Warning: Graphic Violence
Featured image art by Arute (@ast05water)
Keep Mundilfari was under attack.
It was the dead of night. The majestic portcullis had been compromised. The bodies of two watchmen lay motionless on the ground as a dozen shadowy figures dashed over ancient stone and sprinted across the large courtyard of the castle, methodically and silently killing their target wardens and sentries. With surgical precision and timing, each assassin, swathed in ebony armour and hoods, approached any guards in sight, plunging a dagger into them or choking them into submission.
Their mission: to kill the master of the castle as she slept.
With zero fanfare and fuss, they picked the lock of the main door that led to the castle’s living quarters and Great Hall. Into the vast hallways the assassins ran, splitting up in multiple directions to search each and every one of the rooms for their target. In various locations across the castle complex, muffled screaming and moans could be heard as a sentry, maid, or housecarl was silenced for the misfortune of running into one of the intruders.
One contingent of three assassins scaled the winding stairs of the central tower, bursting into the corridor that was lined with old oil paintings of Mundilfari ancestors. There was an armoured warden patrolling the passageway, and he turned around.
“Intruders! Sound the alarm! Someone tell the Countess – ”
He hadn’t finished his sentence before he felt his throat spill open from a lightning-quick knife, and he collapsed to the floor as the assassins dashed past him. They ran down the hallway for several minutes until they reached the room that Queen Anna herself had spent a night in.
“This is the chamber that Lady Mundilfari usually sleeps in?” muttered one of them.
“The Beaver Room, I believe,” whispered the other, and he looked up, smiling behind his black shroud. “Fortune smiles on us tonight.”
With a mighty kick, they sent the wooden door slamming down, revealing a spacious, gothic room with a fireplace. One of the assassins strode to the bed, grabbing the sheets and throwing them aside. “She’s not here,” he growled in frustration. “Why? Our intelligence was perfect. She wasn’t supposed to have anyone guarding her tonight.”
A compatriot shrugged. “Maybe she’s more watchful than our handlers gave her credit for.”
“Looking for me?” came a cold voice by the window. The moon shone through and illuminated Viola’s baleful gaze, her pale skin bathed in the lunar light. The Countess was naked except for a pink, gossamer nightgown of laced, sensual silk. She flicked back her chocolate hair. “For a moment, I’d thought Anna had come to pay me a witching hour visit. Imagine my disappointment.”
The assassins turned to face her. “By order of Dorgon, prince of China’s Qing imperial family, the Aisin Gioro – we’re here to end your life. Arendelle belongs to the Conclave. Only you, young lady, stand between our masters and Queen Anna,” declared one of them, peering at her between a slit of dark cloth.
In Viola’s hands were two gleaming, quicksilver daggers. Her red eyes darted from one intruder to another, calmly assessing the distance between the interlopers. “Three men to take me down? I’m insulted,” she snorted, crossing her blades. Her bare feet shifted on the carpeted floor. “You’ll regret disturbing my sleep, gentlemen.”
The black-hooded killers dashed at the noblewoman, two swinging their swords and another hurling a deadly dart at her. Viola coolly slipped past the dart and shot down, dodging one sword and parrying the other. She slid on the floor and leapt up, throwing one dagger at the nearest assassin. Her aim was true, and it plunged into his eye – the blood hadn’t even spurted out before Viola dashed at him, pulling out her weapon and raising her arms to block the downward slash of his friend’s sword. She shifted stances, her slender leg shooting up in an angry axe kick. A loud rip could be heard from her nightgown. Her ankle broke the chin of her shocked attacker as she pivoted gracefully and thrust a knee into his midsection. As he was doubled over, she roared and spun, sending her foot smashing into his head. He flew back from the force of Viola’s kick and smashed against her canopied bed, colliding and slumping painfully against the oak.
Viola parried the final attacker’s flurry of fists, but felt him slap a dagger out of her left hand. She stumbled back, bobbing and weaving furiously to avoid his barrage of deadly punches. In a heartbeat, she slipped past his right hook, twisting and sending her foot smashing into his knee joint in an angular counterattack. Sending him to the floor, she checked his desperate elbow swing with her raised shin, and despite the bruise, she grinned down at him, spinning her dagger. She ran her tongue slowly and sensually along her teeth. “You’ll find my head a most – ”
She raised the blade and plunged it deep into his exposed neck.
“ – uncooperative – ”
As he gurgled in defeat, she twisted the dagger and kicked away his sagging body, toes pushing against his face dismissively.
“ – target!”
Panting and shaking, the Countess looked around the bloody bedroom in an adrenaline-fueled daze. Her legs ached. She couldn’t relax. There were likely more of them. The bastard Dorgon had sent a team of assassins to dispatch her.
“You’re not messing around, Hans,” she muttered, scowling to herself.
If she was slain tonight, Anna’s reign and life would be in danger.
She was glad her monarch wasn’t around to see her like this.
She burst into the hallway and, sensing danger, dived, barely managing to dodge a poisonous dart blown her way. It clanged against a suit of armour as she shot back up, caked in sweat. “So there were more of you,” she breathed, grinning in exhilaration as the remaining assassins – six of them – ran at her, short swords and hooked knives drawn. In desperation, Viola grabbed the sheathed sword hanging at the suit of armour’s hip, drawing it just in time to fend off a multipronged assault by the trespassers. She snarled, fed up of defending and parrying, and recalled her many years of training in Ulv – the Wolf school of Arendellian fencing, the most aggressive style, the same one that Anna had started learning.
Taking a deep breath, she allowed herself to enter an almost hypnotic trance of malevolent elegance, suddenly spinning forward and decapitating one assassin, before hurling herself into the fray, slashing open another’s chest. Catching them off-guard, her long brown hair trailing behind her head, her offensive grew more frenzied, her twirl gathering momentum as she lopped off one assassin’s arm and severed another’s leg. Exulting in their screams, she quickly plunged her sword in their downed forms, but was forced to scramble away from the swings of the remaining two killers.
Now unarmed, she danced away, glaring at them as they shuffled toward her cautiously, gradually cornering her. Disciplined and professional, they blocked her escape routes down the hallway. Viola clenched her teeth, unable to counterattack as they raised their swords and charged –
A loud BLAM shook Viola’s eardrums as one assassin’s head exploded in a haze of gore and brain matter, his body folding.
She whipped around, her eyes meeting the serpentine stare of Commander Hilde Von Altheim, who was fully uniformed in her Arendellian military trench coat, jacket and trousers. Her left breast pocket was decked with honours and badges bestowed by multiple countries like Prussia, Great Britain, and France. In her hand was a smoking Colt Paterson, a repeating revolver imported from the United States. Viola stared at Hilde in shock as the latter pointed her firearm at the last assassin, another deafening bang reverberating down the hallway. He fell to the ground, and for a moment, all was silent.
“I’m glad I insisted on being stationed in the Keep after you summoned me back to Arendelle,” declared the fair-haired Hilde calmly, her black jackboots gliding toward Viola. “I shot dead three others on my way up. I had received intel that the Conclave would make an attempt on your life soon after you refused to help them attack Anna. But I had to keep my soldiers back and feign vulnerability so I could draw them in and ensure they never left.”
Exhausted and her muscles giving way, Viola staggered towards Hilde in her torn, blood-soaked nightgown, collapsing into her general’s waiting arms.
“But I miscalculated how quickly they’d find your room. I’m so sorry, My Lady,” murmured Hilde softly, cradling her childhood friend carefully. For the first time, her emotionless face flickered with regret. “I’m so sorry I arrived late. You’re a mess. Let’s get you cleaned up and checked for injuries.”
“Dorgon and Hans… the Conclave… those scumbags, low-born, third-rate gutless cowards! Direct your cannons and rifles against those men,” raved and vented Viola in fury, her hands clutching Hilde’s arms and her nails digging into her sleeves. “Britain! China! The Ottomans! And the Southern Isles… they will all know my wrath for threatening me in my castle, my home!” She gazed up at Hilde’s amber eyes. “Northuldra and Elsa can wait. Protect our queen, lovely Hilde. Let the Conclave feel the jackboots of your men on their throats!”
Hilde smiled. “Yes, my Countess. My life and afterlife belong to you alone.” Her hand cupped Viola’s teary and sweaty cheek tenderly.
NEXT UP: THE WRATH OF COMMANDER HILDE!