Shadowmen. Zion didn’t realize he’d spoken the word aloud until Solas grinned.
“I knew you were quick, boy,” the assassin said, leaning back in his chair. The coin on the table had ceased its frantic spinning and lay flat, looking innocuous once again. Zion felt like he’d swallowed a mouthful of sand and licked his lips several times before he could answer.
“What do you want with me?” he asked, proud that his voice did not shake.
Solas hesitated, looking down at his hands. Zion could see the tracery of scars—lighter lines and scores against his weathered skin. There was a lifetime of stories in those scars. A tally of kills. He shuddered at the thought.
“Once our numbers were many—a Brotherhood that attracted those who sought justice and the return of balance, the punishment of the wicked and the redemption of the innocent. But the years and wars and the diminishing of the faithful have taken their toll. Our order dwindles and few men take the journey to the Broken Tower to take part in the trials.” Solas steepled his long-fingered hands under his chin. “Few remember we exist at all and those that do,” he smiled mirthlessly, “are in no hurry to join our ranks.”
Solas refilled Zion’s wine goblet and slid it across the table towards him. Zion’s head already felt furred from his first glass but he took a sip, not wanting to refuse the assassin. Solas did not seem quick to anger, but Zion could sense in him something akin to the darkness that burned in Rael. Such men could keep irritation slowly simmering but when it boiled without warning it scalded anything in its way.
“Some men are born into it—my father and his before him and on through the ages until the beginning—they were all members of the Brotherhood. Others are chosen.”
Zion took another sip of the wine and set the glass back down unsteadily. He didn’t understand the beggars that stank of the stuff, it made his head feel foggy and Solas’ face swam before his eyes. The assassin was watching him shrewdly, the candlelight playing across his high cheekbones and high, thin forehead. The room tilted suddenly and Zion barely saw Solas move, only felt the strong hands catch him before he tumbled to the floor. Hoisting him like he weighed no more than a child, the assassin laid him gently on the low couch in the corner.
“I am sorry, child,” Solas said, his voice seeming to come from miles away, echoing like dripping water in the catacombs. “It may be of some comfort to you one day to know that you were meant for this. Il Avior ak’shur. God wills it.”
Zion tried to struggle against the heavy sleep that tugged at him, tried to speak, to ask what Solas meant, what he had done. But the assassin seemed to read the question in his eyes.
“Valerian in the wine—one day you’ll learn to recognize the scent. You will learn many other things.”
Before the drugged sleep pulled him under, he thought he saw regret on Solas’ face, but it was not enough. Zion fixed a burning hate in his heart, searing the assassin’s face in his mind as darkness consumed him.