The Game of Death

Everything had gone as planned, and they were now alone in her room.

"Would you care for some wine?" she asked, seductively, walking towards the decanter on her vanity.

He smiled and shook his head, lightly.

"It may whet your appetite," she insisted, teasingly.

She poured two glasses and handed him one before drinking from her own. He checked it, surreptitiously but found no traces of poison; he decided to trust his companion's naivete.

Their glasses were empty and she freed him of his, putting them back; her every movement was elegant and controlled, she was indeed a thing of beauty. He came up behind her and let his hands slide around her slim waist; she laughed at his impatience and turned around to have his lips immediately seek hers.

She did nothing to push him away, letting his eagerness fuel her own desire and they were soon kissing, passionately. She only pulled away for a second.

"Won't you remove your mask? The ball is long over," she whispered in a heavy voice.

He did as she asked and she lifted her own, their eyes gazing upon each other.

"Won't you remove your gloves, as well?" she asked again.

He kissed her, softly.

"In a moment, ma chérie," he whispered and started kissing her again.

She did not insist and they resumed the affair, her movements growing ever more eager.

She never saw the blade. She gasped slightly as it parted the skin between her ribs and sunk into her heart. He pulled her close to him, shushing quietly into her ear. It had not been her fault; the organization disliked loose ends and her presence at the royal court had presented a problem after they had gotten rid of her husband.

There was a final shudder and she was still. He slowly laid her down on her bed. She was smiling; perhaps she knew she was going to her husband He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the blade, before retracting it; then he closed her eyes and draped the blood-spattered cloth over her face. It was...a personal touch of flair, one might say.

A dark pool had already started collecting under her body and her dress was soon losing the fight against the onslaught of crimson. He spent another few seconds, taking in his work, a strange sense of pride at the beauty of it, filling him. Then he went and opened the window.

He scouted the street below, satisfied to find it empty. Quickly and lithely he made his way down the wall, landing on the cobblestones.

He walked through the night, towards L'envie du Roi, eager for a some rest.

Fog lay heavy, throughout the city, its gray cover a cloak that hid the darkest deeds of man.

He was making his way across the river when the pain hit him. A wave of nausea followed as he felt his insides twist; he gasped and coughed violently. Only seconds later did he see the tiny red droplets, illuminated by the moon, forcing its dull light through the grayness.

His mind only slowly comprehended the state he was in and it filled him with confusion rather than dread. He thought back, who could have done this?

Mithridatism is the essential defense of a good assassin, his Master's voice sounded, through his skull.

He had done so, vigorously; but not all poisons could be immunized against. However, he had antidotes in his room. He stumbled to his feet and walked forward. His whole body protested the movement as a new wave of pain made its way through his organs. It was even worse than before.

Only the organization knew which poisons would work on him, only they could have planned this; had he already outlived his usefulness? Was this to be his final payment for his loyalty and dedication?

The street in front of him looked unfamiliar; it was warped, wrong. The buildings on each side were twisted reflections of the originals; the moonlight had become eerie and sickening. He crashed into a wall in his delirium and recoiled in pain and shock, almost colliding with a horse pulling a chaise through the street. The driver cursed after him as he turned down another street.

His vision blurred and he had to use his hands to make his way forward, tracing the wall, carefully.

He had eaten before leaving the inn; they must have put it in his food, the odor would have been overpowered by the spices.

His thoughts were interrupted by the pain, yet again, and he had to pause to catch his breath and wait for it to fade, a little. Then it was over.

He stared in disbelief at the wall rising, in front of him. A dead end? No! That was...

Another wave went through him and this time he had to succumb to his twisting stomach. He threw up, violently. He did not need to look to know there was blood in there. The poison was progressing too quickly, he though. If they had given it to him, back then, he should not have been this far along, already.

He leaned against the wall and slid down to the ground. His insides were writhing in agony and only now could he see the whole picture. It made him laugh out loud, mirthlessly.

She had not been smiling, dammit! The bitch had been smirking. Maybe it had been the wine, after all...more likely it was her lips or perhaps both.

There are no winners in the Game of Death, he heard his Master's voice again, as his consciousness started fading.

There are only losers and those who might live another day...