The Blood Rose Assassin – Part 7
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5
Cadavers and the scent of death overwhelmed Isolde as she, Niklaus, and Marianne made their way through the estate. Blood pooled over the floor and stairs. Certainly, it would take weeks to get the stains out… if there was anyone left to clean them. Isolde didn’t know who was dead or alive, but a twisting feeling in her gut clawed at her for attention. All she could do was stay alert.
So much violence, so much death. When she snuck off to spar with Niklaus, she never, ever thought of this. It was a whole other reality she never knew of. Although, what did she expect? Sure, swords clashing ended in death, but seeing the blank, open stares of fallen men, bleeding out from their chests, mouths, necks and arms, was a whole other thing entirely. It was real. It was all so real.
Marianne held out a hand to stop them in her tracks at the bottom of the stairwell, just as they were to enter the foyer. Isolde pressed her face into Niklaus’s shoulder. She could feel him rub her back. “Just keep your sword at the ready,” he whispered. Isolde nodded against him.
“And where do you think you three are going?”
Isolde pulled from Niklaus to see, behind them, three of Lord Umber’s men. Marianne didn’t waste time in immediately pulling out her own sword, surprising Isolde with her sharp skill. One of the men then lunged toward Niklaus, who blocked the attack, and the final of the three men slowly walked toward her.
She had to fight. This was real. It was finally kill or be killed. It wasn’t a game. Isolde took a deep breath, stepping backward as he came forward. Footwork she could do. She pulled out her sword, and the man unsheathed his.
He waited a beat, and Isolde’s adrenaline sparked into survival mode as he came at her.
The difference between the practice plays with Niklaus and this wasn’t just that the blades were real, not wooden. It wasn’t that Niklaus was her friend, and they just needed the practice. It was this evil intent to kill, something that had never been directed toward her. The look this man gave her held no remorse, no sense of fear. He showed only brute strength and his will. As their swords clashed, she met his piercing gaze and felt herself wanting to run.
All she could do was block. There was no opening, and her anxiety peaked. Though she would always block, she wasn’t just fighting for herself. She had a child to protect.
Steel against steel rang through the foyer. With a second miss, her attacker had an opening. Isolde saw the blade swing and fell back just as it came down. It barely missed her.
The man stepped closer to her, and Isolde pushed herself away so she could stand without him getting too close. But he was too close yet. The man lifted his sword and swung again, but he jolted in mid-swing. Isolde stared up at him with wide eyes, only to see him collapse. Where the man had been, Niklaus now stood with his bloodied sword, panting but otherwise fine.
“All right?” Niklaus asked, walking over and holding his hand out to help her. She gazed into his eyes, so grateful and in love in that very moment as she took his hand to stand.
“Impeccable timing, my love.”
“You’re right about that. Where’s Marianne?” he asked, looking around. Isolde frowned, looking around, too.
“I’ll find her. She can’t be too far. She looks like she can take care of herself!”
“Wait, fuck, come here,” Niklaus said, holding his hands out to her and pulling her close for a warm embrace. “You did incredible.”
“I did not, I felt half frozen. You saved me,” Isolde said, closing her eyes and pressing her face into his chest. She felt his hand along her back again.
“It was your first real fight. You really did great and you were caught off guard by this siege. Now we can get out of here and raise our baby.”
Isolde smiled to herself and nodded. “You’re right. Thank you.” Niklaus always knew the right thing to say. “I’m so excited.”
The sound of a sword caught her ear. She didn’t think it was being sheathed or unsheathed. Although, it was the unmistakable sound of a sword being moved against something.
“Nik?” she whispered. She looked up from his chest into his eyes and was met with a splattering of blood and the sudden, terrifying motion of a blade swiping just above her head. She screamed, still holding onto Niklaus, but his head rolled off his neck and his now heavy body crumpled despite Isolde holding him.
Isolde hadn’t realized she’d closed her eyes tightly, but she did, and she could feel hot tears pooling from the cracks. She opened her eyes slowly after it pained her to keep them shut, and she screamed in sorrow.
She hadn’t imagined it. Niklaus had been beheaded right before her eyes.
A blind mix of disbelief, rage, and heartbreak filled her so instantaneously that tears rushed from her eyes in an endless stream. She glared at the monster responsible for the murder, who was cleaning his sword against clothing of another dead body.
A deep, burning loathing filled her. Hot tears still springing from her eyes, her fury took over, moving her limbs forward toward the monster. She let out a scream, her arms raised with her sword. All she could see was red as the man blocked her blade in time, and their swords danced as she herself felt vengeful enough to kill.
She screamed with every swing of her sword, tried to see clearly through her tears no matter how blurry her vision grew. Instead of stiff parrying, Isolde attacked. It built her confidence with every move, although this soldier, this armored man, kept blocking her so effortlessly. How infuriating!
It was stupid. Reckless. Childish, even, to throw away everything she understood of sword fighting just from her desire to lunge at him. She missed an opening, tried to take it back, and felt the unbearable, sharp pain of a sword piercing her stomach take her by surprise, so much that she stopped moving altogether and lowered her weapon.
Isolde let out another scream of mournful pain. Who cared if a blade was plunged inside of her, setting every single one of her nerves aflame? Not only was Niklaus gone, ripped from her like nothing, but her baby was taken from her, too. Her baby, barely given a chance.
Isolde dropped to the ground. He pulled the sword from within her, drawing out another pained scream. Blood pooled from the open wound, and she looked up to see the man lift his protective visor, revealing himself to be none other than Lord Umber.
He stood over her. There was no hiding who she was. If they could see each other, it was evident. “You could’ve had me. Look what you’ve done to yourself, to everyone else,” Lord Umber told her. She whimpered. “You can suffer for all I care.”
Lord Umber turned from her and walked out of the front doors as if nothing had happened. Isolde burst into tears, the weight of his words heavy in her dying heart. Niklaus was dead. Her baby was dead. Now, she would be, too, but not without suffering in the tragedy she’d caused.
Were her parents dead, too?
Isolde heard footsteps, but felt too tired and scared to move. So pathetic. She’d never intended to be so fucking foolish and incompetent. To her surprise, Marianne’s face hovered over hers and she let out a small sob at the sight of her. “Mari, I thought you were dead!”
“Foolish girl, of course not,” Marianne said.
“It’s all my fault,” Isolde cried out. “I did this, it’s all my fault!” She coughed, and blood sprayed out from her mouth. “I’m fucking dying.”
Marianne ripped off fabric from her skirts to wrap around Isolde’s torso. The movement made her cry out, and Isolde could swear her vision was growing faint. “You didn’t drag those men in here to kill everyone. This was the work of frail masculinity. Just because you didn’t wish to marry him. That’s not your fault.”
“Nik?” Isolde whispered, her head rolling to the side to see his head. He was still smiling from their embrace. Tears welled up in her eyes again. She felt wet. She was bleeding profusely. At least she’d see him again, and maybe their baby. Or maybe not.
Her eyes shut. And then, there was nothing but darkness.
Three Days Later
Isolde’s eyes opened for the first time since the siege. She stared at the ceiling and could hear the chirp of birds outside. Her eyes shifted left and right quickly, gauging her surroundings and understanding she was in her bedroom.
The softness of the sheets alarmed her. Acute awareness of the sensation was all that filled her mind. She shuddered. It was odd to be so in tune with such a normal thing. Even worse, she was highly aware that her skin was touching the clothes she was wearing. Isolde sat up abruptly and put her hand to her chest to stop the feeling, but it didn’t leave.
She glanced at the window that served as the passage between her’s and Niklaus’s worlds. It had curtains, which was peculiar. She never had curtains in here. That was something usually reserved for a higher-ranked noble than her.
Isolde stood up. Why did she feel everything? She shuddered at the cold ground floor and took careful steps toward the window, but ended up rushing to it in a way that felt disorienting. It was as if she had teleported from the bed to the window, though it couldn’t be possible.
Perplexed, she opened the curtains to let light in the room and was immediately greeted by the burning sun. The rays seared her skin, burning it red, crackling it, making it smoke as if she’d been in a terrible fire. Isolde hissed and jumped to her bed in the corner of her room and hid under the covers.
The door to Isolde’s room opened. Daring to peek, Isolde felt relief at the sight of Marianne. “Mari!” Isolde exclaimed. “What’s happened?! The sun! And… I’m really hungry.” Isolde frowned, realizing how much her mouth watered since waking up.
Marianne sighed and went to close the curtains. “Until you get a talisman to protect you from the sun, it is an enemy to you that will kill you.”
“What the hell do you mean? I have so much hair!” It was moving against her neck and shoulders all the time. Had it always been this noticeable? “You saved me? My baby?” She asked worriedly, and looked down at her stomach. She lifted her nightdress and stared at her bare stomach. There was no sign that she’d been stabbed at all. “But… how?”
Marianne walked over to the bed and sat at its edge. “There’s no way to tell you this that’ll make it easier to understand. There’s no beating around the bush with this. No euphemism like ‘passing away’ to mean you’re dead. You’re a vampire.”
Isolde blinked in surprise. Marianne had said it so casually and quickly that she didn’t even prepare for it. Vampires were supposed to be extinct. How could she be one? Unless…
“You’re a vampire?” Isolde asked.
“Yes, and for now, I’m your sire. Rule number one is to stay away from the sun until I can find a witch to help us. Now get dressed, you need to feed from a human.”
Marianne got up and made her way to the door. She turned back and smiled. “Well, yes. I thought you said you were hungry.”
To be continued.