Friday, September 26, 2014
"Night of Zealotry (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #3)" by Scott Marlowe (Short Story)
Type of Short Story: Short Story
Summary: Take out the mark, retrieve the scroll, and avoid getting killed by his protection detail of Black Guard mercenaries. That was the job. Simple enough, or so the Assassin Without a Name thought, until he finds himself smack in the middle of three organizations all vying for possession of the item he just stole.
Of the three, the worst is the Jakaree, a group of fanatical priests willing to kill--and to use deadly technology--to fulfill their mysterious goals. But by making the Assassin Without a Name a target, they're about to get a lesson in death themselves from one of the best.
MY PROFESSION IS ALL ABOUT finesse and skill. But sometimes, it’s about running—or in this case, sprinting—across rooftops, with a near-moonless night overhead and an angry host of Black Guard mercenaries giving chase. It’s one of those situations where you wonder how the hell you got into it, until you remember you signed up for this knowing full well the Guard’s reputation for vengeance. You see, they don’t like it when you kill someone under their protection. They like it even less when you do it right under their noses. I understand they’ve a reputation to maintain, but it’s not my job to help them maintain it. Nor is it to make this an easy chase for them. Hindered by their heavy armor, the distance between us was growing with each step. It didn’t help their cause that I knew these particular rooftops better than I knew the streets because I’d spent weeks studying and planning for this job. I knew which gables were hidden from the eyes of sentries. I knew which rooftops were no more than a leap away. I knew—
—when someone was about to crash into me. Too bad I realized it too late to avoid him. If the Black Guardsman was trying to bring us both down, he succeeded, tumbling us across the slanted rooftop and guaranteeing that our momentum was going to carry us right over the edge unless one of us did something. The Guardsman didn’t seem to have the first inkling of an idea, so I took it upon myself to detach my grappling hook from my belt, snap the prongs open, and scrape it along the cedar shingles until it stuck fast. Too bad my assailant didn’t have the sense to hold onto me. He kept sliding, right over the edge and into oblivion. I got myself up and started running again long before he’d hit the ground.
“Stop right there!” one of the Guardsmen yelled from too close behind me.
I sprinted across the remainder of the rooftop and, with the mad scramble of booted feet in pursuit, jumped. The next rooftop was too far for me to reach. The mercs must have known that, for they let out a litany of curses, not out of concern for my safety, but because they thought I’d just committed suicide rather than face their tender mercies. I’d as much interest in the one as the other, and so I’d timed my jump to land precisely on an adjacent balcony instead. Easy enough to swing over the railing from there and lower myself to the next balcony below before the Guardsmen were able to look down, get over their surprise, and realize I was escaping.
I was almost to the ground when I heard one of them land with a crash at the starting point of my downward escape route. Black Guardsmen don’t lack for courage, I’ll give them that. But they do lack agility, for I was already at the bottom of the alley before the first of them had figured out how to even swing himself down one story.
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