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He had never been a particularly kind master. With his every wish and thought granted he had attained a disturbing amount of arrogance at a very young age. He had killed before, in cold blood. He had ruined the lives of those who dared call him friend because of some imaginary dishonour they might have done him. Rape was as common to him as breathing.
Tanis , the younger brother, second in line for the throne, the spare, knew only too well that he was kept alive as insurance. He had been kept under heel since birth to ensure him amiability. No one wanted the second in line to have a back bone, less his start to have delusions of grandeur.
Tanis had watched his brother, the man he would one day have to bend his knee to, with growing concern. Their father was blind to Christian’s cruelty. He seemed to have convinced him self that his eldest son’s wrong doings were merely acts of boisterousness, that the arrogance was pride and the other gleaming imperfections were too slight and unworthy of notice.
Watching him stalk into the court, bedraggled and five days late for his audience with their sire, Tanis could not help but wonder if their father would finally have his say with his wayward son. Everyone at court had heard the rumours of what Christian had done to the baron’s bastard son. Tanis unsuccessfully tried to keep back his smile. Such an unworthy foe yet he had caused so much intrigue. Tanis had met the half blood once, years ago, before he had attained his first blood. Even then he remembered looking down at the outlandish young man. Tate had been polite and clearly well educated for a bastard, but one need only glance at him to guess he would never attain his first blood. Tanis wondered if the half-blood had proved them all wrong. The prince favoured his bandaged right hand. Had he been attacked, and if so who else would dare but the rebel bastard?
His pale blue eyes flicked briefly over Tanis but there was no warmth in his gaze. The younger man looked away quickly. He had made it a point to seem as unthreatening and unassuming as possible since childhood. He doubted it would take much on his behalf to anger his elder brother into doing something to him. The king had other younger sons; Tanis was not so important that he could not be replaced.
“You are late.” The king said, his grizzled voice carrying easily over the court room as he lent forward in his throne, his light eyes fixed sourly on the prince.
Christian dropped to one knee and bowed his head rigidly. “Forgive me my lord, a matter of urgency kept me away.”
“We have heard. Did you manage to catch your bastard Christian?”
Tanis looked up in surprise. He was not the only one gaping. The king had just openly mocked his golden child. It only showed just how displeased he was. A quiet wave of laughter passed through the court. Tanis saw Christian’s fist clench and wondered what poor soul would pay for his humiliation.
A tense quiet passed over the court as the prince continued to stare at his boots. Suddenly he lifted head and stared at the king for a long moment before a huge smile broke out on his face. He chuckled good naturedly and shrugged. “Truthfully my lord, he got away fro me.” He stood without invitation and approached the throne. He stepped beside the king and spoke quietly into their father’s ear. Many emotions rolled over the king’s features, settling at last with a look of grudging acceptance. “You are young Christian, and therefore mistakes are going to be made.” The king smiled very slightly. “You are forgiven.”
Of course he is, Tanis thought as he watched Christian drape him arm possessively over their father throne as he stepped behind the old man and looked out at the court. He could only be grateful that Christian had not caught up to the unfortunate young man that had caught his eye. He just preyed for the half-blood sake that he never did.
A month had passed since Tate had escaped the only home he had ever known. During that time he had travelled among the tinkers, a people he had previously and wrongly believed were weak willed and filthy. Once again his bigoted upbringing had been sorely misleading. The Gypsies were the kindest and most worthy people Tate had ever known. Their love for one another and the simple lives they lived was a breath of fresh air for him. They didn’t believe in killing and their arguments were not solved with violence. They were far from soft but they were certainly pure, or so they seemed to Tate who had been brought up amidst a torrent of death and cruelty.
Almost all of them had accepted Tate easily into their tribe, not pushing him about his past or the circumstances that had landed him with them. He had refused to offer his name and everyone, with the exception on Lucas, had respected his wishes. Lukas had been somewhat difficult to put off in some other areas as well but his advances had not and, Tate realised, never would become too forceful.
He thought briefly of Christian as casino şirketleri he sat silently beside a happily talking Lukas and wondered if he was really free of the other man. Surely the princeling had lost his scent after so much time? He would have had to go back to his kingdom and face the wrath of the king he had forced to wait for him. Tate was free and safe. He should have been able to relax.
Christian pushed past the guards, half hoping they would try to stop him so he could finally let free his anger and frustration. He had lost him, lost him because of the dithering old fool he was forced to bend his knee to.
Fortunately for the guards they did not try to interfere. Christian snatched the silver key from around one of their thick neck and let him self into the high tower room, shutting the door firmly behind him.
A tall, thin figure sat staring out between wide open windows. His face tilted upwards, pointedly ignoring the prince’s presence as he seemingly studied the wide open skies. The prophet could always be found in the same position, looking out at the heavens, reaching for the unattainable.
“The night sky is most particularly breath taking tonight, is it not Miliananious?” He asked brightly.
Two milky white eyes turned unseeing in his direction. “Why have you come to see me Christian?”
“I thought you were the prophet. Why not tell me?” If Christian was not so painfully aware of Miliananious true nature he might have found the prophet breathe taking. Hair as black as midnight and skin as smooth and as brown as an apple seed. Christian had known the prophet all his life, just as his father had and his father’s father before him. In that time the prophet had not aged a year. A constant youth, yet one need only look into his blinded eyes and no man would mistake him for anything but ancient.
The chains attached to the prophet’s wrists rattled loudly as he fumbled for a chair. He stared out at Christian, his expression sorrowful as it always was. “You would know your destiny, my lord?” He shook his head and laughed quietly. “I could at least respect your grandfather Christian; at least he was not stupid enough to ask me so directly. How do you know I won’t lie?”
“I know my destiny, creature. I come seeking someone; I would have you find him for me.”
The prophet shifted his head, his sightless eyes turning back towards the window as he reached out and traced the lines of his chains. “If there is one so fortunate to escape your grasp what makes you think I would agree to find him for you?”
“Because I will be king one day Miliananious but unlike my father before me I have no respect for what you once were. All I see before me is what you are now, blind, weak, hobbled and trapped in the body of a mortal man. Do as I say else I’ll take away your window, I’ll throw you in the dungeons and wrap you in chains so heavy you wont be able to so much as move. You think you have no freedom now, you are wrong.”
The creature continued staring at him without really seeing him. “You are a cruel man.” He said at last, very softly.
“Strength can often be mistaken for cruelly. Many must have thought you were cruel before my grandfather put you in your place.”
“My place?” The prophet shook his head and laughed very quietly. “He didn’t put me in my place Christian, he stole my life.”
Christian was quickly growing bored with the animals whining. “Find my slave, creature. Find Tate De’Vann else I will finish what my Grandfather started all those years ago and I really will take your life. “
He bowed his head very slightly and looked back out of his window. “Ah, I see him now, this Tate De’Vann. A half-blood and a bastard. He has great courage Christian; I can see why you would want him.”
“It’s not his courage that interests me creature.”
“I think you are wrong, young one. He is fair, even I can see that, but there are those that are fairer, men and women who would happily couple with you. No, it’s his courage that has retained your interest. You cannot suffer such courage, such nobility in one so seemingly helpless. You seek to crush him, to make him into what you think he should be.”
“And what prey tell would that be?”
“A shell, empty and hollow. You need to see him reduced to that state, it’s the only way you can feel alive, it’s the only way you can feel like a man.”
His anger flared and he saw red. He caught the blind creature by his brittle wrists and dragged him out of his seat. His hands dug into the slight shoulders as he shook the prophet with all the strength, thrilling in the way his head rattled back and forth like a rag doll. “I am a man, I will be king. Everyone wants to be me; they admire me, one and all. You are a beast, grounded and shackled. I am a MAN!” he threw the snivelling thing away from him, satisfying in the quiet moan the other emitted as he hit the cold stone floor. “Tell me where he is?” he demanded, trying to control his fury as he spoke very quietly.
“He travels with a casino firmaları tribe of Gypsy’s.” Miliananious voice was barely more than a whisper. “He’s headed towards the southern planes.”
The prince turned on his heels and stalked out of the room. “Starve him!” Christian demanded as he passed the prophets guards. “No food for a week. Close the windows and tighten his shackles. Do as I say or suffer my wrath.”
Tate noticed that Robert was watching him again and involuntarily looked away, unsure why the other man made him feel so uneasy. He was kind to Tate, in a distant detached sort of way. Certainly he had never tried to hurt him before, yet he couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that the older man disliked him. It made him feel like an unwanted interloper so he avoided him when he could, though in such tight surroundings it was difficult.
Tate watched as Lucas greeted his brother, smiling warmly as he the younger man shared some joke or secrete. Tate had never got on well with his brothers. Their differences had been too great and they had shunned him. He almost envied Lucas their closeness. The tinker must have sensed he was being watched. He looked up and noticed Tate and with a great smile on is face he gestured him over to join them.
It would have been easy for an idle observer to mistake Robert and Lucas as twins but after spending so much time with them their slight difference started to become painfully obvious. Lucas was the taller of the two, barely, his eyes were darker, his complexion slightly more ruddy. He had a richer voice and in Tate’s opinion was probably the better fighter, though such things were unimportant to the Tinkers.
“We’re nearing a town,” Lucas said excitedly. He wrapped his arm around Tate’s waist and pulled him close. “It’s been too long, I can hardly wait.”
“Which town?” Tate asked, unsuccessfully trying to dislodge Lucas’s arm.
The older man noticed and smiled crookedly as he tightened his hold. “Itaery, it’s just a little south of here. Do not fear Shantran, the people there possess skin with some colour. You won’t stand out.” He smiled wickedly and lifted an unprepared Tate off his feet, spinning him around and letting go, laughing as he stumbled. “Besides, my mother thought of a way to make you blend in.”
Tate had just about had enough. Bad enough that he had allowed them to wipe paints and the gods only knew what else on his face and hands but now they were tying his hair in little knots, adding small trinkets and beads that chimed every time he moved his head. “No more!” He stormed; causing mother and daughter to flinch back. He instantly regretted frightening them, even more so when he saw the angry look in the older woman’s eyes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.” He said quickly, before she exploded. He had seen her yell at her children before and as amusing as it had been to watch he really didn’t want to be on the receiving end of her temper.
Her mouth closed with an audible click as she glared furiously at him. “If you’re going to have a tantrum Tate I’ll send you outside to sit with Rose, otherwise sit back down and let us finish!”
He didn’t want to insult anyone and he was grateful for all their help but he couldn’t shake off who he was and if he was honest with self dressing in such bright colours and decorating his hair and face made him feel like he was less than a man. He could just imagine what his countrymen would say if they could see him now. “I think we’ve done enough.” He said, softly and with a smile he didn’t feel. “No one would recognize me now.” He meant it to. He had no mirror to examine him self in but if he looked anything like Lukas he knew he would have looked completely different to his former self.
“Mother,” Tana said before her mother exploded. “He’s right; he already looks as much like us as likely ever going to. Besides, his hairs too fine to completely braid, it will only fall out and make a mess of him.” She stood up and made a show of inspecting him, abruptly reaching out and laughingly tugging his hair. “You look like a real man now Tate.” She told him with a huge smile
the irony was not lost on him. He forced another smile of his own and stepped outside. The moment he reached the bottom step a hand slapped gently over his eyes, momentarily blinding him. He fought down panic and gently reached up to disengage Lukas’s hand. “Guess who?” Lucas breathed in his ear.
“Why do you keep doing that?” Tate asked, his annoyance plain.
“Because I enjoy making you jump.” He laughed and walked around Tate. “And I like your scowl. Now then, let’s have a look at you.” He swept his gaze up and down the length of Tate’s body, grinning brightly as the younger man fidgeted. “Only you could make such colour and splendour look sour.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked, walking around Lukas and heading towards his wagon.
“I’m just being güvenilir casino honest.” Lukas looked surprisingly angry. “You look like your barely containing the urge to throw your self in a puddle of mud just to hide how you look. Do you find all of us so distasteful?”
For a moment Tate was speechless but then he turned furiously on Lukas and poked him hard in the chest. “Damn it Lukas, I’m trying my best! I doubt you’d fair any better among my people.”
“Your father’s people you mean.” He said, almost jeeringly. “And I dare say you’re right. After all, I’ve no stomach for murder. They’d think me a weak willed thing; I’ve no doubt of that.”
Tate felt sick and bewildered. How had things ended in an argument between them? They had barely spoken two words to one another and now it looked like they were going to come to blows. He shook his head and ran his hands idly through his hair. “What do you want from me Lukas?” He asked eventually, staring thoughtfully at the elder man.
Lukas stared back at him for a moment before he let out a joyless bark of laughter. “May the gods take you Tate, the one time I try to draw your venom and you’ve none to give!”
Tate made a rude hand gesture at Lukas and this time Lukas’s laugh was genuine. He shook his head ruefully and reached out to Tate, wrapping his arm around the small of his back and pulling him close. Before Tate could protest the elder man bent down and kissed him solidly on the lips. Tate made a muffled protest that grew more agitated as he heard the cat calls and giggling behind him. Lukas drew back after a few more moment but he didn’t loosen his hold. “You have lovely eyes Tate,” He said quietly.
“Right,” Tate said, feeling completely mystified. One minuet they’re arguing and then the next they’re kissing. “Thank you.” He added as an after thought, unsure what else he could say but acutely aware that Lukas wasn’t letting go of him.
“You have a wagon for that sort of thing.” Tana commented as she breezed by them. She wiggled her eyebrows at them and Tate felt his cheeks flair.
“Get off.” He hissed.
“Manners my friend.”
“Get off please!” he snapped but he couldn’t help the smile on his face. Lukas pulled a pained expression but he let him go eventually, walking off with an exaggerated slump in his shoulders.
Tate turned away with a barely suppressed laugh that caught in his throat when he noticed that Robert was staring at him from the door way of their wagon. Their eyes met momentarily before Robert stepped back inside the small door. Tate stared after the young gypsies and decided there and then that he would make sure he was never left alone with the other man. There was something in his expression that reminded him quite distinctively of a man he would rather not remember.
Tanis walked slowly to the top of the spiralling stairs, his hands clasped firmly to the tightly packed bundle in his arms. The two guards on duty stared at him with unfriendly eyes as he attempted to step between them. The elder of the two reached out and grabbed his arm before he could pass. Tanis looked down at that hand and back at the soldier. “Release me.” He said icily.
The guard let go reluctantly. “Apologies sire, but Prince Christian said no one is permitted to pass.”
“Well prince Tanis is telling you to let him through.” Tanis could see the look in the elder mans eyes and he didn’t like it. “It’s as much my birthright as his to see the prophet. Unless you take my brothers word over the kings I would advise you to move aside.”
That did it. The guard moved, but Tanis could see it was a near thing. He waited until he was inside before he released the shaky breath he was holding. A figure in the dim light turned its head sharply at the noise, staring out amid a curtain of knotted black hair. Two eerily white eyes blinked owlishly in his direction, causing him to take a halting step backwards. It was so dark inside the high tower that all he could make out were those terribly white orbs and a tall, huddled over figure. “For a moment I thought Christian had come back to taunt me,” the old one said self mockingly, his voice shockingly loud in the otherwise silent tower. Treslin saw a flash of his startlingly white teeth and realised the old one was smiling at him. “You and he share very similar blood but entirely different souls I see. You’re brothers?”
“Yes.” He whispered, stepping closer. “My name is Tanis.”
“Ah, yes. Of course. The second born. Why have you not seen fit to visit me before now young prince? ”
“Truthfully great one, you frighten me.” He looked down at the battered and beaten frame that contained such ungodly power trapped beneath a cage of human skin and bone. Not for the first time he wondered how his grandfather could have taken such power for him self.
“You fear me, young one? But I am helpless and under your control. Command me child, tell me your desires!” The venom in his voice was thunderous. Tanis gathered his courage and placed the basket at the creature’s feet before hastily backing away. “You think you can bribe me with food?” the ancient one asked in surprise. He let out a shallow bark of laughter as he pushed it aside with the toe of his shabby boots. “I’ve not yet fallen so low.”
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