Shadhaven Chapter 5

Dak found himself slammed straight into the wall, his dagger arm bracing him against the impact as he was suddenly kicked in the back. In his rage he hadn’t even seen the assassin move, especially considering it had happened fast enough that In had barely followed it.

There was something almost inhuman about the way the man moved. He seemed to glide across the floor and bend in odd ways as he stepped around the flailing form of Dak with the same amused grin on his face. In, though concerned about his friend’s well-being, decided not to approach the battle and instead tried to analyze the imposing figure who was watching him in his peripheral vision.

His skin was dark, almost black, though that was certainly nothing to draw an issue with. Most of the desert nomads were of darker skin. His wasn’t even as dark as some that In had seen, though he certainly was nearer that end of the spectrum. The only part of his skin that was exposed was his face, though In still could not make out the man’s eyes in the darkness. That struck him as strange, considering normally eyes caught the light and stood out, but not so on this figure.

He had no visible weapons, though he seemed to be doing just fine without them as Dak spun back around and made another slash with his dagger. The man simply turned to the side at the last moment, touched his hand slightly to Dak’s wrist, then calmly guided the boy’s arm back and up, using Dak’s own momentum against him as the arm was twisted painfully behind him, causing him to drop the dagger.

Not willing to concede the victory to his sworn enemy, Dak stomped viciously behind him at the man’s booted foot, and the clank of metal told In that his friend had released the trigger mechanism on his boot, which meant that metal spikes were now protruding from Dak’s heel. The assassin, however, had anticipated the move perfectly, and while his victim’s foot was coming down, his own foot was already rising, and he let out a strong kick of his own, straight to the back of Dak’s knee, causing the boy to collapse to lose his footing and collapse, being only held up by the painfully twisted arm the man still held.

Out of nowhere a flash of metal appeared in the man’s hands as he put a short and slender blade to Dak’s throat. He began to whisper in his ear as he leaned close, “My quarrel is not with you, Dakidrae Alsinnon. Neither is it with Innidrek. In fact, if you would let go of your pesky vengeance I will let you live, and even help you. I believe that we can be mutually. . . beneficial.”

“Your words are poison assassin! Why should I trust a man who killed a noble king for a bit of coin? You ruined our lives for the sake of greed. You find my vengeance pesky? Then you’re going to love this!” Dak said triumphantly as he swung his elbow into the man’s side, a small blade sprung from the back of his arm bracer leading the way. To Dak’s horror the blade snapped as his collided with a solid piece of metal as it cut through the outer layers of the man’s clothing. He was rewarded with nothing more than a grunt from his captor. The realization of defeat settled in as he awaited his death for his treachery.

“You’ve got some nice tricks boy, but I’ve seen them all, and I am usually ready for them. If you are going to continue this foolishness, I might just have to kill you, but maybe you should take a moment and realize what Innidrek already has. My blade has still not fallen. Have you ever heard in those legends of me, of a time when I didn’t make my kill quick and efficient? If I intended to kill you, I would have done so before I even spoke to you,” the man replied as he suddenly released Dak and pushed him roughly toward the wall. He gave one last look toward the boy and then turned back to In, his smile no longer as imposing as the one he had given them before, though it still sent chills up In’s spine.

“You are the more reasonable one then? I suppose I didn’t directly kill one of your family members did I. . . No, Kesh was the only one I personally killed, and despite what you think, coin had nothing to do with it. I refused payment, but that is a story for another time I think, when Dakidrae is more open to understanding the world as it is. Do you want to get out of here Innidrek?”

In nodded slowly, though he remained very cautious in his stance as he replied, “Why do you need us? You seem far more capable than either of us in combat, as Dak is a lot better than I am. The Scavi aren’t aggressive, despite what Kobix said, so there must be something else out there, but I don’t see how we could be of any great help to you. Also, I am curious as to how you know exactly who we are.”

Chuckling, the man replied, his voice absent of humor, but still smiling, “I have spent most of my time in the capitol since the king’s death. Believe it or not, I love the city you boys grew up in. I cherished it greatly, especially since I practically grew up there myself. I, like you, was part of the underground, the shadow works. I often heard your names, In and Dak, repeated throughout the thief networks. Unlike most people, I had studied the noble families extensively, and knew of both Dakidrae and Alsinnon, and how they had not numbered among the dead. I have known who you were since practically the day you set foot on the streets, through simple observation. Why do I need you? I am not a thief, I don’t think like one, but the two of you are among the best there are. I don’t know if a thief is what I need to accomplish getting out, but I do know that more clear heads are better than one, and once Dak’s clears we will have three. Two fresh perspectives on figuring out what the hell is going on.”

In thought for a moment before questioning, “If all you were looking for was a fresher perspective, why didn’t you seek it out there among the others? There are thousands of people in that room that could give you more perspective.”

The smile finally faded from his lips as he responded in a flat tone, “You saw them. . . Did they look like they were trying to change their fate? Did it look like they were doing anything!? They were doing nothing but sitting. Nothing but rotting. Those people are dead, and they were dead the moment they gave up and huddled together in their pathetic masses, all listening to the damned fool Kobix, who I swear is there for no reason other than to bring the people down. You are the first two people I have seen venture further than a few feet into one of these tunnels, and I have been here for a few months, if I haven’t completely lost all track of time. You are the only perspective I am going to get that is worth my time. If you don’t want to help me because I killed Kesh Alsinnon, so be it. It will simply take me longer without you, but don’t expect me to help you if I find it.”

The man turned on his heels and started heading back into the tunnel, when suddenly a dagger flew past him and clanked against the wall. Turning around quickly the assassin assumed a combat stance that neither youth had ever seen before but one that earned both of their respects. It resembled a hawk prepared to dive upon it’s prey, as soon as it’s prey made a move. The hawk’s gaze settled on Dak who was slowly rising to his feet.

“I didn’t have to miss you know, now we are even. You spared my life when you could have killed me, and now I spared yours when I had the same opportunity. If we are going to work together, I refuse to be in debt to you. I will accept your alliance on one condition. Once we are free of this place you will face me in fair combat,” Dak stated with a tone that left no room for debate.

As fluidly as he had settled into the stance, the man dropped it as he nodded slightly. “I accept your conditions, though I hope you will reconsider before things are done. I have respect for you, and wouldn’t want to kill you out of your need for vengeance. Nevertheless, these terms are acceptable by me. Now, since I know you don’t want to be calling me Kesh, I will allow you to call me what my people call me. From now on, you may call me Prism.”

In nodded slowly and went to stand by Dak, laying a reassuring hand on his shoulder as he did so. He spoke for both of them as he turned to Prism and said, “Well then, I suppose we should start by you telling us what you know, since you are months ahead of the game.”

“Indeed, young Innidrek. Please follow me, but trust that should I sense malicious intent from either of you I will guarantee your swift death,” Prism replied as he turned back to the tunnel and started walking.

With a sigh from both of them, the boys followed, Dak only stopping for a moment to pick up his dagger and sheath it, knowing that if he didn’t he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from throwing it at the man, and getting them both killed.

Taoist Wednesday #2 Verse 2: Relativity

We know beauty because there is ugly. We know good because there is evil. Being and not being, having and not having, create each other.

Difficult and easy, long and short, high and low, define each other, just as before and after follow each other.

The dialectic of sound gives voice to music, always transforming “Is” from “was” as the ancestors of “to be”.

The wise, teach without telling, allow without commanding, have without possessing, care without claiming.

In this way we harvest eternal importance because we never announce it.

Though in many ways this philosophy is fairly straightforward, there is a hidden side to this verse that often goes unnoticed. Before I get into it, I will touch lightly on the general side of this verse.

Opposites are given meaning by their counterparts. We would not be able to comprehend such a thing as happiness, unless we know sadness, for in a sense, happiness would not exist without sorrow. Without having an idea of short, there cannot be any perception of what long is.

It is interesting to note, however, that in both examples, it is a matter of perspective and individual interpretation. We first create an understanding of what it is to be short, and that determines long, as well as everything in between. We set the definition before it becomes defined.

As discussed in verse 1, defining things can lead to a pitfall of expectations, and we should be careful locking ourselves into such a mentality, but that doesn’t mean that we should never use this tool.

In fact, by doing so is the only way we can truly learn, and that, I think, is the true purpose of this verse. It is telling us how to learn, and at the same time how to teach. It is explaining that in order for us to understand a concept, or learn it, we must be able to understand it’s opposite. In order to teach, we must do the same for any student, as we must show the opposite in order to show the concept.

This is much like the maxim, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

We learn as much from the consequence as from the deed.