Herald of the New WorldL. D. Dailey / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure
f the New World
L. D. Dailey
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Author: 2014 L. D. Dailey
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover: “Herald” by L. D. Dailey is a derivative of “Woman_Warrior13” by dawnrocks (Joe Ender) used under worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license from Photobucket (http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y298/dawnrocks/Fantasy%20Art/woman_warrior13.jpg)
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Ku' Noi chuckled at the prospect of death as she hooked athletic legs around a jagged outcropping. Soft sounds of leather grating against stone penetrated the silent midnight. Gloved fingers prodded the mountainside for handholds as the kunoichi climbed toward her dangerous target with hopes of silencing him before his demonic army destroyed the capital.
Wintry mists blew dark strands of hair into her face as the she crested the cliff. Ku' Noi gasped as a crescent moon illuminated a pale spire resembling a massive claw that dominated the inky sky across the rocky plateau. Apprehension blossomed, a foreign emotion not felt since the old master's took her in decades ago. What lies within? She gripped twin ninjatos, quelled weakness, and raced across the mountaintop.
She smiled behind a dark cowl at a sinister doorway arched with a chi dragon. Even monsters respect the gods. Ku' Noi ignored the door and spied the property for a window. However, the samurai lord's final orders battled an ingrained instinct toward stealth. Kill the invader before sunrise, make the murder obvious, and pin it on the clans of the east. She shook her head at the deceitfulness of honorable samurai as she picked the lock and entered, leaving the door open.
Candlelight danced along a tight cavern as she stalked within. The familiar stench of death filled her nostrils as she crept toward the distant light. Just like home, except... Was this adversary so powerful that he did not fear reprisal? Where were the traps, the guards?
Ku' Noi desired to study every inch of the cave, but time worked against her, she flash stepped through the tunnel and paused as it opened up to an oblong room warmed by a wide fireplace along the far wall. A lone elder, garbed in ebony robes, studied a massive table depicting the capital and her surrounding lands. Nightmares carved from charcoal dominated a topography littered with ivory figurines of men. A strategist as well? This old man had talent.
Ku' Noi abandoned stealth and unleashed a trio of star-shaped shuriken at the nameless invader. The stars died a span from the wizened enemy.
The failure affirmed Ku' Noi's estimation of her enemy as she launched explosives of saltpeter and sugar. Under the cover of smoke, she unsheathed twin ninjatos and charged. The blades struck something harder than steel. The impact sent her reeling as the smoke dissipated.
Without abandoning his study, the demon worshiper smiled. "I knew they would send you when they read my terms." An egg-shaped head lifted. "The real assassins will come soon, I fear. We must be ready." Sunken eyes, hard as emeralds, studied her as cracked lips parted in a weary smile. "I'm very proud of you, Ku' Noi. Daughter."
Ku' Noi ignored the fool. Did he think her so easily deceived? She humored him while planning the next attack. "My father died in the Great Flood."
The slender villain smiled, tightening the creases lining his pale face. "And I did." He waved a gnarled hand at the table. "But the Lords of Death brought me back to perform this service."
Ku' Noi unsheathed the katana from her back. "You dishonor my father and worship false gods. You're insane and evil."
The senior nodded, dark mantle rustling as he closed the distance between them with an air of nonchalance. "One cannot glimpse death and remain the same man, Little Ku'. And evil," a deft finger traced the outline of her blade toward the hilt, "is merely a matter of perspective. Fear not. I will teach you."
Ku' Noi desired to flash step away, but her body disobeyed. A disorienting fear shattered the balance required for feats beyond physical restraints. What was he doing? And how? "Get away from me." Ku' Noi sank beneath a wave of shame at hearing the fear in her own voice.
His hand clutched her sword wrist. Fingertips manicured to sharp points impaled leather armor and tore into her flesh. Azure rivulets emanated from his fingers and seeped through the openings. The kunoichi howled at the freezing pain numbing her arm. The wizard trapped her eyes with his almond shaped orbs. "Now, see."
The cave disappeared behind a frosty veil. She experienced visions of prosperity that weakened a nation before a foreign invasion obliterated her people. A matter of perspective...
Get out of my head!
The scene altered, a broken kingdom, reborn and bred for war, expanding throughout the land, bringing justice and order to a dark world.
Dizziness assaulted her as the vision snapped. Was it a trick, some hidden power to deceive? Was this invader really her father, brought back from the dead to strengthen her people? It made no sense, yet she remembered carnage far worse than the kingdom faced now. Her mission, her honor, might doom Ji forever.
Or was it all a lie?
Sounds of battle brought clarity. The oozing pain ceased, the assassin retreated until she felt the stone against her spine, and fought to restore inner balance.
Ku' Noi sensed kindred souls as sight returned. A trio of shinobi, faces obscured by dark cowls, fought the invader with steel and deception, encircling him and attacking with katana and shuriken. The stranger tumbled as the shortest of the group blew an amber mist into his face. The old man wailed and shielded his eyes.
Ku' Noi exulted in silence as the victorious kunoichi unsheathed a poisoned dagger and prepared to open the stranger's throat. He resisted, grabbing the wrists. Recalling her own pain, Ku' Noi flash stepped, "No sister, don't let him-"
An agonizing wail interrupted her. The screaming assassin stumbled back, pulling off armor and scratching the flesh beneath. Comrades backed away as blue rivers swam up a heart-shaped face, penetrating mahogany eyes, creating an icy lake atop pale irises.
The stranger's breath came in wheezing gasps. "Now you see the truth, my dear. Your coconspirators seek to destroy this good work. Dispatch them."
The tainted kunoichi unsheathed a kusarigama, swinging the chain tipped with a spiked ball toward one of her comrades while attacking the second with a vicious sickle at the other end of the chain.
Ku' Noi stepped forward to end the disaster, but dueling thoughts confused her. Kill the invader before sunrise... a matter of perspective... Frozen to immobility, Ku' Noi witnessed the frenzied, undisciplined attacks of the enraptured assassin take one comrade in the eye with the sickle. The survivor shifted tactics and attacked the original target.
The stranger stood at ease and faced the swordsman with hands behind his back. The spell bound ninja closed the distance and strangled her ally with the chain, pulling the kusarigama tight.
The horror before her shook Ku' Noi from her stupor. She charged, unsheathing twin ninjatos to counter the kusarigama. The thrall turned about, chained weapon ready.
The demon worshipper shook his head. "You will not strike my daughter, my dear."
The thrall lowered her weapon. Ku' Noi wanted to reciprocate and strategize her next steps, but demonic eyes, rotting planks lost in a raging sea, stirred the rage within her. Ku' Noi impaled the abomination in the heart, and took no chances as she beheaded the thing with her second blade. She kicked the head into the fire and shuddered at the inhuman wail. Thoughts of facing a headless opponent prompted Ku' Noi to launch the corpse into the fireplace as well.
Breaths coming in deep pants, Ku' Noi faced her enemy.
Unruffled, the stranger regarded the fire with regret. "Such a waste. The Lords of Death will not be pleased at the wasted effort." He faced Ku' Noi. "Little Ku'. I sense your dilemma." He stepped over a corpse and stared down into her eyes. "You wonder if I am right. You question your orders." A wrinkled hand extended toward her brow. "Let me give you the gift of clarity."
Ku' Noi flinched. "Don't." The stranger touched her face. She defended herself, but the infected arm refused to attack. Her left hand obeyed, scoring a glancing blow upon a knobby wrist. The wound produced no reaction.
Visions invaded her thoughts. She stood atop a plateau, arm entwined with father's arm, as they watched a war torn land united under one banner. Years, centuries of war culminated in a mighty empire of peace, a Ji Dynasty. And you will be its herald...
Ku' Noi lost the will to fight. A portion of her mind sheltered from the assault screamed at the wrongness as a frozen pall tinted her world. Unable to fulfill her mission, incapable of fighting the spell altering her perceptions, Ku' Noi slammed the sword that could not attack the stranger between her breasts.