High Prince James Viante Montaine Del Timeria De’Arc is exactly what he seems. The spoiled, unprincipled son of the most powerful man in the known world, his whole life is presented to him on a golden platter, his every wish carefully tended to, his every command fulfilled. Conversely, Dante is a Taboo child, his very existence a sin, his life a crime punishable only by death. But Dante has one thing James wants more than anything - an adventure like those in the old stories, a time without the ever-present boredom that threatens to strangle James. And for this gift, the wealthy boy is willing to pay any price, break any oath, destroy anyone and everyone in his way.


5. I.

 I have never seen the sun, never basked in its warm glow, the rays that pierce the cold of winter. I heard stories of it, though, from my mother, so very long ago. Stories of suns and moons and stars that burn in a sky bigger than the ceiling of her room, an ocean that holds worlds in its depths. I remember those stories now, looking down from my perch, eyes squinted against the glaring, blinding brilliance below.
 It is brighter than anything I have ever seen, or at least anything I have seen in years. Those mirrored lamps my mother had, they may have been brighter, though I cannot remember. But it has been years since those days, years of darkness punctuated with brief intervals of smoky dull light and flickering shadows.
 Even with my eyes closed I can feel the burning brightness beyond my thin lids, piercing into my mind, into my soul, laying bare the darkness within, the emptiness and the sins I hold so close that even I can no longer see them. I writhe there, trying to escape that harsh, clarifying light, the visual overload forcing me to rely solely upon my other senses.
 Luckily, those are quite sharp, honed further by years in the darkness, straining for the slightest hint of sound, the smallest breath of fresh air. By pressing my palms over my aching eyes, effectively shutting out almost all the light, I can enhance them further.
 Sharp, polished metal. Rusty, salty violent blood. Pain and death and sorrow swirl through the air, each a distinct scent, an essence that my nose can barely detect over the reek of my prison. But they don’t matter, and I push them away, eagerly digging for the smell I know must be below – fresh, intoxicatingly clean air.
 “Bloody-” I can hear them below me, not quite in the room but standing in the doorway. “What the hell is this place?” The sound, rough and guttural, is so different from the way she spoke that I flinch away, pressing myself further into the crevice of debris, a few of the shards falling down the slope. “God’s tears it smells! My prince, please, I must ask th-”
 A softer voice cuts through the first, quiet but full of something I cannot name, cannot remember hearing before. Even my mother could not sound like that, could not be so sure of herself. “Enough, Captain. There is something awaiting us within, so please, spare no thought to my safety and fulfil your duty to my father.”
 The harsh voice mutters something in reply, but I miss it, unable to distinguish words from the mumbling stream of gibberish. But I know one thing. They know that I am here, and they will find me, and I know that they will kill me when they do.
 I move slowly, only a hair’s breadth at a time, grasping the rubbish to make sure it cannot fall, cannot tell them where I am. Finally I can peer over the top of the mound, can look down and squint into their still-too-bright lights. There are four of them, three shining in the gloom, the last smaller, weaker.
 “Let’s burn it out, Johnas. Set fire to this stinking heap and let whatever it conceals come to us.” One of the shining ones, moving out of the doorway after the first.
 “No, Corporal. You would burn the whole building and us with it. Unfortunately, we have to search this pit the old way.”
 I wait until they pass below me, then I creep along the wall, still high above their heads. It takes concentration to ignore the sounds they make, the smells they fill the air with, the light they bring with them, but I can do it. I have to do it.
 The weak one is standing in the doorway, and the closer I come the more I realize that he smells different as well. Less like blood and death and pain, more like food. The idea makes my mouth water and I quicken my pace. In my excitement, I almost forget the fourth intruder, standing beside the prey.
 But I don’t. In fact, I fall upon him first, my fingers sliding on the metal he wears like skin, catching on the ridged parts, doing nothing but make enough noise to let all four know I am here. But my teeth do enough, the sharp canines easily sliding into flesh, as I dig them into his exposed throat. This man really should not have taken off his metal-hat.
 Blood, so salty-sweet I can hardly stand it, hits my tongue in a wave and I tear a chunk from his throat as he falls. The taste is amazing, the feeling of the meat in my stomach incredible.
 I want more.
 The weak one is my next target. Even in my craze, my desire, I know I must move quickly or the other two metal-men will catch me. The weak one wears no metal, no hard skin to keep my teeth away, so they sink easily into his arm as he flails a small metal knife at me. I do not feel it snag on my flesh, do not care because I am escaping.
 I am going to be free. I am going to live.
 Something slams into the back of my head and I fall from my victim, the darkness surrounding me in a familiar blanket.

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