1000 gold tarns.
Did they wish me to kill a Ubar? No, just a simple Brewer. This Brewer must have greatly angered the Ubar of Treve. This Brewer could not be a simple man.
The Ubar had hired one of the best, ensuring the job would be done properly. He had also hired my discretion. This was a matter to keep covert.
His death must appear as an accident. It must not be suspicious in any way. A crossbow quarrel or a knife in the back would not do.
But I specialized in innocent "accidents." It is why I was chosen. The Brewer's death would raise no eyebrows.
The Ubar did not tell me his reasons for wanting the Brewer dead. He did state though that the Brewer had not killed anyone. He was not known to be a dangerous man. I surmised that the Brewer had outwitted the Ubar somehow.
Treve had located the Brewer. Their spies were in most Gorean cities. They had probably the best spy network on Gor.
The Brewer owned a small home in the countryside outside Ar, maybe forty pasangs to the west. He lived alone and spent most of his time alone. Maybe once every four months he ventured into the city. His nearest neighbor was five pasangs away.
Killing the Brewer would be easy.
As easy as a sneeze.
I flew my tarn to Ar to set up my base. I rented a room at a better than average insula. I added my own security measures to the small room.
I then performed my own investigation into the Brewer, discretion being essential. His fame preceded him and several were quite open in discussing his life.
All of the intelligence that I gathered confirmed Treve's information. He was a loner. He was wealthy and spent most of his time experimenting with paga recipes. Every so often, he sold one of his new recipes.
The fact he lived alone made my work so much easier. I could take the time to properly prepare the scene after his death. No one would question the "accident."
If he died, no one would probably find his corpse for at least several months, if not longer. It would have rotted well by then. Animals would also have gotten to the corpse. Even if I did openly kill him, his body by that time would be so rotten that no one would be able to determine the cause of death.
A slip and fall would suffice. A paga spill would make the floor slippery. The Brewer could slide in the spill, topple over and strike his head on a table edge or even the floor.
I would leave the door slightly ajar so the local animals would be able to easily enter the place, to dine on his remains.
I finalized preparations and then left for the Brewer's home. I camped in the countryside the first night. I wished to be rested when I arrived at the Brewer's home. I also wanted to arrive at around the 20th Ahn, when it would be dark and the Brewer would be asleep.
I would bash his head and then arrange the scene so it appeared he fell.
Treve would be pleased.
I had been living in my new home for almost a year. I lived alone out of choice. I lived with the memories of my family.
One thought was never far from my mind. When would Treve come for me?
Yes, I had beaten them. Yes, they wished their defeat to be kept quiet. But they would want vengeance. They would want my death.
I knew the sounds of the night. I knew the footsteps of the animals, their nocturnal cries, and the strange noises of my own residence.
I slept well each night though I slept lightly.
When my ears heard a discordant sound, a light scraping, I instantly awoke. Someone was in my house.
Whoever had entered was good, exceptionally good, but not perfect. His boot had scraped just a bit on the wooden floor.
And once I was aware of his presence, I could detect the other almost imperceptible sounds he made.
Someone trying that hard to be silent obviously harbored ill intentions toward me.
It had to be Treve.
They made a mistake in sending only one man. Even if others waited outside, it was still a mistake. I could handle a single man. And I am sure no one except me knew of the tunnel I built that led from my house to a hidden spot half a pasang away.
During the last year, I had also practice often with my staff. In my hands, the thick wood shaft could twirl and spin effortlessly. I never noticed the weight of the heavy Tem wood.
As I was aware of the intruder, I could surprise him and render him unconscious wth my staff.
The staff lay beside my couch. I reached down and retrieved it, remaining as quiet as possible. I slid from the furs on my couch to the floor and moved a few feet away. I crouched down and waited for my would-be assailant.
Treve had made a major mistake.
As long a they had left me alone, I had kept my mouth shut. But now, all of Gor would learn of Treve's folly. They would be the world's biggest joke.
I could give sufficient details that I would be believed. Treve could deny all it wanted but the story would spread. Their reputation would be tarnished.
But they probably would not deny it. Their sense of honor would compel them to agree they had been dishonored. They would not lie about their Home Stone.
The interloper neared. I stood ready with my staff.
Time seemed to drag, each Ihn like an Ehn.
I crept through the house to the sleeping area. As I neared the doorway, I could spy the shadows on the couch.
And also the faint aspiration of someone standing within the room but to the left of the couch. The Brewer was not asleep. He knew I was here.
My original plan was scrapped. I drew a dagger, its black blade nearly invisible. The shiny metal had been carefully darkened for concealment purposes.
I would have to either cut his throat or stab his heart. I would then have to ensure that the animals got to his body. Maybe a sleen.
I entered the chamber, wary of what waited on the left.
In the near darkness, I noticed one shadow that swayed slightly. He was not a Warrior or Assassin. He did not know how to remain still.
I estimated the distance between us and prepared to lunge, to catch him unawares.
I failed to notice the dark staff.
As I leapt toward the Brewer, I banged against the staff. The Brewer then backed up. I had lost the initiative. The surprise was gone.
We stood there in the darkness for almost an Ehn. We waited for the other to move, to commit to a course of action.
Fighting in darkened conditions required different tactics. Defense was often better. Let the other man come to you.
Somehow the Brewer understood this. He was more clever than I had originally surmised.
I respected this Brewer. I would still kill him though.
As I wielded a dagger, I needed to get within the arc of his weapon. If he kept me at a range, the advantage was his. I would need quick reflexes to act at the correct time. His weapon was slower than mine. I needed to lunge just after he committed himself to a swing with the staff.
If he was very skilled with the staff, I would have only an Ihn or two to react.
I assumed he was quite skilled.
But the time would still be sufficient for me.
I walked slowly toward the Brewer, arms extended, blade pointed toward him. I waited for him to swing, ready to react once the swing passed.
As I neared, he continued to wait. He was very clever. He wanted me close enough to limit my ability to evade. But, if he let me get too close, his tactic would fail.
I knew exactly how close was too close.
And my feet stepped past that point.
He was mine. Soon my blade would feed.
He had to be an Assassin. He held a dagger and not a gladius. He moved well in the dark.
And he had passed the point where I could swing the staff and strike him. But that was my plan.
It was risky but I felt lucky. I had hoped he did not have much experience against a staff. The men he would be most used to battling carried swords or other blades. He should have treated my staff as a sword.
I let him take two more steps forward. Then I struck.
Like a sword, a staff can stab as well as swing. I aimed for his diaphragm to knock the wind from him.
It was at that moment he made his lunge.
Hard wood met soft flesh and the jolt traveled the length of the staff to my arms but I held steady. A direct impact compounded by his own lunge.
The Assassin doubled over, gasping for air. I swirled the staff in a vicious arc and smashed it down on his head. He crumpled to the floor, unconscious.
I checked to ensure he was out and then I lit a lantern.
I bound the Assassin and then stripped him of the rest of his weapons.
What to do now though? The Assassin would never talk about his employer. I knew though it had to be Treve. I did not want to torture him. I also did not want to kill him.
What could I do?
If I let him go, he would try to kill me again. No legal authority would arrest him. I was outside the laws of Ar. I was on my own.
I had to get Treve to rescind the contract.
But how could I contact them?
If I left him here, he would eventually escape. I could flee in that time and then begin to spread the word of Treve's dishonor. In time, the Assassin would find me again.
Did I wish to spend the rest of my life running?
I untied the Assassin though I did not return him his weapons. I waited for him to awaken.
Maybe twenty Ehn later, he began to stir. There was a brief look of puzzzlement on his face when he realized he was not bound.
"Tal Killer. Welcome to my home."
The Assassin sat up and stared at me. I held the staff but not in a threatening manner. He returned my greeting and waited for my next move. He realized the oddity of the situation.
"I understand Treve is your employer. They are my only enemy. I have no wish to kill you. But, I do not want to live my life as a hunted man."
The Assassin grinned.
"I want to go to Treve. I want to settle this matter once and for all. Contact your employer and set something up. There is no need to kill me if I will go to Treve."
The Assassin quickly decided. He would contact Treve and then deliver me to an agent of Treve. Treve would be pleased.
A bargain was struck between the Assassin and the Ox.