The Assassin's Crowning Achievement
 When I was in the process of publishing my first book, Dragon's Fire, a friend of mine turned me onto writing short stories. It seemed like a great way to give new readers a way to sample some of my work.  This is one of those very first pieces, written somewhere around December 2014.

    Her flowing white gown sparkled in the light of the late afternoon sun, as it swept over the marble floor. The fanciful fabrics of her dress screamed high fashion, quite appropriate for the royal palace. The loosely fitting attire was not what Narovians would imagine when thinking of an assassin. Puffy, oversized sleeves were all too convenient, allowing her to keep her dagger concealed against her left arm. She was elegant, she was dazzling, and she was armed.
    Her mind was far from fashion though. As she carried the wooden bowl full of fresh berries and melons, her mind raced. Her stomach tied itself in knots as she thought about their king. 
    You are a sickness, a disease, a plague upon our people.
    And she contemplated the future without him as she made her way through the palace.
    With one stroke of my blade, Narovia’s future will change, and with it the promise of a very different life for all. I am the instrument of change. I am the spark. Today, the king dies.
    She hated what her country had become. When he took up the crown, everything changed. Every part of him was an offense to her. He had diverged from the path of the kings and queens before him, forsaking everything they stood for. Laws were overturned, military efforts were redirected, the coffers ran low, and even the way he treated the subjects was out of line, especially those of the lower castes. The king set himself apart from the famous rulers of Narovia’s past, and it was time for his reign to end.
    She was ready for his rule to end, and she was not alone. The priesthood of the old way, the Airos, knew that the king threatened their way of life. He didn’t trust them, he viewed them as a cult. He questioned motives, ridiculed priests, and mocked their ways all of which undermined their authority. After reducing the power and influence of the priesthood, he held sole control of the government that ruled the people. 
    What arrogance!
    She walked silently, her head held high, as she seethed. She hoped they could fix the mess left behind. He didn’t think like them, he had — dangerous ideas. He needed to be removed. In his absence the laws could be restored, the priesthood could be allowed to continue their sacred duties, the treasury would rebound, and the military could be restructured ultimately allowing Narovia to reestablish her status among the nations. The once proud nation would be respected and all would be right within the world once more. This seat of power would be returned to its former glory. The throne would no longer be a symbol of disgust, embarrassment, and weakness. Instead, all the nations would look upon the new leader of Narovia like they once did, when the great kings and queens of the past ruled.
    Her anticipation urged her forward, her anxiety told her to move faster. She restrained herself though, and instead of charging forward she glided with the simple grace expected of a lady in the king’s court. As she approached the culmination of her destiny, her purpose, she was strangely calm and focused. She had trained for this moment for years, and controlling her emotions was part of it. Her inner workings mirrored the surface of the still waters in the royal garden. Her normal countenance was harder than the stone upon which she walked. That meant that today couldn’t be any different, so she remained focused so as to not reveal anything. 
    Quietly she continued her journey through the king’s halls, only giving the slightest nods to passersby. No words escaped her mouth. It was a dangerous task, but her deeds would long be remembered. In both tale and dirge they will tell of the day that the king’s reign was cut short by her blade. She shifted her focus from the rage-filled memories, to the mission at hand.
    Holding the bowl of fruit in one arm, she hiked the bottom of her gown up enough to climb the stone steps before her. She motioned for the guards to open the double oak doors. It didn’t matter though, they had already hurried to open the doors when they saw her. Without a second glance, she passed through into a long and narrow courtyard framed with white pillars of marble. The walkway stretched around it on both sides, leaving the middle open for grass and a lovely variety of flowers and fruit trees huddled around a small pond. The open air courtyard was beautiful.
    She loved the king’s garden, but it was far from her mind today. She turned and followed the hall around to the right until she found another set of guards and another wooden door. The guards saw the fruit bowl in her arms, and without hesitation, they opened the door for her. The king’s outer chambers sprawled out before her. 
    The discordant mixture of armed guards and plush furniture in the next room had always amused her for some odd reason. Most assassins would be nervous at the sight of the armed guards, but she wasn’t. She knew the men. She had overheard some of their conversations before. They were naughty boys, or at least they talked like they were. They all fantasized about her, and she did nothing to dissuade them. Most women would be disgusted at the things they said, but she wasn’t most women. She understood those desires were their weakness and it gave her power. They were no threat.
    The guards closed the door behind her, shutting her inside the king’s quarters. There he stood, staring out over the countryside from his private balcony. She did not flinch. The assassin dashed across the room toward him, just as she had done a thousand times before in her mind. The wooden bowl fell to the floor as she pulled the dagger from her sleeve. The startled king turned toward her. The same salted, curly light brown hair that covered his head also framed his smile. His light brown eyes glinted as the sun caught them. 
    She returned his smile as she drove the double-edged dagger deep into his abdomen. Her once white gown quickly began to change color. The king cried out in pain and the guards burst through the doors, but it was too late.
    His smile faded as his face twisted in agony. “When did they bewitch you,” he gasped as he clutched at the wound. 
    “Bewitch me? They serve me — Father,” she laughed as she pulled the bloodied dagger from his stomach.
    As he fell to his knees, the king cried out, “Why?”
    You were always weak, she thought as she stared down at him with contempt.
    “Narovia has — changed. I will restore her to her former glory, and like a phoenix she will rise...” Then she bent down and lifted the crown from the crimson pool that poured from his body.
    “But — Narovia was corrupt and wicked!”
    “Oh, I know Father...,” she placed the dripping crown upon her head, “and she will be again.”

 © All Rights Reserved Tiger Hebert 

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