Author’s Note: So I could not help dwelling a bit on the word for Sunday Scribblings, sharp, when it came to both of my possible serials. I thought it fit rather well with each of them, but perhaps more so with this one, given what I’d already established for the queen.
Since the website’s remodel is not yet complete, there’s still time for people to pick one or both of these serials as a permanent one on the site. There’s more information here.
Blades should be sharp, and her responsibility was to keep hers that way.
She slipped it out of her dress, turning it over in her hands. She knew what this blade was meant to do—only a fool would think that it was the sort of knife with an innocent purpose. She was no fool. She had been taught to use this and many others like it, some of them designed for combat, and those she preferred over this one.
She would rather face an opponent outright than go for an assassination. She laughed, shaking her head as she stabbed the tip into her desk, twisting it down into the wood. She had no right to deceive herself. She preferred the steps of sword work, not the idea of using it against anyone. She could count them out, could think about balance and where to place her feet, not what she was supposed to be doing—injuring or killing her opponent.
Footwork gave the deadly arts a beauty that their purpose betrayed. She liked the grace and dexterity required by the movements, the way they made her feel as though she could fly. She was not skilled enough to do such a thing—no one was—but she had long envied the freedom of the avian world. They could go places that she did not, could see so much further than she did. Their world was wide and beautiful.
Hers was narrow and full of darkness.
That almost made her laugh again, since even now she could see the light from the sun underneath her curtain. She did not think that there were birds here, not in this land. She did not think they could fly in the heat of the dual suns.
That heat would kill them all someday, if the king didn’t manage it first.
She glanced toward the knife, her eyes going up and down the blade, trying to picture it used as intended, and she shook her head, turning away. She still lacked that strength, though she had to wonder if being able to kill was truly a strength and not a weakness.
Her trainers would disagree, and those who were counting upon her for the continued survival of her people would be of the same opinion as them. They would all expect her to act. That was why she had been sent here. The treaty was an excuse, the alliance false on both sides.
She walked toward the mirror, studying her face for a moment. She’d been born to a role, trained and refined for it, and when she was younger, she had thought it one that was admirable and good. When she trained for defense, it was.
Them telling her to become an assassin, something that she had never been before, that was where it all came unraveled, like the poorly made blanket that proved her lack of talent for knitting. She was meant for sharper blades, her trainer had said, and she’d laughed.
She did not find it amusing now. If she was meant for such a role, then why was what she needed to do so hard to accept? Why was she not eager to do so? She knew the sort of man her husband was—she had escaped his cruelties so far, but there was no way to be certain that would last—and she knew what he did to the peoples that he conquered, forcing those like her maidservant to live in this place with its impossible heat that would burn them alive if they ever showed their skin. They were not the only ones oppressed, but they were the most obvious victims.
Her people could suffer worse if she did not act.
She closed her eyes, her feet starting the steps of that old familiar dance. She did not have to think, her body remembered every part without faltering. She found herself humming as she sometimes did, a tune that she had never heard but always came to her when she began the steps.
She paused, her ears attuned to the subtle shift in the room even as she continued to hum. She let her steps carry her closer to the desk. There, she took the blade from the wood, incorporating it into her movements until she was certain of the direction, and then she let it fly.
The dagger hit the wall, and she grimaced. Perhaps she was too paranoid. Wait, no, there was something caught near the tip. She crossed toward it, yanking it out to see the familiar black fabric of the servants’ cloaks caught in it.
Was one of them watching her, then? She did not know if she was fortunate to have such keen instincts—or cursed. She might have given everything away with her last act, and she could not afford to have them all know that she was not what she seemed.
Being the queen would not save her, not if any of them knew what she truly was.
To see the other side of this scene, read “A Hidden Dance.” One warning though: that scene has spoilers for the later part of the story.