh lads, but a thing like that would be sufficient payment I daresay.” For a moment he howled delightfully, not realizing what had happened to even correct his expression. Before the archers could infer anything, they saw their accomplice’s devilish head lump onto the ground, like a piece of juicy meat. They released their arrows, but Shayara had unsheathed both her swords and deflected both of their attempts. Then in a flash, two glints of metal soared across the trees, and both of them fell to the ground from their perches. They hadn’t even lifted their heads by the time she pressed the cold metal of her blades onto their necks. Pure triumph coursed into her blood as she felt the veins on their skin tingle against her sword. Then she knew for sure her prey would rather obey her than die. Fear of death was oh-so-wonderful. It was how men or women in her line of work bribed others. But first, she had to make sure that they had the mettle for carrying out the task she had for them. She turned them over like loaves of bread and inspected them like a whoremonger would his whores. The way they shot the arrows was impressive and hence predictable. Choice of vantage point was also quite crafty, as they actually crept up behind her, something that rarely happened, and only if she let it. They were built stockily, and had their swords at the ready, only to relent after witnessing her in action. They’ll do nicely.

“Do I need to ask, now?” The both of them shook their heads vigorously. She dropped two ample pouches at their feet. “And don’t for a second think I won’t be able to track you down if you get any bright ideas.” After pulling her swords up, she slinked away. The men lay puzzled, but more so relieved. The bearded man then perked up, not recognizing the sense.

“You could very well kill him by yourself. Why do you need us for it?" Have they ever killed for money or a contract before?

“So you’re saying that you would prefer me killing the both of you now, and then going after his sorry arse.” That shut them up, as they up and almost ran off.

Sheathing her blades back onto her buckle, and closing her quiver with a custom-made press the cap, she swirled around. Her bow still remained though, with its silk string and all, until she folded it like a piece of clothing, another modification she’d made to travel as compact as possible. She took two steps towards the nearest tree and then launched herself towards it. Instead of crashing into the bark of the trunk, however, she bounced gracefully off it, using the force to launch up and grab the broad branch closest to her. The next moment, she was swinging between branches like a monkey, increasing her height with every sway. Soon enough, she was literally running on trees, somehow cushioning her weight every time she fell into a new canopy, and just ricocheting off again.

On a plain and uneventful day, Shayara might’ve just taken a stroll through the woods, taking deep breaths along the way. Nature was one of her only ties to the world, but today, she was on a schedule.

A few hours back, she slipped into the Bottom Of The Barrel, having trailed a few heartcoats emerging from the wrong side of town. Just a few months ago, Brumont had been whitelisted by the authorities as a place free from all the scum that had dirtied it before. This she’d picked up from the barkeep, who was her regular correspondent. But now, they’d carried the scent of inkpies when they walked in, a local delicacy that was not made anywhere outside a three-mile circle from here. Even then, she wasn’t sure about it, so she went to the storage room, and grabbed herself a spare outfit. Now, the Bottom Of The Barrel was grand enough a place that not all the servers assuredly knew each other, especially with the temperamental owner going through waitresses quicker than she went through men. But she’d predicted to get odd glances soon enough if she loitered a tad too long. Fortunately for her, the heartcoats were in a raucous mood., helped by her generous toppings of rum, and soon enough, she’d made herself their acquaintance. They sat her down and told her all about their exploits in a little town named Bru-maah, or whatever it was called, and how delicious the blueberry wine there tasted. And how they’d sniffed out the last of the scum that was hiding within, aided by a few sympathizers. They said in gruff voices, “Looks and all are fine, but you can tell by the way they smell. A rotten sort of stench, the sort you get when fish starts turning on ya. From there, the only place it goes is into the gutter, or into the ground, and we will put it there, don’t you worry. We’ll save this country from the rotting fish, ha!” And they would all start cackling disturbingly, at which point the inn guards were tempted to throw them out, not that it could be done. The heartcoats were the pride of most of Marlye, and this affection made them cocky and didn’t let unwanted attention within six feet of them. By now, she started getting jittery from the looks she was garnering, from both the men and the other servers passing by. She excused herself to fetch them another round, and as soon as she was out of eyeshot, changed her clothes, and scrambled out of the inn as quickly as she could without seeming to be in a hurry. From there, everything was a blur, as she suddenly had two items on her itinerary for the day. Ideally, she wouldn't have even beheaded the misshapen man, even for his repulsive comments, ones that had a deep imprint in her life. She was impatient today though, something that years on the job had mostly sucked out of her. It’d be an hour before the men reached the village, and carried out their duty, two if the number of rounds they had was anything to go by.

From where she was standing, she could see the foreground of the village, with its huts, and small streams running across it As she got closer, she could spot the blueberry vineyards whose produce the heartcoats had raved about. She was absorbed in her thoughts so much that she almost fell down a fifteen-foot descent head first, but her instinct had told her to pause for just a second. Then she leaped like an acrobat, lowering her body as much as possible, curling it up to avoid the impact. From the corner of her eye, the cluster of heartcoats came rambling up the road, not striving to be at all inconspicuous.

Crawling through the tall grass was easy enough, as she was not more vertically blessed than the average woman. But it was difficult once the last strand of grass flailed behind her, as the huts were spaced out well, a deficiency of stealth options as a result. Crawling through the fields was not an option, and neither was hiding in the haystacks. It seemed fast sprints from door to door were her only option. That, or staying submerged in the water. Her eyes scanned her surroundings, desperate for options. Once her eyes picked up on the straw hat in the water, it wasn't long before the idea struck her. The general direction in which they were headed ran along the stream that cut diagonally across the village, fortunately for her. The men traipsed along the bank, giddily, like horses who’d discovered mead.

Once they crossed the hut which had been built not a child’s stone throw away from the stream, time was sufficient enough for her to slip into it, with her hat above the water, a slight gap in the straw to aid her vision. She had to make sure that she didn’t fall back more than 20 yards or so, at which point her vision would start to go fuzzy. A recent development that plagued her more than she cared to admit. Her other senses were reminiscent of that of a bloodhound, so it didn’t affect her as much as she feared. But it was still worrisome though. The only thing which she trusted in the world was herself, and now, one of her loyal subjects was turning her back on her.

To the villagers and the heartcoats, she was no more than a stray straw hat that someone had thrown into the stream. The water chilled her through her boiled leather tunic and pulled on her boots. She sensed her companions in the water inspecting the creature who’d just trespassed their territory. Sure, she’d attracted a glance or two, but with the dark complexion of the water, the rest of her would never be seen. The men whom she was following had no care in the world, no rear guard, or even common sense to not drive people away with their thug-like demeanor. By now, the entire village had been alerted to their presence. The fishermen who’d been dangling their hook into the stream until now on the West side of the bank had slung their catch on their shoulders in a net and hurried away. The men working the fields had crept into the forests nearby, and the women replenishing their water barrels, and gathering their produce for the day’s cooking retreated into their homes desperately. What happened the last time these men were here? Even their targets must’ve known by now that they must flee. Or perhaps, this was their tactic. Five men had broken off from the original group and sprinted off ahead, setting a perimeter around the village. A bit late by her judgment. If anyone were running for their life, they’d have been gone at the first sight of the heartcoats, who were not hard to spot in the least.

From where she was standing, she could see the foreground of the village, with its huts, and small streams running across it As she got closer, she could spot the blueberry vineyards whose produce the heartcoats had raved about. She was absorbed in her thoughts so much that she almost fell down a fifteen-foot descent head first, but her instinct had told her to pause for just a second. Then she leaped like an acrobat, lowering her body as much as possible, curling it up to avoid the impact. From the corner of her eye, the cluster of heartcoats came rambling up the road, not striving to be at all inconspicuous.

Crawling through the tall grass was easy enough, as she was not more vertically blessed than the average woman. But it was difficult once the last strand of grass flailed behind her, as the huts were spaced out well, a deficiency of stealth options as a result. Crawling through the fields was not an option, and neither was hiding in the haystacks. It seemed fast sprints from door to door were her only option. That, or staying submerged in the water. Her eyes scanned her surroundings, desperate for options. Once her eyes picked up on the straw hat in the water, it wasn't long before the idea struck her. The general direction in which they were headed ran along the stream that cut diagonally across the village, fortunately for her. The men traipsed along the bank, giddily, like horses who’d discovered mead.

Once they crossed the hut which had been built not a child’s stone throw away from the stream, time was sufficient enough for her to slip into it, with her hat above the water, a slight gap in the straw to aid her vision. She had to make sure that she didn’t fall back more than 20 yards or so, at which point her vision would start to go fuzzy. A recent development that plagued her more than she cared to admit. Her other senses were reminiscent of that of a bloodhound, so it didn’t affect her as much as she feared. But it was still worrisome though. The only thing which she trusted in the world was herself, and now, one of her loyal subjects was turning her back on her.


To the villagers and the heartcoats, she was no more than a stray straw hat that someone had thrown into the stream. The water chilled her through her boiled leather tunic and pulled on her boots. She sensed her companions in the water inspecting the creature who’d just trespassed their territory. Sure, she’d attracted a glance or two, but with the dark complexion of the water, the rest of her would never be seen. The men whom she was following had no care in the world, no rear guard, or even common sense to not drive people away with their thug-like demeanor. By now, the entire village had been alerted to their presence. The fishermen who’d been dangling their hook into the stream until now on the West side of the bank had slung their catch on their shoulders in a net and hurried away. The men working the fields had crept into the forests nearby, and the women replenishing their water barrels, and gathering their produce for the day’s cooking retreated into their homes desperately. What happened the last time these men were here? Even their targets must’ve known by now that they must flee. Or perhaps, this was their tactic. Five men had broken off from the original group and sprinted off ahead, setting a perimeter around the village. A bit late by her judgment. If anyone were running for their life, they’d have been gone at the first sight of the heartcoats, who were not hard to spot in the least.

knowing she wasn’t in any mortal danger. But if the word were to get around to the overseers of her incompetency, and it very well might, she couldn’t imagine the reports would bring her up in their good graces


The group proceeded into the forest, Shayara trailing them from the side. This way, she’d be able to pick them off one by one. She prowled through the moss, as deeper and deeper they went, where the trees grew taller, and the bushes denser, all which would aid her intent. The air was moist and thick, with the constant movement of the birds overhead between the towering mahogany trees, and the scampering of squirrels and rabbits in tandem. The group’s chattering and animosity drowned her footsteps and even managed to mask a misstep on a twig. Cursing silently, she moved from tree to tree, easing closer to her first target, in close proximity, towards the rear of the group. His knees buckled as he waddled his feet one after the other, each step clumsier from the last. She could imagine a turtle would cross his horizon before he could even notice it. It was prudent she found a wide, and plush enough bush to hide his bulky corpse in. She edged closer, and from where she stood, she found a spot not ten paces in front of him. A massive tree in front of it even hid it from the rest of the lot. And at his clip, he’d fallen behind everyone else.

She counted his steps, and as soon as he’d made it halfway, she exploded into a nimble sprint, drawing her Irryian dagger in the process. By the time he’d felt the sudden disturbance in the air behind him, he looked down at his own blood and lost his voice. Shayara dampened his fall into the bush with her deceptive strength and twisted him sideways. The forest was two leagues long, and she had ample time, and a reservoir of patience to draw from. In the next ten minutes, three more men had met the same fate as their predecessor, and the rear end had trickled down to two men. But both were walking not a foot’s distance in between, almost hand in hand. The only disadvantage in their stride was their matching rhythm, like marching to a drum.

The fabled double assassination was a trick Shayara used seldom and was much more difficult than it appeared. The successful execution of it required perfect timing and Ambi-parallel strength. And considering the hair’s vicinity between the two men, her sword edge was nigh useful, and neither were her daggers. But she had another rabbit up her sleeve.

She couldn’t tarry her advance forever, as the men quickened their pace, and were slowly catching up. The more men she killed, the more audible she made her footsteps, though the trick would be found out soon enough, a risk that would jeopardize her operation. She bides her time, until both the men fell out of sight, and then charged while pulling out her bow. Holding it with the silk facing downwards, and pulling two retractable blades from their sockets, each a foot long, with a wicked curved body. Then she reversed the direction, so that she held an almost three-pronged spear, and ran at a blinding pace, building her momentum. She lowered her back at the last moment, driving everything she had into the blow, sending it straight through their abdomen with brutality. Since she couldn’t control the fall, she let go of the bow, letting it fall knowing she wasn’t in any mortal danger. But if the word were to get around to the overseers of her incompetency, and it very well might, she couldn’t imagine the reports would bring her up in their good graces


The group proceeded into the forest, Shayara trailing them from the side. This way, she’d be able to pick them off one by one. She prowled through the moss, as deeper and deeper they went, where the trees grew taller, and the bushes denser, all which would aid her intent. The air was moist and thick, with the constant movement of the birds overhead between the towering mahogany trees, and the scampering of squirrels and rabbits in tandem. The group’s chattering and animosity drowned her footsteps and even managed to mask a misstep on a twig. Cursing silently, she moved from tree to tree, easing closer to her first target, in close proximity, towards the rear of the group. His knees buckled as he waddled his feet one after the other, each step clumsier from the last. She could imagine a turtle would cross his horizon before he could even notice it. It was prudent she found a wide, and plush enough bush to hide his bulky corpse in. She edged closer, and from where she stood, she found a spot not ten paces in front of him. A massive tree in front of it even hid it from the rest of the lot. And at his clip, he’d fallen behind everyone else.


She counted his steps, and as soon as he’d made it halfway, she exploded into a nimble sprint, drawing her Irryian dagger in the process. By the time he’d felt the sudden disturbance in the air behind him, he looked down at his own blood and lost his voice. Shayara dampened his fall into the bush with her deceptive strength and twisted him sideways. The forest was two leagues long, and she had ample time, and a reservoir of patience to draw from. In the next ten minutes, three more men had met the same fate as their predecessor, and the rear end had trickled down to two men. But both were walking not a foot’s distance in between, almost hand in hand. The only disadvantage in their stride was their matching rhythm, like marching to a drum.

The fabled double assassination was a trick Shayara used seldom and was much more difficult than it appeared. The successful execution of it required perfect timing and Ambi-parallel strength. And considering the hair’s vicinity between the two men, her sword edge was nigh useful, and neither were her daggers. But she had another rabbit up her sleeve.

She couldn’t tarry her advance forever, as the men quickened their pace, and were slowly catching up. The more men she killed, the more audible she made her footsteps, though the trick would be found out soon enough, a risk that would jeopardize her operation. She bides her time, until both the men fell out of sight, and then charged while pulling out her bow. Holding it with the silk facing downwards, and pulling two retractable blades from their sockets, each a foot long, with a wicked curved body. Then she reversed the direction, so that she held an almost three-pronged spear, and ran at a blinding pace, building her momentum. She lowered her back at the last moment, driving everything she had into the blow, sending it straight through their abdomen with brutality. Since she couldn’t control the fall, she let go of the bow, letting it fall angle, so she held onto the lowest branch, and pulled herself onto it. From there, she retrieved her blades, pushed them back into their sockets, and nocked two arrows from her quiver. One Doubleshot later, two men fell to the ground, and the rest waited with hushed heartbeats. The two men to the right of her suddenly tensed, and looked up, just in time to see where the arrows were coming from before they too were eliminated. The lone man left at this point dropped his sword, tucked his heels, and ran. The path he chose was not very wise, however, as he too was taken down, thumping onto the ground, at which point, there were yells emanating from the depths of the forest.

She turned her heart-shaped face rapidly to her right, as she heard an arrow whiz past her ear. Losing all semblance of balance and no longer feeling any branch under her feet, she crashed down hard onto the grass. She split the blood off her lips, and grimaced tightly, as she kipped back onto her feet, and ran towards the general direction of the arrow. As predicted, another arrow assaulted her periphery, as she simply ducked under it. Two strides later, the trap made sense to her. The captain had shot the arrows blind, and baited her out, right into the middle of a wide ring of men, whatever was left of the regiment supposedly. The captain had all three of the prisoners with him now, all gagged. Even now, the boy’s eyes retained that same venom and aggressive streak they had possessed back at the hut. The parents’ plead for a saving light though, something that disgusted her. They should be able to defend themselves. The son is much more admirable than them. Why am I to save the ones I despise the most, upon some nameless man’s words.

Her senses tingled, hyper-alert to every microscopic movement, and vibration around her, like a cornered beast. She pirouetted threateningly, whipping out both swords simultaneously, and then fixating back on the captain. A strange feeling occurred to her, as if she’d seen those bulging dark eyes, and oiled handlebar mustache before. Not one face she’d seen in her life, not to recall it upon the second time of asking, detail for detail. And then she recognized the man, pure contempt dripping out her heart, but not spreading past it, hoping against all hope that he didn’t remember. Five years ago, the man was in possession of a thicker head of hair, yet he was still the same man. Now his eyes were starting to widen slowly, as he loosened his vice-like grip on the man-prisoner.

“What are the fucking chances. Shayara Marksew, in the flesh.” He paused, still not quite believing his eyes, and now slightly trembling. “I’d heard you were now Archa Basi, and even more precocious than that bleeding sister of yours. What business you have here?” It was meant as a threat, but the words he had spoken had spooked his cohorts, and himself. They’d all heard of the Archa Basi when they were young, ghost stories told to frighten them into a lawful life. Now that they were seeing it in the flesh, it made them piss in their britches. She could almost feel the tingling of her hair from the men’s shaking sword arms, tempted to flee and run. Their bravery originated from their captain though and he knew it, trying to stand his ground valiantly, with his chest puffed out. His resolve was admirable, but Shayara was never going to come down to their level, and converse with them. The legend of Archa Basi was winning her this fight, and she wasn’t about to humanize herself.


As she kept circling around, she sized the men up. Going for the captain would finish things, but it wasn't that simple. He’d use the prisoners as bait, and then allow her to inflict harm on those she wished to save. Of all the men surrounding her, she noticed a tall, slender man whose legs were twitching madly. His knees were already buckling, having resigned to his fate. She took one step towards him and stared a long, frigid stare at him. That was bait enough.

The men at her heels charged in, sensing that she gave up her position. What they didn’t know, was that Shayara had her daggers at the ready, dropping her swords to the ground. Without so much as even turning her head, she let fly of both the blades in a fluid backward motion. Both men collapsed like sacks of potatoes, wails of agony from the daggers protruding through their eyeballs. By the time the men at her sides had dashed in, she had her bow in her arms and retracted it out, blades out. The pair of them only realized what'd happened after they ran straight into the arcs of death piercing through their manhood. Blood gushed everywhere like a fountain, the men, or not anymore, rolling their eyes to the heavens, wishing their pain to end.

Death was something the men understood and embraced, but dying in her hands was a fate worse than it. Those were the stories they dreaded as children, and the ghost was real. Never before had they seen anyone take down four men like they were goats, and before anyone could so much as even blink an eye. Terror didn't sum up the looks on their faces, and the tolls of impending end soiled their pants.

The remaining men fled, tripping and tumbling as they stumbled off as quickly as possible. Like lambs on the run. She turned back towards the captain, maintaining her composure, but the demon of victory screaming inside her. He had no threats left, no blood left in his body, just a caricature that'd watched the carnage unfold in front of him. But she felt she was missing something. Something told she made a mistake in letting those men run away. Oh, fuck! If my sister were to ever find out. Thankfully for her, they'd all run in the same direction. All four of them, just four more targets for her archery practice. She bolted off towards their way, leaving the captain dumbfounded, and got within striking distance. As she nocked two arrows, she heard screams from behind her, but she was locked in. Those men would not be spreading the word of her covert, and anti-Marlyean actions. That was her first obligation in all this business. And soon enough, two men wouldn't be, with arrows neatly sticking out their back.

As soon as the other men who were fleeing realized they were two down, they took refuge behind a log. But one of the men, a healthy one by army standards cocked up, and his entire mass careened onto the tree trunk staring into his eyes. Shayara didn't even have to waste an arrow on him, as the tree dragged him down slowly, lifeless. She was about to go foraging, but she stopped in her tracks. No one will believe it if one man accuses the Lady's sister of treason. He'll face the noose as soon as he says the words.

When she went back to find the captain, space was deserted, or so she thought. A few drops of blood on the ground caught her eye. She followed them for a few paces when her work came undone. Two middle-aged corpses lay on the ground, throats slit, and eyes staring dumbly. The boy was nowhere to be found, but she'd had enough. It's okay. Even they can't say I didn't try, and I was never going to able to save everyone. But without warning, the leaves behind her rustled with urgency, prompting her to turn around. The captain had her dagger within a foot of her face, but something was not quite right. His cold eyes and handlebar mustache looked right at her, but it was as if he'd froze. Then as she lowered her gaze, a metal blade was thrust through his stomach, making it through all the way from the back.

As the perpetrator stepped into sight, she gasped. It was the boy. Her fallen sword in hand, and utter loathing dripping from his eyes. As she was about to open her mouth, he screamed,

"You killed my parents, you bitch!" And then dropped to the ground, sobbing, for the souls who'd brought him into this world.


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