A Family Affair
Gentle chiming filtered through his exhausted brain as a light breeze brushed across his beaten and bruised face. There was a sweet, delicate smell in the air like the passing of a cleansing rain. He furrowed his eyebrows as he tried to fight his comatose brain and wake up. His fingers on his right hand slowly grabbed at a silklike cloth that he slowly realized was covering his entire body and his head was resting against a soft and squishy mound of something. A frown slowly tumbled across his lips as he realized he could only feel two fingers on his left hand. As he slowly regained consciousness, pain crept into his body as his right side burned and screamed in pain.
“David!” someone cried as they grabbed his good hand.
“Geoffrey?” his mind muttered.
He felt his brother stroke his good hand and motherly brush a few strains of hair out of his face. David painfully and gingerly turned his head and drowsily forced his eyes open. One eye opened fully, but the other eye barely opened at all. The sight of a large hammer swinging towards the right side of his face flashed before his eyes. He winced as he felt his right side shatter all over again. He opened his good eye again and was confused by what he saw. The room was large, purplish grey, and had round, expanding arches. The large, arched windows were opened to let in the fresh air and outside one of the winds was a wind chime. He was in a large, luxurious bed caressed by sleek silk sheets and freshly filled down pillows. Sitting next to David’s bed was his older brother Geoffrey. Geoffrey’s blue eyes were filled with concern as his thin lips flirted between a relieved smile and a worried frown. His delicate fingers were gently arranging the sheets over David while lovingly stroking his good hand. There were dark shadows under his eyes and his hair was disheveled.
“Geoffrey?” David muttered, hissing in pain as he coughed up blood.
As he brained started to wake up he realized that he was covered in bandages from his neck to his hips. Images of knives and pliers flashed before his eyes as his body screamed from hammer blows and his ears echoed with delirious laughter.
“I’m here, David, I’m here,” gushed Geoffrey gently squeezing David’s good hand, “It’s ok now. You’re safe.”
“Where….Where am I?” choked David.
“At Abraham Hotchkiss’s house.”
David’s good eye widened as Geoffrey chattered, “Father wanted you sent back to the castle, but I wouldn’t have it. I wanted you here where I knew you would be safe during your recovery.”
David furrowed his eyebrows as Geoffrey smiled at him.
“I’m just glad you have finally awoken. You’ve been unconscious for three weeks!”
Three weeks?! God. David rolled his head so he was staring up at the arching ceiling and closed his eye. The last thing he remembered was someone laughing and the sound of his own ribs breaking. He could barely see because of the blood pouring into his eyes. He was numb, his body had taken in so much pain it couldn’t feel anymore, and his left hand was yearning for something. He couldn’t even feel the chair he had been tied to. There was a struggle somewhere in the darkness and the laughter stopped. They ran and David was alone barely conscience….Someone approached him…..darkness…
David opened his good eye and choked, “How did I get here?”
“Damon rescued you and brought you here.”
David’s eyes widened and he gasped, “Damon?!”
“Yes, our cousin joined one of the search and rescue groups father sent out to find you.”
“Because he loves you, David,” Geoffrey smiled, “Is it so hard to imagine someone loving you?”
“Damon doesn’t know the meaning of the word,” David muttered.
Geoffrey frowned and said, “It does you no good to be so cold, brother.”
David sniffed humorously and said, “How would you know?”
“No man is an island, David,” Geoffrey gently rebuked, “Even someone as strong and stubborn as you needs people to lean on. For example, without Damon and father you would still be in the terrorist's hands and without me and Abraham you would have no place to rest and recover.”
“I could be with father,” David coughed.
“But you will notice your father is not here,” said a smooth voice like honey.
David vaguely looked over his feet and saw the rich and power lord, Abraham Hotchkiss, carrying a tray of food, enter the room. His black skin was smooth but was losing its luster as his slick black hair fell into his thin face. His mustache was starting to grey and his dark brown eyes twinkled with a strange light as they landed on David. Geoffrey jumped up, took the tray from Abraham, and said, “You should have called me. I would have helped you carry it up.”
“I am old, not useless, Geoffrey,” smiled Abraham as Geoffrey brought the tray to David, “How is our patient doing?”
“He’s being a grump as usual,” teased Geoffrey, gently placing the tray on David’s lap as David slowly sat up, “Father never taught David how to be grateful.”
David frowned as Geoffrey prepared his food for him.
“That is not surprising,” said Abraham standing at the foot of David’s bed.
David threw him a dark glare as Geoffrey picked up his spoon and scooped up some soup He blew on it and told David, “Open wide.”
“I can feed myself, Geoffrey,” snapped David wincing as he coughed up blood.
“Please, David, I’m just trying to help,” Geoffrey frowned.
“This was his idea and his alone, David,” said Hotchkiss, “I personally was content with letting you rot in Mordred’s Castle.”
“You can be so morbid sometimes, Abraham,” laughed Geoffrey, “Poor David would have caught his death in that cold and damp castle. He is in far better hands here.”
David stared at his brother uncertainly as Geoffrey held out the spoon for him.
“Eat, David, it’s getting cold,” pressed Geoffrey.
David took a sip from the spoon before asking, “Where is father?”
“He is busy trying to hunt down the rest of the Centralists,” said Abraham.
“He was here during the first few days. He never left your side,” said Geoffrey, “But you know how it is. He is so busy.”
David faintly nodded his head as Geoffrey offered him another spoonful of soup.
“Actually Damon has been here almost as vigilantly as Geoffrey,” said Abraham as David took a sip.
David raised an eyebrow as Geoffrey nodded his head and said, “He’s been incredibly concerned. It makes sense. He risked his life trying to save you.”
David frowned at the thought before taking another sip of soup. Even though it was painful to eat it felt good sliding down his sore throat and instantly warmed up his body. Abraham walked to the open window and closed it.
“I’m sorry, Abraham,” said Geoffrey scooping up some soup, “I just wanted to enjoy some fresh air since it finally stopped rainy.”
“It is no problem, Geoffrey,” grinned Abraham leaning against the wall, “I just didn’t want David to catch a cold on top of everything else.”
“How long am I going to be stuck here?” asked David.
“The doctor says that it will be another three to four weeks before you can eveng et out of bed,” said Geoffrey.
David groaned as Geoffrey scooped up the last bit of soup.
“Believe me, David, you’re not the only one who’s disappointed,” smirked Abraham, “The longer you’re here the longer Geoffrey will continue to ignore me.”
Geoffrey looked down with a guilty smile as David narrowed his good eye.
“He has not left your side since they brought you here. I could suffer from a heart attack and I doubt he’d notice,” said Abraham.
“That makes sense since we are brothers,” hissed David, “He should put blood first.”
Abraham kept a pleasant smile on his invisible lips, but his eyes sharpened.
“Geoffrey, I think David is done eating. Could you please take his dishes downstairs?”
Geoffrey bit his lip and looked up at Abraham uncertainly.
“It’s ok. I promise to be civil,” Abraham smirked.
Geoffrey looked at David who painfully nodded his head.
“I’ll be able to handle him on my own.”
Geoffrey nodded his head and took the tray from David. They both waited for Geoffrey to leave before dropping their smiles and pinned each other with daggerlike glares.
“One would think you would be more grateful,” said Abraham pushing himself off the wall and walking towards the bed.
“Why would I be grateful to be in your debt?” snarled David.
“My debt? No, I had no problem sending you back to Mordred’s Castle. You are in Geoffrey’s debt.”
David stared at him skeptically as Abraham stood behind Geoffrey’s chair.
Abraham laughed and said, “He practically begged me to let you stay here. I gain nothing from helping you.”
“The debt of myself and my father is nothing?” choked David, painfully raising an eyebrow.
“The debt of a dying man and his mouthpiece is worth very little nowadays.”
David groaned in pain as he attempted to lunge at Abraham.
“Be careful, my prince, you are not fully healed.”
David looked up at him and hissed, “I don’t care how much you pretend to love my brother, you don’t agree to anything unless you get something out of it.”
Abraham’s face softened slightly as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I love your brother, David. He’s a fresh ray of sunlight I have not experienced in a long time.”
David stared at him blankly.
“However, you are right. I do want something out of this,” said Abraham smiling as David scowled, “Two things actually.”
“I should have known you, two faced spider.”
“I am a survivor, David, something our country need at the moment. But don’t worry my price is not high. I simply want you to remember, when the time comes, that Geoffrey saved your life. Second, I need you to know that your angry and natural desire for vengeance will not lead to a bloody purge.”
David leant back into his pillows and stared at Abraham uncertainly.
“We, as an empire, have seen enough blood and at this point, I am afraid that a bloody retaliation might lead to a civil war.”
“Why don’t you talk to my father about this?”
“Because he is acting like a wounded animal,” scoffed Abraham, “There is no reasoning with him.”
“And you assumed I’d be rational?” asked David raising an eyebrow, “I assumed you would be able to see the full picture. Why punish your people for the sin of the few? Besides I doubt you want your future empire in the middle of a civil war.”
“You mean Luke’s future empire.”
Abraham gave him a knowing glance as Geoffrey returned.
“Abraham, Damon is here,” said Geoffrey, “And he wishes to speak with you.”
“Very well,” said Abraham rising, “David, I am glad you have rejoined the living. I hope your stay is a pleasant one.”
Abraham left the room as Geoffrey returned to his seat by David’s bed.
“I’m glad you and Abraham were getting to know each other.”
David laughed and laid back down in his bed. Geoffrey pulled the blankets up and tucked David in.
“You rest, David,” he said lovingly patting David on the shoulder.
“Why are you doing this, Geoffrey?!” snapped David.
Geoffrey stared at him with a hurt frown and puppy dog eyes.
“What do you get out of this?! Did Hotchkiss put you up to it?”
“David, I did ths because I love you. You are my brother, my younger brother. I am supposed to take care of you.”
David stared at Geoffrey trying to find a tell, but Geoffrey stared back earnestly.
“Hotchkiss taught you well<” David scoffed.
“David,” pleaded Geoffrey grabbing his hand, “Believe me. I only did this because I love you…And I miss you and Luke.”
David frowned as he raised an eyebrow.
“Abraham is nice to me and we’ve grown to love each other, but it’s not the same. I miss you and father and Luke. Damon visits often and keeps me informed, but it’s not enough. I should be with my family.”
David’s hard and painful face softened as he gently squeezed Geoffrey’s hand.
“Thank you,” he smiled, “And please forgive me. I’m not used to people sincerely caring about me.”
“I know, David,” said Geoffrey smiling, “I know how hard it is for you. Dad puts so much pressure on you and people expect so much from you, but’s ok, David, you don’t have to be strong in front of me. I’m your brother. I’ll accept you no matter what.”
David returned Geoffrey’s smile and gently squeezed his hand.
“I’m sorry I can’t do more to help you,” said Geoffrey looking at David’s disfigured hand.
“Just help me get back on my feet and it’ll be enough.”
“David…you can talk to me about it, if you want to,” whispered Geoffrey, “If you think it will help.”
David looked away from Geoffrey as he felt the ghost of his missing fingers. A small, hot sharp knife sliced through his pinky as power arms held him down, his screams echoing and were met by cruel, laughter.
“No, thank you, Geoffrey,” he swallowed, “but I think it would be best if I just forgot about it.”
Geoffrey nodded his head as he gave David’s good hand a gentle squeeze.
“Tell me about your life here, Geoffrey. Do you enjoy it?”
Abraham glided down the spiral staircase into the main hall and saw Damon, a drink in hand, studying a painting of his departed son.
“He was a handsome young man,” Damon said, turning to face Abraham.
“That’s because he inherited his mother’s good looks,” said Abraham loving looking at the portrait before looking at Damon, “David is awake.”
Damon’s eyes flashed as he asked, “How is he?”
“I do not know,” Abraham frowned, “He is as aggressive as ever.”
“But?” asked Damon, taking a sip of scotch.
“he is a wounded man who’s pride is hurt and I’m afraid he’s itching for a chance to achieve revenge.”
“That is not surprising,” shrugged Damon.
“And it’s fine for a young man, but you know his father has turned into a basket case. All he needs is David encouraging him and we have a potential civil war on our hands.”
“Are things that bad?”
“I have tried to keep things under control, but the lords cannot keep the lid on forever,” warned Abraham, “If things don’t change soon we might want to consider moving to Ferdern.”
Damon took another sip of scotch and said, “David is not stupid.”
“But he is angry and he is a very insecure young man.”
“Have you talked to him?”
“Yes,” scoffed Abraham, “But it’s like talking to a brick wall. He does not trust me.”
“He trusts no one, except his father.”
“I should start packing my bags,” drawled Abraham.
Damon smirked as he took a sip from his scotch.
“Why are you here, Damon?” asked Abraham, “You didn’t know he was awake.”
“Am I not allowed to visit my cousin?” asked Damon.
Abraham stared at him skeptically which caused Damon to laugh.
“You’ve gotten paranoid in your old age.”
“No, I have a long memory. Your parents often tried to buy favors from me and I know you are no different.”
Damon laughed and said, “I am in the king’s highest favor because I saved his son and butchered the Centralist dogs. Why would I need a favor from you? You are losing your usefulness old man.”
Abraham’s eyes glowed as he snarled, “You need me because you know that, not only is Philip fickle, but he is dying and once he dies, a power vacuum will be created and you will have no one to protect you.”
Damon’s smile remained glue on his face as his eyes hardened.
“Thank you for your concern, my Lord, but I am fine.”
“Don’t lie to a liar, Damon,” laughed Abraham, “I know Luke and David avoid you like the plague. The only reason I even let you in here is because Geoffrey is too kind hearted to know any better.”
Damon’s smile disappeared and was now replaced with a hideous sneer.
“And what of you, old man? David has no more love for you than you have for his father and even Luke isn’t stupid enough to trust you. And you may have control over the lords now, but watch how quickly they abandon you when they discover you’ve been abandoned by the royal family?”
Abraham smirked and said, “Forgive me, young Glasgow. Did I touch a nerve?”
“Admit it, old man, we need each other.”
“I do not have my eyes on the throne.”
“Neither do I. It’s too hazardous a position,” shrugged Damon, “I simply want to survive.”
Abraham watched Damon curiously before raising an eyebrow and asked, “I know what you want from me, but what can you offer me?”
Damon finished his drink and looked up the staircase with a smirk, “The ability to control David.”
Abraham furrowed his eyebrows and said, “Explain.”
“It’s simple. I’ve saved David’s life. He owes me. David is many things, but unchivalrous he’s not. I will use my one favor to gain his trust, providing you a spy and confidant.”
“David will never suspect?” said Abraham skeptically.
“I am not a five cent thespian, Abraham,” Damon feigned insult, “I’ve played with the best my entire life.”
Abraham folded his arms before his chest as he continued to stared at Damon.
“At the very least, let me try. What do you have to lose?”
“And Abraham is taking me to see Jennifer LeSalle tomorrow…that is if you don’t need me,” said Geoffrey.
“I’ll be fine,” grinned David.
They looked up as the door opened and David’s eyes glowed as Damon entered.
“Oh, Damon!” cried Geoffrey with a grin, “Have you heard the good news?! David is awake!”
“I know,” smiled Damon, “Lord Hotchkiss told me.”
“Geoffrey,” said David sitting up, “Could you please leave us?”
His older brother looked at him alarmed but David gave him a reassuring smile. Geoffrey rose with a frown and reluctantly dragged his feet across the room. He threw David a faint, troubled glance before closing the door.
“How are you feeling, dear cousin?” asked Damon kindly as he took Geoffrey’s seat.
“I’m in great pain,” groaned David, “But I’m alive.”
“I heard it was because of you.”
“”I did my part.”
David smirked, “I’ve never heard you be so modest.”
Damon laughed, “I’m not one to hold a debt over someone’s head.”
“I hardly see how I am in your debt when the only reason you even went on the hunt was to gain revenge for your parent’s death.”
“I could have left you behind.”
David sniffed, “And suffer the wrath of my father.”
“But I would have won the favor of Luke.”
David narrowed his eyes and said, “A useless favor.”
“Not if he is king.”
David painfully shifted in his bed and said, “We have a long time before that disaster occurs.”
“I think it will occur sooner than you think,” said Damon picking at his nails.
“What do you want, Damon?”
His cousin looked up and said, “I wanted to make sure you were ok. I was worried about you.”
“I mean what favor do you want from me? The sooner I can pay back that debt, the better.”
Damon laughed, “But it does me no good to throw a debt away.”
David glared at him as Damon folded his arms over his chest and looked over David with a strange glint in his eyes.
“Your father will be happy to know you are awake.”
David slowly nodded his head as he disappeared into the pillows.
“I heard he’s on the rampage,” he sighed, staring at the ceiling.
“That’s one way of putting it, not that I blame him. Those Centralist dogs need to be punished,” said Damon playing with his nails.
“Haven’t you spilt enough blood?”
Damon glanced at David as he continued to play with his nails.
“I thought you of all people would want revenge.”
David frowned and said, “I do…more than you can imagine, but…”
Damon furrowed his non-existent eyebrows as David licked his chapped lips.
The young Shadow prince closed his eyes as his ghost fingers tingled and his body ached and he could hear their chatter echoing in the room.
“Hotchkiss wants me to show restraint,” he sighed, his eyes still closed, “He is afraid of a civil war.”
Damon watched David closely and said, “It sounds like an old man being paranoid.”
David opened his eyes and said, “But what if he is right?”
His cousin raised an eyebrow as he leant back in his chair.
“I think it’s far too late to worry about that.”
David looked at Damon surprised.
“Do you really think so?”
“I believe that if the people are not given hope soon, we will fall into civil war,” said Damon gravely, “The people love your father, but they know he is ill and they are afraid of the power vacuum that will occur once he dies. They need a leader.”
David frowned and said, “Wouldn’t a leader destroy his enemies?”
“Only after ensuring the safety and prosperity of his people.”
David went back to staring at the ceiling and sighed, “In that case, the Centralist are not the enemy. Not to my people.”
David grimaced as their laughter echoed in his ears and his bones broke.
“All who have ever laughed as us.”
Damon frowned and said, “You’re going to have to be a bit more specific.”
“Damon, you do not wish to see Luke ascend the throne.”
“No,” Damon laughed.
“And you do not trust Hotchkiss.”
“I have no reason to,” said Damon guardedly.
“So that leaves you with one option. Me.”
Damon smiled, “Only if you have a place for me.”
“That would depend on your loyalty.”
Damon narrowed his eyes as he said, “I am loyal to the winner, David. It’s the only way to survive. You know that.”
“Damon, I have a plan…I’m creating a plan,” David corrected, groaning as his side acted up, “That will ensure we are the winners. I will need your help.”
“You have a plan to heal our empire?”
“I have a plan that will reset the world’s balance.”
Damon’s eyes widened as the door opened and Geoffrey walked in.
“I have given you two enough time to talk. Damon, you can come back tomorrow if you wish, but David really needs to rest,” he said shooing Damon away.
“Geoffrey, I am fine,” said David but Damon nodded his head.
“It’s fine. We will continue our discussion tomorrow. Get some rest, David. It sounds like you will need your strength in the days to come.”