Chapter 13

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“Your supper, your Highness,” the young guard mocked him, then closed the door.

Hadjar was once again one with the darkness. This cramped stone cell had become his new home. It was designed to ensure that an adult couldn’t lie down or stand up straight. Hadjar was lucky in that regard—thanks to his small size, he was quite “comfortable” in its confines.

He’d already spent a month locked up and what’s worse—there was no information in the neuronet’s database on how to fix the damage he’d received. Primus had destroyed the very foundation for his development.

The damn Warlord had burned all the meridians in his body and destroyed all the nodes as well. The Prince, although he was no longer a Prince… Hadjar could still feel the energy in the air, but he couldn’t harness it.

Besides…

Hadjar crawled to the bucket of dirty water, not trusting the wooden stumps that now served as his legs. A loaf of moldy bread sat beside it.

A beam of light made its way up to the ceiling through a small hole.

Hadjar positioned himself above the bucket and looked at his reflection.

He’d used to think that he was lucky, having great parents he’d inherited good genes from. He’d been a handsome and dignified boy. Now, however…

A face covered in scabs and sores looked back at him. The right eyelid was swollen, covering the eye almost completely. His head was almost bald and his trembling hands smelled of something rotten and musky.

Hadjar drank greedily, gulping down close to half of the bucket. He hadn’t been fed for three days, so the boy ate the bread as well, despite its disgusting smell and taste.

Leaning his back against the cold wall, Hadjar looked at the grating. He watched specks of dust spinning in a beam of light.

The wind was blowing again.

It didn’t call him anywhere.…

“Duke Velen, Earl Vaslia, Primus, the Governor, Viscount…”

The musicians played trumpets, the choirs sang hymns, the bells rang—the coronation of the new King of Lydus was in full swing. But the enthusiastic exclamations of the people were absent.

“Duke Velen, Earl Vaslia, Primus, the Governor, Viscount…”

The funeral processions were probably being held in the small towns and villages that day. People mourned for the dead King and Queen and threw angry glances in the direction of the capital.

But none of them dared to take up arms and rebel. No one was foolish enough to try and fight the Imperial soldiers marching along the roads of the country. Their strength was far beyond what the ordinary villagers could even imagine.

The people that had reached the stage of the Bodily Rivers had been great heroes to the common people. And the Imperials surpassed those adepts in every way.

“Duke Velen, Earl Vaslia, Primus, the Governor, Viscount…”

And yet, there was still some hope in the hearts of the citizens.

Rumors spread.

Few people believed they were true, but they still told the tale, using the cover of night to escape the notice of the authorities. It was about Prince Hadjar. The Prince was said to have slain ten warriors with his sword, then wounded Primus and the Governor, and after that, he escaped from the Palace.

“Duke Velen, Earl Vaslia, Primus, the Governor, Viscount…”

They said that he was now training somewhere in the distant mountains, killing the cruelest, most ferocious animals. He lived in solitude, gaining the kind of strength that would make the mountains themselves shudder in terror and the skies above cry from fright.

People wanted to believe that their suffering under the rule of Primus and the Empire would last no more than nine springs. After all, Prince Hadjar would then be sixteen years old. He would have a legal claim to the throne.

Peasants and merchants, warriors and artisans, scientists and ordinary citizens alike all believed that the hour would come, that the bell in the ruined Royal castle would ring again. And when that ringing was heard in all the fields and forests of the Kingdom, the army would rally and overthrow Primus.

They wanted to believe in this comforting, fictional tale. They wanted it more than anything.

But no one knew the truth. The Prince hadn’t even seen the sky or breathed fresh air for an entire month.

He could no longer fight anything, neither beasts nor humans.

No one knew that the Prince’s legs had been cut off below the knee. No one knew that Hadjar had been deprived of any and all opportunities and chances to develop his power.

But, even now, sitting in a dungeon, crippled, he refused to give up.

He would find a way out of there. Even if he had to sell his soul to the devil, he would find a cure.

And he would get justice for his family so they could rest in peace. Even if he had to slaughter every Imperial warrior and every traitor in the Kingdom to do it.

At that moment, his blue eyes burned with an unyielding, almost palpable light.

And that’s why Hadjar was muttering, “Duke Velen, Earl Vaslia, Primus, the Governor, Viscount…”

He repeated the names of the traitors to himself, over and over. There were dozens of them, hundreds, but they’d all pay one day, he didn’t doubt it for a second. And even if the sky itself were to stand in his way, he would go to war against it.

His name was Hadjar. They’d taken his power, destroyed his sword, cut off his legs. But his will was indomitable, his determination endless. No one could change that, he would not be broken.

That day, an ancient dragon awoke. He resided in a cave hidden by a waterfall, and had been forgotten by all. He was chained down and unable to move, but suddenly, he felt something approaching him from the West.

Something driven by fate.

The dragon thought the feeling must be false, only a remnant of its thousand-year sleep. Such a thing might’ve happened ten, twenty, fifty thousand years ago. But no one had come to him for countless centuries of his imprisonment in that cave.

No one was coming this time, either.

The dragon only managed to catch a glimpse of two fierce, blue eyes in the reflection of the waterfall.

***

“How much do you want for him?”

Hadjar awoke not because he’d heard a voice, but because this voice was new. For the past year, he’d only heard the mockery of the guard who would bring him moldy bread and a bucket of grimy water.

Once a month, when the cell began to stink so much that even the guard couldn’t bear to go in, he would bring him a waste bucket. Then he would ruthlessly beat Hadjar. His warden believed that cleaning up the Half-Prince’s s**t was beneath him. That was what he called Hadjar: the Half-Prince.

“Five gold coins.”

“Five gold coins?! You’re insane, Lithium.”

Hadjar’s guard had a really funny name. Lithium. But, alas, except for the prisoner himself, no one could appreciate the humor behind it. There was no periodic table in this world. Even if there was, it would probably have different elements in it.

“I wish I hadn’t met you last night.”

“You bought your own ticket to see our freak show, no one forced you.”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“If you hadn’t offended the owner, no one would’ve put you in such an awkward situation.”

Freak show? Anyone else in Hadjar’s position would’ve been afraid after hearing that, but he only saw a chance at freedom.

“I owe the owner two gold coins, to pay for the tent I ruined,” the soldier had apparently gotten drunk and made a mess.

Recently, he would often drink and complain to Hadjar about his life. He’d told the boy about how his wife had left him. She’d abandoned him for a stronger practitioner, a man who’d reached the level of Formation and had attained a high rank in the army of King Primus.

To be honest, Hadjar was glad to see his tormentor suffering.

“Look, you’ll give me five coins, I’ll give two coins to your boss, and he’ll pay you a bonus for the freak. It’ll probably be more than five gold coins. We’ll both profit from this!”

Someone was hesitating behind the door, shifting uneasily from foot to foot.

“This seems like fraud. And you know what the new laws are like—I’ll lose my hand for this, and you’ll lose your head.”

“No one will notice if this freak disappears. No one but me has come here for a year.”

“Who is he?”

Hadjar only pursed his lips. Wow! He costs five gold coins now. Previously, his right shoe alone had cost a hundred times more. But he didn’t care about that—the main thing was to get out of here.

“The son of a disgraced nobleman,” the soldier lied easily. He’d become so impudent that he was planning to sell the Prince! “His father died long ago and the son’s been completely forgotten.”

Or he was just a moron.

“Five coins, you said?”

“Yep, five.”

The stranger hesitated a bit more.

“Let me look at him, first.”

“Yes, please, go right ahead,” the soldier agreed easily. “Just try not to breathe. The smell is awful in there.”

The sound of footsteps echoed in the corridor and the door was unlocked. Hadjar closed his eyes, unable to handle the bright light. The soldier had previously always come in without a torch, but now he’d brought two oil lamps at once.

For Hadjar, who’d spent a year in the darkness, it was like two midday suns had suddenly appeared in the dungeon.

“What a stench,” a tall, thin man in a patched jacket said.

He looked quite unobtrusive. The scars on his face and the burns on his hands hinted at a troubled and violent youth.

“By the demons,” he breathed, bringing the lamp up to Hadjar’s face. The young man almost howled in pain. “You didn’t lie to me, Lithium. He’s a real freak. The crowd will be delighted to see him.”

The soldier just chuckled.

“We have a deal, then?” He asked.

The stranger again hesitated a little and then slapped his outstretched palm.

“Deal. Five gold.”

“Good. Just wait a second.”

The soldier left the room and returned with a heavy, black blanket.

“Here, let’s cover him up,” he said, throwing it over Hadjar’s shoulders. “He stinks so much that all the other guards will come here. And he hasn’t seen any light for a long time. Or, wait, do you need a blind freak?”

“No, we have enough blind freaks already. The owner will find another use for him.”

Hadjar was propped up on his ‘legs’ and he managed to stagger to the exit. Every step he took produced a metallic knocking and made fiery pain shoot up his hips. But Hadjar tolerated it all. He just muttered the names, adding another one to the list—Lithium.

And so, a year later, he left not only the dungeon, but also the palace and the capital, leaving the only home he’d ever known behind.

He rode in a wagon, half-listening to his new ‘warden’. They were in a hurry to join up with the wandering freak show to which he’d been sold.

Hadjar barely paid any attention to the boastful man. He kept checking the collar that had been placed on him (it had a magical slave seal on it) and looked at the receding lights of the city.

It was the first time he’d ever gone out into the world. This wasn’t how he’d pictured the beginning of his adventures.

What awaited him now?

Slavery, having to entertain crowds?

Only allowed on Creativenovels.com

Hadjar just smiled wickedly.

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michelle
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michelle

thanks for the chapter

Graestra
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Graestra

At this point I really wish that dragon part would have been left out at the beginning, it makes harder to stay invested in what is currently happening.