Friday, September 26, 2014

"Night of Zealotry (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #3)" by Scott Marlowe (Short Story)

Genre:  Fantasy

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.

Not likely.

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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Friday, September 19, 2014

"Killing the Dead (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #2)" by Scott Marlowe (Short Story)

Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Some say the dead should stay dead. Not everyone agrees.

The priests purged one of their own with holy fire. Now they need the Assassin Without a Name to finish the job.

In this short tale, an assassin is hired to kill the already dead.


"I AM AUTHORIZED TO OFFER you double your normal rate because this job is a bit…abnormal."

I put my wine glass down, letting the smoothness of the '74 Crusus Sabeler slide down my throat and settle in my stomach before I responded. "Abnormal how?"

I'd been enjoying a bottle of the Shiraz when I saw the man poke his way through the wineshop's front door. That he was looking for me, I'd no doubt, for after a quick scan of the room's interior he headed straight for my table, asked my permission to sit, then did so. Right away, I saw that there was something different about this gent. He was middle-aged, with the thinning pate and speckled gray to prove it. The skin of his face was white from lack of sun and he had the smooth and uncalloused hands of a scrivener or scholar. Neither profession earned enough to cover my fee. I was about to tell him so when he introduced himself. He said his name was Father Kem, here as a representative of a church whose name I promptly forgot. A holy man, come to see me? Abnormal indeed.

He'd arrived incognito, dressed in a white tailored shirt, embroidered vest, and plain trousers. Despite the lack of a cassock, I wondered for a brief moment if he'd come to absolve me of my sins. No such luck. He was here to add to them.

"We wish you to dispatch a man…who is already dead."

I narrowed my gaze at that, taking another sip of my wine and hoping it would make the words replaying in my mind clearer. It did not. "You want me to do what?"

Kem's lips turned in a brief smile. "I understand you may think me cracked. But, I assure you, the request is genuine, as is the proposed fee. The man you are to, ah, kill, is—was—named Ashunde Roe. He was a bishop amongst our clergy before he met his end. That end, as you might imagine, is of considerable importance, for Bishop Roe was purged."

That was the clergy's way of saying he'd been burned alive. It was a fate experienced by only the worst of sinners: dark witches, demon-mongers, necromancers, and probably some others I didn't want to know about.

"Ashunde strayed from our ranks," Kem said. "He was caught delving into the debaucheries of necromancy."

Ah, necromancy. I spent my time sending people to their graves. Necromancers spent their time raising them. A vicious cycle by anyone's measure.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

"Fine Wine (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #1)" by Scott Marlowe (Short Story)

Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Abelard has made enemies. The Assassin Without a Name is sent to deal with him. But death isn't always the answer.

In this short introductory tale, an assassin makes a deal.


ABELARD ATE A LOT. THAT was why, after I'd slashed my knife across his belly, I half-expected his bulbous stomach, chock full of the tender roast, broccoli, soft rolls, and the most delicate shiraz I'd ever sampled—all served just an hour before by his fat merchantship's very own staff—to come tumbling out like a too swollen jellyfish. But something about the cut didn't feel right, and though Abelard clenched his hands to his gut and fell to his knees as I expected he would, there wasn't even a single, glistening trickle of gastric juice seeping out from between his fat fingers.

Seized by a moment of disbelief, Abelard gasped when realization of what had happened hit him. It's not every day a man falls prey to an assassin, especially after having just wined and dined said assassin at his own table. It's not a usual part of my fee, the wining and dining, but I don't pass it up when it can be arranged.

His lardship moaned, and fell to his back, still clutching his gut. Strange that there was no blood…

I sighed. Killing a man when he was down was too much work. Not very sporting, either. "Get up," I said.

"Why have you betrayed me, my friend?" Abelard asked between moans as he curled himself into the fetal position.

I'd passed myself off as a fellow merchant, come to the city to move some goods. "I did not betray you," I said, "for I was never loyal to you in the first place. Now, get up." It was a hard thing to ask of a man who'd just been eviscerated, but Abelard appeared to be holding his insides in well enough, so not completely out of boundaries, I thought.

"You've killed me, my dear, dear friend. I bleed, and soon I shall die."

I sighed again. I'd been warned about Abelard's theatrics.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

"Shadowcursed" by Gelo R. Fleisher (Novella)

Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:   Bolen is a thief, plying his trade under the spires of an ancient and sprawling city. Worried that he's growing too old, Bolen has lined up a risky job, just to prove that he can still pull one off.

Tonight, he's going to break into a nobleman's vault and help himself to its contents. What he doesn't know is that inside is the key to a secret as old as the city itself.

Kings have killed for it, demons have coveted it, priests have prayed for it, and in a few moments it will be in his hands. And when it is, the adventure of his life will begin.


All through the city, the first signs of daylight made themselves known. Streaks of pale orange climbed the thatch and stone of its crooked skyline, and the night mists began their daily retreat back into the sea. As the fog burned away, the smell of salt water remained and soaked the pungent aromas of urban filth with a sour brine.

Over muddy streets matted with straw and excrement, bleary-eyed merchants carted their wares to market, and weary tradesmen shuffled off to fisheries and storehouses. City watchmen in their chainmail shirts, and apprentice mages in high-collared robes, watched the bustling crowd without interest.

Bolen’s eyes stung with sleepiness. The short, unassuming man was one of the hundreds wending their way between complaining oxen, chanting Sothay priests, and the upraised hands of beggars. His short, wiry frame moved unhurriedly, ignored by the lurching mob.

Bolen had lived his whole life amid the rhythms of the city and they comforted him, in a perverse way. It was a city of stolen dreams, his among them. Yet to see it stir, the same as it did every day, was like the taste of cheap wine on the lips of a drunk. No longer exhilarating or satisfying, but at least comforting in its reliability.

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