// 2021-04-11 // by Neon

The Veiled Maiden

A gentle flick of the wrist, a soft stroke of the brush left a feathered curve of chrysanthemum yellow on the canvas. I had been working on it for weeks, my vision of a newer, brighter herald for my family which reigned over the Kingdom of Illius. One day, I thought, there could be a new dawn for my people, an era of dignity and equality for all. That's what I wanted the symbol, no, the idea of my family to represent. I half-smiled and took a step back from my painting, looking over to my handmaiden standing beside me, eagerly hoping for her approval of my work.

She smiled back to me supportively with an enthusiastic pearlescent glow in her captivating cerulean eyes. "Tis honest. I know'st that thy father, my king, doth consider your artistry a detractor to be wrought out by your future husband, but, prithee, it lights my soul to see your invention shapen before me, my lady."

I set my brush down beside the easel and took one of her hands in mine, standing before her with my deep desire to be seen as an equal. "I cherish that about thee, my fine Marian. Any who walk the halls of this court, they would bite their tongues and sell me fancy tales of my regal splendor to suit mine appetite. Alack, thy words ring true, and I would be lost without thee."

She blushed and held onto my hand for but a lingering moment with no further words to be said.

"Awake, dearest Robin! Come apace, my lady!"

I wearily roused from under my covers as Marian shook me urgently to wakefulness.

"You must quicken, princess. The lords of the Kingdom doth conspire to regicide; word has come to me amidst the guards whose lips doth loosen afore less guilded company."

My eyes widened and I rolled out off my luxurious framed bed onto the cold stone floor.Before I could step over to my wardrobe to clothe myself, Marian grabbed my arm and pulled me back. I looked at her and realised she was carrying an extra set of clothes; the well-kempt yet drab attire of a royal servant.

"Consider, the air of royals attends thine enfoldings. Harkthee, assume mine mean apparel, lest the lordship's loyals lay attention."

At a loss for words, I nodded solemnly and quickly changed from my nightshirt into the servant garb. I felt half asleep still, and none of this felt at all real.

Marian took my hand and pulled me to the doorway of my royal chamber. She looked at me and put her index finger to her mouth, indicating for me to be quiet. Slowly, doing her best to keep the giant wooden door from creaking, she cracked the door and peered into the torchlit hallway, making sure the coast was clear before pulling me out into the hall behind her.

There was a hidden tunnel leading out from the castle hidden behind some shelving in the larder, and I knew right away that we'd be heading in that direction. The two of us had discovered the secret path years ago as rambunctious kids running around the palace, playing together and sticking our hands into all kinds of places we weren't supposed to. Those were simpler times, where the scariest outcome of being found out was getting sent to my room and being told to act more ladylike...

Marian and I made our way through several wide corridors and dashed from corner to corner. I was surprised that there were no guards to be found on our way there... but if Marian was right and there really was a coup in effect by the lords, it makes sense that the conspirators would have thinned out the guard rotations to a minimum in order to keep only the most loyal involved.

We were almost there, just one more turn and the kitchen was the first door on the right, and the larder passage being our ticket to safety. I eagerly darted around the corner, smacking face-first into a guard standing watch...

I tripped and fell flat onto my rear as the guard quickly drew his sword as he immediately recognised her despite the servant disguise. "Egad! The princess..."

It all happened in a split second. My eyes widened and I awkwardly scrambled backward along the ground and he stepped toward me, raising his blade to lunge forward.

Marian shouted at me as he came forward, but I immediately froze in place. "Princess! Move!"

I raised my hands in front of my face and closed my eyes. "Oh fie..."

There was a dull smack and I opened my eyes.

Marian had jumped in the way and let herself be impaled straight onto the guard's sword. She grunted and gasped, then with an uncanny strength she pushed the guard's blade all the way through herself in order to get right in front of him. Before he could react or even realise what was happening, Marian grabbed for the dagger at his belt, pulled it free, and then in one swift motion lodged the knife straight into the man's neck, causing him to instantly keel over and spew blood from out of his severed artery.

Somehow, despite the sword sticking all the way through her chest, Marian was still standing. Blood started to visibly pool from under her shirt, and she weakly sat down, legs crossed, on the floor beside the man she'd just killed.

Still in shock at what had just happened, I crawled over to Marian and held her in my arms, pulling her close into a hug. "Marian, wherefore not I, fair champion?"

She weakly lifted an arm and put it on my shoulder, trying to push me away. She coughed and tried to speak, barely audible as each breath she took grew fainter and fainter. "Run, dearest princess."

Tears rolled down my eyes and I buried my face in her bosom, above the impaled hilt of the sword sticking from her chest.

I stuttered in the heat of the moment. It was all my fault. I let this happen.

Never again.

Whispers and rumours have run rampant amidst the Kingdom of Illius in the years since the untimely deaths of King Bahrcliffe and the royal family. They say that nobles of neighbouring kingdoms and even fantastical creatures vie for lasting influence over the kingdom in these turbulent times. The people will tell each other seemingly anything to stay hopeful. One of the more wishful tales out there is the story of the Veiled Maiden, an alleged mysterious figure fighting from the shadows to extinguish powerful aristocrats until the unheard masses are allowed their own voice.

Raindrops rolled down the sides of my mottled cloak as I scouted my next mark from a nearby rooftop in the dead of night. I smirked and gracefully vaulted inside through an open window. That's the thing about whispers. You never know which ones are true.

This story was written after a friend of mine made a joke in passing conversation about the idea of me writing fanfiction about her. I take jokes very seriously. 😂

Art for this post was sourced from the public domain with minor edits made by me in GIMP: