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The large tavern door was bolted, the room beyond was dark and unwelcoming.  Lexton Shard's legs were shaking, the man looked nervous, his grey eyes fixed and unblinking as he stared at pinpoints of circular orange light, that glowed through thick grey smoke.


The young man could see huddled human shapes, each one was dressed in sackcloth and black leather, robed and hooded they stood motionless in the shadows.  The grim figures appeared lifeless but for the inhaling and exhaling of pipe fumes, as they puffed their smoking tobacco.


'Have you the list?' The voice was gruff, cold, and deep.  A stocky man dressed in battered black leather stepped out from the small gathering. The man was hooded, his eyes hidden in shadow, ringlets of dirty curled grey hair hung down against his pock marked cheeks. His lips were thin,  his teeth stained with tobacco.     


Lexton stepped back, his legs almost giving way with fear, and reaching a trembling hand into his blue velvet tunic, he pulled out a roll of parchment, fastened with a cord of blood red silk.


'I have the list' Lexton smiled uneasily and handed the parchment to the pock marked man.  


'The names of the soon to be dead'... 'So. You know who we are?'... He said sliding a curved knife from his leather belt, and slicing through the cord.


Lexton nodded, and licked his dried lips. 'You're Death Heads, hired by Grimwood Scribes to eliminate the bad people'...


'The bad people? We're all born with blood on our hands'.. The pock marked man unravelled the parchment. 'My name is Absolem Darke, although it's a name I chose for myself, after the old me died'.       


'Is that so? So... What did the old you die of?'.. Lexton took several more steps back. 'if I may ask'...


'An inquiring mind? Lexton? You are Lexton. Knowing more than you should can kill you'...


Although the pock marked man's eyes were hidden, Lexton could sense that he was being watched closely.


'So who is on the list Mr Darke? Or should I simply take my leave?' He had no wish to over stay his welcome.


'There are five individuals on this list. All scum, all enemies of Grimwood Scribes'... Darke chuckled, and grinned at Lexton. 'Where shall we start?'


Lexton shrugged his shoulders, 'It makes no odds to me Mr Darke. Just eliminate them as ordered. No questions asked'.


Darke nodded solemnly, and lowered his hooded face, his focus fixed upon the parchment. 'Vance Scarab. What can you tell me of him? According to this his crimes are many, and Max Drexler? What of him?'...  


'All I can say Mr Darke, knowing of your reputation'...  Lexton said firmly 'If they are on the list, they are outlaws, criminals, enemies of Grimwood Scribes, and therefore a dead men. Justice should be done'. 


'What is my reputation Lexton?' The tone in Darke's voice was icy cold. 'I'm a Death Head. My kind is not well loved'. He hisssed his words through gritted teeth.  


Lexton's grey eyes darted from left to right, he wanted to see a friendly face, but the grim, dishevelled hooded figures behind Darke only added to his fear.


'You're good at your work. You can do no more than that'. He replied meekly.


'Yes. I am... But it is not duty that drives me Lexton. Not the so called laws of Grimwood Scribes. I do this work without good reason'. Darke chuckled and spat. A globule of tobacco dripped from the stubbly grey hairs on his chin.   'This man'... He tapped a grubby finger against the parchment. 'This man on the list... He's a spy. A traitor. A murderer. Grimwood Scribes has ordered his death'...


Lexton swallowed heavily 'Oh?' He said breathing deeply 'Who is he?'...


'He's you Lexton'... Darke was smiling, his teeth black as pitch. 'The Death Heads must work in secret boy'...


'But I've never done anything against Grimwood Scribes'. Lexton's knees began to buckle, and he staggered sideways and fell against the wall. 


The huddled shapes began to move slowly, encircling him.


'This isn't necessary'... He said raising his hands in submission 'I've done nothing wrong'...


'Can the list be full of lies? No Lexton. Make your peace'.. Darke bowed his head 'End him. The Lawgiver decrees it'...


The shadowy figures fell upon the frightened man, blades flashed through the dark, and Lexton's blood merged with the sawdust scattered upon the floor.


Absolem Darke turned away, he took no pleasure in murder. Grimney was a harsh place, and the value of life was often measured by the bounty placed upon a victim's head.


'I want him buried. Say a few prayers. Commend his spirit to the Grimnian Gods, and hope he finds a better world than this one. He has paid the price and his body should be respected'...


Darke sighed deeply and looked down into the palms of his shaking hands. His skin was criss crossed with scars.


'As my uncle always said.. When you're dead there's no more pain, and it pleases me to release people from their suffering'...


The hooded figures lifted the lifeless body from the floor, and unbolting the heavy wooden door, they carried Lexton's corpse outside into the night, and buried him beneath a weeping willow tree.






© 2011


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