"Sshh! Quit giggling, Emily," the Nostalgic Manchu hushed his plush familiar.
Trynton was perched on a high shelf in the darkest corner of an already dark playroom, his wooden fingers gripping the edge as he leaned forward to better see what was going on below.
Two men sat on the floor laughing to themselves and recounting the night's successes.
"Did you see the look on the old man's face?" asked the closer of the two. Trynton couldn't see the speaker's face but he didn't have to. He had been following this pair for a week already and knew them perfectly. The second man lit a cigarette and chuckled.
"Poor old fool, never suspected a thing." He breathed out a cloud of smoke and shrugged. "Wonder why he was living out here all alone anyway?"
"What does it matter?" asked the first. "I don't give a rip about why the old coot wanted to live like a hermit; I'm just glad he did. No one will notice him missing this way and we have the perfect place to stay until the job's d- did you just hear something?"
There had been a small creak in the corner above the man's head and as he listened more carefully he heard what he could have sworn was a little girl giggling. His face blanched. His partner jumped to his feet and slammed himself against the wall staring into the shadowy corner, eyes bugged.
Up above, Trynton smiled. Motioning to Emily to stay where she was, he prepared to drop to the floor to carry out the orders he had been given by his master. It was always in these moments, just before things really got fun, that Trynton remembered that night long ago when he had first met his master, the Twilight Wanderer.
He had been near to death. A gang of weapon smugglers had run into an ambush under the trees that were his home. The fight had been terrible. All of his family had been killed in the crossfire and Trynton himself wished he had joined them. He lay in a mangled heap and listened to the battle play out until his consciousness left him. When he opened his eyes some time later all was quiet and he saw him.
Try as he might, Trynton couldn't move a muscle. Everything hurt.
"Shh, be still." he said. "My name is Jaden. Now listen to me carefully. The fates spared you last night, but in this condition your life will not be long. This is something that I can change. I cannot give you back the life you had or your family. No one can do that. But I can give you what you need to be alive again, A new life."
He had paused.
"This new life will come at a price of course. Though it will be inside of your body, the life itself will belong always to me. As will you."
Trynton had closed his eyes. Everything had happened so fast. He had been confused, and more than that, he had been angry; angry at the people who had hurt him, who had killed his family without a thought, without even knowing they were there.
"What...will I...have to...?" he had breathed.
"I will be honest, for this is a choice you must make yourself," the man had answered him gently. "You will be asked to do many things for me, most of which will not be legal or honest. These things will be for the purpose of good, make no mistake about that. But they are not tasks for those with a strong conscience. You will live in the shadows always. And of course, you will have revenge against those who have wronged you today."
Revenge. It was that word that had rung through his ears and through his heart as he lay there. Without another thought he had uttered the words that had changed him forever: "Give me....this new life."
That was when he had been changed. Through a voodoo ritual he still didn't understand he had had his body remade, piece by piece. His living flesh had been stripped away and replaced by wood, cotton, fabric and paint. He knew that in his arms and legs, tucked inside the cotton stuffing were his own bones, and that his eyes were still the same eyes that had watched the murder of his family. And his own living heart, that too still beat inside of him. All the rest was given him by his new master, inanimate material made animate by some strange magic he could feel but could not see.
"Yes, Emily, it's done. Bring the news to Jaden for me. And please let him know that I'm sorry about the old man."