Captive Prince:Book One of the Captive Prince Trilogy(7)By: C. S. Pacat
But the Prince—Laurent’s particular blend of spoilt arrogance and petty spite—had been unbearable.
“He doesn’t look much like a pet,” said the taller of the two men.
“You heard. He’s a bed slave from Akielos,” said the other.
“You think the Prince fucks him?” Sceptically.
“More like the other way around.”
“Pretty sweet orders for a bed slave.” The taller one’s mind stuck on the subject as the other grunted noncommittally in reply. “Think what that’d be like, getting a leg over the Prince.”
I imagine it would be a lot like lying down with a poisonous snake, thought Damen, but he kept the thought to himself.
As soon as the men left, Damen reviewed his situation: Getting free was not yet possible. His hands were untied again, and the collar-chain had been lengthened, but it was too thick to separate from the iron link in the floor. Nor could the collar be opened. It was gold, technically a soft metal, but it was also too thick to manipulate, a constant, heavy weight around his neck. It struck him how ridiculous it was to collar a slave with gold. The gold wrist-cuffs were even more foolish. They would be a weapon in a close fight and currency on the journey back to Akielos.
If he stayed alert while pretending to compliance, opportunity would follow. There was enough length in the chain to allow him perhaps three steps of movement in every direction. There was a wooden carafe of water well within reach. He would be able to lie comfortably on the cushions and even relieve himself in a gilt copper pot. He had not been drugged—or bludgeoned all the way to unconsciousness—as had happened in Akielos. Only two guards at the door. An unbolted window.
Freedom was attainable. If not now, then soon.
It must be soon. Time was not on his side: The longer he was kept here, the longer Kastor would have to cement his rule. It was unbearable not to know what was happening in his country, to his supporters, and to his people.
And there was another problem.
No one had yet recognised him, but that didn’t mean he was safe from discovery. Akielos and Vere had had few dealings since the decisive battle of Marlas six years ago, but somewhere in Vere there would surely be a person or two who knew his face, having visited his city. Kastor had sent him to the one place where he could expect to be treated worse as a prince than as a slave. Elsewhere, one of his captors, learning his identity, might be convinced to help him, either out of sympathy for his situation, or for the promise of a reward from Damen’s supporters in Akielos. Not in Vere. In Vere, he couldn’t risk it.
He remembered the words of his father on the eve of the battle of Marlas, warning him to fight, never to trust, because a Veretian would not keep his word. His father had been proven right that day on the battlefield.
He would not think of his father.
It would be best to be well rested. With that in mind, he drank water from the carafe, watching the last of the afternoon light slowly drain from the room. When it was dark, he lay his body, with all its aches, down on the cushions, and, eventually, he slept.
And woke. Dragged up, a hand on his collar-chain, until he was on his feet, flanked by two of the faceless, interchangeable guards.
The room was flaring into brightness as a servant lit torches and placed them in the wall brackets. The room was not over-large, and the flickering of the torches transformed its intricate designs into a continuously moving, sinuous play of shape and light.
In the centre of this activity, regarding him with cool blue eyes, was Laurent.
Laurent’s severe dark blue clothing fitted him repressively, covering him from toe to neck, long-sleeved to his wrists, with no openings that weren’t done up with a series of tight intricate ties that looked like they would take about an hour to loosen. The warm light of the torches did nothing to soften the effect.
Damen saw nothing that did not confirm his earlier opinion: spoilt, like fruit too long on the vine. Laurent’s slightly lidded eyes, the slackness around his mouth, spoke of a night wasted in a dissolute courtier’s overindulgence in wine.
“I’ve been thinking about what to do with you,” said Laurent. “Break you on a flogging post. Or maybe use you the way Kastor intended you be used. I think that would please me a great deal.”