2019 Winner – Open Division
The chiffon train of my midnight blue dress whispers against the cold, stone floor as I walk down the corridor. I jump in surprise as the window is suddenly thrown open by a blast of icy wind. I turn around, walk over, and close it. I was sure I told that servant girl to lock that window the last time it blew open. I latch the window and continue walking, eventually reaching the wooden door leading to my personal chambers.
My personal chambers consist of three large rooms. The first room is a sitting area. A large, marble fireplace contains a crackling fire and across from and facing it, is a charcoal grey love seat. A long, cherry wood runner is placed ten feet away from the couch as well as eight intricate, hand-carved chairs made of the same wood, both on top of a luxurious crimson carpet. The second room is small in comparison, where I go to retire and to dress. A large four poster bed, a vanity, and an enormous wardrobe take up most of the space. The third room is a bathing room.
I enter and walk over to the vanity in my bedroom. I sit down on a stool cushioned with velvet and stare into the gold-framed mirror hanging on the wall. My wavy, honey blonde hair, neatly swept into a braided bun earlier this morning, is coming undone and the intense line of kohl applied to my waterline is blurring, as well as the red lipstick I slathered on. I needed to change into a more elaborate dress and have my handmaiden fix my makeup and hair, all before this evening. I frown, praying that she doesn’t take a century to arrive. I turn myself towards the nearby window. Despite the snowfall, guests are already beginning to arrive, dressed in their finery. I stand up, walk over to the wardrobe, and open it, surveying various dresses I personally selected. What would be the best choice for the winter ball?
♦ ♦ ♦
I hold my breath, veiled in shadows as I watch the Princess close the window I entered through, continue down the hallway, and enter her room. I hear the door shut and exhale. That was far too close for comfort. This job was undoubtedly more dangerous than any other I had taken, but since I desperately needed money—and my client was willing to pay a small fortune to have the girl killed—I took it. I hadn’t bothered asking the woman why she so desperately wanted the Queen’s daughter killed, however I really didn’t really care. I did their dirty work, no question asked, and they gave me their money for doing so. Committing murder was merely a business transaction.
I hear light footsteps coming down the hall, presumably a woman, and grip the handle of my favourite dagger, preparing to strike. A woman comes into view. She looks to be in her early twenties, five foot three, roughly one hundred and thirty pounds, and is wearing servants clothing. One of the Princess’s handmaidens I pieced together.
She is twenty feet away.
I hold my breath, praying she doesn’t spot me. That would be a blunder I couldn’t recover from and I did not want things to get messy. Quick, easy, and efficient was the goal. I slowly started pulling the dagger out of the leather scabbard attached to my belt.
She has plain brown hair, pulled in a knot, and an unexceptional face. I suddenly feel the part of my mind responsible for emotions disconnect. I am now a vicious predator, molded to kill.
The girl is completely unaware of my presence. I crouch, my dark eyes flickering, deciding the best way to quickly and soundlessly end her life.
I strike, clamping my hand tightly over the handmaiden’s mouth. She inhales, about to scream… I press the knife to her throat and…
Blood sprays from the open wound. A familiar gurgling sound comes from her throat and I close my eyes, driving the blade through…
The woman slumps in my arms, undoubtedly dead. Adrenaline pulses through my veins and I quickly drag her body to the part of the corridor I had previously been standing in, a corner shrouded in darkness. I set her body on the ground and move her cool, lifeless hand, resting it on the hilt of the dagger lodged in her pale throat. To the naked eye, it looks like she took her own life.
I listen closely and heard no one approaching, only the lonely howl of the wind outside the castle’s stone walls. I slip down the corridor, the incarnation of shadows; living, breathing death. I reach the door to the Princess’s bedroom and grip the other dagger’s hilt, my dominant hand dripping with gore, and unsheathe it, pressing my lips to the flat of the cold, unforgiving steel.
♦ ♦ ♦
Knock, knock, knock.
Finally. Why she had taken so long, I had no idea, but at least she was here now.
“Come in!” I call.
I hear the door open and close softly.
“I’m very glad you’ve arrived Clarise, I was beginning to worry you fell ill or perhaps died,” I said, examining my reflection in the glass.
I see the lower half of a black cloak behind me in the mirror and laugh. “I know it’s cold outside, however, I don’t think an outdoor cloak is—”
A hand, covered by a leather glove, suddenly presses tightly to my mouth. Instinctually, I try elbowing the stranger in the stomach, but I hit something dense, hard, and cold. A sharp pain shoots up my arm and I realize they are wearing armour under the cloak. I cry out, the sound deadened by the man’s hand, and start thrashing and kicking.
The person pinches my nostrils and I can’t breathe. I thrash harder and tears involuntarily stream down my face. I am not ready to die. What will this sadist do once I fall victim unconsciousness? Everything is spinning, faster, and faster, and faster. I feel something cold and sharp at my throat. The room is a blur of colours, spots of light and darkness float like birds in the sky.
There is a searing pain on my neck, like I have swallowed shards of glass and fire. I feel hot, thick liquid rushing from the wound like a waterfall.
I see darkness, I see light.
I see the beginning, I see the end.
I see life, I see death.