Chapter Six: The Ruling Traitor
The Sixth Law: The Priests of Danae may take and question or imprison any man within the city if the man is under scrutiny for a Sin. Any man who will not go along peacefully with the Priests must be put to death, by order of the Priests of Danae, acting in accordance with the wishes of the Lord God Almighty.
Adrian had lived at the place where the priest took him for one long, hard winter. There had been other children, of course. Children who rushed whenever they left the secluded safety of the rooms, bare and hollow like the one Adrian was assigned. Children who huddled together for warmth when, do to some misdeed or other, they were banished into the courtyard, or had their blankets taken from them for the night. Children who, after years of living in this depraved place became little more than walking skeletons; hollow beings who could not think. Could not live, but still could not die.
Adrian was there three days before he was branded. Though he still did not know why he had been taken from his family, nor what the place he had been taken was, he understood the red brand laying in the fire in front of him. There was an unnerving gleam in the man's eyes as he pulled the iron rod from the fire, and gave the command for Adrian to be held down. An unknown someone rushed forwards, wrapping his strong limbs around the boy's torso. Adrian tried to squirm away, his eyes locked on the vicious rod in front of him, and his heart beating hard in his ears. "Hold his 'ead," the man said, and a second of his assistants complied, grabbing Adrian by the hair so he couldn't move away. The man took the final step towards him. Adrian could smell the rum on his breath, and the smoke on his clothing. When the red hot rod touched his skin, just beneath his right ear, he screamed.
The memory that fought into his dreams at night always left him terrified. As he woke, panting hard, and fully aware of the pain pounding through his ribs, he could almost feel the heat of the brand on his skin. Almost hear his own childlike screams. Almost taste the smoke, and the smell of his burnt flesh. With one reminiscent finger he traced the raised, rough skin beneath his ear.
It had taken countless weeks to heal. It had been the first in many incidents to change his lot forever.
Adrian peered through the darkness in which he was always left. Once a comfort to a boy used to solitude, the darkness now pressed upon him. Trying to control his raging heart, he squeezed his eyes shut tight. It was foolish, he knew. Only littles were afraid of the dark. Only the smallest children jumped in the night at the slightest sounds around them. Only the weak were terrified of being left by themselves.
But only Adrian knew the power, and the horror, that darkness could bring.
He dozed again, and was awakened an unknown time later by the sudden hiss of a match, and the bright glow of a candle sputtering to life. The boy stared, transfixed, at the glowing wick as he slowly woke and then, with a shock, glanced upwards at the person who had brought the half-melted candle back from it's gutted form. He was tall, with a square jaw and one red, hollow scar running diagonally across the thick blade of his nose before jutting inwards to nick the corner of his upper lip. His eyes were dark and spoke of experience and power. His silvered hair and jutted chin commanded authority, while heavy brows narrowed those haunted eyes.
"Who—" Adrian began hesitantly. Without waiting for the boy to finish his sentence, the man cut across him.
"I am the one they call Lord." Adrian stared blankly, wondering groggily what exactly had been in that porridge.
"I don't believe in God." He replied blankly. The man smiled slightly, but rather than welcoming, the expression looked strangely foreboding.
"Than it may interest you to know that I do not either." Adrian stared again at this stranger who lorded high above him. "I am he who brought you here, Adrian Lightfoot." Comprehension and memory dawned on Adrian, the realization spreading visibly over his face.
"At th' guill. The false priest was you?" The man nodded. There was a pressing silence. Adrian, propped into a sitting position, looked away from the man's piercing gaze. He didn't quite know what to say, and felt strangely inadequate. Thankfully, the man was th one to break the silence with crisp, clean words.
"I half expected for you to be gone by now, thief." Adrian grinned wryly.
"Nah," he replied, cringing at the roughness still in his voice, "Figgered him tha' took me, I owes 'im summat. Mebey he's e'en got a plan afore he took me." A curious look in his eye, the man sunk into the stool previously occupied by the young woman with the basket of medicines. "And what would make you think that the debt owed was already considered?" Adrian shrugged.
"'Cuz if not, some real dafties goin;' 'round pullin' the likes o' me outta trubble all random like, an' 'es gon wind up in the guill or in prison." The man chuckled.
"You are not nearly as dim as many would assume." Adrian scoffed.
"Can't be. Leastwise, I'da bin dead long afore now. Takes a mort o' learning t'be that what I am, an let me tell ye I'm a dab hand at it."
"Why tell me this?" the man questioned gently, "Would it not be better to tell me that I've taken the wrong boy, that you're useless and I should let you free?" Adrian shook his head.
"If'n 'm useless, yed turf me sure certain, an' then where I'd be? Back in the guill. Nah. S'better t' tell ye th' truth, and zactly what I kin do. Then, ye don' get funny ideers 'bout me, an' I find what it is ye want." "So what is it that you do, Adrian Rames?" Adrian considered.
"I reckon ye know," he replied, "Ye were at th'execution, not tha' it went 'cordin' t' plan, and ye prolly paid attention be'er 'n me." He grinned again, "I bein' a little distracted." The man nodded once more.
"I know what you have done, my boy, but I know not what you do, nor who you are. These are the things I wish to know." Adrian considered this. Where he was, technically, still a prisoner, he also figured himself a valuable one, and therefore had a certain amount of leverage.
"Ye kin answer a few questions of me own first, I reckon," he replied slowly, "Ye know m' name, and what ye wan' wi' a thief. That's a mort more'n I ken"
"I will consent to that much," the man replied. "My name is Perrin. My followers refer to me as Lord Perrin"
"Yer th' master, then?" Adrian asked, "Of th' girl what was in afore"
"More of a… leader," he replied, "I do not force those beneath me to complete the tasks I assign. I am not a cruel man, Adrian. But I do have certain… ambitions"
"Most people do," Adrian said with a shrug. "Leastwise, most I know." Perrin's eyebrows rose.
"And you do not"
"Nah. My on'y ambition is a full belly an' a comfor'ble flop. Can't ask fer more, 'n' if ye do, ye'll be disspoin'ed. Not," he added sardonically, "That ye'll niver be diss'poiunted if'n ye on'y want th' flop an' feed"
"You've had a hard life, then?" the Lord asked softly "Nah, not as such. Had sum good things, and a few badduns. Reckon more badduns 'n good, but tha's just life, innit?" The man chuckled again, and silence followed with the same awkwardness as before.
There was something about this stranger. An odd confidence and courtesy that led Adrian to trust him, against those learned instincts that saw a possible enemy in each face. There was an understanding in his hard eyes that caused Adrian to want to confide in him, tell him his life's story. A story that he had sworn was for him mind only. But still… the dark eyes bore into him, making him squirm. He had to say something. Had to confess some of his tale to those strange eyes. "I—I dreamed of you, I think," Adrian said softly, "In the prison. I thought I was hallucinating. It sounded like you, though." He blushed at this strange confession. "It was no dream, son," Perrin replied, "I was there when you were in the prison. I whispered that I was to save you; to give you hope. I heard word that you were nearly dead. I thought even the slightest whisper of hope might bring you through"
"But how did ya get in?" Adrian demanded, "If I coudna' get out, how'd ya get in?" Perrin chuckled.
"It is surprising," he said, "how little security prisons have for people attempting to enter them. It is not very common"
"Well on'y a daftie would wanta get into prison," Adrian muttered, and then quickly tried to rectify, "I on'y mean…" Perrin held up a hand, a humored smile spreading beneath his silvered beard.
"No offense taken, lad," he said, "It is an odd attempt to make, trying to get into a prison that few know exist." He raised a brow, "But I will understand if you are glad I did. Even if I am a 'daftie,' as you so plainly say it." Adrian reddened, averting his eyes. Perrin eyed him with equal measures of curiosity and judgment. "Many of my men—those that are aware of your existence—are not happy with my choice, Adrian." The boy looked up again, meeting the man's black eyes. "They are suspicious of you, and do not trust me in allowing a thief into our midst"
"An' what d'ye think 'bout tha'?" Adrian scoffed.
"I believe that they are mistaken," Perrin replied evenly, "Blood and guild do not mean everything, young one. You have knowledge and expertise like no highborn in this city. I have chosen, for the time being, to place my complete trust in you." He rose and turned towards the door. "Keep in mind, child; I do not like to be proven wrong."
The candle flickered out.