Realm Wardens, Book 2
To prevent the rise of evil, rules must be broken.
The assassin, Niviel Darke, is the best in all of Totriga Realm and several others. His services are expensive but worth it. The agency he works for has one rule: protect the client list or die.
The dryad spends his days tending his forest and nights watching the stars. Occasionally, he would use his magic to help visitors bearing gifts. He too lived by one rule: never harm another living creature. Ever.
They must make a choice, go against everything they believe or watch the world fall to darkness. Stakes are higher as they race to stop Dufin and his group from starting their journey.
The Gift is book two in the Realm Wardens Series. Stakes are higher as the race to meet Dufin and Enya is on. This action-packed high fantasy will keep you wanting more and constantly guessing where the story is going to take you.
OTHER BOOKS IN THE REALM WARDENS SERIES
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Crouched in front of a bakers shop, Niviel wore the ragged clothes of a beggar. His face was smudged with dirt, his short salt-and-pepper hair in disarray, and he smelled as if he had rolled in a pile of horse shit. He held his hand out to the passersby for any spare coins they might have, but this part of Gloverree was the poor end of town and not many had anything to spare. A few would drop a copper piece into his dirty hand, and an old woman took pity on him and gave him a hunk of bread to eat. Several elves stopped to give him elven blessings of good will and prosperity, since he was one of their own.
Gloverree was a growing town of several thousand that hugged the eastern border of Misandria Region with a mixed population of elves and humans. Because of this Niviel did little to conceal his pointed ears. When he traveled to other cities he would do what he could to hide them. A few more people passed him by and he lifted his hand for an offering. The coins really were the least of his concern, though; he was in the perfect position to keep an eye on the rundown inn across the potholed dirt road.
When he spotted a man in a long black coat and a woman in a cloak enter the inn, he waited another ten minutes. His eyes searched the front of the inn for a sign of their location. The curtains in a second floor window shut abruptly.
Sloppy, he thought.
Several minutes later the man in the long coat stepped out the front door by himself. Niviel kept his head low, his hand held out to the others on the street. The man in the coat gave no indication he noticed Niviel.
Niviel bit the inside of his cheek. His target should know better—head always on a swivel. He followed the man with his eyes, and when he disappeared around the corner Niviel waited another five minutes before he approached the inn.
He had scouted the area earlier and knew there was no back entrance to the inn. There were only eight rooms on the second floor, three rooms which were occupied. He knew exactly where he needed to go. As he came to his feet, he shed the tattered rags to reveal a sleek tan jacket with leather elbow patches, the style commonly worn by the working class of Gloverree. As if he had turned invisible nobody took notice of the beggar turned worker. He wiped his face clean, tidied his hair while he stepped across the road. He skillfully missed the potholes and strode into the inn.
The woman behind the counter barely looked up from the paper she was reading when he walked past her without a word. His soft soled shoes didn’t even make a sound on the worn hardwood floor. Taking the stairs two at a time he reached the second floor. Counting to the third door on the front of the inn he knocked lightly.
“Yes?” a meek woman’s voice came from the other side.
“Lefflyn Callesyn sent me to come get you.”
The door cracked open and the pale face of a woman peeked through. “Real—”
With one hand on the door and the other over the woman’s mouth, Niviel forced his way into the room. He moved smooth and quick, she barely had time to react. He closed the door behind him and spun Soleena around, her back pressed up against him. Her breathing was erratic, and she was grabbing her stomach.
He looked down.
“Hmm, pregnant,” he said more to himself, noting her full belly. “So sloppy.” He pulled one of the chairs from the table, placed it in the center of the room and pushed her into it. He gagged her before she could say a word then tied her wrists together behind her back and her ankles to the legs of the chair. She sobbed hysterically as Niviel worked.
When he was done, he knelt in front of her and looked up. He pursed his lips and sighed heavily before standing. He grabbed the second chair and put it in front of her. He moved to the window to look down the street, careful not to disturb the curtain. He didn’t want Lefflyn to notice and not come back, although he was pretty sure the man would return regardless.
Niviel stood at the window for a few moments then sat on the edge of the bed, near the head just behind and to the right of Soleena. She continued sobbing, and when the doorknob turned her sobs became louder. Niviel stood, straightened his coat, smoothed down the front then pulled a knife from a leather band around his forearm.
Lefflyn stepped in quickly, turning to close the door before actually looking into the room. “I’m sorry darling I wanted to ma—” He froze as he turned and his eyes met Niviel’s. Belatedly, he grabbed for the knife on his belt.
“Sit,” Niviel said, holding the knife to Soleena’s throat.
He did as he was commanded and sat in the chair facing Soleena. “I didn’t think they were going to send you. I should have known better. You don’t have to do this.”
Niviel tossed a rope with loops on the ends to Lefflyn. “Toss the knife to the side. Put your hands behind your back and through the loops, then give it a tug.”
“Your hands.” He pressed the knife to the woman’s throat and her sobs turned into muffled screams.
“Shh, shh, it’s going to be okay, I promise,” Lefflyn said to her as he did as he was told. “She’s with child, Niviel. Let her go, please. You don’t have to do this.”
Niviel glared at the man. “It was your job to kill her. The bastard child is of no consequence. I wouldn’t be here if you just followed through with your contract. The contract is the only thing that matters.”
“I couldn’t do it—when I found out who she was. You don’t understand.”
"What don’t I understand? You reneged on a contract. You betrayed your client. This leaves a black mark on us all.”
“It’s not like it’s never been done before.”
“The client has put a hit on you. You know what that means. You might as well have posted your client list in all the taverns in town, the penalty is the same. The second contract cannot be ignored.”
“Let me explain, I have my reasons.”
“What reason could you possibly have?” Niviel asked.
Lefflyn looked at Soleena, and his eyes softened. “She was my first love. Her family sold her when she reached childbearing age and I thought I’d never see her again. That’s why I joined the agency. When I got the contract and realized who I was supposed to kill...the instant I saw her I fell in love all over again.”
“That’s the reason you double-crossed your client?”
“What other reason could there possibly be, if not for love.”
“Love is for children and imbeciles.”
“Coming from a man who clearly has never loved.” Lefflyn’s eyes hardened again as he glared at Niviel.
Niviel knelt in front of him, one hand still on the woman. “We are assassins. We have no need for love. It is a distraction. It clouds your thoughts.” He glanced from Soleena and back to Lefflyn. “It is weakness.” He stood and moved behind Soleena once again. “Tell me, is the bastard child yours?”
“Answer the question.”
“No, it’s not yours or no you will not answer the question? Come, brother, complete your dishonour, die as a coward would, shaking in his fear.”
Lefflyn thrust his chin out. “No, the child is not mine. But it is no bastard either. Her husband is the adulterer, not her. Instead of leaving her he put a contract out on her. Can you not see how sick that is? He hired us to kill his wife and unborn child.”
“It’s not our job to judge. It’s our job to fulfill the contracts we take. And now I must clean up your mess.” Niviel stepped back and removed his coat, then started rolling up his sleeves.
“Niviel, please. Let her go. She can run to Misandria Region, her husband can’t touch her there. He doesn’t need to know. Please.”
As Lefflyn begged Niviel took a larger knife from a belt hidden by his coat. Soleena’s eyes widened in horror as he approached her.
Niviel knelt next to Soleena, his hand on her shoulder. “This isn’t personal, I hope you understand. If he had just done his job you would have died peacefully in your sleep. It’s because of Mr. Callesyn that I must kill you this way.”
Her eyes darted to Lefflyn, large, fat teardrops streaking her face.
Niviel placed the tip of the blade on her belly and prepared to stand when Lefflyn shouted, “Niviel stop! It isn’t always black and white. Remember your one rule, the one standard you live by.”
Niviel paused, pulling the blade away.
“She’s innocent in all this, she did nothing wrong. Contract or not, she’s not the one who should be punished.”
“I have a contract.” Niviel stood to face Lefflyn.
“Yes, for me, the contract is for me. My contract was for her.”
“The contract is for both of you,” Niviel said and started for Soleena again.
“But the child! The child is innocent. The child has done nothing wrong and you didn’t even know about the child, right? The contract never stipulated there was a child.”
Niviel stepped away and paced the room behind the woman. Lefflyn knew Niviel had a hard-standing rule to never kill the innocent. He chose his contracts carefully to ensure he would only kill those who deserved it. He didn’t know if Soleena was the adulterer or not, but he knew the baby had done nothing wrong.
“The Commissioner of Oaths will know if I don’t complete the contract.”
“Come now, you’re smarter than that. Plus, the old crone who works in this city won’t know the difference. Just tell her you sent your own people to clean things up.”
Niviel lifted an eyebrow. “You’ve never dealt with the old crone before, obviously.”
“You’ll think of something. Please, Niviel.”
Niviel set his shoulders and smoothed down the front of his shirt. “Say your goodbyes.”
Lefflyn leaned forward to the sobbing Soleena. “I love you with every inch of my soul. I will search for you in the afterlife so that we may be together forever.”
Niviel stepped behind him, pulling him back, his hand under his chin, knife to throat. Lefflyn opened his eyes and pulled his shoulders back, taking a deep breath. Niviel couldn’t help but feel a bit of respect for the man. In his final moments he at least attempted to hold onto some honour by dying with his eyes open.
One smooth motion over his throat sliced the now bulging veins on his neck, blood spraying over Soleena, Niviel released Lefflyn’s chin. Lefflyn coughed, spitting blood up. After a few seconds he slumped in his chair. Niviel sliced the skin from Lefflyn’s forearm, a tattoo of a dagger through an eye, the tip of the blade on a diamond, the symbol of his chapter. He wrapped it in a piece of leather.
He knelt in front of the woman again and removed her gag. The two locked eyes for a long moment. He could see she was struggling to contain her sobs. Niviel contemplated his next decision carefully, if anyone were to ever find out he would be as good as dead himself. “Was Lefflyn telling the truth? Your husband was the unfaithful one?”
A sneer crossed the woman’s face. “He has many mistresses, when he tires of them he has them killed. The idea of being a father didn’t sit well with him.”
“If I let you go free you are to disappear. You leave this city; you leave this region.”
“I’ll go to Misandria.”
“No, you will go farther. You will go east to Ursena Lake. Ask for the Ursena people to allow you to pass.”
“That’s suicide! I’m seven months pregnant, and that’s at least a five-month journey. If the Ursena people deny me passage—”
“I could just kill you and your child now.”
Another long moment of silence, a standoff between the two of them, but Niviel knew he would win.
Soleena gave a small nod.
Niviel stood and cut off Soleena’s right ear, which had a distinct birthmark on it. He placed it on another piece of leather.
She screamed out, “Why?”
“I need proof, this was the proof requested.” He wrapped it with the other leather wrap and placed them into a pouch. “If I find out you didn’t do as I said; if I hear but a whisper of your existence, I will come for you. I will finish what I was sent here to do today. Do you understand, Mrs. Colette?” He untied her hands and handed her a handkerchief. She pressed it to where her ear had been and nodded again.
Niviel grabbed a shirt that was lying on the bed, cleaned his blade, and sheathed it. He took the pitcher of water and poured it into the basin where he washed the blood from his hands and arms. After drying himself, he checked the rest of himself for any blood, then unrolled his sleeves and put his coat back on. He placed the leather pouch in the outer pocket of his coat.
All the while Soleena watched him.
“Well get your things together, Mrs. Colette. You can’t stay here.”
She scurried about the room ramming things into her bag. She pulled a money pouch from what Niviel decided was Lefflyn’s belongings. She kissed him on his cooling forehead and whispered something Niviel couldn’t hear, nor did he care. Tired of waiting, her grabbed her by the elbow and dragged her from the room.
Knowing there was no back door, instead he took her through the narrow hallway to a window, which he opened and gestured for her to go. Without a word she squeezed herself through the window. He tossed her belongings at her once she was outside. She put the hood of her cloak over her head and rushed down the back alley.
It was the last he ever saw of her.
Niviel moved to the front of the building. He walked past the woman behind the desk and said good evening as he went by. Before she could look up to see who was speaking he was already out the front door and walking up the street.
He headed toward the seedier part of town. These were places he would rarely find himself but did venture to when the occasion called for it. Niviel had contacts in every city; people who could obtain hard to get items, or clean-up crews when needed. Today he needed a clean-up crew.
The door to the shop creaked as it was opened, and stuck. Niviel had to give it a shove to be able to enter. The shop was filled with broken and badly worn wooden furniture. The owner worked hard at restoring the pieces to sell to the upper crust of the city. It was a clever front, Niviel always thought.
“Niviel,” the owner said with a raspy voice as she stepped out of the back room. She wore a leather apron and was covered in sawdust. “Haven’t seen you around these parts for some time.”
"Yes, I’m looking to repair a piece of furniture.”
“What kind of furniture?”
“One chair, beautifully stained.”
The woman scrutinized him for a moment. “A chair you say. Will I need to match it with others?”
“No, it was a clean break. Just the one.”
The woman puckered her lips and tsked. “I can have a repair crew by the end of the day.”
“That’s fine. I’ll send payment as always.” He handed her a piece of paper with the location of the inn and what room to find Lefflyn in. The woman took the paper, and he turned on his heel and left.
His next destination was the richer part of the town. He stopped to pick up some bread and meat on the way. He had not had a decent meal since that morning, and he was starving. The home where he had left his supplies and bags while he completed his job had two stories. Shrubs lined the front window and flowerpots hung from the window near the door. He entered the home and went straight through to the back.
A grizzled woman sat in a room overlooking the back garden. She narrowed her eyes at him as if she couldn’t quite see him. “Name?” She barked.
“Niviel Darke, Grashneet Chapter.”
She ran her bony finger down a sheet of paper, holding it so close to her face her nose dragged across it. “Chapter?”
Niviel sighed, he had little patience for the elderly. “Grashneet.”
She returned to her paper. “What chapter?”
“Grash—” Niviel lifted up the sleeve of his shirt and jacket to reveal his chapter tattoo, the dagger through an eye but the tip went through a triangle.
She leaned in and Niviel could feel her hot breath on his arm. “Ah Grashneet, why didn’t you bloody well say so. Gronk’s beard, I don’t have all day you know.” She returned to the sheet of paper. “Did you complete your contract?”
“Yes.” Niviel reached into his pocket.
She waved her hand at him. “Well, come on. Where’s the proof of completion? I’m not getting any younger.”
“No indeed, you are not,” Niviel said under his breath as he dropped the leather pouch on the table.
She unraveled first the ear then the strip of skin. Not so much as a flinch crossed her face. She was a Commissioner of Oath; her only job was to ensure contracts were completed and to clean up the mess.
The old woman stared at him. “So, dead then?”
Niviel raised an eyebrow and nodded once. “I got the proof you required; I completed the contract. My payment.” He put his hand out.
“Bodies to clean up?”
“You took care of it?”
“Very well.” She dipped her quill into an ink bottle that had an odd smell and made several notes on a parchment. She waved it in the air for a few minutes and mumbled her incantation, “Objectiveway achievedway,” then folded it, warmed some wax and sealed it shut. She opened a desk drawer and pulled out a metal box. The box was filled with gold and platinum bars along with a weapon Niviel had only seen a handful of times. He reached for it, but she was much faster than he expected and had it pointing at him. “You trying to rob me?”
Niviel put his hands up and did his best not to laugh. The woman was no challenge to him, he could have knocked her out with his finger. “I was merely admiring your weapon. I have only ever seen one from a distance. They are too loud and crude for my line of work.”
“I like a weapon that leaves nice little holes in whoever is trying to do me wrong.” She pulled out two platinum pieces, three gold, and six silver, put them in a pouch, and handed it to Niviel. “Anything else?”
“No, ma’am. I will just be using your spare room for the evening and I’ll be on my way in the morning.”
“Ten gold pieces.” She barked.
“Excuse me? Ten gold pieces for one night?”
“I don’t like company. Ten gold pieces.”
Niviel contemplated her and said, “I thank you for your hospitality, but I believe I saw an inn just down the road.”
“Yeah, you did.” She slammed the lid back on the box and replaced it in the drawer.
Niviel shook his head and smirked. He couldn’t help but like the old crone, even if her mind was slipping. He grabbed the items she had allowed him to leave at her house and headed to an inn for the night.