Chapter 4

Breakage and Bondage

Rocks skidded down the steep path, falling into the oblivion below. For the first time in a long while, Lucius found himself panting hard in fear- those rocks could have been him.

He was making his way down from the peaceful ravine, when an especially bad wave of pain had hit him. He had clutched instinctively at his head- the main target of the pain, and lost his footing.

Still panting, Lucius moved away from the unsteady edge, and into the cradle of roots made by the pine that hung precariously on the near vertical side of the plateau. He could no longer block the voices out with patching. At this rate, it would take him forever to climb down- he would be lucky to get down this mountain alive at all. There simply must be a way to rid of the voices and waves. Lucius closed his eyes, as if waiting for inspiration to drift to him.

Flowers, and tough weeds alike, laid dead and withered at his feet, as no wind stirred in the heavy evening air...

Lucius flew through the outer walls of his thoughts, and into the mistier regions of his own mind until he found 'The Knot'. He found it strangely frayed, and the usual feeling of solitude seemed to waver like an image in extreme heat. Lucius this be connected to the agony and voices he was experiencing? Lucius touched one of the frayed threads tentatively. He watched as it began to unravel, and was quickly followed by another, and then….

Lucius screamed, rolling himself into a ball as agony washed over him. He need to do something to ease the pain, he needed help. Disoriented, and pain still eating at the edges of his being, Lucius got up and tried to walk.

One step too hurried, one step too quick…one wrong step, and Luciusfelt his angle twist sharply. Tripping backwards into a tangle of wild bumbush, Lucius lost his balance.

He felt himself fall.

Emperor Leasn of Hwa nodded acknowledgement as his youngest son entered the room. "I see that you are ready," he said.

"Yes, Sire," was the calm and cool answer. The youngest prince in a long line of eight brothers, and sisters was a handsome young man. At the very moment, he was painted in forest green, and he wore serviceable green cloak, tunic, trousers, and knee high boots. His dark auburn hair boasted two white streaks- as befitted his rank- not as a prince, but the captain of the Lithnet.

The Lithnet is a highly trained group of scouts- in both camouflage and weaponry. It was rumoured that they moved so cunningly, they could move two hundred of their men through a town with no one the wiser. All princes and princesses served a period of two twelve' di's as soon as they reach twenty in the Lithnet, and at twenty-two they were relieved of duty. All princes, and princesses also started on the very bottom of the chain as a ranker- and earned their ranks as rankers did.

Not sparing another glance at his son, the Emperor said, "Hyesuan, I hope this scouting party to the forest bordering Shin won't be a disappointment. And take Pederic with you. As much as you and I both hate his imprudent and lazy ways, he is very good at what he does." The Emperor finally looked up at Hyesuan, "I'm sure you've been briefed on the information you must acquire about our enemy's movements?"

"Yes, Sire," Prince Hyesuan answered equally emotionlessly. Only the smallest glint of amusement passed his beautifully slanted eyes at the mention of Pederic- so slight, in fact, many would have sworn it was only their imagination.

"You may leave." The captain bowed his way out of his liege's room- ready to carry out orders.

After the conversation with his Royal Father, Hyesuan made his way to the hidden hills behind the Gardens- nodding to those that bowed to him.

Dashing swiftly, as only the Captain of Lithnet could, Hyesuan made sure no one saw him as he entered a secret garden cleverly disguised by intermingling spiketrees.

"Oh, knock it off, Sungie. I know you're here, you know I know that you know that I know you're here. Officer status is seriously getting to your head. Who's going to follow you through that swamp anyways?" The owner of the voice, who was crouched over a large pile of manure, didn't even glance at his Prince.

"Hey, stranger things have happened. After all, who would have thought that the infamous 'Pederic's favorite pastime is gardening." Hyesuan smirked. Eric hated it when people used his full name.

"Stop calling me that. Who in their right mind would name there son Pederic?" Eric asked tragically. "What are you doing still standing there, grab a shovel and help me with this sht…literally."

Hyesuan rolled his eyes, "And Hell has frozen over, Eric actually ordering others to work." Despite his sarcasm, Hyesuan grabbed a shovel and walked over to Eric and the pile of manure he was shoveling. Rhythmically and wordlessly, both continued to shovel in the comfortable silence.

Because the Emperor instinctively disliked Eric, and distained over his's laziness, the Emperor and the people just as instinctively thought that their beloved Prince disliked Eric as well. However, maybe because of the strict traditions and rules that filled the Prince's life, he found Eric's rebellious personality very attractive; or maybe because Hyesung and Eric just mutually liked each other because of mutual interests like gardening; or maybe because Eric found Hyesuan's orderliness a new sensation in his life. Whatever the reason, and granted there are moments when their strong personalities clashed, the two got along just fine.

To others, the jibes that the two threw at each other, and the fact that they never missed a chance to goad each other,might seem like rivalry between the Captain of the Lithnet, and the best spy in the company, but both took it in stride. Neither Eric nor Hyesuan saw more than teasing in each other's words, and often surprisedthe enemyby their unity. The two, of course, being who they are, found it highly amusing to fool others about their friendship, and once or twiceeventook it to a level where they had mock duels.

Eric poured the bucket full of spring water over his face, and moved over for Hyesung to take his turn washing. Hyesuan took the empty bucket from Eric's hand and upturned it over his face. He looked up in surprise when no water splashed onto his face.

Eric shook his head tragically, "Had an audience with Poppy?"

"Stop calling the Emperor, Poppy," Hyesung corrected irritably as he filled his bucket.

Eric smirked, "Another scouting?"

Hyesuan nodded, wiping his face with a towel.

"So when do I see you off, Your Highness?" Eric continued, looking smug.

Hyesung grinned evilly, "Oh no, you're coming with me this time."