The Drowning Gull 1 - Page 28


Chapter 1, Part 1

by J. Todd Cumming

I always suspected I would meet my end in a dark alley behind a seedy bar, but I always thought it would be at the hands of a group of thugs-- not a young wisp of a girl like the one gliding from shadow to shadow towards me.

Her performance was unlike that in the tavern. There, she had stumbled and laughed, and her hand fluttered up to hover over the top few laces of her bodice (which were undone). I got the impression she was just another wench who had had too much to drink.

When she bumped into me and passed her hand over my tankard, I knew it was a ploy. Her moves were too measured. The more I watched her, the more I noticed she seemed to be watching me. I pretended to finish my drink - a skill more useful than I care to admit - and ordered another. A few moments later, I started coughing. I rose from my seat and stumbled toward the back door.

That's how the girl found me-- hunched over at the end of the alley, apparently heaving the contents of my stomach onto the ground. She showed none of the giddy barfly now. Metal gleamed in each of her hands.

As she drew closer, the young girl raised her right hand. I turned and looked her in the eyes, and they widened in surprise. She didn't know I'd been watching her approach, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted.

I flicked my wrist and uttered, "Enumbra!"

A scintillating rainbow shot from my hands into her face.

While the girl stumbled backwards and raised her hands to her blinded eyes, I lunged forward and threw a measured blow right below the diaphragm. She fell back and dropped her blades. I scooped one of the knives from the ground that had a wicked curve to it. The edge glistened with some sort of fluid-- so she intended to poison not only my drink. I wondered if it was lethal.

I pushed her against the wall and pressed the blade to her throat. She gasped for breath. The girl tried to squirm away, so I pushed the blade in deeper so my assailant could feel the edge, but not enough to draw blood. She stopped squirming then and looked at me. The girl's eyes filled with panic.

This seemed almost too easy. This girl lacked the experience that many other assassins possessed, and, at her age, someone had to have sent an amateur to kill me. It wasn't happening tonight.

"Who sent you?" I snarled.

I made myself sound as menacing as I could, as I generally don't make too much of an intimidating presence. Most of my opponents underestimate me because I don't look like I would do well in a fight-- if it came to blows, I probably wouldn't, but I always look for an edge. With her expression, I found it.

It was a simple spell, and one that many bards and minstrels used. I looked the girl in the eyes, nodded my head and waggled the fingers of my right hand outside her vision. The spell worked. All I had to do was take the emotions that the target felt and amplify them. The girl's fear had turned into panic, which worked in my favour. I pressed her against the wall and repeated my question.

"Enos!" she gasped, her breath a whisper. "Enos sent me to kill you. Please don't kill me. "

I relaxed my grip and stood back. The pitiful girl slithered to the ground, clutching at her throat and sobbing. I had the answer I needed.

I kicked the other dropped knife toward her. The metal clattered against the stones and immediately caught her attention. The girl stared at me, hesitant and confused.

"Thirty minutes. The Red Boar. Second floor, and fourth door on the left. Meet me there."

I turned and walked away.

The Drowning Gull