This story is from Sicarius' POV (as much as I could venture, anyway) when he first meets Amaranthe in Pyramid Park in chapter 3 of The Emperor's Edge. (Some dialogue and descriptions are taken from that chapter and no copyright infringement is intended. All this lovely stuff belongs to Lindsay Buroker.) Around 1,600 words. Enjoy!
Assassin, Meet Amaranthe
Night had fallen, and with it came the flurries of winter. Snow had already coated the ground, proving difficult to travel upon for most. Sicarius however, had little trouble with the terrain. The infamous assassin strolled through the park, unseen as he clung to the dark shadows dressed in his usual black fitted clothing. Corporal Amaranthe Lockdon, the enforcer who was meeting him at midnight, had requested him for a supposed business proposal, and he was suspicious. She had asked many people to get a message to him. Naturally, he had overheard a few of them. He gathered enough information about this woman's proposal that left him doubting the veracity of her "business." However, he did know of her enforcer position. One of the first women to reach enforcer status, Lockdon's name had been mentioned before in the barracks. He knew that as an enforcer, she could have a side business, though it was unlikely and he had not heard of her. His instincts bristled as warnings rang in his head. He continued on. He recalled the countless people she had visited the previous day. She had been persistent in her attempt to get the message to him and he disliked persistence. It usually led to interruptions and he did not have time for such pointless endeavors.
When he reached the meeting place, he glanced around to ensure no one lurked about. Satisfied, he eased out into the dimly lit area and headed to the massive pyramid situated in the middle of the garden. He scaled up the side of the structure with ease, taking a more adventurous route than the stairs. His rough hands gripped the slightly bumpy surface, moving higher on silent limbs. As he neared the top, he paused briefly to listen for movement above him. The wind whipped around him, and his grip proved firm. The whistling receded and left silence in its wake. He continued his ascent, pausing again when he cleared the top. Agilely, he swung his legs over the edge and lowered himself to the platform. The only lamp burning at the top caused the surrounding areas to be encased in shadow. An altar rested in the center, adorned with a headless statue. Sicarius did not bother to look any closer for observation. Instead, he chose to wait in the far corner of the platform to wait for the woman. Though he knew this business ploy was false, she may present a threat to him. He was here to determine how he should proceed. Though many people asked for him because of his abilities, there were the few who asked because they wanted him dead. An infamous assassin did not become infamous without creating many enemies in the process.
The cold chill swirled around him, tossing snowflakes, some finding a home in his blond hair. Though he wore only a fitted black shirt, he could not feel the dropping temperature. He had been trained to produce his own internal heating system. The only indication of the cold would have been the puffs of air around his face, if there were any visible. He wisely kept his breathing to a minimum to avoid being spotted.
After some time has passed, the woman came into view. He watched her cautious climb, dark eyes tracking her movements. The woman's breath came in white puffs around her face as she continued her ascent. She braced herself on the wall when her foot nearly slipped, but she recovered quickly. When she reached the top, she glanced around her. He was in no danger of being spotted, though-he was well-hidden in the shadows. She walked to the side by one of the supporting pillars, her eyes scanning the area around the pyramid and the city beyond. Her hand fell to her side and slid into her pocket. Metal glinted in the dim light. Sicarius tensed. She withdrew a small knife and studied it. His eyes narrowed slightly. She was planning to attack him here? This woman was more foolish than he thought. His hand brushed the knives strapped to his arm, but he did not remove them. Instead, his arms moved to cross over his chest. There was no need for a preemptive strike. Let her make the first move.
He thought it was strange that this woman planned to kill him. If a platoon of soldiers could not stop him, what could one female do? She did not have the muscular capacity to hold her own against him. She would move too slowly to evade his knives. Her reflexes were not attuned and her sense of her surroundings were lacking; otherwise, she would have noted his presence. If she were relying on appearance, perhaps in a vain attempt to beguile him into some dark corner, she was doing a poor job. Though her looks were adequate, he did not notice anything striking that stood out from the average Turgonian female.
"An infamous assassin is coming to meet me and I'm armed with a letter opener," he heard her murmur. Her quiet comment halted his assessment. At least she knew her folly, though why she proceeded with her plan he had yet to figure out. Perhaps she truly was insane and wished to attack him. Perhaps she had a death wish. Or perhaps the weapon was merely for self-defense.
She continued to study the ground below as she slipped her weapon back into her parka. He did not relax, however. His dark eyes studied her from the darkness. The woman's gaze traveled across the streets that held the eerie quiet of night with their faint illumination and shuffles of sounds from the occasional passerby. Her eyes lingered a bit longer over the city, her mind obviously elsewhere. Perhaps planning her attack on him? She removed her watch and checked the time, turning toward him. In the dim light of the alcove, he read the complete surprise on her face as she glanced up. When she jumped, her watch clattered to the ground, causing the sounds to echo off the stone. His gaze found her eyes and pinned her with an emotionless stare.
He watched the questions race through her mind as her eyes darted to the stairs and back. She took a few steps toward the pedestal and bent to grab her fallen watch. In an attempt to make her own assessment of him, she righted herself slowly. Her brown eyes, still large with surprise noted his attire and finally flickered to his hair. She recognized him.
He was surprised when she spoke without a tremor in her voice. "Thank you for being prompt."
He said nothing, eyes searching her face for any hint of her plans for him. The silence stretched between them. Unnerved, that is what he read in her eyes. Good.
She began speaking again after he failed to continue the introduction. "I'm Amaranthe Lockdon. You are Sicarius, correct?"
He almost raised an eyebrow at her, but refrained from doing so. "You know who I am." He answered, intentionally evading her question
. She paused for a moment before beginning again. "Are you as good as they say?"
"You asked for me by name. Frequently." He knew she was up to something.
"That doesn't answer my question." Her smile did not phase him.
"You have work to propose. Do so."
He watched frustration seep into her eyes. Obviously, he had thwarted that particular plan. "Very well." She sounded resigned. "I need to move some machinery across the border to buyers in Kendor." Her eyes darted to the left. They focused on him before looking upwards and to the left once more. "Since sharing technology with outsiders is illegal, I anticipate trouble from the soldiers who inspect the ports. I've tried bribes before with little luck. I need someone who can handle them, in whatever way deemed best, should they try to block the shipment. I've heard you're not squeamish about such things." Again, her eyes moved to the left and then to him. She was lying, so obviously it nearly made him cringe. There was no business, no shipment, and certainly no need for his abilities. She was here to kill him, and she did a poor job of trying to convince him otherwise. However, there was something in her eyes that belied her commitment to this business ploy. This was not something she had thought to do of her own accord. Certain death would result, her employer had to know that. Someone had assigned her this job, someone who wanted her dead. And like the enforcer she was, she would follow through.
"I decline," he said, finally answering her request.
Confusion and surprise mixed. "What? Why?"
"You are lying." Sicarius did not wait for a moved toward the stairs, passing her. He waited for her to move toward him, but she simply tensed and let him walk by.
Sicarius glided down the stairs and into the shadows, easily blending with the night. When he faded into darkness, he lurked around the pyramid, waiting for her to emerge. Trudging through the ice and snow, the enforcer walked away from the structure, her eyes determined. She was planning already, he read it on her face. She was plotting to kill him somehow. He followed behind, trailing her, unseen in the shadows. Her attempt on his life was sure to come. He would end hers before she had the chance.