SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
"I'll go ask if the guards remember if this guy was left handed," said Victoria, holding up a parchment for Wynic and Redhawk to see. She rose to her feet and dusted off the back side of her skirt.
"Go ahead," mumbled Wynic, glancing at her.
"How much do you like her?" asked Redhawk, setting down his stack of parchment when Victoria was out of earshot.
"What?" mumbled Wynic.
"Victoria. How much do you like her?" repeated Redhawk.
Wynic looked up, thoughtful. "I'm not sure. She's so smart and political, which aren't my strong points. I doubt if this will last long."
"Well, lets compare her with, say, Lady Bardelias," suggested Redhawk.
"Lady Bardelias is not a good example of all womankind," snorted Wynic, setting down his stack. "Well, if Victoria's guy doesn't match, we'll have to check South Gate, North Gate and possibly even North Port and South Port.
"We have a match," Victoria announced returning triumphantly. "The guards say he was acting peculiar, and they think he gave them a false name." She smiled strangely at Wynic.
"Where'd he go?" asked Wynic, grabbing the records and standing up.
"West to Avolic, that's about a hundred leagues which means about ten days by horse, seven or eight if we can get some really fast, dependable ones," replied the archeress, stuffing the record in a pouch.
"We'll need a suitable escort if Nebonex is planning on going. How about a legion of minotaurs and five score Arthian Knights. That means we'll need about a hundred good horses since the minotaurs can keep up on foot," explained Wynic, motioning the captain over.
"I know where to find the best," Redhawk promised.
"Yes, Sire?" asked the captain.
"Sorry for inconveniencing you, Captain," Wynic apologized, handing over the records. "I know you were just doing your job."
"No problem. I just wish you'd wear some kind of insignia or something," answered the captain.
"That could be arranged," Wynic conceded.
"Redhawk, go buy those horses you mentioned. Victoria and I'll go round up a hundred knights for an escort," the assassin told Redhawk.
"I'll get right on it, Redhawk assured him, and turned on his heal and started towards the South Gate marketplace.
"Can you get me five score of your fastest, most reliable war-horses by tomorrow?" asked Redhawk, handing the horse trader a bottle of Kinian Red.
"How much will you give me pur horse?" slurred the horse trader, taking another gulp of the precious wine. The horse trader was a bearded brute of a man with a shaved head. He proudly wore a giant saber strapped to his back.
"Ten silver coins a horse," offered Redhawk, pouring himself a goblet of wine.
"Hmm, I usually take fifteen copper," shrugged the horse trader. "Dozen silver."
"Eleven," haggled the knight.
"No deal," refused the horse trader, going back to his drinking.
"I'll make you a deal you can't refuse. One platinum a horse, and you deliver them all to the royal palace by tomorrow morning," declared Redhawk.
"Deal," agreed the trader, spitting in his hand and offering it to Redhawk.
Redhawk shrugged, spat on his palm and shook the trader's hand.
"Dillard open up. We need your help," yelled Wynic, banging on the door. When there was no answer, Wynic yelled again. "If you don't answer me, I'll break the door down!"
"What do you want Wynic? Can't you see I'm busy?" the knight yelled from the second story window.
"Why don't you come down so we don't have to yell?" yelled Wynic.
"I'm half naked that's why, you bastard!" yelled Dillard, his head appearing in the window.
"Don't talk like that. There's a lady out here!"
"There's one in here too! So go away!" yelled the knight, disappearing.
"I guess we'll just talk in your bedroom then?" shouted Wynic.
"I'm coming! Keep your pants on!"
"Look who's talking!" laughed Wynic.
Dillard appeared in the doorway wearing a red tunic and white kilt. He had dark brown, shoulder length hair, and flowing mustaches. He had unusual purple eyes, a broken nose, and a U-shaped scar below his right eye. "What do you want Wynic?" he asked irritably.
"We need five score knights to escort the Emperor's son to Avolic," explained Wynic, leaning against the door frame.
"To capture the Emperor's assassin of course," Wynic shook his head. He wondered if Dillard would believe him and if he did would he still go back to bed.
"I heard he fell out the window and broke his neck," said Dillard, turning to Victoria. "And who are you, beautiful Lady?"
"Victoria Felangalis," replied the archeress.
"What's going on?" asked a woman, appearing at Dillard's side. Her lack of modesty was probably due to wine, as was Dillard's bloodshot eyes. Wynic blushed and pretended not to notice, Victoria ignored her all together by looking away.
"This is Wynic Doxon and a friend of his, Victoria Helangilos," said Dillard, allowing the woman to see by him. Victoria winced at the mangling of her last name, one of the reasons she rarely told it to anyone.
"You never told me you knew Wynic Doxon!" the woman accused Dillard.
"I haven't had the chance for about ten hours. Did I also forget to mention I also know Lord Blackaxe? We go cougar hunting together in the Kinian Mountains!" said Dillard with a wink at Wynic. The assassin stifled a laugh by biting on his tongue.
Victoria also saw the wink and turned away so the woman couldn't see how red her face was.
"Oh darling, I'll be waiting upstairs while you attend to business," the woman whispered to Dillard, and seductively climbed up the stairs.
"I'm afraid you won't have much time for that. You have orders from King Willium himself to find five score knights to be at the palace tomorrow morning," lied Wynic. "I'm sorry I can't help, but the only knights I truly know are you and Redhawk."
"I know Wynic. Don't worry about me, she'll be here when I get back," smiled Dillard. "The hangover should start to kick in sometime soon and I really didn't want to be around for it," he said, closing the door behind him.
"Well, that was quick. Now what do we do?" asked Victoria, looking up at Wynic seductively.
"I don't know. We could go somewhere and talk. Do you know a place?" he asked, pulling the archeress to him and wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Of course I do. I know just the place," she smiled up at the assassin.
"I thought you would!"
Dismounting from her warhorse, Victoria motioned Wynic to follow her. They had galloped at an easy pace for half a hour after leaving North Gate, and arrived at a maple bush.
Dismounting, Wynic took the reins of his roan horse and followed the soldier through the dense trees. The huge maples had large, low hanging branches, which made riding horseback impossible. The ground was covered with leaves from past autumns, wild flowers, wild lilies and the occasional patch of trilliums. Broken branches and twigs made it impossible to walk without sounding like a herd of buffalo or aurochs.
Finally Wynic heard the faint sound of rushing water and he knew their destination must be near. He also noticed a quickening in Victoria's pace, which could only mean anticipation. His heart felt like it would erupt when he stepped into a clearing, and he could see the bubbling creek.
"The water comes from a spring upstream, and disappears again downstream from here. So with no real river, I doubt anyone, but us, know about this place," explained Victoria, tying her horse to a maple.
"How'd you find this place then?" asked Wynic, after he'd tied his horse.
"I nearly died near here once, I probably wouldn't have survived if I hadn't stumbled into this place," sighed Victoria, untying her bedroll. "I'll lay out the bedrolls, you go find some firewood," she said, setting the bedroll down.
Wynic nodded and returned later to find Victoria sitting on a flat rock by the creek with her back to him. Moving so quietly that nothing could have heard him, Wynic checked to make sure he didn't step on the smallest twig, scuff the ground or bump the smallest of pebbles until he was standing three inches from her. Leaning over so his mouth was barely an inch from her ear, he screamed. "Victoria!"
Victoria was so startled that she jumped up with a cry and into the creek, creating a splash like a miniature tidal wave that went across the creek and splashed up on the rocks. Turning around, she looked up at Wynic, her face crimson red with embarrassment. She leapt forward, grabbed his leg and pulled Wynic in.
Struggling to reach the surface to breath, Wynic felt Victoria push down on his head. When he finally surfaced, he gasped for air, just before Victoria pushed his head down again. Acting limp, the assassin stopped struggling, held his breath and blew out small bubbles, one at a time. Almost immediately Victoria yanked him to the surface, fearing she had drowned him by fooling around.
Pushing his red hair out of his eyes, Wynic pulled Victoria towards him. "Gotcha!" he whispered in her ear as he held her close.
"Don't you ever scare me like that again!" Victoria smiled at him. Putting her hands up to caress his face, before drawing him closer. Her feet slipped on the smooth rocks on the bottom of the creek and she fell onto Wynic, their lips meeting under water.
Water surged outward and Wynic came to his feet, Victoria in his arms and their lips fused together in a kiss.
Stepping back from Wynic, Victoria untied the knot on her now soaked fur cloak and threw it over her shoulder onto dry land. Untying the bow on her brown vest, she slowly pushed it over her head and tossed it beside her cloak. Walking very slowly backwards into deeper water, she unbuckled her sword belt and slid her wet skirt off. By now the sparkling water was around her shoulders, hiding her beautiful figure from the assassin and her wet hair dragging with the current.
Wynic swam out to meet her, wondering idly when he was going to wake up from this dream.
"The day I met Redhawk was the day my life started down a whole new road, one that was straight and paved instead of having barricades in the way, detours, and highway men every damn step of the way. He walked into a barroom in Avolic and asked for me. Somehow he had heard that I was hiring out like a mercenary. So he hired me, and suddenly, Hitlot was dead, and my life was starting down a road to success. Whenever there was an over ambitious noble and posed a threat to the Kingdom, I was hired. I no longer had to cut the throats of people who were no threat to anyone, because it was the only thing I know how to do," said Wynic, looking down at Victoria in his arms, and then back at the fire they had built. "Redhawk taught me to read and write like a professional, he trained me in traditional swordsmanship as well as horsemanship and archery. His squire, Derick, was a great help. The lad is currently up in Kinian becoming an apprentice doctor so he can better serve Redhawk. I no longer have my conscience to deal with, because I'm not murdering innocent people, and that's what's important to me," the assassin sighed.
Victoria looked up at Wynic and snuggled in closer.