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The body shimmered with something akin to blue lightning and became a naked man. Blood drooled out of his nose, mouth and ears. The throat cut that had ended his life looked something like the caricature of a grinning mouth. It was grotesquely funny in a morbid sort of way.

A last flicker of lightning ran along the body and it burst into noxious, smoke spewing flame.

"Oops," I murmured under my breath, casting a sideways glance at Severin. He growled and turned, his boots crunching as he stalked away angrily. He hadn’t dared say anything to me--I was no mere underling, and everyone knew it. Him most of all.

"Touchy," I snickered, turning back to the human-shaped ashes of what might have been the stupidest man I had ever met. I clicked my tongue. "Poor guy, didn't have a chance in hell. Should have just faced the fact: there is no escape. Once you're in, you're in, there is nothing else, so enjoy the perks of your life and don’t die."

Shaking my head, I turned, heading in the opposite direction from Severin. I didn't want to have any part in his negative attitude. I lifted and smoothed my cloak, bringing my fur-lined hood over my head, making sure my face was hidden.

I'm not as stupid as some of the youngsters today. I may like to wear nice clothes, but going amongst the peasantry in House colors and silks was not a good idea. Someone would probably be stupid enough to try and muddle their way through a half-assed assassination attempt--and the bloodstains were always so hard to wash out.

I always make sure my cloaks are extra long, covering everything, and even if they are made out of good material, they look like every other cloak on the causeway. Which means I look like everyone else, nothing easy for an assassin to target in on. Being able to meld into the background is a good trait for any member of a House to have--even if it’s just used to keep from being volunteered for anything approaching work.

The outside of my cloak was gray wool over waterproof sealskin. It looks like a simple gray cloak, the kind every peasant on the street was wearing. Inside there is about an inch of space from the edges of the hems, then the rest of it is lined in fur. Between the layers there is a lining of warm cloth. It had cost me a pretty penny, but was well worth it, especially when it meant my life.

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