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[Note: This Article first appeared in Fourth issue of the DFC dated August 5th, 1992. Titled: ASSASSINS AND EXCURSIONS by Kyshra Sorrowfell .]


(So many of my friends in Spur have sworn to aid me in my troubles, that I feel is is my duty to make my past known to you all. At first there was some concern that revealing my past may allow my enemies to find me, but with Rubert's taunts well heard in the Town Square, it is clear that I have been found regardless. I have told my dear friend Altasren much of my history, and have bid him tell it to you.)


- Kyshra Sorrowfell


* * * * *


I was hunting.


True - it is nothing that I commonly do. Usilin sorcerors do not often hunt men. Even less so do they hunt Muatana-al assassins... and it is utter insanity to do so alone.


But I hunt nonetheless.


Others feel they might have claims on the life of Rubert Taathspawn, who calls himself assassin. They may have claims; I have the right. Rupert's life is mine to take - none shall hinder or prevent me.


- - - - - - - - -


I remember a cool evening, some weeks ago. We were comforting her, Lady Elhalyn and I. It was right after her wedding eve, when Daerith failed to appear - and in truth, has not been seen since. There had been darker portents, as well... but I should not get ahead of myself.


Mixed feelings warred in me at the news. Daerith had been a friend, a good comrade. I felt fear over his fate - he must have been captured or slain, must he have not? And a darker emotion: better that he had been, before abandoning Kyshra willingly. For the grief clouding her lovely features smote me like a swordblow, and I knew great rage that someone had done this to her. (Yet in my innermost heart, a part of me thanked Rinanni that Daerith had vanished. A wicked, unworthy thought, and one I ruthlessly suppressed. Aye, and I have been well and truly repaid for it, haven't I? But again, I get ahead of my tale.)


- - - - - - - - -


He has tried to slay me twice already in the last few days - once alone, once with a pair of his fellow murderers. Each time, I escaped. This time, it is I who seek him.


Rubert was in the Square, playing the game he loves so much, taunting those he has robbed. "Well, feeble Elfling?" he said to me, smirking - "Do you wish more practice in running? I'll give it, if you please."


 I shrugged. "I am at your leisure now, vampire scum."


The Muatana-Al often mislike that name, deeming it insult, but it seemed that Rubert revelled in it. He winked at me, and jerked a thumb at the setting sun. "Do you take me for a fool, Elfling? Well... catch me if you have the wit to do so!" And he sprang to his feet.


I whispered a quick prayer to Rinanni that my guess would prove right. For I had seen Rubert leave the Square twice before, both times to the north... would he do it again?


- - - - - - - - -


 Kyshra was hounded by nameless assassins shortly after the abortive wedding. The events had rocked her, but Kyshra refused to explain why. She was clearly in some grave peril, and did not want us exposed to it.


But I well remembered a conversation between we two and Daerith, long before. He was in danger, and similarly wished to keep it to himself. Kyshra begged to share his peril, and I - quite scornfully, as I recall - told him that his love for her was poor indeed if he neither trusted her or desired her to share the evil tidings with the good.


I reminded her of this, and added that she cared about us and we about her. It was our privilege and our right to help her shoulder her burdens. Lady Elhalyn agreed with me, and finally Kyshra relented:


"I am of the isle of Thermalliche," she began. "It is peopled by San and the Muatana-Al, far to the south of Spur, well away from the old Frontacian Empire. For all of its history, the San of Thermalliche have sought dominion over the Isle. For the Muatana, this is amusing, for the San have never been organized enough to present a serious threat.


"Some months ago my father, the chief of the Darkefall tribe, called me to his chambers in the middle of the night. There he informed me that I was to be wed within the week. I was furious. He told me that my marriage would untie our tribe with our closest rival, thus ensuring the success of his ambitions; the unification of the Sanene tribes into a mighty nation. He would offer the Muatana-Al city of Laclance for plunder to the armies, and thereafter...


"I would have none of this, I told him I would not be married, that I would choose my own husband in my own time. He laughed. I raged at him. I begged him to change his mind. Finally, I stumbled out.


"I found my elder brother Mahorent, waiting for me. I asked him to intervene on my behalf with our father. He sneered at me, amused, asking me what else I thought I was good for other than to serve the family in this way. Filled with outrage, I threw myself at him, but he knocked my aside. I cursed him as he left my chambers, locking me within.


"I knew then that I had two choices, either surrender to despair and accept this fate, or escape and flee. I resolved myself to the latter. To my horror I discovered that all of my clothes, suitable for a journey of any kind, had been removed from my room. So I was forced to slip out of my home with little more than my bedclothes."


- - - - - - - - -


North. He went north, flinging a final taunt as he left, ignoring the blaze of sunlight that bathed the stones of the Square.


"That is the very last mistake you will make, you bastard," I whispered. And I besought my beautiful Arwen, my cat, mind to mind.


For that was my plan - to prevent him from hiding or immediately fleeing, for just long enough for me to act. I heard the shout of surprise to the northward, the chilling battle cry of my familiar, and flung myself north into the fray, praying to Rinanni to shield me...


- - - - - - - - -


Kyshra's face was set in a rigid mask of misery. I longed to take her into my arms to give what comfort I might. But she had yet more to say:


"Once free, I secured passage on a ship bound for the Spur, even known in Thermalliche for its wide variety of peoples, where I thought I could lose any pursuit. For my father is a ruthless man, who does not like to have his plans disrupted or his daughter disobey him.


"I arrived in Spur a short time later, where I discovered that my father had begun to pursue me, offering a sizable reward for my return.  So I took the name of 'Kyshra Sorrowfell,' leaving 'Kyshraelle Darkefall' behind. I planned to flee Spur, to find some safer place to hide.


"It was my first night in Spur when I met Daerith Dreadblade, a Leuian thief estranged from his Pride, and brother to Clawmaster Lysa SlinkmeowThend. I was fascinated by this Khat, and came to love him."


Aye, for the good it has done you, my dear, I thought, but said nothing. The faithless wretch, abandoning you that way...


"When Daerith asked me to be his wife, I told him of my past, and the fate I was fleeing. He was true to the nobility of his people, and swore to protect me. So I accepted his proposal, and decided to remain in Spur as his wife. We set the date for our wedding.


"That night, Daerith did not show. There has been no sign of him in Spur since the night he placed the engagement ring on my finger. I was filled with despair and fear that something had happened to him. All atthe wedding attempted to console me... everyone save a mercenary who claimed to have a gift for the couple. Since there was no wedding, he didn't leave the gift; nor would he reveal the name of his employer.


"Several days later I was conversing with two of the Spur's most powerful warriors, Lysa and Vladimir, who comforted me when they heard of my woes. Fearing that my past had caught up with me, and Daerith had been killed, I expressed my fears without revealing my past. Both swore that I would have nothing to fear, because they would protect me."


Not only them, I thought, clutching my unaccustomed emotions to me as a chilled man might gather his cloak around him.


"I was deeply moved by their words, so I told them what I feared, and the fate I was trying to avoid. Both were shocked, yet they reaffirmed their commitment. Vladimir was concerned for more personal reasons as well, for he too called Thermalliche home. And my father's plans would affect him. I admit it felt much better to know they would stand by me."


- - - - - - - - -


Arwen had struck, and struck well - I could see the deep gashes inflicted by her claws. But it would only too easy for him to flee. I gathered my Will, and called on the Runes to aid me.


Glaring at me, Rubert made his second critical mistake, born of overconfidence. He stared into my eyes, his gaze compelling and filled with the darkest evil...

And I laughed as my spell struck, and slumber passed over him. For Rinanni was truly with me, and her Cloak shielded me from his mesmerism. For the first time, I wondered whether I might actually win this battle. I stripped his armor, quickly, as Arwen redoubled her attack.


- - - - - - - - -


"Several nights later, walking along Noble Way, I saw a townsman killed mysteriously before my eyes. A voice laughed at me, calling me by my real name. I fled the area in horror, running north towards the safety of Town Square. This voice followed me, saying that there was no place for me to hide, that he'd kill my friends one by one, then I'd be his..." Kyshra shivered, her eyes wide with remembered terror.


"I discovered later, with the abominable death of Vladimir, that this voice was that of the Sanene assassin Elgalad... who still stalks me. And you still wish to aid me? Please don't - I can't bear the thought of you being slain as was Vladimir." She lowered her gaze to the floor.


"No." I folded my arms, and Marguereda nodded. "A prince of the Usil does not abandon his friends - nor yet NeaSuth's Keeper, I daresay. Let the San nation be raised against us, and we will yet abide."


Kyshra shuddered, not quite daring to believe my words. Still, Marguereda and I remained, our faces set in stern resolve. And with a sob, Kyshra flung herself into our arms, and Lady Elhalyn and I allayed her grief and fear as best as we might.


And I knew then for a certain fact that I loved her, helplessly and hopelessly... and that if Daerith had failed to stand by her side then by Rinanni I would *not* fail. What a fool I was. What a blind, shortsighted fool. As well I knew not the outcome of the matter.


But I strove to marshal what talents I had to her aid. I confess that one of them is diplomacy. I spoke to the Leuian Pride and to other groups and individuals, telling of her peril - and that to Spur as well. For if the Sanene peoples were united, and together be strong enough to crush the Muatana nation... could Spur itself long survive?


Some agreed to help for Kyshra's own sake; some for Spur's. I blessed Rinanni for her grace in answering my prayers, and continued my work.


The matter compounded itself, of course. A new threat emerged - the Muatana assassin Rubert, who led a band of killers and threatened Kyshra with dire words. Aye, and molested her too, claiming that he would make her his plaything before turning her over to her father! We knew, then, that Elgalad had allies.


And I knew a burning fury I had never felt before, shattering any restraint my people had ever taught. I swore by the Lords of Order and Chaos themselves that if I was too weak to revenge Kyshra on Elgalad - for how could I succeed where the Shieldmaster himself failed? - by the powers of darkness I could at least kill Rubert. And so I swore to do.


- - - - - - - - -


Again, I prayed to Rinanni to heal me, and again, she granted my prayer. Armorless, seriously wounded, he was yet too strong for me. We tumbled about, giving no thought to flight, at last stumbling into the hallowed precincts of the Sages' Guild.


I was exhausted, Arwen was battered, and my magicks did not harm him nearly quickly enough. If only Pyanfar was there! Or Lysa. Or any of the bold warriors who are my good friends. I was insufficient to the task.


But the Usil do not yield - and I was still alive to do battle. I spat out a mouthful of blood, and chanted yet another sphere of magickal flame into being. I felt Rubert's blade in my body, and knew that the next blow would finish me... and in my heart, I begged Kyshra to forgive my soul for failing her at the last.


The fire exploded onto his form, bathing him in a deadly corona of flickering flame. He gasped, and tumbled to the floor. But he struck all too lightly... and with wonder in my eyes, I watched him crumble to dust before me, the motes igniting in the smouldering blaze.


"Rinanni's Name," I whispered, not quite believing my eyes. Had I really won? And through the window, the sunlight... not quite set. Not quite yet. "He died during the day time -- Could I possibly have...?"


With no more than stubbornness holding my torn and bleeding frame together, an arm around my valiant cat's side, I stumbled into the Town Square, to share my delight. By the Goddess! I'd rallied half of Spur to Kyshra's aid, and slain one of her chiefest foes - alone. And lived to tell of it. She will be pleased. She will be pleased...