Dark

Exercise using a single word prompt

Simeon opened his eyes to darkness. He was lying on what seemed to be a bed, quite a comfortable one, and his surroundings held the soft hush of fabric and wealth. There were no drips or draughts or strange creaks to be heard.

While this was welcome in one sense, it was likely to be more difficult to get away from whoever had put him here. People paid more attention to ‘honoured guests’ than prisoners.

As his eyes adjusted, he decided he was probably shut into the cosy confines of a fully curtained four-poster bed and that there would be at least one guard sitting in the room beyond the drapery.

Then there was the nature of his taking. Fast and using a cloth soaked in something that sent him spinning into blackness within the space of a minute. These people had both resources and experience.

He took stock of himself. Other than a slight queasiness he assumed was an effect of the drug, he was untouched. They hadn’t stripped or washed him before putting him to bed. Only his boots and weapons had been removed and he felt the grime of the docks still on his skin.

Only one way to find out what was going on. He shifted on the bed and groaned.

One of the curtains opened a crack, letting a thin shaft of fire and candle light into his prison, an impression of a face in the gap, then it closed again.

“Aye, go tell themselves he’s awake.”

Well that wasn’t very informative, he tried to sit up, falling back as his head spun and the curtain opened a second time, “Best not to try moving about laddie, the drug they used to bring you here’s a powerful one, had you out for near on three hours and it don’t leave the system in a hurry.”

“Water?”

“Not yet, you’ll bring it straight back up.”

Simeon groaned again and rolled on his side.

He had to close his eyes and take several deep breaths as his head spun but at least he now had a better view of the curtain opening.

A door opened outside his range of sight and he heard the curtains on the other side of the bed being parted. He groaned, but before he could move again, the guard watching him motioned him to stillness.

“Don’t shift yourself further, they’re coming around this side.”

He stepped back to let the mysterious them pass. The curtains were opened fully and Simeon’s jaw dropped.

Standing before him were the Emperor’s two favourite children.

Prince Arden regarded him thoughtfully, “Are you sure about this? He doesn’t look like much.”

Princess Missa tossed her head, “He’s managed a far sight better on a dose of nightdrop than you did. Yes, I’m sure.”

Simeon frowned, he knew that voice. How could he know the Princess’s voice?

She moved forward and laid a careful hand on his cheek, bending to peer at his face, then looked at her brother.

“It’ll be an hour or so before he’ll be able to move. We need food, water and wine, a change of clothes and he’ll need to bathe.”

The Prince shrugged, “If that’s what you want, I’ll see to it. I suppose you’re staying here?”

“Yes.”

The door closed behind him and Simeon flopped onto his back with a grimace. It wasn’t quite as bad this time but he decided to avoid moving until someone with more experience suggested he could.

He wondered if speaking was an option, it took a couple of tries, and several deep breaths, but eventually the question left his lips, “How do I know your voice?”

The princess sat on the bed, facing him, and leaned over to see his face, “Oh you are far too observant.”

She covered his eyes with one gentle hand, then brushed her lips across his, soft as a butterfly’s touch.

Her scent teased at him, a tendril of memory to attach to her voice, he jerked, and swallowed the inevitable groan.

“Catrin? How?”, he cringed inside at how broken he sounded.

She’d been a summer sprite in a season sent from dreams, a visitor to his home city, a chance encounter, then days and weeks of life and laughter. At summer’s end, she’d disappeared, taking his heart with her.

She lay on the bed beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. He wanted to shrug her off, the way she clearly had him, and their time together but it still made him sick to move and her presence soothed him in a way he missed with an all new shaft of pain.

“Father had made up a list of the men suitable for me to marry and I spent that spring before I met you travelling through the different courts, disguised as various types of person, to meet them in their own homes, with no artifice.”

She turned into him, “Simeon, it was awful. Every last one was either an arrogant, loud, prejudiced bully, or a pretty, pampered butterfly incapable of surviving any hardship. I was meant to spend a month getting to know each one. I left all of them after a few days.”

Her hand came to rest over his heart, “Then there was you.”

“I’m not eligible.”

She cuddled in closer, “Yes you are. Even before I met you I knew to save you for last. The eldest son of a merchant prince, establishing a new power base on the edge of the empire. I’d heard about your skill as a sailor and in trade, and the respect and affection people had in their voices when they spoke of you and I was so curious to meet you. Especially after the others.”

“I’m sorry I disappointed you.”

Missa sat up, “What?! What on oceans gave you that silly idea? I was supposed to be home in time for the midsummer festival. They had to kidnap me to bring me home. Father was all set to send an official delegation to your father when you disappeared.”

“I was trying to find you.”

“So I was told. Poor Father, I gave him no rest until he’d sent out urgent missives to every corner of the Empire to find you. Your father is beside himself by the way, my father approached him with the marriage treaty in your absence.”

Simeon closed his eyes, his head was starting to swirl even without movement, Missa lay beside him again.

“When word came that you’d been seen in our port, I was all set to come and find you, and try to explain things in a less brutal way, but father’s operatives were a little over enthusiastic, and so now you’re here and I hope I haven’t messed things up beyond repair.”

Simeon lay silent, processing.

“So Catrin is Princess Missa and she wants to marry me.”

“Yes.”

Simeon opened his eyes and carefully turned his head, “Do you think she could possibly consider spending the next little while kissing me, so I know I’m not dreaming?”

Missa gave a laugh that was half sob and pressed her lips to his.

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