This is the story of a group of youths caught in the bloody streets of a dying city.
Ross, a fledgling theif and self-proclaimed master of the night, must fight to ascend the twisting social ladder in a dangerous world. Avelon struggles to overcome her unfortunate gender and make a name for herself as the world's youngest maga. Marcus, a new-made orphan, learns to provide for himself and live without the safety-net of his ancient family name.


7. The Only Survivor

The first scream echoed through the castle, reverberating off the damp stone walls and piercing through wood-and-metal doors. It broke the stillness, and yet seemed to be the cause of it, silencing the whispered conversations and sending the gaudy, golden nobles into a stunned silence. Marcus was no exception, freezing in the middle of the hall, halfway between his father's room and the central corridor, his head swiveling as he sought a source.

It wasn't until the second scream, much shorter than the first, cutting off abruptly with a muted gurgle, that anyone moved, and when they did, it was in only two directions. The noblemen and women, adding their own screams to the tumult, raced for their rooms, seeking what shelter they could find. The guards, in their ornamented, decorative armor, nodded weakly to one another and mustered their courage, sprinting through the halls toward the king's bedroom. Of course, they were all too late.

Marcus waited only a moment after that second scream, and then he ran back the way he'd come, his mind a blur as he pictured his stepmother's death. He knew that he wasn't running to the chamber to stop some catastrophic event, however. Marcus merely wanted to see her face as she died, wanted to watch the life bleed from her. He always had wondered if the royalty bled the same red as everyone else, and now was his only chance.

When he shoved open the heavy door, that redness was all he saw. And then, slowly, the room came into focus.

The prince could see the exact way the events had unfolded, could picture the perfect murders as he looked at the lifeless bodies before him. Rema lay nearest the door, turned on her side, so that he could see her face, see the slash across her throat, see the dagger still burried in her chest. She'd been beside the bed when the attacker entered, Marcus knew. She'd head him coming in and turned... and then, when she'd finally realized her danger, when she'd tried to run... it had been to late. She'd been caught from behind, her throat slit to stop that second scream. The extra stabbing had been for gratification, nothing more. She'd been dead already.

His father's body was harder to read, as there was no obvious wound. Grey eyes stared blankly at the canopy, a white hand clutched at a pale nightshirt. Marcus realized then that his father's heart had probably just given out, nothing more. For some reason, he felt a pang of disappointment.

The sound of fabric rubbing against the stone was his only warning before a blade bit into the mortar beside his head. Marcus looked directly into those flat, black eyes and saw his smile reflected in them. He couldn't tell, what with the dark cloth covering the assassin's face, but Marcus thought he detected some hint of confusion, suspicion.

He was just opening his mouth to speak when the door burst apart and the guard rushed in, swords brandished. The shadow whirled away, spinning in a maelstrom of dancing metal, and within seconds was fully engaged in battle. Marcus took the opportunity of the distraction to draw the still-bloody dagger from the queen's chest, feeling the warm liquid coat his hands, and then he slid out the door and started running.

"I will find you, boy," he heard the shadow hiss, and for the first time in his life Marcus felt terror. With the memory of those dead eyes nipping at his heals, he didn't stop running until he was outside, across the bridge, and inside the city.

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