Storytime Sunday is a weekly meme here at The Book Nut in which I (and my friend Laura) share the short stories and bits that we’ve written as writing practice. Do you write stories? Want them featured on Storytime Sunday? Shoot me an email, you can find it on the contact page.
Today’s story was something I had wanted to write for a long time, and so I did. Creative Writing class is a wonderful thing.
Her feet pounded against the soaked ground, mud splashing up against her skirts. Mera hopped over rock and root as she made her way through the dark of the Deep Wood. She was now well and truly alone, no guards could reach her in the dark of the forest. Her breath came in frantic pants as she took in her surroundings. Tree and earth surrounded her on all sides so thick that she could hardly see any useful distance. Hardly a place for a thirteen year old girl. The men would say it was hardly a place for any girl.
Girls had no place running around creepy old forests. Girls had not business doing anything other than fulfill their prescribed place in society. There were very few legal professions in the kingdom deemed suitable for the “fairer sex”. Women could be servants of all sorts: cooks, launderers, and cleaners. They could be weavers and wet nurses. Very rarely they could be healers and herbalist, but only if they possessed the gift. Most often their only occupation was mother. Mera made a face at the thought.
This, of course, did not extend to the ladies of higher birth, like her. They were obviously expected to give birth to children but it was not their responsibility to raise the little beasts. Their only function was to make themselves accomplished and by doing so, increase their husband’s honor. That thought made Mera pause in her stride and lean against a tree.
Increase their husband’s honor. Like she wasn’t even her own person. Like she were property. No, not her. Never her. She kicked at the dirt, further dirtying her once fancy shoes. She didn’t even want to look at them or remember the world they symbolized anymore. Making another face she kicked them off and let her feet squish in the mud.
A sound behind her had her on alert. A guard or a soldier? She palmed a rock from the base of the nearby tree and turned. It wasn’t a guard or even a soldier at all. Instead there stood a man and a boy, and they were looking at her.
The man had a long, white scar running down the side of his face, and though his clothes were worn and tattered he carried himself like the noble men she had grown up around. Her instincts screamed her that this man was not all he seemed to be but she did not move. The boy had no such bearing, only an interested but wary look in his eye and no other emotion in his face.
“Dangerous place for a girl,” said the man, his voice soft but with an undercurrent of steel.
“The Deep Wood is dangerous for any person, being a girl has nothing to do with it,” Mera growled, her fingers tightening around the rock in her hand. The man cocked his head at her and the boy just continued to stare.
“And why would a noble girl be in the Deep Wood to begin with?” Mera stiffened at the question and looked down at the dirty, torn skirts of her court dress. It was fairly obvious that she was noble, no matter how destroyed the garment was.
“The life doesn’t agree with me,” she stated simply. The man’s eyebrows went up.
“What, you do not enjoy the charmed life of the wealthy,” he asked, incredulous.
“Yes, charmed. Charmed to be the plaything of stupid little boys who think themselves smarter than myself. Charmed to be property to a Lord or a Royal who won’t even hold a sword against those who torment his people. Craven beasts, all of them! They sit in their stone houses while their people suffer. My father, my brother, the King himself! I will not be a wallflower for men who won’t even raise a hand to help those who need them!” She spat, venomously, all of her hate and fear exploding out of her at once. The man and boy watched her as she spoke, saying nothing but taking in her every word.
“Spoken like a true noble woman. Our betters have lost the spark that you seem to have in spades,” the man said finally as he regarded her. Mera said nothing.
“And what will you do about it? Will you hide here in the dark or will you step into the light and do something about them,” he asked.
“What can I do?” Mera became confused as the conversation got away from her.
“You’ve survived the Deep Wood, I’m sure there is much that you can do, Milady,” the boy finally spoke up.
“The rock in your hand, throw it,” the man ordered. She paused for a moment before deciding that listening to this man could do her no more harm than she’d already put herself in. She threw the rock at him. He caught it in his hand as if it were an apple tossed carelessly in his direction. She was the one staring now.
“There is a small order of highly trained persons dedicated to ridding the kingdom of the evil and corrupt in the higher orders of society. We could use your talents and your knowledge,” the man said, holding out his hand to her. Mera watched him for a moment.
“What is your name?” she asked carefully, eyeing him suspiciously. He let out a bark of a laugh and the boy snorted.
“Clever girl, indeed. Good on you, Child! My name in Mathin.” He smiled at the shock her face betrayed.
“You’re the Scarred Prince of the Assassins,” Mera murmured, she avoided glancing at his scar again. The wind seemed to whisper her words through the branches of the trees, echoing among the leaves. The assassin took a step towards her.
“I am indeed. And this is my young apprentice, Elias.” The boy winked at her and she wrinkled her nose at him. She looked the legendary assassin up and down for a moment.
“You do not look like an assassin,” she told him. Mathin let out another bark-like laugh.
“Assassins who look like assassins do not survive very long, Child.” Mera smiled, what the assassin said made a lot of sense.
“So if I go with you will I just sit around somewhere in another cage? Or…,” she paused. “…or will you train me as an apprentice?”
Mathin raised his eyebrows and the boy grimaced.
“You certainly don’t look like an assassin, Child,” Mathin told her with a grin as he walked towards her and knelt before her. “And people like that are the best.”
The dark canopy blocks out much of the sun’s natural light. Here and there small pillars of sunlight would break through the trees, lighting the path through the darkness. Mera stepped carefully, making no sound as she moved easily through the dense undergrowth. This, her home, was her greatest hunting ground. Here she had the advantage of familiarity with all of her surroundings. This place was no longer a danger to her as it had been when she had come here five years ago to escape her gilded cage of a life. No wind stirred the tree branches, the only sounds were the animals and the inept creatures she was hunting.
‘No sense, coming here,’ she thought. ‘So loud I could have shot them with my eyes closed from a mile away if the trees allowed it.’
She picked her way closer to the group of men crashing through the trees. With a smile she notched an arrow into her bow and drew it back. She released the arrow with a breath and it whistled through the air before coming to rest in the throat of one of the men. Two more arrows followed, felling two more men. The last of the party turned tail and ran, making it simple to follow him by hearing alone with the noise he made. Before the man knew it, Mera stood before him, her twin knives in her hands. The man stared, trembling.
“Mera, milady…” he whimpered. Mera chuckled at the fear in his voice.
“Duke Harrow, we meet again,” she eyed him up and down. “A sniveler, so disappointing.”
Mera crossed her blades over his throat as he knelt at her feet, crying.
“Give my father my regards,” she hissed before ending the pathetic Duke’s life with a twist of her wrists. She wiped her blades clean on the Duke’s expensive cloak before sheathing them on her back. She snorted, Milady indeed. Ladies did not run around in a boy’s tunic and trousers in the Deep Wood, and they certainly were trained to kill in a thousand different ways.
She wasn’t a lady. She was an assassin.