Master Scance reached for Thom’s hand for support, nails thick and ridged as sandy oyster shells.
Thom had been his apprentice for six months now, but still those nails repulsed him – the jagged rims, the beds blackened by constant use of the pipe. The old man’s hands were thin, the skin dry and papery. But those nails … Thom wondered what they could cut. And what they couldn’t.
‘Are you listening.’ The Master tugged Thom close, pressed flaking lips to his ear. ‘Repeat the First Lesson.’
Thom swallowed. ‘Darkness is my ally.’
‘And the Second?’
Thom could smell the old man’s tobacco – sweet cherry and tar and burning thatch. ‘Darkness is a weapon.’
‘Good. The Third.’
‘Use my enemy’s strength against him.’
Anyone passing would have heard a gasp, a ripping sound like nails through paper, a rustle of fabric and the soft thud of old bones hitting cobbles.
‘Lesson learned,’ whispered Thom.