Chapter 1: The Prisoner
A stream of saturated sunlight flooded through the great doors as they flew open. The great cascade was soon interrupted by the figure of a chained man. His emaciated and limp body supported roughly by two armored men, dragging him past the thresh-hold.
All eyes were upon him.
So this was the man who terrorized their villages and haunted their forests. The one who left a trail bodies in his wake. This was he who had taken down the mightiest of the King’s men. This was he whose name was whispered, frightfully, quietly, in the shadows of night to frighten the children into slumber. This was him then. The man they all feared.
A first there was a low murmur amongst those present, a soft tinkling of their fine gold chains as each turned to vehemently place their opinions upon their neighbor. Then there was an eery high-pitched shrieking laughter amongst them.
“He’s naught but a boy!” the woman cried.
Indeed the chained man, or rather boy, could not have been more than seventeen. His shaggy raven curls fell in front of his face. Through his rough dark stubble, one could see that the childish roundness in his face had not fully left. Though limp and emaciated, the boy was of tall stature befitting of his once broad build. He made no sign that he had heard her. Instead, his glittering black eyes rested firmly upon what was really important. Even as the jeers and insults grew in volume and vulgarity he focused on the throne and the man upon it.
The Imperial Guards led him in front of the King who too had his coppery eyes fixed upon the young boy.
The King rose. His high-crested cheek bones seemed to glint in the warm sunlight. His light blue robe tied with a golden sash barely moved around him. He regarded the boy, who was barely clothed and dirtily so. He did not laugh or jeer. Indeed his countenance was of the gravest in the room. He raised his hand. The room was instantly silenced.
“Osahar,” he said the boy’s name. His tongue seemed to weigh with its significance. The King it seemed had not forgotten the terror that had become inextricably linked with his name.
“Jibade,” Osahar answered with the same aloofness. His voice, even so, was warm and clear and seemed to spread over the hollow emptiness in the room.
“They say you used to walk like a god.” cooed Jibade gestured to the guards who supported. “I can’t believe it. I’ve made the great Osahar weak.”
Osahar’s eyes glittered with defiance. Straightening his back, he wrenched himself from the guards’ hold.
“There is still time to surrender.” said the King once more.
The boy, for the first time, smiled. A large toothy grin, that reached his eyes, deepening the laughter lines and crinkles.
“Feel free to.”
Another murmur erupted in the crowd. King Jibade gave a small smile of his own.
“You exhibit wit beyond my reckoning.” he stated.
“Your reckoning mustn’t be worth much then.” answered the boy. “No wonder your advisors tail you every second of the day, you’d be worthless without them.”
Soon enough Osahar felt the cool sharp edge of the curved sword kiss his neck. He briefly wondered how long it would take for it to bite.
“Hold your tongue boy!” hissed the guard.
The King motioned for the guard to lower his sword. The sword was sheathed, rather reluctantly.
“You don’t fear me then?” asked the King.
“What? Fear you?” Osahar laughed. “I’d sooner fear the butterflies.”
Despite themselves, the nobles laughed. This was by far the most entertaining trial they had witnessed.
“Do you fear death then?”
“No.” the boy’s tone was grave. His eyes seemed to brim with an emotion. “At least then I will see my mother again. Do you remember her Jibade?”
Jibade’s eyes darkened. His jaw taught and twitching.
“So revenge for your mother drives you?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“That and what is righteous.”
“So you won’t surrender and you won’t be moved by death.”
“Took you long enough to figure out, Your Majesty.” answered Osahar mockingly.
“Hold fast his chains.”
The guards obeyed. Osahar felt cuffs sink deeper into his bony wrists.
The King raised his staff. Osahar hadn’t given it much notice before but now he couldn’t take his eyes off it. It was golden with a cobra’s head. Its eyes seemed made of solidified flames. A creature of myth and legend, it seemed almost alive.
“Look upon him, my people.” said the King. “The one who had terrified us out our wits. A mere boy. Look upon him and remember him. For this is last time you will see Osahar.”
There was a flash of blinding white light. Osahar’s vision ceased. Then came the pain. A blistering agony that coursed through his body. A coldness scorching through his veins worse than fire. Its searing iciness reached his heart and he couldn’t bear it. He roared in pain and tried to struggle free from his bonds but they held him fast.
It was then that he became a true prisoner of the King.