The dungeon is dark and cold. But it is the loneliness that is the most painful of all. Not the lack of light that blinds him more than the sun. Not the cold, seeping into his core and chasing away all of his inhuman heat. But the loneliness that comes with sitting in a cell for days on end. With no way of knowing if his father, barely five feet away from him, is dead or alive. There is no light illuminating his form. No warmth radiating from his body to be sucked into his own. Only the faintest sounds of skin against stone, sounds that cropped up at irregular intervals throughout their imprisonment, let him know of his father's living status. He knows that at any point there is at least one other man in the darkness with them. One who formerly served his father, the First King, but now serves his uncle.
A sliver of light penetrates the darkness. Sparks' eyes feast on the sight. A welcome one. One that eases the harsh hunger gnawing in his stomach. Only to leave him starved when it disappears behind the door once again. Sparks follows the footsteps as they echo through the pitch silent room. They are bringing his father food. He knew they had orders to do so. To bring the First King food, but none for his bastard son. The symbol of his treason.
Sparks is a mutt of the most taboo coupling ever conceived by human minds. A half elemental and half human. Fire elemental, to be precise. His mother had fallen for his father a long time ago, long before he was born. Long before there was any talk of his father becoming the First King of his own kingdom. Sparks had been born over five years prior to his imprisonment and kept secret from all by his mother and father. He is an outcast in both societies, impure by elemental standards and wretched by human. But his mother had loved him. His father still loves him, assuming him to be alive enough to feel such an emotion. His name is a testament to that love. In actuality a nickname given by his father when he was barely one, when he used to clap his hands together and create sparks. His true name, given to him by his mother, was to long and difficult for a child, and a human, to pronounce. He has since forgotten even what it sounded like on her fire-licked lips.
Sparks raises a hand to hover above the stone slabs of his cell. He slides a finger over the stone, barely feeling it's roughness, it's chill. Nothing. He was too far gone to even create his namesake. Sparks was raised human and told little of his elemental affinity other than he had one. He knows of his mother and has practiced playing with his element many times, both under her supervision and not. His hand falls to the ground beside the rest of him. His eyelids fall next. Lashes brushing against forming tears. He hears the guard aiding his father in his supping. His stomach clenches in desire.
It was his fault, he thinks far too often, that they are here. He had been the one who wanted to see his father, the First King, in his palace. A place his mother had only told him tales of. Tales of torch lined walls where she leaped from flame to flame to reunite with her lover. It was he who so desired to taste well-cooked meats his mother had tasted. He had foolishly thought nothing of why his mother leaped from the torch's flames. Of why she kept him hidden away in a flame-hollowed cave amidst the rocks of the southern plains. The moment he entered the throne room, where his father had sat so regally, it was over. He was too obviously his father's son. Too obviously an elemental. Even though he was five then, as he is now, his magic enhanced body had grown rapidly to resemble that of a sixteen year old's. His amber eyes were only shades different than his father's, and nearly identical otherwise. His choppy waves of orange and yellow still held the family's signature platinum. And there was no denying the way he cried out to the First King in a way that betrayed their familial bond. They were overtaken by guards, on order of the First King's brother, and thrown roughly into adjoining cells in the dungeon built deep bellow the castle.
That is where they reside now. And that is where Sparks will die. So he and his father fears. What became of his mother Sparks does not know. It does not matter to him, as his hunger ceases to bother him. As his fluttering eyes, raging from memories and a struggling flame, slow in exhaustion.
In a different part of the castle, in a room so different from Sparks' cell, a human is given life as another slips into death. The midwife cradles the child, a boy whose face is scrunched up in annoyance at the new sensations overwhelming his tiny body. She slaps his back, prompting him to erupt into pained wails, and holds him out to the impatient King. He stares at it, no emotion playing on his face.
"Pitiful. Such a weak woman. At least she left me with a son," he scoffs and turns his head away. In disgust or disinterest or both, the midwife could not tell. She brings the baby closer to her chest and holds it there, barely sharing her own warmth with the still naked child.
"Retrieve the mutt from his cage, we have a use for him now," the King orders, addressing the guards standing awkwardly by the door. They straighten immediately, knocking into each other to carry out the order eagerly. Perhaps too eagerly. The King returns his gaze to his still crying son.
"Cover him." The midwife scrambles to obey, nearly dropping the boy in her haste. The child is covered in his late mother's shirt, that being the only cloth available for such a task. The midwife, poor woman, not old but who had given birth twice before, struggles to gather the courage to speak up to the King.
"Speak now, woman, for I will not hear you later." His voice surprises her and she nearly drops his son again. His gaze had left his son and was now on her. Baring down on her with authority only a king could hold.
"Yes, um, sire. I, uh, was wonder, sire. What is his, your son that is, what is his name is to be," she manages after many failed starts.
"Cassidy, after his mother. It is, after all, the only way to honor her death," he speaks casually. His gaze slips away from her and out the window, as if bored with the conversation. The midwife remains silent.
Light floods the dungeon and Sparks is roused from his sleep by hot coals being poured over him, and torches pressing into his arms and face. He smiles, drinking in the heat, the light. Warmth began to spread through his body. His fire rekindled, he opens his eyes. They gaze up at the guards, a look of rapture covering his face at his saviors. He hears their order to stand and he blinks. They repeat it and press the torches further into him, digging the wood against the skin, scraping it. Drawing blood. He obeys the pain and stands, but not before grabbing a handful of the coals. He slips one into his mouth, savoring the sharpness, the burn. He is grabbed roughly at both arms, the torches now gone. He feels the guards pulling him. Away from the cell. Away from his father. He turns his head, struggling to get but a glimpse at the man. He is unable to, another guard is standing there. Blocking his view. Sparks relinquishes to the guards.
He is dragged through the castle. Bare feet brushing against the ground. Every so often a nail will strike a loose board or stone, and chip. Often painfully. He feels the sparks flying from his skin, settling docilely on the ground only to burn out seconds later. Sometimes less. Had Sparks the mind, he would have ignited those sparks. Let them grow and overcome the floors. Surge forward and overwhelm the guards. Fan out, and devastate the castle. But he is not, so they did not. And the castle remained in pristine condition. With is torches and tapestries aligning the walls, and men and rugs adorning the halls.
It is a quick journey, from the dungeon to the birthing room. A room that was previously empty save for a table and a chair. Sparks is deposited into the chair, in front of the table where the king's first wife lay bloodied and topless. Had she been alive she would have surely felt humiliation. Sparks stares up at his uncle and feels no anger, no resentment, no burning desire for revenge. Only the curiosity of a boy taken from his room. The King motions to the midwife to hand Sparks the child. She hesitates, staring at the half elemental in open fear and disgust. The King makes a sound and the midwife complies. Sparks then stares at the baby crying in his arms.
"From now on you will take care of him. You will have a maid bring you whatever sustenance your kind requires as well as necessities for the child. His is to be called Cassidy and he is your prince, your superior. You are to never leave his side or do him any harm." Orders given, the King left. He is followed quickly by the midwife, and shortly thereafter the two guards.
Sparks sits staring at the blubbering child. Puzzlement written all over his teenage features. He is only five, barely a boy himself yet here he is, now in charge of the well being of another. He hastens to soothe the child. Rocking it gently and cooing words his mother had cooed to him. The foreign words spill messily from his lips but the baby, Cassidy, stops his wailing to listen. He opens his eyes. For the first time, two lavender orbs gaze up at something. The light and its brightness hurt and he can feel the swelling of his first tears. Through it all, however, he sees Sparks, and a smile, one of unconstrained joy that only a baby can make, spreads over his pink face.
A young girl enters the room. She stands in the doorway, hovering between staying and leaving. She has to speak up to get Sparks to notice her. Her voice startles Cassidy and he begins to whimper. Sparks jumps in his seat, startled. He looks back and forth from the girl to Cassidy, arms moving in a slow rocking motion to calm the child. When it yields nothing he holds the child closer, wrapping the shirt tighter around his small body. He hums softly. A lullaby his father had sung to him at the beginning of their imprisonment. He doesn't for the life of him remember the words, but that does not matter as Cassidy finds the humming acceptable and quiets. His eyes have since slipped closed and they stay that way as he is transported form one room to another. Sparks is being lead through the castle. Past more torches and tapestries. Past more men who grimaced as they saw him.
The castle is not exceptionally big but it is sturdy, made of countless slabs of gray and white stones. The entryway opens from the west to the Main Hall, a large room that takes up the majority of the castle's upper level. It is lavishly decorated with the large throne standing tall atop a grouping of steps, allowing it to look down at everyone who enters. Two deep purple carpets Two hallways grow from either side of the Great Hall's entrance. The birthing room resides in the left hall, a few doors down from the Main Hall. The maid leads Sparks and Cassidy further down this hall, about half way between the Main Hall and the end. At the end there is a pair of large doors that lead to the training yard. Attached to the training yard is the barracks and the army's stores. To the right of the Main Hall is the Dinning Hall. The Dinning Hall is roughly three quarters the size of the Main Hall, the last quarter taken up by the kitchen at its back. The kitchen's storage room open to the path leading to the east fields. To the south of the kitchen hidden behind a wall of flowers is a small path, overrun by grass, that leads to the cemetery. In the back of the Main Hall, to the left of the throne, there is a door. The door leads to a small enclave and two more doors. One opens to a spiraling stairway that leads to the dungeon that takes up the entirety of the Castle's lower floor, save one room. The other to the King's personal chambers.
They stop in front of a room, it's deep wood door open on its gilded hinges to reveal a large room. A cradle is visible, from the doorway, along with a small cot and chair beside it. Two large windows on the left wall are allowing light to illuminate the entire room. Purple curtains are pulled to either side of each window, held taught with a single strand of coiled gold thread. The girl, the maid the King had told Sparks about, ushers him into the room. She leaves shortly thereafter, murmuring her reason and general whereabouts to him. Now Sparks can see a large fireplace decorating the wall opposite the windows. There are two large lounge chairs in front of the fireplace, both upholstered in a fabric similar to the curtain's colors. The fireplace is flanked on either side by shelves of books. On the other wall, next to the door, are chests and a cabinet. The cabinet is empty. Sparks assumes the chests are as well. With nothing else to do, Sparks sits down in one of the chairs in front of the fire place. He stares at the emptiness before him. There isn't even wood to feed potential flames.
The maid returns, her labored breaths and hurried footsteps alerting Sparks to her arrival. Even still, he clutches the now sleeping Cassidy tighter to his chest. He was entrusted with this child, his cousin by the familial blood ties. Even if that trust was in the form of a strict order to stay. The maid is gone again by the time Sparks turns his head away from the dark gray stones of the fireplace. A large basket lays on the floor near where she had stood. Sparks can see it is filled to the brim, nearly overflowing, with clothes in countless colors and sizes. Idly, he wonders if any are for him.
He watches as the maid makes trip after trip to and from the room. Each time bringing something different. Toys and baubles for the cabinet, books to be stuffed in the already full bookshelves, bundles of firewood and sacks of coal to be stacked by the fireplace. Slowly the room was filled with every supply needed to last the boys years, save for food for the baby and water. Sparks' amber eyes follow the maid as she stores everything. He makes careful note of where things that will be needed sooner rather than later are stored.
The maid is cautious as she passes Sparks to fill the fireplace. She flinches at his every move, even if it is just to relieve pressure on his arm or to pass a soothing hand over his charge's face when it scrunches up in discomfort. Sparks catches the girl as she is about to leave again. She stares at his hand on her arm fearfully. Sparks blinks up at her in confusion, removing his arm and causing some of the tension in her body to relax. Though not all.
"Could you close the curtains? And bring some food for the baby? He hasn't eaten yet, I think," Sparks asks her. His voice is quiet. Uncertainty plays over his face like a kitten chasing yarn. The maid merely nods and hurries away, not in compliance to his wishes but to get away from him. The curtains flutter shut and the room plunges into darkness with only light from the hallway's torches breaking through.
Cassidy stirs from his slumber. His violet eyes blink up at Sparks questionably. Sparks smiles down at him, rocking him in his arms and cooing cheerfully. He stands and moves Cassidy into his cradle, tucking his mother's shirt tighter around him. Though a poor substitute for another person's arms, it would have to do.
"Alright Cassidy, let me start a nice fire and when the girl gets back we'll see about feeding you," Sparks says. Speaking to his charge as if he understood him. The fire is started quickly. All it takes is a snap of Sparks' fingers above the logs and a willing of the tiny ember into a warm flame, casually burning away the wood into ash.
The maid returns with a bottle of milk and the midwife. Sparks watches as the midwife takes Cassidy from his cradle and into her cold arms. Cassidy resists in a confused struggle. Unhappy with the turn of events. He calms, however, as the bottle is brought up to his lips. He begins to drink, mouth moving fervently to capture every drop. Once he finishes the midwife burps him, then hands him off to Sparks.
Feeding lesson done, the midwife leaves. Sparks places Cassidy in his cradle once again, the child now full and content. The maid lingers. Torn between fleeing and her orders. When Sparks does nothing but stare at her, she leaves. With nothing to do, Sparks moves to the fire. He bends down and reaches a hand in, basking in the familiar heat. The life-giving glow. His stomach gives a rumble of appreciation and Sparks contents himself with his own meal.