Ciaron stood at his post on the wall, staring out into the darkness of the hillside. The moons had not yet risen, so the only light came from the countless stars overhead, and the dim light from the sconces placed along the wall. It was peaceful, but also strangely unnerving this night.
Ciaron had stood watch on these towers almost every night for the past four years, as part of his normal guard duties. Tonight should have been no different for him than any other, yet something seemed different...out of place. He shook his head, and tried to explain the feeling away. Perhaps it was the moonless sky, or the chill in the night air. Or maybe, it was something else, something just beyond his senses.
He shook the feeling off once more, trying to convince himself he was just on edge since hearing the news earlier this week. He had overheard his captain, Koric, talking with Lord Freylin a few days ago. All he managed to hear was something about the dwarven settlement of Battlecleft, and an accident at the mines. Later that same day, the captain placed more guards to the eastern towers, but none others, without giving any explanation.
Ciaron also noted that Koric did not appear entirely happy about the order. In fact, the captain had been moody these past few weeks, ever since Lord Freylin took the office of head security minister. Lord Freylin could be a hard man to work for, and perhaps was giving the captain a lot of orders the captain had a hard time justifying.
And now, tonight, Ciaron found himself posted to the northwestern tower - alone. Perhaps that more than anything made him so uneasy this night. He was used to always having another guard on the tower with him. This, and the quiet darkness all around him, seemed to be playing tricks on his eyes. Just now, he thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye, a brief movement below the trees on the nearest hill. He quickly scanned the area in that direction, but was greeted only by faint shadows, thrown off by the flickering torchlight of the tower...
Currently the captain of the guard for the city of Tymor Keep, Koric had lived here most his life. When he was only a boy, Tymor Keep was the castle fortress of Rofellos Tymor, a renowned hero who had acquired an abundance of wealth during his adventuring days. Several small farming villages surrounded the keep at the time, which began to prosper with the Baron's influence. Another stroke of fortune was the proximity of a dwarven settlement, less than two days' journey from here. Soon, Tymor Keep began trading its growing excesses of crops to the dwarves for steel and precious metals.
As trade increased, Tymor Keep attracted wealthy merchants who set up shop within its protective walls. Over the next three decades, the shops and homes began spilling out beyond the original walls. The wealthiest of the merchants purchased small parcels of land from Rofellos, and built their own manors. Before long, a second set of walls was constructed around the growing city, both to protect it from raiders and as a means to separate the rich communities from the poor.
Koric grew to manhood within those protective walls, and set off on a few adventures of his own when he came of age, returning home a few years later. In a stroke of luck, he became one of Baron Tymor's personal bodyguards, and soon ascended through the ranks to his current station. In that time, he also fell in love with the Baron's daughter, a young woman with hair the color of fiery copper. They were soon married and had a daughter, naming her Auriana. To his sorrow, he lost his wife and second child a few years later during childbirth. He had been through a lot these past few years, but nothing so worrisome as the past few days.
Tonight, Koric sat at his desk, reviewing the latest reports from the men he sent to investigate the situation at Battlecleft. According to the reports, the dwarves had managed to hold off a sizable army of goblin-kin, but lost most of the mines in the battle. During the battle, an explosion ruptured a wall separating the mine from an underground river. Koric couldn't help but admire the tenacity of the dwarves, battling against superior numbers and driving them away. But the loss of the mines was a devastating blow, both to Tymor Keep's mineral supply and to the remaining dwarves in the area, who could still be in danger from another attack.
Koric wanted to send some troops to help in the rebuilding, and possibly guard against any future attacks. But Lord Freylin, who was his new supervisor, had ordered against it. What was worse, Freylin seemed unconcerned about a possible attack upon the city itself, despite the reports that the goblin army was seen headed in this direction after attacking Battlecleft. Any soldier with half the sense of mule would know that an attack against the city was imminent. But Freylin was no soldier, and had no sense in these matters; he was just another self-assured bureaucrat.
The final straw was Freylin's absurd order to only post one guard on each tower of the outer city wall tonight, to "conserve manual resources", as he put it. Koric protested for over an hour, but ultimately gave in when Freylin threatened to strip him of his post. Koric had no doubts Freylin possessed both the influence and intent to dispose of him if he so chose. Much as he despised Freylin, Koric was loyal to Tymor and to the city. That meant he had to tolerate Freylin, at least for now.
Deep in the shadows of the walls near the western gate stood a cloaked figure. He surveyed the area, mentally plotting all the steps required to complete his tasks. He would have to pass through the area undetected, and take out the guards both on the gate towers and in the control rooms, without anyone noticing. He watched the movements of the tower guards carefully. As expected, there were few guards to worry about tonight. He couldn't help but smile at the thought of how easy it was going to be to end their insignificant lives.
With expert precision, he traversed the distance to the first tower. As a guard came out of the tower entranceway on regular patrol, the figure quickly moved in. The guard suddenly found a hand over his mouth and a sudden sharp pain enter his back. It was all over in an instant, and the figure deposited the guard's corpse in a convenient hiding space. A similar drama took place a minute later in the entranceway of the opposite tower as the figure continued his work.
Carefully, he climbed the spiraling staircase to the top of the tower, and waited for the right moment to strike. The two guards on top of the towers were trained as archers, and both remained in plain sight of each other. He would need to take them both out before either had a chance to act. An arrow to the neck of the one on the opposite tower and a dagger to the closer one should do the trick.
He quietly drew an arrow, and took aim. There was the soft whisper of an arrow through the air, followed by the dull thump as the first guard fell dead where he stood. Next came the gasp of horror from the second guard, followed by the whistle of a thrown dagger and the gurgling of a punctured throat. The figure stepped out of the shadows momentarily to retrieve his dagger, and was gone once more.
All he had to do now was wait...