**Edit: This is a snippet of my current Fantasy novel project. The scene that takes place below belongs a couple of chapters into the story. As this segment pertains to a blog post, there is a bit more mystery here than in context, but just because you don't have some of the background that has unfolded before this point. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this insight into my project and that you find its merits worthy of a standalone piece. **
The storm raged low in the sky, menacing and sinister. Thunder crackled and boomed and the rafters of the small cottages on either side of the lane trembled. Flashes of spidery lightning crawled across the boiling surface of the angry clouds, piercing the darkness and illuminating silhouettes of the buildings and the rain-soaked cobbles of the street below.
Ethan stepped out from the shelter of the eave and into the pelting rain. The stinging drops were bitter cold as they struck the exposed skin of his cheeks and hands. With the sound of the storm raging around them there was no real need for complete discretion, but he took to the shadows out of instinct. He could only catch snippets of what the two men were saying, without solid evidence he could do nothing. He had to get closer, but being closer, even in the midst of a storm such as this, meant the possibility of exposing himself. With everything at risk, the capture of the man who had betrayed all of Darion, Ethan took a deep breath and crept through the torrential rain, stalking his elusive prey.
"When will the next supply convoy depart?" The fat watchman asked the cloaked figure.
"They expect to depart the capital city two nights hence, with enemy forces gathering near Gildaes it could be months before they arrive."
"That's unacceptable!" The watchman bellowed before his words were muffled out by the sudden vice-like grip of his mysterious companion.
His hands reached instinctively toward his neck as he struggled for air, then his limbs shuddered and quaked as he was lifted from the ground with a strength that did not seem at all natural. His chubby fingers turned white as he gripped his companion's arms, trying to alleviate the agony without success.
After a few short moments the man dropped him, gasping, to the hard cobbles and landed a swift kick to his mid-section. Whoever this hooded man was, he had no patience for ill-founded demands.
"You delivered your end of the bargain, Watchman Simms, for that I will not kill you for this insolence tonight. But nothing you say or do will make that caravan travel any faster through a land besieged by those... creatures. Your payment will depart in two days, whether it reaches you in time or not, I can not and will not guarantee."
Simms sobbed. Unable to look his assailant in the eye, he picked himself up and stumbled backwards. A loud crash of thunder set him further off edge and he landed hard on the cold, wet cobblestones.
"So what will it be, Simms, have you any other secrets of Darion that you would like to sell to the Empire?" The man asked with venom in his eyes and a playful smile dancing across his lips.
The watchman slithered back into the shadows of the alleyway and the man took a step in his direction before stopping and looking back at the cleft where Ethan stood. A sudden crash of alley debris brought his attention back to the fleeing watchman and his grin widened as he turned to pursue his informant.
"On second thought, I'm not at all convinced that this relationship of ours will remain beneficial much longer," he laughed.
The muscles in Ethan's arms and legs bunched as he prepared to launch himself at the mysterious agent of the Empire. Whoever this man was, he would bring wave upon wave of the arachnid armies down upon the city state of Darion. They would amass like a shadow outside the gates, clicking and gnashing their great fangs until the night held nothing but nightmares for even the boldest of soldiers manning the defenses. Then, once all hope had been extinguished, they would tear the walls apart stone by stone.
Gritting his teeth, he felt the energy surge within him. The muscles in his back rippled and quaked and his eyes gleamed in the darkness with the ethereal madness that washed over him. Bellowing his battle cry, he burst from the shadows like a fiery dart aimed at the silhouette of the man now standing over the limp body of Watchman Simms.
Out of nowhere a large, muscled hand clamped down on his shoulder, suspending him in the air like a broken marionette. The untamed rage that pulsed through his veins surged anew and he watched with dismay as the man turned to face him. The element of surprise was lost, but the energy flowed through him now and would not let go. It would be a fight to the death.
A distant flash of lightning lit the small courtyard long enough for Ethan to make out the blood-tinted stream flowing from where Simms lay. The watchman was dead, which meant that before he killed this man, he'd have to make him talk. This secret of Darion, it was their undoing, yet it could be their only hope. And now this man, this agent of darkness, was the only one who could tell him what he needed to know.
The sky itself seemed to cry in agony as a bright light made its jagged descent, arcing and tearing downward. He felt the air around him buzz and crackle as he struggled against the restraining arm on his shoulder and a blinding flash banished the shadows. An immediate explosion of sound followed, pinning him to the ground. When the light faded, he looked up to where the man had stood. All that remained was the smoldering remains of Watchman Simms. The cobblestones were shattered and etched in ash and the man, the key to Darion's survival, was gone.
"No!" Ethan screamed into the night, trembling as the ethereal energy drained from his limbs.
He could have had him. He could have saved countless lives, if only... And then he remembered the hand that had stopped him, that had cut short his attack and ruined the element of surprise. Whoever it was that had followed him into this storm had ruined everything. He spun around to face the man now standing behind him and felt his heart sink as he recognized the worn, muscled palms of the hands raised up in peace.
"What have you done?" he whispered, his tears mixing with the pouring rain. "Why?"