Follow the adventures of Ragnar Grimfang, Twiceborn and Nordan Exile, as he tracks down a murderer in the shadowy city of Myrrhn.
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The assassin was in the room with me. It took every ounce of control for me not to leap up and cast about.
The hour was late, and the house was quiet, there was no sound save the gentle breathing of two women upstairs, and yet I knew that I was not alone. There was an unfamiliar smell, or rather the absence of a smell, in the house. Those who become adept at sneaking quickly learn to mask their scent in a variety of ways, mostly to avoid guard animals. This one had chosen Prosopian oil, which actually masked all scents. The problem was that my sense of smell was acute enough to detect the void, that lack of scent, so to speak. I looked, using the mirrors, and listened, but heard nothing. I was certain that it was not just my imagination playing trickster.
The assassin was good, too good to be the journey-woman and her partner that had attacked me outside Git’s shop. This had to be the man who had killed Sapphire.
I reached for my axe. Old habits dictate that it is almost always at hand. My fingers touched the haft. There was the faintest sound from behind me, followed by a prick on the neck, too swift for me to avoid. Poison coursed through my veins. The very same kind that had been used on Sapphire. I stiffened.
I sat unmoving, locked in place, for a hundred heartbeats before I heard a shuffle from behind me. Unfolding like a spider, the assassin dropped from the ceiling, his feet barely making a sound on the wood despite the drop. I snarled wordlessly.
The assassin was in no hurry as he crossed the floor, footfalls barely audible, even to me. He laid his blade at my throat, cold steel biting. Oh how I wished I could move, but breathing rapidly and rolling my eyes was all that a poison of this type would allow. I could not help but wondering how helpless Harald and Sapphire must have felt as they died.
“Know, Northman,” he whispered in my ear. “That I have you at my mercy.”
I almost laughed at that.
“You and I have something to discuss,” his words were carefully spoken, precisely enunciated despite the lowering of his voice. His tone was lightly conversational. “You have been hunting me. You think I murdered my beloved Sapphire because of that pig Harald. Ask yourself, if I had trouble with her sharing her favours with others, would I have fallen for a whore?”
I did not answer; I couldn’t. He did have a point, however: I had simply assumed that Sapphire had spurned the assassin in favour of Harald, triggering his vengeance. It was a common enough story…
“No,” he said. “I did not kill her, at least not directly.”
He paused. The blade tapped against my neck, no longer held so tightly.
“Someone wants me dead,” he whispered. “The Guild does not abide this kind of mess. If I take the blame they will hunt me down.”
Another assassin. Now that was an interesting possibility. The internal machinations of The Nightblades are quite opaque. There were rumours, of course: fights to the death, dangerous trials, that sort of thing. We knew assassins killed each other over position within the guild, but not the circumstances, rules, or even frequency. They were very good at keeping their secrets. I wondered if he was playing me. If so, what was the game, why not just cut my throat?
“You must be wondering what I want with you by now,” he said. “The answer is simple. I want you to find her killer. I want to preserve my status in The Guild, keep my life, and end the person who killed Sapphire. I’m sure you understand. I want you to do what you were hired to do.”
I had more than a few questions. I also wanted proof that he was telling the truth. Did he have someone who could vouch for him, even an alibi? By Skygge!, I was eager to hear the truth from him.
First, I had to show him where he stood.
There is a reason that they call us The Shadow Wolves.