The blood dripped from the daggers that Holbard held in his hands. He was blood to the elbows! He had often now worn these crimson sleeves as Master Bragsuil liked to call them. Now, the blood that ran down his arms mixed with his tears. The death he bought his victims was as silent as the whispering night winds that passed through the streets of Bree in the wee hours before dawn. This killing had been no different and it had been sanctioned by the Cult!
He could barely remember his early days in Bree. He and his brother Wystan had come to the city together after being released from the orphanage of Whitfurrows. Life there had been harsh, and a mix of Dwarves, humans, and hobbits had led to many fights. Holdbard had come into his own and had learned that adapting was his strongest suit! He fought but with stealth and cunning as he's sharpest weapons. He picked his fights well and timed them even better, so that he was soon feared by all other children, even the Dwarves, so it is said. His brother chose a different path and was more often than not out hunting to keep the larder of the orphanage filled. He had taken up the same trade, in Bree while Holdbard, had drifted from job to job.
One night after a heavy bout of drinking Holdbard woke to a whisper as soft as breath, in his ear. " Death or life? Choose now." Frozen stiff, as never before in his life, Holdbard dared not stir, but slowly turned his head to see a shadow above him. The silhouette was outlined by moonlight which glinted off the sword it held aloft! Then again, as if the wind itself spoke, "If it is to live you want then you must take a different path. It will be a difficult journey that you will embark upon, but one with many rewards!" "Choose now!"
The old man was dressed in a grey robe that hung off a boney skeleton. He was sweeping the floor in what seemed to be an aimless meandering pattern. He passed the broom to Holdbard, and said, "For now young hobbit you will kill time." Holdbard held his tongue as much in astonishment as anything, certainly, it was not out of respect. He was in awe. The door they had entered through could have been the entrance to any simple home in Bree, but once inside the vestibule, it was fantastic! Walls lined with shelves of books, ancient tomes, and scrolls! Rich tapestries and huge fireplaces, gold and silver ornaments, and so much to dazzle the eyes surrounded him!
"I realize he is a bit rough around the edges, Master Bragsuil, but it was The Grey who suggested we take him in." "With that reference", the young heavily armored man spoke in earnest, "Your Lordship, it was Bodman who contacted and recruited him, and has the Minstrel ever been wrong in the past?"
"Your words hold truth and wisdom. So it is then. I do not like the meddling of that old wizard, he is forever poking his nose in, but he does know how to weld a broom! Hahahaaa. Holdbard will be your charge. You will train and indoctrinate him."
Holdbard, looked at the ring he had on his finger, as he swept the library. His brother also had a like piece of adornment, which they had been informed when they left the orphanage was the key to their lineage.
Holdbard trained hard and though at times Chizgard had to use harsh discipline, he with the passing of years became a master assassin for the Cult of the Tortoise!
Master Bragsuil called Holdbard into the inner sanctum and spoke to him in a strained tone. " There is a lodge near the Midgewater marsh. It is the home of a hunter, and his name is Forrien. He and his wife have two children, a boy, and a girl. We have tried to recruit this hunter into our fold, but he has always sited his family as an excuse. Tonight you will resolve this little issue for us."
As Holdbard slipped out into the night, a figure dressed in grey robes watched him move through the shadows, as silent as a serpent. if there had been light one would have noted a smile on the old man's lips. "So, it must be for the good of the many."
A malodorous mist blew in from the marsh that night and hid the scent of man, and beast alike. A waning moon gave little light and shadows fell dark upon the damp earth. The smell of wood smoke from the lodge's chimney made finding it as easy as anything Holdbard had ever done. He slid into the room of the children and not a sound was heard as he slit the throats of the two wrapped in innocence. Arterial spray shot up his arms. He made his way into the master's room and saw a man and his wife embraced in a lifetime of love. Like a dark invisible corporeal spirit, he casually moved to the bed and with one swift stroke, took the life of the woman. The man stirred and the blanket fell back from his arms. revealing his hand.
The blood dripped from the daggers that Holbard held in his hands. He was blood to the elbows! He had often now worn these crimson sleeves as Master Bragsuil liked to call them. Now, the blood that ran down his arms mixed with his tears. The ring on the finger of the sleeping man had a familiar design, which matched the ring Holdbard had on his hand. Holdbard had discovered parents and his sister and brother, not in the manner he had years ago dreamed of. He did not finish his work that night but moved away from the house leaving behind only a trail of tears and blood.
Noone in the Cult ever saw Holdbard again. Yet, from time to time, a Cult member was found dead, with a crimson smile painted upon his or her lips in their own blood. It was not only the Cult that was haunted by the deeds of that cold wet night but also the Brotherhood of The Forsaken Lonelanders. There was an assassin and no one knew when he would strike again! Only the Grand Master and The Grey knew why those murders were taking place and neither was talking!