The ancestors wanted their Magics back safely in their own corporeal arms. And that meant that the Book of Pattegon had to be stolen from the Inner Council itself. Which in turn meant that a little bit of chaos had to be created.
(Rating: 15, Warnings: violence, graphic imagery, Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure) Featured Image Credit: Panoramas, Flickr
Mae crept along the top of the rafter with a cat-like grace.
The noise from the dinner party below covered her movements nicely, just as she had intended. The mark sat at the head of the table, dressed in a dark silk suit which looked like it could cost most of Mae’s wages for a year.
Sometimes, Mae wished she was still part of that world, dressed in riches and dining with the most powerful people in the Nation. She missed the feel of rich silk dressed against her skin, instead of the harsh, course trousers and shirt she wore now. She had considered trying to sneak into the party under one of her many false aliases, but this Mark would be able to spot her from a mile off, however much makeup and disguises she wore to lighten her skin to pass as someone from the Outlying Regions.
Her Mark, after all, was family.
Mae reached the crossbeam in the centre of the ceiling, and slunk into its protective shadow. The lights from the sides of the room illuminated the ceiling, a fraught attempt by Mae’s brother to try and protect himself from an attacker getting into the manor from above. Mae did have to give him some credit, the defences for Bwelfold Manor could rival any of the Institutes that lay in the centre of the city. She had been forced to plan for two months to just ensure she got inside the building safely.
Now, however, she just had to wait for the opportune moment.
The noise of the chatter died down as Mae’s brother rose to his feet to give the after dinner speech. His bride, the Rael of Bwelfold, would be seated at the other end of the table as was custom. The Groom always gave his speech first, before his Bride would then deal with the business relationships that would no doubt form from the marriage.
“Greetings,” Mae’s brother said, his oily voice sliding across the party like a plague silencing the living, “I hope you have all enjoyed tonight’s revelries.”
Mae sniffed, as she slid a small piece of string out of her pocket. Commonly known as Assassins Thread, the string was made from the heartstrings of the snowbeasts that lived in the deep south and could support the weight of ten men, whilst being almost as invisible as spider’s silk. It was the thread that allowed assassins to seemingly ‘fly’ as they would descend down from above like death’s angels.
“Tonight is about a new start,” Mae’s brother said, “for us all. In the past, we have been enemies. However, from this night forth we go forward as friends.”
There was a rapturous applause from the assembled congregation below. Mae took her chance, leaning forward and throwing the Assassins Thread like a lasso around the supporting cross beam that was opposite her. Her hand lashed out like a snake, catching the other end of the string in her gloved fingers before tying the end securing to the other piece of thread as she had been trained. The other end was attached to a complex mechanism that was laced into her harness underneath her clothing. When she descended from above, the ratchet system would ensure she would not plummet into the table below.
“I know that many of you are doubtful as to my heritage,” Mae’s brother said, as the applause died down, “and there are those of you who would seek to dissuade my Bride from entering into this marital agreement.”
Mae scoffed as she checked the weapons that were in their holders at her waist. It had been a spur of the moment decision to have the dagger sheaths built into a neat black waistcoat, as was the fashion for women not a few months before. Mae liked the neatness of it, and the fact that the dragon design on the back of the knife’s handles seemed to blend seamlessly with the black of the material.
“However,” Mae’s brother continued, “from this day forth we will continue to provide a strong resistance against the Guilds that threaten the stability of the Inner Regions.”
Just as the applause died down, Mae swung herself down from the rafters, descending down onto the party.
The screams of shock from the party guests died down when Mae glared at them. There was something special about how she could make even the most powerful noble crawl in their skin as they looked upon one who could silence their mortal heart in a few swift movements of her hand.
It’s quite nice really, Mae thought to herself.
“I disagree, Brother.” Mae said, casually slipping one of her knives out of its sheath to cut the Assassins Thread. Her other hand pulled a small pinch of black powder out of her pocket, and with a flick of her wrist, the powder catching alight from the small flint that was in her shirt sleeve.
Most people thought it was just a party trick, but then most people didn’t realise that the Assassins Thread would shrink when intensive heat was applied. The Thread would disappear up into the rafters, and with it went the mystery of how Mae had descended seemingly by magic.
Now only if I had some proper magic, Mae thought. After all, that was what this entire exercise was about, in truth. But Mae had put a special request that she was allowed to cause a small bit of anarchy at her brother’s expense, just for fun.
“You,” Mae’s brother said.
Mae flashed her brother a cold smile, as her free hand pulled out her other knife. The edge of the blade was not straight, instead it curved like the cresting waves on the sea, designed to cause as much internal injury as possible when used against their intended target.
“You think you can hide away in your riches and forget the poverty that is occurring in the world?” Mae said, as she walked down the centre of the long table, casually kicking the food out of the way as she did. It was bit theatrical, Mae would admit, but the idea was to cause social instability, and that meant pinning this little extravaganza on social inequality.
“You came from this,” Mae’s brother said, dark eyes speaking far more anger than his voice allowed. Mae smirked, knowing that the tight bun on the top of her head and the shaved insignia down her temples marked her as anything but a member of the upper classes. The hairstyle was one worn by those who worked in the gutters and the streets, a hairstyle which had been developed into something of a badge of honour amongst thieves and paupers alike.
However, the design shaved around her temples marked Mae as someone far more dangerous than a mere thief. Every noble in the room knew of the Assassins Guild, and every noble knew of their insignia – a raven carrying a skull in its claws.
The myths about the Guild are the only thing that’s keeping me alive, Mae thought to herself. She forced her nerves to one side, not wanting to show a hint of weakness to her raptured audience.
“That was until you threw me out,” Mae replied cooly, spinning with a relaxed ease to address the remaining guests down the table, “or didn’t he tell you that his own sister joined the very Guild that you want to stop? I guess he missed out that part, he was always embarrassed when his little sister did something stupid.”
“Leave now, and you will be spared your life,” Mae’s brother said. Mae turned back towards her brother, and laughed at his skinny face.
“I don’t think that’s how this will play out,” she said, lowering the tone of her voice. Twale, her tutor, had commended her on her use of theatrics when taking down her targets, especially the way she could make them feel true fear as she went in for the kill.
Mae stalked down the table, keeping eye contact with her brother. He had nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide.
Fear was beginning to replace the anger in his eyes.
He would hate to know that it’s his dearly beloved Bride whose putting me up to this, Mae thought. It hadn’t been hard to pull on a few strings for this operation, Mae’s brother wasn’t particularly well liked and it was only a matter of time until they found someone who wanted him dead.
It was a bonus that the person who wanted him dead was his ‘dearly beloved’.
“You left me for dead,” Mae said. Her arm whipped around in a practiced movement, throwing one of her knives towards her brother’s shoulder. The blade flew true, sliding easily through the shoulder muscle and embedding itself in the bone beneath.
Her brother screamed like a rabbit caught in a hunter’s trap, slumping back down into his chair. His Magics leaked out of the knife wound, like ghostly green tendrils seeking out a new master. It took all of Mae’s control not to try and snatch at the Magics herself, as the familiar twinge of jealous swum up inside her.
He had been able to buy access to those Magics, the Magics that Mae so sourly wanted to learn. It had been her dream to learn how to access the hidden part of the world, ever since she was a little girl. Her brother’s refusal to let her be tutored had been the cause of Mae refusing to eat her dinner on that fateful evening.
It was because she hadn’t eaten her dinner that her brother had her thrown on the streets.
It’s his own fault really, Mae thought to herself, as she closed in for the kill. She kicked out her brother’s dinner from the table, sending the succulent meats and vegetables flying towards the guests who dived out of the way in fright.
Kneeling down in the empty space, she looked her sibling dead in the eye. She was close to him now, close enough to feel the gentle caress of the green Magics trail across her arm. It wasn’t hers to access, not yet, but the yearning to learn it was so deeply embedded that it brought out a side of aggression that sounded even alien to Mae.
“Should have taught me what I wanted,” Mae whispered into her brother’s ear, enjoying his quiet sobs of fear.
“Sister,” her brother pleaded. It was a weak plead, like the last dying noises of an animal who had been lead up the temple slopes to slaughter.
Mae leaned back on her heels, looking at her brother’s watery eyes. Idly, her free hand danced in the green Magics, marvelling at its colour and form.
“We’re even now,” Mae said, smiling like Iga the Death Goddess herself had possessed her.
Then Mae whipped her blade across her brother’s throat.