Imperial March: Episode 3

The young boy sat on the grass attentively, cross-legged, face cast upwards. His eyes were his mother’s, just as gray and just as deep and intelligent. He laughed when Auden shook his head in fake dismay to acknowledge that the boy was too young to be playing with swords all day, even if it was small swords. Instead, he sat down again and messed up the little one’s black hair. He smiled. Now already, he was such a spitting image of himself.

Auden stirred in his sleep, turned around and felt for the blanket that wasn’t there anymore.

The boy grabbed an old book that was lying behind them and thrust it in his father’s hands. Those familiar eyes focused on him in a demanding fashion. Auden responded with a wide smile. It was just like every single day. He adjusted his position on the grass so that he would sit more comfortably and opened the book to the marked page.

He pressed the soft cushion against his bare chest, but he seemed agitated. Something felt not quite right.

The boy had curled up next to him, the eyes half closed as Auden read to him. It was an old book, one that had been in his family for many years. Bedtime stories that were just as suitable before a nap. The assassin looked up when a shadow fell on them, unmoving for the moment. She looked so preciously fragile, but he knew she wasn’t. Had never been. She settled in the grass next to him, rested her head on his shoulder and listened to the end of the story. They soon heard the regular breathing of their child. The three seemed frozen in the moment, one innocent and with so much potential, two gazing over the lake into the distance.

His breathing was irregular now. His muscles tensed, his fist clenched in his sleep.

It was dark outside now. The fire crackled soothingly in the fireplace. The two Alsatian dogs took in its warmth, one of them half asleep, the other munching a bone. It growled quietly, but not very aggressively and more out of habit than with any real intention, when the white cat snuck past them. She ignored them and everyone else royally and slipped through the door that was slightly ajar. The woman knelt down and petted her briefly, prompting her to purr before she left the room. Auden bent down and pressed a kiss on his son’s forehead. The little one opened his eyes sleepily.”Can’t you read the other story to me first? Please? The one with the two birds who fly far away?” he asked innocently.

All of a sudden, he was wide awake, sitting upright, staring through the darkness at something that frightened him. Something he never wanted to see again.

A childish painting. A storybook. His sister’s laugh, his son’s smile. A ring that didn’t hold its promise.

Blood.

He forced his breathing back into a regular pattern. He felt freezing cold and burning hot at the same time. It had been five years. Five years of steely preparation, of shutting out everything and everyone. He hadn’t had a dream of this kind in a long time. He had tried to forget and remember simultaneously, and it had been hard.

He fleetingly glanced at the body next to him. Inattentive, at some kind of delusive ease and safety. A dangerous sense of invulnerability.

Years of preparations had paid off. Avoiding unnecessary movement, he felt under the mattress. He took hold of the dagger he had planted there weeks ago and weighed it in his hand matter-of-factly.

It was time.

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