Yesterday's ficlet was also the debut of my newest original fic fantasy universe. It seems that some of you liked it! Yay! If I can hammer out some more details about it, then I'm currently planning to try to write a novel this summer using this universe.
Today's ficlet is also in that universe - though I promise that I'll return to fandoms soon too - because April ficlets are about training myself to write more in general, not just about playing with my new idea. I spent a little more time on today's ficlet, because it's Saturday and I have nothing else to do.
For those who read yesterday's story - today we spend time with Dove and a fellow shadow, back before Dove left the city.
Death Done Well
(original fic, fantasy genre, 810 words)
Prompt: Fight Angry
Dove sat by the table, rolling a small jar of lavender oil under his palm. He watched Essya select various vials from a locked cabinet. The apothecary’s workshop had only a few lamps lit, as they both preferred the dark. Essya worked over an uncovered lamp, the oil burning brightly on the wick.
It was rare for a shadow to have such a station, but Essya had an unconventional beginning. The apothecary, a young widower, had hired a housekeeper to clean and cook. She had been there only a short time when she foolishly decided to clean his wife’s study – taking the dusty stacks of old papers out into the dark alley for the street cleaners to dispose of. When the apothecary came home and despaired at his wife’s writings being thrown out for trash, he fired the housekeeper and carried all the papers back inside, never noticing that a young shadow had slipped in among the pages.
And so Essya came to be between the bookshelves of the apothecary’s study. When he discovered Essya there, the apothecary thought the shadow fair and treated Essya as a woman, giving her his late wife’s clothes. They became fast friends and Essya replaced his sacked housekeeper. When the apothecary wed a second time, Essya became his apprentice, for he did not want to turn his friend out into the streets.
Dove only came to visit at night. Though the customers had gotten used to Essya’s presence in the shop, too many shadows put people off and drove away business. Essya had a great love for her work and the home she had made in the apothecary’s study. And if, perhaps, she also dealt in secret potions and tinctures, that was neither here nor there.
“How do you know this will work?” Dove asked, as Essya stirred the small steaming pot.
“I’ve studied well, and this is hardly the first time I’ve brewed this recipe.” Essya smiled over at him, as though he were a particularly precocious child.
“What?” Dove asked, stilling his fidgeting. “Have you been serving other assassins? I believed you were my secret alone.”
“Not assassins, no,” Essya spoke, her voice smooth as a river stone. “It may suit some to fight angry. Men are prone to fly into rages, their emotions volatile as they are, and some use this to win their battles. It works especially well if the enemy is weak to brute force. Such battles do not require any thought, they are... clumsy, inept, even if successful.”
Essya paused and withdrew an arrow from the quiver that lay next to the bubbling concoction. It was Dove’s quiver and Dove’s arrows, he had handcrafted both. Essya held the arrow up and examined its point in the lamp light. Dove knew she would find it perfect.
“Other battles,” Essya continued, smiling at Dove’s work, “require cunning and cleverness, for they are fought against enemies that can withstand brute force – like the man who will meet this arrow tomorrow – or they are battles fought by those that do not have the means to batter their enemies into submission.”
“I still don’t understand.” Dove sighed, wondering why Essya never came to her point quickly. “Are you saying you brew poisons for the weak?”
“No,” Essya said, and Dove could see that he had angered her with the question. She stopped her work and looked over at him. “Do you think yourself weak for using this poison?”
“No,” Dove shook his head. “It is needed... it is a needed tool to accomplish the task that’s been set to me.”
Essya nodded, turning back to her work. She lowered the tip of the arrow into the small pot, slowly stirring.
“Exactly,” Essya said. “Brute force and anger can cause death easily. But this...” Essya pulled the arrow from the pot. The poison that coated the fine metal tip caught the light even as it began to dry into a hard layer. “This is thoughtfulness and resolve. This is the art of death. This is death done well.”
“But are they assassins?” Dove asked again. “These people you’ve brewed for. If they bring death so well, they must be.”
“They are not,” Essya shook her head, drawing a second arrow from the quiver. She then paused, as if to consider. “Or, perhaps, they are assassins but once and then no more. They are not like you. You are the only Assassins’ Hand I serve.”
“Who would be an assassin only once?” Dove asked.
“Those who have only one man to kill,” Essya replied.
She finished coating the second arrow tip. Dove watched as she wrapped both arrows carefully in cloth and then returned them to the quiver.
“I only needed one,” Dove said idly, still trying to puzzle out Essya’s riddles.
“I gave you two, in case you miss,” Essya smirked.
“I never miss.”