The air was chilly, but that was to be expected in the long dark hours of a springtime night. The assassin crouched low on the roofs of one of dozens of abandoned buildings as she waited for her prey to come into view. A slim silver dirk was held ready in one hand, while the other rested gently on the rooftop. Her eyes searched the abandoned village below, her vision able to detect detail even with only the slim moonlight shining in the sky. Even if she had not been able to see, Akitis knew Delt’Ini like one of her own handcrafted knives. The village had been deserted almost overnight, the terrified humans fleeing with the onset of the vampire clan. Slaughter and death still reeked in the streets, although the massacre had occurred some several decades ago. Delt’Ini, the capital of the vampire nation in this region… and therefore the town with the most promising bounties for an assassin such as Akitis.
While her senses were kept focused on the road below, she allowed herself a brief moment of entertainment. Would she have been able to claim sanctuary in this town, had she not killed so many vampires who had hidden here? She was, after all, at least partially related, but she suspected her bits of humanity would have prevented it. That, or her reputation as the Shadowknives assassin: cold, cruel, selfish and backstabbing, and the absolute power of the crime world. The Shadowknives was the creature that scared vampires into locking their doors, and kept the werewolves and the demons from leaving telltale trails. The Shadowknives was a ghost, and all who had caught her eye were the same: alone one minute, dead the next, a signature blade buried in the corpse.
Akitis loved it. She had worked very hard to become the crime lord, the best of the best, and she intended to keep it that way. What passed for a ruling body, a Council called the Poison Blade, tried to keep her in check by paying her for bounties, but sooner or later they would run out of gold… and Akitis was more than happy to be paid with their blood. She had very carefully started the rumors of the Shadowknives, never using her true name and never, ever revealing her true nature to anyone. Those who became too curious quickly disappeared, turned into examples of how not to treat such a power-hungry assassin with the skills of a vampire and the mind of a murderer.
Most importantly, no one knew Akitis’ truth, her most vulnerable weakness and her most guarded secret. Assassins had no fear: fear was weakness and weakness was death. The Shadowknives had no fear. Akitis, however, had one fear, and it never missed an opportunity to get inside her head and wear away at her defenses. Lucky for her, it seemed tonight would be a quiet night – no damned whispers crawling inside her head, demanding to be let out.
Her target had still not shown himself… the weakling. Akitis had thought he would at least have had the courtesy to pretend to fight, but it seemed having a bounty on his head had just made him cower away instead. Akitis plopped her chin into her palm and sighed in irritation. Come on, she thought, you’re not worth enough to keep monopolizing my time. Her eyes flicked to the sky. The moon was still not even half-full, so chasing werewolves was out, and there weren’t likely to be any around Delt’Ini, anyway.
A darting motion in the streetway below pulled Akitis’ gaze back to the job. She could see him clearly, even in the dark night, and grinned. Finally, her target had shown himself. She watched him scan the rooftops and doorways around him, but Akitis, dressed in all black and still as stone, knew he would never see her. Vampire senses were very good, but looking for a shadow in a street full of shadows was useless.
Two more vampires entered the alleyway. Akitis’ eyes narrowed slightly. Dailon, the mark, should have been alone. He had a price on his head offered by high members of Delt’Ini – what were two of the city vamps doing here with him?
“Are you crazy, Dailon?” A thin voice, no real strength behind it. Probably belonged to the smaller vampire, a woman who apparently actually cared about this Dailon character, Akitis analyzed. Tactically, no threat whatsoever.
“I’ve got to go. If the Shadowknives is after me, I’ll be dead if I don’t get out of here.” This voice obviously belonged to Dailon. He sounded fairly strong, but pathetically scared. Akitis resisted the urge to roll her eyes. This was looking less and less interesting by the second.
“Dailon, you know what you’re saying, don’t you?” This voice was deep and male, and carried a fair bit of power behind it. This vampire had probably seen a few good fights before. “Or haven’t you heard the stories about the Shadowknives?”
This perked Akitis’ interest. Storytime about the Shadowknives was always good fun.
The girl spoke again. “She’s crazy, Dailon.” Apparently, the girl was in love with that word.
She continued. “You had to have heard the stories or you wouldn’t be running away. But she’s a monster! No one gets away from her!”
“A monster, maybe, but I’m more confident about running than I am getting trapped somewhere and getting pinned by her,” Dailon replied.
“Listen to the girl, Dailon,” Deep Voice said. “The Shadowknives isn’t just some hunter after you. The Shadowknives is like one of the devils of Hell.” His voice quieted. “Think about it, Dailon. She is a vampire and yet not. People have sworn to have killed her, and yet here she remains, alive and killing anything she can. How can you outrun an immortal devil?”
Akitis laughed silently. These two actually had some of their facts straight, but a devil? Akitis found it difficult enough being half-blood human and half-blood vampire; if devil got thrown into the mix, she doubted she’d be able to do much of anything. Although, I certainly have a devil’s mark, she thought, her good mood evaporating. Thinking about the Magick that had taken up residence in her only made her cranky. And as for the immortal bit, that wasn’t quite right, either, but she supposed it would seem like the truth to an outsider. After all, she was the only half-blood she had ever heard of, and to top off the mixture with Dark Magick certainly gave her a bunch of bonuses against dying…
…but the cost of those bonuses was extremely high, and it was getting harder and harder for Akitis to pay it.