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The Neopian Times Week 105 > New Series > The Zafara Assassin: First Test -- Part One

The Zafara Assassin: First Test -- Part One

by meratocat

Art by andany
One never just is at the top. They always have to earn it, though as they shot for their final destination, others always try and take it from them. In the years before Teralk hired Zarrel Charmain to destroy the prince Pailoth, there was a Lupe assassin. One who would do anything, and destroy anyone who tried to stop him from reaching the top.

     Teragra Alano BloodSword, the best assassin in the land… or so the orange Lupe thought of himself as he pushed his three-foot broadsword back into his scabbard. He would just return to his employer, and receive the funds that he required for completing his job. Teragra snickered to himself. Now, with that Zafara assassin Kirin having been gone for six years, he had become the most sought after assassin… at least as far as he knew, but he forgot about a single young female Zafara. He had forgotten about the aspiring assassin Zarrel Charmain.

***

Under the cover of a large hood, I slowly walked towards the main market. It had been a full day since I had eaten what with business being so bad for myself. A job here, another one there; even so, I usually didn't run out of Neopoints and food before I received another one. At least jobs had become much more frequent from the days when Kirin first left. After I used up what little bit of money that I had left, I had to resort to a lower level of getting what food I needed to survive. And to be frank, I had gotten pretty good at it.

     I slowly walked up to a large food stall, where a large Grundo was advertising his freshly picked apples. I licked my lips as I though about them, and so with a little more stride, I walked up to the stands, and waited for Tarnox to lie out his move.

     I looked up just in time to see a flash of brown feathers go flying past me right into the back of a cart which tipped over, and then I smiled as I heard the scream of an Airax. So as everyone turned to see what happened, I started grabbing stuff off of the shelves, and shoving them into the pockets beneath my large cloak.

     "Oh my gosh!" I heard a female voice call out, "The poor Airax, is he okay?" and as she held up the seemingly limp form of Tarnox, I shoved a few more apples into my cloak, and then deciding that I had enough to last a few days, I started to walk off.

     Tarnox opened one hazel-colored eye, and seeing me slink off, he rolled around in the paws of the Aisha who was carrying him, and bowed, "I do thank you for your concern, but I must be off." And then grabbing an apple in his talons, he took to the sky, and flapped his wings to gain speed to catch me.

     "Thief!" the Grundo yelled, and it was then that he noticed me. "Or thieves," he said in a lower voice, and he ran over to me.

     I heard him coming, and tried to hurry, but I guess that even a fat Grundo can run if he wants to, and so he caught up to me, and grabbed my shoulder. "Mister, you're going to regret stealing from me. Why, I'll cut off your tongue, I'll…" He then pulled off my hood. "You're a female!?!" he shouted looking down into my shimmering ice-blue eyes.

     "You seem disappointed," I sneered at him.

     "Don't worry," he said gripping harder, "I'm not anywhere close to being through with you."

     I just smiled at him. "What are you smiling for?" he scowled.

     "This." And before the Grundo could even blink an eye, I had twisted around in his grasp, and given him a deep slash across his arm with my blade. As he let go of me, I broke for the cover of the forest, and then after winding my way around for several minutes, I sat down next to a tree, and took out my stash of food.

     I had just started to munch on an apple, when another dropped down at my side. "What took you so long?" I said looking up at Tarnox, a smile on his beak.

     He glided down to stand next to me. "Well, you weren't the one who just went barreling into a wooden cart to distract others, so I guess that I am the one who should be complaining about you," he laughed. "If I had to withstand another minute of the Aisha's tears and rubs!" he showed me his ruffled up feathers. "She really messed up my feathers. Shards! It will take WEEKS to try and get this perfume stuff off me too."

     "Well, next time don't go flailing into a perfume cart." I laughed as he wiped more of the flower scented ladies perfume off of his feathers. "Though that was a good scream. It really sounded like an Airax in pain."

     "Actually, it was," Tarnox said ruffling up his feathers. "I ran into another Airax as I collided with the cart."

     "Did it belong to one of the customers?" I asked without looking up from the apple. I guessed that Tarnox should know.

     "I don't think so," he said shaking his head.

     "So it was a wild one?"

"Nope. She had some sort of a red bandana around her leg along with a note. I think that she was a messenger taking a rest."

     I turned and smiled down at Tarnox. "Interesting. Do you know what kind of note?"

     Tarnox smiled, and reached down below his wing, pulling out a white piece of parchment. "Why don't you find out for yourself?" and I laughed at this, grabbing the paper from his beak, and read it to myself, then smiled. "Okay, what is it?" Tarnox asked cocking his head.

     "A letter," I replied, teasing him.

     "Of course it is a letter!" he yelled out. "But what does it say?"

     "It is a summoning notice from an employer. For someone named Teragra Alano BloodSword." I smiled. "It says that this employer, Teralk, needs an assassin." I slung my now apple-filled bag over my shoulder.

     "Now where are you headed to?" Tarnox said landing on my shoulder.

     "Well, it says that he needs an assassin, so I am going."

     "Yes, but what if this BloodSword finds that we stole his message. There will be trouble."

     I looked over the note again. "Well, this Teralk guy wants an assassin, and so I will give him an assassin. Besides, I'm sure that you don't want to go rocketing into another perfume cart." And so with winning the argument, I walked off through the forest with a grumbling Airax who smelt of lilac and posies on my shoulder, off towards the employer Teralk.

     We reached the place by sundown. It was a large fort-like structure, which by the looks of it was quite new, and was still being built. Two large gates blocked my way inside, and as I approached them I had to shield my eyes from the flair of the sun upon the windows of the fort. I approached the gate, and was met by a mutant Korbat and an Eyrie. "State your name and business, miss," the Korbat said looking me over.

     "I come here after receiving the summon that Teralk send out for an assassin." I said waving the paper around. Of course I didn't mention the little fact that it had been stolen.

     The Eyrie looked at me for a second, and then at the note. "So are you Teragra Alano BloodSword?"

     I looked at the Eyrie, and then quickly made up a lie with a much truth as possible. "I am afraid that Teragra was quite unable to receive the message, let alone act to it, and so I came in his steed. My name is Zarrel Charmain if you have to know, and I am willing to do whatever Teralk requires of me."

     At these last words, the Eyrie smiled. "Yes, you look like you are good. I will allow you in, but with a guard to accompany you. Don't try anything funny," he said quietly as a Krawk with a bandana motioned for me to follow.

     Leading me up to a large wooden door, he stopped. "Enter here young assassin, and mind you, Teralk is not one to be messed with." And then he walked away, leaving me alone in front of the door. Well probably not alone, I could feel the eyes of other pets on my back, seeing if I was a true assassin. I smiled, for I would show that I was.

     I straightened up my back, and eyed Tarnox from the corner of my eye, and seeing that he was doing the same, I pushed open the doors and walked in, my tail arcing slightly.

     Looking through the dim and dusty room, I made out who the employer was. He was a large Lupe, with flames dipping all across his huge flank. Muscles rippled beneath his flesh as he walked forward to me, but upon getting a closer look at me, he growled, showing every single one of his teeth. Restraining a shiver or a gulp, I just looked on ahead at the Lupe.

     He looked down at me. "You are not BloodSword?" he said keeping his voice low.

     "No," I said keeping my voice low and calm too. "My name is Zarrel Charmain, and I am the assassin who has come in his steed."

     Teralk snorted at me, "The job I require done is not one that a mere female Zafara can perform. Even if she calls herself an assassin."

     I ignored the obvious insult, and instead straightened out myself even more as to appear bigger. "I can perform whatever it is that you assign." And then I added, "I may not look like much to a Lupe warlord such as yourself, but I trained under Kirin the assassin before he left."

     Teralk grinned and started laughing. "Ambitious, yes. I can expect that from a pupil of Kirin's. Though you are young, and Kirin disappeared some six years ago. He can't have taught you much."

     "Enough to do what is needed," I said flashing out my blade, and twirling in front of my face before replacing it back in my belt. Tarnox let out a squawk of approval.

     Teralk looked at me for some time. Minutes, hours, years, it didn't matter to me as his gaze peered through my heart. He was testing me to see if I would fail, but I wouldn't. As Teralk gazed into my eyes, he finally looked away. "Okay," he said. "You can attempt this for me. You succeed, you get your pay, and I have found my self a new assassin. You fail," he grinned, "you die, and are never known of in this world again."

     "I will do this," I said.

     "Okay, Zarrel Charmain. I want you to destroy Aplano. He is a Draik lord from the east. Aplano wears a special helmet. One with bat wings on the sides. Bring that to me to prove that you have completed this mission. I will pay you 4,000 Neopkins for this simple assignment if you can do it." Teralk looked at me, testing to see if I knew what I should do next, which I did.

     "I can do this simple assignment," I said, "4 isn't enough though; 7,000 Neopoints for a clean job." I bargained, and Teralk grinned.

     "5,000."

     "6,500."

     "6,000."

     "Deal," I said, and took up Teralk's paw and shook on the decision.

     "You are dismissed assassin," Teralk said, and he turned around. "Don't delay." And so getting a job, I walked out of Teralk's fortress with Tarnox upon my shoulder, and smiled. Things were beginning to get better for us.

***

"Stolen!" Teragra yelled and he raised his paw to strike the cowering Airax, who was already bruised up enough from having a perfume cart fall atop her when the other Airax ran into her.

     "S-s-sorry master," she said shielding her head with her wing. I was going to take it back, but he gave it to a Zafara assassin."

     Teragra lowered his paw. "Another assassin?" he said biting his lip so hard he could taste the salty trace of blood. "I thought that all in this area had either been destroyed, or else disappeared, unless…" "Darn!" And the Lupe smashed his paw into a sapling, snapping it. "He couldn't have! Kirin taught another to take his place!"

     "Now don't jump to conclusions master! Are you sure?" the Airax female said folding back her feathery tuffs of ears.

     "It has to be!" he said. "No, no, no, no!" This new assassin, he will try and take over, but we won't let that happen, will we Losland?"

     "Yes! I mean no!" Losland the Airax shivered at her master's words. "What should I do master."

     "You said that the Airax that ran into you was his. Fly over and find the assassin, and try and get his Airax to reveal where they are going."

     "Yes Master! Right away Sir!" and with a few flaps of her wings, Losland was off soaring towards Zarrel Charmain and Tarnox.

***

We had already been on the road for a couple of days when Tarnox flew back to me from one of his rounds of checking for problems "What's the problem?" and Tarnox pointed up into the sky with his wing.

     "Look."

     I did, and didn't see anything. "I see nothing," I said.

     "Look harder," he said, and so screwing up my eyes, I looked at the spot he pointed to, and made out a small brown dot.

     "It's that Airax that I ran into. The female." Tarnox sighed. " She has been following us for the past three hours."

     I looked up into the sky. She didn't appear to be much of a threat, but then there was always the chance that she was tracking me as to let someone find where I was. I thought for a second, and then pushed that thought into the back of my head. I needed a clear mind in order to carry out my first assignment from Teralk.

     The night quickly set in, and as I fell asleep, Tarnox was the only one to see as Losland landed on a tree branch quite near to us. "Why have you been following us?" Tarnox questioned. "Who are you? What is it that you want with us?"

     "First of all, I'm Losland, secondly, you are not very polite to a fellow Airax" And she blinked her large eyes several times before Tarnox answered.

     "Still, why do you follow us?"

     "Just curiosity," she said. "It is nice every once in awhile to speak to another Airax, and if it is okay with you, I would like to stay for some time." She pushed her ears back, and smiled at Tarnox.

     "I cannot decide. That is up to Zarrel." And he motioned to my asleep form.

     Losland smiled. "Well I am off to find something to eat. Perhaps I shall meet you in the morning." And then with a graceful turn of her tail, she was in the night sky, with Tarnox staring off after her.

     "From afar she doesn't look like much, but up close… I have to admit that she is stunning," Tarnox whispered to himself, just as Losland said the same about Tarnox to herself. Tarnox took one last look up into the sky before he closed his eyes, and let sleep take over his body.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Zafara Assassin: First Test -- Part Two

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