Ermine Black

Cohost writing prompt: @make-up-a-wizard — wizard who no one believes can be magical

When the black-clad rogue slips silently into Hazmara Sky-Sight's bedchamber, as though there aren't eight enchanted locks on the door, six killing wards in the doorframe, and a trained guard-cockatrice in the corridor, the wizard is waiting with a smirk on her face — sitting up with silk sheets pooled around her waist, a goblet in one hand and a book in the other.

"Ah," Hazmara says smugly. "The infamous Ermine Black, I presume."

The rogue makes a elaborate little bow, then straightens, seemingly neither surprised nor bothered by Hazmara's own lack of surprise.

The wizard's eyes roam over the lithe figure, taking in lightless black velvet and soft dark leather, pouches and sheaths strapped firmly in place to carry all the tools of the trade without the noise or swinging bulk of a bag; quick access to everything. Lockpicks, wardbreaks, poisons perhaps. Many knives.

"Your calling card is a single knife, left in the target's heart," Hazmara says cheerily. "No struggle; no sight of you. In, out, like a shadow's shadow. The finest assassin in all the land, they say! I'm afraid I have rather spoiled that for you. Also, there is a spherical forcefield around the bed, which is entirely unbreakable, and which neither you nor any of your instruments of harm can pass. Jolly good work getting in here, though; shall we call it a draw?"

Ermine Black huffs a laugh, and reaches up to pull away the cloth obscuring their face. Hazmara still, smile slowly flattening to a thin line at the implication: I do not expect to leave you able to make use of this revealed identity.

"I'm afraid," Ermine Black says, smiling, "that you — among others — have fallen prey to a minor roguely misdirection."

Hazmara licks her lip. "Oh?" she says, swirls her goblet and sips from it, as if carefree. Her eyes are very intent on the rogue.

"I am extremely stealthy," says Ermine Black. "But my clients' targets don't, in general, struggle — not because I am so very stealthy that none of them see or hear me approach, that I am so stealthy I evade all their guards and wards and protection. The knives are post-mortem; a distraction."

Hazmara's eyes slide, slow and disbelieving but achingly doubtful, to the goblet.

"Oh," the rogue says lightly, "no. Not that, madam wizard." A casual hand unsheaths a knife from beside one snugly-clad thigh. "You see this?"

"It's a knife," Hazmara says. "I told you, a forcefield—"

"An athame," Ermine Black says, matter-of-factly nicking the pad of one thumb on the blade, and makes a gesture with it.

On the floor, the thin dusty layer of ritual residues around the bed swirls in the air in a circle, where the plane of the floor partitions off the bottommost spherical cap of the forcefield; scraped abruptly into the air as the sphere's diameter abruptly shrinks by a fingerlength.

Hazmara stares, eyes wide, drops her book and cranes over the edge of the bed, goblet slopping alarmingly in her outstretched and disregarded hand, to peer at the material evidence of the arcane tampering.

"What the blazes," she says, half baffled, half fearful.

"The catsuit and the knives give a mistaken impression of what my competencies actually are, I'm afraid," Ermine Black says. "And the calling card misleads people into thinking I lack versatility."

Another gesture and the bedframe squeals, inexorably flexing as the tips of legs and uprights fail to pass through the forcefield from the inside.

"Shiiiiiiiit," Hazmara says, eyes flicking about in awful calculation: leave the forcefield in place, be crushed; drop it, and be forced to magically duel an unknown quantity notorious for never failing an assassination, or simply be outdrawn or overwhelmed and not even manage a duel. "Listen. Listen, listen, no—" and she holds a finger up, lips moving as she silently tries out several phrases.

Ermine Black, poised, politely waits.

"What can I do to make it worth your while to leave me alive?" Hazmara settles on, finally, and Ermine Black gives her a sweet, sunny smile.

"Right question," the assassin congratulates her.