Their story started 4 years ago when he was hired to kill her. And spy on the kingdom.
It took months for them to track him down, and once they did, dear King Balthius threw a bag full of gold in his face.
“This is just the deposit. Destroy the kingdom, and there are plenty from where that came from."
Then they met.
Their first meeting was plenty uneventful. Princess Arienne was lamenting about whatever mundane thing that happened to her that day to her father, and then she randomly hired Arthur to fill the position of a kitchen boy. The kitchen boy he just killed.
“Just look at his clothes father, it is not like he has better job opportunities."
As you would imagine, their story progressed like any other assassin and target trope. Assassin fell in love, clumsily pursued the target, target fell in love too, and then they spent all of their remaining time together. Except this assassin was directly involved with his target father death. The target found out about his identity. And then their roles switched.
Arthur was locked in the cells that Arienne threw him in. The teary-eyed, heart freshly stomped on, sitting by her dying father side, Arienne's head was spinning. Everything for the last 3 months kept replaying over and over in her head. Every heart-fluttering, butterflies flapping, fingers and toes curling up moments that led Arienne to stay in a happiness-induced comatose state came crashing down when she saw the sword pierce through her father. Arthur wasn’t holding the sword, but King Balthius made it clear to the princess that it was all his credit.
“I've got to give it up for him. You know, Arthur said the reason you can’t be killed yet was that you were too valuable. He was going to make use of you to give me the plans to destroy your kingdom, and look at him, he did. If it was up to me, I would've killed you first, but it looks like I get to do it regardless. And even better, I can personally put the sword through you like I did your dad."
Of course, she survived. Her knights came in from the dark and ambushed King Balthius. He still managed to flee, but Arthur may not be that lucky. Princess Arienne arrested him, and now she would be overseeing him getting a guillotine blade to his neck. That is if she could stomach it.
Flash forward to a few years later, Arienne became the queen. Her kingdom grew more prosperous than ever, and Arthur could only hear about it when he visited the tavern far out beyond her territory. Arthur built himself a little hut with the gold King Balthius gave him. It was an empty hut, just a mattress, a few pots and pans, and a rusty tin can that substituted as a bathtub. The remaining gold he used to buy roses. Lots and lots of roses filled acres of land in his backyard. His backyard that he hacked down the trees with help from his tavern buddies; to fill it with roses. He wasn’t a big fan of roses or flowers for that better. But Arienne was. Arthur didn’t do it in hopes of getting Arienne back or getting her forgiveness. He did it because he just missed her, and since he couldn’t see her again, the roses would be enough. It did work. It worked like magic; until a random Tuesday afternoon, Arienne showed up at his door.
It wasn’t romantic; she was here on business. Rumours were swirling in the kingdom about another attack from King Balthius, and through her court advisor or the jester or whatever, they were standing a metre apart. Their meeting went…well. I mean, how well can it get between a former assassin and his former target? Arienne stood up, ready to take her leave, and after 5 seconds of hesitation, he asked her to stay.
“I have something to show you."
Adrienne's eyes widened in surprise. She simply stood there, at a loss for words. Her mind-scrambling and her heart rate rapidly increasing.
“I have people waiting outside for me."
One simple sentence, two different interpretations.
Arienne meant it as people are waiting outside for me, so I can’t take long. Arthur thought of it as, people are waiting outside for me, so you can’t hurt me.
Arthur took Arienne outback and showed her his rose-filled land. A smile crept on her face; she couldn’t believe the thousands of acres of land filled with her favourite flowers.
“How did you find this place?"
“I made it."
Three words were all it took for Arienne's mind to unravel. You see, all this while she thought the short-lived relationship they had was one-sided. That every single second they spent together was just so he could spy for Balthius and come up with a plan to destroy the kingdom. That she was nothing more than a tool for him to use, a device. But now, standing in front of countless roses that spread far beyond than she could see, the flutter in her heart and stomach came back. So maybe she meant something to him too, something more than lure, a plan, a bait.
Fast forward through a couple of weeks, Arienne is now lying in Arthur’s arms. A pool of blood-forming beside her. King Balthius plan worked. He finally succeeded. He saw the downfall of their kingdom, and now he has finally completed his life mission. The two of them were finally together again after years, and they only had a few more minutes before Arienne fade.
“I don’t think I need to say this anymore, but you’re officially unbanned from the kingdom."
She chuckled. And so did he in between sobs. None of them said anything else after and just cherished the limited time they had left. Arienne didn’t have any regrets. Sure, things may have been a lot better if they didn’t meet the way they had. If he didn’t help Balthius with his plan. If her father didn’t screw Balthius over time and again until he was out for blood. But this was nice too. Though her life as a princess wasn’t a fairy-tale, she figured this moment she was sharing with Arthur could be part of a fairy-tale. Despite the arrow through her back, she was once again in the arms of the man she loved. She was in the arms of the man that made her heart first flutter, and she was more than content.
Even if he was the one that also made it stop.
Their story didn’t end there. Arthur didn’t allow it. After Arienne passed, he took the jewel that was on a crown. The same jewel that Arthur wears around his neck. He took it everywhere. Arienne couldn’t visit other kingdoms unless it was an official visit, so Arthur went to all the kingdoms she wanted to go to and showed her around. Arienne wanted to see the big, gorgeous waterfall in Balthius kingdom, so Arthur snuck in and showed her. Arienne wanted to visit the tavern and drink until her heart content, so Arthur went in and got hammered. Every now and then when Arthur feels tired, he retreats back to his little hut to take care of the roses. During those times, he would always wonder, what would happen if he never met Arienne? She would probably be married to a prince and lived happily ever after. He probably would’ve kept being an assassin until he got old and then retired on a mountain. Arienne may not have regretted meeting Arthur, but on nights like this, where he would scream her name into the field and when he couldn't hear her voice calling back, he would wish that their lives never crossed.
© 2021 Alison Lian