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Illum took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He would only have one shot at this, and if he failed, the whole city would be down on his head. If he failed, his daughter would see his head roll off the block. He could not let that happen, so he took another deep breath, and tried to steady his shaking hands.

He'd done this a few dozen times, but his hands shook every single time. Every single time, his heart would pound inside him.

He had found an abandoned parapet to mount his gun, up atop the north-west wall. He was obstructed from guard view by two bastions rising tall on either side of him. This was the perfect spot to make the kill.

He took another deep breath and steadied his rifle. Anxiety coiled like a serpent inside him. He could see his target in the courtyard, standing on a stone dais, addressing his guests. This was the perfect time to make the kill.

He inhaled and slowly pulled back the bolt, loaded the gun, and readied his aim. He breathed deep, and slowly, ever so slowly, he pulled the trigger. He was across the courtyard. The crowd was cheering. The target didn't hear a thing as he dropped dead.

But the target didn't drop dead. He was turning, walking away. The bullet had shot uselessly into the ground, the paved brick beside the stone dais. Useless. Pointless. Illum had been waiting for nothing. At least his daughter wouldn't watch his head roll.

A curse graced his lips as he hastily packed away. Bullets were damnably expensive, and the target needed to die. The timing was perfect. If only he hadn't hesitated. If only he had shot him down mid-address, instead of waiting for the climax. What was he thinking? There were times in which the crowd had cheered before his finishing, any one of those times would have provided the noise cover he needed to make the shot.

He picked up his bag, and spun around on his heels, only to see one of the city watchmen coming his way. Yellow surcoat, one of the Sergient's retinue. The parapet wasn't as abandoned as he thought it was.

"Sir, may I ask what you're doing here?"

"Yes, sir -- erm, ma'am. I wanted a good view of the coronation. I thought the walls would be better than having to, erm... you know, the big crowd?"

"Right, then. Go your way."

Illum was turning to leave, and just as he passed the guard, he heard her speak.

"What's in the bag?"

He spun around quickly on his heels, the guard put her hand on the hilt of her sword. Neither of them moved an inch. They both knew one of them would die.

Illum reached for his waist. The guard pulled out her sword and swung at him. He jumped to the side and pulled out his revolver, firing one shot into her neck and three more into her torso. She knew she was dead, but she swung at him once more. She tried to scream, but it came out as a gurgle. He flung himself backward, lost balance, fell on his back, and shot her in the face. Brains and gore came flying out the back end of her head. As she fell limp, he emptied the revolver into her corpse. The whole city would have to be aware of his presence by now. His only concern now was to keep the city from coming down on his head. He had failed his client and wasted seven expensive bullets with no compensation to counter the waste.

He started to run. The only way off the walls was right past the main city gate, which was right next to the city watch barracks - which would mean more blood. He could not afford to expend any more bullets, not without his pay.

He lept from the walls. He had learned as a youth how to fall, keeping his limbs loose, letting them absorb the shock. He hit the ground less gracefully than he'd have liked, with the baggage and all, and immediately began to strip off his bloody cloak, replacing it with a clean one from his pack. He proceeded to walk right past the unwary guard at the front gate.

Later that evening, there was a hard knock on his door. He opened it, still in his civilian clothes, to find a half dozen serjiens at the door, alongside the High Serjient himself.

His daughter would watch his head roll off the block. There was nothing more he could do.