Assassin's Accomplice

Lady Rachel Whitely finds her entire world flipped upside down when her father is assassinated. Forced to flee, she seeks vengeance against the man she believed killed her father; the King. Rachel finds herself slipping into the castle walls, obscured as a maid, with a hidden agenda. To find the King and make him pay. Her plan seems to be working perfectly, until she is fed another shocking piece of information. Rachel, under the guidance of a former King's assassin, must travel across the land in order to save everyone from a violent ruler and a terrible fate. Will she make it in time, or will she be condemned to a life of servitude while watching her country fall apart right before her emerald eyes?


4. Chapter Three

Chapter Three

-One Month Later-

Mornings were simultaneously both the worst and the best part of Rachel’s day. Whilst she was able to enjoy the warmth of the sun bleeding through the window, burning across her back, dancing upon her hair like a flickering flame; she also felt the sting behind her eyes and the sluggishness in her bones, as her mind struggled to wake up. Then, of course, once she actually had woken, it was a matter of crawling out of the warm cocoon in which she had slept and facing the decisively freezing stone encased structure within which she inhabited. She contemplated briefly whether or not to open her eyes, which stubbornly remained shut, before the decision was made for her. A loud, harsh rap sounded on her wooden door and her eyes snapped open, glaring. 
"Rachel!" Regan called.
She swiped at the red curls tangled around her face, "Yes?" 
"Good morning! Get up, we have training." 
Rachel stumbled out of her uncomfortable cot, slowly blinking away the sleep that clouded her vision, a white haze. She slipped off her nightgown in favour for tight breeches and some armour. She slipped on some boots and swung the door open, her hands coaxing her wild curls into a side braid.
Regan took in her tired eyes and sluggish movements with a small tut of his tongue, moving behind her to properly fasten the armour. When he was done, and her braid was tightened with string, they began to walk down the castle corridor. 
"I still see no reason for being up so obnoxiously early." 
Regan gave her a dubious look. "Rachel, please, we have had this conversation every morning for the past fortnight. Have you not seen the way you are dressed? Do you think that would not rouse suspicion?" 
Rachel scrutinised her outfit and found she had to agree with him on that point. 
Regan, satisfied, and walked gracefully down the hall, Rachel trudging behind. 
"For a Lady, you sure aren't graceful." 
"Regan?" Rachel asked, stopping. 
"Yes?" he turned to her. 
"Shut up." 

Rachel's hair was falling out of her braid at this point, stuck fast to her flushed cheeks, a red haze over her vision, curls like licking flames dampened by the sweat that drenched most of her body in a desperate attempt to keep her cool. 
"Higher!" Regan ordered, "Do you really think you're going to beat anyone like that?" 
Rachel growled as his constant taunts continued to frustrate her. She aimed higher, a well placed kick right between his ribs. He caught her ankle and twisted it. Rachel felt her traitorous body tremble and topple sideways and her mouth filled with dirt. 
Regan quite literally tutted from somewhere above and to the east of her. "Shabby effort."
Rachel spat the soil out of her mouth and wiped it clean, "Coming from you." she murmured.
"Pardon me?" Regan asked, looking curiously at her.
"Nothing, nothing." she said as she struggled upwards. She grabbed her sword from where it was propped up against the tree. "Can't we just sword fight again? I see no reason as to why I must learn hand-to-hand combat." 
Regan sighed loudly, "What if your sword was blunt?" 
"It would never be! I look after my sword!" Rachel exclaimed indignantly. 
Regan gritted his teeth, 'Stubborn girl.' he thought. "What if, hypothetically, you met a better sword fighter than you and he took your sword, what would you do?" 
Rachel hesitated, "Run?" she answered, with the sinking feeling that she wouldn't win this argument. 
"What if you couldn't?" 
"Couldn't run?" Regan nodded. "Well, if I'm so injured that I can't run of all things then maybe I should just let them put me out of my misery." 
"Rachel!" Regan groaned. 
"Okay, okay, I see your point. It may be slightly important." Rachel conceded. 
Regan stepped forward and took the sword from where it glistened within her hands. "Thank you. However, I do believe it is time for something else. Another lesson." Regan motioned to the clearing wherein they practised. "We might as well make use of the loudness of the leaves and the shadows of the trees. Rachel, it's about time you learnt to move as an assassin." 
Rachel stilled her eyes wide and slightly eager, whilst also cautious. She rushed forward, subsequently tripping and stumbling backwards in a pathetic attempt to regain her balance before she went tumbling to the ground, dirt in her mouth yet again. 
"Rule number one," Regan said as he hauled her to her feet. "Don't do that." 
Rachel blushed wildly, cheeks stained a dark wine colour. "Got it." 
"Rule two," Regan said, moving Rachel in front of him. "When you make a noise, freeze don't run. Stealth is a better substitute than speed. Always remember that."
Rachel nodded, "Don't trip, don't run, stealth before speed, I'm basically an expert now!" 
Regan raised an eyebrow at her, "Is that so? Perhaps we should put that theory to the test. Ready to try a little game?"
"That depends on what this game is." Rachel replied, laughing.
"You're going to get this off me." He held up Rachel's sword. She lunged for it but he stepped back. "Quietly, without me noticing." he closed his eyes, "Go." 
Rachel raised an eyebrow at him but she squared her shoulders and settled into position. She quietly assessed the situation; the leaves littered the ground, fresh from the trees and a definite liability. If she didn't step on at least one, it would be an utter miracle. She went up on her tip-toes, years from sneaking around the castle kitchen taught her that this was the quietest option, if a little unstable. Her feet wove through the waves of leaves, her full weight never once landing on a single leaf; as a result there was none of the familiar crunching noise that very often accompanied them. By this stage, the morning sun had fully awoken in the forest and bared down, hot and heavy, on Rachel's armoured back. Her hand reached, stretched for the sword in Regan's hand. With his eyes still closed, his hand shot out and grabbed her wrist, stopping her in her careful footsteps. Rachel let out a tiny gasp of surprise, her eyes wide. 
"Not subtle enough." Regan said, and he flicked the sword to his other hand. "Again."
Rachel sighed, agitated. "Fine. Again." 

Rachel had finally gotten the sword of him, and it was a long battle, but she inevitably won. Even if it took awhile. Now, however, they were back in her element, swords drawn, eyes hard. She faked a surge forward, stepping back when Regan rushed to meet her, she got her sword at the hilt of his and twisted, his wrist following the movement and consequently sending it clattering to the ground. Regan looked up, impressed but calculating. 
"Again?" Rachel teased, but Regan nodded solemnly taking his sword from the ground and resuming his stance. 
Rachel shifted back, up on the balls on her feet. "If you insist." she said. Her grip was loose, her wrist flicking from side to side, the sword following her movements like an impressive, deadly, dance. She stopped suddenly, her left hand resting against the hilt, effectively stilling the movements. She raised an eyebrow at him, a question and a threat rolled into one. He stepped forward, and she faked a lunge, her weight rolling forward onto her extended leg. Just as quickly, she threw herself backward, reeling away as Regan lunged again. Consequently, he stumbled, the weight of the anticipated blow contributing to his fall. Rachel danced around him, agile as ever, not striking but rather teasing. She waited until she was fully behind him before making a move. She squared a kick to his lower back, prompting his fall even further. She watched, satisfied as he fell face first into the mud, not unlike her mere moments ago. Her sword levelled with his exposed neck. She gave a serene smile, although he could not see it. "Give up?" her voice was soft, although there was an undeniable teasing note to it. Regan spat out the dirt, and rolled over as best he could without decapitating himself. 
"No." He said matter of fact. 
Rachel gave a laugh, harsh but happy. "Oh, my favourite word!" 
Regan seethed, "Let us get on with it then! No use wasting our time." 
If Regan knew that Rachel smothered laughter at his dirtied face, he did not let on. “Well then, shall we?”
He clambered awkwardly upwards, his dodgy knee protesting with the movement. Rachel extended her hand graciously and hauled him to his feet. His fingers sought his swords hilt, grasped it tightly. Rachel turned her back to him as she walked back to the staring position. He flicked the blade out and pressed it lightly to the soft flesh of her neck, the weak link in her chain mail. "Never turn your back in your opponent."
Rachel reached up, her hand wrapped tightly around Regan's wrist; she thrust her weight into him, sending him staggering, as her hand forced the sword in the opposite direction. She threw herself backwards onto Regan's unstable stance and sent him, and his sword, clattering to the ground in a way that should be familiar to him now, after sparring with Rachel. She tutted at him, grinning brightly.
“Come on, Regan.” Rachel laughed, “How to defeat someone with your back turned was one of the first things my father taught me!” 
Regan eyed her doubtfully, “I thought you were six when you began your training?”
Rachel gave him a curious look, “I was.”
“Your father taught someone of six years how to win against someone who attempted to kill you from behind?”
Rachel shook her head disdainfully, “My father taught me how to defeat a coward.”
Regan chewed on his bottom lip, “Not everyone who fights in a war follows the same code of chivalry that you and your knights were taught.”
Rachel looked up at him, her green eyes flashing angrily, “Then they don’t deserve to call themselves knights.”
Regan backed up, hands raised in a placating gesture, “I agree with you, Rachel. I was simply warning you not to expect a friendly fight with your knights. This war, if it happens of course, will be brutal. There's no rules for people who only want to win. Don't expect there to be, because you will only be disappointed, angry and upset. It doesn't work like that Rachel, not here, not now.” Regan sighed, running a hand down his face, “Let's go back to the castle, we can discuss this later.”
Rachel didn't even bother arguing, she nodded wearily and turned so Regan could help her out of her hauberk.
Together, the two of them trudged up to the castle, exhausted in every way possible, minds transfixed on what was to come.

Rachel paused, back pressed against the wall, hands cupping the teapot tightly as she tilted her head to listen into the conversation. 
"Katherine!" The older maid snapped, she was greying with heavy lines etched across her face, "I am your superior, and you will do as I say."
Katherine looked entirely unimpressed, "You are Prince Arrington's maidservant! You should be attending to him, not me!"
The maid returned her claim with only a disdainful snort and hobbled away, leaving a stunned and angry Katherine in her path. Rachel rounded the corner, smiling kindly albeit a little slyly at the blonde. “Katherine!” She exclaimed in a falsely cheery voice. “There you are! I wanted to apologise for my incompetence the past week. Since I have been privately made Sir Regan's maidservant, I have learnt much about the proper way to address my,” she paused, tasting the word, her mouth curling in disgust like it burned to say, "superiors.” 
Katherine, however, looked overly pleased at the term, puffing out her chest, smiling winningly. “Therefore,” Rachel spat out through gritted teeth, “I wanted to offer my help. Would you like me to take the Prince's maidservant's work tonight? You can relax, have a bath?” 
Katherine looked shocked, her darkened eyes lit up, a brilliant smile across her face. “Rachel!” She exclaimed, bouncing on her toes, “That would be amazing! I am so sorry I was ever disrespectful to you, it was uncalled for, you're obviously of a very sweet disposition, I never should have doubted you.” She turned around and rushed away, skirts swirling behind her in a dirtied frenzy of movement.
Rachel smiled after her and turned on her heel, speeding towards the Prince's chambers. Regan's words echoed in her head, “No one sees a maid, and no one recognises their importance.” 

Rachel swirled her finger around the outside if the glass, mindlessly, as she pretended to clean. The prince had long since forgotten she was even in the room. He welcomed an balding man into his quarters, and they sat on opposite sides of the table, addressing the other in low voices. 
“My lord, we have had word from the other regions, the assassins have them all contained, not a person has escaped since the Lady Rachel and that was weeks ago, she would have informed the King and Queen by now, if she had made it here. She has died in the forest, I have no doubt. The ladies were never strong enough to survive such conditions.”
The prince mulled this over, his darkened eyebrows drawing together, forcing his weathered face into a twisted expression. “We have how many regions under our control, Collins?”
The man, ‘Collins’ Rachel's mind helpfully supplied, bit his lip in concentration, as though remembering a great number. “Blackcoast was the first taken, although it required a different plan and the duchess escaped.” He flinched as the Prince scowled viciously at the words, his shoulders going rigid. Collins continued with slightly more thought behind what he said. “We have overthrown all of the other regions, with the exception of Castlehedge, Northmill and Medowvale.”
Rachel stifled a groan of discontent. They were meant to have more time, this wasn't supposed to happen yet.
Prince Arrington stroked his dark beard, eyes narrowed thoughtfully, “How many weeks until we manage to take Medowvale at the least?” 
Collins shook his head, “A fortnight at least, my lord.”
The prince tutted, “My mother is finishing up her affairs, as she has been since Father's death. If it has taken her a month so far, there is no possibility that I will be on the throne when we attack Castlehedge.”
Collins shrugged unhelpfully, “You'll need to be, we attack Castlehedge two fortnights from now.”
Rachel dropped the glass with a shatter, frozen into place, eyes wide and heart pumping. She turned and fled, throwing the Prince's door open with a strength she didn't know she possessed. 

“Rachel, I beg of you, calm yourself.” Regan soothed the pacing lady. “Allow both yourself and me time to reevaluate before we rush into action. Again, tell me what he said.”
Rachel pressed her hand to her pale forehead, frustration lining every inch of her body, from her clenched jaw to moving feet. “I recall him explaining to someone-”
“What was his name?” Regan pressed.
Rachel dug her fingernails into her palms. “I don't know!” she fretted. “Colby? No, a similar sound. It was-” she chewed on her bottom lip, her eyebrows creasing. Instantaneously, her forehead uncreased and she snapped her fingers. “Collins!” she exclaimed. 
Regan's hooded eyes widened slightly before he spoke again, “And what exactly did Collins say?” 
 “He spoke of controlling the smaller regions, he says that the job has been ‘completed’. He says we have but a month until they attack Castlehedge?” She posed the last sentence as a question. 
Regan tugged at his beard, “What about Queen Miranda? What did they speak of for her?”
Rachel choose her words with fastidious care, knowing of Regan's fondness for the woman. “The Prince spoke of her reluctance to leave the throne to him, but she cannot delay for much longer, of that he is certain.”
Regan nodded, “We knew this when the king passed.” He slammed his fist down in the table, his weathered face contorting in rage. “We have wasted too much time on useless training! We must act!”
Rachel flinched backward at the harsh tone, the anger an unfamiliar sound on his tongue. 
Regan noted her flinch and dialled his tone back, sheepishly. “Rachel, you must ride out tonight, we have little choice otherwise. You say they plan a war for the Castlehedge region?” 
“They spoke of one, yes.” Rachel agreed.
“Then we have only one option, to get there first.” 

Rachel paused, her hand stilled on the hilt of her sword, her mission was simple. Get out quick, get out quiet. She could not fail, it was not an option. She cocked her head to the side, listening as the stable boy shifted in his sleep, eyes creasing. She eased past him, back against wall. “Hey girl.” Rachel whispered to her ever-faithful horse. “It's been a while, yeah?” She stroked the horse's muzzle, before moving behind the horse to saddle her. She flicked the stable door open, and swung on the back of her horse. Her hooves echoed on the cobblestone as she rode away into the moonless light, enveloped by the heavy fog. 



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