Orson awoke to find himself staring at the night sky. Leaping to his feet with his guard up, he found no hoard of guards around him, no bondage holding him in his place, no threats whatsoever. He did see the Nameless doing, what seemed to be, humming merrily with a long sprig of grass in what could only be assumed to be his mouth. Turning sharply, words emitted from the darkened robes.
"Ay, 'bout time you came around. Rather nasty bump on your head there, right? I wouldn't worry to much about it, nor the guy that dealt it 'pon you." After the most bizarre statement from the Darkling, he turned back and returned to the tune. Completely bewildered by what was most certainly a rouse, Orson dove at the monstrosity in rage. The slim figure's back gave way, sliding beneath the assassin's attempt. Planting his well covered feet on the ground, the tall man rose himself up from his back being pressed flat on the earth.
"Hey now, there," the same uncharacteristic voice warned. "What's gotten into you? You're acting like I'm the enem- oh, right. The conk on your noggin. You don't remember any of it? I thought I swore you were in for a bit of it?" Orson had not the faintest idea what was happening to him at this moment. The last thing he could remember was learning a horrible truth and then blacking out.
"Do not think your Darkling ways will phase my judgement, Nameless," Orson snarled as he launched another attack. "I am no one's fool."
"What the-? A 'darkling'? Never heard of them," the robed figure said as he weaved around the second strike. "And I have a name, brother. 'Tis Hood, Alfredore Hood." A low, reverent bow, Hood showed his respect while also managing to dodge whatever else was thrown at him by the dark mercenary. Reaching out a swaddled hand, the gaunt giant caught one of the assassin's fists and lifted him off the ground by it. "Are you done with your tantrum now, little man? Will yo listen to me now?" Seeing how it was futile, Orson decided to give it a shot and listened to what was to be said.
And his story began...
The guard walloped Orson on the back of the head, crumpling his body to the floor. Vasez laughed maniacally along with Emryic.
"Are you sure he was the best in his class?" the Lord questioned, kicking the unconscious body.
"It is a sad truth," the stocky man admitted. "At least the darkling will make use of his spirit. Have it, Nameless."
"You got it, boss." The employer did not realize the out of place action. His darkling was quite silent before and always. "Ah, craps," he quietly muttered to himself.
"What? Nameless? Did... did you just speak?"
"I'm not your precious 'Nameless'," the robed titan fumed. "I wish people would stop confusing us, mixing our tales! I was first, I was better, I am the legend! And now he knows it, wherever his damned soul may be now."
"Impossible! You... you defeated the Nameless?" stammered Vasez as he stumbled off his feet. "Who- who are you?"
"They call me Hood, chubs," snapped Fred. "And as for beating that schmuck, it was no trouble at all. I managed that without even undoing my rope." Grasping an end to the noose he wore that kept his veil up, he chuckled, "I could do the same for you, but I really don't like you."
"Hood?" The name had sounded familiar to Vasez, and it should have. Some time ago, the Emperor had a powerful assassin on his side, one that none of the rebels could stand up to. This was not good, to Hood, at least. He wanted a challenge, and the rebels could not offer it. Not caring about sides, he changed teams and worked against the Emperor, who had more skilled warriors at his disposal, which meant more fun for him.
"Don't just stand there, get him," screamed Emryic as he dashed away from the scene. The guards were too far confused themselves to know what to do on their own but rushed at the command. A smile that no one could see grew in the impenetrable darkness beneath the robes of Hood. Pulling on the rope, the cloths surround his head slipped from their place, exposing his head and bare torso. They could not see the racked and gnarled body that was displaced to him for, the moment that light was once again able to touch his body, chaos ensued. Alfred had no control over his discipline, the Might of Ra, the magic of light. As soon as he came in contact with the element, it brimmed from his body at its fullest strength. Pain surged throughout his body as he was brought past the brink of exhaustion, wholly spending himself in a matter he could not control. A single blast of light, a sweeping aura, consumed the entire room, leaving none to tell the tale.
With all foes eradicated, the frail, white body fell to its knees. The robes glided back over Hood, shielding him from the light as if he willed it. It would be some time before he regained enough strength to perform such a display again, at least without killing himself.
As the story ended, Orson had no idea if he should believe this stranger or not. He did not trust who he thought he was, and now he learned that he is someone entirely different.
"Just remember," Hood announced, "if I was really bad, I could have killed you several time. Why, if I was just a step further from you, you pitiful body would have been swallowed up."
"Well, you see, at the angle the light-"
"No," interrupted Orson, "why are you doing this? Is it the rebels doing? Are you working to kill the Emperor?"
"What? Rebels? They wish," dismissed Hood. "I only help them for fun, and, recently, the fun was drying out. All of the Emperors's good recruits were disappearing, so I went to find out who was stealing my fun. I use to work for the big guy, I knew the drills, and, when I found out that Nameless was to meet with Vasez, I saw an opportunity to get two birds with one brick."
"You're doing this," Orson repeated for his own comprehension, "so that you can kill better people?"
"Well, I don't want to kill losers, now do I? I have a reputation, keep in mind. Not that anyone knows its actually me, sadly. Well, heh, now they will." Too much strange things had passed the shadow killer's ears in too short a time. Between the Empire no longer needing his service and regal pacts with devils, recreational murderers were, actually, not that bad. "So, what? You wanna come and teach King-boy a lesson or what?" Spitting out the well chewed sprig, Hood started the path before receiving an answer
“Don’t try to scare us,” Hood addressed the six after ceasing his laughter. “You know you need our help against the Emperor.”
“Oh, really?” the apparent leader of the group retorted. “What makes you think we can’t deal with him on our own without you?”
“Please, Zerrah, you know why,” Fred simply responded. The Ikmali knew about the renegade assassin who had turned against the Emperor and killed many of his skilled men, and Hood knew they knew.
“Humph. Maybe you’re still useful,” Zerrah conceded, and then turned to Orson, “But I don’t know about you.”
“Do you doubt my skills?” Orson asked suspiciously, keeping the six in his sight for any small sign of movement.
“That depends on if you can prove yourself,” the leader answered. “It doesn’t matter that you’re a friend of him,” he continued, motioning to Hood, “if you’re not going to be useful.”
“I see the Ikmali still maintain their strict principle on ability,” Hood observed. “Too bad you don’t utilize it more.”
“What reason is there for us to become aggressive?” Zerrah snapped back. “Patience is the key. You, dark one, will probably get killed faster with your mass assassinations.”
“Oh, I see now. You’re not sure if your abilities are good enough so you want to stay out of trouble,” Hood said tauntingly.
“If you two think you can do better, then prove it! I’d like to see if you can survive the test.”
“Test?” Orson questioned, alarmed. Before he could ask for clarification, Zerrah and the five bowmen had retreated out of sight.
“Ah, great. We didn’t get to tell them about the Nameless yet,” Hood muttered, silently cursing Zerrah for abruptly ending the conversation. “Anyways, looks like we’ll have to go deeper into this place.”
“Wait. What should we expect?” Orson asked.
“You’ll have to survive to earn the trust of the Ikmali, which I’m sure you won’t have too much of a problem with. As for me, apparently my relationship with them has rusted,” Hood replied, with a tone that made Orson guess that he was grinning underneath the robes. “Just don’t let them catch us like they just did.”
With a nod, Orson sheathed his daggers and followed Hood deeper into the swamp
"You sure you know were you're going?" Asked Orson after the sixth attack by the swamp tribe.
"Have a little faith my friend," replied Hood, "We should be there shortly."
After another hour the two asassins reached the village of the Ikmali. To Orson's surprise the rebel clan was quite organized and the village had a unique sense of civilization and purpose. Waiting for them at the edge of the village was Zerrah as well as an old man. As they neared the two Ikmali, Orson felt a strange tingling in the tips of his fingers. A feeling he hadn't felt for years. Before he could figure out the cause of the sensation the old man spoke.
"Master Alfredore you've finally returned. Have you decided to join us yet?"
"Lord Alais, it's good to see you again," replied Hood with a slight bow, "But, as always, the answer is no."
"Oh well, I tried. Now, Orson, you've moved up in the world since last we met. Renowned asassin, enemy of the Empire and now friend of the rebels perhaps?"
"Dr Bait? Is that you? But, you're dead. Asassinated for speaking against the Emperor," Orson exclaimed."
At that Alais laughed.
"Not quite Orson. Alfredore saved me in a rare show of sympathy, however, the Emperor covered it up to keep rumours of his most powerful asassin double crossing him. You still don't believe me? Not even with your tingling fingertips."
Orson finally remembered what his tingling fingertips represented. Most of his magical abilities had faded or been forgotten due to not needing them. One of these was his 'third eye,' the magical sense used to detect magic. As he finally realized that Alais was actually his old professor Orson embraced the person who was the closest thing he had ever had to a father