Being a Magical Vigilante Heroic Assassin
“I got a granola bar, Twinkies, ugh, crushed up potato chips…” Xan’s riffling through his provisions pack, all sweat and dirt. He lifts his brow and eyes me, a smirk catching his cheek.
“As soon as this is over I am planting a vegetable garden.” I reach over, “hand me a goddamn Twinkie,” I grab the plastic wrapped industrial food item between my thumb and finger, like picking up a strangers dirty sock.
“We’ve got at least six more hours through these woods. The king-all-father himself will be sleeping soundly when we arrive at the camp.” I give Xan a wide-eyed look, “We are going to need some help getting there,” and I pull out two blue powder pills out of my jackets zip pocket.
“Oh no, no, no. That shit?” Xan is a purist. He flaps his hand at me, looks away. The medusa pills.
I blow air in a chuckle, “You want to do everything from your own damn muscle. Take the pill, Xan. Or, am I going to have to save your ass later?”
“Peggi— you, my love, are very convincing,” he reaches out, palm up. I gingerly place one tiny pill onto a smooth patch of skin between his callouses. He flips it up in the air and catches it on his tongue, swallows, “We’ve been resting long enough, let’s fry that authoritarian fuck!”
We start down the ravine, light feet, making use of smooth branches to swing through denser parts of the forest understory. We are on our way to capture and kill the Emperor of Everything, leader of the military coup that drowned international trade and communications, making it possible for the rise of an authoritarian regime.
“Ever since the coup I’ve felt like, like my world has gotten so much smaller, like the continents have spread impossibly apart, went to a different dimension, even.” I glance into Xan’s eyes, “it really feels like they don’t exist anymore.” Xan watches me back, considering my words. We are taking a break, enjoying a cold foot soak in the river. The water absorbs our fatigue beautifully, rivulets of sensation curl around my body, through vessels and bones, through my tongue and scalp.
“We’ve trained our whole lives for this but I barely remember what it was like before.” I take a breath and look into the sweaty haze enveloping the canopy. A crow is studying us.
Xan ignores my ponderings, “We need to focus on the present. There may still be books out there, people alive who remember what was in the books we lost. This is our chance to reinvent what it means to be human.”
I consider his words as we trail the river, let their weight anchor my mind to the present.
We divert from the river and skirt to higher ground on the other side of the road. We do this a mile out to avoid detection from their scent hounds. From this vantage we can get a good look at the camp layout and see where the guards are posted. We can even track the scouts in the forest from their torch light.
“Remember, we have folks on the inside so don’t kill anyone.” He gives me his side eye, winks. “I know Charles is in that camp.”
“I don’t care about Charles being there!” I shake me head and laugh at the jab, “Im not an amateur, Xan. I can deal with that meat head another day.” I take a deep breath, pushing aside the thought that there may not be another day. If we make a mistake.
What if it doesn’t work?
We planned the assassination on a new moon; with help from the medusa pills our night vision will be able to adjust quickly. We can see them, but they can’t see us.
I tighten my boots, double check each weapon hold, finally, I reach into my satchel and bring out the ultimate weapon. I unfurl the necklace from its velvet nest, six pouches of dreaming powder dangle from the leather braiding. I look up to Xan; the soft look of his eyes reminds me that this might be our last moment together. I gently hook a stray strand of hair back behind his ear, move to my knees and bring the necklace over his head to rest the pouches along his chest. I place a hand on his heart and lean in; a deep and beautiful kiss sends fire through our bodies, and for a moment we forget everything that happened, and let go of everything that will.
Xan drops first, his arms perfectly tuned for the descent, clasping rock holds and ginger steps, he silently clears the ridge and moves towards the gap between the guards. He will take care of the front line, my mission waits within the golden tent.
Xan has already snuffed out the torches here, I easily avoid detection. I have about 90 seconds before someone comes to investigate.
The Emperors tent is woven in gold, silk, beautiful wools, fine materials mined from the catacombs of department stores below the seas of rubble.
I stop myself from marveling at the rich and impossible textures, the beautiful glint of gold, like stars against the shadows. I steady my heart again.
My knife is drawn, I cut a slit, peek through a moment first before stepping inside.
I hear a deep snore send a rumble through the air. I am crouched, liquid, I glide towards the head of the bed, a cot of suspended canvas over a sturdy bamboo frame. Lush blankets and fluffy pillows envelope the beast. His face is tilted upwards, his crown sitting heavily on his brow, a manicured beard lines his chiseled jaw.
His last wife would have been here too, had he not publicly executed her. What was it this time? Oh yes, she didn’t fully appreciate his genius, evidenced by her suggestion that perhaps he could spare some of the books on medicine and science. He was as brilliant as Einstein, she was made to confess. Her acting skills were not as astute as some of his other yes men.
I bring my hands to his temples, focus. My hands grow warm, then a faint red glow, now palms illuminating his cheeks; i take a deep breath.
A soft white ribbon of light spontaneously connects between my hands, surrounding the emperors head— he awakes. His eyes widen in terror as he realizes what is happening.
A chocking voice, “Witches! Greselda, where are you?”
I whisper back, “You killed her. Remember?” I send a surge into the folds of his mind, showing him the pain she felt when he betrayed her.
He shudders, calls out again, managing only a whisper, “No. No! Doona?”
“Doona is not here, scum.”
“You can’t steal my mind, witch. I am Emperor of Everything, Sole Genius of the land,” he coughs, “the sire of all children…” I send another surge, the fear and disgust that was felt when he took his childrens’ mothers.
“Your echo chamber of grandeur is over. You will know what you really are.” My eyes fall back as the energy in my hands pulses again.
A cyclone of grief, the stabbing pain of betrayal, bloody fear, and the heavy despair of every orphan he created, every widow, each forlorn parent holding the limp bodies of children, the collective pain of each families he broke channelled through my heart into his.
A final surge.
His body spasms and contorts, his gasps desperately before going limp, helpless against the new feeling of loss. Finally, his robust furious ego has drowned.
I lay my hand on his heart- his glassy eyes look at me, ghostly now. “You’re welcome.” I say as I leave his bedside.
I peek through the slit I had made, first just a slight crack, then when I see a pile of sleeping guards and the bemused smiling face of Xan standing by I pull it wide and step through.
The light from my hands fading, we sneak out of the camp, into the woods, past more dozing guards and across the river. Finding a mossy nook a few miles in we bed down together, exhausted but our spirits replete.