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4. Chapter 4 From The Centurion

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Chapter Four:

Light and Dark

“The prince, having passed through much danger, ran to the tower and freed the princess, taking her into his arms. With their single kiss all became well in the world...”

The ending of the Adventures of Prince of Ralsat... the favorite book of Prince Jason XI

As she carried the prince up through the miles of tunnels, Melissa cooed in his ear, trying to calm the five-year-old boy, “My poor little Prince.”

Jason responded by planting a soft kiss on her neck.

“A boy... oh why did Eleanor have to give birth to a Legatio boy of all things?” Melissa sighed. Still, Eleanor had tried every trick she knew to give birth to a daughter. Even so, nothing would have stopped Jason from being born; his birth was a part of destiny. Melissa was sure of that.

Even with his mother’s anger and abuse, the child still had an aura of innocence about him and a heart that radiated love or more like... the need for love. He gave his affection both freely and eagerly to

those who accepted him, which were only too few.

Still, Jason would run up to each of his mother’s guards in the Labyrinth Tower and talk about the animals in the pens outside, the books he read, and the imaginary friend he had made with his shadow.

Except for Melissa and a handful of her most trusted guards, most of the Regent’s guards tried to earn Eleanor’s favor by mistreating the boy, but... as the guards were under orders never to hurt him, Jason took their thin tolerance for love.

“If only you had been a girl,” Melissa sighed. If he had been, the captain was sure Eleanor would not see her child as another man... a filthy disgusting beast.

Looking down on Jason, his eyes red from his tears, she saw him look up to her with a confused and pleading gaze. “Why?” the boy begged.

“You were disobedient again. You ran away from your guard

and disturbed your mother,” Melissa listed off for the prince.

Jason, his lips trembling, burst into tears again, “I’m sorry.” He cried, pressing his face against the cold metal of Melissa’s breastplate. When his face came back up it was a patchwork of white and red.

Lifting Jason up, the captain took the small boy to the bed and tucked him in. “You have to try harder not to make your mother angry. I know you can be good,” Melissa insisted with a weakness in her voice that showed how untrue her words were. She knew nothing would stop the abuse except the boy’s death or his rescue by the Centurions.

“I will be good!” Jason pleaded, sitting up with a jerk, so desperately wanting to be believed, misreading the lack of confidence in Melissa’s voice as a judgment on him.

“I know you will try, my prince...” Melissa replied as she settled

him back down.

“My arm still hurts,” Jason whimpered after a long moment of

silence. “I will take you to the healers.” Seeing that the pain was keeping

the prince from sleeping, Melissa lifted the boy up, carrying him down to the lower floors of the tower.

While the captain watched as Jason’s arm was coated with a soothing cream and bandaged, another of the Regent’s bodyguards arrived with a message from Eleanor. The sergeant, Rachel, was wearing a superior scowl on her face. Melissa looked on the woman with disgust, knowing the woman had gained her position not for her skill as a soldier but for her vocal sharing of the Regent’s hatred.

“The Regent wants to know why her ‘captain’ is not with her during this time of crisis,” the sergeant demanded.

Melissa then gave the woman such a glare that it wiped the smirk off Rachel’s face. “I was instructed to take his highness back to the tower.”

The guard, having long coveted Melissa’s position, was stubborn and refused to be intimidated by the more skilled swordswoman, giving her own chilling gaze in return. “He seems to already be ‘in’ the tower.”

“His injuries need to be looked after.”

“The Regent demands you return to the palace... unless you wish to disobey her...” Rachel grinned, daring her captain to disagree, while she gripped the hilt of her sword.

Taking a deep breath, Melissa walked toward the troublesome

sergeant, the moisture of her breath wetting the tip of the shorter

woman’s nose. “I will return to the palace as soon as the prince is back to his room!”

“No, you will go now!” Rachel shouted, pulling her sword. Before it was out even halfway, Melissa’s own blade pushed against the fatty skin of the sergeant’s large neck.

“Remember, I am the Captain of the Regent’s guard. You obey me! Do not presume, ever, to give me orders again... Private.”

“These orders come directly from the Regent,” Rachel’s voice trembled, her confidence fading. “You can’t demote me for that.”

“And I will obey them, in my own way. Now return to your post, private.”

“Yes... Captain,” Rachel hissed, walked backwards away from Melissa’s sword and out of the room. She would see that one day she would have her revenge, “her” sword point at the captain’s throat.

It was only after Jason was returned to his room and well asleep that Melissa started her long journey back through the miles of tunnels that made up the Labyrinth. It was in the middle of the dark maze that Melissa let herself break down into tears. “Oh please, Eleanor... please let the boy go.”

 

It was too much to hope for.


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