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Introduction:

Welcome to my story of the Assassins Gambit. It is a game in which east meets west, the dance of death carried out in a town called Providence long dominated by the dictates of a guild of assassins, until the day four of their members make their only mistake. Come and join the saga of the assassins game, find out who will win and who will die in this epic confrontation.
Just outside the town of Providence, four figures close upon their target – an old, battered household that is battered by the raging storm that conceals their movements. Biting winds drive the fierce, chilling rain almost horizontal, blocking all spoken communications between the four until they reach a small sheltering grove of woods.

The leader of the four, Finneous, motions instructions to his associates in the silent sign language used by the Assassins Guild; though they already know their goal, no mistakes will be tolerated this night, the contract must be fulfilled…no survivors and no evidence is to be left behind.

On that the Grandfather of Assassins, the true ruler of the guild and of Providence is clear.

Silent as death, they move between shadows illuminated moment by moment as lightning dances across the sky. Here one darts to a tree, then to lay behind a small shrub; there one dashes between flashes to the shelter of a low wall surrounding the house.

All too easy, everything has been prepared to perfection for such an easy kill.

Even the cities Constables, the law enforcement agents of Providence – of course all are under guild control – arrange to be ‘elsewhere’ at this hour. The plans of the house, down to the smallest detail, were secured by yet another band of guild agents, allowing for precision planning…

All too easy, nothing can possibly go wrong.

Finneous though will take no chances, for dumb luck has on more than one occasion interrupted his plans. He gives a hundred count, making sure no movement occurs…

Seeing, sensing and hearing nothing he motions with one hand to his companions. Of the three, Cinnius heads to cover the back door with his small crossbow, Gordon and Gerald move to the side entrance of the pantry and kitchen.

Between flashes of lightning and echoing roars of thunder they go; undetected, they reach the house of the banker betrayed by his partners. Swift and efficient they enter, and in less than five minutes the whole affair is complete, leaving the family dead and the house aflame from front to back. No survivors, that is what they had been charged to do, and thus they have achieved.

An easy night of work; eliminate an entire family, torch the house to cover the crime.

Save for one potential complication – one young girl, the middle member of the children, was not at the house. All four of them agree to say nothing more, knowing the extreme death waiting for them if the Grandfather of the guild finds out.

Besides what problems could one stripling of a girl alone in the world honestly cause them…

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The gentleman known as Shan Tiel to everyone in the area watched the fires as they consumed the house; from the shadows he had seen the four assassins enter and exit with exceptional skills. Not one of the four had seen Grandfather when he approached within four feet of their path coming and going.

“Amateurs,” he declared softly, disdain for these so-called ‘professionals’ of the West.

If not for the charge he has been entrusted with by the now deceased banker, he would have finished this band of idiots just for the sake of pragmatism. They give a bad name to what it means to be a true assassin.

He could just envision how the battle would take place, brief and absolute in its finality…

Emerging from the cover he would take the last in line with a quick, flat edged hand chop to the throat, instantly crushing it and sending him into a gurgling death…

Twin, envenomed knives would take the middle two in their hearts; the quivering spasms of death wracking the expressions of shock and horror on their faces…

Their leader in front, the one he knows as Finneous from past dealings, would fall in a personal matter…his iron shod staff smashing bone and crushing organs in close up battle; or if the coward flees then he would send the throwing stars into his back – each one with the same deadly venom as his knives hold…

Tonight he cannot give in to the desires…

Giving a quiet two hundred count while still concealed by his tiger striped cloak, bits of foliage aiding in the disguise of him being a part of the tree and shrubs, he listens with ears keener than many. He moves nary a bit, even as biting insects crawl over him.

He knows when dealing with fellow hunters like the assassins, there is only room for one mistake; of course being from the Far East, HE is the true hunter in this game.

He slowly eases into a half crouch, then to a full stance as he looks about, listening, sniffing the air, all to make sure the quartet of assassins have indeed passed beyond the area.

In his sheltering arms is the little girl, the one with the amethyst eyes and muted voice. Her terror filled death hug lets him know just how scared she truly is, though still young and small for her age, he will make sure that no harm comes to her…

No matter what he will make sure no harm comes to her; her fathers desperate plea with him, to pick one out of the twelve kids to be saved raked his heart raw, having given the warning of the coming hit by the guild. So it was he swept her up, out the door and into hiding here just ahead of the assassins.

So there was nothing he could do, to prevent the slaughter of his son and grandchildren.

He could save only one, yet there will be justice delivered, if not by him then by another.

He keeps his firm grip on the little girl who hugs him in a terror filled death hug; her eyes filled with amethyst fires. When her father had come to meet him, only the girl was with him; then the father had rushed back to save his family, too late to do little more than die with them.

“You need a new name now,” he told her in the melodious accent of the Far Eastern lands, “what do you wish to be known as my granddaughter?”

Very slowly the girl extended her coat clad arm, gloved fingers tracing a series of moves into his hand. Indeed, mute that she may be, the ease of her ability with the sign language of his family’s profession – fellow assassins like himself – demonstrating the intelligence that lies behind those wonderful eyes.

He nodded approval.

“So be it, so you shall be called my granddaughter; understand this much though, for now, you must remain silent with your new name and forget the old. To the rest of the world, you are only known as granddaughter, one of many orphans I have raised over the years,” he said.

“Due to your eyes few must know of your existence; so life will not be easy for you, yet there is something I will teach you to do,” he said with a determined look on his face.

He calculated the time that passed since the quartet of assassins left; then figured the observers for the guild of assassins will be along shortly – to make sure the contract was carried out in its entirety.

“We must go now. I will teach you from today to become a hunter of your own. You will not bring terror to the innocent; instead you will hunt the hunters and their agents; to teach those who use terror what it means to be subject of terror in turn."

So it is the two depart into the hills, far from the city to the place they call home.

Neither of them look back at the old life, the end of a family for her.

Yet the two of them, the old man and the young girl with the amethyst eyes know the books will be balanced in time.

The assassins consider their hunt completed, just one of hundreds the quartet has carried out to success.

They have made their one mistake.



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***********
Grandfather just smiled with delight as he looked upon her, lying next to him on her stomach on their bed; his fingers moved with soft, feather gentleness across her bared skin. He began with her one bared cheek, her head turned his way and those wonderful eyes dancing with such humor, life and love for him.

Moving in a slow spiral outward from the center, he soon reached her lips and playfully caressed them across the top and then the bottom, exploring each portion of them in turn. The feel of her warm breath upon his fingers brought a tingling delight to his mind, his old body still up to the entertaining of a young lady, one who is no longer a girl – she reached her majority a week ago, and asked for this night as her gift from him.

He slips his finger into her mouth, caressing the inside of her lips and stroking against her teeth, taking delight in the growing blush upon her cheek. Moving back to her upper lip, he continues his fingertip exploration, up to her nose and around each of her eyes – especially along her brows, bringing a soft shudder to her body as her eyes gently close for the moment.

His fingers begin to massage around her brows and then back along her exposed ear, drawing forth a smile on her ruby red lips as a content little sigh escapes past them. She draws her hands up under the pillow her head is resting upon, while her bared skin shines with the moonlight flowing in from the twin sliding doors that are open to the outside world.

Her one arm flickers for just a moment, the hand setting more secure under the pillow.

Grandfather moves along the back of her head with his fingers, caressing and massaging her neck along the sides and back, cupping them along the front so all of his hand is on her skin. He then begins in soft, circling and kneading moves; she gives another soft sigh of contentment, her shoulders sagging ever so slightly as she begins to relax more and more.

His eyes look up as he picks up the faintest of movement through the floorboards, a vibration and a soft sound so subtle most would assume a mouse had scampered across the room.

Running his hand down along both sides of her spine, he uses the other hand to support his leaning form; this move also brings him closer to one of his hidden throwing knives – envenomed of course – to deal with any unseen attacker…

The young lady turns her head away from him, muscles on her back twitching in delight from his caressing touch. Once more there is a soft sigh that escapes her lips.

Bending down he places his lips on her skin, kissing inch by salty tasting inch from mid shoulder to the lower back; all the while his eyes watch for the next shadow to move, ears listening for the next sound to be made as the unknown intruder approaches.

His fingers flow to the side of her abdomen, drawing a constant, squirming, squiggling motion from her.

A faint sound comes forth through the wall, telling him the exact location of the intruder.

It also provides the information to another as well…

Faster than a snake’s strike her arm shoots out, hand releasing the slender knife into the throw.

The sharp, cracking retort of the blade biting through the wood is heard by both of them.

Burying itself to the blades hilt, she sees that her aim has been true. She then resumes her comfortable position on the feathered matting, hands back under the pillow, waiting for Grandfather to continue his ministrations.


======
The intruder, the man of mystery from the Far East simply known as the Associate – and designated helper for the one with the amethyst eyes, calmly stands in his place, one leg in half stride, foot prepared to step across the walls frame to another small joint projecting slightly outward.

Such a move on this outer wall, along the structures fourth floor and some three hundred feet over a cliff to the jagged rocks below would be child’s play.

He wanted to see the gift being given by Grandfather to the young lady.

He has to remember, as of today he is HER Associate, despite her name being forbidden to him, as he has denied his own name until the stain on his and the family honor has been expunged. Normally he would work alone to have his revenge, yet Grandfather – to whom his family owes an old debt – has him working with her.

He had regarded her as nothing more than a plaything for the old man; even as quick witted and concise as the plan she has developed for their job in Providence…

He gently swings his body around 180 degrees, pivoting on the toes of his other foot, then begins the climb back the way he came; he will never underestimate her again.

His gaze is drawn back to the point of a blade extending a finger length through the wood; the gleaming poison on its shiny surface clear to his trained eyes…and the fact her aim was such that she missed his manhood by a hairs breadth.

Deliberately missed that is, the sharpened edge facing up towards his body.

No more curiosity for him, he will now focus solely on the mission, and the justice long denied to him for the crimes committed by the guilds Grandfather of Assassins.

The fate he has planned for that one will be most enjoyable indeed.


======
Grandfather just chuckled as she rolled onto her back, those lustrous amethyst eyes alive with humor; his delight in her actions is obvious as she holds her arms out for him, the invitation loud and clear in their unspoken dance of love.

Easing his robe off, he carefully lies across her body, supporting the bulk of his weight upon his slender, old and iron strong arms while she parts her legs, sliding them gently around his hips, and begins to move them in caressing movements along his own.

He begins to kiss her lips, which she returns with fiery intensity, the glow of her cheeks deepening with each passing moment. Kiss after gentle, pecking kiss embraces her cheeks and then along the jaw to her chin, her smile concealing a barely visible gulp while one hand moves to stroke her neck; generating a small shudder and twitch of her body, a silent giggle parting her lips while arms and legs writhe in joyous, frantic bliss.

One small tickle follows a second, then three more, resulting in greater and greater gyrations from she with the amethyst eyes. Tears of joy welled in those eyes, flowing down cheeks to the waiting mouth of grandfather who pressed his lips gently on each drop – his grin shows to her how he savors each salty one.

For her, she absolutely loves the swirling scents of Grandfather while he is so close; often she has been next to him in slumber, but never in such a manner as this…the thought of what is to come so soon filled her with a bit of dread and expectation of ecstatic bliss…the final mystery of mysteries to be explored.

Her eyes closed as his hand cuffed the back of her neck, supporting it with great strength and gentle, warming touch; the small vibrating motion of each finger muscle told of his iron control of the body, massaging and finding each sensuous nerve in the area, bringing an unexpected surge of euphoric heat from deep within and down below, where she feels the beginnings of a wetness build…

Then he shifted his hand away, teasing her with a gentle tickle…

One fingertip of his free hand began to explore, resting at first upon the very base of her ribs, to flow upward in a narrow, focused, undulating trail that sent a cornucopia of feelings surging into all portions of her mind.

Sharp and sweet, tart and tangy, dull and dense; words without form for feelings that cannot be described but only imagined in a harmony like a series of streams forging into a mighty river as all join together. One sharp intake of breath bringing a heavenly profusion of scents – the lingering steam and droplets of water from the bathing room nearby; the slightest trace of old cologne and musk, of earthly rich men smells, and forest heathers of women who have been here in the rooms many centuries of existence.

The fingertip became a flattened palm, easing along the edge of her breast, slowly tracing the edge while swirling in small, gentle circles. One circuit became two, then four, and moved to the other breast to do the same. Twice more this looping symbol of infinity proceeded; the hand caressed and massaged more and more area of each breasts.

She heard and felt her breath quickening, her head making a small circle as electrical charges of pure bliss tingled their way up in her body; each one in turn unleashed a pleasant surge of energy, invigorating and easing, the raw potential of life made reality. Stroke by gentle stroke the infinite pattern flowed, kneading and shaping her breasts until they crossed the erect nipples; that first gracing contact sent a coursing pulse of passion along all the paths of her body, surging and rebounding until it returned a hundred fold in intensity that almost became overwhelming.

Her back arched as shoulders thrust back; both hands quickly clenching the covering of the bed they shared, all but pulling it inward due to the sheer bliss dominating her body; muscles twitched and squirmed, nerves firing in delight and demanding they be touched to give her even more pleasure than she has ever experienced to this point in her life.

Unto its journey the hand continued, seeking out with almost desperate haste the other nipple; its trail a clear path illuminated by fires of bliss as it moved along my skin. Pulse after beating pulse surged in this journey to flow outward as the ripples on a pond, yet with the force of a cascade among a mighty river.

Just short of contact her body could take no more, pushed to the edge faster than even Grandfather had figured as her body moved in excited, euphoric motion; one silent cry of primal passion after another expressed on her parted lips until her climax hit, being released in one moment of uttermost Nirvana bliss.

She signed him not to stop, to finish her requested gift for the night, while she still was ready. Nothing was to interfere from here on out…nothing if she could help it at all.

Her hands slide along his back, teasing and caressing, until they meet with the fingers entwining to hold him securely in place. She closes her eyes, neck arching slightly in response to the kisses he now places along it, while a series of soft sighs escape her lips that open and close in silent calls of building lust.

When he enters into her womanhood, she grabs him tight as a surge of pain passes from the sundering of her virginity; no matter how gentle he can be; she feels like a blade has entered her gut, delivering pain for a moment like none before in her life.

Her face scrimped in pain as he continued to press inward…

He had warned her it would come, and pass just as quickly.

From his gentle and firm action, move after move, she begins to feel a fiery bliss flow up her body like a river of molten metal; the heat and intensity redoubling with each inch it passes unto her brain. Her breath quickens as she lays there, ears listening to the gentle, steady breathing of Grandfather.

She kisses him on the neck, a sloppily wet one followed by a second and a third.

All too soon the wonderment of this time of pleasure comes to an end, as he reaches the limit of his body’s endurance and restraint, sending his life seed deep into her body.

“I’m sorry it did not last as long, or would be as enjoyable as it should have been Granddaughter; the first time for any man or woman is the most awkward, until the mystery is passed and the world widens for them both,” he explained to her.

She bent forward enough; her flexibility would excite sheer envy from any contortionist, and looked with a bit of wonder on the traces of his seed coming out of her womanhood.

Her hand came up to his cheek, gently caressing it in thanks and with love.

His hand encompassed hers, allowing him to take delight in the softness of her skin, the slight perspiration on the surface.

“So you and your Associate leave for Providence soon?” he asked.

In their shared, silent sign language she explains that they depart in two weeks.

She looks upon the one who she loves so much with wonder, hoping to share so many more such moments as this night before the hunt begins.

For the last ten years he has raised her, teaching her languages and writing, the art of alchemy belonging to the assassins of the Far East. The way of the sword and the bow, the throwing stars and daggers; many weapons for all situations she may encounter…and so much more.

The greatest weapon she has, as he once challenged her to guess, is her mind.

Yet he taught her so much more than to be a ‘living weapon;’ she loves to dance with him under the stars, to fish and hunt, to play chess, and so much more.

In short, he taught her how to live and enjoy life day by day.

Two short weeks before she heads to Providence; two weeks she intends to enjoy to the fullest with her new lover, making love as much as he will permit.

Contently she rolls onto her side and slowly drifts off to sleep while he serenades her.

She dreams of their time together in the two weeks to come; now that she has become a woman, she will do more than just pleasure his manhood with her lips and tongue, all he would let her do for some time now. They will make love from dawn to dusk and into the many nights they have left.

Her dreams recall those times, from the first taste of grandfathers manhood on her lips, his seed spilling into her mouth and his apologies when she choked; to the way he explained what to do…

Yes indeed, their remaining time together will be wonderful.

When she awakens with the coming of dawn, she learns that dream is eternally shattered.


======
Her Associate stands silently off to the side of the small shrine where Grandfathers ashes have been laid to rest, the two horses he holds, their mounts, remain silent as if paying respect to the old man as well as she with the amethyst eyes.

He just shakes his head, amazed that the one he is to work with shows such a range of emotions; he made the promise to never underestimate her again, yet the sheer display of skill in her plan – and the contingencies for events and opportunities that may arise, is the work of a true master.

Only the slightest glimmer of a tear shows as it flows down her cheek; the only weakness he has seen in her during the time they have come to know one another.

Crazy as it sounds, he wonders if there is a chance for them; once the hunt is done, to have a relationship with each other…

Let the future come as it does, right now other matters need to be focused upon…such as the pets he needs to purchase once in town; secure their shelter and make sure they are sufficiently hungry for when the time comes to have his revenge…

He can almost pity the fate in store for the Grandfather of Assassins…almost.

“I just hope he screams loud and long when he meets his fate,” he says to himself.


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In the depths of a vacant shop, one long boarded up, shelves thick with dust and cobwebs the only sound to be heard is the deep, rasping, moaning gasps of an older man. Dressed in a well tailored suit, most would assume him to be a servant for one of the rich merchants of Providence; yet if they knew his true position, they would run off screaming…to an early, pain filled death as they were hunted down and slaughtered before their kin, who would then suffer the same fate.

He is the butler and right hand man of Master Gordon of the guild of Assassins, not to mention being a deadly killer in his own right.

His hands grip the shops dusty counter that pushes into his back as he fights to remain upright; waves of giddy, pulsating, undulating heat and electrical like sensations of pleasure flow into his mind; too many years have passed since he has felt this way, and now to have such a lady as this take such interest in him, for such a fairly cheap price as well…

One of the legendary Sisters of the Blue, a small gathering of courtesans renowned for their mastery of the erotic and tantric arts, showing interest in HIM!!!

Truly the legends of their abilities are justified, and then some.

One raspy breath after another passes his lips, chest heaving in and out like a bellows, one shudder after another causes his body to flex and flow about, as he feels like his brain is now turning to slush before a furnace, about to flow away completely in a cloud of steam.

Gently, gracefully and teasingly the Sister’s lips play along the length of his manhood; pausing to kiss and swirl around the sensitive base of its head. With a whirlwind of small, precise strokes of her tongue she induces wave after soaring, roaring, cascading wave into his body along the narrow ravines of his nervous system; one wave upon the other; building into a tsunami of force and lustful fires, threatening to crash his mind; with oblivion coming then and there from excitement matching that of a wild stallion proclaiming victory for dominance of a herd of mares.

For the first time in years he feels so FREE and TRULY ALIVE!!!

Where such a woman as this could be trained in such matters?

He has to find out?

Grunt after grunt echoes around the empty shop, his fists commence to pound upon the counter as he strains to hold back the growing pressure upon his manhood. He understands that for so long he has been an oxen, who by choice and confinement in the mansion of his boss, been effectively bound and castrated from enjoying such fine carnal pleasures as this…

Oh the heady perfume she wears, soft and gentle yet being hard as iron and unyielding as the deepest stones in the earth; elusive as a ghost while being here and now as a moment of time that is eternal.

She eases one hand upward, gently teasing and tickling his twin set of chestnuts just below his manhood, while being unaware of the small surprise lying just within her fingernails edges. If this man dares to draw the hidden set of blades or the fine wire garrote up his left sleeve, then the poison will kill him within seconds, thus forcing a small change in her plans for the near future.

His laughter grows from a small series of chuckles to wild, manic, hysterically insane sounds carrying loud and long outside the shop; though no one in the area dares to pay attention – ignore such sounds that may mean guild business is going on and you stay alive for today…maybe…

He feels like his eyes have crossed over into the opposite sockets, his strength being drawn out of him by the constant, heat flowing, headiness of her actions. Oh if he only could get his wife or the other girlfriends and mistresses he has – each convinced they are ‘his true love’ – to do thus to him, as well as or better than she.

For the second time he counts his blessed fortunes at having a Sister of the Blue come to HIM for so low of a price; one simple transition and future meetings such as this will become ever easier to arrange.

Blackmail can be so fun of a game sometimes; especially if she desires to remain in one piece, not to mention alive for some time to come.

He wonders for a bit how much he can charge his associates for them having their intimacy with her; and not risk being sold out to Master Gordon or the Grandfather of Assassins

Yes, such a low price to pay for gaining leverage over this one, as any true assassin would do…

Of course his master may not see it that way, yet what he does not know will not cause him to slaughter the butler in the most vicious of means possible…if he was lucky, being flayed of all skin, doused in vinegar and then covered in cheese to be fed to rabid rats would be a true blessing.

But that will not happen, his master may be a powerful figure in the guild, yet HE, the butler, controls the day to day events at Master Gordon’s estate – no one will know, just as he has smuggled and embezzled millions of gold coins, gems and artwork over the years, others paying the price for his actions…

He easily could have afforded one of the Sisters at their normal, outrageous fees of ten or more year’s wages for a normal worker, just for one hour of ‘entertainment’ by them. Some people have become so indebted to them, that they in turn become servants of the Sisters, forever.

The two things that give the sisters such power aside from their mastery of the sexual arts, is the sheer beauty of each one – plus the sheer sapphire blue eyes they have (hence the ‘blue’ in their title); AND the fact that each one is mute from birth, thus all secrets told in their presence can be kept safe from revelation.

Those who control the Sisters make sure they never learn to communicate in any means, reading, writing, or such save by a limited sign language centered on the sexual arts. Though they are free in how to pleasure and please their clientele, they shall never be free of the powerful influence and control of the guild that dominates their entire lives.

Secrets and boasts safe with the Sisters; so be it.

The Butler spends some time explaining to her as she gently strokes his manhood, rapt attention paid to him as he tells story after story about the guild and their waves of terror and murder used for control; her smile shows the excitement brewing deep in her body, seeing him as a champion of champions against those who dare to oppose the way things are – the Guild of Assassins rules, nothing else can replace it.

Or so he assumes.

Gently she teases the very tip of his manhood with the tip of a fingernail, drawing him to the edge of madness and back again and again; her smile of wonderful bliss combined with rapt attention to the pigs constant stream of false heroics masks the uttermost contempt she feels to him…

And wonders if it would not be better to simply scratch a bit too hard, jump back and watch as the poison goes into effect…no not yet; the time for such petty matters is not at hand.

Her hands take hold of his manhood and begin to stroke it, fast-slow-fast-faster-slower, the speed changing enough to build him up, back down some and then build up again.

His rasping breath continues to deepen, eyes crossing as he nears his peak.

She slides his manhood back between those moist, soft, commanding lips and continues onward, until with a half-grunted shout he hits his release spilling his life seed into her mouth.

His roar of triumph is matched by the sudden, unexpected blow he delivers to the side of her head, sending her sprawling to the floor.

“Just a reminder of who you are dealing with lady, the first hint of betrayal at all…” he finished with a motion of his hand across his throat, fires alight in his eyes.

She resumes her position on her knees, pretending nothing has happened at all.

As per their deal, she opens her mouth to show his entire life seed is there, and then swallows it down.

She smiles at him, happy to have given him such pleasure; while on the inside she steams at having to put up with such a brute of an animal, castration would be too good for him…give him over to a band of wild women, wielding knives and they will have him as the main course at a banquet…

Only the fact that the reward for dealing with him keeps her temper in check; despite that she will be spewing her guts out for the next couple of hours when she gets home, the overall gains are worth it.

Revenge will come soon enough.

With a smile wider than he has displayed in years he carefully hands over a trio of half-bloomed roses wrapped in paper.

“My dear Sister in Blue, the next time you wish to have more roses, let me know. I will gladly bring them to you for an ‘exchange of services’ such as you provided tonight,” the butler stated.

“Just remember,” he angrily said, suddenly grabbing her by the throat with enough force to leave bruises upon her skin.

“The first time I feel you have betrayed me in the least, your death will be most enjoyable for me,” he stated.

Both of them depart the vacant shop, one of many properties the butler’s employer owns, and thus he has keys to for such ‘business matters.’

The butler heads off now on other matters; specifically the owner of the new flower shop, the girl known as ‘Clairice,’ the one who is friends with the madman that makes the gadgets for the guild.

She has expressed interest in the newest roses Master Gordon has been developing, ones like the three he has given to the Sister in Blue. Yes, he shall make his demands known soon enough, and may have another one to add to his mistresses – or he may just kill her outright, depending on his particular whim of the moment.

Yes life is good and Master Gordon will never know of the missing flowers being by his own hands.

The game he is playing with the roses has endless possibilities…

If he understood the role he unknowingly plays in the “Sisters” game; the terror would cause his heart to stop on the spot.



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Finneous just strolled along on the main fair-through of Providence, taking in his ever expanding empire of buildings and shops he secretly owns. His wealth over the last ten years has grown exponentially, all of it due to his cut of the fees paid to eliminate one banker and his family.

Indeed, ten years is a long time, now he had power, rank and wealth known only to a few; those who part ways to let him pass, his rank clear by the finest of black suits encompassing his iron-trimmed muscular frame. For the suicidal who may challenge him, the small crossbow bouncing at his hip – always loaded with a envenomed bolt – is ready.

None dare to challenge him, for he is one of the Masters of the Guild of Assassins; one of the finest and of the deadliest, only rivaled by Gordon, Gerald and Cinnius his old associates…and of course the Grandfather of Assassins and his ever shifting plots within plots…

…no that one he will never challenge, preferring the luxury of life to the finality of death after hideous amounts of torture…

The thought of the last execution he had seen, a man covered in molten cheese and lowered head first into a pit filled with hungry, rabid rats…even for one as hardened as he; the screams gave him nightmares for weeks afterwards…as the Grandfather of Assassins intended, a warning as well as punishment…

Yes here in his domain he is safe, based on his ability to control others by their fears – of death, pain, and of punishment or fierce skill in blade, knife and a hundred other weapons. By controlling their fears, he has control of all those around him.

He forgot one rule though, ancient and absolute: What happens when one who does not fear is a hunter as well?

“Oh it feels so good to be a king within my own little domain here in the city…” he chuckles to himself. Yes it is good to be king over a small portion of the world.


======
Two sets of eyes watch as Finneous heads down the street, following the same pattern each day. Same time, route, movement, and such…predictable, and thus vulnerable; in becoming predictable, he has become so very vulnerable…

Without anyone else noticing the two have a quick conversation, using the silent language of hand motion; if all goes well, they will need to move quick.


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Two soft, gentle eyes watch as the assassin heads down the street; day after day he follows the same set route, no deviation and secure in his own personal domain. Indeed in this area of Providence he is a king, and true to style, the watcher here has a gift for him.

They play this same game each day just as he passes the doorstop leading into her home; she hopes the gift will be especially pleasing to him today. Already a gentleman had purchased one of her half-blooming roses for his girlfriend. Old men can be such romantics she figures, and the girlfriend must be so fortunate to have him as her friend.


======
Finneous passes by one of the few privately owned shops in the area, the small stone building is home to a new florist, who also deals in odds and ends she trades for from other merchants. Such is the budding reputation of her work that many people of influence and power, not to mention members of the guild, visit to purchase her creations.

Her only known companion is that old and completely insane toymaker Darius; his genius for making gadgets and mechanical contraptions is just as legendary, as he has the golden opportunity to behold first hand.

Darius shows the girl…lets see, what her name…Clairice is, yes Clairice, which is her name…a small, egg-sized ball in one of his hands that slowly move and shifts. Gradually it becomes a mechanical canary that starts to sing.

So sweet and true is the song that many real canaries in nearby trees join in the song.

She silently claps her hands, her voice long muted by a vicious cut she took to the throat – he has seen the scar personally under the scarf that covers it constantly.

Heading over, he gives a soft cough to make his presence known, and indicates the mechanical bird with one hand. He offers a ridiculously low sum for the creature; Darius bristles until the girl locks him in place with a truly stern gaze, thus saving the assassin the need to kill him for a minor insult.

Clairice agrees on the price, obviously not wanting to risk offending the assassin.

When he gives her the coins for the purchase she bows to excuse herself then goes back into the shop. Darius just shrugs his shoulders and heads off on whatever business his madness holds, his deep blue robe covered in weird mathematic symbols flowing about him in the breeze.

As the assassin heads down the street he knows he is being watched; his expression feigns interest in his newest toy while actually keeping track of each person moving about him. Soon enough he discerns the one who he has been waiting for – on time and for once holding something of great interest to him.


======
The two who watch the progress of Finneous up the street have another quick conversation in the silent hand language; the second of the two bows slightly, then proceeds to deliver his ‘gift,’ knowing that there will be little time as things come to a head.

The first continues to watch Finneous, seeing him feign interest in the mechanical bird, and the true interest he shows in the ‘game of ambush’ both play each day; not to mention the special ‘gift’ that goes to him today as well…these assassins, such amateurs…



======
As on each day, the ‘ambush’ occurs right on time, the little girl with the soft eyes steps out in front of him with her arms filled with flowers. “Good sir, would you like a flower today?”

“Of course Jesmine,” he selects a beautiful rose that is in half-bloom.

“Now then, you be sure to take this money directly to your father.”

He counts out a handful of silver-coins, many times what all of her flowers are worth. This is his means of paying his own agents, and helps to keep them in line with the unspoken message of fear – betray him and not only will the agent die, so will all their family and kinfolk.

As Jesmine runs off to give the funds to her father Finneous hears a ruckus down the street…

Much to his amusement he sees the old toymaker Darius arguing with a pair of trees. He seems to be trying to get them to buy a mechanical device that will gather water for them. A clear lesson in the fine art of insanity; madman he may be, the guy can make wonderful toys.

His mistress will absolutely love this mechanical bird.

A second glance at Darius shows he is trying to dance with the trees, and doing so badly. When a bunch of leaves fall over his head, he begins to argue about some ‘slight of honor from the forests of the world’ and then challenges each tree to a duel of honor…a true lunatic indeed.

Yes this is a truly beautiful day.

The flower smells so wonderful; the rose is sweeter than any other he has found before, and figures it must come from one of the big estates his friends have nearby. Probably Gordon and that new line of roses he has worked ten years on.

“I will have to find out.”

Too bad he never got a chance to find out.


======
The gathered crowd parts for the approach of the Constables; no one has come to the aid of the fallen man, and the patrol of the Constables blanches when they see whom it is. Doubled over is the assassin, his crossbow still loaded and at the ready next to his hip; the mechanical bird lying atop the half bloomed flower, singing away as it was designed to do.

“Go and get the duty captain,” shouted the patrol sergeant to his aide, “tell him what we have here at once, the rest of you secure the area, five paces out and no one touches anything; when the Grandfather of Assassins finds out about this we may have major problems.”

Thus has passed Finneous, master assassin, fearless king of his own domain who made only one mistake; he became predictable; thus he became vulnerable; and thus dead.

All hail the king for he is now dead.

One has fallen, three more left.


*********************
*********************
The cities police force – the Constables have searched everywhere for Jesmine and her family. Everything in their house is intact, no signs of disturbance, trouble, foul play or anything. They have just up and completely vanished. Their last prepared meal, still cooling down from preparation, remains uneaten on the table plus an expensive wine bottle chilling in a bucket of ice…

There were only two oddities to be found - a half-bloomed rose on the table, and a bundle of papers hidden away in a hollowed out book.

Most of these were of business transactions for the family; one was very, very odd…

Make sure that Finneous has access to these flowers during his morning walk, one is to be sent to his mistress as well; remember I will tolerate no more mistakes. If per chance he does ask where they are from, tell him directly they come from my estate gardens, in honor of our ten years of mutual silence – Gordon.

Quickly this note made its way into the hands of the Assassins guild; the leaders waiting to see what their best examiners could find, which for the most part appears to be nothing…until by the backlighting of a lantern a series of smaller, invisible writing emerges from the slight heating of the parchment.

A special, hidden code known only to a handful of the guild – used for those who need to flee the city instantly, and with complete safety…

Safe house prepared, flee when Finneous given flowers, no hesitation, follow directions to the letter on pain of death for everyone - Gordon

“Round up everyone who may be remotely connected to this matter, and turn them over to the Constables for the interrogations. Make sure they are reminded to stay quiet, no questions, no mention of guild business at all under pain of death,” ordered the Grandfather of Assassins.

Turning to the leader of his personal bodyguard detail he gives one explicit order, “Find the ones who run this network of ours, who have betrayed us…no it may not be Master Gordon, a power play seems to be brewing, and so those traitors have only one last task to perform…food for my collection of tigers in the dungeons…and make sure they die slowly…I want to hear their screams.”

Most likely this is a power play, a series of eliminations of rivals and senior ranked members to open the way for lower ranks to be promoted – that is the way of the guild, to advance you dispose of those above you or die in the process.

The Grandfather decides a little talk with Master Gordon could not hurt. Just to make sure he is aware that if he is seeking to unseat him, it will come to a bad ending for Gordon. And if he is not plotting against Grandfather, then it will alert him another is plotting against Gordon himself…possibly…

Among the assassins there is one rule – you have no friends; never. Friendship implies weaknesses to be exploited and thus leaves you vulnerable; and with the assassins, vulnerable almost always means you wind up dead.

There is no trust, no honor to be found among the members of the Guild; with assassins there is grudging respect for their superiors mixed with ambition to succeed them after a well placed blow that finishes them, if possible.

Indeed, give them the respect they are due for the danger they present, eliminate them when the time comes.

Upon receiving the summons from the Grandfather of Assassins; Master Gordon starts to shake in mortal terror, wondering what was going on…Finneous is dead, a letter he supposedly wrote according to the messenger after a nice bribe, plus the first whispers on the street of people inquiring more and more about his home and habits in life…looking to see where he has become predictable, and thus vulnerable…Gerald? Cinnius? Another who plots…his butler?

Plots within plots, move and counter move; that is the lot of anyone who is a member of the Guild…HIS life, the accumulation of power and control until eliminated by a rival from below…or possibly from above…

Maybe the Grandfather of Assassins fears HIM…

Despite assassins not having friends, they always have two companions present – paranoia, and fear.


*******************
*******************
Clairice had to admit, being interrogated by the Constables was different than her initial expectations; by far it is different.

Here she is, laying back on a couch, those soft doe like eyes closed, head turned to one side as her lips silently open and close from waves of lightning like pleasure surging with power and force up her body, to crash with thunderous retorts in her mind.

Those gentle hands grip the back and side of the couch with vice like intensity, fighting to hold off the force of each shudder, arching of her back and wiggling of her hips from the attention being given to a particular part of her body…

Just the thought of it, not to mention what is going on causes her already deep blush on cheeks, brown and nose to deepen further; so intense is it that anyone watching would feel waves of heat and desire shimmering off of her skin in waves, threatening to consume all who dare to venture near.

One massive shudder of her body, her hips instinctively thrusting upward as if by their own will, causes her to cover her face in sheer embarrassment; any thoughts of modesty have flown long ago as a bird flying with the wind.

As if she had any real choice but to submit to the interrogation anyhow…

The one who is conducting this unique style of ‘interrogation’ is the Chief Investigator Kimberly, who takes her time to ‘investigate’ and ‘examine’ each part of Clairice’s womanhood. Each and every inch, fold and hidden depth she kisses, licks, or plays with via her fingers; time after time she manages to bring Clairice to the very edge of climax, threatening to drive her over the edge only to bring her down and then back to the edge.

Kimberly’s cruel smile shows as she playfully and forcefully teases them across one sensitive are of Clairice’s womanhood, drawing out a stream of convulsive hip thrusts and arching of her back, legs squirming about as she covers her mouth with both hands clenched into fists.

The men in the room, those who work under Kimberly’s absolute, unrelenting and utterly sadistic authority smile wickedly; unleashing a continual torrent of insults, jabs, ribald gestures and a ‘running commentary’ on how they feel that Clairice should just relent to the examination.

None will comment on the techniques used by Kimberly, nor on her bared body; her bronzed skin, perfectly formed face with those cruel gray eyes and cherubic expression – complete with a sprinkling of freckles, and her massive, perfect breasts any man would suffocate between with happiness on his final expression, makes a perfect model any sculptor would be proud to have created.

Yet the bronze death masks of the last twenty men to so comment hang on the wall nearby; each mask showing the absolute vision of horror their faces had attained at the moment of their deaths in the most heinous of ways one could imagine…chewed on by rats, boiled in oil, crucifixion, death by 500 lashes of a whip, and even more sadistic means.

None of them will dare lay a hand on Clairice either, nor make any form of threatening move; the fate of those who do is unknown save for thus: the day after they made the final mistake in the presence of Kimberly their manhood was found in the streets near their homes, and no other remains.

Amazingly though, rumors to abound out of Kimberly’s hearing of one man, a high ranking member of the Guild of Assassins has won her heart….if that is even possible…

The squirming and thrashing of Clairice on the couch, causing it to bounce about some is the purest and sweetest of music to Kimberly.

Rubbing her fingers rapidly over the girl’s womanhood, she grins wickedly back at her men; then she moves back down again, playing her tongue across it in rapid, precise strokes and letter patterns of an A, H, X, D, and F, along with the fingers of both hands worming their way inside her tight folds.

“Oh how I love those girls who are still fairly innocent,” she declared.

“Davis, get over here and get inside of me…do me hard as you can...do not cum inside me though…”

Clairice just grimaced; she clearly recognizes that Kimberly is preparing an ultimatum of some kind – a new twist on her most sadistic of games.

She knows this woman is capable of doing anything; as on the way for her own ‘interview’ she had been shown a man who failed to provide the answers concerning Finneous’s death that they wanted – he was dumped head first into a cauldron of boiling oil, one inch at a time.

Her friend Darius was whipped while tied to a wooden post.

The torturers though just could not crack his already insane mind; he continued to argue with the post, some matter of mathematics and mechanics. Each crack of the whip drew only a small slash on his exposed back, enough to inflict maximum pain, yet did not break him.

She watched as one torturer came around before Darius with a knife in hand.

He commented that they would now remove the captives skin one inch at a time – yet when the torturer looked into the eyes of Darius, he suddenly lost his nerve and ran down the hall, screaming as if chased by the legions of the damned…

Shortly to be joined by the second torturer, many of whom never imagined could have his nerves cracked by the gaze of an insane man.

No one knows what happened, other than they gazed head long into the insanity of Darius; then smacked their arms as if bitten by some kind of insect...

Her attention returned to the here and now, and whatever her fate is to be.

Kimberly continuing her maddening efforts on her, determined to extract every bit of pleasure out of this little tart, continuing to deny her the release her body demands.

Again and again her hips thrust upward as waves of fiery bliss shoot along her body and threaten to collapse her mind. Waves of volcanic heat flow and ebb along every fiber of her being; surging and exploding with every type of blissful, pulsating, electrically energizing rapturous bliss!

A swirling, dazzling kaleidoscope of coloration swirl into being, parting and shifting with each new blissful moment sweeping up from her womanhood; to merge yet again into a new form and being, a cycle that is repeated over and over again, a thousand times for each passing beat of her heated heart.

One silent gulp followed by another and yet a third becomes a steady stream for some time as one particular spot is touched just so by Kimberly’s tongue; causing her pelvis to thrust up, back bending and bosom heaving with the sudden influx of air her heated, burning body is demanding…

The inspector’s hands move up and fondle her breasts yet again, not bothering to be gentle either; three times she draws silent screams out of Clairice. Twice more she crushes them, leaving bruises of her fingers and palm on each one, relishing the torture she can inflict on such an innocent and cowardly girl…

If she only knew how fast the fickle hand of lady luck can turn…

The animalistic grunts and slapping of flesh on flesh of David entering into Kimberly merged with her cries of pleasure, loud and wild like a pack of wolves. He showed no restraint, no hesitation in his every motion or desires to enjoy this moment in which he thinks he has complete control over the inspector Kimberly.

Of course, his buddies know better.

“Okay you little hussy, I will tell you this much…mhmmm…if you cum before David, I will let the rest of the men have…mhmm…their way with you…oh…ohh…”

Grinning savagely Kimberly went about her efforts on Clairice in a whirlwind of effort; probing and twirling her fingers deep in her womanhood while working every portion she can with her flickering tongue and lips. Faster and ever faster her efforts accelerated, determined to break Clairice once and for all; to show these men and the girl who is the true boss and mistress on the scene…

Then she will see about destroying the one called Darius.

Clairice fights with all the considerable discipline she has learned in her life, locking her bodies muscles and restraining the ever building, quickening fires of her pending release; she smiles inward with a small portion of her mind as Kimberly howls in frustration – no matter what the inspector does or tries, she just cannot make the girl hit her climax.

So furious does Kimberly become her hand that holds onto the back of their shared couch tears away a hunk of wood some two feet long!

Suddenly Kimberly pulls away from Clairice; head thrown back as her breasts dance with the pulsating rise and fall of her chest, howling delight escaping her lips as eyes roll up into her head…she hits her climatic release at the instant David, full of bellowing grunts and growls howls for all he is worth (and such would make any pack of wolves grin with pride), his release inside of Kimberly absolute and final.

His grin is from ear to ear, holding his fists in a wave of victory for another ‘conquest’ well done.

Moments after his big finish Clairice loosens up on her body, allowing the inevitable surge of final bliss to pour forth as an unstoppable storm, the force and fury of the earthquake, the great tsunami descending onto the coast of a continent from across the ocean…

Kimberly shook her head, clearly disappointed she could not break the girl…

“Well then Clairice, don’t let it ever be said I break my word once given. You lasted longer than this loser who is strutting like a cock-of-the-walk before a flock of peahens. Get your clothing on, you survived this time.”

Kimberly just looked at her with iron in her cold grey eyes, “There will be another though, and who knows; I may let my boys have their fun with you…”

“She is to be escorted home, if one of you so much as lays a hand on her, pray for a quick death from suicide; otherwise I will flay your skin one inch at a time, then soaked in vinegar, covered in molten cheese and tossed to a pit full of rabid, plague infested and hungry rats,” Kimberly informed them all.

Everyone quickly nodded in affirmation; knowing their boss is all too capable of carrying out that threat.

======
As they gather Clairice’s clothing, gently handing it to her, backs and gazes now politely turned away; the Investigator prepares to give her newest recruit – David – a stern lesson in following orders. One thing David should have remembered is that each of the Investigators are women who absolutely loathe men most of the time, plus being high level assassins of the guild.

Without bothering to gather her clothing she saunters to stand behind Davis as he finishes lacing his britches; his smile of conquest turns to concern as he takes in the grins of his companions.

- WHACK!
- WHACK!
- WHACK!

Doubling over, eyes crossing and soft moans escaping his lips, David begins a slow, face first descent to the floor. One more victim racked up to the Inspectors well known move called the “Triple Nutcracker.”

“That is for you daring to think you are even worthy of releasing your seed inside of me David,” Kimberly growled at him.

Of course by now, laying on the floor while making soft, mewing and whimpering sounds, he is beyond any conscious thought or complaint.

Kimberly catches the subtle bemused smile and laughter of Clairice’s eyes; that is all the thanks the mute girl is capable of giving, she had seen the horrific scar upon her throat.

No, she and the old toymaker Darius had nothing to do with the death of Finneous.

Her duty is done though in this matter – orders from above in the guild told her to find out if the girl Clairice and Darius had anything to do with the death of Finneous. Pure routine, save for the fact that the torturers had run off for some reason – that had unnerved Kimberly completely for a moment or two; the girl should count what bit of mercy she has been shown, as many of the others brought in for the ‘investigation’ will never leave alive.

That is the way of the guild run Constables and their Investigators; they control the town folks through fear.

No, these two definitely know nothing…she shakes her head as the girl is led away to be safely delivered home.

Finneous appears to simply have died of heart stoppage.

Back in her personal office she examines the last, precious gift sent to her by Finneous…a last gift sent just a few hours before his death…and to just up and die from his heart stopping; not in mortal combat against another assassin or madman…

She smiles at the wonderful gift:

A simple, single, half bloomed rose sent to her from Clairice’s flower shop just before he died.

Ironic indeed, two of the most deadly of killers sharing one thing in common: A love for roses of all kinds.

In fact he had one near him at the time of his death, and then this gift came for her a short time afterwards.

Taking it in hand from the crystal vase it arrived in, she looks at the flower in the soft lantern light; the promise of beauty beyond wonder hinted once the blossom opens to its fullest.

Bringing it to her nose she savors the heady scents that mix together – rose lips, cinnamon and clover; plus others that still defy her ability to identify.

Little wonder Finneous sent it to her, such a prize can bring a kings ransom or more from its grower…

It takes over two hours before anyone who heard the crashing noise followed by absolute silence to build up the courage to enter her office, rightfully fearing for their lives.

Of course they quickly discern there is nothing to fear any more from Kimberly – being dead does give that guarantee; and she is deemed to have died from heart stoppage as did Finneous.

The celebration held that night in the Constables office for her passing lasted well into the next day; the moans and groans of the men and women coupling merged with the coupling of women with other women telling all who dared to listen just how the celebration culminated.


*************
“Gentlemen you can put me down now, there is no need for the escort…”

As usual no matter what Darius said or did the Constables escorting him and Clairice to her shop paid him no attention. Its not that he minded the escort, nor having her as company during the long walk home; he is glad they did not ‘interrogate’ her fully by gang raping her as so many other women routinely are – the so called ‘law’ of this town lives by terror as does the Assassins who rule.

What really is bothering him is being carried hog-tied to a long pole carried between two Constables; they had the audacity to do so with his now cut up robes as well, leaving him wearing only a pair of thread bare britches in a deathly chill night.

“Okay guys,” said the patrol leader - Jambis, “we have done our duty for the night; now, leave her be and dump him…”

The two Constables carrying him summarily threw him into a heap of garbage and slime. To add further insult to injury, the patrol dumps heaps of garbage from containers, bags, and boxes on top of him; mocking him as a true madman.

“Well lads Master Gordon wanted him humiliated; so now he is humiliated. Understand Darius, the next time the master wants an order filled, get it right. One more mistake and the next visit by us will be a more pain filled than your demented nightmares could comprehend,” Jambis told him.

“Really, I look forward to giving you instructions in such nightmares some time then,” he said with such coldness, voice devoid of all emotion, that the entire patrol was chilled to their very bones.

“Mind you Darius, that is from me just because I can,” Jambis said.

With that he delivers three savage kicks with an iron tipped boot to Darius’s head.

Having finished with their business the patrol heads out, making sure no one pays any attention to their message being delivered to Darius. That is the rule of the streets – pay no attention to anything that is not your business and you then stay alive for another day…usually.

Even that blasted wretch of a hussy Clairice is gone.

“Smart girl, keep out of sight, and keep out of trouble. Let’s get back to Ragner; then we can have a night on the town with our payment…how about that new ale house? They say the apple-crisps are delicious…” Jambis’ voice fades away as Darius rolls on the ground in pain…

Or at the least, the feinting of pain; for they do not see him suddenly take full control of his body, his eyes set on their backs in a matter that promises death to each one of the patrol.

Only the opening of the shop door and a gesture of her with the amethyst eyes keeps his pursuit in check…

Not now, revenge will wait, and he has a better way of doing it – one that he will enjoy when the time is right.


======
Hours later in the cities crowded market one young lady casually strolls down the way; just a simple milk maid from the farms outside the town. No one pays her any attention, the much patched, homespun fabric coated in the daily grime of hard labor keeps most eyes from more than a glance followed by, for those of more affluent means, a disdainful snort of disgust.

She filled her basket with an assortment of fruits, day old bread and other goods for a small family of one; all that the vendors know she needs.

Friendly, but silent, the scar across her throat and left face indicate a horrendous injury that never properly healed due to lack of care.

Still with simple gestures of pantomime they communicate for conducting business; both official and otherwise, for one of the vendors passes her a small sack of fresh fruits, something she pays well to obtain due to their rare and scarce nature.

Back in the safety of one established hideout, she sees her Associate carefully undo the sack cloth to gain access to the note. He takes extreme care in doing this, to make sure the note is not trapped in some manner – say with a small, highly poisonous insect or a small snake.

“Have trust in your agents true my granddaughter; but take care in case one has been turned,” grandfather had warned her in a lesson so long ago.

In her small mirror, used to remove the makeup, false scars and other items of her disguises, she sees her currently green eyes turn back to their normal color…the twin orbs of amethyst fires…

“My lady,” her Associate says as he holds the note out for her to examine.

It is from one of her other agents:

Jesmine and her family are out of the city and well on their way to a new life.

For a moment her smile turns feral; her amethyst eyes dancing with pure fires from within.

She remembered the lesson Shan Tiel had taught:

The assassin controls agents through promise of wealth for success, and promise of death for failure. Find the object he threatens death to, the key to control over the family – once found, prepare the families escape. When the agent of the assassin no longer is controlled by fear, their fear now becomes a burning desire for revenge. Thus the assassin in now vulnerable, and when you are ready, he will die.

Finneous held power and thus had total control of the father by threatening harm to his precious Jesmine.

When the offer of freedom and escape from the fear of Finneous came, and understood to be legitimate, he took up the one task without hesitation. Hence the flower was delivered and the note left behind.

One assassin is dead, three more to go.

Along with taking down the greatest prize of them all; now the paranoia and the pressure will rise and rise until all comes down.

He watched her cross the room to place the note among a small bundle of them, to be burned later on and the ashes scattered in the wilds. No evidence of them is to remain at all once committed to memory.

His mind registered each gentle sway of her hips, her covering robe of pink silk shining in the light of many lanterns; moving and shifting to tease him with a brief revelation of a leg here, a calf there, a possible sight of one portion or another in the near constant play of light and shadow. Not one noise did her feet make as they all but danced across the wooden floor, so balanced and ghostly is each foot placed; always ready for action on a moments notice…

Oh how he could contemplate what it would be like to feel his manhood being rubbed and tenderly teased to its maximum potential by them, the toes touching him just so here and there…he would in turn begin to kiss one foot, working to her ankle and then gently easing up, one inch at a time to her innermost thigh and seek out the one heavenly place she has, the one portion he loves on a woman to please and taste, to experience the luxuriant warmth of her flesh and…

- Whack!

“My lady if you will excuse me I am off to get some rest,” Associate said as he slowly eased his body around the knife hanging sharp side up, just a hairs breath beneath his aroused manhood.

*************************
Throughout the day, the patrol members talk of their deeds, screened by a small contingent of the best informed creatures to be found within any city: Street urchins, crawlers, lurkers, they go by many such names and almost all have one thing in common; they are the bottom of the social order.

The poor, homeless, orphans, madmen, and all such people who are desperate to make a coin or two for a decent meal; so it is that many in positions of power use them to watch any and all movement, any rumors or stories no matter how trivial. Few people pay them any attention save to keep hand on their money belts, or valuables, so they excel at the art of being invisible while in plain sight.

One other trait the lurkers, such as a young lad casually strolling along the streets a short time later, his hands deep in coat pockets, is a well honed instinct for survival. Otherwise he would have died long before now. Yet the fact is when he bumps into someone, he is the one knocked to the ground – landing next to a fallen basket of fruit…

A lady looks down upon his fallen form, the raven black hair done up in a flowing braid, blue-white hat tied to her head while sapphire blue eyes watched. Her blush-enhanced cheeks glistened in the sunlight, matching the gloss on her lips as her smile grew wide with poetic pleasure that many men, and some women, wished to explore with pounding hearts…

Her fine gown of deep sea green sparkled in the light, slit along one leg to flow enticingly about her calf and thigh, promising forbidden delights to those willing and able to pay the price. The soft vest of blue-green silk she wore clung to every one of her feminine curves it reached, save for a portion that shows a glimpse of her breasts, soft and pink of skin, as many an aristocratic man enjoys…

Folding her parasol, she bends down into a half crouch, the material of her gown conveniently flowing about her upper thigh to reveal the pearly luster of her skin; muscles honed to absolute perfection and hinting at the strength contained within – the better to wrap around their evenings consorts in the throws of passion, or so it is said.

She extends one hand to the lad, her glove flowing up to the elbow and dancing with glitter crafted of a mix of mother-of-pearl, emeralds, sapphires and such crushed, then glued with exacting care to the fabric.

The lad, his majority reached just two days ago does not move; he is still, despite a rough life on the streets that has left him gangly, short and suffering malnutrition, in absolute fear of this lady. His racing heart beats from the panic of her wondrous nature, the flush of heat deep in his body flowing fast and hard while his manhood demands his attention, threatening to tear his britches apart.

He looks upon her with awe and wonder; this lady is of the famed “Sisters of the Blue.”

Across the way, a quartet of the sisters pass by, stopping only long enough to see the actions of one of their own rendering aid to a street urchin. They show faces momentarily flushed with anger, then sniff and walk off in complete disdain…indicating this sister is something of an outcast from that elite group.

Understanding that he must be on his best manners, for the sake of his life – the Sisters are often said to be part of the guild of assassins, and under the personal command of the Grandfather of Assassins – the youths extended hand shakes with trepidation.

Sometimes facing a ‘legend come to life’ (in his mind, she is a veritable goddess of passion and pleasure that can never be approached by the lowest of mortals), can be more intimidating than the masters of death who are probably preparing their poison tipped blades to turn him into a hand basket…

“Ma’am I am sorry for knocking your basket out of hand,” accepting fault for the matter even when none is there. With utmost care and respect he hands the fruit basket back to her.

“I shall use more care in the future; have a good day ma’am,” he says until her hand rests gently on his shoulder.

Everyone watches in wonder as she takes him into the semi-private area of a general store; she uses pantomime to finally get the point across to the grocer, who shakes in near terror at the thought of causing the Sister any offense (being connected to assassins can cause this to happen a lot, the Sister thinks), to outfit the lad with a full set of NEW clothing, no second hand junk.

She pulls out a small number of silver coins to cover the cost and to buy some small goods that the grocer gives her a massive discount upon.

Through the shop door and windows the gathered crowd watches in jaw-dropping wonder as she sits the lad down next to her on a bench as the grocer goes to get the new clothing. Her hand playfully teases up his arm, and causes him to shudder like nothing. He fights to keep his eyes off of her, especially as she takes one of his hands into her own and moves it to the lower edge of her vest…gently guiding it up under the material and onto her breast beneath.

His jaw flaps open and closed repeatedly as the warmth of her flesh, the yielding softness of it, catches him by surprise – no lady has done this for him until now. She does this to let everyone know, assassins and the normal folks of Providence, that the lad is now a personal agent of her own; to harm or touch him in any way is to risk the retribution of the Assassins…maybe, as no one can really be sure who she works for…

The Sister in blue looks upon all the watchers with coyly pursed lips, eyes set in a wicked gaze that promises the lad untold passions to come and untold, absolute pain and death for anyone interfering with her chosen gift of recruitment for him.

The lad looks at her in near panic, until she gently kisses him on the cheek, nose and brow with a smile. She gently takes his hand away from her breast and readjusts her clothing while the grocer returns with the garments. Ushering the lad into a changing room to see the results, the grocer returns to putting her purchased goods in her basket; then hands it to her with a deep bow, nod of the head and a grand smile on his face.

So successful has the deception been, no one suspected the grocer passed a small bundle of papers her way in the basket; in turn she had passed instructions on as well, concealed under her vest for the lad to carry to others in her ever expanding circle of agents and contacts.

Before sunset comes, the leaders of her network of agents; begin preparations of their own; preparations for the massive strike once she gives the signal…as arms and armor are prepared; their grins are as of captive wolves about to destroy their tormentor.



======
Later that night, her eyes read carefully the gathered accounts of all her own agents, details of those known agents and members of the assassin’s guild; their duties, patrol times, habits and so forth. Each detail that is gathered shows more weaknesses, more fuel for the pending firestorm.

Among all these clues, facts and information there stands out one portion – a chink in the enemies’ armor; the way one weakness can be so dramatically exploited.

How to achieve it with total surprise?

After a few minutes of contemplation she turns to her Associate, and via the silent hand language explains what is needed. His smile and nod shows the delight in her idea, and he has a fair idea of who to approach to craft the ‘gift’ that is needed.

As he looks into her eyes he sees the chemical mixture that allows her to change their coloration wear off; the fake sapphire blue reverting back to the true, lustrous amethyst fires he has come to admire so much. The mix used to make this happen is common in the Far East, unknown to these idiot assassins of the West.

One more edge for their side; and they need every one they can achieve.

His gaze flows over her lithe form, the silken robe enshrouding her partially open as she continues to read ever more of the messages; her bared skin glistens in the gentle light of the oil lamp, casting shadows and light that dance suggestively across abdomen and breasts, hiding and revealing in a dance of sensuality suggesting more wonders are nearby if he would just dare to explore…

Putting on his coat as slowly as possible, pretending that his arm is stuck in the sleeve, he drinks in the sight of her bared legs, crossed and curved to keep the sight of her womanhood just out of reach; yet teasingly he can just make out a bit of the soft, downy hair between her thighs…a prize he would love to explore if she just would let him do so…

How much pleasure he could bring forth from her unlike the now dead Inspector Kimberly – that one used the sexual for intimidation and domination; he will for her to be pleased and loved.

Bared breasts moves ever so slightly with each of her gentle breaths; dancing in a rhythm silent and steady, enticing with their nipples so soft, pink and fully erect as if daring him to move in and consider the impossible.

How he would love to please them, his fingertips spiraling inward from his caresses along the base, after placing countless kisses on each one, leaving no portion untouched. The taste of her body, changing as her body became more and more excited, sweeter and sweeter, mixing with the heady scent of that wonderful perfume she wears…

From her breasts he would move downward on her abdomen, teasing her stomach with constant little kisses to pull many silent sets of giggles and laughs as possible; then proceeding downward to her womanhood, by now so ready to be excited and her eyes would be dancing in anticipation…

Oh how he would revel in that sweetest of all tastes and smells; her bared womanhood, still so young and fairly innocent before him. Each soft touch of his fingers and lips, the caresses of his tongue on those most sensitive of spots, natures gift to women, he would double his efforts on and as she increased in fulfillment towards her climax, bring her down a bit and then double the efforts again and again until she is pushed over the edge…

He imagines the wonderful reaction of her body heaving and gyrating as she hits her release, waves of bliss and fiery passion flowing across her body to crash to the one point of her mind demanding to enjoy each moment of the sensations.

She would look at him with those dreamy amethyst eyes, a silent invitation given and confirmed as her arms were held out to him, welcoming their union as one…

- Thunk!

“My lady,” he calmly stated, “if you will permit me I shall make due haste to secure the services we need for the next part of the plan…”

He gently moves forward a bit, making sure to clear the sharp side up blade stuck in the wall just a hairs breath below his manhood…her means of reminding him, romance may come later, right now other things are priority.

She just shakes her head and smiles as he leaves; wondering how many more times she may have to do that to get the idea through his head – she does not want romance, not at this time, she needs just a friend. Grandfather was the one she loved the most, and it’s too soon since his passing…


*****************
*****************
Normally a walk among his beds of flowers cheers the darkest, foulest, humorless of moods he could achieve. This day though, is not one of them; his great rose gardens, the greatest of his treasures accumulated over the last ten years now have become a bane.

Three days ago, three of the flowers were carefully cut and vanished.

Two of these flowers appeared this morning, one in the house of Jesmine’s family; the others next to the now very dead Finneous and Kimberly.

An incredibly fine morning he was spending with a Sister in Blue crumbled into ashes with the messenger who arrived unheralded, accompanied by a heavy guard from the guild hall.

His message was simple: The Grandfather of Assassins wants to see him.

He felt the cold, gripping hands of death clench about his throat and heart; the sheer terror threatening of the pending session alone all but stopping his heart.

Grandfather’s gentle interrogation – he could simply have tortured him to death on a whim – centered on the notes supposedly in his own elegant and flowing script, so close of a forgery that even the guilds best experts are hard pressed to tell the difference.

Finally he was allowed to go, still intact in mind and body; most such ‘interrogations’ wind up with the victim being boiled in oil if they are lucky.

Yet the real message he gave to Gordon is this: Grandfather is watching for a coup from within, or to see if a certain Master will fall (i.e. Gordon) and a new one promoted in his place.

This mystery is driving him to the brink of madness; the reference again of ten years of silence, only two others still alive know what happened all those years ago with the contract on the banker and his family.

So either one of them has slipped the word out to set him up for a fall…or someone else has figured the affair out and is setting him up for a fall…

The ease that the roses disappeared makes one matter clear though; someone has an agent on the inside, and needs to be found out and ‘interrogated.’ He does not tolerate those who sell him out…not at all.

But who could it be?

Though he never can fully trust anyone about him, a few have again and again proven their loyalty and utter reliability over the years…Yes, he will have them watched from a distance; common thugs and footpad agents of the guild, if they get killed by their own incompetence, there will be no major loss.

Pleased with this plan another thought comes to him; here he is in the open, well within range of a marksman with a crossbow…

…making him an easy target, perfectly accommodating any targeting him right now from a tree or roof top…

He retreats back into the manor, swiftly closing and barring the massive iron doors. The watch is doubled and the place is to be searched from top to bottom twice over. Pure defensive measures if his hunch of a strike at him is right.

Of course, if a coup attempt happens as Grandfather expects, he will rush to defend the leader of the guild. If the opportunity arises, then he will dispose of Grandfather. His mood brightens at those thoughts; he as the new Grandfather of Assassins, ruling the town and the guild plus all of his own lands…why not, this bears some discussion with his associates – Gerald and Cinnius.

Even with the thoughts now calculating plans and contingencies for the takeover of the guild or elimination of a rival one fact remains clear. His hand never loosens its grip on the razor sharp knife hanging from his belt.



**********************
**********************
Associate moved as carefully and quietly as he could, not daring to make a noise at all. Shadow to shadow, one small step at a time he moves, quieter than a mouse on the prowl. For several days he has built up the nerve to come closer and closer; with certain precautions being taken this time…

- clunk.

Quickly he grabs the cloth bound, cast iron plate draped across his manhood to quiet up even this little bit of noise. His quarry this evening is all too likely to make sure he is gelded indeed…and the poison on her blades are another complication as well to that kind of embarrassment.

Looking around the final corner into the small stone grotto below the safe house they have established; he look upon She with the amethyst eyes showering beneath a soft, steady, misting cascade of steaming water. This may be one of the few luxuries she ever has allowed herself…

Associate of course, just smiles, as he sees the show is about to begin…

She bent her head downward to take in the frontal portion of her exposed body, those smallish breasts glistening with small beads of water upon them. Both hands came together in front of her, tip to tip, her eyes taking in the dancing lights that gleamed like a million millions of diamonds before a flame, playfully moving along her smooth skin before they disappear into the pool about her feet, merging with the rest for eternity.

Associate looked with wonder as she playfully gathered a handful of the water after she cupped her hands as one, and repeatedly tossed it into the air; her silent laugh adding to the wonderment of her gleaming eyes when the droplets come back down to crash on her. She moves arms, legs, shoulders and head to catch or dodge parts of it; shifting from foot to foot in many different poses.

Then her gaze shifts to her breasts once again.

One fingertip began to explore, resting at first upon the very base of her ribs, to flow upward in a narrow, focused, undulating trail that clearly sent a cornucopia of feelings surging into all portions of her mind.

Associate could all too well imagine what she would say if words could be given form to her thoughts...yes, she would describe her own experience as...

I felt as if my world came alive from the instant my fingertip first touched flesh, a world opening before me unlike any other...

Sharp and sweet, tart and tangy, dull and dense; words without form for feelings that cannot be described save as a harmony like a series of streams forging into a mighty river as all join together. My eyes closed as I felt the heat in my body beginning to shift and build, a sweltering pulsation that flowed from the souls of my feet to the tips of my fingers, caressing hips and shoulders, knees and elbows as the soft, sensuous touch of a graceful lover who only desires to pleasure his lady to no end.

I smelled with each breath the heavenly profusion of scents – the mineral rich water, the ancient age of the rocks around me along with the musky, earth rich scent of men and women who have lived here over the vast age the house above has existed. The wonderful, heady mixture of the bathing soaps I love to use mix in with all of these, bringing to mind an ancient forest never before visited by human beings; of mountain meadows with flowers fully in bloom and the sweet, gentle breeze flowing across them.

The fingertip became a flattened palm, easing along the edge of my breast, slowly tracing the edge while swirling in small, gentle circles. One circuit became two, then four, and moved to the other breast to do the same. Twice more this looping symbol of infinity proceeded; while my hand caressed and massaged more and more area of my breasts.

My other hand flowed down my body unto the most personal spot each woman alone understands and has by a gift of nature; they followed my minds command to begin exploring and probing, as I sought out the one spot to send me away into heavenly bliss for a short time.

I heard and felt my breath quickening, my head making a small circle as electrical charges of pure bliss tingled their way up my body; each one in turn unleashed a pleasant surge of energy, invigorating and easing, the raw potential of life made reality. Stroke by gentle stroke the infinite pattern flowed, kneading and shaping my breasts until they crossed the erect nipples; that first gracing contact sent a coursing pulse of passion along all the paths of my body, surging and rebounding until it returned a hundred fold in intensity that almost became overwhelming.

My back arched as shoulders thrust back with my head; my free hand quickly clenched the vanities marble edge as both of my legs all but gave out beneath me. Muscles twitched and squirmed, nerves firing in delight and demanding they be touched to give me even more pleasure than I had experienced with just that one massive surge of wonderment.

Unto its journey my hand continued, seeking out with almost desperate haste the other nipple; its trail a clear path illuminated by fires of bliss as it moved along my skin. Pulse after beating pulse surged in this journey to flow outward as the ripples on a pond, yet with the force of a cascade among a mighty river.

I commanded my body to hold still, to balance and move with the flowing surge that will shortly come; to use the energy and move with it instead of in opposition to it. When it came, the barest brush of flesh on that nipple; combined with the pleasures flowing from my womanhood; brilliant lightning ripped up and down my body, flexing and loosening muscles and nerves in wonderful manners as I shook and moved; the wave moving downward as I sought to direct the returning pulse…

And then it hit; the most intimate and pleasurable of sensations that sent me into a long, jarring climax that lasted over five minutes; my skin shining brilliant in a shimmering cloud of soft steam rising from my body.

I felt more alive than ever before.

- BOOM!

In an instant of fire and pain Associates fantasy of his ladies delightful experience being told to him shatters.

She shook her head as Associate went diving into the grottos main pool, britches smoking beneath the cast iron plate he is wearing over his groin. He apparently forgot that one of the explosive compounds he carried at the ready would go off at the least wrong motion…why would he keep it down there though?

She just rolled her eyes to the heavens…



**********************
**********************
It has been a busy two weeks since the deaths of Master Finneous and Constable Kimberly; the subsequent sets of ‘interviews’ sanctioned by the guild are nothing more than a campaign of terror, intimidation and coercion to remind all of Providence who rules the town. Of course, a few of the more ambitious members of the guild also took the occasion to encourage their own promotion from within the guild…

A knife in a superiors back, appropriately poisoned, does help out with this promotion procedure…until such a time your underling gains your new position by ratting you out to the Grandfather, and then you wonder why you are about to be executed in a pit of rabid rats…

For she whose eyes are alight with amethyst fires, the weeks have been even longer, two key items she needs to have crafted by local sources seem to never get finished. Day by day she waits and hopes for the message that they are ready to arrive. Day by day the message never comes, and her patience begins to fray at the edges…

Two long weeks where with each passing day the agents under Master Cinnius have harmed more and more innocent people; the continuing and growing campaign of terror, sanctioned ultimately by the Grandfather of Assassins. One more crime for them to pay for…

Then the message arrives: “The gift is ready.”

Thus she has come to stand in the back room of a toymaker this night…

With the most gentle, tender of care, each of the egg-sized spheres is examined for the smallest of flaws; and none are to be found. Her feral grin is matched by that of the toymaker standing next to her; both of hers and the one remaining of his gleaming with contemplation of the coming fall of the second king…

“Fire with fire, which is what you instructed; just do not drop any of them, the results of course would be fairly impressive and quite final. Those idiots of the guild never figured I know the arts of alchemy as well as being a toymaker. Now through you I can have my revenge upon them after so many long years…” he shook his head in long sustained sadness.

Twelve years ago, for making a small mistake in one of his ‘requested’ toys taken at sword point by a guild member, they came and slaughtered his wife and eight children before his eyes. Then forever scarred him as a reminder – burning off the left side of his face and removing one eye by a rat gnawing it away; he has never forgotten the pain, nor the terrible resolve for revenge to be exacted on the tormentor of his – Cinnius – if the opportunity arrived.

When it did with her, he jumped at it immediately; she has promised much more as well…

She hands him a folded letter containing the initial contact information for those who see him to safety; ones who specialize in smuggling people to freedom and who are part of her own network. While he looks at the information she disappears out the back door and into the safety of the shadows. No one, not even a cat laying down ten inches from the door, senses her passage.

Soon enough one more King shall be swept off the board…


***************
***************
The following two weeks sees utter chaos sweep the street agents of the Guild. The ordinary gossip heard in shops and among workers has suddenly been replaced with word of a brewing power struggle within the guild leadership, of a rival guild from another city, or an all out street war. Each one seems to be wilder and more unbelievable than the last and always third, fourth or even fifth hand from the one who first heard it….untraceable…

Only one stream of the rumors is constant – three players, Masters Cinnius, Gerald and Gordon.

The more that the Grandfather hears of these rumors, the more he wonders if there is a coup being prepared by these three; or one of them who is also trying to dispose of the others…yes indeed…something is brewing and it means major trouble…but for whom…

He gives orders for his own agents to find the sources of these rumors, or face the most hideous death that they could imagine…


=======
Her amethyst eyes sparkle in the soft light of the moon coming into the room from the window. Once again her own street agents have excelled beyond all reasonable expectations; pressure and yet more pressure is being put on the guilds agents as they hunt for the truth…or what they perceive as the truth behind the rumors…

Paranoia can be so handy to make life miserable for assassins…

The softest of footfalls draws her attention to the doorway where her Associate enters.

He bows politely and announces he has some news from others he is in contact with…ones that will make the end of this hunt truly worthwhile if they agree to join…

“My lady,” he said, “I have come from the leaders of those who are in waiting, before they will commit fully to our plan they want ‘dramatic proof of the guild being vulnerable.’ It must leave no doubt in the matter. I told them that such a matter is already being prepared; just to let them know who is in control of this hunt. These assassins have allowed the anger to build against them for so long, by so much fear that they have become very arrogant…yet I believe the demonstration will bring those who wait into our fold.”

She nods to him, showing agreement with his reading of the matter.


************************
Near the new ale-house which is a front for the assassins’ guild’s operations, the main tap room is flowing with customers coming and going. The back rooms this night also are active as members and agents move in and out with clockwork precision. Most bring collections from loans, blackmail, extortion and other cuts from businesses for ‘insurance’ reasons.

Some of the deliveries though are for payment of contracts taken out on business rivals…one being sent to Master Cinnius.

This gift for Cinnius is an exquisitely carved wooden box; around the edges are brilliant, almost living works of half-bloomed roses, and the relief of Master Gordon’s manor house. It is the work of many master craftsmen and worth a fortune in and of itself.

Yet the guild takes few chances; as a special band of thieves who are trained in the ways of trap crafting and of disarming them checks it over in exacting detail – their lives depend on it as if they fail…swift, brutal death.

To the best they can determine, there is nothing amiss; only a faint layer of dust upon the wrapping cloth and the wooden box itself. Obviously some apprentice carver failed to dust it off prior to shipping it here…still as per the standing orders of Grandfather the box is opened, to ensure no unpleasant surprises await within.

No disruption is to come to this operation, none at all, and they know their lives are forfeit if anything does go wrong.

Inside they find a master set of billiard balls, the favored game of Master Cinnius, plus a letter written in the flowing script of Master Gordon…

My associate Cinnius – the letter opens – please accept this as my gift for ten years of quiet work. Soon we shall reap the harvest of our efforts; may you enjoy the many games to be played with this billiards set – Gordon.

Many people examine the items, passing them around to see if any are trapped. Nearby the guards standing watch keep their weapons at the ready; prepared to instantly step in if danger threatens, of course if one of the examiners just up and dies then they will hold their ground to report later directly to Grandfather of the events.

Ragner, the current agent in charge of the operations smiles as his men engage in some fun; tossing the billiard balls back and forth, juggling them and raising small clouds of the dust that came from inside the box. He tells the guards to join in the fun as well – being in the personal pay of Grandfather has its advantages after all, and if something does go wrong – they can take the fall.

However at the moment, considering the letter from Master Gordon, he wonders if much more is afoot at the time. Plots within plots, deception within deception, trust no one…

Still…

He has been instructed to play his role of working for Master Gordon, yet that letter…

The letter that has information that Grandfather has offered payment for…a payment he finds all too tempting to pass up.

“Hmm, maybe Gordon is passing the operation over to Cinnius after all? Some better offer coming in turn to the boss?” he speculates aloud.

Turning to his own agent Jambis, he hands the letter to him with instructions that this is to get back to the guild, and directly to the Grandfather. Many see him hand a small token, a medallion that bears the personal marks of the Grandfather to Jambis – this is a pass for emergencies or critical messages only.


Right now Ragner thinks this qualifies as BOTH; critical information the Grandfather may need, to avoid a coup attempt staged to unseat him.

Other agents whom directly answer to the Grandfather hear Ragner mutter “…this time Gordon has gone too far…a game and a coup…or a move to set up Cinnius, or another setting up Gordon…”

As they speed off one by one, their information reaches the head of the guild before the mysterious letter does.

Ragner watches Jambis of the Constables gather his squad about himself, and then put the letter into an inner vest pocket, unopened and unread. Both of them slap the dust off their hands that was upon the letter.

Ragner considers for a moment that the box must not be of such superior crafting as he first assumed; given the sheer amount of dust covering it, as if it has been on a shelf for untold ages.

He only holds onto that train of thought for a few moments; before turning to more important matters, of how he is going to spend his reward and use his success here to advance within the guild.

Out of the corner of his eye Ragner catches a series of distinct movements, the flashing and glistening of color that tells him of a special kind of danger now approaching his area. He focuses his entire attention upon the closing threat, appearing as relaxed and casual as he can while watching, listening, and waiting for the least bit of information that can give him an edge in the impending encounter…

Three figures approach, their flowing and bustled gowns, double laced vests with frilled edging; and gloves that flow up to their elbows match the snowy down of hats and ribbons binding their raven black hair; their eyes of sapphire blue would confirm their allegiance if the same coloration of their clothing and shading parasols did not…

THREE Sisters of the Blue in one gathering!

Unheard of by almost anyone; as the services of one alone would break Ragner for the next ten lifetimes!

Then he sees the bodyguards of the gentleman the sisters are entertaining flanking him, fore, aft and to the sides; thus changing the slight envy Ragner was feeling into deferential terror…

Master Gerald walks on past, not bothering to pay anyone any attention other than the three ladies.

Such luxuries Ragner plans to have as his own and all too soon; with the reward promised by Grandfather he can have any number of the Sisters of the Blue with him at any time he wishes…

There is much he has to plan, and carefully…

Plans within plans, a harvest ready to be reaped…

It’s just that the harvest will not be as he expected.

For soon, the absolute silence of the grave fills the area…



*************************
Atop a nearby roof a line of fierce gargoyles watch with their eternal gaze upon the scene below; nearby they are shaded from the heat of the day by a pair of mighty oak trees over a hundred feet in height, plus a chimney long bricked up, that daily casts its shadow across them as well. For as long as anyone in Providence recalls these statues have maintained their silent vigil, the unmoving guardians and recorders of the towns history.

One other watches the backside of the ale-house, the agents playing their games and Ragner pacing along; and chuckles her eternally silent chuckle as the game stops with all too suddenly for the players. The idiocy of these Western assassins and their dingbat agents never ceases to amuse and surprise her.

Keeping a careful count, knowing her window of opportunity is short, she scans the area again and again with her eyes of amethyst fire. At the counts predetermined end, she makes sure her harness bag is snug about one shoulder and quickly leaps to one tree, descending with all due haste and a last leap from a low branch to the door at the back of the ale-house.

She ignores the now eternally silent guards, thieves, agents and assassins of the operations here; as they are no longer a threat in any form…so long as she does not touch them with her bared skin. Silent as death she slips into the back room, bypassing a ransom of gems, coins, jewels and jewelry fit for a hundred kings. Wealth beyond most people’s imagination lays open to her fingertips…and means nothing for her…

The game she is hunting is of much, much more personal value…

She halts inches away from the table upon which the trapped box rests. Before she gets close to the box there are precautions to be taken: the donning leather gloves; binding a thick cloth mask across her mouth and nose; and then taking a large rag in hand, she soaks it thoroughly with a bottle of prepared oil.

She takes no chances; as the risks of the trap still linger until dealt with…and are all too deadly…

With swift, precise moves, continuing a second count for the remainder of the window still open, she rubs down every surface, inside and out, of the wooden surfaces. Collecting each billiard ball, they in turn are wiped and returned to the box.

Once done, she exchanges the booby trapped box with the real gift for Master Cinnius…one that will deliver a very warm reception to him…she will take nothing else; or her efforts may come to nothing…

She pulls out a bag from her harness bag, places the box into it and then, with the utmost care, soaks her gloves with the prepared oil until she is sure they are free of the dust that so annoyed Ragner until his ending…then the gloves and rag join the trapped box in the bag.

For a moment, looking down at the carnage her and Associates efforts have wrought, she wonders what kind of looks will be on the face of Master Gordon when he hears of the operations uttermost failure. Of course in the case of Master Cinnius…she will know when he has received his gift in a special manner indeed...

“Fire with Fire,” is what the alchemist declared back when she picked up the little surprise for Cinnius. Oh how true that shall become, with an extra twist to it.

One rule the assassins forget when they come into positions of authority and power: Never become predictable in any fashion; for predictability makes one vulnerable, and soon enough all too dead…

Just like all the idiots on Ragner’s watch.

Nearing the end of her count she hastens on down the street, joining the gathering crowds who are drawn to the hue and cries for aid by a patrol of the Constables. Whispers start as to what or who could have brought him down with such speed, as he is still young and in near perfect health.

Yet it looks like his heart has just up and stopped.

Soon enough the hue and cry is sounded from the back of the ale-house; the massacre having been discovered by the next shift of guild agents arriving. In horror some flee the scene, screaming for their very lives, while the rest start demanding answers of those living nearby or passing on the street. Despite their best and most violent means of demanding the answers, no one has seen anything…

Save for those who are now dead…which will complicate their asking the three score and five corpses lying around the back of the ale-house any questions. Even an examination of the corpses themselves reveals little save that they, just like Jambis, appear to have died of heart stop…and then five of the examiners of the bodies themselves pass into the next world within the quarter hour…plus those who have dared to move the bodies for burial details…

By the end of “The Curse” as it comes to be known, over five score and seven guild agents and assassins lay dead. In one moment, the guild has been dealt a devastating blow; one that an agent who is sent to report to the guild leadership sums up so well…

“Oh man, Grandfather is not going to be very happy over this disaster. I’ll be fortunate if he does not boil me in oil for delivering this news,” he told his buddies as he moved to depart about his errand.

He was stopped though, one of Grandfathers agents handing him a package that contained a letter found upon the body of Jambis – meant to be delivered for the Grandfathers eyes only. During his all too swift travel to the guild halls, and to the door of Grandfathers throne room, he kept figuring the many ways a man could be boiled in oil…and cringed with each one, expecting that to be his fate.

Grandfather’s aid received the package, opened it and read the letter aloud to all present. Just after he finishes, his eyes glaze over and he falls backwards, dead as anything as the last traces of dust dissipate off the vellum page.

The messenger knew in the instant Grandfather’s stern gaze fell across his own that doom was now upon him. He was wrong about being boiled in oil; instead his ending came as he was lowered inch by inch into molten bronze, and a death mask of his entire body created, a unique statue soon added to those of Grandfathers innermost sanctum.

For the rest of the day and into the night, Grandfather brooded, wondering how to turn this disaster to his advantage and continued survival.


======
In the shelter of a safe house they have established, one to be abandoned for good once their disguises and the trapped box are disposed of in the fireplace, Associate bows his head in acknowledgement of her success. As she changes from one outfit to another, he cannot keep from watching, seeing her bared form in the light is a sight to behold. Well he can always dream…right now business calls…not to mention the memory of the knife just missing him down there by a bit…

“I assumed the ‘heart stop’ poison worked as planned?” he inquired.

She quickly conveys the carnage wrought using the silent sign language.

The image he derives brings out a series of chuckles that flow into a torrent of laughter; one simple trap has wrought such carnage on the operations of the assassin’s guild. The exquisite demise of the patrol leader Jambis is extra frosting on the cake…he just regrets that he did not deliver the death blow…

Yet the rest of his patrol…hmmm…

“My lady,” he carefully and respectfully speaks to her, “what of the rest of his patrol? There is still the small matter of my pets having certain…needs...shall we say…to be taken care of…”

Her expression turns purely feral, and a quick nod follows. With that extra bit of business concluded he heads on out to the street, reviewing the next portion of the plan. Tonight the rumors of the streets will turn to silence; no more rumors of the three Masters will be heard, thus many will assume the rumors are true, building fear and paranoia higher and higher within the guild…

As if the trap in the ale-house could not inspire more fear…such a simple, elegant trap…

“Heart stop,” he says softly, then gives a subtle chuckle.

Heart Stop is one of the most insidious of poisons from the Far East that few of the amateurs here in the West would know or even dream, to exist. Indeed, his lady has learned her lessons well…

When first prepared it takes twenty four hours to dry, it is safe to handle on bare skin or even inhaled. Yet for the window of seven hours after that, if breathed into the nose, as per the now late Finneous and Kimberly, it is absolutely deadly inside of four seconds.

It can be prepared as a fine, dust like powder that upon the contact with bare human skin is quickly absorbed, yet kills only minutes later; stooping their hearts cold. What makes it so subtle and insidious of a trap is the fact that those who contacted it, can pass the poison dust as well through a handshake, slap on the back, an object being passed around, so that it can kill a second, third and sometimes a fourth time.

Thus the resulting slaughter at the ale-house operations…and if the letter reached the Grandfathers innermost sanctum, many a death there as well…hopefully.

He has to remember that little trick; it may come in handy again some day…Just like the surprise for Master Cinnius that she has arranged…

Just like the fate that is coming for the patrol of Jambis; he intends to savor each and every one of their screams and pleas for mercy. Hopefully though in the end, unlikely as it seems, some of them will die with dignity and just accept their fate…his pets will be hungry enough…

As he heads down the street, he weaves and dodges among the many folks going about their usual day to day bit of business and work. His contacts on the street provide the location of the patrol with efficient, elegant energy in mere minutes…thus telling him just where to go about his business…

Until the moment someone staggers by, forcibly bumping him and others aside as the guards of Master Gerald of the guild. They scowl and threaten with glances, pose and words; the inelegant language of common and brainless thugs who would have no chance against him.

Associate bows politely and with complete deference to Master Gerald; who, to his absolute amazement stops and talks with him for a few minutes. In the guise of a foreign merchant, selling rare games of chance and that of billiards, he speaks of the most recent order he delivered to Master Gordon – a well crafted wooden box of billiards for a present to one of his friends.

Master Gerald speaks of that game being the favored one of Master Cinnius; and confirmed by Associate in his claim of being told thus by Master Gordon as well.

After they are done, one of the Sisters of the Blue gently places her hand on his shoulder, reminding him that there are far more important matters waiting his attention (three of them precisely), Gerald casually dismisses Associate.

Associate continues on his assumed business, stopping to talk with a series of store owners and vendors in the open market; followed of course for some time by one of Master Gerald’s guards – just to make sure no kind of funny business is going on.

Associate finds it quite amusing that he managed to walk passed the man three times and relieve him ever so subtly of his change purse, dagger and a deck of playing cards – not to mention the stupid feather in the mans hat.

Then again, considering with the contemptible ease he did the same with Master Gerald’s coin purse it should be no surprise. Feeling the weight of coins and jewelry within each one, the Associate slips them into an inner vest pocket and heads on his way. Some days he cannot help but smile at the sheer incompetency that these so-called “Masters of Death.”

Even the worst of his fellow students and family of the Far East are equal or better than them.

Now then to the matter at hand, he will deal shortly with the rest of Jambis patrol; and show the guild idiots what a true master of death can inflict…he just needs to get his hands on some change purses of Master Gordon’s agents…

Then his fun will truly begin…


************************
************************
As Masters Cinnius and Gerald head to exit the network of warehouses and shops, the false coverage for the guild of assassins, people see them wearing looks of anger and terror; for they have survived a ‘polite meeting’ with the Grandfather of Assassins…and what a meeting it was…

The Grandfather stood before the two of them, clad in his personal arms and armor for battle; two scores of his best and deadliest body guards surrounding him. ALL of the guards have blades drawn and held at ready, in an instant any suicidal attacker will perish under poisoned steel…assuming that the loaded crossbow held by the Grandfather did not finish them first.

His discussion was direct and anger filled; not to mention emphatic on its clarity:

Among the three Masters – Gordon, Gerald and Cinnius – one of them is nearing the completion of planning for a coup. The sight of Grandfathers newest bronze statue, a late and unfortunate messenger from the ale-house carnage, stands as witness in muted, locked, screaming agony of the fate that may be soon to come for the two of them…

Grandfather explains in simple terms for the two there before him – stand loyal and on his side and you may survive, possibly advancing in position and power. “The choice is yours though, if you think you can overcome me with Gordon, then attempt to do so; just understand what will befall those who fail…”

He motioned with an extended hand over to the new statue…

The Grandfather explained the evidence having been found in a letter from Gordon; detailed information about him, Gordon, becoming ‘the new Grandfather’, and other comments that have been ‘discretely overheard by those closest to you both…”

The sheer, utter, shocked horror that crosses their faces is genuine. Never before could they have imagined just how far and complete Grandfather controlled his own network of spies and agents; they must take extra care in any move made to counter Gordon.

“This coming coup will fail. Of that have no doubt the two of you, it will fail,” he declared in a calm voice of iron control.

There are more than a few who overhear their not too quiet conversation; its accounting passes through the guild within the hour. Clues begin to merge with speculation and theories; each one being spun and twisted until they become accepted as the basis for fact and truth.

Most have come to find out that Master Gordon has allegedly locked himself away in his own manor house; his personal agents though are following members of his house staff, plus other members of the guild as well. Just this activity, common among the guild already, lends more fuel to the fire about the coup; only this time it seems to be that Masters Cinnius and Gerald are being set up as a decoy, or bait.

None can be sure who of the three Masters is in on the coup, who is bait and sacrifice, or if someone else is setting up a greater game to take down the Grandfather as well…all three make sense to the assassins.

For Master Cinnius though, the meeting with Grandfather ended with a dubious promotion of sorts; one that held all the potential of vast wealth and unexpected doom. One that all too clearly Grandfather was using for ulterior motives…and for his own survival at the top of the guild pecking order…

“Cinnius,” Grandfather began, “The restoration of the collections is now your task; Gordon has proven not to be up to the task and thus is now removed from it,” he gestured with his hands, then slapped them together in a statement of finality, leading the rest of those present to wonder if a death sentence has just been passed…

And if so, who would then die…

“See to the ale-house security and make sure that there are no more ‘disruptions’ to the operations; we are losing face and control over the city with each disruption to our operations…no mistakes will be accepted or tolerated…even the random executions are no longer working as desired,” Grandfather explained.

Many of the guild members understand the all too clear message hidden in his words. The guild is in control of the entire city, the undisputed rulers and masters of Providence and the surrounding lands; no one may challenge them in any way and be suffered to live. To remind people who dared to protest the ‘investigations’ brought about by the death of Finneous and his lover, Kimberly, sixty citizens were chosen at random and then slaughtered with their entire families in public – the price any defiance to the guilds rules will bring.

Yet while the people looked on in stark silence and terror, some of them looked on with pure anger in their eyes…a clear sign that the control of fear and terror was no longer having the desired effect. And if those who control Providence are no longer feared, how soon shall their subjects thoughts turn to revenge and justice for all of the assassin’s crimes?

Considering that these execution teams were led by Masters Cinnius and Gerald, they understand who will be among the first to fall if any kind of uprising does occur…And Master Gordon was the one to deliver the message, via an agent, to carry out the executions on behalf of the Grandfathers wishes.

Now the two begin to wonder – was the note really explaining the will of the Grandfather? Or is Grandfather playing a larger game with Gordon; weeding out the disloyal and unneeded, to further tighten his already iron strong hold on the guild?

Or could someone else be playing one group off against another…no, no one inside our out of the guild would even dare think of doing that. The guild of Providence is the deadliest in the world; no other has dared to make challenge against its grip on Providence in a century, and the legends of those who tried are still told as tales of the worst nightmares made reality.

“We must make our plans to deal with Gordon,” Cinnius tells Gerald with absolute finality, “he is ahead of us on the chessboard by a wide margin, and we need to upset the momentum he is building.”

“True,” Gerald says back, “but who took down the ale-house operations? THAT was Gordon’s task; if he did not waste his own men, then who would?”

That last question left them cold to the core of their being; they, the masters of inflicting fear and terror for the sake of control, are now losing control portion by portion. In losing control, they understand fear and terror from a new perspective, and do not like it at all.


======
“In fond memory of one who fell so young, Jambis, may he long be remembered for all he had done,” called out the merchant who is paying for everyone’s drinks this night. Sipping on the sour tasting swill they call wine and spirits in this wretched tavern, he eyes each patron and worker as they pass along his field of vision. With all too much ease he identifies the various agents working for the guild; specifically that most of them are those who answer directly to Grandfather.

“To Jambis, and all he had done,” everyone shouted out, glasses raised or clanking together in celebration for the free drink and food. The barkeep smiles as the merchant hands over a pouch heavy with coins, gold and silver, plus many precious gems for the party tonight; many comment that it is a night to be remembered for some time, and as a real surprise, a wagon with a score and ten count of small wooden tun’s of spirits, brandy and rum arrive.

Six men jump down from the back of the wagon and commence to manhandle the heavy load inside; causing a series of gasps, ooh’s and ah’s from all the guild agents within. They can tell these are the finest of the finest in drinks, each keg is worth a king’s ransom and here there are thirty in number…

The delivery man nods at the merchant, and then tells the party goers, “Courtesy of Master Gordon, we were instructed by a messenger of his to deliver these to you all, and quote ‘With thanks and best wishes for the future – Gordon.’ End quote.”

One of the patrol members of late Constable Jambis calls for a toast to Master Gordon. The merchant excuses himself, belching loudly and complaining of a sour stomach. He tells the barkeep to let the liquor flow until the funds are used up or the sun rises with the coming dawn. The barkeep genuflects before him, sniveling and honoring his generosity as a good little sycophant should do to anyone he wishes to impress.

“To Master Gordon and his most exceptional generosity, and exquisite taste in drinks,” the cheer is repeated three times by the crowd as the tun’s are either set aside for later, or tapped and mounted on the bar for the party at hand. Well into the night the party carries on, seeing tun after tun emptied to the last dreg of drink that can possibly be extracted from it.

Outside the merchant sees the last man of Jambis patrol depart, the man called Jackson. He is able to approach Jackson with nary a whisper of sound being made, and sends him sprawling to the ground with a quick blow to his chest and side of his jaw. So subtle is this that to any untrained observer, the merchant is just helping his passed out friend home.

Half dragging him into the alley, the merchant meets with another man, the one who delivered the tun’s of drink earlier. “Tie him up well and take him with the others, have your men guard them well; I will be along shortly to…let my pets deal with them once and for all.”

The man, one of his ladies personal agents, nods; he cannot help but shiver at the mention of Associates ‘pets.’ Such a fate should not happen to anyone, yet as the captured patrol work for the guild, he can make an exception. Besides which, these two have shown the guild is vulnerable after all; so he made sure the door was open earlier in the storeroom for Associate to taint the tun’s of drink.

All in all, this is a very good night.

Of course once they awaken and see their impending fate from Associates “pets”; the surviving patrol members would strongly disagree with that thought.



======
The morning sees Master Gerald pacing the length of his manors great hall, confusion and worry clearly visible on his face. His personal guards pick up on his unease, as anything that can make their boss act this way has to be taken as a priority threat; their own lives depend upon it.

Within a day of their meeting with Grandfather, Masters Gerald and Cinnius met; setting their plans into action and making future preparations. For their sake (of keeping alive), they keep Grandfather informed of their every action. It is decided they will task their own agents to follow those of Gordon’s, recording each and every deed and contact made.

They will find out Gordon’s plans soon enough, if such plans indeed do exist…

Each Master in turn, once back at their respective estates, orders that extra agents be attached to watch their respective counterparts; just on the off chance the fellow Master is about to make a double or triple cross. As three more days pass, they begin to suspect Gordon is up to exactly – nothing. No plans or moves are apparent to them or their agents…

Then came the devastating news…in the night forty of the guild agents, all of them Grandfathers, have perished. They were attending a party given by a visiting merchant, in honor of the late Constable Jambis, and for the sake of his surviving patrol members. All of the ale and spirits delivered came with the funds of Gordon and a message saying: “With Thanks and Best Wishes for the future – Gordon.”

All that anyone is absolutely sure of is that the patrol departed, one member at a time, and that the drinks are doctored – using a type of rare poison favored by Gordon and his best agents.

“Find out if Gordon or another did this deed,” Gerald shouted at his lead agents, “Redouble the efforts on collecting any and all information on the street, find out anything you can, and I do mean anything at all…GO!”

By nightfall they have an ominous sign that shouts volumes to anyone who understands; the streets have gone silent. Completely silent save for the agents of Grandfather, Cinnius and Gerald; thus the signs of a pending coup seem to be confirmed at last. Most are now assuming that Master Gordon is going for broke, to take down Cinnius and Gerald, using them in a triple play – they appear to betray the guild and Grandfather; who in turn eliminates them, and then becomes vulnerable to Gordon…

To Master Gordon, upon hearing the news of his agents being watched, decides HE is the target for a fall; the scapegoat for the pending coup of Gerald and Cinnius…who else would dare strike at an operation under his personal charge…shame and discredit him, then eliminate him while setting Grandfather up for the fall..

It makes perfect sense in its own convoluted way.

“So be it,” Gordon declares. His mind is made up, the betrayers have to die for setting HIM up, whichever of them it might be; and on the off chance the Grandfather of Assassins is setting all of them up, he will go for control of the guild.

“Gordon – Grandfather of Assassins, I like the ring that has,” he smiles wickedly, heading off to prepare and make plans. He feels no pangs of guilt or conscience in betraying his fellow Masters or the Grandfather; for that is the way of the assassin.


======
Standing upon the high wooden loft of the warehouse, Associate holds the final man of late Constable Jambis patrol, Jackson, by the cord that binds his ankles together. The terrified man, upside down, looks at his pending fate far below, the twenty and four large forms, moving fast and with power for such massive beasts, their six inch tusks red with the blood and torn flesh of the others who went down before him…

He had awaken from the party last night, bound and gagged, inside this warehouse; one by one his friends had been dragged away by this man and then tormented with views of what awaits them below. One by one they howled, begged, whimpered and pleaded for mercy; their captors’ eyes, cold and hard beyond anything he could recall seeing, even on the one occasion he met the Grandfather of Assassins, told the tale…

There shall be no mercy.

“Listen,” their captor told each in turn, as he had told Jackson, “try to die with a bit of dignity; at least go to your ancestors with some grace so you can say you died with your honor intact.”

Associate repeatedly cries out to his pets, whipping them into a frenzy of death and dismemberment, the shrill snorts and cries harshly assaulting the ears; thunderous retorts rebound off the mostly empty warehouse stone walls, instilling even more terror in his shaking captive.

“Tell you what Jackson; I am in a merciful mood right now. I’ll give you a fighting chance,” Associate says while he uses a knife to slash at the restraints that bind the man’s feet together.

“Please…don’t kill me…what did we ever do to you…” Jackson said while wracked with sobs of absolute terror; he has seen all the others perish in such a gruesome method; one that even the guild executioners would cringe from inflicting on anyone…maybe…

“Oh alright already, I’ll let you go just to stop hearing your dreadful whining; pathetic, you should face death with a warrior’s fearless charge and keep your dignity…” Associate declared.

“You’re going to let me go?” Jackson asked a grateful smile on his face.

“Yes I will,” Associate said as the rope bindings separate due to the slashes already scored weakening them.

“AGHHHH!” Jackson screamed on his downward plunge, followed by the meaty thwack of him hitting the floor below.

Associate watches with disinterest on his face, hearing the death screams knelling out loud and clear as his pets go to work on the man. Soon enough silence, save for the tearing of flesh, crushing of bone and occasional snort and grunt remain to be heard.

Associate shakes his head, wondering why such an idiot would actually believe he would set him free; he only promised to let him go…in this case to feed his pets…his only regret is that Jambis is already dead; he would love to have finished him off, a debt owed for the savage kicks delivered to his head that day.

Soon enough though his patience will be rewarded; and then the one who ordered the elimination of his sister and her family will perish in the same manner…maybe covered in molten cheese to improve the flavor for his pets…


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Darius, master toymaker and general mad man of Providence walked into the flower shop looking for the lady who runs it – Clairice. To the bemusement of everyone around he looks at the trees, waving friendly to them and mutters about the need to ‘build that flying machine today.’

For three weeks since the death of Jambis patrol members, he has heard the stories growing by the hour of how they had been responsible for the death of Grandfathers two score of agents. Each time he hears the tale told over and over, he chuckles an insane chuckle, covering up his real mirth at their demise by his own hands.

Among the knickknacks he sees several fine clocks, locks, and other gizmos that are of interest; yet he needs to get her paid back first – she gave him the funds he needed to get his workshop up and running once again. He sees her bent over the countertop, hands clasped against the far side as she looks down at the floor.

“Hey Clairice,” he shouted, waving frantically to get her attention. Coming to her he plops down on the floor cross-legged, looking up into her eyes. She motions repeatedly with her hand for him to scoot on out the door, even as her mouth opens and closes in silent gasps and groans; she gulps now and then while her eyes flutter rapidly.

One time he sees her clench her fist in her mouth, eyes closing as her body shudders briefly in time with some noises coming from behind the counter. Her silent gasps continue, eyes glazing over as she tightens her grip on the counter again, both hands holding firm and strong. When she manages to regain a bit of composure, once again she tries to wave him out the door. Her hands move swiftly in an intricate gesture, telling him in no uncertain terms to scram…

Of course it matters not to Darius, he strikes up a one sided conversation with the intricate laid brickwork of the floor.

Only a momentarily rustling of cloth being moved about distracts him, to let him see Clairice shifting some as her back arched upward and down, her eyes dancing with wild abandonment, cheeks fully blushed and radiating heat like a oven.

Once again her hands move in the silent language she uses to communicate with him; telling him if he remains to stay quiet and do nothing to interfere.

He sees her shift again, then a third time. A steady rhythm of slapping sounds mixed in with the calls of some kind of animal catch his attention. Sudden inspiration hits and he pulls out of his harness-bag a pile of blank parchment, charcoal pencils and a ruler to begin quickly putting his idea to paper. For the moment Clairice is all but forgotten by him.

She fights to keep her body from moving forward, she mouths a silent cry of wild delight and bliss. Each move of the gentleman’s manhood inside of her pushes the waves of bliss and pleasure forward with unstoppable energy. Just a bit before Darius arrived the butler of Master Gordon arrived with a dozen roses from his bosses’ estate; he offered her some of them for a fee – when she could not meet the asked for amount in coin he asked about another kind of ‘transaction.’

For such a rare prize the cost is worth it, or so she hopes.

Pushing her disheveled hair out of her face, she had been having her womanhood explored by his hands and mouth when Darius entered; now though he speeds up his actions, not interested in her own pleasure one bit – all that matters is his own needs, and he makes all manner of insults of Master Gordon, especially about how easy it was to take the roses right off the estates grounds under his very nose.

One final series of deep, loud and bellowing grunts and groans from the butler sends his life seed deep inside of her. For once in her life she is glad that she cannot get pregnant, for she would never want a child conceived of by this monster…

Now that it’s over she starts to move when he pushes her back into place; slamming her face into the wooden counter with such force to briefly stun her, then he boxes her across the ears repeatedly; the matter is not yet done. Time and time again he smacks her hard on her bottom, drawing pain filled silent screams from her.

Darius, just a few inches away is totally oblivious to the exchange.

She feels him pull up higher on her, his manhood once again at full attention ready to do its duty. He comments that the men of his family have the ability to do it twice back to back; to the ‘delight of all the women we deem to give our affections to’ of course.

Clairice does not see matters in such a light.

Sharp pain shoots up into her brain, eyes flaring wide as her teeth bite into her lips with enough force to draw a trickle of blood from them. Thrust by pain filled thrust he works his manhood in and out of her, not of her womanhood, but of a more sensitive and private area nearby.

His hands roam up under her shirt, straining the tight bound fabric of her vest as they find and crush her breasts.

“Now my dear,” he says calmly between grunts of excitement, “I hope this part will serve as a reminder that I will not accept any betrayals kindly; your silence means you will live. One word on where the flowers come from and you die.”

The next five minutes are a wave of fiery agony as his hands tighten their grip on her breasts, his manhood pumping for all he is worth in an out of that spot; then he hits his release and pulls out. He just looks upon her with barely concealed contempt.

“You know the price from now on when you deal with the assassins’ guild. As I said, keep your mouth shut and you will live. Next time I bring some roses though, make sure there is another woman here with you. I want to see you have sex with her right before I rape you into submission like the whore you now are. Good day.”

As he walks out the door and down the street she just covers her head and sobs, not moving from the location.

Had anyone watching bothered to look at Darius, they would have seen the madness leave his eyes, purest of murder and rage filling them in turn. His hand hovered just on the edge of a knife hilt, ready to be thrown and subject the target with one of the deadliest of poison’s he who is not Darius knows how to make.

He has been commanded not to do anything, no matter what happened to her. Yet he will, when the time comes to bring the plan to an end, have his day with the butler if he still lives…after he deals with the Grandfather of Assassins and regains his name.

She who is not Clairice finally regained some of her lost composure from the brutal ending of the encounter; for the plan to advance she will endure anything…in the end the results will more than justify it.


========
Over the next hour agents of the Constables and Masters Gordon, Cinnius and Gerald flow in and out of her store, having her detail again and again all that happened between her and the butler.

Darius had to be escorted out of the shop at one point so he would not damage the flowers from Gordon’s estate; he was trying to settle a ‘argument’ between the flowers and a half filled cup of water. He kept touching the petals and leaves of each flower, encouraging them to ‘settle their disputes with the nice cup as a civilized being should do these days,’ pure madness indeed.

“He is harmless,” the Constable told everyone, “just scoot him outside and lets get these back to Master Gordon,” he says indicating the flowers.

He does compliment Clairice on how she prepared the flowers for transport; they are still damp with moisture from being watered. Looking at the other flowers on display he decides to come back later and purchase some for his wife.

One of his aides gathers up the multiple copies of her testimony and then divides them among the agents for the three Masters. The aide plays a most dangerous game, appearing as a confidant for all three Masters while he is actually working for the Grandfather of Assassins directly.

Within the hour all four know what occurred in the shop between Clairice and the butler.

What they fail to understand is that in the larger game, a second king is set for checkmate; while the others are on the way to the same…

Tonight the shop will be vacated…

The gambit continues towards the spectacular end for the Second King of Four.



***********************
“My lady,” Associate says with gentleness and compassion in his voice; he cringes to see such pain in those amethyst eyes. He cannot comprehend the pain and humiliation she has withstood to advance their plan. He has good tidings though; the one who loved to inflict such pain and humiliation has fallen…

“We have confirmation of the street rumors; the body of Master Gordon’s butler has been found. It appears he was tortured into making some kind of confession and then executed by skin stealing.” He shook his head at the thought of such a barbaric execution; the literal skinning of a victim one square inch at a time using knifes and special acids to enhance the pain and extend the victims lifespan.

“For other news, we have word from our agents that the real Clairice and Darius have been safely smuggled to freedom. Jesmine and her family will be, in their words, ‘soon to arrive safely in a new home and life.’ All of the pre-agreed to confirmation words are there, so it is authentic.”

He looks upon her with major chagrin on his countenance.

“My lady, I have to say, the success we have managed to achieve by taking the roles of Clairice and Darius before the hunt began…a true stroke of genius on your part. Also those who lead the groups in waiting are now fully committed; those innocent families executed by the guild as ‘examples,’ plus the first strike we have made convinced them. The days of the guild are now of a very limited number. They only need the word from you and the end game commences.”


===========
Master Cinnius has come to the ale-house operations, mostly to double check yet again on all aspects of the new, layered security he has installed. Grandfathers warning had been made all too clear – if he fails to stop any disruption in the operations, then HE will be held responsible; and that death will be a mercy for him when it finally comes.

So it has come to be that the guards are now tripled; both those visible inside and outside the place, on the street and those hidden on nearby rooftops – bows ready to be used in an instant. Their orders are simple, direct and very clear: anyone who may pose any kind of threat are to be cut down without mercy. They are to keep a double watch, as Cinnius expects a swift, angry retributive strike from Master Gordon to come all too soon.

Master Gerald figures it will be otherwise, insisting Gordon is focused on the pending coup against Grandfather, and will come after Cinnius later – assuming that Cinnius and Gerald do not dispose of Gordon to please the Grandfather when the coup attempt comes.

So it has come to the second reason for him to be here…relaxation. Three weeks of constant silence; tension in the air so thick one could cut it with a dull knife, has all but frayed his nerves. So it is he has come to shoot some billiards, his favored game. The set was sent to him long before the current troubles with Gordon, a master crafted wonder without flaws…he will keep it as a trophy and a reminder of better days and times…and toast Gordon each time he plays after the craven turncoat lies dead at his feet.

“No sense to let such a gift go unused,” he told the men setting it up.

“Ah the pure irony of such a gift, perfectly made and delivered here by Gordon as a peace offering,” he declared to his guards and senior agents gathered around, “yet he has chosen to betray Grandfather. Thus we will enjoy the game, and when he starts his coup – we shall go and kill him as dead as possible. Now let’s have some fun this night before the fires of battle come forth.”

Cinnius watched his men laugh and joke around, the ribald atmosphere allowing him to relax for one time, a rare and genuine smile of mirth coming forth. As he prepares his cue stick, many wager on the number of balls to be sunk on the breaking shot.

He lines up the pool stick with the cue ball, adjusting for the perfect break that he is justly famed for among all of the guild and in Providence. “Let the fires of battle come forth,” he declared. His arm comes back ever so slightly…

COUGH!

The pool stick goes flying over the table, landing on the far side with a solid, echoing clang. Everyone cringes at the look of absolute murder on Cinnius’s face. The offender quickly apologizes, gets the pool stick and hands it back with all proper demeanor to one who can kill him in so many horrendous ways.

“Okay, now for the perfect shot, for the perfect game,” he says with a smile, taunt nerves relaxing once again.

Lining the shot up once again, he focuses completely on the break he wants to make, six balls sent into the six pockets, the perfect shot for the opening. Delighted in the setup, he draws back again, preparing for the shot of all shots…

ACHOOO!

Once again the pool stick goes to the floor, once again the murderous look comes forth; though this time the offender does not move, his associates holding knives to his heart, neck, jaw and organs, waiting for the moment Cinnius orders his release or execution. They look to him with clear expectation, wanting to rejoin the game so badly interrupted twice already.

“Just hold him there in complete silence while I take the shot,” Cinnius said. His pool stick brought by another, he lines up the shot for the third time; looks back to the held man as if expecting yet another interruption, then turns and makes the shot with full, raw nerved brute force delivery…

Whack!

The cue ball is smacked with a short, intense burst of the stick, sending it on its all too short journey towards the other balls; the small, delicate container held within shattering completely; thus the mixture of volatile liquids, each on its own harmless, to instantly mix and become a witches brew that Cinnius has not anticipated…



=======
Upon her face he sees a silent question being asked. “My lady I have made sure the flower shop appears to have been fled in due haste to allow us – you and me as the false Clairice and Darius – to get out of the city. There are hastily scrawled notes with final deliveries to be made via the cities couriers.”

“As per your plan,” his grin turned into a wicked smile; the images at play of panic and paranoia coming to the survivors around their chosen targets brings Associate a fair amount of amusement.

“those flowers going as ‘gifts’ to the various guild assassins, agents and their leaders, save for those of Gordon, are treated with the ‘heart stop’ poison; in the time it takes for it to become viable, the couriers will be safe; of course after the deliveries are made, some of the assassins will not be safe, or breathing for that matter by days end.”


============
Just as he intended Cinnius beholds the cue ball smack with brutal force into the other balls; such is the force the mixed liquids within the cue ball, a witches brew called by alchemists “Liquid Hellfire” responds in a fierce, raw and spectacular detonation of flame and force, the shockwave caressing the other balls and expanding into the rooms dimensions before anyone can even comprehend what has happened…

By this time though, the nine other balls, carefully tailored and textured to hide the explosive liquid within, react in sympathetic detonation to the shockwaves caress. These ten blasts, bouncing off the solid and thick stone walls that separate the front and backsides of the ale house, smash walls, crush furniture and chests, toss goods around and deliver blows that crush and tear at the guild agents and guards present, rending bone and bursting organs along with compressing brain matter to a pulped mass.

Those who somehow survive these blows are within an instant hit and burned by flames so hot that bone itself ignites and powders. For those beyond the fireballs range, the iron and steel shards, jagged and flying at insane speeds, preset around the inside of the balls shred them even more.

So great is the force generated that the very roof itself on the back half of the ale-house is raised over six feet. Those on the streets see it fly up, and descend with enough force to shake the ground for a considerable distance.

Members of the guild lay dead and injured all over the street, some felled in the initial blast; others by the collapse of nearby building fronts sundered free by hellish forces; partial bodies, and bared limbs that move for a brief time amid heaps of shattered, torn wood, glass and brickwork tell of the charnel mounds they have become.

Those who have survived, or rush up from nearby to see what aid can be rendered stand there in appalled shock, unable to comprehend what has just happened. Clearly, for those who were directly in the back of the ale-house, there are no survivors to be found.





=======
The retort of artificial thunder, followed by the loud, hollow, booming thud of the roofs descent coming to an end draws the swift attention of Grandfather. He was walking on the high balcony of his private chambers, deep in though about Gordon; wondering for the first time if he had judged the situation wrong…then came the roar and column of fire clawing its way to the sky around the ascending ale-house roof.

He and his guards watched in fascinated horror the scene unfold, knowing instinctively that Gordon has just struck back at Cinnius; and in a manner no one could have anticipated. Quickly his guards recover, raising their metal shields about his person, on the off chance that arrows were even then heading to end the life of their charge.

Heading into the depths of the guild hall, Grandfather shouted to all of his loyal – such as they are – minions to prepare the defenses; warning that the expected coup may be at hand. A lone runner is sent to investigate the matter, to report back with all haste. Grandfather sees a most unexpected sight, though one that pleases him, that of Master Gerald, present on guild business, standing with the guard at the main doors, prepared to meet the first assault with drawn blades.

Apparently Gerald fears death by the Grandfathers hands if he failed, than to face his old associate Gordon.


======
Associate and his lady had been observing the day from one of their many safe house’s when the thunder came, clear and distinct to their ears. They rushed to the window nearest that direction, in time to see the last clawing flame carry into the sky; columns of smoke rising steadily in silent blackness as a shroud for the dead.

The two of them take a silent delight in the realization that the second king of four is now dead. They had found his one weakness, the love of billiards and his pride in being the best player in Providence, and have brought him low.

“Wow, I guess that Master Cinnius has lost that game, bringing down the house in the process,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Who could have figured he had such an explosive temperament? Oh, while I recall the matter, those poisoned flowers were sent out over Gordon’s signature of payment and delivery; there is no sense in making sure the wrong person gets blamed after all…”

She just rolled her eyes unto the heavens at his attempt at humor; secretly pleased to have him at her side, both for the companionship (when he is not trying to stare at her naked body), his sense of humor, and his ability to adept and improvise on the spot when the plan of theirs needs to be altered due to emergencies or opportunities that come about.

When she turns to him, catching his attention with her eyes, he gulps from the loving, tender, fiery smile she shows. He quietly excuses himself, the cast iron plate over his manhood clanging against another layer of mail underneath…probably assuming another knife blade is on the way…

She looks back at the column of smoke, quite pleased. Two are dead of the four. Soon enough the third will fall and the true terror for the guild will come in the end game. Soon justice for all of Providence will be delivered, and her chosen name, taken up after the death of her parents, will be fulfilled…

Soon…


======
Chaos reigns as the patrons from the front of the ale-house and other street vendors and shops flee for their very lives. Some stubbornly remain behind, finishing their drinks or grabbing bottles of drink from shelves as the roof commences to sag, then come down in a howl of sundered wood and stone. Many of those who flee pass by the backside, seeing heaps of coins, jewelry and gems lying scattered about and make a blind grab for the freed fortune before them.

Howls and cries of panic become fuel for many wild rumors, especially of the long expected coup for the lead of the assassins’ guild having begun. The fear turns into terror unprecedented on the streets, agents of all sides who rush to see what can be done or what has happened begin to brawl with the citizens who just want to get out of there. All too soon the expected glean of steel being unleashed is to be seen, soon covered by wet redness along its length.

From hidden shadows high overhead, balanced among the wreckage of the surrounding buildings, eight figures draw back on composite short bows, their lacquered surfaces dulled down with dirt and mud to cut off any gleam of light reflecting off of them. Eight knocked arrows – tips coated with the deadliest of venom – line up with their selected targets…

Then with their leaders’ subtle nod, they fly swift and true to their targets. Even as these eight figures begin to collapse, choking and gurgling into death from the venom; eight more arrows are inbound; shortly to be joined by a last volley of eight more.

Descending swiftly down a nearby tree at the back of the building they throw their quivers and bows into the back of a readied wagon. Quick from long practice, the eight hunters – master archers all who help feed the city by boar hunting in the wild forests near Providence – hide their implements of war and rejoin city life, headed as so many others do in making deliveries from one shop to another.

They had been returning from an unsuccessful hunt in the woods; when the explosion came, they saw an opportunity to score another blow on the guild; so it is the first blow by the people of Providence is inflicted, the first of many to come…


======
“Gordon’s troops are attacking!” come the hue and cry from the few guards still standing around in horror at the carnage. The cry is repeated again and again as the arrows fell one score and one of guild agents and guards of the late Master Cinnius.

“Shoot them all down; shoot everyone down in the streets!” Cinnius’s guard captain on duty calls, just before a brick thrown by someone smashes into his face; sending him careening off the rooftop and into a bone crushing meeting with the ground below. With his final shout, pandemonium breaks loose beyond belief; as the rooftop guards follow his last instructions to the letter, unleashing salvo after salvo of crossbow bolts, tips coated with poison, into the gathered mass below…

They spare no time or effort to sort friend from foe, they just assume all are targets and strike without any bit of mercy or compassion. All who stand may be enemies, thus they must die. If they fail, they know their own lives will be forfeit to the unmerciful wrath of the Grandfather…

Down below, those who survive the reign of arrows and then the massive salvos of crossbow projectiles turn on their attackers from above. Many shout out that Gordon’s forces are on the high ground and commence to fire back with bows, crossbows, stone chunks and bricks. Anything they can get their hands upon is fair game to send upward, returning death for death as the carnage climbs with each passing second.


======
The lone agent of Grandfather sent by him to investigate the blast watches from around a shop corner in horror at the battle being waged before him; he hears the citizens running past, the cries of guards and agents saying that Master Gordon is on the attack, then flees with all haste back to the guild hall and reports his news.

“This is it men, stand strong and fast, Gordon must be coming with everything for us here,” Grandfather shouts out with growing excitement and fury. FINALLY the confrontation is about to happen, and he will remind all of Providence why HE is the Grandfather of the guild. NONE shall rule in his stead; absolutely none.

When that last thought echoed into the depths of his mind; Grandfather wondered for a moment if he has just set the prophecy of his own downfall into motion; plus that of the guild. He snorts the matter away, hand on his drawn sword waiting for the first pounding on the great hall doors that tell of the battle to be joined…

So he waits…

And he waits…

And he waits…

Well into the evening the guild waits for the strike that never comes. Grandfather learns from many of his own agents among Master Gordon’s manor that Gordon has sealed the place up tight. It appears Gordon assumed this was a move on the part of Master Gerald to eliminate Cinnius and him in one swift, calculated movement that sweeps two rivals clear of the board in an instant.


======
Late into the night the surviving guards of the late Master Cinnius, only a ten and four in number, tell of the attack in detail to Grandfather as he sits in smoldering silence on his throne. They tell in exaggerated gestures and word’s the size of the attack, the massive slaughter and the way they valiantly repulsed it after such a fierce battle one wonders if a dragon was on the scene.

In regards to the massive detonation that took down the entire ale-house, backside operation and Master Cinnius on one swift blow…no one has any explanation at all; save for one who remarked that Cinnius said the billiard set he was using that night was “a gift from Gordon before he betrayed us.”

“So then gentlemen, how shall I reward you now?” Grandfather said to the fourteen guards, whose eyes lit up with fires of greed and delight.

They soon found out their ‘reward’ was to be pressed. They howled for mercy as guards’ grabbed hold of them, dragging them away to the executioners hold. With inhuman swiftness, tied to great frames of wood on the ground, the executioners directed Grandfathers guards (the directions issued as polite suggestions) in placing of great wooden panels over the men; to be topped in turn every few minutes with a fifty pound hunk of brick shaped stone. Over the course of hours the men were ‘pressed’ until they either suffocated, or their ribs snapped, piercing lungs and the heart.

As for the agent who brought news of the false start of a coup to Grandfather…

A new statue of him cast in silver joined the one of bronze from the earlier messenger executed in a similar manner. Even the hardened guards of Grandfather watched with silent horror as the man had been lowered inch by inch, headfirst, into the molten metal, his howls echoing far and wide down the dark halls of the executioners tunnels.


=======
Three days later the Associate reads a message conveyed to she with the Amethyst eyes, a true smile upon his face for once in so long of a time.

“My lady, the leadership of ‘those who wait’ have agreed to prepare for an opportunity to emerge; they have declared ‘send the message and we will do our part, as promised, then the accounts with the guild shall be settled in full,’ “ he told her.

“So my lady, do we begin to raise the level of pressure and paranoia to a new height in this matter? Or may I add a little ‘twist’ to the situation?” her Associate asks.

At her prompting he explains his little ‘twist’ on their plan; her eyes and smile gleam in delight from his small suggestion. Right now the two of them have entered into dangerous ground, not only preparing to strike at Masters Gordon and Gerald; there is the matter of the guilds Grandfather – assuming he survives the flowers sent to him, being roused to action.

This very night, as per Associates little ‘twist’ on their plan, another whispered rumor begins: there is a bounty of one hundred gold bars to the assassin of the guild who brings down the Grandfather of Assassins. Gordon is reputedly the one making the offer…of course that is only rumor…just the kind to get you executed by the paranoid guild leadership.

The gambit is accelerating to its conclusion; soon enough it shall be determined who will be left alive…

Associate reminds himself that no matter what comes for his personal fate; his honor shall be restored before he dies…no matter what.


************************
************************
Her eyes glimmering with their amethyst fires, she watches Associate go about his preparations for the pending end game of the gambit. As he sorts and examines in minutest of detail the tools, weapons and gear of their trade, a warm smile comes to her mouth; her cheek resting on a raised hand grasping the door jam as she makes no sound for some time.

Each of his tools, from lock-picks to coils of black silken rope, vials of poisons to cripple or kill, along with an assortment of tools and arms no one save for them alone could comprehend in the Western lands. She watches as he examines a throwing star under the lantern light, its razor honed edges perfect and flawless; then his own throwing and battle knives, a bamboo blowgun only inches in length, and the all too deadly coated darts to be used in it.

Yet she remembers with some affection the one lesson Shan Tiel had begun her training with; one that for him, came as a ultimate surprise when she answered his question…

“Granddaughter,” he asked her showing off the armory of weapons in his house, “which of these do you figure is the most dangerous of the hunter? Is there any one that you see here, that can defeat any other?”

Still so young and small in stature at the time she had to motion him to bend down to her height; then with one small hand, she touched his forehead, and then his heart. His warm smile was genuine, delighted at the answer given to him.

“Yes you do understand very well. The deadliest weapon we who hunt the assassin have is the mind and the passions of the heart; used together, you cannot be defeated.”

Associate had in the short time of her warmly recalled memories raised to practice with his twin blades of their profession, sliding them from their sheaths of lacquered wood, the ninja-to. Fourteen inches of honed steel, strong and razor sharp, he danced in a beautiful, poetic play of death. Each move is poetry of music and form, of control and energy used: parry-strike, strike-parry, double slash and thrusts, a flurry of motion no one could come close to matching save for her.

Even unarmed they are among the deadliest of fighters, their very bodies the ultimate, living weapons.

His routine comes to its end after some time; and Associate pretends to notice her for the very first time, though he was aware of her standing by the doorway for some time now. One thing with both of them, living among the hoard of assassins and spies of the guild has honed their superb skills to new, necessary levels than many would have dreamed.

“My lady…I apologize for my lack of manners…please enters if you will…”

His surprise is complete when she gently touches him with one of her hands; moving it up to gently strokes his cheeks and brows. She feels the brief tension ease out of his body as she circles his face, playfully teasing brows, nose, eyes, ears and cheeks.

His lips she parts slightly with fingertips, stroking the insides and drawing a slight flush to his cheeks.


The warmth of his breath on her hand draws a soft, loving smile to her own lips. Once again her hand flows over cheeks, brows and nose, along his jaw and gently on his neck before returning again and again to his face.

Moving up to him she presses her lips to his; so soft and tender that his flush becomes fully red, heat pulsating outward as a fully stoked fire in the bread ovens. Three times she does this, then kisses his nose, and on tippy toes delivers one on his forehead.

His searching eyes quickly discern that her robe has partly opened, revealing the glistening smooth skin that tantalizing hints at needing to be touched, stroked and seduced; her bared breast, cast in dancing shadows by the soft, low light in the room, glistens like a secret concealed within a mystery promising unlimited treasures and sensations, or full and savage death.

She enfolds him with one arm, taking up his hand with her other, then gently guiding it to that exposed breast; holding it firm in place while he looks at her with some shock. He feels the heat of her body merging with his, skin to skin, the beating of her heart and the steady rhythm of her breathing surging into his mind, telling him that this is no dream, but a treasure she is offering to him willingly.

Slowly he starts to caress and stroke it with his fingertips, working from the nipple outward in a spiral to return inward again and repeats the cycle several times; all the while he revels in the silken perfection of her skin, the heady perfume that smells of lilac, roses and ginseng mixing with all the sweet-salty smells that are uniquely HER.

Gently he closes his eyes with each deep inhalation of these smells, burning them into his mind in the event of her dying soon, he will cherish this moment to the end of his days…

He sees the soft fluttering in her eyes, eyelids flickering up and down as she begins to gnaw lightly on those luscious lips that are highlighted with a sweet tasting strawberry gloss.

He moves his free hand to the edge of her robe, the blue silk that is embossed with cherry trees, roses and a pair of white birds in flight accentuating the curves of her body, hiding some in shadow and others in reflected light so their glory may be seen in full.

Looking at her he motions downward while indicating the robe.

To his continuing surprise and delight she nods with a tender smile.

Slipping it under the silk he gently uncovers the other breast, then works along the hem; once up to her shoulder he eases is down her arm. His whistle of delight and wonderment at the sight of her bared skin brings a true and luscious blush to her face, a silent giggle of consternation with her head turning away, though her eyes return quickly and with a glimmer of desires fires fully alight.

All of that falls in and on itself, reality turned different when his first kiss gently presses on one spot of her shoulder, then another and another until he reaches her neck. The flow of kisses continues over each inch of her skin, drawing shivers, quivers, titters and twitches that build one upon the next.

They momentarily separate, to his surprise, until she finishes taking off the robe and letting it puddle about her feet. She steps out of it and embraces him fully in her arms, pressing so close and tight with his body he feels the two of them are merging into one – the perfection of yin-yang, of the male and female embodied as one being for all time…

Her arms have encompassed his neck as he folds his about her waist.

Moving them downward he massages her lower back, easing along her waist and hip seeking each area he can find to bring the maximum sensations of bliss of her body he can extract. Gentle spirals and helix patterns in which he mixes motions of the alphabet, intertwining with the word-figures of the Far East languages, for each one brings a different reaction to her body, some large and some small, one intense that almost knocks her off her feet, while others have her gasp as she lowers her head against his chest, eyes closing while silent lips open and close.

He inhales the wonderful brew of scents now including that of her raw sexuality mixing into them; more and more it turns on the fires within his own body; causing his own manhood to rise to the occasion as his hand begins to journey to her hidden womanhood…

Which her one hand encompassing his so suddenly he failed to notice until the firm pressure threatened to snap his wrist…telling him in emphatic terms she will allow him to go so far, and for now no further; he looks into the amethyst eyes of her, nods and bows his head in acceptance of her choice…

“My lady I understand fully; maybe someday there can be a union such as that between us, yet the memory of your Grandfather is still too fresh. Thank you though for allowing me to bring some satisfaction to the both of us tonight,” the Associate said.

She shakes her head, eyes rolling up to the heavens as he once again fails to understand.

Planting a fiery kiss on his lips she swings her arms around his neck, and then leaps up, enwrapping her legs about his waist and locking them and her firmly in place. His hands move quickly to support her bottom, as he shakes his head, understanding at last.

She did not want him to pleasure her, she wants more than that…With one hand he fumbles for the belt of his britches, loosening it enough to let his fully at attention manhood loose to the world; drawing a bit of a blush from him due to the small size of it.

“And you wondered why you missed it so many times with those knives you threw?” he casually joked.

Their kisses merged as he eased into her womanhood, the two of them entering into a gentle rhythm of love between their bodies, one for the other and back in turn. Within moments his excitement passes his limit and sends his seed deep into her body.

“My lady I should have lasted longer, I just have not been with a woman for so long…” he stammered.

She just kissed him on the lips as her eyes showed her admiration for him. Returning to her feet, the two of them quietly danced a silent dance in the rooms soft light for some time, a moment shared before returning to the end game of this long and trying hunt.

For the moment, they, two assassins in a community of such, who seek to overthrow such a force, can lower their guard a bit. This is their moment, their time, for with the dawn, the hunt will again continue.


************************
In the depths of his fortress manor Master Gordon listens with ever growing horror as story after story from his agents tell of a dangerous tapestry being woven. Someone is trying to kill him, or take down the Grandfather and pin the blame on him personally; thus eliminating some of their deadliest of rivals in the process…but who could it be.

A few days ago his precious roses were returned, after his butler had traded them to the maiden Clairice in trade for sexual favors. Soon enough the butler was captured and tortured into confession and then summarily executed in boiling oil. As for the girl, and that madman Darius, they vanished soon afterward; the shop left in such a state of disarray showed they fled the city that very night.

The next morning brought the mysterious deliveries to agents and assassins of the guild; flowers from the shop of Clairice, supposedly over his signature, though he was proven to be here in his manor (the only reason Grandfather did not summarily execute him). Even the stolen roses had been returned intact, and watered by the girl; then as some of his agents examined and smelled them, declaring nothing to be wrong…

This could not be said of the rest of those deliveries. For some reason, like with Master Finneous, and his lover Kimberly, and at the ale-house operations, the receivers just seemed to up and die in their tracks! Now there are other Masters of the guild, underlings who would not dare to strike at Gerald; who are openly making plans to do just that, and it appears Grandfather is encouraging them due to his silence on the matter.

Most probably, that is due to one of the bouquets of flowers having been sent to his throne room as well. The man has no sense of humor; especially as there are rumors of him offering one hundred bars of gold to anyone taking down the Grandfather of Assassins; as if he would actually be suicidal enough to make such a move!!!

Such is his mounting rage and frustration that when he grips the railing of an upper floor balcony he tears the wood free in two large chunks of debris. So far no one has been able to find out much of anything, save that the agents of Master Gerald are following his own…with more and more open boldness…probably to strike in one well coordinated action; collapsing his entire network and assault his estate…

Yes that makes sense…Gerald, his one remaining associate…

There is one way to deal with that traitor…

Quickly he calls for his senior agents and guard leaders. Once gathered he explains what needs to be done and to be on the double quick for it; there is a small window of time open, and he intends to exploit it to the fullest. Right now only one thing could interfere with his plans, and that is the Grandfather of Assassins himself…

“Grandfather of Assassins Gordon…” he examines his knife blade, loving the way the light plays over its razor sharp edges. How fine of a blade he will use to end the life of both Gerald and Grandfather – then claim all for himself.

“Yes, that is what will happen then, both shall fall in the end…”



======
Within the hour an agent of Grandfather reports directly to him of the plan that Master Gordon has laid down. Upon hearing that a coup is indeed coming, and by the hand of Gordon the Grandfather’s rage is absolute. He calls for his personal guard to assemble, for the best fighters, rogues and assassins to gather and arm for battle.

For too long he has allowed this game to go on, now all shall see the wrath of the guild and of Grandfather once and for all. Quickly he goes over the series of plans and contingencies he long ago prepared for such an event; one after another are rejected, until the best overall remains…complete extermination…

When the group has assembled two hours later he explains the plan and gives one final order…

“When Gordon strikes at the estate of Gerald, we surround the place, move inside and slaughter everything. I mean that emphatically, there are to be no survivors at all. Slay every living being or animal in the place; then reduce it to ashes afterward. Then the same will happen to Gordon’s estate; these traitors will be rooted out completely…”

Building up the frenzy of his forces, Grandfather intends to use this execution to the townsfolk of Providence as well – to remind them HE rules the town. Once that is done, he will purge the guild of any and all threats from top to bottom.


======
“My lady,” her Associate softly calls, touching her soft shoulder. He also moves slightly to the side, keenly aware of the envenomed blade she keeps handy when sleeping. Seeing her still drowsy eyes open, he sighs softly, not eager to replace yet another shirt…the last time was too close by far…he had startled her and she lashed out – not for his shirt, but somewhat lower down…

“My lady,” he again calls to her, “the forces of Gordon are gathered and on the move; they will hit the estate of Gerald within the next two hours. One of our agents also reports that the Grandfather is personally leading most of the guilds strength against BOTH of them. I believe he means to end this matter of the two once and for all.”

He sees the excitement growing on her face.

“Even with the Grandfather of Assassins entering the fray now, do we stay on the plan or change it?” he asked.

Considering the situation, and then asking some questions, she comes to a decision; swiftly she conveys it with her sign language.

Yes the plan does change; they go with a contingency for such an opportunity that has arrived.

Many of her agents have long since given up hope of Providence being freed from the iron grip of the guild; but now, shown the truth of the matter, that the guild IS VULNERABLE, they are ready to strike back and do so with absolute lethality. Their fear and despair has become anger and determination; tonight she and Associate make the most important strikes; they will do the rest…tonight Providence has a new cry of “Freedom or death.”

Associate smiles, the years long quest to avenge his sister, her husband and all their children will be completed; he will avenge them and they may finally find rest. It will be by his hands and no others, that the final target of his wrath shall perish…the Grandfather himself.

“My lady,” her Associate says, “good fortune on your part; I have to move quickly to get at my own target. I have dispatched word to the leaders of the waiting groups for the uprising to begin.”

“Today the Guilds ruling of Providence comes to an end,” he says, a wicked smile on his face.

Once again she smiles as that lesson of Shan Tiel came to her – in staging rumors of a pending coup, the natural paranoia of the assassins have led one to stage a real coup. So once again the assassin’s guild is dancing to her tune and not their own.

Now comes the time for the dance, and with it the hunt, to end.


************************
************************
Master Gerald’s manor, a fortress from top floor to the dungeons below, bristles with activity. His best soldiers and agents prepare the defenses, layer upon layer of insidious traps and secured passages; the outer yards with their fields of fire shall be turned into one massive killing field for Gordon’s forces when they arrive…

“Continue with all the preparations, I need to see to the final line of defense upstairs; remember to keep all of the designated reserves in place. I do not expect the great doors or walls to be breached; yet we take no chances at all…Gordon has shown himself too cunning and skilled in preparation in his elimination of Finneous, Cinnius, and so many others,” Master Gerald said to his chief-of-arms.

“Remember, he sacrificed his own men initially at the inn-operations to set up Cinnius and me as well; we must not underestimate him at all,” the first true traces of fear creped into his voice. For one time in his life Gerald feels the cold hands of death reaching out for him…watching his every move from nearby…


======
Indeed a pair of eyes watched Master Gerald’s every move from the rafters above the great hall; then as he ascends the great stairs. She silently shifts from one location to another, descending down to the main floor. Once there, she commences the dance of death with his agents and guards, one by one their labors cease to be productive…

This comes due to the fact that most of them are no longer capable of doing such work or for that matter of breathing; as death does render one quite incapable of doing such tasks.

When she has finished, she sees her reflection in a mirror, the amethyst fires of her eyes glowing like a beacon of doom; telling of her inner rage and determination to finish the matter. She recalls with absolute clarity the final screams of her mother and father; of her brothers and sisters as they were butchered, while she was taken to safety by Shan Tiel…her teacher and caretaker.

Looking up the great staircase; she knows the one whose name was screamed by her father, just as death came for him…that of Gerald…



======
During his wandering around the upper floor he cannot shake the feeling of death being nearby; one of two companions always with the assassin – the other being fear, in all of its numerous faces – refuses to leave his side. No, companion death refuses to leave, almost as if he longs for the show to continue just a bit more before needing to escort Gerald into the next world.

All too soon his attention came back to the lower floors, silent as an open grave; a foreboding of what was soon to be his own fate…almost as if he is walking in a dream he heads back to the upper floor landing, expecting to find all of his guards and agents fleeing or already fled.

Either that or they have already been turned by Gordon, to join his side in the coming fight that will leave Master Gerald alone to face many a hundred warrior in a last, hopeless battle before he perishes either at the end of a poisoned blade or skewed upon a crossbow bolt to his heart…

Sighing at the great, final treachery his agents have performed, he turns the last corner, his crossbow held loosely in his hand, prepared to meet the enemy who has to be there in unlimited numbers. Master Gordon has won the fight, somehow outfoxing Finneous, Cinnius and himself one after the next, and now with his death will turn upon Grandfather to become the new leader of the guild.

Thus he has made his second mistake in life; he has underestimated his friendship with Gordon and now will pay the price. The first was ten years ago when the girl escaped the fate of her family and the four covered it up to stay alive. He had been betrayed and defeated morally, intellectually and physically by an adversary so far out of his league, he never had a chance…

Around the last corner, he lets the crossbow fall from his unresponsive hands; expecting death to come by blade or crossbow bolt…only to see a lone figure, a slender, young woman standing at the other end, just feet away. Clad in black and gray clothing, a single mask is drawn up over her mouth and nose, while more cloth is over her forehead and hair, leaving only her eyes exposed.

He watches her drawn blade, twenty two inches of glittering, razor sharp steel come up in her hand; a blade he knows all too well, for on its handle is the symbol of the old man - Shan Tiel.

Shan Tiel!

He was the father of the bankers wife...and thus grandfather of the girl who escaped...

"Oh no," Gerald said to no one in the area, consigned to his death, understanding at last who the true mistress of the gambit being played is...

The one before him here and now...

She moves the blade into a cross guard position, her gloved hands holding it in a grip like iron, to strike or parry as needed, the blood on its edge glistening like red fires, telling Gerald of his agents fate on the floor below…

She began to advance upon him, economy of motion displayed to perfection with each movement; a true avatar of death made reality advancing to collect her due upon Gerald...

Her eyes glitter in the light of the wall lamps as she passes by; the clear fires of amethyst dancing in their depths.

“The girl…ten years and you survived…how…how…how…”

His nerves shattered, he falls to his knees, whimpering and completely in the grips of uttermost terror; he knows there is no more running or hiding, no mercy can be expected at her hands...

Though he tries...

"Please...please...don't kill me; I'll do whatever you want, I did nothing to you...why...why all the deaths..."

She shakes her head at this display of cowards in the end; the streams of tears flowing without restraint from his eyes, the smell of urine and loosened bowls corrupting the air as he loses control of his mind and body...

Having closed the distance between them, the blade in her hands eases back high over her shoulder, ready to deliver the third part of her vengeance in one clean strike.

“Justice is delivered then…Gordon never betrayed us, it was you all the time...” Gerald says to her.

She just nodded, as the reflected light glimmered on the blade; as it delivered vengeance upon the Third King.

So it is that the Third King of Four surrenders to the inevitable, his role in the gambit done.

Standing over his corpse, the Queen with the amethyst eyes cleans her blade on his shirt; then heads off into the manor to prepare for the last King of Four to arrive…and for the gambit to come to an end.


************************
************************
The Grandfather of Assassins, out at the head of his armed band is not happy today; the ongoing fight against Gordon’s forces has been taking far too long. His plan had been simple and easy, encircle the entire area of Gerald’s estate as Gordon’s forces mounted their assault, and then work their way in, burning the buildings and killing all – citizens or enemies who were found.

Systematically his forces pushed Gordon’s back step by step, always pushing, seeking to find a weak spot and make the final strike. Complete annihilation would result.

Then came the news from messenger’s that the citizens of the city have started an armed uprising, armed with spears, blades and even tools in some cases; supplemented by the bands of hunters who work in the woods around Providence. So he found himself fighting two fronts, Gordon to the fore, the mobs to the back; so his forces have been systematically whittled down.

Even his own bodyguard has been reduced from forty to the dozen surrounding him. Many bear wounds from the last clash, nearly a hundred members of the mob will not be going home tonight; his grimace became a grin at that thought.

When a cloud of smoke momentarily drifts over his band, a quartet of soft thuds sound out; his guard is now down to eight. The four on the ground in the death throws, the shuriken’s embedded in throats delivering their poison for best effect.

“Shield wall!” Grandfather shouts out, the guards forming a crescent wall of wood and muscle between him and their attacker; two more of his guards collapse, throwing stars embedded in their throats, the envenomed tips sending them into violent, wracking spasms as death reaches forth with his hands to claim them.

Holding his twin blades at the ready he directs the guards back down the street, towards a four way intersection. As they reach the smoldering remains of a shop one more guard falls, clutching his torn throat.

One guard advances down the street, a forward scout for the remainder of their ever diminishing band. He peers to each surrounding store front, street and alley opening, to the windows high and low, seeking the least bit of movement to indicate the next strikes of their unseen pursuer…

He failed to look from behind as a small snake is placed on his shoulder by a gloved hand…

The deadly bite of the Tai-Pan racks him with indescribable pain and torment as his body explodes cell by cell, the nerves last of all to perish as death welcomes him to join his fallen comrades of earlier this day.

Grandfather and the others watch with growing horror at the ease with which they are being toyed with…

Until the lone figure steps out of the shadows and over the fallen guard; blades at the ready, he advances with the coolness of death personified…

The five remaining guards, with Grandfathers gesture of a hand, charge at this foe; no fear shows on their faces, as they are the elite of the elite for many a kingdom. No one in the Western lands can stand against one of them, let alone all five.

In the swirling, twirling, flashing dance of death that flows as their foe jumps high and into their midst, they learn that he is no warrior of the West; but a deadly assassin of the Far East, the Ninja, who sends them unto their just reward in the afterlife.

Before Grandfather could even take a breath, the man is before him; a long, slender blade, honed to absolute razor sharpness is upon his neck. He feels the veins pulsating against the keen edge, and the slightest trickle of blood flowing down from where it pierced his skin…

Grandfathers breath came is gasps, as he dared not move an inch; for this unbelievable warrior has him at his mercy, and to judge from the cold eyes looking back into his own, Grandfather knows mercy is not on the agenda for the day.

Sweat beads and then flows down the face and neck of Grandfather, as the warrior stares at him without end, as if daring him to flinch and give him cause to execute him immediately. For that is what Grandfather knows is about to happen, no trial, no jury or such nonsense, just an execution without compassion or mercy.

He feels the knifes edge play ever so gently upon his skin, fires burning from the sweet kiss of deadly steel that teases panic and ever present flinching of muscles; all too familiar with such blades, Grandfather can imagine what the final cut on him will feel like…

Grandfather feels the burning pass into the rest of his body, hands shaking and churning in his gut induced by the final fears racing in his mind. His knees threaten to give out beneath him, no matter how hard he wills it to be otherwise, for he refuses to coward himself before this unknown foe…

How Master Gordon ever snuck such a warrior into Providence, passed all of his agents and spies Grandfather cannot understand…unless, after all, it was Master Gerald who did it…who may have been the true mastermind of this entire coup…

“Hello Grandfather,” the strange man greeted him at last, “I know you are more than wondering who I am, and why this is happening. For the record, and what it will be of worth to you, the four masters – Finneous, Cinnius, Gerald and Gordon had nothing to do with a coup or this uprising…”

Grandfathers eyes widened in disbelief as the information flooded into his fear sodden mind.

“That’s right Grandfather,” the man nodded in conformation, “I and my lady have systematically destroyed you and your guild. Ten years ago you killed my sister, her husband, and their children; one of whom my own father whose family name I shall reclaim as my own, said has exceptional talents…until you sanctioned the hit for the sake of the towns, and hence your own, bankers.”

The absolute calm and steady manner of his voice brought more fear to Grandfather than he has known in his entire career as an assassin…


“Yes I can see in your eyes the fact you know of whom I speak. I have waited for this time for so long now.”

“Oh by the way,” he casually continues, “as you probably have figured my blade is poisoned; you will not die from the venom now coursing in your veins, yet the execution I have in store, you will get to enjoy each and every sensation of pain that comes from my pets, until you die of course.”

Pulling the blade away, the mysterious warrior delivers a blindingly quick series of precise strikes, inducing absolute loss of muscle control in Grandfathers legs and arms; just to make sure he is not getting away if the weakness inducing poison fails in its task.

“Oh by the way,” he says to the shaking assassin, casually holding the man up by his neck with one hand.

“This is for my lady who was raped by Master Gordon’s butler; I would have killed him myself if the plan did not demand he live for a time. So this is nothing personal…I do it for her…well, okay, as I have grown very fond of her, it is personal…still…”

WHACK!

He watches as the Grandfather’s eyes cross over, his mouth contorted as much as his poison wracked body will permit in purest of pain; a victim of the move all men dread to imagine…the nutcracker…delivered with a kneecap to the most private and injury prone area any man has…


======
Associate looks down on the groaning, croaking, mewling form of Grandfather, and has no pity on the most powerful member of the Guild. For too long he has waited this outcome; prepared to sacrifice all if need be just to avenge his sister, and restore the honor of his family and restore his name.

Ten years since he swore his name shall be unheard and unspoken until the vow of vengeance is completed.

As it shall be this very hour.

Pulling from a pouch a slender, black silken rope, he quickly binds Grandfathers hands and feet, ties a gag about his mouth, and then casually grabs hold of the loop he makes to drag the assassin along. Heading for the place where his pets wait, he makes sure to cross each area of dirty water, sewage, bared rocks and cactus, determined to make sure the cause of ten years of torment and dishonor enjoys every moment of pain he has left in his soon to end life.

Several of the forest hunters, and their sons and daughters, master archers each who snipe at the remaining forces of the guild watch the two pass; each one knows that Associate is about to fulfill his own hunt at long last.

The one man who helped Associate with the patrol of Jambis not long ago smiled; even knowing of Associates particular ‘pets’, as he helped capture them in the woods, he has no sympathy for the now helpless assassin that is to meet his pain filled fate…

“Die slowly Grandfather,” he shouts and then moves on, determined to kill as many guild assassins this day as he can.

Once he reaches the warehouse, Associate opens the door wide, no longer caring nor needing to be secretive as to the contents. He drags Grandfather across stones worn smooth by centuries of cargo moved in and out of the massive interior; then up one flight of wooden steps, each one marked by the steady thud-thud-thud of the Grandfathers head slamming into its surface.

A steady moan slips from Grandfathers lips as the top of the loft is reached, and Associate can easy imagine the stars he is seeing at this time. He drops the rope from his hand, and advances to the edge where an opening is set between the rails of the lofts edge.

He gazes down upon the ‘pets’ he has prepared for this moment; and calls loud and long to them, whipping them into a howling, snorting, tusk-rending blood lust as they know their favored meal is about to be sent down to them – human flesh and blood and bone, raw…

Time and time again Associate calls out to them, and they respond with a dozen and eight cries of hunger and longing, a pleading and demanding for Associate to send them their promised dinner. Each one of them, some four hundred pounds of absolute bone and muscle, tusks huge and gleaming with razor sharp tips, eyes blood red and great chests heaving like the bellows of a fiery forge, they paw at the stone floor….

They wait…they call…they plead for warm blood and sweet flesh…

When Associate turns back for a moment, the pets howls and snorts grow ever louder, as they know now that dinner is at hand; they smell the man fear of the assassin, hear his panicked heart beating beyond all ability to sustain for long, and the final moans of pain as he is lifted from the loft floor…

Associate lifts Grandfather up by the neck, savoring the howl induced panic in the fallen assassin; Grandfathers eyes are absolute in their wideness, as he is pushed by the sounds of the pets howls and snorts to the edge of his own sanity, his mind refusing to accept what he knows logically is down there…waiting for him to go over the edge…

Associate holds Grandfather by the arms, forcing the unsteady assassin to bend down enough to see his fate at the edge of the loft. “Look well Grandfather, I gathered a great collection of special pets just for you; I learned long ago how you were nearly killed on a forest hunt by a wild boar and have been afraid of them for your life. How ironic is it not; here at the end, you literally get to go hog wild, or I should say…go to the wild hogs…”

“NOOOO!” Grandfather roars as Associate shove him bodily into the empty air ahead of them; his scream is heard for blocks until it ends abruptly on the cold stones below. Without hesitation, Associates pets, twenty of the most savage, massive, wild boars the woodland hunters could gather tear into the assassin…

Associate watches from above, savoring each sound and scream, until the last bone and scrap of flesh is gone into the guts of his pets.

“I am once again Shan Fae, son of Shan Tiel my late father. Now my task is complete.”

He only hoped his companion; she with the amethyst eyes was having as much success.


***********************
Outside the gates of Master Gerald’s estate Master Gordon and his band of men stand ready for the final fight in their little war. Three entire city blocks lay in smoking, smoldering ruins from the all too stubborn efforts of his foes men to keep their line from being breached. All too many of the shops and homes Gerald had owned were miniature forts in their own right, costing him more men, and most critical – time, than desired.

Yet he has won after all…

Now he stands on the eve of his vengeance; Gerald waits just beyond the meticulously maintained grounds, the great doors of the manor lay open, silent and still. Gerald must be so afraid of his impending doom that he has either already fled, or some servants have betrayed him on the slim hope of mercy being shown to them.

No mercy, that is the order given to his current band of troops; he wishes there were more of them at hand yet he had to leave too many of them to fend off the tightening ring of Grandfathers forces. He will finish off the one here first, then take his men back and finish off Grandfather, and then the purge of the city and the guild of all traitors will truly commence.

If he has to rule over a land of the dead, so be it, he will rule in the end.

With a nod of his head several men commence to skulk from cover to cover, crossbows at the ready, swiftly but steadily closing on the open doors. They cover one another, alert for the least notice of the expected ambush to commence.

His scouts reach the manor doorway with no problems, and then signal they are entering.

The great doors silently close behind them…

One minute passes…

Five minutes pass…

Ten minutes…

Twenty minutes…

Thirty minutes…

Then one manor door swings open silently, the shadows beyond beckoning with all the kindness of a silent and open grave in the woods. Nothing moves from within or without…


======
The sudden collapse of a nearby building in a cascade of brick, wood and flames combine with a sudden cacophony of blade on blade clashes, shouts of victory and screams of the dying. Gordon’s men begin to look one to another, debating as what to do at this time to ensure their survival.

Shrill cries of war sound off, combined with calls of “Providence and Vengeance!”

One of his chief lieutenants shouts in the smoke for his men to hold the line, his calm, steady voice suddenly cut off in a gurgle. The now leaderless men stumble into sight of Master Gordon, one by one shouting out a scream of death as envenomed arrows pierce armor and flesh, before they fall to the ground as gracelessly as a scattered and tattered burlap sack tossed from a high floor window.

Gordon’s eyes widen in fear as he understands what is happening…his own doom is soon to be at hand…

The rapid twangs of bows is followed by over a dozen of his men slumping to the ground, a second volley is followed by another in short order as the citizens of Providence storm out of the smoke clouds and debris; they are taking their town back once and for all.

Somehow the people of Providence have found the courage and means to stand against the Assassins Guild; despite the knowledge they will all perish in the end…

Charging like the wildest of fanatics they head right for Gordon and his men.

He has only two very simple choices to make – stand here and die for sure, or retreat into the manor. All that matters is for him to decide which he fears less: the mob or the silent manor house.

“Retreat to the manor house with all haste…Go! Go! Go!”

Half of his troops make it to the doorway, the rest dying under the hail of arrows and then under the blades of the mob when they sweep up over them. Just as he clears the doorway, one of his men pulls him to the side with an unaccustomed roughness, though as a salvo of poisoned arrows miss turning him into a hat rack for one time he does not mind.

With a resounding slam the great iron doors are closed, the cross bar firmly secured.

The citizens of Providence pound with impudent fury on the other side, their howls for blood and vengeance retorting like the cries of the banshees on the moors, foretelling of his pending death and judgment to come in the next life.

Gordon thanks his fortune that Gerald built the manor as a fortress first and a home second…now the bigger enemy outside is out of his hair, all that remains to be done is find and gut Master Gerald.

Passing from the entry foyer into the luxurious great hall, Master Gordon sees that things are definitely, and desperately wrong on a massive scale. The agents of Master Gerald lay all over the place, their armored bodies heaped three or four deep on the great stairwell ascending in the middle of the hall to the dimly lit halls above.

Each of them bears the same markings of their death, a single, well executed cut to the heart or the neck; with a few felled from envenomed darts…

“I guess Gerald finally went insane and killed most of his own men?” Gordon asked to no one in particular.

One of his men howls in shock and surprise, back-peddling from a side room. His broken, hastily spoken words and gestures indicate trouble may await them beyond; until he enters behind his bodyguards…the remains of his six scouts, sent into the manor earlier, hang upside down by their feet from ceiling, a silken rope secures them to the great wooden rafters of the ceiling.

Upon each one is a single slip of paper…which Gordon directs removed and the bodies to be cut down…

The paper reads:

Flee or share the same fate as I, death awaits you all around.

The men who took up the papers, five in all, are observed to have their eyes roll up into their heads, deep pink and red froth emerging from their mouths as they fall over dead.

Within seconds of their passing, the agents who have been cutting the silken rope began to choke, hands start to move to clench at their throats until muscles suddenly lock, eyes bulging out and turning blood red. Each of the seven men begin to take on surreal forms as their bodily muscles all begin to contract, inflicting untold of pain and soon causing the loud cry of bones snapping one after another…

Until at last the neck bone sunders and allows them the escape of death.

Gordon looks with absolute horror at the double trap that someone has set; a contact poison, absorbed through the skin, on the slips of paper; and then on the ropes themselves…just where someone would place their hands to cut the rope, and let their dead down…

The hanging bodies move like a pendulum, as small bells rings in harmony of their movement, the call to the grave all of them will occupy for eternity.

Gordon shouts for his men to spread out and search the lower floor; to scour all life from every room and hall that exists in the place.

He looks back to the great iron doors, hearing the people of Providence being given orders to find a large beam or log they can use as a battering ram. He knows from the strength of the doors there will be only a small bit of time until they are battered down.


“Master Gordon I have something here,” one of his agents calls from a room at the end of the hall.

A moment later there comes the ringing of a small bell yet again…followed by the holocaust of fire and shrapnel that tears the agent and the three other men in the room with him, into smoldering lumps of flesh and meat that no longer can be recognized.

From another room, just down the side hall from here a small bell sounds yet again; followed by the crashing of heavy furnishings to the ground. Soon enough Gordon sees the sight of bookcases piled on top of three of his men, one limb extended from beneath them holding a small golden unicorn that has a almost invisible cord of silk tied about it.

One guard gives off a soft gurgling sound, passing into the convulsions of death from where a slender venom coated blowgun dart has hit him in the neck. Another guard suddenly jumps in front of Gordon, shielding him from the second to arrive. As he falls into death the remaining guards fire off their crossbows into the shadows above, seeking out their unseen assailant on the level above.

Despite their best efforts three more guards fall into the eternal night all shall know of at the end of their days.

“Someone is playing games here with us,” he said, enraged beyond anything now. He is going to make his old associate Master Gerald pay dearly for this, ending his madness and the insane game once and for all; tonight the gambit Gerald has played comes to an end – and violently at that if Gordon has his way…

If he only knew how true his words are; just not as he has expected…

“Back to the foyer on the double; get under shelter now and keep watch. When we have gathered get ready to storm the stairs and eliminate whoever is up there. Understand clearly, no survivors at all, absolutely no one is to live…when we find Gerald he is MINE alone!” Gordon tells his men, rage beyond reason and rationality burning in his body.

Gerald will pay in the most hideous methods he can imagine; for bringing his world crashing down around him in his efforts to dispose of Grandfather.

Crossbows or blades ready for battle, covering every possible spot of ambush they advance back the way they have come…unaware of the amethyst eyes watching them from the shadows.

Gordon leads eight men into a side room, a small study untouched by the carnage already inflicted on the place.

Far above the band of armed men, twin eyes of amethyst sparkle with the fiercest of flames, matching the grin of glee upon her face; they had no clue as to where she hid as she downed the ones with her blowgun…these assassins are true amateurs indeed.

Silent as anything, even death would have been hard pressed to hear her pass by; she shifted from her location to the next, ready to watch and inflict the terror in full these assassins deserve; payment for the terror they have for too long inflicted unchecked on others.

Assassin against assassin…The ultimate portion of the gambit…

Queen against King on the chess board…

======
Master Gordon turned to give the signal for the rush up the stairs. He explained the plan – secure the landing, spread out room by room in large groups and kill everything. The first hollow, booming slams of a ram on the great iron doors ring loud and clear through the manor; telling all they are running out of time to deal with the enemy within for once the doors are breached, they will face the wrath of those outside.

With a gesture the first group rushes up the stairs, while a second covers them, crossbows aimed at each of the shadows above…only for all to freeze when the soft chiming of a bell comes yet again when the first one up the staircase brushes a trip cord 2/3rd of the way up…

Gordon sees the fine silken cord jerk for a moment to where it leads up to the rafters and connecting with a dozen small silken nets…that loosen instantly, scattering their contents of many small, egg shaped spheres out towards the floor below…

He turns and dives with all haste that panic can induce into the room, knowing that he rushed against certain death as his final, desperate leap sends him into an uncontrolled roll ending with him slamming into the far bookcase…

- BOOM!
- BOOM!
- BOOM!

Master Gordon barely avoids the falling books and massive bookcases that sought to crush him. Five of his surviving band covers him, creating a solid armored wall between their boss and the room’s entrance. Once the smoke clears, a quick peak out shows the carnage, his men torn apart by shrapnel and fire…

Such is the scene that no one can describe it…one of the survivors’ rushes into another room, grasping a vase to empty his stomach out into…only to be met by the fangs of a deadly Tai-Pan snake. Within moments he joins his companions in death.

The explosions…

The same kind of explosions reported to have taken out Cinnius; only the strength of the manor’s design kept all of it from coming down on top of him instantly. “Charge the stairs, anything moves ahead of us, shoot to kill and waste no time…”

The great iron entry doors bang like a massive gong, the mob outside getting more coordinated in their efforts to breach them. Master Gordon estimates he has less than twenty minutes before they break open; and death will come in the most horrendous manner from without.

Bounding quickly they cross the foyer, the main hall and up the stairs, trying not to look at the remains of so many dead…then the first to the upper landing looks about as a small bell chimes, followed by his grunt of pain and slumping to the ground…already in the final throes of death from the poisoned needle in his throat.


======
The four remaining guards charge past Gordon, covering all approaches as he comes up behind them. He takes just enough time to pick up the dead mans crossbow and a handful of bolts, each one tipped in lethal venom. Making sure one is fixed on the bow, he tells them to head down the right hand hall. The attack came from the left, so they will circle back around and corner their prey – it can only be Gerald…maybe…

Room by room they search, quickly and efficiently, finding nothing more than bodies and silence. With the second floor cleared, they ascend a small stairwell to the third level. No ambush awaits them at the landing as they expected, just an area for the servants to eat at…the table still set with tea and biscuits out.

Three of his men grab the partly filled cups while the fourth watches, declining any sustenance. In less than a minute the poison inside the tea sends them into pain wracked death, leaving Gordon and his lone surviving guard looking on at their horror filled faces, blood frothing from mouth and nose.

The other man gave a sudden grunt, then collapses before Gordon’s eyes, going into death on the end of a deadly dart and its poison.

Gordon dives into a nearby room, barely avoiding the mechanical trap that sends spears with razor sharp blades a moment too late.

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

So comes the steady pounding on the great iron doors…

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

Blow after steady blow, like a beating heart, the clock winds down with each one for Master Gordon.

Pulling the spears out of the doorway Gordon hesitates; sweat beginning to bead on his forehead, as a small, subtle sound comes from his left, just down the hallway. Carefully as possible, he eases his hand around the corner and into the hall, to see if any reaction is generated.

Then he lowers himself to the floor, and eases his head outward, crossbow in hand to shoot the first target that comes into sight…

Only to have a trio of the envenomed darts miss him by a hairs breadth in quick succession. His desperate roll to the side and kicking out with his feet, propelling him into the hall, saved his skin…or so he figures…

Then again, with a madman as Gerald appears to have become, anything is possible…

Breathing hard, rage and terror mixing together, he bellows out for anyone around to hear clearly, “GERALD! COME AND FACE ME YOU COWARD!”

He quickly heads deeper into the manors upper floor…

======
Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

The clarion call sounds again, fainter yet more and more steady of that battering ram on the iron doors.

Crossbow held out in front of him he sweeps the long hallway, stopping by each silent room, glancing quickly into them to see if anyone waits in ambush. All is in perfect condition, looking as their occupants left them this morning…save that they will no longer be coming back. So silent is everything that not even a single mouse is to be heard moving in the area.

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

Finally he advances close enough to the end to see where the end of the hall turns sharply to the left and the right, two branches and three rooms to pass for the ambush to come. Three rooms to search and then the halls to check; where is Gerald to be found?

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

Three rooms become two with a quick glance.

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

The next one has a partially closed door, with a shadowy silhouette off to one side; something is not right, the figure is just too still. As he reaches for the door of the last room to be checked, he stops. Just a hairs breath from his hand is the doors brass handle, the faintest glimmer of poison coating it – if he had touched it with his bare hand, death would take him quickly.

A beautiful trap, lure him one way, force him to go for the unopened door and have the handle poisoned. It has almost worked – which means Gerald has to be around one of the corners ahead…which one…

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

Sweat streams down his head and neck, as he knows the end game is now at hand…but which way…to the left or the right…which way…


======
From nearby, among the very structure of the building, one moves silent as death; becoming the very shadows as she follows the last assassin. Footfalls so quiet that even a sleeping mouse is not roused, she moves ahead to prepare the end game…soon justice will be delivered after so long of time…and in such a dramatic way…

Once in position, she hears the soft footfalls echoing to her ears like the thunder of a heard of beasts in a full panic approaching. Her prey nears with each passing beat of a heart.

Amateurs indeed, these so called ‘masters of death,’ amateurs indeed…


======
Step by step he stealthily advances, straining his ears to pick up the slightest sound; every instinct honed by his years of dealing in death yells that Gerald is off to the left. Just shy of the intersection, he shifts his balance and stance to jump ahead, planning to come in low and shoot high…any return shot of Gerald will pass right over him.

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

Springing out he lands and shoots…

Into completely empty space…

The crossbow bolt slams into the far wall with a dull thud, the same sound in his heart as he awaits arrow or blade to slide into his heart.

Boom!
Boom!
Boom!

His world collapses completely, the doors will shortly be breached, and the death blow is to fall before that by the hand of Gerald; for one time in his career the deadliest of the four assassins has made a mistake…

Blind instinct alone saved his life, as he flings the now useless crossbow above his bared neck and head; feels the solid, strong and all too real bite of a blade deep into its wooden mass. Twisting to one side he shoves with strength topped by sheer panic and fear as the blade pulls free of the wood, and two quick slashes miss him by a hairs breadth, two lockets of his hair falling to the ground in silent grace.

Gerald continues his frantic twisting, turning, rolling and hopping dance with the assassin pursuing him; for who else could possibly command such skill as to take him by surprise. Even with all his skill, training and honed battle experience he cannot help but feel as if he is being toyed with…

Then the hilt of his opponents’ sword slams full force into his forehead, and only a wild, fortune blessed kick out that connects with a meaty thud saves his life. He has only a moment to spare as his opponents blade lands on the ground with a loud clanging sound, leaving him the choice of offense, defense or pragmatic (i.e. run like Hades for his life).

As he shakes his head to clear his blurred vision, he hears the soft thump of his opponent regaining their feet; and the gentle sliding of a blade on stone as its rightful wielder takes it up once again.

Offense, defense or pragmatic…what tactic is he to employ?

Whipping out a throwing knife from his sleeve; he uses it to parry the next slash coming his way, the echo of steel on steel carry far into the charnel house that Gerald’s manor has become. He blocks the next three of his foe, who jumps from shadow to shadow, always one step ahead of him, driving him back step by step, yet not taking the openings in his desperate defense to press home the killing blow…

Pressing him back…

Into a trap…one set to catch him from behind.

In desperation, understanding dawning that the assassin here before him is only to push him back into the trap Gerald has obviously set up for him he redoubles his defenses, refusing to yield up a foot of ground unless he absolutely has to…

Bumping into a small podium, Gordon pulls on the massive vase atop it with all his might, seeking to slow or crush his opponent beneath its great mass. The resulting crash whirls up a swirling, dancing, bellowing cloud of dust and dirt from which he hastily retreats, crouching low to one side, ready to spring the instant his opponent comes through the cloud.

Taking a second blade in hand, he knows his foe will now die, for there is only one way past the cloud of dust and it is right past Gordon. He will stop this assassin that Gerald has pitted against him, and then deal with his old “friend” in person…

The second blade is gripped tight in his hand by its razor sharp point, ready for the coming throw…

He needs only one second of time for the perfect throw, the blow to end all blows…so he waits, and steady and still as death, as only a master assassin can…

And waits…

And waits…

And waits…until the sweat begins to run down his face and neck, his arm muscles straining to be unleashed…

He strains his hearing for the whisper of sound to tell of Gerald’s forces closing in from behind; while he still waits for the assassin to come from ahead.

For a continuing eternity of time he waits; tense and ready, muscles screaming in pain and turning to leaden weights from maintaining a crouched pose into an eternity of time; yet only deathly silence is heard…

Nothing, no noise at all…his opponent has to be waiting for him to come forward…through the settling cloud of dust that now shows the shadows beyond, all the lighting extinguished for the giving of complete cover…

The world of the assassin, waiting to spring death on Gordon the instant he enters…

“Unless,” Gordon softly whispers to himself, “the assassin has worked around me…”

A near silent whisper comes from nearby, over his shoulder…

He twirls about, a full half circle and thrusts out his one blade to block the expected blow; the other flung with great force to his target….that is not there…

He knows death is at hand, having turned his back on his opponent and prepares to feel the fiery kiss of steel into his back…

The blow does not come from behind though; it comes from ABOVE!

The first smashing fist, or flat palm misses crushing his larynx by a hairs breath, then comes a savage flurry of kicks, jabs, and open handed attacks; such skill and attacks he has never imagined anyone could be capable of unleashing…

His body rings as blow after blow strikes home, the pattern becoming all too clear as his opponent, dressed all in black and grey clothing, dredging up a memory from long ago…Shan Tiel, the old man on the mountain and his style of unarmed fighting…

He is facing the old man himself!

The one legend speaks of in dread whispers, the only one even the Grandfather of Assassins gave all deference to in the tales told; a matter of honor and a debt long expected to be paid over some old matter.

Three roundhouse kicks smash him into the walls and then drive him to the floor; from which his assailant grabs him by the collar and lifts him off the ground, only to batter him more with an open hand, delivering blows so much harder than any punch he has ever endured.

Throwing a wild punch, his wrist is grabbed and his forward momentum is added to the massive strength of his foe in the throw that slams him into the wall, the audible sound of ribs shattering heard by the both of them.

Then the beating stops…blinded, panicked, and driven by imagined demons of his assailant all about…

Fleeing in blind panic Gordon bounces down the right hand hallway, slamming off of walls and around the next corner; only to come face to face with Gerald…more precisely, his body, slowly swinging upside down from the rope running up through the rafters.

His roars of uttermost panic echo long and loud across all the silent spaces of the manor.


======
Upon the body is a single note:

Gordon – you are the last of the four, you took my family in blood and fire; so I take yours as well, your family of the guild and their city. You have danced to my tune for the last few weeks, I have controlled all, including now how you shall die. Ten years ago you sewed the seeds for your own destruction.

“The girl…” he mutters, now understanding who he has been dealing with; the little girl of the banker they missed all those years ago.

- Thud.

The impact of the dart feels like that of a sharp hornets sting; followed by the burning, spreading of the poison upon its tip now coursing through his veins.

The poison steals all the strength in his body, leaving him as loose as a rag doll casually tossed aside; only to be picked up like a sack of grain by a strong, young lady…and carried down to the main hall where she ties him to the banister of the stairwell. She moves to where he can see her eyes, those blazing fires of amethyst that tell his death is now at hand…and to show off the small billiard ball in her hand, which she places next to his manhood.

As she walks off to a side hall, he sees one hand release a sling with a small lead shot within it; then the sling is spun…once…twice…three times and released back in his direction, followed by her lightning dive into a side room for cover. His eyes tracked the lead shot coming at its target…the billiard ball…

He has just enough time to hear the front doors giving way from the mobs relentless pounding before the lead shot makes impact; and detonates the fiery witches brew held within.

Needless to say, the ending for Master Gordon was both bright and fiery.

As the mob rushes about through the smoke and scorched room they see someone else has already done much of their work and commence to plundering all they can take of value…no one pays attention to the smoldering, scorched and torn corpse by the banister that was the former Master Gordon.

Word soon reaches them that the rest of the assassins guild has been crushed, the last dragged down unto death; the liberation of Providence is at last accomplished.

The cost though has been high, for many are injured, some so bad they will join the fallen before the next dawn is seen. Buildings and homes have been destroyed or damaged; yet the town celebrates, for so long they have been terrorized by the Guild of Assassins and now they are free.

The mysterious lady and her Associate showed that the guild could be beaten, helped arm and organize them; and now they are free.

She with the Amethyst eyes walks among them in ease, dressed to appear as any other person, not wanting to be found out. Her grandfather and family now rest, the latter avenged once and for all; in taking her home and family she has returned the favor in spades, taking the town of Providence from the guild while shattering it at the same time.

And in the same quest, her Associate has won his name and honor back.


*************************
*************************
That evening from a nearby hilltop she and Shan Fae watch the fireworks of victory soar over Providence. Many have died to win their freedom, and wonder who the mysterious amethyst eyed lady actually is; some have speculated she is not human, being an avenging angel from the heavens sent to answer their desperate prayers.

“My lady,” he begins, somewhat abashed as his voice cracks ever so slightly with emotion, “I wish you could stay here; there is plenty for us to do together, maybe…” he looked to see where her ever handy throwing knife was located, and shifted slightly to put a hunk of wood between her and his manhood…

It never hurts to be safe when it comes to her skill with those throwing knives…

“Maybe we could even have a family together…I don’t even know your real name yet, or if you even have one. It’s the one question of yourself you never answered…” he asked with a rueful look on his face; not even sure if she will answer him.

She smiled softly, reached out for his hand and then motioned with her fingers over his palm; revealing in the intricate sign language more than he ever could have imagined.

His eyes just widened in absolute shock!

Never had he made the connection…he never would have!

Her eyes glimmered with mischief and amusement, the amethyst fires dancing to and fro; as he accepts at last that she is the daughter of his long dead sister; the one who the four assassins – Finneous, Gordon, Gerald and
Cinnius had murdered at the order of the now deceased Grandfather of Assassins.

She is HIS NEICE!!!

His shocked look remains until she eases up on her tippy toes, and gently kisses him on the lips; arms wrapping about his neck. He looks into her eyes, and sees the warmth and love reflected back at him, and yet, another secret her smile tells of more news coming his way…

She softly strokes his cheek with one set of fingers, conveying in what most would regard as a gesture of affection, yet is their silent hand language, the next shock of his life…

Make those two shocks…

“You’re kidding?” he says, backing up a short distance within her grasp.

She shakes her head to let him know she is not kidding or jesting in the least…

She is going to stay in Providence with him; and there is even better news…they will have a family of their own after all; as she gently takes one of his hands in her own and places it upon her belly, letting him imagine the life growing within, though he knows it will be months yet before the first kicks will be felt…

“Oh my lady, I am so happy for the both of us…” as he dances around like a drunken bumble bee, she just shakes her head, rolling eyes to the heavens and covers her face from the embarrassing mannerism he is so displaying.

“Master Shan…” a voice comes from nearby, causing the two of them to see a band of townsfolk coming over; munching away on the remains of the wild boars he so generously provided for their victory feast.

“Master Shan,” the new mayor of Providence spoke, his face covered in the sauce used to baste the boar’s ribs, “can you tell us what happened to the guilds Grandfather? You were seen to capture him, and take him away, if he is still alive we want to execute him ourselves…”

Carrying a sheepish look of consternation on his face Shan Fae looks at them, gulps, looks to his lady who just shrugs her shoulders, and looks back to the mayor…

“No the Grandfather is no longer alive,” Shan Fae said, “lets just say he was bored to death…”

He looks back to his lady, and all that they have accomplished. For as with her uncle, she was trained by Shan Tiel in the ways and secrets of the ninja, the feared and deadly assassins of the Far East, to give her the edge among the deadliest killers of the western lands.

Shan Fae just watches as her gaze lifts up to the night sky; the clusters of stars forming a river high in the heavens above, rendering unto her a mysterious, unworldly presence. It is that river of stars she has chosen as her personal name…”Pan li Lung,” or the “Celestial River Dragon of the Heavens.”

It also has a second and more fitting name…

“One who delivers vengeance for the innocent and the helpless.”

And so it is that this tale of the Assassins Gambit comes to an end; two who risked all for justice, and to see the people of Providence free of the Assassins Guild have won the game. They now enter into the life of a family, and a time of peace. Yet should the need arise, they will go to do battle against any others who wish to take their home away…

So one story closes; and a new legend, of she who has the amethyst eyes is born.


(fin)
9 comments

anonymous readerReport

2012-11-25 17:55:39
A good story. With alot of editing it could probly sell ok as a book. But the editing is a must.

anonymous readerReport

2012-11-19 17:55:04
present tense is bad. it annoyed me to the point i didn't make it past the first paragraph.

JayneyReddReport

2012-11-04 10:29:45
Lengthy and complex, so therefore an even greater achievement. Bravo, well written.
JR x

anonymous readerReport

2012-11-02 03:58:19
سكس فيديو

lolaheiressReport

2012-10-27 18:38:59
Best story I read on here

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