The Star by Lawenta
Characters: Isokell, Maqaxha
Summary: Isokell hears about how the lost traitor-prince of Ku’Ombos has been found and captured. Curiosity piqued, she goes to see the prisoner for herself.
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She heard them talk about the man, sitting in the council chamber in demure silence, supposedly learning about politics.
Found in the lowest levels of Machra-la. Enslaved, used. Blinded. Not a threat, but perhaps more could be gained, politically speaking, than just justice being served at long last?
No decision was reached on that sitting, and that served her just right.
The dungeons were mostly empty for as long as she remembered, reserved for the worst and the most important prisoners. Her parents, of course, were never happy about her venturing there, but it wasn’t her first visit anyway; she’d figured long ago that if she is going to one day decide someone’s fate, she needs to know what exactly her options entail.
The smell alone was bad enough to make imprisonment a severe punishment, in her opinion.
She had to walk rather far down to find the disgraced prince, one hand resting lightly on the prison master’s forearm and fingertips of the other trailing a wall she’d rather not touch, especially down here where it was damp and oily with soot and perhaps worse things.
“The prisoner, saya-rehu,” the prison master announced, not even respect towards her fully filtering out the disgust.
She could hear a faint clink and scrape of chains and then nothing but the sound of quickened breathing.
She tilted her head, listening as the breaths grew harsher, with the occasional pause for a labored swallow.
The man was working himself into a panic, just from her standing there.
What was even the protocol for talking to a formerly-royal prisoner? (As if he cared.)
“You know, I’m just as blind as you are. If you want to greet me, you’ll have to talk.”
“I’m sorry, saya-rehu. I haven’t realized.” His voice was just as openly scared as his breathing and it sounded muffled somehow, coming not quite from floor level but not too far from it.
“You couldn’t,” she pointed out.
“Thank you,” he said quietly.
Thanking her for, what exactly? For knowing that a blind man couldn’t spot her not quite looking at him?
There was a hard knot of sickness forming in her gut and it had nothing to do with the foul air here.
“How much do you remember of Ku’Ombos?”
It took him a moment to speak this time.
“Yes.” There wasn’t even a whiff of the well-deserved ‘of course’ in that.
“And you can converse in Machralese.”
“Mainland Ititschi, obviously.”
“I’ve… learned, saya-rehu.”
And that, confused and careful as it was, finally sounded as if he spoke directly at her.
She smiled to herself and listened to his breathing, calmer and quieter now. One of the chains shifted – he probably lowered his head again.
“Saya-rehu… Forgive me… When… Am I to be judged?”
She cringed at the empty hopelessness in his voice.
Not a threat, they said. A broken shell of a man, more like it, surviving at the whim of others for years before her uncle brought him here to die.
She was suddenly angry, though she knew better than to let it show.
“We’ll see about that.”
The chains rattled.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have-”
“That’s fine,” she cut him off. Kindly, she thought, but he remained stock still and silent after that.
Surely there were better uses for a former foreign prince than to drag him, cowering, to his death to prove a point? What kind of justice was it, even?
“I can’t tell you anything right now but I’ll meet you again,” she promised, refusing to acknowledge that she might be lying.
There wasn’t anything to say after that. She had a plan to think through, and she’d much rather do it elsewhere.