Gideon: Chapter One - The Last Target
by Ryan Miller
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Boedromion 23rd, 2015

"Praise be to the Holy Mother," she whispered, slipping the rope into her harness. Atop the aging building, she could see her target through the window of his office. He was sitting in his chair, entertaining an overdressed piece of lap-candy named Marta. She looked like she was having fun. Elisabeta paused, trying to remember the last time she had smiled as freely as that young woman.

The night air was crisp. She could feel the last hints of summer fading away, giving in to the relentless lure of autumn. As a child, this was her favorite time of year. The world changed around her, so obvious yet so subtle. It was unstoppable, uncontrollable, and she found a certain comfort in that. But now she was the force of nature, the bringer of change, and she had complete control.

She found a definite comfort in that.

She opened a small vial, dabbed some of the greasy water on her finger, touched it to her lips, then traced a crescent symbol on her forehead. She checked the pistols at her sides, making sure a round was chambered in each barrel. Each gun was covered in lines and litany, blessings and sacraments. They had served her well. She lowered her night vision reticles, took a breath, and grasped the rope. It was time to go to work.

Her target was in the heat of passion and therefore not wearing his trademark red ceramic carapace. Normally she would have taken a shot with a sniper rifle, but the terms of this contract were clear: He must know who is killing him and why.

She swung down from the rooftops, like an angel of death -- or vengeance -- and crashed feet-first through the glass pane of his office. Marta let out a short scream before Elisabeta's foot connected with her chin, knocking her to the ground in a skinny lump. Her target reached for his handgun -- more like a hand cannon -- but it was too late. She stepped on his wrist with a black boot and pointed her own gun in his face.

His eyes widened and his mouth dropped when he realized why she was there and who had sent her.

"No, please, I have a wife . . . children," he pleaded, forgetting poor Marta, who was lying unconscious just a few feet away.

Elisabeta kept her expression neutral, and he started sobbing like a little boy. After a few moments of listening to him, her hand convulsed in one quick, practiced motion. Her blessed pistol sang out in a familiar boom, which was followed by the censer's wispy smoke. The shell casing rang against the tile floor like a church bell, calling her target home. His naked and bloodied form slumped to the floor. Elisabeta stared at him for a second and marveled at how pathetic he looked -- for all his worldly power, ambition, and wealth, he was just a man. Life is truly fragile.

Though she didn't want to, Elisabeta spoke the litany of the dead, a prayer that begs the Holy Mother to show more mercy to him than he had been shown in this life. She normally wouldn't take the time, but his crumpled form made an unfamiliar sadness well up from within her. Had his pleadings gotten to her after all? What was different this time?

Of course, she knew what was different, but she just couldn't bring herself to admit it.

Her brief moment of introspection was interrupted by the sounds of his guards clamoring up the stairs. She dove out the window just as they burst in, and the shock of seeing their shamed master sprawled on the floor gave her the few seconds she needed to disappear in the night.

Falling through the chill air, she could hear the sounds of their submachine guns firing in futility above her. She squeezed the rope just in time to slow her descent, dropping like a cat into the alley. She pulled the urban camouflage off the motorcycle, hopped on, and evaporated onto the streets of Gideon.

Elisabeta headed for a small chamber under a cathedral. Given to her family as a reward for her great-grandfather's tireless support of the church during the last crusade, it had her family's signature "D" inscribed in copper on the heavy door, and the room contained a small prayer cell and a ritual bath. Upon letting herself in, Elisabeta slipped off her armor and rested it carefully on a nearby dais next to her weapons. She dipped her body into the holy water of the bath and slowly lowered herself in. After she murmured a baptismal prayer, she dunked her head under the surface for seven seconds, one for each archangel.

When she finally resurfaced, though, she realized that she was not alone.

It took her less than three seconds to spring out of the bath, grab her pistol from the dais, and point it at her assailant. Decades of training made these movements instinct -- she didn't even have to aim.

"Peace, dear sister." Constantine stepped forward, unflinching. "Please, put this on," he said, handing her a soft sacramental tunic.

"Constantine, you of all people should know better than to enter unannounced." Elisabeta released the hammer on her pistol and put on the tunic.

"I wouldn't have, but I sensed you needed a shoulder right now."

He had always felt protective of his little sister, and he somehow knew right when she needed him. He was the only one in the family that knew what she did in the dark of night in Gideon.

"I don't know, Constantine," she said, letting her guard down a bit for once. "I'm tired of washing away my sins every night. I used to tell myself that what I was doing was for the greater good, but after tonight -- after seeing him lying on the floor -- something shifted inside of me. A switch was flipped."

Constantine moved to his sister, cradling her head in his arms. "Maybe it's time to put your pistols away. No matter how many of them you kill, it will never bring him back."

Caught by surprise by his words, she felt tears well up in her eyes. She had kept that very thought in a locked box deep in the back of her mind. It was always Constantine's way to cut right to the heart of the matter.

Then a sudden moment of clarity dried the tears before they could escape her eyes, and resolve crystallized inside of her. She would no longer be the angel of death -- she would become the angel of justice.

Continued in Chapter Two - The Deal

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Wizards of the Coast
Dreamblade Store Demos
Dreamblade Fiction: The Visit
Gideon: Chapter 7: A Deal with the Devil
Gideon: Chapter 6: A Death in the Family
Dreamblade Fiction: Cathedral of Thorns
Gideon: Chapter 4: Poor Teodor
Gideon: Chapter 3: The Governor’s Son