The Assassin’s Tale

The Assassin’s Tale

An original composition written by John Clay Allen to accompany this story



Inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales




An assassin am I, the destroyer of life

The essence of fear, the bringer of strife

A professional to be sure, many years have I labored

Many lives have I snuffed, with a conscience unwavered

My tale is brief, for it is as they say

Actions speak louder than words on any given day

I’ll tell of the night in a small, peaceful town

When the rivers ran red for miles around

And thousands of tears soaked into the ground

Oh, what happened that night in that small, peaceful town?

Not a soul survived to see the next day

But no soul could have lived with those memories anyway

Some say it was monsters, some say it was plague

But the truth is simple: ‘twas an assassin’s blade



It is a mysterious thing, that men would pay

Gold coins to see lives washed away

Once there was a baker with a grudge against a smith

The baker’s hatred for the man eclipsed

All reason, rhyme, and rhythm in his mind

His brooding darkened with the passing time

His resentment ensured amends could not be made

So the baker resolved to see the smith laid in a grave

All the baker’s money was soon invested in

The most dangerous of men—a professional assassin

When the killer came to leave his mark

The night was cold, the moon was dark

And even the stars withheld their light

As if by some high power or might

They foresaw what would happen that terrible night

And closed their eyes to the awful sight

He was dressed all in black, a shadow was he

He slipped to the smithy, no eye could see

The front door yielded to his persuasive touch

For not a lock was made that troubled him much

The room was still warm from a day’s work at the forge

On tables lay new axes and swords

The assassin ascended to the second floor

And crept along the hall to the second door

Death entered the bedroom, a life to take

But was stopped in its tracks—the smith was awake

Their gazes met, the killer paused

And perhaps it was this hesitation that caused

The assassin to make his first mistake

His own principal rule he was about to break

Never speak with your victims, cursed is the man

Who converses with those whose lives he must ban

He must have seen something in the smith’s blue eye

That told him this man was not meant to die

And just for a moment, the killer let his thoughts go

To the hundreds he had murdered, some so long ago

And for the first time in his life, the assassin would feel

The smallest drop of pity for the men he had killed

The two exchanged words, and though they were brief

The assassin was moved—he kept his steel sheathed

He left that night without drawing his blade

The smith’s life he had undeniably saved

As the assassin made his way back to the stable

Thoughts whirled through his head—he was confused and disabled

So deep in thought, he could have walked into a limb

That is why the old man’s voice startled him

“Who are you and what do you want in my town?

“Why do you lurk when no one else is around?

“I don’t much like young miscreants like you

“And just for that I’m taking you to

“The village jail—now don’t try to run!

“You can’t escape from the things that you’ve done!”

And from the shadows emerged a man frail and old

Years of peace had made him so bold

He was equipped with no armor, but sported a straw hat

He was unarmed, save for the wooden staff in his grasp

The assassin would have laughed before striking him down

But he needed to get away, he hated this town

He didn’t feel like killing—if only he knew…

“Stand aside old fool, I have no business with you”

“Well, well,” the old man replied, “I’ll have you know

“I’m Captain of Guards, and no one speaks to me so”

“I said stand aside, I won’t say it again”

The assassin felt his anger returning again

And then from the darkness arose the captain’s guards

Four strong men, armored and armed

“I’ve done nothing wrong!” the assassin cried

“Take him away!” the captain replied

Then the old man hit the assassin—he swung his rod hard

The decrepit captain had played his last card

Eight inches of the coldest steel in the land

Found a place in his heart—the staff dropped from his hand

And before that first body had hit the ground

God himself turned his face from that small, peaceful town

The guards were on the killer like flies on a bull

But were summarily slaughtered at the assassin’s will

The fight had caused quite a ruckus however

Every man in the town was awake in short measure

Candles were lit, shutters thrown wide

And every eye rested on the grisly scene outside

In a pool of blood stood a man clad in black

Five dead were at his feet, by some mishap

Tranquility had been shattered after decades of peace

And every villager arose to assault life’s thief

The doors flew open, the peasants emerged

Carrying torches and pitchforks, shouting vile words

They encircled that poor, wretched ghost of a man

A crowd of great number, like grains of sand

And above the curses that were shouted there

The threats of death and promises of despair

Rose a high, clear voice—the smith had climbed

To the top of a crate—his voice was sublime

“Don’t hurt him you fools! He’s saved my life!

“He’s done a good deed this terrible night

“A dark man, to be sure, but his heart is good

“Now throw down your weapons, save yourselves if you would!”

The mob jeered the smith, and the baker stepped forth

A curse left his lips—he felt no remorse

“Quiet, you dog! Close your treacherous mouth!

“What gold did you pay to buy this man out?

“If a professional killer can’t damn one soul

“I’ll do it myself—my blood runs cold!”

And then the baker, with all his malice and hate

Plunged his dagger into the smith, and sealed his fate

As the assassin looked out and saw the smith die

A single crystal tear dropped from his eye

And that tear shook the foundations of the earth itself

For such compassion from a killer had never been felt

Then the bloodlust rose in the assassin’s eyes

A crimson tide filled him inside

Every ignorant fool in this village would die

Every woman and child would be made to cry

And what happened next, I cannot describe

Every soul that did in that village abide

Was precipitously slain—not one survived

And the rivers bore despair far and wide

Like an artist he worked, the assassin that night

His blade was his brush, on a canvas of fright

Like a dancer he moved, on a nightmarish stage

None could stand before him, none arose to save

I won’t mention details, I’ll simply say

That when the sun rose the very next day

A hundred bodies lay in the clay

Every soul in that village had been forced to play

The deadly game of courtship with fate

Most had learned far too late

That the wrath of an assassin is deadly as a blight

Colder than the winter, darker than the night



I know from me, many answers you seek

Am I the one of whom I speak?

Did I take all those lives that night?

Was it mine, or another’s plight?

These secrets and more, I’ll never tell

I’ll keep my silence ‘till tolling of the bell

But perhaps I’ll see you again on some date

If a price paid in gold has sealed your fate

May God have mercy, for I will have none

I’ll meet you when my life is done

But until that day, I’ll faithful be

To the assassins’ creed, ‘tis enough for me

And if you flee from death’s dark, lonely veil

Here’s to hoping you’ve learned from my tale

If you trust in the light, you will only fail

For in the dark of night, only shadows prevail




Cover photo by cocoparisienne on Pixabay

39 thoughts on “The Assassin’s Tale

  1. This was great! I really liked the rhythm of the story, and I can definitely see the Canterbury Tales influence. You’ve crafted a really great poem here because not only is the story interesting, but the composition itself is interesting too. It felt like the kind of poem you would read in hushed whispers around a crackling campfire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Assassin’s Tale | Echoshadow

  3. Wow glued to your writing. I agree I see a book of stories in brilliant rhyme. Great story I can visualize this in an illustrated book with more of your great stuff. Just in awe. Love your work. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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