The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of my current work-in-progress. In it, we meet William, the bad-boy antagonist/love interest. Enjoy!
Unable to sleep, William decided to go kill someone. It wouldn’t be a planned kill and his Matriarch might get angry at him for jumping ahead of schedule, but with the arrival of his foreign cousin, this unknown contender for the throne, William needed something to calm him down. It wasn’t as if he were really worried about the newcomer, but it added an unknown to a situation that his Matriarch had been planning for years. William didn’t like unknowns. He had suggested getting rid of his cousin on his first night, to send a message to the rest of the Matriarchs to not try the same sort of trick in the future, but his Matriarch had disagreed.
“Before we do anything we need to know why Agnes thinks that this boy will take the crown. She’s a tricky one and I won’t underestimate her by assuming that he’s merely a decoy in a larger plan.”
So, William went to find someone else.
He prowled the passageways with quiet practiced ease. Who would it be? Maybe he would surprise everyone and take out his own wife. Three months married and she had yet to let him into their marriage bed. “I’m too young,” she had said. Sixteen was not too young. Many of his other cousins, male and female, had already produced children. He was eighteen and he needed to get started, soon. Unfortunately she had the right to refuse him. The Matriarchs did not permit any sort of forcing. So William had to wait until Hannah relented, until their marriage contract ran out in another nine months, or until someone got rid of her and left him a widower.
But no, he wouldn’t do it. Her bloodline was too valuable. As the daughter of the current King and four other Kings in her direct line, her children would start high on the list. If someone killed her, it wouldn’t be him.
The answer came almost immediately.
It was perfect. Although he wasn’t even in the top ten, Mark always acted as if he were already King. A year younger than William, he already had two children. If he was allowed to live, he would produce far too many rivals for William’s own future children. Better to kill him now before any more of his spawn were born.
As he made his way to Mark’s chambers, he thought about the best way to do the deed. Nighttime killings were often done with poison, drops of something smeared on a doorhandle or bedpost. Half-asleep people were often much less careful with what they touched and they rubbed their eyes a lot. But William hadn’t brought such drops with him, besides such direct methods were crude. William preferred accidental deaths. A fallen statue, a candle too close to a curtain, slipping in the bath, or a poor tackle in a game of handball.
He reached Mark’s suites without having made a decision. He would have to improvise.
Of course there were no servants on guard, why would they risk their own lives? And William had long ago learned how to get past any of the Citadel’s ancient locks. Besides, Mark was so confident, he hadn’t set any traps against intruders. Why would he? He was too low on the list to matter. But that was short-term thinking. William looked to the future and so Mark had to go. He slipped into the parlor and froze, listening for any sign that someone had heard him. Nothing. He didn’t have to worry about a spouse as Mark’s Matriarch was still negotiating his latest marriage contract. As he snuck across the open room, his hearing, smell and touch making up for the limited visibility.
He touched the door to Mark’s sleeping chamber with the tips of his gloved fingers. Mark wouldn’t be the first who had poison or otherwise boobytrapped the only way into his room. After exploring it carefully, he put his ear close, hearing nothing on the other side. The door was warm, however, which gave him an inkling of an idea. He tripped the lock mechanism and let himself in. The light from the moon shone on Mark’s uncovered body. He had thrown off his covers and wore no shirt. His pale tight skin glowed in the light, his rising and falling musclular chest two small moons.
William looked for the source of the room’s heat finding a brazier at the end of the bed. Too easy. Pulling out a strip of cloth out of a side pocket of his trousers, he slid it under the door, filling the gap that was there. A few steps back to the brazier, he crouched down over it. The coal had been burning for several hours already but there was still enough fuel left to do the job. Out of another pocket William pulled out a small cloth pouch. Inside it was a powder made from the gelder vine. Its extract was used as a powerful anathesia, but inhaling the burning fumes would produce an all-over paralysis, stopping as well Mark’s heart and lungs. The smoke would clear quickly but it would be too late for Mark.
He would already be dead.
And in the morning when his servant found him, they could only confirm that he had somehow died in his sleep.
Popping open the top of the brazier, quickly so as to not burn his gloved fingers, he dropped the sachet on top of the charcoal and closed it again. He would have a few minutes before the bag would burn through. Enough time to get to the window and get out.
Movement on the bed caused William to crouch down even further, but after not hearing anything else he risked a peek. Mark had rolled over, taking the blankets with him and revealing that he wasn’t wearing anything at all. In the light from the window Mark’s buttocks looked even more like two small moons than his chest had. A sizzle from below told William to get out, and fast, if he didn’t want to die along with his naked cousin. The window eased open without a noise and William was on the ledge outside in moments. Some people liked to stick around to watch the fruits of their labors, but not him. Witnessing an accident implied trying to help and some accidents just couldn’t be helped. He slid along the wall and disappeared around the corner where he could get back in through an empty bedroom.