The air was thick with tension as everyone held their breath, waiting for a name to be called out. Everyone hoping it wouldn’t be them, or they're loved once. The midday sun beating down on them as they stood in the large clearing, waiting.
Richard could feel Ryan’s worry coming off of him in waves as he knew he two had seen Damien’s gaze stop on him. It was only for a moment, but that was enough to get them apprehensive about it.
“Ethan Vanshook!” Damien called, his voice rolling over the crowd like thunder. His eyes never left a tall man as he walked through the crowd up to the platform, a sorrowful expression covering his aged features as he knelt before King Damien, his head hanging low.
Letting out a low sigh of relief Richard allowed his muscles to relax, when he saw King Damien approach the clearing he hadn’t realized how stressed he had become. It wasn’t like he was happy someone else had been chosen, it was just he was glad it wasn’t him. Returning his gaze to Damien he waited for the next part to take place.
Seeming to be pleased with his choice King Damien pinpointed the next person he wanted. Richard had to stop a shiver running over his spine when Damien’s pupils took on a dark hue, and evil glint embedded in his narrow eyes.
“Daniel Vanshook!” The name of Damien’s next choice was called as the people standing before him remained quiet, but the expressions on their faces turned to a look of horror as a few looked towards the sixteen-year-old walking slowly up to the platform towards the King, his footsteps slow.
The teen kept his head down as he stopped before Damien, the King’s gaze never leaving the boy. Richard could see the way the kid’s hands trembled as he clenched his fists but tried to not let it show. As Daniel was about to kneel Ethan, whom Damien had called before stood enraged, hulling the boy to his feet forcing him behind his back.
“Please, You’re Majesty, not my son his not old enough to join your army.” The man begged, a look of distress coming over him as his anger from a second ago seemed to wash away.
Damien seemed to think about what the man said but quickly brushed it off with a dismissive wave of his hand, “You know the law. He will train to become one of my soldiers, and one of these days sometime in the near future he will go out to fight battles for me.”
Ethan’s face drained of all color as he disparity tried to keep his son out of King Damien’s army and away from any battle that could potentially take his life. “But he-”
Not seeming to hear the man’s please Damien continued, “Yes, yes, he may die, but it’s not like I’m losing anything.” Dismounting his horse Damien moved to stand in front of Ethan who averted his eyes under his King’s cold gaze. “He may have been one of my soldiers, but I can always replace him.” Damien paused as he waited for Ethan’s response.
“Please I'll do anything, just allow my son to go free and live a normal life!” Ethan begged, tears cascading down his face.
Untouched by the display of emotions in front of him, Damien shook his head, “I have made my choice…Unless…” An evil smirk spread across Damien’s face as he folded his arms behind his back and waited for his cue to continue.
“What? Unless what?” Ethan asked, a glimpse of hope evident in his gaze. “Please tell me, I’ll do anything.”
Chuckling Damien looked from Ethan to the rest of the crowd than to Daniel. “Unless you can tell me who is responsible for disrupting the order lately?” His gaze swept over the people before him who began to shuffle on their feet as they murmured to one another. “There’s an item that was stolen from me, and I want it back.” As the last words were spoken Damien’s voice became low and slow as he studied the reactions through the crowd.
Richard felt an uneasy feeling prickle along his skin, he wanted the Gem that badly he was asking the Villagers about him. He cast a quick look towards Ryan who only looked on his eyes remaining on Damien. Looking over the people standing in front of him Richard could see they seemed to be just as confused as the rest. Though how much did they know?
“We, we don’t know who it is. I don’t think they live in the Village, maybe a rogue.” Ethan quickly said, worried for the safety of his son. “They come at night, and it seems they work alone, we don’t know more than that.”
“A rogue, working alone.” Damien drawled, seeming to be very unamused, “Oh I doubt that.” Casting one last look at the people before him Damien waved his hand at Ethan and Daniel. “Fine, being you all are as useless as I thought, you may go back to the burrows you crawled out of.”
Richard let lose the breath he had been holding, he had been worried about how much the villagers knew, he was glad he had managed to keep his escapades secret enough that not everyone knew of them. Though it was scary that Damien was threatening the safety of a boy to get to the Gem he held. Richard’s mind wondered to Grace, he knew the King would be after her, but wouldn’t tell the villagers about her, he could only guess his plan is to find who took the Gem and hopefully Grace too.
Everyone was turning to head back to their houses when two lowed thuds disrupted the silence as everyone quickly turned to find two bodies half hanging over the platform, the dust still settling around their lifeless bodies, blood dripping out of the deep gashes in their stomachs. Wiping his blade clean of the crimson liquid Damien spat, “I’ve always hated the Vanshook family.” Moving away from the bodies he mounted his horse after sheathing his blade. Taking hold of the reins he forced his horse into a slow walk, “May this be a lesson to you all.” With those last words said, he and his men rode back to the palace.
A loud cry of anguish ripped through the air, as the wife to the now fallen man and mother to the lifeless boy fell to her knees, dust covering her clothes as she covered her mouth, muffle her cries, her face tear-stricken.
Dipping his head Richard couldn’t help the intense amount of guilt lay heavy on his shoulders. It was his fault all this was happening, if he hadn’t taken the Gem, then Grace, no one would have had to die.
“We should go.” Ryan’s voice broke through Richard’s thoughts, a sorrowful expression covering his face as his eyes seemed to be glued to the two fallen bodies. Dipping his head Ryan turned his horse around following the few people heading back to their homes down the path away from the King.
Richard seemed to find himself glued to the spot where he stood, should he have spoken up, demanded Damien take his life instead of two people who did nothing but follow his rules. Slowly he found himself dismounting Thunder, patting the black horse’s side he began to walk through the crowd towards the platform. He kept his face down to keep others from seeing the guilt-ridden look in his eyes.
He came to a stop next to the woman who held the body of her son in her arms, his blood coating her hands and clothes as she mourned his death rocking back and forth.
Removing the hood of his cloak Richard had to stop the sick feeling in his stomach from rising. Releasing a shaky breath, he looked towards the woman. “I’m terribly sorry.”
“Huh?” Looking up her eyes still shedding tears the lady looked up to meet Richard’s saddened cobalt eyes.
Quickly ducking his head avoiding her eyes Richard continued. “They didn’t deserve to die like that, they were good people and will be missed.”
Shaking her head, the woman looked down at her son's pale face, stifling a cry she nodded, “Thank you,”
Feeling there was nothing more he could say Richard turned and headed back to his horse. How many more will have to die because of his mistakes, who else would have to pay for the crimes he committed. Once back on Thunder’s back Richard looked up towards the palace, eyes narrowing he could feel something inside him crack, it was time they took action and removed the vires that ruled their lives.
Flicking Thunder’s reins Richard made his way back to the mountain, though keeping an eye out for onlookers that could be watching. He wasn’t going to let another die at the hand of Damien, not if he could help it. Turning down a dark alley Richard ran home.