The Blood Rose Assassin – Part 3
The blacksmith shop was a place Isolde frequented far too much than she ever should. If her parents found out she went almost every night, they’d faint from their shame. Still, going to the shop, away from her manor, gave her a feeling of brief liberation.
The walls were lined with different types of swords, shields, armor, and even some jewelry. Anvils awaited the next day’s hammering against metal to forge more craftsmanship. On the second floor were the homier quarters of Niklaus, his mother, and father. He and Isolde had to be quiet with their practice during late nights.
“Where are your parents?” Isolde asked.
“Tavern. It’s their free day off.” Niklaus rushed over to a side of the room with finished metalworks. “Close your eyes, okay?”
“Okay.” Isolde shut her eyes and waited ever so patiently. She heard Niklaus’s feet shuffling along the floor toward her again and bit her lip in excitement. “May I open them now?”
“One moment… all right. Now.”
Isolde opened her eyes to see Niklaus on one knee with a long box in his arms, presenting it to her the way she’d seen his father present swords to her father. Her heart jumped in her chest at the packaging that she’d come to recognize over the years. Although, it couldn’t really be a sword… could it?
“You’re not serious,” she whispered, her eyes softening in awe.
“Open it, will you? You can see how serious I am then.”
Isolde grinned, meeting the glint in his eyes, and she carefully lifted the cover to unveil the most beautiful sword she’d ever set her eyes upon. She drew in a slow breath, admiring the shine of the blade and the design of the handle encrusted with purple jewels. It didn’t look as big as the other swords, but it felt right, it felt like it was made just for her.
“Nik…” she didn’t even say his whole name, but he beamed at the nickname anyway. “I’m speechless, I don’t know what to say. Is this really for me?” He nodded, and she reached for it gingerly, holding it at the hilt and pointing it up. She tilted her head back to admire the sharp tip, the seamless finish, how beautiful the work was… and the comfortable grip! Upon further inspection, Isolde could see at the hilt, a stunning chain was attached to it with a stunning bracelet. It wouldn’t slip out of her hand ever. It felt perfect and lightweight. “It’s perfect. I can’t believe you did this for me.” She looked back at him and set the sword back into its box with great care. “How did you ever find the time?”
“To smith this?” He whistled lowly and closed the box for her. “The nights you didn’t come to play with wooden, pretend swords with me. I’d stay up just… designing the sword. I wanted it to be perfect. And I noticed one of the difficult things about when we play fought is if I won a match, your sword would go flying. So, this way, you’ll always have it.”
“There’s no way I’ll be able to take this back without people seeing—”
“Don’t worry about that. I know that, especially today. Tomorrow I’ll come. Maybe you can find a sturdy string and toss it towards the ground and I can tie it around the box and you can pull it up? I don’t know. We’ll think of something.” He set the box down where he originally had it and came back with another smaller one. Isolde knit her brows together, confused. “But for now, I think this gift would be okay to take home.”
Isolde gasped softly and opened the smaller one. Cushioned inside was a silver necklace with a lovely crescent moon pendant. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered, beaming and looking up at him. “Will you put it on me?”
“Of course, Milady,” She gave him a look but handed him the necklace and turned around so her back was to him. He looped the necklace around her and cleared his throat politely. “Would you mind, erm… your hair—”
“Oh, of course,” Isolde quickly pulled her hair up and away from her neck, and he secured the necklace. She let her hair fall and turned to face him, smiling. “How’s it look?”
Niklaus smiled warmly as he glanced at the necklace and looked into her eyes. “Beautiful. You like it?”
“I love it. It’s perfect. I feel complete now.” She bit back a growing smile and he looked down bashfully. With a spring of courage, she leaned in to wrap her arms around him tightly and rest her chin against his shoulder. Niklaus hesitated, but she felt his arms wrap around her, too, and for a moment, they stayed like that.
Niklaus started to sway a little from the side to side and Isolde swayed, too. They simply held each other and danced lazily, and words and desires jumped at the tip of her tongue nervously.
Thankfully, Niklaus was the one who spoke first. “When do you have to be back?”
“Probably soon. They’ll come looking for me.”
“Wish you could stay.”
“And I wish you could come.”
He pulled back to look down at her. She gazed up into his eyes and her heart seemed to be wanting to jump out of her body. His hand came up to cup her face and she leaned into it. Her eyes darted across his face and she wondered if he could feel her heart beating against her face. It felt as if every part of her was humming. It was a bit embarrassing, but Niklaus didn’t seem to care or notice. He closed the space between them and kissed her.
They were just kids, and Isolde newly sixteen, but she was certain this was love. She kissed him back messily, with bumping noses and small giggles that led to kissing teeth, but they soon fell into sync, and Isolde suddenly didn’t care that she should go. All she knew was that she loved Niklaus and that when she went back home, she’d be introduced to some Lord who was probably decades older than her, with no way out.
She let out a small sob and pulled back a little. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, and he shook his head and wiped her tears with his thumbs. “I didn’t mean to cry—fuck, why am I crying?” She shook her head and was quick to hug him, quick to reassure it wasn’t at all his fault. “I don’t want to go. Not yet.”
Niklaus swallowed hard and held her again. “It’s okay. Sorry, this isn’t… really romantic now that I think of it, in the shop.” That made her laugh, and she pulled back briefly to kiss him just for that. She smiled softly and he cleared his throat. “Do you want to come upstairs? To, erm. You know. My room?” he asked, blushing.
Isolde gave him a smile and nodded. “Okay. But then I’ll have to go. I know I will. But. I’ll stay a little while longer.”
He took her hand and led her upstairs. There were three small rooms upstairs—the kitchen and the bedrooms, and Niklaus led her to his room. It had books and swords and clothes, completely organized in such a small space, and of course, a bed.
“Nik?” She asked, using his new nickname again. His eyes softened and she sat herself carefully on the bed. He sat beside her and she twiddled her thumbs. “You know I love you, right?” She was careful to not say “in love.” Considering the circumstances and, well, they’d only just kissed today, she had to tread carefully.
“Same as I love you, yes.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen after I go back home to the party and… and I meet whoever my parents want me to meet, but I’m really scared. I don’t love him. Don’t even know him.”
Niklaus was visibly deflated, and he looked away. “Right… I… yeah. I know. I remember.”
“Can we have this moment together before it all falls apart? Can we pretend for a moment it’s my birthday and I don’t have to go back to my manor anytime soon for a party that will doom me forever? Can we pretend it’s you and me and there’s nothing to worry about?”
“Of course we can. If it’s… the only time, I think I’d want that too. At least I’ll get to die knowing I had you for a moment.”
“And that I loved you first?”
“And that I also loved you first.”
He kissed her again, and for a long moment, their lives were better than they really were. They were together, and while she felt pain for their first time, there was passion, and it was with someone she trusted. They also tried it again just because Niklaus was so concerned and wanted her to feel good, too. Imperfect passion, but they worked well together, and she wasn’t afraid of it anymore. They could have the memory forever.
But the fantasy faded as she dressed again. She felt such fondness when Niklaus helped her into the dress and cleaned her up and giggled whenever he couldn’t help himself to more kisses.
“I hope my hair’s all right. My dress isn’t too dirty? I don’t know. I did fall into the dirt with you earlier.”
“I can’t notice anything amiss. I think you look lovely, Isolde.” He cutely twirled her hair in his fingers. “No one will ever suspect a thing.”
“I love you,” she whispered, and he positively beamed.
“I love you, too.”
“I’ll come see you as soon as I can. Okay?” she said as they walked downstairs and out through the back of the shop.
“Try and have some fun. But I’ll wait for you, Milady. I hope….” He sighed, looking up at the sky thoughtfully as the evening crept ever closer. “I hope you won’t have to be with him, or anyone… but… a realistic hope I have is he’s not as bad as you worry… and… that you’ll end up happy with him anyway.”
Tears pooled in her eyes at his words. She gave him one last, searing kiss and smiled sadly. “You’re so good to me. I really don’t deserve you.”
“Probably not, you deserve better.”
“Stop it, that’s not what I meant.”
“I know what you meant, and you’re very sweet because of it, Milady.” She pointed a finger at him as if to say stop calling me Milady. “I know. Now, go. Don’t want you to get into any more trouble.”
Isolde blew him another kiss and made her way back towards her manor, psyching herself up for her life sentence.
To be continued.