…because it’s been a while. From A Break In The Balance: Trials of a Demon Prince I
Tierta backtracked along Justice Road until she reached a narrow cross street, little more than an alley. As she studied the windows above, she removed the adhesive from her belt pouch and liberally coated both gloves and boots. The magical substance gave off a faint blue glow, but once she reached the rooftops, it wouldn’t be seen.
She peered around, a final check that the alley was clear.
Her heart leapt into her throat when she saw the golden eyes, close to the ground, watching her intently.
Ye gods, just a cat. She drew a deep, steadying breath. Starting to jump at shadows, I am. Fatal mistake in this business.
She hated cats. She was tempted to whip a dagger at it out of spite, and then resisted the urge. No sense in wasting a weapon.
Still, there was something unsettling about the animal. Malevolent intelligence glittered in those eyes.
As if in response to her thought, the cat hissed.
Filthy beast. Probably senses that I don’t care for its like. Animals and children can always tell.
She turned her attention to the task at hand and began to work her way up the building, fingers finding the slightest cracks and imperfections. The adhesive made tiny squelching sounds with each movement, but otherwise, it was a marvel of magic. She felt like a spider, sliding effortlessly along her silken thread, closing in on her prey.
Despite its ease, though, the climb was time-consuming. Some of the windows were dark, and as she worked her way around them the wooden planking creaked. Often she would veer left or right, using the warmth of the ring to pinpoint which apartment held her victim.
By the time Tierta was done, her arms ached from the strain. No matter; soon her task would be completed. The ring was throbbing with heat, and as she pulled herself over the window frame she’d selected, she was rewarded with a clear view of the flat.
An obese man, plainly Ylithrien, snored on the floor among disheveled robes. Frank Rhoades was passed out on the bed. They were surrounded by books and the stink of cheap ale.
Certain no amount of noise would wake either man, she slipped inside.
The Ylithrien on the floor grunted and rolled toward her. Without a sound, Tierta drew a dagger from her boot and sent it flying into his throat. Pinkish lifeblood traced rivers through the folds of his neck, and she held her position. Would the incident wake the human?
Frank Rhoades didn’t stir.
She let out a silent sigh of relief.
Oh, yes. Almost too good to be true, to find him out cold already. A shame he must be eliminated. It might have been more amusing to frame him for murder. Knife fights among drunkards are common, and from the looks of him, I’m sure he wouldn’t remember whether he’d done it or not.
She shook her head. She wasn’t here for amusement. She had to kill the human, cut out his heart for the fire lizard, and be off.
At least she wouldn’t have to bother with the poison. She leaned down and pulled a dagger from her other boot. As she straightened up, she heard a spitting hiss from the window.
Tierta spun about and loosed the blade in one fluid motion.
Perched on the sill was the cat.
It can’t be the same. A pet…
The dagger sank deep into its breast, but she felt no satisfaction. In fact, what she felt was rising terror.
The cat didn’t fall. It didn’t twitch, or yowl. It gave absolutely no indication that it had been injured at all. If not for the hilt jutting out…
It isn’t a mere cat. A demon, some sort of dark guardian angel watching over one of them. Immune to my weapons. Why didn’t Damia warn me?
The thought of Damia galvanized Tierta into action. Failing the sorceress would result in worse punishment than any demon could mete out. She had to kill the human, and kill him fast, before the creature could interfere.
She had knives up her sleeves, smaller than daggers but equally sharp, spring-loaded into special sheaths. A flick of her wrist brought a blade into her hand. She whirled back to face the slumbering human.
A blast of energy slammed into her spine and sent her sprawling over the monk’s corpse. Ribs cracked as a gasp of pain exploded from her lips. The knife flew from her hand to disappear under the bed.
She rolled over in time to see the cat leap into the room. His shape shivered and melted, and reformed in a painful flare of light.
It was a Dharkyn, but bigger than any she’d ever seen. Every inch of him bulged with muscle. The hilt of the dagger still stuck out from his chest.
In desperation Tierta groped for the lost knife. Her fall had triggered the second wrist-sheath, and her only remaining weapons were a few poisoned darts at her belt.
Small miracle I didn’t stick myself when I fell. Although I have the feeling I might wish I had in a few minutes.
She certainly didn’t believe a dart could penetrate the Black Elf’s flesh.
“It will do no good,” Azzie agreed. To emphasize his point, he jerked the dagger free of his chest. The wound closed bloodlessly before her eyes as he tossed the weapon out the window. “I’ve really had my fill of metal under my skin today.”
The poison…maybe…if I can keep him talking…only need to scratch him…
“Not likely. I’ve had a life-long acquaintance with an assassin, and I’ve developed immunity to most poisons. However, if you are truly inclined to try, be my guest.” He raised his arms as if to make himself a target.
Tierta instantly recognized the true nature of the gesture. Pools of dark energy welled at his clawed fingertips.
If the poison didn’t kill him, and she had no reason to trust that it would, he would blast her into oblivion. Worse, he was plainly reading her every thought.
Unable to sit up, she could only hold up her hands, palms out, in surrender.
He nodded his approval and lowered his arms. The magic dissipated.
“I want your body fairly intact,” he said thoughtfully. “You’d best handle the matter yourself. I have been overzealous in killing of late.”
“Handle the matter…?” Her eyes widened as she realized his implication.
He was telling her to commit suicide.