Shadow's Son - By Jon Sprunk Page 0,1

the arrow's reinforced point. "Anyway, he doesn't wear armor. Detests the weight of it. That's why he surrounds himself with so many soldiers."

He rechecked his aim anyway. The duke was still manhandling his guests. Caim wished he would sit up straight. His fingers were getting numb.

Kit spun around and sat on the narrow railing. "For all the good they'll do him. Are you going to finish this anytime soon? It's loud in here. I can hardly hear myself think."

"Just a moment."

The duke leaned back in his chair, his shoulders framed by the wide oaken back. Caim released the bowstring. In that moment, the target glanced upward. Wine ran down Reinard's blubbery chins as their gazes met.

The arrow sped across the hall like a diving falcon. It was a perfect shot, a sure kill. But just before it struck, the torchlight flickered. Cups tipped over. Plates crashed to the floor. Calm's neck hairs tingled at the sight of Liram Kornfelsh, sprawled in front of the Duke. The arrow's blue feathers quivered above the emerald brooch nestled in the hollow of his throat.

Screams echoed off the hall's high walls as guests bolted from their seats, all except for Kornfelsh, who they left lying across the high table like an overstuffed ham. The duke grasped his hands together as his soldiers rushed to surround him.

Caim grabbed the other arrows and fired in rapid succession. The first caught a bodyguard through the left eye. The second penetrated the boss of a soldier's shield and through the forearm holding it, but the duke remained unscathed. Caim tossed the bow aside and raced down the balcony.

Kit skipped along the railing beside him. "I told you the shot was off. You have a contingency plan, right?"

He clenched his jaws tight together. The only thing worse than making a grand mess of a job was doing it in front of Kit. Now he had to get down and dirty. He reached behind his back and drew a pair of suete knives. Eighteen inches of singled-edged steel gleamed in the torchlight.

A sentry appeared at the end of the catwalk. Caim flowed past him, close enough to smell the wine on the man's breath, and the sentry stumbled against the wall, his life spilling through his fingers from a bloody gash across his throat.

On the floor below, the duke was ushered by his bodyguards through a door at the back of the hall. Caim vaulted over the railing, jumping right through Kit. For a moment as their bodies merged, he was covered from head to foot by tingling goose bumps. A thrown spear flashed just inches in front of his face as he landed on the central trestle. Flagons and dinnerware went flying as he dashed down the polished length of the table.

"He's getting away." Kit floated above his head.

Caim bit back a rude response. "Then how about you go follow him?"

She sped off with a huff.

Caim kicked open the door. The duke would be heading to his quarters on the top floor of the donjon where he could hole up until reinforcements arrived. If that happened, Caim was well and truly fucked. But he had never failed to complete an assignment before; he didn't plan to start now.

The corridor beyond was unlit. He started inside, but a nagging sense of caution made him pause. That hesitation saved his life as a sword blade swept through the empty space where his neck would have been. Caim ducked and jabbed with both knives. His left-hand suete cut through a colorful surcoat and got caught in links of mail underneath, but the righthand blade found a gap in the armor. A gurgle issued from the shadows as the hidden guardsman slumped forward. Caim jerked his knives free and swept down the hallway.

A single staircase led to the higher levels. The steps spiraled clockwise around a thick stone newel post. Caim sprang up the stairs two at a time. As he came around the first landing, the twang of a crossbow string reached his ear a split second before a quarrel zipped past. Caim threw himself against the wall. From somewhere above echoed the staccato clack of a hand crank.

Caim pushed off from the wall and darted up the steps as fast as his legs would propel him. If there was a second archer lying in wait for him, he would be dead before he knew it. He rounded another turn. A lone crossbowman stood on the landing above, furiously turning the iron

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