The sun has gone to bed, and the half moon is rising. The sky is dark, foreboding, as thick clouds move across the bright moon. It isn’t as dark as I’d prefer to carry out my orders, but I am eager to do my mistress’ bidding.
To see her is enough. To know how much she prizes me makes my pulse quicken and my body light. Oh…to look upon that face. To hear that sweet voice. To see her smile illuminated by torchlight.
It is time for me to get ready. I don my black leggings, and my soft calf-leather boots. They are well broken in, and thin soled so that’ll reduce the sound of my movements. My tunic, equally as black, is getting tight across my shoulders, I suppose I’ll have to look into getting it let out a little. I don my hooded cloak, securing the clasps, then I start to arm myself. I’ve place a pair of stilettos on my belt, a knife in each boot, and a dagger up each sleeve. I have a trio of well balanced, customized throwing blades along my back.
Taking ash from the fireplace, long cooled, and spread it across my face. I grab my bag of tricks and flip up my hood, pulling its down low over my brow.
Like the wind, I am here then gone and I leave my den. The town has long since gone to sleep. The sounds of urban night are the same no matter where you are. The sounds of feral animals fighting over scraps of meat can be heard in the streets. The smell of offal in the street gutters. And the menacing clinking of the city guard’s armor and weapons as they patrol the streets.
I can’t be certain if I’ve gotten better, or if their recruiting standards are slackening, but evading the city guard seems to be getting perpetually easier. A quick dash here, a slip into the shadows there. I occasionally pick up a cracked piece of cobble and throw it across the street into an alley just to play around with the guards. It’s easy to see who is a new recruit, and who’s a veteran, the puddle that forms around their feet being the biggest indicator.
I continue down streets, jogging back and forth passing some of my favorite haunts as I go. The tavern is remarkably quiet, only a handful of patrons inside drinking and playing games. The brothel is alive with the sounds of music, courtesans at work, and satisfied customers.
I make it to the castle walls. Still covered with thick ivy, proof that either the guards are naïve or that my mistress truly has this town in the palm of her hand. I easily slip over the wall. I look carefully, and listen for the sound of four legs propelling one body.
The dogs must be on the other side of the castle for now. I quickly move across the courtyard and start to scale the second wall. Halfway up, I hear the sound of movement, but it’s not dogs, it’s heavier, a plodding sound that is intermittently accompanied by sharp clanks. It’s a horse, sounds like a large one, and an armored rider. I scramble up the wall and lay flat on my back getting as close as possible to the crenellations on the far side.
The sound continues to draw near. I move a hand to my stilettos, fingering the pommel. My breathing is deep, slow, and even. I start running through my possible options if this one sees me. If he’s fully armored, I’m going to have to make a break for it and try to use my maneuverability on foot to try to out maneuver the horseman. Unfortunately, if he lives he’ll alert others and a manhunt will begin, and I will not be able to look upon my mistress for some time, I will not hear her sweet voice, and worst of all, I may not be able to be able to be near her ever again.
If he does make a move, and has vulnerable points, I’ll have to silence him quickly, meaning thrusting my blades into his lungs and throat.
I wait. He starts to slow. I can hear him murmuring to himself, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. I continue to wait, my hands slowly closing around each hilt. I wait, refusing to prematurely draw my blades. I hear a clank, and immediately after the plodding of hooves. He moves off into the night. I let out a long breath of relief and fall from the top of the wall, tucking, rolling coming up and creeping towards the wall of the castle. I look and it seems that I am alone, at least for now. I have done this for so long, you would think that they would make my life easier and simply install a staircase to her window.
I reach into my bag and pull out a hook with a length of rope attached. I twirl it at my side and cast it up towards her window. In the usual place, it grabs hold and I scale the wall up to her window.
There she sits at her mirror, moving an ivory brush through her long raven hair. A wreath of baby’s breath adorns her head, and a gold necklace bearing her family crest is around her neck. The gold is significantly darker compared to her fair skin. She is humming a melody sweetly to herself. I sit in her window and pull up my rope looking down below for onlookers, all the guards I can see are facing outward, or are talking amongst themselves. Typical.
I continue to listen to her, content to just look and listen to her. She sits on a down-cushion, her light blue gown flows down around her like solidified, shimmering water. Her dainty feet are concealed in velvet slippers. As always, a true vision of beauty.
It’s about then that I realize I’ve heard this tune before. I remember hearing the song in a loud, tavern in the nation to the south. It’s certainly no song for royalty, I wonder how she heard it.
I smile to myself and continue to drink in her beauty like a fine wine. She is surely the most beautiful thing our Lord has ever created. I have been to many brothels, been with many whores, and I still have not found any woman, in any land who can match her beauty.
She looks deep into the mirror, and sighs. It is the sweetest sigh a woman can make, the sigh of longing. I know this sigh well, I hear it in my own chambers, and in my dreams.
“My love…” she utters only unto herself.
Her face slowly closes in on the mirror, her eyes slowly close, and I watch her lips pucker, as though to kiss the person on the other side.
I do not want anyone else to accidentally see this scene, or her to be embarrassed knowing I have seen this motion, so I clear my throat softly.
Her head snaps around so quickly, I fear her delicate, swan-like neck will break. Her eyes are wide, like that of a deer that sees the arrow heading for it. Her mouth hangs open like a lake fish on a hook. In spite of this, her beauty doesn’t diminish.
“How long have you been there?” she asks me, not really angry, but with some definite annoyance and embarrassment. The redness slowly coming to her cheeks make me melt inside, and I am sure I’m smiling back at her.
“Long enough to hear you lament,” I reply, trying to be coy and mysterious. My master in the guild told me that by remaining a mystery, an enigma, that you could bait any lady, of any social class, and any persuasion. It has worked on the lower class, the peasant girls and merchants’ daughters, but I have yet to try it on one of more formal education and upbringing.
She looks at me, and her brown eyes are so intense, I feel as though she’s looking into me, searching for something. Is she looking for my soul? The friar told me during confession once that the only two people who can ever see your soul are you and God. I suppose if I was a heathen I’d also believe that this woman, this intense, raven haired beauty could also see into my darkened soul, and possibly even redeem me.
And that is the difficulty. My soul is darkened, and I cannot ever be with her because of my soul. That and because I am a man of the night, a thief, a spy, and by God’s standards, a murderer.
I pull myself into her room and kneel before her, dipping my head deeply, in respect, and so that she may not see into my eyes, cannot see what they say that my lips cannot.
“Rise, Firgin,” she commands me. Please, oh please command me my mistress.
“I cannot, Mistress.”
“I have dispatch for you. You must take this,” she reaches into a drawer in the table under the mirror and produces a scroll, it is wax sealed but lacks her family crest, instead there is simply a flower upon it, “and deliver it to my love.”
Her love, she has met him but a few times, and already she speaks of love. The two communicate despite their betrothals to other parties, and I, in the middle, courier their wooings back and forth. I wonder if cupid ever had to deal with things like this.
I nod, “As you wish, mistress.”
“Firgin, you do know you are the only one I can trust with this. My father would put the axe to me if he found I was still courting my love despite his promising me to another. You have done so much for the family, and the way my father tossed you aside when the war began to brew was simply undignified.”
“Your concern for me, and your sweet words make it my pleasure to serve you.”
“I am sure that the monetary rewards are not to be discounted, eh?” Her voice is lighter, more jovial pushing her previous seriousness to the past. I hazard a look and she is smiling sweetly at me, her cheeks dimpling. She has a fine purple velvet bag held out to me. I take it and put it inside my bag along with the sealed scroll in its dedicated case.
“Firgin, I’m sure that if things were different, and you were of higher social standing I would be sending you letters, and not having you deliver my words of love to another.” She grabbed a kerchief and spat into it, and began to wipe the soot from cheek, then put her rosy lips to it.
If a guard had run me through with a spear just then, I never would have felt it. A shiver ran from my feet up to the top of my head, and then back down. Surely this was witchcraft, but what wonderful witchcraft it was.
Had I more courage, I would have grabbed her and pressed my lips to hers, tasted of her mouth, and see if my tongue could explore where those sweet words came from. But sadly the courage did not come. I struggled to return a meek smile to her.
There was an odd silence between us. If an observer saw us, the differences between us would be staggering. Her, brightly dressed, I dressed for stealth and sneaking. Her fair complexion and me covered with foul soot. Not one ounce of malice in her, while I am armed to bear. Oh what a pair we make.
I stuttered, I wanted to tell her the feelings she evokes in me. Wanted to tell her that I could make her happy if she allowed me to take her from this place, and whisk her away under cover of night to another land, where we could live in the merchant class and she could bear me several sons. What a life we would have. But it was not to be, and I knew this. I knew it better than I ever wanted to, and more than my heart could bear. What could I really offer her? She has money, security, power. I live day to day, buying myself the company of women, buying myself the sweet relief from reality that can only be found at the bottom of a stein.
I lowered my head, saying nothing, and moved to her fireplace. I wanted to leave that place on my cheek untouched. To enjoy the sensations that flowed from that point, but in the business of stealth and concealment, there is no room for things like sentiment. I took some residue from around the edge of the fire pit and spread it over my cheek. The fire still raging, warming her chamber and the soot. At least the soot would contain the same sort of warmth that her kiss instilled in me.
I turned and faced her, her hands hid a smile as she looked upon me. I bowed like lord to his king, pulling my cloak away from my body just to bring it back under me. “Mistress, I will now take your leave.”
She replied with but a nod and as I attached my hook to the windowsill she spoke to me softly. “Godspeed.”
With that I was down the rope and moving back across the courtyard.