The night after he had talked to the boy the old slave made his way to the slave quarters of the castle. There he served in the kitchen with some of the easier tasks. He was too old and frail to do any of the hard labor like the other slaves. His duties mainly required him to cook and clean, apart from that there wasn't much work for him. The kitchen itself was full of other slaves running through a large wooden door that led to the castle's dining room. It was mostly women slaves that carried the food, while men cooked. Those who were too young or too old either cleaned or worked the fires.
The old man took his place near the pantry with a bucket of water and a mop. He didn't mind the cleaning work, it was simple and easy going. His boney hands had a little trouble holding the mop but it was still something that he could do. He just mopped making sure that he would stay out of the way of the other servants, but his spot in particular was more of an inconvenience since most of the servants had to make their way to a pantry.
Nobody paid him any mind as long as he stayed out of the way, and that's just how he liked it. He watched and smiled as the other servants went by. Then he noticed someone else near the back door where the slaves entered. A man who's face was concealed by a dark woolen cloak. He stood there and from what it seemed the man was just staring at him. He tried to ignore him, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched.
It was odd, generally only slaves and their overseers were seen in the kitchen. One slave, a man who was entrusted to watch over the people in the kitchen, went over to ask him who he was and why he was there. The old man watched from the corner of his eyes, and even the other slaves began to slow their pace with the occasional glance. The same thought was going through everyone's mind, they wanted to know who this man was and what he wanted.
The cloaked man just simply pushed the slave aside and made his way over to the old man. The elderly man just turned away praying that he was not the one the cloaked man was looking for. Soon he heard a commotion as the overseer grabbed the cloak man, but then the cloaked man pulled a knife out of his sleeve and slashed at the overseer's neck. The overseer was fortunate enough dodge as the tip of the knife barely scrapped his neck. The man just fell down and shuffled away, a loud gasp came from several of the other slaves. Now everyone watched in horror as the cloaked man turned to the old slave.
"What do you want?" the elderly man asked as he dropped the mop and moved away.
The man said nothing as he stepped in and stabbed the elderly slave in the gut. The old slave was shocked, his mouth agape as he felt the knife retracted him from gut. He placed his hand over the gash as blood poured from the open wound. He collapsed to the ground as a pool of blood began to form around him. Everyone was stunned by what had just happened, and a couple of the female servants cried out in terror. The cloaked man said nothing but instead he rushed towards the exit, by passing other servants and disappearing into the night.
Nobody chased the cloaked man, no one dared go after him. Many of the people panicked. Just then the door to the castle's dinning room burst open as two men of the king's guard walked in. Trailing behind them was a tall knight with silver armor and a white cape. He had bushy black hair and a long squared nose and dark eyes. The kitchen slave's eyes went wide as they noticed him immediately as Arcadios, one of the king's top knights.
"What is going on in here?" Arcadios roared. "Don't you know the king has a very important dinner tonight with his nobles?"
"Yes we know my Lord," the overseer said as he finally managed to pick himself up from the ground. "But you see this man just forced his way in here and killed the old man over there," he said pointing to the elderly slave on the ground.
Aracdios walked over to check up on him. He kneeled down, careful not to let his robe get caught in the blood. He placed his hand on the old man shoulders.
"Well what are you waiting for?" Arcadios barked. "Get this man some bloody help, NOW!"
The slaves bowed their heads as two men rushed over with clothes to try and stop the bleeding. A slave girl ran to the bowls of water to bring them over. The two other guards stood behind Arcadios with their hands on their swords. They began to shout out orders for the slaves that weren't doing anything to help with the medical treatment to get back to their regular duties. They continued to shout to hurry and make up for lost time.
"What happened here exactly?" Arcadios asked one of the slaves that was pressing the rags against the gash.
"I don't know," he said. "Some cloaked man just ran in and stabbed him."
"Did he say anything as to the implications as to why he would just hastily run in and kill an elderly kitchen slave in a crowded room?" Arcadios asked bewildered. He didn't believe what the slave was saying. It was too unorthodox.
"What is going on in here?" a voice called out from the doorway. Everyone in the room immediately stopped what they were doing and bowed as they saw the king enter.
"My Grace," Arcadios said as he stood up and bowed. "It seems that a man has attacked one of your kitchen slaves and left him for dead."
"Really?" King Jude said raising an eyebrow. He walked over to where the elderly slave was lying. He grimaced as he looked down at the old man. "So then take it outside. There is enough work ahead for the dinner tonight than to bother with an old slave."
"But my Grace he could die," Arcadios said.
"You're point?" King Jude asked scowling at his knight. "The man is old and useless, he'd be better off dead. I come in here and see everyone making such a commotion over some old fool."
"He was stabbed my Grace," Arcadios interjected.
"Then he must have done something to deserve it," King Jude retorted. "If it was another slave than punish him how you see fit. If it was some outsider, than clearly the slave did something wrong. Stop wasting your time bothering with the rotting piece of meat. Take him outside and tend to him there if you have to, but I will not allow my dinner to be ruined by some dumb old fool. Is that understood?"
Arcadios took in a deep breath as he peered into his king's eyes. "Yes sir," he said with a sigh. He nodded his head to the slaves that were working on the old man. They shook their heads before grabbing and dragging the old man outside.
"See now was that so difficult?" King Jude asked before turning around to leave. "All this attentiveness over a pathetic old slave. Get back to work the lot of you and don't ever cause me to into this kitchen again or else I will have you all strung up to hang by your entrails! Understood?"
"Yes your Grace," everyone said at the same time.
"Good," King Jude growled as he stormed out of the kitchen. "And clean this place up," he roared just as soon as he stepped through the kitchen door.
The slaves began to work at a much quicker pace. Arcadios watched as the other two slaves dragged the old man from the room. A trail of blood was left behind as a couple of kitchen girls immediately began to mop up the blood and clean the floors. The two other knights followed King Jude out of the kitchen and back to the dinning rom. Arcadios was the only one left in the room. He took one last glance at the back door and left.
The dinning room of the castle was of a large scale, with an enourmous table at the center. The king's white and gold banners hung along the walls. When King Jude returned to the dining room he saw that many of his guests were now full of curiosity about what had happened as they peered at him with inquiring eyes. He still had a scowl on him as he took his seat at the head of the table.
Princess Lucy sat at the right of her father at the same end of the table. Noblemen and woman sat on either side wearing fine clothing and jewels. Iwan sat on the right hand of the king and was more than eager to begin dinning as well. There was one man in particular who stood out among everyone there. Gildarts sat at the far end of the table, alone. Unlike the others he did not wear any fancy robes or gowns. Instead he still wore his tattered cloak and armor as he did in training. Granted he cleaned it up a bit, but it was still causing him to receive stares of unwelcome.
"So what was all the ruckus about my Lord?" Iwan asked with a smirk.
"Nothing," King Jude answered. "Just an overreaction to some useless old slave. It seems that my kitchen servants have forgotten that old people have a tendency to die."
"That is disappointing my Lord," Iwan answered. "I hope it has delayed the dinner for too long. I mean it is uncommon for a woman to shriek so loud at the sight of an old man falling. I could have sworn that it was the wail of someone who had been stabbed."
"Don't worry, but the slave was stabbed," King Jude said. "It was more likely a beggar or a robber. The old man's unfortunate situation will not impede your dinner any more than it did. I apologize for the inconvenience."
"You need not worry about it my Lord," Iwan said waving it of.
The rest of the guess went about their talks, but the princess seemed a little distraught by the news. Either way the slaves surrounded the table with trays of food. The table itself was made of fine cedar wood covered in a long white silk tablecloth. The plates were large decorated with roses and tulips. There were silver goblets by each plate as well as several items of silverware on satin napkins.
As soon as King Jude took his seat servants walked up and placed bowls of salad and soup on the guest's plates. Everyone waited for the king to begin, as was the custom. But no sooner had the king taken a bite Gildarts practically engorged himself and had half the bowl finished by the time the king had swallowed. The eyes of everyone fell on him with disgust. He chewed his large mouthful realizing everyone was staring at him. The only person who didn't wear a frown was the young Princess Lucy who giggled loudly at him.
King Jude scowled at her, to which she bit her lip to stop herself. King Jude glared at Gildarts who just simply swallowed.
"You do realize Master Clive that one is supposed to use a salad fork when dining on salad," King Jude said jokingly. The other nobleman burst out into a fit of laughter at the king's remark.
"Is that what this tiny thing is?" Gildarts said as he held up a tiny little fork. "Well if it is made of steel, has a prong and can be used to pierce food so that I may eat it. Then I think that it is good enough for me."
"I see that your understanding of silverware and dining are just as bad as your table manners," King Jude retorted. "Perhaps you have spent too much time dining in taverns and soldiers that you've forgotten how to eat in front of proper company."
"Aye," Gildats nodded, "I'm sure I did. But you didn't hire me to dine with you my Grace. You hired me to train your men in the ways of combat. And that's what I can do better than any man in this kingdom. I may not be able to eat a salad like some of your more, affluent colleagues, but I can swing a sword better than any knight you put in front of me."
"Indeed," King Jude said smirking.
"I appreciate the invitation you offered me to dinner, my Grace," Gildarts said smiling, "but perhaps I would be suited to remain in my taverns where my dining is more suitable."
"Agreed," King Jude said.
"Daddy," Princess Lucy said energetically, "can I dine at a tavern some time." King Jude glared down at here with startled eyes as a couple of the other noblemen started to chuckle. Lucy recoiled under her father's eyes feeling a little ashamed to have asked him.
"Any time you feel like it young princess, you are more than welcome to dine with me," Gildarts said holding up his goblet with a wide grin. Lucy smiled back, but her father was none too pleased by the offer.
After practice Natsu made his way back to the main gate like he always did. He had hoped that the old man would be there again like he was the previous day. He made his way up the steps and returned to the same spot. He looked around eagerly awaiting the old man to come back and sit with him once more.
Natsu waited eagerly, hoping that the old slave would soon show up. He continued to took around the town center just to see if he could spot him. Natsu saw the regular rabble of people, merchants selling their goods and the towns people buying their groceries. The only slaves he saw were those that belonged to the merchants and busy working. It should be easy enough to spot an old slave, after all most slaves that became too old for physical tasks were usually left alone.
When Natsu didn't see the old man he began to feel depressed. He was hoping that he would get the chance to talk to his friend some more, but he assumed that today he wasn't going to get the chance. He was hoping that he could see the old man somewhere. He sat down in his seat as he just watched everyone else.
Natsu sighed to himself as he fell down to his knees on his spot. He felt lonely once again. He wondered where the old slave could have gone. He promised that he would meet him there that day. He wanted to tell the old man all about his new training instructor, Gildarts. He rather enjoyed the new instructor, the man was kind to him, unlike any of the other men he was forced to train with. The man seemed to actually care for him.
As he sulked there he saw the castle gates open up again. He watched from over his knees, and just like that time a couple weeks ago. He could see the king riding by with his knights on either side of him and the nobles riding behind. To the king's left was the young princess riding on her pony, and this time she wore a long lavender satin dress. Her hair was braided in a ponytail tied together with a blueberry colored ribbon.
Natsu smiled as he saw her. And though he wanted to run down and see them off, he decided not to. He stopped himself as he nearly leapt up to his feet, but he remembered what happened a couple of weeks before that day. He thought about it, took in a deep breath and decided that it was better not to go down to the gate. He would still be able to watch them as they rode out from the main gate. That would probably be the better option for him.
He sat back down and watched them from a top the gate. Then he noticed someone else riding out, but he remained behind the rest of the group. The boy immediately recognized that it was Gildarts.
"Well hello there young Natsu," he heard a voice say from over him. "How are you doing this day?"
Natsu recognized the voice and frantically stood up to bow as he saw Iwan standing there right behind him. He attempted to bow to the nobleman who just shook his hand.
"There is no need for that young slave," Iwan said smiling at him. He placed a hand on the boy's shoulder causing him to look up with quizzical and heartfelt eyes. "You are incredibly polite, especially for someone your age. But there is no need for formalities, I'm just here for a friendly hello."
"Uh, thank you, my Lord," Natsu said keeping his eyes down. He was a little embarrassed that a nobleman would talk to him in such a kind and polite manner. "But if you don't mind me asking, why are you here?"
"Why am I here?" Iwan chuckled as he stepped beside Natsu. He placed his hand on the wall overlooking the town square. "I was just strolling by when I saw you sitting up here near the ledge," he looked back at the child. "Can't say that I like your choice of scenery, I would think you would much rather prefer the beauty of nature opposed to the filth of the city."
Iwan stepped to the ledge and peered down at the king's company as they made their way to the gate. Natsu watched him as he too looked down at the king and the others. It was unusual for anyone to see the king outside of the castle, or for him to go on any travels, but he seemed to be doing it a lot lately. Though Natsu found himself staring back down on the young princess as she rode next to her father.
Iwan turned to the boy for a second, and followed the boy's eyes back to the princess. He raised an eyebrow and smirked to himself. He folded his arms across the chest as he watched the boy closely. As soon as the company made their way through the gate Natsu's eyes finally broke from their path and turned back to Iwan who just stood there and smiled at the boy.
"What?" Natsu asked, as he saw the nobleman chuckle.
"Nothing," Iwan said shaking his head. "Don't worry about it. I just saw something… funny."
"Oh," Natsu said turning back to the last of the nobles. "What was it?"
"Nothing you need to concern yourself about," Iwan told him.
"Well, my Lord, why are you here and not journeying out with the king and the other nobles?" Natsu asked.
"The king is making a trip to one of the neighboring countries again," Iwan told him. "He is going to a country I don't really care for. And let's just say that they are involved with some people that I don't really care for."
"What?" Natsu asked blinking. "Why?"
"Because he is in the middle of discussing marrying Princess Lucy off to a a suitor?" Iwan told him.
"What?" Natsu asked bewildered.
"Not now," Iwan burst out into laughter. "A potential suitor for when she comes to age. She can't get married now. King Jude is just looking for a prince that would allow them to combine the kingdoms."
"Why would he want to do that?" Natsu asked innocently.
"Depends," Iwan said shrugging. "He could be doing it for money, power or to create an alliance. Maybe, he is doing it to a mass a larger army so he can go on conquest once again. Usually these marriages are done to gain an allegiance or a truce. Thought that would be weird since most kingdoms no longer have major wars with one another since their war with the dragons."
"What war with the dragons?" Natsu asked him getting interested.
"Well in that war the kingdoms were interested in gong into the Draconan lands and seizing everything they could get a hold of. Unfortunately the dragons decimated every army that came into their territory. So now, the kingdoms are so weak they can't afford to battle each other. This marriage could be used as a way for King Jude to regain some power."
"Why would he want a large army?" Natsu asked.
"It all goes back to power," Iwan told him. "The king might be doing it so he can go back to war."
"He shouldn't do that," Natsu pouted.
Iwan turned to him and laughed. He placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Well maybe you should let the king know that you disapprove."
Natsu could see that the man was joking and he didn't really like it. He hated being mocked. Though he knew that he couldn't say something to him, nor could he react. It was one thing to fight with slaves, it was a completely different situation when it was a nobleman. Striking a nobleman was an offense punishable by death, especially for a slave.
"Don't get too upset boy," Iwan said as he stood upright and held his hands together behind his back, "I meant no offense. By the way how is your training coming along? I heard you started with, what's his name? Master Clive."
"Who?" Natsu asked raising an eyebrow. "I was working with Gildarts, but who's Master Clive?"
Iwan let out a soft chuckle as he patted the boy on the cheek. "Master Clive is Master Gildarts. His full name is Gildarts Clive. He is a special kind of man. I convinced the king to bring him here to help train you."
"Why would you do that?" Natsu asked.
"Because you, my child, are a very special boy," Iwan said with a wink. "Even on the day that he brought you home I knew that there was something special about you."
"What?" Natsu asked. "I know that I'm a monster," Natsu said holding up his hands as he stared down at them. He remembered when they were claws and what he did with them.
"No, my poor boy," Iwan said as he knelt down in front of the child. He placed his hands on the boy's shoulders as he stared into his eyes. "You are no monster. You are the son of a dragon, did you know that?"
"No," Natsu said shaking his head.
"Yes my boy," Iwan told him. "You are dragon born child. Within you is the power of a magnificent beast, and all you need to do is find a way to unleash it. And once you do you'll become a free man. One day you'll become a great warrior and on that day you will embrace your full potential and fly your way to freedom."
"When will that day come?" Natsu asked him.
"One day soon," but not yet, Iwan said as he raised a finger up to stop the boy from speaking, "but not yet. Soon, but you will have to wait."
"But I don't want to wait," Natsu said pouting. "I want to be free now."
"I know my child, but fear not, I am here to help you," Iwan told him. "On the day that you achieve this potential I will be there to see you fly in all your glory. But not just yet."
"But when will that day come?" Natsu whined as he stomped his foot.
"I don't know," Iwan said shaking his head, but his smile didn't fade from his cheeks. "You need to continue to train. King Jude does it to make you into a potential weapon, but once you become strong enough you will be able to free yourself from your bondage. For now, be a good boy and follow through with your training."
"And when I do finish my training will you be there to see me off?" Natsu asked.
"Of course my dear boy, or course," Iwan told him. "I will wait patiently for that day same as you. I cannot wait to see what happens when you become free."
With that Iwan took his leave, walking towards the stairwell. Natsu watched him as he went, thinking about the words that he said. He had known the nobleman from seeing him on occasion, but he had never really had a chance to talk with him. He seemed nice enough. He never knew that someone with so much power actually cared for him. But he soon thought about what it would be like to be a dragon and fly over the wall to freedom. He knew that it may only be a dream now, but if the nobleman was right, it would come soon.