Congratulations option 1, you’re the winner!
Voting is now open for Chapter 5 and will close Sunday, November 3rd at 11:59 PM.
Personally I enjoyed this chapter because I feel like you get to know the characters a bit better and am excited to decide which of the three options you choose.
When the next Prince of Slaves Chapter comes out, there will also be a new announcement, so stay tuned. But for now, my dear readers, please enjoy Prince of Slaves:
Listross hoisted Emmya off his shoulders and set her down on the grass. “You’re getting a little big for this. I can’t believe you’ll be five next week.”
“Daddy?” Emmya took his hand and walked next to him.
Over the past few days, they traveled slow. Some god must have found favor with Listross and had preserved the map from the flames that took the manor house. They used it to avoid any cities or large plantations but did plan to make another raid soon. Grink had suggested they try to acquire more men to find greater favor with the ruler of Sholance. On top of that, Listross knew he needed rest. The wound on his arm had already opened up once from trying to do too much. He was in no condition to battle.
“Yes, dear?” Listross rubbed the back of his neck and scanned over the group of Tavalskians in front of him.
“I don’t want another extra potato for my birthday this year.”
Listross smiled. “What do you want?”
Emmya stopped walking and looked down. “I want mama to come back.”
Listross felt the stab of grief through his heart. He bent down and hugged Emmya, gently rubbing her head as she cried on his shoulder.
In the background, he heard someone call to halt the group, but he paid it little heed. “Me, too.”
As they held each other, a growing commotion started to form towards the front of the group. Listross tried to ignore it.
“You’re a brainwashed, untrustworthy bunch and you should be grateful that we’re helping you!” Flouth’s voice was clearly heard over all the others.
“What’s going on, Daddy?” Emmya sniffled.
Listross heard the thunk of fist against flesh and sighed. “Hang on, Emmya.”
He stood and walked through the crowd of Tavalaskians. It was still odd the way his friends and others parted for him.
Flouth and Thyrin wrestled on the ground, throwing punches that mostly missed. Grink grabbed Flouth’s fist and tried pulling him away from Thyrin. Thyrin sprang on the opportunity and punched Flouth square on the nose.
“What is going on here!” Listross stepped in between the two men.
Flouth and Thyrin both started shouting above one another.
“Silence!” Listross sighed. “Flouth, go take a walk.”
Flouth stared hard at Listross but rose and stormed off.
Listross released Thyrin. “Now–”
“He’s an unreasonable, vulgar menace who needs to learn his place!” Thyrin glared after Flouth.
Flouth kept walking away but waved back with his pinky finger up.
“That’s just Flouth.” Listross rubbed his temples and readjusted the crown. “Now what happened?”
“I called the halt because we had three crying little ones who needed to nurse.”
“Then Flouth said that we needed to keep moving. I told him we needed to stop for a bit. Then he just started yelling.”
“You must have said something. Flouth doesn’t just yell at people.”
“Only the truth.”
Listross groaned and shook his head. “What did you say?”
“I simply told him that he didn’t understand because he doesn’t have a family of his own to care for. Then he said he considers everyone here his family and is trying to look out for everyone since that’s his job as second in command. I told him that he was crazy to think you would name him second. After that, I don’t quite remember.”
“Why would it be crazy to name him as my second in command?”
“He’s not qualified. He doesn’t have any training with leadership like I do nor the age experience like Grink.”
Grink shrugged and nodded. “Thyrin, why don’t you check on your wife and give the Prince and I a minute?”
Girnk and Listross watched Thyrin walk off and hug his son.
“He has a point, you know?” Grink turned back to Listross
“About Flouth not being qualified? Then I’m not qualified either.”
Grink shrugged. “That’s the difference between you two. Flouth thinks he is. If he were to lead us, his pride would be our demise.”
“I know Flouth better than anyone. He only has the best in mind for everyone.”
“You’re right. You do know Flouth better than anyone. Do you really want to name him your second.”
“There’s only thirty-five of us including the children. Why do we even need a second in command?”
“Do you really need me to answer that?”
Listross sighed and shook his head. “They just obtained their freedom and now all they want is power. I don’t even want my position.”
“I think you want it more than you think you do. With you as Prince, we have hope. You’ve actually given us our freedom.”
“Yes, at the cost of both of our wives and your daughter. Not to mention the others.”
Grink eyed Listross emotionlessly.
Listross sighed. “Let me talk to Flouth, but we do need to leave soon to get to the creek before dinner time. Could you let them know?”
Grink nodded. “One more thing, List.”
“Do not doubt yourself. Ever.”
Listross nodded and jogged after Flouth.
When Listross found him, he was tucked away in a large thicket of trees speaking softly with Bolfreed who had three rabbits tied to his back next to his quiver. A pine cone dropped and nearly hit Listross on the head. He looked up. From the branches Quexel waved and mouthed an apology.
“Sorry to interrupt, but Flouth, can I speak with you?” Listross whispered.
Flouth nodded to Bolfreed and tapped him on the shoulder.
Listross and he walked away silently until they got to the edge of the thicket.
“I don’t appreciate you hearing from Thyrin before hearing my side of the events.”
Listross’s jaw dropped. “I trust your telling of the events more than his.”
“It doesn’t matter any more. Are we moving again.” Flouth started walking toward the rest of the group.
“Soon. But Flouth, I want to talk.”
“You can’t just declare yourself second in command.”
Flouth stopped and turned back. “I didn’t. You did.”
“When you went to free the others, you said I was in charge.”
Listross licked the back of his teeth. “I didn’t mean that for good.”
“So you don’t want me to be second?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I’m your best friend? Where’s the loyalty here? I gave you mine!”
“I just don’t know if you’re fit for the position. You don’t have the leadership training like Thyrin or the age experience like Grink.”
“Training? Experience? Like you should be the one to talk!” Flouth snatched the crown from Listross’s brow. “Did you recieve training to be Prince? No. And you’re not very aged to have the experience. So where are your qualifications? Oh, that’s right! You don’t have any!”
“Flouth! I’m doing the best I can!” Listross tried to grab the crown back, but Flouth tossed it into the thicket.
“For your best you’re doing a pretty poor job! Getting half of us killed. You would’ve gotten yourself killed from the magistrate if it wasn’t for me! Let’s be honest. The only reason you’re Prince and people respect you is because of me. Me and possibly Grink.”
Listross ran into the thicket and started searching for the crown. His shirt started sticking to his back and the beads of nervous sweat dripped off the end of his nose.
It felt like hours before he caught a glint in the corner of his eye.
Looking up, Listross saw the crown hanging on a branch of a pine tree about twenty feet above him. He raced over and grabbed the nubs where the lower branches had fallen off. He hoisted himself up and hopped to the first branch. He got both his arms around it and wince.
His arm turned red where he ripped open his wound. The branch groaned beneath him. As Listross reached for the next branch, the one he was on cracked.
He landed on his back with the branch on top of him. He coughed and struggled to breathe.
He lay there with his eyes closed and tried to catch his breath.
The branch started to move and he opened his eyes. Quexel and Bolfreed hoisted it off and helped Listross to his feet.
“Prince?” Quexel brushed his dirty blonde bangs out of his dark blue eyes. “Are you okay? What happened?”
Listross pointed up at the crown in the tree. Both men’s eyes followed.
“How’d it get there?” Quexel traced a path through the air up the tree with his finger.
“His wound’s opened up again. I’ll get him to Talesi. She’ll have to stitched him up again.” Bolfreed helped Listross to his feet.
“I’ll try to get the crown.”
Bolfreed and Listross started back towards the group. Listross watched as Quexel started to climb up the tree.
* * *
Quexel returned and walked up to Listross. “I’m sorry, Prince. It was too difficult. I almost had it, but I bent the branch and nearly fell. Maybe I could try a different method, but it’s quite dangerous.”
“That idiot.” Listross mumbled under his breath. “The sun’s already started to set. We’ll have to camp here for the night and try again in the morning.”
Listross stood slowly and Quexel helped him. He walked to the middle of the group and called their attention. “We’ll be camping here tonight. We’re short on water, but we weren’t able to make it to the creek. We’ll reach it tomorrow and maybe stay there for a few days.”
A collective groan rose from the group and Listross sighed. He pointed to Talesi, Thyrin’s wife and asked if she could gather a group of women to work on an evening meal. She nodded and set off.
Emmya came up and tugged on his shirt. “Daddy?”
“I thought of a better gift for my birthday.”
Listross chuckled softly. “And what is it?”
“For you to be able to take the day off and me and you to just play together all day.”
Listross gave her a small smile and ruffled her hair. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The rest of the evening flew as Listross walked around and saw how everyone was fairing. It amazed him how well they complained. They had their freedom. Something that most of them never remember having, yet they could still only see their woes. When Listross pressed, they did start to realize they had all they needed and those from Thyrin’s group were blessed to have their families.
Listross fell asleep on a blanket close to one of the fires. Emmya was still playing a game of chase with some of the other children as he drifted off.
* * *
Listross woke with a start. The fire was just embers at this point, but the moon was still high. Emmya slept half next to half on top of him. He had heard something.
Gently, he scooted her head and arms off his chest and stood up. A figure started walking closer from the distance.
Listross stood and unsheathed his sword.
The person stopped. “Listross, put that away.” Flouth stepped closer and placed two other large sticks on the embers and blew.
Listross sighed and put the sword away. “What are you doing up this late?”
A small flame caught on some kindling. Flouth glanced up at him, then bowed with his forehead to the ground. “Apologizing. I’m sorry, Prince for my behavior earlier.”
Flouth sat back on his knees and poked at the fire some more.
“It’s fine. I should have made things clearer.”
“No. You’re doing a great job with what you’ve been given. Here.” Flouth reached into his side bag and held out the crown with a scratched and bloody arm. “You deserve this.”
Listross stared for a moment before taking it and placing it back on his brow. “Thank you.”
“Not necessary. I was the idiot who threw it.”
Listross nodded slightly. “You should get some rest. I’ll decide how we’re to be organized by the end of the day tomorrow. I think I know the perfect position for you, too.”
Listross laid down next to Emmya and watched Flouth poke at the flame for a bit longer and thought about how he would arrange his men.
1. Flouth was his best and most loyal friend. He’d have him be second in command and would take care of matters when Listross was gone. Grink would be his advisor and general. He possessed a warrior’s spirit and was able to keep a clear head. Thyrin would be in charge of domestic needs. If people needed medicine, food, water, or clothes they would approach him.
2. Flouth’s actions earlier proved that he was not ready to be second in command. What Flouth did care about though was caring for others. He did try to do that to the best of his abilities. He would set him in charge of domestic needs, which was similar to being second in command, but have that role be filled by Grink. Grink had the wisdom to help him lead. Thyrin would be titled his personal advisor and would have some influence since he did have leadership experience.
3. Even though Flouth wasn’t ready to be second in command, he was close with Listross. Listross would name him his advisor and general. He would bring his warrior’s spirit with to battle which would greatly help. Thyrin cared about the families so he could be in charge of the domestic needs of the people, and Grink with his age and knowledge would be a great person to be second in command when Listross was gone.