#22: I am Kaoli – Part 2

As I walked down the streets of Bultine, I continued my life as the green-scaled, lavender-haired Dragonkin, Kaoli. As I decided Kaoli was a kind person, I made sure there was a broad smile on my face. Every time I passed a street merchant, I would wave and greet them in Dragonese. I glanced up at the sun, it appeared to be around the ninth hour of the day. According to my dossier, I knew that Tate Cardiff would be on the floor of Saltenate Materials for at least another hour.

I passed a school on my left. I saw Dragonkin and human children playing in the dusty field. They were kicking some sort of ball around to one another. They each had broad smiles on their faces. I couldn’t help but be enamored by their lives. I have lived 20 years and the only identity I have known is as a member of The Collective. I have had no name, no purpose beyond whatever The Collective commanded of me. Each of these children had names. They each had their own individual desires. Based on their behavior, they had developed relationships with their peers. They were not trained to be an assassin and were not isolated from everyone else each day. I never knew any different, of course, I always imagined my adolescence was at least equivalent to any other creature throughout Galevyn. But when I looked at the faces of the children, their smiles giving no hint of deception, I had to wonder if these people had a better life than I did.

I was so distracted by watching the children play that I didn’t notice a young girl race in front of me. When I took my next step, I accidentally shoved her with my knee and she went tumbling to the ground. She had deeply tanned skin, brown hair, and bright blue eyes. I quickly scanned her body for injuries. My assassin training taught me all about identifying injuries, well, at least all about creating them. She appeared physically healthy. However, the screams she was emitting and the water emanating from her eyes told another story. I knelt down and placed a scaly hand on her shoulder.

“Are you alright, little one?” Kaoli asked brightly. I remembered he was a kind person.

The young girl sniffled a bit and wiped her eyes with her linen sleeve.

“I . . . . fell . . . . . down,” she managed to cry out.

“I can see that. I’m so sorry that I was clumsy and didn’t watch where I was going. Can I help you up?” Kaoli asked.

“O.K.,” she responded. The shock of her fall was beginning to fade away.

I offered her my other hand and gently pushed her up with the hand already on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry mister,” the girl said sweetly. It was as though she wasn’t just hysterically crying. If it wasn’t for the moisture under her eyes, there would be no trace of it. “I was running over here to get our ball, I should have said excuse me or somethin’.”

“It’s quite alright,” Kaoli said. Even though I felt bad, I kept the smile on Kaoli’s face to ensure that she wouldn’t freak out again.

“You’re very nice, mister,” she said. She pulled a crushed flower out of her pocket. It was bright yellow. “You can have this. Thank you for being so nice.”

She ran past me, grabbed her ball, and raced back to the school. Kaoli waved as she ran away. I looked at Kaoli’s palm and considered the yellow flower. This girl had really thought I was the kind Kaoli. I had fooled her. My training from The Collective has clearly paid off. As a changeling, I had never actually received a gift before. We are not to have possessions of our own. Everything belongs to the collective. However, at this moment, this flower was freely given by this girl to Kaoli. This flower belonged to Kaoli and Kaoli alone. If I was Kaoli, that meant I owned a flower. I knew I should feel guilty for having that thought, but I didn’t. It made me feel good. I placed the flower in the sash around my waist.

When I rounded the corner, I saw a large factory building emblazoned with the words “Saltenate Materials” in the universal trade language. I knew I could walk into the front door with the identity I had concocted for Kaoli, but I also knew from my training that the fewer people that actually saw Kaoli inside the building, the better. I noticed a fire escape on the side of the building. According to the blueprints in my dossier, that should be the window of Tate Cardiff’s office. I looked up and down the dirt street, the coast was clear. The ladder of the fire escape was raised, but that was easy enough to solve. I reached up with Kaoli’s hands and began growing his arms. The Collective had injected me with extra material fluid before the mission to ensure I could accomplish tasks using my changeling abilities such as this one. My hands connected to the bottom rung of the ladder and I eased it down quietly. I took a moment to collect myself and shrink Kaoli’s arms down to their typical size.

I scurried as quickly and quietly as I could up the fire escape. When I reached the window, I could clearly see that it was the window to a management office. Conveniently, and thanks to the hot climate of Daragon, the window was propped open. I pulled the ladder of the fire escape back up to avoid any suspicion. I stepped over the window sill and entered the office. It was large, but relatively sparsely decorated. Cardiff must spend most of his profit back home. I was surprised to find a large portrait adorning the wall opposite his desk. It was a portrait of Cardiff and his family. His partner was a human woman with dark brown skin. Cardiff had his arm around her and he seemed very happy in the portrait. At the bottom of the portrait was a child. I didn’t know it at the time, as this was the first time I had ever felt something like this, but my stomach dropped when I saw the little girl. She had deep tan skin, brown hair, and bright blue eyes. It was the little girl that gave Kaoli the flower.

I knew the emotions racing through my head had to be Kaoli’s. I was a member of The Collective, and I did not have emotions. Kaoli, however, did not know if he could kill Tate Cardiff. In the training, I never really learned what exactly the relationship between a father and child was like. Collective members are raised as a group of children and we never know our biological parents. We are children of The Collective, nothing more. However, Kaoli did know that it would probably be much more challenging for this little girl to smile brightly after falling down after learning that her father had been murdered. Kaoli looked down at the yellow flower and tried to think about all the workers that the dossier had said Cardiff had taken advantage of. It was no good. Kaoli did not want to kill Tate Cardiff. He was too kind-hearted. I shifted back into my changeling form, the yellow flower falling to the floor. I hid in a dark corner of the room, away from the open window. I produced a loaded crossbow out of my body. Changelings were designed specifically for killing. The ability to create weapons out of our bodies was a large part of that. We left no evidence. I coated the head of the bolt in the poison my body had been producing since I had received this mission. I kept my mind clear and focused on the door to the office. If Kaoli couldn’t kill Cardiff, I would have to become 27 again.

It wasn’t a long wait. The door to Cardiff’s office swung open and he locked himself inside. Once the lock turned, the bolt was set loose from the crossbow. It found its target in the cervical artery in his neck. The poison quickly worked its way through his body and he dropped dead to the ground. I walked over, pulled the crossbow bolt from his neck, and reabsorbed the weapons back into my body. Before I shifted back into Kaoli to make my way out of town, I noticed the yellow flower on the ground. I bent down and gingerly picked it up. My body shifted back into Kaoli and I placed the flower in his lavender hair. Kaoli glanced back at the portrait, the little girl and the dead body of her father lying on the floor. Kaoli had a knot in his throat and a tear streamed down his face. He climbed down the fire escape and rejoined the masses on the streets past the factory. Kaoli was sad the rest of the way out of town. He kept thinking about the little girl that gave him a crumpled yellow flower.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


Catch My Latest Stories!

Be the first to know when I write a new short story!

We don’t spam! You will just receive an email once a week with my latest stories.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *