Chapter 14: 205 CE Foiling an Assassination Plot
Clearly her action attacking her nephew caught the men unprepared. It was all the delay she needed as she leapt at them. A look of shocked surprise was frozen on the head of the biggest thug rolled across the wooden dock as blood briefly sprayed nearly three feet high before permanently stopping. His sword clattered to the deck from his lifeless hand two seconds before his body crumbled. A second man screamed as he dropped his sword in a fruitless attempt to prevent his guts from spilling onto the deck. The others sprung to the attack.
Two more men fell before a sword was thrust into her back, through her left side kidney, with the point popping out above her appendix. The pain and shock of the mortal wound jolted her already hyped body into overdrive with a tremendous burst of adrenalin. Without hesitating Fiach spun ripping the sword jammed through her body from the man’s grasp before hacking off the man’s arm. The man screamed in horror as he looked with disbelief at the stump of his arm with his lifeblood pumping out. The remaining attackers paused shocked at seeing carnage the small girl had already wrought amongst them. At the same time their battle experience told them the sword piercing her body was a mortal wound.
“Damn that hurts,” Fiach gasped as she used her free hand to touch the sword tip that stuck four inches out of the right front side of her stomach. “Plus it really pisses me off!” Then she let out an evil laugh as she relaunched her assault on the stunned men.
Two men fell before they could react to her renewed vicious assault. Several began to back off looking for a way to escape the demon girl. Others were backed to the edge of the deck with no where to flee. Even as she her heavy breathing began to spew blood Fiach pressed the attack. Three more clearly terrified men fell to her sword. Two others slipped on the blood soaked wood of the dock falling off the side of the dock into the water. The flustered leader rallied his four remaining men and pressed the attack.
Fiach fought savagely even as trickles of blood oozed from the entrance and exit points of the sword skewering her gut. By then blood was spraying from her mouth with each heaved breath making her look like a blood soaked demon yet she continued to doggedly fight on. Two more men fell to her darting sword before the leader landed a blow that sliced into her upper left arm stopping only when it hit bone. Fortunately the brachial artery had not been cut however she was barely able to move her left arm. Wisely she pressed it against her stomach limiting movement damage and keeping it out of the way.
That she not only remained on her feet after another horrific wound but didn’t falter in her attack terrified the three remaining men.
“Remember, I am the Demon Slayer,” Fiach bloodily chortled knowing she was weakening. She could see the ever increasing fear on the faces of her remaining opponents and concentrated on the leader charging him exchanging savage blows.
The remaining duo who had fought numerous bloody battles were really shaken by the savagely grinning visage of the bloody barely teenage girl. Fighting an army of men was one thing, but to face a demon who laughed off injuries... they wanted nothing more than to turn tail and run. Unfortunately on the small manmade island of Zamrab there was no where to run. Never the less they backed off from the deadly duo in their dance of death.
After dancing around each other trading blows the large man managed to land a hard blow that knocked her sword from her hand. Smiling in triumph he went in for the kill.
Fiach didn’t even try to retrieve her weapon. Instead with a solid thump she dropped to the bloody deck onto her ass. Without a pause she reached inside her vest and pulled a knife.
The leader thought he’d won when she went down. Wanting to savor his bloody victory he paused to gloat even as she sat brandishing the knife. “Now you die bitch!” He snarled as he lifted his sword to deliver a powerful two handed overhead kill stroke.
The gloating move left his legs unprotected. “Go to hell,” Fiach swore as she butt jumped forward while lashing out like a flash of lightening with the razor sharp knife.
The leader screamed in pain as the blade plunged into his left thigh striking the bone. By hoping forward she came too close to him so he was unable to deliver his intended fatal blow. The pain also made him flinch and lose his balance as he tried to reposition his sword. Then his right foot slipped on the blood soaked wood causing him to pitch forward.
Fiach realized he was going to land on her so she laid back a bit and twisted so the hilt of the sword skewering her was at a 180° angle to the deck with the point sticking straight up. Th falling man saw the sword blade was pointed at him as he fell but was too off balance to avoid landing on it.
The blood filled ‘OOOFFF’ sprayed from Fiach as the man’s body impaled itself on the four inches of blade. The blade pierced the center of his chest severing his aorta. Yet even as his body spasmed in his death throes Fiach was heaving his bulk up off the blade and wriggling from beneath his heaving bulk. The big man rolled off her onto the decking. The expression upon his face was one of utter disbelief as he raised his head to look at the small girl whom he knew had just killed him.
“Tell Anubis I send my regards,” Fiach gasped as she watched the life flee from the leader’s eyes before his head bounced off the deck.
By then the two remaining fighters were absolutely terrified that she had killed their fierce leader with the blade of the sword still protruding from her body. Fiach knew if they worked together they could kill her but their shock and fear froze them. Reaching inside her vest she pulled out her sling. Although awkward and painful she was able to load lead bullets into the pouch with her left hand. Before the men snapped from their shock a sling bullet thunked through the forehead of one man sinking deep into his brain instantly dropping him. The last man turned to run away. He only made it five steps before a sling bullet blew a hole in the back scrambling his brains inside his skull. He was dead before he fell.
Fiach didn’t relax but pushed herself to her feet. There were still two men in the water. Both were trying to scramble into the boat. Wisely the scriptorium manager jumped into the water. Twice more the sling twirled. The first man was hit as he was slipping over the side into the boat. His dead body slid into the bottom of the boat. The last man made it into the boat. He fell dead as he picked up an oar.
The manager was gobsmacked. He had heard of Fiach’s fighting ability but to see the small girl in action against sixteen men was mind numbing. That she had single handedly killed all sixteen of the battle hardened well armed men in just under five minutes was unbelievable. She really was a Demon Slayer!
Jarl was equally stunned. He’d grown up hearing the stories that Raben had single handedly killed ninety eight Romans years before he was born. His father, aunt, uncles and grandmother all told about how the fourteen year old had rescued them. The tales had always seemed like fairy tales. It no longer seemed so unbelievable that his uncle had received a curse that stopped his aging so he was still that fourteen year old legend. The lingering ache in his groin reminded him that the blow had been struck to disable him to keep him out of the brief fierce fight. Now he understood just how formidable a fighter Raben, or in this case Fiach, could be.
Both watched as Fiach dropped to her knees. They could see the life leaking from her battered body. Jarl rushed to her side.
“My wounds are too great,” Fiach whispered to Jarl as the manager also came to her side. “My body will temporarily die while it heals itself. Pull the sword out then lay me on a bed. Even though I’ll die I’ll return to life within an hour. Do you understand?”
Yes,” Jarl whispered as he looked at the terrible wounds. “It’s part of your curse.”
“Yes,” Fiach managed to smile. “I need to sleep...” With that Fiach lifelessly slumped against Jarl.
“Is... Is sh... she dead,“ the manager asked.
“Yes and no,” Jarl sniffed as he hugged his ’aunt’ for a moment before pulling the sword from her body. “Help me carry her inside to a bed.”
The terrified scribes had watched the bloody battle through the windows. They couldn’t believe the small barely teenage girl had wiped out the sixteen brigands. It was also quite evident she was dead. Everyone followed as Jarl carried her up to her apartment living quarters where she was laid on a bed and covered as if she was sleeping.
Looking around at everyone Jarl sighed. “Fiach is unique. She looks like a thirteen year old but is my 45 year old aunt.”
The men frowned and mumbled in disbelief. None believed she could be that old.
“Those of you who knew her when she founded Zamrab seven years ago,” Jarl stated. “Or even those of you who last saw her when she left three years ago. Has her appearance changed at all since you first met her?”
The men exchanged confused looks since they realized she hadn’t changed.
“She was the smallest of premature triplets born to a widowed fourteen year old mother in Germania. The healer who helped with the birth realized she was too small to have a chance to survive with such a small mother and larger brothers so she adopted her. The healer raised her to be a healer and she also became a skilled hunter as she grew. When she was fourteen a Roman slaving party raided our villages. They killed many and captured all my family except her. She followed and during the night took out the camp guards with arrows then slit the throats of the sleeping Romans killing ninety eight in all. One of them had been difficult to kill, much like you witnessed how Fiach fought through her wounds. She killed him but he returned to life. The man was cursed having lived 165 years. He had been a Roman legionnarie in Jerusalem, part of the detachment that crucified Jesus. It was he who pierced Jesus’ side. That was how he received the Curse. Fiach figured out a way to permanently kill him but by doing so inherited the Curse. She has not aged since then. She can’t be poisoned. If killed she’ll come back to life. You know she is a healer not a demon. Our people call her the Demon Slayer”
The tale seemed quite farfetched but they were well aware of Jesus and his resurrection. Some were Christians. The men exchanged uncertain looks.
“Look at her arm!” One of the men exclaimed. “It’s healing!”
They all looked at her left forearm. They had all seen it had been cut to the bone. Now, although heavily scarred, it was knitting back together.
“Let her heal,” Jarl advised. While he knew of the Curse he had doubts about healing after being killed. Seeing her arm knitting back together made his doubts disappear. “We need to gather the bodies and clean up the mess.”
“Let’s get to it,” the manager agreed. “We’ll notify the city watch in the morning.”
The men were clearly spooked by the prospect of someone who had clearly died returning to life. The fact they were cleaning up sixteen dead bodies and the spilled blood of the brief deadly battle only added to the creepiness. Quite a bit of the blood had drained into the lake drawing the Nile crocodiles to Zambar Island. A feeding frenzy erupted as dozens of crocs fought for a share of the three dead brigands who had fallen into the water. Even more shaken, they gathered the remaining dead, stripping them of weapons and other valuables.
As they scrubbed the last of the blood off the deck they were startled to see Fiach leaning against the door. She looked drawn and sickly but was undeniably alive.
Jarl smiled with relief. “Aunt Fiach! Should you be up so soon?”
“I should be okay as long as I take it easy,” Fiach smiled weakly. “I need some wine and a bit of bread and cheese to speed my healing.”
The manager sent one of the scribes to bring a jug of wine and some bread while he brought a chair outside so Fiach could sit down. The clean up was quickly completed. More wine, bread and cheese was brought out for everyone to eat. They all warily kept eyeing Fiach. They could almost literally see her growing stronger as she ate. Fiach confirmed how she received the Curse and that it came from Christ’s death on the cross.
As the edge was taken off everyone’s appetite and the wine eased their unease about Fiach she asked, “Can someone explain what was going on?”
“It began about ten days ago,” the manager began. “We were returning after having dispatched our latest shipment to Rome. As we approached the dock we saw five men waiting. They drew swords and took us prisoner. Others soon arrived. They used Zamrab as a base of operation. We were kept prisoners. They made us keep working in the scriptorium. We were allowed to leave but had to be accompanied by two of them. We replenished our food and other supplies like normal... well, a lot more food and wine. We never had a chance to request help.”
Fiach frowned. “Do you know what they were doing?”
“We did our best to stay out of their way,” the manager stated. “Other than making us feed them they left us to our work. We overheard them talking. They were survivors of Pescennius Niger’s personal bodyguard. They were condemned to death in absentia and have been fleeing and hiding since his death twelve years ago. They were planning to take a ship to Rome to assassinate the emperor. They found out about our regular shipments and were coercing us to send them with the next shipment. They’d been watching us and learned our routine. They wanted to make sure we couldn’t betray them.”
“We’ll need to report this to the authorities,” Fiach said. “I’m sure there will be quite a bit of interest in them and possibly a nice reward. If there is it will be shared by all.”
“But you’re the one who killed them,” one of the men declared. “Why would you share it with us?”
“I’m the owner of Corvus Scriptorium and you’re my employees,” Fiach smiled at them. “All moneys that are earned here are shared, even rewards. If you’re questioned tell the truth with one exception. I’m sure the reputation of my fighting prowess is still known from three years ago so my ability to defeat the brigands will not be severly questioned. What we don’t want to reveal is that I was injured, especially that I died. If that gets out, I could be labeled a witch or a demon. You and all I own could be attacked. To keep ourselves safe my resurrection and healing must be kept secret.”
All understood her concerns. Their lives could be threatened if her secret got out.
As the sun set they prepared to turn in for the night. Once in her private apartment on the fourth floor, Jarl looked at his aunt. She smiled and showed him her arm. All that remained of the horrific wound was reddened skin. She exposed her abdomen where similar redness showed where she’d been skewered.
“I always doubted the stories about your Curse,” Jarl admitted. “But what I saw today... you are Cursed.”
“Yes I am,” Fiach agreed. “Before the Curse I spent a lot of time traveling as a healer. My earliest memories are gathering herbs in the forest. I learned how to track animals and their habits. At fourteen I was a formidable hunter, sharing my kills with those who needed food. I could run noiselessly through the forests for hours, climb trees like squirrel, and climb rock cliffs. Despite being so small I was the fastest runner, my strength, agility and endurance were the best of the clan. It was because of those abilities that I was able to wipe out the slave raiders, ninety eight warriors, by myself before receiving the Curse. After gaining the Curse all my abilities were enhanced. Honestly, today was the first time I was seriously injured. I can tell you it hurt like hell.”
Jarl shivered. “What was it like dying?”
“Scary,” Fiach answered softly. “I knew I was bleeding out and dying even as I fought on. The pain from the wounds... was the worst I ever experienced. As for what death was like... what I experienced was a blackness. I felt nor sensed anything... it was simply absolute nothingness. I have no way to know if a normal death is the same.”
Jarl nodded. “When did you know you were alive?”
“That’s difficult,” Fiach sighed. “I was never aware I was dead. I knew I was dying, but not when it happened. It was if I’d simply nodded off to sleep. As to knowing when I was alive, I just woke up. I was disoriented and dizzy for several moments like when you wake up after a solid night’s sleep. I need more sleep to fully recover so let’s get to bed.”
In the morning there was no evidence Fiach had been injured. The workers were clearly unnerved but trusted her enough to accept she was not evil. After breakfast she set out for the Provincial Governor’s office to report the incident. At the governors palace when she, Jarl and Paki Rashida, the Corvus Scriptorium manager, asked to see the head of security they were given the run around. After fifteen minutes of imbecilic dickering Fiach had enough.
“DAMN IT, JUST DO YOUR JOB,” she yelled aloud. “I’M ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AND WILL NOT PAY YOU OR ANYONE ELSE A BRIBE!”
The other conversations in the public hall ended as everyone turned to see the unexpected outcry. Jarl and Paki were clearly stunned by the outburst and wisely stepped away from her.
Fiach reached out grabbing the tunic of the much bigger official pulling him to her as she suddenly whipped out a knife placing it against his throat. “I WANT THE HEAD OF SECURITY AND I WANT HIM NOW! EMPEROR SEVERUS WILL NOT BE PLEASED WHEN I TELL HIM ABOUT THE LEVEL OF INCOMPETENCE AND CORRUPTION IN THIS PLACE!”
By then everyone was backing away. The man she had at knife point literally wet himself. The guards who had been quite lackadaisical about their jobs snapped into action drawing their swords and cautiously approaching. Jarl and Paki wisely further distanced themselves from the looming confrontation.
“It’s about time you ass wipes started doing your damn jobs,” Fiach snarled. “Put up your swords before I have to kill you! WHERE IN HELL”S NAME IS THE INCOMPETENT HEAD OF SECURITY?”
“I’m in charge of security,” the sergeant of the guard snapped back as his six man squad spread out to surround the small girl.
“Then tell your men to back the fuck off before I hurt them,” Fiach glowered.
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