"WAKE the sound UP YOU!" of a guard rattling Aiden's bars with his spear roused him from his sleep. Groggily he sat up in his hay bed. Three guards stood opposite him, watching him awaken from his sleep.
For the most part their uniforms were the same. They wore a scale-mail shirt and breastplates adorned with boars. Their faces covered by visor-d helms, spears gripped in gauntlet clad hands, and long folded blue fabric that hung just above their armored boots. The only difference was that the guard in the middle had golden trim and design on his armor.
"Any last requests?" The central guard asked as he unlocked Aiden's cell.
One thought came to mind as they worked on unshackling his legs from the wall. They re-shackle his legs, and attached chains to the shackles on his arms. The two secondary guards gripped the chains as he said but a single word. "Ball."
"Ball?!" the lead guard scoffed.
"Yes; that white-washed one over there." Aiden pointed to the ball which sat perched at the highest point of his hay mound. "It belongs to a little girl."
"A-nd?" the guard urged him on. "Why the hell should I care about that?"
"My last request," Aiden clarified. "If you'd be so kind; would be to return it to its owner."
Since the night she'd left it, she'd yet to return. He was needless to say confused and dumb struck as to why she'd not come. Rosslyn had always made it a point to come and visit at least once a day. However the door that had opened that night, also closed on her visits.
The tallest guard picked up the ball. He looked it over in his large hand, before handing it to the head guard. Frankly the guard only offered a last request because he was supposed to. Ultimately he didn't have to fulfill it, but Aiden never caused the guards trouble. The request wasn't an outrageous one, and it was merely a child's plaything.
"I suppose there is no harm in that." The head guard conceded. He turned the ball in his hands a few times, before handing the ball off to Aiden. The man marveled at the fact a silly ball was the object of the prisoners last request. Usually they asked for a real meal, or a ligament bath. Not the quick mandatory monthly clean where they were doused with cold soap water, and scrubbed raw.
No they wanted their teeth cleaned, nails clipped, hair and beards trimmed. Yet this man had no worries about his looks, only the return of a child's ball. A child with whom he'd probably never see again, after the ball was returned. That was unless the parent was twisted enough to bring the child to watch the prisoners head fall into a basket.
But then, this was the man who to this day petitioned for his innocence. A petition that had fallen on deaf ears, and though he would still claim it, he himself had also fallen silent in his later days.
Aiden paid no mind to the multitude of whispers and disgusted looks aimed his way. Scarcely could he recount ever seeing so many of the lands high class people in one place. Everyone from young lords and ladies, to old dukes and duchesses were gathered. They looked down their noses at him, and even at the guards. As if, by association the guards leading him were just as dirty as he. Their uniforms differed from the guards Aiden saw away from the dungeons. It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the nobles looked down on them because of the guards position either.
"You see the kid yet?" The head guard grumbled to him. It was quite obvious that the guard didn't enjoy being looked down upon. Yet it was also obvious that it was a more normal interaction than he was willing to let on to Aiden.
"Not yet," Aiden cleared his voice. "It is a big castle, perhaps we've past her? We should check in the kitchen."
"Alright now this is just use and abuse." The guard grumbled.
"She said her caretaker worked in the kitchens. So where better to ask?" Aiden questioned, watching the man from the corner of his eye.
"Ugh, alright already, let's just make this quick. Don't want people seeing your grubby ass near the kitchen. The news might actually cause the king to croak."
"Really? I thought King Isaac was in good health?" Aiden tapped his yellowed nails against each other. "Then again… two years away from the world can make one as lost as a newborn pup."
"There's a lot you've missed, and being silent for the last year hasn't helped." The lead snorted lightly as he saw the kitchen door approach. "But frankly it doesn't matter anymore. Soon enough you won't know anything anyway." Squaring off his shoulders, the guard knocked on the kitchen door. "I'm looking for the caretaker of a little girl…" He paused looking back at Aiden.
"She's about five or so, green eyes, brunet hair." Aiden added. After a few minutes the door opened. A heavy set woman stepped out, wiping her hands off on her apron. Brunet hair in disarray under the hair net, sweat sticking to her skin. Her brown eyes shifted from one man to the next.
"If you're talking about Rosslyn, I am her caretaker. However she's not here now. So if you have any other business I suggest you start flapping your lips like bird wings." She folded her arms across her chest frowning at the four men. "Else leave me to my work, taking care of these less than savage nobles!"
The four men stared blankly at her. None had expected such an outburst from a woman. Let alone a servant woman. It was clear that while a servant, she was more than aware of how important she was.
"I just…" Aiden recoiled a bit as she stared him down. "…need to find her. I would like to return this." He presented the white-washed ball. "Before I lose… my… head."
"As before noted; she is not here for obvious reasons. I suggest you look elsewhere. Try the late Queen Marienna's Garden or something." With a huff, she blew a few stray strands of hair from her face. Then without a moment's notice, she turned around, retreating back into the kitchen. The slam of the door caused the men to involuntarily jump.
"Here we go again." Grumbled the lead guard.
After what felt like hours of walking around; avoiding as many looks and whispers as possible, they finally caught a break. In a vacant hallway there, perched on her toes, was Rosslyn. Knees pulled to her chest, hugged by her arms. The glow of sunlight that peaked through the cracked open doors bathed the child. Her white dress caught the sunlight, making her appear more like an apparition than a person.
On the other side of the door Aiden could hear hushed voices. One frantic and pleading, the other held a sort of twisted cruelty to it. He recognized the first voice as the one who'd chewed out the guards. That melodic sirens voice was unmistakable.
Aiden however had a more pressing matter, than his own selfish curiosity. With careful calculated movements, Aiden made his way towards the girl. He avoided making any sounds, not wanting to rouse whoever was in the private meeting. Rosslyn jumped when she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. "My Ball!" the girl squealed elatedly, upon seeing Aiden in possession of her ball. In a mere moment all of Aiden's efforts to be quite were thrown to the dogs.
"Who's out there?!" Snarled the man on the opposite side of the door. "Bring them here!" In a rush the door was knocked open. Two armed guards with swords drawn stepped into the light; their faces hidden behind their steel Spartan helms. Fur clad arms reaching out towards them.
"Get in here!" Growled the taller of the two. With a strong pull, he dragged not only Aiden, but the guards holding his chains into the room as well. The second guard took the task of securing the girl and lead guard. In the light Aiden could clearly see the people in the rooms. The tallest of the guard squad made many a man look small. He was at least seven feet tall, with more muscle on him than a bull ox. They wore steel helms with horse hair mohawks, gauntlets, and shoulder pads. The rest of their attire consisted of fur pants, bracers, tunic, and leather boots.
It was in stark contrast to the older noble whom they took orders from. Although most likely a well-built man, his belly did all but hide his gluttonous habits. Grey hair trimmed short on his balding head, as his steely green eyes stared them all down. He actually wore somewhat more Avalon looking noble clothes. Overly decorative black and gold robe, with a sash weaved of gold to tie it up. Under the robe one could see his off white tunic and black pants, tucked into boots that could not have been good for long distances.
"What are you doing here?!"
Aiden jerked his head towards the sound of the voice. He was prepared to answer the question, until he realized it wasn't directed at him. No, the person who'd prompted the question was the woman with the siren voice. Her long brunet hair fell gracefully over the shoulder of her blue and silver dress. The silver lacey corset was hardly needed to accentuate her breath taking curves. The dress hugged her sleek form perfectly. Every fold in the fabric as calculated as the cut and seems of the dress; to bring about her unearthly beauty. However what caught his attention the most was her worry filled hazel eyes. They were looking not at him, but at the terrified child huddled behind him. It was then he knew that the woman's question was towards Rosslyn, not himself.
Scarcely had he the time to analyze everything; than the guards had to be on their feet. Spears at the ready, unsure of what to do, and given the circumstances no one could blame them. They awaited orders from the woman, while their eyes kept track of everyone in the room.
"YOU!" This time it was the older man who spoke up. His grizzly voice caused Rosslyn to flinch. She cowered behind Aiden's leg, peaking out just enough to see the going on's.
"Leave her out of this!" The woman demanded.
"Why, when she has everything to do with it." The glint in his eyes, along with the inflection in his voice sent a chill down all but his guard's spines. "She might even turn out to be more beautiful than her mother." He growled out, stroking the inside of his thigh lightly.
"I knew tribes of the Tenók region could be savage," Aiden spoke up, gaining everyone's attention. "But I didn't realize they were fat ugly hogs too."
The blood boiled in the man's face. "I am Esodo, of the Gireeké, leading clan of Tenók!" He boasted.
"And you choose to represent yourself as a filthy hog?" Aiden more stated than asked.
"Prisoner, this has nothing to do with you!" Be happy I haven't dispatched you yet!" Esodo threatened. Esodo fixed his stance, bringing back that smug air of confidence before addressing the woman again. "You marry into my clan, and perhaps I forget we ever had this meeting. You don't and you will become less desirable than a bath house whore."
Before anyone could get a word in, Aiden cut in once more. "You dare talk to a woman, let alone a princess like that? It truly is no wonder why you reek like a hog pen."
"Insolent dog!" Esodo snapped, drawing a spare blade from one of his guards. "I'll kill you where you stand!" It was clear that the sword was too big and heavy for a man whose most used blade was most likely a butter knife. Taking the chain in hand, Aiden jerked it in Esodo's direction. A loud crack could be heard as the chain came in contact with the man's face. The clatter of the blade hitting the ground was echoed by the man screaming in pain.
"Enough!" The princess yelled, before the two sets of guards set upon each other like wolves. "Take this man to be properly cleaned, and Get Out! All of you; get out of my sight!" She demanded, trying not to show her hurricane of emotions.
Two of Esodo's guards picked him up from the ground. They hoisted him up from under the arms. The guards let the feet of the bleeding noble drag as they quickly left the room.
"Come on you." The lead guard sighed, leaving only after the Tenóks left. With a jerk on his collar Aiden followed them out, leaving Rosslyn clinging onto her ball.
"We play again Mr. Aiden?"