Crouched in the shadows the smell of ash itched through my nose until it forced me to sniffle. I had to remain silent. Still. Invisible. But the bloody ash wouldn’t leave me alone. It was lingering there as a punishment. I knew it.
Breathing silently through my teeth was something my brother could always do, but something I hadn’t had time to learn. He was taken away from me before he taught me everything. And the people who were responsible were about to pay for it. Painfully.
The bell would ring when the smoke reached the top of the house. Of course that was a long distance when the assassin’s guild had seven layers. There shouldn’t be so bloody many of them should there? I had to wait. I had to see.
The bell rang clear. The clattering of the glass bell that shattered. A bell people had only heard once, when the entire guild attacked the city for revenge. It was made of glass for a reason. They didn’t do this often.
They knew I was here.
I pushed myself further back into the shadows willing myself to disappear entirely. The sound of muffled, bare feet echoed around each corner. Not the panicked feet of fleeing assassins, no these were the padded footprints of a search. A late night search which didn’t warrant shoes because none of the people in this building needed clothes to kill. Most of them killed after they had exhausted their target so I doubt many of them really cared who saw them in their night clothes.
“I can smell them.” His voice was nothing more than a whisper, the other side of the bricks. A tiny welp of pain escaped my lips as I willed them to clamp shut. A gruff laugh filled the air.
I didn’t see him. I felt his hand against my face. I felt the stone wall crack my skull. I felt the trickle of blood soak my collar.
“You’re a child.” My eyes had screwed shut the moment head hit the wall. The tears had started to walk slowly across my bunched up cheeks. My knees weakened and my body slumped.
I was about to die.
At least I would see my brother once again.
“Shit. Your Eleanor Parkly aren’t you?” I nodded against his hand. “Well double crap.”
The high zing of his whistle filled the streets, silencing the creaks of doors and hushing the muttering voices. “Why couldn’t you be like three years older,” dragging me from the wall my heels clipped painfully against every cobble, “stupid girl.”
My eyes refused to open. I don’t think I wanted them to. I didn’t want to see this mans face, I didn’t want to see any of their faces again. I wanted them all to burn. Just like my brother.
But I knew that wouldn’t be the case. Not today. Not tomorrow. The moment my toes collided with the sharp rise of wood leading into the house I had only just snuck out of. I had memorised every door on the bottom three floors, when he jerked me left I knew we were heading upstairs.
There was only one reason he was taking me up. And it wasn’t to be killed for this.
Oh Goddess, I don’t want to be taken to him.
“Please.” I muffled against his hand, my lips not moving and my jaw locked hard together. “Please.” I tried again and again as the steps grew steeper. I failed every time.
We passed the third flight of stairs and I was completely lost. My legs didn’t ache because I wasn’t using them. He was dragging me, whether I wanted to go or not. My tears made his grip harder but his fingers were steel and they hand their tips hooked behind my back teeth. I wasn’t going anywhere he didn’t want me to.
The smell of smoke faded the closer to the top we grew. The smell of incense and flowers began to filter through his fingers. We were almost there.
The door swung open without a tap, without a knock, and there were definitely no introductions made. His grip only loosened when I was already colliding towards the floor. My eyes flung open and the room spun.
I kept my eyes on the ground, if I look up they will see the tears soaking my cheeks and the fear behind my eyes. I had come here to kill all of them and I doubt a single one of them was dead. I failed.
“Jacque?” Her velvety voice drifted through the air. “Why is there a filthy child on my floor?” Jacque cleared his throat behind me, clearly the stairs hadn’t exhausted him even is I struggled every step of the way.
“She’s the little fire starter Miss Elasquest.” Oh crap. It wasn’t even Belturn I had been bought to, it was her. The invisible one. I needed to see her. Just once.
My eyes crept across the floor to the legs of a large table a few feet in front of me, heel clad boots folded neatly over each other underneath. There were no flowing dresses, merely the tight fit of darkened leather pants, surrounded by a great mass of thick cloak folds.
Her face was soft, unlike her eyes. They were full of anger and surprise.
“This little welt killed five assassins?” A smile crept at my lips and I begged it to remain hidden.
“What is so funny, girl?” Jacque cleared his throat again, her head snapped up from me making her curled brown hair jutter back before landing almost perfectly on her shoulders once again.
“She isn’t just any girl Ma’am, this is Eleanor Parkly.” Her eyes shot between us, assessing every feature. “I would know her anywhere.”
“Miss Parkly, do you wish to leave this building alive?” I shook my head, honestly I hadn’t thought about living since the moment is fingers found their hold. “It is such a shame that you once again wont be getting your own way. You may find it humorous that you killed five of us tonight, I presume in some kind of payment for our visit to your brother. You wont find it humorous by the end of tomorrow.”
Her steps were so light I didn’t hear her even rise from her chair, her finger pulled my chin up to face her. “It takes a special kind of guts to attack this house. A kind of guts we have a use for. It helps that you have that glitter in your eyes knowing you have killed this night.” She breathed slowly on my face, my skin tingled and pulled tight.
My vision darkened and my body began to slump. Her fingers never left my chin, merely guided me down to the ground. Perhaps she really would let me die here. I doubted it. But it made a nice dream.
The rumours were true.
“Take her down to the rooms, Jacque, start training her tomorrow.” Her fingers disappeared from my chin and stroked away my hair. “Her brother was right. We can use her, she will become the best we have.”
Her words faded to silence and my dreams began to sing.