Dee sat in her small cell trying to figure out a way to get rid of the spells binding her to this place. Since part of it was magic affecting the mind, and psions were much more effective at matters of the mind, she was having some limited success. However, for all of her potential as a psion, she lacked training necessary for this type of work. Matters of the mind were high level psionic skills and Selvaria didn’t have the necessary skill to train her in that field. Dee could figure some things out on her own, but this was beyond the scope of self-learning. That said, even if she did manage to remove all the spells affecting her mind, there were still others that would affect her body.
The reason Zabaniya could freely let her out of this place to perform missions, was because they knew she had to return even if she tried to run. The compulsion placed on all of the children tied them to their handlers and the place they were based at. The masters of this place came in all varieties so it was a very bad idea to force the kids magically to follow the orders of every master. Partially it was for self-defense and removal of rivals. If the degenerate sickos could force the kids to follow their orders magically, that would not end well for anyone. The other problem was that sometimes the orders could be contradictory with so many masters, so any spell forcing obeisance would break the kids.
The only orders the compulsion forced on them was those given by their handlers. In Dee’s case that meant Malik. If she tried to resist any orders given by him, she would feel intense pain that would get worse as time passed. Similarly there would be a pressure that would build up if she spent too much time away from either Malik or this place. In his vicinity and in this place that pressure went away. The pressure would be the main reason that would eventually bring any escapee back, even assuming the handler was stupid enough to not order the child not to escape. Final part of it was that if she attacked her handler, she would suffer unimaginable pain, and if she actually managed to kill her handler she would also suffer a painful death a short time later.
Dee could resist the pressure and might be able to remove that part completely if she tried. That said she still had to follow the orders, although she could lessen the effect. Even so, she still had no way to escape just yet. She looked at one of the walls of her cell. The wall was filled with markings she had made with her claws. She tried to make a mark every day to track time, but some days she was simply in too much pain to manage it. Some days she had simply been completely out of it, either due to one of the operations or because she had been subjected to one of the drugs the organization used to strengthen the kids. Still, the markings were better than nothing. They at least gave an indication of the passage of time.
The only other way to judge time was by monitoring her growth. She had come here as a small child, and she was now starting to get up in height. Due to her race, she would most likely end up taller than standard female humans, so she still had more to expect in that regard. She was also barely starting to develop secondary sexual characteristics. That part was bad in several ways. She didn’t want to appear attractive to the masters of this place. So far her fur and features had discouraged any interest, but that might change if she became more ‘womanly’. It would also be harder to appear innocent to others, which had made her missions easier so far. There was a reason the organization used kids after all.
She gave a deep sigh. It seemed there was now another timer working against her. It was becoming more and more important for her to escape. Yet the chances of that weren’t looking all that great. She turned her head towards the door as she heard the familiar steps.
“Time to go again. Hope you’re ready for the next…” Malik’s cheery voice was interrupted by the sounds of explosions and the shaking of the building. “What the hell?” He said, while looking towards the ceiling.
They started hearing screams, yells and the sounds of battle. “That doesn’t sound very positive.” Dee said in a dry voice, secretly rejoicing at what seemed to be happening. She had been wondering when the place would get attacked. Sooner or later some information would leak out and some party who resented their activities would strike back at them. She wasn’t all that hopeful of the attacker’s chances, but there was a certain amount of schadenfreude at imagining the masters getting killed.
“Don’t be too happy. It’s rather unlikely that whoever is causing this commotion will be able to do real damage. This place is filled with killers after all.” Malik said with a grimace. Secretly he didn’t have as much confidence in those words as he showed. If someone had the guts to attack Zabaniya, they would most likely have enough backing and planning to not fail an attack like this.
Her eyes twitched as she listened. “I wouldn’t be so sure. By the sounds of it, there are quite a few enemies, and they seem to be gaining ground. Besides, I’m just happy to see some of the scum in this place dying off.”
Malik started leading her towards the large room where all of the kids in this block of cells took their meals. He also gave orders to follow to all the kids with hand gestures, and the kids filed after him. When they got into the room, they had gathered twenty other kids, who all huddled close to the door leading towards the cells. Despite everything, they were still children and got scared for their lives. Malik cast a spell that would help him gather information about what was happening on the outside.
“What? How did they mobilize all these organizations at once? The paladins and templars of Radiant Sun, Mystic’s guild, Holy Orders and freelancers. What is going on?” He mumbled to himself.
Suddenly his face twitched in pain, as his spell was countered and he suffered some backlash. “Well this might be more serious than I thought. At least the other masters managed to force the kids to fight too. That should give the attackers something to think about.”
There were sounds of running and fighting just outside the door. “Alright kids, it’s time to earn your keep. As soon as the enemy comes through that door…” His voice was interrupted as clawed fingers formed into a knife hand penetrated his back and came out of his chest. He could see the purple psionic energy surrounding the hand. He had already almost forgotten that Dee was psionic as she rarely showed her powers more than was absolutely necessary.
He tried to look back and saw Dee standing behind him, her hand having pierced his chest and heart. He hadn’t even considered that Dee would sign her own death warrant by attacking him, and wasn’t prepared to it at all. If he had been, he could’ve rather easily blocked Dee’s strike. Their rather long acquaintance also blinded him to the possibility. He had always considered Dee to be too rational for something like this.
“If I’m going to die, I want to at least choose the way I go. I choose to go by taking you with me.” Dee whispered into his ear. The last thing he heard before dying was the scream of pain as the backlash from disobeying orders and attacking her handler struck Dee.
Captain Sarfina was horrified about what they had found in this den of assassins. She had thought that she had seen the worst that the Night city had to offer when she had lead raids to liberate the people held in the slave pens and brothels. She had been wrong. At least the slaves and prostitutes were treated somewhat decently, or their value as goods would plummet. They were commodities to the scum that treated them as products, and visible injuries reduced their value. This was something different.
She had seen the dead bodies piled in some of the rooms. Some had clearly died from being beaten to a pulp and succumbing to internal hemorrhaging, while others were mutilated. The eeriest ones didn’t seem to have any wounds. It was as if they had just given up on life. And the worst part was that almost all of them were children. The living kids they found were almost worse. Some of their minds were too far gone, and they just lashed out at anyone getting close to them. In other places the assassins ordered the kids to attack her men. They managed to subdue some of the kids, but they also had to kill others. These kids were not harmless enough to subdue gently.
‘What is this place?’ Sarfina thought. ‘Are they trying to train these children as assassins? Have they already forced these kids to kill others?’ The mere thought made her shudder. They had heard rumors of child assassins, but she always thought them as just that, rumors.
She blocked the strike of another assassin with her shield and plunged the blade of her sword into his throat. There was another one of those large doors ahead of her. She had learned to dread these doors because she knew what waited behind them. That door would lead to another room full of kids that would be magically compelled to attack them. Or they were crazy enough to do so without compulsion.
One of her subordinates struck down another assassin. The scum were skilled, but they were trained in assassination, not in a straight and honest fight, not to mention group tactics. They also seemed to be lower ranked as warriors than her subordinates. As they approached the door, they suddenly heard the loud scream of an unidentified female in obvious pain. Without sparing even a thought to the possibility that it might be a trap, Sarfina rushed through the door using her shield as a battering ram.
Inside a weird sight greeted her. One of those high ranking assassins dressed in black was lying on the floor with a hole in his torso. Most of the kids were standing huddling near the backdoor leading towards the tiny cells, while one of them was rolling on the ground screaming in pain. There was smoke coming from her body, while it seemed she was both getting corroded by something and regenerating from the damage at the same time. The blood all over her hand made it obvious who had caused the death of the black clad assassin.
With a single glance Sarfina understood most of the situation. The assassin had been about to order the kids to attack Sarfina and her subordinates, but the demi-human girl currently shifting back and forth between her normal form and a werewolf form had surprised the assassin and struck him down. Now she was suffering from the backlash of whatever magic held sway over the children. She had saved the other kids, but was now suffering the repercussions. Finally something decent in this den of vipers! Sarfina would do everything she could to save the only person in this place that had showed even a shred of decency and hope.
“We need a healer right now!” She yelled, enhancing her voice with holy power. “In the meantime, guys do everything you can to keep that girl alive. She might be the only good thing to come out of this place!” She waved towards the four paladins in their group that were skilled at using their healing abilities. She herself was a templar that focused her holy powers on defensive and offensive abilities instead of healing.
“You guys detain the other kids and make sure they won’t get out of hand like the others!” She barked an order to the rest of her unit, while she tried to use her magical amulet to contact one of the higher ranking mages from the Mystic’s guild. It was likely that the spell causing the girl all this pain was fairly complex, and not something that could be removed with normal curse removal abilities of the clerics.
“Captain, I don’t think we can do much for her by ourselves! We’re barely keeping her alive. We’re not clerics!” One of the paladins raised his voice, with sweat already matting his brows. The paladins were able to heal most normal injuries and simple diseases, but they were warriors first and holy men second.
“Do what you can to keep her alive. I’m trying to get some help here, so just try to buy some time.” She moved towards head of the girl on the ground, and looked her in the eyes. There were many strong feelings flashing through them, but Sarfina also saw a strong will to live. “Will you be able to hold on, or are they only wasting their time?”
The only answer she got was a faint toothy smile, before the light of psionic power started shining though her skin, slowing the process of the decay a little bit. Sarfina could also feel the snap of a spell breaking. Apparently the girl had been working on removing some of the spells affecting her. “Good girl.” Sarfina murmured, and turned around just in time to see a gold ranked cleric come through the door. Good, he might be able to keep things under control.
She still had work to do, and this den of evil still needed cleansing.
Asahim knocked on the door of his master. Once again there was no answer, but the door opened to let him in. His master was in the middle of painting, as Asahim walked in and kneeled with one knee on the floor. Neither of them was in a hurry, since they knew what the matter was about. Hassan-i-Sabbah proceeded to put the finishing touches on the painting he had been creating for the last five months. It was a magical piece where the image would move and play out the scene imagined by the painter. Hassan had used such skill that the image seemed to come to life even before the magic was applied.
“Report.” He said simply.
“All three of the sites have been raided. The united forces killed all the assassins present, and managed to save some of the children. Wraith was one of the people saved.” Asahim reported.
“What is her condition?” Hassan asked.
“According to my sources, she suffered quite a bit as a result of the backlash from the compulsion. She is expected to make a full recovery though, as the clerics and mages got to her in time. The captain leading the raid seemed to have taken a liking to her, and did her best so save Wraith. Most of her suffering seemed to come as a result of her killing Lord Malik.” Asahim continued his report.
“Oh, she decided to take Malik with her to her death? That’s an interesting choice. Even for a surprise attack, it’s impressive she managed to kill a knight ranked warrior, not to mention Malik’s magical abilities. I’m assuming her identity is safe? She was one of the main targets of the raid after all. I doubt they would waste time treating her if they knew who she was.” The master knew the answer, but was just making sure. Fools rely on assumptions while smart people check and double check.
“Naturally. Few people knew of her identity as the one called Wraith and they are all dead. I made sure to also kill all the researchers that worked on her to stop any chance of speculation, as per your orders. I’m going to assume Wraith herself is smart enough not to give herself away. The Radiant Sun assumes that one of the adult assassins was Wraith, possibly Lord Malik. They would never suspect a child, and they are focused on trying to rehabilitate the ones they managed to save.” Asahim said with a level of certainty that implied inside knowledge.
“That works perfectly then. They will most likely make those kids train in their communities, partly to try and help them forget and partly as a penance for what they might have done while controlled by us. It’s not a bad idea, giving the kids a chance to make amends, but they might find that most of the kids are too far gone. Seeing as a captain of the Radiant Sun took interest in Wraith, they’ll most likely train her either as a templar or a paladin. That would complement the training we gave really well, so that suits my purposes perfectly. We taught her how to kill; now the templars will teach her how to fight and stay alive.” Hassan replied with a smile.
After a moment of silence Asahim had to ask. “Master, is this really fine? We spent quite a bit of effort and resources on her. I know you had a purpose in having me leak the location of those bases, but I must admit the purpose eludes me a bit.”
Hassan gave a small sigh of disappointment. Not that he had really expected Asahim to pick up on all the hints. “An assassin that doesn’t have experience of the world and society at large will not be a very effective assassin in the long run. I don’t really mind what Wraith does for the next hundred years, as long as she becomes stronger and stays alive. We gave her the tools to become strong, and now she has to finish the process by sharpening the blade we forged her into, so that she’ll be an effective weapon we can use when the time comes.
The training of an assassin is too one-sided for the purposes I have in mind, and she’ll need both a wide array of training as well as lot of experience before she will be ready. We are working to create the sharpest blade ever made, but we can’t do it alone. She won’t be just an assassin when I’m done with her. I have grander plans.
The three bases were a small price to pay for what I have in mind. We needed to scale down our operations in the lesser circles anyway, because the powers that be were getting nervous. Now they got a victory under their belt and can go back to their flock to claim victory and to strut around and forget about us. We will hide in the shadows as usual and come out only when it suits our purposes. People like Malik were making us lose our identity. We aren’t just knives for hire; we are the arbiters of death. The actions of people like Malik were cheapening us and turning us ordinary.” Hassan looked clearly happy as he talked about his thoughts as he gazed at the painting.
“But will she return to us?” Asahim asked a little incredulous.
“She doesn’t have to. We’ll find her when the time comes. There are uncountable ways of ensuring a person’s loyalty, and the only way her loyalty holds any value is when it is given by her own free will. Otherwise she will spend most of her efforts trying to struggle free. And even if there’s no loyalty, all we really need is for our goals to align. We got her so used to death that I would be surprised if she didn’t decide to seek out revenge. Peace was not in her blood in the first place, and I think we managed to remove any chances of a future life of peace and quiet.” Hassan gave the painting a small tap with his finger activating the spell.
The painting depicted a knight plunging a lance into the chest of an archangel with golden wings. The knight had foxlike ears coming from under the helmet and nine flaming tails streaming behind her. The knight’s fur was originally snow white, though now it was soaked permanently crimson in the blood of her enemies. The archangel bore a striking resemblance to a certain handsome Archangel of Order, and was clearly in his death throes. The painting also depicted several broken corpses of other high ranking angels scattered on the ground.