Captive Prince:Book One of the Captive Prince Trilogy(2)

By: C. S. Pacat

“Seize him!” said one of the soldiers who poured into the room, a man with lank brown hair. Damen might have allowed it simply out of shock, but it was in that instant that two of the soldiers lay hands on Lykaios and cut her down.

At the end of the first exchange, three of the soldiers were dead, and Damen had possession of a sword.

The men facing him wavered and held back.

“Who sent you?” said Damen.

The lank-haired soldier said, “The King.”

“Father?” He almost lowered his sword.

“Kastor. Your father is dead. Take him.”

Fighting came naturally to Damen, whose abilities were born of strength, natural aptitude and relentless practice. But these men had been sent against him by one who knew all of that very well, and further, was not stinting in his judgement of how many soldiers it would take to overcome a man of Damen’s calibre. Overwhelmed by numbers, Damen could only last so long before he was taken, his arms twisted behind his back, a sword at his throat.

He had then, naively, expected to be killed. Instead he was beaten, restrained and—when he fought free, doing a gratifying amount of damage for one who had no weapon—beaten again.

“Get him out of here,” said the lank-haired soldier, wiping the back of his hand across the thin line of blood at his temple.

He was thrown into a cell. His mind, which ran along straight and candid lines, could not make sense of what was happening.

“Take me to see my brother,” he demanded, and the soldiers laughed, and one kicked him in the stomach.

“Your brother’s the one who gave the order,” one of them sneered.

“You’re lying. Kastor’s no traitor.”

But the door of his cell slammed shut, and doubt raised its head for the first time.

He had been naive, a small voice began to whisper, he hadn’t anticipated, he hadn’t seen; or perhaps he had refused to see, giving no credence to the dark rumours that seemed to disrespect the honour with which a son should treat the final days of a sick and dying father.

In the morning they came for him, and understanding now all that had occurred, and wishing to meet his captor with courage and bitter pride, he allowed his arms to be lashed behind his back, submitting to rough handling and moving forward when he was propelled by a hard shove between the shoulders.

When he realised where he was being taken, he began to struggle again, violently.

The room was simply carved in white marble. The floor, also marble, sloped faintly, terminating at an unobtrusive carved runnel. From the ceiling hung a pair of shackles, to which Damen, forcefully resisting, was chained against his will, his arms pulled up above his head.

These were the slave baths.

Damen jerked against the restraints. They didn’t budge. His wrists were already bruised. On this side of the water, a miscellany of cushions and towels were arranged in an appealing tumble. Coloured glass bottles in a variety of shapes, containing a variety of oils, glimmered like jewels amid the cushions.

The water was scented, milky, and decorated with slowly drowning rose petals. All the niceties. This could not be happening. Damen felt a surge in his chest; fury, outrage, and somewhere buried beneath these, a new emotion that twisted and roiled in his belly.

One of the soldiers immobilised him in a practised hold from behind. The other began to strip him.

His garments were unpinned and drawn off swiftly. His sandals were cut from his feet. The burn of humiliation hot as steam across his cheeks, Damen stood shackled, naked, the moist warmth of the baths curling up against his skin.

The soldiers withdrew to the archway, where a figure dismissed them, his chiselled face handsome, and familiar.

Adrastus was the Keeper of the Royal Slaves. His was a prestigious position that had been bestowed on him by King Theomedes. Damen was hit by a wave of anger so powerful it almost robbed him of vision. When he came back to himself, he saw the way Adrastus was considering him.

“You wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me,” said Damen.

“I’m under orders,” said Adrastus, though he was holding back.

“I’ll kill you,” said Damen.

“Maybe a—a woman—” said Adrastus, backing up a step and whispering into the ear of one of the attendants, who bowed and left the room.

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