A catch up post from March
This week’s Third Thursday short is based on the prompt “Why does the royal family have no personal guard?” I cheated a little and had the prince have a castle guard, but I hope you like it!
Trigger warning: discussion of suicide. Take care of yourselves!
Assassinating the Prince
For a greedy, spoiled, vicious despot, he was surprisingly pleasant looking. Not that I believed that anymore. His high forehead had that slight wrinkle that betrayed his fear. He hid his hands better, tucked behind his back. I’m sure it looked very princely.
From my vantage point in the eaves, I couldn’t hear the prince, but the captain didn’t like it. The captain’s posture stiffened the more the prince spoke, and the prince’s face hardened into stone. He sliced through the air with his hand, cutting off whatever the captain was saying. With the bare minimum of bows, the captain stalked from the room. The prince began to pace.
Over the weeks I had been studying him, I knew that gate, those quick glances to the doors and window. He was waiting for someone. I needed to be swift if I was going to escape clean. I scrambled down one of the elegant carved columns.
“You know, I don’t think whoever you are waiting for is coming, your highness.” I said, dropping lightly to the floor. I like using my victim’s proper titles. It gives such a sinister touch.
“Donald! Finally!” He spun to face me, and was that relief lighting his face? “Hurry, we don’t have much time.”
He grabbed my arm and dragged me over to the dais. I stumbled after him. We ascended two of the three steps before I even thought to draw my knife.
“Your highness, I don’t think you realize what’s going on.”
He turned a round, innocent face up to me. “You’re going to assassinate me. Come on, I sent the guard looking for you, but I don’t think Captain Lance believed me.”
I jerked my arm out of his grip. “What.”
“You don’t think you should do it while I’m on the throne? I don’t think I like the image of me anywhere else, really. I wouldn’t want my sisters to think that I ran.”
“I say I’m going to kill you, and you’re talking about staging?”
“Who do you think hired you? And you really can call me Andy. I don’t know how many times I’ve told you. I must say, you are rather good. It took me nearly a month to figure out which of the new guard you were.”
I sheathed my knife.
The prince, no, Andy’s, eyes narrowed. “Not that I want to tell you your business, but don’t you, kinda, need the knife?”
He was insane. “You are insane.”
We stood facing each other. Prince Andy had made it a step higher on the dais, so we were of a height. His face, for all his brave words, showed every ounce of his fear, gray and lined.
He grinned, a painted death mask. “Insane enough to kill?”
I raised a hand to rub at my temple. “Alright. I took the job because it looked good. Royal family with no personal guard, horrible reputation. But it pays to do my own research.”
Andy flinched. Bright red bloomed over his forehead and down his neck. Not a great combination with his wild red hair.
“I’ve been your guard for a month. The only time you don’t like ruling is when anyone brings up the coronation. I don’t know how you got your sisters to take credit for everything, but you aren’t as evil as the stories spread abroad.”
“Hey, I worked hard on that reputation!”
I took a step away. “Exactly my point.”
“No, the point is your knife between my ribs. Get on with the stabbing portion.”
“I will not until you have answered my question.”
“Or you can slit my wrists if you think that will be less painful. I’m all for less painful. But I must insist that you allow me to sit on the throne before you, um, perform your work. The curse demands it.”
I scoffed. “Curse? You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“I have little else but proof. Grandmother reigned for close to seventy years. No wars, no drought, not even a harsh trade agreement. Now we’ve had just three years with my father, and the kingdom rose up to kill him.”
“Coincidence. This is a scientific age. Correlation doesn’t mean causation.”
The prince gave me an awed look.
I crossed my arms over my chest. “What? Assassins can’t study? Some of the things coming out of Italy are fascinating.”
Interest lit up in his eyes, turning them a softer, lighter blue. He opened his mouth, than shut it again, eyes going back dark and hard. “I don’t need proof from the past. I can feel the curse tugging at me every time we talk of the coronation.”
My own stomach sank with the look on his face. It didn’t matter what was true, if he believed it. “Look. Say I believe you. I stab you in the heart and walk away. Who wins?”
“No, you have to make it look like suicide.”
That was specific. “Do you have the words of this supposed curse?”
“It pretty simple, really. ‘If man were to rule, woe the land. A prince’s life must be claimed by his own hand.’ It’s just,” he shrugged, “I don’t have the courage for suicide.”
I sat on the steps, thinking it over. “You can’t just hand over the throne to your sister.”
Andy slumped into the throne. “Great-great uncle tried that. His sister’s reign was disastrous until he hung himself. Great-uncle saved us all the trouble with a hunting accident. Couldn’t be proven, but given Grandmother’s reign…”
I nodded. “But the ‘his’ is a little ambiguous. And you’re really good at planning. Baby face like that, you’d be good at sneaking into places, too.”
“You’re suggesting,” Andy said, brow furrowed. “Wait, what are you suggesting?”
I stood and gripped his hand. “I like you, and you’ve got good instincts. If I’ll put a claim on you, how would you like learning to be an assassin?”