This Sickle is No Tool

She was known to those who sought her as “The Sickle”, and this was the nickname her closest confidants used when speaking to her. She had leaned heavily into the role of a lone wolf early in her life and it hadn’t been easy to break out of old habits even as her circumstances changed and seemed to keep changing. She was without a doubt the most notorious female assassin in the entirety of Partum and with that reputation came a bevy of devout followers that were intent on learning how to be as skillful as she was in murder and to line their own pockets along the way. She could probably boast the most widespread and elaborate network of spies on the entire continent, but she was always wary of anyone that might be considered a viable threat.

In her leisure time the Sickle enjoyed lounging in her counting room. It was filled with coins of every possible description and much like a dragon’s hoard it was piled in great random heaps all around the room and against every wall. One of the walls had a set of wonderfully designed wooden and glass doors that folded up on hinges to allow access out to the balcony beyond. From that balcony the Sickle could stand and gaze all across the western half of the sprawling city of Gothartus. She had moved here to be closer to the pulse of the Fourth Imperium but leaving Avondace had been burdensome on her heart. She hoped one day to return to her beloved city. However, this was where she needed to be now. Her job demanded it. Right at the moment the Sickle was not engaged in any worthwhile work. Instead, she was, like a dragon, stretched out comfortably amid her mountains of coins humming a tune and giving passing thoughts to her many schemes that had yet to be carried out.

There was a knock at the heavy oaken door that opened out into the hallway across from her lovely balcony view. “Yes?” she called out wearily. “What do you want? I am enjoying doing nothing, and I should like to not be otherwise engaged.”

The door opened regardless of this last statement and a neatly groomed man with dark, greying hair stepped gingerly in among the scattered coins. Carefully making his way closer to the Sickle and keeping an eye on not treading on any of her much-adored coinage, the man said “I have some unfortunate news regarding Operation Ferret, my lady. Would you rather I come back later, or should you wish to hear it now?”

The Sickle rolled over in her money bed and glared at the man. “What sort of unfortunate news, Brawlmore?” Her nerves had suddenly become more on edge at the mention of Operation Ferret.

Clearing his throat, the man said, “Word has come from Fanolania that the Notorious Five were all killed in their base at Trenglin.” He paused to let his words sink in before continuing. “I believe that effectively puts an end to your plans to infiltrate the Archduchy of Maelonbourg.”

The Sickle sat bolt upright, and coins began to slide away from her perch. “HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?” she screamed angrily. “EVERYTHING WAS ARRANGED! IT WAS FOOLPROOF!”

The man scratched at his bearded cheek and sighed. “You should never underestimate the power of fools, my lady. We have been over this. No matter how well you plan it there always seems to be a chance of failure, and lately we have had some bad turns. First that carriage business and now this.”

The Sickle threw a handful of coins at the man, and he held his arm up to shield his face. “SHUT UP ALREADY! I KNOW WHAT WENT WRONG THERE AND IT WASN’T MY FAULT! THOSE DAMNED LICHES KEEP LOUSING UP! I DON’T CONTROL THEM!” She screamed again, her rage unfettered. She grabbed another handful of coins and threw them as hard as she could at the man.

“Not in the face, my lady!” he yelled at her, holding his arm up to protect himself. “Those hurt!”

“It is supposed to hurt, you jackass!” the Sickle said despairingly. “What happened exactly?”

The man put his arm down warily. “In Trenglin?” he asked.

“YES, IN TRENGLIN YOU HALFWITTED DIPTHONG! TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED IN TRENGLIN OR SO HELP ME GOD THEY WON’T EVEN FIND YOUR TEETH!” the Sickle howled as she snatched up another fistful of the coins around her.

Holding his hands up to try and calm her down, the man said “Ok, ok! Somehow somebody must have gotten wind of your plan and they sent in a band of rogues and wolfweres led by a drider to wipe out the entire town. It happened pretty slowly, over the course of a few days, but once this group figured out who was who they started killing them all. Some of the townsfolk made it out and scattered all over Mort-Vivant trying to escape. But the Notorious Five were all killed. Rumor has it that the drider ate them.”

The Sickle let the coins fall out of her hand. “You have got to be kidding me.” she said in a hoarse whisper. “Who unleashes a drider on a town? Who does that? Where would one even find a drider?”

“Maelonbourg, my lady. It is said that there are two of them in the archduchy. This is probably one of them.” said the man.

The Sickle sat dejectedly in her coins and slumped backwards in a seated position. “Ogden the Serpent and Silent Hazel had lived in that town for years.” she said. “Long before there was an archduchy in Maelonbourg. I used to stay with them during my escapades along the banker’s coast. I sent Mad Dog Courtland in to Trenglin just over a year ago when we began to hatch Operation Ferret. And less than a year ago Juliet Scars and Bailey the Phantom moved in there as well to better our odds. And just like that they are all five dead.” The Sickle turned her head and stared out through the open balcony doors.

The man stood in silence for a bit before saying softly, “We dare not plot revenge, my lady. You heard what the edict was regarding these troublemakers. Nobody is to rock the boat until such a time as the fallen angel gives the all-clear. Even the liches know it.”

The Sickle turned and glared at the man. “Nobody controls what I plot and plan, Brawlmore. I won’t make a move or draw my dagger, but I will scheme. And you don’t tell anyone anything unless I say what and to whom, you got it?”

“Understood completely, my lady.” he turned as if to leave, and then asked the Sickle, “Can I get you anything to drink, ma’am?”

“No.” muttered the Sickle. “But find out if my sister has any of her girded harlots in Maelonbourg still. I might need a favor down the road.”

The man nodded his head and left the counting room. He closed the door firmly behind him, and as he walked down the hall, he could hear the Sickle scream angrily again.