CASIMERE

When I was seven I woke up surrounded in blood. Twelve years later and I'm in the same position. The cut on my arm had opened during the night and my bed was drenched in the sticky substance. I wasn't especially frightened, for blood had become a part of my life. It was no longer something to avoid or be afraid of, now it was just a nuisance. Instead of rushing from my bed to re stitch the cut, I lay back down on my pillow and sighed, my hands folded over my chest. The ceiling above me was dappled with unidentifiable stains and I connected the dots in my head like constellations. I was tired of this ceiling, of this bed, of everything my father touched. I suppose that would make me tired of myself, I thought dismally. Before I could drown myself with upsetting thoughts and decide to never wake up, I dragged myself from the comfort of my bed and into the bathroom. I shivered when my bare skin touched the cold air that never seemed to leave my room. I slammed my hand against the metal panel and turned off the creaking fan. No matter how much money dear old dad had, he would never waste it on a simple house hold item. Unless, of course, it was something to show off.

I leaned towards the mirror in my too large bathroom and rubbed the stubble growing across my face. I should probably shave, I thought. Instead I threw the razor back into my drawer and shoved my arm under the faucet. The sink quickly turned red and I grimaced at the sharp sting from the water. I carefully prodded the wide cut around the edges, daring it to keep bleeding. Obviously it didn't give a shit whether I dared it or not. I cursed under my breath and harshly pulled the bathroom drawer open. The bandages and antiseptic spray sloshed around the draw and I grabbed both of them. I didn't have time to get it stitched back up so wrapping it would have to do. I guessed I must've messed it up yesterday during sparring and hadn't noticed. Now my bed sheets needed washing.

I finished wrapping it up tightly and taped it on securely. This was the last thing I needed before the press meeting my father insisted I went to. His wife was also going but I didn't like to think about her. I grabbed one of the 100 other white button down shirts I had and fumbled with the holes. My arm was sore and all I wanted was to fall back into the bloodstained bed and sleep. I tugged my pants up, trying to only use my good hand, and reached for my black blazer. It was then that the alarms started blazing. I cursed loudly and dropped my jacket. The loud sound was numbing and I couldn't help but press my hands against my ears. I moved quickly and grabbed a pistol from the chest under my bed then rushed to the bathroom one more time. I couldn't leave this room without putting in the colored green contacts. My father would kill me.

I threw my door open and rushed out into the hall. It was chaos. I shoved the gun in the waist band of my pajama pants and rushed to the nearest servant. I grabbed her by the arm and leaned in towards her ear.

"What the hell is going on?" I asked sharply.

Her eyes were wide and scared, "there's been a breach," she rushed, her eyes darting around frantically, "I don't know anything else." I threw her arm away and she rushed off towards the stairwell. I pulled the gun from my pants and ran down after her, trying to find out what was going on. My arm ached as I held onto the gun tightly. Of course it had been my right hand that had been injured. My luck was going down the toilet. I was halfway across the main room when I heard a gunshot. Everyone around me froze in fear but I kept running towards the sound hardly stopping to look around me. I couldn't imagine what the shot could have been. It was coming from the dining hall, where my father usually took his breakfast. I flew down the hall throwing all caution to the wind. A small tickle of hope rose in my throat. Was the bastard dead? Had some poor soul finally shot the man? I slowed down when I came to the entrance.

The room wasn't anywhere near silent. I could hear someone shouting orders and, a girl's voice? I figured his wife was in there with him but that didn't sound like her voice. And the girl was cursing.

"…you goddamn bastard!" whoever it was sounded out of breath. I poked my head around the door and my hope deflated like a balloon. There was definitely blood, just not his. Well, a little of his. The bullet hadn't hit him; it was about an inch above his head where he sat paler than normal. He was clutching a steak knife in his hand and next to him sat the first lady, her eyes just as blank as always. A large group of guards stood over someone on the floor, guns aimed at the person's head. My father spotted me almost instantly. He took in my confused look and waved me over. I obediently went to stand by him.

"What happened?" I asked breathlessly. I still couldn't see the figure on the floor, but she was definitely the source of the cursing. My father dragged himself up and leaned towards his wife. She barely flinched as he tugged her up too.

"Someone tried to kill me," he said gruffly. I hadn't noticed, I thought sarcastically but knew better than to say it out loud. He grabbed a napkin from the table and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"Where?" I asked anxiously. I felt like congratulating the person.

He raised a shaking hand, "there." His voice was as strong as ever though. I pushed around the gathered servants, trying to see what was huddled on the ground. Sound had stopped coming from the still figure and I assumed it was knocked out. The guards made room for me, the president's son, and I looked down at the person. It was a girl. She looked about 17, only two years younger than me. She had a cloak surrounding her, blood pouring from her nose and her wrist was bent at an odd angle. Her hair was pulled back into a wheat colored braid, blood pooling at the tip of it like she had dyed it red. A gun had fallen just out of her reach but on her thigh a long dagger had been strapped. I was sure that wasn't the only weapon she had concealed though.

"Who is she?" I murmured. Something about her was odd. There was sharpness to the curve of her mouth like she was tasting something sour.

One of the men spoke up. "We aren't 100% sure, but we have a suspicion." I waited for him to continue but he just grimaced.

"And?" I asked impatiently.

"It's possible this is Alex, Alex Montelle," everyone fell quiet.

I raised a skeptical eyebrow," why do you think that?"

Tentatively one of them reached over and tugged the dagger from its sheath. He held it out to me and traced the symbol on the hilt. It was an intricately carved emblem, like a tree in the middle and a design surrounding the outside, something the infamous assassin was known for. It was said that she carved something similar into her victims before she left them. Sometimes they were still alive. Everyone in the country knew about her one way or another; there were three things everyone kept up with; the mysterious assassin now laying half dead in front of us, news on the neighboring European countries, and the death count by Stirpis.

My father didn't let the campfire chat last long. He pushed through the crowd and pointed to five men. "Take her to one of our holding cells and lock her up. Tell me immediately when she wakes up," he ordered sharply. The men quickly jumped into action, hauling her body down towards the cells.

"Oh," my father started, "make sure to strip her of her weapons," as if that wasn't a given I thought, "and take her cloak off. I want her only in her shirt and pants, nothing else. No blankets, food, water, nothing."

I shivered at just the thought of the freezing cells.

"What about her injuries sir?"

His eyes roved up and down her unconscious body, "throw her some bandages but nothing else. It is all leverage." With those last words he waved everyone away, even his wife. I turned to walk out of the room and to finish getting ready when my father stopped me.

"I want you down there with me when I interrogate her," he said almost as an afterthought.

I froze where I was, "excuse me sir?" I asked.

"You heard me," he snapped. The president sat back down at the table, picking up his forgotten fork and stabbing his eggs, "you have much to learn if you want to follow in my footsteps son. The first is criminal questioning. I have a feeling this one might need a little more…" he paused, searching for the right word, "motivation, than most." I shivered at the way he said it. I knew exactly what he meant by 'motivation'. I'd been on the wrong side of that a few times myself. I nodded carefully, controlling my face all except for the tick forming in my jaw. I couldn't let him see how much he irked me. I would take whatever secrets I had to the grave, and that included my feelings. I saluted him quickly then turned to leave the room. We were in for something alright, that was clear as day to me.

A/N So my friend and I have decided to co-write this! Every other chapter will be written by a different person and this one is written by me Olivia. We are sorry for the short synopsis; 386 characters isn't a lot to work with. We will try and update twice a week. Casimere's chapter will go up on Wednesdays and Alexandra's chapter on Sundays. Hopefully we stay active! We will try and do review for review... if that makes any sense ;). Thanks for reading and maybe leave a review?

~ Olivia