You’re not safe, the voice whispered to Ave as he sat on his bunk, methodically sharpening his sword. It wasn't likely they would give him enough warning to use it, he doubted they were that stupid, but it gave him something to do while he waited for the Administrator to call for him. He shifted and a lock of his light brown hair rubbed across the burn on his forehead, causing it to sting and itch. He willed himself not to touch it.
Not safe, insisted the voice.
You think? He shot back angrily, I’m an assassin who botched his job. Tell me something I don’t know. Now he was talking to himself, the tension was making him nuts. When would they come?
The knock at his door made him start, it echoed through the halls of their cave complex, bouncing eerily off of the stone walls. He took a deep breath to steady himself and stood to answer it.
“Easy, Ave, it's just me.” Dent said, holding his hands high. Ave sheathed his sword reluctantly and raised his eyebrows at his comrade.
“We were wondering if you were ever going to hit the mess hall.” Dent's hands were still in the air, palms out. Ave gestured wordlessly for Dent to lead the way.
The Splinters were small, they had to be to remain hidden so well, and it wasn't a long walk from the residential wing to the dining area. The giant, Flynn, and weasel faced Garret sat at their usual table and Ave moved to join them, dragging a wrought iron chair around noisily so he could put his back to the wall. He leaned away from the carved stalagmite table, stretching out his long legs. His icy blue eyes narrowed as he studied the hall, hawkish features tight with stress.
The walls were a muddy brown, trending towards black, and had obviously been smoothed and sculpted in a way that would have inspired awe if he hadn't been drowning in apprehension. They shone in the pale blue glow of the recessed lights, clear globes with flickering flames at their core. No tools had touched this Splinter cell, the natural cave complex had been widened and shaped by pure magic.
There were only about twenty men present, the Splinters all boasted a training area past the residential wing and that’s where most of the men spent their time. Still, being outnumbered made him nervous at a time like this. This arm of the Guild frowned on failure. The strange acoustics brought the grunts and yells from the sparring rings echoing down into the mess hall, and Ave realized that everyone had fallen silent at his entrance.
“That’s so crazy, man, I can't believe she burned you like that.” Flynn finally burst out, voicing what all of them were thinking. Ave nodded nervously. Everyone in the hall was shooting him covert glances, the rumor mill must have run over when word got out about the damage the dark haired woman had done to his face. None of their intelligence had suggested that anyone with a strong Gift would be traveling with the caravan. Ave sighed, they'd missed things before and they'd do it again, no spy network was perfect.
His hand drifted up of its own accord but he stopped himself from poking the burn, instead wiping his damp palm on his leg. Having any identifying mark wasn't ideal in a covert assassin band, it was one of the reasons that none of the men had inked designs on their bodies- most fighters did. It was, at the least, undesirable to be easily remembered. It was, at most, fatal.
He gripped his sword hilt as the Administrator's secretary approached his table. Ave’s companions fell silent, not that he'd been listening to their chatter anyways. The tiny blond scribe sneered at him, eyeing the vivid red brand on his forehead with contempt. The expression twisted her normally even features into an ugly moue, he couldn’t believe he’d ever thought she was pretty.
“He'll see you now.”