Seeing as the enemies had managed to get past the guards around the perimeter without raising an alarm, it seemed likely they were either professionals or much stronger than their opponents. The first option seemed more likely, as beings that much stronger than the people here wouldn’t bother hiding in the first place. The approach of the beings she sensed was very slow, as if they were waiting for something.
Dee suspected that the approaching enemies were in fact assassins. Who they were targeting was a mystery, but it seemed likely that the target or targets were among the Genasi. The timing and number of assailants was more than a little ominous though. It didn’t seem like the sort of approach Zabaniya would take. In a world this large there were plenty of assassin organizations, and Zabaniya was simply the most famous among them. These differing assassin organizations also had their own styles that they preferred.
Zabaniya usually liked to use stealth and a single assassin to accomplish the job. They usually went in, killed their target and left. There was no need for theatrics as the name of the organization was already enough to scare anyone contemplating revenge. There was a reason why the Radiant Sun had asked for the help of other organizations for their raid. Usually Zabaniya only killed the people they were paid to kill, as well as any witnesses and the guards necessary to reach the target. That wasn’t to say Zabaniya avoided collateral damage, no they would happily poison all the guests at a party just to get at a single target. However, being able to get in, kill their target and get out with minimal fuss showed that they could reach anyone without making a spectacle. It was a mark of their strength. Zabaniya’s work came at high price, so they were usually hired to get rid of hard to kill singular targets, or in cases where you couldn’t afford a failed attempt.
Some of the other assassin groups took a different approach. Some of them liked to create a spectacle, to increase their fame and to terrorize others. They were used when you wanted to make an example. “One person standing out against us? We’ll kill him and his whole community in a brutal way, just to make a point.” Some of those groups would quite happily attack a party like this, just to maximize bloodshed and the terror from all the uninvolved casualties. They were also cheaper because they did their job partly because they enjoyed bloodshed and plunder. They were like groups of bandits, except trained as assassins.
Dee was worried that they were now dealing with a group like that. If that was the case, then it would be very unlikely that the Jun musicians would be spared. Instead they would be made an example. The death would most likely not be a peaceful one either. Death of some Genasi might not bother her, but a group like that forced Dee to interfere just to save the Jun.
She used the Mindscape to determine that the enemies had surrounded the building by dividing themselves in groups of three. ‘Nine groups of three and one group of four, thirty one in total. Wait, thirty one? My senses only detected thirty?’ She checked again with both the Mindscape and her senses. One of the attackers could avoid her senses somehow. That one was in the group of four.
Things suddenly became even more serious. She signaled Mina and the other musicians with hand signals they had agreed on beforehand. Their eyes grew large as Dee gave the signs for thirty one enemies, surrounding the building. She also told them to take a break and find a defensive location, while she tried to do something about it. Some of the musicians were pretty decent mages, so they should be able to hold off attackers for a short while, as long as they had some warning.
Dee herself exited the building into the garden surrounding it, and immediately melted into the shadows hiding her presence. If the enemy wanted to play assassin games with her, she was happy to oblige. First she’d have to deal with the biggest threat, the one attacker who could hide from even her senses. She suspected that her target would also be able to hide from the senses of others, and she really didn’t want that particular enemy pouncing on her while she was in the middle of fighting someone else.
Dee moved stealthily towards the group of four. As she got closer, she could sense that the attackers weren’t all from the same race. That further suggested an assassin group that wasn’t too particular in their recruiting. There were two humans, one medium sized dark haired man that was very non-descript, as well as a large barbarian looking man almost as tall as Dee herself. There was also an elf completely masked by her dark clothing. And then there was the fourth being. Dee almost missed him again, as she couldn’t sense anything from him. No power and no emotions.
That lack of feeling was disconcerting considering he was playing around with a dagger while waiting, clearly toying with some ki along the blade. He was also showing signs of impatience in his body language. So there were clearly both emotions and power in him, but Dee couldn’t sense either. Only way she could even find him, was the man’s mind within the Mindscape.
Despite the obvious impatience and eagerness in all four of them, they didn’t say anything, or make sounds. They also avoided any use of their power that could give away their position, showing that they had at least a certain level of professionalism. The only exception was that strange man who openly displayed his power, but that was most likely because no one could sense it anyway, for some reason. He was flaunting his ability to stay undetected. It was a little eerie.
‘I suppose this is a little like how Moirai felt trying to find me in the crowd.’ Dee thought to herself.
She deemed that the strange man had to be her first target, otherwise she would have trouble keeping tabs on him. Luckily he was also the one furthest away from the manor, and they were all looking towards the building, waiting for something. Maybe they were expecting a signal, or waiting for a certain agreed upon time. Dee moved as stealthily as possible towards her target, her aura making sure that even if someone did look at her, they’d mostly just ignore her.
She had to make her first attack count, and as she couldn’t judge her targets strength, she thought it better to overkill than fail. The other three were about rank four warriors each, but the strange man might be stronger than them. Dee materialized the black blade that seemed to suck in all the light around her, coating it in her psionic power. She also cast one of her strongest negative energy holy spells on the blade.
Mazatl had disliked Dee’s proficiency at using harmful holy spells, especially considering her blessing coming from the Goddess of Light herself, but she didn’t know about the power of Umbra within Dee. That power was filled with negative energy and was perfect for bringing harm to Dee’s opponents. The only problem with such holy spells was that they were usually very short range, or had a delayed effect like curses or something that killed slowly like corruption of the body.
That said, there was one group of harmful holy spells especially suited for Dee’s use, complimenting her melee abilities. If healing spells filled with positive energy gave your target life-force, then these spells took it away. The opposite of healing spells. Dee suspected that her nature made her especially adept at using them, just like she had much more trouble using healing spells in return. Demons were creatures of the dark after all.
‘Croestia, buff to strength and speed please.’ Dee also silently commanded just in case.
It was a good thing that Dee had put her full strength into the blow, as the blade only barely managed to breach the protective energy gathered on the man’s skin, also known as touki. If the man had been prepared and fully ready, Dee’s blade would most likely fail to pierce that protective layer, simply bouncing off. The man was clearly stronger than Dee! However, the blade did slip between the man’s ribs right where Dee had aimed at, penetrating the man’s heart from behind.
Just that might not have been enough, as strong people might be able to live for a while even with such wound, but the most dangerous part about Dee’s attack had not been the sharp edge of her blade. The dark blade carried a strong corruptive power, and when it was delivered straight into his heart, the man only briefly felt as all her ki became sluggish and stopped working properly. And that’s were the real problem started. The dark spell carried along the blade greedily started devouring the already flickering life-force of the man. In less than two seconds the man had become a desiccated corpse, while Dee felt a surge of energy flowing into her. She also felt something else flow into her from the man.
Dee however had no time to pay attention to that as she had other enemies to deal with, and she could also feel that whatever else she had just felt flowing into her wasn’t negative. Before the other three had time to react, Dee pulled out a pair of throwing daggers and threw them into the eyes of two more enemies, the long point penetrating straight into their skulls, the sharp point of the blades coated with psionic energy.
With slight amusement Dee noted that the two had some sort of holy power protecting them, most likely a buff from a friendly dark priest. However, Dee’s throwing daggers were also holy weapons and penetrated those protections easily. She’d have to remember to give Fimul a hug as thanks for those daggers when she got back.
The fourth person, the large barbarian looking human, charged at Dee from the right, still keeping silent showing his professionality. To his shock though, a black wing suddenly materialized above him, and he didn’t have the chance to avoid as the black wing flashed down, cleanly cutting the man in two from head to toes. Well, cleanly might have been the wrong as the man’s blood and entrails suddenly flowed out, staining the ground around the spot where he died.
‘That’s kinda gross. Now you have blood all over your wing. You really should aim to strike sideways, or alternatively just slit their throat when using your wing. Look at the mess you made.’ Croestia said silently, a little displeased at the mess.
‘Very effective though. I still can’t believe how effective the black wing is for attacking.’ Dee said, giving the wing a shake, throwing all the blood and other fluids off. It was as if the wing rejected being dirtied like that, not a single stain marring the black gleaming feathers anymore. Dee also knew to be silent in this situation. ‘Come, we have other assassins to kill. Hopefully the rest of them are equally cooperative.’
I turned out that most of the attackers were, though apparently the time they had been waiting for came before Dee was finished, and the remaining assassins charged at the party venue. Luckily for the Genasi though, only nine of them were alive at this point. Although the party venue didn’t hold too many guards, the guests themselves were not helpless. Fighting against more than thirty people stronger than them would’ve gone very badly for the Genasi. However, a fight against nine, who also came from only one direction instead of surrounding them, was much different.
Although the Genasi didn’t come out unscathed, the fight was still decided rather quickly. The party was ruined however, and Dee prepared the Jun to return back to the Four Winds compound. Only a portion of the outer perimeter guards had been killed, along with some unlucky patrols, so when they heard the sounds of battle they rushed towards the venue. On the way they ran into several rather gruesome battle sites. Over twenty bodies of the attackers were found dead in the garden. The Genasi would of course run their own investigation into the matter, trying to find out what had happened. Dee suspected that they would be unsuccessful, as that was one of the benefits of hiring assassins to do the dirty work for you.
Her suspicion proved to be less than accurate as it turned out.
On their way back, Dee and the Jun noticed that the party wasn’t the only place that had been attacked. There was smoke coming from several places, and they could see the glow of some burning buildings. As they got to the area controlled by the Four Winds, they found dozens of bodies being dragged off by the Dagon guards. Notably there were several places with blood, where bodies had already been moved. The Dagon guards didn’t seem too worried though, and there was no sign of damage within the walled area either. Dee separated from the Jun, and found Moirai at the plaza in the middle of the Four Winds area, trying to detect any enemies that had slipped within their area.
“Dee, good to see you back alive and well. I can’t quite tell with all these people running around, but judging from your expression the Jun you were supposed to protect are ok.” Moirai said, not even opening her eyes. She was too busy scanning for additional enemies, and Dee’s expression would be the same no matter what had happened.
“Yes, though not for the lack of trying on the enemies’ part. The Genasi were attacked as well, though judging by the amount of bodies outside, not nearly as hard as you. And so were several other places if I’m right.” Dee replied with an easy tone. She didn’t really care if anyone from the other communities had died. Truth be told, she didn’t really care all that much for the people of Four Winds either, but she was supposed to help protect them while she was training here.
“Right you are. There were about three dozen simultaneous attacks around the city. Our compound was the hardest hit, most likely due to us being the strongest community in this city. They didn’t really expect the presence of the guardians though. That suggests their information was spotty at best. I don’t really think the attacks against us were even supposed to succeed.” Moirai voiced her suspicion.
“I’m inclined to agree. The attack on the Genasi would’ve been successful, but not to the point of actually destroying the whole Three Spears community. I think the idea was to do as much damage as possible to send a message and then retreat. Judging by the fires I saw, a part of that message was much more successful in its delivery.” Dee agreed with Moirai’s suspicion. “I assume you interrogated some of the attackers?”
“Of course. They were from an organized assassin group and didn’t know anything beyond their mission, which was as you surmised, meant to end in a quick escape after doing some damage. Here’s the real fun part though. I’m fairly sure the assassin organization that attacked us was different from the one that attacked you. I got my hands on one of the buggers that attacked the other communities, and he was from a different group as well.” Moirai had a slight smirk, somewhat happy to one-up her disciple.
Dee gave a small appreciative whistle. “Well that is interesting, isn’t it? Someone’s been throwing around a lot of money. The assassin organizations really dislike working with each other. And I mean they’d much rather kill each other instead, and for free of charge.”
Moirai looked up sharply. “You seem to know quite a bit about them.”
Dee grimaced, noticing her slip-up. “Well I did mention the Radiant Sun saved me from some bad people.” She gave an expressive wave of her hand. Translation: you should know which bad people by now.
Moirai looked at Dee thoughtfully. “Any chance that group was among today’s attackers?”
“I seriously doubt it. I can’t be certain of course, but if Zabaniya had been involved, they wouldn’t have failed this badly. Plus, this isn’t really their style.” Dee decided she might as well go the whole way now that she was sharing.
Moirai drew a sharp breath, which she let out after a moment of thought. “Well then, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised, seeing as Radiant Sun and Threads of Fate were already involved with you.” She narrowed her eyes. “Now that I think about it, I think I heard something about a joint raid on their facilities several years ago. Idle gossip mostly, as they don’t really operate in the third circle. They were training you to become an assassin, weren’t they?” She asked remembering how Dee had struck one of the three ruffians attacking Mina the first time they met. Dee had told Moirai she had struck in a particular way to keep the blood from splashing on her.
Dee simply raised an eyebrow at her in reply. Translation: that’s a really dumb question.
“Alright, alright, now need to be snide.” Moirai raised her hands in surrender, reading Dee’s look correctly. “I was simply considering if you had any insight into this attack?”
“I can’t really say I have. I know it’s very strange for the assassin groups to behave like this, but that’s about it. They all seemed to be from organizations that aren’t too picky about the methods used, and favor blood and terror. Beyond that…well I wasn’t really privy to the inner workings of what makes assassin organizations tick.” Dee replied with a shrug.
“Well, that’s better than nothing. The objective of this attack is still unclear, so until then, we’ll take all precautions. No one goes outside without protection, not even you.” Moirai said after a moment of consideration.
“I’ll go check on Mina then. They were not involved, but I want to make sure this didn’t hit her too hard.” Dee said turning towards Mina’s house.
“Bah, you’re just hungry and want her cooking. Just admit it!” Moirai accused Dee with a wide grin. “Don’t think you’ll get away that easily. We could use you keeping an eye out until morning. I know how sharp those senses of yours can be.” Moirai had already figured that Mina’s cooking was the best way to control Dee.
Dee decided to ignore the accusation, which had hit the mark anyway. “That reminds me, one of the assassins who attacked the Genasi was able to hide from all my senses, aside from Mindscape. I have no idea how he pulled it off. He was also stronger than me, so I’d warn the guards. You could still see him normally though, so it wasn’t like he had the same ability as me.”
Moirai frowned. “If he was that strong, how did you manage to kill him?”
Dee’s eyebrow shot up again. “I used to be an assassin too, remember? I didn’t give him an honest fight. That’s for idiots. I made sure he was the first one I killed. I just thought I should warn you, in case there’s more like him.”
“That doesn’t sound right. Your ability to hide is a psionic skill, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There are several ways to hide your presence, but knowing what I do about your senses, it feels odd that someone could hide from them like that…unless…” Moirai suddenly stood up, walking to Dee and taking her hand.
Dee could sense a small psionic probe investigating her, much like the Delving skill used by healers. “What?”
“Son of a…it’s an Authority!” Moirai huffed clearly shocked.
“An…Authority? I thought those were supposed to be rare?” Dee asked back shocked. Was that the thing she had felt transferring from the odd man into her body.
“They are, but they come in different classes and rarities. If I’m reading this one right, you got a low ranking basic Authority from him as you killed him. I’m guessing it’s one of those you can win in a battle. He must have killed the previous owner as well. You lucky….!” Moirai didn’t finish her curse.
“What does it do?” Dee asked confused. She could guess some of it, judging from how she couldn’t sense the man. That would be of limited utility to her, considering her already existing skills.
“How should I know? It’s not my Authority! These things also tend to be fairly complex even when they are low level. The ability he had might not be exactly the same you get. The exact effect can change from owner to owner, though the theme remains. These lower ranking Authorities tend to be a little weird like that, since they aren’t tied to a particular legend or phenomenon.” Moirai frowned. “Regardless, you really lucked out. This warrants more study, though you’re the one that has to figure the Authority out. They don’t usually come with a manual, which is partly why their effect can vary from owner to owner. Just because it hid the last owner, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to use it.”
“Well then. More fun for me. I was a little worried it might end up being useless.” Dee said, much more optimistic now.
“Bah! I’ll tell Mina not to cook for you for a week. Someone as lucky as you doesn’t deserve her cooking.” Moirai retaliated, still jealous.
“Nooooooooo! Don’t do this to me! Master, cruel and unusual punishment is bad! Don’t be one of those masters that torture their disciples!” Dee replied in half feigned panic, grabbing on Moirai’s sleeve.