He first saw her sitting on the steps, patiently weaving the intricate patterns into the hair of the child on her lap.
She couldn’t be more than sixteen, only a year younger than himself. He was entranced. There had been no girls at the academy where he trained. A distraction his masters had said.
Adric was beginning to understand why.
“Come along boy!” his master shouted, the aging man shoving him forward so he almost stumbled to the ground. Adric cursed beneath his breath as he steadied himself. She looked up at him then, a pretty thing with blue-black hair and wide amethyst eyes. She graced him with a gentle smile and he smiled back. The small child in her lap tugged at her sleeve and she returned to her task.
A hand cuffed him up the back of the head.
“Quit staring! The princess Korina is not for the likes of you, mutt. The king did not pay all that gold to have you make eyes at his daughter, now move!”
Humiliation flooded Adric’s cheeks as he allowed himself to be ushered through the palace gates. He could feel her eyes upon his retreating back.
Adric scowled into the darkness. He hadn’t thought of Korina in a very long time, and now was not the time to start down that path again. Just because he was currently sitting in a dank prison cell, left to rot, was not an excuse to become nostalgic for a trip down memory lane. Revisiting such unpleasantness never did him any good.
He was an assassin from the Isle of Xargos, trained practically from birth, not some weak minded fool to pine over his youthful mistakes.
Yet it hadn’t been all bad, he thought, trying to ignore the dank stench of mildew and rot. Had it? Certainly not in the beginning.
She smiled at him, the princess, Korina, as he stood guard in the dining hall.
Her father had purchased him to be her ‘protector,’ it was what he was trained for, his sole purpose for being. She was his charge, his duty and nothing more and she should definitely not be smiling at him in that way.
No one should grin at an assassin the way she was in this moment.
An unsteady smile tugged at his lips briefly before scolding himself. He was not to smile, not to so much as glance at her in any way that was seen as improper. A shudder of unease rippled down his spine and he averted his gaze from her pretty face, pressing his lips back into a thin line.
Never look your master in the eye.
The lesson had been hard learned as a child. The masters of Xargos did not tolerate disobedience, he had the scars to prove it.
The scraping of chairs caused him to look up, the princess and her sister had finished their morning meal and were heading in his direction. Her sister, Ysenda, a young woman with cold grey eyes shot him a look of distain, the corner of her mouth twitching into a partial sneer as she passed him by.
“Eyes down dog!” She snapped and he instantly dropped his gaze.
He was little more than part of the décor to most, a piece of expensive furniture to admire but never touch.
“Good morning Adric,” Korina beamed brightly as she walked closer than was appropriate, her slender fingers brushing against the back of his hand, lingering for but a moment before she too left the room.
His heart leapt, and despite himself, he smiled fully into the empty room.
He should have known back then she would bring him naught but trouble, but he had been young and she had been so beautiful and wild. Adric had been unprepared for the stirrings she had roused in his heart.
The masters had never taught him how to deal with such things.
His musings were interrupted by the metallic scrape of the cell door, a hulking beast of a man dropped a trencher of food at his feet. With his hands shackled as they were, the meal was just beyond his reach. His jailer knew this, the man grinning at him through rotted teeth before slamming the door shut, and Adric was once more left in darkness.
No matter, he wasn’t that hungry anyway.
Read part #2 HERE