She had always liked the line, "Do not be so eager to deal out death and judgment," something that Tolkien had once written. Perhaps it was because that was what she did; it was her business to deal out death. And now that everyone deserving of it had passed on by her hand as an extension of the arm of fate, there remained nothing to do. There was no meticulous planning required to sustain life. Left, purposeless, and completely alive, she rotted in the pits of boredom.
By all measures of time she was old. She had outlived everyone she knew, everyone she had ever been close to. Generation after generation passed under her feet and yet she existed still, unable to die. She could not say why she remained alive, only that the delivery of death had somehow prolonged her own life. Life meant little to her now as she looked across the stretch of horizon.
Assassins are not meant for longevity, it poisons them to beauty. They hope for death to take them quietly out of this world, as a sort of release from their work of sinning. She was in the November of her life, one more trial and she would be gone, and for that she was ever thankful. Just one more task and she could leave this earthly existence. As it was, however, that task just did not wish to complete itself. It wanted to hop through the puddles, dawdle in roadside taverns, and pick the flowers on its way to completion.
Its name was young Prince William, who should have been dead by now. If outside forces did not finish him off soon, his assassin vowed (secretly) to do it herself. She felt no loyalty toward him, and he showed less respect to her than would be considered practical. But their relationship was not one of loyalties; it was basically a delivery project. She would deliver him into manhood, to a point where he would not accidentally spear himself with his own sword, and then she would leave.
A nanny was what she had been reduced to in her old age. The deadliest archer in the country had become a governess for a fourteen-year-old boy who felt it was his duty to command everyone and direct attention to the fact that he was future king. In a land where hired assassins were common, that was not a wise thing to do.
Currently, her project was in the hull, as green as March grass. It was probably time to check on him, make certain he had not died yet. She would not have minded a death, but her loyalty to the king ensured that she would bring the prince to the capital, perhaps not in mint condition, but alive.
After Judgment Day, the world had been left in panicked chaos. It had taken the general public months to become an organized union of sinners. Out of the darkness emerged the ideal king. He was strong, deceptive, Machiavellian. In their blindness, the people hailed him as an angel sent down to guard the citizens and lead them toward heaven. Ever since, his lineage of royal fools had ruled what remained of the world. They had managed to secure their position by buying or marrying for the services and loyalty of powerful individuals, the assassin included. Judgment Day had come and gone, too early for most people who thought it would never arrive.
Totally unprepared, most of the world had been left behind with no hope of salvation. Technological advances halted, leaving dirt roads, wooden ships, and stone fortresses. One would have thought that scientists would be busy with new theories and inventions, but the "priests" that had recently overrun government assured the people of Atlantis that refraining from technological improvement would aid them on their quest to leave the shattered world. And, in spite of the fact that scientists are known for being nonconformists, most of them set aside their projects in search for the entrance into heaven, which dominated everyone's to-do-list. Atlantis, the extent of the known world, had regressed to medieval times. The few people old enough to remember the Old World were exhausted. Trapped, was how the assassin described the world as it now existed.
Descending the steps into the hull, she paused to inspect the various forms of graffiti scrawled into the wood. It had been a hobby of hers since she was young; it was a way to see into somebody else's thoughts without having to read an entire book, like examining at a cup of water from a vast ocean. She traced a finger around a depiction of a pagoda, and chuckled while reading 'give your valentine a potato to show your love will ever blossom.' Extracting a pocketknife from her belt, she skillfully added her own signature: an angled J intersected by a C so that it looked like a trident. The light from the narrow opening faded as she delved deeper into the ship.
William had just turned fourteen and was becoming sulky and withdrawn. As long as that didn't influence him to do anything stupid and unhealthy, the assassin was fine with his newly enlarged ego. She knocked and entered the "Princely Chambers", which was about enough space to roll over in, surprised to find that he wasn't as sick as he should be. "Jen," he mumbled, eyes closed, "how much longer?"
He was used to her cynicism and only chuckled when the reply came. "If I'm lucky, five years and I'll toss you overboard halfway through. However, if the weather holds, about five more days." In some deep place, the assassin actually cared for the well being of the boy, but right now any maternal instincts were focused on getting the both of them off the ship alive. Lowering her voice to a conspirator's whisper, she warned, "Remember what I told you. No revealing to any of them who you are, or where you're from. All they need to know is that we have to get to the capital and you have plenty of money. None of these seamen are to be trusted." He nodded sleepily and turned over to show his consent. His assassin sat down in the nearest chair, planted her feet on the bed, and leaned her head against the wall in the lightest of dozes.
A while later a faint noise alarmed the assassin. The sound of voices, far off as of now, but quickly approaching, brushed her senses. The sailors above deck were scurrying to ready the mast and speed off toward shore. Settling a hand around her sword, she woke the prince and stepped lightly toward the main deck. "Ship o' the navy!" a sailor informed her. A hundred yards behind their brig ran a lively schooner quickly eating the horizon. She cursed under her breath.
The prince beamed. "They're coming to rescue me."
"It's not that simple, my highness," she said sarcastically. "We're on a pirate ship, and you certainly don't look like future heir." Sighing, she continued, "The only way we're going to get out of here alive is if our side doesn't kill us, and the other side recognizes you."
He shrugged this off, "They'll probably take us prisoner, and when they do I'll explain to them our predicament."
'If only life was that easy,' his assassin thought. She persisted, "The navy doesn't take prisoners unless there's no opposition."
"There won't be any," the young prince declared, getting off the bed and staggering toward the door. The Prince was likeable and looked older than his years, so the assassin could reasonably envision the crew following his leadership. and if his charms failed to work, he did have the persuasive abilities (not to mention endless wallet) of his father.