Dark Guardian: A tale of Rika and Renamon

Prelude: Alone in Shadow

The little valley was secluded, hidden in the hills between the forest and the mountains that bordered the land. A small pond, shaped by boulders and a bit of man-made effort, was set off to one side, while soft green grasses carpeted the ground. A few trees grew in the sunlight, providing a measure of shade in the summer and cover during the winter time.

She rose from the pool smoothly, her furred body shedding water as she strode out onto the grass, shaking her long, lean brown and white body dry. Using her three fingered hands she drew the leather arm-guards on then the ankle guards onto her feet, looking behind to see that the long, silken tail that reached the ground was clean. Her triangular face most resembled that of a fox, but it was expressive none the less, bearing eyes that were both deep and perceptive.

"I'm ready," Renamon said to herself softly.

Without a sign of regret Renamon left her sanctuary, bounding down the rocky hillside while being careful to leave no trace of her passage to lead anyone back there. Reaching the forest she barely disturbed a single branch as she leapt from tree to tree, making remarkably good time as she journeyed towards her destination. The huts were artfully concealed, constructed to blend into their surroundings, much like the caves beyond had been hidden.

Renamon dropped down from the treetops, landing smoothly in a clearing nearby, feeling many unseen eyes resting on her. She knew of the traps that guarded all the obvious approaches, an unwary traveler would either be dead or dying long before they reached this place, only those allowed could come here. Renamon strode forward confidently, the slightest of smiles on her face as she saw the inhabitants of this place emerged from the shadows.

"I almost thought you would be late, little fox, " the tall blonde woman murmured mockingly, her white garb striking in the dimness created by the branches overhead. Angel was a bit flamboyant, but her skill with the sword she wore at her side was legendary.

Renamon didn't even crack a smile as she strode by, "I'm never late."

Lingering before the entrance to the caves that snaked beneath the little village the black clad figure smiled as Renamon neared. Her lovely face was concealed by a simple black mask while a dangerous looking steel brace of claws gleamed on her one hand, her shapely body tightly sheathed in her simple looking battle garb.

"Lady Devimon," Renamon's voice was just a bit gentler as she stopped by her side. Quietly she said to her, "I had hoped you'd be here."

"I gave you my word," Lady Devimon answered as she rested her unarmored hand on Renamon's shoulder, "I know you'll do well, lover." She smiled at her wickedly, "I was hoping we could do that again, earlier today."

Renamon gave a slightly regretful smile, "I need to be focused on what's coming."

Lady Devimon nodded, "I understand." She let Renamon go even as she stepped aside and said, "Good luck."

"Luck is for amateurs," Renamon said confidently.

The cave Renamon entered sloped downward, the sunlight fading as she walked on. Her eyes easily pierced the shadows, taking the tiny light released by moss and veins of quartz and illuminating the path ahead of her. The air grew cold, if she didn't have fur she might be chilled as she turned, careful to avoid the traps that lined this most hidden of places.

The flicker of burning torches ahead drew Renamon onward, eventually bringing her into a larger room. Myotismon, one of the guild's leaders, stood to one side while others were gathered in a circle around the chamber. Two bulky guards held on to a wildly struggling figure, a fellow student that Renamon instantly recognized as Impmon.

"Welcome, Renamon," the voice came from the shadows beyond the torches and Renamon tensed. The master of the guild, Devimon, rarely showed himself, indeed it was thought that if you saw him you were already marked for death, but she knew that voice.

"M'lord," Renamon bowed, wondering why one as powerful as he would be at a ceremony like this, her full admittance to the assassin's guild.

"You have done well in your training," Devimon said to her softly from the darkness, "not to mention your final test."

Renamon didn't let herself react to that, though in truth she wanted to. As a final test of her skills she had been sent out on a killing assignment, seeking out a corrupt merchant whom was secretly running a slavery ring. Well aware that he had made many enemies he had hired on the best bodyguards he could, but that didn't save him.

Sneaking into his home hadn't been easy, of course. Renamon had to bribe a servant to look the other way, but once she was in the kill itself had been almost disturbingly easy. She had made it as quick and clean as possible, but she still found herself remembering the fear on his face for that moment he had realized his life was over.

"Thank you, sir," Renamon half bowed.

Myotismon grinned, his long front teeth gleaming like fangs in his pale face. His cloak swirled around him, dark garb combined with his talents to make him almost invisible, when he chose to be. The only flaw that Renamon saw in him was his ego, the honest belief he had that he was the best.

"There is only one thing remaining before you can be officially be admitted to the guild," Myotismon purred, his voice like dark honey.

Renamon waited a moment, then finally, "Yes?"

"You know of Impmon?" Devimon's voice asked.

Renamon nodded grimly. The young man was a foundling just like her, raised by the guild and trained like her to become a member. Growing up she had found him to be the type of boy who would pull the wings of flies or worse, always with a angelic smile on his face. He had tried to play his sadistic games with her, too, but had quickly discovered that Renamon was not an easy target.

"The boy was sent out on an training assignment, much like you," Myotismon sneered, "but he didn't do nearly as well."

There was regret and a bit of anger in Devimon's voice as he said, "Impmon not only missed his target, but in the process killed several innocents in the process."

Renamon winced. There were certain unwritten laws in the assassin guild, strictly enforced to preserve their organization. Failure was punishable by death, all of them knew it, but more importantly the slaying of innocent bystanders was strictly forbidden. The rulers of the local kingdoms barely tolerated the existence of their guild even as they hired them, and the wanton slaughter of innocents might well push those rulers to act against them.

"Why is he here?" Renamon asked, though she suspected she knew.

"If we had been lucky the guards would have caught him and that would be that," Myotismon growled, "but instead it falls to us to deal with him."

"Consider this a final test," Devimon's voice was like velvet in the darkness, "kill him."

Renamon looked at Impmon, the black haired boy looking at her with desperation, and remembered the kind of person he had been, who he was. 'And am I any better?" she wondered before quickly coming to a decision. Looking towards where Devimon stood in the shadows she said, "Let him go and give him a knife."

"And why should we do that?" Myotismon demanded.

"There is no challenge in killing an unarmed, bound opponent," Renamon answered dryly, "there has to be something to keep it interesting." She paused a moment before adding, "Unless you're worried about what he might do with that knife?"

A moment of silence then Devimon laughed softly. "Very true, Renamon," he finally agreed, "you will have your challenge."

As one the two guards let Impmon go, then one tossed the young man the knife from his belt. Impmon looked around him wildly, focusing his eyes on Renamon once he realized the masters of the guild were serious about it. He brought the blade up, torch light dancing off the blade as he purred out, "You'll regret giving me this, bitch."

Renamon took up her fighting stance, apparently entirely unarmed. She was calm, seemingly ready for whatever would come as she answered, "Shut up and fight."

With a snarl of rage Impmon charged, knowing that his only chance was to quickly slay Renamon then run for the surface. He went for her face, trying to cut her eyes but Renamon simply seemed to disappear, she was that fast.

"You'll have to be faster than that," Impmon nearly jumped as Renamon said from directly behind him, "if you want to live."

Impmon whirled, lunging forward but Renamon simply leapt away. She seemed to hover above him a moment and Impmon suddenly remembered she favorite attack, groaning "Oh no..."

Twin waves of throwing blades slashed down at the badly off balance Impmon like a storm of diamonds, striking home with deadly precision. With a strangled cry the boy dropped, and soon blood began to pool around his fallen form. Retrieving her blades Renamon cleaned them on his clothes before slipping them away into her arm-guards.

"It's done," Renamon looked up at the masters, feeling a moment of sorrow for the loss of a life, even one such as Impmon's.

"Poetry," Myotismon was clapping quietly as he said, "as good as your teachers said."

"Indeed," Devimon agreed, his eyes gleaming a moment in the light. Calmly he continued. "Are you ready for your first official assignment?"

Keeping any trace of fear or nervousness out of her voice Renamon answered, "Of course."

To be continued...

Author's Note: I had originally planned a longer 'Renamon the assassin' series but decided just to keep it a one shot, covering her first two kills, more or less, and giving a feel for her character.