Just for fun, here is the opening from The Ashes of Home, sequel to Ghosts of Innocence, which will likely be my next project once I've polished and published Tiamat's Nest.
'Hope springs eternal' the ancient saying goes, but hope is a poor foundation to stake your life on. Shayla Carver, master assassin (retired) and first governor of the Freeworld of Eloon, was shielded by more security than any normal paranoid could hope for.
Any normal paranoid would have died years ago.
Shayla did not believe in hope. The official security measures were there to keep out the bounty hunters and the merely competent. The serious threats she relied on her own senses and training to deal with.
Her airways had clamped shut instinctively at the first salt-sweet taste on her tongue. Years of assassin training identified the airborne drug immediately. Peritax. A small dose would render her senseless in seconds.
Ambushed! In my own fucking bedchamber! Shayla pushed aside the annoyance. Questions of who and how could wait. All that mattered now was survival.
Time slowed as Shayla's mind went into overdrive. Long seconds marked by the thump of her heartbeat in her ears. She knew she had only moments to assess her situation and deal with it.
Peritax was not a poison, it would just leave her helpless. And it dispersed and broke down quickly, which meant there had to be someone nearby to release it and to finish the job. Whatever that might be.
Shayla's eyes scanned the bedchamber while she stumbled forwards a couple of steps, feigning the effects of the drug.
Two figures stood to one side in servants' robes. Barras and Gingallia? No! These could not be her servants. They were still standing for one thing. Any innocent party in this room would be comatose by now. And these two moved with stealth and menacing purpose. One behind Shayla, cutting off her escape, and one between her and the doors leading out to the balcony to her right. The only other way out of her suite.
Shayla's lungs screamed for release. To draw a breath. A breath would mean death. Hah! I'm a poet! The irrational thought flitted through her mind on butterfly wings of madness. Focus! Shayla realised that she was losing her fight against the drug just from that small taste.
Her hand crept towards the hilt of the knife under her robes. She stilled it and instead stumbled another step towards the bed. I can't fight these two. If the drug didn't take her, anoxia would.
The figures closed in.
Shayla let herself flop towards the bed, buying herself a few precious moments. As she pitched forwards her legs folded under her, then she launched herself across the bed. She rolled, outstretched hand reaching for a concealed button under the edge of the headboard. As she rolled, she glimpsed a face in the shadows of a hood. It looked like Barras, but Shayla noted nose plugs, a tiny breathing unit clamped between thin stretched lips, and eyes filled with hate.
A razor line of blue fire bisected the space she'd just vacated. A rapier shimmerblade!
Her groping fingers found the hidden button as she completed the roll. The bed collapsed behind Shayla, halved effortlessly by the shimmerblade. Tall windows ahead of her flew open and she continued her motion, hurdling the waist-high sill out into a hundred foot drop.
Gravity took Shayla as she forced the last dregs of tainted air from her mouth and drew in a deep, clean draught from the night rushing past her face. A second later, her feet connected with the broad eaves overhanging her bedroom windows. She hung upside down in the grip of an artificial grav field and drew her own blade, watching the lit window for signs of movement.
Every bedchamber should have its secret emergency exits.
Shayla hoped that her disappearance might have confused her attackers. If at least one of them leaned out of the window to see where she'd gone, she'd quickly have one less to deal with.
No such luck.
First one, then the other, appeared through the opening in a tuck roll, too fast and just out of Shayla's reach. Damn, they're good! They must have figured out what had happened. But she'd really expected no less. Only the very best assassins ever got this close.
They both landed in front of Shayla, back to back, in fighting crouches. The nearer one saw Shayla and signalled to his companion, who also turned to face her.
The first one, the Barras lookalike (traitor or impostor?) swung his rapier. Shayla's own blade flashed blue and met it with a jarring wrench.
A shimmerblade was a rare and fearsome weapon, highly prized by undercover agents as a weapon of stealth. When activated, the vibrating crystalline edge could shear through anything less than military grade vehicle armour -- or another shimmerblade. But when two such blades met in hand-to-hand combat, the results were random and potentially catastrophic for one or both combatants.
Shayla's knife hand went numb. She barely managed to keep her grip on the hilt as she stumbled back against the wall towering over her head to meet the ground hanging impossibly above.
But at least she had been prepared. She'd activated her shimmerblade at the last moment and knew what to expect.
Her opponent staggered back in the other direction. One foot found the edge of the eaves, and he stepped, without thinking, to keep his balance. But he was now half out of the edge of the grav field, and conflicting forces led his reflexes astray. He lost his balance. The planet's natural gravity reclaimed him and he fell, shrieking, into the night.
The remaining assassin reached into her robes. Her hood had slipped, revealing a good likeness of Gingallia, one of Shayla's senior personal servants. It also revealed eyes filled with fear and shock at her companion's sudden demise. This looked like the junior of the two, but she was still a force to be treated with respect.