This time the crew had learned their lesson and stayed out of the assassin's way, eyeing her with caution, as if she carried the plague. "Judging by appearances often leads to death," they had learned. Underestimating an elderly woman and an adolescent boy could kill.
The first mate had taken over the ship and stowed the pirates somewhere below deck. "What should I do with you, Princeling? I cannot allow you to live, yet if I give the order to kill you, your-"
"Assassin," he supplied.
"Yes, assassin- will kill me." The sailor managed to look unafraid, but the assassin could hear muttering among the other mates.
"She kills on my command so you should not be harmed if you do as I tell you," he said, and the effect was like tendrils of coldness creeping over the crew. "Bring me to my brother. I would not have him know of my death a week after it happened. Besides, you want to go home to your wife and children, do you not? Now, they wouldn't want to see you sail back missing pieces." This picture did not seem to appeal to any of the sailors. The artful Prince had tactfully swayed their thoughts to his advantage.
"I don't trust either of 'em!" a rogue yelled, tossing himself at the Prince, sword brandished. The assassin acted on impulse and years of practice, grabbing her sword and fighting to disarm the sailor. After all, she didn't want to kill him and sour the negotiations. The man suddenly screamed with pain as a gash opened in his arm. The assassin congenially flicked the dropped sword far out of reach. The first mate smiled obligingly.
The Prince was given an honorary room and they shared it, the Prince on the bed, the assassin guarding the door. "Now we wait," she advised. "The storm has yet to break."
They were given all the attention the sailors could provide, including warm meals and freedom to roam (although the assassin still stayed within one knife toss of the Prince). The crew cooperated fabulously, agreeing to their every whim. The evenings bubbled with voices and laughter. The Prince shared stories of life at the palace, describing the faults of his brother, the famous people he met, and life as it had been for him. He stretched all the details to make his brother seem realistic with human faults, the people he met to be full of flounce, delicate, and unnatural, and allowed the mistakes he made to show him as a boy growing into a man. Covered with the pretense of "just being stories" the Prince was steadily converting the sailors' loyalties. For seven evenings, the assassin traveled alone, knowing that the heir was safe in the hands of the cook, who was enchanted by William's tales, and the first mate, who guarded the young prince with his life.
She could be found in the crow's nest living her previous life through memories.
In her waking dreams, the door opened. She fell through the barrier to see her beloved, battered and dying, resting in the shadows of his cell. Burns covered his legs and face; his arms were caked with blood and dirt. The soles of her feet blistered and stinging, she raced to embrace him, "No!" she had sobbed, holding his hand as he tried to comfort her.
"Sorry, dear heart," he gasped, "I'm going for a little while. I'll see you soon." Lifting an arm, he stroked her hair as she cried, tears falling onto his shirt. "Remember when we met, I told you I would wait for you, now you- you wait for me."
"I love you-" she whispered.
"As I love you," he coughed and blood as crimson as rubies splattered onto the ground. "You have to go, have to leave… They will find you."
"I won't leave you!"
He closed his eyes and smiled, oblivious to the wounds on all over his body.
"Come, my honey, my sweet.
Come dance with me,
As we sail into the morning light-" he sang softly, shivering.
"I will love you forever,
As the stars love the sea,
As fire loves life.
Forever, as the wind loves the leaves,
As rain loves sunshine.
Come dance with me,
As we sail into the morning light," she finished. He sighed, contented, and one last shiver wracked his body. "Forever, sunshine."
She wept over his body like a grief stricken angel, praying for this never to have happened, for him to be alive. "No," she cried, letting her hands hide her tears. She huddled, still holding his hand as if it would bring him back. And then she died.
The assassin concluded her daily mourning period by making a wide berth around the area where the men sat, laughing, clapping, and enjoying life. Every breeze was cruel to her body at that time, making her huddle over as tremors ran through her veins. She avoided looking at the stars at all costs, knowing she would lose control of her senses if she dared let her gaze stray.
Dawn of the eighth morning brought news. A strip of land appeared on the horizon, glowing like a magnificent diamond set on a vast velvet coverlet. Zenith, the capital of Atlantis, the port city envied by the entire world, stretched in the morning light, a slumbering giant awakening to greet another productive day.
As they gathered their belongings to go ashore, the assassin warned, "Be prepared to run. Your brother may have changed much now that he has power. He is King to the people, a stranger to you, enemy to both of us and anyone else who aids you." With that sobering his heart, Prince William prepared to meet King Jonathon for the first time.
She didn't like it there. There were too many memories, too many people that Jen had known. As Jen no longer existed, neither should her memories. Unfortunately, memories do not fade as quickly as names. If anyone had known the assassin, he would have noted an extra frown on her impassive features.
Supplied with horses, the Prince and companion marched like prisoners up the marble sidewalk, into the palace. Beautiful in its simplicity, the palace was white arches and green ivy, jasmine in the evening, cinnamon at noon, chamomile in the morning. Jen had known this life well.
The Grand Audience Chamber surpassed the size of all the other rooms in the palace. Carmel tinted columns stretched toward a vaulted ceiling. Stained glass cast strange shadows onto the marble floor. The Throne, at the head of it all, a solitary figure presiding over invisible subjects, glowed a brilliant green when the dinner bell rang and the sunset cast light through stained glass.
The room stood still. As King Jon marched in, his royal guard trailing behind him, William and the assassin bowed. He nodded to acknowledge their presence. "I know you," he spoke confidently, pointing to William, "stand, brother, and face me." He smiled slyly, an unnatural movement that tugged at one end of his mouth more than the other. "Guard! What were my orders concerning this boy?"
The guard scurried over, inclined his head and recited, "If the Prince is found, kill without questions, milord."
"Very good." The smile faded. "You see, I have been busy. I cannot have you risk my position as King. Your orders, guard!" Another nod came from the large man dressed in armor. He stepped closer, a guard transformed into an executioner.
Things were getting dirty. The assassin decided that this King was incompetent and more or less evil. Personally, she wouldn't trust him with a flock of sheep, much less a kingdom. William could do better and to save him, she had to interfere. "Get ready, you've got one chance. Turn right when you get to the door. The third tapestry on your left covers a secret entrance. Stay there; do not come back for me. Run on my signal," she spoke under her breath. The Prince gave the slightest of nods. The executioner kept coming, sword flashing in the morning light. Would there be blood on the tiles today? All depended on the assassin's timing.
Two steps away now. Surprisingly, there was a minimal amount of panic to her right, and when she glanced over, she saw William reaching for her arm. She grabbed his hand instinctively, squeezing it as Death approached. The guard stepped behind William, the tip of his sword situated on the base of the Prince's skull. William's grip tightened.