Weekend Edition: Nathan Musser's The Lone Wolf, part 3

Fetterolf’s Fiction: Creative Writing Selections
Part of an ongoing series of creative writing selections from Ms. Fetterolf's creative writing class. Check back next weekend for another installment.

by Nathan Musser
Fenris, a child kidnapped and raised to be a hardened assassin, is now a man, free from his former master -- yet still an assassin. His next target jars him off his current course and onto a path filled with many dangers, but also, hopefully, redemption.

Part 3
Fenris thought of the Norwegian guards that had been chasing him. They’d be nearly up the stairs by now, and they’d kill him easily. Perhaps Lauren was even keeping him here to make it easier for them. He struggled harder, but he still couldn’t escape.
            “If you’re thinking about those guards,” Lauren said, “you don’t need to worry. I took care of them before I tackled you.”
            That got Fenris’s attention. He finally stopped struggling and stared at his captor. “Who are you?” he asked.
            Lauren allowed a small smile. “Just a reporter,” she said. “Although I did pick up a few moves when I infiltrated the Skull.”
            More than a few, Fenris thought. “You know I have to kill you. Sooner or later I’ll escape. Why don’t we just fight it out now?” He was mostly bluffing -- he had no idea if he’d ever be able to escape Lauren’s master hold -- but he hoped she wouldn’t notice.
            “You’re bluffing,” she said. “I’ve seen the General keep men down for hours with this hold. And if I let you go, you’d kill me easily.”
            Fenris grimaced. His eyes searched for a possible weapon, but all the crumbled rocks were out of reach. His rifle was too far away. Then he thought of the knife tucked in his left boot. If only he could get to it …
            “And don’t even think about getting the knife in your left boot,” Lauren added.
            Fenris barely managed to suppress a groan. He needed a different tactic. “Why didn’t you just push me over the side, like you said? What will you do with me now that you’ve pinned me down?” Maybe if he got her talking, he could find a way to throw her off.
            “I didn’t push you over the side for the same reason I dispatched of those fake guards,” Lauren said.
            “Fake guards?”

            Lauren shrugged. “They were Skull agents disguised as Security. The real security guards are up the road playing a game of cards. Those agents were apparently sent to take you out. I don’t think the General wanted to pay you the seventy-five thousand he promised for my death. He simply waited for the job to be done, and then told his men to kill you.”
            Fenris gaped at the reporter. How did she know so much? How didn’t he realize all of this? Lauren, however, didn’t give him any time to think.
            “But as I was saying, I need to tell you something I discovered when I was in the Skull.” Lauren stared straight at him, her gray eyes hard as steel. “Will you promise not to escape? Or, you know, kill me?”
            Fenris narrowed his eyes, trying to detect a trick. He found none. “Fine,” he said.
            Lauren seemed to realize he was telling the truth, because she let him go. Fenris stood up and rubbed his back where her elbow had dug in. Then, with Lauren watching his every move, he picked up his rifle. She tensed, but he merely slung it over his shoulder. “Tell me the information. And you better hope it’s good, because you just let me free.”
            “It has to do with a man named … Mordecai.” Lauren said the name like she expected a reaction.
            She got one, although it wasn’t visible. Fenris was skilled at hiding his emotions. However, inside, he was in turmoil. That name … it couldn’t be. That man was gone from his life, forever. He’d taken care of that. “Explain. Now.”
            “I learned that one of the General’s old comrades, Mordecai, had trained children to become assassins. There was only one successful operation.” Here Lauren stared again at Fenris, but he kept his face void of emotion. Lauren shrugged and went on. “Unfortunately, at least to the General, Mordecai died after this operation. However, the General thinks that Mordecai was on to something. He’s planning to launch a new program within the Skull, where he kidnaps a bunch of kids and trains them to become his personal killers.”
            Fenris squinted his eyes shut, his walls finally crumbling. Don’t think about it, he told himself. Don’t think about it …
            The memory came.
            The young boy lay on the ground, bruised and bloodied from the day’s training. It had been the worst yet. His master, Mordecai, had personally fought him for three hours straight, and whenever the boy had slowed or had let down his guard for an instant, Mordecai had struck another blow.
            “Begin again,” said the low, rasping voice of his master. “Another two hours. Now.”
            The boy sucked in a rattling breath and stood, wavering on his feet. He wouldn’t last another two hours. He hated to think what wounds Mordecai would inflict if he lapsed into unconsciousness. Nevertheless, the boy launched into another attack, throwing himself at his master.
            Mordecai simply laughed and flicked his wrist. His hand slapped across the boy’s face, throwing him to the side and leaving a stinging mark.
            Suddenly the boy couldn’t think. His vision reddened with rage, and he attacked with a newfound fury. He ducked past his master’s defensive stance and struck with a stunning barrage of punches, landing blow after blow upon his master. Finally, the older man fell to the ground, unable to stand underneath such pain. The boy’s rage never lessened -- instead, he lunged for his master’s throat and squeezed.
            Mordecai’s face turned red in anger, then slowly turned blue as it lost oxygen. He began to struggle, but he was weak and the struggles died away.
            “I have succeeded,” Mordecai croaked out, a faint smile on his face. “Assassin.”

            Fenris opened his eyes, grabbing the ledge to keep himself from falling off. Then, in a fit of anger at the return of the memory, he grabbed his rifle and pointed it at the reporter. He hated her for causing that memory to resurface. He hated her for making him lose control like that.
            Lauren didn’t flinch, although her eyes did dart toward the exit. She looked as though she could see the hate burning in his eyes and that she could tell it was directed toward her. “You were that one accomplished operation, weren’t you.” It was a statement. She was sure.
            Fenris didn’t deny it.
            “You can kill me,” Lauren said. “I’m in your power now. But think about how many children the General will kidnap and turn into killers. Think of how many children will have lives like yours. Is that what you want?”
            Fenris stared at her, then at his rifle. He thought about how he turned to killing, just to cover up his guilt he had from murdering his master, his adopted father.
            “If I can publish my story, maybe the Skull will be taken down. The General would then be unable to do these horrible things. And even if that doesn’t succeed, then at least we tried. At least you tried.”
Fenris slowly lowered the rifle and put it back over his shoulder. Then he walked toward the stairs, refusing to even look at Lauren. He wondered why she’d bothered sharing that information. It had only made him more conflicted, it hadn’t helped her, and it had put her at risk.
“Wait!” Lauren said.
Fenris stopped.
“Are … are you still going to … will you still work as an assassin?”
So that was why. She must have known he was Mordecai’s ‘operation’. She must have had some noble ambition to save him. He didn’t know what to think about that. Did she pity him? He didn’t want her pity. But then … he did want to be free from the guilt.
Fenris took a long, hard look at the ruins of the castle, then said, “Don’t press your luck.” He vanished into the staircase.

The boy had no name. In fact, he wasn’t supposed to know that names existed. He was too bright not to have realized that, however.
There was much the boy wasn’t supposed to know. He was allowed to read, but only certain books censored by his master. He was allowed to learn, but only about the few things his master taught him. He was fluent in several different languages -- at least, fluent in all languages his master had deemed sufficient for him to learn.
The boy, however, did not for one moment enjoy his controlled lifestyle. For years he had secretly chafed against his master’s orders. Spying on several of his master’s dealings, the boy had learned the concept of names and had even learned his master’s name: Mordecai. He had learned of his past: that Mordecai had found him on the street and had raised him to become his own secret weapon. The boy had broken out in the dead of night and infiltrated a nearby library, figuring out everything he’d previously been missing. The world was much larger than he’d ever dreamed.

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