The Fallen

Under the cover of night, the Fallen traveled across rooftops. His prey kept to the streets, dodging between buildings like a rat scouring the sewer for scraps of food. Much easier to track rats from above. Silent, like a whisper shared between lovers, he leapt between buildings, landing softly, absorbing the impact through his leg muscles, allowing the momentum to carry his next steps.

They feared him. He knew they feared him. Many months had the Fallen been at it. Someone had to enforce the law. The city watch sure as hell wasn’t. Half of them are paid-off by crimelords and guildmasters. No, if the appointed lawmen weren’t going to do their job, the Fallen would pick up the slack.

His target tonight, a brigand by the name of Nils Forthan. Wanted in several cities, Nils made the mistake of arriving at Sheol’s Passage, to the home of the masked demon. Nils might not know it, but his current location would be his final destination. That’s the problem with success. One can escape from the law, getting away with murder (quite literally), and it goes to his head. Success made a man feel invincible as if nothing can touch him. Wise men knew success is temporary. Each situation presented an opportunity for failure as well as success, a lesson that Nils would soon learn.

Nils, walking with his hands stuffed into his pockets, turned down one of the Passage’s winding roads. This one in particular led to Gilly’s Bathhouse, open late for activities other than bathing. Towel optional. The Fallen watched from above. A hunter learned through observation. Often, prey had certain routines that they liked to keep. It’s safe. Their habits hadn’t gotten them caught so far. Might as well keep the same ones. A mistake. Routine has a way of putting one’s self exactly where another wants them. Across a few more streets, Nils would arrive at Gilly’s. He turned down another and ran straight into a masked figure.

The figure wore a dark faceplate, four slits carved into the mask, the edge running above the man’s chin, tracing the edge of his jaw. Dressed in a black half cloak reaching to his waist, which one might mistake for a cape, his features underneath blurred together in a swirl of darkness. White teeth shone behind the mask, a warm smile like the way two old friends would greet one another.

“Nice night for a stroll,” the Fallen commented, his voice perfectly articulate, although not as rugged as his exterior would indicate.

“I know who you are, freak,” Nils replied back, attempting to hide his surprise with aggression. “The others say you’re a spirit, a demon escaped from the underworld. Me? I think you’re just a freak in a mask.”

“And those two are mutually exclusive?” the Fallen pondered, bringing one hand to his chin in thought. “Hmm. Not necessarily. Most likely, yes. Mmm, interesting to think about.”

“Outta my way, and I’ll forget you interrupted my journey,” Nils said, taking a step forward, although clearly stepping around and not through the masked figure.

The Fallen stepped to his left, putting himself directly in Nils’ path. Nils then changed direction, moving right. The Fallen followed.

“Strolling and dancing. You and I would get along together nicely,” the Fallen spoke. “I wonder what’s next on the agenda. A drink, perhaps? I myself am a fan of a good wine. Nothing light, however. Red. Dark red. Full-bodied, with notes of blackberries. What about yourself? You strike me as a warm ale type of fellow.”

“I...uh…” Nils started, at a loss for words at the Fallen’s line of questioning. Is this really the demon the others spoke about?

“Yes, you, uh,” the Fallen cut him off mid “sentence.” “I can tell you’re not one for small talk. Any talk, really. Someone of your...demeanor is better suited to put on a mean face and act tough. It is a mean face you got there. Bet it scares off lowly criminals. Any woman with half a brain too. Shame. I was really looking forward to our little chat. Seems we’ll just have to move past the talking portion and on to the business part.”

Nils, finally recovered from his stammering, said, “That’s enough. One step closer and I’ll have to knock that pretty mask from your face. I am a bit interested to see who lies beneath. There are rumors who could be underneath.”

“Oh! Do tell, please,” the Fallen answered. “I love rumors.”

Realizing he may be playing into the Fallen’s game, Nils ignored the prodding. Instead, he focused on more threats. “That’s enough, freak. Now move, otherwise you’ll be eating your next meal hand-fed at the loony bin.”

The Fallen seemed to blink from existence for a brief second, a blur, as if his body was displaced before returning back to its original position, his smile still spread across his face, though shrouded by the mask. Two old friends reuniting. Nils, in front of the Fallen, frozen in place.

“I do hope,” the Fallen said, striding forward to Nils. “That they serve a good roast.” The Fallen circled Nils, eyeing the knife placed in Nils’ spine. “I love a good roast. Even more so than rumors.” The Fallen’s head turned slightly, gazing at unseen thoughts in the air. “Yes, a good roast isn’t appreciated quite enough.” The Fallen pulled the knife from Nils’ spine. The brigand collapsed to the street, dark stains starting to appear through the back of his shirt. “I am quite famished now. Thank you for the conversation. I think I’ll enjoy myself a good roast tonight.”

The Fallen turned to leave, but then stopped. “Ah, I almost forgot,” he said, reaching inside of his half cloak. A parchment appeared in his hand, quill in the other. “Let’s see, here. Hmm. Yes, there it is. That’ll do nicely.”

He placed the parchment on Nils’ unmoving body with his knife, like planting a flag into an unclaimed territory. On it, written in Nils’ blood, it read, To my dear friends reading this. One evil man down. Another one you owe me for. It’s ok, though. I’m not keeping score, at least officially I’m not. If I were, the total would be at 27. The longer you keep allowing evil men to roam freely, the larger your debt grows. Some help would be appreciated. Oh. The body is Nils Forthan, a wanted man worth 200 pieces. Please address the writ of payment to “justice.” Oh. And this is the Fallen if you didn’t gather that already. Not the name I would have chosen, but alas, we find ourselves here. Until next time.