Tainted Victory – Chapter 1, Part 4 (Page-a-Day)

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Hugh answered. “She seems to be an assassin. By the look at least.” He tilted his head. He saw a knife along her thigh. It was positioned with a collection of other tools in a small bag along the same leg. When the woman noticed his gaze she covered herself.

“He is right,” she said. “You are indeed a perceptive one. Don’t have many of you working for royalty. Their too up in the kings crown trying to get a ruby out of it.” She paused to take on the confused looks. “Metaphorically.”

“Well you’re a pretty terrible assassin of you can’t open a door without making noise,” Raisor noted. The obvious thought then occurred to him. “We are not your targets here.”

“Indeed not.”

“Then why all the…” Raisor waved his hand about as if that answered whatever he was trying to say.

“What are you doing? In general, and here,” Hugh best deciphered.

“Yeah, and why didn’t Hounder here get a scent on you?” The dog looked up for a moment, wagged its tail only for Colt to pet him, calming him down.

“I was hired by an advisor to the king if you can believe that. I’m not quite sure how they learned about me but that’s not here or there.” She removed her jacket and leaned against the wall closest to the door.   

“We’re in the same boat, Miss…” Hugh said. 

The woman let her hair down. It created a black hood around her. “My name is Evelyn Crostoff.” She crosses her arms. “I used to be a thief and smuggler. After that stopped becoming lucrative I moved on to being an assassin.”

“That’s a real lateral move,” Raisor remarked.

“I had history killing. Men mostly. Men who deserved it mostly, and boy do royal families have many men who deserve it. They piss the right person off I come in.”

“That is all well and, I don’t want to say good, but well why are you here?” Hugh asked. 

“Yeah, we’re here dragon hunting!” Colt said. “That pesky knife will do nothing to a dragon’s thick hide.” He pointed to her general leg area. 

“I know the layout of the castle from memory,” Evelyn said. “I worked as a handmaiden for a while. I have every cobblestone up here.” She pointed to her temple. 

“Was that work before or after being a thief and assassin?” Raisor said.

“I don’t much like your snide comments.” Her hand drifted to her thigh.

Hugh stood up, creating a natural barrier between the two. “If we were all hired, killing each other is counter productive at best,” he said. 

“Fair,” Raisor said. “Doesn’t explain why such a good assassin and thief can’t seem to open a door without squeaking it.”

“When I received my notice to come to the castle I made haste to get here and scope out the location. Even if the kingdom is abandoned you can never be too careful.” She took a moment and traced the three men out with her index finger. “Clearly.” She refocused. While traveling from the south I came across a platoon of soldiers.”

“That’s hardly strange considering the fighting going on down there,” Hugh interjected.

“Correct. Only they flew the colors of the opposing side. Their bright blues and yellows cut high above the trees. I stalked them for many nights until I traced their path back here.”

“That also makes sense,” Hugh said.”

“That’s what I was thinking. I had to take a divergent path to get here. Traveling by myself made it easy for me to get here before them, but they’re close.”

“Why did you come to us?” Raisor asked. 

“I got here, saw that this house was taken. I decided to stop here to see who was here before heading to the castle proper, but with the storm brewing stronger, and that force coming I think I might be safer here.” Those final words stunk of someone who rarely depended on others for so much as an open door. 

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