Afien’s Howl: Sneak Peek #1

  • Shotput of Power - ready to launch.
  • Antis - ready to launch.
  • The Mist Thief - First draft writing.
  • Forged in Magic - structural edits
  • Wandless - plotting.
  • Forbs - 3rd draft rewrites.
  • The Stars of the North - that's a secret...

2 July 2014
I revealed this originally on Google Plus as part of the #saturdayscenes event. It’s the first draft of part of Chapter Five. I hope you like it. Please note this may not be in the final version, or if it is, I may have seriously edited the Rodaki’s spit out of it 😉

When Dimitri reached the front door of the guild headquarters, he found the door left ajar. Sitting just outside, his large body taking up most of the gangway, was the Knight Warden’s animal companion, a Great Dane. In conversations with Mairi, Dimitri had learned that the canine was too stupid to even realise that he and the knight were fully bonded. However, Duke never seemed to hesitate or be foolish when Mairi’s life was at stake – he would either use his own training to protect and fight alongside her, or would seek out help. Dimitri had an awful feeling growing in his gut, and he was certain that this one didn’t come from his infected wound. “Is it Mairi?” he asked the mostly beige canine. The large dog’s dark brown floppy ears perked up slightly, and then it shifted onto its fours paws. His tail wagging, he gave a quick bark, then ran to the left of the doorframe and out of Dimitri’s view. The assassin stepped over the threshold and into the street, watching as the dog paused in its gallop, turned and looked towards him expectantly. It barked again. “Afien’s Howls,” muttered Dimitri darkly, pressing a hand to his wound. “Ok! I’m coming. Just be slower, for Aredun’s sake, you blasted Rodaki spitting aardvark of a pig’s armpit.”

Wincing with each step, Dimitri followed the canine dutifully, until they came to the entrance to the Rajvarian Catacombs that the knights knew of. It was at the end of one of the older alleyways, and the wooden planks the knights would have put up against it when not in use were propped against the alleyway on the left of the entrance. Duke looked up at Dimitri, tail stilling, so the assassin stepped inside. “I’d better be getting paid for this, Duke,” he said. He paused, closing his eyes and covering his eyelids with a hand, helping his eyes to adjust faster to the dark. When he lowered his hand, his eyes had almost adjusted, and for the moment, he could see just enough to continue heading into anything that didn’t resemble a wall in the dark. The dog stepped ahead of the assassin, sniffing the air carefully with his chocolate button nose, before taking a turning on the left. Dimitri followed.

Dimitri started to pay less attention on the dog as his eyes finally fully adjusted to the dark. The walls of the catacombs were all the same – each was made of large grey bricks, many with moss or water trickling down their sides, slowly eroding them into nothing. Few of the walls were of interest beside that, but Dimitri kept his eyes on both those, the ceiling and the floor; it wasn’t uncommon for the catacombs to kill intruders with various booby-traps that still laid untriggered or those that automatically reset. It was always hard to spot them, but being a master assassin, Dimitri hoped he would be good enough. The few times he had come down here before had been with Mairi, whilst he was acting as an Accompanying Assassin. She knew these tunnels better than he did, and had been hurt several times by them as well. It made Dimitri wonder what could have caught her out enough that Duke had to come and grab him. An animal companion, if fully bonded, died when their companion died, so the good news was that she wasn’t dead yet. “Mairi?”
“Over here!” Dimitri hurried his footsteps, and Duke settled to trot alongside his knee. They paused at a junction, but the dog looked to the right, so Dimitri took that, trusting the dog. The clicking of the canine’s toes was a familiar comfort to the assassin as he sought out his friend, and he wondered what sort of animal companion he might one day have, if he or an animal ever felt so inclined. “Here! Dimitri?”
“Hold on,” urged Dimitri. “I’m coming.”
“I’m behind the wooden door.”
“What wooden…” Dimitri quietened. He glanced at Duke. “Where’s the door?” In response, the canine moved ahead again, strolling down the tight passageway and then turned to face the left wall. He pressed a paw against it, and whined loudly.

“Hi Mairi,” said Dimitri, as he came to a stop next to the companion, a hand almost going to touch Duke before he remembered not to. “How did you get in there?” In front of the master assassin, the door separating him from Mairi wasn’t quite what he would have called a door. It had a small square cut out from it at eye level, but there was no door handle. He pressed his right hand against the smooth wood, noticing the area around his hand grew warm almost immediately.
“I touched the door.”
“You…” Dimitri snatched his hand back, and eyed the door warily. He held his hand up to his eyes, but in the dark light, couldn’t see if it had anything on it that he couldn’t feel. His hand just felt warm though. “Touched the door?” he enquired, lowering his hand to his side. Mairi, her green eyes staring out at him from whatever was on the other side of the door, frowned.
“You touched the door?” she asked in response. Dimitri nodded. Mairi sighed. “Does your hand feel warm?” Dimitri nodded again. “Run. Go. Go!” Dimitri took his turn to frown.
“I’m not leaving you here, trapped like some animal. There must be a lever or something here.” He pressed his warmed hand to the stone to the left of the door, feeling for any indication that a lever or a button was hidden in the stone walls. As he fingered a crack between two of the bricks, something caught against the tip of his index finger, and a small click sounded. “There we go!” But instead of the door opening, the feel of stale air being released from the ceiling of the passageway ruffled the ginger hair of the assassin. He tensed, then looked up at the ceiling. Duke started whining again.
“Dimitri? What’s wrong?” The assassin forced himself to stop looking at the ceiling, and gave Mairi an apologetic smile.
“You don’t want to know,” he promised.

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