Valmaika had hardly wiped the blood from his slender dagger with the black velvet cloth he carried around for that purpose when the body of the young lady whom he had just slain gave a jerk. Her assassin did too, starting violently backwards even though he had known what would be coming. He bumped into a patterned clay vase standing on a small table by his elbow and hastily grabbed it before it could fall. No need to wake the entire household, if he hadn't done so already, jumping about like that.
The body sat up then and climbed jerkily from the bed. Valmaika watched it with distaste. He might take any job, but he really preferred his victims to stay dead once he'd made them so. Nevertheless, the necromancer responsible for the sudden animation of the corpse had paid him well with more to come, so Valmaika willed himself to stay still as the undead woman shambled up to him. Her mouth opened, grossly mimicked by the gaping wound Valmaika had made in her neck below. She spoke, not with the light voice Valmaika had heard her use once or twice before, but in the necromancer's own rasping tones. 'Val, I thank you. I will leave your payment at your house tomorrow. Now leave.'
'It's not your house to order me from,' Valmaika muttered, though he turned towards the window to leave without argument. There wasn't much reason to stay, really.
He checked to make sure there was no one lurking in the dark alley below the window then slipped out into the night, throwing a last look over his shoulder as he did. The murdered lady had crossed over to the carved oak wardrobe at the other side of the room and was pulling out a silken scarf; Valmaika guessed it would shortly serve to hide the deathwound from the members of the deceased's family. Why the necromancer wished to have a thrall-spy in this particular house Valmaika had not bothered to find out. It was not his business to know the reasons- only to do the killing. Besides, he was doubtful it would work; judging from the halting movements the undead noblewoman was displaying, the necromancer was not yet skilled in his ghastly art and the situation would shortly become clear to the family. Valmaika had no wish to be associated with a plan like that- he was allergic to failure.
All the way back to his house at the other side of the city, the assassin was careful to avoid the more-traveled roads and slunk along in the shadows even when there was no one to be seen. He did not want any possible connection drawn between him and the murder of the minor noblewoman, what with his conviction it would soon be discovered. Best not to be seen near the house.
However, he did pause long enough to remove some of the trappings he always wore while completing a mission: the thin leather gloves, the small vial of poison he carried at his hip, and the long strip of black cloth that kept his hair hidden away while he worked. A golden cascade of tresses fell into place as the bindings were removed, and Valmaika smiled. He knew that his looks were considered angelic by most who had met him- with his waves of fair hair framing a face that was quite handsome while still retaining a childlike innocence, as well as his ever-ready smile, no one who ever saw him- including now, on this street- would suspect that he made his living by taking the lives of others, people who had done him no harm. It was the smile that really charmed everyone, he believed; it was disarming in its- perceived- openness and could convey all the friendliness and good intentions in the world. In truth, it meant absolutely nothing and was simply a habit he'd developed since before he'd left his mother's wing.
As he approached his house he noted with mild interest that there was flickering light spilling through the window into the street. His wife must be up waiting for him. Where this might have concerned other wedded assassins, of which there were few, Valmaika did not give it a second thought as he strode to the door and entered. He did not know whether his wife knew what he did when he went out into the night or not, but while he preferred to keep it a secret as long as he could, he did not care too much if she did find out. She adored him enough to ignore any fault, no matter how large. His being a paid murderer would sit well enough with her.
She was a pretty little thing, he mused, closing the door behind him and stepping over to the table at which she sat. Certainly no comparison to him, but no monster either. As he approached her, she turned to face him with a look of relief plain on her features. 'There you are! I was beginning to worry!' She stood from her chair and hugged him tightly, the top of her head barely reaching his chest. After tossing the gloves, poison, and cloth he'd been holding, onto the bed behind her, he returned the embrace with slightly less ardor. He loved his wife, yes, but only as much as he had the capacity to do so, which was considerably less than other people seemed to manage.
She pulled away from him and stared intently up into his face. 'Where have you been?'
'Why have you been waiting?' Valmaika countered. He brushed past her and made for the bed that stood against the far wall. 'I'm going to bed.'
His wife followed him anxiously, aware she might have offended and clearly wanting to make amends. 'Yes. yes, of course. You must be tired.' She darted around him to reach the bed first, scooping up his discarded things in her arms. 'Let me move-'
'Give me those!' Valmaika snapped, snatching them away before she could get too close a look at any of them and possibly guess their function. The preservation of his secret. One less person knowing was one less person who could notify the authorities, even by accident. He stomped over to his chest of personal belongings, stuffed the things in, and whirled back around to face her again. 'I've told you not to touch anything of mine!'
She withered visibly under his ferocious gaze. 'I. I'm sorry. I thought-'
'Well, stop.' All of a sudden, Valmaika relented and his voice returned to its normal soft tone. 'It doesn't matter. Forgive me for shouting.' He moved slowly back over to his wife, head bowed humbly. Settling himself onto the bed, he drew her down beside him and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. 'I do love you,' he murmured into her ear.
She nodded almost imperceptibly and turned her head to land a soft kiss on his cheek. 'And I you.'
No more words passed between them; that was enough for them both- her with her simple mind and him with his unnatural love. Valmaika let himself sink further and further into sleep, listening to his wife's breathing settle into a gentle rhythm. Perhaps spending a night alone with her might not be a bad idea. It would be a change from visiting the local taverns to sample ale or visiting local houses to draw blood, both his usual nightly activities.
He was at the very brink of sleep when a tentative knocking at the door drew him back to wakefulness. He made no move to find out who it was, in the hopes that it would go away. But when it came again, then a third time, he dragged himself out of bed, fixed his worthless smile on his face, and answered the summons. 'What do you want at this indecent hour?' he inquired in a sweetly impatient voice upon pulling open the door.
It was not long before his visitor explained his request. Valmaika glanced over his shoulder towards his slumbering wife. He really shouldn't leave her- if she woke and found him gone, she would worry again.
But duty called: there was blood-money to be had. Valmaika grinned as he accepted his second mission in one night, a rare thing; and still wider as he went to fetch his tools from his chest. There really wasn't any choice about doing it or no, when he came down to the heart of the matter. These things simply had to be done.