I shouldn’t be so sympathetic. That’s why the Inquisitor hates me.
Liger stands up to him any other time but not this time because I shouldn’t have been messing with the new guy’s ropes. He was tied up that tightly for a reason, and it doesn’t matter that his fingers were turning purple. It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t have healed later. Lots of the reborn Anunnaki have to live with the scars from before I came here. So I shouldn’t waste my efforts on temporary pains that will only encourage the Chosen to discard this life in favor of the previous. When I’m called to help with a new recruit, I’m to do only as the Inquisitor says, no more, no less.
Liger took care of my wounds, but he was none too gentle about it. I feel so rotten about disappointing him. I’m being punished. I was careless. So it’s my fault the new guy tried to kill me before he ran away. I have to learn obedience. I’ve been forbidden from healing myself since there’s nothing wrong with me that won’t heal on its own.
Liger told me a story while he was fixing me up, and I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to get from it, but it’s more than he’s ever said all at once in the three years he’s been watching over me, so I figured I should try to copy it down.
Once upon a time (I added that part, but I tried to use his wording wherever I could remember it right), there was a young Prince whose entire family had been killed by the Assassin right down to his infant nephew in his cradle. The Prince left his land in the hands of his nobles, vowing never to return to his people, nor rest more than a night, nor take a wife, nor provide an heir to his throne until the Assassin was dead by his hand. So he hunted the first murderer high and low, through city and forest, across seas and continents, until at last he had cornered the masked killer.
But the Assassin was sneaky. He escaped into a private garden where he came upon two women and a child. As the Prince was nearly upon him, he snatched up the boy-child and held a knife to his throat, threatening to kill him if the Prince did not withdraw. The old nurse ran towards the palace calling for help while the Lady the Prince took to be the mother of the child stood by in horror. The Prince knew the Assassin would kill the boy regardless of what he did, but he could not bear the responsibility of being the cause of the boy’s death. They watched as the Assassin dragged his hostage to the wall of the garden, climbed a tree and dropped the boy after stabbing him once in the side.
Both the woman and the Prince ran to the wall, but the assassin was gone. The Lady gathered the child into her arms, but he was near death. Even if the Prince had carried him to the palace, he would not have lived to see a physician.
“Please, keep my secret,” the woman said to the Prince and bent low over the child even as men ran up to them with weapons drawn. In a moment, the child stirred and began crying.
Unable to follow his enemy without appearing guilty, the Prince laid down his arms and waited. As the men-at-arms arrived, the Lady called them away from the Prince, explaining that the man who had injured the child had already escaped. The Prince had tried to save them and should be treated with kindness.
Their looks remained dark until the boy agreed that the man had been chasing his attacker. The Prince would just as soon have continued his pursuit of the Assassin, but the King who was among the men, insisted on offering the Prince his hospitality. It became clear as they entered the palace that the woman was not well looked upon by the inhabitants. The boy’s mother appeared, rings dripping from every finger and gathered him to her, fussing over his wounds, now very much diminished. Her sister, for such was the Lady, stood away from the rest and was ignored.
A feast was held in the Prince’s honor, and he was in every way treated like a hero, though he had done nothing. He was plied with so much wine that he barely knew what he was saying. The company was enthralled by the story of his quest, which only reminded him that had he not been chasing the Assassin, the boy might never have been in danger at all. It became so shaming to him that he tried to deflect some of their attention to the aunt who sat at the very last seat at the table, silent and sad.
“How could she have helped?” the lord sneered, and the woman’s sister nodded.
Forgetting the woman’s plea, he said, “She healed him of his wounds.”
The party was plunged into silence. “Witch. I knew she was a witch!” was shouted by several feasters. The nearest made a grab for her, but she fled the table.
The Prince was given a room and the following day, he was given a fat purse and his supplies were replenished as he continued in his quest. Nothing was said of the sister, and he was too shamed to ask.
It was miles down the road that he saw a figure in a long cloak slip away into the trees and gave chase in the belief that it was the Assassin. But when he had chased the person down, he discovered the woman who he had betrayed with his drunken tongue. He released her, and she attempted once more to escape into the woods.
“Stay and forgive me. I am a stranger here and did not realize the damage my words would cause.” He searched his belt and offered her all his remaining funds. It was not much, even with the purse the King he had given him, but he was used to privation in his long hunt.
“Keep it. Word will spread that I am a witch and none will take jewels or gold from my hand lest it become offal when I have gone.”
“Then… at least allow me to escort you to safety.”
“What of your quest?” That stopped him. He could not then break his vow, though he was responsible for the hardship that had come to the Lady. She shook her head, and offered, “If you will have me as your companion, I will protect you from harm.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her how she might defend him, but he recalled how she had healed her nephew. He consented, though not without misgivings. What kind of warrior hides behind a woman, he thought.
Still, she was useful in more ways than one. That she was a healer he already knew, but she could also tell lies from truth and could charm animals to his bow, though she would only do this when there was no other way to fill their bellies. (! o_O)
It was many years that they spent finding and losing the Assassin and in that time, the pair fell in love. The only thing that barred their marriage was the Prince’s vow. He became paranoid of her safety, even more so when the Assassin took an interest in her and attempted to kill her on more than one occasion.
(Here Liger broke off his story and said:) The Assassin is our most hated enemy, left behind to keep us from recalling our true selves by Merodach. He has had many names and has created many slaves over the years. The Lady was Anunnaki, as the Prince’s Family had been, but the Prince himself was Igigi. He may have stood with us in the war or he may have been an enemy who fell during it. Father was only just beginning then to recover and gather us to him. (This is important later.)
Even an immortal killer can grow tired of being hunted, and the closer the Prince and his Lady came to pinning him down, the more often the Assassin focused his attention on the Lady. Though she did not wish to leave his side, the Prince finally convinced her to stay in a place of his choosing whenever it seemed he might confront the Assassin. On one of these occasions, the Prince lost the Assassin yet again but on returning to the hut where he had left his Lady, he found the place in disarray. She was gone, and it would be many years before he would see her again.
Now the Assassin is a wily creature who wears a mask just as we do, but for other reasons than respect for our Father who was nearly destroyed and still has no face. The Assassin wears a mask foremost to disguise himself from those who might recognize him later and also to disguise the fact that he does not age. Being masked, he has used this tactic many times to hide himself in plain sight, pretending to be one of us. Because we were all once Igigi before this plane was colonized and the Anunnaki rose, it can be difficult for us to tell if an Igigi is friend or foe. This is why Father is so very careful in who he chooses to foster and who he kills.
For several months, the Lady had seen masked figures in the wood and cities they passed, and the Prince saw this as a sign that they were getting closer to the Assassin. In fact, we had noticed the Lady and her great power and were intent upon bringing her to father who was not as mobile then as now. So when the Prince went out to hunt the Assassin, we slipped in and stole her away.
It was many, many years before her memories of her former self surfaced, and she forgave us. (Liger actually said “me,” not “us,” before correcting himself, so this is a true story!!) But she never stopped loving her Prince, which irked her keeper, for he had fallen in love with her himself, and they had been quite close in the age before the Igigi betrayed us. He despised the Prince for the love the Lady felt for him and was determined to make her love him.
So when she begged to be allowed to go to her Prince and tell him the Great Truth, this coward suggested restrictions to test his love. One, she could not under and circumstances remove her mask. Two, she could not speak one word. And three, she must somehow convince the Prince to trust her and come with her. If he had been our ally in the Age of Miracles, then he would not need to see her face or hear her words. He would know her and be drawn to her spirit, accompanying her to Father who would adopt him as his own son.
And the Lady went to her Prince, and he did know her. But he saw the mask and believed she had been stolen away by the Assassin and taught to hate him. He believed she had come to distract him from his vows or to kill him. Had she been able to show her face, he would have seen that she had not aged, though he now had more white hairs than black. Had she been allowed to speak, she might have told him where she had been and why she had been unable to return for so long. He knew none of this and because of his hate for the Assassin, he threatened her and drove her out. For good measure, he said if he ever saw her again, he would kill her.
She returned to us, broken and grieving, a state which pleased her cowardly admirer greatly. He begged her to love him instead her faithless Prince, but all she would say was, “I love you as I love all, but my Prince I love more than all.”
He badgered her day and night, telling her how he loved her and would do anything to prove it. Finally she looked at him, her eyes red after many months of weeping and said, “If you love me, go to him and tell him the truth. I am bound by the restrictions of our Father, but you may speak! If you love me, Brother, tell him we do not belong to the Assassin.”
The coward was infuriated by her words, but he hid it well. She did not know that the restrictions placed on her had been his idea. He refused at first to do as she asked, but each time he begged her to love him, her answer was the same. “I you as I love all, but my Prince I love more than all.”
Finally he agreed to go to the Prince, but as you know, Father does not favor those who find loopholes in his edicts. The Coward went to the Prince, who had grown quite old, and reviled him for turning the Lady away. He told him of the War of Souls and that the Lady was someone of importance and left it at that. It was not the message the Lady or Father would have approved.
When Father learned that the Coward had gone to the Prince and betrayed His existence and the fact that He was gathering His forces, Father was furious. It was much to early for anyone to know His plans, and certainly if the Prince betrayed our secret, the Assassin would learn of it and begin hunting us in earnest. Some thought Father would kill both the Lady and the Coward, but the Lady came forward and offered to take any punishment laid on the Coward for getting round Father’s restrictions onto herself in addition to whatever punishment was laid on her.
Father’s punishment was most cruel. He said that the Lady must kill her Prince.
The Coward was relieved that he would not suffer for his actions, and the Lady’s willingness to suffer in his stead moved him to charity. He could not kill the Prince without earning Father’s wrath, but he would help her get to the Prince who had given up his vows entirely and descended into every debauchery he could find in the few short months since the Coward’s visit. He would help the Lady get close enough to kill her Prince, but not without extracting from her a promise that she would be his if he did so. Even then, he was selfish and unkind in his love.
As always she said, “I you as I love all, but my Prince I love more than all.” But this time, she added, “When the deed is done, you may have whatever is left of me.”
This delighted the Coward who did not think to ask how she planned to kill the Prince or what her words meant. He took her to the brothel where the Prince was pissing away his remaining energies, took the Lady’s mask, and smuggled her inside. It was only later when the Prince and Lady were both found dead of poison that the Coward had cause to regret his actions from beginning to end. Her body was retrieved and revived, but her soul had fled from that life, and her form was nothing more than an empty vessel. The Coward smothered the Revenant and vowed if he ever found the Lady again, he would not try to force her to love him.