It wasn’t the waiting that she hated, as much as the silence. Standing in this deserted clearing, back against a tree, the bark digging into her skin through her clothes, she longed for a sound, any sound. Her hand gripped the handle of her sword, still sheathed at her hip, and the weight of her various other concealed weapons was a comfort. A bead of sweat rolled down her upper lip, but she didn’t dare move. The silence was unbearable, almost a physical weight on her, and then…
There it was, the signal, and she tensed, coiled like a spring, and then out of the corner of her eye she saw a movement, and she leapt into action.
She had sliced through the first man’s neck before he knew she was there, his head flying in an arc through the air, and she killed two more before they had time to make any move for their weapons, her sword making a sickening squelch in their flesh before they fell lifeless to the ground. She easily floored one more, whose fumbling fingers had barely found her sword and hadn’t even been able to unsheathe it in time.
There were three more, she saw, armed and ready and wary, and she smirked and raised her sword.
The largest of the three bared rotten teeth in a perverse smile.
“So, the little kitten thinks she can fight.”
His comrades laughed in mirthless mockery.
“Tell you what, darling, Drop that sword and we might go easy on you.” I did. And as I did, I slid a knife from its sheath and flicked it into the first bastard’s eye. He dropped his sword and staggered back.
With both hands, he ripped the knife from his eye, leaving nothing but a hole in his face like a burst sore.
The brute clearly doesn’t know when to die, I thought. Picking up my sword, I sliced his legs from under him. He lay on the ground, groaning with pain. The night was silent once more as I shoved my sword through his throat. The way was clear. As I began to edge towards the door, its portcullis closed over it like bared teeth.
I smile at the artful way I had disposed of these men. My swordsmanship hadn’t dulled but it could use some sharpening if I’m to stay on top. I step carefully through the hallway, aware of my surroundings, always. Making a mistake will kill you here.
A knife hurtles through the air and sings as it passes my ear. “You always were a lousy shot,” I tease the man standing behind me.
Edgar pulls me into an embrace. His soft lips caress mine.
“Now, now is the time, my love, he whispers with passionate glee. “Your exile has been too long, far too long my love,” he whispers, sliding his hands over my hips. I unfurled myself from his grasp and hushed him.
“To the task at hand,” I uttered defiantly. “Once that old king has breathed his last pathetic breath then we can rejoice.”
“And I will take you as my wife and we can rule together,” Edgar burst, his fevered lips finding mine in a frenzy.
I stepped back, drawing my sword. “Never forget, Edgar, that I am more of an heir to this throne than you are. After all, I am your elder sister…”
We began to dance. Not the dance of lovers, or even brother and sister, but a deadly dance, knives flashing. He pulls my hair, leaves my throat bare and ready for his knife, but I am too quick. His blade meets nothing but air. He slashes at me again, and I dance out of reach.
“Sister, dear- why must we fight?” he gasps. “We are blood are we not? And do I not love you more than anyone, or anything, in this bleak world?”
“You do, dear Edgar, I’m sure that you do. But if ever anything less thick than blood, it would be gold. It is mine, all mine. Share it I cannot. But my love, if you will give it to me, all to me, and take only my loving caresses in return… why then, we shall be so very happy, my dear.”
Edgar’s arm went slack, and he ceased brandishing the knife.
“That is all I ever wanted,” he replied.
“Then come to me, my dearest one.” We embraced, kissing so passionately that all else around us fell away. But then, a knife… a knife sunk in, and one sibling was no more…
She stepped back, shuddering in disgust. “Thank you,” she said, bowing deeply, and a figure stepped into the light, over the dead body, stepping on the corpse without a care.
“My pleasure,” the figure said softly, returning the vow.
“Let’s dispense with these pleasantries, Serena, my dear,” the girl said, smiling. “We have much to do, after all,” and the figure removed their hood, revealing a scarred but still beautiful face, with long dark hair plaited out of the way. She smiled.
“Of course, your Majesty,” Serena said mockingly, and the other girl laughed.
“Not yet,” she said, and they sobered, thinking of the task ahead.
“First, though,” the girl said, “we have to get rid of this scum.” She prodded the body with her foot, and expression of utmost loathing etched onto her tired features. “I want to rinse my mouth out with bleach after that kiss, urgh,” she shuddered again, “but I had to keep him distracted.”
“You saw me coming, then, Ella?” Serena asked, a note of disappointment in her voice.
Ella chuckled, bending down and roughly grabbing one of the body’s limp arms. “Help me with this piece of shit, will you,” she said, and Serena grabbed the other arm. With a grunt, they hauled it upright, the head lolling sickeningly, eyes still open.
Serena grimaced. “I don’t know how you could ever pretend to love him,” she said, as they staggered back to the entrance of the castle, cautious and careful despite the casual conversation. “He was despicable even when he wasn’t dead.”
“Let’s not talk about it,” Ella sighed, as they heaved the body into a thicket of bushes, scurrying quickly back into the castle. “And yes, I did hear you coming,” she said smugly.
Serena groaned. “One day I’ll sneak up on you,” she promised, and then they quieted, huddling in a dark corner, carefully checking their weapons.
“You ready?” Serena said, hand resting on Ella’s arm, the challenge in her voice at odds to the comforting touch.
Ella smiled, sword drawn, and her face in the semi-darkness looked positively evil. “To kill the king? I’ve only been waiting for five years,” and then, with a brisk hug, the two crept deeper into the dark, eerie castle.
By Maura Kenny (& co-conspirators)