The White Badge of Deceit; Chapter 1

The persistent rain helped to hide the shadowy figure of Jaxilar as he moved, hooded and cloaked, along the streets of Kugahloo. The large, muscular man was almost entirely invisible as he maneuvered down the ancient cobbled streets. There were few people out and about, and most everyone was more concerned with getting out of the storm, and inside to warmth and safety.

Taking care regardless to make sure he was not followed or observed, Jaxilar paused seemingly at random to glance about at his surroundings. Years of training had given him a creepy knack for spotting people that might be noticing him. His senses this evening were every bit as sharp, but nothing out of the ordinary occurred to him. The rain coursed down the hood and on to his face, dripping steadily from his reddish brown mustache. At each turn his sharp eyes sought out potential threats and every time he was reassured that his passage through the city was going unnoticed. Known simply as “Jax” to his close associates, he was a highly trained killer. He had worked for a number of powerful nobles in the countries surrounding Kugahloo, and through the communication channels of the city’s criminal underworld, he had been contacted to do a job for none other than the ruler of the city-state itself.

As he neared his destination close to the heart of the city, he took more care to study his surroundings. The tall, unobtrusive tower by all outward appearances was a run-down merchant warehouse, complete with a two-story storefront, its windows boarded up and door secured with a heavy padlock. This was merely a façade for the powerful and mysterious Kugahloon secret service, the Council of Inquisition. It was that entity which wanted to hire Jaxilar. Down the side of the building ran an abnormally narrow alley with a steep staircase running down to a basement beneath the tower. The rain pouring off of the building’s roof ran like a waterfall down the stairs. Jaxilar made his way smoothly and silently to the top of the stairs. He turned, making sure nobody had seen him enter the alley. He smiled, and turned to go down the steps.

He was instantly aware of the person in front of him, even before he felt the searing pain of the long stiletto that had been thrust with surgical precision into his heart. He had no idea that the needle-like blade had been coated in a diabolical poison that instantly took hold of his motor skills, freezing him in place. His mouth fell open noiselessly as his attacker withdrew the stiletto as swiftly as it had been inserted. The form in front of him seemed to hover above the stairwell, in the darkness it was impossible to discern anything other than there was somebody there.

“A preemptive measure.” The floating assassin said, a hint of a chuckle in his lilting voice. “The man you were being hired to kill, would rather you didn’t.” With obvious magic employed, Jaxilar’s killer floated up and away from him. Jaxilar’s body began to shut down. The mortally wounded man wobbled briefly, and then in an instant fell down the stairs with a wet, sickening clatter. His drenched and lifeless corpse lay in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs.

The storm continued. There was no thunder, no lightning. Just rain unceasing and with the aid of this, and the cover of night, an assassin flew via spellcraft out of the downtown, over the inner walls, and into the sprawling outer city where, upon landing in yet another deserted alley, they simply vanished into the rain and the more crowded lower-class streets.

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