Yesterday a man killed my father. Me and Sondu were playing by the ravine and we heard men shouting at the ranch. Sondu said he heard my father’s name but I never heard it and then when I listened again I heard them shouting his name and cursing a lot. We ran back to the ranch but when we got there the men were gone. Sondu found father and then he called me. We went to see Dulcar. He said he was sorry that father was dead but there was nothing he could do about it. He said that the other families would honour father by making sure I was taken to the city but I didn’t know what honour means. Dulcar and some other men from the valley are going to take me to the city in the morning. Dulcar said they will help me find my cousin because there is nobody else to look after me. I haven’t seen Rentor for two years.
I don’t know why father is dead but I know I will miss him. I promised that I would carry on practising my writing and I won’t break my promise even though father has gone because promises are important and that was something else he told me. Dulcar said father is dead because men came here from the city and they were bad men. I think Dulcar must be right. The man who killed my father is a bad man.
Yesterday I killed a man. Two nights ago I was summoned to the Akorok Vaults by a messenger boy. We entered the building by a small wooden door to the rear, guarded by two armed men in the colours of the Akorok Guard. Through the door we were greeted by the clerk Hutari, whom I had met only a few days before. Hutari ordered the boy away and with barely a word led me through a dark corridor to a waiting room where three men stood in silence. Hutari left me and I stood too. We were soon joined by a fifth man and a sixth. Once we were six Hutari addressed us. The Basal Financier was grateful that we had offered our services to the Akorok Bank, he said. We were going to be offered work. Once the offer was made we would be given the opportunity to decline. Should we choose to do so we would receive no further offers of employment. We were about to meet the Basal Financier.
Through more dark corridors we six followed Hutari until we reached a tall doorway. As we approached, the guards swung the heavy doors to and we entered a long, narrow room with a high ceiling. The room was bright with candlelight and a wooden table ran its length. Farthest from us at the head of the table sat the Basal Financier, unmistakeable in his elegant robes and flanked by two Akorok Guardsmen. He instructed us to sit and we did. Stern of face and tone the Basal Financier explained to us the task to which we would be assigned should we accept. We were reassured that we would be rewarded substantially. We six were asked to confirm our acceptance. Three did and I was one of them.
Before dawn we left town, three armed men on horseback. One of the other men spoke to me. His name was Darfin and this was the third time he had been employed by the Akorok Bank. I asked why the Akorok Guard were not assigned to this job. The guard were never used for the dirty jobs, Darfin said. Our small talks passed the hours it took us to ride from the town to the valley. Our companion was a hard, ugly man with a scarred cheek who would not make conversation with us. He knew the terrain well and rode ahead.. I did not know his name nor did I wish to.
As we descended the valley a settlement of four small ranches came into sight. We followed the scarred man down a narrow twisting path behind a partial rocky veil. He had chosen the most discreet route but not the easiest and the horses struggled down the steeper climbs. At the base of the valley our cover was broken when we encountered two young girls drawing water from a well. They were frightened and took little convincing from the scarred man to point us towards our destination.
As we approached the Baclaan ranch our target emerged alone from the ramshackle buildings. He was armed. I met his eyes and could sense his fear. He must have been expecting us for some time but could never have known exactly when we could come. We dismounted, armed ourselves and the scarred man engaged Baclaan, shouting that we had come to collect his debt. The bank was offering him one last chance to pay. Baclaan promised the scarred man he would pay when he could. He offered a tired old pony in a pathetic attempt at negotiation. He left us with little choice but to carry out our orders from the bank. We were to kill Baclann as an example to the men of the valley that failure to meet their financial obligations was not to be taken lightly.
The scarred man was clearly happy to take the lead and I was content to remain behind with Darfin to provide cover. The scarred man darted for Baclaan, who weaved aside swiftly despite his heavy build and escaped the point of the short blade. Baclaan ran in a panic back towards the ranch, the scarred man in pursuit. Darfin grabbed my arm and we raced after them, our knives in hand. What happened next seemed to take place in the blink of an eye.
Running towards the sorry building Baclaan called a home I could see the outline of the scarred man in the doorway. As Darfin and I arrived behind him he fell backwards with force, first into us and then onto the dusty ground. Darfin knelt to check the state of our companion. I gripped my short knife tightly, as from the dark of the entrance Baclaan emerged at speed. From his kneeling position Darfin launched himself at Bacclaan as I swung my right arm towards his broad torso. My knife punctured his chest with ease. As Darfin tackled him to the ground I released my weapon , the knife remaining lodged in Baclaan’s chest. I had known this would not be easy. I had known our mission would end in a man’s death. I had hoped to avoid delivering the bank’s message by my own hand..
And so I have become a murderer. I have been generously rewarded by the Akorok bank for this deed. I now know the scarred man as Pyotar. He was grateful that Darfin and I had so quickly returned him to the city to have his wounds attended to by the doctor. He told us he had thought the wound delivered to him by Baclaan to be fatal. He said that he owed us his life. In truth, I rode for the city at such speed not for Pyotar’s sake, but for the sake of my boy. As soon as I was paid, I made a visit to the apothecary. I purchased the the medicines Lahan so desperately needs to continue fighting the despicable disease that ails him. The apothecary assures me that he is improving. Not long now, he says. Jiltun says I must have faith in the apothecary. She says our son will be better soon. She says I am a hero, I have saved Lahan’s life. But I cannot wash Baclaan’s blood from my hand or my conscience. Jiltun says I am a good man. I wish it were for her to decide.