The Assassination of Damian Azure

by Ezra Blaise

Lord Damian Azure walked down the street, enjoying as the breeze blew away the stale
air of the nearby canal. It had been a successful evening, as far as his evenings usually went.
Lord Rotham’s ball had good food and drink, and many loose tongues made for easy work.

Lord Azure, or Damian, as his friends called him, was tasked with investigating Lord de
Wolyn’s recent business dealings, the shady nature of which had piqued the interest of more than
a few other names within the trading guild. Though corporate espionage was not a regular
activity for members of the Order of the Rose, the anonymous letter requesting his assistance
made several compelling arguments that made it impossible to turn down – not the least of them
being an offer of a dozen new swords, made by the finest craftsmen in the smithing guild.

He smiled as he brushed his hands over the rapier he wore on his hip, feeling the lines of
his guard and the intricately stencilled metalwork on its surface. This was his dress sword, of
course. He would never be so crass as to show up to a social event with something so blatantly
built for the grim business of war. Something about fine artwork helped put nobles at ease,
especially considering that, even as a dress sword, Damian would never wear something that
couldn’t serve its purpose.

A sound behind him took his attention. It sounded like the scuff of a boot on the
cobblestone street, a loose, unleveled stone taking the toes of an unaware pedestrian. But when
he looked back the street was dark, empty. His eyes narrowed, and one hand dropped to the
pommel of his blade. Pretty as it was, no member of the Rose Order would ever be caught
without a means of defence

Damian’s ears were still sharpened from the eavesdropping he had done earlier.

“Was I too obvious?” He wondered, thinking back to the few times when he had
wandered too close to a conversation, hearing it stop suddenly.

But in each instance, he had engaged someone else at the ball in conversation, looking for
all the world like a wandering socialite, were it not for the rose emblazoned on the breast of his
formal tabard. Though, he was at no point out of place. A master of the Order of the Rose was
always allowed entry to semi-public balls such as this, even if not necessarily welcomed.

Yet, had he been too obvious? Hard to say. The Lord Damian Azure shrugged his
shoulders but kept his eyes narrowed as he resumed his journey back to his lodging. With his
free hand, he flipped up his collar, against the night and the blade of any would-be assassins.

His attention to safety paid off, when he heard the scuffle of feet again. Even as he
turned, he noticed the thin wire draping itself around his neck from behind, and tightening. He
was glad he flicked up his collar, in that moment of the garrote tightening around his neck.

“A few extra seconds to reflect on my life,” He mused darkly to himself before instinct
took over.

Though the wire did not manage to cut through the fabric of his collar, he felt it
nonetheless bite into the flesh of the front of his throat, squeezing even tighter. He drove an
elbow back, finding the soft belly of his attacker, hearing them grunt with the sudden impact, and
the pressure around his throat lessen.

Out of the corner of his other eye, he could see another assassin charging at him, a glint
of steel in their hand. He thought quickly. No time to draw his sword, and the assassin behind
him was already recovering and tightening the garrote once more, heaving back against him to
pull him off balance, exposing his belly to the blade of their partner. These assassins knew what
they were doing, and Damian had been bloody lucky that one stone was loose, alerting him to the
predators stalking the shadows behind him

Thinking quickly, Damian went with the flow. The assassin, pulling him from behind,
suddenly felt the pressure on the garrote lessen, as the Lord Azure threw himself back against his
attacker, smashing his head into their nose, and according to plan, sent them off the street, falling
into the drainage canal below. What Damian had not predicted was the assassin maintaining their
grip on the garrote around his neck, as he too, was suddenly a victim of gravity.

Damian twisted as he fell, hoping to cushion himself against the fall with the body of the
assassin, who vainly flailed and twisted in the air. It was only a few seconds, but Damian had
enough wits to exhale and relax his body. There was a very sudden force, with a loud sound and
sudden silence, as blackness conquered his vision.

He awoke suddenly. The first sense to come back to him was smell – the air was moist
and had the reek of wet filth, as well as the iron tang of blood. He was disoriented, his directions
scrambled, his hearing both loud and muffled at the same time. His eyes finally found their
focus, or as close as could be with the blurring they had. He was staring up at the sky, the walls
of the drainage canal to either side of him, and he was lying on something, he wasn’t sure what.

He tried to push himself up, feeling something wrong. He realized, numbly, that he was
injured, and badly. Though he knew he was feeling pain, it wasn’t yet real – something he was
reading about in a book or hearing told in a story, rather than an experience of his own. After a
moment of struggle, he allowed himself to relax. Although he wanted to get up and face the other
attacker, who he knew was somewhere still, he had to get his bearings.

The Lord Azure realized he was lying on the body of the first assassin, likely the only
reason he had survived the fall. As his senses started to come back, so did the pain. He forced
himself to turn his head, an agonizingly slow and difficult effort, and saw the other assassin
coming up the canal towards him, blade drawn. He tried to rise again, only managing to sit

Maybe the assassin had not seen him move? Possibly, he could lie there, waiting for the
assassin to come closer. If he was an amateur, Damian could play dead, and he’d leave. If he was
a professional, Damian could try and lure him in close. With his body in its current condition,
Damian knew he couldn’t fight the assassin outright.

But then he heard it. The rattling wheeze of his own breath. He was still breathing, and
alive to be sure, but the garrote had done serious damage to his throat. So much for playing dead.
He had to fight, but still couldn’t get up. Why? And with a start, he realized he could barely
move his arm – his right arm, his sword arm.

Not that it would matter. His sword was lying meters away, far out of reach. The assassin
drew closer. Damian took another second to breathe. He was on the ground, badly injured, and
panic would only seal his fate. He was a master swordsman, of the Order of the Rose, and no
gutter-crawling assassins would break his battle focus.

He flexed his left hand. It still worked. And it could reach the dagger hidden in his boot.
He struggled to reach it, as the assassin drew closer and closer, only their eyes visible over their
mask. They picked up his rapier from where it lay nearby – this assassin wasn’t going to risk
getting too close for the kill. Good – that wasn’t his plan anyway. As the assassin stood, rapier
now in hand, they noticed a movement. Too late, it would seem. As the prone, bleeding Lord
Azure drew back the dagger and hurled it with all his might.

There was a dull, wet thud and a wheeze of breath, as the assassin crumpled over,
dropping the rapier with a clatter and feebly attempting to clutch at the hilt of the dagger buried
in their chest, just under the ribs. Damian breathed out a ragged sigh of relief.

He didn’t know quite how long he lay there, in that canal, trying to steady his breathing
and the racing of his heart. At some point, maybe ten minutes as he figured, he felt his toes
wiggle again. The adrenaline was fading, and his body ached… but the knowledge it ached gave
him some comfort. It meant he could still move, still fight.

With great effort, he pulled himself to his feet. Damian swept up his rapier in his working
hand and looked over the two assassins. The first, the man he had hit with the dagger, was not
one he recognized. He wore no markings on his clothing or body to give away his allegiance, but
when he inspected the second assassin, with the garrotte, he put the pieces together.

The assassin had been one he’d seen at the ball earlier, a pretty courtier who had regularly
circled back to have conversations with Lord de Wolyn. Damian had even spoken a few words to
her in passing. So, he hadn’t been the only one there under false pretences, it would seem. With
little else to do, Damian collected himself and the few items he had lost in the fall and set out.

Damian had spent the night in the home of an ally – a long-time friend of the Order. They
had fed him a dinner of brothy chicken soup, which he luckily kept down. After his wounds had
been tended, he had fallen into a deep sleep, only awakening to the smell of hot porridge, topped
with honey, cinnamon, and fresh apples.

The breakfast had been immensely fortifying to him, as had the long night’s rest.

“What will you do now?” his host had asked, as Damian had buckled on his sword belt.

“Finish this,” the Lord Azure replied.

And now, he found himself at the castle. Gaining entry was quite easy, and during his
walk through its halls, he encountered several of those guildsmen and -women who had initially
requested his help with Lord de Wolyn. Damian had told them of his encounter the night before,
trusting them to cover his back when the time came.

But after meeting with them, he had made his way up into the guest wing of the castle.
Directions from a servant, and he quickly found himself at the quarters of Lord de Wolyn. Just
before he knocked, Damian checked his gear – his sword buckled to his opposite hip now, and
the loaded pistol concealed beneath his tabard, plus the knives concealed on his belt and boots.

When he knocked, the slat on the door opened up, and a pair of suspicious eyes peered
out at him.

“Who ye be?” The gruff voice came.

“Lord Damian Azure, Master Swordsman of the Order of the Rose,” Damian replied,
keeping his voice level, despite the pain of speaking and the low, whispering rasp caused by his

There was a pause, the slat closed, a bolt was removed, and the door swung open. As
Damian stepped inside, he saw Lord de Wolyn in front of him, sitting on a cushioned chair,
flanked by guards. To Damian’s right, a thin man stood with a crossbow pointed at him, and to
Damian’s left, a fierce woman was glaring at him, a short axe in one hand, buckler in the other.

The guard who had let him in swept behind Damian, moving to take his rapier and pat him
down, but Lord de Wolyn raised a hand, shaking his head.

“The tenacious Lord Azure is no danger, I assure you,” Lord de Wolyn said, a smug grin
playing around his lips as the guard crossed the room to stand beside his Lord.

“But m’lord, he killed-” The crossbow-wielding man began, his moustache quivering.

Damian took notice of the man’s nervousness, the twitching of his muscles, even as Lord
de Wolyn replied.

“It is annoyingly true, they will be difficult to replace. But, if you’d noticed, our Lord
Azure appears to be quite injured,” de Wolyn reached for a cup on the table in front of him.

The movement caused all three guards to twitch. Damian twitched too, an obvious lurch
to the left out of the line of fire from the crossbow.

“So, what can I do for you, Damian?” Lord de Wolyn asked with a sneer.

“First, you could call off that crossbow,” Damian suggested.

As he made eye contact with the crossbowman, he flinched to the left again, less so this
time, but enough to get the man to react.

“I am no fool. Injured though you are, something needs to keep you obedient.”

“Maybe so,” Damian replied. “But you know you’ve slighted the Order of the Rose.”

“And maybe I have,” said Lord de Wolyn. “Except, despite the odious rumours you must
have been spreading about me since last night, clearly, you have arrived in my chambers to kill

“Is that so?” Damian rasped, raising an eyebrow. “And even if, somehow, a person with
your… reputation could sway the courts over the opinion of a Master Swordsman of the Order,
what makes you think you’d be safe against the rest of us?”

“I have money, armies, assassins, allies…” Lord de Wolyn gave Damian another sly grin,
taking a sip of his drink.

“Allies,” Damian said, mockingly. “A backstabbing murderer like yourself has
employees, nothing more.”

“Maybe so, Lord Azure, but you see, everyone has their price. And so, when your corpse
is dragged out of this room by the guards, and your order is branded as a group of senseless
murderers, and my rivals in the guilds are branded as backstabbing cheats… All that will be left
is a small bill to settle.” Lord de Wolyn shrugged, and as he did, Damian flinched to his left once

There was a tense silence, as de Wolyn took one last drink, setting his cup carefully back
down. He sighed contentedly and looked Damian in the eyes once more.

“Kill him.”

Damian threw himself to the right. The crossbow hissed, and the bolt flew wide to
Damian’s left. It was a good shot, had the Lord Azure truly intended to dive in that direction. But
even as the crossbowman realized his mistake, Damian was moving with intent. He slammed his
shoulder at full speed into the man’s chest, sending them both careening into the opposite wall.

Damian gritted his teeth against the pain, and as the crossbowman slumped down against
the wall with a whoosh of breath, he drew his rapier. The two other guards began to approach
him, the axe-wielding woman to his right, and the first guard with a rapier on his left. Losing no
time, Damian advanced on the rapier wielder.

The woman took the opportunity to rush him, and a quick feint at her face from Damian’s
rapier caused her to jerk her buckler up before her face in defence. That was her first and last
mistake. Despite the injury to his hand, Damian still had the barest of usage. Though he couldn’t
effectively wield a rapier, he could use a pistol. And so he did. With the loud click-fizz-pop of a
flintlock firing and a rush of smoke, she fell to the ground with a grunt.

Not waiting for her to hit the ground, Damian rushed the last guard, coming at him with a
blistering series of feints and strikes, forcing the guard to block wider and with more intensity
each time. But, the man was no weak opponent and knocked Damian’s blade away with his free

Damian heard a sound behind him, remembering the crossbowman. There hadn’t been
enough time for the man to reload, but there was no doubt that an attack was coming from
behind. Before the man could get close enough, the Lord Azure lashed out with a kick, feeling it
connect with the man’s chest, hurling him back against the wall once more with the crack of

But this minor distraction changed the flow of the fight. Damian saw the counterstrike
coming and prepared himself. As the final guard stabbed at Damian, he retreated a single step,
letting the blade slide past, gliding along the cloth of his chest.

Without missing a beat, Damian struck a most unexpected blow. His sword hand swept
away from his opponent, and he brought the tip down over his head. The scorpion’s sting struck
true, driving down into the man’s chest from above.

The dying man thrashed as Damian withdrew his sword, stepping around his opponent
and approaching de Wolyn. The man who had ordered Damian’s assassination sat in his chair,
petrified, as the Master of the Order of the Rose approached.

“Stop!” Lord de Wolyn squeaked.

Damian obliged, stopping before the lord and levelling his sword tip at his throat.

“You have no honour, and deserve a coward’s death,” Damian rasped, staring into the
eyes of Lord de Wolyn. “And you have insulted the honour of the Order of the Rose, honour I am
sworn to protect.”

“I will pay! I can pay you, name your price-” de Wolyn began, but the lightest press of
Damian’s sword tip against the man’s throat silenced him once more.

“But it is this honour which spares your life today,”

“Thank you, then-” Lord de Wolyn began to babble before he cried out in pain.

Damian stabbed his sword deep into the man’s shoulder, and through the cushioned seat
in which he sits.

“Every man has his price, no?” Damian asks, gesturing at the wheezing, but very much
alive crossbowman in the corner of the room. “And when the guards come here, drag the corpses
from this room and the canal, they question that man, you will see that no amount of money can
buy more than honour can. I look forward to hearing what the guilds and the courts choose to do
with you.”

Damian smiled.

“Goodbye, Lord de Wolyn,” He said, his voice hissing as he took a bow, and strode from
the room to find a guard, then a chirurgeon, and put an end to this mess