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In two days I will die. I will be taken from this place and executed like some common criminal. My crime? I turn sixteen in three days, and that is a day they certainly don't want me to see! The priests know what will happen if I do, and they will never allow it, legend be damned.
For ten long years I have been locked away like some animal, where only solitude has been my friend. The books I had found hidden were my only education. This Island was my prison; the army and the treacherous seas guarding it, my jailers.
I remember that day vividly, the day that my world came crashing down. The pain never lessens as the clock ticks; only the burning need for revenge keeps me motivated now. It is a day I will never forget.
TEN YEARS PREVIOUSLY: ROYAL PALACE, OCEANIC CITY.
"Taral, where are you?” my Nana screeched and continued, as she hunted high and low for me in my rooms, “This is hardly the time to start playing games young man. Your Mother and Father are expecting you to be turned out in your finery at any time."
Nana was rather a portly lady, and I knew she would never find me where I was hidden. She would never fit for a start! I let out a giggle at the thought and, oops, I wonder if she...
"I heard that, come out at once, this is no time to be playing games. Your Father will give you a tanned hide if you're late!" That was more than enough motivation for me, and I squeezed out from behind the bookshelves to face a rather irate Nana.
Grabbing me by the scuff of my neck, she pulled me towards the bath chamber.
"Now get in there, and give yourself a good scrubbing, unless you want me to do it for you." My eyes went wide in horror, and I quickly scuttled into the bathing area without any further argument.
As a member of the royal family, it was my duty to attend this function my father was holding tonight. He was signing some kind of friendship treaty with the Makriams, and a banquet was being held afterwards. I hated these state affairs, but I disliked the Makriam King even more. Hector d'Remoud just made my skin crawl; there was just something about that man I didn't like or trust, and he smelled funny. He always made a point of grabbing me, and sitting me on his knee, as if I was some trophy or something. I don't know why father ever let him do it, I knew it irritated him; it's just not done manhandling a royal prince in that manner.
Perhaps I should use some magic on him, I giggled at the thought. I couldn't do very much yet, but Master Grepic, my tutor, said it was coming along very well. I could levitate small items with ease, and push objects across the floor, but my newest one was the biggest shock...FIRE! I think Master Grepic was the most surprised, but I didn't mean to set his cloak alight! I remembered him flapping about, trying to put it out, and he wasn't too happy when I threw a bucket of water over him to douse the flames. I was only trying to help! He said some words I’ve never heard before; I must really ask father what they mean.
I would have to wait a long time before I get to do the really good stuff though. On my sixteenth birthday, I come of age, and my abilities as a sorcerer really kick in, Master Grepic said he hoped he'd be retired by then. The biggest honour though, will be when I receive the Heart of the Dragon. I'm not sure what it does yet, but it's meant to be really powerful. I'll be like the only person to receive it in over a thousand years, which makes it really old!
They do seem to be putting me through a lot of training lately, both in magic and my usual lessons. It really hurts though when they push all this stuff into my head. Father says it’s the way it’s always been done, that using magic is the quickest way for us to learn what we need to, just in case. I don’t think Mother was too happy about it when she found out, but obviously, Father got his way, because the lessons continue.
It’s always been drummed into me that as second son and holder of the Heart of the Dragon, the defence of the kingdom and of the throne was to be my calling. That these lessons would be vitally important later on in life. I can barely remember any of it to be fair; there was so much to take in.
My older brother André, on the other hand, was destined to be King. He’d be very good at it I thought; he has the kindest heart and the most compassionate soul. My mother thinks those are good qualities to have in a ruler, and I agree with her.
Older brothers don’t really get on with their younger siblings, but I’m really lucky. André always goes out of his way to make sure I’m all right, and to play games with me in the gardens or in my rooms. He always cheers me up if I get sad, or listens to me when I complain about this or that. To be honest, being cooped up in this Palace all the time; all we have is each other. Father says it’s simply too dangerous for us outside these walls, and other children are very rarely let in here. Even when they are, it’s under strict supervision.
A loud voice broke me from my thoughts.
"Taral, what are you doing in there? It couldn't possibly be taking this long to clean that scrawny body of yours. Come along, and get a move on," my Nana said in her best huffy voice. Reluctantly, I got out of the bathing tub and dried myself off.
As we approached the great hall, I could see things were well under way, which meant we'd be sitting down for dinner very soon. That was good, because I hadn't eaten in over two hours, and was starving. I had to keep fiddling with the tunic I was wearing; it was a little snug around the neck. I would probably have to go for a fitting for a new one soon; they didn’t seem to last long at all! A loud banging noise made me jump, and I gave the Master Of Ceremonies a dirty look, as he announced my arrival by banging the ceremonial staff on the stone floor.
"His Imperial Highness, Prince Taral Lassast," he said in a booming voice.
I think I went about three shades of red, because everyone just stopped what they were doing, and watched Nana and I make our way down the stairs into the great hall itself. I hated all the pomp and ceremony, but I especially hated the stares and the bowed heads as I walked past everyone. You would have thought I'd be used to it by now. Nana, on the other hand, loved the attention, and was positively beaming.
The same loud voice announced my brother some moments later, and I waited for him in our usual spot, away from the gossips of the royal court.
"Hey baby brother, I see you didn't manage to wriggle your way out of this one!" he said with a chuckle as he approached me.
"No, I did try though, but Father was having none of it," I said with a sigh, "I just want to avoid Hector if I can, I don't like being treated like some doll he can pick up when he chooses."
André grimaced. "Yes, I do know what you mean Taral, but I doubt very much that you'll be successful. All this is being held in his honour after all." He nodded at the gathering in front of us.
"I know, but the man's an ass, though. I just wish he'd keep his hands to himself," I said with a pout.
André laughed, and shook his head at me. "I really hope your sense of diplomacy improves with age, Taral. I can just hear you now in negotiations with foreign monarchs, making inflammatory remarks, and calling them all sorts of names." His eyes twinkled at me, and the smile never left his face.
"Ah, but you're the diplomat big brother, I'm the one who will wage war after all. No diplomacy needed there!" I stated with a smirk.
He shook his head and smiled. "By the gods, it's hard to believe you're only five by the way you talk sometimes. You are growing up far too quickly," he said laughing, though it quickly faded as he continued, “Though, I wish Mother had got her way with these lessons they give you. You’re far too young to be put through that. You should be allowed to be a child whilst you can, not force fed information on tactics of war and such things.”
Our conversation was interrupted by the Makriam monarch’s arrival, followed shortly thereafter by my parents. There were a number of Makriam priests here as well, and they always made me feel uneasy at the best of times. These ones, though, positively sent a chill throughout my body. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something just didn't feel right. I did try and mention that to André, but he just shrugged it off, probably putting it down to my dislike for King Hector.
The man in question was making his way in our direction, and I eased myself closer to my brother.
"Your Majesty," André and I said in unison. I bowed my head slightly as he stopped in front of us.
He forced a smile. "Hello little Prince. My, haven't you grown since I was here last?" I felt like rolling my eyes at the usual comment I received. "Prince André, always a pleasure," he said before moving on. Well, that was strange; he normally was a little more talkative. Not that I was complaining of course.
The banquet, as these things were prone to be, was very dull, but I managed to tune most of it out. I did occasionally pass the odd comment here or there to the Duchess of Aminwele or Nana, who were seated next to me, but for the most part, I kept to myself. The only thing that was really unnerving, was that Hector kept staring at me, and it was unsettling to say the least. Perhaps he's just a dirty old man; it wouldn't have surprised me at all. That was soon forgotten though, when all the cakes and sweet tarts were brought round. I had to sneak a few when Nana wasn't looking. She says they make me boisterous if I have too many. I was sure I didn't know what she was talking about!
I really don’t remember how many I had, but I was starting to feel a little sick after a while, I wondered if it was the fowl I had earlier that was upsetting my stomach! Nana was feeling my head for a temperature, when I promptly deposited the contents of my stomach all over her. I don't think she was pleased, and was muttering something about it being a new dress. I think she was telling me off, but I was feeling very queasy still, and didn't hear a word. I remember vaguely being carried out of the great hall, and up some stairs, before I feel asleep.
I awoke with a start, and a perception that something was very wrong. That was confirmed when five or six Makriam priests burst into my rooms. A feeling of terror shot through me, and I jumped off the bed to try to avoid the advancing men, only to be caught halfway to the bath chamber. I caught one of them in the private parts as I lashed out, but was rewarded with a hard backhanded slap across the face. I was momentarily stunned; no-one had ever hit me. I started struggling again; doing everything I could to free myself from their grasp.
"My Father will have your heads for this....let me go," I screamed, "Do you have any idea who I am?" They pinned me down on the floor, and started to put chains on my wrists and ankles. I was a royal prince; they couldn't do this to me! Where were the guards when you needed them? They dragged me kicking and screaming out of my rooms, and from the direction we were going in, it looked as though we were heading towards the great hall again. This was very strange, if they were kidnapping me, why were they taking me to a room full of people?
As soon as we neared the hall I felt it, and my screams were silenced as terror began to get a grip of me. The feel of the air, and that unmistakable smell, meant it could only be one thing - dark magic. I started struggling harder, but it was of no use, these men were twice my size.
It was then I saw it, and my struggles stopped as I took in the sight before me. What had once been a place full of laughter and joviality was now a scene of carnage and slaughter. I frantically looked around for my parents, until I found them. They were lying motionless across the main table, eyes that had once been so full of life and sparkle, were now lifeless and dull. My brother André, whose laughter was always so infectious, lay silent next to them. Not a sound escaped my lips as I took it all in, all my family and friends, nobility and servant alike, massacred in one fell swoop.
Tears welled in my eyes as the finality of it all set in. Hector d'Remoud, the Makriam monarch, made his way towards me, a smile plastered over his face. I could feel the anger boil inside me, as this coward gloated in his hollow triumph.
"Well my little Prince, it would seem we keep bumping into each other." He smirked, as he leaned down to my eye level.
I glared at him with total hatred. "I will kill you d'Remoud, I swear I will kill you, if it's the last thing I ever do. You are nothing but a spineless coward, too afraid to do this on the battlefield. You come in the guise of friendship only to stab us in the back. Why? Because you have no honour to do this like a man." I spat in his face as I finished. I knew he wanted to kill me, but there was no way he would dare. As the last of the Royal House Lassast, legend dictated that if I were slain, the Gods themselves would send forth a plague, the likes of which have never been seen. The Makriam, despite everything, are an extremely superstitious people.
He regained his smile and wiped his face. "Well, quite your Mother's son aren’t you? But your threats are meaningless, my prince. As we speak, my legions are crossing the borders into Voceania, and this kingdom will be under my control in a matter of days. This palace is already secured by mages loyal to me. The only fly in the ointment is you, and how I wish I could just slit your impudent throat right now." He finished with a scowl.
Addressing the priests that were still holding me, he said. "Take him out of my sight, and make preparations for Srowl Island. Let's see how His Highness enjoys the solitude."
They hauled me down the stairs, which I knew led to the dungeons below. I fought a losing battle all the way, but there was no way I was going to make this easy for them. I could see the bodies of guards littering the way, surprise written on their unmoving faces. The smell of dark magic and death still lingered in the air the further we went, until finally, we got to our destination. They threw me into one of the cells, slamming it shut before I could lash out once again, then left the same way they came in. I pounded against the cold metal of the bars, before reality came crashing down on me. The tears that had threatened to come earlier started to flood down my face and an anguished wail escaped my throat. The vision of my parents and brother was burned onto my mind and sobs shook my small body as I remembered it vividly. A wave of emotions engulfed me - grief, anguish and total hatred, all duelling for dominance, but none winning out. My small hands still pounded and clawed at the bars, which were now caked in my own blood, but my efforts were growing weaker in force as my strength ebbed. Finally I could stand no longer and slid down to the cold floor, where my grief took me into its cold embrace.
PRESENT DAY: SROWL ISLAND
They kept me under guard at the Palace for seven days, before moving me here, and I have never set foot off this Island since.
They have come to question me of course, once they found out about the Heart of the Dragon. As far as I'm aware, they are still looking for it; however, they will never locate it. The fools think it's some item of jewellery, but I know different. It gives me great pleasure knowing their frustration in not being able to find it; for I know exactly where it is. Unfortunately, it won't do me any good, as I must wait until my sixteenth year before I am of age, and that, barring a miracle, will never happen. They are so paranoid about the Heart making its way to me, even here, that my execution has been ordered. It seems they prefer a plague to the consequences of the Heart joining with a Prince of Voceania. They have very good reason to be afraid. It is now I am very grateful for my fathers’ insistence that I was schooled in the manner I was, for without it, I would go to my death with so many questions unanswered.
I'm still not much of a sorcerer, nor will I ever be now. These parlour tricks I can do, bide the time away, and make for some amusement when I catch a guard unawares. The Books have helped, albeit in a small way. But levitating a metal helmet, or moving objects across the floor gets tiresome after a while. The fire balls I can create in my hands are starting to look impressive, unfortunately, they are certainly not enough to aid in any escape I may attempt. That said, I should at least try if I am to die anyway, what’s the worst they could do to me? For that matter where would I run to? Maybe if I could.....
The opening of the door to my rooms, brought my thoughts to an abrupt halt, do these savages never knock? Through the door came one of my guards.
"Come with me" he ordered.
"Excuse me?" I said, with a raised eyebrow. "I don't know who you think you're talking to, but I am Prince Taral Lassast, and I would request that you address me in a proper manner." I was in no mood to make life easy, so I put on the airs and graces I knew would annoy him. It worked!
He looked irritated. I smiled. "I do beg your pardon, your esteemed Majesty, but would you come with me." His sarcasm wasn't lost on me, and I stifled a smile.
“Actually, the correct term is Imperial Highness. But then, I shouldn’t really expect you to know the difference!” His eyes narrowed at me and I could sense the anger swell inside him. Getting up and smiling, I said, “Shall we go then?” He scowled, but led the way through the door.
I was in no doubt that we were going outside for my daily exercise routine. I kicked up a fuss a long time ago about the cramped courtyard they used to take me to. Now I'm allowed down to the pebbled beach, where I take great comfort in the sounds of the ocean.
As I looked upon the horizon, I could see nothing but fog. On a good day Voceania would be visible, but not today. With a sigh I shook my head and wondered if I would ever see my homeland again, I seriously doubted it.
"Taral," someone whispered.
I snapped to attention and looked around me, but no one was there. Strange, I could've.....
There it was again, by the gods where was it coming from? Was this some kind of mage trickery? I listened carefully, but it never happened again. I felt something though, something familiar. It wasn't unpleasant, it was just....comforting. I closed my eyes and reached out with my senses, but found nothing, not even a Makriam mage. Frustrated, I slowly walked back the way I came, constantly reaching out for something, anything that might explain it. Nothing did.
To be continued.............
© 2009 DragonFire
I hope you guys enjoyed the first part of my new story. As always, all comments good and constructive are welcome. Please e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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