Stevens strode down the long hallways to His Grace’s study. He barely noticed the maid who scurried to a doorway to let him pass. Of course, His Grace’s lower servants were always taught that their number one priority was not to be seen or heard. They learned this in the lower reaches of the palace before being allowed to the official places, where His Grace or his guests often walked. To the untrained eye their complete non-presence was nothing short of magic, but Stevens knew better. As the captain of the guards for His Grace the Duke of Waterbough he prided himself in noticing everyone going about the palace. With His Grace being highly unpopular with the people it had turned out to be quite important asset for him. He had already managed to stop several assassinations before they could get anywhere near the duke.
When he finally reached the duke’s study, Stevens’ first task was to check for anyone following or hiding in the corners. He found a small boy lurking in a corner, probably hoping to follow him inside to gain some information. He gave the boy a clip alongside the ear and told him to be on his way.
“Your Grace, things are really getting restless in the city. Can I persuade you to reconsider retiring to the countryside until the rebels are taken care of?”
The Duke puffed out indignantly “Stevens, you know how I feel about that. I will not cower like some child. A show of force is all that is required, no need for such nonsense as leaving the city.”
“I understand that your sister is expecting and due any day now? Perhaps a visit to see the new nephew?”
The Duke muttered something inaudible into his mustache and then said aloud “The Duchess would certainly like that. Very well. We shall leave in the morning.”
“Might I suggest leaving in the evening already?”
The Duke brought his fist crashing down on the table “Damn it Stevens! I’m not skulking out of the city like a damned criminal! This is my city!”
“Very well Your Grace, I shall order the preparations.”
Stevens left the office to make sure arrangements were made so that His Grace could travel in the morning. This time he completely missed the gray figure of the maid huddled in a corner of a doorway. The maid waited until Stevens was out of sight and hearing. Then, very carefully she walked the distance to the Duke’s study. She went in and bobbed at the the door. The Duke grunted, waved a hand and got back to reading the papers spread out on the desk. The maid went silently around the room, wiping dust with a featherd duster and as the sun started to set she lit the lamps and drew curtains on the windows. The Duke didn’t even notice her, when she crept up behind him, closed the drapes and turned around drawing a sharp dagger from the folds of her dress. He took one last gasp as she slit his throat and whispered “Good night, Your Grace” into his ear. The maid left as silently as she had entered.