Category Archives: Nameless

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Thundering could be heard since the morning, causing people to glance at the sky nervously before shuffling back to their work. Cloudy skies were common at this time of the year, although rain had been scarce ever since the testing grounds had been established. At the very edge of the village there was a hastily pulled-together wooden hut, the newest building in the village by far. Inside, golden hued shadows danced on the quilt-covered walls, the hiss of threads being weaved on the loom the only sound breaking the oppressive silence. Hevasti was staring blankly ahead, her hands dancing through the motions mechanically, as her entire being focused on the sounds outside her door. She had been hiding away on this obscure village, as near to the testing grounds as she dared, for nearly a year now, posing as a blind weaver.

 

She had been on the run for nearly two years, her hunter finding her only months after the band had gone their separate ways, deciding that fighting would be easier in smaller groups. Her lot had been the Southern Plains, what used to be her birthplace before the Empire had spread, engulfing the small mountainous province. Hevasti had been shocked when she had first arrived. The wild fields at the foot of the mountains, pieces of land that should have been shining golden under the pale, late summer sun were stripped bare. Where caravans of the Mountain People had been now stood a series of concrete buildings, the smoke from their chimneys turning the sky a sickly grey.

 

The years on the run with her brother and the rest of the band had changed her, so much that a cloak and slightly unfocused eyes were all that it took to convince the village people of her cover story. They had made her the hut and she had repaid them in kind, weaving and sewing anything they asked of her, never accepting money, too fearful of tying herself down to a single place. She had tried to find the others, of course she had; but all communication had been lost, and they were all too talented in disguising themselves for her to be certain that any rumor reaching her had anything to do with her precious ones.

 

Hevasti tugged at the fabric she was weaving sharply, trying to focus herself on the present. Arta, one of the local girls was getting married after the autumn equinox and the thick white cloth –it would be the girl’s formal dress once the ceremony was over – needed to be finished by then. The weaver shuddered at the thought of a winter wedding. She almost had had one. She almost had a life once, almost settle down, left the running and hiding and killing behind. And then he had been taken from her, just at the end of the summer, conscripted to an army he hated, to fight for a cause he did not understand. They had dreamt of a daughter, a little girl called Seela. She had taken that name afterwards, a tribute to a life she was never going to have. Marti had scoffed and called her sentimental. She almost stabbed him with his own dagger, nearly mad with grief at the time, screaming that how he, her own brother could not understand, not feel anything.

 

Another harsh tug of the fabric and she resolutely ignored the tear that fell like a stray raindrop on her hand. She missed them, oh how she missed them! Fighting had become the center of her life, their victory – hopeless as it seemed – the only light left to her. Now she could only hide away like a scared child, locking herself inside whenever the officials from the testing facilities scouted the area for ‘volunteers.’ Her eyes fell idly to her rows of paints, precious colors once used to hide her comrades’ appearance, now reduced to instruments of manual work. How the mighty had fallen indeed…

 

But isn’t this life so much more comfortable? A fire blazing at your hearth, a bed, three meals a day, not having to keep a weapon on you at all times? Why would you want to go back to the fear and the uncertainty and the heartbreak? Isn’t it time? You aren’t young anymore. Surely it’s time to be selfish, think of your own needs for once.

 

No, these aren’t Hevasti’s musings. So close to the Empire it’s easy for them to slip into her head, plant foreign thoughts, make her lose the scraps of identity she holds on to. She isn’t that old, she never will be as long as she can yield a weapon. And why begin being selfish now, when that’s all she has been? She had been selfish when she took her brother and ran from their house, selfish when she nearly left the cause they were fighting for just for a man and a chance at a fairytale ending, selfish when she returned more broken than ever, selfish when she encouraged the breaking of the band, selfish when she hid at her old hometown, putting all the people there in danger. Selfish is her name and nature, the one thing the voices in the shadows cannot tempt her with.

 

The wind picked up outside, thunder echoing closer now and the door rattled under the force of the oncoming storm. Hevasti frowned. The wail of the wind sounded ominous, almost like a lament she had heard on the coastal province, sang by the family of a drowned child. He had gone swimming in the middle of a storm and never came back. They hadn’t even found the body. She had made sure of that herself. The door rattled again and Hevasti felt a shiver race down her spine. This was less like the wind and more like a person trying to get in. Her eyes snapped back at the loom in front of her, fingers mechanically continuing the motions as the door finally gave in to the violence and slammed open, the wind rushing in, blowing away the few candles, and plunging the room in nearly complete shadow.

 

Hevasti, Seela, turned slowly to face her visitor. The figure on the door was feminine, draped in the black folds usually worn by the assassins, her face hidden in the shadows. Silence stretched between them and then, mechanically almost, the woman at the door, her executioner, took a step forward just as her fireplace roared back to life and Hevasti jumped to her feet, because she knew that face, had fought side by side with that women and oh the betrayal hurt all the worse.

“You,” she whispered in horror, her eyes wide and scanning at the impassive woman, looking for any sign of recognition. “How can it be you?” Why you? No matter how good a cover, this is too much. You wouldn’t kill a comrade to get to a target, right Destra?” Destra took another mechanical step closer, seemingly not hearing a word, a long, needle-sharp dagger now dangling from her hand.

 

Step for step they danced around the room, the distance between them staying the same, Hevasti’s harsh breaths and the now raging storm outside the only sounds in the room. Her back bumped against the white fabric hanging from the loom and she choked down a sob.

“Destra, you know me,” she tried franticly again, hoping against all hope for a sign, any sign of recognition. “Marti brought you to us, I dyed your hair black, showed you how to do it on your own, how to change appearances like they’re only dresses. Remember that Duke we had to seduce, the one who thought we were siblings the three of us and walked in on you and Marti kissing? Or, or that washer woman who thought we were artists because of all the paint stains in our clothes?” Another sob, this one tumbling from her lips as her former friend she would have been a sister if you hadn’t taken her from your brother because you were jealous of his happiness closed the distance between them and raised the dagger. The wind rushed in and finally smothered the fire, darkness descending on them just like the needle-like weapon came down on her.

 

“I want to die in autumn,” Hevasti, Seela, Rajiya had told her brother when she was seven. It was autumn then and they were sitting at the porch of their house watching the gold and red leaves dance at the breeze.

“You are weird,” was his mumbled reply.

“But why not?” her fingers brushed the fallen leaves around them. “Everything else dies in the autumn, why not us? Wouldn’t it be nice to know when you’ll die? To know how much time you have? Everything would be much more fun if you knew it was the last time you were doing it! Even boring stuff like, like,” she looked around, searching for something appropriately boring. “Watering the plants!” she concluded triumphantly. “Wouldn’t it be fun if you knew, you’d never ever ever do it again?”

“No,” her brother said, poking an ant with a twig. “It’d be sad. What if it was something you really liked? Or someone important? Goodbyes are not fun.” Rajuya frowned thoughtfully.

“No,” she sighed. “I suppose not.”

 

The precious white cloth was stained red with her blood and it was probably ruined. Rajiya thought absently what a disappointment that’d be for Arta when she found out. Her legs gave out and she slumped against the skeleton of her loom, slowly bleeding out. Her assassin long gone, she looked at the hut that was to be her tomb before dipping a finger in the small pool of blood at her feet and slowly, painstakingly, she wrote her name, the true one, on the floor. The eternal night was drawing near and with a wet chuckle Hevasti Seela Rajiya laid herself on the floor next to her name.

“Guess I got my wish,” she whispered to the storm still moaning outside and then she was no more.

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The sirens blaze over her head, their shrill cries warning everyone that an inmate has somehow managed to escape. Swallowing her bubbling panic she ducks under the trees of the forest that surrounded the concrete building she had been confined in for as long as she can remember. Runrunrunrunrunrun! The mantra keeps ringing in her ears, the voices lauder than ever before. She stumbles in the dark, biting her lips to keep a whimper to escape. She can’t go back. She won’t go back. A hand shoots through the foliage, dragging her along to the darker parts of the woods; away from the search parties and their glaring torchlight. She follows the shadow, until a flickering light appears before them. She shrinks away, fire will hurt you, but he tugs her forward again.

“They won’t hurt you,” he assures her and she trusts him, because she has no choice.

She looks around warily at the other faces surrounding the fire where her shadow rescuer has led her. They are analyzing her, noting her features, her character, deciding what will be discarded and what kept. The name will have to go; they have agreed unanimously, so will the stiffness in her posture. The leader thinks on how to instruct her in the ways of the assassins without scaring the creature any more. She will need to learn to go with the flow, to blend with both aristocrats and commoners as if she had been born amongst them. Next to her, Derek goes through their meager supply of clothes, looking for the new girl’s uniform. Seela smirks, already planning to dye her hair. Black will look good with her pale skin but won’t be memorable. Marti thinks it is poetic how their latest acquisition has a mane that looks like a cataract of blood. Too bad his twin is already making plans on ruining it. He will teach her about knives and killing so that she will forever be draped in that beautiful red of life.

“Destra,” the leader finally says. “From now on your name will be Destra.”

The newly-christened initiate smiles hesitantly. The voices quiet down at the sound of the Name and then they start murmuring it like a chant: DestraDestraDestraDestra… Her unknown past can be led to rest. Destra is not merely a name; it is who she is from now on.

Her assignments are often elusive, most of them hiding in plain sight as civilians or high-ranking officials, some are even familiar. She accepts any mission without questions, focusing on her objective and on reaching the capital. The voices are adamant on her travelling towards the western city. She does not defy then, it brings back the pain of that time she cannot remember, the time before she was Destra, the shadow assassin. The city she walks through is familiar and part of her screams that this is her hometown, not home, the one she left years ago. Why did she leave? Half-formed recollections come from every familiar face and voice and scent and fill her with a sense of nostalgia for a few precious moments. She pulls her hood a little, grabs her staff tighter, hastens her walk. She should probably restock here, ask around in case her latest target has been sighted, yet the voices scream run, run and she obeys. A name is called behind her, one that she does not cannot hear over the sudden fight or flight instinct that makes her freeze as if she has touched cold stone or smelled smoke. I need to get out of here. I need to get out. The voice shouts again. There are people looking at her, so it must be her that was addressed. She runs, through the roads, away from the city streets, until she sees an abandoned burnt house and dives inside in a vain hope of sanctuary. As long as I get away I’ll be safe.

Light footsteps echo outside the room she has chosen to hide, curling in the darkest corner and clutching a dagger she cannot remember being given. The footsteps pause, the door opens hesitantly and in the light of the hallway her target appears. Without a thought she attacks, the voices rising in an ear-splitting crescendo, urging her to killkillkillkillkill….The man steps back in surprise and something in him is not familiar… Another knife gleams in the torchlight as he parries her every move almost like he knows her.

“Destra!” Marti is franticly trying to get her to listen to him in the midst of their dance. The glazed look in her eyes is enough to tell him that he is not succeeding. At any other instance he would be proud of her ability to fight with a little less than half her mind in it but right now he is finding it hard to be charitable. “Snap out of it, damn it! It’s Marti. You can’t have forgotten me?” His would-be assassin falters for a moment and it is enough for him to knock the dagger out of her hands.

Destra falls to her knees, struggling to form any coherent thoughts over the screams of the voices demanding his blood. She knows him; he used to be important to her, so why can’t she remember? White spots dance over her eyes, for a moment his face swims to focus, he was the one to give her her dagger, before the pain becomes too much and she closes her eyes and tries to curl to a ball.

“C’mon Destra, you’re scaring me,” he sounds scared, she thinks detachedly. They all sound scared before I kill them. Who were they? She hadn’t seen them before so how did they know her name? Why had they looked at her with betrayed eyes before she killed them? “I know you can hear me under all this hair. Listen, we have to get out of here. There are soldiers swarming the city and I don’t think they are here to give either of us a commendation.” He pauses and she hopes that he would go on talking. His voice chases the painful jabs of light away. She can only hear his breathing now, heavy but controlled, like he’s trying to stay quiet. More pounding footsteps over them and she knows they need to run. Destra pushes the voices back, ignoring the pounding at the base of her skull and grabbing Marti’s hand she runs back to her safe room. One wall is hollow and crumbles under their weight. She does not question how she knows this. She looks at the darkness and then turns clear, jade eyes to her target companion and asks a single question.

“Do you trust me?” Marti nods, because how do you answer this question when someone has just tried to kill you and is as likely to try again or save your life, and together they jump in the abyss.

Against everything her instincts are screaming at her she bursts out of the water, gulping hungrily for air, not caring if the entire army is waiting for her at the lakeshore with their weapons ready. Marti is leaning on her, barely able to keep his head above water, looking around in silent shock. Destra leads them slowly towards the shore, using the planks where the dock used to be to drag him first out of the water. An old boathouse is barely standing behind it. Marti stumbles there, looking very much like he is about to kiss the ground he is sitting on. His fellow fugitive follows out of the water, wringing her hair in a vain attempt to get them dry. She is only rewarded with a puddle of black colored water and a mess of slightly less damp, blood red curls. Sitting gracefully next to him, she searches for anything that might break the tense silence.

“You are afraid of water?” she blurts out, inwardly wincing when she sees the indignant look of wounded pride he gives her.

“You neglected to mention that we would have to swim through a very narrow passage to a lake after having run across half the city, fought a death match with knives and stumbled our way through these infernal tunnels!”

“Keep it down,” she hisses. Without the voices she has no way of knowing if someone is creeping up to them through the woods. “If we’re heard the only way out is through the lake again.”

Marti spares the innocent looking body of water a nervous glance. Much as he would like to continue yelling until all the worry, anger, adrenaline and dear gods I’m alive relief are out of his system, the run-down building they have taken refuge in does not provide much protection. They need to move as soon as they are dry and disguised again, perhaps through the small forest behind them. If they make it to the mountains before the law catches up to them, they might have a chance to survive and even find out what happened to the rest of their band. The shimmering of the sunlight in the lake catches his eyes again and he fights the urge to shudder. Innocent golden glimmer, like the lights in that first house. Swallowing hard, he seals the sound of thundering footsteps, tinkling coins and crackling fire back in the memory box. He has to keep it together. Destra on the other hand is experiencing the completely opposite sensation. The lake, with its strange, sweet scent of plants decaying slowly and the sound of birds singing hidden in the leaves is anchoring her to the present, the connections with the past that the voices had severed slowly threading themselves back. Even now though, at this quiet and almost peaceful moment, she can feel her defenses being pounded from inside, the voices struggling to free themselves.

The mountains lay at the north; they are closer than the capital. If they went there she wouldn’t have to worry for assignments. Marti can help her unravel her memories. Deep down she is certain she knows and trusts him, yet she cannot remember why. Up there they say the air is clear of the fumes that plague most of the plains and a quiet part of her, not the voices but something else, tells her if she could breathe clearly she might be able to remember as well. Do you want to?

“We should try to reach the mountains,” Marti says thoughtfully. To his surprise Destra stands immediately.

“Let’s go then,” she turns towards the door, marching determinedly towards the north.

“Do you even know where you are going?” he called after her amused. She turned to look at him with a light smile.

“No,” she said. “But I intend to find out.” The voices are silent.