At His Mercy Ch. 01byphalanx_888©
Elias stalked silently through the woods, listening carefully for signs of other life. Besides the chirping of crickets and the occasional hoot of an owl, there were little disturbances in the forest. He paused at the edge of a clearing, turning slightly to glance behind him, his long cloak rustling the leaves that carpeted the forest floor. A cloth hung down off the brim of his hat, obscuring his face from friends and foe alike, although few remained of the former. Although he was more than capable of defending himself should he need to, he remained tense and wary, a hand drifting to the sword hidden beneath his cloak. A secluded clearing such as this was a perfect location for would-be assassins to spring a trap.
Leaves rustled as a light wind blew through the forest, almost covering the sound of an arrow hissing through the air, aimed for his head. He whipped around to face the clearing, drawing his long, double-edged sword in the same motion. There was a swift flash of light as the blade reflected the moonlight, cleaving the arrow in two. He stepped into the clearing just as a volley of arrows began flying towards him. Cursing, he whirled, dodged, and cut his way through them. There was a brief pause, and then a volley of another dozen or so missiles came down from above, fired across a wide range to counter his dodges. Whoever was firing had somehow gotten his hands on a damn repeating crossbow! He looked up into the tree from whence the arrows were coming. It was too dark to see his attacker, but Elias was sure that he was hidden in the branches of the tree. Either the assassin would run out of arrows and come down on his own, or Elias would force him down. Smiling at that thought, he fished a boomerang out of his clock and hurled it toward the side of the tree. He watched it woosh out into the darkness and caught it as it sailed back into his hand a few seconds later. Apparently the attacker wasn't there. He threw it a few more times, but on the fourth time it didn't return. Frowning, he cautiously approached the tree. Suddenly, the boomerang shot down from the tree, aimed for his legs. Elias leapt to the side to avoid the boomerang, then snatched it up and lobbed it back in the exact same direction it had come from. He heard a rustling as someone jumped down from the tree branch just before the boomerang reached the apex of its flight. Elias easily caught it and then took a few steps back as the assassin edged into the clearing.
No wonder he hadn't seen anything. The slim figure in front of him was clothed all in black, with a cloth tied around the lower half of his face, covering everything below the eyes. He clutched a crossbow in one hand and was slowly drawing a sword with the other. Elias took another step back as he put away the boomerang, observing the assassin.. The figure in front of him far too small to be fighting the likes of him, he thought with a frown. Another breeze rustled through the forest, disturbing the assassin's long dark hair. Equally dark eyes glittered with malice and determination as he circled around Elias.
Throwing aside the crossbow, the assassin charged towards Elias, sword raised. Elias immediately parried with his own sword and soon the air was filled with the furious sounds of swords clanging. Elias was surprised. Although this assassin was at least a head smaller than he and not at all muscular as far as he could tell, he was well-matched. Normally, a one-on-one swordfight with Elias would be over in a matter of minutes, but this battle dragged on and on and on, neither party sustaining injuries nor getting close enough to injure the other.
The assassin must have been getting fatigued after all, because Elias managed to slice into his arm. He heard a sharp intake of breath before the assassin lashed out once again. However, the assassin's endurance was no match for Elias's, and his fatigue translated into carelessness wherein he sustained more and more injuries—a slice across his upper chest, a stab in the thigh, a deep wound across the belly—while Elias was still unscathed. Elias could see realization dawning in the assassin's eyes, understanding as to why no one had been able to defeat Elias before. With a vicious stab, Elias sunk his sword into the assassin's abdomen and sliced across. The assassin gasped in pain, falling to a kneeling position. He clutched one hand to the wound, the other flat on top of his sword hilt on the ground. Elias stood patiently, waiting for his enemy to recover. He wasn't in any hurry to kill him; he'd killed enough people in his lifetime that the novelty had worn off. Besides, he had questions to ask this latest assassin.
The assassin got to his feet and lunged for Elias, who responded with a casual parry and a slash diagonally across the torso. The assassin was bleeding profusely by now. He again lunged for Elias, who struck him with a blow hard enough that the assassin was thrown across the clearing and slammed against a tree, where he curled up, still clutching the wound in his abdomen. Elias slowly approached the assassin, sword pointed downward. The assassin raised his head to look up at him, pain and hatred etched across his features. Elias crouched down in front of him and moved to brush the assassin's hair out of his eyes, but in a flurry of motion the assassin had slapped his hand away, staggered up, and run off into the forest.
Surprised by this sudden burst of strength from a much-wounded person, Elias followed. He suddenly had to duck as a sword flew in his direction. He stopped to retrieve it, but by that time he had lost pursuit of the assassin. Squinting in the little moonlight that filtered through the trees, he could make out a trail of blood spattered on the leaves. He slowly walked along the path, knowing that the assassin would have to stop to rest somewhere and not wanting to spook him into another frenzied escape.
He finally found the assassin lying next to another tree, curled up and taking shallow breaths. The assassin weakly raised a tear-stained face to look at him, eyes full of fear and resignation. Elias hesitated. He could ask his questions and then leave the assassin to die, but if the assassin refused to answer he would die before Elias could force the answers out of him. He toyed with the idea of taking the assassin as a prisoner. The wounds weren't definitively fatal; if treated, the assassin would live. Besides, he seemed young and impressionable. Elias was optimistic that he could turn him to his side. Since the demise of Elias's clan a year ago, he had been bitter, angry, and, surprisingly, lonely. Perhaps taking this boy in would be the first step to rebuilding his clan, and if not, at least he'd have some company.
The assassin regarded Elias with fear as he approached and tried to crawl away, but the last of his strength had left him. He contented himself with pressing even closer against the tree and curling into a tighter ball. Elias reached to pluck the assassin's sheath from his belt and was greeted by a snarl. He sheathed the assassin's sword before putting it in his own belt. Then, he removed his cloak and gently wrapped it around the assassin, who started and flinched at his touch, eyes wide and bewildered. Elias chuckled to himself, then scooped up the wounded person, who resignedly clutched at Elias's shirt, chattering with pain.
The assassin was even smaller and lighter than Elias had expected. Again, he frowned at how someone so young could have been sent to kill him. As he walked swiftly through the forest towards his fortress, he looked thoughtfully down at the bundle in his arms. The assassin had twisted the front of Elias's shirt into a knot as he struggled to endure the pain and maintain consciousness. Tears still flowed from his eyes and his mouth was set in an anguished grimace. He looked up at Elias with uncertainty, quickly looking away and burying his face into Elias's front when they made eye contact.
Elias was not surprised that he had encountered an assassin on the way home. He was the leader of the Lucians, one of the most powerful warrior clans in the region. Being warrior clans, they were naturally very contentious and his had been locked in a furious centuries-long rivalry with the Jacobis. The two clans had been equally matched in size and caliber until about a year ago, when the Jacobis initiated a new and fearsomely skilled warrior. Although the average caliber of the two clans were the same, no one had been able to rival Elias one-on-one, until this new recruit had arrived at the Jacobi clan. Elias had been skirmishing with some members of the Jacobis with a few of his clansmen. It had been a routine, almost casual affair, three of his best against three of their best. However, when they had returned to their clan's fortress, they found the place on fire, almost everything inside destroyed. All the men, women, and children of their clan had been killed. A message had been written in blood on the courtyard walls, gloating at the Jacobi's final victory, thanks to the arrival of their newest warrior. In a rage, he and his best men had stormed the Jacobi's fortress, but everyone but he had been killed. He had never met this invincible warrior of the Jacobi's, but he vowed that day to rip him to pieces when he did. Or better yet, to torture him slowly, over the period of many years, until he became a hollow shell of a man. Then, his clan would be avenged.
So for the past year, Elias had lived alone in the ruins of the fortress, not even bothering to repair the place after burying and giving proper rites to all the bodies. Occasionally, he would go into the city to buy food or pick odd fights with members of other clans, but he spent most of his existence listlessly staring off into space, trying not to think of his dead clansmen.
And now he had this prisoner to take care of and interrogate, he mused. There was little doubt in his mind that this boy was a Jacobi, as any other clan that had had the temerity to order him assassinated had already tried and failed in the past year. Only the Jacobis continued to send out assassins, sometimes seasoned warriors, sometimes fresh new recruits. This one was definitely from the latter.
He wondered why they hadn't sent their champion yet. Probably too worried he'd be killed and leave them defenseless, he thought with a bitter smirk.
Elias finally reached the gates of his fortress and walked right in. He hadn't bother to lock or bolt anything in the fortress since the massacre one year ago; he simply didn't care. He welcomed any intrusion, any fight, any possibility of death. There was no concern for safety as there was nothing to protect.
He strode to his chambers and deposited the boy on his bed. Surprisingly, the assassin had remained conscious during the journey, and now his eyes looked up at Elias with apprehension. Elias pried the boy's fingers from his shirt, then went to start a fire. Throwing his hat onto a chair, he grabbed a pot and filled it with water, placing it over the fire to boil. While waiting for the fire to boil, he gathered some herbs and ground them into a poultice. He ripped a spare blanket into strips, throwing the cloths into the boiling water.
Elias then turned his attention to his prisoner. He slowly unwrapped the bloodied cloak from his body. He moved to remove the boy's clothes next, but was stopped by the assassin's hands weakly pushing his hands away. "Ssh, I just want to clean your wounds," Elias said, a little impatiently. The boy continued to resist ineffectually, a look of trepidation on his face. Finally, he got the boy's shirt off and removed the additional layers of clothing he had beneath. His prisoner groaned and turned his face away, hiding the fresh tears that flowed down his face.
Elias stared in disbelief as blood began to flow from his prisoner's copious wounds anew. It simply couldn't be; it was impossible; but there was no denying the slight taper of the waist, the slight flaring of hips underneath the pants, the small mounds that sat higher on the chest. "By the gods, you're a girl?" Elias whispered incredulously.
He gently reached around her and removed the cloth covering her face. She refused to turn her head or look back at him, but there was no mistaking it; her features were distinctly feminine. Still in shock, Elias decided to find out, unequivocally, once and for all. His hands moved to her pants and she immediately whimpered. All guards were down now; she was in too much pain and fear to care about keeping up a strong and passive front; she knew she was completely defenseless; she knew she was completely helpless. She simply lay there, tears glittering in her dark eyes, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Removing the last of her clothing, Elias groaned. He had never been this close to a naked woman, and it had to be this of all circumstances! His eyes swept over her lower body; other than the stab wound on her thigh, she appeared to be unharmed below her waist. He gently covered her from the hips down with a sheet, smiling as he watched her struggle to stay conscious, the better to defend her honor.
He dropped the herbs into the water and removed it from the heat. He dipped a cloth in the warm water and gently began to wash her wounds. She recoiled in pain, but he gently restrained her with a hand. He briefly considered giving her some tea to help her sleep, but was worried that if he let her slip out of consciousness, she would not wake up again. He folded up her facecloth and offered it to her as a gag. She looked into his deep green eyes for the first time, surprised. He smiled only with his eyes as she opened her mouth, grateful for this small mercy. She promptly bit on the cloth to muffle a scream as he continued to treat her wounds. By the time he finished cleaning her wounds and wrapping her in bandages, she had fainted.
Elias removed the gag from her mouth and covered her with a thick blanket, smoothing the sweat-matted hair from her forehead. He was startled by this new revelation and promised himself that this didn't change anything. He would still be as harsh with her as necessary to get his answers, but he wouldn't take sexual advantage of her.