Oct. 1st, 2005 07:37 pm
brokenworld01: (castle)
[personal profile] brokenworld01
At long last! The chapter that has been in my notebook forever! >.<


In the basement of Hotou castle is a dungeon. It is, for all intents and purposes, off limits to even the young prince.

In a fit of pique and boredom one afternoon, however, he discovered that his mother had not actually made specific request to the guards regarding his presence (or necessary lack-thereof) in such a place. And while they were still busy considering the nuances of "off-limits to all" without specific mention of exclusion of the royal family, he took matters into his own hands and insisted he be allowed to inspect the dungeons. No one really wanted to trouble the Queen with such a trivial matter as verifying the prince's right to do so, so they bowed to his whim as he'd expected they would.

It wasn't that he expected the dungeons to be particularly interesting. After all, the interesting criminals -- like his half-brother, for example -- were either escaped or dead. But Rajesh was bored, and curious, and determined to find the exact limits of his power within the castle.

The dungeons ran four layers deep, each floor smaller than the one above. By the time he reached the third, he was bored again. The criminals all looked the same, regardless of whether they were youkai or human. They smelt the same, and the stench made him breathe through his sleeve. And they sounded the same, in their silence or their cries for mercy, or their declarations of innocence.

At the door to the fourth level, the guard hesitated, and tried to discourage him from going further.

"There is only one prisoner below, Highness," he said, hands clenched nervously around a ring of keys. "She would not interest you."

"She?" Prince Rajesh echoed. "I will overlook your impudence in assuming to know the royal mind if you open this door."

The guard swallowed heavily and complied with a great show of reluctance.

"Remain here," Rajesh said, taking a torch from a sconce on the wall. "I will go alone."

"...Yes, Your Highness," the guard replied sullenly.

Descending the stairs slowly, Rajesh listened intently. There was no sound on this lowest floor, not even the harsh breathing of a captive.

At the bottom of the stairs there was a single round cell carved out of the stone. A heavy iron gate barred the way. The cell was clean and well kempt compared to those above. There was no stale stench of captivity here. And the prisoner....

Setting the torch in an empty sconce, Rajesh moved to the gate. A youkai woman stared back at him silently. Her purple hair was cut short in a ragged shoulder-length bob that looked as if it had been growing out unevenly. She was dressed in a simple, short robe that barely covered her generous bosom and nicely curved hips. She obviously received the best care -- privileged treatment.

But why?

"Who are you?" he whispered. It should have been a demand.

Her eyes widened, but she moved closer to the gate. "You... do not know?" Her gaze swept over his robes, and he could tell she was noting the details of his jewelry.

"Tell me," he insisted, trying to put the force of royal command back into his voice.

She smiled a little. "Yaone," she said softly, with a mocking curtsy. "And you are?"

Pushing back from the bars, he squared his shoulders. "Prince Rajesh. You will address me as 'Your Highness'."

She shook her head ever so slightly. "No," she answered mildly. "I will not. Only my lord was worthy of that title."

"How dare you!" he hissed, as much amazed as annoyed. "You will accord me the respect I am due, or else --"

"Or what?" she interrupted. "There is nothing you can do to me that has not already been done." Her eyes tugged at him, vast wells of deep sorrow. "There is no need for idle threats. I will not fear you."

Folding his arms across his chest, Rajesh considered her silently while he reined in his temper. "You followed... him," he said slowly. Even here he would not speak the name his mother had forbidden.

"Prince Kougaiji," she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut.

"Do you know... he lives?" Rajesh asked. The cruelest thing of all was false hope. Perhaps... would they have told her the false prince was dead?

Her eyes snapped open, locking on to his. He very carefully did not smile.

"Alive?" she whispered "No... they showed me...." Lifting her chin, she said defiantly, "Do not think you can win me over with cheap promises and hollow lies."

Rajesh spread his hands in a soothing gesture. "I would not waste my time so," he replied. "It was a pleasure meeting you," he added, turning to go.

"Wait!" she cried.

He glanced back over his shoulder and found her clinging to the iron bars.

"Is it so? Do you.... Truly?"

There was something terribly endearing about the helpless hope in her expression.

"What reason have I to lie?" he asked, which was no answer at all, and if she was half as clever as she must be, she would realize there were layers to everything. Moving to the wall, he picked up the torch and headed up the stairs.

The soft sound of old tears echoed up the stairwell behind him.


"There is a woman in the dungeon," Rajesh began, several nights later.

His mother inspected her claws and motioned for her manicurist to continue. "Whatever were you doing there?" she asked, sounding bored.

"Inspecting father's domain," he said, knowing he could be rewarded with a sly smile. Really, it was so ridiculously easy to please her. She'd taught him too well.

"Well, what of this woman, then?" Gyuokomen-Kusho asked.

"I want her. Give her to me," Rajesh replied. Simple. Direct. She thought such methods laudable. She thought him incapable of deceit, at least toward her. He would not speak of motive. Not for this.

His mother laughed shrilly. "Grown tired of me, have you then, dear Raj?"

Her servant cast a wide-eyed glance in his direction before dropping her gaze back to the Queen's talons.

She must be new.

"No, mother, of course not," he replied soothingly, moving to kneel at her feet. "But I do not wish to tire you with my... childish appetites... when my lord father is at home."

She leaned forward suddenly, her fingers knotting his hair and yanking his head back. He did not wince, nor cringe, though her neatly filed claws scratched his scalp. He'd endured worse at her hands. She held his gaze for a long moment, searching his eyes for something, and for once, he was at a loss to understand her mercurial mood.

"Very well," she said, releasing him with a laugh. "But do take care to keep her in check, my son. She is a wily one."

"Yes, mother. Of course, mother," he answered smoothly, rising to kiss her hand.

He felt her eyes on his back, cold and sharp as daggers, as he left her rooms.

Pausing in the hallway, he leaned against the wall for a moment to catch his breath. The intensity of his feeling, the drive to act, everything ended in a rush that left him almost reeling with inexplicable undercurrents of emotion.

Now came the matter of details. He had not entirely expected his mother to agree, at least not so easily. He would have to take every precaution to ensure the woman did not escape... or kill herself, or some other such foolishness. He should keep her chained, then, though the thought sent chills down his spine. And make her content enough that she would do nothing reckless.

"Promises... and lies..." she whispered.

Rajesh smiled as he started walking. Perhaps the simplest way would be to dote on her, convince her she was his world, without promising her anything. If nothing else, it would be entertaining to see if he could bend her to his will. And if not, or if he tired of her... well. There was always the dungeon.
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August 2011


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