Chapter: The game

Sebille was in a room with a dozen of other females; all of them abducted or kidnapped. Sebille didn’t remember how she’d gotten caught up in this but when she'd awoken she had been in the very same room, lying on the floor, feeling hazy. And it had been the same with the other women in the room. The room itself was dark and dank; a castle came to mind when she looked around. There were two doors leading out, and some mixed pieces of mostly broken furniture stacked into piles to keep them out of the way. The girls were all afraid, their whispers and wailing echoed in the large room. On one of the walls there was a large TV-screen, it had been turned on for some time now. The screen seemed to have a live feed to another room, better lit than the one they were in, but still similar with it's stone floor and walls. Even the atmosphere was the same.

A nasty looking little man announced that a game was about to begin, a game of hunters and the hunted. Behind him were four men lined up. “Your survival will depend on these men behind me,” he announced. He paused and Sebille noticed the other dozen females shivering in fear, but she focused her attention to the screen. “In mere moments, these hired assassins will hunt you down and execute you.” Many of the girls panicked, others grabbed onto each other and started crying. Sebille bit her lower lip. She’d been expecting something of the sort. It was sick and something that should not happen. You're supposed to hear about these things, not be in them. The man continued; “You can run and you can hide. You can attack and you can beg for your lives. There are no rules.” Their chances were slim at best, most of them wouldn't survive. Heck, none of them might. Sebille looked at the men on the screen… they all seemed like professionals. If only Null were here, she thought... The man cheerily resumed his explanation; “We’re still missing one assassin and the game will not begin before he is here, so I hope you have the patience to wait just a little while longer.” As if they had a choice, Sebille's hand shook and she clenched it into a fist. It didn't shake because she was afraid, but because she was angry. Putting women, innocent women into this kind of position and playing with their lives as if they were pawns in some game. Most of the girls were in panic or in shock and there wasn’t much Sebille could do for them –there wasn’t much she even wanted to do for them right now. She was rather calm herself, she felt like there was still a chance for survival, she just needed some time to think.

She started measuring the lined up assassins with her eyes. The youngest one seemed confident and surely capable, but still inexperienced and unsure. She knew this because she’d spent so much time with Null. The other two stone faced ones, however, seemed like seasoned pros and she couldn’t figure out their personality at all. They were certainly dangerous. And the last man… he was older and looked gentle, but to her, he felt like the most dangerous person in that room. She did not want to come in contact with him. He had bloodlust in his eyes, huge amounts of it. Her chances of survival started feeling worse with each passing moment. What kind of a man would the last assassin be?

The door behind the nasty little man opened slowly and a familiar figure walked into the room and lined up next to the other assassins. Sebille felt a wave of relief wash over her. Now that everyone was preset, the little man ended the silence in the room at his end and perkily announced that he could finally explain the history behind his game. The man continued with his commentary, but Sebille was no longer listening to him. The girl next to her grabbed her hand and Sebille felt her tremble. She was the one who’d woken Sebille up and also the one she’d spent most of her time with in the room. Sebille had been rather calm the entire time for reasons unknown to even her self, and the girl had taken comfort in it.

Sebille leaned towards her and whispered; “Listen… this is going to be very risky but I think there are two ways for us to survive.” That got the girl’s attention. “It’s up to you if you listen to my advice or not… and I make no guarantees on our survival.” She nodded “Okay, tell me!” she said, sounding rather desperate. Sebille couldn’t blame her for her impatience; they were in a dire situation after all.
Sebille wanted her to survive and continued; “There are two men among those five that might give us a chance… if we play our cards right.” Her eyes widened “Really?” “Yes, the first one is the young man… He seems inexperienced and probably won’t kill you if you beg or invoke his feeling of conscience, or something.” The girl seemed dumbfounded; she’d thought the young one looked very confident in himself. Sebille continued; “…but he might not be able to protect you from the others.” The girl’s morale seemed to drop a bit.

”And the other one…? The old man, right?” “No! Stay away from him! He’s the most dangerous one... after the tall man.” The girl turned to look at the screen. Sebille knew people, it hadn’t stopped her from making all the wrong decisions in the past, but she knew people. And crossing paths with the elder man would be fatal. He might even kill another assassin to get to his 'prey'. The girl turned back to her; “Then, who?”
“The tall man”
“But you just said--”
“I know.” She wasn’t sure how to explain it and her little friend seemed confused. “He… he’s risky but he’s definitely strong. He can protect you from the others.” Sebille had noticed it the moment he'd stepped into that room that night; Null wasn’t quite him self, he was ready to kill anyone in his path. “There’s NO WAY I’m taking any chances with him!” Sebille understood why: Null was dangerous and everyone in the two rooms saw it. He wasn't arrogant looking like the young one, he wasn't over-confident looking like the two other assassins and he was certainly not gentle looking like the oldest man in the room. He seemed... eerie, and his eyes were dead.

“Okay… then there is just the young guy. Listen to me now…” She resumed. “…Do not trust _any_ of the other three. And pray that you don't run into them.” The girl nodded and Sebille really hoped she’d take her advice. She didn’t want the girl do die in vain, she had her whole life ahead of her. “Who are you going for?” she asked. “The tall man,” Sebille answered and looked at the screen again. The little man seemed to be almost finished with his explanation. “What?” she almost yelled and Sebille had to hush her. “I’m going to gamble my life from now on out… and if I survive, he won’t be happy with me” she lowered her voice during the last few words. The girl looked at her as if she wanted to ask something. Sebille just shook her head; "Nevermind that."

The man was still going on and on about his amazing game on human lives, even the assassins had started to look a little fed up with him by now. A ridiculous, sick blabbermouth, that's what he was. “And now, without any further ado: Let the game begin!”

First everyone was quiet for several seconds, and then the women started running around in panic, someone had opened the doors that had been locked earlier and they all started towards them. Sebille glanced at the screen again and all the assassins but Null had already left their room. Sebille’s little friend tugged her, pulling her attention back to the harsh reality. “What are you going to do?” she asked. “I’ll stay here and wait… but you should go.” The girl let go of Seb’s arm; her eyes were wild and she was shaking. “Good luck.” Was all Sebille managed to say before the girl ran out of the room. Only after she was gone, did Sebille realize that she never asked the girl for her name.

Sebille was left alone in the dimly lit room. She walked backwards until her back met the damp wall, and she disappeared, though, only to the best of her ability. She tried to be as if she wasn’t there. Null had once said she wasn’t bad but she wouldn’t be able to fool most –if any, of the trained assassins. This would be all about luck, a true gamble. The monitor had shut down and the only light in the room came from the bulbs above the two doors. The other lamp flickered from time to time. The lighting was poor and most of the room was covered in darkness. Sebille was perfectly concealed in the shadows, she wasn’t hiding but she wouldn’t be seen from either of the doors.

Long moments passed in the darkness. She listened to a faint sound of dripping water from another corner of the room, she didn’t know exactly how much time had gone by when she heard the first faint scream. The reality hit her and a wave of fear took over her body for a moment, but she managed to subdue it. It would be all over if she was afraid.

The other door slowly opened and her heart started racing. Who would be the first to come? Silent steps led the first comer to the room. It was the youngest of the assassins. He was a rather small man, probably around her height, lean built, and quite average looking. He entered the room, failing to notice Sebille, who was standing against the far wall. As she had thought: he was inexperienced. His step wasn’t nearly as soft as Nulls and he was full of openings, even Sebille could see them. He walked across the room as more screams sounded from somewhere further away. Sebille held her breath. He didn’t spend any longer in the room than necessary to cross it. He left.
So, she was good enough to fool at least one professional… or then he'd been overconfident and didn’t bother to scan the room more thoroughly. Very possible, when all you’re up against is a bunch of young women filled with fear. Silence returned to the damp room. Faint, rushed footsteps echoed from somewhere. The girls were running from their pursuers and there wasn’t much Sebille could do about it. She couldn’t really think about anyone but herself, if she did, she wouldn’t survive this.

Then, again the same door opened, interrupting Sebille's thoughts. A man with blond, spiky hair stepped in. Sebille saw him walk in clear as day, but she didn’t feel or hear him. He was dangerous and Sebille was afraid her skills wouldn’t be enough to keep her unnoticed by him. The man walked to the center of the path joining the two doors, stopped and turned his head to her direction. He looked straight at her and her heart skipped a beat. Slowly, he drew a partially saw-edged dagger from his belt. He knew she was there, he probably didn’t see her but he most definitely felt her. Dangerous, this was dangerous. Sebille needed to do something… now!

“I wouldn’t do that.” She managed to make her voice come out calm. “Hoo… and why is that?” He stopped his movement never letting his guard down, and squinted his eyes slightly, as if trying to see her in the darkness. “I’m waiting for someone.” “I see, and who might that be?” He sounded curious and a tad sceptical. “The tall man from the room.” She didn’t know if this would work but it was all she had. He laughed; “He’ll kill you.” “Yes, I’m aware of that,” she had to play this out very carefully, his personality had started to emerge and she was quite sure she could pull this off, if she didn’t make a mistake. “But if I’m going to die, I want it to be by his hand,” she paused; “Would you be a gentleman and grant me this last wish of mine?” “Who would I be granting this wish to…?” Sebille knew what he wanted and stepped out from the shadows. The light hit her from the side and he could finally see her.

The man looked at her for a few minutes in silence, while Sebille kept getting more and more nervous, and then he spoke; “I’ll honor your wish milady.” He took a little bow. “But there are no guarantees he’ll come here next… if I were you, I’d ask to be put out of my misery as soon as possible. Some of us are animals” He grinned but Sebille stayed quiet. This man was sick and he made her blood boil, but it didn’t change the fact that he was dangerous. She kept reminding her self that she needed to play this right. “Are you sure I can’t change your mind?” “I’m sure, but thank you for the offer.” Ugh! She wanted him to leave. She couldn’t take him much longer, without saying something extremely stupid, that would lead to her own death. “Well, then… let us hope you will meet the end you desire, but in case you change your mind…” he paused and threw his dagger towards her. It barely missed her head and hit the stone wall, staying in a crease between the stones. Sebille didn’t move, or even blink. He whistled. “You can use that to end your own life; it won’t do much good as a weapon against us, so use it wisely.” Finally, he turned away and left, leaving a ghostly chuckle echo in the room.

Sebille sighed in relief and backed herself against the wall again. That had been a close one. Her heart was racing from the encounter, she took a few deep breaths and returned the silence to the room. She’d survived her first encounter with an experienced professional. The fact that he was experienced, didn't mean that he was smart. It wasn't what Sebille would prefer to go through more often but she would gladly survive a few more, if it meant she could live. She returned to waiting. The cries from elsewhere were fewer. Not many of the girls remained now, she guessed. She knew she was lucky, considering where they were and… why they were. She wondered why Null was there, as she couldn’t understand why he would take such a job. Then again, she was thankful he was in the castle. She now had a chance of getting out of there alive -but only if he'd reach her in time.

The same door opened again and Sebille was pulled away from her thoughts. She hadn’t heard the door move but she saw it from the corner of her eye. At first, all she could see was a shoe and then, the tall figure appeared from behind the opened door. The lifeless silver eyes moved to look directly at her. He’d located her the moment he’d entered the room –no, possibly even before he opened the door. Sebille stepped forward and let down her guard. It wouldn’t be any help against him, no matter what was to happen.

Null didn’t react to her in anyway and just kept closing in on her, exposing his dagger a little more with every step he took. He really hadn’t recognized her? She knew this was his way of dealing with his work. He’d locked himself away. His feelings were gone and he didn’t allow himself to think of anything besides what he was supposed to do. He wasn’t heartless, so this was necessary… Sebille had wondered how he dealed with what he did and now she understood.

As he approached and readied to slash her throat with great accuracy, she spoke; “You don’t recognize me, do you…” The blade moved towards her throat. “…Null?” And he stopped the edge of the blade mere inches away from her skin. He froze in his half-crouched position and turned to look at her. The life returned to his eyes.

They stayed in their unmoving state for a good minute, just looking at each other. There was something in his eyes, something she had never seen before. Sebille hadn’t noticed anyone else in the room, but someone spoke from the door; “If you won’t go for the kill, I wi---” There was a sickening crunch and a dagger in his forehead. The intruder crashed to the floor –dead. Sebille closed her eyes and turned her head away to avoid looking at the corpse. She hadn’t seen Null move at all, much less throw the weapon that was previously at her throat. She looked at Null again, and he’d switched his posture slightly. Sebille opened her mouth to talk to him but he spoke first, “Why… I'm not the first to come through here…” his voice low and calm. It was so good to hear him speak. Sebille's head was empty for a moment, “Oh, the blond man? Yes, he came through here… and greeted me with that thing, before he left,” she pointed at the dagger stuck in the wall. Null took one look at the weapon and turned back to her, clearly not understanding what had happened. But although he didn't understand, he seemed cold. As if it was her fault that she was there. Sebille smiled a little; “He granted me my wish of wanting to die by your hand.” Null’s expression turned colder and he stood up to his full height. “I had to gamble! It was the only way I could make it out of here alive…” she was a bit desperate but managed to have her voice sound calm and but a little edgy. “Later,” was his reply.

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her with him; Sebille took note of the fact that there wasn't a drop of blood on him. He no longer spoke, though she tried calling him by his name several times. He wouldn’t spare her another glance, either. Was it that he really didn’t like the fact that she’d risked her life or was it something else? However, even with Null not speaking to her, she felt safe. He just had that effect on her, and they weren’t necessarily even close to getting out of the castle just yet. There was blood in many of the rooms they came by, everything had gone silent. The only sound she heard was from her own footsteps, soft thuds on the stone floor. The corridors were filled with shadowy corners, where another assassin could lie in wait for his prey. Still, Sebille felt safe.

They entered a room and in the corner Sebille spotted two figures: one below the other, begging for her life and the other holding a knife on her throat. It took Sebille a moment to recognize them. The young assassin was trembling in the slightest and Sebille’s little friend was pleading for him to let her keep her life. “Please, please… you don’t have to…” And the man was hesitating. “Null…” Sebille said almost desperately. A throwing knife flew through the air and hit the knife off the boy’s hands. Looking startled, he turned to look at where the unexpected weapon flew from. Null spoke; “Take her to safety,” and grabbed Sebille’s arm again. Sebille was surprised, this was not something she'd expected him to do, even if she asked. Null turned around and exited the room just as soundlessly as he had entered it. Sebille turned her head towards them one last time and yelled; “I’ll see you someday!” They disappeared into the darkness of the castle.

The two left behind looked at one another. They both though the same thing:" Who were those two?"