The shutters swinging in the storm winds were the only sign of her entry. No one had noticed her scaling the garden wall of the darkened manor house, and with the thunder and the gusting wind off the nearby sea, no one heard her as she shimmied up the drainpipe, swung onto the windowsill, and slithered into the second-floor hallway.
The King’s Champion pressed herself into an alcove at the thud of approaching steps. Concealed beneath a black mask and hood, she willed herself to melt into the shadows, to become nothing more than a slip of darkness. A servant girl trudged past to the open window, grumbling as she latched it shut. Seconds later, she disappeared down the stairwell at the other end of the hall. The girl hadn’t noticed the wet footprints on the floorboards.
Lightning flashed, illuminating the hallway. The assassin took a long breath, going over the plans she’d painstakingly memorized in the three days she’d been watching the manor house on the outskirts of Bellhaven. Five doors on each side. Lord Nirall’s bedroom was the third on the left.
She listened for the approach of any other servants, but the house remained hushed as the storm raged around them.
Silent and smooth as a wraith, she moved down the hall. Lord Nirall’s bedroom door swung open with a slight groan. She waited until the next rumble of thunder before easing the door shut behind her.
Another flash of lightning illuminated two figures sleeping in the four-poster bed. Lord Nirall was no older than thirty-five, and his wife, dark haired and beautiful, slept soundly in his arms. What had they done to offend the king so gravely that he wanted them dead?
She crept to the edge of the bed. It wasn’t her place to ask questions. Her job was to obey. Her freedom depended on it. With each step toward Lord Nirall, she ran through the plan again.
Her sword slid out of its sheath with barely a whine. She took a shuddering breath, bracing herself for what would come next.
Lord Nirall’s eyes flew open just as the King’s Champion raised her sword over his head.