I could feel her eyes on me as I walked down the path, spell book in hand as I read through the long list of world altering abilities I’d accumulated in the last 15 years since I joined the Brotherhood. She always watched me when I wandered the grounds of the compound. The interfering b****. I was the leader of the Brotherhood!
The most powerful man in the most powerful society of espionage and assassination to ever grace either the old kingdom or the new cesspit the people called new kingdoms, and she had the nerve to judge me on how I run MY organization. Sheila…a whore’s name if the reports were to be believed. A whore standing just below me in rank, judging my actions and questioning my motives. Couldn’t she understand that the world was sick…festering...a hole from which only dregs and scum could ever surface, and that what I did kept the good from sinking into obscurity. What was one death, if it saves hundreds from tyranny? What was one, false politician planted by us, if it keeps the wrong man from winning?
I stopped under the old oak, closing the book as I glanced up at the balcony, the mask I wore cutting off my peripherals as I scanned her body. I had to admit, despite being a meddler; she had quite the body. Whatever God the elves worship must’ve had an eye for beauty, because even the ugliest of their kind could strike a man dumb, were they of weaker will than those like me.
Her almond eyes were full of laughter as she met my gaze, her lips cocked in that little half smile she always had when she knew more than she should. After a few seconds she lowered her eyes respectfully and then pretended to go back to looking at the grounds, but I caught her eyes flitting back to me as she grew bored with the unchanging landscape. Truly I was sick of her. Could I kill her? No…it would be obvious, and it would serve no greater purpose. It might’ve been easier, but I opted for the more difficult route. If the whore was so interested in me, I’d feign interest in her. Perhaps if I shared her bed, she would finally learn to hold her tongue when I announced new missions. Maybe she’d even take my side if I did well enough.
I looked back up to her and smiled, giving her a small bow once I saw she was watching me again. Sure enough I saw a smile light up her face, and she gave a small wave as I began walking back towards the compound. The first move was made, and if I played well enough, I’d have a new queen on my board within the month.
I made my way up to my rooms, depositing my tome in the secure chest beneath the floor. While I enjoyed espionage and assassination, the game was what I lived for. Much like chess, the game had many moves, many counters to those moves, and many preparations to make to avoid such counters. Chess grew boring quickly for me, but this…this always fascinated me. Some called it negotiating, others manipulation, but only I knew the truth. There was no name for this game we played. It simply…was.
After a few minutes of contemplation I rose, realizing I didn’t know enough about Sheila to make a competent move. I could’ve searched the records, perhaps asked other agents, but I always had a soft spot for making my opponents reveal their moves to me themselves.
I made my way through the twisting hallways and passages that made up the main compound, realizing that to get anything, I’d have to give up something precious, a secret only one other knew. My face, hidden away behind that accursed mask for the last 15 years. An enigma led better than a recognized face in that business, but it also held many opportunities for the game. What better to gain trust than to reveal a secret that everyone wants to learn? Such a simple thing that old mask.
I stopped in front of the balcony, a little surprised to see her still standing there, her back to the door as she leaned over the railing. Surely she’d seen me leave the grounds long ago. Perhaps this was the elven fascination with nature I kept reading about. After a few seconds, I saw her ears prick up, a sight that almost sent me into fits of laughter, much like the hounds that once sniffed out vagabonds in the city of my youth. The dogs were easy to fool, and I hoped for a slightly more difficult game with this woman. She turned to me slowly, surprise in her eyes as she took in my presence.
“Sir?” she asked quietly, her voice sounding more music than speech. “What can I do for you?”
“My dear Sheila,” I replied just as softly, taking a step closer. “I just wished to show you something. You’ve stood at my side for so many years now; I thought it fair that you be privy to certain…sensitive information.”
“Of course I’m honored Sir,” she said, her eyes revealing the cold calculating mind that so infuriated me as she started trying to discern my motives. “But I’ve stood against you in all your recent decisions. I had thought you would’ve preferred me dead.”
The clever girl was as adept at reading minds as any wizard. “No Sheila. I don’t kill agents for disagreeing with me. Only fools silence those that question them. I always welcome criticism, for it allows me insight into avenues I haven’t explored. In fact, I find myself fascinated by your clever mind.”
I found myself impressed that the shock of my statement only flashed in her eyes, while the rest of her face remained just as composed as ever. A lesser man would’ve missed the subtle clues, but I knew I had succeeded in destroying the foundation of belief that she had constructed for me. I almost pitied the fools that tried to paint the picture of my mind. How could any mere mortal possibly comprehend all the facets of my psyche? A thousand thoughts would flit through my mind in a minute, and yet they all try to understand me?
“If that is the case Sir,” she replied, stepping towards me. “Then I would be honored to learn this secret.”
I smiled then, my blood coursing as I considered every implication of that simple statement. Her movements towards me implied trust, but were easily falsified or excused by wishing to move from the drop. Honored to learn could imply that she was pleased I trusted her, or perhaps just glad to know something new. Oh the girl was good at hiding her intentions, but I was better, I just needed information first.
I took her by the shoulder smiling again, surprised to see a small blush creep up her cheeks. Perhaps I had missed some subtle hint after all. My smile widened as I began walking her to my rooms. Slowly the blush vanished, her eyes hardening and she shoulders stiffening. I could tell she was nervous again. Calming words and explanations could only take one so far.
“If my room would make you uncomfortable, we could use yours,” I said nonchalantly. Perhaps she WOULD be more comfortable there, but I was sure she wouldn’t want a man she didn’t trust anywhere near her private quarters, whereas offering mine showed a large amount of trust, not that she could know about the traps and spells lining every surface to keep intruders from disturbing them.
“No sir, your chambers are acceptable,” she replied a tad too quickly. The girl was truly an artisan, but up against a master she stood no chance. I stopped in front of my chambers, watching the excitement in her eyes as I opened the door, simultaneously triggering the counterward for every spell in the room. So long as I didn’t retrigger the ward, everything would be as it would in a normal room.
“Now Sheila,” I said as I sat in an armchair, offering her its twin. “Before I show you this, I need your oath of silence. If this secret were to escape from those I trust, it would destroy my reputation.” A simple request, but it implied so much more. Including her in with “those I trust” would ensure her silence in this matter because she wouldn’t want to ruin the trust I had apparently extended to her.
“Of course Sir,” she answered softly. “I would never tell anyone something so precious.”
I took her hand and gave it a soft squeeze. “Thank you Sheila.” I then reached up and removed the mask from my face, letting my red tresses fall from behind my hood to lie with my face. “A face means little…but this might be better. My name…is Andrew.