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Caesar took a deep breath in and then let it out slowly in an attempt to calm his nerves. It failed, however, and he was left to stare at the small cloud his warm breath had formed in the frigid winter air. It was mid-January, and the weather had been relentless and unforgiving the past few days. A thick layer of snow covered the ground, and even as he watched the puff of cloud disappear fresh white flakes began to fall from the sky. After gathering his courage and wits about him and pulling his worn old black cloak tighter around his shoulders, Caesar set off down the cobble-stoned streets.
Snow crunched under his heavy leather boots as he jogged down the streets, bumping into people as he went. People were all bundled-up in layers of clothing, huddled around fires with friends, family, and strangers alike to try and stay warm. Poor beggars trudged about pleading for food, drink, clothing- anything that could be spared. Caesar ignored everyone as he ran, rudely shoving and pushing people out of his way and interrupting conversations. Some called out in anger after him or shouted curses and other vulgar words, but most just shook their heads and continued on with their daily business.
After a few moments of jogging Caesar took a right turn into a narrow alleyway. He slowed but did not stop, proceeding to walk at a hurried pace. The air in the alleyway was tainted with the foul odors of stray animals, unwashed sweaty bodies, terrible breath and death. In the small spaces between the brick buildings of the town (such as the alleyway that Caesar was walking through) was where the poor, sick, needy and wounded gathered. They sat and lied on the cold ground together, sometimes fighting violently over what little food or warmth they somehow acquired. Upon seeing those lying still on the snow-covered ground, slowly being buried by the fresh snow falling, Caesar had to wonder if they were just sleeping or if they were actually dead.
Eventually, the alleyway ended and brought Caesar out to a different street. He began to jog again, enjoying the clean air that filled his lungs and coursed through his veins. The snow still fell from the cloudy white sky above and it whirled and swirled in the air around him, obstructing his vision a bit. He had to blink more often than usual to keep the snowflakes from landing and catching on his eyelashes.
Suddenly, Caesar stopped in front of a small little shop. The wooden sign above the door read, “SHOEMAKER”, but Caesar wasn’t here to purchase footwear. Rumor had it that the shoemaker owning the shop, Bard Tucker, was hiring for a different job, a darker job, a powerful job- and Caesar desperately wanted in on the action.
In one swift movement Caesar puffed out his chest, stood up straight and tall, and strolled into the shop.
There was a man standing behind the wooden counter who Caesar assumed was the owner. He had a little brown, neat triangle-shaped beard under his thin lips, which were set into a grimace. He was heavy-set with broad shoulders, and was wearing brown pants and a maroon shirt with a long off-white stained apron over everything. His brown hair was pulled back and tied into a low ponytail. He was writing something on thick parchment using a pointy quill dipped in ink. His gray-blue eyes never looked up from his work as Caesar entered the shop.
Caesar slowly walked up to the counter. He stood there for a few moments, waiting for the man to acknowledge him, but he never did. Finally, Caesar said, “you must be Bard Tucker.”
“Yes, that is me,” the man said in a low voice, finally looking up to meet Caesar’s eyes. “And you are?”
“My name is Caesar,” Caesar announced. Then, he leaned closer to the man behind the counter and began to speak in a soft whisper, even though there was no one else in the shop. “And I would like to become an assassin.”
At hearing this, Bard smirked a mischievous grin. An evil, knowing, cunning twinkle was in his eye.
“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” he said. “Come,” he added, gesturing Caesar to follow him.
With a triumphant smile, Caesar followed Bard as he unlocked a door behind the counter and entered the dark room beyond.