It was late evening. There was a party in full swing at Lady Ambrosine’s house, and by this point, most attendees were well past drunk. They were hopefully letting slip useful blackmail material or even outright treasonous comments where the recording equipment could pick it up (which was well nigh everywhere), but for a change there weren’t any targeted missions that night.It was, mostly, just a party.
This was a refreshing change, allowing her a chance to be operating at only 150% rather than 200%. She could float around her fellow nobles playing hostess thinking more, by the gods you’re a shallow assholeand less are you White Mantle and will we have to kill you?
Still, Ambrosine felt entitled to take a breather in her office. The room was less of a front than the rest of the house. All of the furniture was crafted of richly colored wood, but the cushions and wall tapestries were bright and cheerful. The books on the shelves were a mix of history, texts on combat tactics, and well-worn herbals and healing treatises. There was also an entire shelf shamelessly dedicated to romance and adventure novels, right in the middle of the room. At eye level. Judge me, fuckers, I dare you.
Closed off from the party noise, the guardian sank down on her couch and sighed. She savored the silence and mentally scheduled a real party for her real friends sometime soon.
The knock on the door was loud and brusque. She sat up with a jerk–that wasn’t the knock of any of her staff, or of Imke, who would have used the code. “I’m sorry, is someone looking for me?”
“Open up, y’conniving bitch!”
Ambrosine tried to identify the voice but the drunken slurring wasn’t helping. She had to think quickly: if she let him in, she was only lightly armed. If she didn’t, there was a chance he could go back to the party and start yelling the Six only knew what, and possibly jeopardize her cover.
Even if he wasn’t yelling about something she’d done on the sly as a member of the Order of Whispers, any tarnishing of her reputation could be terrible. As a minor, not-actually-well-off noble, she couldn’t shrug off more than the most inconsequential of blunders.
Ambrosine tapped a button hidden under her desk. Slid a knife out from under her skirts. Opened the door.
“I don’t know HOW you are responsible for my brother endin’ up in trouble with the Seraph, but-”
One angry Lord Albericht, whose older brother had indeed ended up in trouble. Had that been her doing? Hard to say–Ambrosine facilitated in information gathering more than anything else. What was donewith what knowledge she passed on was seldom made known to her.
“There’s no need for this,” Ambrosine said gently, stepping behind her desk. The knife was held low, out of sight. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why don’t you have a seat, and we’ll talk?”
Albericht pointed an angry finger at her. “It took me ages, but I finally put it together! The only place…the only place he said he talked about our plan! Was here, at your house! So I don’t know how you did it, you stupid c-”
A delicate hand reached up from behind Lord Albericht and clamped a cloth over his mouth. He fell to the ground seconds later.
“Well? Drag ‘im out of the doorway ya whackadoodle,” Imke said, rapping the side of his head with the door. “I can’t close this otherwise.”
Ambrosine shook her head to clear it, then unceremoniously dragged Lord Albericht inside. Imke pushed the door closed and locked it.
Imke was dressed up as “Lady Annika”, the role the Order had whipped up for her. The feisty engineer was admittedly a poor field agent, but desperate times called for desperate measures. The Order hadn’t exactly recovered all their numbers after the disaster that the fight against Mordremoth had been. But at least while her acting skills could leave something to be desired, the young woman was a quick thinker.
“Was that lethal?”
“Nah, although he’ll wish it was when he wakes up. Too unpredictable a method to deliver lethal doses of anythin’ with, anyway.” Imke tied the man up with Ambrosine’s curtain ties. “What the hell was that about?”
“I don’t know, exactly. But what do we do now?”
“Now you go back out to your party,” Imke said, flicking her fingers towards the door. “The hostess can’t be noticed missing, especially not if this fellow disappears.”
“But I–” Ambrosine bit her lip.
Imke only rolled her eyes. “I ain’t that shitty at this job. I’ll get ahold of someone at headquarters and we’ll let the highers up figure out how to handle this. Now git.”
The guardian took a deep breath and smoothed the front of her dress. And then took another deep breath, because her hands were shaking. She was used to people trying to kill her, but usually she was armed and armored when that happened.
“Thank you, Imke.”
“Doan mention it,” Imke muttered, not without bitterness. “Give my apologies to Lance if you can, yeah? Make up somethin’.” She kicked Albericht, none too gently. “You probably cost me getting laid tonight, asshole.”
“Imke,” Ambrosine sighed, and slipped out the door.
Back to work.