And in the end, when everything pure is gone, only the remnants remain.
She was, at the core of it, the real reason I changed - I shifted, only so much more palpably than any mask of old. No, this bled to the soul. It's not something you can...simply *do*. Oh, they talk about it, they preach and they give sermons on that sort of thing. That you can change yourself, or if you can't, well, the Light will, right? Of course it will.
Mind you, not to take anything from the Light. It killed me once.
Galvan Swiftblade waited for his victim to clot.
It'd been a few long, uneventful hours since the abduction. As he'd expected, the kidnapping itself wasn't the exciting part. He'd taken great pains to keep himself excited, for fear of letting himself grow bored. He couldn't be bored.
His quarry was as unexpecting as they could get - half-drunk coming from a bar (not that one, never that one) and half-blind as well from the looks of it. It was...unfit. It didn't suit him, but that was the point, wasn't it?
The basement was in one of his many, many safehouses - anyone that traced the man's capture could likely narrow it down to a room in a building, located within a city on a continent, possibly on Azeroth. The skill, that never left him. It stayed ingrained, carved so intricately into his soul. Lesser assassins would have killed for the chisel.
He was the only one he knew that had ever lived for it.
He sat on a stool in the dark, closed off room across from the victim. Brick and mortar would be the prey's world for the next few days. Galvan envied him. It was a better world than most got. The room had no visible entrances, no exits: simply white and black bricks, painstakingly forming an odd checkerboard pattern, designed to subtly disorient. Just enough to make someone think it was an important identifying factor to remember. He was rather fond of it.
The table beside him housed all manner of vials, beakers, and heated glass, shined to perfection, though to state that they were perfect would do a disservice to the toxins within. Galvan was no alchemist, but he knew how to kill. That never left him; it was by far the easiest thing to still cling to. Poison was simply a matter of persuading herbs to kill for you. It was indirect, but he liked to mix it up. He knew he did.
And that...that's when you left.
You had left me first, as easily as she ever did. Not nearly with the dramatics, as much as I'd like to say. No, you bled away, bled away from my life as much as the life bled from my body so long ago. Was it so long ago? Tsss. I can't even say anymore.
That's why I'm doing this, you know. I need you. Even more than I needed her, or maybe because I needed her. More than I needed him.
He looked casually over the unconscious body - he was tied to a cross, very nearly crucified, were it not for his legs so very carelessly spread apart. Galvan didn't particularly care for him in that way, though the thought had occurred to him. It'd been some weeks, after all. But no, he was too thin, too lanky. Hair was too scattered, blond uncombed locks frayed like tattered cloth. He was unshaven, too. That was a minus. Not very toned, though Galvan knew his job must have required a fair bit of moving. He must've taken great pains to get out of work.
Galvan preferred his men to be hard workers. His women...well. He was less choosy there, these days. They didn't compare well at high tier. So he didn't try.
Murder is, after a fashion, something of a...oh, I don't know. Relaxant. Most would-be killers are the ones that would convince you that taking a life gives them a thrill. It feeds them, it pushes them; it's the only way they feel alive, they'll tell you.
That's how you can tell they're new at this. They're the ones that go first.
I'm not dependent on wholesale murder. Not in the slightest, I assure you. I've known need. I've known addiction. Killing was never something I *had* to do. Murder is something else entirely to me. It's that little choice on a whim you afford yourself. It's that little after-dinner snack you shouldn't have, but do. It's that small cup of coffee you get on the way to your normal nine-to-five job in the Trade District. It's that shortcake you get yourself, because haven't you been good this week, and don't you deserve it? It's dessert.
Murder is that dessert.
Really, the thing that bothered him the most was that Galvan'd let himself go too far on the bloodletting. It had been a simple snatch and grab. A diversion into an alley by a stray stack of gold pieces made it almost too simple. Any of the rookies would have laughed. It was a bit too close to a box held up by a stick, after all. But Galvan was not a fan of wasted effort.
That was why Galvan's bloodletting bothered him so. The blackjack had done the job but the knife? It was an experiment. He'd slid the tip of the dagger just along the bicep, cutting in about a quarter of an inch deep, carefully sidestepping anything too...well, necessary. But he wanted to see the blood, truth be told. It'd been a while, and well, blood was always a catalyst in transformations much more complex than his own had been.
But no. Blood was blood. He'd half expected it, but now he had to wait for his mark to clot. He couldn't very well get what he wanted if he bled to death.
It was a smudge on the tapestry.
You see, murder is unique in that it removes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and, on his behalf, demand atonement, redemption or grant forgiveness, depending on the wronged party. It is the one crime in which society has a direct interest. No one cares for a sneakthief. There's no validation being a two-bit thug. No, for every man you kill, society is forced to acknowledge your existence. Through his family, through the justicers, through every man that comes after you. More than any other act, it gives you validation, a firm sense of what you are as a man, and, if you're lucky, proof of your own existence.
Murder is that proof of existence.
The wait was what was getting to him now. No question about it, Galvan was antsy. He had all the time in the world, more than any mortal man. It was a large reason he wasn't worried about her; there was someting to be said for faith. She could wait.
It was a painful realization. But a necessary one.
He looked down at the thrice cleaned short sword in his lap, at home among his leathers, as if it'd never left him. He hadn't used this particular one in years. But, then, maybe in his old age he was getting to be superstitous. Wouldn't that be something, eh? Young as he was, you don't get older than dead, they say.
That's how you used to think. Some people would say that as I am now, I'm strong in soul. But I'm not pure. I'm what was forged, not what was born, and there's a difference. A very strong, very real difference. All my life, people changed me. They changed me, made me different, made me shift to so many personas to be better, to be fixed. I wanted so badly to be fixed. I wanted so badly to win.
I can't win like this. The players are changing.
No, what I need now is purity. Not pure good, or even pure evil. Pure *you*. Undistilled, from the spring, buried so far under judgements and change and her and him and the eyes of the world.
I need you.
Johnathan Van Holt's eyes began to open. The first thing he saw was a man, blurry and - hells, he could see clearly, and the booze was wearing off hellishly fast, too.
No, stop, training.
The walls were the first thing he committed to memory. Black and white, checkered...damn boy had a sense of humor, he guessed. No doors, no windows. Feck. This was going to be a-
His eyes focused. His captor wore no mask, which was surprising. They always told him never to bother with the person, they'd never make themselves known.
His hair was long and jet black, nearly matching the color of his leathers, both chestpiece and goatee looking painstakingly well kept. His muscles were obviously toned, and his figure was built as if for a purpose. This wasn't a messenger. That was bad. There was a red bandana tied around his forehead...Defias? No, this guy looked too professional...
His skin was flush with life, slightly pale but certainly a human, judging by skin tone.
Then he saw his eyes. Not brown, but black voids, penetrating even in the dimly lit room. That was noteworthy but the clincher was his grin.
The man was grinning, teeth lined up like a row of new tombstones, flawlessly white but just a little crooked, just a little off by design.
He recognized him.
The man's grin shifted into an almost amiable smile. "Galvan Swiftblade."
"You're Loche Shadowstalker."
His smile didn't widen. "He left me. And you, old boy, you're going to help me find him."
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