Chapter Three

As he walked over to the floor length windows, he slipped behind the curtains, reaching out for the embossed handles to close them. And when he turned, he stopped, his heart pounding furiously as all strength left his hands.

There, in front of him, pointed straight between his eyes, was the sharp point of cold steel.

His chest heaving with shallow gasps, he looked past the blade to the expressionless, veiled face, where dark obsidian swirling in depths of hazy brown eyes froze him to the spot with the clear strength of will visible in them.

And perhaps it was the memory of his father, the latter’s strength and courage, that made him do what he did, though the remote chance of surviving that action was close to nothing. He threw himself to the side as the sword flashed past his ear with his sudden movement, nicking a few strands of hair and sending them floating to the ground. And he screamed.


The prince! Maki snapped out of his trance and raced towards the direction of the scream. Panting slightly with the exertion, he raised his hand and irritably wiped the thin trickle of blood that he tasted in his mouth from the cut on his cheek, and then slammed the door to the prince’s chamber open just as a sword flashed in the moonlight outside, on the balcony. And without hesitating, he pulled back his arm and opened his palm, clasping the set of poisoned darts that fell into his hand from the compartments of his wrist guards loosely. Then he hurled it towards the silhouette of the hooded figure.


Kogure spun around on sheer instinct and turned just as another body slammed into him from the side. Sendoh! Darts whistled past overhead as Kogure collected himself, and then sheathed his sword, before spinning and leaping over the side of the rail, his arm tight about his partner’s waist. They landed in the soft grass below. Already, horns were trumpeting and echoing about them, and there were shouts and orders being barked. They had to get out of there.

"Sendoh?" he whispered harshly, shaking the other man, before his fingers encountered a dark, sticky liquid that was pooling on his hands. Cursing under his breath, his hands traced fully the body of the half-conscious man before him, before his left hand felt the dart on Sendoh’s right forearm. There it was, hidden beneath the folds of the outer cloak.

His hands worked swiftly as he pulled the dart out, tearing the sleeve from shoulder to wrist, spotting the wound almost immediately. It was dark purple at the site of entry, and already a green pallor was forming around it. Bending his head, he put his lips to the broken skin and began to suck the poison out. It tasted vile in his mouth, and it stung. Spitting out what he had managed to remove, he set the other man down and looked him over quickly.

The damage had been done. But he wasn’t going to lose a friend and partner over something like this.

Pulling Sendoh into a firm embrace, he rose and scanned quickly for guards, his senses straining. They were approaching. He moved to the cover of the huge trees, to the edge of the compound, and with one hand, jumped up and grasped the ledge, pulling himself over and taking care to ensure that Sendoh would not be jolted, setting him down softly on the ground. It was dark at this part, and it wouldn’t be day for another few hours. He had only so much time.

Wait here for me, Sendoh, he commanded fiercely as he rose and looked at the lighted balcony. I won’t let you die.