Welcome all to Prince of Slaves, my interactive story where you get to decide what happens next! I’m really excited to start this and hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
At the end of the chapter, there will be two options. Please comment below with your vote and/or other comment. It’s at the very bottom, if you’re on mobile scroll further than you think.
I will be editing out the votes from each comment, so the votes are hidden until the next post. If you vote without a comment, it will show up as “I voted” unless otherwise marked. Voting closes at midnight Saturday morning.
I repeat voting closes 12:00 AM, September 21! Chapter 1.1 or 1.2 will be posted Monday, September 23rd!
Now, please enjoy, chapter 1!
P.S.: If you haven’t read the Prologue, go check it out! https://amberskyemileusnich.com/2019/09/14/prince-of-slaves-prologue/
Prince of Slaves: Chapter 1
Listross stood and stretched at the gong of the evening bell. The sun hung low in the sky. With a calloused hand, he pushed his dark hair off his forehead. He felt his sticky shirt pulling at his chest as he hefted the basket of potatoes onto his shoulder, making sure it was well balanced before drawing his shovel and spade from the earth.
The cart sat two hundred paces away. He winced as a drop of sweat seeped into one of the raw welts on his back. His little reminder to not talk while it was time to work. For the tenth time today, he counted his steps back to the cart.
Jorick, the head master’s oldest son, watched over the cart that evening. Listross poured the produce into the wooden wagon, keeping his head low. Jorick was a master of slaves, but not of looks nor of ladies, and Listross figured that led him to jealousy. Even as a slave, he had a wife, and a daughter.
Avoiding eye contact with the master, Listross waited for the nineteen other slaves to hang their tools. A week had passed since the new rule had been established. Everyone must put their own tools away. He checked the back of his hands. The bruises were finally gone.
“Daddy!” His little girl, Emmya, ran up and wrapped her arms around his leg.
“Up!” She held her arms out. His heart melted at the sight of her jade eyes sparkling in the setting sun.
He smiled and ruffled her curly hair. “I need to put my supplies away first.”
She groaned and whined, but Listross felt Jorick’s beady eyes like a knife stabbing and twisting in his back.
He nudged her towards the barn where all of the slaves lived. She dragged her feet, but headed in that direction.
Listross shook his head and smiled as he watched her. With a sigh, he turned back to watch the other’s put away their equipment.
“Learn your place, you filthy miscreant!” Jorick’s raised his whip.
“No!” But Listross was too late.
Emmya collapsed into the fetal position, holding her cheek and screaming. A single potato rolled away from where she laid.
Tossing his tools aside, Listross ran and dropped on top of her, covering her with his body. Jorick’s whip ripped open the blisters from the previous days scolding, but Listross kept his face as straight as possible, burying the resentment deep within his chest. His eyes were fixed on Emmya.
After the fifth crack, Jorick stopped. No one moved, and Listross felt the blood seeping onto his already stained shirt. Emmya whimpered. It triggered Jorick who tried to kick her under Listross, but he turned just in time to take the hit. Jorick cursed and spat on him, giving him one final kick in the stomach before walking away.
Listross held Emmya close until her tears turned into sniffles.
He smiled and tucked a curl behind her ear. His stomach churned at his own words. “This is our fate. It’s not that bad. We simply must learn the rules.”
Jorick cleared his throat. “Filth! Aren’t you going to put your supplies away? Or would you like the paddle, too?”
Listross set his daughter down and shooed her back to his wife who had finished putting her supplies away.
As he bent down, Jorick smirked. “My father and I were talking about selling some of you soon. That daughter of yours is quite the little blossom. I’m sure she’ll make a good house slave up north.” He patted the cart. “Maybe we’ll send her up to the capital with this load tomorrow.”
Listross clenched his jaw. His hands lingered on the spade for a moment before surrendering it to its rack. He slammed the shed door, spun on his heels and marched to the barn. Jorick laughed behind him.
Flouth, Listross’s lifelong friend, waited halfway between the tool shed and their barn.
As they walked, Flouth leaned back and inspected Listross’s back, whistling. “That’s quite a fine birthday gift!”
Listross gave him a small smile. “Thanks. Where are your welts today?”
“I missed out.”
“That’s the first time this month!”
Flouth laughed. Listross shook his head.
“I got you my own birthday gift.” Flouth tossed a potato to Listross.
He deftly caught it and looked around, shoulders tense.
“Don’t worry.” Flouth chuckled. “They’ve all retired for the evening. If we’re lucky they won’t wake up.”
Listross nodded and motioned to the potato. “Emmya will be thrilled.”
“No, sir! I got that for you.”
“And I choose to see my little girl smile on my birthday.”
Flouth clicked his tongue and tossed over two more potatoes. Listross fumbled but managed to hang on to all three.
“I know you. I made sure to grab one for Emmya and Ideara.”
Listross chuckled. “Why aren’t you married yet?”
“Because my best friend doesn’t boast about me enough to the ladies I have my eye on.”
“And what ladies do you have your eye on?”
“Eh.” Flouth shrugged. “Haven’t decided yet.”
They entered the barn laughing but stopped short at the silent eyes watching them. A chill ran through Listross’s bones. Ideara, his wife sat close to the fire with Emmya in her lap. Ideara’s shocked blue eyes turned from their trance to Listross. He blinked at her and shifted his eyes to where hers had been a moment before.
Gold leaf covered a wooden chest. Four diamonds rested on the top corners. A silver signet glimmered against the firelight.
Listross pulled Flouth in and shut the door quickly. The punishment for having something so valuable would be worse than harsh.
Grandmother rose, steadying herself on her cane.
Listross crossed the few paces to help her. Because of her age, she wasn’t able to work in the fields. The masters had taken away her daily ration of food, but the other slaves gave freely. She worked plenty by caring for the young ones, cooking, counseling, and sharing stories of their nation’s past. She wasn’t anyone’s grandmother in particular, but she took on the title for the group.
She coughed a bit and gripped Listross’s forearms.
“I have a story for everyone.” Her eyes locked on his, but her voice carried across the barn. “Flouth, go stand guard outside. The masters mustn’t hear this one.”
Listross heard the barn door creak open and then click closed, but he kept his eyes on Grandmother.
“You know why we are slaves. After many years of good trade with Ferronya, our neighboring nation, a famine struck. Having no fertile land, Ferronya demanded food from our fair nation of Tavalask, but the king refused for we were struggling to care for our own people. Ferronya knew they had better weapons. In our trades, they kept the more durable and powerful ones for themselves, so when they came to take our food by force, they massacred us. Forcing the remnant into slavery.”
Listross hung on her words. He had heard this tale before, but this particular retelling rang with a new urgency.
“A day before they marched on the capital, I received a knock on my door. A woman was there, holding a two-year-old boy and that chest. She told me to not ask questions, but to raise you well and have you open the chest on your twenty-fifth birthday. My first task is now accomplished. Now, Listross, help me accomplish the last one by opening that chest.”
Her cloudy eyes locked on Listross’s, and he felt goosebumps rise on his arms. He swallowed back the lump in his throat. Grandmother gave his forearm a squeeze and sat back on a crate.
Listross scanned the room and was met with expectant eyes. He knelt next to Ideara, undid the four clasps, and lifted the lid. Nestled in purple velvet lay a silver crown with four sparkling green gems. The same seal that was on the chest was set in gold in the center of the crown.
Carefully Listross took it out. Quiet murmurs bounced around the room as he noticed a yellowed note attached to the ceiling of the crate.
Delicately he tore it off and read aloud,
“It is evident to us how this war will end. Our only hope for our people is your survival. If you’re reading this, your mother and I are gone. When you are twenty-five, you may become Ruling Prince over Tavalask. Annihilate the barbarians that came from Ferronya and reclaim our throne to become king. I know you will make me proud.
“For the honor of Tavalask,
Listross’s eyes bounced between the letter and the crown. He turned and silently pleaded with Ideara, but she just nodded. Grandmother coughed a bit more and furrowed her brow at him, adding to the wrinkles. He held his breath and placed the crown upon his brow.
“Listross, you are now Prince of Tavalask. Free your people and reclaim your throne to earn your kingship.” At Grandmother’s words, the weight of the crown formed knots on his shoulders.
The slaves, his people, all applauded as quietly as possible.
He met each person’s eyes. Every one of them had scars and welts, but their eyes shone with hope. They needed him.
“I will lead us to a brighter tomorrow.”
They smiled and talked excitedly amongst themselves. Listross sighed relieved. He wanted to give them more but couldn’t bring himself to lie outright. What he did have was hope, so that is what he shared.
“Now, I’m hungry. Let’s celebrate with Grandmother’s stew!” Listross grabbed a bowl and ladled the potato and water stew in. He held it out to his daughter.
He dished another bowl for his wife. As he reached for a third, a young woman came and took it from him.
“Sit down and rest, your majesty.” She smiled, handing him a bowl.
The door creaked open and everyone froze.
Flouth’s head poked in. “Can I eat, too, now?”
The room gave a collective laugh and Grandmother nodded her approval.
Ideara placed her hand on Listross’s arm. “I couldn’t think of a better man to be our king.”
He pulled her into a hug, making her spill watery broth on the dirt floor. She yelped in surprise, and he grasped her chin and kissed her.
“Now my prince,” she smirked and stroked his beard. “How do you plan to free us?”
- The red welt on Emmya’s cheek caught his eye in the firelight. Listross couldn’t bear to see her or any of the other children here to suffer any longer. It would start that night. If he attacked while the masters slept, he’d have the element of surprise. Between that and everyone’s hard labor, he figured it would be a quick fight to victory.
2. The weight of the crown crushed Listross. The people, his friends, his wife, and daughter, they longed to be free. Listross ached to give it to them. Now, it was his responsibility to give it to them, and he didn’t know how. Even if he did, their chances of success were slim. He needed wisdom. Wisdom and hope. He needed a god.