Chain and Cord

“I don’t care. I want his head.”

Christoph stormed down the corridor, sending guards scurrying for somewhere to hide. He threw open the door and hurried down the stairwell towards the dungeon. Paiden followed close behind.

“You may no longer care, my prince, but your mother does.”

Christoph rounded on the priest. Grabbed him by the throat and pinned him to the wall. “She cared about Luce too,” he hissed. “Richard. Kate. Eight siblings! Should I just let that go?”

Paiden grimaced. “No, my prince. I only ask you don’t do anything I will be forced to absolve you of later.”

Darkness clouded Christoph’s vision for a moment, and he saw the moment Paiden regretted his words. “Forced?” Christoph murmured. “You have been my priest for four years, Paiden. My friend for most of that. So you have earned the right for me to let that comment slide. This. One. Time.”

Paiden bowed his head. “My apologies, my prince. I only meant to protect your soul from damnation.”

Christoph let him go, and snorted. “I am not the one that needs protection.”

The stonework corridor was cold beneath his feet, hard and unforgiving. Not finding his boots had been a poor choice, but when Paiden had brought him word that the bastard had been captured, he had leapt out of bed. Nothing else mattered anymore. He had to know why.

At the bottom of the stairs, he stared at the cell door for a moment. Two. Then a deep breath, and he pulled it open, and stepped inside. As much as he tried to hide it, even he was shocked at the state of it. The man before him hung from his wrists, chained above his head to the ceiling in the centre of the room. His feet were shackled to the floor, far from any support. Dirt and blood stained his wiry, muscular body; scars ran like rivers down his chest, and the only clothes he wore were the loose fitting pants the guards left for prisoners. His hair was long and matted. Darker than Christoph remembered. His ankles and wrists were bloody, and by the look of it, his shoulders were about ready to dislocate.

“Hello William,” he said softly.

William raised his head, grinning. “Hello, brother.”

They stared at each other, moments of silence strung together.

“I don’t suppose you would tell me why, if I asked.”

William cocked his head to the side. “Have you seen this place? The rent is great! Why wouldn-“

Christoph hit him so hard he heard something crack. He grabbed his brother’s chin, kneeling before him, holding his face up.

“Why did you kill eight of our brothers and sisters,” Christoph hissed.

A dark smile crossed William’s face. “Technically,” he said softly, “I only killed two of them.”

Something flashed across Christoph’s vision.

–> # <–

William watched his brother struggle against the cord around his throat. His head tilted to the side. This was an odd view. He hadn’t watched any of them die. Not like this at least. Christoph’s hands pawed uselessly at the cord.

“Won’t do you any good, brother. No one breaks that cord.”

He watched his brother turn his gaze upward. Watched the eyes widen in fear when he saw the priest standing over him. Well. “Priest”. William couldn’t help but laugh.

“Surprise!” he said with a grin. “Didn’t see that one coming, did you, brother.”

He nodded at the assassin. Watched him shift his foot to the middle of Christoph’s back, and fall backwards, pushing his feet forward. William closed his eyes as he heard the crack. Shivered. Felt the rush as he hardened. Sighed. A wasted erection. Though he could go looking for one of Christoph’s concubines, he supposed.

“Paiden, would you mind finding the key?”

William watched the assassin search his brother’s pockets, then carefully unshackle him. He fell forward, caught before he could hit the stone. He pushed away the help once he had his feet under him, his body screaming in agony at the bruises and torn ligaments. He tried rolling both his shoulders over, rubbing his thumb into the grooves to work out some of the pain, but it was too much. No matter. He’d have plenty of time for healing, and other things, later.

“Satisfied?” the assassin asked after a moment.

“Oh yes,” William replied. “I hadn’t quite expected it to work out like this, but I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish. Well done, by the way.”

Paiden bowed. “Thank you, my prince.”

He removed a package from his robes and passed it to William, who unwrapped the cloak and clothes, and stripped out of the prison garb.

“You must be relishing the chance to put aside your priestly robes.”

He watched his assassin stare at his brother’s body. “Four years. Not my longest job, but close. Will be nice not to have to prostrate myself before your God anymore.”

“Yes, well, we’d all like that,” William murmured. “You should go, before anyone comes down here. You know what I need from you.”

Paiden bowed once more. “At once, my prince.” He paused, then, with a smile, added, “Long live William, Emperor of Cordez.”

William watched the elf disappear through the doors ahead of him. He smiled. Emperor of Cordez. That sounded like… not wide enough a view. He turned his gaze one last time to his brother. Kicked him in the head for good measure.

“Should have watched your back, big brother.”

By Tom Wells. © 2013