Moving swiftly through the shadows, he kept his target in his sights. She had not yet noticed she was being followed home. Someone had paid a great deal of money to take care of the banker guilty of treason. He was to break in, and find any incriminating documents worthy of blackmail, but if it came to it, he’d have to kill the target. Normally he didn’t deal in any kind of killing. It was a fate worse than death, being killed by another human being; whether by weapon or magic. Although, over the years, magic had disappeared from this land. No one had questioned it.
She led her stalker right to her house, although it was the husband he was after. He waited in a nearby tree to watch. He needed to get a feel for their everyday life. And that’s when he saw it. They had a kid. He knew then, he couldn’t kill them. Just get in, find some blackmail worthy evidence, and get out. It wasn’t until after they ate did they all finally go to bed. He waited an extra hour to make sure they were actually asleep. Not a peep came from the house. So he decided to make his move.
Opening a window on the bottom floor, he carefully made his way into the still house. Looking through every file and drawer he could spot. Nothing. Not making a sound, he headed up the stairs to search the bankers’ room. As he walked up the steps, there was a loud thud. He drew his blade. Making it half way to the room, he could smell a foul odor emanating from behind the door. He slowly pushed open the door to the bedroom, and the smell grew stronger. He could tell the floor was wet from the reflection of the moonlight. Scanning the room, his target, and the wife, laid in a pool of their own blood. In the far corner, was a small child. A little girl. She looked up at the man standing in front of her, with no expression on her face, and covered in blood.
“Garrett! Just the man I was looking for!”
Someone hit my back, causing me to spill my drink. I placed the cup on the taverns bar and looked at whomever.
“If you value your hand,” I said coldly, “I wouldn’t think it wise to do that again.” I quickly placed my hand behind the man’s head and slammed it down onto the bar. “But next time, just don’t approach me.”
I kept my eye on two figures near the back of the tavern. There was some kind of transaction going on between the two, and I was interested in the money. My business was rather slow, so I need some kind of income. Money is all that’s ever on my mind. The hooded figure took a coin pouch and left the tavern. I followed shortly after that to keep a fair distance. The figure was elusive, I’ll give them that. Even a master of shadows like I had trouble keeping up. The figure disappeared behind an ally way. When I turned the corner, the person was gone. I slowly made my way through the ally, cautious of anything and a dagger drawn.
“I hope you weren’t planning on robbing me,” said a harsh voice. “Because if you were, I’d have to kill you.”
I turned to face whoever. They wore dark brown leather and a red cloak with a hood. But by the figure and voice, I could tell it was a woman. The hood was pushed down passed half her face, and I could tell she was smiling. My grip tightened on my dagger.
“Relax, I don’t bite very hard,” she said.
“Your accent. You’re not from Kingsport, are you?”
“So you noticed.” Her smile flashed in the moonlight. “I saw you watching me and my associate back at the pub. I knew you would follow me.”
“Then you know I’m only after your pouch,” I replied, holding out my hand.
She placed a familiar looking pouch in my hand.
“This is mine,” I realized after looking it over. “How did you get this?”
She chuckled. “You’re not the only one to embrace the shadows.” She began to circle me. “I have some outstanding contracts I need dealt with, if you’re interested. They pay pretty well too, and I’m in need of some good hands. Mind you don’t care if your hands get a little bloody.”
“I don’t kill people. I just steal from them.”
“Then you’re in the wrong line of business buddy.” She turned away from me.
“Who are you?”
“The more important question is, who will I become? When you’re ready to make some real coin, you’ll have no problem finding me. Will be seeing you again.”
She disappeared into the shadows. I didn’t know what to make of what had just happened. I felt a hand upon my shoulder. I whirled around and slammed whoever’s face into the ground.
“Geez! Calm it, Garrett. It’s just me.”
“Bloody hell Alex!”I released his collar. “You know better than to sneak up behind me like that!”
“What’s got your knickers in a twist?”
Alex and I basically grew up together on the streets. We ran them. We’re closer then brothers, always there for one other. It took a lot for us to become feared thieves. Everyone knew who we were. If we targeted you, you’d never know until it was too late.
I felt him tug at my sleeve. “So I caught wind of a potential target. Has some pretty valuable stuff, if you’re up for it.”
“You know I’m always up for a good grab.” I playfully hit his shoulder. “What better way to spend your fifteenth birthday.”
“You remembered! How touching,” he mocked.
My brother led me through the streets, drawing closer to the Nobleman Quarters. I held Alex’s hood to keep him from walking past the arch.
“What are we doing here brother? The last time we were here, you almost got killed, and almost killed a man.”
“We don’t kill people.”
“We’re thieves, I know. Just trust me.” He pointed to a house on the corner. “Jerry Haroldson. I got word on a contract that he has an enchanted dagger, and it’s worth a lot of money.”
“Contract? What do you mean contract?”
“Meaning we’re not the only ones after it.”
Hearing that put a knot in my stomach. “Who else is after it?”
He seemed to hesitate.
“I don’t know! But if we want it, it’s best we go now.”
I exhaled. “Fine, but we go by rooftop.” I looked at the houses and tugged him along. “We would stick out too much on the streets.”
Alex quietly opened the window to Jerry Haroldson’s manor. I slipped inside and Alex followed close in-tail. He led me through the house to the study. Alex and I looked around for a while, no dagger as far as I saw it.
‘Well?’ I motioned to him. ‘Where is it?’
Alex and I created our own language to use in silence during a heist. So no one would know we were there until it was too late.
’I don’t know.’ He looked around aimlessly. ‘Look for a hidden switch or something. This guy is rich. Don’t think he would keep his most prized possession out in the open.’
We looked around for a switch for a while, and then it hit me. The bookcase. The simplest of all hidden switch spots. I raided the bookcase until there was only one book left on the shelf, and I chuckled.
‘Are you crazy?!’ Alex motioned, ‘Someone will hear you!’
I smiled and looked at my brother. Pulling the false book, revealing a hidden safe behind a nearby painting. Alex went right to work on it. Pressing his ear to the door and turning the dial. Looking through the books, I found some interesting files. Mister Haroldson seemed to have been embezzling money from local businesses. Information worth taking, and selling. There was scuffling upstairs. Alex opened the door to the safe and I snatched the dagger, placing it in a holster on the inside of my coat.
‘Let’s go see what’s going on upstairs,’ Alex suggested.
Before I could protest, he was half way up the stairs. I quickly followed, not making a sound. Alex stood on the outside of the master bedroom. He motioned for me to go in. We both peeked around the door jam. Two hooded figures stood with Haroldson on his knees. One black and one red. The red one had a knife to his throat as the black drove one in his wife’s heart. We watched in shock as the two looked straight at us. Masks covered their faces, hoods over their head. Red hood swiftly cut Haroldson’s throat and the two quickly escaped through the window. My brother grabbed the back of my coat and yanked me away from the house, leaving from where we came.
I slammed Alex against the wall of my hut. “Start talking, brother.” I was sure to emphasize the word ‘brother.’
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You lie!”My grip tightened around his throat.
He gasped. “I heard it on the street. Someone wanted him dead, and I knew of the dagger already.”
“So what did you plan to do? Kill him with the dagger? We’re thieves, Alex! We don’t kill people! We just steal from them.”
“And what good does that do? Assassination is where the money is at.” He pushed me off. “People need master thieves less and less each day, Garrett. When was the last time someone hired us to steal something?”
I pulled out the dagger. “We still have this. Should fetch a nice price.” I dug it into my desk. “Go get Dylan. He should know how much to fence this for and to who.”
Alex just stood before me, glaring. I got in his face.
“Go. Get. Dylan.” I breathed.
He exhaled in my face and turned away. “As you wish, brother.”
The way he said brother shot chills down my spine. Never has he defied me. What was I doing wrong?
Dylan was a long time associate of mine. When I did freelance stealing, he would always find the best buyer for the most money. After getting his cut, of course. He plucked me off of the streets one day and took me in. Trained me in the way of the shadows, and that’s when I found Alex.
Abandon as a baby in a nearby dumpster, I brought him back to Dylan. We raised him to be like us. When I turned ten, is when Dylan let me loose on the streets again to fend for myself. I made a name for myself, and for my brother when he later joined me. Although we never saw eye to eye on everything we did. I gave everything to bring Alex up, and all he wants to do is run wild and kill people. I’m the only thing keeping him in check. I’m the only thing keeping him alive.
“I’m very disappointed in you, Red. Very much indeed,” the senchial exclaimed. “You two are the most highly established assassins in all of Kingsport. I paid a lot of money for this job. It wasn’t supposed to be that messy!”
Red shook her head, “I understand your concern messer, but we were interrupted.”
“By who?” He spoke through his teeth.
“Two thieves. Locals, by the names of Alex and Garrett.”
“The Master Boys? Are you sure?”
Red smiled from behind her mask, “I’m the head of the business, I must know all.” She turned to the man in the dark cloak next to her.“Fetch me Isabella and Gregory.”
The man nodded and walked out of the room.
“What do you plan to do?”
Red crossed her arms and turned to the large window behind her. “I have a mole. And I do not like to be double crossed. The two will be brought in for questioning.”
“Will you kill them?”
Red turned back to the senchial. “If it comes to that. I can’t have these kinds of things happening. Bad for business. On the other hand, I could use a few extra hands.”
The man returned with two more masked and hooded figures, both wore velvet cloaks. They bowed to Red.
“Bring me the Master Boys.”
The two bowed again, and then left. But the one still remained. The senchial watched him closely.
“What is he to you?” then senchial asked.
“A body guard, I suppose.” Red sat at a round table and fittled with her drink, nodding at the man.
“He’s been with me since the beginning. Swore to always protect me.”
The sound of a gun clicking came from behind the senchial, and the hooded man pressed it against the back of his head. Red sat forward.
“Do you take me for a fool, senchial?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I told you, I don’t like being double crossed.” She tipped over her drink. “You honestly think an assassin doesn’t know her poisons?”
“You failed me!”
She pulled down her mask. “And now you die.”
The trigger was pulled and blood splattered across the nearby wall. Red pulled a rag from her belt and wiped her face as the senchials body fell lifeless to the floor.
“That’s the third time this month someone has attempted to kill me,” Red said looking at the body. Then she smile, “And failed horribly, I might add.”
“It comes with the job,” the man said, also removing his mask. “Everyone fears you. Some even want to be you.”
Red sighed. “I suppose you’re right.” She stood up and snapped her fingers. Two more men in dark hoods and red tunics walked in, then bowed. “Clean this mess up. You know what to do with the body.”
The two bowed again and went to work. Red’s body guard caught her arm. “Now that we’re alone.”
“Not now,” She brushed passed him quickly.
“Where are you going?”
She glared at him. “We have some assassins to interrogate.”
“You can’t question all of your apprentices. We have over two dozen people here.”
“I don’t like knowing someone on the inside is spilling our secrets. Whether it was deliberate or not. Whoever it is, needs to be dealt with.”
Ripping her arm away, Red walked through the halls of the facility with her guard following behind. They stood on the high balcony overseeing the floor level. People wearing red and black went about their daily routines.
“I can’t think of anyone that would betray me,” she said. “No one wants to be labeled a traitor by me.”
“You said it yourself, it could have been by accident someone said something. Everyone has ears.”
“I know, I know.” She sighed. “You think my assassins would be a little more considerate where they talk about business. We’ve been operating under the kings’ nose for almost five years. We’re feared, no one talks about us. If he ever found out, he’d have us all sent to exile. I’ve done everything to make this place for all my apprentices. My family.”
Two people were thrown into the room, hands tied and bags around their heads. Isabella and Gregory took them right to the library.
Red smiled. “Show time.”
The two grinned at each other and jumped over the railing to the first floor, following after the thieves.
Someone tore the bags off our heads and the light from the fire burned my eyes. Alex was knelt next to me, both of our hands bond behind our backs.
“Well looky what we have here,” said a voice.
We looked up to see a girl perched on a table in front of us. She didn’t look more than twenty years of age. She wore dark leather and a red cloak, her blonde hair pulled up in a high ponytail, but I knew it draped well past her waist. She grinned at us, motioning for the two guards to leave. That left Alex and I alone with her and a man with bright red hair in the back. She hoped down from the table and paced in front of us.
“My name is Ian Black,” she said. “And my associate in the back is my bodyguard, Felix. Welcome to my fine establishment.”
“And just were exactly are we?” I asked. I kept scanning the room for an easy exit.
She grinned evilly at us. “The Redwings headquarters.”
I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. The Redwings were notorious in the providence. Everyone in Kingsport feared them, hoping no one would send them after themselves. The thought of it. A guild of assassins being paid to kill people. All of them. It made a fire inside of me ignite.
“Why have you brought us here?” Alex asked. “We did nothing against you.”
“Didn’t you?” She grabbed Alex’s collar.
I tried to lung at her, but her bodyguard was suddenly behind me, holding me down to keep me from attacking her.
“Jerry Haroldson?” she continued. “He was a Redwing contract. That dagger? Was supposed to be ours. Who told you about the contract?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re lying! Who was it?”
“I don’t know, damn it!”
She back handed Alex so hard, he almost flew across the room. Two guards came into the library and picked us both up.
“Throw these rats in the dungeon!” She barked. “No food or water until one of them squeals!”
As Alex was pulled up, I saw a great deal of distress of his face.
“This place has a dungeon?” he wheezed.
As they threw us out of the room, Ian called after them. “And make sure you separate them!” She slammed the door behind her.
The two guards pushed us along, keeping us at a fair distance from each other. They took us far below the surface, in to a room full of cells. They placed me on the far end, away from my brother.
I saw Alex sigh. ‘Well what now?’
‘For once, I don’t know brother.’
‘We should try to get some sleep. I feel like we are going to be here a while.’
I fell back onto the hay sprawled across the floor. What has he gotten us in to?
“It’s been four days, Ian,” Felix pointed out. “We’ve beaten, tortured, and starved the both of them. We’re getting nowhere with these two. And I’m pretty sure they’ll die before giving up the information we want.” He placed his hands on her desk. “The more we focus on them, the more contracts we put off. And the more contracts we ignore, the more money we lose.”
Ian slammed her hands down and got in his face. “You honestly think I don’t know that?! These two grew up on the streets. They’re hard. They know when to talk, they know when to shut up. I will break one of them sooner or later.”
“You’re wasting your time, Ian. Neither of them will break any time soon, and we can’t completely starve them.”
“Can’t we? We’ve killed people in worse ways. You should remember who you’re talking to, Felix.” She flashed her teeth. “You’re talking to the girl who killed her own parents. Twice.” Her face was just inches away from his. “Don’t question my authority again, Felix. I would hate to have you killed.”
The library door flew open, and a girl walked in. Felix quickly put on his mask. Ian stood straight and glared at the girl.
“You best have a damn good reason for coming in here without being summoned,” Ian growled.
“The young one is ready to talk,” the girl replied. “Reason enough.”
Ian and Felix looked at each other and headed for the door. Ian stopped in front of her young assassin.
“I’ll deal with you later.”
She and Felix went to the interrogation room where Alex awaited them, bruised and covered in dried blood. Ian sat in front of the young boy.
“How old are you?” She asked.
Alex hesitated. “Fifteen.”
“You’re pretty young to be a thief of these streets. It’s dog-eat-dog out there.”
“Garrett has taken care of me my whole life.”
“Just how old is your friend?”
“He’s twenty-four. He’s like my brother. We’ve always watched out of each other and we always will.”
“So let’s get to the real question. Where is the dagger, Alex?”
“Gone.” He didn’t look up from the table. “We gave it to Dylan to sell. Since we didn’t collect our share, he’s most likely already spent it.”
Ian sat back, “The fencer. I should have guessed.” She turned to Felix, “Have Amber and Dante go after the fencer.”
Felix nodded and left the room. Ian held Alex by his arm and dragged him to a cell next to Garrett, throwing him in, and locking the door. She began to walk away, but then looked back over her shoulder.
“Supper will be served to you at four. Savor it. It’s your only meal each day.” And she disappeared up the steps.
Screaming. I could hear screaming. A young girl. A whip crack? I ran through the darkness.
“Max?” I called.
Who is Max?
I broke into a run, heading for nothing but darkness. Two figures began to come into view. A small dark haired girl was curled up on the floor, with a rather large man that stood over her.
“How do you like that, you stupid little bitch?!” he bellowed. He cracked the whip across her back and she cried out in pain. “Take that!”
Blood trickled down her back from the open wounds, and she cried.
“Stay away from her!” I yelled.
I don’t think they could hear me. He cracked the whip once again. I felt the girls blood splatter across my face upon the whips recoil.
I awoke the next morning in a pool of sweat. A small girl stood outside my cell just staring at me.
“What do you want girl?” I asked coldly, wiping my brow.
“I heard you screaming from upstairs,” she said. She was holding two silver platters that she slid under mine and Alex’s cell doors.
“Sarah!” he said weakly. “How glad am I to see you.”
“You know her?” I asked suspicious.
“She was the one who told me about the Haroldson contract.”
I quickly reached through the bars and grabbed his collar. Ramming his face into the iron that separated us.
“You do realize that when that bitch finds out, she’ll kill us, right!?”
“You mean IF she finds out, brother. Which she won’t. That is, if you can keep your blasted mouth shut for once.”
“This isn’t how we do things, Alex! You know this!”
“Not everything needs to be your way! You’re way is never always the right way. Assassination is where the money is at. Why can’t you see that?”
“Because unlike assassins, I care for human life!”
Sarah recoiled as I said that. Someone then yanked her up by her hood.
“Well, well,” said a voice.
As I looked up, I released Alex’s collar. Ian had a hold of Sarah’s hood, Felix stood behind her. She wore slick silver armor with a full arm guard. Her other arm was bare, revealing rather interesting tattoos.
“What do we have here?” She looked at Sarah, who was shaking terribly. “It seems as if we’ve found our mole. I should have guessed. I knew you were seeing this thief on the side. My files going missing after having you on a job.” She threw Sarah to the side, and two other caught her. “Take care of her.”
“In what way master?” one of them asked.
“I don’t care how it gets done. Just do it!”
They both smiled. “As you wish.”
Sarah screamed as the two tugged her alone behind a wall. Shots rang through the dungeons. Ian turned back to us.
She pointed at me, “You. You I want alive. So you can suffer, and know to never cross me again.” Her head slowly cocked to the side to look at Alex. “You on the other hand.”
The cell door opened on its own, and she walked inside. Alex backed up as far as he could in the corner.
“You, need to be dealt with.” She quickly wrapped her hand around his throat and lifted him off his feet. “I don’t take well to people who lie to me.”
Ian’s arm guard and tattoos began to glow a faint red. In one movement, she thrust her arm through Alex’s chest. The sound was horrifying. Like all his ribs broke at once. Alex’s eyes widened as she twisted her arm, and he fell limp to the ground. Felix tossed her a towel to wipe off the blood from her armor. I watched her in horror.
“H-How..” I stuttered, “Did you do that?”
“There are those who practice magic, and those who are born with it.”
I looked at my dead brother. A clean hole from where her hand was, now draining him of blood.
“Magic?” I repeated. “But magic disappeared from this land decades ago.”
She knelt down to my eye level. “One shouldn’t believe all he hears on the street. Some of us have been blessed with supernatural abilities.”
She stood up to talk to her guards.
“Dispose of the body, throw him out with it.” She placed a hand on one of the guard’s chests and looked at him, “Keep him alive, but use the chute so he can’t find his way back here, ever. I can’t have someone else wanting to kill me.”
“As you command, master.”
The brute grabbed my arm and yanked me along, the other carried my brother’s lifeless body. They pushed me down a dark whole, and threw Alex after me. I found myself on a trash ship. It was raining. The heavens were crying. My brother. My best friend, my baby brother, lay dead next to me. I could no longer control my emotions. I held my brother, and I wept.
Revenge. I swear revenge on those who killed you, Alex. I will avenge your death, even if it sends me to mine. Ian Black, and her guild, will burn.