Delphine couldn’t remember the exact moment she became a hired assassin, but here she was atop a roof, examining a carriage as it rolled past.
She lived alone in a small cottage in the woods, far from the palace and town. Perhaps a mother and father once loved Delphine, but she could not recall. Her childhood was whittled away by schemes and petty theft; a means to survive when prematurely abandoned. Death was always around her, once unbidden but of late always by her own hand.
In the distance, the palace shone brightly in the moonlight, the last of the revelers heading home.
Slipping through an open window, she crept over to the bed where a young maiden with golden curls slept. The small room was bare save for a bed, chair, and wardrobe. Peeking out from within the wardrobe was a sorry, tattered dress. Whatever this poor maiden could have possibly done to incur someone’s wrath, was not for Delphine to question.
Without hesitation, she grabbed the blonde locks, yanking the woman from her bed. Now awake, the woman struggled beneath her, clawing at her hands. As she opened her mouth to scream, Delphine slid her dagger swiftly across her neck. “No more balls for you, my dear,” she whispered. The young woman stared at her with wide eyes, gurgling for breath and then sliding limply to the floor.
As Delphine wiped her blade against her tunic, a mischief of mice scurried over to her from under the bed. She yawned as they darted towards her with a battle cry — with barely a few stomps, Delphine ended their rally. As quickly as she entered, she was out into the night air once again but not before pocketing a dazzling glass shoe.
Below in the shadows of the garden, a hooded figure waited. “You made fast work of her,” the shadow greeted.
“As I will with you if you do not pay me what you owe,” Delphine said in reply, the dagger twisting in her hand.
“It’s all there,” the shadow claimed while tossing a bag over. “And the Godmother, what of her?”
Delphine held out a slender wand, with a broken tip, caked with dried blood — it glistened in the moonlight. The cloaked woman crept out from the shadow and greedily snatched the wand.
“Consider your daughter already crowned,” Delphine remarked as she slipped into the darkness and disappeared.
As she made her way home, she considered her clients and their contracts. She didn’t know their stories beyond what she needed to be told. She didn’t ask — as long as she was paid, what did she care? Besides, she thought bitterly, it’s not like a fairy godmother ever swooped in and saved her when she needed it. Not when she was starving and alone was a bit of magic ever bestowed upon her. But that dimwitted fool wants to go to one ball and a literal red carpet is rolled out for her.
No, she didn’t mind killing her, or any of them for that matter.
She spun the glass shoe in the air and wondered how much could she fetch for it. How uncomfortable it must be to wear them all night, she thought as she slipped it on her foot. But in that instant, a warmth spread through her body unlike any she’s ever known. Suddenly, she could smell the trees and see every star in the sky.
Delphine began to spin in circles and laugh. But in the moonlight she saw the blood upon her raised hands — the sight of it disgusted her, and she yearned to wash them clean. While brushing her hands on her tunic, she tripped on a root which pulled the glass shoe from her foot. And just like that, the darkness of the forest consumed her again and the warmth seeped away, leaving her empty and cold.
Of course, happiness is never meant for me, she thought sorely; I’ll never be a princess living in a castle.
As she walked through the market a few days later, Delphine made her way to the square where a crowd had gathered.
“Let it be known that His Royal Highness, Prince Rayan Dubois, seeks the mysterious, fair maiden from the Royal Ball. She who fits this slipper shall be named Princess and Bride of His Royal Highness,” the guard shouted to all while holding up the other glass shoe.
What an interesting concept, thought Delphine. Why couldn’t she be the princess? She already knew the shoe fit and could easily take out anyone who stood in her way. Perhaps happiness was meant for her after all.
The entourage of Prince Rayan and his royal guard had arrived. Delphine’s eyes scanned the room for any trace of daggers or swords left out. Although a bit unnerved without a weapon within arms reach, she knew she must appear simple and sweet, just as the golden-haired maiden she’d murdered – and hoped to replace.
She smiled sweetly as she showed them into her modest home — she blushed and shied away, playing her part obediently.
Without much ceremony, she was seated with her foot in the air, the slipper poised inches away. As her foot slid easily into the slipper, she released a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.
The prince smiled and nodded to his guards as he retrieved the slipper.
Delphine jumped into the air and squealed in delight; images of balls and feasts and jewels danced in her head.
She spun around to face Prince Rayan whose arms were open wide for an embrace. Delphine closed her eyes to kiss him, and as the world went dark, the sharp heel of the glass shoe entered her neck.
The prince whispered, “For my beloved Ella.”
An Assassin’s Tale is a Fiction War Finalist entry, first published May 14, 2017.