Originally posted on Aug 19, 2008
Assassin’s Quest read to you by Ann and Jeff Hite
This weeks prompt comes from Mur Lafferty’s News from Poughkeepsie Find out more at Murverse.com
“Shaman, you need to take this baby’s soul back; you’ve given her the soul of an assassin,” my father said to the rheumy-eyed little man. The little man shook his head and walked out of the door muttering, and calling my father a fool.
My name is Betha MacTaggart, and that was how my life started. At least that is the story my mother told me of how it started. The other villagers have told me that the following day my father tried to kill me by throwing me in the river, but my mother would not hear of it, and in the end it was my hand that held the knife my father was carrying and as he tripped it drove into his chest. Not what I would call a good beginning.
We don’t get to choose the souls we are given, that is just the way life is. You get what you are given and you live with it. My soul was that of an assassin, and I started out my life by killing my father. It was obvious from that point on that I was going to be an assassin. The problem is, that is not really a popular field to go into, and people who are assassins are not exactly coming out of the wood work to tell you about themselves for obvious reasons. So finding a teacher or a mentor is a little difficult.
Any dummy with a weapon can kill someone, but how many people do you know that can kill someone with a single finger, or a blade of grass, and never get caught, or better yet blame it on someone else. That is the true job of an assassin. And that is what has brought me to this little town, nearly a months journey from my home, and had cost me almost everything I owned.
There was a rumor that the King’s own assassin was going to be in this town, not to kill someone, but to meet with several other assassins and discuss their trade. My best chance to get the training I needed was to be here and find them. The problem being that although just about everyone knew they were going to be in this town, and that they were supposed to be here this week, no one seemed to know where they were going to be meeting, or when they would be getting here. Worse still no one knew what they looked like. Keeping your identity safe is also part of being an assassin.
The best lead I had gotten was from the local shaman, he suggested that one hundred years ago when The kings assassin had called a council here that they had met in the tavern. At least that is where they gathered at first to discuss the next place to go. So here I sit in the tavern waiting and watching for I don’t know exactly what.
“Hello, young lady may I buy you a drink?” The skinny old man said sitting down beside me and waving the barmen over.
“No, I have one thank you. Can I help you?” I said watching his eyes rove over me.
“I hear you are looking for some people.”
“What is that to you?”
“I might be able to help you find them,” He answered with a smile creeping across his face
“I find that difficult to believe,” I said. “I bet there is a price involved that has me doing things that I would rather not do.” Then two things happened that I saw. First while I was talking to him he moved my cup closer to me. When he did that the tip of his finger touched the foam of the beer. I noticed right away the slight yellow tint that spread across the surface and disappeared. Second as the barman brought my plate of food the old man reached up and passed it to me from across the table, as he did I saw a little bit of an oily sheen that was very hard to see in the light once the plate was in front of me.
“Don’t let me slow you down, please eat your dinner.” He said with a wave of his hand. I carefully pushed the plate away from me. I had never seen either of these poisons before and I didn’t know how potent they were. so I didn’t dare even getting close.
“I think I will have that drink you offered.” I said hoping that he knew I’d caught him.
“You are pretty perceptive, but you will have to work on that because there is much more that your eye cannot always see,” He said. Then the thing that I did not see happened. There was a slight pain in my leg and then everything went black.
When I woke up I was in a stable, and wearing only my underwear. I stood up, and checked the door to the stable, it was locked but I could get under it, or over it quite easily. But first, I wanted to get an better idea of what kind of a situation I was in. People don’t normally just drug you, steal your clothes and dump you in a stable, unless you have the kinds of friends that do that kind of thing, and I didn’t. Come to think of it I didn’t have many friends. Most of the people from my village knew my history and avoided me.
I lay down on the floor and looked under the door. There was nothing obstructing the way but there was something reflecting a lot of light from the door. Likely something that was meant to fall on me or jab me, if I went over, the second I stuck my head around the door. Who ever put me here had done a good job, there was nothing in the stable besides a small amount of straw and a few horse droppings. Not much I could use to test my theory. I picked up one of the balls of horse droppings and rolled it slowly under the door, and sure enough a a rather large heavy looking metal plate dropped to the floor, splattering the horse dung and effectively blocking the opening.
“That would have been my head,” I whispered to myself. “These guys don’t mess around.” I was running out of options. There very well could be a trap still to get me if I tried to go over, or that could be my way out. I tossed a second piece of dung over the door but nothing happened. That didn’t mean much, since it was going much faster than I could ever get over the door and it might not have been big enough to set off what ever it was. I was not quite ready to toss my life away that quickly. In frustration I kicked the door, and sprung the second trap. I single nasty looking pike shot from behind the door into the ceiling .
I stood there starring at it wondering what kind of people went to this much trouble. That was when I heard something new. There was someone else in here. It was very low, but I could hear them breathing. They had a bit of a cold and their breath whistled a little. I stood as still as I could and listened, willing my heart to stop pounding in my ears. It took several minutes but in the end I could tell they were in the loft above me. They were watching me. That was when it hit me. This was not to get me out of the way. They were trying to kill me. The man I met in the tavern was an assassin, that much was clear, but why would he have come after me?
I didn’t have time to ponder that at the moment, first I needed to get out of here and figure out who it was that was out to kill me. I tried the door again. it was still locked, but if I kicked a few more times I might be able to break the latch. After about three minutes all I had managed to accomplish was a bruise on my foot and my shoulder.
“That makes sense, that door is meant to hold an angry horse, a ninety pound girl does not have much of a chance at breaking through.” That meant I was back to the first two options. Under and over, under was blocked. But over was not. And there was a pike lodged in the ceiling that as I went over I could grab and use against whoever was out there. I climbed up on the side walls of the stable Then made my way toward the door. Just as I was a going over the top another pike shot up and grazed my shoulder. It left a nasty gash, but it had not killed me. I grabbed both of them and jumped down on the other side of the door.
I was still nearly naked and didn’t know where I was but I was out of the stable and was now armed. I looked around. There were a number of other stables, but mine appeared to have been the only one that was Boobie trapped. There was small room in the corner and a loft above me, where whoever had been watching me presumably still was. The room seemed like the best bet. I had no idea if there was more than the one person watching me, and pikes, although good weapons for a large man, were not much of one for me. I needed something much smaller.
The room as nearly empty, but there was a cloak and a few tethering spikes. Not the best weapon, but easier to hide that then a pike, and something I could use. I put one of the pikes in the corner and put the cloak on, it itched an smelled of horse dung, but it covered me, and that was what was important. hiding the spikes in the pockets I then pulled the hood up and grabbed the pike. Now to get out of the building. At least then I might have an idea about where I was. I found the door at the far end of the stables. It opened without a problem, I carefully pushed the pike out there door. Nothing happened. At least this door did not appear to be booby trapped. There was a huge open field for as far as I could see.
“Where do you think you are going Missy.” I spun around to find a mountain of a man standing at the door behind me. “You have my cloak and I will be taking it back.” His smile said he had plans to take more than that.
“I think I will keep it,” I said holding the pike in a defensive posture.
“You will want to put that down before someone gets hurt.” He moved forward, and I lunged at him with the pike, he easily swatted it aside and made a grab for me, but I pulled the spike from my pocket and put it against his throat.
“That will be far enough. Now tell me why you put me in there.” I had no doubt he was not the one that had put me there. He didn’t look bright enough to have rigged that trap.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I saw you stealing my stuff and I…” His hand darted out and grabbed the spike and nearly broke my hand in the process, then in an instant he was on top of me. “Now lets talk about what you are doing here.”
“What do you mean, you and your friend back in the tavern drugged me and dumped me in the death trap back there.”
“Why are you here little girl?” He repeated. “This is vary dangerous business.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you here? Why did you come here?” It sunk in then. He was one of the assassins that had come here.
“Where are they?” He looked at me quizzically. “I came here to learn from the kings assassin. Where are they meeting.” I said finally.
“And why would you be looking for the kings assassin?” I managed to get my hand loose and swung it up against the side of his face. He rolled off me and I was on my feet in an instant with the other spike in my hand.
“Because I was given the soul of an assassin. I need to be trained to use it.”
“You?” he sad laughing roughly. He moved forward again but I dodged out of his way and managed a swipe across he chest that left him bleeding. He grabbed his chest and winced in pain. “You have some skill already I think.”
“Jacob, that is enough.” The voice came from the stable door. I waited until he looked toward the new voice before I risked a look. It was not the man I met in the tavern, but a much older man. Although his voice was still very strong and commanding. “It is alright miss MacTaggart you may lower your guard. The test is complete.” Three more men came out of the stable, all rather slight in build. One came to Jacob right away and started checking his wound.
“You are lucky she didn’t find the poison this could have been fatal, you need to be more careful.” He said to the much larger and younger man.
“What do you mean test?” I asked finally.
“Miss Mactaggart, you were seeking the kings assassin to acquire training, were you not?” The Old man asked.
“Yes,” I answered slowly.
“You have found him. I am Wilimaster the king’s assassin, you have earned a chance to get training you desire.”
“You mean that was a test? I could have killed him.”
“Or been killed yourself,” he said softly. “Do you think that the risks to your life will be any less when you are given a task of killing someone else.”
“No , but if this was a test…”
“And you passed by surviving and protecting yourself in very difficult circumstances. We had our doubts about you but I believe that they were miss placed. Jacob will be your master.”
“But I?” I started to protest.
“You prefer to not get any training?” He said his face growing dark.
“Then you will be Jacob’s apprentice.”
“You might want to get into your clothes again.” Jacob said tossing me a small bag and motioning me to the barn. “We have along ride ahead of us.”
Assassin’s Quest by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.