Drama Fantasy

The Bane of The Damned

By: srose12
Nov. 28, 2018
Average Rating: 4.17

The Assassin of Isomare always did his best work in the darkest hours before dawn.

Fireworks of dancing dragons and flittering bumblebees crackled brilliantly across the night sky. The townspeople flooded the capital square outside the gates of the palace in honor of the Verntide Festival, a commemoration of the first waves of spring. Set to last from dusk until dawn, songs of the cheering crowd were loud enough to reach the hill country beyond the great city’s borders. They danced, and laughed, and drank in the infectious air of celebration.

All the while, not one of them aware of the life being stolen just a few streets away. It was a small alley just behind the cathedral where the assassin made his move. He had followed the trail of blood from the rooftops to finish off his prey. His target directly below dragged himself down the alleyway with a single outstretched arm, grunting every moment or some with each bit of exertion.

Begging to be put out of his misery.

The assassin dropped down into the cobblestoned street, boots splashing in the sewage that let out just ahead. The man’s pursuit at escape turned desperate as the assassin’s footsteps echoed against the surrounding brick walls, but with one arrow planted deep in his thigh, firm in his chest, and square in the opposite kneecap there was no hope that this man would walk, let alone live to see the sun rise again.

As the distance between the two dwindled, the assassin wondered for a fleeting moment if his victims had ever sensed close death had been before they even discovered him lurking in the shadows. If they had ever woken up for the last time of their existence and tasted ephemerality like withering ashes on the tongue.

Or maybe he was overthinking it, maybe they had no warning at all.

The assassin drew twin blades from the sheathes on his back.

At the sound of the swords the man flipped over, but the assassin was already there, pressing a foot into the man’s already punctured chest, purging a groan from him. With the tip of his sword, the assassin drew back the man shirt sleeve, revealing the black phoenix worn by every member of the Hasaran family.

“If you tell me where the rest of your family festers,” The assassin said, “I’ll let you live.”

“I’m not afraid of you, death-bringer.” The man wheezed.

The assassin almost huffed a laugh. Most thought themselves unique when facing the gleam of his reaper. But of his last thirteen victims, all members of House Hasaran, eleven had said something similar.

And of those eleven, he’d turned nine into liars just before they died.

The assassin tipped his head to the side, “Then you are allowed to make one final request.”

At first, the Hasaran looked as if he might deny the gift out of defiance, but after drawing in a ragged breath, he nodded, "Only a coward allows a man to die while still behind the shadow of a mask."

To see his face. Not an uncommon request.

The assassin knelt down to him, pulling back the dark green hood that revealed a freshly shaved head and chestnut skin. Finally, he lowered the black mask that draped across his face just beneath his eyes.

Another round of fireworks boom behind them, washing the Hasaran in blue light as he took in the assassin’s face, the markings that lay there.

Then the Hasaran smiled.

Though he laid at the threshold of death’s door, the man flashed a crooked red-toothed grin up at the assassin, “Who do you serve, boy?” A laugh bubbled up in him so rich he could barely get out the words.

The cheers of the crowd swelled again, and the assassin brought his blade down, turning laughter into screams that shattered soundlessly into the night.

#

Ten. He’d exposed ten liars now.

The Hasaran he killed the night before clung to life another ten minutes before he drew his last.

And the assassin had made him regret every moment of it.

He’d left the body where it lay after he was done with it. Word amongst the street said some young couple in search of a bit of privacy found it shortly after, but by that time the assassin had already done his work and been long gone.

Another Hasaran dead in only two weeks, the people whispered. The Assassin of Isomare has reared its head again.

In his bathroom back at the Assassin’s Keep, The Assassin dumped the last pitcher of warm water over his head, but the words still resounded over the roar in his ears.

Who do you serve?

The Assassin gripped either side of the basin as the water dripped from his face back into the bowl. When he could open his eyes again, he blinked until his reflection in the mirror came into view. But it wasn’t the scar cutting through his eyebrow he looked at or the dark shadows laying under tired eyes, just the bold silver tattoos that lined the edge of his right jaw bone.

Most of his victims wanting to see his face spat at him when they saw, ashamed a man of his caliber had bested them in the end, but over the years he'd learned to take each jest in stride, in fact, had come to enjoy the hatred he saw in the eyes of his enemies, but never this. He'd never expected to be wholly diminished as he was last night.

The way the Hasaran laughed as if his fate in death was far better than the assassin's would ever be among the living. The great Assassin of Isomare, not a man in his own right, but a mindless lackey to be commanded. Because in this kingdom, the silver tattoos of a bastard meant he was destined to serve another until the day he died.

He had no idea what the ink said. He'd been told it was a transcription of his story in the Ancient Language of the First Suns, but more realistically the priest who'd done this to him at the age of 13 had probably just put lines and dots that resembled the text for the show of it. After all, it could not be his story…that would require every inch of his skin to tell.

The Assassin rolled his neck, backing away from the basin and out into his bedroom. He dressed, preparing himself for the day, and finally went to the trunk in the corner of his room to take out the sack he’d put there hours before. Slinging it over his shoulder, the assassin went into the hallways of The Keep.

The Harbinger would be expecting him this morning.

Though he had intended to leave it behind, the entire encounter with the Hasaran stayed with him, even after the man’s blood had been long washed away from his skin.

On top of that, last night of all nights was the first time in a while an assignment had brought him so close to the palace, forcing him to think of days he hadn’t dare touch in nearly eight years.

#

Apparently, even the other assassins could sense his terrible mood. Moving through the halls of The Keep he was almost always stopped by a comrade, exchanging something as simple as a greeting, but this morning they let him pass by without a word.

As he approached the Harbinger’s door, he heard insatiable giggling just beyond it.

He hesitated before he knocked, thinking about backing away altogether in an attempt not to disturb her. Though she had to have known he was coming this early, they’d discussed the meeting only yesterday, so… the assassin knocked.

The giggling hushed immediately. After some moments of rustling, The Harbinger poked her head out the door. An older woman, though she would never tell him her exact age, he suspected she was brushing up against half a century. Amelia Starborn, Harbinger of Death, was a foreigner in these lands, from a place past the hill country and beyond the Peaks of Enberg. She had skin likened to the color of scorching sand and this morning was dressed in a silk maroon nightgown with her rolling dark hair tied up and away from her face.

The assassin cleared his throat, “This a bad time?”

“Never for you,” was all she said before swinging the door open wide.

He followed after her, already steeling his face for what—who might be waiting inside. In the seven or so years he’d lived in this Keep, he was accustomed to her keeping the company of many—

“Lizards?”

There were hundreds of them, crawling along the floor, up the walls, and hanging from the ceiling. The creeping things had invaded every inch of the entire room. Her bed was covered in the scaly creatures so thoroughly he wondered where she’d slept.

The assassin looked up at her, “Should I ask?”

The Harbinger sauntered to her desk at the far end of the room, sending reptiles skittering out of the way in any given direction. "Some client thought it'd be funny to make his payment on the basis of the rutting barter system. I was going to, you know, send one of you to obliterate his entire lineage—"

"Naturally," the assassin cracked a smile, this being the fourth time she'd threaten someone's lineage this week.

“—but I don’t know,” she said as she sat down, “they’re starting to grow on me. Cute and very entertaining.” She let out a satisfied hum before turning her full attention on him. “I trust last night went well.”

The assassin nodded, tip-toeing to the seat across from her. He waited patiently for her to gather her record books from her drawer and put on her glasses to scan the pages for his assignment.

“You’re doing that thing again,” Amelia mumbled after a while.

Damien froze. He hadn't even noticed, but sure enough, when he looked down, there was a thin line on his pants from where he'd sheathed and unsheathed the hidden blade in his sleeve against them.

Shit.

The keen ears of a falconed fox that one.

The Harbinger lowered her glasses to peer over them. “Something on your mind?”

“No,” the assassin opened his sack and dumped the severed arm and head of his latest victim on her desk.

Amelia shot him a wary look, “Straight to business then.” She took out a pointer stick and turned the arm over to see the tattoo for herself. She lifted her eyes, “Did he talk?”

“Quiet as a three-horned mouse.” Though he hadn’t been particularly patient with gaining any information at all.

Amelia clicked her tongue.

They'd been hunting the ranking members of the Hasaran family for weeks now. An assignment given to them by an anonymous client with severely deep pockets. The job was simple: They wanted the ring disbanded and the leaders dead. Of all the missions he’d been on, this was the one he lost the least amount of sleep over. The Hasaran had been knee-deep in Isomare crime ring since he was a boy. Countless murders, thefts, and their specialty: capturing women and selling them for coin. With such a vast profit on the line Amelia had demanded her best on the task, so she called for him. But no matter how many he took out, not one of the could be persuaded in giving up the rest, making them have to painfully pick off Hasarans one by one.

“We will get the rest… in time.”

He nodded, “I know.”

“Is that what this frown is about then?” She gestured to his face, “You know, young men like yourself shouldn’t waste so much time being grumpy, it ages the features.”

A shake of his head, “It’s nothing to worry yourself with.”

“I doubt that.” Promptly, a transparent looking lizard crawled from the crevices of The Harbinger’s updo.

The assassin raised an eyebrow but couldn’t fight the amusement that tugged at the corners of his mouth. “The money, Amelia.”

She waved a flimsy hand at him, “Yes, yes, that’s all you seem to care about these days.”

The Harbinger reached into another drawer of her desk, pulled out a rather large bag of gold, and place it before him.

Given his reputation, his portions were usually a sizable amount, larger than anyone else in the Assassin’s Guild would ever lay eyes on, but the bag she put on the desk was something else, in that it was entirely too much.

The assassin gaped at the bag, “This isn’t my wage.”

But the Harbinger just shrugged, "If there's one thing I never mistake it's my money. You've done good work for me these past few weeks. What kind of master assassin am I if I don't reward my best from time to time."

But he knew that wasn’t what this was about, “No, I won’t take this.”

You will,” and before he could get out another protest, Amelia nodded to the door, “I’ll send your next assignment soon, but for now you may go.”

Dismissed. A leash yanked back into perfect subjugation.

Who do you serve, boy?

When she saw the way his jaw clenched at her words, demanding featured turned curious, concerned. "Dam—"

But the young assassin had already taken his bag of coin and headed for the door.

#

From the Keep, it was a half an hour walk to the city center, exactly what Damien needed to gain a little perspective.

He shouldn't have left like that, had regretted it as soon as the door closed behind him, but figured it would be better to let the dust settle before returning. After a long walk and a good meal on his stomach.

Outside of The Keep, he didn't mind letting his tattoos show. In the daylight, he was merely another face in an ever-changing crowd. But fifteen minutes into the city he sensed something was different.

Someone was following him.

A hooded woman. He slowed up his pace, zig-zagging through the streets and she followed him blinded, all the way to a darkened alley with no foot traffic. Quick as a bull adder he turned and grabbed her, pinning his assailant with a forearm to her collarbone and a hidden knife pressed against her throat.

Damien, wait.” She breathed.

He nearly dropped the knife when he registered her face. Though much older now, he’d recognize her coiled black hair and the gold flecks dancing about dark eyes anywhere.

“Leanna,” there was no hiding the surprise in his voice as he lowered the knife.

She rubbed a hand to her neck, voice still quivering a little. “It’s true what father says about you then? How you make your living?”

Eight years. They hadn't seen each other in eight, and that was the first thing she had to say.

Damien leaned up against the crates stacked against the wall. “A princess shouldn’t venture so far away from the palace, Leanna, especially without a guard. You might not ever be able to get the muck off.” He leveled a glare at her, “What do you want?”

She hesitated, but then said “Prince Gavin was taken last night during the Verntide festival.

This morning the king received a ransom note from the House of Hasaran saying he will only breathe for two more days."

Damien almost started at the sound of both of those names. If he remembered correctly, the little prince—crowned prince couldn't have been but eight years old.

“I would suggest paying the ransom.”

Leanna shook her head, "To do that would invite a show of weakness. Instead, the king hoped he could retrieve him by other means, to employ someone…someone like the Assassin of Isemor.”

Damien couldn’t help the joyless laugh that escaped him. He didn’t know why he hadn’t guessed already. How the king knew of his identity, he had no idea, but after all this time why would they ever come looking for him if not to use him.

“Tell him that I will respectfully decline.”

Leanna mouth twitched in irritation, “Your king is asking for your service as a citizen of this kingdom—”

“You can tell your king that I’m not his personal thug.”

Leanna looked away, mouth tight. “You’d be well compensated.”

So much judgment in just a few words the assassin could hardly stomach them, "Do you think this is about money?"

But that was just it, he realized, she didn’t know what to think of any of it, especially not of him, not after so long.

This thought alone made a stronger flare of anger burn through him. Damien took a step closer to the princess, closing any distance between them. “Tell me Leanna: did you ask your sovereign why it’s you he sent to fetch me?”

To her credit, she held his gaze without so much as a flinch. “I’m staying at the inn up the road for two days should you change your mind. After that…then I guess it won’t matter.”

“Then I certainly hope the king had a backup plan.” The assassin turned to go, ready to leave her behind.

But before his foot touched the line of daylight, Leanna spoke again:

“She was my mother too, Damien.”

He hated the way his body stiffened at that. A slight hitch in his steps that let her know she’d pierced an unfamiliar hide to reveal glimpses of a brother she once knew so well.

But he straightened himself just as quickly, and he said, "Well it's a good thing you have plenty of silk to dry your tears with."

#

For the first thirteen years of his life. Damien was the Crowned Prince of Isomare.

Just after Gavin’s second birthday a drunk showed up to the steps of the palace demanding to have his son now that there was a new heir, demanded to have Damien.

To this day Damien didn't know what legitimacy the king found in the man's words., but he remembered so vividly when the guard to them both him and the queen down to the dungeon. And the queen knew. She’d always known that Damien was not the king’s son, but the son of a lover from her days before the palace, one she had not learned to give up even after she put on the crown. She confessed this truth, her only bargaining chip as she begged for her Damien’s life. She told the king that Leena and Gavin were legitimate, but he was not.

It wasn’t long after that the guards took the queen from the dungeon…and never brought her back.

Damien must have wasted away in that cell for weeks before they came for him too. The king had indeed promised not to kill him, but though his body survived, by the end his spirit laid broken. The king, the man who he'd loved as his father for so long, marked him and threw him from the castle as a common bastard with nothing but the clothes on his back.

To the people, the beloved Queen and Crowned Prince had suddenly passed away from a rare form of the plague. The entire kingdom mourned his death while they really spat on him in the streets. From future king to not having a bed to sleep on for a little under a year. If not for meeting Amelia, training him up in the way she did, he wouldn’t have anything. He’d probably be dead.

He watched the sunset from the roof of the Assassin’s Keep. In the training courtyard below two apprentices sparred hand to hand while their assassin mentors scrutinized every move they made. The sight made him smile a bit at the warm feeling on nostalgia emerged.

Damien heard her voice before the roof hatch even open. “You do realize this is about the broodingest spot you could have picked to brood.”

When he didn’t reply, Amelia came to sit next. “How’d it go?”

“How’d you find out?”

“Please, don’t insult me, you know my eyes are everywhere.”

Damien sighed, "The Hasarans have the Crowned Prince, and they wish for me to save him."

Her eyes widened, “Ooo, that is a juicy one.”

Damien’s head hung a little lower.

Amelia traced a swift finger down his jaw, “You don’t owe them anything, you know?”

Damien grunted, and Amelia snorted right back.

“He’s the only heir left,” Damien said, “if something were to happen to him the line would be lost, so why come to me? Why wouldn’t he just pay the ransom?”

"Aside from being incredibly stubborn, I would suspect the king assumes they'll kill the boy regardless."

“But the Hasarans have nothing against the Royal family.”

“No…but they would if they found out that the client that employed us to take down them out… was the king.”

Damien stood to his feet, “What!” He’d been working for him— serving him this entire time. “Why didn’t you tell me.”

“What does it matter? Money is money. Where it comes from isn’t important.”

That’s how they’d known to come for him, working so closely with Amelia all this time it couldn’t have been hard to find out what had become of their bastard. It all made sense "You should have seen the way she looked at me," Damien said.

Amelia scoffed, “Don’t be such a child, Damien. You have your own reasons for doing all of this. Nothing she thinks should be able to sway that.”

Damien thought back to the bag this morning, “Yes, though I wish you wouldn’t help so much. I can earn my own way out.”

Amelia stood just to slap him on the shoulder, “I know you can, but to traverse this all on your own would be nothing short of idiotic.”

She looked out toward the setting sun. “You’re going to go, aren’t you? Somewhere in that head of yours, you think they can be redeemed."

He didn’t dare deny it. “Does that make me a fool?”

“Oh god no, not a fool… something far worse,” she smiled softly, “It makes you human.”

Amelia retreated to roof door. “You should start preparing then.”

“I can’t very well let the boy die,” Damien called after her.

“You could,” The Harbinger threw a sly smile over her shoulder, “but the price wasn’t right.” She hesitated right before descending the ladder. “You should know humans are very mortal though, so please try not to get killed.”

He dipped his head with a smile, “Yes, Harbinger.”

#

He gave Leanna quite a fright when she found him crouched outside of her door, armed to the teeth the following dawn.

“How long have you been here?” She stared at him like a foreign artifact as he came inside.

Damien looked around the shabby room. Small. Not well lit. The bed looking as if it had the potential for mites. Fit for a princess indeed.

“You shouldn’t be staying here without any form of protection, a woman, especially of your stature would likely be a tar—”

Leanna pulled a small crossbow from behind the pillows of her bed.

The rest of the assassin’s intended words died in his throat. “Right.”

Outside the small window along the far wall, the spring songbird began their symphony in the morning sun. Damien once again caught himself fiddling with his knives and forced his hands to still.

“You’ll help then?” Leanna asked.

Damien took a deep breath. Yes, he was really doing this. “I assume you have a location.”

She nodded, reaching for her sack at the bedside and producing a map that she spread across her sheets moments later. “Our scouts followed the messenger back to this manor,” she pointed to a spot close to the forest along the eastern border.

“Why didn’t you just ask your scouts to retrieve him then?” He grumbled.

But she ignored him, “They were able to get some of the guards’ rotations before I left but not all.”

He looked a little closer at the map. "You're asking a single man to break into a fortress."

“A trivial task for the Assassin of Isomare, no?”

The way she sang the name was the definition of a challenge.

“I’ll get it done. Just have my payment ready.” He wasn’t sure why he said it, but he did take a little heart in the flicker of disgust that crossed her face.

“I wouldn’t dare spoil your trips to the city brothel or whatever it is you assassin’s do.”

He'd gotten under her skin, and she made sure to return the favor

Damien chewed on his lip. “I don’t spend it. I save it.”

“What?” she said, still staring at the map.

“The money I earn—I save it.”

“Sure you do.”

"I do. I save it so I can leave."

And for once Leanna did not answer back with a fiery reply.

He wasn’t hiding it. That had always been the plan. “When I have enough, I’m going to travel over the peaks and keep going until I find a land that knows nothing of bastard tattoos, or the Language of the First Suns. I’m going to keep going until I find somewhere I can start over.

That’s why I do this…because it’s my only way out.”

Leanna still said nothing but looked genuinely shocked now. He was so suddenly aware of the tattoos on his face that they practically burned his skin.

“Don’t worry about it. Forget I said anything. I never wanted your money.” Damien pointed to the map again, “Just pick a rendezvous point and I’ll take the rest from there—”

Leanna laid a gentle hand over his.

“I’m sorry,” she said at last. “It wasn’t mine to judge.”

His head dipped, “Even if it’s only by half, at the end of the day Gavin is—you are…still family.” He gave her hand a good squeeze.

She nodded, “Thank you, Damien,” he wasn’t sure of it, but he could have sworn he heard a bit sorrow in those words.

Still, he showed a small smile, "Alright, now let's go get the other one."

#

The Assassin attacked the manor at midnight. The layout was simple enough. Lower levels for the dungeons, main levels for the house and high levels for the watchtower.

Leanna was waiting to meet him in the clearing a mile away from the manor, so he had to be swift. He did not enjoy the idea of her being by herself in these woods.

Damien climbed up the outer wall. Two guards stood watch, but before he pulled himself over, the assassin ended them with throwing knives before they even knew he was there. He’d kill as little as possible tonight. Harder to remain undetected leaving a massive trail of bodies behind.

He searched the place for nearly an hour. The dungeons first and worked his way back up, sneaking around corners and avoiding guards along the way. He started to think Leanna’s scouts had been misinformed, but then he came across a bedroom with four Hasaran guards.

The prince bolted up in the bed when Damien broke down the door. He gestured for the boy to come and lifted a finger to his lips to tell him to quiet. Gavin nodded and followed Damien barefoot out the door. The prince’s eyes went wide at the bodies on the ground, but the assassin grabbed his hand. “Stay close to me,” he said to the boy, and together they traverse the manor back the way they came. Not as much traffic going in as coming out. He’d been lucky tonight.

Soon Damien was easing them both down the manor wall.

When they dropped to the grass, Damien took up Gavin’s hand again, but the prince pulled back, “Who are you?”

“A friend,” he replied, “your sister sent me to find you.”

Gavin perked up at that, “Really!”

The naivety of the young prince made him smile under his mask. Skin the color of mahogany just like the king's, and gold-flecked eyes like his mother.

After Damien nodded, Gavin allowed him to lead them into the forest. After a half mile trek, the prince got tired, complaining about his feet, and Damien simply put his brother on his back and carried him the rest of the way. Ten minutes later he was pointing to the tree line. “See that, Gavin? We’re almost there,” just before they broke into the clearing 

But it was not Leanna he saw first. Instead, there was a man with pale skin greasy black hair standing amongst the trees, shaking hands with—

Leanna?

The first arrow hit Damien in the chest.

Gavin screamed as they both crashed to the forest floor. But the assassin was up in an instant, prince protected behind him, and a single sword drawn. He searched the trees above from whence the arrow came, and though he could sense them, he couldn’t make out any figures in the darkness.

“Assassin,” the man standing next to Leanna drawled, “it’s about time you showed up.” As he said it, he lifted his arm and pulled down a sleeve to reveal a phoenix tattoo.

Hasarans.

“Gavin, come.” Leanna’s voice was so calm even though they were surrounded, and because Damien was so unsure as to what was happening, he didn't stop the boy when we cross the clearing to join his sister.

The second arrow in his stomach brought him to his knees.

The Hasaran approached him where he knelt, reaching for the assassin's hood, but Damien threw out a hidden knife to ward him off. Though with lines and edges blurring together, he didn't see the fist that left him sprawling on the ground.

The Hasaran kept his eyes on Damien but spoke to Leanna. “Consider the ransom paid in full princess. You and the prince may go.”

But she didn’t move.

Damien’s eyes slid to Leanna, and seeing her tremble now, clarity struck like a hammer.

Why didn’t he just pay it? He’d asked over and over. But it was because the king couldn’t…because the ransom had never been money.

It’d been him.

The Hasaran crouched down, speaking softly to him. “Did you really think I wouldn’t come for you after what you’ve done to my family.”

Damien heard the click of loading crossbows from the trees above. He tried to think, tried to breathe, but only stoked the fire in his lungs that sent more blood up his throat. He felt it sliding from his lips even now, watched it patter on the ground.

Though he didn’t feel when it hit, the last arrow put him on his back.

I’m sorry, Damien. He thought he heard.

Amazing. Words that in one moment could mean everything felt utterly worthless in another, even though they were the same ones of the same tongue.

Leave him. The Hasaran called up to the trees.

He heard footsteps for a while, but those died away, as did the rustling of tree branches until Damien knew he was alone. He kept trying to draw in a sliver of air but found himself drowning in a lake he couldn’t see. He fought to keep his eyes open, but even the stars in the night sky began flickering out one by one.

Damien, the assassin, the bastard, the former Crowned Prince had one final thought before the black: He had not tasted anything of ashes at this sunrise, but still, death seemed to have come for him all the same.

#

When Leanna needed to clear her head, she often went out to the palace gardens, and lately, she'd found herself taking the trip more and more often.

Leanna thought much of that day long after the sun had set on its misery. And in the months since his death, she was still haunted at night by the bloodied and broken images of

Damien lying in the dirt.

The king congratulated her when Gavin returned home safe and sound. And that’s what she tried to remind herself, that she did what was necessary for the future of her kingdom.

Still, she hoped this part would be easier. She’d been told that her brother was dead, buried under the callous skin of the Assassin of Isomare. Though, if she tried hard enough, she could still feel the way he gripped her hand, so much like the comfort of a loved—

“How are you today, m’lady?” one of the guards shocked Leanna out of her thoughts as she passed by.

Leanna dipped her head, only managing a faded smile in return.

Like always, the princess found her way to the wall covered in vine roses. An age-old tradition amongst the Royals of Isomare, growing one rose for each living member of The Royal Family. Customarily roses were cut at the passing of a family member, but today, and every day she'd come out to this wall Leanna only stared at the two scorch marks against the white stone where two vines had been burned away eight years ago. One for her mother.

Another for Damien.

How many times had they burned him, branded him and still he came back? Not for the money or the chance to show his esteem, after everything they put him through for the sins of another, he helped them because they were family.

And that is what she knew hurt her the most. Assassin or no, legitimate or no, in the end, she helped to slay the heart of a budding king.

When the weight became too much again, Leanna forced herself to turn away from the wall but stopped dead when her flat sank into something damp in the walkway.

Looking down she found the fabric of her slipper, the hem of her dress stained with red.

Leanna lifted her eyes further down the path and found the guard she passed laying on the ground, eyes vacant, wading in a blood lake of her own making.

Before Leanna could even open her mouth to scream, the wind shifted, and a knife laid against her throat.

A warm wet traced down the length of her neck.

“You’re allowed to make one final request,” said a voice all too familiar.


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Just... badass.
naricorn rated this work:

Dec. 2, 2018, 8:42 p.m.

The beginning is so badass. I loved the action of the assassin catching up to and slaughtering the Hasaran, and you drop enough hints at his motives that I want to read on to find out who he is and what he's after. I'm not sure how I feel about the "of those eleven, he'd turned nine into liars" line. At first it struck me as cool, but thinking more on it, it seems like a huge stretch that they'd told nothing but the truth their whole lives. (Just a nitpick.)

I'm such a fan of the worldbuilding, especially the way you develop the assassin's backstory and chip on his shoulder, the ink that marks him as a servant. The dialogue is snappy and cutting and fitting. "Well, it's a good thing you have plenty of silk to dry your tears with." Oof.

Have you thought about Damien's assassin education? Who was his first kill? What was it like? Was he cut out for his life? How has he coped?

I was a bit taken aback by Damien's sudden (seeming) change of heart to take Leanna's task. He leaves her with that zinger and then later when he's talking to Amelia, seems to be set on serving the king. That transition didn't seem convincing to me.

Also, if Leanna knows he's her brother, would she not be more understanding of his situation? Even if she doesn't like him, wouldn't she know he'd had no control over getting kicked out and branded a servant? His confession to Leanna also is convenient, but why does he defend himself then instead of earlier when they first meet?

That TWIST, though. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn't clear on who said "I'm sorry, Damien." It didn't seem fitting of anyone present.

Reading on, I was surprised yet again. SECOND twist. Loved it, too. I'm not sure how he could've returned--Amelia came to save him? But I'm projecting. Maybe a hint of how the comeback happened would work well. Overall, again, loved the story and please upload more!

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You Got Me Hooked
jbrown rated this work:

Dec. 3, 2018, 10:11 p.m.

I thought you did a good job setting the scene. The story made me really interested on what possibilities we could look forward to in Damien backstory. My only hiccup is explaining why Leanna couldn't sympathize with how Damien became the way he was. Other than that, I really liked the twists, and I thought you really well looking to world build around the assassins.

Character Motivation

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