Kusari the Masked – Part Two

Zach Rainey, Entertainment Editor

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The inner sanctum of elder King Forneik’s was a simple yet beautiful site. The dimly lit room was a massive circular space; the walls contained shelves on shelves of literature, tomes, arcana, treaties, scrolls, and all manner of knowledge. The entire room was illuminated by the dozens of yellow runes engraved along the stone floor. This magically invoked light added a dim yet strangely beautiful illumination to the musty atmosphere, making some wonder how the elder king was able to read his documents with such little light and old eyes. Several pedestals were particularly well illuminated in comparison to the room’s entirety. Ancient artifacts that ranged from flags of the old Drenge Tívar rule, were frayed and faded with time, and ancient weapons wielded by the kings and chiefs before Foreneik’s time, many rusted with the blood of their enemies, were displayed on the pedestals with glory.

All of this was irrelevant to Kusari; the only thing his arrow like mind took true notice of was the ancient monarch. The elder king sat at his desk: a simple wooden one with the many ink and pencil stains signifying the many parchments and books written on its surface. The desk was suited more to a scribe or loremaster then a man of royalty, truly displaying the king’s humble nature. Seated at the desk in a stone, rune covered throne sat the raven lord of this kingdom, his tired green eye not leaving the book he read from; he either did not notice the door flying off the hinges due to the lack of sound or simply did not care for his soon to be assassin’s appearance in his stronghold.

This ancient king’s visage perfectly matched the files the Masked Massacre researched hours prior: a tall, somewhat muscular and shriveled man with paling skin from the sunless weather of his kingdom. His wan, dramatic face had several long scars, all gained in battle and poor assassination attempts with the worst of these permanent battle marks being a deep X-shaped scar across his left eye. The eye was destroyed a decade ago by a certain recently ascended Duchess of the Draco Kingdom. The man’s long grey hair was oiled and disheveled, showing either immense stress or a particularly long day of courtly affairs. To go with the nightly hours, he wore no armor and held no steel, but was dressed simply in a white unbuttoned shirt and a red kilt with black long underwear underneath for the cold of the castle.

Then came Forneik’s most distinct feature, similar to how Kusari is often identified by his shadowy mask, Forneik’s right arm was something peculiar to behold. The arm was made of pure stone, not stone armor or something of mechanical nature, but as if the arm’s very flesh was transmuted into stone. Along the arm runes were etched in, but unlike the runes that lit the castle or the throne Forneik sat upon, these runes were significantly different as if it were an entirely new dialect.

“Elder King of Vitrsumar, I’ve come for you,” Kusari announced, walking a few paces closer like a predator inching towards his prey in a standoff.

“Oh you finally decided to talk, assassin,” the king quipped, his powerful yet light hearted voice befitting of a champion of a kingdom. “I must say I’m not surprised you were sent after me! Considering what happened to the last 12 who thought they could take out this old warrior!” He laughed, taking out a blood stained dagger from the bottom of the desk and throwing it at Kusari, which the assassin quickly caught inches away from the base of his helmet covered forehead.

Getting the message, the armored killer quickly examined the dagger, immediately noticing the crest of one of the many assassin guilds, the Bleeding Orchard, a decently successful proprietor of killing arts that’s blood red flower symbols represented the demented beauty of killing only certain minds can truly grasp.

“I think you’re wise enough to realize I’m a typhoon to those men who tried to claim your life,” Kusari explained, a hint of pride springing in his dead voice.

“An accurate statement, child! But someone of such stance must understand what my death would bring!” the aged monarch began, leaving his desk and slowly walking over to his potential killer, his disposition hardly giving off a hint of fear or hesitation.

“I do, King. Removing you from this game would cause more discord than the wars themselves, but like all chaos, it will subside,” Kusari retorted with a slight tinge of passion, something that the aged monarch immediately detected.

“I’ve seen the fall of many kingdoms and dynasties myself, and the pain and anguish that comes before the inevitable order is something to never take lightly,” Forneik spat, trying to probe his soon to be killer’s mind.

“That is irrelevant to the grand scheme of things. Order can only completely take hold in this troubled age if the old order has lost its grip,” the assassin began to wax, pointing a judgmental iron finger at his target.

“You are regarded as one of the wisest men in the lands; of course, you understand what is about to happen. A new age is approaching: hardship, turmoil, and bloodshed of unprecedented proportions will wash over the entire globe.”

“Of course, I see that, you creatine!” the king screamed, getting a grasp of what drives one of the world’s most feared assassins, and that understanding unsettled the old man.

“Monsters and gods are rising from the bowels of the past! The beasts that we locked away are breaking out of their chains! The powers of the world are shifting, and political tension grows stronger with each droplet in the ocean of this world, and what you’re going to be will be a LOT more than a droplet!” the king yelled, sweating from the imaginative visions of the hell that is coming to the world that he was all too aware was inevitable. This fear, this pure anxious terror, was not the one of a coward fearing an enviable defeat, but the fear of someone who understands the pain that will not be towards him but everyone.

“All of this is true and then some,” Kusari agreed, undoing one of his chains and beginning to toss it up and down, either to sate his boredom or something more foreboding.

“Although you must understand something, monarch, I don’t care what will cause the change!” Kusari whispered, his voice not containing a hint of malice but near undetectable pain.

“The heads of this world are always the ones who unleash the monsters and bring about the strife of this world!” Kusari continued to explain; his voice sounded slightly less dead and more alive as he dove into his words.

“The more of your heads are cut, the faster the beast of this age will die!” he waxed, undoing another one of his chains and beginning to spin them in tandem.

“The beast’s death is inevitable, and my work has sped up the process! Isn’t it better to have a worse pain in a short span of time than a long pain that spans ages in time?” he asked, genuinely curious of the king’s response. This response didn’t come immediately as the king took a step back, absorbing the logic and reasoning behind the assassin’s thought process. He understood it perfectly; Kusari saw the world in such a wide scope. Although Forneik’s old ears could read the hurt and sorrow sown deep within them, this thinking was born from festering and grieving, not philosophical analysis.

“To cause such death and destruction to speed up the inevitability of death and destruction? Truly a demented mindset! You do not understand the pain, the blood, and sorrow that comes with your plans! The death of monarchs only draws the wolves such as the radical Draco Kingdom and other warlords to their doorstep! You are not a cold assassin bent only on lining your pocket! You’re a hurt babe trying to inflict the pain you wish you could have dealt long ago! You are no better than that harlot, Baroness who claimed my eye some time ago! You are no better than the heads, Draco Kin…”

This was all Forneik could say before two chains wrapped around his stone arm, and with a single flex from the under iron, they tore it straight from his flesh! Forneik fell to his knees screaming as dust and red powder filled the air from his wound with its scent being an amalgam of dried blood and clay. The Chained Assassin revealed the purple cylinder he had obtained earlier, dropping it onto the ground in a clank, and with the stolen stone arm in chains, he gently placed it on top of the artifact. The moment these two artifacts made contact, a magical reaction occurred: purple and golden energy ripped through the air around them as if two equal forces met in a fiery encounter.

This clash caused the injured elder king’s body to burn with the same energy; his eyes flickered with conflicting powers in a firework of both pain and terror. The massive reaction raged for a solid minute, and screams of pain echoed in the chamber while the energy burned the floors with colored ash and bleeding magic. Then, it all subsided as the arm had been absorbed into the cylinder. The wounded king lay on the floor, covered with sweat and dried powder blood, breathing heavily after that short duration of torture.

“Dddoo yyoou knnooow whattt yyoouuu just did!?” Forneik stammered, trying to get to his feet.

“I do,” Kusari menaced with his signature dead tone, picking up the artifact and putting it back in his cloak. “I just killed a king.” This was a horrifically true statement as before the assassin’s eyes, Forneik’s body began to change.

His somewhat aged face began to quickly fill with tiredness and lines, his cheek and eye sockets sunk in, and his hair deteriorated into dust.

“Your arm is the key to your longevity,” Kusari explained to him, wanting the rapidly aging king’s last thoughts to be that his secret was discovered.

“Every time you suffer a fatal injury or illness, they come and bring you back, keeping you at a physical prime despite your physical age; even if the arm was severed, it could be easily reattached,” Kusari continued, looking at the dying man. The king now appeared similar to a skeleton with his clothes looking like bags over his crippled and shriveled body, and his teeth disintegrating, preventing him to speak.

“But that object I used was designed to isolate it in a time bubble before the message could be sent for you while at the same time breaking the godly ties you had with it, which in essence…” he pointed to the king, who was at the inch of his life with his breathing reduced to painful wheezing and coughing.

“Makes your body re-age to what it should be physically.” The Under Iron completed, Kusari walked away as the Elder King’s final years caught up with him, and his final breath echoed through the halls in a drizzled and painful cacophony. No one outside could hear it save for the soundless assassin as he took his leave, leaving just enough evidence to make it apparent an assassin was the one who did this with the state of the guards and the door but not enough to tie himself to the act. He is Kusari the masked, the mortal personification of death’s greed and sorrow, a man who is driven to help usher in the world’s new age to the best of his ability with the slide of the chain around the royal world’s neck. He has taken another head, filling the bucket and bringing the ripples that will reverberate for some time as all actions have consequences.

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Kusari the Masked – Part Two