The assassin wasn't on a job, and she hadn't been for some time. Every now and then, she questioned whether that still made her an assassin and if she could even rightly claim that title these days. Over the regular course of the last few years, she had certainly killed people—multitudes, even—but it had always been in combat, in self-defense. She couldn't even remember the last time she had cut a contract.
On those off days, she questioned further: Did she even have it in her anymore? Could she kill a man or woman for no other reason beyond their names being scrolled across the wrong sheet of parchment?
It took people like their driver, Jacob, to make her revisit those questions with marked intensity.
Jacob, who preferred to be called “Jake,” who made his own liquor once, who departed university early because “those boneheads couldn't teach him nothin',” who could break any horse, who could win any bare-knuckle fight with any chump south of the Portis Freeholds. It couldn't have been more than a half-hour since Acys had gone into the shop, but it felt like flimsy concepts like time broke down around the ramblings of someone like Jake—not Jacob.
“So, I wandered the North for a time, mostly bouncing from job to job between the Freeholds. They always said I could stick around on a permanent basis if I cared to. I was that good at what I did, but I couldn't put down roots like that. Never seemed right. Like I knew I was needed elsewhere, you know?”
“Mmhm,” the assassin said, hearing a pause.
“Got it in my mind to head south, happened to pass through Trevarun before hitting the Red River and met up with a man running some stables near the edge of town and got a job breaking horses. You ever head out that way, go to the Reiser Stables and ask anybody there. I was the finest horse trainer they'd seen in years. Years, I'm telling you. Old Mr. Reiser said I was the best he'd ever employed. Go ahead and ask him.”
“Would-a stayed longer than I had. Stars above, the Reisers practically begged me not to leave, but it was just like before. Got that same damn feeling that I wasn't quite where I needed to be. You ever get that feeling, Jasper?”
“Mmhm.” The assassin, Jasper, unsheathed one of the twin daggers at her hips and used it to scratch the dirt out from under her fingernails. “Shit happens.”
“It's like there's gonna be a place on the road where everything's just gonna work out perfectly, and then I'll be able to put down roots and do so with a smile. I'm sure they want me back in the ring already. There's a guy down in Winterset who would pay me fifty zayl a fight because of the crowds I drew in.” He slapped the door of the coach. “Just taking this job as a driver to help pay my way back down there. Bet he's willing to up my pay just for showing up—”
“Hey, dude...” Jasper sheathed the dagger and opened the door out of the coach. “Listen, I'm gonna stretch my legs and see what the others are up to, all right?”
Jake-not-Jacob looked at her blankly from the driver's seat, twisting the reins as if he hadn't heard. “What was that?”
She sighed. “Me go that way, check on others. I'll be back in a bit.”
“Oh... okay.” He waved at her. “I'll be right here, then.”
“More's the pity.”
“I just saw a kitty.”
Jasper rolled her eyes and walked past the general store. Whatever was keeping Acys, she really didn't want to interrupt. Also, she didn't really care. Instead, she pressed on into the small town of Oliver's Field.