The Throne of chains

A Seventh of a Family Reunion: 2

Graysius peered out the small rusted window at the grand Horne manor and its beautiful gardens that were illuminated by moonlight. It was meant to be his home but in truth, he had never been allowed to explore it. All he knew about the estate was what it looked like from the small window of the tower he was locked in.

He watched his father return to the manor in a horse-drawn carriage. As per usual it was early morning when the Baron returned home. And as expected there was a young woman on his arm.

Her cleavage spilled out over her vibrant silk corset and her makeup was so colourful he could see her glittered eyes even in the darkness. There was no doubt she was another prostitute, picked up by the Baron outside the arena where he spent most of his free time gambling and drinking.

The pair of Baron and woman stumbled into the manor on their drunken legs, giggling and fiddling with each others fine clothes as they dragged themselves up the front steps.

One of the family servants stepped forward to try and assist them but in a flash of indignant rage the Baron threw the servant to the ground, cursing at the butler for making him look weak in front of his guest.

Graysius listened to the Barons heavy footsteps echoing up the stairs as the couple slowly made their way to the Barons bedroom, bumping into ornaments as they went.

From then on Graysius knew he would have to plug his ears with his fingers so he wouldn be forced to listen to his father fornicating with the woman.

He had seen this scene so many times before, so he knew what would happen next. After their night of debauchery, the Baron would send the woman back to her establishment in an unmarked carriage at first light. After all, it was considered disgraceful for a nobleman to be seen with a prostitute and even the Baron with his terrible reputation couldn bare to be associated with a lady of the night.

Growing bored with this familiar scene, Graysius retreated to the back of his dungeon-like room and collapsed onto the damp pile of blankets where he slept.

He buried his head into the blankets and wondered how long it would be before the woman came back claiming she was pregnant with the Barons child, just like all the others had. In the four years he had been locked away in the tower, Graysius had seen many of his fathers dalliances come back to the mansion seeking money and a home for their unborn children.

A few of the bolder ones would demand that they be taken into the house as the new baroness and have their children put in the family registry.

Unfortunately, their fate was sealed as soon as they came back to the mansion because at hearing their words the Baron would grow furious. He would order them to be dragged away and thrown in prison for the crime of deceiving nobility. One time Graysius had heard the Baron get violent. Objects were thrown and a womans screams echoed around the mansion. A little while later some servants carried out a large body sized sack and discreetly went to dispose of it in the adjoining woods.

The Baron was a cruel man.

Only those living on the estate knew the extent of his barbarism. Graysius for one had been locked inside the east tower for four years since he was five years old. His only crime was looking too similar to his deceased mother, the late Baroness, who his father had grown an acute hatred for and therefore could not stomach looking at his own son. So the young boy was locked away and deprived of any human interaction for years.

Under no circumstances could he set foot outside. Not even when he had grown terribly sick and became delirious with fever from being forced to live in such a damp cramped space.

Even then, the Baron refused to let a doctor treat him. So Graysius lay half dead on his blankets wishing he could live better in his next life. Despite his resentment, it was thanks to that terrible fever that he remembered his past life and gained the maturity he needed to keep sane while locked away.

Graysius frowned. He could tell that something was wrong.

The damp-stained walls looked as they always had. The slight scratching noises coming from inside the walls was normal too – just the resident rats making their way through their tunnels. He wasn sure what it was, but something was definitely wrong…

He lay still and thought for a moment. Suddenly he sprang up from his bed. A curious realisation dawned upon him. Nothing inside his room was wrong, it was outside…

The echoes of his father and the lady enjoying each others company would usually be in full swing by now, and yet the mansion was silent.

Graysius jogged back to the window to check and see if anything was wrong through the window in his fathers bedroom, but all he saw was the warm glow of candles shining through the distant curtains.

A strange flicker coming from his fathers room caught his eye. He stared at the closed curtains intensely trying to make out the strange movement of light behind it. For a moment he thought he saw a person walking around but the darned curtains made it impossible to tell.

He squinted at the curtains because for some reason they were turning black. Smoke danced up the length of the drapes and soon bright orange flames followed them. Fire. The curtains were on fire. Not just the curtains but the whole room.

Graysius watched wide-eyed as fast-moving flames travelled across his fathers bedroom carpet. Thick smoke rose from the floor and embers jumped from the carpet to the wooden desk and bed frame.

The Baron lay face down on the bed, unmoving as the entire room began to glow in the orange flames. However the woman he brought home was nowhere to be seen.

The Baron would burn to death if someone didn rescue him. The corners of Graysiuss lips twitched upwards. The cruel bastard was finally going to get what was coming to him…

Graysius was locked away when he was five years old after being hated by the Baron. Ever since his hair started to grow black like his mothers instead of blonde like the Barons, and when he opened his eyes after birth and they were a steely grey instead of the traditional Horne family blue, his fate was sealed.

Graysiuss resemblance to the Baroness, the woman who Baron Horne hated the most, sentenced him to an early life filled with pain and sadness. The Baron would lose control after drinking and come after Graysius with rage and pounding fists.

Even though his older siblings resembled their father, they suffered too because no one who lived with the Baron could come out unscathed.

He remembered his sister Marie sitting at her dressing table in the morning, covering up her bruises with skin coloured powders. Even though she was a girl and remaining pretty was a great deal of importance since she was looking for a husband, father wouldn hesitate to back hand her across the face when she displeased him.

His older brother, Fabians eyes dripped with disdain for the Baron every time they were in a room together. Graysius didn know the specifics of what happened between them, but before he was imprisoned in the east tower he heard the servants whispering about the Baron holding Fabians career hostage.

Graysius watched with a pounding heart as the flames licked at the Barons clothes, warning the unconscious man of his gruesome end. Graysius clenched his fists. A word repeated over and over again in his head.

Burn. Burn. Burn.

Smoke billowed out of the open window and Graysius watched with glowing eyes, desperate to see the Baron burn.

The fire burned ferociously. Only now that he wasn staring at his fathers bedroom did he notice the orange glow coming from the windows of the hallway leading to his eastern tower room.

He took a sharp breath in and could immediately taste the smoke on his tongue. Watching his father burn to death had completely consumed all his awareness, so much so that he hadn noticed the approaching fire. Suddenly his room didn feel so cold anymore. In fact it was quite warm…

He whipped around to see thin wisps of smoke flowing into his room from under the thick bolted wooden doors. There was a faint orange glow from the gap below the door. The fire was already at his doorway which meant he didn have much time.

It wasn possible to open the door, but the gap underneath it would allow the flames to get into the room. The only other way out was the window – a small opening with rusted frames – and even if he chose to jump out he would surely died after falling to the hard gravel below.

The air grew thin in his throat. He coughed and grabbed his tightening chest. Smoke was filling his airways. He could either stay here and perish like his father or jump out the window and fall to his death, with perhaps the slightest chance of survival.

He dashed back to the window, held onto the railing and pulled himself up with gritted teeth.

His underdeveloped muscles waned under the pressure as he desperately manoeuvred his shoulders through the small window. His stomach scraped against the jagged rusted edges of the frame and small beads of blood collected on his skin, but he could only grit his teeth and force his body out of the small opening.

He carefully planted his feet on the narrow ledge and held onto the window frame so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He dug his toes into the ledge hoping to steady himself.

The servants had finally taken notice of the fire and were running around with buckets of water, uselessly tossing the water onto the fire.

”Where are the pipes? ” A butler shouted frantically. ”Bring the pipes! ”

”We can . The well froze over and the pipes have been destroyed! ” Someone shouted in reply.

Graysius frowned realising that this fire wasn a simple accident. Someone had even gone through the measure to make sure that the servants would not be able to put out the fire.

He dragged his thoughts away from that and focused on the task at hand. Since the staff were outside they would be able to help him. They could place something under him to break his fall.

”Hey! Im up here! ” He tried to get their attention but his voice was crippled from disuse. His words came out as a croak no louder than a whisper.

It had been at least two years since he had spoken to his older sister who used to sneak into the tower and talk to him through the door.

He forcefully cleared his throat and tried to shout again. His voice came out louder this time but the sound was still weak.

He tried again and this time used one arm to wave at the people below. However, the roaring flames which had now engulfed the front of the mansion consumed his desperate cries and the people below were too busy running to a nearby stream to fetch water.

Hot smoke blew over his back and he winced at the terrible heat. The window frame that he was holding onto was also heating up and in a few minutes it would be too hot to hold onto any longer, he would fall and die thereby putting an end to this tragic life.

Thick black smoke billowed out of the small window suffocating him for moments at a time. His chest heaved as the smoke assaulted his senses and he retched with the bad taste of it on his tongue. If he stayed clinging to the ledge any longer he would surely choke to death.

”Up there! ” A man shouted in the distance. ”Someones about to jump from the window. ”

”Its young master Graysius! ” Another said.

”Quickly go get some hay from the stables. We need to make a landing spot for the young master. ”

Just like that people dropped their buckets and ran towards the stables. Graysius stared in shock at their decisiveness. They saw him. They were trying to help him now as if he was an ordinary young master and not the hated fifth child who had been imprisoned in the east tower for four years.

A flicker of hope flashed across his eyes as he saw the servants hurriedly pushing stacks of hay across the lawn, coming to his rescue.

The heat against his back was even worse now, but he dared not look back at the fire. He just needed to watch the hay. As soon as it was under him he would jump and leave to see the world outside this godforsaken room. To be free…

In his past life, he died a slave. His old leathery skin was littered with scars and his bones had been ground down to brittle sticks that could just barely lift the pick axe he used to mine for jewels. But more importantly, he had died with a collar around his neck, a slave. A being less than human. He thought his next life would be different. It was to some extent. As the child of a noble his life should have been perfect… unfortunately he was the son of a woman who had gone insane and a belligerent drunken Baron. And so at five years old he was locked away in this stone tower and once again lived as a caged being.

When he was younger he remembered nothing about his past life, but after becoming delirious with a fever in the tower, his memories returned when he was on the brink of the death.

It was thanks to these memories and the knowledge of survival that he was able to live for four years. By collecting rainwater in his hands and slowly carving away the wood of the bed frame to make fires, he survive harsh winters and stayed hydrated.

He eagerly awaited the day he could escape and be free from the tower. Now that day was finally here. Soon he would-

He gasped. The piece of window frame he was holding onto broke off and suddenly he was sent hurtling to the ground below.

As he fell his head was filled with the panicked shouts of those servants down below. They hadn finished moving the hay yet, so Graysius would land straight on the gravel and probably die on impact.

It wasn fair but then again when had fate ever treated him kindly?

First, he was the child of a prostitute who sold him into slavery before he could talk. He died after some forty years of hard labour. Now he was the fifth son of a Baron, plummeting to his death after years of living in captivity for the crime of looking to smilies to his insane mother. He didn even make it to his tenth birthday this time.

As he died in the past, he had wished for a better life. In a sense his wish had been granted because he was born as nobility this time. Even with his advance in status, the family was as dysfunctional as they came and his quality of life was no better than before.

He knew now that in this cruel world there was no such thing as people with perfect lives. As a slave he used to look enviously up at the nobles in their fine clothes and their grand houses, but now that he was one of them he realised that the weak still suffered no matter what their status was in society.

In other words, there are those who suffer and those who inflict suffering.

It didn matter if this fall crippled him to the point where he could only move his lips, if he survived he would shed his useless notion of finding happiness. Where one is, is good enough.

Its up to him to make his circumstances better. If he had to make the choice between those two paths, he would choose to be the one who inflicts suffering rather than the one who suffers.

Suddenly arms wrapped around him, but they couldn delay the force with which he was hurtling to the ground.

Screams and shouts rang in his ears. In a moment everything went black and he could no longer hold onto his consciousness. He was suspended in the silent blackness for what felt like ages until someone In the distance chuckled darkly.

It was a sound that sent shivers down his spine and had him whipping his head around to see in which direction the voice came from. Alas when tried to open his eyes to take a look, all he saw was pitch darkness.

”So its you… ” The voice said, seemingly amused by the idea. ”You
e the one who will inherit. ”

”Inherit? ” Graysius asked. He could hear his heart beating in his chest, betraying his anxiety to the voice.

”Yes. The seed was planted in you at your birth. Its about to sprout. Rejoice, my kin for you will become fear itself. ”

Kin? Was the voice implying that they were related?

”Who are you? ” Graysius asked, still not sure that he wasn just dreaming.

Dark chuckles slowly emanated from the voice putting him on edge.

Graysius blinked and suddenly he could see a figure in front of him. He stared at the handsome in front of him and quickly scanned his appearance. The strange man was clad in shimmering golden robes and wore a stupendous amount of jewelry. Each fingers, toes and ear dripped with shinning gems. And around his neck hung even more bedazzling stones and ornaments.

Graysius squinted at the mans throne in the full light and wondered what it was made of. It didn make sense for someone who was obviously so wealthy to sit on a pile of… stuff? It looked like a large clump of materials and maybe a few chains.

He blinked in surprise when the pile of stuff moved ever so slightly. He stared hard at it trying to figure out what it was. A faint moan escaped the pile of things and he suddenly realised what he was looking at: a pile of tightly compact human bodies.

Graysius slowly panned up to the grinning man dripping in jewels, looking ever so amused by Graysiuss reaction.

”Like what you see? ” He said. A devilish expression flashed across his face.

Graysiuss chest tightened at the realisation that he was in the company of someone who possessed great cruelty on top of astounding wealth. He didn wear a crown and he didn sit on a typical throne, but Graysius had no doubt that he was looking at a king.

Before he could stop himself he blurted out a question. ”Why do you sit on them? ”

Graysius couldn help but ask it. He had wanted an answer for this question since his past life, its a question he wanted to ask every person who had ever owned or handled him. Why are the slave handlers unnecessarily cruel when the slaves are already bound in magic? Why do those with power always abuse it? If this man wanted her could probably have made a throne of gold and jewels… so why sit on people?

”Thats an unimportant question, child. ” The man leaned forward and stared at him with silvery eyes that felt void of any humanity. ”Every ruler to himself. And only fools think that ruling without fear is possible. ”

The king reached into his golden robes and retrieved a round fruit from within the folds. It looked similar to an apple but was as black as soot and looked soft like a peach.

”Take it and eat it. Its yours now. ” The king tossed the fruit to Graysius who caught it in both hands.

He had wanted to take a pause and ask the strange king some more questions, but like a moth to a flame his teeth were drawn to the fruit. As if he had been starving he ripped into it ravenously taking multiple large bites until his cheeks were bulging with the sweet flesh. Black juices dribbled down his chin. He choked trying to swallow the pieces all at once.

”Its good, isn it? ” The king grinned.

”There, there. Theres no rush, my child. This fruit will be with you for a lifetime. ” He said.

Graysius rolled his head back and let out a satisfied sigh. There was something special about that fruit. he could feel the last of it trickling down his throat and filling his stomach. His knees buckled and he fell to the floor while still savouring the rich taste of the fruit.

The king and his living throne blurred in front of him as the heady aroma of the fruit took over his senses.

”Before you return, hear some advice from your predecessor. ” He leaned back on his throne, making himself comfortable by placing his elbow on someones rib and resting his head against an arm.

His cocky grin disappeared as he said, ”The only real escape from hell is to conquer it. ”

Once again darkness clouded his vision and he returned to silence, only to feel a cool breeze on his face and soft words beckoning him to open his eyes.

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