There it was again! Movement, ever so subtle and cleverly concealed in the deep shadows of the rectory garden walls. Ntunga continued to watch the spot, as he had for what seemed an age, until again the slight distortion of shadows revealed man sized shapes inching along cautiously towards the rectory building itself some eighty feet away. Time to move he thought as he effortlessly dropped from his high vantage point crouching slightly to absorb the impact before straightening and running at speed into the shadows of the rectory. The drop would have shattered the limbs of most men and at well over 6’ tall and 450 pounds there was plenty to damage but Ntunga was no ordinary man….in fact he wasn’t human at all.
He had laid prone in the ruins of the old Cathedral’s southern roof space for seven hours barely moving whilst maintaining his vigil. The recent collapse of a nearby five story stack had crashed through a section of the outer grounds wall, crushing two outbuildings before damaging the roof of the ancient cathedral itself. Building collapses were common place in the city and a leading cause of death given the lax, almost non existan building codes that saw dwellings constructed with anything from sandstone blocks to daubed hay bales and scrounged timber.
Slowing his sprint on reaching the shadows he steadied his breathing listening closely for sounds, not that he expected any. His quarry were well versed in the ways of stealth from what little he knew of them. Who they were, or where they were from he was unsure, but the recent spate of assassinations targeting key members of the Kaer Magan Duskwarden’s could be firmly attributed to them. Tasked with providing a semblance of law and order among the cesspool of corruption and depravities that underpined Kaer Magan society, whilst at the same time ensuring the forbidden horrors of the Undercity stay firmly confined below the streets, the Duskwardens played a key role in the day to day running of the city.
Sniffing the air he detected a faint odour but quickly dismissed the smell of fresh turned soil and continued his advance aiming to intercept the path of the unknown assailants. A nervous tingle run down the back of his spine, no sounds, no sign of movement ahead. Doubt suddenly washed through Ntunga’s mind as he tried to piece together who their possible target could be. He knew from days of observation the movement of all the clergy members at the cathedral and given the time most staff would be attending their duties and preparing for the midday meal which would be served in little over an hour. As such Ntunga knew that the grounds would be empty… was someone unexpected visiting today?
His distraction very nearly cost him his life as a shadowy figure vaulted out sideways from the rectory roof landing soundlessly on his feet twin weapons drawn. Flickering grey flames licked along the blades edges which were poised to strike. Ntunga spun instantly on his attacker, two puching daggers finding their way into his massive furred hands in a heartbeat. Belatedly he noticed movement below near his feet as he turned. Springing up from a prone position in the ground, likely concealed in an illusionary hide, another assassin lunged and drove one of his blades deep into Ntunga’s back. Searing waves of pain flooding through his chest causing him to stifle a gasp. The assassin pressed hard to take advantage of surprise, grabbing a handful of the silver fur at the back of Ntunga’s neck, before leaning aiming to drive the blade home into deeper tissues and vital organs. Ntunga reacted instinctively and carried forward defeating his attackers momentum whilst at the same time angling two daggers up into the other assassins armpits who had both weapons raised midswing. Immediately he followed through and slammed his massive black forehead into the stunned assassins face completely crushing the front of his skull…he was dead before he hit the ground. The other assailant maintained his grip and just as Ntunga thought things couldn’t get any worse the two individuals he had been tracking leapt over the outer grounds wall charging in his direction.
A wave of shame swept over Ntunga realising he had been baited into a trap. What he had mistaken for careless arrogance in his opponents was in fact a cunning ploy to lure him into position. With pain flaring through his upper torso he gritted his teeth for worse to come as he braced himself, flexed those massive leg muscles and vaulted backwards over his opponent, breaking his grasp and tearing the gladius free with a sickening sound. The wound in his back was severe…he knew that and blood poured in gouts down through the thick black fur of his back. On landing he set to work sweeping his opponent s feet out fromm under him in one fluid motion and stabbing him twice before the hit the ground with a thud. A hiss was the only hint he received as a thick black crossbow bolt, round as a finger, burst into his chest with enough force to stagger him back a step.
Blood loss was telling as Ntunga’s muscles started to fatigue and breathing became laboured. With the two assassins about to close he made a split second decision and raging with anger lurched headlong into a thundering charge aiming to meet the pair head on. They slowed for an instant clearly not expecting this reaction from someone heavily wounded before their training kicked in. Adjusting slightly their angle of attack they continued at pace and joined the fight. Ntunga narrowed in on one individual knowing full well that the other would have free reign at his back whilst doing so, but things were truly dire now. He cannoned into the assassin on the right and air burst out of the man’s lungs on impact before driving him down sickening force into the ground. Daggers slashed frantically as Ntunga repeatedly stabbed the assassin before attempting to stand and face the remaining attacker. The other assassin opened a large gash in Ntunga’s left side which bit deep, shattering ribs and sending an arcing spray of blood into the air before repositioning to deliver the killing blow.
Another hiss as a second bolt flew into Ntunga’s thigh, barbed head punching clean out the back with the shaft still embedded. “Leave him” came the quiet command, almost a whisper but full of menace and power. The other assassin immediately lowered his weapons but kept them readied for action. Lifting his head in the direction of the voice Ntunga traced the mans movements as he slowly walked towards him. He was tall, taller than any of his kind Ntunga had seen and very powerfully built. A large sleeveless leather and fur greatcoat covered with dried blood hung open at the front revealing a dull black metal mail underneath, his heavy shod leather boots creaked as he approached.
Ntunga noticed something strange as the leader casually tossed his heavy crossbow to the ground then reached for the wicked length of spiked chain at his side. His right arm, the one he began wrapping the chain around, looked sickly pale and mottled and was bare to the elbow. His left hand in contrast was fully gauntleted, wrapped in leather bindings and furs. As he grasped the chain a chilled vapour began to rise from the limb and the surrounding tissue blanched even more but not the slightest grimace of discomfort crossed his evil looking features. “You have caused me no end of trouble these last few weeks right hand man” he commented, venom clear in his tone.
Ntunga already knew he was dead and with one last defiant act brought his left dagger around and expertly hurled it straight at the leaders face. His response was as expected…he simply leant aside, the blade flying harmlessly over his shoulder, but so too was the response of the other assassin who averted his gaze for a split second to track the flight of the blade. That split second cost him his life as Ntunga put all his power into his right arm and hurled his last dagger unerringly into the mans exposed throat striking with a dull thud. The gurgling sounds continued as the man slumped to the ground, punching dagger neatly disecting his windpipe, as the first blows from the spiked chain started to land. The beating was relentless, each blow sending waves of pain shooting throughout his body before finally he succumbed to the damage slumping into unconsciousness.
Korga Urr Taash slowly unwrapped the chain from his right hand and hooked the weapon at his side then walked several steps across to the still struggling assassin firmly in his death throes. Bending down, ignoring the suffering of the man, he pried the fingers open and took up the cold iron gladius. He walked back to Ntunga’s side placing one of his heavy boots on the right forearm before driving down with all his might cleanly severing the hand from the limb. He reverently picked up that large black furred hand, three rings adorning fingers, and turning slowly walked from the scene leaving the still form of the sentient gorilla behind.
“Right hand man indeed!” he chuckled softly to himself as he went.