His soft leather boots made barely a sound on the stone floor as his feet slid across them, propelling him to the window at the end of the torch-lit corridor. He cast long, flickering shadows across the grey walls as he flitted through the semi-darkness. The hood over his head kept his face hidden from even the pale light of the torches. His charcoal cloak made barely a whisper as it whipped through the air, like an owl in flight.
He reached the open window and, without hesitation, stepped onto the window ledge. He pausedfor a moment, surveying the void before him. It was a long leap to the rooftop ahead, over the market place that had thrummed with life only hours before. Now it was empty and dark beneath a starry, moonless sky. A couple of night watchmen leaned together against the wall far below him, one nodding his head as he fought against sleep. The dark figured watched silently from his perch, while his hand drew a grapnel and cord from his belt.
With a flick of a skilled wrist, the grapnel flew up and away across the gap. High about the opposite rooftop it found purchase, wrapped around a gargoyle on the nearest tower. The figure leaned back on the cord, testing the hold, and found it solid. He paused once more, glancing again at the oblivious watchmen below, and then leapt from the ledge. He soared through the air in a graceful arc, legs wide apart,cloak streaming behind him, unseen by any nighttime eyes. He landed with a quiet clink on the roof tiles and dropped low, using all four limbs to keep himself steady. He waited a while, listening for any sound of commotion, any hint that his arrival had been observed....
He allowed himself a small grin, hidden in the shade of his hood. He straightened up and walked casually across the empty roof, while the town slept below. He reached the nearest tower and, finding easy holds in the rock, began to climb up to the closest window at a measured pace. He landed cat-like on the ornate carpet, pausing again, before he began to make his way down the corridor.
He smiled, his heart beating fast with the thrill of the hunt. Marjohn was his name, although there were few who knew it. In the rumours and whispers of dark rooms and secret meetings, he was known as the Great Sword, the fabled assassin - and he had business in Castle Carla tonight. Royal business, he reflected to himself. A very important appointment with the king... and it wouldn't do to keep him waiting.
Like so many others of his trade, Marjohn was an orphan. Orphans were popular among the 'dark brethren', as they had no former ties or loyalties to break. They could be molded into precisely the kind of person who could make death their living. For Marjohn, rescued off the streets at four years old, the shady, vaguely connected community of the dark brethren was home. His mentor, a bald-headed and humourless man named Plass, was the closest thing he had to a father.
Close... but not quite. Assassins did not deal in close friendships or clans;they were lone wolves. They had respect for one another, but not love. The business was all about money, and the 'new recruits', as Marjohn had been, were expected to repay their betters for their training. This had not been a problem for Marjohn, who had learned quickly and thrived as an assassin. He had no sentimentality about life, no qualms about killing and no fear of death. For a young man, he had an extraordinary talent for moving the living into their afterlife. His success brought with it both money and respect - already he was well known among the dark brethren as a capable killer with a future ahead of him. It was rare for an assassin to become famous, and while of course barely any person of the kingdom knew Marjohn's name and identity, the 'Great Sword' was already becoming a legend.
From the lowest beggar to the highest nobleman, rumours twisted and turned about his title. "They call him the Great Sword because he carries a massive blade, a broadsword, across his back!""No, I heard it's because there is none other so good at cutting though a man's life.""Don't be ridiculous - it's because he's in the employment of the king's enemies in the east. He's their Great Sword, their most dangerous weapon!"The rumours, whenever they reached him, brought a smile to Marjohn's face. They were all incorrect, of course. He certainly wouldn't dream of carrying a sword while doing his work;such a thing would be much too cumbersome. Indeed, despite having excellent training in swordsmanship, Marjohn avoided them. He preferred a simple dagger!
If any of the curious citizens of the kingdom were to meet the mysterious and legendary Great Sword, they would have been rather surprised at what they found. Marjohn was a young, lithe man of three and twenty years. He was tall but trim;his muscles well-toned but not bulging. His skin was smooth and his face clean shaven. Beneath his oft-worn hood, his clear-blue eyes sparkled and his mouth curled to a smile with ease. His whole face, topped by a mop of brown, unruly hair, seemed to convey a particular amiable vitality that seemed at odds with his profession. Some of the older, more experienced assassins (including Plass) viewed this countenance as inappropriate for one of the dark brethren, but Marjohn disagreed. What better way to hide his identity than to be cheerful around others? Moreover, it was an attitude born of Marjohn's own experience. He knew all too well - and better than most - how quickly life could come to an end. Best to live every moment to the full while you still could!
So Marjohn poured his energy and enthusiasm into being the best assassin there was, and his name and reputation were rising fast. He saved his serious face for his work, and used the money he earned to afford pleasant luxuries. Women were his greatest joy;there was likely not a brothel in the locality that he had not visited repeatedly. He had gained a reputation (as a simple, hard-working merchant, of course) as a man of enormous appetite when it came to the indulgences of the flesh, and the skilled women of negotiable affection warmed to his quick wit and big smiles. In his more excitable (and drunken) moments of intimacy, he may have let hints slip of his true profession to the more agreeable of his companions - but it was of no matter, as he often told himself. No one in their right mind would come looking for an assassin, unless they were seeking an early grave. Not to mention that the hushed whisperings of a couple of prostitutes would hardly be convincing to anyone who seriously sought him out.
He had the layout of the castle carefully mapped out in his head, and he proceeded along its corridors with purpose. His steps were quiet, but placed with precision and purpose. Marjohn walked confidently down the silent corridors; he did not run. The Great Sword never ran, and somehow that rumour had also swept through the locality. "He doesn't run because he's the greatest assassin there ever was,"said one man, "and you don't find great assassins in a hurry. They are prepared and certain about what they do, no need for running.""Aye!"said another, "running is undignified. Assassin's are all very dignified;they wouldn't do anything as hasty as running!"There was some truth to these ideas, in fairness. Marjohn was always careful to gather every last scrap of information he needed about each job - building layouts, guard patrols, and most importantly, escape routes. The Great Sword always knew a dozen different ways out of any place he entered, and if anything went wrong, he would walk - not run - to the nearest exit. Smooth, simple... professional.
He took a left turn at the next T-junction, where three torches lit the grey stone walls. Another left after that, and then a right down a long, black corridor. The castle was entirely silent around him, and Marjohn knew he would have plenty of notice if any guards should appear on their rounds. Thisw as unlikely;his journey through the castle tonight was carefully timed to match the changing of the guards, and he didn't expect to meet anyone. Another few minutes of measured walking brought him to a long windowed gallery, and after a glance to ensure that no one was waiting at either end of the room, Marjohn moved to the third window along and stepped up to the will.
He unwound another grapnel from his belt and secured it beneath the frame, and then began to lower himself out of the window. The sky was still clear and glittering with stars, and the town below was silent. A cool breeze played with his cloak, and Marjohn paused to enjoy the view. He loved these moments, when the adrenalin pumped through his veins and he was so very aware of being alive. Perhaps that was ironic, as he was on the way to take someone's life. He allowed himself another small grin beneath the dark hood, and continued lowering himself from the window. Beneath him, another window ledge crept up to meet him. When he was level with it he paused once more, checking for any sounds or movement within the dark chamber before him. Satisfied that there was none, he swung deftly across to the window ledge and hooked his feet over the edge. He had arrived.
He stood in the centre of the room, still as a statue and silent as the grave. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he began to pick out the details. To his right, a large, ornately carved wardrobe. Ahead of him, the heavy oak door, barred and latched. A couple of chairs and tables stood beside it on the far well, and to his left... the large, four poster bed, with drapes closed. As Marjohn crossed to the bed, he allowed himself to consider briefly what he was here to do.
He was going to assassinate the king, of course.
It was a big job - one of the biggest, for an assassin - and it would secure the fame of the Great
Sword forever. It was considered a terrible crime, of course, but somehow Marjohn doubted that the talk of treachery would last. The king was not well loved. He was not a terrible tyrant by any means;he did not raise unfair taxes or work his peasants to the bone. But neither was he lovable. His countenance was always stern, and he had a reputation for cruelty toward those who had wronged him. They said he took great pleasure in choosing inventive punishments for criminals, and enjoyed watching their demise. Then again, they also said that his heart was so black that he turned into a raven at night... was it really worth listening to the words of any of the peasantry? Ultimately, the king's greatest crime was that of being a mystery. He did not get too close to his subjects, he did not throw lavish balls or host great festivals, and he dealt justice swiftly. No tyrant, but not a beloved ruler either.
Marjohn did not particularly care either way. To him, the king was nothing but the next job. A job with admittedly fantastic reward and notoriety (or at least as much notoriety as an anonymous assassin could gain), but a job nonetheless. The reaction of the few dark brethren he had told had been mixed, however. Plass had shook his head slowly, and suggested he was wiser to avoid such business if he wanted a long career. Merla, one of the few dark sisters (and Marjohn's greatest rival as an assassin) was extremely jealous, and wished him every failure. Jacob, his big and burly friend, had simply shrugged and returned to sipping his beer.
Well, let them think what they like! Tonight Marjohn would make history and secure his name.
He reached the drapes and drew his dagger from his belt. Twitching the fabric aside, he checked the bed. Only one occupant; good - the king had taken no woman to bed with him tonight. He surveyed the long, prone form under the blankets only briefly. The king had pulled the blankets right up over his head against the chill air of the night. No matter. In one smooth, silent movement, Marjohn would have the covers back and his dagger across the king's throat in seconds. Or perhaps a gentle poison instead? Would that be more civilised, more fitting for a king? But there was no way to deliver it quickly and ensure that it had done its work without risking attention... it would have to be the dagger.
It was a very, very quick moment. Time seemed to slow down, such was Marjohn's focus. His fingers gripped the dagger expertly, and his other hand slipped the blankets off quickly. He found himself faced with a couple of feather pillows, lined up beneath the blankets to mimic the form of a person sleeping. Marjohn had only microseconds to understand that something was wrong, for almost immediately he heard the clicking of crossbows being drawn, and footsteps from the corridor outside. He turned immediately toward the window, but the wardrobe door swung open and two armed guards stepped out, blocking his path. The door behind him opened and more guards flooded in with swords and crossbows at the ready. Marjohn dropped the dagger, no grin on his face. He was trapped.
The dungeon was about as inviting as title suggested, and Marjohn was not pleased to be there. They took him down there, removed his cloak and the few other weapons hidden upon his person, and chained him to a wooden X-frame in one corner of the room. He was spread-eagled, his wrists and ankles secured by iron cuffs. His feet could just reach the floor to take his weight. It was an extremely uncomfortable position, his limbs stretched firmly out, and it was cold without his cloak. They left him alone then, taking the torches with them. Marjohn had just enough time to get a glance at the empty, stone-lined room before the last light vanished.
With nothing else to do in the dark, Marjohn pondered his plight. How had he been caught?
They had certainly known he was coming, and prepared for his arrival. But who could have tipped them off? Only his dark brothers knew about this job, and they would never betray a fellow assassin. It was simply not done;an assassin who turned on a brother would soon find their existence painfully ended. But how else could they have known?
Sleep was impossible, of course, as the frame was far too uncomfortable for that. Marjohn had lost some of the feeling in his arms by the time anyone entered the dungeon again, and he could not have guessed how many hours had passed. Daylight did not reach this chamber. The arrival of flickering light heralded another torch, and Marjohn prepared himself for the worst. He did not fear death, it was true - but torture was a prospect he had never really considered. What would the king have done to a man who tried to end his life?
Two men entered the room. The first, a guard, carried the torch, which he placed in a bracket
upon the wall by the iron door. The second man, also carrying a torch, wore long, scarlet robes trimmed with fur, and his face seemed to be carved from stone. This man brought the torch to Marjohn and placed it in another bracket next to the X-frame. Marjohn's heart leapt into his throat - it was the king himself! His features were clear now that he stood so close, and it was not a reassuring sight. If any man's face ever suggested severe consequences, it was this one. The king waved a silent hand at the guard, and the other man left the room, closing the iron door firmly behind him.
The king's dark hair was speckled with great strands, and was beginning to thin. His nose was sharp and his face thin, and there was no glint of warmth in his eyes. The man looked to be in his fifties, although he carried himself with the energy and purpose of a much younger man. Marjohn could not help but feel extremely intimidated in the king's presence, and not just because he was vulnerable. He never had to face his victims, he never had to look them in the eye. A job done well meant that the inhumed never realised who had killed them, or even that they were dying. But now he was face to face with the king, and the man's eyes seemed to bore into him. The king stood only a foot away from Marjohn, muscular arms folded tightly across his chest. When he spoke, his voice was low and firm, the pace of speech measured and the words precise. "The guards say that you have not spoken a single word in answer to their questions. Will you speak to me?"
Marjohn remained silent, as he had done ever since he had landed on the castle roof. He would not speak a word, but simply await death with discipline. The king did not seem surprised. He nodded once, in the silence. "As I would expect. A true assassin does not discuss his business, and from what I am told, the Great Sword is certainly a true assassin. How flattered I am that he should be chosen to kill me."There was no ounce of humour in his tone, nor any threat, but Marjohn's heart beat faster nonetheless. He knows I am the Great Sword? Or at least, he suspects... but why? The king turned away for a moment, as if to consider the cell around him. "Some of my dungeon keepers have devised some excellent ways of making a man talk - or scream, rather - and I could easily set them upon you. But most of the important information about how you came to be in my room tonight I already know. And as to the rest of my questions, I don't need you to speak to get my answers."
The king turned back towards him, and Marjohn braced himself as the king pulled a dagger from his belt. He expected to feel the sharp edge of the blade cutting his skin at any moment, or perhaps the crimson fire of a blade stabbing into his heart. He closed his eyes tight and gritted his teeth;he would not give them the satisfaction of hearing him scream. He heard the rustle of the king's sleeves and felt the breeze of sudden movement.
The blade sliced down at his waist, cutting sharply through the laces of his britches. The strike was expertly done, damaging cloth and thread, but leaving his skin entirely unhurt. Marjohn felt his britches fall down to his ankles, the cold air of the dungeon now cooling his naked nether regions. He gasped in shock as he felt the warmth of flesh against his scrotum;his eyes opened wide and he stared down in amazement to find the king's hand fondling his enormous testicles.
"They say the Great Sword does not run,"whispered the king. "They say his movements are always graceful and precise;he plans well in advance to ensure that his escape is always clear. The Great Sword never sheds his dignity with something as desperate and common as running." The king's voice had grown slightly louder now, a quiet murmur that seemed to echo around the empty chamber. "Of course, if you listen to certain other rumours, whispered in the right - or perhaps I should say, wrong kind of places - some suggest there is an entirely different reason why the Great Sword never runs. It seems some rumours are true. The Great Sword does not run, because he cannot run."
The king's hands were broad, but even so, the one he held to Marjohn's eggs struggled to cup the massive sack. Marjohn's scrotum was entirely smooth and unwrinkled, even in the cold dungeon chamber. The reason was obvious - Marjohn was endowed in a manner that would have shamed a bull. Each of his testicles was larger than a hen's egg, filling his sack completely. His taut, packed ball bag was just smaller than a coconut, and could not fit between his legs. It hung in front of his thighs, resting against each one in turn as he walked. The king's words were entirely true, although Marjohn still had no idea how he had known. When he had reached adolescence, Marjohn had begun to grow taller and stronger like any teenager, and his manhood had also begun to fill out. But unlike most men, he had grown too much. His nuts had seemed to inflate further and further each day, until they began to bang together every time he moved faster than a walk. He had to position his balls carefully in front of his thighs when he slept or sat down, and Marjohn had learned to modify his movements while walking to accommodate his huge sack. His peers had teased him for it, and now the parade of women who entered his bed admired him for it. What a man was Marjohn!
Marjohn was already shocked enough by this treatment - it was undignified enough to have his britches torn off, but now the king was handling him? Another man? Marjohn was outraged, but what startled him even more was how casually the king was treating all of this. At this point, the king was studying Marjohn's genitals with great interest. On top of the massive balls, Marjohn's penis seemed like a pathetic, shriveled worm. The king was not finished, however. Using two of his fingers, he began to trace circles on the back of Marjohn's testicles. Marjohn grunted indignantly but held his tongue as the king tickled his nuts. It was a very pleasurable sensation, one that his prostitutes had repeated many times - Marjohn loved to have his balls played with! His penis began to respond, and as his heart pounded faster and faster, it began to grow more quickly. The king seemed to expect it, and placed his other and in the air before his balls, waiting.
Marjohn's cock, when erect, was a good match for his balls. Under the king's careful touch, it inflated quickly and massively. It grew across the king's hand, arching upward into the air. The king never stopped tickling, and it seemed as if Marjohn's cock would never stop growing, until... Nine and a half inches of long, hard dick;so thick that the king could not entirely encircle it with his fingers. It bobbed proudly in the cool air of the dungeon, dragged down slightly from its erection by the weight of those heavy balls. The king sucked air between his teeth in astonishment, and then began to caress the long length of the shaft with his fingers. Marjohn gasped audibly at the sensual touch, and inadvertently thrust his huge penis against the king's fingers. The king continued to squeeze and caress and tickle the huge cock and balls for another few minutes, driving Marjohn to distraction.
Then, suddenly, he stopped and squeezed the cock firmly in his fist. He pushed it downwards, against its erection, until Marjohn grunted in pain. "So the rumours are true,"whispered the king softly, "this is why they call you the Great Sword. And what a sword it is..."The king continued squeezing Marjohn's dick, tugging it in different directions. After a moment he spoke again, and his voice was different - firmer, louder and with a definite tone of threat. "Well, it may be attached to you, assassin, but the Great Sword is mine now, to do with as I please..."