Maenel: Shadows of the Dead

I tie on my dark grey cloak, under which I wear a white tunic and my yellow sash, then put the hood up and pull my hands back into the sleeves. Wouldn't want anyone to see my tools, my claws. I use a rather abnormal method of killing - they're called tekagi-shuko. They're basically wrist bands with pieces that extend to your palm, and there is a six-inch long metal claw running along the top of each finger, right in line with the knuckles. The blades flex with my fingers, too - they're jointed, and if the weapons were removed from my hands, the blades would fold all the way against the two banded pieces. If I were caught with those, it wouldn't really be prudent to explain my mission. "Hi, I'm just looking for someone I want to kill. I'm an assassin." Great.

I leap onto the roof of my target's home, almost ready to strike. I've been tracking her for weeks, so I know her schedule. Soon, she will be coming to bed - and then, I will strike. When she walks into her room, I leap in through the window and prepare to stab her in the heart. Suddenly, the lights come on, and I can see her face, the beautiful shoulder-length hair the color of gold, the bright blue eyes, the slightly tanned skin.

It's her. The woman I loved.

Only then do I awaken. I know what the message in the nightmare is - I know I killed the one I loved. I have nobody to blame for anything if I can't blame myself for everything. And that's what brought me to this point - I sit on the end of my simple bed, the blade of my misericorde dagger lightly touching my forehead, thinking if I just relax my neck muscles a little, it would all end.

But, I don't. Instead, I set the knife down on my bedside table - a simple crate turned upside down - and get off my bed. I pull on some good clothes - a pair of trousers, my tunic and cloak, and, of course, my yellow sash - and head to the tavern down the road. When I get there, I see a drunkard sitting outside, begging for change. Suddenly, he grabs my shoulder, and before I can stop myself, I slit his throat with my tekagi-shuko - let's just call them my claws, as they might as well be the real thing - they haven't left my hands for years. I've even learned to sleep with them.

I continue into the tavern, sit down and ask the bartender for a beer. He comes out with the beer, and I take it. I've spotted the tail behind me by now.

"Tieron," I say by greeting, "I'm getting tired of these games. You and I both know you're not going to kill me, or even challenge me, at that. What do you want now?"

"I saw what you did to that beggar out in the alley."

"Shut up." I pull my friend, Tieron, out into the street so as not to be overheard by the people in the bar - at this time of night, almost no one was outside. "You," I say, "Should know better than to mention what I do in front of others. They can never - never - know what I do. You understand? Do you understand?"

"Yes," he responds, "I'm sorry, Dealus - "

"Never call me that! I will slot you where you stand. Do you get it? This isn't a game. If anyone learns who I am -"

"I know." Here, Tieron's face darkens. "You'll get killed. Just listen, okay, I'm your friend -"

"No! No, you are not. I do not have friends, okay? Do you get it? I don't know you, and you don't - " Here, I pause, hoping to finally drive this into Tieron's thick skull, "You don't know me. Okay?" He begins to walk away. "And don't speak to me again! I will kill you, if I must!"

As he walks away, he turns back to me and says, "Just don't lose sight of your morals, Maenel. Such a mistake might prove deadly."

And then, he is gone.

The End

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