The Arkanist
Author: surfingpanda7

Chapter 3
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4 Hours Earlier

Kale gazed out across the city of Vaelon, the thick darkness alit with beacons of red and white lights that shone like stars. The whispering red mist hung in the pitch-black sky eerily and sparse falls of ash floated down on the city. In the gloomy darkness below, the Undercity stretched, ragged and cluttered, buildings crudely assembled on top of one another. There was a damp and fetor stench that snuck through the thin alleys and streets. The mist did not walk through the dark parts of the city, but in the upper atmosphere, where the high towers and spires sliced into the sky where the mists consumed the tips of the spires. There they hovered, dangling in the air directly above the Undercity. It was there where the nobles lived. It was there where the rich lived. It was there Kale was headed.

“Ready?” Asked his brother Caza, walking up beside him, looking out into the city. His eyes slowly drifted to the high towers, hatred flaring like fire.

Kale continued to look out on the Undercity, “Let’s go.” He said, patting Caza’s shoulder and striding off from the balcony. It was time. He could not back down now.

He swept into the house, more so an attic. Caza and Kale didn’t have enough money to own a house. Though this job would get them the money for sure. It would ensure their well-being. It would ensure everything. In the dark red glow of the tiny room, Kale fumbled around in his bag for his supplies, the essentials.

He pulled out a cloak, black and thin, long and flowing. It was fluid and light, weighing almost nothing. He flung it over his head and felt the fabric fall gracefully onto his shoulders. It was more than just a cloak. He dug deeper and found a thin, long tubed vile, an odd substance crushed into minute sand-like powder. He slipped it down into his pocket. Deeper, he puled out his belt, the belt he wore for their jobs. It was leather, worn and haggard. In its pockets it held seven different stones. He could not leave without it. He shot a glance to Caza; he was ready.

Caza and Kale ran a tight business, a dangerous business. They were assassins, contract killers. They were a small group though and did not often get rewarded with a high price or a nobleman contract. This was the first in many a year. They could not afford to screw up, they both knew. They had planned tirelessly on it, the infiltration of one nobleman, Morrae, founder of the massive corporation in the banking industry: Morrae Banks. This was the premiere league, the best of the best. No one screwed up.

Though there were complications they did not usually face down in the Undercity. Up high in the mists, the nobles owned Watchers, security figures. They kept watch of the house, making sure nothing entered or exited without their knowledge. To be seen by a Watcher would mean game over. An immediate trip to prison, and that was not in the plans.

Kale and Caza walked into a Lift, the city dark and red through the clear glass of the tube. They were alone, their arms tied together across their chests. The Lift stirred jerkily then shot upwards with such force Kale thought the machine would break. The city flashed downwards in a blur of red and black and Kale’s head began to throb. The tube soon slowed to a halt, turning them to the tower door, where they strode off and onto the 200th floor, three floors below their targeted room.

Caza carried a briefcase, banded with silver that glinted in the hallway lights that glowed a deep red. The hall was quite and still, silent. The brothers escaladed up the stairs on the east side of the building, slowly making their way up the metal steps until Caza shoved open the iron door that led to floor 203. Nobody passed by. Caza slunk back into the stair well waiting for someone to appear.

They waited five minutes, until suddenly there walked a pair of men, garbed in fine silks and satins, beaming with riches. Dozens of golden beads dangled from their necks. Caza flared his nose. He snuck a quick glance back at Kale. It was time. Kale slunk his hand down into his deep pocket, pulling out the vile full of powder. He placed it to his lips and gulped down the substance. Instantly, a rush of power flooded his senses. His vision became focused and crisp and his body felt rejuvenated. He tapped on his belt, making sure all seven stone were in place. The magic was settling in.

He nodded to Caza who followed by snapping open his briefcase, where inside dozens of tools were set. He pulled out a small tube that was shaped like a bean. He twisted it and slid it out into the hall without a sound. The men stared down at the device until like lightning the bean exploded, sending the men flying through the air in a tumult. They screamed and yelped in pain and fright. When the white mist had cleared, Morrae stood in the threshold of his manor, searching for the thing that caused the raucous. He left the door open and walked over to the whimpering nobles who lay on the floor. This was Kale’s cue.

Kale brought out a small crystal from his leather belt, and squeezed his hand around it until there was a sudden disposition, like the breathe before the plunge. He Crushed the stone further until there was a blazing inside him, a kindled fire licking his insides. He grasped the stone tighter and felt himself grow paler and paler until he was no more than air. He was invisible. The crystal shrunk in his palm slightly. He would need to search for another soon, his supply was waning.

Unseen, he walked out of the stair well and through the hall and into the noble’s manor. The front room was grand and lavish, a great glass wall at the back of the room overlooking the lights of Vaelon. The floor was of beaming lustrous marble and the walls were of the same, draped with tapestries and pictures. Glimmering glass statues sparkled along the walls and glittering chandeliers threw a bright light across the room. Invisible, Kale continued on, investigating the room until he found himself face to face with a butler. His face was plump and red with short brown hair. Kale slid a black obsidian dagger out from his cloak and silently drove it into the butler’s stomach. He collapsed into Kale’s arms heavily, being lifted off into a closet brimming with clothes. It was a tight fit.

Kale heard the door clap shut as he made his way into the main room again, still invisible. Morrae had returned. From behind him, a women, it appeared to be maid, swept by, oblivious to Kale. Noticing the opportunity, Kale drew from the marble flooring in the house, letting the stone blaze inside him until time stopped, and the maid was frozen, still as stone. His invisibility was wearing off and he did not have the amount necessary for the remainder of the job. He would have to improvise.

With time halted, he walked up to the maid, and touched her skin. At the same time, Kale brought out a stone of alabaster, large and plentiful from his belt. He clutched it tightly, Crushing the stone, letting the stone seep into his porous body until he felt the tingle in his heart and soon after felt the fire blaze within. With the power, he changed his figure, morphing into her body. Kale had squeezed himself into the maid’s body, controlling her from within.

He walked forward into the main room where Morrae sit on his couch, unfreezing time. Morrae was a fine individual, clean kept and neat. He wore brilliant robes of velvet and chiffon and wore a circlet of jewels in his long silvery hair. He watched the darkness of the city below through his glass window. Kale, or the maid, sauntered to his side where he asked, “Would you like anything cleaned?”

Morrae continued his fixed gaze, “You are not my butler, you are my maid. You do not ask, you do.”

Kale nodded, how could he be so stupid?

He released control of the maid as he left the room, silently jabbing her with his dagger and piling her into the closet as well. He looked at Morrae for a long while, wondering what he could do, until suddenly it came to him. His circlet, it was full of stones. It was perfect. This time though Kale drew a quartz stone out of his belt, Crushing it in his hands. It blazed from within and he controlled its properties, a rush of power draining into his veins.

He let the quartz sink in for a good while then held up his hand, directed at Morrae’s circlet. I hope this works, Kale prayed and he released the flow of magic. Kale Pulled, and it worked, Morrae came flying toward Kale, his head leading. Morrae collided into him, toppling him over. Kale tried to pull out his dagger and finish the job, but the worst happened.

Standing before Kale, a Watcher stood. He was massive, garbed in heavy and thick black and grey armor that chinked loudly as he walked. Over his face, there was a great helm of black and white that glinted in the light of the manor. He heaved a colossal mace in his hands, the head spiked and unnerving.

He had sensed the magic from the bottom of the tower. Kale knew he had limited time to work with. He knew he had to finish quickly, but he didn’t. He had failed. He had screwed up. He simply stood there with Morrae in his hands until then he thrust the noble at the Watcher and sprinted, blazing ore and flint as he ran. He Crushed the two stones in his hands at once, letting their power seep into his body. He could feel the energy surge pulsating through him. Kale had no other option. It was either spend the rest of eternity in a jail cell or flee. He fled, leaping out of the vast window, the glass shattering in a terrible ringing as he plummeted.

 

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