The House of Wolves

The Game which the Thieves play

Aurelia couldn help but to think about the man named Ardos. Their discussion had lasted a mere thirty minutes but even now, two hours later, it remained plastered within her mind.

The two had discussed a variety of topics. From their respective backgrounds, to their roles within the city, and even more personal family related matters. He had been the one primarily asking the questions, and there were points when the conversation even felt like an interrogation.

But strangely, she didn particularly mind that. She didn needed someone to vent out too anyways, and while she had been hesitant, the unexpected conversation had provided some much needed relief. Additionally he was a good listener and when he did share things about himself, was very transparent in doing so.

What stuck out to Aurelia most though, was the way he spoke about his dreams. It reminded her of her brother and the way he asked her questions about the stories she told him, only in this case it was far more eloquent and sophisticated.

What remained constant though was the starry look they both had in their eyes whilst they talked about things like dreams. For Aurelia, simply getting through the day was what meant most to her. She didn care about ideals or fantasies or any of these far fetched concepts, but she did feel envious for those who could.

She had neither the creativity nor the individuality to strive for something so abstract, though she hoped for it, one day…ut not today, she told herself, a thought which made her feel isolated. As if she was a background character in an epic or a drama, forced to watch as those around her went through incredible experiences.

What I am thinking about? Side characters, dreams…I must be losing my edge. Remember, the main reason you even had that talk was for the money, nothing more. Now steel yourself and get back on task.

It took her a few seconds, but once she had gotten into her rhythm she was completely focused. Nothing could distract her now from her objective.

”Tch ” Aurelia said to herself in irritation.

Ardos had been the perfect target. No bodyguards lurking in the shadows, or multiple masked figures in sight, he had completely and truly been alone.

If only hed had a mask! Then I could have snatched it up and been done with this mess!

But now, it was nearly evening, and asked such the masked merchants had clumped up in groups in order to have actual financial discussions. Earlier on in the day, they walked around Bayronds square merely for the purpose of parading their new fashion accessories and to flaunt the wealth they had procured through their respective businesses.

But as dusk approached, the began to act with more maturity. Which made the job Aurelia had been assigned, ie, stealing masks…far more difficult. She had been scouring Bayronds square and even areas beyond, searching for vulnerable merchants she could steal from but she was consistently greeted with dissatisfaction.

She had been granted the assignment of collecting seven masks for a black market trader who had requested her to do the work for them. She had almost felt proud when the mans long bony finger and picked her out amongst the men Raymond had gathered to complete the job…until she remembered what she had been chosen for.

Im a thief…I must never forget that. My job is to kill and to steal for money, Aurelia reminded herself resolutely.

As she thought that to herself, she caught glance of a masked woman in the distance walking along the canal, wearing a mask in the shape of an owl and completely alone as well. Aurelia couldn believe her luck.

To think there was actually someone stupid enough to walk along a canal at this time of day without any sort of company or supervision astounded Aurelia, but also pleased her greatly.

After double checking to ensure that she really and truly was alone, she began to make her way towards the canal. She moved like a panther, her lithe body weaving its way across the tops of buildings and towers. She prided herself on being the most acrobatic employee Raymond had. Regardless, she held back a little when it came to the agile movement in order to avoid dropping the money Ardos had gave her.

And of course to avoid drawing unnecessary attention. It was unlikely that the preoccupied merchants who wandered around Bayronds square would have the observational skills to note anything in their surroundings beyond what was right in front of them, but one could never be certain.

As she leapt, she heard a piercing scream which instinctively pried her attention away from what she was doing. Directly across from her was a window stained in blood. She could barely make out the shop of a masked figure cloaked in black just like her, holding a curved knife above the body.

Come to think of it….Ive seen a lot of assassins here today? Aurelia thought. She had spotted most of them earlier on in the day, for reasons which were self explanatory. Most assassinations in this city took place amidst the streets, or in places away from this. Merchants being killed was certainly no surprise, as they were the main target of these violent crimes…but to kill one of the merchants of Bayronds Square, in Bayronds Square…was rather risky. And yet, this was the fourth time she had caught a glimpse of it happening today.

Perhaps theres some major event prompting this…, Aurelia wondered. But she could not continue that thought process because, as she had so conveniently forgotten, she was currently midair.

As a result of her carelessness she landed against the side of a clock tower with a sharp thud. She quickly wrapped her body around the side of the building, gripping the side of the tower with all her might.

Her entire body was required to be tense as she did this, for if she let herself become even remotely lax, her grip would come undone and she would go plummeting straight down. It didn help that the side of the tower was digging into her recently recovered injury, making it incredibly difficult to hold on.

Eventually, she was able to find a comfortable grip and held herself on the wall for a few moments, observing her surroundings. It would be difficult to make her way to the top or bottom of the tower in her current position, and she had to be very careful in doing so.

Goddammit! Am I really going to lose my target because of such an amateur mistake? she wondered angrily. But the more pressing matter right now was if she had been seen.Thankfully she had been quiet enough in her crash that she remained practically unnoticed.

Around the tower, fashionably dressed figures strode in clusters, discussing in shrill voices a variety of political matters.

She heard whispers of a
oble who arrived here today and some sort of debate; but the discussions were primarily centered around more worldly matters like the state of the mining, ongoing trades with people from different cities around the kingdom, and even some talk of political tension being sparked with the neighboring kingdom of Murgandiel.

I can let Alder get wrapped in all of that nonsense, Aurelia thought to herself. The reason she had gotten involved in all of this was primarily so that her brother wasn forced to work in the mines or be recruited as a soldier. Shed seen firsthand what fate awaited those involved those whose families were too weak to provide for themselves.

The male children were often sent to work in the mines, were many never came back. Some were recruited as child soldiers for the citys official guard, or even sent to other cities. The training there had resulted in the corpses of many idealistic young boys like Alder.

The girls of the family were sent to places just as bad and degrading. But Aurelia was fine with stooping to those lengths if absolutely necessary, if it meant her brother could be protected.

The thought of a scared and perplexed Alder being taken by a man in armor terrified Aurelia. Those knights who were not really knights, who spent their time guarding lords and drinking away, lazily staring as the time ticked by on massive towers like these without care in the world. She hated those people, and of what they would do to Alder if he came into their clutches.

But that hate also gave her strength, as it did now. And in a ridiculous feat of strength, she flexed her body and inched her way up to the top of the clock tower.

She didn even give herself time to catch her breath before she immediately left from the top. Thankfully the tower was empty at this time, and even if there was someone who had caught glimpse of her up there, she wasn taking notice of them. She jumped straight off the edge and landed on the wooden shingles of a house. She was quiet despite the jump however, a skill she had learned and mastered in her many years in the business.

She continued this fast paced but silent dash until she was two houses away from her target, where she grinded to a halt on the mansions stone rooftop. She then discretely climbed down, careful to avoid being visible through any of the window; and snaked her way in between a variety of houses until she reached a rather long pathway which cut through the rows of residences and halls.

She then pressed herself tightly against the side of a long wooden building placed on a stone platform. This was a hall house, made for the purpose of holding a large quantity of people and holding discussions. Aurelia had observed that these hall houses were usually next to alleys cutting straight to the heart of Bayronds square. Making them ideal for ambushes.

Still, the ambush in question was taking a rather long time. For several minutes Aurelia stood frozen against the side of the wall, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting masked woman as she passed by. But so much time had passed, Aurelia had begun to worry that the lady had turned back, or that she had somehow missed her.

Just as she began to remove herself from the side of the currently unoccupied hall house, the lady in the mask passed by.

It happened so abruptly that for a moment Aurelia didn even know what to do. But after that brief moment passed she had her dagger at the womans throat…inches away from slitting it.

Without hesitation, Aurelia followed this by clasping the womans mouth to prevent her from screaming. There was a bit of squirming that ensued afterwards, but inevitably, Aurelias target froze, intimidated by the knife hovering inches away from her neck.

Suddenly a voice roused with Aurelias chest. It was small at first, but began to reverberate loudly within her.

Kill her! What are you waiting for? Just kill her and take the masks. There are so many murders happening today that it would be a waste not to do it!

No…I promised myself not to cause unnecessary bloodshed unless it was for an assassination whispered Aurelias twisted but nevertheless present conscience.

Bah…youve killed at least a dozen people like this woman already. Paid or not…does it really matter at this point? And besides, all of these people are scum. Think of what they could do to Alder if they find him? You must weed them out before its too late. And besides….half of these people don even contribute to the citys economy anyways. They call themselves merchants but half of them are nothing more than glorified nobles. Holding on to the titles of businessmen because of the accomplishments of their fathers!

Just shut up! she screamed to herself internally, she didn have time for all of this introspective nonsense. She just needed to get the mask as efficiently as possible and be done with all this. But the voice in her was a bloodthirsty one.

You know Im right! Just kill her! Shes nothing more than a self indulgent bitch, all of these masked cockroaches are! Haughty pieces of shit acting as if they hold dominion over this city simply because of how much money they have! The disparity in this place exists because of people like them and you know it! They wear their masks in an attempt to act as if they
e above it all, whilst forcing everyone else to hide the peculiarities that they so proudly flaunt! Just do i-

FINE! she screamed at the voice.

Her internal debate distracted her from the fact that the woman was calling out to her, releasing a muffled plea from beneath Aurelias hand. But Aurelia cut her off. Almost as if she was being possessed, she gripped the hilt and dragged it across the womans neck. Blood began to gush and spurt onto Aurelias palm and the woman crumpled to the floor, mask still intact.

Aurelia stared at the woman for a few seconds, trapped in a daze before she raised her hand to her face. Only then did she notice the blood on her palm.

Oh my god! What have I done! she thought. She had killed before, but yet this one brought her back to her first assassination two years ago. She felt the same, wide eyed sense of terror as she did back then. Now it was felt even worse. She had broken the one vow she held regarding these kinds of matters and killed someone without reason. Then she had been doing it to provide for her family…but now, she didn even know.

Don lament. Its the same as squashing a bug, whispered that detestable voice inside her. It felt bigger now, like a vacuum within the inside of her chest. Where had she heard it before? Ah yes, it was the same voice that rang out within her every time she faced a target, ready to kill them. This was the voice that gave her the strength to do it, despite how she hated it so.

It grew stronger each time she gripped the knife, and now…she feared it would be too strong to resist.

Suddenly, she remembered where she was. It was almost evening…and soon people would start gathering near the hall houses for their political and financial discussions. She couldn afford to be seen by anyone. Not the people cooped inside their wood and stone mansions, nor the people coming from the central plaza which gave Bayronds square its name.

Aurelia hurriedly grabbed the masked, practically ripping it off the deceased womans face. She was gorgeous, enough so that Aurelia mightve blushed if she had seen her normally. But now, all she could see was those lifeless eyes, and that was all she needed to see before she broke into a run. She didn dare turn back….

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