Anyway. I hope you all enjoy!
In most cases, that would have been unsurprising. Nobles had a tendency to use funereal colors when contacting assassins- as if inviting them not to attend a funeral, but to cause one. By now, after five years’ intense training and another three years on her own, Aleta was used to receiving such correspondence.
What worried her about this particular letter was where she’d found it: her private box, used only for personal correspondence. No offers of contracts- either through the Guild or directly from nobles- should have been there. And the handwriting on the letter . . . she knew it too well. But she had never thought to see it on black.
Bells from outside caught her attention. She listened, counting. Eight chimes. Half an hour remaining before she needed to slip out of her hiding spot- one of several around the city maintained by the Assassins’ Guild- and carry out her current contract.
Returning her attention to more immediate matters, Aleta slit the top of the envelope and tapped out the letter with routine caution. Her teacher had explained thoroughly the numerous ways that death could be delivered in the guise of a letter. Yet despite her care, she knew already that it would contain none of those potential poisons.
She read the letter- stark white bordered in black- with as much care as she would a potential contract. The words- things like “regret to inform you that-” “recently deceased after-” “funeral will be held on-” seemed oddly distant. Unreal. As if they were part of a dream.
Then she reached the final paragraph and all the distance was sucked away. Phrases like “claims it was an accident, but I wonder-” and “always seemed to be bruised these last months-” and “maybe murder, but I can’t prove it.” And then, finally, “I considered hiring you or one of your associates, ‘Leta, to avenge her anyway, but he is Father.”
Aleta set the letter down and walked across the room to the small window. It looked down on a busy Elgea street, allowing her to see without being seen. But today, though she watched, she did not notice the people going by. Again and again she turned the words of the letter over in her mind, and she reached towards her knives almost without realizing.
She was an assassin. She could kill him. He deserved it, the-
No. She was an assassin. She did not kill wantonly. And she did not kill for personal reasons. For a contract, or- on occasion- to protect. Nothing more. And perhaps this would be justice, would be protecting people. But it would be vengeance first.
No. She would not kill him. And she could not attend the funeral openly; she would not be welcome there. But she would go, pay her respects all the same.
Silently, she retrieved the letter and slid it into her pocket. Then she clambered out the window into the evening shadows and let herself disappear.
The funeral was well-attended. Whether it was so out of respect for the deceased or curiosity over the death, none could say. The priest, the deceased’s husband, and the other friends and family members made the requisite speeches and produced the expected tears- or, in some cases, lack thereof. If anyone noticed that the second son of the deceased regarded his father with veiled hostility, they did not comment on it. Nor did any seem to notice the figure outside, clad in assassins’ black, who watched and listened with her head bowed and defiant tears in her eyes. They did not notice her shadow them to the graveyard; did not see her as she lingered in the nearby trees ‘til the coffin was buried and all others were gone.
But the next morning, the second son returned to the gravesite to find a rosebush growing atop it, blood-red buds already appearing on the stems. And he knew what it meant, while all his family wondered how it had come there.
For even assassins have mothers. And even an assassin’s heart can be broken.
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)