Crescent had retired to his quarters not long after the two masters had left the gathering. Usually he looked forward to night-time, but this day had left him tired and more than a little confused. Travel was new enough but the obvious tension between Domerin and Master Abolan had been rubbing unpleasently against him all night, and he found he tossed in bed, instead of falling into his usual easy sleep.
Ire for the guild master was not new, but perhaps it had been the naked way their host had called him out that troubled him so. Either way, he couldn’t let himself dwell on it. They were in for a full day tomorrow and he would be in no shape for anything if he didn’t get some sleep.
He didn’t know how long he was out for before he started awake, every danger instinct inside of him flaring to life. His eyes went wide, straining against the gloom of the room for any speck of light. His hand shot down, quick as a snake striking, closing instantly around the blade he’d tucked between the mattress and bed frame.
Someone was here, and for an assassin that meant a quick reaction, or a quick death.
He swung as he caught motion out of the corner of his eye, though his blade met nothing but empty air. His blood was pumping now, breath quick, eyes darting back and forth as he searched for the intruder. It took everything inside of him not to let the feline erupt from below his skin.
He drew in a few breaths, trying to calm himself. It wouldn’t help if he lashed out wildly, and so he stilled, feeling out whoever had intruded. He could almost feel eyes upon him, though he couldn’t yet pinpoint where they were coming from.
He crouched, ready to spring, when there was a soft click.
Light flooded the room, momentary blinding him in the sudden brightness, as the overhead light came on.
He blinked, on the defensive, but no attack came.
When he could finally see again his eyes widened when he realized who was standing across from him, and for a moment he stared, dumbfounded.
He was confused and shaken, nearly vibrating from the lingering adrenaline. He was very keenly aware that if the master assassin had wanted him dead he wouldn’t have woken up at all. That bothered him, more than he wanted to admit. But if attack wasn’t on his mind why hadn’t he roused him with the traditional signaling touch?
“Crescent, isn’t it?” The man asked, arching a brow, sounding as if he were reading the mail rather than standing in his room in the middle of the night.
He shifted in bed, drawing the covers a bit closer around him. He was the furthest from shy but for once was thankful he hadn’t slept naked. The question didn’t fool him for an instant. This man was well aware of who he was. He willed himself to breathe and returned the knife to it’s place, taking a moment to compose himself before speaking.
“That’s right, master. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Yes, there is. I must speak with you. Now.”
It wasn’t a request, and he didn’t dare argue, not after seeing how unforgiving the man had been that day.
He would move to get up, but the other man held up a hand, and he paused.
“Right where you are is fine.” He would take a seat in a plush chair that rested near the bed, watching him with that single eye of his. It was impossible to tell what he might be thinking, and he sat very still, as if still expecting an attack at any moment.
When it came, it was not in the shape he expected.
“You’re good, young man. I was only in the room a few minutes before you sensed I was there. Fast too.”
But not fast enough. The unspoken words hung in the air between them. He wasn’t sure what to say, but the older man went on.
“But, you were not raised in the guild.”
“You’re much too old to be such a recent graduate.”
That was true, but he got the feeling there was more to it than that. Why would Master Abolan be here otherwise?
“Yes, quite good.” The man went on, as if he were talking to him. “It’s not easy for those raised outside of the guild to make it through the training, let alone to excel. But then again, the former master always did have a very good eye for people. I don’t think he would have made you the offer he did unless he was sure you were up to the challenge.”
Crescent quickly clamped his jaw, and set his face to its most neutral, not letting anything through. He didn’t know what the master was on about, but there was only one person left who knew about that deal, and she wouldn’t have talked.
“Master, I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. Is it possible you have the wrong room?” He tried his best to sound innocent, confused, hoping not to offend.
But Seibel didn’t seem put off, instead a knowing smile touching his lips.
“I understand your hesitancy, but lying will do you no good here. I know you made a deal with the former master, where he offered to buy your contract if you promised to help Master Lorcasf. I knew you’d taken the deal, but lost track of you after that. I must admit surprise that you made it through your training at all, let alone so quickly.”
Crescent bit his tongue. He didn’t want to speak of this but the the other man had details he shouldn’t, unless perhaps the former master had told him about it. One of the masters had whispered that the old man hated Domerin because he’d been appointed heir instead, and stolen his chance to be the guild leader. But if that were true, why would the old master have told him in the first place?
He supposed it didn’t matter right now. Seibel was looking at him expectantly, and he didn’t want to get to the point where the man started demanding.
“I didn’t ask for any special favors, if that’s what you’re suggesting. I worked and fought just as everyone else did.”
“I’m sure you fought very hard, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t benefit from the desires of the old master either.”
“If I did it was indirectly. With all due respect, I know guild law as well as you, master, and I swore loyalty to it when I joined.”
“As do we all,” the man returned, his tone sharp, holding a slight warning edge. “But that stops no one from also looking after themselves.”
Crescent bristled under the not so subtle accusation. He again willed himself to breathe, and shifted back to a tactic he’d used many a time back in his old life
“I’m afraid I’m a bit lost, Master Abolan. May I ask what it is you’re getting at?”
He infused it with as much innocent curiosity as he could. Unlike the nobles and johns back at the brothel, the man across from him clearly wasn’t taken in by the act, but if he wanted to accuse more he was going to have to come right out and say it. He was gambling, but didn’t think the man wanted to go that far.
A tense few seconds passed in silence, each of them looking at each other. Crescent refused to look away, refused to cow or crack.
Finally, after what seemed like a small eternity, Seibel smiled.
“Nothing at all, young man; merely pointing out facts. It’s good to know you’re so dedicated to the laws. We don’t have enough selfless assassins like you.” Though, by his tone, Crescent didn’t get the feeling the other man much believed him.
“As you say, Master Abolan.”
The older man regarded him silently for a few moments more, though it was impossible to gauge his thoughts.
Finally the man smiled again, but it didn’t reassure him, instead making him clutch the covers a bit more tightly. He was sure he’d seen the feline smile like that, just before pouncing, only this time he was the prey. It was not a comfortable place to be, not when the man after him was so high ranking.
“Well, this has been a most illuminating discussion, but I’m sure you’re eager to get some rest. You’ve a long day ahead.” He shifted, moving to get up.
“Are you going to tell Master Lorcasf?”
Seibel stopped at the sudden question. The way his grey eye bored into him made him wish he hadn’t spoken. He couldn’t charm or sweet talk this one, and that made things all the harder.
“Now why would I do that, Crescent? I’ve no reason to tell him, do I?” The man arched a brow, but a chill went down Crescent’s spine. Another word hung in the air, unspoken but ready to drag him down.
Yet. He had no reason to tell him yet.
For the first time in a long while, true fear bloomed in his chest. He was sure everything would be over if Domerin found out the truth. The man would never forgive him for that and, worse, it would break him. No matter how strong he acted, or how much he tried to avoid it, Domerin was, in some ways, more fragile than he would admit.
Master Abolan hated Domerin, and he would not allow him, or anyone, to use their relationship to hurt him. It was only knowing the old man would mop the floor with him that kept him in place when all his instincts told him to attack.
“No, Master Abolan,” he said, trying to keep his voice level, “there’s nothing he need know.”
“Very good. I’ll try my best to see that he doesn’t find out. I look forward to the rest of your visit, Crescent. It should prove to be… enlightening.”