This is a story I started writing back in 2008 as a companion story to my Changeling game. I had ideas for around 10,000 words of plot, but lost enthusiasm.
The problem with amnesia, I reflected as I gazed across the lake, was that it was so cheesy, so stereotypical. An assassin with no memory of his former life, as if that hadn't been done a hundred times before. Still, here I was. Here we all were – the Duke, Bubble, Squeak and me. The Plastic Flowers, assassins to the discerning and cash-strapped courts of Fairyland.
They called me “Kiddo” back then, Duke and the twins, since not even I knew what name was rightfully mine. Not that any of us would have used our real names – whoever the Duke once was that title was surely never his, and there could be no-one alive sadistic enough to call their daughters Bubble and Squeak. Probably.
I stood, and paced, and thought, and skimmed pebbles until the shadows lengthened and the world darkened.
Bubble crept up behind me, as always making much more noise than she thought, and patted me on my greasy-haired head.
“C'mon, kiddo,” she said, “time to go back to the palace.”
It had been a long day of pretence for all of us.
House Hyacinth had, of course, to show off their vast new palace to everyone, and thus they had thrown a party open to every noble in the land. So it was somewhat fortunate for us that a certain minor House had come down with “food poisoning” whilst we were around to take their place. In what was by now a familiar pattern for the other three, they had transformed themselves into the somewhat gruff Duke Whitethorn and the charming socialites Lady Wilhelmina and Lady Henrietta. I, of course, a kid so scruffy that no clothes or makeup could ever make presentable at a noble court, had taken the vastly underrated job of Kitchen Boy.
Thus at the end of the first day of the party, the Duke had won the respect of his temporary peers, Bubble and Squeak had caught up on gossip from the far corners of Fairyland, and I knew everything there was to know about roasting parsnips.
We also knew everything there was to know about Prince Archibald Hyacinth. Or so we thought.
We were paid by proxy, of course – it was usually the way – but we had our suspicions as to whom our generous donor was. Who would want to kill the Prince of a House? There was a war on, of course, so the Reds would happily have removed any member of House Hyacinth. But why not its Duke? No, the only thing that made sense is that it was a White – more than likely, a member of his own family.
We'd found out plenty about the identity of Prince Archibald, the Duke's only son and thus his heir. His birth was not a legitimate one, though, for the Duke had never married. Some poor woman from the town had come to the castle one day bearing two children in her arms, a boy and a girl, and claiming that they were the Duke's. This, we ascertained, was somewhat of a surprise to the Court, who always figured the Duke to be the type that enjoys the company of young men rather than ladies.
Nevertheless, the boy came to live in the castle as a Prince. I suppose the Duke realised that, young as he was, he couldn't live forever. The girl, though. The girl disappeared. Nobody speaks of her anymore, though Squeak managed to coax the information out of some society lady anyway.
But the Prince, the Prince… Only fifteen years of age, he was barely older than me. And yet someone, for sake of argument let's say his own father, wants him dead. Why? Does he have designs on the throne already? From what we've heard, it wouldn't surprise me if he would be a better Duke than his father anyway, but still. It's not our place to decide these things. We took our payment, half in advance and half after it's done, and now we have to go ahead with it.
Kill Prince Archibald Hyacinth. But how?
This is when our specialities come into play. As a kitchen boy, there's nowhere I couldn't go. With a little effort, I could get access to his food, too. So poison? I have to admit, it's the method I like best. Dislike least, I should say. We're assassins, we kill, that's the way it is. But I've got to admit, I wouldn't like to do it while looking the target in the eye. With poisons, there's distance involved. Cause and effect can be far enough apart that you can almost bring yourself around to not feeling bad about it. But the problem remained, what if the Prince had food tasters? What if he only ate what others ate? What I'm really saying is, what if he knows someone's out to get him?
The Duke – our Duke that is, not any of the real ones, though everyone for now thinks he's Duke Whitethorn anyway, could likewise pretty much go anywhere and do anything, here. After all, who'd tell a Duke off for doing something? But he could most easily blow our cover. The most likely person to find him out of place – Duke Hyacinth. And if we assume that Hyacinth himself is our customer, there's a pretty big chance of us not getting paid the rest of our money if we're discovered. If we're discovered by Hyacinth and others are with him, well… I can't see it going well for any of us.
Which leaves Bubble and Squeak. As the high society ladies they're pretending to be, there's a lot of rules they have to follow. Apparently, anyway. So what can they do, if they can barely leave the great hall? Well, here the identity of our target helps us out a lot. Being a fifteen year old boy, one can imagine the effect that twin seventeen-year-old girls could have on him. I'm certainly not… unaware of it.
To be continued…