The Pilgrim Star: Episode 2 – Chapter 2
THE SHADOWS of the room hid the man’s face as he stepped near the window, moonlight unveiling his form but not his features. The window sat exactly opposite the high tahn’s bedchamber across the palace garden courtyard. The man raised the tube of a near-glass to his right eye and adjusted the barrel to bring the terrace into focus.
The high tahn stood on the balcony, head bowed, lips moving as though speaking to another. Was someone else in the room? Had the high tahn invited one of the comfort-women into his bed? That seemed unlikely. The high tahn presented nothing but the face of piety. Unless that face concealed another behind it. No, the high tahn spoke to himself. No. He prayed. Yes. That made sense. And it would be appropriate.
The high tahn turned, seeming to hear something from within his chambers. The man adjusted the near-glass, his hands trembling slightly as he took a breath and straightened himself. Fools. Could they not move silently? He glimpsed the glint of steel reflecting in the moonlight through the circular aperture of the device in his hands. Four blades pointed at the balcony.
The high tahn stepped forward to stand in the doorway, blocking the man’s view. That was odd. The man had expected the high tahn to cower on the balcony. Possibly to call out for help. One of the blades broke off from the others, and the tahn stepped through the doorway, disappearing into the darkness within the chamber.
Why would the high tahn step into the room? Why could only three blades be seen? The man brought his other hand up to steady the near-glass as he watched the glinting hints of those three blades dancing in the shadows of the high tahn’s room. It would not take long. Seconds.
The moments dragged on. Darkness swallowed the blades as the men within moved deeper into the confines of the bedchamber. They returned shortly. The three blades continued to move. Then, an unexpected motion. A body fell near the threshold of the doorway. Not the high tahn’s. The man at the window recognized the face on the dead body. He had hired the now-dead man. More seconds passed. Two blades flashed in the dim light. Then one.
The man held his breath, leaning against the side of the window to better hold the near-glass in place.
A man dressed in the uniform of the palace wardens stepped into the doorframe, a bloodied sword in his hands. The man at the window knew the warden. Sub-commander Tonken-Wu of the palace guards. The bloodstained warden reached out and pulled the heavy curtains closed, ending the view of the events across the gardens.
Did the high tahn still live?
The presence of the palace warden implied as much.
The man stepped back from the window and collapsed the near-glass, gripping it tightly in his hands. The plan had failed. Five men to kill a high tahn and all were dead, or if not, he would make certain they were before they could be questioned by the palace wardens. The man sighed, an old Daeshen proverb coming to mind.
The corpses of catastrophe are strewed along the path to victory.
It did not matter how many corpses he must leave behind; he would kill the high tahn. The future of the Daeshen Dominion depended upon it.