|New Londinium looked far cruder than the original, or so the killer reckoned, but it also had a vibrancy the other had long since lost. The people seemed more alive, more excited about the prospect of going about their daily lives than those in the heart of the Empire. This new world, so close to the frontier and its red barbarians, lent a sense of danger that heightened the energetic humors in the populace. Yes, that was it. Being so close, death gave life a taste not found elsewhere.
He opened a large, black leather case exposing a new rifle purchased at a dear cost on the far side of the Atlanticus from a one-eyed Serenian merchant who smelled of exotic spices and opium. One hundred fifty gold royals, a fortune in the New World, enough to buy a goodly sized house or farm. The weapon shone nice, clean, and perfect. A beautiful, long, precision piece of murder.
Lifting the rifle, the killer fitted the new sighting lens to the top of the barrel, the brass tube carefully dulled so no telltale gleam of light could give away his position. Like the tube, his face was darkened, and his clothes lay black against his stout body. Staring at the deepening sky, he figured on a few short minutes before the mark made it home.
The killer marveled that the most powerful man in the Empire outside the Emperor himself chose to live in a rundown little brownstone in the middle of the lower east side of town. Why, the place was not even a stone’s throw from the Tenderloin, the area better known as Bacchus’ Temple where the unwary tended to both disappear in the evening and reappear in the morning, often without accompanying valuables.
It had taken the assassin nearly a year to run this mark down, exhausting a small fortune to find the First Principle, but find him he did. The reward for the wizard’s head would beggar the royals already spent on the hunt.
There were quite a few assassins in the Empire (it was a lucrative business, after all); but out of all them only a few were competent enough to successfully kill a wizard, and maybe only three who had the ability to tackle a full Principle. That being said, there were always those willing to beard the lion in his den if the royals were stacked high enough. Nothing, not the gods and their priests, not the Senators or even the Emperor, spoke louder than the satisfying clink of a sackful of royals.
Whoever wanted the Principle dead had deep pockets and vast influence, influence enough to contact the Shadow Guild of Assassins through several different cutouts to reach the best hired killer in the Empire. That told the assassin more than the amount of the award. It told him that the person who wanted the Principle dead was either a member of the Mercantile, or a Senator. Perhaps both. If it was indeed both, then it could be only one man: the third most powerful man in the Empire, a treacherous blagger, but one who always paid debts.
But that made no matter to an assassin of the Shadow. Only the contract mattered, above all else. So he had been taught, so he believed, and for a member of the Shadow, the mark was a dead man who simply hadn’t come to the realization yet.