I'm alone now. They've thrown me in my room, and the stone walls block out the screams of my family as the door slams. My family- I can only imagine that they will all meet a similar fate. I know my father is gone though his loss was not a huge surprise, nor is it particularly painful. Watching my mother's life slip away was what drove me to reveal myself, to rush forward towards the creatures that saw my use and decided I was better alive.
I clutch my knees to my chest as I allow the tears to come forward; hearing a strangled sound only to realize that it is me.
I'm alone. They're all dead.
We shouldn't be surprised; my father was not a merciful person. He was dubbed the Lord of Magic, Darrius Mattesscu, and he wore the title like a true dictator. In his mind, he was the god of all magical beings, and his word was law as far as our civilization was concerned. He was an immortal warlock who had ruled for over two centuries, and he, alone, was responsible for a considerable amount of suffering in the current world.
As magic users became more powerful, their bodies weakened, diverting all energy to their abilities, and that meant there was a distinct lack of workers and laborers to do the manual work that living in a city required. This left a vacancy, there became a need for slaves, and the Magic Lord devised a plan.
He captured children of the moon, werewolves, a nearly extinct species that lived among the humans. They remained hidden from the public eye and were only responsible for a small percentage of the murders that chalked up to life in the city. Nobody would miss them, their packs were small in number, and their societies lacked the structure to warn their species, so one by one they rounded up and then laid a curse upon them, a curse that would force them into a purely mortal form.
The strength of their wolven half was concentrated into a human body, making them the ideal slave. They were resilient beings that could last through the brutality that came from spoiled elite sorcerers who saw them as nothing more than attractive equipment.
In other words, they were hard to kill and easy to covet.
In their defense, my people were not kind to them. They were in high demand, and the Magic Lord saw money to be made. He auctioned them off to the highest bidder; we did not care where they went or what kind of life they would have. Families were separated, lives broken apart, and children ripped away from their mothers.
To ensure demand, the curse caused the tortured beings to become sterile. With no way to reproduce and create more, their worth skyrocketed, and only the insanely wealthy could afford the designer slaves. Our most frequent buyers came from the Elven kingdom. Our particular stock fit right in with their high expectations, and they bought large quantities of our captives.
I remember the screams all too well.
Their wolf counterpart forced into hiding, and their bodies were bending, breaking, and stretching to accommodate the new muscle tone. I remember watching the workers whip the tired backs to demand submission, feeling disturbed by their anguish. Still, it had never stopped me from accepting them into my home, from demanding labor from them or expecting their obedience. It was how we were all accustomed.
When you observe them from when they're first caught, when you witness the look of desperation in their eyes once they know what is about to happen to them, you can't help but feel maybe something wasn't right. A looming murmur that this would not end well for anyone.
Of course, we underestimated them.
A species does not want to be held captive, we knew there would be retaliation but not of this magnitude. The curse had not been as clear as we had hoped; in his old age, my father had gotten lazy and felt as though his magic was unbreakable. Not a soul could have predicted that one of them would figure out how to 'change.'
Magically enhanced, there was no way to fight them off. They no longer relied on the moon; instead, they could summon this new being. The wolf that we had thought was erased entirely had only been lying dormant in their bodies, and in this state, they were no longer human, but something separate altogether.
Now that it was estranged from the human form, it was faster, more durable, and superior.
He figured they would kill themselves off or disappear altogether, how could they possibly control this form? It had never been seen before, never been heard of even. A man transforming into a wolf? There were shapeshifters in our realm, obviously but nothing on this scale. The size of the wolf, it was only something that magic could produce and blame lay squarely on my father's shoulders.
Nobody could have predicted they would form a culture, an army, an ability to come for us and use our learned weaknesses to their advantage. They knew us, they served us, and they would end us.
So when it happened, nobody stood in their way. As if we could.
They formed an army, destroying our city with frightening ease. We had no defenses to speak of anyway, my father was the only thing standing between them and the throne, and he seemed as though he was too bewildered to stop them.
He stood, cackling like a mad man as their leader approached. Their voices were inhuman, gravelly, and broken. As if English was not their native language and as if speaking was challenging for them. The leader did not want to bargain; he only wanted to assure my father that his death would be slow and painful and that he hoped he would be challenging to kill.
They had not anticipated the older man's frail state, these past twenty years had taken a massive toll on him, and as the beast's teeth sank into his throat, he laughed until the life left his eyes, and the stone floor stained in his blood.
My mother had rushed over to heal him; it was the only gift she had possessed. She was not an actual magical being, her powers were minimal, but her tender heart and love for my father were all she needed. She pleaded with the creature, her knees, smearing the warlock's blood as she tried to stop the bleeding. Her power would never have been enough to revive him.
The beast's teeth clutched her throat, and her shrill scream cut off as his jaws crushed the life out of her. I was blind with fury; I don't know what I would have done, my abilities were fresh, and my capability to use them in a situation like this was quite minimal.
My gift is unique, different from those in the majority of the magical realm. But not honed nearly to the precision it would have taken to prevent their deaths.
So here I sit, awaiting whatever it is they are going to do with me. Maybe they will kill me after all. Perhaps they will torture me since my father died so quickly. I sigh, pain is something I've become accustomed to. It is not something I fear any longer though the thought of being chewed on by wolves makes my skin crawl and my blood run cold.
I didn't like being alone with these thoughts, but that is all you have to do when you're being held captive. I realize that it is becoming morning, and I wonder how long I've been in this room, my father's bedchamber.
Reluctantly, I climb to my feet. My legs threaten to fail me, but I gulp in a breath of air and convince myself to take tentative steps towards the vast wardrobe. As I pull open the door, my fingers run over the oak wood, and I try and find any hints of hidden bookcases or trap doors. There is nothing for me here, a depressing metaphor for my entire childhood. I find myself wishing I had paid more attention to the revealing spell classes.
I make my way around the room and check all the cracks. Nothing. This, too, is not surprising. My mother frequented this room, and my father would not have put her life in danger with magical items. Most of his spell books were probably encrypted anyway; it would have been unlikely that I would have been able to open them and read from them.
I am left feeling utterly helpless as I search his drawers only to feel like a grave robber, which brings on a whole new wave of emotion that brings me back to my knees and makes me realize just how exhausted and hungry I am.
I feel selfish; how can I feel tired with my family murdered before my eyes? Angry at myself, I numbly bump the back of my head against the stone wall and soak in the ache it brings. Pain means that I am still alive, it means I can do something.
The pang of hunger makes me wonder what time it is, and I walk to one of the windows and see that the sun is in the middle of the sky. Where are my captures? Maybe they're just going to let me starve to death. That would be a punishment; it would save having to torture me. It isn't like I know anything, I've only read about my father's deeds.
It wasn't like I helped him plan any of this. That would have been my brother's job. My brother, who I remind myself, is now dead. The pain wards off any hunger I might have been feeling, and I return to my father's bed to climb into it only to quickly succumb to my exhaustion.
When I wake up I see that the sun is just peeking over the horizon, did I really sleep for that long? Reality hits me all over again as I realize my situation, and with a newfound determination, I get up and go to the windows.
Pressing my fingers into the glass, I look out into the courtyard. I see them out there, men walking among the woods that surround our castle and though the yard in some kind of formation. Is that all of them? Or are they like vermin, and there are so many more that you can't see? I force myself to look at them though I feel my heart pounding in my chest.
They don't look so scary; they are just men. At least for now. I don't see any of the wolves that slaughtered my family from last night. I'm not waiting long, my door opens and closes and I freeze in my place.
I smell him before I see him, the scent of the woods hits my nose, and if I hadn't known it was coming from a murderous creature, it would almost be welcoming. He says nothing; he must be wondering if I'm deaf, considering I haven't acknowledged his presence or even moved since he entered. Slowly, I glance over my shoulder and catch sight of the man who is watching me with a look of frustration.
The look immediately offends me, so I turn to face him, crossing my arms over my chest defiantly. "Well?" I challenge. My boldness surprises me, but I'm infuriated, and it urges me to hold my ground; to not break eye contact.
He is tall, taller than me by at least 6 inches. I take in his clothes, his leather vest over his thin shirt that stretches over his broad chest. His worn leggings and rugged leather boots suggest clothes aren't something he invests much time into.
He must think I look ridiculous in my white robes. His light eyes take me in, we regard each other, he's as cautious of me as I am of him.
"I suppose I expected more." He speaks. His voice is smooth and low, with a hint of an accent. Where is he from? I'm taken aback. More? What more does he want from me?! He's taken everything I have! I laugh only to shrug half-heartedly.
"Sorry to disappoint." My response is tight. What did he want me to say?
His expression morphs into a slightly more amused look. I find myself frustrated as I don't see what he could possibly find amusement in.
"Your family is dead." He confirms and gives me what I'm assuming is a moment to process. I don't allow my face to break; I knew this already, but hearing it confirmed makes me crack. I know that if I allow myself to feel it, I will lose it right here. I stand a little taller and wait for him to continue. "I have spared you because you are the heir to the throne, and I want your help to destroy your father's spellbook."
At this, I scoff and roll my eyes only to hear a low sound, a rumble, a growl. It causes my eyes to widen, I watch this man and realize –he is the one who is growling.
"Why on earth would I do that? And, once again, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I am not the heir. I'm the one my father sent away; you killed the heir." My father had always favored my brother. He stayed and learned battle tactics while I was sent off to be slaughtered, or trained.
I don't think he minded which one.
Restraint crosses the man's face; he's angry, which quietly pleases me.
"You are the only one who's capable of magic, you will assist me, or there will be consequences. Punishment." Here it comes. Torture. He is going to torture me. I swallow as I do my best to appear unafraid.
"I'm sure there is little you can do to me that hasn't already been done." I'm impressed at how strong I sound though the smirk that crosses this evil man's face causes me to question if this was someone I should challenge.
He is beside me quicker than I can blink, staggering me by his presence. His scent is strong, mixed with the woods, sweat, and leather. His sun-kissed skin contrasts starkly against my pale olive flesh, but I refuse to give up my position. I meet his gaze, his body is vibrating, and I feel the heat radiating off of him. He feels as if he is a thousand degrees; almost unbearable in such close quarters.
His steady hand grips my arm, causing me to flinch at the iron-like fingers that threaten to crush my forearm. Dragging me to the window, he shoves me against the glass to command that I look out it.
Rubbing my arm, I scowl out the window only to see my staff, the people who raised me when my family was too busy to bother. They are on their knees, terrified, in between two massive wolves. I inhale sharply through my teeth as my fingers close on the grasp, capturing my resolve.
He has my attention; my physical pain is nothing compared to those I love dying because of me. I have lost enough family by his hand.
Smug, he's pleased with the effect his words have on me. "You will do as I say. Or every hour, on the hour, I will bring one of these people out here in front of this window. I will have my men gut them while you sit here, just like this, and watch them bleed out. We will repeat this process until you decide you want to be more helpful. Do you understand?"
My heart is pounding in my chest; I can't allow this; I am a prince. I spin on my heel and hurl my balled fist towards his face only to have it deflected as he grips my wrist with his heavy hand. Once more, his body begins to vibrate, the heat makes me want to pull away from him, but I'm trapped between the window and his body.
His jaw sets as those light eyes bore into me, wondering if I'm worth the trouble but that amusement flickers, and I know my life is not in danger while in that same breath, I'm bound to obey. I can't allow him to kill anyone else, my love for my people is not limited to the horrors inflicted on me by my family.
"I will help you." I spit.
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