A Short Story
The wind blew unforgivably through the opened windows, whispering wails against the assassin’s ear. He knelt before the Pechinum Councilor, a man with a face that sagged from the weight of all the years he’d lived, and maintained his focus on the polished pair of boots he wore. The lustrous leather reflected the dancing flames of a candle that failed to survive the constant assault of the wind, burning off and leaving the two men in the dark.
The assassin tapped the ground twice, and the candle came back to life. The Councilor smiled and with a rude gesture, he threw a bag of coins to the floor, right before the assassin. “Half up front, as we agreed.”
The assassin’s eyes drifted up. One of his eyebrows shot up, but he contained the sardonic tone that his voice usually defaulted to. “I wonder how can you trust me not to run away with the money, when you can’t even trust your secretary.”
“Bah,” the Councilor waved at nothing. “Trust has no place in the court. I’ve no need for it at all, much less when I’ve got your family working for me, it’d be a shame if something happened to them.”
The assassin decided not to take the bait, and instead he reached the bag of coins. “It will be done, Councilor.” He turned on his feet and jumped out of the window, not waiting for a reply.
The dark sky full of clouds and the flames that lost intensity at his wake allowed the assassin to run unnoticed through the shadows that the many buildings of Pechinum cast over the city. The angled, tiled roofs and towers with flags hanging from them would give the scenery a colorful tint during daylight hours, but those weren’t the most appropriate for murder.
It wasn’t the first time he ran to the capital, Primum Civitatem, having perfected his heat-step would allow his body to sprint continuously during the night. Part of him wished he would never have to come back to neither city, because what he desired the most was a peaceful life with his family in some secluded town far away from war and political machinations. Still, being the Councilor’s hitman kept his sister and nephews well fed.
He also took advantage of keeping himself up high, climbing over trees and ruins to propel himself by the body heat he exuded from his soles. His favorite set of ruins could be found halfway there, an almost identical set of rectangular shaped stone like towers with square openings that he could fit perfectly into. The porous surface had been overtaken by all sorts of vines and climbing plants, which allowed him to go up faster alongside the hollow metal veins that protruded from the ruins’ walls. From that vantage point, many feet above the sea level, he threw himself into the air and opened his cloak, the wind took hold of him as he crossed the sky like a gliding hawk. From his back, a pair of synthetic wings connected to his tight robes extended, and its design allowed the assassin to appear as a bird of prey to unsuspecting eyes in the distance.
The capital’s castle soon entered his field of vision, and the assassin let himself fall into the earth once he was at a safe distance to do so. He would walk the rest of the way, scurrying into it at a controlled pace to avoid exhaustion.
His dark robes flowed, the cape on his shoulders swishing in tandem with the air currents. The assassin coordinated his movements to the sounds guards made during their rounds, as to not be noticed as he made his way to her chambers. The men he saw had barely any tattoos on their skin as far as the assassin’s eyes could see, so he worried little about them beyond avoiding alerting the entire army.
The Princess’s quarters were atop the tallest tower in the capital’s ivory castle, a white architectural monstrosity that showcased the city’s exuberant style. To him, it was tasteless, and to see it fall as consequence for the conflict to come wouldn’t bother him much. The assassin shook his head and pushed his thoughts of rebellion to the very back of his mind. He was where he wanted to be, he noticed when the air grew unnaturally colder and he had to tighten his coat around himself.
The climb itself was uneventful, and to his surprise, he found the window wide open. Inside, there was only darkness. He stepped in carefully anyway and then remained immobile, waiting for any sound he could hear, any rustling of sheets or a gasp. Nothing came, and the assassin made his way to the wide bed in the middle of the room.
A candle rested on the bed table beside it, and the assassin lit it on with the flicker of a finger, illuminating the sleeping form of the princess. Her hair cascaded all over the covers in glistening waves, and the man swore he could smell her perfume. It was a shame to see such beauty wasted, he thought, but direct confrontation was off the table the moment his eyes glanced at the myriad of tattoos covering the princess’ skin. She must have been incredibly powerful on her own, and he couldn’t have that.
The assassin focused to increase the size of the flame to its limits, feeding a ball of flame that would consume the entire room, woman included, leaving nothing but ashes behind. He stepped back when the fabric on the bed began to be scorched, giving himself a moment of respite to admire his work. It had been easy, incredibly so.
Her hand sprung from the bed with the speed of a lynx, grasping the assassin’s wrist in an unforgiving hold. Her nails dug into his skin painfully, and her freezing palm left his hand with a numb sensation. He gasped, catching how mist escaped from his lips. In front of him, the princess rose into a sitting position, blinked the fire away with the sheer force of her cold will, and turned to the assassin. “Is this all they’ll send tonight? How boring.”
An ice spear, conjured out of thin air, pierced through the assassin’s chest, taking his heart on the way out and nailing it to the wall behind his back. He barely had time to see her one last time, her cool demeanor, her imposing presence, before he died. Not quite alone and definitely forgotten by the time the sun rose on the horizon.
On the neighboring city of Pechinum, the Councilor was pleased to received exactly the news he expected to hear........................