A Prince, intent on acting for the best of the Kingdom commits a treasonous act.
I want to be kind. I want to be compassionate. I want to be good, Blaine thought to himself as he climbed the stone steps leading up to the southern tower of the castle.
The climb was high, approximately four hundred steps to reach the top. Well, actually four hundred and fourteen steps to be exact. He used to count each step when he made this climb as a child. Now, as he continued up, he repeated the mantra that was affixed in his mind - kind, compassionate, good. Over and over, he repeated it. Perhaps if he said it enough it would be true.
Blaine continued to climb, not yet tiring, even though the climb would be gruelling even on trained soldiers. As he made his way swiftly upwards, he spared a glance out the windows that appeared sporadically on the stone walls of the narrow passage. The trees, the homes and the people became smaller and smaller each level he ascended. He could barely make out the townspeople coming in from the farms to their homes as the dying sun cast a reddish orange glow out from over the town walls. It was almost time. He continued upward.
Kind, compassionate, good. How odd it is that he of all people had to remind himself to embody the very traits that his title seems to indicate he is. Noble. The word itself means someone who is generous, sacrificing, brave, and of course good. But is that the case? Who, if not the nobles, goes to war? Who allows for power to corrupt their actions? Who turns away the hungry and the destitute while keeping the wealth of a nation to themselves? Who takes from the poor and gives nothing in return? Ha! Noble! Funnily enough, he was one of those very contradictory "nobles". An honoured Prince of a nation. And yet, here he was, about to throw away a life of luxury and comfort.
He walked up the last few steps, his feet shuffling slightly with the discomfort of constant climbing beginning to settle in his thighs. He faced a dark wooden door in this narrow corridor. A quick glance out the small window in the stone walls showed the very last bits of the sun still in the sky and a small company of riders making their way back to the castle. Little fires flickered around a carriage in the back indicating that his uncle had been successful in the hunt. Perhaps there was a dead boar in that cart, or maybe a deer, or still a wild cat that prowled the mountains and had snuck down to visit upon the humans lurking in the tree-shadowed forest. He had to hurry.
Blaine shifted the bow that he had wrapped around his right shoulder. The quiver he had on his back was nearly empty. It only held one arrow. That was all he would need to finish the task he had set out to do today. He reached his right hand over to his left hip where a small unexceptional dagger was held close to his thigh by a leather belt. He pulled the dagger out and swiftly used it to pop open the lock on the door in front of him. The door slowly swung open, making an arc-like path in the substantial dust that had collected. He was in a small stone room that had at some point been used as storage, as well as a place to hide for him when he was a child. As an adult, he no longer required places to hide within the castle and it seems as though the servants had decided that the arduous trek up the four hundred and fourteen steps was too much of a hassle. He walked over to the window facing outwards which provided an excellent view of the road leading to the castle. The company was still quite a bit away. Blaine looked around and found a little brown stool covered in cobwebs. He picked it up, brushed it off with the dark green sleeve of his uniform and placed it in front of the window. He removed the bow from around his shoulder and the arrow from the quiver. He sat down on the stool, and rested the arrow on the lower ledge of the window. He watched the company slowly approach.
Kind, compassionate, good. He was about to throw everything away. His life would be forfeit. He thought back on his life. His childhood was happy. He never knew his father who had died before he had been born. But that also sheltered him from the pain of losing a father. His mother was alive and well, but she had chosen to move to the holy orchards when he was sixteen in order to devote herself to study in the name of the High Souls of Wonder. At that point, his uncle, the King, had shared with him many more responsibilities that he had taken on as heir. He spent his youth training for his life as a soldier and a King and he embarked on many inconsequential battles which were simply the result of princes who were bored sitting behind the walls of their castles. He was an excellent soldier - proficient with all weapons. He had killed in the battle. He knew killing wasn't good. But was it truly evil? He has asked the scholars from the High Souls of Truth, but they gave him vague answers about nobility fulfilling the needs of the people through acts of physical strength. There's that term again. Nobility. A contradiction.
As he sat at the window and waiting for the approach of his uncle's company, a small swallow flew in through the left corner of his window and over his head. The bird was like any other bird except in colour. It was the brightest shade of red that Blaine had ever seen. It was oddly similar to the red glow that was cast over the land from the fading sun.
Blaine turned around unsurprised at the intrusion and instead of a bird saw a beautiful red haired woman. She was tall and lean, dressed in a simple brown frock. She was beautiful. Her large green eyes were wide with concern and confusion.
"Blaine", she said with a voice that seemed to sing rather than simply pronounce words, "what are you doing?"
"What needs to be done, love" Blaine answered and turned his back to the woman to face the approaching company.
"No. This is not the way. This cannot be the way. If you do what I think you want to do, they will kill you. Even the heir cannot kill the King. It is treason." The red-haired woman approached Blaine and placed her cold hands on Blaine's shoulder as she begged him to change his mind.
"Kind, compassionate, good. You agreed that I could be those things", Blaine said as he looked into her deep green eyes, "Ysobel, let me do this". Blaine lifted his bow, and pointed toward the figure on horseback approaching slowly to within range of an arrow.
"You are throwing everything away. You are throwing us away. My love, we will find another way. Please", Ysobel stood up and positioned her self right in front of Blaine, blocking his arrow.
"How can I ever hope to be good if I focus on what I want in life? It is not for us anymore. It is for them." Blaine explained, looking out the window and trying to lightly move Ysobel out of his way.
"No. there will be another way. I will not move." Ysobel stood strong. She was a determined woman and also physically stronger than she looked.
The moment was approaching. Kind, compassionate, good. Blaine could make out the company moving closer and having just entered the range where he could shoot accurately. One shot. That's all it took to alter the course of the future. One shot, to become a murderer, a traitor. Blaine took a deep breath, looked at Ysobel's beautiful face, framed by luscious delicately curling fire-red hair, and, holding both the arrow and bow in his left hand he reached out toward Ysobel with his right hand.
Then, he pushed. As hard as he could, he pushed against Ysobel's chest, forcing her to fall out the small window through which she had come through. As she fell, he nocked the arrow, aimed at his uncle, the King, and released. The little arrow flew swiftly through the air, its feathers fluttering rapidly. A tiny red bird flew after it in a hopeless attempt to catch it. Even with the increased speed that Ysobel had while in her bird form, catching the arrow was impossible. But she tried anyway.
The arrow struck the King. It travelled through the King's right shoulder, seriously injuring him but likely not causing a fatal injury. Blaine fell to the ground on his knees, feeling the world he has lived in being pulled from under him. He stayed on the floor with his bow discarded a small distance away from him.
The soldiers were alerted to what they saw as an assassination attempt. The alarm was raised. Riders were sent. The King was surrounded and defended. Soon, the small southern tower, which had served as a hiding place for a young boy, a forgotten storage attic, and the platform for a life-altering decision, would be overrun by soldiers looking to prove their worth by bringing in the assassin. Blaine waited for them patiently, and looked down at his dagger, contemplating his options.
Ysobel flew close enough to the King to see that he would live. Blaine had missed. She flew as fast as she could back toward the castle. Perhaps if she were fast enough, she could protect him in some way. She pushed herself forward, intent on beating the guards. Unfortunately, she was too late.
The footsteps toward the room where Blaine sat on the wooden floor were getting louder and within moments, twelve breathless soldiers burst through with their spears at the ready. The first few hesitated when they saw their prince on the floor with a bow next to him.
"Your Highness! Did you catch the assassin?" the first soldier asked, looking around the room for the signs of another person.
"No Captain, there is no one to catch. I am alone." Blaine answered, and he looked out the window to where a red swallow flew anxiously, just in sight.
"Your Highness, do you mean to say that you shot the arrow?" The Captain inquired, with a slight glint of interest in his eye, he involuntarily licked his lips. He was clearly eager to arrest a prince - a man of such high standing, but fearful of doing so as well.
"Yes" Blaine answered simply, looking to the Captain, unmoving.
"In that case," said the Captain, approaching Blaine, "you are under arrest for the attempted assassination of the King". He roughly grabbed Blaine, who offered no resistance, and pushed him through the door.
As Blaine made his way down the stairway that he had just climbed less than an hour ago, he thought about what he had just done. Assassin. No. He wasn't an assassin today. But he hadn't missed. He had hit the target exactly as he intended. Killing someone simply isn't the way to be kind, compassionate, and good.