Sum NoWan is an assassin. The assassin knows that nothing can be left to chance and has studied the scene in detail. Sum expects the target to emerge shortly after midday on the South side of the square from between the blacksmith’s workshop and the whore house. He knows there is a chance that the target will instead enter the square from the East side and he has chosen the roof of the Pickman’s Solace to provide the optimum view of both entrances. Sum has built himself a sniper’s den on one corner of the roof where he lies patiently upon his stomach. A dark canvas sheet covers his back all the way up to the top of his head. A scarf conceals his face, from his strong chin to the sharp edge of his cheekbones. A delicate arrangement of debris provides a solid bed for the small wooden tripod upon which his crossbow now rests.
Sum’s training began at the Mulur orphanage. Found roaming at the age of four, Sum was inducted into the Mulur academy and placed under the guardianship of Professor Yung. Mulur has for generations taken in the unwanted and outcast, providing food and shelter for children with little other hope. Their return comes years later. From a young age adoptees receive vigorous and intensive training in the science and the art of assassination. On graduation, orphans are approved to operate as professional assassins under license from Mulur. Mulur’s rate is fixed at twenty-five per cent. The infamous Mulur Clippers are feared and revered in equal measure. The Mulur license guarantees an expertise and professionalism no other agency can match. Sum was always happy at Mulur, a popular student amongst the tutors and the students alike. Quick to learn and enthusiastic for his training, Sum would have been top of his class, were it not for Jodreal.
The assassin breathes carefully, slowly and deliberately to minimise movement and stabilise vision. Sum is fully prepared for the task. He has cleaned his crossbow, the mechanism is well oiled. He has carefully selected a new string and has taken care to break it in. The single bolt he will mount upon the bow has been carefully crafted to produce the straightest wooden shaft and the sharpest iron tip. Sum knows he will have only one chance to hit his target. He would never risk sacrificing a quick getaway for a second shot. He carries a short, sharp blade to protect himself with should anything go wrong. Nothing ever has.
Jodreal was already resident at Mulur when Sum was taken in. Sum was grateful to Jodreal for taking him under her wing and keeping him out of trouble. She was only slightly older and they often trained together. The tutors at Mulur always said that Sum had natural ability but would never have amounted to anything without Jodreal to keep him on the straight and narrow. Jodreal showed natural ability too and trained harder than anyone else at the orphanage. She was always top of the class.
The assassin loads the crossbow, it is nearly midday. Sum watches his target emerge on the south side of the square from between the blacksmith’s workshop and the whore house. He follows his target through the sight of his bow. His target’s name is Altar Gwaan. Why his client wants Gwaan dead Sum does not know and to ask would be to contravene the Mulur Code. Sum lives by the Mulur Code and to break the rules he has lived by for so long would be unthinkable.
Sum and Jodreal became inseparable. As they outgrew their childhood Sum began to hope that they might be something more than friends. The tutors soon put a stop to that. When Professor Yung discovered the pair innocently talking alone in the dark of the catapult gallery he took it for something more. The pair made a solemn pact that their friendship would endure. That night was the last time they saw each other.
The assassin delicately squeezes the trigger. The liberally oiled mechanism moves smoothly, the well tested string springs free of its clasp and launches the straight bolt with the sharp tip. The projectile cuts through the air at speed, meeting the target with an audible thud of concentrated power, puncturing his organs with feeble resistance from flesh and bone. The target’s body shudders and twitches and slumps to the ground. Sum NoWan becomes still, the bolt lodged in his back. Sum would have been top of his class, were it not for Jodreal.
Jodreal Manta is an assassin. Her target’s name is Sum NoWan. Why Altar Gwaan wants the target dead Jodreal does not know and to ask would be to contravene the Mulur Code. Jodreal lives by the Mulur Code and to break the rules she has lived by for so long would be unthinkable. The assassin’s work is done.