Coming With You

When the kingdoms of Praetora join forces to kill a tyrannical emperor, the assassins they employ work together to complete the mission. Will they succeed, or will all have been for naught? And who, if anyone, will be the one to kill the Emperor?

Clank.

Tor thrust his sword against the shield of his sparring partner, and then parried the man’s retaliating blow with a quick sweep. He then swung his weapon up and placed the tip against the chest of his opponent.

“Very good,” the sparring partner said. “You’ve been practicing then, Tor?”

“Every spare second, father,” replied Tor. “After all, it is my job to be the best with the sword. Some of my superiors are talking about recommending me for the King’s Guard.”

Avik’s face suddenly lit up excitedly. “That’s fantastic, Tor! That’s amazing! I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you, father,” Tor answered.

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Later, Tor walked up the steps of the King’s Shardstone palace, his mind buzzing. He wasn’t ready…was he? He could be dead after his first year of fighting; surely Kierst wouldn’t want to spend her entire life bound to a dead man? But again, she was Tor’s best friend. The princess loved him almost as much, if not more, than he loved her…didn’t she? Void above, he’d been courting Draen’s daughter for two years and still he had doubts. Finally, though, Tor settled upon one decision: if he wasn’t ready now, he never would be. The time was right. He was going to ask for Kierst’s hand in marriage. It was as good as done.

Then, as if from nowhere, Kierst came walking down the stairs and embraced Tor. He held her briefly before pulling back – only slightly – to regard her beautiful face. Her deep green eyes gazed passionately into his blue ones, and he brushed back a lock of her midnight-black hair that had fallen in front of her face. Her face glowed with joy at the sight of her long-time friend.

They released one another, and Tor said, “I have something I wanted to discuss with you. Perhaps we should go somewhere more private?”

Kierst looked somewhat surprised. “Alright,” she said. “Let’s go for a walk.” Together, they walked down to the edges of the city. Once they were safely away from prying ears, Tor guided their idle conversation to a more serious topic.

“Do you ever think about…about what we’ll do with the rest of our lives?” Tor asked.

“What do you mean?” Responded Kierst as she turned to look at Tor, “Isn’t it obvious? You’ll become a soldier – maybe you’ll end up on the Royal Guard if you keep this up – and I’ll go on to rule when my father dies, since I’m his oldest child.”

“That’s not really what I meant,” Tor said. He began to scratch at his neck nervously as he said, “I mean, have you ever thought about...never mind.”

“No, say it. What’s the matter with you, Tor? You never act this way.”

“I need to ask you something.”

“Well, then ask. What is it?”

“Kierst, would you…will you marry me?”

The princess’s face was a sea of emotion. “I…Of course I will. Yes, yes! But – what did my father say?”

“The King gave his blessing to me yesterday.”

Kierst smiled and said, “That’s wonderful, Tor! Of course I’ll marry you!”

Tor was overcome with relief, and grinned from ear to ear, embracing her.

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“Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Tor.” The King looked at Tor kindly, indicating a seat for him to sit in.

“Of course, your Majesty,” Tor said.

“Oh, please son, no need to be so formal. We’ve known each other for so many years now, there’s no need to act so impersonal.” The King smiled at Tor.

“Of course, sir.” Tor still felt strange being casual with the King, so he used a slightly less formal title to address him.

“That’s better,” the king responded. “Now, I’m sure you’re curious as to why I’ve invited you here. Well, your training has been proceeding very well. You are the sneakiest and most capable warrior currently in training, impressing your officers to the point that they have suggested – several times – that you be placed onto my personal guard, promoted straight to a command position. There is, therefore, no doubt that you are…uniquely skilled in combat.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Now, as we discussed the other day, I have given you my blessing to marry my daughter, Kierst. That still stands; no matter what happens, you may still have her hand, so long as she wills it to be so.”

At this comment, Tor grew even more confused; why would the King’s blessing not still remain his? "...Sir?"

“However,” the king continued, “There is a slight problem. Some of my advisors disagree with my decision. They feel that the people will be upset if I simply marry my daughter off to a soldier with so little warning. Usually, the heir to the kingdom is courted publicly for years before someone comes forward to marry them.” The king stopped for a moment, thoughtfully quiet, before continuing. “If a man that was known throughout the kingdom, regardless of courtship, were to marry my daughter, the people would accept that she was in the hands of a true hero." The king allowed that statement to settle in for a moment, giving Tor a moment to digest the suggestion. "Now, as I’m sure you are aware, hostilities with the Emperor have been rising for some time now. I fear that any day now, he will march his soldiers through the valley and take Batura from us.”

“Of course he will try. The Emperor wants all the world to fall under his rule. We will simply have to stop him, sir.”

The king laughed, as if Tor had told a particularly clever joke. “If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, though, I do not believe that our army can stop his combined forces. But, if the Emperor were to be removed…”

Tor was shocked to hear his king speaking this way. Draen had always been a straightforward man; now, here he was, talking about – what? Murder? “Then I suppose,” Tor said hesitantly, “that the Empire’s invasion would, at the very least, be stalled for a time.”

“That is precisely my point,” the king said. “The problem, then, becomes deciding who to send to carry out such a mission. The facts are these: the Emperor must be stopped; you need to gain status, and quickly; and you are a very, very skilled soldier with unique stealth abilities. I feel that you are the best man I could choose for this – let us call it what it is – assassination. What do you say?” The king regarded Tor with a calculating eye, probably trying to gauge Tor’s reaction.

“I would be honored to serve my people, my Lord,” Tor said, numb with shock, “and I would, with your permission, begin my mission immediately.”

“That’s the spirit, my boy!” The king smiled broadly, rose and patted Tor on the shoulder. “You may take whatever equipment you like. When you return, you shall be a hero to your people! Good luck.”

“Thank you, sir.” Tor turned and exited the king’s council chamber, making his way immediately to the armory.

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As the city gates opened up, a disturbance behind Tor caused him to turn and see what was causing all of the shouting and the crowd gathering. Then he saw it: Kierst was trying to force her way past a group of three guards, one of whom was trying to grab and hold her without harming her. In seconds, the king was there, saying something to the guard. The man immediately released her. Before she ran to Tor, the king took her arm and handed her something; Tor could not see what it was, and then she ran to join Tor at the gate.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m coming with you,” she answered.

The End

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