Cohost writing prompt: @spy-thief-assassin-who — Assassin who needs you to know this is very personal

Angie jolts to queasy wakefulness as someone ungently kicks the sole of her boot.

The sun's too low in the morning sky; it can't be more than nine o'clock, which means she's had all too few hours of sleep since rolling out of the door of the dockside tavern and laying herself down to sleep on the weathered boards of the quay. The tropical nights are kind; the way her head feels now isn't.

Her ragged jacket, the once-proud and now-faded emerald of the Imperial Bombadiers, hangs loose around the sleeve that's filled only with enchanted clockworks and push-pull linkages. The Emprex's Shilling is paid only to those entirely made of flesh; the service will bolt on a new arm, should you carelessly mislay yours in a battle, but the Emprex's March against the Tide of Darkness will go on without you.

And so she lays where she was put aside, marinading.

The backlit hangover-silhouette of a person standing over her kicks her foot again.

"What's it to you?" she says, too bleary to be properly cross. "Walk around me. There's enough road."

The figure lets out a deliberate, impatient sigh, and bends over her a little. She squints up, at — oh. The moon-round, unpainted newsprint papier-mâché mask of the Fleetblade Fellowship. An assassin.

She coughs around the sudden alarmed tightness in her throat.

"You can't have any business with a broken-down old soldier," she croaks.

The mask rotates in place, as the assassin's head tilts. The reach for their belt, and begin to draw a sword.

"Hey," Angie says, "hey now oh fuck me," as the blade of the sword draws her full attention. Where any usual steel would catch the light in the form of metallic reflections, this one seems to turn ghostly transparent, fringed with darkness, as it catches the sun. "Is that a — that's one of those swords that cuts you through time, isn't it? Severs you right through the moment in history it struck you, so you spend the rest of your life unravelling through the fourth dimension, having come into existence as a cut end at the very second you're experiencing, always in terrible agonies from it? What the fuck."

The moon-mask nods, some fragment of masthead Gothic blackletter framing one eyeslit, giving it a quizzical cast. The assassin holds the blade steady before them, across their body; with their other hand they produce from a pocket a small crystal bottle, flick out the tiny cork with their thumbnail, and carelessly anoint a line of some wet substance up the line of the blade.

They drop the bottle next to Angie, and she scrabbles for it, squints at it, carefully sniffs near its open mouth. "Tjaraxia?" she squawks. "The incurable poison that makes you feel crushing shame for the rest of your life? Fuck me, you've got the wrong person, I'm a busted Bombadier drinking herself to death on a beach, nobody's paying so much as to roll me into the surf when I'm too drunk not to drown!"

The assassin sighs loudly again, and reaches up to tip the mask onto the top of their head.

"...Beth?" Angie says, in a strangled voice.

"Nobody's paying me to do this to you," Beth says.

"I'm confused," Angie whimpers. "And scared. Surprisingly aroused. What the fuck?"

"You didn't come back to me," Beth says.

"You told me not to," Angie protests. "You said if you insist on marching off in your little green coat, don't ever show your face to me again—"

"No I didn't."

"You did! You threw a glass of champagne at my head!"

"Champagne — was this at Graintaire's? Well then I was drunk! You know I'm dramatic when I'm drunk, angiette—"

"You said if I came back you'd stab me for being a faithless idiot who'd leave you to begin with!" Angie says petulantly. "What, I'm not supposed to believe an assassin when she says she'll kill me?"

"Do you want to be making a case for why I ought to?" Beth arches a cool brow. "Honestly, you have no idea what kind of favour I had to cash in to borrow this sword. And Tjaraxia costs a fortune. I have to stab someone with this."

Angie points. "I owe a bar tab to the landlord of that tavern that's about the weight of my body in coin," she says. "And he beats his children."

"You're the worst, Angie," Beth says, sword angled as if she might still just stab her, so Angie lifts her new, clicking hand a little.

"They blew my arm off," she says, with pained sincerity. "They blew my arm off and the army threw me away and you told me not to come back. What was I supposed to do?"

"Not go in the first stupid place, obviously," Beth says, and steps over her. "You realise this specifically won't kill him, so you'll still have a massive bar tab?"

"Won't be the first thing I walked out on," Angie says.

"You," Beth says over her shoulder, "are the worst."