Trevan spotted the man easily when he stepped foot into the tavern despite the smoke from the many pipes and tallow candles. The man wore expensive black leather armor with sparkling metal studs, two gold hoops in each of his ears, and a ruby the size of a robin's egg set in a ring on one of his fingers. Even though he flaunted his wealth openly, not a single one of the many cutthroats and thieves in the dingy roadside tavern made even the slightest move towards the man.
Trevan went up to the bar and pretended not to notice him, as he was instructed to. He was expected, but the business he had with the man was best done in secret. The man was an assassin, and Trevan needed someone killed. He wore the single black rose to identify himself and waited to be approached.
It was several minutes before the man approached him. In a flat whisper, so low that it could only be heard by Trevan, the man said, “Come join me at my table. We can talk privately there.” The man walked back to his table and sat down. Trevan took a drink to steel his nerves, then followed the man.
“So,” the man said. “You spent a fair amount of coin getting my attention. What makes me so special?”
Trevan glanced casually around the tavern. “Your guarantee. Simply put, I want a man dead and price is no object, but I don't want to waste good coin hiring those who cannot deliver. I want to be sure that the job gets done. I heard the man they call The Ghost has never failed. That is why I sought you out.”
The man called The Ghost gave an appreciative bow at the recognition of his skills. “Whoever did you ill must have angered you greatly. As you found out, I am neither cheap nor easy to find. My fee for the actual job is even greater. I guarantee success, even before I know my target's name. I care not who they are. My fee stays the same, regardless.”
Trevan reached for the large sack of gold he had brought along, but The Ghost waved him off. “I never accept payment until my task is completed.”
“If you guarantee completion, then why not accept payment immediately?” Trevan asked with some suspicion.
The Ghost smiled. “It is a further part of my guarantee. Should, by some means beyond my control, the target meet his end through actions that are not my own, I waive my fee. I do not accept payment for a job someone else did.”
“I am not in a polite profession. Often, both those that patronize me, and those that I am hired to eliminate, have many enemies. On more than one occasion, a target has met his demise elsewhere. It is bad business to take credit for someone else's kill, you understand.” The Ghost looked hard at Trevan. “Some who hire me like to ease their conscience by explaining to me why they want their target dead. It makes it easier for them to complete the transaction.” He lifted the wine glass that had been sitting in front of him and took a drink. “I only say this because you look as if you are having second thoughts.”
Trevan shook his head. “No, no second thoughts. You were right about the cost, though. My parents were murdered, and it took much of my wealth to find out who killed them.” He lifted a wax-sealed piece of parchment. “I searched long for the man. After several long years, though he had used many other false ones throughout his life, I found his true name. As instructed by your contacts, I put it on this parchment.” He laid the parchment on the table and produced a vial of dark red liquid. “Also as instructed, a vial of my own blood. I don't know what dark sorceries you use to complete your task, nor do I care. I care only that the job gets done, and, if you can, that you send his soul to the deepest reaches of the hells where it suffers for eternity.”
The Ghost smiled and gathered up the parchment and the vial. As he did so, he noticed a very large emerald ring on the finger of the young man. “That is a fine ring you possess, my friend. You wouldn't be willing to part with it, would you?” Not for the first time, The Ghost noticed a brief yet angry scowl pass across Trevan's face, and just as quickly was replaced by the same friendly, if sad, smile the young man had worn through most of the conversation. Trevan shook his head sadly. “No,” he replied. “This ring belonged to my father. Under no circumstances will I sell.” The Ghost merely nodded and placed the items in his pouch. “I understand,” he said. “Some things are just too valuable to part with. When the job is complete, I will send a contact to collect my fee.” With that, The Ghost rose, tossed a handful of copper coins to the table, and left. Trevan sat for a few minutes longer, then walked out of the tavern.
Several hours later, The Ghost lit a lamp in a small room covered in arcane symbols. In the center was a large pentacle, with candles made from human tallow at each point of the star. As he prepared the room for the ritual, his mind kept flashing back to the ring the man wore. He could swear that he had seen the ring before, but could not place where. He shrugged it off as coincidence and went back to his preparations.
He selected a diamond-studded scroll case made from dragon bone, and withdrew a scroll. His life had made a drastic change in the past few years since he found the scroll, going from an average assassin to one of the most sought-after killers in all of Kresh, even all of Turmiel. In the center of the pentacle he placed a copper brazier and lit it. Putrid smelling smoke poured out. He picked up the vial of blood and poured it over the flames, which grew in intensity. Chanting the arcane words written on the scroll, he tossed the piece of parchment into the flames.
The brazier grew red hot for the briefest of moments, and a dense smoke smelling of feces and rotten flesh filled the room. When it cleared, a large, snarling demon was standing over the brazier. He looked upon The Ghost with barely-concealed hatred.
“You know your task?” The Ghost said to him, sneering.
“Yes, what?” The Ghost demanded.
The demon growled softly. “Yes... master.”
The Ghost glared at him. “Well, what are you waiting for? Get to it!”
“As you wish... Jorian Kull.”
The Ghost stared at the demon, wondering how this creature could have learned his true name. Then, in the moments before the demon tore his body to pieces, he remembered where he had seen that ring before.