Chapter 61 = Shadow slayer
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
The sun had just dipped below the horizon, casting the lands in darkness as the pair of Yoshies broke through the forest and found themselves at the foot of the castle walls. It was quite a magnificent structure, with a large, fortified portcullis, a bridge spanning a sizable moat that was diverting the natural course of a nearby river, square towers spaced unevenly at intervals across the battlements, and human guards patrolling them with torches, watchful for any intruders.
Darkmark and Manny sat down to rest and think their next step through, watching the guards patrol the top of the walls endlessly. There weren’t too many of them, but it would be tough to get into the castle even without the likelihood of being spotted, and even then there were probably many more surprises in store. There was a tower rising above all the others from the centre of the castle, and Darkmark had a nagging feeling that it would be his final destination on his quest for vengeance…
Manny nudged him, and he snapped out of a daydream. “Look over there.” Manny hissed. “Look how close those two towers are.”
“Too far apart to grab hold of, don’t you think?” Darkmark replied. “I mean, I could probably fly up to the walls but that’d leave you stranded down below.”
“I know, I’m just saying…” Manny murmured, “Perhaps they’re close enough to try wall jumps?”
There was a moment of silence from the brown Yoshi, before he started heading back into the forest. “Maybe. But regardless, we’ve been walking all day, and we need to rest before going into that place. I’ve still got plenty of rations left; let’s eat and try and get in tomorrow.”
Early the next morning, they aroused from their slumber and quickly headed off again, brushing mud and twigs from their cloaks. Once they broke through the forest again, they found the weather had changed dramatically; where there had been only grey clouds the day before, there were now menacing black clouds that threatened a huge storm, monsoon, or hurricane. Definitely not a good omen, in Darkmark’s opinion.
Something else immediately noticeable was a distinct lack of guards; only three or four were milling around, a perfect opening for the two Yoshies to try and scale the walls. They scurried over to the area Manny had pointed out yesterday, keeping to the edge of the forest, just behind the cover of the trees, before taking a run-up and successfully flutter jumping across the moat, though Darkmark slipped on the muddy ground as he landed and was almost plunged into the drink. Cursing under his breath as he got back up and Manny landed beside him, he looked straight up to find a human staring back at him, looking curiously over the edge of the battlements.
Darkmark’s hand went into his saddlebags for one of the poison pins he had retrieved, but Manny’s was quicker and before Darkmark could so much as aim a shot, one of Manny’s throwing knives was sailing up through the air and embedded itself in the human’s chest, sending him falling over the edge of the walls. He landed hard on the ground beside them, and Manny retrieved his knife, searching the guard for anything useful but coming up fruitless.
They surveyed the distance between the two square towers, making it to be about eight or nine feet, a bit far for them to try and hold both, but maybe close enough to try wall kicks, tricky though they were. Darkmark tried first, planting his feet against the solid stone walls, but he was unable to turn in the air in time and slammed tail first into the other tower. Manny was just as successful; though he turned around, he didn’t kick off quickly enough and fell to the ground like a stone.
“This could take some time.” The blue Yoshi muttered miserably as he brushed himself off, straightening his cloak.
“I think I’ll fly, thank you very much.” Darkmark mused, before unfurling his wings on the second attempt, taking a run-up and launching himself into the air. Furiously beating them as fast as he could, he gained enough altitude for him to turn around and try to make a grab for the battlements.
He grabbed hold of a raised stone with one hand, his body slamming into the wall moments later, knocking the wind out of him and causing him to lose his concentration, dispelling his wings. He quickly grabbed hold with his other hand, struggling to keep his grip firm, but managed to pull himself up and over, windmilling his legs in a desperate attempt to get over the barrier and onto the battlements, flopping on the cold stone once he had done so.
Another guard came running up to him, and he got to his feet with a resigned sigh. Pulling out his flail, he dodged the sword swing of the guard before kicking out, knocking the guard back a few steps. Darkmark then swung his flail around hard, and though the guard held up a small shield, the flail balls sailed over the top of it and hit his helmet hard enough to send him over the side of the walls and out of sight.
Darkmark waited patiently, looking over the edge at Manny and the two bodies, as his comrade failed again and again to reach the top of the walls, but getting closer each time. Finally, after many minutes, Manny successfully wall-kicked himself far enough up that Darkmark reached down and grabbed his hand, plucking the blue Yoshi out of the air with ease.
However, his satisfaction was only momentary, for he felt a gauntleted hand come down on his shoulder as he tried to pull his friend up. Sighing again at the constant annoyances, he kicked his right leg up suddenly, connecting the heel of his boot with the human’s thigh, then grabbing Manny’s other hand and hauling him up and over his head in a suplex-like move that brought Manny’s feet down onto the back of the human guard, sending him sprawling on the floor. Darkmark grabbed the guard by his leather armour and threw him over the walls without a second thought, finally turning around to get a good look at the inside of the castle they had just penetrated.
Sure enough, in the centre of it all was a large, foreboding keep, with a small portcullis of its own and a large number of guards surrounding the entrance, most of which did not look so incompetent as the ones they had just disposed of. There was a large tower rising from the centre of the keep, probably about four floors high, with a flat roof on the top of it, and a flag flying that Darkmark couldn’t make out from the distance he was at.
Feeling exposed up on the walls, they quickly ducked inside the nearest gatehouse, finding it deserted and moving on to the wooden ladder that extended down through a hole in the floor. Darkmark slid down it into the inner wall section, walking softly along the stone floors and looking through the windows into the courtyard as Manny tagged along behind him…
Like a shadow, a good assassin flows over the ground unnoticed…
Tsi-Lau was finding it all too easy to get inside the castle she had tracked Darkmark and Manny to, having succeeded on her first attempt to wall-kick her way up the outer walls. The spikes on her shoes had made this infinitely easier, giving her an extra moment to push away before she would lose her momentum and fell back down.
Like a ghost, a good assassin is unseen, unheard, until it is too late…
She unsheathed her swords the moment she landed on the upper walls, crouching down immediately and scanning the courtyard for any sign of her target, without success.
Like a cobra, a good assassin strikes fast, hard, and only once… with a bite that kills, either immediately, or eventually…
Keeping her body low and moving in fast, swift, silent movements, she headed for the closest gatehouse, and jumped down to the next floor, bypassing the ladder entirely and landing hard on the stone floor, her feet slamming down against the ground loudly.
But an assassin must always be wary, like a deer, for single mistake can cost them their life, she thought bitterly, as her quarry suddenly stopped.
“We have a shadow.” Darkmark whispered to Manny, stopping in his tracks. “I heard her… she’s just behind us.”
Without turning around, Darkmark bellowed, “Show yourself!” to Tsi-Lau, his voice ringing off the stone walls and echoing down the corridor. Slowly, he turned to face her, watching her step out from the shadows she had quickly tried to hide in, withdrawing her swords, her hands held firmly around the red hilts.
“You seem intent on coming back to find us again and again. What is wrong with you? Do you have a death wish or are you just stupid?”
“Far from it.” She retorted. “This ends here, I’ll take you both on and I will not leave until I have painted the walls with your blood.”
Darkmark smirked as he pulled out Karlo-Shin’s sword from its scabbard. “I knew an assassin once who fought with two swords, and I saw her style many times to learn whatever I will need here to dispose of you. Are you sure you won’t reconsider? We could use someone skilled like yourself to dispose of the vampire here in this castle…”
“I work alone.” Tsi-Lau spat. “And I will leave this place alone.”
“That may be true…” Darkmark began, building up a charge of psionic energy in his hands, “But you will be headed straight for the afterlife.”
“Ka ví tsiya!” she shouted. I shall prevail!
“Malaí háy ka!” Darkmark cried, flanked by Manny as he rushed forwards. Victory is mine!
They met with a clash of steel as Tsi-Lau intercepted their sword swipes with her own, then followed up by swinging them around and attacking them both with upwards slashes. Both Darkmark and Manny dodged them and struck again, their attacks parried swiftly by Tsi-Lau, before she kicked out hard against Manny and knocked him away, allowing her to concentrate on Darkmark and began doing so by sidestepping his vertical slash. She swung with both swords, ringing them off of the shining sword of Karlo-Shin, then moving out of the way of a stab with speed and agility far beyond normal.
Manny came forward again and she kicked out once more, but he swiftly avoided the move and swung just as Darkmark took a swing for her as well. She jumped back out of the way, almost kicking Manny in the face as she backflipped, landing gracefully on the floor and allowing her swords to slip down so that she had firm hold of the yellow tassels on the ends. She stepped forwards to meet her assailants as they charged, swinging the swords around by the tassels and as a result making a broad-arced slice with them, which carried on through a full circle and struck Darkmark’s sword as he made an attack, knocking it out of the way. Holding one sword in front of her and using it as a shield, she grabbed hold of the hilt of the other and stabbed at Manny, finally scoring a hit as the blade tasted blood, slicing into the blue Yoshi’s arm. He ignored the pain and continued to fight, putting up his own series of rapid attacks that she parried with a single sword until Darkmark, catching on quickly, stabbed forwards and sliced straight through the tassel on her other sword. It went flying back behind her, leaving her with just one, but she immediately placed both hands upon the handle and held it firm, deflecting successive attacks from her adversaries until she made a counterattack and brought up a spike-soled boot to Darkmark’s face.
The spikes missed him completely, but the toe smashed into his nose and sent him reeling, sprawled against the wall, dazed and confused. With this momentary advantage, Tsi-Lau made a firm kick against Manny with enough force to crack his ribs, but he moved back at the last minute and she only managed to force him back a small distance. With incredible speed she whipped out a ninja star and held it behind her, between two fingers on her right hand, and prepared to throw it.
“Say goodbye, swordsman…” she taunted, beginning her throw just as she finished.
Spinning around once on the point of her shoe, she whipped the star at him, aiming straight for his heart. Manny, too slowly, raised his arms in desperation, but just before it hit him, Darkmark lunged forwards and caught the star out of midair, landing and rolling on the floor before springing to his feet.
Manny was so astounded at this that he almost didn’t see Darkmark throw it back, having placed a psionic charge upon it first. The star buzzed with energy as it flew back through the air, and when Tsi-Lau caught it as well, there was a bright purple flash and she was knocked back against the wall, stunned and paralysed by ripples of psionic energy passing through her.
“How…?” Manny stuttered, “What…?”
Darkmark folded his arms and watched her suffer. “She was using her chi to improve her reflexes… I could tell how she was doing it, and it took just three tries to copy the effect using my psionics… just in time to stop you from dying. She used her chi to help her catch that star, so when the psionic energy discharged into her it interfered, and… as you can see…”
The little bolts of energy jumping across her body were starting to die down, so Darkmark quickly grabbed her and held his sword to her throat, keeping her in a headlock with her body bent forwards in a painful position, through she didn’t show how much it hurt.
“I’m… not afraid… of death.” She gasped. “I fought well… I did my best… I will die a warrior’s death.”
Darkmark pulled her head back a little more, forcing a tiny gasp out of her as the pain increased. “I will ask one final time. Will you join us, or will you die?”
“There is honour in death, but only shame in pleading for life.”
“Don’t make me kill you.” Darkmark growled.
“Why? Don’t you want to? Don’t you want to be rid of me?”
“Because I know who you are; you disguised yourself well, but I remember those boots, your fighting style, and that scar on your shoulder… I have no idea how you changed so much, Xenly, but I know it is you…”
She smirked and gave a low chuckle. “I suppose you’re wondering…”
“…why you want to kill me?” Darkmark finished, pulling her head back again. “Yes, that had crossed my mind. But more importantly, I was wondering…”
He jammed his knee into her back and pulled hard, making her scream in pain as incredible stress was put upon her backbone.
“How could you let Shiala die, ki khúrda fáysa?” Darkmark roared, adding a vindictive insult onto the end of his question. “How could you just STAND THERE and watch as she died? She thought you were her friend… and you practically murdered her! I have come to this place to avenge the death of Alziana, another one who was murdered… for anyone who kills somebody that I love…”
Darkmark yanked her head back sharply with all his strength, and a sickening snap filled the air and echoed off the walls as her neck finally gave, making Manny wince.
“…must die.” The brown Yoshi finished.
He let her body sag to the ground, allowing an eerie silence to fill the air as both he and Manny watched her for a few moments.
“I hope Klashkna himself makes her burn in the Underworld.” Was all Darkmark felt the need to say, before turning and heading down along the corridor.
To be continued…