Authors: Mark Robson
For Cameron and Ella
may you never lose your love of stories.
SIMON AND SCHUSTER
First published in Great Britain in 2007 by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Text copyright © Mark Robson 2007
Cover illustration by Geoff Taylor © Simon & Schuster 2007
Cover title design by
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Mark Robson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-1656-8
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Typeset by Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd,
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REYNIK – Legionnaire of the General’s Elite Legion. Trained by Femke to infiltrate the Guild of Assassins. Bearer of the Wolf Spider
FEMKE – Talented young spy for the Emperor of Shandar. Mistress of disguise.
SHALIDAR – Member of the Guild of Assassins (bearer of the Dragon icon) and long time adversary of Femke.
SURABAR – Ex-military General of the Shandese Legions. Now Emperor of Shandar.
LORD TREMARLE – Powerful ‘old school’ Lord of Shandar.
KALHEEN – Palace servant who accompanied Femke on her mission to Thrandor. Son of Rikala the seamstress.
LORD KEMPTEN – ‘Old school’ Lord of Shandar. Regent of the Shandese Empire in Emperor Surabar’s absence.
LADY KEMPTEN – Gracious Lady wife of Lord Kempten. Affectionately known as Izzie by her husband.
DANNI – House maid to Lord and Lady Kempten.
TOOMAS – An unscrupulous tattle tout.
LORD FERDAND – Master Spy. Mentor of Femke. Missing, presumed dead for two years. Now the Guildmaster of the Guild of Assassins.
SHANTELLA – Member of the Guild of Assassins – Brother Fox The sole female member of the Guild.
OTHER ASSASSINS – Brothers: Firedrake, Scorpion, Bear, Viper and Cougar.
LORD BORCHMAN – Shrewd ‘old school’ Lord of Shandar. Contender for the Mantle of Emperor.
LORD REAVIS – Lord of Shandar. Contender for the Mantle of Emperor.
LORD MARNILLUS – Powerful Lord of Shandar. Leading contender for the Mantle of Emperor.
JABAL – Grand Magician. Member of the Council of Magicians and tutor at the Academy of Magicians in Terilla.
CALVYN – An acolyte magician. Also known as Lord Shanier, scourge of the Legions, due to a recent incident that resulted in the loss of five Imperial
ALTMAN – Butler to Lord Kempten.
DERRIGAN DARKWEAVER – Long dead magician. Creator of the magical icons utilised by the Guild.
COMMANDER LUTALO – Commander of the Elite First Legion. Father of Reynik
DEVARUSSO – Flamboyant leader of a troupe of travelling actors.
SERRIUS – Widely regarded as the deadliest gladiator ever to tread the sands of the arena in Shandrim. Retired after sustaining a serious
NADREK – A top gladiator.
DERRYN AND BARTOK – Street entertainers. Talented knife throwers.
The shadow glided silently across the wall like a giant spider, limbs spread and finding purchase with apparent ease. Given the assassin’s height above the ground, any
watcher would have marvelled at the confidence with which the dark shape moved, but none saw him.
Shalidar was ever aware of the deadly drop, but totally unafraid. He breathed easily, his mind focused and calm as he reached for his next hold. He had always been an exceptional climber. His
lean, athletic frame and strong fingers made the impossible appear natural. Edging confidently across a narrow ledge, he paused at the window high above the ground. It was bolted shut. Momentary
irritation niggled, but did not distract him from his goal. He no longer had current passwords to access the Imperial Palace by conventional entrances, but such a minor problem would not prevent
him from reaching his target.
He moved on. A gust of wind tugged at his cloak and he paused a moment, clinging to the wall like a limpet as he waited for the destabilising force to subside. The wind died to a gentle sigh and
he made another series of moves. The next window was not far. A glance around the frame revealed the drapes to be open. The room inside was dark. Another glance and a warm feeling of success heated
his gut. The window bolt was open.
Lifting the window whilst precariously perched on the narrowest of ledges took extraordinary balance, but there had never been anything ordinary about Shalidar. Without making a sound, he opened
the window and slipped inside, silently closing it behind him.
‘Is this a step too far?’ he wondered as he crossed the room to the door. ‘Will the Guildmaster accept yet another circumstantial excuse?’
Shalidar listened at the door for a moment. All was quiet in the corridor outside. He slipped out and flitted along the passageway on silent feet. His clear mental map of the Palace allowed him
to move without hesitation, but a sudden wave of doubt made him pause in the shadow of a doorway.
The Palace appeared silent and deserted. It was dangerous to stay in any one place for too long, but he needed a few moments to settle his indecision. If he killed Emperor Surabar, the
ex-General would become the second bearer of the Imperial Mantle he had assassinated inside a year. For the first hit he had enjoyed the benefit of the perfect cover, but he had no such protection
this time. If he killed Surabar, concealing his involvement from the Guild would be impossible. The Guild would use truth serum to force information from him if they felt it necessary. The thought
made him shudder.
The Assassins’ Creed forbade a member of the Guild to kill the Emperor. The penalty for doing so was death. Shalidar had twisted the creed on many occasions to suit his need, but he had
stretched his luck to the limit during recent months. The Guildmaster’s patience with him was wearing thin, but the reward was tantalising: legal inheritance to a powerful noble House. If he
were to play his hand well, such a position might ultimately see the Emperor’s Mantle placed on his own shoulders. It hardly seemed possible, but Lord Tremarle was serious. Shalidar was sure
of it. The death of the Lord’s last remaining son, Danar, followed by that of his best friend, Lord Lacedian, had provided a powerful if misguided motive for seeing the Emperor dead. However,
to capitalise on the old man’s misconceived notion of revenge, Shalidar would have to gamble with his own life. Did he dare?
His turbulent thoughts began to calm and his dark eyes glittered with calculating malice. He slid out from the doorway and moved noiselessly forwards into the depths of the Palace. It was late.
The passageways were quiet. Getting close to the Emperor’s study without being seen would not be difficult.
He had come to the Palace to look for Wolf Spider. His reason for being here was legitimate. The Guildmaster had tasked him to kill the young man who had infiltrated the Guild. Wolf
Spider’s links to the Emperor were beyond doubt. The legitimacy of his presence in the depths of the Imperial Palace gave Shalidar further reason to consider making the hit tonight. But how
could he make the hit look accidental? If his target had been anyone other than the Emperor, he would have used Wolf Spider as a smokescreen without hesitation. But the Guildmaster was no fool. It
would not take him long to work out what Shalidar was about.
The assassin moved like a phantom through the Palace, gliding smoothly from one dark recess to the next. There were some sounds of movement from within rooms on either side of the passageways,
but no one disturbed him as he threaded his way into the heart of the Emperor’s domain.