The room was dark, shadows lost within each other on the walls. From the ceiling hung a naked bulb, casting out a feeble light. The floor was barely visible for the blackness, but Aurelia was pretty certain it was bare stone as her feet roamed over the cold, rough surface. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see her dagger gleaming in the minimal light, as if it were smiling wickedly with silver-white teeth. She was more than ready. No-one would get in her way now.
Slyly, she crept cautiously towards the oak-panelled door. Her footsteps were non-existent, her tread as silent as a winter's night; if she was to find her summoner, she was to need the element of surprise. Luckily, Aurelia Xanth was terrifyingly good at surprising people. Especially if it involved knives.
Her long-fingered hand extended to meet the chilled metal doorknob and her sharp fingernails made a gentle rapping noise on contact. Twisting her delicate wrist, she eased the door open so quietly that it was undetectable to anyone but her kind. Slipping through the gap, her slim figure was cloaked in the gloom of the next room.
This place was just as murky, with raven shadows muffling the empty light from the single, barred window. Aurelia couldn't see any furniture. However, a soft, faint rustling alerted her acute senses and she stopped dead, stepping back into the corner of the room - the darkest part. Her icy-green eyes took in every inch of the place, but no-one was there. It was then that she spotted the letter.
Lying just by her feet was a sheet of paper, obviously a letter, judging by the look of it. Aurelia didn't touch it for at least a minute. Then, she produced a small paperclip from the extensive supply held in her cape and, moving away from the letter, threw the paperclip. It landed on the paper: dead centre. No explosion. No booby trap. She smiled. Time to read.
She reached downwards and retrieved the letter. Written in bland handwriting were the words:
I'm waiting. Turn around.
Aurelia felt a shiver run down her spine. Slowly, oh so slowly, she twisted her body around. And screamed.
In front of her were two bloodshot eyes, backed up with a pure white, pure evil smile. She leaped backwards and drew her sword, too busy focusing on the glowing stare to be embarrassed about screaming.
"Look harder next time. " The voice was male and cruel. Aurelia stood her ground as another light bulb was switched on and a tall man stepped into view. He was as sickly-pale as an invalid, with high cheekbones that caught the light, darkening the rest of his face. The shadows under his eyes were like bruises and his hair was a pitch black colour. But Aurelia was only looking at the blade in his belt. If he was willing to attack, then she wasn't going to answer; too many men had used her to get their way and she was not going to let this one own her either. She wouldn't give him anything - not one word.
"My name is Castel." His voice seemed more dull this time: monotone, "Don't bother playing mute." Aurelia ignored him, in fact sealing her lips tighter together. Castel grimaced: "Typical. I have all day. I can wait."
"I have a knife." Aurelia cursed herself inside; she shouldn't have said that. But Castel just raised an eyebrow.
"So do I. Now, your name, please." She bit her lip, then sighed.
"Aurelia." Castel waved his hand for her to continue, "Xanth." He smiled.
"Good. You are the assassin I summoned?" She nodded, gritting her teeth, "Follow me." Aurelia didn't bother refusing. After all, this was a job and she needed every penny she could collect.
"I'm here for a job. That's it. I only want to go out, kill someone, get my money and leave." She was about to continue with her rules when Castel interrupted:
"And that you shall get. Now, follow me..."