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Grosse Pointe Onslaught - Part 1

Twenty years ago he’d once sat in the same great hall as the multitude that filled the assembly chamber of Nochet's Grosse Point Pharaohs Gift of Learning School. Onslaughts first thought was - if he was a cannibal, then he’d just come to longpork heaven. There was enough flesh on his childhood peers to stuff himself silly for the rest of existence. His second thought returned to the very pressing reason for coming to the event in the first place. The thought made him nervous.

He glanced around. His senses could detect no covert movement, no assassins ready to creep up on him while he went unarmoured and therefore partially vulnerable. His instincts had been right, they wouldn’t look for him here. Always the simple jobs gave him the most trouble, he thought. Never the complicated ones. All he’d been paid to do was come to the city, kill five people and then leave, to claim his money. Simple? No. He’d killed the ones specified easily enough. Five overweight men, meeting for some reason in the Great Park. They’d tried to fight, had surprising moves and skills for such old, fat men, but he was Onslaught and expunged them in moments. Shortly after that, as he left the scene of the job, he was assailed by over a dozen well-armed warriors. Local men, somewhat skilled but mostly plain angry. He killed them of course, though they spat at him as they died. It was at this point that Onslaught realised that the five men had been more important than they looked.

Breaking free of his pursuers he checked his sources among the local Humakti and was told the bad news. The five he’d killed were “The Five”. The Five were Nochets top crime lords, each from a different culture within the city but all working together to divide up territory, protection etc. Up-and-coming rivals had hired Onslaught to decapitate their organisation at one stroke. So famous and feared were the Five that their meetings in the Park by the pond were light in security and long on respect. What the Five hadn’t counted on was Onslaught or someone with the readiness to pay and use him. Now their people wanted revenge and Onslaught was the prime target for their ire. At first he thought he could just slip out of the city but his senses warned him in advance. Three times he swiped aside or dodged arbalest bolts aimed by unfriendly snipers. Four times he fought his way out of alley ambushes with up to half a dozen soldiers of the criminal fraternities.

Finally he broke free of observation and made his way to his old school to gain a little thinking time. The day before he’d visited his parents and his mum had reminded him of his class reunion. He’d been out of school for twenty years. Nochet had a tradition of educating the masses. It was one thing that made the city so different to all the others, and so strong in its own way. The reunion idea had followed on from the celebration of education. Remembrance was very important to the ex-members of Grosse Point and now the class of 99 was there to see how twenty years had changed them.

Kelisa looked up at the next graduate of 99 to enter the reunion. She felt the colour fade from her face and a shiver ran down her spine. He was huge, scarred, black eyed and had a look about him that reminded her of the cold edge she’d once felt on her grandfathers scythe just before he went to reap the corn. “Er, your name?” she stammered nervously.

“Onslau...” he caught himself. “Aladarch Roven-Drax, class of 99” As always his voice was tonally akin to iron grating on broken bones.

She skimmed quickly through a pile of little clay tablets and found the right one. “Ah, there you are.” She read the parchment that went with it and looked Onslaught up and down. “It says you were tall and thin, you must have put on a bit of muscle?”

Onslaught smiled. “I’m not the only one of the class to be a bit heavier it seems.”

“And your eyes are a different colour. They’re supposed to be blue, yours are black!” Kelisa felt quite proud of herself for pointing this out to the warrior standing before her. She nearly swallowed her tongue when he suddenly leaned on the table, his steel mouth inches from her eyes.

“They changed colour when I made my pact with Humakt and swore my eternal devotion to Death and the Truth it brings.” The chill that emanated from him quailed her spirit further. “I swear on my oath as a Sword of Humakt that I am Aldarch Roven-Drax. Is that good enough for you?” She nodded shakily, then handed him the tablet with quaking hands, with no further comment.

Onslaught entered the main hall and sidled over to the snack tables and helped himself. He could do without food, of course, but often ate simply to maintain strength and fitness and to help him rebuild battle damage to his body. Three of his ribs had broken from a mace blow during the last melee and though healed by his ally, they still ached as he moved.

He sensed a hand move into killing range. He turned, grabbing, moving, twisting and snapping. A scream, an oddly shaped arm in his hands and the chubby face of Algan, his best friend of school days, contorted before him. He let go, stepping back quickly. The room was silent as all eyes turned towards them.

Algan looked up at him from the floor where he cradled his broken arm and glared as well as he might through the shock and the suffering that so suddenly assailed him. “Nice to see you too!” he hissed. With a snort of pain he straightened his arm and effected a healing spell that joined the bones in place. “That was fast though, faster than I could have believed possible. Where have you been Aldarch, I barely recognised you?”

“Around. How are you doing Algan? Er, sorry about the arm, been under a lot of pressure lately.” Onslaught wasn’t used to this kind of conversation and he felt a headache coming on.

“Fine, fine, I work as an actuary in my fathers firm, we underwrite the new shipping trade to Handra and the Manirian ports. It’s a good business and I’m doing well. Married, two kids, more on the way.” He looked at the towering lump of muscle and scars before him, felt the chill he seemed to radiate, like a finely honed sword. Passive but deadly, all it needed was the impetus to action. “I suppose you are still single?” He knew it was a stupid question, even as he asked it.

Onslaught grinned. “My wife is my sword, my business is death. I live to fight and kill, to make war and ending in the service of my God, Humakt, Lord of Death.”

“Interesting! Do you get a pension?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

The conversation lapsed into silence. Onslaught pondered the problem, it was very common for him in social situations. He tried an old gambit. “I killed a bunch of people the other day in Heortland, want to hear the details?”

Algan smiled hesitantly and nodded. His old friend began describing in sword gore detail his recent combats. What the hell happened to him? He thought. He used to be so playful and, well, nice! Now he is some living icon of death and deathly dull at that! I’ll interrupt with a subject more interesting to us both, he thought. “Fascinating! Let me tell you what I’ve been up to these past ten years!”

Onslaught grinned hesitantly and nodded. His old friend began describing in quill-pushing detail his work, about probability mathematics and the actuarial tables that he was working on. He explained at length the policy system and the cost benefits to the customer base. What the hell happened to him? He thought. He used to be full of fun and mischief. Now he is some avatar of accounting and as dull as an abacus at that!

Onslaught was about to interrupt with more amusing tales of slaughter and mayhem when he espied a hunter in the room. He knew Onslaught and Onslaught knew him. Raynal Blackblade was his name, from Wintertop. He was a killer, working freelance for whichever nation or tribe would pay the most. Onslaught despised such random killers. Onslaught always killed for his god, which was completely different from the way Blackblade behaved. Is it a coincidence, he wondered, or is he here for me? How could he know I was here? Onslaught watched Blackblade sidle around the room chatting and smiling with his evil grin and frowned as the assassin left the room suddenly.

“Are you listening Aldarch?” asked Algan. “you look distracted.”

“I’ll be back in a moment, I have to, er, I have to go to the latrines.” And with that Onslaught moved from the crowd into the many corridors of the school, seeking his potential foe.

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JUne 15, 2000

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