"They're sure taking their sweet time, aren't they?" Kegan mumbled, quavering with every prick of fallen rain. For the fifth time that hour, the archer's turned from the castle gate, hoping to meet Aiana's gaze. His wife's stoic eyes flitted eternally across every speck of guardsman grey. Kegan smiled, resting his hand on her shoulder. "Relax, love. He guaranteed there'd be no trouble. When we hit, none of 'em 'll come runnin'. At least not before we're long gone." Aiana smiled, the statue crumbling at his touch. Kegan twisted towards the gate, melting into his slouch. Then, as if to reassure them both, he added "He promised."

Aiana continued to survey the scuttle of cloaks from the castle wall. The desolate courtyard shivered, every bramble bickering in the earth-cloaked breeze. Only a servant shuffled past, staring through the pair as she went. The bitter caress of morning rain kept Kegan awake. For Aiana, the job proved enough.

This mission was straightforward. None of that political rubbish about it looking like an accident or standing in just the right spot to keep these pricks at ease. Aiana never understood why nobles bothered. If you want someone dead, spare them the pleasantries. A bolt through the brain is much easier, less blood too in most cases.

Their client was reasonable, requesting only the passing of a visiting lord. Not that the target made much difference. No one gives a damn about the title of a corpse. Well, no one besides the client anyhow, who seemed a little too eager to part with his dragons. Kegan joked that he would have given them his soul too, if they only pushed.

The creaks of weathered wheels stirred Kegan from his stupor, as did the groans of the iron gate. Kegan removed an arrow from his quiver as Aiana steadied herself on the granite walls, becoming as hard as their surface. Lifting her crossbow, she surveyed the guards one last time, craning her neck to make out their armor's faint shine through the slopping sleet. Two guards orbited the pavilion, one pivoting on his left foot to better gawk at the whining cart. Another manned the watch tower, glaring at the threatening cloud inching past. A curious fourth laid unconscious beside them, while a fifth had meandered out of sight. Aiana hoped the lord staffed his least competent guards on purpose, otherwise this was just embarrassing.

Gingerly, the servant approached the carriage, the client emerging from the castle doors in a practiced stride. He stood with the bravado of arrogance Aiana associated with youth, only his beard's white banding showed maturity. The lord brushed dandruff from a hair patch, just as his servant clutched the carriage door handle. Kegan grinned, his whispered "Finally" barely audible over the pouring rain. His bow raised with a practiced delicacy while Aiana inspected their surroundings one last time. No one would see the two figures crouched on the farthest wall, not until it was too late.

The carriage wasn't particularly ornate, brass borders on weathered pine. Its purple curtains might fetch a decent price, but the splintered rest heaved, barely crawling through mud. Their target certainly wasn't a rich man, but that didn't matter. As long as he had a pretty name, he'd fetch a pretty penny. While they were able to sell themselves, someone was always willing to buy. Such is the way of nobles, either hungry or haughty, but never content. At least this lord would be spared the trouble.

A young boy stepped out of the coach, his eyes raw red. The child sniffed, fighting back tears as he hesitated, before finally stepping out of the carriage. Kegan readied his bow while Aiana waited for the target to follow. Occasionally, she stole a glance of the child. How he reminded her of Kyra! He couldn't have been much older than their daughter, barely taller than the servant's knee. Slowly, he stumbled, gently grasping the maiden's hand. Smiling, Aiana turned towards the empty carriage.

"Welcome," the client cooed, extending his hand. "I am sorry to hear about your parents. Your father was a good man." The client's face softened. "I'm sure you will do him proud, my lord."

Kegan lined up the shot.

The client took the target's hand, releasing his tender grip on the servant's. A shy smile crept upon the wretched kid's face, hope twinkled in his trusting eyes. The carriage remained vacant and the guards entranced. No one would see Kegan drawing back his bow, inhaling calmly. No one but her.

Kegan fired.

"What the hell?!" Kegan yelled, shoving Aiana off his arm, twisting towards her. Aiana ignored him, muscles stiffing, scanning the courtyard for the target - no, the child. She relaxed when she saw him cowering behind the servant, an arrow at his feet. "Up there!" Their former client screeched, frantically gesturing at their position. "Guards! Guards!"

"Shit!" Kegan yelled, seizing Aiana's hand. The lying bastard's cries muffled against the wails of the terrified young lord. Aiana almost tripped from the force as Kegan yanked her wrist, screaming for her to run. Aiana obeyed and didn't stop until the castle vanished from the horizon.

"What were you thinking?!" Kegan demanded, trembling as he released her.. Aiana's legs bucked underneath her weight. Kegan fell to his knees as he laughed at the spectacle, barely able to choke out words between short breaths. Brushing the hair out of her face, he whispered "What....were you thinking?"

Aiana paused, lost in the distant thunder, mud-drenched hands barely able to support her weight. She had only delayed the inevitable, maybe bought the kid a week, tops. Aiana chuckled bitterly. Dozens had died by her hand and yet it was a child that tore out her heartstrings. How crafty he was, a true noble exploiting that humanity. Aiana had no idea she moved before she was on top of Kegan, the arrow's feathers grazing her cheek.


"I don't know," Aiana simpered. "I just don't know."