The Seduction Plan Ch. 07byPlainJane12©
"Wait, what?" I asked. I almost pointed in the direction of the retreating Seamus; who had turned out to be Eric in disguise. Of course Bolthos didn't know that, so I turned it into an idle gesture; circling my finger in the air like an idiot. "How do you NOT know who the Master is? Tall guy? Muscles? Grey eyes? Magic?"
"The guy you've been living with," Bolthos added.
I nodded, "Yes."
"The one you've been trying to kill," he said.
"Right," I said.
Bolthos made a face. A face I hadn't seen him make before, but I'd seen it on other people's visages. Eric had made that face often -- especially often. It meant roughly, "Hear me out; you're going to hate what I have to say." My stomach dropped.
"It's hard to explain. I'd been worried about Saymar for a while, long before all this Hand business came up. He always seemed like he had been preparing for something else, you know? -Something other than just getting rid of the Master. There was this time..." Bolthos suddenly paused in the story, raking over the memory for a way to tell it, and shaking his head. "He's not trustworthy, Dor."
"I'm not going to argue with you," I replied.
"There's three reasons I know Saymar is the Hand. It would take some telling to explain two of them. But the one easy thing is this: I know for certain that he truly believes that man you've been living with all this time, is not the Master. Saymar once believed that the Master had gone back on his word, changed his mind -- that's the long part of the story... But it wasn't until Saymar found you in the stables that he decided that the man you've been there with wasn't the same man who invaded the kingdom."
The words coming out of my mouth surprised me; I was whispering and not sure why, "What do you mean?"
"The person who came here and killed your family," Bolthos began, and already I was shaking my head. I couldn't have been wrong all this time. That... that... "The person who obliterated the military and then burned the villages, letting children die in waves," Bolthos continued.
-I tried to ignore that voice that came from somewhere beside my lungs, that shock of thought I had kept burying all these years that was now smugly yelling, Eric's always been all talk! He makes these armies, and he goes about ordering the commoners around, and he certainly bruises up the resistance, but when have you seen him really honestly do wrong? I had seen him kill a man. I was 22. Eric was still young, and it was horrifying to watch the darkness in his young face. It was the first time I feared him. That was a condemned prisoner, YOU ASS. A prisoner condemned by the locals who had been killing random people left and right and had raped two women. If you had been in charge, you'd have killed him too! Badass, my ass.
"That guy, well... He may have been here as long as a year. -Maybe less. I'm not sure. Saymar thinks though that at some point one of the Master's own kind came to replace him. I don't think he knows where the real Master is, or whether he's even still alive."
Eric wasn't the Master.
He didn't kill my family. He had just taken me in and hung out with me and protected me and healed me and... I had tried to kill him. I had tried to kill him more times than I could count. For... nothing.
I betrayed him.
And... I loved him.
Oh man, how did this happen?
"You okay, Dor?" Bolthos asked. I just stared at him open-mouthed. "I know. I know. I mean, it can't really change anything, can it?" he asked.
Now I looked at him in real confusion. "What do you mean it can't change anything? It changes EVERYTHING."
"Damn it," he said, standing. He paced the room. "You feel that way too."
"Who wouldn't? Oh my Somebody, Bolthos! We've been persecuting the wrong guy. I seduced the wrong guy!"
"Wait, wait -- don't panic. I mean, let's think about this. He's still some Otherworlder who's set himself up as king when he's had no right to. It's still true that you're the only one who should be ruling right now."
"That's our justification? Bolthos, I don't know how to rule. I never learned. I was like, tenth in line when my family was killed, and if they had lived I would be 45th in line by now." I knew this from all the hours I had spent imagining how the family would have grown, should have grown. I imagined marriages and children -- my nieces and nephews. Sometimes I had dreams that we were all, all grown up and living together in the old castle, drinking tea and playing games, Mom still cheating even in her old age, and Dad still laughing at her.
Usually the dream would end when I would feel a hand curl around my own and I'd look to find Eric sitting beside me. Logic dictated that he wouldn't sit with a family he had already murdered, and that would wake me up immediately. --Every time.
But he hadn't killed them.
He wasn't the murderer.
Bolthos was still pacing around the room. "Dor. We can't just go to the rest of the Resistance and tell them we have to disband due to a miscommunication. They're still angry."
"It's been almost twenty years, Bolthos. How can they still be angry over someone who's..." Oh geez. What if Eric had killed the original Master? That'd make him...
"He's on this planet illegally," Bolthos tried.
I just shook my head. "Aside from the original invasion and murders, we've got nothing. So if he's not the guy..."
"Dor," Bolthos said, sitting and shaking his head, "You can't do this. You can't break down and be on his side now."
"What else can I do?" I asked. But as desperate as my voice sounded, suddenly it felt as if something broke inside me. Something hard and angry and hurt just fell apart and I felt this... euphoria. It was like the healing apples, but somewhere deeper. And that's when I realized it. I could be on his side.
I could go to him now and just... be on his side.
I didn't have to fight. I didn't have to die.
I could just be on Eric's side.
"You can give me something," Bolthos said, "Anything that might give me a clue how to... frame this. You're the closest person to him. You have to know something. You've seen him at his worst, right? You can't tell me that in all these years he hasn't done something wrong, something ill-befitting a ruler. I mean, it's pretty shady he didn't say anything, right? Why wouldn't he have pointed it out?"
Good question. Except, actually, I thought I was already beginning to figure out the answer to that. "No, Dor," Bolthos said, "He has to be hiding something. There's something we don't know. Something that's worse than being that murderous one, otherwise he'd have said something. Why just let us think he was so evil?"
I sat back a little. Eric was my hero. Geez, that's so cheesy. But it was true. He had already avenged my family. He had saved me. "We're wrong, Bolthos. It's time to give up." And then, I laughed. --Not hard or for a long time, but I laughed. And I imagined running into Eric's arms, pulling him through the palace, up the steps and into my room... or maybe his. His room was always dark and the floors were soft. I wanted to kiss him all over.
I looked at the door, where I had last seen Eric as he left. "All this crazy crap is over," I said, grinning. I looked back at Bolthos. "It's over!"
But Bolthos wasn't grinning. He just stood, staring at him, grimly. "I was really hoping that you wouldn't look at it that way."
"What do you mean? There's not exactly another way to look at it," I replied.
He suddenly grabbed me by the shoulder, hefting me to my feet. I tried to get away from him, but I began to trip over the bed beside me, and he used the opportunity to grab my wrists and lock them in old-fashioned irons he had pulled out of his jacket. I was yelling, "Get off me! Get off me!" But once my arms we stuck behind my back, he gagged me with a bandana.
"There's lots of ways to look at it, Dor. It's just too bad you don't see the other choices."
I struggled against him, but it was pretty pointless.
"I'm sorry about this, Dor. You're a sweet kid. And, for what it's worth, I would have totally put you on the throne if you could have just come up with something. Anything."
Really? Okay -- I tried to look at him like I had something.
He pulled down the gag.
"Uh, well. Eric was thinking about raising taxes. Kids these days are so dumb he thinks they could use more books. --Kids will hate that."
Bolthos tried to put my gag back in and I bit his hand quickly, attempting to make a run for it.
Unfortunately he tripped me.
And with my hands bound behind my back, I fell flat on my front. --Knocking the air out of me.
I couldn't get the air back into me. And I was gagged.
Bolthos just picked me up and carried me over his shoulder out of the room.
I thought I was going to die.
Unfortunately, Bolthos had something worse in store.
Downstairs, he piled me into the back of a wagon. The one highlight of my day was that Dartix was there -- alive. Unfortunately he was gagged and tied as well.
As Bolthos tied up the back, he said, "I don't... I don't want to do this to you, Dor. But we're talking about the fate of the world. We can't give up now." Bolthos looked away then. "I don't think Saymar will kill you in the end. He's a brute, but he does want you. And later, when we get this Hand business sorted out... Well, maybe he'll be convicted, and then you'll be free. But if he isn't, well, you'll be alive, Dor."
My bowels churned under the weight of what Bolthos was telling me. My life was in the hands of Saymar now? The guy who betrayed and effectively killed my entire family? And what did Bolthos mean, that I'd only be free if Saymar was convicted? I didn't belong to Saymar! I didn't belong to anyone! I was a free woman, and royalty at that. This was kidnapping, and no matter how entrenched the minds of the resistance were in the idea that Eric was the bad guy, no one would support just giving me away to someone to keep as a possession! It was preposterous. Slavery hadn't existed on this planet since... Eric did away with it.
Dad had been trying to abolish it, but as I was beginning to remember, he was encountering some serious dissension over it. He never wanted us to worry, but there was one night, yes... someone broke into the palace, and tried to find him. I remembered; the would-be assassin had gotten lost in the halls and I got up because I had heard a strange noise. I saw him. He ran right past me, knocking me into the wall. He leapt out a window, but I had gotten a good look at him.
Later, when I told my dad what he looked like, they made up posters and... Dad said he was calling a friend, and that no one was going to ever threaten our family again. He was ending this slavery business and with the help of his friend, he would get rid of these criminal, evil elements. I would be safe.
The friend never came, I guess.
Night was beginning to fall; the canvas wagon covering that surrounded us was turning pink in the sunset. I stared at Dartix and Dartix stared at me. Our eyes had nothing to say really, except, "I'm scared," and "What the hell is going on?" But I already had an idea of what was going on. Considering the direction of the waning sunlight, I knew we headed toward Gravlor's Peak.