• Reign of False Kings
    Chapter Five: Freedom

    Luca stared up at the ceiling blankly. She didn't bother nor did she contain the strength to move from the spread eagle posistion she'd been laying in for the last few hours. Perhaps it was because the chain of her shackles kept her in place or maybe because she looked as if she had suffered, the marks of cruelty plainly visible on her skin.

    It had been ten days. Ten entire days of torture and pain served by none other than that sadist, the man she now knew as Master.

    Her head rolled over at the sound of the door opening, the ex-prince Aran being roughly shoved inside their shared room. The royal was sweating still, droplets mingling with the dry, crusting blood down his cheek and neck. What little clothing he still wore hung loosly off his thin and batter boy while dirty, raven locks fell unchecked into his face. Much like Luca, dark bruises and cuts littered his raw body; tokens of Lucian's sadistic methods of breaking them. He had much fewer then the general, however. For while Luca's spirit was being beaten out of her, Aran's had destroyed itself.

    The guard dropped him by the side of the bed, offering no more attention to the boy. There was really no point; too weak and too beaten to try anything brash. The guard left and the two captives were left alone in utter silence. They stayed like that for a time before Aran stirred. He moved wordlessly, standing and crawling along the bed to untangle Luca's length of chain from the head board. Task complete, he slid back to the floor; knees to his chest and head in his arms. Try as he might, Lucian hadn't been able to completely shatter the boy's spirit...yet. It was intact at the moment, but it was uncertain how much longer it would last.

    The auburn-haired teen inhaled sharply as her limbs were finally released from their long tension. Her sore and strectched muscles scream in pain as she rolled over onto her side.

    "Hey," she called hoarsely, trying not to remember what had caused her voice to weaken to nothing more then a rough whisper. "What'd you do that for?" Aran tilted his head slightly.

    "Because I wanted to," his voice was raspy as well. "Because no one should be forced to be like that..."

    "Oh. Well, thank you.." Luca said uncomfortably, unable to move any more. She laid there staring at the back of Aran's head with a mixed expression.

    "How did you become a general?" Aran spoke out of the blue. He turned to look at her, face unreadable. She stared back with a raised brow. The two didn't speak to each other unless they had to or just to exchange snide comments. What was this all of a sudden?

    "Why would you want to know about me?" She paused and closed her eyes. "Ah, what the hell." She pushed herself up, wincing at the pain that surged through her sore body.

    "Mathis, the commander of Geese's guard, was a good friend of my father's. When he passed away, Mathis took me in. I was always watching him train his men just struck with awe. I remember sneaking into the armory and was so upset at myself that I couldn't even lift a full sized sword." She laughed a little, the nostalgic feelings drawing a bit of a smile on her face since the nightmare had begun. "The day after that I asked him to train me like one of his soldiers. I think he laughed a bit, but I was determined."

    "The next few years were the same; learning, fighting, and training until Mathis decided that I was good enough to be a soldier under him. When I was fifteen I bested all his officers. Heh, I think you know the rest from there. Not too bad for common birth, huh?" The laugh that escaped her was weighted. "They didn't think I could do it. And now," Luca fell back onto the bed. "I'm reduced to this."

    Aran listened silently, unconciously picking at the skin beneath the ornate collar. "When I claim my place as King of Geese I shall return you to your proper and true rank." The general looked at him with mild surprise.

    "You would promise something that great in my favor even though I've spoken nothing but harsh words towards you? Even knowing we might not escape this hell on earth?"

    The prince managed a feeble nod. "It is through no fault of our own that we are lowered to this. I also don't believe you to be as uncaring as you prefer others to believe."

    A sound at the door drew their attention from conversation. It opened only a smidge to allow a tray of food to slide in before quickly slamming shut. Luca glared at the tray, eyeing it as if it were laced with poison. "b*****d," she hissed.

    Disregarding Luca's growls, Aran crawled over to the food (Oh, how Lucian would love to see this.) and pulled it back to the side of the bed. He began to eat slowly, trying to make it last. "You are doing no favors by starving yourself," he said quietly. "Not even you."

    Luca's stomach throbbed painfull and she forced herself to ignore it and moved her gaze. "b*****d'll make me eat if he has too," she muttered knowingly. "Let me ask you something. Do you keep yourself alive for your country or yourself?"

    Aran stopped mid-bite and looked at Luca over his shoulder, perplexity in his dim optics. He thought on it for a moment, staring into the half eaten food before answering. "I...Up until now I had thought they were the same. I never expected anything more from my life exceot to become king and to rule my people. Now...but now I am not so sure."

    "Figured as much," she commented, none of her sacarstic fire in it for once. Pooling her withered strength into her arms, the battered general held onto one of the bed posts and pulled herself to her feet. Her legs shook unsteadily, but held. "It sounds to me that you aren't ready to be king. I served your father and he had an attitude nothing like yours." She walked unsteadily towards the washroom with as much balance and dignity as she could muster. Before she passed through the door she cast a glance back to the seated prince. "You should think on it more. You need to know what you're getting into and how you're going to deal with it."

    Aran looked after Luca with something akin to disbelief. The female general spoke the truth, or very near to it.

    His father, the former King Orson, had been headstrong and had always known exactly what he wanted and how to get it; quiet the opposite of his calm, focused son. Orson had gone after his goals with such tenacity that he stopped just short of being ruthless. Aran had never seen the logic in the way his father handled problems with brash confidence and almost no foresight. He had always been more subtle, using tact and cunning to win his battles. In truth, he was more like his late mother; both in appearence and temperment. Memories of his father scolding him for being too indecisive and passive arose; his mother always nodding with approval when Orson was out of sight.

    "Do I even want to be king?" He asked aloud, surprising himself. "Should I be king? Perhaps Daross is doing a better job then I would." He laid his head down on his knees. "Is a false king better then a weak one...?" Aran closed his eyes and wished to escape from these haunting questions. He dropped slowly into sleep.

    Luca had carefully lowered herself into the large, porcelain tub. The water burned her broken skin, making her hiss with pair. It was as if fire were licking at her wounds. Eventually she settled, the warmth calming and relaxing her. It was nothing close to comfortable, however. The ever present shackles on her wrists pulled her arms beneath the water with their added weight. With a sigh she rested her head on the edge of the tub and closed her eyes. 'Fool doesn't know what he wants,' the teen thought angrily, remembering the royal's words.


    The red headed teen felt strong arms lifting her out of the water. "...Aran?" She asked groggily, the name slipping from her tongue.

    "Such a reckless child; falling asleep in the tub. Look at you skin now..." The slave owner admonished, setting Luca down in a chair. He had grabbed a towel and began to dry the teen off none too gently. The red, glaring wounds stung more then ever. She clamped her mouth shut and tried to shrink away from the older man. Lucian smirked, taking his merry time in dressing the girl in a clean pair of shorts and matching blouse.

    Luca sat there, staring angrily at the floor. She hated being treated like a doll, but it was all she could do to avoid getting hurt again. Her gaze turned up to watch her owner cross the room to where Aran lay sleeping on the floor.

    "Let's wake our sleeping beauty," he purred, prodding the prince's ribs with the toe of his boot. "Up, pet. I can't allow you to sleep all day."

    Aran stirred, being pulled roughly to his feet before fulling aware of what was happening. He dug his fingers through the boy's unkempt hair, combing out the knots and parting his hair so that his face could be seen. "Much better," he remarked to nobody in paticular, tossing the prince back to the floor beside where Luca was seated. Lucian stood back, simply smirking at the pair. "I have something new planned for us today," he spoke almost sing-songy. It seemed the young prince had already begun his retreat into his shell; legs pulled to his chest and tembling eyes hidden behind a curtain of bangs. He smirked.

    The female general looked away from the trembling boy. He was of no used when he was like this, practically dead to the outside world. Instead she stared down at her bound hands, pulling the length of chain taught before letting it grow limp once more. She froze, a dangerous idea growing in her mind. Never had she truely thought they would escape this nightmarish place, but now the answer stared right at her face. She rose from the chair, drawing Lucian's attention as she walked over to him. Inside her mind was screaming but she forced herself not to show it in her face. Taking a deep breath she leaned up and pressed her lips against his.

    Luca's action was met with surprise, but it quickly changed. Lucian laughed low in his throat, immediately taking control of the situation. So pleased with this surprise act that he didn't notice the pair of shackled hands rise towards his head.

    With a quick twist, Luca wrapped the chain around Lucian's neck and began to pull back with all her might. The sadistic man let out a choking noise and with an angry, strangled roar started to try and pry the fiery girl from him. She didn't let up, although her strength was ebbing.

    "Help me!" She called to Aran.

    The young prince had been staring in shock but now jumped up to help. He threw his own legnth of chain around Lucian's neck as Luca had done, using his size to wrestle the slave owner to the floor. Lucian struggled wildly, his hand snaking to seize a concealed knife and plunging it at the two rebellious slaves. Luca screamed, the blade digging deep into her thigh, but still held tight. Aran could see her hold was weakening and hit the owner over the head with all the strength he could muster, given the posistion he was in. The blow gave the final push both captives needed, Lucian letting out one last choke before falling limp and lifeless.

    Luca unwound her chain with shaking hands and scurried away from the slave owner. She tried to calm her erratic breathing as she pressed her palms around where the knife stuck out from her thigh. She clenched her eyes and quickly pulled it from her leg, the smallest yelp escaping before quickly being quinched. She ripped the bottom of her blouse, using the cloth to bind the wound. Much to her dismay the cloth was soaked red almost immediately.

    Aran was still lying beside Lucian's still warm corpse. his hair was disheveled and his eyes closed. His breathing was ragged and the chain that bound his wrists still lay wrapped around Lucian's throat. He slowly sat up and unwound it, taking extra care to make sure that he didn't touch the murdered man any more than was absolutely necessary. Once he was free, he stumbled to his feet and walked over to where Luca was.

    "Are you...okay?" He asked, looking at the bloodied bandage.

    "Of course I'm not okay, dammit. Look at this!" She growled. "I'm not gonna get far like this..."

    Before Aran could even reply the sounds of the door opening made him turn his head. The curly haired boy stood wide eyed at the door, his dim eyes fixated on the carnage laid before them. His lip trembled, mouth slightly agape as if to form words. "Wha..what happened..?" He whispered, voice wavering.

    "What? Are you sad he's dead?" The general leered at him. He shook his head, his all too-thin frame trembling.

    Aran watched the slave boy intently before pushing himself and walking over to her. The child stepped back from him.

    "Please," the young royal tried to sounds calm. "You know your way. Help us escape."

    The boy looked up at him with wide eyes before turning to look at the door. He remind silent for a moment before turning back to the pair. "We'll have to hurry..."

    Aran sighed and walked over to where Luca was still sitting on the floor and crouched in front of her, grabbing her arms and draping them over her shoulders.

    "W-what are you doing?!" The general twitched, half in shock and half in pain.

    "You can't walk," the prince state flatly. "I'm going to carry you. Now, get on." The girl growled to herself but eventually allowed the boy to carry her weight. He struggled to balance himself for a moment, but was soon ready to go.

    The child stepped out into the hall to check it for people before waving them on. He seemed to have gained some courage in the short time. "I can get you to the stables," he offered as they quietly treked the halls. "You'll have to go on your own from there. There are guards at the gate though.."

    "I want my armor," Luca groaned from over Aran's shoulder. Despite the childish tone it was said in, he had to agree that it would probably be best to retrieve their things. He would have a much better chance at defending himself if he had his sword.

    The boy stopped and put a finger to his chin. "Go down the stairs at the end of the hall and wait for me." He began to jet off in the opposite direction. Trusting the young boy, Aran followed the directions. He could already see the corridor that lead outside. The very one they walked through when they first arrived to this hellish place.

    The child came running after a minute or two, the bundle containing their things held to his chest. They slinked out into the stables, both boys working together to push Luca up onto a grey mare. Once the girl was situated, Aran selected out one of his own. He skipped the saddles and hooked the horses up with bridles.

    The slave boy watched quietly before handing the package to the royal as he walked over. He gripped it tightly as he climbed atop his horse, looking down curiously when the curly haired boy didn't move.

    "Get out as soon as you can," he said, almost smiling. "I..I want to try and help everyone else. Please!"

    Aran watched as the boy ran back into the house, slinging the bundle over his back before looking to the general. He reached into the pack, pulling out both their weapons before tossing her her sword. They exchanged a wordless agreement and bolted from the stables, the other horses causing a fuss as they left. Just as the boy said, there were guards at the gate. They drew their weapons as they approached but before they could swing theirs Luca cut them down with her own. Aran sped ahead, sliding off the horse as he hit the gate and pushing it open just wide enough for them to pass.

    "Let's go!"

    Luca reered her horse ahead as the prince jumped back onto his own. He spurred it into a gallop and stuck behind the speeding general, leaving the manor and Lucian far behind him.


    Neither knew for how long they rode, finally stopping in a thick wood. A small, well hidden clearing set next to a swift stream and provided an excellent spot for them to rest for the night. Aran dismounted, leading his and Luca's tired horses to a tree where he tethered the exhausted beasts. He moved to help the general from her mount but she slid off on her own, wincing as she landed but limping over to the stream on her own.

    Aran walked over and sat next to her. "How is it?"

    "I've had worse." A stream of dried blood had formed down her leg from the ride. She began to unwrap the bloody cloth. The wound had already begun to clot, slowing blood flow, but a filmy yellow layer had formed over it. She made a face of disgust, scooping a handful of water and began to clean it.

    The young royal turned his gaze to the sky. It was much colder then he remebered from first entering Lucian's mansion. Winter was slowly starting to come in. This wouldn't bode well for the two escapees. They would have to find suitable shelter and soon. He turned back to find that Luca had used yet more of her blouse to re-bandage the cleaned wound. She was lying back on the ground, her scantily clad body shivering from the cool night air. He looked down at his still shackled wrist with a heavy sigh before rolling closer to the general.

    "What're you doing," she asked through chattering teeth.

    "Do you want to freeze," he responded flatly. "We can at least try to keep warm this way..."

    Luca gave him a look, seeing if any hint of an ulterior motive lurked in the boy, but found none. She crawled the short way to Aran's side, wincing when she moved the bandaged leg. The teen curled up next to him with a scoff, just barely touching him. For once the young general had no problem falling asleep, the threat of emprisonment no longer over their heads.