For a moment, nobody moved. Rubin stared at the blood dripping from his blade, and everybody else stared at him in shock.
Then the corpse hit the floor, and he realised it: he needed to kill them before they killed him.
He threw himself at the second assassin, forcing the knife into his chest and wrenching it free. The final opponent attacked, but all he could think was that it shouldn't be this natural. It shouldn't be this simple or easy or smooth.
Somehow, he managed to block the strike of the last assassin, but the force of it sent him reeling back, still gasping. The murderer went to strike again, but a sharp whistle gained his attention for a moment. That was all Rubin needed. He surged forwards and struck the killer's heart.
"No," he whispered, because there was blood on his hands that shouldn't be there, shouldn't and couldn't be there and yet was.
The thief snarled in rage and lunged for Rubin, but before he could help it the knife was out of his hands and was lodged into the thief's chest.
"No," he whispered again, collapsing to his knees and looking at his hands in mortified horror.
"Well done." A woman's voice. Slowly, he looked up at her, into the emerald eyes that seemed to mock him.
"I didn't want to kill."
"But you did," she purred. "So well, in fact, that I'm going to make you an offer. I'm part of a group called the Golden Flame. Join us, and we'll give you everything you need. You might not want to be a murderer, but you are. You killed to survive, didn't you?" She paused for a reply, but when she was greeted by numb silence, she continued. "I'm Vipera. I think you should consider my offer, at least."
He did not reply to her question, instead asking, "You whistled, didn't you?"
She shrugged. "I couldn't let your talent go to waste, after all. So, are you in?"
He took a sharp breath, but his thoughts were too jumbled to consider it. He succumbed to the conviction in the woman's words, and nodded.
Vipera smiled, and when she did it was not a welcoming smile, but a victorious smirk. "Well then, you'd better start calling yourself a Knight of the golden Flame."
Rubin supposed that he'd killed before, but he'd never been the one to deal the blow. He'd stolen food from people, but they'd already been starving, and he hadn't stopped them finding food again. He'd left people to die, but before, there had always been a chance that they could make it.
But to hold the knife, to kill directly, that hurt.
And what hurt the most about that was that it hadn't even been hard for him to do it. That he'd done it so effortlessly and naturally and instinctively.
"Rubin?" Vipera's voice snapped him back to reality.
"Yes?" he managed to reply.
"We're about to meet our leader. It would be polite for you to leave off your mask."
Normally, he would have argued, but today he could hardly lift a finger in response. He settled for a simple nod as he slid the mask from his face, and followed Vipera into the room.
Inside was a great hall filled with long, rectangular tables, and on a dais sat a throne.
Rubin's eyes widened as the leader - only a boy - looked at him and smiled, but there was not a trace of recognition in his face.
Their leader was Lux.