1 Blood and Sweat

Blood trickled down Brandon's dagger as sweat beads would on a hot and busy day, but it was neither hot nor was it day. He busied himself though, cleaning up the mess he made. Three bodies splayed and bathed in blood. A family of three.

Killings were easy, but cleaning trails proved a harder task. The little fire flickering in the hearth showed blood splattered everywhere. On the floor, on the walls, on the bedsheets, on his clothes, and on his hands. Another night of slaughter and another work with pay. How did it come to this? Brandon thought. I was supposed to poison him. A full glass of water sat on a cupboard.

He used his shirt to wipe the blood off the dagger's blade. Daggers were expensive and that he couldn't afford to waste. He searched through the Mark's pockets and the cupboards and closets in the room. Brandon snatched enough coins and jewelry to feed him for months, perhaps a whole cycle. Stealing from the dead meant nothing now. The dead can't use the money, Brandon could.

He knelt down where the child's body rested, shattered wine glass scattered beside her. Her eyes wide open, fear frozen in time, crying blood as tears. Her nose drifted red as well. It would have been easier if you hadn't been a curious child. Only her blood was left untouched by his dagger, but it was Brandon's deed nonetheless. He could still smell the scent of Mortfolium dancing around her lips. He wept a single tear as he stared at the dead beads of her eyes, his single tear trickling down her bloodied cheeks.

He had little time before the servants come. Brandon pulled a set of plain, commoner's clothes he found in the closets and hurried to undress and dress again. A new disguise, a new face. It would be an understatement to call the clothes, ruffled and laced, a commoner's but it would do.

He covered the child's body with his bloodied shirt, tossed his other clothes, and poured the glass of water on the hearth. It made a sputtering noise, the fire hissing down. He stood by the window, stripping his bloodied shoes off as he breathed in and out.

Barefooted and three-stories up, he jumped out the window.

He landed unscathed on a mountain of dead and fallen leaves he gathered during the day. He felt for his sword and satchel, relieved to find them untouched. A servant, the head-servant, heard his fall and peered out the window. Time. Give me more time.

"Those damned squirrels! This late at night. . ." muttered the head-servant, storming away from the window. "Where is that new boy when you. . ."

Good, he thought. That would distract the servant, delay the alarm, give more time to escape. Tidying up his new and now-disheveled clothes, Brandon dashed away from the mansion of Brellion de Becci, off the little garden, up and over the steel fence. He ran without giving a final glance, leaving a dead man with nothing left to spare.

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