Shadows Over Innocence
by Lindsay Buroker
Cover Artwork by Shelly Couvrette
Cover Design by DD Graphix
Copyright 2012 Lindsay Buroker
Sicarius slipped into an expansive room in the Imperial Barracks, the rambling old building that held offices and residences for the emperor and those who assisted him in his rule. As the throne's assassin, Sicarius counted as one of those men. He set down a large, bloodstained sack and leaned against a pillar in the shadows.
On the far end of the rectangular space, sunlight streamed through the spotless panes of tall windows, warming the marble floor and the back of the room's single occupant. The small boy pushed a tangled thatch of pale brown hair out of his eyes and hunkered over a gleaming, white floor tile, a charcoal stick grasped between his fingers. Heedless of the sanctity of the palatial décor, he squiggled lines onto the floor with precise squeaks. Sicarius cocked his head, surprised at the intricacy of the pattern forming.
Footsteps echoed from the corridor. Two men, one grayer than the other but both past middle age, strode into the bright chamber. The child bolted upright. He clutched the charcoal stick behind his back and shrank into himself.