The Assassin and the Princess (Peregrine x DotCom)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Peregrine, Mar 1, 2016.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Vignette 1:

    After a group of assassins sneaks into the palace, targeting Princess Violet, Cideth is assigned to watch over her until such a time as the last rogue members can be caught. During that time, despite nearly getting killed, Violet's dreams are happy and peaceful. After the cell is destroyed, Cideth is sent away to deal with the king of a border principality, who has begun to negotiate with a neighboring country, and allowed entry to their troops. As soon as Cideth leaves, Violet's bad dreams begin.
  2. The shame came first.

    Well, no. Perhaps that wasn't entirely true, but if anyone asked -- and she would have to make sure no one did, that no one even had reason to suspect -- but just in case, if anyone asked, she would tell them the shame had been first.

    Really, it was the fear. It was the trembling, cold-all-over shakiness that had followed her for long hours the time she'd fallen off Sliabh and straight into the river. The kind that made her skin prickle and her every hair stand on end. The kind that seemed to start in her chest somewhere and burrow down into her belly, all teeth and claws and biting cold. And somehow still the kind that coated her skin in sweat that felt thick and sticky as toffee, pasting her bed sheets to her skin.

    Well, anyway. So long as she hadn't screamed.

    She lay there in the dark for a moment, feeling her heart thudding against the inside of her ribcage. She couldn't hear anything outside the sound of her own rapid breathing, but she didn't dare move. Just in case. She knew they'd caught the last of the men who'd been sent after her, if only because she'd grinned so boastfully at Sarah over her supper when they'd found the last of the men had actually been a woman not too much older than Violet herself.

    And where had that cockiness gone now? She could almost hear her old wet nurse singing the words, though it was more soothing than she would have guessed. Vi was no stranger to bumps and bruises and all manner of things her mother had called the result of moving every which way before her mind had time to catch up. And she'd heard the stories her elder brothers always brought back from their travels. Her name carried with it more than a few years under a crown. She knew that.

    And yet to have woken with cold steel tucked beneath her chin, unable to move and unable to breathe, and, for once, unable to simply laugh it had been...unnerving, to say the very least.

    Perhaps moreso than she was willing to admit.

    With a yawn, she sat up and raked her hand through black curls before groping through the darkness for a sip of water, trying to ignore the way her hand was shaking. At least there was no one here to see her all undone by a nightmare, even a potentially deserved one. The man they'd put outside her door was gone now with the threat, probably half a kingdom away with his own hands drenched in blood, or whatever sort of dark things he did no one wanted to tell her about.

    She glanced out her open door, down a corridor that disappeared into perfect, unbroken darkness. With a shiver, she yawned again and rolled over. No doubt mother had planned another of those torturous council meetings well before the crack of dawn, or at least before the sun had hit its peak, and it was all the same to Vi.
  3. Inside the first sack was another, and another sack after that, and inside that third sack was a carefully wrapped bundle, about the size of one of the balls that children would kick down the street. He carried it calmly in one hand, his face a mask of professionalism. No one looking at him would be able to guess what the contents of that bag were just from the sight of it.

    But the fact that it was paired with him, Cideth, all dark hair and dark eyes and dark clothes and dark weapons, the man everyone knew but no one spoke about, would have made it ominous even if there had been nothing more troubling in there but groceries. Of course, it wasn't groceries, and the people who ducked out of his way as he walked past, eyes wide and hands shaking slightly in fear, would have been right to be concerned. After all, that lump within the third bag was now brown with dried blood, after several day's travel across the kingdom. Brennan had wanted to send a message, and Cideth had gone to deliver it. There would be thirty bodies that none in this kingdom would mourn, and one for whom there would end up being a week of silence within the city. The message had been sent.

    In the back room of the palace, through a servant's passage no one ever used and a door that could only be opened from the inside by a blind man who never left, Cideth set the bag down heavily on an old desk, in front of a man who's face seemed to have been mostly swallowed up by wrinkles. No one who looked at him would dare call him harmless. Not when his face was as marred by scars as it was by wrinkles, when one eye was nothing but a mass of scar tissue, and one hand was missing two fingers. The bag lay there on the desk for several moments as Royal Spy Malcom finished reading the paper that was in his hands. Cideth didn't move a muscle, standing silent as a shadow on the other side of the desk until Malcom set down the scroll and reached for the bag.

    He unwrapped the bundle carefully, one bag at a time, before unwinding the bandage that was wrapped around the object at the center of the bag. A strand of blonde hair slipped out, a patch of pale skin, until finally the ruined piece of fabric fell away to the floor and a small head came to rest in his hand. It couldn't belong to a child more than eight or nine, a little boy who had one had bright green eyes and rosy cheeks. The life might be gone from the sunken head now, the tongue bloated, the eyes deflated, but it was still recognizable as the only son of Count Syriak of Vassern.

    Malcom didn't say anything to this confirmation of the mission completed other than "get rid of it." He dropped it callously back into one of the bags, before throwing it at Cideth. The assassin caught it without flinching, and turned to go.
  4. Violet yawned and leaned out over the banister floating above the eastern most part of her family's grounds, watching the nascent sun paint the sky pink. It was, she supposed, a satisfying enough sunrise, though no more splendid than the few she'd seen in the last several days. That said, even she could appreciate the relative quiet of the grounds at dawn. Her mother would have fallen over dead to see her youngest child and only daughter creeping about the palace gardens in bare feet and a dress robe, her black hair unkempt and unbound, falling to her shoulders. But even sleeping chambers as large as hers could begin to feel stifling after so many long, warm nights without sleep. Besides, if she wandered around in the relative chill of morning long enough, it would be that much easier to convince the Queen Regent she wasn't well enough to attend the nameday luncheon for her fifth cousin thrice removed, or some equally banal nonsense.

    It was then she happened to glance down -- or perhaps her eyes were drawn down -- to the grounds below just in time to see Him. She knew, of course, that his name wasn't Him, any more than it was 'Death', like she'd (mis)heard when she'd been younger. But to see everyone from the palace staff to her mother, and even her brothers, when they'd been around more regularly, treat him like the devil himself, equal parts terror and respect...well, it was hard not to stick the poor man with the nickname.

    Vi herself had always felt faintly sorry for him, wondering if he preferred the way everyone paled and disappeared in front of him as he drifted across the grounds, still and silent as the night itself. Those thoughts had more or less fled in the face of disinterested curiosity as she'd grown older and her mother had grown less tolerant with her constant questions about the man.

    And yet...she couldn't help but notice the nightmares about the assassination attempt had only come once he was gone. Foolish, of course. He had gone, and the threat with him. But then when had nightmares been the stuff of logic?

    Vi tutted to herself turning over her shoulder as it to check whether she was truly alone, though she knew full well that if her mother wanted to stop her, nothing so infirm as her lack of presence would get in her way.There were only so many hours for mischief in the day, and the best seemed to be those when Catherine was sleeping.

    With a shrug, Vi peered once more down the long corridor before creeping quietly down the steps to the garden, doing her best not to stumble over her dressing gown as she did. Mischief, she'd found, was just as easily waylaid by gracelessnes. Unfortunately.
  5. Cideth had set up spot in the back of the gardens that was his, and his alone. Of course, all the guards knew of its existence, and everyone in the palace had seen it, even if it was just catching a faint glimpse, at least once before. That didn't make it any less his, though, because no one ever intruded upon the space.

    As soon as word had begun to spread that Cideth spent several hours there, practicing with deadly sharp weaponry, people began to give it a wide berth. As he had found himself being less frequently disturbed by alarmed people who were surprised to happen upon him, Cideth had spent more time there. Thus the rumors had grown. Now the space had transformed from a clearing between several towering trees into a training area any Olympian would have admired.

    He had used the branches of the trees to set up a veritable jungle gym, the kind of high ropes course only someone who had been training to perform such tasks his entire life could safely complete. On the ground was a series of targets, each attached to the trunk of one of the four trees. Several stone blocks stood off to the side, flat on the top with just enough room for the ball of a foot. A large swinging wooden dummy was attached to a rope strung between two trees. The center, however, was left completely clear, and a smooth groove had been worn into the ground from the restless motion of his feet over the years.

    That was how he always started the morning, with slow powerful movements designed to awaken and strengthen his body, before he got into the more intense work. He followed forms, drummed into his mind after years and years of repeated practice, where a single misstep meant an injury that could last for several days, but transitioned between them fluidly, naturally. To someone unfamiliar with killing arts, it might have looked like some exotic dance.

    He heard the footsteps as soon as they entered into the edges of the garden, and unconsciously tracked their quiet patter even as he did not falter in his form. He still did not falter when they began to make in his direction, although perhaps a trace of fluidity left his motions. If those little footsteps continued on their current path, they'd end up running right into him.
  6. It was easy enough to guess where he'd gone. He'd been around for as long as she could remember, and those few night before he'd gone had been as much contact as she could ever recall them having. But a man like that didn't become living legend for no reason. She'd only ever gotten whispers, and even then, never directly, as everyone insisted the many stories they'd heard about him were "nothing for a princess to take an interest in" anyway.

    This, of course, only fed her curiosity, though she'd never had the interest nor the opportunity to make her own explorations before. Even so, he was a member of her father's staff, and a feared one at that. Following him directly into the place she'd once her Sarah call "the devil's lair" was grounds for a severe scolding if nothing else, and she liked to think of herself as having a greater respect for a person's privacy than that.

    But she was tired, and restless, and curious, and she only just wanted to see. She wouldn't stay, or anything, wouldn't dream of intruding if he didn't want her there. She'd only thank him for holding vigil outside her room those otherwise interminable nights. She'd certainly been sleeping better with him there than without. And her sudden desire to thank him had next to nothing to with the fact that she was suddenly very curious about the rumors she'd heard of his particular methods of torture.

    Torture was, after all, nothing for a princess to take an interest in.

    She peered around trees standing sentinel to see him performing, perhaps, a strange and fluid ritual, rather like the calisthenics the old groundskeeper had once taught her when she'd been unable to sleep as a young girl. She, of course, had never had the patience, nor the balance, to make them look anywhere near so effortless -- or daunting -- as he looked just now.

    She stood and watched for a moment, captivated by the beauty...and by the cold feeling of danger lurking just beneath.
  7. The little footsteps grew closer, and were soon enough joined by breaths, short and quick. Fearful. No, not fearful, excited. Some child, approaching on a dare, perhaps? Trying to prove to a group of friends, or maybe to earn a kiss from one of the kitchen lasses. Cideth had been the butt of such jokes before, but mostly just ignored them unless they did something to get in his way. The few times a child had tried to steal one of his knives, though, his response had been quick and brutal, although not to the point of being debilitating. The kids only needed a few such examples before deciding to generally keep out of his way.

    It was only as the footsteps got towards the ring of trees that Cideth caught a glimpse of a fine silk nightgown, and a head of wavy, black hair. Not some stableboy or maid-in-training, then, but a princess. He would have thought that she would have had all the more reason to stay away from him, as carefully as her mother and nannies had worked to shelter her from his existence, when they didn't need him for guard duty. He'd certainly been a figure to terrify her dreams at one point, when someone had told her horror stories about him in an attempt to mitigate her natural, childish curiosity. Apparently such stories had faded from her adolescent memory.

    He didn't have any particular desire to have a royal onlooker, but he didn't do anything to chase her away, either. If word got back to Malcom or Brennan that he'd done anything to upset the only princess in the royal family his punishment would be delivered swiftly, and it would not be merciful. Instead, he continued working on his forms, picking out ten or twenty at random from the hundreds he knew and stringing them together in artful, fluid patterns.

    Twisting to the side, arm moving like a viper, to divert an imaginary punch coming in towards his chest. Using the momentum of the twist he rolled forward, sending his hand flicking out. A whip across the eyes with stiff fingers, followed by a blow to the temple with the back of the very same hand. Bringing the other hand forward, fingers twisted, to hook into imaginary eye sockets. Twisting backwards, the heel of the other hand flashing forward to strike against the forehead, jerking the imaginary head back even as his other hand, still hooked, pulled away. The person would have been long since dead, but Cideth continued onward anyways, transitioning forward to catch the arms and loop around the shoulder, wrenching the arm out of its socket.

    Every move was slow and precise and perfect, but performed with the same strength and intensity he would have used if aiming to kill. Once this kind of work had exhausted him, back when he had been younger even than the princess onlooker. Now, however, his muscles might as well have been made of solid steel, so little did they react to the draining exercise. He never skipped a day, as long as he had even a few moments to himself. These forms had not been the only thing hammered into him until it happened seemingly by instinct.

    Once he had gone through about twenty minutes to a half hour of the tensioned versions, he would start speeding up, moving at normal speed for most of the guards, before blurring beyond that to the kind of intensity only masters of the art could mirror. He somehow doubted his silent observer would stay silent that long. Hopefully she would be found, or leave.
  8. She watched in silence for several minutes while half a hundred thoughts floated through her head. This was normal for her. Unless one shone with an intensity just shy of blinding, or at the very least made itself more notable than, say, a winged creature that ought not to have wings (or vice versa), she never found it worth it to chase that particular rabbit. She half listened as she watched, wondering how long it had taken him to learn such things, as it was clear, even to her, that while this may have been improvised, it was far from unpracticed. Wondering whether he had hurt himself while he had been learning, or if he had known everything from birth. The latter seemed unlikely, and yet not impossible if she were going only by what the stable hands had told her. She was old enough by now to know better, and yet those were precisely the sort of ideas that had floated through her mind to snag and catch and grow with every passing moment.

    She had never seen him kill before, though she'd given it much thought, even without the morbid lingerings of old nightmares in her mind. Her dreams were general drier, cleaner now -- or they usually were, the last several nights having been something of an exception -- but she could easily see how he might go about it now. She wondered if he were so deliberate in the moment, whether he killed slowly enough that his victims would know their death was coming long before it ever reached them. She tried to imagine what that would be like, the slow and inevitable promise of death coiled round you like a mother's love, only colder, sinister, unrelenting.

    It was only then Vi realized she was staring, had been for several moments. She couldn't believe he didn't know she was there, but neither had he acknowledged her. It would have been easiest to assume that meant he didn't particularly mind her watching, but that seemed just as unlikely. After a moment, she cleared her throat as politely as she could manage. It came out more of a not-so-subtle hacking.

    "Good morning," she said brightly, then, with no attempt at all to mask her curiosity, "What are you doing?"
  9. He should have known better than to believe that his staying silent and ignoring the princess would have caused her to go away. It had been a foolish fancy, and one he never should have indulged in the first place. Even before she cleared her throat to capture his attention, as though he wasn't already paying attention to her, he knew she was about to speak. He felt her shifting forward, heard her intake of breath. He would have rolled his eyes if such obvious forms of expression hadn't been trained out of him.

    But now that she had spoken, he was obliged to respond. He was beholden to King Brennan, and was therefore equally beholden to all of his family. The princes might mostly be scattered across the country, aiding their father in the political machinations that kept this piecemeal country from falling apart, but when they were home he could no more ignore orders from them than he could from Brennan himself. Or, rather, Malcom. The King rarely ever dealt with him directly, as though he didn't like seeing the result of his desire to have the perfect soldier.

    Even if the princess had staged it like a question, it wasn't really. It was a demand, an order for attention, and he would oblige. He had no choice.

    His movements came to a halt, before he slowly straightened from the crouched position he had occupied, all fluid, lethal grace. He straightened to face her and bowed from the waist. Somehow, the motion seemed more like a continuation of the forms he had been practicing than an expression of respect. It might have had something to do with the fact that he moved with the same deliberate intensity. When he straightened from the bow, he spoke. "I am training, Princess Violet."
  10. "I see."

    She grimaced at the title but made no further remark. She had seen well enough the effects of that particular rebuttal all too man times before. She would insist on being called Vi, or at the very least, ignoring the 'Princess' bit, and the person would oblige, often, as it turned out, because they felt they had to, and not simply because she had charmed them into eloquent submission. It also turned out that other person, a maid, or cook, or stable hand, was almost always right, because the first time one of her ladies-in-waiting, or her father's steward, or, God forbid, her mother over heard what she always called 'such familiarness', the unfortunate third party was thoroughly upbraided. Which Vi then felt awful about, and then tried to fix...which almost always backfired.

    She'd long since given up correcting people on the appropriate usage of her name and title. Mostly.

    For the moment, she waited patiently, or as patiently as she could for her father's man to elaborate on what precisely he was training for, but when it became clear he was not going to give her anymore than exactly what she asked for she stepped forward, hands clasped behind her back.

    "Training for what?" she asked, then, glancing over her shoulder to squint into the for-now-empty courtyard, added, "Is that how you found the people who...the ones hiding in the palace?"
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.