Caleb woke up regretting his decision to drink the night before. It had sounded like a good idea at the time, but it had just been a distraction from the business of killing the cloaked men that had come looking for him. Though it worked as a distraction, it also left him with a killer headache.
He shook his head as he sat up in the bed. Distractions and headaches were the least of his concerns at that moment. From what he could gather from the events of the night before, someone wanted him dead.
Could it be one of Cain's men? The thought did not sit well with him. He was completely aware of the fact that he had only seen a small number of Cain's men die, so it was a possibility. His father had made it clear to him that a hundred men attacked Kirakath, and his father was not the type to make himself look better by exaggerating. So when it came right down to it, Cain only managed to retain a fourth of his men when Caleb found his camp.
He sighed as he slid around on the bed so that his feet could touch the cold, wooden floor. He had known all along that he had allowed the other seventy-five men involved in the Massacre of Kirakath live, though he spared little thought to it. All that mattered to him was that Cain had been responsible for the massacre, and he had died for it. For all he knew, the rest of the men involved had been dismissed after their job was finished.
No, it can't be them. That… assassin… called my Caleb Sullivan. They might know me as Caleb of Kirakath, but there's just no way that they could have figured out my real name.
He pursed his lips, confusion enthralling him. He could not figure out how anyone could possibly know his actual name. He had not directly used the name since Kirakath was massacred, after all.
A memory flickered in his mind as he suddenly remembered Jon and Correll Staerk, the slavers that had intended to sell him to someone from the Isle of Akabar. They had asked him if he had known Michael Sullivan.
Damn it all to the abyss! Everyone I saved that day had to know my surname because of that. They could have easily revealed my real name without even meaning to. I need to be more careful.
He sighed again as he rose to his feet. He knew one thing for certain at that moment. He needed to get as far away from there as he could, as quickly as possible. He was sure that there were more after him. The third assassin had said as much the night before.
Once he was dressed in his black leather boots, black trousers, and black tunic, he left the room and made his way to the tavern.
Upon arriving, he noted that the weapons of the assassins from the night before had been hung upon the walls. He groaned as he realized that the events of the previous night would likely be common knowledge to all future patrons of the inn.
That's why he wanted my name. Needless to say, the thought was quite displeasing. He did not want his name to be spoken with some sort of reverence as a result of killing three men.
“It's good to see you again,” the innkeeper said as he came out of the door next to the barrel of ale behind the bar. “I never properly thanked you for saving my inn, along with my customers.”
“They were here for me,” Caleb said, shaking his head. “I didn't save anyone. They weren't even in danger.”
“That's not how I'll tell it,” the innkeeper said with a grin as he walked behind the bar. From behind it, he removed an object and held it out. Caleb immediately recognized it as his knife, and it was being offered handle first. “I took care of the bodies last night after you called it a night. I thought you'd be leaving today, so I cleaned your knife for you.”
“I am,” Caleb said with a small smile as he took the knife from the innkeeper's hand and sheathed it. “Thanks for retrieving it for me. This knife is very important to me.”
“Oh?” the innkeeper asked, clearly hoping to hear something that he could add onto the tale he no doubt planned to tell future patrons of his inn.
“My father gave it to me,” Caleb said stiffly. It was clear that he would not say any more, but he did not need to either. Just about everyone in the kingdom knew of the Massacre of Kirakath by now.
Caleb turned away from the innkeeper and began to walk towards the door, but he was stopped by a question that came from the innkeeper.
“Are you really the sole survivor of Kirakath? You're the only one I've heard of since it happened.”
Caleb closed his eyes and braced his right hand against the door at the question. There were two others, presumably. He knew nothing of Hector's fate, nor that of Gabriel Silver. He hoped that they were still alive and well, but hope was not a thing he relied on anymore. It felt as though he had lost all reason to have hope in anything.
“I'm the only one that survived,” he said, quietly as he pulled the door open. It was not a lie. Not exactly, at least. Hector had been gone for four months when the massacre occurred, and Gabriel had already left to join the King's Army when it happened. As a result, Caleb was the only one that survived who was still living in Kirakath when the massacre happened.
Caleb immediately walked to the stables and removed his mare from it.
His eyes drifted to his saddle immediately. At the back of the saddle, the yew long bow that Nicolas had given him and his quiver were wrapped in a sheet of canvas and were tied to the back of the seat. That was not the main thing that caught his eye though. Instead, he was looking at the possession that he both hated and loved above all else: the Sword of Kirakath.
It was a majestic looking sword, but he could not admire anything about it after feeling its power.
Will I be forced to use you again?
He felt that he knew the answer, and it was not one that he liked. Its magic had filled him the night before, making it clear that he did not need to touch it in order to use it. Of that, he was certain.
Father, why did you want me to get this sword? Surely there was another way to kill them without relying on it? The magic of the sword and the way it affected him had continued to bother him.
He shook his head as he sheathed the sword back and made his way out of the inn.
It was with a heavy heart that Caleb rode away from the Blue Sparrow Inn.
* * * * *
Later that night, the door of the tavern opened and a man wearing a black hooded cloak walked in. He lowered his hood as he surveyed his surroundings.
He was a clean shaven man with pale skin, stormy gray eyes, and short black hair.
He walked to the bar with a smooth walk that did not make a sound. Stopping before the innkeeper, he placed one mark on the bar with an empty smile.
“I've had a long ride today. A pint of ale would be much appreciated, my good man.”
The innkeeper licked his lips as he picked up the coin and got to work.
The man's eyes went to the wall of the tavern where a dagger, a scimitar, and two short swords were hung. The sight made his eyes narrow dangerously.
They bear the mark of the Night Blades. You can only pry them from our hands when death takes us, so their target must have killed them. I always love seeing something so ironic, even when it should bother me.
The innkeeper set the tankard of ale down before the man and cleared his throat. “I see you're admiring the new decorations.”
The man turned to the innkeeper with a smile. “Indeed, I am. I don't suppose they have a story behind them, do they?”
As expected, an eager look overcame the innkeeper as he nodded his head and began to tell his tale.
“Last night, a young man was sitting over at that table in the corner when….”
The man listened patiently as the innkeeper told the tale of how the young man killed three assassins with minimal effort.
It's a shame I turned down that job. Still, the boss is going to need this information. If this kid is going by Caleb of Kirakath, it may explain why they have had so much trouble tracking him down.
“So when did this Caleb of Kirakath leave?” he asked, his hand creeping into his cloak.
“He left this morning. Why do you ask?”
Those were the innkeeper's last words. The man's dagger ended his life as soon as they were spoken with a single cut. With a spin, the man threw three other knives from underneath his cloak at the few other patrons that were present. As always, they were lethal throws.
With that, the man drank the cheap ale from his tankard and tossed it to the side, uncaring of the prospect of making a mess.
“It really pisses me off when people make me go out of my way to do something. I just left Umbridge this morning, so now I've lost two full days of riding. I guess my target gets to live a little longer.”
He left a short time later, but only after torching the Blue Sparrow Inn and watching it burn.
Azrael, the greatest assassin among the Night Blades, always left very little in the way of evidence.
It would likely be months before anyone even realized that the inn was gone. Even then, no one would suspect him.
He only took on the high profile targets. Innkeepers that barely made ends meet were outside of his normal fare. People that seemed completely unremarkable, like Caleb of Kirakath, were too.
If he had made an exception, everything would have been different. But he did not.