His nights had always been restful. Even in the drafty castle with its cold stone and howling halls he was able to sleep soundlessly without waking in the night.
There were few times however. Times when he was sick, times when he found nightmares plagued him he would wake in the darkest of nights and swear someone was watching, that hidden in the blackness of his tower room a being with the same heart beat as his, the same warm blood as his, someone was there. He didn’t have monsters or demons lurking in the corners of his room. He had people in his nightmares, real people who he was told wanted him dead since the moment of his birth. So it was abnormal for the disoriented prince to have risen from sleep when the stub of a candle on his bed side had long smoldered and outside the sky was still dark.
It was a cold wind that chilled the room and rustled the squire cloths on his back, but the cold only bite at the bare skin on his face and hands. He hadn’t gotten a chance to change from the softly woven, yet thickly made, squire garb. The second he entered the inn he was swarmed for it seemed all heard of his success before he had told them himself. The nights were growing colder as the leaving summer brought fall, and so he was glade now to still be wearing the high collared, thickly woven, castle garb, however they didn’t shelter him from the icy stab of fear that chilled his body from the inside out.
Another gust of air rattled the young boy’s bones, only this one helped draw his attention to the open bedroom door. It struck him as odd seeing as Ellie had told him, when first giving the key, that he was to always lock the door. He had assumed it was a rule for all and he couldn’t imagine it being left open when the leader of the guild of thieves had left.
He squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the blur of grey against black. Taking his eyes from the window in his room proved to be nothing more than a mistake, for the second he leaned close to the edge of his bed he could taste the bitter flavor of dirty cloth pull in his mouth, tie tightly in place and the rough fabric of a sac forcefully wrenched over his head, and his small hands moved up to try and claw at the jagged rope he felt tightening around his neck.
His first reaction was to scream, to kick and punch, though his hands trying to tear away the rope that tied the bag to his head, and his feet tangled in his blankets his defense was demolished.
Blood pulsed through his veins like rives of lava, his heart pushing it faster with every quickened beat. He could hear the rush of blood in his ears, hear nothing but the frightened drumming of his heart as his hands were pried from his neck.
Eden was no fool. He knew what came next, what was to come was the binding of his wrist. No matter whom you were, thief or guard, you bound your prey’s arms and took away their means of defense.
It was but one set of arms that held him. Eden felt his small wrist slammed together, but struggled trying to pull them apart as if they were repelling magnets. He could feel the twine like rope starting to tangle around the bare skin, two times, three times, than fours times, until he felt the jerk of a tight knot at the end.
He wished for the first binds that ever touched his skin. The heavy rope used on him the very day the notice of his survival was sent out. The jagged rope that was so thick he could slip from easily and escape with nothing more than scraps and slivers of hay. This was not the same however. It was fine like thread only too strong to break so easily, and it was tied tight enough that even the lightest of struggled dug it into his pampered skin. Even still, like a frightened stray, he tried to escape, wanted the bag to be taken from his head so at least he may know who his captors were, if they were thieves or knights!
An iron grip took hold of shoulder. He felt the sharp edges of uncut nails digging through the fabric of the thick shirt and into the soft muscle of his shoulder as he was jerked from the bed so fast that it wasn’t his feet that touched the floor, but his knees instead. If it wasn’t for the razor like nails in his shoulder, the youngest thief would have feared for his face as well, for bound as was he had no protection against the blind fall.
“Get up!” It was the first hissed whisper of his captor, a deep voice, unrefined and thick with the brute edge of a heavy set man’s words.
Another set of hands, another person to his surprise, grasped his other arm and with no regard to the disoriented boy, pulled him to his feet. He was blind, bound and gagged. Standing seemed such a difficult task at this point, but trying to concentrate on their voices alone seemed much more so, for he could hardly hear anything over the heavy pulsing of blood in his ear and the fearful drumming of his heart.
“Not a word or we break yer neck!” The second ordered with so much fierce demand the threat hardly seemed false. Helpless fear Eden nodded his head, for by now he was far too afraid, too defenseless against the sheer strength of his captor, to dare let a breath of air fill his lungs.
He was choked, more powerless than he had ever before been. His feet were clumsy when both thieves, one tightly holding each arm, lead him to the edge of his door. He could feel each wooden board under his tender bare feet, each crawling bit of cold that seemed to carry his fear through the silent inn. Please someone wake up. He thought, repeated the desperate wish over and over in his head for it seemed these thieves still craved a reward they believed to be theirs for turning in the run away prince of Asmalen. However those weren’t the only thoughts going through his mind. He could be seen as a traitor, a spy from the castle and now they were sentencing him to their own form of justified death. Don’t let me die. Was his silent prayer to gods he never before believed in.
Only a few days he had spent hiding away within the rotting walls of the inn, and already he could tell where he was by the ground on his feet. He felt the edge of the stairs when his toes hung in the air. He felt them bend and heard them moan under his weight, under his captor’s weight and it was nothing more than wishful hoping that perhaps the noise would be enough to wake the sleeping thieves, however, it would not for they slept under the crumbling building and aging wood, under the ground like bats in a cave. Something like the cries of old floors could not rouse them from their drunken slumber.
He could feel the cold of the empty inn when they stepped down from the stairs the to the empty floors of the entry room. The very same that all ate in, the very same they drank and danced when not hiding away in their home under home. He felt the chill of wind from the open door cover him ankle deep as he was forced onward, and heard the rattling of shutters with each heavy sigh of the night wind.
“Yer nothing but a filthy traitor.” his captor griped in such a low voice. Any louder and Eden could imagine the walls trembling in fear as he was. There was nothing but bitter hate in his words, nothing but anger in the iron grip on his arm.
“You’ll turn us all in!” The very same man continued, “Go running to yer warm little castle and tell all the knights and that fat arsed king where we hidin’.”
There was a lump in his throat, one that he couldn’t swallow with or without the gag in tied tightly in his mouth, holding down his dry tongue. It was suffocating him, or it felt that way. It was cold this night and yet cool beads of sweat worked their way down Eden ’s face, dampened his hair as he breathed heavy out of fear. Despite the bag being woven so loosely it felt, in his panicked state, as though not enough air mad it through.
“I rot a tw*ta!” He tried to yell through the cloth in between his lips however it came out in nothing more than a string of un-understandable words and sounds.
He was hit with a gust of cold wind, the fragrance of fresh air blowing away the sent of ale and rum, a sent he had grown so fond of in his short stay within the village. His feet stopped moving before they could go numb on the frozen cobblestone that was ready to grab him, ready to help these thieves carry him to a place he hated, to his prison, his safe little cell where he would be pampered and dressed and forced into a life he didn’t want!
These racing thoughts, these images of him sitting upon the thrown, the mean, hateful image of his father, made him struggle. He was acting like a wild dear caught in a trap. He shifted his body left and right, tried to pull from the grasp of the men. They only tightened their already firm grip, but he could feel their fingers slipping away from the expensive fabric. They went from pinching the skin on his arm to holding the cloth of his shirt.
Never before was he driven by so much fear that he didn’t understand his actions. With his pulsing heart and rushing blood his mind was clouded, heating with the animal instinct of escape.
He jerked again only this time he could feel the last hand that held him slip away, felt his freedom as his captor lost balance and his shirt, he, finally only pulled back against his own weight. Quickly as he could his bound hands reached up, head bowed to take hold of the top of the sack and in one panicked tug it was of, tossed to the ground. His cheeks were flushed, bits of clay colored hair tied into the fabric of the gag, however he hardly noticed. His wide, fearful green eyes searched the darkness for any movement, trying to see the shapes in the complete blackness of the inn
Slowly he backed up, carefully feeling the rough wood with his feet, gently tapping each stool, bumping each table with his back, as he retreated.
“Come out!” It was a harsh whisper, an angry hiss that, to the former prince, sounded much like a demon would sound if he had ever met one in the grim settings of the underworld.
Just as he heard the whistle of an unsheathed blade his steps became to panicked, to quick. He felt his back hit a chair, felt it push away from him and yet he was to slow to turn around and catch it, with bound hands, before it clattered to the ground with a rattle that seemed to shatter the bubble of silence Eden had engulfed himself in.
“Stop hiding!” that whisper called again, but it was closer now. Close enough for Eden to make out a faint grey figure against the black of the inn. He turned from it, holding his breath as the thief drew near, trying to control the speed of his shaking legs. They wanted to run, so badly that it hurt to resist.
His bound hands moved down, reaching out to let his numbing fingers slowly, carefully, brush against the rim of the table, guiding him around its wobbling surface. His lungs felt enflamed with the fiery grip of panic that closed the doors for sweat air to enter and his heart beat so loudly he feared his captors would hear it as well as he.
“I see him.” This voice seemed younger than the first but all to threatening for the frightened Eden ’s liking. Hearing those words cut through the silence sent off a flurry of hollow beats in his constricted chest, each to loud in his ears, each sending blood through his veins.
He couldn’t hold his breath any longer for his entire chest burned, screamed for the need of air to fill him however when he took it the first he found himself unable to stop his desired need for more. Slowly he lifted his fingers from the table, carefully his bare feet brushed against the floor, feeling his way back as the dark shadows moved forward like the monsters and ghost children were told of in frightening tales. His mother had told them to him once or twice, and always he would laugh at the frightened people in those stories, saying how he would be brave and go off to fight the monsters. His mother would laugh. She always said there would come a time where you were to frighten to act. That time was now. All he could do was run, back up into darker and darker corners, hoping that every whisper was further away than the last and praying that they only told lies when saying he had been seen. He was afraid they could hear his heart, his labored breathing.
There was no where else to run. He felt his back flatten against a wall and slowly, soundlessly, he slid down, knees acting as a shield before him, trying to push away the darkness that seemed to engulf him. Breathing was too loud. He could hear it over all else around him along with the pulsating rhythm in his chest, his veins.
“You lost him.” That demonic voice whispered and Eden sucked in the air around him quickly in a silent gasp for the voice was close. He narrowed his wide green eyes to part the blanket of black and shadowed figures that hide before him.
“It’s too dark to see!” That younger voice argued with snake like resemblance. The kind of whispered sound made when you wanted to scream but knew you could not.
With agonizingly slow and tedious movement Eden lifted his bound hands to the gag that began to take on an almost stale taste in his mouth. For once on such a grim night he had an idea, he was able to push aside the throbbing fear that seemed to take over his mind and see an escape and it was thanks to the cold air that drafted through the inn that such an idea was granted to the former prince. The door was still open and the thieves had not an idea that he was hiding so close.
With the same measured slowness he moved from the wall. He dare not breathe for even the slightest of sounds seemed to give away where he hide. The only air he allowed to enter his lungs was hardly enough to fill them.
They were but inches before him, towering in the growing darkness, arguing amongst themselves in whispers that came far to fast for the prince to understand in his concentrated state and though still he was afraid to be heard. His only focus was on escape, on the door he couldn’t see though the cold air that leaked through it’s open mouth seemed like a path to guide him.
The cloth once in his mouth now rest under his chin, around his neck like a noose readied to be tightened by any one who saw fit his death. His back remained pressed to the wall, too afraid to let himself stray from a straight path. Only the balls of his bare feet carried him on, feeling the weakness of the boards before he stepped for he knew they would scream under his weight and knew they would tell his location just to punish his careless actions.
“Shut up!” These hasty stood out for reason’s unknown to Eden . Through all the hissing conversation they had occupied themselves with this one strangled bit had reached his ears and stopped him in his vigilant quest for escape. His lips pressed tightly together, as if closing the war drum in his chest as its wielder readied to charge into battle.
“What is it?” That demon voice questioned and though the boy couldn’t see he could feel those burning eyes pass over him again, and again, and again.
“I heard somthin’,” whispered the second voice.
The inn fell into a silence that could only be compared to nothingness. Not even the song of the crickets or the distant questioning of the owls seemed to pierce the cage of discontinued time. He heard them. The whine of old wood as foot by foot, step by step, someone moved across the floor. It seemed to bend, pointing to the one’s who walked and Eden couldn’t help but wonder if they could feel where he was as well.
“Go shut the door.” That demon whispered and a quickening of steps told the former prince that they were farther from the door than he.
There was only one chance to make it. Once that door was closed he knew there was no escape. His hands were damp with sweat, the binds on his wrist starting to saw tinny cuts in his skin. Long ago his fingers were numb from the tightness twine and his lungs burned for the air he starved himself of. He couldn’t play hide and seek in the dark forever and so he ran.
“There he is!” It was a voice, not a whisper, not a hiss, or a demon calling out for him in the ever growing darkness. He didn’t care who it was that saw him as his legs were finally granted their need to run. He only cared for the door, he only cared for the escape. It was a cloudy night, or so Eden assumed for as if his silent prayer was answered a beam from the silver light of the moon shown in through the door, lighting him, lighting the inn in a pale blue glow, and showing the door however in his path stood a curse, a demon, the bag he had taken from his head in one hand. Only now it was far too late to stop.
Bare feet dug into the wood as he leaned back, but nothing seemed to be able to stop the movement of his quickly moving feet that feathered over the wooden boards of the ground. It was much like running into a solid wall, only this wall had hands that so tightly wrapped around his shoulders and soft hand to sink his teeth into as the gag was forced into his mouth once again.
What a scream it was in such a heavily silent night, but though the man was in obvious pain there was a hand Eden could not reach, one that tangled in the hair on his head, and pulled him up till he stood on not but his toes and all he could do was reach up his bound hands to try and push down on his thick wrist it belonged to.
“Keep yer voice down!” Came the gruff response in that demon like grunt, as a heavy set man drew Eden ’s grassy eyes as far left as they would travel.
“The little brat bit me!” He spoke with hushed anger, but still the larger man seemed not to notice the change and snapped back in the very same tone, “Do you want Lin ta hear ya!?”
Eden couldn’t help but ponder that name for it seemed so similar to him in many ways and yet he could hardly put a face to it.
The silence from the one seemed enough of an answer, but silence was no good for Eden needed noise, he needed those sleeping to wake so that perhaps he had a chance to leave, to run. If he had a choice he would flee to the woods and travel till he found some other kingdom to dwell in. Some place like Serona. Down from the mountains and far from Asmalen for it seemed only misfortune would follow him here.
“Put the boy down.” Those words, so pleasant to hear, would have been more pleasant had it been from one besides his first captor. The one who held him seemed reluctant however. Eden felt his grip tighten. It reminded him of what he used to do as a small child. When he was holding captive a maid’s home made doll or even at times their needle cushion they would ask for it back with sweet words and extended arms. Each time he would only hold it tighter in a protective grip. Never did it end well with the needle cushion.
“I said put him down!” It seemed now much like one man scolding the other. For the briefest of moments Eden felt his toes lift from the ground and strand by strand his hair pulled from his scalp. Quickly he spit out the stale cloth that tied in his mouth, and far louder than need be shouted, “Let me down you’ll pull my head off!”
At once he felt his feet hit the wood, though rather of shock or fear Eden did not know. It was as he moved his hand up to possibly push down the hair that was nearly pulled from his head, a pain what felt like running head first into a solid wall struck the side of his jaw and spilled him to the floor as easily as a sac of potatoes. It felt like being hit with Gran’s practice sword when his shoulder dug into the ground at his hard fall. Quickly he bit down hard on his bottom lip, fearing another scream for the last voice above a whisper landed him in a painful daze where he now was.
“I said ta keep yer mouth shut!” His captor reproached through grinded teeth. He felt the pinch of his skin as large worker hands wrapped around the upper part of his arm and he was soon pulled up to his feet. The man seemed to do it without effort. There was no strain on his large hair covered arms or a look of discomfort on his permanently wrinkled face, creased not from anger put from a perpetual grimace and folding of his brow.
“Boque get ‘im out the door.” Like property Eden was handed over, tossed aside like cheep merchandise at the market. He stumbled along when another grip on his shoulder jerked him forward.
“Wait!” The whisper hissed after them. With a sharp tug the gag was back in his mouth and he could feel the knot double in the back of his head, pulling hair as it was tied in. He heard steps from behind, a rustling of cloth, though before the former prince could manage a glance back his world was darkened once more, and even tighter than before the rope on the finely woven sack was tied around his neck.
He was blind. Much as he was the very first night he escaped from his castle, when the sky was not only blackened by the lack of sunlight but from the black clouds of a fierce storm as well. There was no way to tell where he was taken. In the ally every cold stone felt the same, every sharp turn left him dizzy and confused with direction. There was a time however when the constant winding turns came to an end. By than Eden ’s bare feet took on the feel of ice and the numbness of rock.
He had stopped fighting. There was a tingling feeling in his hands and not of any sort of comfort. They swelled and the twine felt as thought it was slowly sawing into his skin. It became musty within the bag. He breathed deep though at times it felt as though he was not breathing air at all, yet still he was stumbling along, more than once feeling his feet trip from under him. He was, in fact, grateful for the thieves holding his shoulders for as ungraceful and belligerent as they were he would have fallen without them, however he only wished there wasn’t such a tight grip on his damaged shoulder, for it appeared that the fall had been harder than he thought. With every stumbled step and right turn they made there was a tight pull, a hard jerk on his wounded shoulder that sent needles of pain through his entire arm. Even the fiery pain in his jaw had settled despite the rough cloth holding down his tongue so tightly.
There was a distant smell, aside from the stale sent of old corn skins in the sac, a mere hint of fish and the steady racing of the running river. They drew closer and he knew this not by the increase of rapids in his ear, but more by the spongy feeling of moist dirt sucking in his bare feet.
He could feel the cloud of mist, smell the light scent of the ocean when they stopped beside the river. Eden could sense the closeness of the river, hear the silent movement of the steady water’s beside him.
“You are late.” The voice startled him, not so much because he wasn’t expecting someone to finally break the spell of silence that hung over their travels, more because he recognized the voice for he was one of the king’s guard. The tone beside him was heated with aggravation and hate.
“Complications,” was his short answer. Eden knew the anger he heard was more directed towards him for there was tighter hold on his shoulder, one where dull nails and blunt finger tips dug in as deeply as possible. He bit down hard on the gag and screwed his eyes shut, anything possible to stop another scream from breaching his lips.
“What kind of complications? Beleaguered the knight with frantic speech, for most likely he assumed these two had been caught by the guild though quickly, before worry set in, the larger of his captors sneered, “the brat saw it fit ta try an’ escape.”
The was silence, as though the moment was given for unspoken thanks for the knight knew well that if it wasn’t them who chased the former prince around it was he who would have to instead.
“Right than,” breathed the knight, “hand him over to me.”
Eden felt a hand drop from his person however unfortunately it was not the one that held his pained shoulder.
“Watch yer feet.” His voice was quiet, a gruff tone only for Eden to hear. At first he did not move. The man grasped his shoulder tightly and shook him with such energy his head seemed to spin.
“I said git goin’!” This time he shouted, and before Eden ’s scrambled insides could settle he took but a few clumsy steps forward. Only a few he took, or rather attempted to take, before his shoulder was released and the hand that once held him steady instead shoved him forward. It was only momentum that kept the him in a straight path until the cold armored arms of the knight wrapped around him.
“There should be one more of you.” There was a rumble in the knights chest as he spoke.
“Said he would meet us here.” Eden could hear the shrug in his captor’s words.
“Am I supposed to wait?” The knight’s voice hummed in obvious protest.
“I can not,” he shouted,” I need to be back before my king wakes. I will not settle for any time you thieves see fit! If he is not here before your silhouette is no longer in sight I leave and keep the reward.”
“Hand the reward to me!” The larger of his captors, the voice that resembled a demon bellowed, “an I can escort ya back to yer castle!”
“That won’t be needed.” This voice was new, but all to familiar for Eden . It was deep, distant but strong. Just hearing the words spoken sent an uncontrolled chill down his spine.
“Sorry I am late.” The chilling man continued. “I nearly slept through the night until all this noise upstairs woke me.” He chuckled, “feel grateful I drugged the ale and rum.”
Eden wanted to tear off the bag once again for the voice was so familiar and yet there was no face in his mind to put to it. It was nerve-wracking not seeing movement, not seeing their location or faces. Apprehensive, he was, for not being able to know where it was he was taken. Only once he had ventured as far as the river, just the other day in fact, before he grudgingly wondered off to the castle.
He had not a clue how far up stream he was taken, if the village was visible, what direction it lie in. All he knew was sounds. All he could understand was being traded over like a slave and that gold was the price dangled over his head.
Something cooler than the mud on his numb feet, a sharp feeling that froze even the marrow of his bones and stiffened his body to rock was the cool keen edge of the knight’s blade across his neck. It ghosted over his skin. With every beat of his fearful heart, pulsing the vein in his throat, he felt the steady, un-yielding sheen on the sword to his skin.
“Drop your weapon,” the knight ordered, “Or I spill his blood.”
“You would not.” The chilling voice answered quickly. “And even if you did the king will see you tortured and murdered for killing the only heir.” Eden could only imagine that laughter hidden behind his words.
“I could blame the kill on you.” The knight defended.
“After all he would take my word over yours?”
He could hear the crush and folding of the knights leather gloves as his hand tightened around the hilt of the sword. The thief must have drawn nearer. At this moment young Eden did not know who he should feel safe with, for the thieves robbed him from his bed in the night and now his own guard was holding a blade to him.
“Are you so sure on who’s word he would take?”
The name to the voice, Eden could feel it tickling the tip of his tongue. It was closer now, more clearly in his head, but it would not come. He could not bring a thought to mind! There was something about the very way he said those words so devious, misleading. It was quite possible the guild held far more traitors than those simply hungry for reward.
“At ease.” He was close now. Eden could feel the heat from another body before him.
“I only bring a weapon to defend myself if you do not hold up your end of the bargain, now give me the prince. I will only hand him over when the gold is safely in my possession.” Eden jumped under the blade, when so quickly a surprisingly small hand took hold of his arm.
“The castle gates,” said the knight as he took the blade from his neck. “That is where we will exchange.”
“No.’ the sharp protest interrupted the slightly allaying sound of a sheathing blade.
“To close to danger we shall exchange in the center of town and I will not budge from this agreement.”
Eden did not hear an agreement made. There must have been a nod of the head or a reassuring glance the knight had given the thief for so soon after the final statement was said there was a elbow nudged in the small of his back to push him forward, though still that alarmingly small hand grasped loosely his arm.
They walked; the only steps heard being the heavy clatter of the knight’s steel toed boots. From mud, back to the night chilled stone of the main street in Asmalen. There didn’t seem to be a city around him however. To the former prince there were no houses, no black smith, no inns or taverns. It was far too silent for life. As they walked it seemed as though at any point he would be flung into some sort of odd dream, some dark place where time never passed, where everything stood still.
His mind was crystallized, cleared of nearly all the dark clouds that once swarmed it. No longer did he stumble along down the streets, even if he no longer felt numbed toes. His mind was too tangled, too twisted with thought to feel the ice grip of fear.
“You would have mad a great thief.” The smooth voice only quickened the thoughts in his unfinished mind. Than let me go. He wanted to say as composed and easy as the voice that spoke in his ear.
They slowed, stopped in the wide streets. Eden heard a rustling of cloth and the jingle of gold coins as they scattered to the ground before both him and the thief who so loosely held him captive.
“There’s your gold.” He spat the words like venom. “Now hand over Prince Akistu.”
Without even the slightest of hesitation he was pushed forward with enough strength to make the bound future king stumble forward. He kicked gold coins with his toes as he quickly moved his numb legs to try and stop an inevitable fall that awaited him. He felt tricked however when a firm and gentle hand righted him so soon, for when knight spoke he seemed much farther away than this.
“What’s happening here?”
Only when the knight spoke these words did the prince feel a tight pinch in his throat, for of all the voices he heard that night this one was most clear. It was Gran who held him now.
“A trade,” answered the knight quickly, however the thief stayed as quite as ever.
“What trade?” He pulled back, so gently, on Akistu’s arm as he himself stepped forward to bend down and prick from the floor a thick gold coin.
“This child for so much gold, I never knew a stable boy cost so much.”
“Are you blind fool!?” Barked the knight like the loyal dog he was. “That is the no good prince who cause us so much trouble! These thieves here say he ran away!”
Gran said not a word He only moved. Eden couldn’t hear the clank of armor however, just the rustle of lose fabric and the feel of cold hands on his own as the twine was loosened from his wrist to a less deadly grip.
“That I know.” He answered with composed demeanor.
“You know?” He bounced back the very words spoken with the horrified edge of surprise.
“Than why not tell the king,” He shouted,” Why not tell him the very day he was pronounced dead!?”
“The king did not need to know!” Gran quickly snapped and before the rope was cut from Eden ’s hands. The former prince felt the cold push of air as the knight pulled away and turned his back to him.
“The king should have known!” Protested the knight in what sounded like complete contempt towards the queen’s guard who drew on the conversation with cool words.
“If the king knew the prince wouldn’t have time to escape.”
The knight had grown silent. Eden could almost hear the light clicking in the man’s head as the pieces fell into place.
“You, your-“ He was cut off by the high pitched whistle of a blade and his own gasps for air as he choked.
Eden heard a thud, but than nothing. The former prince was able to tear the bag from his face and finally look upon the thief who had taken him there, but he was afraid to. Never before had Akistu taken death well in the castle. He had seen it rarely, but the times he had it seemed as though dark clouds swarmed him and heavy bags of sand pushed down his shoulders for months after. He grew to hate its sight, its smell, even though it was so thick down in the prison where he often retreated to hide, so heavy that the stench was forever to cling to the filth encrusted walls.
The thief’s voice took Eden by surprise for he though the man would be wise enough to leave without a word.
“Now the king has reason to hang you. Or maybe first he will cut off your toes and fingers. He could tar and feather you, though I think he may want to go for something more painful than humiliating.”
“You wouldn’t tell.” Gran replied in unperturbed speech.
“No you won’t.” He now seemed almost amused at the questioning pickpocket.
“The king likes me better.” The thief pointed out in smug sureness.
“You know as well as I that your leader, that nagging, aging hag,”
“She’s younger than you.”
“Though I am timeless,” Gran quickly teased back.
Eden could hardly believe how they spoke. They seemed more like long lost relatives or comrades than sheer and bitter enemies. The former prince brought up his hands, swollen fingers starting to untie the knot that held the bag secured around his head.
“She will kill you herself if she knew.”
All seriousness was brought back to Gran’s stern voice.
“You wouldn’t tell.” The thief now challenged, and Gran merely chuckled.
The man had laughed before. He had poked fun at Akistu during practice and when he was foolish enough to lower his guard or ask stupid questions, though this laugh was different. There was something dark about it, something exigent
“We have an agreement.” The thief said when the laughter subsided, and without asking what this so called agreement was Gran answered in understanding.
“I will not tell the king,”
“nor I your leader. Now go. Your only threat now is if Akistu knows your face and name.”
Eden didn’t hear the shuffling of feet on the coble stone, nor the tap of boots as the man walked off. It was as though he vanished into the air, as if he was nothing more than a dream.
The large but gentle hands of Gran reached around Eden ’s neck. The former prince himself had given up trying to make his numb fingers pick at the knot, though the knight seemed to have no trouble. It seemed as though all that was needed was a few tugs to the rope and what felt like a gust of cold air pushed up inside the sac and filled his lungs.
His cheeks were flushed to a cherry red and his skin damp with cool sweat when the bag was gently taken from his head. There wasn’t a great deal of light around them. There was the blue glow of the full moon as it turned the gray tint of the coble stone at their feet into an almost celestial glow of silver.
Next was the gag in his mouth. He was almost too happy when the tight knot behind his head was undone, though he found Gran’s nail bitten fingers to be challenged by the cloth. Once or twice he heard his nails slip from the fabric and felt the jolt of his arms when his fingers fell lose from it. The knight managed a tight hold on it however and the second Eden felt the stale cloth loosen he reached up and ripped it from his mouth. He spat to the floor where it dropped and used the back of his bound wrists to rub the stiff corners of his mouth and dry lips.
“Give me your hands.” Ordered the knight and without hesitation he reached out with both bound hands.
Carefully Eden watched Gran whose face was hardly seen even in the dull blue light of the moon. Despite the roads being light so radiantly by the glow, despite even the sky seeming a lighter blue by the unmasked moon Gran was still shrouded in darkness.
There was a dagger in his belt, one that was unsheathed and that hung so close to steal sword that dripped a crimson rain. Eden ’s eyes followed the blood to the cobble stone it fell to. He saw the nearly black pool bellow its tip and followed the raven steam to where a guard’s body lay face first. The ground was much darker around him and it gave off the thick subtle stench of murder.
Eden ’s eyes darted away just as he felt a hard tug on the rope and with one final sting of cutting pain it fell to the floor.
“They should have used thicker rope.” Gran muttered as he examined the best he could, the engraved cuts on his wrist.
A thought was pulling at the cords in his mind and the more he ignored its voice the harder it pulled. Gran was a knight. He was his mother’s knight and one to the royal blood line. Not only was it against all he swore to kill a comrade but he was now, while he untied the prince and set him free, going against the very clear wishes of the king.
“Why?” It was not as though he asked willingly. The words forced themselves out as though they would tear up his mind if not let free.
“Why are you helping me escape,” he continued, “why didn’t you tell my father that I escaped and wasn’t dead? All this time you knew and I expected you to say something but you never did.”
Gran seemed not to notice his questioning for all he did was lean over Eden ’s swollen hands and slowly with his own massage them to once again restore the blood flow they lost.
“Answer me,” ordered the prince as he pulled free his hands from the knight’s grasp. He felt as though, once again, he was dancing the dance of the former king, singing the orders and demands, swaying his power left and right, but he wanted answers, He needed them.
“Be calm my prince. I only do what is best for you.”
With steady hands he reached down for one of lost hands. It was darker than usual, and two times it normal size, or so it appeared to be.
“How is this best for me?” Eden asked the fire in his voice from before now missing.
“You are to be king.”
Already the young prince wanted to pull away his hands and run, for he believed he would be able to escape such a fate and that Gran was helping him to do it.
“And as king you must know the suffering your people go through and you must see with your own eyes your home.”
The knight let Akistu’s hand drop and as he continued to speak in such a soft careful tone, reached for the other.
“You will be a kind king if you can learn to live like your people instead of growing up in a place where you feel as trapped as you are.” The knight chuckled in a warm way.
“You will go mad in that palace before you’re a man.”
Eden claimed back his hands from Gran as the large knight slowly stood from his knees.
“I won’t ever go back. I refuse to be the king. Give the title to someone who wants it.”
“You are the only one who is suitable to the thrown.” Gran left no room for argument. He turned his back to the prince as he took a cloth, tucked within the pocket of his night shirt, and with it cleaned away the blood from his sword.
“You will be king one day. It is your fate to rule, so said the soothsayer when you were borne in the castle.”
He tossed the blood stained cloth to the ink like blood surrounding the dead body at his feet as Eden stepped forward. However angered he was the prince was sure to keep even the tips of his toes from the death that spilled over the street.
“I don’t care what some old fortune teller said. You’re the one that told me I have power over my own fait.”
Not an answer was given from the knight who still had yet to turn and face the young boy. There was nothing but the wind from the mountains to fill in the gaps of silence, though Gran did speak again. Only as he turned to the castle road did he say in such a quiet, but firm voice, “Go back to the guild before you catch cold. Fall is coming quick this year.”
Eden did not say another word, for he feared Gran may turn on him if he knew of his intentions to run. Instead he turned away and let his frozen feet and tiered legs carry him as fast as he could. He would never see Gran again. Not if the knight was to force him into power just as all else within the castle, his prison. Letting him go, the knight would see, was letting go the only chance there would ever be to catch him.
The full moon that had guided his way was now just a setting white orb in the grey blue sky of early morning. Hopping from holes in stray made roofs and singing their morning greetings were small birds that ruffled dew from their feathers. Eden still ran through the allies, his body stiff with cold, or so it should have been if his lungs weren’t the only fire keeping the blood in his body warmed.
Soon before him was the gently swinging sign to the Rune Inn, and only then did he see it safe for him to walk, for all that morning he had been the only child running about the streets and without a proper nights sleep exhaustion weighed heavy on his body.
The door was not open as it had been that night though it was not locked as it often was. His hands shook from the rushing adrenalin through his body; however it could have very well been from the sickening knot in his twisting stomach. His fingers wrapped around the brass handle and with surprising ease he opened the door to be greeted by the warmth of the inn. There, before the newly light fire was the innkeeper, and as the cold air gave the prince his entrance she turned to look with an ashen face.
She wore that dress again. The very same one he had seen her in when they first met and in her bare feet she rushed over. With a heavy thud she was on her knees before him and with surprising strength embracing him tightly.
“Where have you been!?” she demanded though it sounded as though the words were at a loss for air.
He winced when her hands found his shoulders and so quickly he was pulled away, for with only a simple push he was reminded of his hard fall to the floor. She noticed, all to quickly and took her fingers away.
“You look a mess.” She grumbled and just as quickly as she fell to her knees she stood.
“I woke this mornin’ and I was told ta go git you.” She tried to comb through the many snarls in his hair as she spoke though they seemed not eager to leave his tangled mass of hair.
“I got worried so I sent someone out ta find ya only minutes ago.” She spoke in such a rushed manner Eden found it hard to understand.
She gave a huff of defeat on his hair and instead put her efforts towards the cold.
“You feel like ice.” Her worrying continued with the same concerned tone of a young mother.
He was quickly pulled in from the door way. It was as he was given a light push towards the fire that she shut the door and locked away the morning wind. Ellie joined him soon enough and as all seemed to do, lead him by his arm. The fire burned his cold body, even though he did not touch it.
“Stay here.” She held up her hands as though training a dog while slowly backing away to the kitchen window.
“I won’t go anywhere.” The words he spoke were merely of reassurance to the frantic woman, and only to prove to her he was content he sat himself on the wooden floor before the fire. He couldn’t even begin to hide his amused grin as she quickly turned and left into the kitchen.
Only moment later he heard a light tap on the wood beside him. He glanced over, taking his eyes away from the warmth of the fire’s flame. They stung with fatigue though his stomach called more for food.
She folded the white of the flowery dress over her knees as she sat beside him, a tin box in her lap.
“Gim’me yer wrist.”
Her eyes saw everything he was coming to notice, for she had complained of the cold and his pained shoulder though he did not recall even a glance to his wrist.
He complained however, before she took it against his will. From experience he had come to see that it only hurt more in the end. Her rough hands turned his wrist left and right, examining the cuts on the back and sides. All the while Eden ’s eyes were transfixed on the stew she had set before him. He knew she would not let him eat. Not until she was sure each bruise was poked at and each cut sting with ale.
“Yer an accident prone child ya are,” muttered the inn keeper under her breath.
His hand was at his side again, though not because she didn’t see the need to clean it, but only to open the latch on the tin box and pull from it a few wraps of cloth.
“The cuts aren’t deep, but I want a look at that shoulder before ya go diggin’ into yer breakfast.”
Eden nodded his head, for he already knew what was to be done.
She wrapped each wrist lightly though it wasn’t painless. Before each strip of cloth was put over his cuts it was dipped in a bowl of ale she had hidden by her side. He bite his lips when it first stung him. He refused to let himself scream and so stomped his foot into the wood with curled toes until the pain passed.
Ellie let him each after he stripped his shirt and let her look at his shoulder. Where he fell it had became a discolored greenish purple. He had looked at it only once and his stomach gave a flip though Ellie hardly seemed fazed by the wound.
“Ya banged it pretty good.” She got to her feet and brushed the gathered dirt off her dress.
Eden nodded his head for he was reluctant to take his lips away from the edge of the bowl and the heated food he let enter his mouth.
“Nothing broken though. The pain will go in ‘bout a few days now hurry up and finish.” She tossed to him the shirt he was stripped of.
“Yer ta take a bath…than yer gonna tell the leader where ya been all night.”
Once again he merely nodded his head. He wanted to let her know, for he had planed on telling her himself that there were those against her within the guild, one in particular whom worked under the king.
He bathed quickly, just enough to let the water untangle his hair and to scrub the river mud from the soles of his feet. New cloths were set out for him when he stepped from the stone tub. They were baggy, a lose fit to his body but the wool held in the heat. Ellie was waiting for him when he stepped from the wash room and without a word exchanged he started ahead of her to the stair well. There was a feeling in his stomach, one that told him the leader already knew what had happened, that she had expected it. A meeting was to be held for he was telling the leader of the guild of thieves all he came to learn in his first night of serving under her. He had told Ellie about his night while she bathed. So soon after the story came to an end she rushed off to repeat his adventures to their leader. Now she knew. All that was left was to point those who took him…he was more than willing to send them away, even if it meant death.
· Fri Feb 15, 2008 @ 09:52pm · 0 Comments