Alliso drew a slender throwing knife from her hip and peered over the counter. A man in a blue robe worked methodically at a mortar and pestle. The rhythmic grinding had been going on for the last twenty minutes or so. He showed no signs of stopping, which was good. She flicked the knife. There was a momentary glint and then the tapered edge buried itself in the back of his neck.

The grinding stopped and the man's shoulder's slumped. She waited for the body to drop. Instead, a hand reached back and pulled the long dagger out with a faint sound like shlup. Alliso, all training forgotten, watched in shock. The man whirled around and a bottle soared through the air. Instinct propelled her as she rolled out from behind the counter. The bottle shattered, but Alliso didn't stop. From a crouch, she sprang at the wizard.

The man couldn't react fast enough to escape her lunge. She grabbed him by the collar and punched him hard in the face. She saw him grab the knife off the table out of the corner of her eye. She grabbed his hand and bashed it on the table until he let go, then pushed him up against the wall. It took all of a moment to draw her sword and run him through.

The man stumbled a little. He looked at the blade, then back at her.

"Oh, come on!" Alliso said as he pulled the sword from his gut and brandished it at her.

She snapped three throwing knives through the air in quick succession. They thudded into the man's chest.

"Ow. Damn it," he grunted, "that doesn't work!"

"I don't suppose you want to tell me what will?" The assassin snapped as she side stepped a clumsy sword swing. She grabbed the man's sword arm and very fluidly broke it in the same motion. The man moaned as she whipped him around by his broken arm and screamed as she pushed him to the ground. One of the three knives poked through his back, narrowly missing her boot.

The young woman snatched up her sword and grabbed a handful of the man's hair. There wasn't much, so she had to grip it tightly as she hacked his head off.

Panting, she raised the head triumphantly. The eyes had rolled back and the jaw was hanging open.

"Ha! I bet that worked."

The eyes rolled forwards, "you didn't bet much, I hope."

Angrily, Alliso grabbed a rag off the nearby counter and stuffed it into the man's mouth. Then she shoved the head in a sack.

 

The Master jostled about in darkness for awhile. He decided not to keep track of the time. Instead, he amused himself by playing songs in his head. His work didn't leave much time for music. Admittedly, the damp bag was starting to rub his neck stump raw, but he'd get used to that in time. He was just finishing the second part of the Epic of Jaggstromson when light flooded into the bag. He was roughly lifted so a young woman could stare him in the eyes.

"I swear to the Gods, if you don't act like you're dead, I'll pull your beard out hair by hair."

The Master spit the gag out, "I do still have a beard right?"

"What?" Alliso asked.

"You didn't mangle it when you cut my head off?"

"What does it matter? Your head's off!"

"Only, I've had it for three hundred years."

She shook him roughly until he rolled his eyes back into his head and went slack jawed.

 

Alliso shoved the stupid head back in the bag and entered the castle city. She walked her horse behind a cart bearing bundles of spears. They weren't new by any standard. The heads were stained and chipped, while the handles on some where almost hacked in half. An armorer nearby didn't bother to look up at her as she watched him bang dents out of armor.

Once in the castle, it didn't take her long to be escorted to the throne room. Alliso had expected a more private audience with the King. Instead, he actually waited while more people were ushered in.

The King was a rough looking man, though only a few years ago he had been a rough looking boy. It was rumored he was the best warrior this side of the Bruis Mountains, but Alliso could spot a weak man when she saw one. Good with the blade he might be, but his eyes held fear. He leaned forward when he addressed her, "do you have it?"

He straightened himself and looked around quickly, "is the vile wizard slain?"

Alliso went down on one knee and pulled the head from the sack. She gave it a quick glance to make sure it wasn't doing anything unnatural.

There were a few gasps from the more sheltered nobles as she held it up, "I have brought you his head, as requested."

"Good, good! Without his aid there is no way the enemy can withstand us. His dishonorable magics will trouble our noble knights no longer!'

"Dishonorable? Like none of your knights have never used a sword against a peasant before? Why should I not use a weapon on you just because you haven't bothered to learn how to use it too?"

There was a stunned silence in which the prince pointed in shock. He closed his hand, then slowly pointed again.

"Well? I expect an answer!" The Master’s Head demanded.

Alliso had no idea what the answer was, because she was already running.

 

 

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