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Library: A Call To Duty

Books

Author: hackop
Date:Jun 28 2003

  Chapter 1       The city of Quethine was deserted at this time of the night.
The icy chill of winter was  even more effective than the pitch blackness at
keeping people inside their homes. The  only lights that could be seen came
from the late night inns, and even these were  dwindling. The moons weren't
out tonight, nor had they been for days. This strange  occurrence was starting
to worry the citizens. Tonight was even worse, however, for there  weren't any
stars showing. There was no way to find your direction through the cold and 
unforgiving night. These events made journeying away from home most deadly. 
Nevertheless, one man dared to find his way to the city. His cloak was torn
and frozen,  hanging rigid down the length of his shadowy form. The hood he
wore was heavy and  hanging down over his face, keeping some of the snow from
his skin. His steps were  weary and heavy, each leaving large imprints in the
snowy ground behind him.    He was heading towards one of the last lights to
be seen in the city, an inn by the  name of The Weeping Sun. His head was
bowed, as to shield his face from the light  emanating from the fireplace
within. A loud echo followed his knock to the dense  wooden door, one that
could probably be heard for blocks. He looked around quickly to  be sure he
hadn't drawn any attention to himself. This was unlikely since it was doubtful
anyone, or anything for that matter, was awake and outside at this time of
night. The  innkeeper finally opened the door, a greasy apron hung from his
waste and he gently  smiled at the stranger.    From what Akahn could see, the
inn was very well kept. The oak tables and chairs  were polished, along with
the countertop of the bar. There were no scraps of food on the  floor, or left
behind on dirty dishes. Actually, there were no dirty dishes, mugs, or 
silverware to be seen. The inn's ceiling was vaulted high with small
candle-lit lamps  illuminating the corners, leaving the top masked in shadows.
The floor looked as though  it was cleaned quite frequently. There were no ale
or food stains on it, as well as no dust,  dirt, or mud from patrons' shoes.
Most of the windows had small cloth curtains pulled  over them to prevent the
casual passerby from looking inside during closed hours such as  these. Just
to the right of the bar was a hallway, which Akahn guessed led to the rooms. 
After a minute or so the innkeeper cleared his throat and addressed Akahn.   
"Well, hello, what are you doing out so late? Especially on a night like
this!" The  innkeeper asked.    "Please, I need a room."    "Well, we're
closed for the night, but I'd hate to turn you away in this horrid weather. 
Please, come in."    "Thank you, sir. My name is Akahn."    "It's nice to meet
you," the innkeeper wiped one of his hands off and extended it to  Akahn. "You
can just call me Willum." Willum was a stout man, not very well built, but  he
didn't need to be. He had been an innkeeper his entire life. Having inherited
his  establishment from his father, who was one of thousands to die in the
plague, he didn't  have to do much to get through life. He was now in his late
forties, slightly balding, and  looking very tired. The life had just left
him, and not having any sons or daughters made  his situation even worse. He
wished he could find a caring wife to take care of him and  comfort him
through the good times and bad. Though his time to do so was ticking down 
quickly, and he doubted he would succeed. This never stopped him from trying,
as well  as keeping in high spirits. He loved both his job and the people who
would share his good  fortune with him day in and day out. Through his many
years he'd seen and heard a lot,  meeting this stranger in the middle of the
night was no big deal, though something did  seem awry with the whole
situation. Maybe he would have a chance to share some gossip  with Akahn
tomorrow.    "Alright, Willum, how about that room?"    "Ah yes, please,
follow me." Willum began walking through a narrow hallway with  doors on
either side. "You're lucky, I have only a few rooms left for tonight. Seems a
lot  of people got stuck here an extra day or so because of this foul
weather." Both men  walked down to the end of the hall until they were
standing in front of a closed door.  Willum stopped for a moment, thinking...
"I'll tell ya what, the room's on me. I get the  feeling you don't have much
money as it is, and a night or two won't hurt anyone."    "You are too kind. I
will make sure to repay you some day. Thank you again, and  good night." Akahn
opened the door and quickly stepped through the doorway. He turned  around and
slowly closed the door behind him, leaving Willum standing in the hallway  by
himself.    Akahn's room was small and cozy, which was certainly to his
liking. There was a  small table next to a bed, with a dresser on the opposite
wall. Akahn lifted his hood from  his head, letting it fall back on the neck
of his cloak. Long, straight, black hair covered  the sides of his head and
most of his neck. His eyes were an unnatural black, seemingly  able to stare
straight through a person's soul. He also had a birthmark underneath his 
chin, or what looked like a birthmark at first. It was actually an old scar,
or rather, a  branding. It was in the form of a "T" with one end of the
crossbar made into a downward  lightning bolt. He had hoped no one would
recognize it seeing as how it had been years  since his order were in great
numbers. There was also a small window in his room. He  went over to it and
slowly pushed the curtains to the side to make sure no one was trying  to spy
on him. Satisfied that he was truly alone, he returned the thick fabric back
to its  original position, making sure no one could see in if they wanted to.
Akahn wasn't very  tired, but he knew he needed to try to sleep. Sleep was one
thing he hadn't got nearly  enough of lately. He lay back on his bed and only
a few minutes later was resting  somewhat peacefully.    The next morning was
just a chaotic mess of people. The snow had ceased and the  roads were
moderately safe for travel. The main room of the inn was packed full of 
travelers, most of them were going rather than coming. Akahn had to slowly
shove his  way through the mass and finally managed to situate himself at one
of the far corner  tables. Once again his hood was covering his face, he
couldn't have been more thankful  for it at a time like this. There would be
no service for a long time, but he didn't mind. He  needed to mull over some
thoughts, something just wasn't right.    Across the room sat another man, who
seemed to be in his late thirties. Akahn didn't  see him, but the man
certainly noticed Akahn. He was dressed in a drab robe made of  some coarse
material. He wore thin leather boots on his feet, not much for hiking and 
such, but for running around town they were the best and most comfortable. On
the table  in front of him sat a small leather-bound book with a quill next to
it. The cover was  cracked from age, and its pages were an assortment of new
and old paper. He must have  been writing in it for a very long time. He just
sat there, ignoring everyone, except  Akahn. Something about him fascinated
this man, and he knew, with time, that his  fascination would pay off.    The
crowd finally grew small enough to where waitresses could walk around the 
main room bringing food and ale to the customers. Akahn hadn't ordered
anything; he  just wanted to stay where he was for a while. He had noticed the
man across the room  earlier, but made nothing of it. It was in the later
hours of the afternoon at this time, and  the inn was starting to get full
once again. This time, though, it was just the people of the  city coming in
for a drink or two. Four large men entered the doorway and promptly took  a
table. They sat only a few yards from Akahn. These men were wearing shining
armor  and carried weapons at their side. They must be from the city's guard
thought Akahn. He  looked them over briefly and returned to just staring at
the desolate table in front of him.  The soldiers took notice to Akahn as he
had to them. They whispered among themselves,  and Akahn could only make
something out about a "newcomer."    Hours passed and the soldiers got more
and more drunk. Akahn had stopped paying  attention to them long ago. He was
now keeping a keen eye on the man across the room.  The man was writing
furiously in his little book, he had to refill his ink well twice  already.
What could have happened in these few hours that made him so eager to fill the
blank pages with his text? The man's head was buried in his book, so in tune
with his  writing he didn't even need to look when he dipped his quill quickly
into the ink to start a  new line.    The shouting of one of the guards
disturbed the relatively silent room. Apparently the  waitress hadn't been
fast enough and now she was being yelled at for her folly.    "What took you
so long? I ordered that ale five minutes ago!" shouted the guard. He  was most
likely the superior officer of the four.    "I-I needed to wait on other
tables, and really, five minutes isn't that long."    "Do you know who I am?
I'm Lesart, captain of the city militia."    "I-I-Uh" stuttered the girl.   
"You will serve me before anyone else or I will have you slaughtered!" he
yelled only  inches from her trembling face.    She turned to try to go back
to the kitchen, but Lesart held her wrist firm. She  screamed and tried to
pull harder to get away. Everyone in the room was staring at them,  but feared
to do anything. They knew Lesart could have any one of them killed if he 
chose. Akahn had been watching them as well. He didn't really care about what
was  happening until now. That brute was going to practically kill that girl. 
  "Let her go. I'll be more than happy to pay for a round of ale for you and
your men."  Akahn said as he slowly stood up from his corner. Everyone in the
room silenced. Their  eyes focused on Akahn. They were startled by the fact
someone was opposing the captain  of the militia.    "If I were you, I'd sit
back down now. You have no involvement in this. It's between  me and the
girl." With a flip of his wrist, the other three men drew their swords and
held  them towards Akahn. "Now, sit down."    "I'm afraid I can't do that. You
have no right to hurt this girl. She was just doing her  job, and very well I
might add."    "You had your chance." Lesart drew his own sword. He then flung
the girl away so  he could focus he attention on Akahn.    Akahn looked at the
men with their swords, almost as if he was studying them  intensely. The
swords were all clean, except for Lesart's. The blade and hilt were  speckled
with dry blood. Akahn imagined he took a little too much pleasure in his job
as  a soldier.    "We really don't have to do this. Please, just sit down and
I'll buy you all some ale."    "It's too late for talk. I'll take pleasure in
seeing your face contort as I run you  through with my blade."    With that,
Lesart stepped towards Akahn. His blade flew in an arc aimed towards  Akahn's
neck. Adrenaline had caused his hearing and sight to haze over. He could only 
make out some shallow chanting coming from his target. The blade finished its
swing,  but hit nothing. As Lesart regained his balance he was immediately hit
in the face with a  burning object. He screamed as the skin on his face
sizzled from the concentrated heat.  The blow had knocked him to the floor.
Through the cracks of his fingers he looked  upwards. Akahn was standing
there, his fists engulfed in black flames, his eyes now a  fiery red. Akahn's
hood had now fallen back, exposing his appearance to all who were  gathered.
Lesart stood up quickly and backed away toward his men. They spread out, 
circling Akahn in an attempt to overpower him. The first man lunged. Akahn
deftly threw  his arm to the side, elbowed the man in the stomach and cracked
his arm over his  shoulder. Blood sprayed Akahn and the soldier as bone
protruded flesh. A scream of  shear agony filled the small room as the soldier
collapsed on the floor and slowly crawled  to a corner to try and stop the
bleeding. Akahn didn't wait for the next man to make the  move. Akahn kicked
one of the men's knees, sending a loud crunch through the air. The  man tried
to ignore the pain and swung at Akahn who dodged easily. Seeing another man 
coming Akahn quickly used the wounded man's body as a shield. A sword
penetrated  skin and bone, going straight through the man and into Akahn. He
yelled as the steel tore  into his torso. The man who was cruelly used as a
shield slumped to the floor, dead.  Blood covered Akahn's hand as he pressed
it onto his wound. The two remaining soldiers  took immediate advantage of his
condition and closed on him. Akahn swung his leg,  tripping Lesart's last man.
His wound causing him to lose balance, Akahn fell on top of  the other man.
Lesart came up behind the two grappling men and raised his sword above 
Akahn's back, ready to drive it through. The soldier mistakenly threw Akahn
from him  just in time to be impaled by his commander's blade. His eyes
contained a look of shock  at what had just occurred. Lesart's blade had been
driven straight through his soldier's  throat, all but severing his head from
his body.    During this time Akahn had backed up against a wall to try to
steady himself. His  blood was draining fast, and he was about to lose
consciousness. He said a fast prayer to  his god, Xekser, to heal him, and
then collapsed. Lesart didn't hesitate at this golden  opportunity. He ran to
where Akahn was slumped and drew his blade again. He would  not miss this
time.    Just as he was starting to bring his blade down, he was hit in the
back of the head. He  turned, anger filling his eyes. The rest of the people
in the room were now standing. Each  of them was holding something that could
be used as a weapon. Some had swords, while  others had only plates and mugs.
They stepped towards Lesart as if they were going to  attack him.    "You will
not kill this man in my inn." Said Willum, who was holding a small hand  axe. 
  "You have made a mistake, innkeeper. I will be back with more men, and we
will  burn this pathetic building to the ground." With that Lesart sheathed
his sword and  walked heavily out the door.    When he was out of sight, the
people rushed to help Akahn. To their surprise he had  stopped bleeding. The
flames around his fists had gone out, and he was still unconscious,  but at
least he was breathing. They laid him out flat and propped his head up so he
could  try and get some water in him. They saw a faint movement underneath his
eyelids as he  took a small drink. Akahn groaned loudly as he opened his eyes
and tried to move. His  stomach was still in enormous pain. The first person
he recognized was Willum, who was  by his side.    "Th-Thank..." Akahn tried
to speak.    "Shh...stay quiet. You've been wounded badly and need some rest.
I'll have someone  come to assist you, you mustn't move from here." Willum
told him.    The door to the inn opened once again. The people, fearing Lesart
had returned  already, moved away from it. A man in a black cloak, similar to
Akahn's stepped through  the entryway.    "Where is Akahn Metherin?" he asked.
The people pointed towards the body of  Akahn. The man walked towards Akahn
and stopped with his feet next to the wounded  man's face. Akahn slowly turned
his head to face the man.    "You are required." With that the man in black
dropped a small case on Akahn's  chest and left out the door.


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