Silver Sun - Solars in the West
Qismet's Pre-Lintha War Backstory
For most people on the island of Ikress, Qismet’s story begins when he washed up on their beach, along with a handful of other children in a bedraggled lifeboat. None of them were older than twelve, or younger than six. Questioning the children gave them little in the way of useful information, just hysteria and something about monsters. The children were adopted by the villagers and raised among them, despite their obviously foreign appearance.
Qismet kept the local law enforcement on their toes once he got over the trauma of the shipwreck, always staying just shy of the final line that would get him tossed into prison or indenture. He wasn’t much for learning, dutifully absorbing the math and reading/writing lessons, and spending most of his time roughhousing and training physically with most of the other young boys of the island. He never went near the water, and never swam with the rest of the boys.
The real turning point in his short life came when a new ship docked in their small port for resupply on their way to Azure, disgorging its sailors into the few small dockside taverns and brothels. Qismet was fifteen when he followed a few of them into the tavern to hear their tales, and that is when he first learned of the Lintha, and their Family.
The tales perfectly matched the last memory he had of his home ship; black and silver sails and monstrous demons tearing apart the merchant ship that had been his home for the first years of his life, watching it sink beneath the waves from the stern of the tiny lifeboat. He bought drinks for the sailors until they’d told him everything they knew of the Lintha. Hatred and vengeance swelled up in him, blocking out any other desire he might have had.
He stowed away on the ship that night, heading for Azure. The long days and nights spent hiding and skulking in the darkness of the hold gave him plenty of time to think, and plenty of time to plan. He would make himself useful to the Family on Azure, and then… he would kill them all.
Things never work out quite the way one plans, however.
The first part went easily enough. A young man, with lots of energy and athleticism, eager to please… anyone can find a use for him. The Lintha turned him to theft – of information, and of goods – and fighting – over the course of years. Then, they gave him a mission… and once he finished it successfully, they said, we’ll take you to be made a full member.
The problem was, the mission was assassination. Of a girl, just a year or so younger than he was, just barely into adulthood. An innocent, by all accounts.
Qismet told the Lintha it would be done. What he didn’t tell them was the time he spent agonizing over the job, weighing one girl’s life against the many he might save and the many he would end by “joining” the Lintha. In the end, he decided it was worth it, a decision that haunts him still.
In hindsight, he should have known that the conspicuously obvious town guards wandering what should have been a quiet neighborhood was a clue. The girl was eating dinner with an older man, and Qismet waited in the shadows of the roofline for her to be alone.
He still remembers the moment she died, the light leaving her eyes as he held her in his arms. The questing footsteps and the square of light that opened, silhouetting the man she’d been eating with in the doorway. DiBello Gerarde, the Sea Lord. Qismet dropped the girl’s lifeless body to the ground and ran as hard as he ever had, disappearing into the shadowed streets with a flash of dark robes, the hoarse bellowing of the Sea Lord and his guards echoing after him.
He made it to the house of the Family after losing his tails in the chaotic early morning streets of Azure. The Family spirited him onto a boat, setting sail to Lintha controlled territory in the southwest for his induction ceremony. As a reward for a job completed – if not, exactly, perfectly – they gifted him with a set of Artifact hidden blades. He would be an Executioner in the service of the Family.
Three days out of port, he became the Executioner of the Family. The siaka dined well that night.
Qismet hesitantly rolled onto his side, a few hours before dawn. Starlight filtered down through the tall narrow windows, casting the faintest of silvery lights in the infirmary’s back room. Tris had gone back to her home earlier that evening, leaving him more or less alone. He was sure Gin was skulking around somewhere, waiting for him to turn into a monster or eat the town or something…
He waited a long moment before sitting up on the cot, listening for the sounds of hidden watchers and letting his eyes adjust to the patterns of starlight and darkness in his room. He checked the doors and windows surreptitiously, exaggerating his limp in case someone was watching. <>
When he was satisfied no one was going to burst in on him, he pulled out the duffel bag from under the cot. From within, he started pulling out folds of thick, sueded dark gray and black cloth and leather. It’d been the one thing he spent his hard earned coins on in Azure that wasn’t really related to directly hunting Lintha. It was a hunter’s outfit, for a night stalker, or an assassin.
Slate gray pants, cut loose enough for free motion but not enough to catch or tear, tucked into dark charcoal suede boots. The boots were buckled close to the calf, the metal buckles scuffed and blackened to not shine at night. A wide charcoal-colored belt was buckled over another just-loose-enough-to-move-in tunic a shade or two darker than the color of a gull’s wing. Charcoal-colored leather armor was buckled over the padded clothing; a cuirass, pauldrons, gorget, thigh and shin greaves, knee and elbow pads – an entire set, easy to move in. The whole set was sueded to a matte finish and well broken in, so nothing would shine or creak and give him away. The bracers left his skin just long enough to tug on the tunic before being buckled back on, and he used a grease stick to dim the shine of their golden metal filigree. Lastly went a thick cowl of charcoal cloth, wrapped over his face and head so only his eyes remained exposed. He streaked under the cowl with the grease stick to obscure the distinctive lines of his face, smudging the lines into amorphous shadow-shapes.
He secured a few other important items to his belt; a tiny bladder of scentless oil, a wallet of tiny picks for locks, a pouch each of sleep-powder filched from Tris’ medical supplies and salt, and his set of throwing knives, tucked securely beneath the wide belt. He tied an extra charcoal sash over the top to keep things tight against his body, and padded softly to the back door.
The wrap and the food and rest had done much to improve the sprain of his knee, and he could move almost normally, though it hurt to do so. Tris wanted him to keep off it, and so he would, once this one little chore was complete. He stopped in the shadow of the doorway, listening and watching again for any sentries.
Qismet turned and snagged the lintel, pulling himself up by his fingertips until he could get a toehold, and from there a short leap to the narrow window frame and then to the roof. Stark black ink against snowy parchment was etched in memory’s eyes as he began moving carefully and quietly across the roof tops of Port Ikress, guiding his steps to the workshop and home of Ranir, the ropemaker.
The workshop was easy to spot – an open courtyard filled with spools and spools of rope, casting webbed shadows against the earthen floor. He swung down and rested in the windowsill, checking the layout and the people within.
This time of year, when the heat was at its highest, windows were open and unfettered, and it helped him now. It was narrow, and someone like Gin would never be able to do it, but he was slim enough to turn sideways and eel down onto his toes just inside. He barked his knee on the side of the frame while he set down, and snapped his teeth shut on the pain.
Ranir lived alone, with only a few apprentices relegated to sleeping downstairs in the shop. It’d been that way since he’d left, and Ranir wasn’t the sort of man to change his habits. Qismet could hear his
breathing snoring two rooms over. Wrinkling his nose in disgust, Qismet edged along the wall, taking care to freeze occasionally in distorted poses so if anyone spotted him he’d just look like a piece of shadow.
Finally he was within range of his target. Gauging his jump, taking into account his bad knee, he leapt onto Ranir’s bed, activating his hidden blade. One slash through the man’s voice box and Ranir startled awake with a scream, but nothing came out of his ruined throat but a hiss.
“Hello, Cousin,” Qismet growled quietly, purposefully modulating his voice into a tortured parody of his normal range. “Say hello to the Aunties for me.”
Ranir’s eyes widened in terror and Qismet grabbed his chin with his free hand, snapping Ranir’s neck with a savage twist.
“Never did like the bastard,” he muttered to himself, sliding down off the bed and casting about for the man’s personal papers – a desk, a folder, something. There wasn’t anything immediately obvious with a quick run through of the second story other than a journal tucked under the mattress, and he didn’t have the time for as thorough a search as it would take to find the rest of the Lintha’s papers. He knew they were there, though, the list he’d taken from the Lintha captain guaranteed it.
Qismet returned to the bedroom and bundled up the body in its own sheets, slinging it over his shoulder. The return trip out the window was somewhat more difficult
but he managed, working his way back up onto the rooftops and down towards the harbor.
The long sandy beach on the west side of the harbor wasn’t the best for his purposes but it would do, and at this hour of the night — morning, really — if he kept close to the cliffs until the last moment no one would see him silhouetted against the starlit sands. At the end of the sandy stretch the water deepened, perfect for his purposes. He dumped his burden unceremoniously onto the sands, unwrapping the sheets just a bit. The dead man’s face was slack, the eyes still staring. Qismet closed them. Opening the man’s mouth, he packed it with salt to allay any ghosts and closed the sheets over him again.
Picking up the body, he strode down to the waves and tossed the body as far into the deeps as he could. “Siakal,” he whispered. “You helped me once. I offer you and yours another victim of carnage. More will follow, so I ask of you – send your children again. Help me again.” He unbuckled his left bracer and rolled the sleeve up, exposing his bandaged forearm. He carefully unrolled the linen and flexed his forearm, sending blood welling up through the stitches and dripped it into the waves as a token blood offering. A bit of seawater splashed on it cleaned it enough to replaced the bandages, sleeve and bracer.
Fins appeared, slicing through the waves at the entrance to the harbor, closing the distance to Qismet’s stand on the shore steadily. His prayer was heard.
He brushed out his tracks on the way back with a bit of brush, beginning to limp a bit more now. He slipped back into the infirmary the same way he’d come, divesting himself of his garb, and the grease, even cleaning the rag he used to wash the grease. All of it went back into his duffel bag under the cot, and he lay back down and waited for morning.