Ammen knew he was going to die.
Barely seconds ago, perhaps just a few seconds over a minute, Ammen carried the set of keys that were to unlock the chambers that held the dragons he and his fellow Voices of the Faith were to use in their secret mission. No one tended to the stables at this hour, which was expected considering its lateness. And since all of the Voices of the Faith were gifted in comprehending the Dragon Song, all were automatically granted permission to "borrow" a dragon while the said dragons have yet to find their Onus Bond. This so-called perk was one of the many reasons the Faith would actively rescue any dragons seen outside the domains whenever possible, as long as the rescue did not place them in direct conflict with the Febhed.
As Ammen stopped in front of the first gate he was to unlock, he became keenly aware of a sensation of diziness imposed upon him by some external force. Over seventy summers old, Ammen had been familiar to every joint pain and symptom his body had suffered from for quite some time. The diziness was a new experience, and one which came without any probable reason for occurring. When the diziness induced enough vertigo upon Ammen to accidentally drop the keys to the ground, the old monk bent down to reach for them and that moment realized he was not alone. At the periphery of his vision, Ammen could see the telltale signs of a hidden assailant at the fringes of his vision. The figure moved like a shadow upon the stone, visible yet without a sound. Ammen clenched the keys in one hand and prepared to intone upon the Dragon's Song to defend himself.
When the first blood tear fell from his left eye, Ammen realized that a darker song was already being sung. The deadly music of Vitaesis was being played upon him in a range beyond his human capacity to hear. Ammen had witnessed his particular song before, back during the Fang Wars of when he was still young, brave and reckless. As part of the Faith even back then, Ammen had enlisted as a warrior to serve the Faith's military force. In their many encounters with the Febhed, with scavengefolk and other threats, Ammen was exposed to the many possible forms of danger one can expect outside the sanctuary of the capital cities. In one such encounter, a chantadores Febhed had used this very variant of Vitaesis to cause a commotion in the check point Ammen and his companions had put up. As the target of this wicked tune collapsed to the ground, eyes burst open, ears and nostrils overflowing with flood, the chantadore escaped the check point thanks to the target's tremendously dramatic distraction.
Ammen flicked his tongue in his mouth, then began to inhale sharply. He ignored the rough
and coarse feeling in his throat and began to sing a countersong. Finding the echo notes that would match each note of the Vitaesis (a feat made almost completely impossible by the attacker's mastery of Vitaesis) Ammen began to deconstruct the song.
But alas, Ammen had not truly learned from his previous encounter.
Tonight, the song itself was the distraction.
As Ammen yearned to capture the melody of the Vitaesis, the assailant blended back into the shadows and made his silent approach. The first stab was mercifully quick, with the steel penetrating Ammen's chest like a nail hammered into an over-ripe watermelon. The second stab, however, failed to connect. Though the second attempt came barely a second since the first almost as if it was merely a withdrawal of the initial attack before being stabbed again, Ammen reacted quickly and ignored the echo notes he was deciphering and immediately sang a Dragon Song calling the closest dragon to his aid. The dragon whipped against the gate, nearly shattering it in one blow. The impact, however, enough to startle the assassin, force him to drop his blade, then embrace the shadows once again.
But even with his momentary triumph, Ammen knew it was merely a matter of time. No other members of the Faith were expected to be visiting the stables at this hour, and worse still, he doubted in his wounded condition he would be able to last even longer.
The least he could do was try to survive just a bit longer.
With a whistle, Ammen informed the closest dragon that he needed the wind to be strong. Complying, the dragon summoned forth a sudden surge of air, which killed out all the lit torches in the stables. Ammen reached down and quickly felt the ground for the weapon that had been used against him. Though his hand had landed at the precise place where the edged thing had fallen, the weapon had already crumbled into ashes to avoid retrieval. Finding nothing but dirt upon the stable floor, Ammen pulled back up and toppled backwards as light-headedness struck him down. The loss of blood was weakening him. And bending forward earlier to search for the weapon did not help counter that fact.
But an assassin. Ammen realized the ramifications of this fact. It was not some Febhed attacker who simply would have created the greatest carnage possible. And it was someone very skilled in Vitaesis and not some mere chantadore. With a bloodied hand, Ammen quickly wrote upon the wall behind him. He knew it was best to warn the others somehow and this approach seemed the only way possible. As he wrote, he began to breathe more distinctly, exhaling three rapid breathes out, then inhaling twice, then alternating the two calmly, then stopping for a second, before repeating it.
The Kabal assassin remained stationary in the wall space directly above Ammen. Like a shadow against the stone, the assassin was immaterial and soundless until it chose to manifest beyond the stone. It saw the monk scribbling rapidly on the wall and knew it would have to deal with that as well. There was no point in allowing this monk to leave any sort of message for his companions.
"So this is how the Hierophant deals with insubordination..."
The assassin heard Ammen mumble aloud. The monk began to slide down against the wall. It was clear he was weakening more and more from the injury he had sustained.
"Sending out... assassins in the dark... vitaesis.."
The assassin began to push outwards, and its intagiable form began to gain mass. While its legs remained shadows against the wall, however, gravity failed to bring him down towards the ground.
"dying here... stables.. alone.."
The assassin paused. The monk's words were not meant for his ears. The words were not rantings towards one who took another's life.
The assassin held out one hand. He felt the breeze flowing past his skin. The breeze that kept blowing. Channeled from the outside, blowing in. The assassin's eyes widened. He felt the course and now chose to read. The Dragon's Song was among the continual gusts.
And in the song, the words of the monk.
He was warning the others!
The assassin kicked off the wall, somersaulted into position, and landed a single yard from the now prone Ammen. Both hands spun newly drawn knives into position, and held them parallel to each other, both aimed at the monk's chest. Ammen was not dead yet, however. And with one final deep breath, raised his head to look straight at the assassin and prepared a final act.
Both knives were brought down in a single swift motion. The blades slid into Ammen's chest soundlessly, their edges skillfully evading the ribs and penetrating each lung. Torrents of blood erupted from each wound, a fountain of soundless pain. Ammen's dying scream was soundless - an open mouth contorted by pain. And just before the crimson arches settled, the assassin twisted the blades, then pulled them out nearly perpendicularly, their sharp bodies ripping through meat and muscle, tearing against the sternum. Ammen was silent now, his dead body still upon the ground. The assassin once again simply vanished into the shadows and melted away into the absence of having never been there.
* * *
But Ammen's death was not without its purpose.
The earlier conducted Dragon Song carried his dying words through the hallways, down the corridors, and eventually into the unexpected ears of Romac and Tajuc. Both monks heard Ammen's final words and understood that the Hierophant was aware of their plans and moved to silence them. The mission had just gotten far more dangerous, and for Tajuc, the Hierophant's role in all this far more clear.