Chapter 17 – A Rat in the Night (2)

Locating the target was a small matter. Now came the difficult part.

Ordering Wither to keep an eye on the poison master, Hamelin stood up and crossed the street, just as a wind picked up and caused the shadows to shift. As the two guards grumbled about that ‘damn weather,’ Hamelin moved into position.

The fence around the building was sturdy, but climbing it was no difficulty. With his claws, Hamelin could find purchase on any surface, and he made it over in no time. Landing upon the ground, he crouched and observed his surroundings.

The two guards still stood at the gates, shivering in the wind, while the house lay unprotected before him. With his claws, he could climb directly onto the second floor, if he wanted, however there were two problems.

One, was that the only window on the second floor led directly into the poison master’s room. Even though the man’s back was turned towards the window, Hamelin had to assume that the target would be able to discover someone entering through there, not to mention the very high possibility of the entrance being trapped.

The second problem was the amount of potential enemies hiding below, at least a dozen men, including the guards at the gate. If Hamelin failed to strike an immediate death-blow to the poison master, he could expect reinforcements to be imminent.

Therefore, Hamelin decided to begin by climbing to the first floor. The building was composed of a bricked wall reinforced by wooden beams, the latter of which Hamelin’s claws easily penetrated. Using this, Hamelin set into a vertical ascent, relying on his trained physique to defy the force of gravity.

When he reached the sill of the window on the first floor, voices fell out of the opening. These were the men who were enjoying their quiet card game, away from the raucous dice-players below.

“I heard the Basons are getting desperate,” one man said, his voice a snicker, “I mean, what kind of gambling house can survive without ale?”

“The Duns are no better off,” answered another voice, with a deep rasp, “Who’d wanna plough a whore sober?”

Three voices laughed out loud at that. Good, they’re sill just three, Hamelin thought hoisting himself up into the opening, silently.

“I sure as hells won’t,” said the third, a narrow man with deep-set eyes, “Not until the master takes over and makes it all free for us. I’d gladly plough a whore for free, even those ugly ones the Duns got prancing about!”

They laughed again, as Hamelin slipped inside, setting feet on the floor with just the right amount of force to silence the creaking boards. Opening his hands, he initiated his quiet attack.

“It won’t be long now,” said the first, flipping his card down on the table, “You heard the master; in a fortnight, this town will be ours. With a poison master on our side, they can do nothing but bow.”

“Aye,” said the second, throwing down his hand on the table, “But for now, this daddy will happy with the spoils here.”

“Oi, that’s not right,” The third stood up, raising his hands, “You cheated!”

“I did not! I’m an honest man, just like—”

He never got to finish that sentence. At the same time, all three men began to sway, the one standing even more so, eyes blinking as their eyesight became unfocused. A very distinct, blackened line appeared around their throats, after which their airways began swelling, disallowing any kind of breath. Holding onto their throats, the three men fought to retain their lives.

Hamelin observed it all, seeing the fruits of his handiwork. Though he understood the basic function of his new sub-strain, observing it in action was the only way to truly know its capabilities. The mix of Raison poison and his Leash had produced a truly wicked mixture, which gave Hamelin the power over life and death of those inflicted.

None of them had noticed as they had been infected, nor when the disease had taken root in their system, awaiting the final command. Only when Hamelin had decided it would be so, did the new strain perform its function: a quiet death.

Unlike the Leash, this was a very deadly strain, capable marking its target and making them subject to Hamelin’s whims. A Collar, then, rather than a Leash, Hamelin thought, giving the strain an appropriate name.

The men on the table gave in first, passing out from lack of oxygen. The man standing managed to turn, probably meaning to run down for help, but Hamelin did not allow it. Before he could take a step, Hamelin ripped through his hamstrings, sending him sprawling onto the ground.

“No no,” Hamelin said in a sweet tone of voice, “You can’t go yet…”

The man tried to look in the direction of the voice, but saw nothing except for two sickly, yellow lights shining in the darkness. Hamelin watched, as the man finally succumbed, studying the progress of the disease with interest.

Though it was quiet, the strain was not immediately fatal. With some medical skill, the three could still be saved, provided the right knowledge. Though useful, it was still far from perfect. Picking up a dagger from one of the fallen men, he proceeded down the hallway toward the ground floor.

The men who slept, lay on mattresses in small side-rooms. Hamelin entered each of the rooms and infected the unfortunate men with his grace, leaving the same blackened mark around their throats, before piercing their hearts while their throats swelled up, making it impossible for them to utter a sound.

He had to be thorough, after all.

The raucous party was still as loud as ever, obscuring any sound he made. Hamelin briefly considered taking them out as well, since any one of them could decide to take a nap on the first floor and discover the bodies.

However, in the end, he decided the sudden silence would be more alarming to both the guards outside, as well as the poison master above. With the noise, they would deafen any cries of help from above, allowing Hamelin to work in peace. He was also developing a sense of urgency. It had only been a tingle at first, but ever since he had crossed through the window, a nagging sense that something was watching his every move made his blood run cold.

He knew it was not the poison master, who was still tinkering away in his room, but he trusted his instincts to tell him when to be wary.

With this in mind, he had to work fast. Ascending the stairs to the second floor, Hamelin arrived in front of the room containing his target. Licking his lips, he carefully tried the door. It refused him.

Locked, darn it!

Through Wither, Hamelin knew the target had not yet been alerted, but that could change at an instant. He could try to pick the lock, but there was no way he could keep it perfectly silent. Looking up, he decided on a different tactic.