Warning: some of these chapters will contain death.
Disclaimer: Assassination is a long, disciplined, and evil trade that I know nothing about, and the people being targeted by it belong to somebody else. So no killing or suing me for this story, all right?
A/N: Yes, I am well aware one of these POVs is going to be highly irritating (I got highly irritated writing it! so you've been forewarned), but I'm hoping that makes the ending more satisfactory.
Beta's by trustingHim17!
"Lucy, are you going to the shore today?"
Lucy turned and looked up the long flight of stairs at her sister, but before she could answer, Edmund's voice echoed through the open double-door to the library.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Lu!"
The King appeared in the open doorway, looking rather rumpled with his hair askew and his tunic wrinkled. "There's that group of sailors running about, from three separate ships, and some of the Animals don't like the smell of them."
"But that's why I'm not going alone, I'm going with the Panthers!" Lucy protested. Edmund frowned, and Susan glanced from one to the other.
"Maybe you shouldn't," she began.
"Please," Lucy asked, her tone pleading when her siblings didn't respond. "I haven't been outside Cair Paravel these past eight days, ever since the first trading ship docked. I'll be careful, but Purpoise is only here for a season, and he'll be leaving soon. I told him I'd meet him today. I have to go to the shore."
Susan's forehead remained wrinkled with worry, but Edmund smiled wryly. "None of us do well being cooped up, do we? I've only kept my sanity because we've found a new set of books, but I don't think they're your sort—the ancient script you don't like reading." He glanced at Susan. "Oh, I say we let her."
"Let me?" Lucy asked as she frowned.
"Yes, let, because we all agreed we wouldn't do anything remotely foolish without the others' permission, ever since Peter was attacked while visiting our neighbors," Susan reminded them. "Do you really think it'll be alright?" she asked Edmund, her voice troubled. He nodded, and Lucy beamed at him, before turning once more to Susan.
"I'll be very careful. Please may I go out?"
Susan sighed. "Oh, you might as well. But take both guards with you!" she called after her younger sister, who had immediately exited. Lucy's muffled affirmative floated back to their ears.
"I'd better oversee packing up the newest selection of Dwarf-made decorations we hope to be trading." Susan turned towards the door opposite the Cair's smaller library.
"And I'll get back to reviewing ancient trade agreements," Edmund said, glancing resentfully over his shoulder. "Why the Calormenes should kick up a fuss now, two years after we began trading, and just when we found those new books…" He turned back into the library, his grumbles fading as he wended his way between the shelves. Susan switched directions a few moments later, realising that telling Peter about the new books would make his day—he enjoyed reading of Narnia just as much as Edmund, and that might mean he'd find something to read to the three of them, before they went to bed that night as they gathered before the fire in one of their rooms. Those evenings were Susan's favourite, and she smiled as she thought of the evening to come. That, at least, would be a happy moment.
Only not everyone in their kingdom was quite so happy.
The Narnian sun was annoying.
At least Calormen nobles had the sense to meet beneath covered awnings or in cool courtyards. But no, this target was of importance in Narnia, a silly land with a tiny castle perched by a baking, gritty, dirty shore. Who with any sense put the castle on the edge of the land?
Oh, right, there was some myth about looking for a lion in the sea—which made as much sense as myths usually do-none at all, to be clear. The idiots built an entire castle based on a myth. I snorted, the hot air another irritant on my sweating lip. And what was the end result? It meant I did not get to hide myself under a roof or beneath a tree. No, I was stretched out on rocks and sand, on a Tash-forsaken beach with no shade, watching demons crawl by on four legs. I sneered at them. They did not frighten me! I had seen far fiercer things. I ignored the Beaver calling a hello, flicking my eyes up the sky.
Would this waiting never end? Idly I slid my hand over my tunic, feeling along my back. The pale, poorly woven cloth made me look like every other sailor. But I was not a sailor. No, I smiled as my fingers barely touched the outline of the three daggers hidden in their sheaths, smiled at the thought of the poison coating their blades. One for the target and two for the guards.
Soon the waiting would be over, and it would be time to use the blades. Soon.
As soon as my target came along, that is.
I scowled, feeling the sweat move on my face as my mouth formed the downward turn. My target.
Little more than a young girl, ha! I, who had killed Tarkhaans, Vizers, Dukes, pirates, warriors!
Oh, the money was good regardless of the target. We made sure of that. The Tarkhaan who'd hired us had counted out our payment with oily, soft fingers (he had never bothered to learn of weapons, more occupied with counting houses and merchant ships—and he called himself better than us!), carefully weighing out the coins in his sack and had stacked them, piece by golden piece, into four gleaming towers. I and my companions had bowed as we swept them into bags of our own. Bowed because we must, because he was our client. We were paid up front, and we would do what we were paid for—but I had been given the boring task, the youngest, a girl. Why did she have be assigned to me? I'd have much preferred the High King.
Not only was she a girl, but she lacked all common sense. I'd asked one of the Narnians at the dock (a man, of course, not one of the demon beasts—they were likely unreliable) if they ever came out, and he'd said she'd sent a messenger to a Turtle, and had promised to meet him here tomorrow. Even the slight challenge of breaking into Cair Paravel was denied me!
Would she never come? I scanned the tree line again. I could not hide in there; in Tash we heard far too many tales of demons who lived in the wood itself. What kind of land was this, where even trees might betray me? So gradually, so gradually, so none would note it, I dug myself a ditch, the rim hidden by stones, and filled it with seaweed to hide my scent from the demons. Seven days it had taken me, my companions assuring me the girl could not stay away from the shore long, and now that she was coming, it was time for us to strike.
Or it would be. I touched the daggers again. Oh, how I would enjoy sinking them in, payment for making me wait!
Wait—there, among the trees! A little girl with-
Oh, the ugly madness of this country! Her guards were black beasts, great big Cats, far faster humans could be. I slid the blades out from under the cloth, careful to make no noise. I would have to throw while they were much farther away. But I could do it. Daggers were my weapon.
Lucy tilted her head backwards, enjoying the warmth of the Narnian sun. "There's nothing like the feel of the sun on the shore, is there?" She smiled, stopping for a moment and making her guards stop as well, just as a flash of metal caught the older twin's eye.
"Queen Lucy, down!" he roared, one paw knocking her off her feet. Salyte dashed in front of her, catching the dagger in one shoulder with a meaty thud. The Panther roared her own defiance as she turned towards the threat, daring it to strike their Queen.
But a moment later Salyte buckled, her legs trembling, her head falling forward. Her eyes closed halfway, and Lucy reached up on hand to catch her, trying to stabilise the heavy Cat. Sethen sniffed the air, looking with wide eyes for their attacker. Salyte roared again, then snapped her teeth closed, just as Lucy heard a second thud. Lucy rolled to her knees, peering above the black furred back, and saw a head lifting out of the sand, above it a hand raised up to throw. Lucy's hand snatched her own dagger from her belt and she threw, not at the head, but at the hand causing Salyte pain. Her dagger flew swifter, her aim truer, and another howl of pain echoed down the beach, human this time. Sethen bounded over his sister, teeth bared, and Lucy turned her attention back to her wounded guard.
"You'll be okay," she whispered as she reached for the other Christmas present hanging from her belt.
I stared at my wrist, at the dagger that pierced. This could not be happening. She had beaten me—me, Assassin of the Knives, beaten by a girl! A roar thundered in my ears, closer than the ones before, and I grabbed hastily for the third knife I'd dropped. My fingers never reached the hilt.
Salyte healed within moments, and both of us looked towards her brother. Sethen's front was slick and wet, but his eyes were entirely on the two of us.
"Salyte?" His sister nodded, and he closed his eyes in relief as he nuzzled her, just for a moment. "We'd best get back. The shore is not safe."
"And we'd better tell their other Majesties what happened," his twin agreed.
Lucy scowled. "That means I'll be confined inside again," she grumbled. "But we'd better bring the prisoner." The Panthers glanced at each other, then nodded.
"We will see to it, Your Majesty," Sethen responded in a gentle voice.* "But let's get you inside first."
Lucy turned, most of her body hidden by the two Cats who pressed themselves close, shielding her as much as possible.
"Thank you for my life, Your Majesty," Salyte said when it seemed the young Queen had begun brooding.
"Oh, you're welcome, always," Lucy responded instantly. "I was just wondering—why would someone try to kill me?"
"Narnia's growing wealth makes it a tempting target for other nations," Sethen explained.
"No, I know that, Peter explained it all, when someone tried to kill him—what I meant was, why try to kill me? I'm the youngest." She felt both Cats stiffen. "What is it?"
"I think we should get back to Cair Paravel and warn the guards." Sethen's voice sounded stiff.
"Oh, you don't think—do you think there are more?" Lucy asked, catching on. She began to run, her siblings first on her mind, the Cats bounding beside her. "If any of them gets hurt, they're not allowed to lecture me about getting into trouble outside!"
*If it's not obvious, the Assassin of Knives is dead, but the Panthers aren't sure they should tell their young Queen that, at least not without consulting her siblings first. Sethen did not take kindly to someone knifing his sister.