Lan was hovering around the corner of Prince Angrenn’s private chambers, waiting for the prince to appear. The previous Prince Angrenn’s death and hosting the subsequent commemoration feast had left a heavy strain on the current one.
Finally the prince appeared in the dimly-lit hallway. Lan slipped into his role, and emerged just as the prince was about to enter the room, carrying the freshly-laundered sheets he had been instructed to take to the palace’s west wing. The prince looked up at his approach. ‘’What are you doing here?’’
‘’Oh, apologies milord, it seems I have gotten lost. ‘’Lan cast his gaze to the floor, feigning subservience. The prince sighed. ‘’I assume you are a recent addition to my staff. Well, move on.’’
‘’Milord, you do not seem so well. Is there anything I can do for – ‘’
‘’Did you not hear me? Move on. ‘’
Lan did as he was told. He was about to walk past the prince when the latter told him, ‘’wait. There is something you can do. ‘’Prince Angrenn turned and looked at him through shadowed eyes. ‘’Stay with me.’’
The prince took Lan by the wrist and drew him inside the room. The door shut behind Lan with a thud.
The room was less elaborate than that of the wealthy merchant he had killed a few months ago. There was a fireplace, a table and two chairs, and a canopied bed with no carvings. A single painting hung above the fireplace, a portrait of a solemn-looking man Lan guessed was the late Prince Angrenn. Not that it mattered. The assassin was getting closer and closer to accomplishing his goal, as the current Prince Angrenn slumped against him with exhaustion. Lan half-dragged him to the bed and sat him down. ‘’Milord, are you sure you are alright?’’ Lan said, adopting a concerned tone as he leaned in, bringing his face closer to that of the prince. He would lull the prince into a sense of security with caresses and words of comfort, then kiss him, adminstering the poison. He raised his hand to stroke the prince’s face – but his wrist was suddenly caught in an iron grip. ‘’Who sent you? Tell me. ‘’
‘’Please forgive me Milord, I know not what you mean. ‘’ Lan smiled as he said this. He was used to his targets being difficult. Gentle chiding, as with a child, usually did the trick.
‘’Don’t lie to me. I know exactly what you are. ‘’
‘’Milord, you are tired. Please rest. ‘’
‘’I shall not. ‘’
The prince rose; now Lan could see clearly that he was at least a head taller. Lan’s hand was no longer caught in his, and he made an entirely different impression than he had done seconds before. ‘’You thought you had your opening in my time of mourning for my father, is it not? ‘’
‘’Milord, I… ‘’
The prince’s eyes narrowed. ‘’I believe it is about time for you to drop the charade. ‘’ He took a step closer. '’Who sent you? ‘’
‘’It must have been a long day for you, Milord‘’.
A moment of silence passed between them. The fire in the fireplace was starting to peter out; a ray of moonlight fell across the room, silhouetting the prince’s tall frame. This was not going as it should. Lan reached for the knife hidden in his sleeve.
Finally, Prince Angrenn sighed. ‘’Fine, then. Tell me, what do you think of working for me? ‘’
Lan was dumbfounded. He was here to kill the man. He had imagined something would happen if he got caught, some kind of punishment. Certainly not this.
The prince smiled. ‘’You are silent. Perhaps being given over to the peacekeepers on the morrow is more appealing to you?’’
It was a rhetorical question.
‘’I will work for you. ‘’
‘’ I am delighted. Now, return to the servants’ quarters. You shall be summoned in the morning. ‘’
And with that, Lan left the room, shaken by this unexpected turn of events.