I knew if I paced much more, I was liable to wear a groove in the stone floor of my cell. Unfortunately, I was too anxious to sit down. I could only see the prisoner across from me, as the other walls of my cell were simple stone. These cells had been carved out of the earth, not constructed by human hands. The prisoner across from me had his head in his hands and seemed ready to yell at me. I knew I was likely infuriating everybody with my incessant pacing in a place where the only noises were the occasional cough, but I didn’t care.
“Aye! Sit down!” Sure enough, there was one of those irritated shouts now. It sounded clear, as though the person yelling had eyes on me, rather than yelling through stone. I looked at the prisoner across from me, but he still sat prone in his same position. Whirling around and gazing wildly through my cell some kind of cornered animal, I searched for the person behind the voice.
Like a cornered animal, I thought to myself. Not even “like” at this point, I really am a cornered animal. I’ve been deemed a traitor to the kingdom that I love… labeled as a rebel, like I wouldn’t kill any surviving rebel I laid eyes on.
I was reminded uncomfortably of Morghan and Emihly, the way her hazel eyes flashed in the sunlight, but then brushed it off. I had only let Morghan live because she was imperative to the mission, she was the only one who had any inside knowledge of the rebels processes, and Emihly hardly counted as a rebel without her memory.
And besides… she’s different, my brain thought, unbidden.
No! No, she’s just as evil as all rest, they’re evil, that’s all they are, they’re barely even human, by all the gods, they’re not capable of good! Emihly’s only good because she’s lost her memory!
“Oh no, by all means, go back to pacing, it’s not like it makes the rest of us want to kill you at all,” muttered the voice from before, snapping me out of my argument I was having with myself. An hour in the dungeon, and I was already losing my mind… yeah, that’s not concerning at all.
I looked closely around my cell again, and this time, I spotted a small crevice along the bottom of one wall, with the edge of a man’s face visible. I immediately tromped over and crouched down in front of him, ready to demand to know his name and why he was there. I had a right to know, as the prince, and I was about to exercise that right when he scowled at me and grumbled, “Oh sure, let everyone know this crack is here so that they can fill it up. Sit down and look defeated so we can properly talk! I’ve got questions about what’s happening on the outside!”
I was shocked into obeying. No one had ever spoken to me like that, not in the castle. Outside of my family, there was no one who would dare to give me an order.
“Who are you?” I whispered.
“Don’t you worry that pretty little head about that, I’ve learned it’s better not to share names around here. But you… you look familiar. Did you fight in the war?”
“Yes. What side did you fight for?”
The man tutted. “Ah, ah, ah, again with the personal questions. I know better than to share. I’m not here to reminisce about the war, I’m here because I want someone to talk to. You think I’m sitting on this floor for my health?”
“What did you do to get put in here?” If he wouldn’t tell me which side of the war he was on, maybe I could trick him into telling me.
“Nothing. Honest,” he added at my incredulous glance toward him. “I was just minding my own business, when suddenly a couple of guards grabbed me and dragged me before the king! He started spouting something about me spreading lies about his wife, and next thing I know, I’m in here. The only thing I ever said was when I made a comment about how she and the rebel leader’s wife were two peas in a pod: rigid, icy, cold-hearted bitches.”
My brain was whirling. He knew my mother. He also knew Viessa. That didn’t answer which side of the war he’s been on. But the oddest thing was that my father threw him in the dungeon over a comment about my mother. Since when did he care about what anyone had to say about her?
“Listen, I might be able to help you.” I realized as soon as I said it that it was no longer true. Maybe when I was a free man, still a prince, perhaps my word would have had enough sway to get this man out, but now? He and I were the same. Unless…
“You? You’re same as me down here; no matter how pretty of a face you have, you have no pull with the king.”
“You might be surprised,” I said, tossing him a grin. I watched as his face seemed to contort; I couldn’t see him very well through the crack in the wall, but it seemed that he was confused.
“Are you… you’re not…” he whispered. Now it was my turn to be confused. Why did this odd prisoner look as though he had seen a ghost?
My heart seemed to stop for a moment. No one had ever thought I was my brother. No one had ever told us we looked alike. But maybe now… now that I was almost as old (or was I older now?) than he was when he died… maybe I really did look like him. The thought brought me overwhelming joy and the deepest sorrow at the same time.
“What makes you say that?” I asked, careful to keep my voice balanced.
“Your smile. That was Priamos’ smile if I’ve ever seen it.” There was a sudden gasp. “No, not Priamos. Thorin! You’re Thorin! Please, please tell me, how is my son? Bastian? How is he? Please tell me he’s still alive!”
This man was Bastian’s father? I thought his father had been killed, Bastian always said that he was dead and that he didn’t want to talk about it. Though I suppose I understood now why he’d not want to discuss it.
“Yes,” I whispered. “Yes, I am Thorin, and yes, Bastian is alive. He’s my- he’s my best friend. Though he never told me about this.”
“Bastian’s father let out a dark chuckle, a sound that seemed unlike him, angry and hateful. “Yes, I suppose he’d rather keep me and my involvement in the w- in his life to himself. He always hated the choices I made for our family.”
My blood began to chill. I realized I had perhaps been too hasty in sharing information with this man. He was about to disclose something about the war, and I had a sudden feeling that this man was an enemy to Bastian. Though I could recall meeting him once before, when he was Priamos’ stablehand, and he had seemed fine then. What had changed?
“So Thorin, what did you do to finally make your father decide that it wasn’t worth keeping you around as a spare? Did he remember that you only really need two sons?”
“Sir, how long have you been in the dungeon?” Did he not know about Priamos? He spoke as though my father had two sons already, and I was free to spare.
“Ah, probably a good seven years. Not sure. We don’t get much news down here. Why do you ask?”
“Because,” and at this point my voice cracked. I cleared my throat and started again. “Because Priamos is dead. He was killed four and a half years ago.”
There was a long pause.
“I see. So you’ve truly done something wrong. For your father to get rid of the spare heir, you must have committed treason. You’ve allied yourself with the rebels, haven’t you? You must have spoken to-”
I cut him off in a rage. “You must be out of your mind! To think I would ever ally myself with the rebels! My father can think what he wants, and so can you, but they killed Priamos! I want every one of them dead, every one! I want to watch my sword cut through them, and I want to see them as they bleed out! They all deserve to die, every last one!” I felt a twinge of guilt as I said it, and a pair of hazel eyes came to mind, but I shoved the thought far, far down, burying it. “They are all monsters. There are no exceptions. They all deserve to die. The kingdom is not safe until they’re all dead.”
And with that, I stood abruptly and went over to my cot, laying down to go to sleep. Sleep, however, was a very long time coming, and when I finally did sleep, my dreams were full of Pri’s cold body. And in every dream, the most beautiful face I had ever laid eyes on laughed above him, hazel eyes sparkling.