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 tiny stars were trapped within. 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 and 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. All the other nights had been entertaining because he was able to get away so well, but this time he was losing it. Maybe it was because he was feeling sick, maybe it was because he was tired, he wasn’t too sure. All he knew was that he couldn’t stop and surrender, he couldn’t let his reputation as a master thief go to waste, not a chance.
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 the 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 started running again. 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. However, the moment was fleeting when, as he was about to jump to another roof, the silver flash of an arrow ripped through the air and nearly missed Eliam’s head.
Eliam turned to see one of the guards, but this one carried a cross bow and was loading another arrow. 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 wanting to kill a teenager 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 his chest or collapsing from exhaustion. His mind screamed for him to stop because it was getting too much.
I can’t go on like this. Eliam came around another house and found an old well. The stones around the well were cracked and the rope was ripped with the bucket chipped. He took cautious steps towards it and held his hand out where the bag dangled over the hole.
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 was pressed against his throat.
“Don’t move,” a guard ordered in a harsh voice. The teen was surrounded as more guards came and blocked every path he had to escape. There was at least a dozen of them, and they all towered his scrawny form.
As the teen’s fingers gradually slipped from the bag, the closer the blade got to his neck. Eliam froze and glared at his pursuer whom smirked down at him. Around him, all the guards were doing the same, smirking and showing off their rotten, yellow teeth.
Damn it. Eliam’s heart leaped when he nearly dropped the bag, but instead, he clutched to it before tossing it onto the sand. The jewels clacked together and one stumbled out of the bag. A guard picked up the jewel and glared at Eliam.
“Quite the lil’ thief, aren’t ya?” The guard’s huge forefinger and thumb fiddled with the jewel, with one wrong move he could easily crush it. Instead, he slipped the jewel within his belt and raised his head.
“Take him to the dungeon.”
The guard who had his machete at Eliam’s throat nodded. Before Eliam could make another move, he was knocked back and his head collided with the well. Everything went black.
“Ugh,” Eliam groaned as he lifted himself from the cold floor. Moonlight slipped through a barred window and poured onto the teen’s form that was shackled by chains connected to the wall. He sat up but couldn’t move much due to the chains’ heavy weights. Eliam glanced around, finding himself in a small, damp cell that smelt so bad, Eliam’s nose couldn’t stop twitching with disgust. He held 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 were heard thumping down a staircase, followed by a couple of voices. Eliam recognized the first one as the guard who knocked him out.
“He’s right down here, sire.”
Sire? Eliam questioned, fear rattled throughout his body and he scooted to the furthest corner of the cell. 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 with 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, eyeing the guard.
“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. “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 in 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 practically the equivalent of gazing at the night sky and Eliam felt embarrassed staring at them for this long as 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.
“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 just 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 and crossed his arms.
“Uh…” Eliam faltered, not knowing what to say, especially to the prince of all people. He stared at him as if he’d never heard a word in his lifetime. It was surreal that he wasn’t getting the axe like all the other criminals who’ve been captured. Being a servant in exchange wasn’t the best alternative, but it was better than rotting in a cell for who knows how long before being executed.
“Do you have a name?” Prince Ira asked.
“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.