She was not the greatest assassin of all time for much of the world and much of its history had been forgotten and to claim to be the greatest is a fatal mistake, and Bridgett Zeroe did not make fatal mistakes. She was however the greatest assassin in the continent.
Success breeds enemies. The assassin's guild was as old as civilization on the continent. Only assassins of a brutal quality were allowed to join; however, even within the guild a strict hierarchy ruled. The best assassins got the best paying jobs, first pick. Bridgett was the best assassin in the guild. Not by great leaps and bounds like in the stories, where the top assassin can take out lesser assassins in a heartbeat, but she was known to better than the rest. The guild slowly turned against her with the greed that only those living in a shadow can know.
She was the best. She did escape immediate death. But at the cost of a broken arm and several wounds, major and minor but none life-threatening. She fled for the only place she could: the Stormwell.
This was unprecedented. Never before had a group of criminals pursued another criminal into the mountains. Bridgett knew what they did about the mountains. You ran into them, let the pursuit get tired of looking after a couple days, then got out of them and found a nice hearth to sit in until the shivering went away. She'd have to go deeper. She'd have to go so deep that they'd think she was dead.
And so she ran. The wind came from all directions it seemed. Every breath of air was a blade to her lungs. Still she ran. Rain turned to hail as she went farther and farther, yet she was wounded and she couldn't know when her pursuers would drop off and leave her for dead. At times the pounding of her feet created a dull warmth, but other times it was a biting ache. All sense of time vanished. Day and night passed by unnoticed as Stormwall's shaky cloud flashes of light were the only stars in the sky. Finally she crested a mountain and something was different.
The heartland of the Stormwell is a hard place. It is not purple mountains with cute white caps or ancient mossy giants rounded with age. They are iron pillars and pitch-black chasms. The ground is sometimes sharp to the touch. Strange piles of rocks snake around the mountains moving as if alive. And the thunder grumbles at the peak of the mountains that this place wants nothing to do with you.
Bridgett fell deeply in love with it.
These dark flashing mountains do not care if you live or die in them, but she fell for it anyway. She'd never known before that a place could feel so raw and brimming with possibility. Her wounds pulsed, some still opened from her continuous flight, but she couldn't resist.
She fell in love so fiercely that the mountains themselves noticed. They were used to the casual gracious love of people hiding in its skirts, so it cruelly tested her affection by starting a rock slide on the mountain above and behind her. Rocks pelted her, beating against her still broken arm and torn up torso. She had to dive away, rolling and falling as much as running, but her love remained intact.
Unconvinced, the heartland encouraged a tornado to rise out of its depths. The wind tore at Bridgett's clothes, spraying sand and sleet into her wounds and dropping the temperature from double digits to single digits. Her knife grew cold and burnt her hip, and her fingers and face blackened at the edges. But as her body slowly gave up on trembling and submitted to the cold and pain, Bridgett was still enamored.
Then, as the tornado dissipated against the mountain behind her, the still skeptical heartland gathered up some lightning and hurled it in Bridgett's direction. Trees shattered and exploded in the ground, but by this time she was already amid the heartland's steep iron peaks. So the heartland promptly sank out the ground beneath her.
She fell into a long unnaturally straight cavern with a raging river flowing through it but a narrow strip of land running along either side. She couldn't get out the way she went in, but on the other bank she thought she saw light at the edge of a jagged slope.
The heartlands watched as Bridgett started wading through the river. Her mouth was open a bit, and she caught some of the water in her mouth causing her to gag and retch. It tasted like human excrement tied up in decades of rubbish and chemicals. Finally she made it across and found there was indeed enough of an edge on this side to pull herself out of the cavern.
Her eyes were not on her ruined clothes or seeking her knife which had finally decided to abandon her in the river. Instead she watched lightning play across the tops of the near vertical mountains. The light echoed over rectangular notches in the sides of some of the mountains, dancing in every direction. Her cuts stung and she smelled like a poisonous ratbird carcass, but as she took in the view and sucked in big breaths of old iron, she was still besotted.
The heartland, which was not given to sympathy or sentiment, was nonetheless moved, and for the first time in a very long time, it loved someone back.
This account is not entirely an original work. It carries ideas and even some direct quotes from the following masterpiece novels:
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
and many other novels and authors that deeply affected my psych over the years