“I see the assassins have failed again.”

“Good morning,” her husband said as she sat down next to him. The meeting would start soon, but it appeared as though they had enough time for his usual idiotic morning banter. He sipped at his tea. “I see the assassins have failed again.”

She smiled, sweetly. “What assassins, my king?”

Like she didn’t know. She’d had to get help to dispose of them after she was done. She had to sleep in another room while hers was cleaned. She had chosen a room that her husband wouldn’t have thought, wondering if the point was simply to make her change beds. He had become so blatant about it.

He shook his head. “Definitely failed. I’ll have to get my refund.”

She nodded. “Yes, you had better. You’ll need it to buy the antidote.”

The king took another sip. “Already had it.”

Damn, she thought. She needed to find a better way to dispose of him too.

The bodyguard

Mai stood still besides Zlhna’s chair as the woman wove her magic. The audience watched in awe and that was who Mai watched – the watchers. Those hovering close all had the same look of wonder on their faces. Mai wasn’t as worried about them. She recognized the complete banality that they represented.

Zlhna smoothed out the magic as though it were fabric and began to cut out the shapes she desired. Mai had seen this so many times, she could narrate it without looking. Which was what was necessary, because it meant she knew when, if anyone, would strike.

There were not many standing at the peripherals and they all appeared to be there because they had been late or shoved out from the main crowd. Zlhna’s eyes aimed up under her upper eyelid, showing the whites of her eyes. All she had awareness of was her fingers.

Mai caught sight of the assassin when Zlhna’s eyes narrowed further. This was the moment.

Mai shifted her stance barely and bit the side of her tongue until she tasted the blood begin to flow. She felt it flow through her veins. Staring directly at the attempted assassin, she shifted her arms as though she were about to move, just to get his attention. It worked. He met her eyes and she had him.

She stopped his blood. He crumpled to the ground.

Satisfied, Mai swallowed her blood and waited for Zlhna to finish her magic.