The Man stood before the council, yet again, to report of his failure. The chamber was large, but had very little light. Only the two torches at the door and a lit candle for each council member present provided a weak light. All twenty and five were lit.
“You have failed us for the last time Zoldák.” said the voice directly in front of him. “If he had any doubts of us hunting him, they were erased when you stabbed that decoy.”
The Man bristled at the sound of his name. “He never had any doubts, councilman, the reason the decoy was there is proof of that.”
“Be that as it may,” a female voice to his left said “you know that we need him alive, he is the only one with the skill to…”
“SILENCE!” the first voice thundered “Zoldák does not need to know of our plans!”
“I couldn’t care less for your power-grubbing or war-mongering or whatever your plan entails. First and foremost, I am interested in my own fate and secondly, I’m interested in being paid.” he hissed. The chamber went silent again. “Very well,” said a voice to the far right “we will deliberate on your fate. Step outside until you are summoned again.”
The Man turned on his heel and strode out of the chamber and past the guards. The door shut with a hollow boom behind him.
“For my sake, I hope you are executed.” said a sneering voice from down the hall. The man looked and saw a person leaning against the wall. He appeared to be seventeen or so, but his hair color placed him in his fifties. Partially black but with large gray streaks through it. It looked like a piece of charred wood. His eyes looked clear, they caught the torchlight of the hall making them look alive with flame.
“And just who might you be, boy?” the Man asked
“My name is Svert, and I too hunt what you do.” he responded
“How do you even know I hunt at all?” the Man demanded
“Let’s just say, I know a fly on the wall.” Svert sneered “If you are killed, the council will have no choice but to put me to the task, and I have been dying to see my old school friend again.”
The Man walked over to him, then took a step back, it was uncomfortably hot near him and he smelled of sulfur and charcoal. “Listen, boy, until they say if I live or die, you keep your nose out of our business, you understand?”
“Oh, I understand perfectly Zoldák.” Svert said as he turned away. The Man had a blade against the back of the boy’s neck an instant later.
“I have killed men for much less.” the Man said quietly.
Svert shrugged off the knife. “If you were to stab me, you would die as well.”
Just then the guard down the hall called out “Assassin! The council is ready for you.”
“You are lucky that I didn’t get started,” Svert said “If I did, there wouldn’t be enough left of you to sweep into an urn.”
The Man walked toward the door. Svert called after him “I would be happy to be your executioner if they have decided to kill you, be sure to tell them for me!”
He entered the chamber again and stood back in the center. “Well? What of my fate? Do I live or die?” he asked
“The ruling of the council is this,” a fourth voice rang out from higher than the other three. The Main Voice of the Council. “First, you will live for another day, you will be required to stay on the hunt until you capture him. Second, your life and his are now one, if his ends, so shall yours. Furthermore, you are banished until you have him in custody, you need not report of your continuing failures, Zoldák. Once you have him, then you may return and claim your long-awaited pay.”
‘They must be getting desperate’ he thought ‘I’m off with not a mark to show for it and I’m given as many chances as I need to find him’.
“As the council wishes.” he said as he bowed “I shall bring him back alive” he turned to leave
“One final order Zoldák, knowing his personality, he will have most likely picked up companions during his travels, they are useless to us. Kill them in whatever way amuses you.” said the higher voice again
He continued to walk away, and a small smile, something that hadn’t happened in years, was on his lips.