So I have this new story in mind and I'm trying to get it organized. Which is something I usually never do...which might explain why I've never finished a story in my entire life. But this one...has potential so I'm just going to write down a sort of...questioning process with my main character as if I'm a therapist or journalist and let him explain what's happened in his life. Though a lot of things are prone to change, I at least want to get the main idea down. And I'm especially interested on how much time I spend on each subject. Also, his name will most likely change. It's just that nothing is clicking with me at the moment.
Me: Okay, so! *sits down with a pen and pad* I've heard you've had a pretty interesting life. I'm so glad I got time with you today to hear it straight from your mouth.
Ion: It's most certainly something I wouldn't do twice.
Me: Yes, well...Let's just hop right in and start with the easy stuff. What's your name?
Ion: It's Ion now. My original name is long past.
Me: I see. What was your original name?
Ion: I'd rather not share.
Me: That's perfectly fine. Moving on. How tall are you?
Ion: I'm no taller than an average man. I don't mind it. It allows me to be faster and quieter.
Me: So you'd say that you're faster than stronger?
Ion: I'd say I'm well balanced in terms of strength. But yes, I suppose you could say that I'm faster than most.
Me: Is there anything that stands out in terms of your appearance?
Ion: I dye my hair. Red is considered an evil in most our cultures. My eyes I can't hide though. They're blue and very odd. You see, most people have black hair and almost black eyes. Any sort of color is said to be destined for misfortune. I also have a scar across my face from a job long past. It runs from my left eyebrow and across my lips so...their a bit uneven. I have another running from the bottom right side of my jaw across the bridge of my nose and forehead. It's thin but...it's there.
Me: I've heard rumors about your back...would you mind sharing a little about that?
Ion:...it's absolutely plastered in scars. Both new and old...Let's just say it's hard to find any undamaged skin there.
Me: Okay, so we've got the basics covered. This is where I just...let you ramble on about your life. Starting in order so it's easier to understand. Just...start with your childhood and work your way from there. And don't be alarmed if I chime in on something that I might need more explaining to.
Ion: Okay....*Takes a deep breath and frowns slightly as if trying very hard to remember*
Me: Take it slow...we're in no rush...
Ion: I'm sorry, I just...it's like past lives almost. It's hard to believe that I haven't died and been reborn again over and over. Well...So I was born...my mother, like most mothers at that time, was a whore who worked in a brothel. She was considered more naive than most due to the fact that she kept me instead of aborting like the others. Not to say that they weren't ALLOWED to have the child, but a pregnant woman doesn't attract many customers. And if she didn't pay her dues, she'd be sold to slavery or just delt with in whatever manner the brothel boss saw fit. Luckily this brothel was one of a chain and so the owner didn't see her drop in sales nor did he really care. He was rich beyond all reason and one pregnant girl was not enough to concern him. Anyway, she had me and took care of me the best she could. Some of the other girls would help and that was fine for a while, but as soon as I was old enough for real food, she couldn't afford me anymore. She had to give me up to a local orphanage which was...overwhelmingly overpopulated. I mean...four kids to one twin bed...It doesn't sound possible but we'd lay on our sides and do the whole head, feet, head, feet thing and...anyway. She said she'd visit and she did for a while but... *Shrugs* Rumors say she got pregnant again and that took all her time. So I guess I have a brother out there or something.
Well, I grew up there. I fought for my food and space and didn't expect anyone to ever want me. The city I lived in didn't ADOPT kids. No, it worked the other way. Kids were abandoned. And I know you think it'd be weird to have an orphanage, right? Well it was run by a local church and other politicians that wanted a charity put on their name. It was all bullshit. I didn't have time for it. Once I was old enough to hold a sword, I left. I found a job as an errand boy for the Hire system, and-
Me: Okay, explain the hire system.
Ion: Oh, uhm...The hire system is...very complicated yet simple at the same time. A lot of people want a lot of other people dead. But when an untrained person tries to kill another person, things can get messy. More people can get caught in it and die or the law finds it hard to control the anarchy when everyone is allowed to kill anyone for any reason. Somehow the Hire system was created. Outside the law of course. It's basically men that are hired to kill others for money. But we get neutral protection.
Me: What does that mean?
Ion: We don't get punished or held accountable for killing someone else so long as we're under a contract. It's the contractor's sin for hiring someone to kill someone else and the victim's fault for doing whatever they did to upset the contractor then not hiring bodyguards or whatever to protect themselves.
Me: And the law enforcement accept this?
Ion: It's much better than the chaos that would happen without them...but yes, it's a silent agreement. Hires must have proper proof of a contract and kill as little people as possible to do the job. After all, the contract only specifies one person...most of the time. It works like this, a person contracts a hire to kill someone. The hire does the job. But this is where Hires differ. Some make it very public that they did it, and others are subtle like...poisoning food and what have you.
Me: Why would they do either one of those?
Ion: Well, if you make the fact that you killed someone public, odds are you'll get famous and undoubtedly get more business. But there are drawbacks. People will recognize your face and always be on guard. Which could lead to someone wanting revenge for a mother or a brother you've killed and in turn hire someone to kill YOU! And this is why being secret works a little better. Sure, there are some lean months, but all in all you get a better quality of life.
Me: So how does a boy get involved with all that?
Ion: Clean up detail. I was to follow a hire on duty and go in after the job was done and straighten up the house and the victim's body as well as the Hire's belongings or tend to any wounds he might have received.
Me: Seems a bit dark for a boy so young.
Ion: It was just the way it should be. You grow up learning the ropes from some of the best hires. You meet those involved in the system and methods that others would die to see. Literally. And it also desensitizes you. Blood and guts and death are all a part of life. If you were to remain living, you'd need to get used to the dead.
Me: So why clean up? Why didn't they just leave after the job was done?
Ion: It was another silent custom that was adopted some time ago. We were there to end a life, not ruin a lifetime. After all, we were a neutral party. This victim had done nothing to us (Most of the time) so it was disrespectful to leave them in a state of ruin for the rest of the world to see. That's why we always tried to make it as clean as possible. Easy to say that I learned to stitch and heal very well.
Me: So, you said you were a neutral party. Can you explain that a bit more?
Ion: Like I said before, none of our actions were held against us, but our secrecy for our clients are what made us reliable. A member of the law enforcement couldn't ask us who hired us or even the reason why it happened. Though, some have given some details for bribes or other such things, but if anyone from the Hire system hears of that, they disregard that member entirely. We spread rumors of that member so they can't find another job and protect our name so people can remain to be relaxed and confident when using our services. We are a neutral party through and through. It's all for the money and the preservation of society.
Me:...Is that how you really felt? Like you were doing the world a service by killing without any other cause than money?
Ion: I know it's hard to understand. That we look like pricks when it's said like that, but you have to understand. If a person has the intent to kill, they will. And at the time, there was a lot to kill for. So they'd go off on their mad hunt and destroy everything in their path. Including their own life and family. Drama would ensue and you'd have a family war on your hands. This way, they work for their money, hire us, and it'd be done.
Me: I suppose.
Ion: But...to answer your question...yes and no. I enjoyed the fact that I wasn't involved in the drama. I was the best at not asking questions or even really being interested in the job's back story. But at the same time, I caught when things were supposed to be in reverse. When one woman hires me to kill another woman for sleeping with her husband, when it fact, it was obvious that the woman had been raped by the husband. But if the money is there, I would kill. You just have to wash your face at the end of the day and move on....
Me: You seem very uncertain about that last statement...
Ion: Because...although it worked for a while...it ultimately turned for the worse for most of us. But that's getting ahead of myself.
Me: Yes, thank you for explaining that for me. You can continue from when you were a boy.
Ion: Very well. As I was saying, I was an errand boy and followed some of the greatest hires that were known. I learned everything I'd ever need and took on simple jobs. My first kill was nothing special. I wasn't at all bothered by it which wasn't necessarily a good thing. Having a conscience doesn't help matters but it keeps you sane. You're supposed to be a neutral party which ultimately meant that you shouldn't enjoy nor hate your work. It should just be like any other job. Something that you do for money.
As I rose in ranks, the system became a little more clear. The Hires had bought out a small chunk of the city where their apartments were. The deeper you went, the more expensive and exclusive it got. Those in the center of the city were considered elite. Though it'd probably cost you a kidney and half your soul, the job would be done to your exact specifications. I say this because many of the politicians would need their kill to look like an accident. There would have to be no clues to lead it back to them and ruin their chances on being in the council or however that government worked. Like I said, I wasn't concerned with anything but my own life and keeping my head down so I could go to bed without worrying about being killed that night.
This life was all great and good and...it's so hard to remember that once I was truly happy with everything I had going. I had friends and plenty of money and a stable job that wasn't going anywhere. I was one of the more popular ones that more of a tongue in cheek sort of conversation. Someone would mention my name but my face wouldn't be plastered on the city walls or anything like that. I was sought out therefore I could afford to live near the center of the city. Where men would walk miles just to come to my section and ask if I would be willing to take their case. Because Hires could always say no. It wasn't as if they belonged to anyone. They could start and quit their job whenever they wanted. It was very much the lifestyle I always wanted for myself.
Well one day, I got a particularly tasty mission. I was to kill a King of a neighboring continent or something like that. I can't believe they'd call that a King. He was too easy to get to. After that, I returned with a ton of cash in my pocket and would be set for months if I wanted to just take a break. That's where I made my first mistake. I took a couple weeks off but didn't want to get rusty. So I headed for the edge of our section and took a small job. Just some no name politician. The job went smoothly and I returned to the contractor to receive my laughable reward. As I was getting it, he spoke to me. Not that I asked. He told me how much trouble I'd saved him. He was a slave trader, specializing in training the slaves. Not that I knew what that meant. He said that politician had been working to stop slavery altogether and he was actually getting some headway. Thanks to me, he'd continue to sit back and feed himself to death off the riches he got from other's misfortunes.
I've repeated this several times now, but I must make myself very clear. A Hire is a neutral party. Hearing that sort of shit, even though it's clearly wrong, wasn't an opinion I could make. I just took the money and had some wine then was on my way. The worst mistake of my life. It was a few weeks later before I'd realize exactly why. I was outside the city limits just taking a ride to clear my head when I lost conciseness. Before I knew it, I was in the back of a cart with bars all over it, sitting next to other beaten humans. It was clear that it was a slave trade. It was a long line of people walking through the desert to a place unknown.
And that was the first time I heard it. The things that would haunt me even till today. All over their equipment, horses, necks, everything, were bells and windchimes and anything that made music. At first it was beautiful. It almost made it look like maybe we were just sick people walking toward a paradise that would heal us. How wrong I was. It took about a week to reach our destination. It was...sand houses or something like that. Random patches of tents and awnings. We were taken underground, where I wouldn't see the sun for months.
You see, at the time I wasn't panicking. I was very much rich and thought maybe I could pay it off. As I waited in line, I heard many people claim they had money. I even heard names of Hires that I knew did indeed have money. And this seemed to be a good thing, because all the Hires were separated from the rest and pushed to a different part. Maybe it was a cheap way for the slave traders to get money off of us. I didn't really care. I had enough to go around. I'd pay the price and just get back to work. So I said who I was and...well, they seemed impressed. They separated me off and lead me through dark halls, coated with the stench of something I knew very well. A salt and metal smell. Along with decades of sweat and tangible anguish....*pauses and doesn't speak for a very long while, staring at nothing all the while shivers coarse through his body.*
Me: *Holds the pad to my chest and stares* Do you...need a break? Or maybe...just skip this part?
Ion: It was...hell on earth. Constant...torture. I learned that the hires got the worst of it. We were being trained all the while...like unknowing dogs. The windchimes were in every room...always ringing...as if there wasn't a problem in the world. Even through my screams...even as my blood sprayed on their metal pipes...they sang happily at my demise...
Me: You seem...very focused on the windchimes...
Ion: It was the key to everything...it was my trigger. It was what they used to shut me down...to control me. *Takes a deep breath* Almost every torture that they could imagine was used. Their favorites being sleep deprivation and whipping. It was a mark of a slave to have a screwed up back. But for women it was their calves or legs. Men didn't want to look at a scarred back while raping her. But...the one thing that remained untouched were my hands. Through all the pain, my hands remained solid and strong.
I said it before that I wouldn't see the sun for months. Now, I can't be sure. Time deprivation was constant. I don't know how long I was in there but...I only went outside a few times. I think...even though it felt like three years, it was probably only one. I began to wish I were dead. And sometimes I was convinced I was in fact dead and had gone straight to hell. I was in the middle of one of my weeks of isolation in pitch black when I was I dragged from the pit and cast out into the blinding light. Once the pain and shock started to fade, a sword was forced into my hands and I felt myself being shoved forward. Through squinted eyes, I saw another man who looked just as bewildered as I. But carved into his chest were the words 'Kill me or die'
*eyes waver harshly* Something snapped in me then. All I could see was....red. I felt my body lunge forward and heard a scream of a demon. Before I knew it, the man's body was a pulp beneath me, my dull sword stabbing even still. The adrenaline was pulsing through me, making my body buzz in a nauseous manner. And that's when they pulled out a small...very small bell, whose ringing was so delicate in the wind that it could hardly be heard. But that was enough to make my body shut down in complete fear. I fell into the rank and struggled to remember to breathe. I was picked up and dragged back into the pit as if none of it had happened.
The windchimes in that pit were darker...they only rang once in a while...a deep bass...It made it hard to sleep...hard to think...*Shutters* I-....that happened a few more times. I was stopped in the middle of whatever torture I was going through and thrust into the blinding sunlight, killing whoever or whatever was put in front of me. These times began to grow...fun. It was the times when I could take my rage out on everything that was wrong with my life. These...innocent...scared....bleeding humans... I soon learned that the faster I killed them, the less pain would come later for myself. It was like...I was being praised. I became so in tune with these battles that I actually got a day off and a hot meal. It's sick, but...I felt a kinship to those who tortured me. I suffered through it quietly. It was like we were working toward a cure for an illness I had after all. And one day, I was pulled out. But this time, there was a familiar face waiting for me.
The fat bastard I'd done the contract for so long ago...in another lifetime...He was munching away at something sloppy and motioned for me to sit. I don't know how I looked, but it caused him to laugh saying something like "Not so high and mighty now, huh?? Oh how the mighty have fallen!" And something along the lines of "Funny! If you hadn't stuck to your fancy rules and killed me for the fucker I am, you wouldn't be here! You did this to yourself!"
I can't be honest and sit here and admit that I remember much else that happened. I was enraged and confused all the while. My torturers were behind me, holding windchimes that shut my body down. It was as if to say, you know what's right....or...God I can't explain it. I was so brainwashed. But...if I had to guess...it was him telling me that I'd be sold soon and out of his hair and...so on and so forth. Which was true. Me and the other Hires who had been caught were chained up and distanced from each other. We were like mad dogs whose leashes were held by hands that we wouldn't dare bite. The line of us wandered through the desert much like we had before but this time...different. We looked...soul-less...ready to kill at the smallest command. Though...killing wasn't on my mind much since the bells were attached to everything around us. We came to a slave city which is exactly what it sounds like. A place to come and buy slaves. Apparently the fat bastard was just as good as he said he was because we had a prime spot.
And also, slave Hires were considered some of the rarest and most expensive. So I guess I was special...I was bought but a wife of someone I don't give a shit about and...well this was the tamer part of my existence. As I was being brought to her mansion, I wondered vaguely how I was expected to stay. As soon as she sent me on a mission, what was to keep me from just...running? It became apparent that I was more messed up than I originally thought. Before I knew it, there was a deep lust to serve her. To make her happy. She gave me...clothes and swords and....my own room that had a bed. I felt like royalty. Soon I was honored to serve her. I stood at her side with pride and was very content. That's before the world came crashing down.
I was sent on a mission and was returning back when a girl ran up to me with a fistful of money. She waved at me with tears in her eyes begging me to take on a job. Like I was a hire and not a slave. Against all my instincts I did it. It was more money to give my master when I returned. The girl wanted me to kill her father who apparently was abusing her and her mother. I went to their house and quickly made work of him. I was stitching him up robotically and naturally when she asked me what I was doing. As I looked down at his coming together frame, I wondered the same thing.
There was something...off about that house. Something that was different from everything that'd be around me. My horse...my room back where I lived...the entire mansion. There was...silence here...I felt my breath suck my lungs dry. Everything was falling. My world was breaking. I panicked. I killed the girl and the mother that returned shortly after. I sat in their blood, rocking myself, chanting nonsense. I didn't know where I was....who I was....why I was covered in blood. My ears were ringing which made things that much worse.
I lived in that house with their rotting bodies for days. I drank and ate what they had before I FINALLY started to calm down. My hands worked without my permission, sewing them up and cleaning the blood that'd already went passed dried to stained. I lined them up and took some clothes of my own before slaughtering the horse that had been given to me. I didn't want anything to take me back to that haze I'd been put under. Instead, I took one of their horses and started back toward the mansion. It took...everything I had not to fall back under the spell. Windchimes decorated the entire place. But instead of letting them hang there in all their glory, I cut them down, feeling stronger with every step of silence. I finally reached her quarters and waited. I waited hours, listening to the one small bell she had hanging over her bed. I stared at it. Planned. Loathed. Until she walked in. She was pleasantly surprised and went to change before hesitating. I was...probably much more still than usual. More...set in a thought. She approached me...and froze when I walked toward her bed, taking my sword and cutting the last windchime down.
And as I turned...I saw the terror in her eyes. I could see myself in those quivering eyes. I could see my rage...my clarity....I took my time with her. Killed her slow. It was delicious. But it still wasn't enough. I'd need to kill everyone that'd ever wronged me. This would take months. I stole what I needed and cut down everyone in my path. I'd become the mad dog with no leash. Unreasonable amounts of training with a never ending pool of rage. I saved the fat bastard for last. It was fun but...by now I was used to it.
With all of my enemies dead and freedom securely back in my grasp, what was there left to do? I could go back to being a hire but there was always that annoying habit of nearly fainting each time I heard the ring of a windchime. Instead, I traveled. I killed when I needed a house, I killed when I needed a horse. Killing had become my answer to everything. Little did I know, I was still in a haze. When...something familiar happened to me. A little girl...with a fist full of money ran up to me...begging me to kill her abusive father.
You could imagine my shock. How...on earth was this happening...was it her ghost...had...this all been in my head? But there she stood, ready to make the biggest decision of her life to protect her and her mother. I took the money...went to the house after promptly taking care of the windchime on their porch and took down the father. But this time...I stayed and spoke with the daughter as I cleaned up mechanically. She had a name...she had a face...a story, a favorite color, a favorite meal. She was an innocent person...
The final straw had been pulled. I was free from all the laboring thoughts from before. I couldn't feel the rage anymore...therefore, the urge to kill was completely wiped from me. I traveled still but...with honest work and money. It was a pleasant lifestyle. I moved to a quiet town where I traded medicine and healed the sick. I'd have flashbacks of my past when I was sewing up a wound but...it all passed. Not to mention there was a ban on windchimes. Apparently a lot of slaves sought refuge here. I don't know how many years passed. But I was finally comfortable. A different man. That's when they came. They ran through my fields and brought down any worker that was on there. Familiar...ringing...
I raced from my house and saw them. Slave traders. A monster was awoken from me. I grabbed my dusty swords and along with a few other mad dogs in hibernation, brought them to their swift end. The town gathered round us as we cleaned their bodies with faded eyes and sharp movements. It was only when we were done that we knew we were all the same. They followed me to my house and we spoke of our stories. We had all been slave Hires. The training of true killers with the switch of a demon. It could be helped. As soon as we knew it, we were packed and leaving.
We traced slave routes and ambushed them with swift justice. Those that we freed were lead back to our small town that grew with each month. It soon became it's own capital. Slave Hires were the commanders of course. We had the most experience and had a deep desire to protect those around us. With our booming populace and growing economy, attention came to us many times. That attention was wiped out the moment we caught wind of it. As silent as the Hire system, I became in charge of this whole operation. And...I can see the look on your face. It's the look people get when they hear about those in power. But trust me, I wasn't like that. In fact, all I wanted to do was get back to my farm. I felt that the slave system was terrified of us. They couldn't make trades and all their camps were burned and buried.
I felt that this would be enough. Leading a safe place for slaves to live and feel comfortable. A self preserving economy where everyone had their place and everyone pulled their weight. But my comrades were still filled with rage. They'd served longer in slavery than I had. They wanted the entire continent. They wanted to be ride of rape and brothels and abandoned children...I could relate but...I didn't feel the same draw as them...I felt...tired and...ready to just be done with it.
I think they sensed that in me. They tested me. One finally stepped up and demanded control, right in the middle of the city. I slowly turned and faced him. I felt my eyebrow lift. Was he serious? He'd bring this city to ruin if he went with the plans he had going on in his head. But he challenged me still. He drew his sword and came at me. And I'll admit. I was rusty. I hadn't been on a raid in months. Too busy tending to my fields and visiting hospitals to help teach doctors. But all the same, I won. I'd revamped my control once more and a sense of honor settled in my stomach. What if they were right? What if this was just the beginning?
I started to look into it. The cities that surrounded us. The Hire cities. The slaves willing to fight. It was beginning to dawn on me that this could be a very real possibility. I could honestly take this world as my own and turn it into a better place. And would you believe it? My army began. Training. Marching. Building. It was all taking shape...And our first battle...We won the farming city bordering us. The people willingly agreed to my command and now we had twice as much food.
It would take years really...so many that my hair began to grow grey before I finally settled into my title as 'King' They'd been calling me that for as long as I could remember. But I never fully accepted it. I had always lived in my farmhouse and compromised to the opinions of those around me. But now, my word was law. And in trying times as these, that sort of control was necessary....
Me: What's wrong?
Ion: It's just...I didn't know I'd die so soon...
Me: I'm sorry? Die?
Ion: It started slowly. Something I could handle. A disease that we didn't know the cure to. But it was starting to affect my battles. I had to sit out. And finally I couldn't stand. While I was still making decisions, I couldn't be there. Couldn't see for myself. I couldn't hold on to this power anymore. I had to step down as King.
Me: Oh...then...who took over? Someone dependable I hope.
Ion: I consider him the most dependable.
Me: Won't you tell me?
Ion: I thought it'd be easy to guess.
Me: I really want to know...
Ion: Well, the prince of course. My son.
[End of book 1]