Kekai followed the elf servant girl through the labyrinth that was the palace of King Baredah. The other Krull Assassins and the Arcaner Mardai followed. The went up and down different flights of stairs, made as many left turns as they did right turns. There was no direct way to navigate this place. Only perfect knowledge of every corridor would ensure correct navigation.
Despite being a humble servant the elf moved with the quiet grace of one trained in stealth. It was true that elves possessed a natural control of their body that most members of other races could only dream of but Kekai was still intrigued.
At the back of the group Mardai could be heard muttering away again. If any other member of his squad was to act that way Kekai would murder them where they stood, but Mardai was not a Krull Assassin and he was essential to completing their mission. And they were so close.
They approached a strange door that looked more like a giant’s long shield, made from solid brass. The girl looked back at them. She could lead them no further. The Krull Assassins were ready for this eventuality. Kekai signalled to two of his brothers to go to work. They produced a number of strange tools, normally the arsenal or the master thief, today another weapon of the assassins.
"Just look at her," Mardai whispered, Kekai tried to shoo him away but the Arcaner wouldn't be denied. "The silent treatment won't work on me now. What do you think? Should I see if that lovely complexion stretches over her whole body? Or would you like to do the honour?"
"You won't touch a hair on her head," Kekai hissed at barely a whisper, though he felt like he was shouting to the sky at Dursa herself.
"It's not the hair I'm interested in," Mardai sneered back. Kekai stroked the blade in his sleeve with the tips of his fingers, if he wished Mardai would already be dead. But Mardai knew Kekai had to stay his blade. They could not complete the mission without the Arcaner's powers.
The girl was less than a pace ahead of the Assassin leader, her face was now turned, watching the Assassins work to open the door. Kekai begged silently to her not to overhear the Arcaner's words. She was already terrified, he wanted to protect her. Mardai would do nothing but harm.
After much work the door clicked open, the assassins were all positioned along the walls of the corridor as Kekai peered into the room with a tiny mirror, so as not to expose himself to a waiting attack. The room had two elven soldiers armed with bows pointed at the door waiting for Krull to enter the room. Kekai gave a signal to another assassin who used a similar mirror to also survey the room inside. Then they drew throwing stars and sent them slicing into the ribs of both archers. Two other assassins followed the stars and finished the elves, who had started to moan in pain. The star could never be as accurate as the bow, but its ability to turn corners made it a useful tool.
They entered the treasury, Kekai making sure to keep himself between the girl and Mardai at all times. The Arcaner had work to do here, then Kekai's blades could contemplate work. The Arcaner walked to the middle of the treasury room and closed his eyes, slowly turning in a circle before he stopped and his eyes shot open. "There it is," he said wide eyed in his usual slimy tone.
The Arcaner stepped nimbly through mountains of elven treasure. His eyes on one thing, the magical weapon of the elves. None of the Krull before now knew what it looked like. Only Mardai's talent to identify objects of power allowed him to find it.
Mardai knelt in front of a chest of solid gold, looking up helplessly as it was locked. Kekai motioned to his assassin's to get to work with their lock picks.
"What is your name?" it was the girl. Her voice broken and hoarse, but still the hint of lyrical beauty was there.
"I am called Kekai," he whispered back. "What do they call you?"
"Meila," the girl looked to the ground. It was such a beautiful name, why did she look down. Kekai could not speak more. Mardai was muttering Arcaner spells. Nonsense words to any but one trained in magic. He held in his hand the object of power, a small statue of a tree. It no doubt represented the Olarea, the Tree of Life, source of much of the world’s power so the elders said. The elves' lands lay closest to where the tree was said to grow. Maybe this statue was linked to the tree itself. If so it would hold devastating power.
As Mardai raised the tree it began to glow, its cold silver surface changing, so the tree almost looked real. Mardai's eyes stared straight at Kekai, and he the assassin felt he could almost hear the Arcaner's thoughts. Almost see his magic.
I know what you would do when my task is done assassin. My life means nothing to you, just like your fellow assassin's lives mean nothing. But your heart is not so cold. Your lovely elfling I have put under a curse. Her blood now flows with mine. If you kill me you doom her. It is already done. You'd best stay your blade.
Kekai's eyes bulged in horror as he saw the spell leave Mardai's hand and enter Meila, the magic spreading to every part of her body, as it already was through Mardai. And then it was gone. Kekai saw nothing but what his normal sight could grant. Mardai had shown him that spell, and now Kekai could do nothing but wait for the second spell to be cast.
This spell would win the great war for the Krull and doom the elves of Alfeira. After this spell was cast the Krull race could recover and rebuild and their land could become beautiful again. But Kekai swore a silent oath. He would never again set foot in Krua. He would escape the Arcaner's influence with Meila and start a new life. And if the snake came after him he would find a way to break that curse and then take his revenge.