Defiance Ch. 02bySumOfAllThings©
"A child, younger than you, less experienced than you and you couldn't fight him off? What must I do Tate, have my guards protect you at all times. And how could you be stupid enough to let him corner you away from everyone else? You know how their people are; you know how little they think of us. By the god's boy, the state you were found in was humiliating! And worst of all is that everyone knows. Your reputation is in tatters and you've disgraced this household. You had better hope I don't let your brothers near you my boy else you might not live to regret your idiocy."
Tate hadn't said a word when he was dragged out of bed by his father's right hand servant and councillor, he'd offered no complaint as he was marched discreetly to his father's private chamber and was shouted at for what seemed like hours. He hadn't so much as grunted as insult after insult was piled on top of him. He stood quietly and stoically as he was blamed for the prince's actions.
Finally the old man stopped shouting, his eyes softened and he slumped dejectedly into his chair. Tate rather envied him. He was swaying on his feet and felt like he was going to collapse. Of course his fate really would have been sealed if he fainted like a delicate little woman.
"What am I to do with you Tate?" the old man said, his tone pained. "You're so clearly not one of us that it's impossible to hide you away." He put his face in his heads and groaned softly. "Perhaps I'm to blame, I never should have lain with your mother, but she was so beautiful, so exotic." His eyes rested on his son's and he heaved a quiet sigh. "Of course there in lies the problem. You look so much like her. You have her people's features, not mine. You're too slight, too quiet and your eyes are so accusing, just like hers. Before now I thought to marry you off to one of the more influential ladies, you might not have been happy with the match but it would have given you a decent life, but now who will take you other than the lowliest of families, who would try to weasel their way into our covenant. I cannot allow that, your brother's would not permit it."
Tate swallowed the painful lump in his throat as he tried to fight back the tears threatening to overpower his will to appear strong. "I'm sorry father." He said finally, quietly.
The older man flicked his hand, a dismissal to leave. Tate did as he was bid and when he finally reached the safety of his chambers he punched his door with his injured hand, relieved by the agony that shot up his arm. He had never in his entire life felt so ashamed. He couldn't bare it. He realized the only honourable thing left for him to do was take his own life and rid his family of the burden he had placed on them but to his own loathing he realized he couldn't do it.
Gods help me! He thought despairingly, I really am a coward.
The feast that night was tense. Not wanting to offend their guests the high baron and his household offered the same food, wine and entertainment as the previous evenings but the merriment and goodwill was quite obviously lacking.
Hasan couldn't help but stare at the princeling that ruined his son's life. He was a young lad of no more than twenty years but he was of an impressive height and build. He wore a short sword on his right hip and a long knife on his left. Light and handsome, he had an easy smiled and a pleasant manner. He was the sort of son every man wished for. He was everything that Tate was not.
It was well known that he was a favoured son of the king and as such was basically untouchable. A pity as the baron had spent much of the night contemplating his assassination. Time wasted it appeared.
When the feast was over and people began to break apart into couples to dance or wonder in groups and talk the baron was approached by the visiting duke him self, second hand man to the king. He was uncharacteristically alone.
"My lord," The baron said, bowing his head slightly. "I hope the night's festivities have pleased you?"
"As always you're the embodiment of hospitality baron Hasan. I wonder though if you and I might talk privately for a moment?"
"Of course my lord. How can I help you."
"Ah well, it is delicate, for you see it's recently come to my attention that Christian may have beheld him self to something that was not entirely freely given. I've come to understand that his actions may have much more dire consequences than he first imagined, especially for the young man involved."
"My lord," Hasan said, barely resisting the urge to strike down the man who spoke so casually of his sons disgrace. "It is better to not talk of such things."
"On the contrary my good man I think it quite necessary, in fact I think it might be the answer to your problems, for you see Christian has taken an unusually strong liking to your son and asked that you bequeath him to us so that he might serve in the king's house hold. I think you'll agree that it is a fair offer, considering the alternatives."
The baron began to sputter, unable to form words through his fury. "You want me to give my son to the prince as a servant?"
Smiling the duke slipped his arm through Hassan's. "Let me be blunt my good man. Your son was never going to earn his sword, he's what, twenty-four now and he's never been tried in battle. You could give him to the temple I suppose but the rumour is that he worships his mother's god and not ours. You know no respectable family will take him now. What's left but to kill him and forget he ever existed, and that's what you'll have to do eventually, unless you allow one of his brothers near him? Why not give him over to me. I'll take him to court, where the goings on here won't so much as cause a stir among the many intrigues and rumours that thrive in that place. He'll be well looked after and when the prince tires of him, which he no doubt will, I'll pass him onto my wife's services where he'll be sent to serve in her country manner until the day he retires. What say you?"
Head swimming the baron pulled his arm free and retreated a few steps. "You need to give me time my lord, I have much to consider."
The duke's face finally darkened. "I'll have your answer now or not at all my lord. I do this to humour the prince but I am not about to beg for your bastard."
"My lord, please-"
"we leave first thing on the morrow, if he's to accompany us certain factors must be taken in to account. I need your answer now."
"Very well then," the duke said resignedly. "I gave you a choice, remember that,"
"Wait!" Hasan gasped at the dukes retreating back.
He turned a smile on his face. "So then we have an accord?"
Tate stared out of his windows at the festivities below and felt a painful pull in the pit of his stomach. His entire life had been ruined because a foolish man- child couldn't comprehend his own selfishness and stupidity. Whilst his life lay in tatters that bastard would spend the rest of his precious life in merriment and virtue.
Intent as he was on the small world below him he did not here the approaching foot steps leading to his room until they were nearly on top of him. Mindful of what his father had said of his brothers he realised he had not locked the door. Too late he bolted forward. It banged open, knocking him back into the arm of his chair. He fell into it, much to the amusement of the duke and Prince!
He should have bowed to them but as the young lord reached out towards him all Tate could think of was ripping those hands to shreds. He pulled out his knife and this time he managed to slash the Priceling's hand. His victory was short lived as his arm was twisted to the point where a little more pressure would break it in two. He dropped the blade and cried out a vile curse in his mothers tongue. Ignoring the pain in his writs he twisted back round and slammed his head into the lordling face. The angle was poor but from the grunt he heard behind him he had managed to hurt the bastard. Next thing he knew he was lying face down on his own bed, having been flung almost halfway across the room. The lordling looked ready to kill him and had his knife out to finish the job.
Good, Tate thought viciously, I'd rather this death than to relive the shame all over. He closed his eyes, waiting for the death strike to finish his pitiful existence.
"Christian," The duke called out in an easy manner. "All this trouble to own him and now I have him for you you'd kill him? I think not my boy, not after the trouble I just went through."
"He struck me!" The prince whined.
"He's the son of a war lord, what did you expect?" He stepped closer to Tate, his eyes flowing over his body thoughtfully. "Runt though he is I imagine he's still had some training, haven't you boy?" He reached out and gripped Tate's hair, wrenching his head up into a painful angle. "I'll allow you your little fit this one time but if you ever take a blade to the prince again I'll have you quartered, you understand me?" Satisfied he let go of Tate and pulled him to his feet. "Your father and I have come to an accord. I graciously offered to take you into the kings hold and he has agreed. You'll be exclusively serving Christian, who he have agreed will not be lending you out and if he dose you are to come to me immediately. When your services are finished with him I will find you a place in my wives household in the country and there you will remain." Smiling he patted Tate's head in mock affection. "Pack your things. We leave on the morrow."
Wordlessly he watched the Duke leave his room, too stunned to protest until the door slammed closed and he found him self alone with the prince. Their eyes met and he saw the maliciousness in the other mans gaze. The lord moved towards him and despite him self Tate started to retreat until his back hit the wall behind him and he could go no further.
"It's ironic really." The lordling said as he moved back and forth in front of Tate. "All this fuss and we didn't even do anything."
"Of course we didn't do anything!" Tate practically screamed. "I was unconscious you bastard."
The lordling's smile grew brighter. "My point exactly. You were unconscious and though I'll admit I was tempted I generally prefer a more active partner. I assure you that your honour is still firmly in tact. And try to remember that you're the bastard, not I. "
"Then why?" Tate screamed at him. "Why leave me in that state. You must have known what would happen."
"You tried to stab me." He shrugged. "And I was annoyed you weren't behaving. How was I supposed to know things would turn out so badly? If this had happened in court people would have thought it was hysterical."
"We're not in court." Tate said, his voice suddenly quiet. He shook his head and sat down on the end of his bed.
The lordling snorted. "Obviously we aren't. If we were you would have thrown your self at me. Still, we should try to make the best of a bad situation. I'd like us to get to know each other a little better."
"Oh?" Tate asked his voice weak. "And perhaps horses will speak and men will fly." his voice hardened as he met the other mans eyes. "You should know my lord that despite anything else that happens in this world there will be one constant in your life and that is my hate for you."
"You are making things needlessly difficult Tate." The lordling said jovially. "Besides, I'm offering you a place at court. You should be thanking me. Without me you likely would have never seen it."
"As your servant," Tate said incredulously.
"As my companion." The prince corrected.
"And you think that is better? Are you really so blind? I wonder if despite personal preferences everyone at your court that caught your eye has lain with you in fear of the alternatives. Have you ever been denied before?"
The smile was a little less bright this time, the confidence faltering slightly. "Sometimes people act as you did but by the time we've finished they don't struggle anymore. They certainly don't fight me like you did." His back straightened suddenly.
"And why would they? I'm a handsome man, powerful and generous. They're lucky I show them my attention. There are many who crave it."
"Well I assure you I am not one of them!"
"I can see that." He stepped over to Tate who was still sat on the bed and lent towards him. Tate lashed out at him but the prince laughed and easily caught his hand. "You're not very good at fighting, are you Tate?"
"I managed to black your eye." Tate said angrily as he tried to pull back. The next moment he was on his back and the prince was pinning him down again. "Let me go!" He demanded, struggling to keep the catch from his voice. "I'm warning you, let go!"
"Why should I? You're mine now after all and if I want to play with you I will!" Tate felt a firm hand on his crotch, rubbing him threw the material of his trousers. He began to buck wildly but the prince only laughed and kept stroking him, his free hand effectively trapping both of Tate's above his head. "Why not relax Tate, I know you're enjoying It." he added as he felt Tate's manhood start to rise.
Tate kicked out and was rewarded with a pained grunt from the prince as his knee connected with the other mans stomach. The prince fell on top of Tate, pinning him down. With a tremendous effort the older man rolled him off. He ran out of the room but had only managed a few steps when a burly arm wrapped around his waist and hitched up into the air. Feet dangling, Tate began to kick and punch the great brute holding him. The giant laughed at him and carried him back into his room.
The prince had long recovered and was grinning as he watched Tate struggling. Suddenly Tate was falling. He hit the ground hard and stayed huddled up where he had dropped. The giant was chuckling softly. "Thant knocked some of the wind out of him." He noted as he nudged the smaller man with the toe of his boot and he failed to respond.
The prince gestured the giant away and lent down beside Tate until they were nearly on level with one another. "Pack your things." He said as he patted the smaller man on the leg. "We leave first thing in the morning." Thankfully he departed, but not before commanding the giant to guard him until they left on the morrow. He closed the door and Tate was left alone.
He stood up; his body aching from the abuse it had received over the past few days. He would have liked to have gone to sleep but he was thinking fast, trying to figure out how his father could have given his life away without even consulting him. He was not deluded into thinking he was the favoured son but he certainly felt a kinship with his father. As a bastard he had been granted certain entitlements that his title had never warranted. Why then was he being given to the person that had brought about his disgrace? How could his father be so cruel?
He brought out a small bag and began packing it with a few spare clothes and what ever valuable he had. He opened his window and looked down at the festivities below. If he climbed out onto the ledge and someone saw him he wouldn't get too far. The Gods only knew what they would do to him if he was caught running away. He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "Go with the prince," he said under his breath. "Or try to run." He stepped out onto the ledge, noting how small it was and hoping he would be lucky enough to land on the prince if he fell off it. He was sure footed though and he managed to make it to the back of the castle without falling off or anyone seeing him. He found an open window and climbed through into a dark room. It was empty; thank the gods, so he was able to sneak out the door without anyone sounding the alarm. He pulled down the cowl of his cloak and kept his head bowed as he passed through the halls. With so many strangers visiting and many of the locals drunk he was able to pass into the outer courtyard and through the servant's entrance without being challenged. He hurried into the town, ignoring the good natured greeting he heard. The cool summer breeze swept against his fevered skin as he broke into a run.
He'd managed to make it out of the castle. Now all he had to do was flee the country.
The duke noticed the princes enraged expression and barely resisted a sigh. What in the name of the gods was wrong with him now? "Is something amiss your highness?"
Fierce blue eyes settled on him, the anger emitting from them almost tangible. "He ran away!"
It took the duke a moment to understand what the prince was saying. "You mean the barons bastard. When, how?"
"Why not ask this great idiot." The prince said as he slapped his personal guard across the arm. The big man cringed, though the blow obviously didn't hurt him.
"He must have climbed out the window, my lord." The guard said his deep voice boomingly loud. "I watched the door the entire night; I swear he didn't pass through it."
The duke let out a groan. The bastard had already caused too much hassle. Better that they were rid of him now before they returned to court.
"I'm going after him." The prince suddenly announced.
The duke laughed, he couldn't help him self. "My prince, you can't be serious. Your father expects you at court within the seven day."
The boy launched him self into his saddle and grinned down at the duke. "Then we had better get going."
"My prince, we have no way of knowing where he is. How will we justify the delay to the king?"
The grin faded, replaced again with the fury. "I'll not let him make a fool of me my lord. The bastards mine by right, given to me by his own father. I plan to take back what is mine."
What choice did he have? One day the idiot boy would be his king. "Very well my lord."He turned to his squire. "Bring me my horse!"
Truly he never expected to be followed. After three days of solid travel, sleeping under bushes and eating nothing more substantial than a few berries he was confident that he was a free man. A poor, ragged, homeless man but a free one none the less. Besides, he was nothing more than a conquest to the prince. The spoiled child obviously needed to feel like he could control everything and everyone around him. He had been irritated when
Tate refused to share his bed. He wouldn't bother to come after him though, of that he was certain.
The few people he met on the road gave him a wide birth. It was possible they had never seen anyone with his odd colouring before so he didn't take too much notice. He was used to being stared at.
The first town he came to was called Isa. Though he had never visited the town he knew of its existence. Tired and dirty he made his way to the only inn and asked for a room and bath. He passed over a few coins, reluctant to part with them but desperate for a proper nights sleep. The inn keeper regarded him sceptically, his blue eyes full of mistrust. Tate shrugged it off and took his key. The bath was wonderful, the bed even better. When he woke the next day he felt
considerably better for it. He'd slept in a little longer than he had planned but after the pace he had been keeping over the past few days he felt like he deserved a rest. After a decent breakfast, his purse much lighter because of it, he was back on the road again.
He jut wished he knew where he was going.
"Smallish, slight with brown hair and amber coloured eyes. He has copper coloured skin for goodness sake, you would know him if you saw him." The prince caught the innkeeper's shirtfront and pulled him close. "Has he passed through here?"
"Aye my lord. A young man of that description passed through just last night. He left late this morning."