Thief's Gambit (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #5) by Scott Marlowe - Read Online
Thief's Gambit (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #5)
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Summary

The hunter has become the hunted, as the Assassin Without a Name is forced from his usual haunts by Gwendolyn Goddard and her Black Guard watchdogs. On the run and out of patience, a welcome distraction arrives in the form of an old flame, Elizabeth West, who recruits him for a special Warder mission. The fanatical Jakaree are on the move, searching for an ancient relic so diabolical, the Warders are intent on destroying it before the zealots can lay a hand on it.

But the Assassin Without a Name soon learns that Elizabeth has something bigger in mind. Suspicious of her employer's true motives, she sets out to uncover the truth, leading them on a harrowing escapade across Alchester's rooftops, deep beneath the city's once grand temples, and into the sky onboard a Warder airship.

Published: Umberland Press on
ISBN: 9781507052556
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Thief's Gambit (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #5) - Scott Marlowe

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This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

THIEF'S GAMBIT

Copyright © 2015 by Scott Marlowe

All rights reserved.

scottmarlowe.com

First Edition: March 2015

OTHER WORKS BY SCOTT MARLOWE

scottmarlowe.com/Books.aspx

The Alchemancer series

Book 1: The Five Elements

Book 2: The Nullification Engine

Book 3: The Inversion Solution (forthcoming)

Assassin Without a Name series

Fine Wine

Killing the Dead

Night of Zealotry

The Goddard Affair

Thief's Gambit

Assassin's Justice

Standalone

The Hall of the Wood

Collections

The Killing Knife (Fine Wine, Killing the Dead, Night of Zealotry)

Tales of Uhl (The Five Elements, The Hall of the Wood, The Killing Knife)

WORLD OF UHL

Thief's Gambit is a tale of the World of Uhl.

Find out more about the World of Uhl at

worldofuhl.com

Thief's Gambit

A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #5

I CLEARED THE SPOTS FROM my wine glass with a quick swirl, pretending to appraise the puce swill the Mule’s proprietor claimed was wine, when really my attention was on the scraggly looking gentleman at the bar. He bought my ruse, unaware that I’d noticed him glancing my way one too many times, as he continued to wait for his Black Guard employers to arrive by burying his face in his cup of grog. Not for the first time, I considered walking over to him and killing him. A stab to the throat in passing was all that was necessary. No poison; I don’t deal in such things. But the sharp tip of any one of the half dozen blades concealed on my person, inserted at the right location and to the right depth, and he’d bleed out in short order. Just another dead man to add to the list I’d spent years compiling, and nothing noteworthy enough to raise suspicions in an establishment like the Mulling Mule. Part grogshop, part brothel, the Mule was a second home to some of the worst rogues, ruffians, and ruthless backstabbers our fair city had to offer. Even if my spy fell over dead right in the middle of the common room, it would attract no more attention than a dropped dinner plate.

I wasn't one to leave a trail of bodies behind without reason, though. Since this man's part in my ongoing drama had concluded when he’d dispatched a messenger boy to retrieve the nearest Guardsman, I decided I’d let him live. My true contention wasn’t with him, anyway, but with his employer, the Black Guard. They’d offered such a large bounty for information leading to my capture that all manner of street folk, from gutter swine to small-time corner bosses, now fancied themselves spies or informants. I knew the bounty amount, so I wasn't surprised that so many had come crawling out of the woodwork to harry me from the fine, luxurious surroundings of my usual haunts. Their actions had forced me to frequent lesser and lesser establishments until only the lowest of the low of Alchester’s drinking holes remained as options. But if it wasn’t even safe to show my face at the Mule, which held the lowest spot in my mental list of minimally acceptable businesses, then I foresaw a bleak future of many lonely nights spent drinking at home alone. Such a prospect was intolerable on too many levels, so rather than flee ahead of the mercenaries coming to capture or kill me, a policy I’d engaged in going on six weeks now, I instead took a small sip of my wine and watched the door for their entrance.

Someone did arrive, but not a member of the Black Guard. A boy, who based on his age was not a regular patron of the Mule, carefully closed the door against the night’s cold before turning to scan the room. One of the Mule’s prostitutes, half-drunk by the way she almost fell out of her client’s lap, noticed his arrival and called out to him suggestively. The boy responded with practiced indifference, though the woman and her client got a good laugh out of her chiding anyway. While they cackled away, the boy kept looking about the room, until his gaze fell on me. With no further delay, he dodged through the crowd, stopping when he stood before my table.

The boy was a picture of dishevelment: mussed hair, mussed clothes, and a mussed face. Though he might’ve looked halfway respectable if given the opportunity to clean himself up a bit and acquire some new tailoring to replace his threadbare coat, dirty shirt, patched trousers, and scuffed shoes.

I’ve a missive for you, the waif said, holding up a folded scrap of parchment. Far from offering it to me, he kept it close to his person, as if afraid I might snatch it away.

How do you know it’s for me?

Because the lady who gave it to me said to come here and look for the gentleman sitting alone in the corner drinking wine.

Intrigued, I returned my glass to the table, caught the boy’s attention with my free hand, then made a sign with my fingers: two closed, as if in a fist, with the other two at a forty-five degree angle and the thumb touching them. He acknowledged my signal with one of his own, confirming my suspicions: the boy belonged to Alchester’s Thieves’ Guild. That meant, in all likelihood, that the lady who’d sent him had been Elizabeth West, an old flame of mine, and someone I’d regrettably double-crossed the last time we’d met.

Hand it over, then, I said, holding out my hand.

The boy clenched the note tighter and shook his head. The lady only paid me half the delivery fee. She said you’d cover the rest.

All right, I said. What do I owe you?

Ten florins, he said without hesitation.

I wanted to smile. It was a good lie.

Sit, I said, pointing to the chair opposite mine.

The boy shook his head again. I’m supposed to deliver the message. That’s all. I’ll take my payment and—

You’ll sit while I read this note of yours. Afterwards, I’ll give you your five florins.

The fee is ten—

Not likely. It was probably six all told, which means you already have three in your pocket and so should expect three more from me. However, since I’m in a rare, generous mood, you’ll get five and walk away happy because of it. First, though, you will sit.

The boy’s reluctance lingered, but he did as I asked, sliding the piece of parchment across the table once he’d settled in. I put a finger over it, but made no move to read it.

This lady…are you sure she referred to me as a gentleman?

Such language, where I was concerned, did not sound like Liz.

Not exactly, the boy said, squirming.

Out with it then. What did she say?

She told me to give it to the lonely looking idiot sitting by himself.

I chuckled. That was much more like it.

My response settled the boy’s nerves, as he shrugged and said, I didn’t want to insult you. I want my money.

Don’t worry, you’ll get it. Hungry?

No.

I’d noticed him eyeing the plates a few tables away. Boiled potatoes and slabs of roasted pork so fatty it turned the stomach to look at them. But, to someone who probably hadn’t had a full meal in days or longer, the plate must look like it’d come straight from the king’s very own table.

Maybe a little, the boy said, swallowing.

I gestured at the barkeep. No servers here; the pot-bellied, red-bearded owner and his wife, who manned the kitchen presently, did all the bustling about. When the proprietor arrived at our table, I said, A plate and an ale for the boy, and another glass for me. I’d appreciate a little less piss in the wine this time, too, if you don’t mind.

The man directed a scowl at me all the way back to the bar. When I’d first arrived, my inquiry into his wine list had been greeted with a sneer and a chuckle.

We got one kinda wine here, he’d said.

Let me guess. House?

Got that right.

I was just glad they had wine at all, and that it was a red and not some honeyed amber. My palate didn’t favor such sweetness. One swirl of the house wine hadn’t instilled much confidence in its quality; its brownish tint and sweet, caramelized smell hinted at maderization. At least the proprietor had provided a glass, though it had not come easily. Most of the Mule’s patrons drank from clay or wood. I, however, refused to stoop so low. Some sacrifices were simply too great.

What’s your name? I asked Elizabeth’s messenger.

The boy returned a suspicious stare.

I shrugged. Make one up if you don’t want to give me your real one.

Braeden. What’s yours? They say you don’t have one. That your mother—

I’m sure ‘they’ say all sorts of sordid things about my mother, whoever ‘they’ are. Of course I’ve a name. I have many, actually. For tonight, let’s go with Thomas. It was the one I’d used in public most recently and, since I rather liked it, I saw no reason not to continue using it, at least for a little while longer. So, Braeden, I figured the Guild kept their own fed a little better. Heavyhammer fallen on hard times?

The name gave Braeden pause. Not that he didn’t recognize the name of his leader, but that I’d drop it in such casual fashion. Thjorn Heavyhammer Targalas and I go way back. Neither of us shouts it from the rooftops, but neither do we go out of our way to hide it.

Braeden shrugged. I’m low man in the Picks, so you get what’s left. Sometimes, it ain’t much.

Picks, or pickpockets, were the lowest-ranking thieves in the Guild. Not the lowest members overall, but the lowest as far as stealing went. Braeden was the right age. Probably about thirteen or fourteen years old, he would’ve already spent some years as a lowly peon, a gopher for any Guild administrator, beggar, or thief who needed a chore completed or errand run. But when a peon wasn’t being run ragged, they were scrutinized and tested, both mentally and physically, to determine their future path in the Guild. On the thieving