This story is by Shanelle V Prins and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I never thought I would be in this position. Saving the man that was once my mark. Things change. At first, I did it for myself, but slowly I started doing it for a purpose, for something bigger.
Every story has a beginning, here is mine. I was an assassin and a skilful one at that. It paid the bills and kept me fed. Things have always been quite rough for me, but I never wanted people’s pity. I thrived in tough situations. By the time I was 19 years old I was one of the top assassins, having racked up twenty-six successful hits with only three failures. Being the best-meant people paid the highest price. All I did was follow one golden rule. Trust no one. About two years ago I struck gold. A woman came to me, dressed in silk and jewels. I never asked questions but this was a rare exception since it was a rare mark. This woman put a target on the king’s back. “Quite the valuable hit,”
I told her, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little bit intrigued.
She said her reasons were her own and that I would be paid a prince’s inheritance. I stopped asking questions. Money talks.
My mind started working. Running through everything I knew about the king and the best method to use to get the job done. King Dominique was a young king merely twenty-four years old. His parents died when he was a baby and he was groomed for the throne ever since he could walk. He had a reputation for being quite soft-hearted, this played in my favour meaning that he was easy to manipulate. He was unwed, and rumours say he isn’t one for fancy galas or balls. I was building a profile in my mind. “This is going to be too easy.” I thought.
The next week after I finished all my planning I set them in motion. The palace was in need of a handmaiden and I was in need of a way to get close to the king. How fitting. I got what I needed to do the job from the black market you could find anything in Aurdayin if you looked hard enough. I easily found the servants quarters where I stole a uniform hanging on a hook in the hallway. The servant’s rooms were quite cramped. Only a bed and a mirror, I looked at myself in the mirror, I wasn’t the most beautiful woman, but I had some things going for me. My midnight black hair stood in stark contrast to my moon-white skin and my lips were tinted red. One thing that set me apart from the most girls was my light blue eyes. In the dim light, I almost looked like a ghost. I tied my hair in a braid and set off to go complete my mission.
The first few days were difficult, to say the least, but once I got close to the King the rest was history. We got on pretty well.
The first time I really felt a connection with him was one night out in the gardens. I was “sweeping” the pavement in the exact place where he ends of his nightly strolls. I knew his routine off by heart. I “accidentally” bumped into him. He apologised profusely, which was odd since he was the king after all. I bowed my head and looked to the ground making sure to look meek and shy. He sat on the bench and offered me a seat. Then we started talking.
We made this our daily routine. Every night we would meet at that bench and we would talk. About everything. I never knew the weight he carried on his shoulders and how the burden of the death of his parents haunted him. Their looming shadows were big and never had he seemed so small as in that particular moment. I told him of my upbringing, fighting for my life, I obviously left out the assassin part. We confided in each other since we both had no one else. There wasn’t just doom and gloom in our conversations either. He was very corny and as much as it annoyed me it was also quite enduring. I found as the days passed that listening to his jokes.
I got a job as his royal guard when he jokingly challenged me to a sparring match and I bet him easily, he told me I was lucky, and I bet him I could beat his Captain with one hand tied behind my back. Needless to say, I won the bet and got a new job.
At first it seemed like a chore, but actually, I really enjoyed it. I was putting my unique skill set to use. I finally felt like there was more out there than just my old life. I felt like I could be better than I could make something out of myself. It gave me a sense of purpose. For once things were working out for me. I would even go as far as saying I finally had someone I trusted. I wasn’t alone anymore. The more time I spent as a guard the more I saw how people like me were not just hurting ourselves, but we were hurting others. Being an assassin, I never thought of the families I tore apart or the parents I left childless. It was all about the money and thanks to king Dominique I saw a new light. With my knowledge of the underground system and the black market, we easily took the organisations down. Everything was great. A little too great.
After 5 months the lady that wanted the king dead came to me, she wanted to know what was going on and why he was still breathing. I told her I no longer intended to kill the king and that she should use her time and money more productively. She told me she would simply take her business elsewhere, even though the guard took down quite a few assassins some were still able to evade us, and I know they would jump at the chance, I warned her to leave the king alone, but she was gone before I could call the rest of the guards for back up.
I had a choice either try to fend off assassin after assassin or explain to the king what I knew. If I was going to tell him about the price on his head, he would have a question and I had to answer them. I made the decision to tell him the truth, I told him everything, laid myself bare. He was shocked, angry, but what hurt the most was the flash of betrayal in his eyes. I hadn’t known what was at stake back then, now I do, and I would do it all over again if I had the choice. I didn’t beg, I didn’t crawl on the ground and weep. I didn’t tell him that I have changed. I just held up my hands I wasn’t going to fight, I was ready to accept my fate.
Then a miracle happened, the pain in his eyes dissipated, he walked down from his throne and he enveloped me in a hug. I was too shocked to even respond, I just stood there. He whispered, “I love you.” So quietly only I could hear. Those three words hurt more than any torture they could give. I felt a tear run down my cheek. Still, I didn’t return the embrace, I didn’t feel the same. He was like a brother to me and that was it. He saw it in my eyes and he understood.
He ordered the arrest of the woman and she was executed. Then he turned to me and smiled, he thanked me, though I didn’t deserve it. He told me I could keep my job as a royal guard on the condition that I always tell him everything and that I am openly honest with him. I finally have someone who believed in me, he saw every part of me and didn’t shy away instead he held me and he was the reason I could forgive myself. He couldn’t redeem me that was something I did on my own.