Ripped from his homeland, Adrian must fight to adjust to an entirely new way of life.
Once a prince, now a slave, Adrian must struggle to readjust and survive in a world unknown to him. He's got escape on the mind, but his new Master is proving to be a bit of a distraction. What happens when you find yourself falling for the elf who took everything from you?
Magnus is over being overlooked and Prince Adrian is the key to all of his problems. He's just a bit more than Magnus was expecting. Well, a lot more. Adrian is turning his entire world upside down and he might be more than just a means to an end.
It was the blaring of the horns that woke Adrian, sending him jolting from a sound sleep and into a near panic. He knew those horns. The loud trumpeting, the frantic beat to which his heart was now matched. These horns could only mean one thing.
Merish was under attack.
Quickly scrambling from the bed, legs tangling in the sheets he half stumbled half fell. Hands madly searching the floor for his leggings, he tried to control his harsh breathing.
This couldn't be happening.
He chanted that over and over again as he tried to quickly tug on his leggings. They had just cleared his hips when his door was flung open and a servant scurried in.
"My prince, we must go at once. Kitar has invaded and is sweeping through; already the fighting has reached the castle proper."
Before he could even think to respond the elf was grabbing his arm and yanking him towards the door. He was almost through the door before his brain overcame his shock at being manhandled by a servant.
The elf just kept tugging. Adrian dug his heels in and yanked, nearly ripping his arm from the socket when the bigger elf did not relent.
"I need to grab my sword at the least; to go weaponless would be to ask for death."
"Sir, we have no time!" Another hard yank to his arm had Adrian stumbling completely out the door and into an empty hall.
Something was not right. The hair on the back of his neck rose.
No servant would so handle a prince and no one in their right mind would deny someone the chance to grab a weapon when under attack. He pulled back with all his might.
"Unhand me now! I will go on my own from here." When the grip did not relent, but only got tighter and the elf began to drag him faster down the hall, Adrian went with plan B.
His whole body went limp and the next pull sent him flying into the servant, knocking the elf off balance. Quickly Adrian twisted and yanked away, his elbow snapping down on the offending hand. Taken by surprise, the elf let go and Adrian did not waste a moment, his now free arm came up and his fist connected with the elf's nose.
Not bothering to wait around, Adrian took off back for his room, and the sword that lay within. A master with the sword he was not, lacking much of the brawn most fighters had, but he was passable enough according to every instructor he'd ever had. Passable would have to be damn good for the moment.
As he grabbed it up and hurried back out into the hall, he glanced to where the elf still lay crumbled, and ran for the opposite staircase. He wondered where his brothers were and how far the fighting had gotten. He wondered what the odds were they would win this. He wondered...no, he could not go there. If he mired himself down with such thoughts then he would not get through this.
The landing of the third floor resembled that of the fourth, completely empty. Disturbingly quiet. The calm before the storm.
His nerves were already starting to fray. He did not have the time to deal with them. Adrian steeled himself to head down yet another flight. He'd barely taken a step when the clash of steel and the screaming started.
The fight had moved into the castle.
No time to waste now, and fighting on rickety stairs was never a good idea; Adrian took off at a run towards the sounds from below. A better idea would have been to find an alternative way out of the castle, but he knew something was far worse than it seemed at the moment, and he couldn't leave his brothers.
These upper floors should have been crowded with servants and royals running amok in a panic, but yet no one was about. Were they all dead? How could that even be possible?
Finally making it to the ground floor he could see there were definite signs of life. And death. Blood splattered the great room, elves fighting and flailing and screaming. Swords arced in the lights of the torches, shining brightly as they raced towards their targets. The colors of Kitar, Merish's enemies, flashed all around the room as it was overrun by the invading soldiers.
Taking a deep breath, Adrian dove into the madness, sword up and swinging. His eyes should have been entirely focused on the elves that jumped at him, but his eyes were scanning the room for his brothers. Where were they? His heart was pounding, panic over their safety consuming him. He was sure he should have seen at least one of them by now. Had they been taken? Killed? His breathing sped up.
It was in the midst of his scanning that he saw the child crouched behind a large column, eyes wide and tears running down his face. He forged his way across the room and to the child, barely pausing to scoop him up, before he swept towards the door to the servants' quarters.
On the fringe of the fighting and slinking along, no one paid him much attention at all, and he was quickly able to get himself and the child through the door and into the kitchen area. He rushed through the kitchen, back into the living commons. He set the boy down, holding his sword in one hand, and the child's hand in the other as he tried to figure out what came next.
"Why by all the gods were you out there?" he asked the child.
"Mama sent me to do a task."
"Where is your Mama now?" What was she thinking sending you out alone? He wanted to ask.
The boy shifted his weight slightly, tugging on Adrian's hand now, "The room, she wouldn't leave me. I'll show you. Please. I can't leave my Mama." Fresh tears poured down his face at the thought Adrian might not let him.
Adrian doubted the mother was still in the room, but he found himself nodding to the boy and allowing himself to be led towards a set of stairs leading to the bedrooms. This area, much like the rest of the castle with the exception of the great room, was eerily quiet and empty. The hairs were back to standing on his neck. He wanted to tell him that he'd thought better, but he looked so earnest Adrian found himself following along.
The lack of sound let him know that the fighting hadn't made it to the servant quarters, so he figured they had some time. Not much, but some. Their footsteps barely made a sound on the stone floor as they continued on, the only sound a sniffle or two coming from the boy.
Soon he came to a halt in front of one of the many doors and looked up at Adrian, "Mama's in there." He began to vigorously suck on his thumb, still clasping Adrian's hand tight.
Adrian got the hint; the kid wanted him to open the door. Guess he was worried his mom had left him as well. He tried to extract his hand from the child's, but he wasn't having that and just held it tighter. Sighing, Adrian leaned his sword against the wall, not liking that he was letting go of it and feeling stupid for doing so.
The door seemed to open in slow motion, Adrian dreading that the mother wouldn't be there and that he'd soon have a hysterical child to take care of. He was wrong.
The mother surged to her feet, an abject look of relief on her face at the sight of her son. He dropped Adrian's hand at last and ran forward to clasp her legs and bury his head in her skirts. She ran her hand soothingly over her son's head, muttering nonsense to him about how sorry she was and how it was all going to be okay. How he'd done a brilliant job and how he was such a good boy.
It was those last words that hit Adrian hard, not fully understanding the meaning, but sensing something more there. His hand shot out to grab his sword, his heart beat accelerating all over again.
That's when he felt the metal tip press against his naked back and heard several low throaty chuckles. His whole body went rigid and his eyes briefly fluttered shut. Duped. By a child.
His hand was still extended, reaching for his weapon. Seconds too late.
"Look at him lads, so pretty and fair. Bet he didn't see this one coming." There was full-on laughter at this and the tip of the sword dug a little more into his skin, making him hiss in a breath.
No, he hadn't seen this coming at all.
His fingers flexed, wanting his sword.
The elves saw it, the one next to him lifting a long finger to wag it back and forth in front of Adrian's face. "Ah, ah, pretty boy. I wouldn't do that if I were you. Hate to have to ruin that beauty." More laughter at this.
My, weren't they an awfully cheerful group of elves. He didn't know what bothered him more, the pretty comments or all the laughing. Probably the laughing; he really wasn't finding this funny.
Another one spoke up, his lilting voice ringing harshly in Adrian's ears, "Me thinks he's a mute, not a sound he makes. Lads, we've found the perfect bitch!"
The noise at this was raucous and had Adrian gritting his teeth.
"I don't think he liked that much, Lwelyn, look how he grimaces. Even that action is pretty."
"We should play with him some!"
"I want a better look. Turn him around!"
There was a sting at his back as the point nicked flesh at last, "You heard him, turn round now. Real slow. Lwelyn, grab that sword."
Adrian watched as the sword was moved so he had no chance of snatching it. A prodding of the sword in his back led to him turning slowly around, trying to tamp down the heat he felt building in his face.
He was now facing a rather large group of muscular elves, all in the light armor of their homeland, Kitar. Faces leered at him, lustful eyes roved over him and lips smirked. He felt like he was on display. The instinctual urge to shy away hit him and he found himself unconsciously taking a step back.
Lwelyn quickly snapped out a hand and yanked him back, "I don't think so. You stay right where you are." His hand slowly traveled up Adrian's arm and when he flinched it stopped: to dig into him so hard he knew there would be bruises. "I wouldn't do that again." The hand kept moving, now on his shoulder, moving up his neck, into his hair.
The sudden force of having his head yanked back roughly by the fist that had wound itself into his hair had the breath whooshing out of him and he couldn't contain the grunt of pain.
He again tried to twist away and the grip on his hair increased, the yank that followed making his eyes water.
"Look how he tries to fight it, how stupid."
This was said directly into his ear, hot breath washing over it and causing him to shudder. Another tug was earned. The whole group had moved closer.
His entire body was having tremors that he couldn't seem to control, his breathing harsh and ragged and he knew his face had to be flaming. Panic was setting in and making it increasingly hard for him to think.
A hand reached out and before Adrian knew what was happening fingers were gripping his nipple and sharply twisting it. It was a full body flinch this time, a violent one that sent his whole body back and away from the offending touch.
Unconsciously, Adrian had just found the opening he needed.
Lwelyn was knocked off balance by Adrian's unexpected move and his body partially slammed into the doorway and tilted off balance. He began to fall and instinctively let go of Adrian's hair to catch himself. Adrian took advantage of the release and dove to the side, snatching his sword from where Lwelyn had placed it. He quickly rolled and came up, sword extended in front of him.
The group of elves looked shocked. Their mouths were hanging open, their faces slack and their eyes wide. Adrian felt a tingle of satisfaction make its way down his spine. He began to back up, fast, sword still up and ready to fight. He knew shock wouldn't keep them immobilized long.
They came charging at him.
He did the only thing he could think to do. He swung the door closest to him open and darted inside, bolting it quickly and then rushing to push the chest of drawers in front of it. As a barrier it was weak; already the door was shuddering as the elves rammed themselves into it. Adrian didn't waste any time.
Moving to a fortuitously open window, he swung himself out, leaving the sword propped within reach and making sure to keep a firm grip on the sill. He was just a floor up; the drop wouldn't kill him, but it would sure as hell hurt.
He looked down and saw nothing but open space, nothing to drop down to progressively. He looked to the side and found just another window. He could do this. He had to do this.
Hoisting himself up so that he was balanced by his feet, rather than hanging by his hands, he now stood on the sill. Deep breath. He turned slightly and then he jumped. His feet slipped at first and his hands frantically moved to grasp the wall. Balance at last found, he took another deep breath and repeated the action of jumping from one window sill to another, thanking the gods the whole way that servants had such narrow rooms.
Four windows in, he slipped. His feet slid right off the bottom of the sill, leaving him to dangle by nothing more than the grip of his hands. His heart jerked in his chest and he had to close his eyes for a moment to calm himself. His stomach felt like it was resting somewhere near his feet. Breathing deeply he centered himself. Once the initial panic of the almost fall settled he was able to concentrate and pull himself up, bracing his feet against the wall and using his arms to haul himself the rest of the way.
It felt like hours before he reached the side of the castle and the tiny bit of lattice work whose vines wound their way up the side of the building. Grasping the lattice tightly he crawled his way down till at last his feet touched solid ground.
Just as the group from upstairs rounded the wall and saw him. Was he to have no luck this night? He took off running, his legs shaky beneath him from the window jumping and his breathing not quite what it should be.
He was aware of the rocks beneath his feet tearing into the tender flesh as he'd never had the time to don more than his leggings . He was aware of the burn in his muscles. A burn that protested each pull as he ran. They ached something fierce, each movement felt like he was stretching them too thin. He was aware he was lagging and the elves chasing him were merely playing.
Barely a second later, he was forced to skid to a stop when one of them appeared in front of him, blocking him. He turned and there they all were, arranged in a circle around him.
One held up his sword, swinging it back and forth teasingly at him, "I bet you want this, pretty."
Not really seeing much else he could do, Adrian charged the smallest member of the group, trying to scramble his way over and away. In a heartbeat, he found himself lifted and thrown backward. The landing was hard, knocking the breath from him and scraping his back raw on the ground.
Before he could regain his breath, Lwelyn was there, planting himself firmly on Adrian's chest and pinning his arms above him. Adrian bucked and twisted, snarled and fought, but not once did Lwelyn budge. He just stared coolly down at him till eventually Adrian stopped because he possessed no more energy. That and he couldn't breathe with Lwelyn crushing him.
When he finally sagged, Lwelyn lifted himself up and flipped Adrian face down. Rope was brought over and Adrian's hands pulled back and tied. He was flipped again. His breath rattled out of him as his back hit the ground once more. Lwelyn slapped him, knocking his head roughly to the side, blood dribbled out his open mouth.
"I told you not to run."
He bounced once upon Adrian's midriff and then stood. Adrian rolled to the side abruptly, coughing as air finally filled his lungs. One of the stockiest of the group hauled him up and tossed him over a shoulder. The breath left his lungs once again.
By the time they reached where they were going and he was tossed to the floor, he was barely conscious. The toss to the floor woke him though when his shoulder and then his bound arms connected roughly with the stone floor and sent a jarring pain shooting through him.
His name was being shouted as he curled up, trying to protect himself from the pain, as his eyes scrunched up and his teeth clenched so he wouldn't make a sound.
It took him several long moments before he could focus enough to realize his brothers were calling his name. His eyes flew open and there they were, tied up and surrounded by guards. Blood slicked their skin, bruises already blossomed.
Merish had been taken.
No words were exchanged as the brothers sat against the wall, waiting, for what they did not know. Adrian was moved to a sitting position at some point, his head reclining back against the wall almost lifelessly. He wondered what had happened to the people in the village, to the servantsâ€”those who weren't traitorsâ€”and to the soldiers that had fought. Was the general still alive? Was he in some room, trussed up and frustrated?
Thoughts ran circles in Adrian's mind as time dragged on and he had little else to distract him. He couldn't succumb to sleep, to do so would make him appear weak in front of the enemy.
Lwelyn seemed to be his permanent guard, standing over him and sneering down. Once or twice Adrian flinched away from a wandering touch only to have his hair roughly pulled. These touches weren't missed by his brothers, who watched with tight lips.
When Lwelyn placed a hand possessively on Adrian's head though, petting him as if he were a particularly well-behaved horse, his brothers lost it and began to struggle in their bonds.
Dantan snarled, his arms straining as if he would rip through the ropes binding him. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in a snarl. Wendal was attempting to get his legs underneath him and, Adrian supposed, make a lunge for Lwelyn, but he was hindered by one of the guards coming to pin him down. Sven just snarled, hurling curses and empty threats.
Lwelyn laughed at the antics, not seeming to take them seriously, "So protective of you, little prince. How cute."
Knowing there was no point in trying to avoid the unwanted touching, Adrian tried to ignore it. The hand didn't move till what felt like years later when the door of the room finally crashed open and in strode a ridiculously tall elf. He was decked out in fancy armor, with only a few dents marring the surface,. His back was ramrod straight and his expression could have been carved from granite if it weren't for the faint twitch in his right eye. Lwelyn's hand jerked quickly from Adrian's head at the sight of him.
As one all of the guards bowed their heads, "General."
So this was the mighty general of Kitar, Adrian thought. An elf that had lean muscles, patrician features, and long beautiful hair. He looked more suited for the role of royalty than anything else.
He surveyed the room dispassionately, eyes touching on each prince for a second and then moving on. "Are these the princes then?"
Lwelyn spoke, "Aye, Sir."
Another sweep of them with those cold eyes. Those eyes stopped on Adrian and he felt his skin shrink, his heart stop beating. That gaze was unbelievably cold and piercing, drilling into him and making him fight the urge to squirm.
"Why is he damaged?"
"He did not go quite as easily as was anticipated."
"The little prince put up a fight?" the tone of voice was insultingly amused, as if Adrian were an invalid.
"He jumped from the window and tackled Behir."
"A lively one then."
"Bring him down to the camp. I leave for Kitar within the hour and he will be going with me. He'll make a perfect gift for our prince."
It took a moment for those words to sink into his brothers, but when it did they were all moving. Muscles were bulging as bonds were trying to be broken, legs shoving to try and gain some balance and ground. Adrian wasn't going anywhere with this elf. Certainly not to Kitar as a gift.
Even as the guards moved in to stop them, the general called a halt with one calm statement. "I will kill one of you to make a point if you do not cease movement immediately."
Aiden's brothers did so, albeit grudgingly.
The general nodded and strode across the room to stand before Adrian. "I will take him down myself. Keep the rest of them here for now." He grabbed Adrian's injured shoulder, causing Adrian to whimper, and yanked him up. He moved the hand to the back of Adrian's neck and squeezed, "Walk."
He was led from the room and down the stairs, out of the castle, and towards a large group of elves. The hand on his neck never loosened up, but every so often would give a hard squeeze as if to say â€˜don't try anything'. The soldiers turned as they neared and one elf stepped forward, "That be one of the princes?"
"Aye, it is. A gift for our prince. Bring me a horse to bind him to and we shall leave. The sooner we return home with the good news, the better."
A cheer went up at his words and the elf rushed off to find a horse.