A Sea of Silken Flowers

This is part two of the Embroidery story.

I watched Townsend make his way across the graveyard, delighting in the confusion blooming across his face. Absentmindedly, he touched each headstone as he passed; draped across each one was a small scrap of fabric painstakingly embroidered with a flower in silk thread.

I flinched when he saw me. I was still holding my basket of flowers, and for a moment I thought of running. He scowled and cut across the grey grass to me.

I froze. Not a good look for an assassin, let me tell you.

“What are you doing?”

“What do you think?” My voice was defensive, maybe more than it needed to be. I softened myself. “I’m just paying my respects.”

“To every new grave?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Brock says you’re turning down jobs.”

“Only some of them.”

“Why? Is this about Larrissa?” He said my sister’s name like it was nothing; like she was nothing.

“Don’t you say her name!” I shoved him and he stumbled back a few steps. “Don’t you ever say her name!”

“What is this?”

“He told me I would save us from a civil war, that by doing my job I would save lives.”

Townsend looked confused.

“Look around! Does this look like I saved anyone?” I resisted the urge to let out a scream. “They built a new graveyard because the bodies were stacking up in the street!”

Townsend shrugged and opened his mouth to rebut, but the fierceness in my eyes stopped him cold. I shook my head and looked in my basket. There were still a dozen flowers to pass out.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t say that to me, say it to them,” I muttered as I laid another flower on a freshly turned grave. This one wasn’t marked yet. Perhaps it wouldn’t be.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I want out!” I screamed. I imagined that windows opened so their owners could get a better view of the crazy woman screaming in a graveyard. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and I’m done.”

“I don’t-“

“No women, no kids. That was the only rule I ever had.” I stomped back to him. “How many of these belong to women and kids? How many times has the water rippled and someone else gotten hurt even though I have my rule?”

“We can’t know that,” he protested.

“I know.” I pulled out my favorite dagger and plunged it into his breast, pumping it twice. “I quit.”

He crumpled to the cold, grey ground, his face was a mask of shock. I rooted around in my basket until I found his flower.

A black dahlia for death and betrayal.

Embroidery

Ouch! Damn it!

I stuck my finger in my mouth and sucked on it as I inspected the scrap of fabric in my hands. Good, there was no blood on it. I pulled my finger out of my mouth; it wasn’t bleeding either.

I took up my needle and pulled another satin stitch across the bleached muslin. Sometimes you just needed to stab something a few hundred dozen times to feel better.

“What are you doing?” asked a familiar voice.

“Hey, Brock,” is all I said in answer. I didn’t lift my eyes from my work.

“No, seriously, what are you doing?” he asked.

“What does it look like?” I didn’t even try to hide the annoyance from my voice. “I’m practicing the womanly art of embroidery.”

“You’re an assassin!”

“I like to sew.”

I swear I could feel him roll his eyes as he sat down across from me. Still, I didn’t look at him.

“You’re needed, standard wet work.”

“How much?”

“50% above the usual rate.”

I opened my mouth to say no, but he cut me off.

“That’s after my cut.”

“No women, no kids, right?”

“Never.”

I shrugged but set down my project. He handed me an envelope which I opened. I finally looked at him when I read the target. His face was bruised and I could tell it had been bloodied recently.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope, this is real, and it’ll happen with or without you.” He smiled but winced instead. “Either you take out the prince or an angry mob will and we’ll be plunged into civil war.”

“Who takes over after the overgrown brat?”

“Dunno, above my pay grade.”

“Fine.” I picked up my project and pulled another satin stitch across the taught fabric.

“What is it anyway?”

“A flower. It’s for my sister.”

“I thought she-“

“For her grave,” I corrected.

Brock nodded and left me alone in my room- my candle wavered when he shut the door. I waited until I heard his heavy footsteps thunder down the stairs before I allowed the tears to fall.

“You shall be avenged, dearheart,” I whispered when I was done with my work. “Soon.”

The prince was an easy target. Possibly too easy. I didn’t even have to rush while I washed the blood off of my hands. I was already in the graveyard when the alarm bells sounded across the still sleeping city.

I laid the embroidered forget-me-not down carefully across the top of the headstone. I crossed myself and made my way home. I sat down in front of my unlit fireplace and pulled out another fabric scrap.

I stretched it taught across the hoop and tightened the screw. The first stab is always the most satisfying. This one would be for the poor sap who would take the fall for the prince. His grave would be unmarked, but Brock would make sure I know where it was.

A white orchid on a white fabric scrap would be enough to help him reach the heavens.