Eliam’s mind raced as he dashed through the lantern-lit streets. The lanterns drenched the young thief’s face in a pale orange glow and caused his gray eyes to shine as if they’ve trapped tiny stars. The sweat that trailed down his face glistened, and quick breaths hitched passed his quivering lips. His dirtied bare feet burnt as they fled across the sand and granite that made up the city’s streets.
The desperate teen clutched to his small bag that swayed frantically in the night air. The stolen jewels clacked within the fabric, and his knuckles transitioned to a deathly white due to the profound hold he had around the worn cloth.
‘Hurry, hurry!’ Eliam thought to himself, gritting his teeth. He stole a glance behind him and saw the guards drawing near. Heavy armor shielded their bodies except for their muscle-bound arms that carried brass machetes and sickles. Their faces twisted with rage as their cheeks and forehead burnt red. Their lips tightened to firm lines before throwing accusations:
“Get back here, you little bastard!”
“Surrender at once!”
“We’ll have your head!”
’Shit, they’re gaining on me, how could I have been so stupid?’ Eliam asked himself.
Eliam jumped over a cart and ducked under canopies before turning a corner and entering another street. He passed the marketplace and entered a block of clay and stone houses. He climbed the wooden ladder of one house and kicked the ladder over once he got on the roof.
Eliam swallowed the cold night air and wiped sweat off his brow. His fingers brushed the scar that grazed his forehead and ended at his right eye. He threw his head up to the sky and witnessed a shooting star flying overhead. For just that second, he wondered if he could simply fly away, but the thought didn’t last.
“He’s on the roof!”
Eliam’s head swerved to see the guards running into the house, never minding disturbing the residents as they raced to the roof.
“Shit,” Eliam muttered. He inhaled once more before he resumed his escape. He leaped to another roof and did the same with the following. Sprinting like a tiger against the night sky, a sense of triumph overcame the thief as a smile crossed his dry lips. His gray eyes brightened up when the full moon showered his face.
However, the moment fled when, as he was about to jump to another roof, the silver flash of an arrow ripped through the air and merely missed Eliam’s head.
Eliam rolled across a roof, adding more dirt and dust to his unkempt clothes. He staggered to his feet and saw a guard loading another arrow to his crossbow. The guard stood on another roof with his leg pressed onto the edge. He had a snarky grin on his face as he loaded the arrow, he nor any of the guards hesitated in their desire to kill a teen on the spot.
Eliam stepped back but miscalculated his step and toppled over. He grabbed to a tapestry hanging over a balcony at the last moment, but his weight was too much and the tapestry broke off. Eliam landed in a trashcan with the tapestry draping over him.
“Ugh,” Eliam muttered as he threw off the tapestry and pulled himself out. He didn’t have time to brush the trash off him as he clambered into another run. His legs ached, burning as if they were on fire, but he kept running as he heard more and more guards approaching and yelling at him. His heart thrashed against his chest, seconds away from either popping out of him or collapsing from exhaustion. His mind screamed for him to stop as it was getting too much.
’I can’t go on like this.’ Eliam used his remaining stamina to reach a well at the back of a house. The well showed signs of age with cracked, weathered stones and a torn rope that drooped lazily over a chipped bucket. The teen sucked in more of the cool air as he dragged his tired, burnt feet towards the well.
Eliam’s feet stung each time he added weight to them, but he carried on regardless. The teen peered over the hole, a pure black void filled his vision. Eliam held out his hand where the bag dangled over it. The jewels clacked once more, ringing amongst the chilly breeze that passed by.
’If I’m not going to get away with the jewels, no one will.’ Eliam’s fingers started to loosen, but before he could let it go, the silver blade of a machete pressed into his throat.
“Don’t move,” a guard ordered in a gruff tone of voice. Eliam’s muscles stiffened when observing the guards marching in. They blocked every path he had to escape, including the roofs where they stood with crossbows aimed at him. Their weapons glistened from the moonlight. From blades to arrows, they pierced the dark veil of night.
The guards’ eyes held no traces of empathy as they scowled at the teen’s small and rigid form. As Eliam’s fingers involuntarily slipped from the bag, the more the blade pressed into his neck. A bead of blood crawled down his skin and Eliam winced. He managed to halt himself from furthering the act, glaring at his pursuer who smirked down at him. The guard showed off his rotten, yellow teeth with amusement dancing in his eyes.
’Damn it.’ Eliam cursed and had no choice but to toss the bag into the sand. The jewels smacked together and one stumbled out of the bag. Another guard picked up the jewel and eyed the teen.
“Quite the clever lil’ thief, aren’t ya? Well, I guess you’re not so clever anymore.” The guard’s huge forefinger and thumb fiddled with the jewel. With one wrong move he could easily crush the delicate gem. Instead, he slipped the jewel within his belt and crossed his bulky arms over his chest. He towered over the teen like the rest of his comrades, and he spat out a ball of saliva right next to him. “Take him to the dungeon.”
The guard who held the blade at Eliam’s throat nodded. Before Eliam could make another move, the guard knocked him back and his head collided with the well. Everything went black.
“Ugh,” Eliam groaned as he feebly lifted his head. Moonlight slipped through a barred window and poured onto the teen’s shackled form. He couldn’t evoke much movement due to chains that pinned him against the stone wall. Eliam glanced around, finding himself in a small, damp cell that smelt so bad, his nose couldn’t stop twitching with disgust. He shut his mouth to prevent himself from gagging. It was if something in the next cell was rotting, but he didn’t want to find out if that was the case.
In the close distance, footsteps stomped down a staircase, and voices followed shortly after. Eliam recognized the first one as the guard who ordered his arrest.
“He’s right down here, sire.”
’Sire?’ Eliam questioned. Fear rattled throughout his body and he shrunk back.
Shadows danced upon the stone walls and two figures approached the torch lights. The person before the guard was a young man in his late teens, his black hair partially covered by a headdress flanked with golden chains and rubies. His attire was of robes made of rich, velvety silk of different shades of red that trailed to his beaded slippers. The teen’s dark blue eyes stood out against his tanned skin, and they glanced curiously at the thief who sat there scrunched against the cell wall.
“So, this is the master thief that has been roaming the streets of my father’s kingdom, stealing whatever he can for a hobby, correct?” the teen inquired in an almost sarcastic tone.
“Yes, my prince. He has been such a troublesome little brat for years but now we finally got him.” The guard’s delighted voice bounced against the old stone walls, leaving an eerie echo. The prince on the other hand, only arched an eyebrow. To Eliam’s surprise, the prince didn’t appear as ecstatic as the guard who was now clutching his stomach, as if readying himself to burst into another laugh. Instead, the prince’s face was free from all emotion besides indifference at the guard’s words.
“I suppose you want to execute the thief?” the prince asked.
“Of course, sire. We do this for all the criminals in your father’s kingdom. No matter if they’re young or old, if they commit any sort of crime they get punished,” the guard remarked.He crossed his arms over his broad chest and held his head high in a proud gesture.
“And these are my father’s rules?” the prince now asked.
“Yes, sire.” The guard nodded.
“Is my father here?” the prince questioned.
The guard blinked slowly. “No, sire.”
“So, who’s in charge right now?”
The guard’s arms loosened from his chest. “You are, sire.”
“Correct.” The prince praised the guard as if he was a child. “Now, since I don’t agree with that rule, the thief will not be sentenced to death. Get him out of the cell.”
“Wha—what!?” The guard’s face twisted to a depiction of perplexity as he stared in disbelief. “But, Prince Ira—”
“Do I have to repeat myself?” Ira asked, his tone suddenly became as cruel as the cold air that slipped through the walls’ cracks.
“N—no, please forgive me, sire.” The guard’s prideful stance shattered as he scrambled to get the keys from his pocket. He pulled them out and worked on getting the door unlocked. He opened the door and freed Eliam from the chains.
“Ouch.” Eliam rubbed the red marking that formed along his wrists and came face to face with the prince. He shrunk back but Ira took his arm and lifted him to his feet. Eliam cringed by the lift, but didn’t find himself falling back.
“Pardon me, sire,” the guard said with uncertainty straining his voice, “if you don’t want him executed, what are you going to do with him?”
“Hmmm.” Prince Ira stared down at Eliam. The thief tried to look away, but he wondered if the prince would change his proposal if he did, so Eliam stared back and locked his gray eyes with the prince’s blue ones. His eyes were akin to the night sky. Embarrassment crawled onto the teen’s cheeks from staring at them for so long while the prince pondered. Finally, the prince broke contact and turned to the guard.
“He’ll become my servant,” the prince proposed.
“What?” Eliam asked, blinking quickly. His mouth fell slightly as he stared on.
“Wait, sire,” the guard stuttered. “If I may ask…why would you want this child, not to mention a thief, be your servant?”
“Why not?” Ira shrugged. “I’d like to teach him some discipline; perhaps a year will do it. However, if he doesn’t cooperate, he will stay as my servant for a much longer time. We’re short on staff anyways, you know.”
“Uh, right…” the guard tried to muster up something else to say but to no avail. He simply stared at the prince and thief questionably and stood there with a puzzled look. The look caused the prince to smile, and he said, “You may be excused. I’ll handle it from here.”
“My prince.” The guard bowed his head and headed back up the stairs with no more questions asked. Eliam sighed knowing that he was gone, but now there was the prince who stood in front of him.
“Uh…” Eliam faltered, his mouth hanging agape once more. He stared at the prince as if he’d never heard a word in his lifetime.
“Do you have a name?” Prince Ira asked, his voice now calm and patience.
“E…Eliam,” the boy answered quietly.
“’Eliam the Master Thief’ I’ve heard stories about you, I imagined you taller.” Prince Ira chuckled. “How old are you?”
Eliam frowned and glanced away. “I haven’t kept track. Why does it matter how old I am?”
“I’m simply curious,” Prince Ira said. “Now, we should get to the palace before you catch a cold. I certainly can’t have a servant that’s sick on the job.”
Eliam grimaced, however, he was grateful that the prince had just saved his life.