Thursday, April 18, 2013

Short Story: Wendy Knight

“Girl, there’s not enough satin in the entire world to make you princess-y enough to get into that ball.” Monique raised a perfectly arched brow, gesturing at Konstanz. Konstanz frowned and pushed her wind-tangled brown curls over her shoulder. “You aren’t helping,” she muttered. With a brief glare, she turned her back on her much-too-honest-for-her-own-good friend and started digging through dresses.
Monique heaved the most dramatic of sighs. “This isn’t a smart idea anyway. Even if we can make you remotely presentable, once you’re inside the cats will kill you.”
Konstanz paused, studying a deep red one. “What do you mean, cats?”
Monique appeared at her side, pushing the red one away. “No, not even close to your color. Cats. Princesses. Royalty. They will eat a little mouse like you alive.”
Konstanz pinched the bridge of her nose, where she felt a headache forming. “I think I can handle it for a couple of hours.”
“Right. Why, exactly, is it so important for you to go to this ball, anyway? You’ve never been interested before.” Monique moved away, digging through more elaborate dresses in her popular boutique.
If you only knew. But Konstanz couldn’t tell her, of course. That would just be crazy. So instead she shrugged. “Are you gonna help me or not?”

It took hours of plucking, tweezing, exfoliating, slathering on makeup and trying to tame her wild curls into submission, but the end result was pretty princess-y, even by Monique’s standard. “You clean up nice, girl. How come we’ve never done this before?”
Konstanz glanced down. Monique had chosen well – the dark turquoise dress did wonders for her skin tone. She twirled, once, because it was mandatory when wearing a dress like this. The layers and layers of tulle cascading to the ground poofed around her, and she almost giggled. Black satin trim accented the dropped waist and lined the corset-like bodice. “It never mattered before,” she said.
Monique raised an eyebrow. “Here. These are perfect.” Monique handed her black elbow length gloves.
Konstanz took them dubiously. Well these could pose a problem. But there was no way to say that without looking suspicious, so she slid them on and twirled again.
“Stop it. You’re going to make the curls go flat before you even get there,” Monique chided but she couldn’t hide a smile.
Impulsively, Konstanz leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “Thank you, Fairy Godmother.”
Monique rolled her big brown eyes. “Don’t start, woman.” She made shooing motions with her hands. “Off with you now.”

There was no fancy carriage to take Konstanz to the ball. That would have been much too conspicuous. Instead she rode her giant black mare, the one every man in the entire state wanted to steal. Luckily, no one could ride Skylla but Konstanz – at least not without risking life and limb. Several yards before the sweeping drive that led to the castle, Konstanz slid off and led Skylla into the trees.“Wait here,” Konstanz told her. The big mare tossed her head before wandering away to eat the lush grass, and Konstanz slipped away through the shadows.
Scaling the castle wall was nearly impossible in a ball gown covered in tulle, sequins, and rhinestones. The gloves barely survived, and she had to drop to the ground twice to pick up a lost shoe.
It took far too long to near the top. She peeked over the ledge, but everyone was still inside, listening to the welcoming speech the King was fond of giving. Silently thanking him for his inability to keep it short and sweet, she swung her leg over the balcony railing, entering the wide glass doors just as the band started playing. Even if she hadn’t known him as well as she did, it was still easy to find the prince – just look for the hordes of swooning princesses. Alec tugged at the tight caveat and failed miserably at smiling politely.
As it always did, Konstanz felt her heart stop, because he was so beyond handsome. But there was no time for that now. She shoved her feelings away, locking them into the recesses of her heart where they were safe, and slid discreetly behind the thick tapestries lining the walls. Hidden, she worked her way quickly around the large ball room and around the crowd surrounding the Prince. Getting out posed a bigger problem, since she was surrounded by people. She bit her lip and twisted a curl around her finger. And then she fell. Stumbling, she landed ungracefully on one knee right at Alek’s feet. It had been planned, but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.
“I’m so sorry. Please, forgive me,” she murmured as he reached down to help her to her feet.
“Don’t worry about it. Here, let me –“ His eyes widened as she raised her face, and his mouth snapped closed.
She tried to tell him to play along, but she’d never been great at telepathy. Luckily, he had always been fantastic at reading her facial expressions. “Dance with me.” He grabbed her elbow and dragged her onto the dance floor. Konstanz could feel the dagger-like glares at her back, but it didn’t matter. They could all kill her later, as long as she saved him first.
“What are you doing here?” He plastered a bright artificial smile on his face and hissed at her through his clenched teeth. “We agreed never to speak again. Right after you slapped me, if I recall correctly.”
“I know. I’m sorry, “ she started, but he cut her off.
“Sorry that you slapped me? And do try to look less like you’re being tortured.”
Konstanz sighed and tried to smile. “No I’m not sorry I slapped you. You deserved it. I’m sorry I’m here, having to speak to you again.”
She saw the pain flash across his face, but he hid it quickly. “Then what do you want?”
“You’re in danger. I’m here to save you.”
If she had said that to anyone else in the world, they would have laughed. She was small, after all. But Alec knew who she really was. He had always known.
One of his father’s top assassins.
“Why? Why do you think I’m in danger?” He had stilled, and she had to tug on his arms to get him to dance again.
“I’ll tell you when we have more time, but for now, we need to get out of here.”
His eyes narrowed, but thankfully he kept dancing, twirling her expertly around the dance floor, despite the fact that the song had ended and a new one began. Princesses everywhere were out for her blood, she could tell. “So, let me get this straight. I ask you to elope with me. You slap me and tell me to never speak to you again. A month later you show up looking like the goddess that has haunted my dreams since I first met you, and you tell me I’m in danger?”
Konstanz opened her mouth, but he cut her off. “The only one I’m in danger from is you.” Abruptly, he let her go and stalked off the dance floor. She could have died of embarrassment right there, if she’d cared. Luckily, he was all that mattered and her reputation wasn’t high on her priorities. He grabbed the nearest woman, a tall, leggy blond with a split in her dress that went clear up to her thigh.
Konstanz couldn’t very well cut in. That would be ridiculous. She hesitated, wondering how she could knock him unconscious and drag him out of the room without anyone noticing, and she almost missed the click of the pistol being cocked nearby.
She was too late.
Grabbing her skirts up, she ran straight at Alek. As the pistol blasted, she dove, tackling him to the ground. The ball shot above their head. “I told you!” she shrieked. She was tangled in her confounded dress, and by the time she fought free he was on his feet. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet for the second time in less than a half-hour. She heard the click again – it was a sound she had been trained to recognize even in her sleep. Reaching down, she grabbed the sword free of Alec’s scabbard and whirled, slicing it up through the air. It hit the ball and shattered. She felt the pieces sting her face but there was no time to acknowledge the pain. She threw the broken sword the ground and grabbed Alek’s hand. “Run!” she screamed, since he seemed frozen, staring across the room.
“Lyon?” he whispered. His best friend. Of course it had come as a surprise, and she would let him mourn later. But now she really just needed to get him out of there.
Konstanz only just noticed the screaming and chaos. Guards were rushing in, people were running, dresses were being ruined. And above it all, she heard Lyon laughing. Mad, hysterical laughter that chilled her to the bone.
“Konstanz!” The Captain of the Royal Guard, who had refused to listen to her earlier, now threw her a belt, her belt, with all her weapons. She caught it and strapped it on, wrenching the knives from their pocket.
Lyon advanced on them, his pistol cocked again and aimed at Alek’s head. “You should have listened to her.” He clucked his tongue in false sympathy. “Too heartsick. That was your undoing.”
The ballroom was nearly empty, except for a few stragglers. Wait…why aren’t they leaving? Konstanz spun, too late realizing they were surrounded. Lyon might have been flanked by castle guards, but the castle guards were ringed by Lyon’s friends, all of whom were armed.
“Oh dear,” she murmured, turning slowly.
“Somehow, you’ve managed to put yourself right between us yet again, Konstanz. I suggest you move. I would hate to mess your beautiful hair by putting a bullet through your skull.” Lyon gave her a look, one she assumed was supposed to be pouty, but it failed miserably.
She rolled her eyes. “We can’t have that, can we? My hair took hours to get like this.” She stepped out of the way with a low bow.
Alek’s eyes widened and Lyon chuckled. “Love is fickle, isn’t –“ He shouldn’t have thrown his head back to laugh. It gave Konstanz a clear shot of his throat, and her knife lodged there before he could finish his sentence.
The room erupted. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lyon fall, but the sight of blood made her gag, and besides, his friends were rushing in now. Her hand went to her stars, but the silk gloves slid right over them. A bullet grazed her bare shoulder and she swore. ”Stupid gloves!” The second try was successful and she threw them, one after another at the Prince’s attackers. Seven men down. The guards seemed to have the rest under control.
“You are…good at what you do.” Alek’s face was pale, his eyes wide.
“I am.” She nodded. “We need to get you out of here until the threat is effectively contained.” She grabbed his hand and started across the floor, but he didn’t move. Maybe he hadn’t heard her over the clanging and clashing of swords? “Alek? We need to get you to safety.”
Konstanz frowned. Clearly the universe had flipped completely upside down. “What do you mean, no? It’s not safe here.”
Alek raised his chin. “You care about my safety?”
She tipped her head at him. Confusion was not something she was overly familiar with. “Of course I care –“
“Fine. Say you’ll marry me. Say you’ll run away with me, say that I can have your heart for the rest of eternity. Heal the damage you’ve done, and then I’ll care enough about my safety to leave.”
Konstanz felt the blood drain from her face. “Alek…”
He folded his arms across his chest and glared at her.
“We can’t…I’m an assassin. And a commoner. You’re a prince!”
He turned away from her. The King had just entered the room, flanked by guards, assessing the damage done to his ballroom. “Father, this is the woman I want. Do I have your blessing?” Alek announced it to the entire room and Konstanz was positive she would sink through the floor at any second. In fact, she prayed for it.
“She’s my finest assassin. What if you ruin her?” The King asked.
Konstanz put a hand to her forehead. All these things were not making sense.
“She broke my heart. And she refuses to mend it on the grounds that I am a prince and she is a commoner.”
“Alek, you have lost your mind.” Konstanz whispered harshly.
Alek smiled, finally turning back to her. “Konstanz, my father has known about us for ages. He has never been anything but pleased. Marry me. Heal this,” he took her hand and placed it on his racing heart.
She looked with wide eyes from the King, who was decidedly smirking, to Alek and back again. “You almost died. Just now. And this is what you’re worried about?”
“It is the only thing that matters. The only thing that ever has mattered, the only thing that ever will matter. Marry me, Konstanz.”
She felt her lips quirk rebelliously into a smile. She couldn’t. It wasn’t proper. She wasn’t a princess. She stepped closer, convinced she would knock him unconscious and drag him from the room. Instead she surprised herself by saying, “I will marry you, Prince Alek.” She gritted her teeth. “If you promise to get. Out. Of. This. Room.” Forcing sweetness into her smile, she said, “Where you’re safe. And then I will marry you.”


  1. Oh that is so beautiful! Well done, Wendy! Yet another work of yours I love.

  2. This is so adorable! I LOVE it! Very beautifully done, Wendy!

  3. Oh, this is so much fun! Good job.

  4. Awesome baby! You are so awesome!

  5. I LOVE the assassin that gags at the sight of blood - awesome. When does the full-length story come? :)