Disclaimer: I don't own this series or characters and I don't wish to make any profit from writing this story.
I wrote this story for Bookaddict88 as a secret santa gift. I had fun writing this.
The Death of The Black Widow
From her slim window, the guillotine shone clearly in the morning sun. A chill hung in the air, but Irene ignored it. It was no different from the cold she had been suffering from in her bones for the last month, the extra chill would made no difference.
Today was the day. Today was the day of her execution. Nahuseresh had made one last feeble attempt to alter her decision the night before.
"It's simple, my lady," he had said. "Agree to marry me, and the Committee will set you free."
She scoffed and promptly told him she would rather marry the guillotine. Nahuseresh had a strange definition of "freedom." If she agreed to marry Nahuseresh, she would be on a short leash like a dog, not even allowed to breathe without his approval. No, Irene had decided long ago she would let no one control her. That was the fate of The Black Widow.
She had gained the title shortly after her father's death, when her power hungry fiancée was mysteriously poisoned. Many more suitors came, hoping that through Irene they would gain control over her land and fortune. Irene had used her father's connections and spies to dispose of or at the very least, blackmail them with the information her spies gathered.
Irene felt no regret in becoming The Black Widow. She had to protect her family's land, servants, and home. With the rest of her family gone, it was all she had left.
Nahureresh was desperate to gain the Committee's favor, and she knew exactly why the Committee wanted her. While she was feared as The Black Widow, she was the one aristocrat the people respected. Unlike the majority of the aristocracy, she treated her people fairly and not once did she ever lie to them.
If the Committee were to have The Black Widow under their control, it would be a huge advantage. For instance, there was her network of spies they were dying to get their hands on. Irene had enough knowledge of secrets to blackmail over half of France.
Unfortunately, none of her connections could help her now. When she knew they were coming to drag her to the prison, Irene had only enough time to order them all to run and escape. Remus had been the most stubborn, but eventually he agreed. Irene still wasn't sure if he had managed to escape. The fire she had turned her home into a massive blaze. She would have let herself burn along with it if the soldiers had not chose then to barge in and arrest her.
At least all the documents have been destroyed, She thought. All of my servants should be safe once I'm dead.
She wrapped her arms around her waist and let her head rest against the damp stone wall. Irene found her mind drifting. For some strange reason, she recalled the last trip she had taken with her father before he had passed away. They had gone on an annual trip to visit an old friend on a small island near the coast of England. The old friend's family had lived in the country. Having been born and bred in the city, Irene had felt overwhelmed by it as a small child.
Thankfully, she had Helen, the daughter of the noble they were visiting to take her under her wing. Irene smiled bitterly. She had always envied Helen; she was allowed to ride horses and learn how to hold a sword, while Irene was only allowed to learn needlepoint and memorize mind numbing poetry.
Still, Helen carried a strong spirit within herself that Irene was drawn to and they soon became friends. A few months ago, Helen had even sent Irene a letter strongly urging her to leave France and come visit her.
Irene knew she had meant "escape and come here before you are killed." For the first time in ages, Irene had felt touched, but sent a decline. She had made her bed, and she would lay in it. Still, she wondered how Helen was doing. Had she ever married? There was a boy she also recalled that followed them as children, but she had paid him no importance.
The keys to her cell jingled and the door opened. Irene stared at the only other face she had seen for the last few months. Gen was not a large boy, having a lean body not made for fighting, but therefore Irene was curious as to how he had gotten that scar on his cheek.
He carried the same tray that held the same breakfast, at least Irene assumed so. He quietly placed the tray on the cold floor. "I managed to sneak you a glass of wine."
Irene lifted her head. "Out of pity, I suppose."
"Hardly," Gen commented. "I merely thought you look more regal with wine than water."
She gave him a small smile. Though she would not speak the words aloud, Irene had to admit she had grown affectionate towards the boy, even if he was far too cocky for his own good. Gen had been the only friendly face she had seen since she was arrested. He came with her daily meal, but would linger and give her the latest news and gossip in the city.
They had even debated and compared favorite books and plays. Their daily insults to each other had almost become a routine. For a couple of brief moments, Irene was astounded to find herself forgetting where she was. Their interaction had felt familiar and comforting, although Irene did not understand why. She was sad to see it end.
Gen turned and stared out the window, studying the guillotine. His hands rose and rubbed his neck as if to feel where the sharp blade would leave a cut.
"Don't worry," Irene replied softly. "You won't be going."
Gen's hands dropped to his sides, like he had caught himself repeating a bad habit. "I'm not worried about myself."
Irene frowned and straightened the folds from her skirt. "I'll be fine."
Gen raised an eyebrow and took a seat on the floor. "I can't see how anyone is 'fine' with having their head sliced off."
Irene's skin crawled at the word "slice" but kept her stoic composure and delicately laid her hands into her lap. "I don't really have a choice," she raised her head. "Besides, I have accepted my fate long ago."
Gen looked annoyed as he moved in closer. "And just who decided that this is your fate?"
"It's just how life is," Irene replied, calmly. "Everyone dies at some point."
"Yes, but it doesn't have to be after living months in prison!"
Irene stared at him seriously. "Even if I wanted to, there is nothing I can do to change things. Or do you plan on being some gallant prince and rescuing me?"
Gen opened his mouth, but then shut it. He dug his hands into his pockets and stared at the floor.
Feeling she had made her point, she reached out and gently touched his shoulder. "You should go, if you stay here too long they might consider putting you next on the guillotine list." He made no movement until Irene tugged at his wrists to stand. "You need to go."
Gen kept his frown and whispered, "I shall see you in the next life."
Irene gave a nod and watched him go. As the cell door shut and locked behind him, she sighed and moved to the small glass of wine. She lifted the glass and took in the aroma. It smelled sweeter than how she normally liked her wine, but it had been so long.
She tilted the glass and watched the red liquid swirl inside it. What was the point of drinking it? She would be dead soon. On the other hand, there was no crime in taking one last simple pleasure. Gen had also gone to the trouble of sneaking it in, she might as well accept the small token.
Irene lifted the glass and sipped the wine slowly, savoring every last mouthful. Once it was empty, she placed the glass back on the tray. She rose and stared out at the guillotine in spite.
She had no sense of time, but knew they would be coming to take her soon. If she didn't do it now, she would truly die, and her head would land in that basket like a chicken for dinner.
Irene reached deep inside the sleeve of her dress and felt for the small bottle where threads were holding it. She gave a hard yank and tore it out.
She fingered the tiny bottle and shook the dark liquid inside. It had been the same poison she had given her fiancee. Since then, she had made sure a second bottle of it was made.
Irene had it sewn directly into the sleeve of her gown ages ago. She knew her fate was inevitable, but she would still have her pride. She was not going to let Nahuseresh parade her through the streets like a prize pig and have him watch in satisfaction as the guillotine sliced through her neck.
Irene flicked the cork off the bottle. No, if she was to die, it would be by her own hands alone. She expected her body to be shaking, but she remained still. Before she lost her resolve, Irene raised the bottle to her lips and darkness consumed her.
Irene never imagined the afterlife to be this warm, or for her legs to feel this cramped. Her eyes fluttered and a jolt forced her to awaken. She had been wrapped tightly within a blanket and was draped over a seat in a carriage.
Her vision came into focus, and she saw Gen, seated directly across from her. She considered the most logical conclusions. "I'm in purgatory, aren't I?"
"Hardly," Gen replied and handed her a flask. "Here, drink some water."
She gingerly took the water and inspected it closely. Seeing it was safe and there was nothing else for her to lose, she drank a mouthful. "Care to explain to me why I am not currently dead?"
Gen reached into the pocket of his jacket and brought out her now empty bottle that had contained her poison.
He rotated the small empty bottle between his fingers. "Your mind was too preoccupied, but I admit, I am surprised you did not notice the sedative I slipped into your wine."
Gen then tossed it to her like it was a small ball. With the grace of a hawk, she caught the bottle with her left hand and stared at it. "I drank the poison."
"Correction," Gen continued with a smirk that Irene was finding more and more annoying with each passing second. A memory tugged at her brain's reasoning, she had seen that same smirk before, but it was not important. "You were about to, but the sedative kicked in." He glanced out the window to watch the moonlit trees pass by. "However, my sedative did put your body into such a state that they assumed you were dead. The spilt poison on the floor just added to the theory."
"Thus," Irene continued digging her nails into the blanket. "You stole my 'dead' body, smuggled me out of France, and here we are?"
"It was not an easy feat, I can tell you," Gen replied rubbing the back of his neck. "Remus was a huge help in that regard."
"He's alive?" Irene asked.
"Barely, he's currently recovering in a nice cottage in England." He sighed and let his head stare up at the the roof. "I won't be going back to France anytime soon." He smirked. "But, as far as they are concerned, The Black Widow is dead."
Irene was silent. She studied the boy in front of her. There were a million comments, thoughts, and insults she wanted to say, but a single question was the loudest. "Why? Why do this for me?"
Gen's smirk gradually changed into a serious frown, and he eased back into his seat. "Helen did not wish for you to die."
Irene straightened her pose, hoping it would conceal her shock. "You know Helen? How?"
Gen became annoyed and raised an eyebrow. "Do you really not remember me?"
The distant memory that had tried to snag her attention attacked in full force. Irene was stunned. "You're Eugenides, Helen's cousin."
Gen clapped. "Good, I am now convinced you aren't losing your memory. That's a worry off my shoulders."
"I haven't seen you since you were six," Irene argued hotly. "How in Heaven's name did you expect me to recognize you?" She folded her hands in her lap. "And your hair wasn't as long then."
"You not recognizing me proved to be an advantage." Gen sighed and ran a hand through his long tangled hair. "I am dying for a proper hair cut once we are home."
Irene shook her head. "So, you are telling me the only reason you came to France and risked your life to save me was because Helen asked you to?"
Gen straightened and crossed his left leg over his right. "That's not my only reason."
"Oh," Irene replied, being more curious than she would care to admit.
"You did promise to marry me, or have you forgotten that too?"
Irene stared and felt something catch in her throat. She thought it was a cough; but as it rose and forced her to open her mouth, she was amazed to discover it was her laughter. She nearly felt sick from how hard she was laughing. "You jest! What is the real reason?"
Gen was not amused. "I just told you."
Irene's laughter died. "This is not funny."
"I know, it's not," Gen replied, sharply. "I did ask you, and you said yes."
"You were six years old," Irene hissed back. She remembered it now, she had been in the garden with Helen and Gen. While Helen was showing Irene how to properly climb a tree, Gen had asked when he was old enough if Irene would marry him. Whether it was out of pity or amusement, Irene did recall clearly that she had said "Yes". "I was humouring you," Irene continued. "You must realize that."
"I have," Gen said as he leaned forward. "However, considering that I have not found any other girl that has captured my eye the same way you have I am going to hold you to your word."
Irene shook her head and massaged her forehead. "I am far too old for you."
"That is my issue to deal with," Gen replied and sincerely added, "And you're not that old, my lady."
Irene looked back at him, trying to decipher how to successfully argue and convince a stubborn, young idiot. "You may have held a calf love for me, but, the girl you have seen the last few months is nothing like the girl you knew when you were a child."
Gen's eyes hardened. "Eight months," he corrected. "I've been watching you for eight months. I am well aware you are not the same, and I believe that drives me even more."
Irene pursed her lips, feeling as if she was being driven into a corner. "And Helen approves of this?"
Gen gave a half smile. "There were a few girls she tried to introduce to me, Agape was rather nice, but she has given up. She knows how stubborn I am."
Irene sighed and buried her face into her hands and mumbled "You are an idiot." She raised her head, letting her hands drop into her lap. "If you'd know me so well, you know I am not just going to let you force me into marriage."
Gen shrugged. "Never even entered my head," he replied. "We've had a decade long engagement, I can wait a bit longer."
Irene was silent and let her head rest against the cold window of the carriage. She had no clue what her future would be now. But, in a small spot in her heart, for the first time since she was a child, she felt a calmness. For once in her life, she had no control and no reason to be paranoid. It was rather terrifying.
Gen reached into his pocket and brought out a small chess board. "Would you care for a quick game? I guarantee I am a stronger player than the last time I played with you when I was a child."
Irene looked at the chess pieces and then reached out to select the white queen and king. For now, she would take it a day at a time. The Black Widow was dead, it was time to see life as just Irene.