Others, 42

It Is the Rare Person Who Has the Dubious Satisfaction of Having Their Life End Where it Began

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Elias Aerchon’s life had begun in a prison cell. Perhaps he hadn’t been born in one, though perhaps he had, but either way he’d spent enough time in them as a boy that it made no difference. Vandalism, theft, breaking and entering, threats, assault, sexual misconduct, drugs and alcohol, always drugs and alcohol, often together. Until one day the city guard in White Cape had grown tired of him and had thrown him in a cell with some of the rougher criminals in the city for a few days.

Elias had learned very quickly that he was nowhere near as tough as he’d thought he was, and that people far more intimidating, strong and mean than him were very happy to teach him the lessons he needed in respect, politeness and decency.

Many people Elias had known as a child would have taken that lesson to mean they had to be stronger and meaner to avoid being hurt like that in the future. Elias had taken it to mean he had to live a different life. The boy he’d been had died in that prison cell, beaten and raped to unconsciousness for mouthing off to someone for no reason, and a new person had been born from his corpse.

Elias had never touched drugs or alcohol again, he’d stopped stealing, stopped harassing people. He’d gotten an apprenticeship as a shipbuilder, before leaving it after a few years to join the navy. He’d devoted his life to fighting pirates, protecting the coasts and seas. To protecting Dolovai from harm.

And now here he was, an admiral. And in prison once again, waiting for the end of his life.

The cell door creaked open, and someone came in with his daily meal.

Elias was no fool. No matter how loyal he’d been to the kingdom, no matter how useful he’d been to the crown, they weren’t going to keep him alive. They couldn’t. The whole point of what he’d been doing was that it had to be kept underground, a secret.

The people he’d kept in a far worse prison than this one had been integral to the defence of the kingdom. The last few years of Elias’s career had been marked by report after report of Imperial ships encroaching on Dolovin waters, seemingly benign, but not truly. There were so many of them—the Empire was massive, and their navy dwarfed Dolovai’s without land forces ever having to come into the equation.

And so of course Elias had taken the chance to modify people, give them special powers, in the hopes that they’d be able to fend off the Empire. All he’d had to do was allow the use of the space on his base, and check on them occasionally, report to the Sorcerer King. It had been easy. And easy to convince himself it was for the greater good.

Because it had been.

The guard put his food tray down on a low table near the cot. Elias’s status gave him a better cell than others. A small cot, a small table, a lamp. Better conditions than the people he’d held under the base. His legs were shackled together, but that was it.

The guard wasn’t the usual guard who brought his food. This was a young woman, slender, curly hair pulled into a tail under her helmet. She looked clean, soft. She didn’t walk like a soldier or a guard. Elias watched her carefully. “Who sent you?” he asked.

The woman looked at him. She resembled Prince Gavin somewhat, though perhaps that was a trick of the lamplight. “Does it matter?”

“It does.”

“There’s dessert for you today,” the woman said, voice crisp but soft.

There was a small bowl of what appeared to be pudding on the tray along with Elias’s bread and boiled vegetables and water. He looked at it, and looked at her. She looked back. “I’m not a coward,” Elias said quietly. The pudding reeked of peanuts, the smell alone enough to make his throat itch.

“I know you’re not. But your trial date’s been set. Your advocate is a friend of the queen’s. The prince has lined up a dozen of your victims to speak of the atrocities you helped commit. There are people looking into your whole life, everything you’ve ever done, to speak to your character. It’s going to be a disgusting spectacle and you’re going to be the starring actor.”

“I have no regrets,” Elias told the woman, crossing his arms. “And if I had the chance I’d continue the experiment. Start it again, even.”

“I know. So would I,” said the woman. She sat down on the bed. “But we don’t have that chance. There are other ways to fight the Empire.”

“Perhaps. But we should use all the means available to us,” said Elias, face stony. “I am aware that I will be executed. But I have the right to a trial where I can make my case compellingly.” He also knew the king and queen supported him, even if they couldn’t say so publicly. They had no choice but to kill him, but his trial would be a spectacle. It would draw a huge crowd.

And Elias would use the spectacle to make sure that as many of the capital’s elite as possible knew what Elias hadn’t known as a child. There was a way to beat someone mean, intimidating and big withing becoming just like them. And that was to become something that they were afraid of, something that would scare them to a bargaining table. And there was a way to do that.

The woman looked at him, and she sighed. “Fine. It’s your reputation, and your life. I’ll leave the pudding with you, just in case you change your mind.”

She stood up. Elias watched her go. “Who sent you?” he asked again.

“The Sorcerer King. He’s worried you’ll talk about the other experiment sites at the trial.”

Solomon had implied before that he had ties to the royal family. This woman had to be the king’s niece, Gloria Sanct. She resembled the family too much not to be. “Are they still running?”

“Some of them. For now.”

“Then I won’t say a thing about them.”

“Okay. The damage this trial is going to do to the country is immeasurable.”

Elias nodded. “I know. Sometimes, a thing needs to be damaged to realize how to repair itself.”

“I wouldn’t know. I’ll see you at the trial, Admiral.”

“And I you, your Highness.”

The woman left, and Elias carefully picked up the bowl of pudding, got off the bed, and hobbled across the room to his bucket. He dumped the pudding in, careful not to let any touch his skin. He was no coward. And he was no fool. The trial would harm the country, he knew that. It might even kill Dolovai. And just like the boy Elias Aerchon had once been, it would rise again. Smarter and better.

Elias wanted to keep his strength up for the trial, so he ate his meal, intending to finish it all even if the lingering smell of peanut was making him feel unwell.

After the first three bites, the peanut oil on the vegetables closed up his throat, and he couldn’t breathe to call for help.

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8 thoughts on “Others, 42

  1. Gloria is really going above and beyond to prop up Gerard and Georgina’s reign.

    One hopes she doesn’t mind going down with the ship. This doesn’t seem like the kind of story where corruption and injustice are neatly swept under the rug in the name of stability.


    1. She really does seem invested in that, doesn’t she? You’re right, this does seem like the kind of story where something is actually done about corruption regardless of the consequences…so I guess we’ll see how well that goes for Gloria in the long run.



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