There was no sense of urgency in Alec’s pace. He traversed the jagged rocks and mud puddles like someone who was floating over them. His robes stayed in pristine shape with not a speck of dirt on them. To Jaycee, who found himself completely covered in muck, became annoyed.
Alec took them farther into the town. Leon followed, saying nothing. The path before them eventually widened, and an enormous building, still intact, stretched before them. It must have been a place of worship back in its heyday, the bell at the top giving its true identity away. Next to it, tucked off in the corner, remained multiple graves, stones faded from time left to the elements. A shovel sat nearby, holes in the dirt surrounding it.
Alec brought them inside, stale air striking them upon entering. A slight amount of light illuminated the wooden floor from a crack in the ceiling, lighting up the dust particles that floated around. A row of pews led to an altar, where Alec faced him and Leon. Underneath him, yellow-colored grass seeped out from the cracks in between where the boards met.
“Welcome to Inanis, our old base of operations here in Decimari,“ said Alec. He opened his fan and pointed it at him. “We don’t have a lot of time before the military finds us, but I suspect you know what I want to say.”
Jaycee found it challenging to look the man in the eyes. His body screamed danger, while his instinct to protect himself kicked in. “What do you need me to do?” In his previous profession, a favor for one in return was commonplace.
“See, Leon? How obedient he is? You could learn a lot from him.”
Jaycee heard Leon sigh next to him. “Do we have time for this right now?”
Alec ignored him. “Jaycee, have you ever heard of the legend of the Dark Prince?”
Who hadn’t? The story told the tale of a prince who, after being betrayed by his entire village, lost his mind and slaughtered everyone in it. A traveler came upon the massacre, and word spread like wildfire throughout the land.
Although no one knows what happened to him after that, the village stands to this day, untouched by time itself. They blamed all the disasters that took place after on the prince, some even saying they had seen him at each catastrophe. Hence, the world had named him The Dark Prince. He brought misfortune to wherever he appeared.
“What does that have to do with me?” asked Jaycee. An assassin was only useful for killing. Old legends didn’t have a home in his world.
“There’s something I desire from that village. The military down here has the prince’s former home on lock down and no one can get in.” The fan in his hand swished open as he jumped down from the altar and towards Jaycee. “I need your help to go inside.”
“You want me to kill Agnar.” It wasn’t a question. Sheol, also known as the World Below, had strong ties to the military that protected it. Jaycee had crossed paths with Agnar a few times, but always as an ally. The one that defended that place of death was none other than the commander himself.
Alec, now only a breath away, stared down at him. The edge of his lip curled up, and the tip of his fan tilted Jaycee’s chin. Stormy brown eyes captured him. “What do you say?”
Was getting involved worth the price of his freedom? He yearned to put his old life behind him, but the world had other plans. A modest village tucked into the corner of Sheol awaited him behind the forest that sheltered it. The graves of his parents left untouched for too long, but like that, they would have to remain. In reality, he had no choice but to comply.
It was then that the doors to the cathedral burst open. The occupants, startled, assembled to fight, hands drawn to their weapons.
“Guys! Wait, wait, it’s just me!” The voice, which was undoubtedly Kyla, paused and caught her breath. “We gotta get out of here. I can’t hold them off any longer.” Her short hair, caked with dirt and crusted blood, clung to her forehead.
“You’re fantastic at ruining a good time,” said Alec. He approached her, fan waving in front of his face. “What’s the point of keeping a manly girl like you around?”
“Boss, we gotta go! Like, now.” The knives, previously sheathed, found their way to her hands once again. “I can—”
He held his arm out to stop her. “Leon. I leave this to you.”
There were no questions about his decision, nor any argument following his command. Loud footsteps pounded across the dirt outside. There was no more time to dither.
Alec patted Leon’s shoulder before strolling off to the other end of the building. Sometimes, the mightiest weapon was trust. His red robes resembled blood as they trampled over the grass below.
Jaycee glanced back once more to see Leon draw his sword. The light hit the steel just right and momentarily blinded him. Kyla took that moment to grab his wrist and careen him forward. The noises of fighting ensued, and there was nothing left to do but go on ahead.