"Dark Stag" - Chapter 8


            Richard and I stood in the shared vanity, getting ready for the morning breakfast. He didn’t look too joyous this morning, even deeper in thought than he normally was. He sighed, his eyes falling down to the countertop. The boy reached in his pocket pulling out a flask.
“Brija came across this not too long ago…” Richard began, “In the lounge…”
            I knew precisely what this was used for. This tiny piece of glass could mean so much.
“Oh god, I hope that isn’t what I think it is…” I said, closing my eyes.
“I’m afraid so Roi. I think father snorts this stuff…” Richard sighed.
“He doesn’t give a FUCK!!!!” I said, banging a fist on the counter.
“No, you need to calm down. We don’t have definitive proof if father is on crystals.” Richard pleaded.
“I’m tired! You don’t know what I’ve put up with and how this makes me feel, Richard! You genuinely don’t! All that man has put me through, and now he’s gonna put us ALL THROUGH!” I yelled.
“You’re right I don’t. Maybe I should be angry but there’s got to be a way around this…” Richard pleaded.
“Reason? You’re trying to reason? With that? I never thought there’d be a day where I could see the truth and you can’t! WE CAN’T!”  I said lifting up the flask, “If he’s on this shit, then how do you suppose we reason with him?”
“What does it do?” Richard asked, not knowing much about lithium crystals. The only thing I could do was shake my head.
“It makes you spiral. It’s fast acting, very fast acting… It turns you from sane to psycho in a matter of weeks and is impossible to quit… He’s doomed.” I said. Richard’s eyes lit up in horror.
“We still don’t know if he’s on it or not. We can’t just presume…” Richard responded, not wanting to believe it. It was hard not to believe it.
“He is…” I said, getting up and heading back to my room. I put on some jockey gear and headed to the brunch table.
            Minutes later, Richard arrived. The table began to fill with subjects, the last to arrive being the king. He seemed to be in a good mood, alarmingly so.
“Good morning everyone.” He said. Even mother was unsettled.
“Goodmorning…” We all said back.
“Any luck on finding the boy?” The king asked.
“No, but we have someone under observation who we believe will lead us right to him.” The left hand nobleman smiled. He made my stomach churn, the very man responsible for all my heartache and turmoil.
            However, it wasn’t the bigger issue. The issue was this subject under observation. Richard and I knew precisely who it was… Mercury.
“Really? The king asked, “Who? I hope it’s not someone in my court…”
“Unfortunately, it is your grace… It’s an Illisian born under the Official Court and a member of the Official Guard. We tracked the scent of Kijus as well as his stag back to the Illisian’s home… Right now, we have agents looking for any suspicious activity…”
            Father’s joy seemed to funnel out of him, filling instead with hurt and betrayal.
“Someone in my court betrayed me?” The king asked, “Why not have him arrested now?”
“We simply don’t have enough evidence…” The king’s right hand nobleman said.
            There had to be something else at play here. After replaying all the events that occurred in my mind, I noticed that the the left hand nobleman has always been in my father’s ear. Something was going unsaid, and I was going to get to the bottom of it!
“He knows!” The king insisted, “What rarity is it to find multiple Illisians in this city? They know of each other! Wasn’t it an Illisian that audited Kijus in the beginnig?”
“Yes, we believe it is the same Illisian…” The right hand nobelman said.
“Richard, Roi… How does it feel to know that your plan to hide Kijus is about to fail?” The king asked, eyeing us both. I looked at father intently.
“That’s not what I’m worried about right now.” I said, with a brisk eyebrow raise. The right hand nobleman looked at me, feeling something was vastly different.
            I wasn’t that same little kid he could violate and manipulate. He began to realized that I was on to him. I wasn’t the only one he violated and manipulated. Still though the man was clever. A smile widened across his face.
“How are you doing this morning, Roi?” He asked. His voice made me shudder with hatred.
“Save your stupid face…” I said with an eye roll. It made father raise an eyebrow.
“Is that how I taught you to talk to someone of the royal court, Roi?” Father asked, his normal intimidating demeanor doing absolutely nothing.
“Open your eyes…” I sighed, leaving the table.
“ROI!” Father roared, “The hell is wrong that boy? He is getting very…”
“Audacious?” The nobleman finished, “I think we need to watch him… He could be… He might try something.”
“My son wouldn’t dare…” Mother said in my defense. She found my actions bizarre as well.
            I made it to the bottom of the stairs, heading towards the aviary. The whole while, I was thinking about Sir Sicoshian, the man responsible for such a dark period of my life. Every single last family issue we had could have been caused by him. But what was his game, though? Did he want something out of this or was he just plain evil?
I entered the aviary, unsure why I came here. Silver was returning letters and I didn’t
have another type of raptor to utilize. But still though, this place was enough to calm me down. It was my only escape from the stresses of living in the palace. With nothing to do, I began checking on the raptors, making sure their paddocks were clean. I inspected each and every bird, making sure all were mite free and properly plumed.
“We need someone standing watch for these raptors… Like, actual people taking care of them when we can’t…” I said to myself.
            I walked by Silver’s enclosure, entering it. Everything looked normal, the platforms still looking new, the floor cleaned and free of excrement. However, the vacancy really got to me. It made me want to leave so bad, just to get away from it all. This was something I needed to do… There had to be something I could do to get out of here, to never come back. One thing I remember clearly was the sheer amount of homework Kijus had done before he made his escape. It was an overwhelming amount of work, something I didn’t want to do. There never was an easy solution.
All the wishing in the world couldn’t get me out of here. All the wishing in the world couldn’t erase my past. All the wishing in the world couldn’t rid this deep dark hatred I’ve tried to hide for so long. It couldn’t get rid of this overwhelming feeling of being alone, like no one truly understood. Then to be confronted by the same man every day, the very man who took from me what he shouldn’t have done, made me feel quite trapped.
I remembered the very first time vividly. I was only seven, too young to truly understand. It was my bath time and Sir Socoshian was the official in charge of taking care of me, my brother and sister while our parents were away. He washed me, dried me and did everything as normal as he did countless times before. Things took a turn when he took out olive oil.
“What’s that for?” I asked him, oblivious to what he was about to do to me. 
“The hot water makes your skin dry… This will make it better.” He smiled, his sinister little mind ticking.
            He slowly put the warm oil all over my body, spreading it down to areas he shouldn’t have touched. A firm hand planted against my back, pushing my chest against the bed.
“What are you doing?” I asked, growing scared.
“Shhhhhhh…” He said to me.
“Roi…?” Someone called out, breaking me out of the life holding terror. I turned startled, surprised to see Richard. He paused, seeing I looked distressed, “You okay.”
“I’m fine… Yeah, I’m fine.” I said slowly to my feet, “What’s up? Everything good?”
“I was wondering…” Richard began, unsure how I’d take his question, “Did you still want to do that one on one match with me?”
“How? I don’t have a long wing…” I shrugged.
“And you think Snare, Robin and Miles have long wings? No, their raptors are mine! I bought them!” Richard clarified, this being something I didn’t know.
“Oh…” I responded, “I haven’t played in a while so… I’ll probably suck.”
“You’ll do fine.” Richard smiled, leading me to the changing rooms, “So what was that at the table?”
“I got to leave, Ricky…” I said plainly, causing the boy to stop in his tracks.
“Why?” He asked.
“The more I stay here, the more I realize that demon has a hold on me… And if I leave, that demon can’t follow.” I said, clenching my head.
“It can’t be that bad.” Richard said.
“Oh it is… Every time I’m alone… I’m thinking about him. Every time I see him, I think about it.  He has a hold on me, and I’m tired… I’m tired Richard…” I said. He looked at me intently.
“You won’t try to kill yourself again, will you?” He asked, very, very concerned. I slowly shook my head no.
“I’m not there… But, just like I was manipulated and violated… I’m sure Sir Socoshian is doing something along the lines of that to father.” I responded, stripping out of my clothes.
“As in… He may be the reason father is on drugs?” Richard asked, unsure how this made sense.
“I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s always in father’s ear…” I said.
“I can’t believe Sir Socoshian would do that.” Richard responded, unable to wrap his head around it. I slowly turned to him, fuming.
“That man put me through HELL!!! He cleans up really well, always careful to never have a trail. He never did shit to you… You never saw him like I saw him. If you did, you wouldn’t be so skeptical.” I snarled.
“I’m just saying, Sir Socoshian doesn’t seem that… evil.” Richard said, plainly showing his doubt. I just glared at the boy.
“Since it didn’t happen to you, you just can’t beleive it, huh? I’m just fucked for the sake of being fucked right?” I asked, upset.
“No, Roi… I didn’t mean it like that…” Richard pleaded.
“You did… I don’t care… I expect nothing less of you.” I said, continuing to get dressed.
“Wait what? You expect nothing less of me?” Richard asked, caught by surprised.
“You are easily fooled by what someone presents to you…” I said plainly.
“Are you saying I’m gullible?” Richard asked, further surprised.
“You have one foot in the door…” I responded, standing on my point.
“Well… Are you still up to play because… you seem upset…” Richard noted.
“No, I’m still playing.” I said, walking to the door.
“Roi…” Richard said, advising against it.
“I’m playing!” I said, not backing out.
“Very well.” Richard sighed, following me out.
            We prepped the horses, picked a raptor and went to the fields. He had his fateful red-breasted falcon, while I opted for the great white kite. It was a bird I was familiar with handling, one of great power and agility. It was one of few birds that could go toe to toe with the powerful red-breasted falcon.
            However, one on one raptor polo was quite a bit different from the normal game. Instead of having a lot riding on the raptors for scoring, most rode on the jockeys in stead. It was an intense duel, with different equipment, different means of scoring and a different field. The objective was to get the strategically placed ribbons, and protect your flags on the side of the field. The ribbons could be stolen to keep the opposing player from being able to score. That is where the raptors came into play.
            Richard and I stood on the back of our horses, eyeing each other intently. Ringed staves were in our right hand while the horses’ reins were in the left. The raptors sat atop the ringed staves, ready to take flight. Our horses circled, edging closer to the starting position. The anxieties were high between us.
Richard, at this point was an expert at this game. However, I wasn’t terrible and I had a drive that was clearly written on my face. It made him nervous, unsure just how hard I’d go. Afterall, this game was very, very dangerous. Everything happened at speed, speeds where a crash or misstep could kill a jockey.
The match was off. The raptors took off, flying to the outering of the circular arena. The coursed low along the ground, snatching up ribbon after ribbon. Their speeds approached sixty miles an hour as they raced to be the first to collect all the ribbons. At the same time, Richard and I raced toward the center of the circular arena where the inner ribbons were.
This required a huge amount of faith in one’s horse, as one had to grab ahold of the saddle, and lean almost entirely off to extend the staff out to collect the ribbon. Richard got to his first, hooking the ruby ribbon. It was a slight lead, but one that was impossible to close. I managed to get a hold of my ruby, gold and onyx ribbons mere fractions of a second after he did. However, the great white kite, managed to get ahold of the outer ribbons faster than the red-breast. I extended up the staff, the bird fastening the ribbons on with it’s quick talons.
It didn’t bother to land, fastening the emerald, sapphire and silver in one pass. It sped back up, circling at high speed. We now were on the defensive and would have to go deep within Richard’s side of the arena to score and he was coming in fast. He turned his staff upside down where the grasp was. His intentions were to steal the ring off the top of my staff and run to score on my side of the field.
Having two complete rings would be double the score, and put him at a nearly impossible to beat advantage over me. Not to mention,  his horse was bred for this sport. She was a caspian quaterbred, differing from most horses by having, a longer, relatively more flexible spine. Her front legs were short and powerful giving her a low center of gravity. Her hind legs were long, and heavily muscled, providing explosive acceleration. The souls of her feet were rubbery, giving her extreme traction even on muddy ground. All of this gave her the tightest quartering abilities of any horse, as well as one of the highest speeds.
My horse by comparison, was a highland quarterhorse, a tall, elegant and incredibly swift footed horse. It didn’t have the best acceleration, but it had endurance and unparalleled speed compared to any other horse. Since my brother’s horse was already in full tilt before I began my acceleration, his girl closed the distance in no time.
However, he knew that the highland was mere seconds away from leaving him in the dust. He led his horse in a flanking position, leaning hard into a turn to head me off. Risking a collision, I pulled the reins hard to the left, the highland turning accordingly the best she could. However, his high center of gravity and elegant legs meant that turning tightly was dangerous, and could result in grave injury for not only him but both of us.
This was all an attempt to keep the highland from getting to his nearly sixty mile an hour top speed. If Richard could keep the highland in tight turns, its speed would be drastically reduced which is where the quaterbred shined. He took broad swipes with his staff, trying to get ahold of the ring. Not only that, but he was pushing me back to towards my side of the arena where he could score. If we crossed the dividing line, I’d be the one on the defensive instead.
We were coming up close, the boy’s agile horse weaving in close as he desperately tried to swipe the ring. It took every ounce of balance I had to keep the boy from stealing the ring. The horse was so top heavy, that any shift in my weight caused me to slip. Constantly having to move the staff out of Richard’s reaching range was enough to throw my balance.
It was clear that at this pace, I would fall. Suddenly, seven feet of pure white wings came streaking between us both at impressive speed. It was the great white kite, coming in, hoping to startle Richard’s horse. However, quarterbreds were notoriously tough to startle. The raptor, realizing the the horse wasn’t startled by the surprise swoop, continued to bank hard, staying between the quarterbed and the highland.
Those seven feet of wings were more than enough surface area to act as an effective blind spot. It allowed me to break away, turn back towards the flag and let the highland do what he does best… sprint! By the time Richard realized what had happened, his horse had slowed down too much to give chase. I scored the first flag.
It seemed to have shocked Richard as we reset. We began to circle. I still eyed him intently as we got to starting positions. The raptors were off and he got to the lead first. It was now my turn to be on the defensive. I went after him hard, hanging low on the side of the horse, extending myself out the hooked end of my staff for the steal.
The white winged kite would fly in the path of his horse, so it was forced to run in a straight path, where my horse shined. Growing frustrated, Richard whistled out, calling his red-breast in. The falcon came swooping in at over a hundred miles an hour. The kite began it’s evasive maneuvers, powering through the sky as fast as it could. It circled back around as the falcon began its pursuit. The kite flew within inches of the quaterterbred’s face, actually startling the horse! It was followed by the falcon which came flying in at a considerably faster rate. The falcon narrowly missed colliding with the solid head of the horse, continuing to pursuit the kite as the powerful bird spiraled upwards in tight turns.
The quarterbred reared up, nearly throwing Richard off. It took all of his strength to stay on the startled horse. Still though, he somehow managed to keep ahold of the staff. When the horse calmed down, he realized his ring was missing.
“No!!!” He snarled, quickly accelerating after me. It was like a repeat of what happened in the last set. Since both of our horses started at a relative stand still, his horse managed to gain on mine swiftly. However, the highland was still accelerating steadily, nearing the top speed of the quarterbred.
            Both horses began to lean deeply into those fifty mile an hour turns, Richard desperate to steal back the ring I had taken. The hooked end of his staff was within inches of the ring. It was too close for comfort. The highland began to run a straight shot, steadily accelerating to its top speed. Just as we began to leave Richard in the dust, the red breast came swooping in, grabbing the ring in its talons. The powerful bird yanked it off, returning to his master.
“SET!” Richard screamed.
            I sighed from frustration, as we went back to the middle ring. It would feel so nice to finally be able to beat him at something. Looking at the boy, it was clear he was deep in thought, shocked even. He gathered enough breath to speak.
“You having fun?” He asked.
“Yes…” I panted back.
“Why don’t you compete…?” Richard asked me, shocked by my talent.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!” I responded, just as we reached the starting point. The raptors did their mad sprints to collect the ribbons.
            This time, it was a straight tie! Both of us ended up in the center as the raptors came racing back to fasten the ribbons to the rings. It left both our horses sprinting towards each other in a game of who would bail out first. Neither of us were backing down, as our horses sped towards each other.
            However, before we could collide, our horses stopped, rearing up to one another. It was a staff swinging match between my brother and I as we tried to steal each other’s ring. Eventually, I knocked his down to the ground.
“SET!” I screamed, as we set the field back up for the reset.
“Wait,” Richard began, panting heavily, “What do you mean, I wouldn’t believe you?”
“Just like you don’t believe me about anything else…” I responded.
“Is this still what this is about?” Richard asked growing upset.
“No…” I said back as we got to starting positions, “But it ties in…”
            We were off! This time I let him take the lead, getting all his ribbons before I did. He hesitated, surprised to see me holding back. With the wasted moment, he sent the horse sprinting towards the goal. I followed, knowing his horse had a significant distance advantage. However, this was a part of my plan! I whistled, calling upon the great white kite. The magnificent bird wasted no time in catching up with the speeding horse and flying fractions of an inch over it’s face. The horse that could not be startled found itself startled once again.
            This gave me the precious time to close the distance on my brother and steal his ring. The highland turned around, taking off in a sheer sprint towards the opposing flag.  Richard was right behind me, his horse gaining on mine! The boy looked driven, knowing two rings on one staff could decide the match. I whistled out, summoning the great white kite.
The bird came in fast, however Richard anticipated this. He yanked the reins, the horse banking out of path of the mock dive. He continued to pursue me, steadily gaining. The great white kite, spread it’s wings flapping hard as it turned back towards the quarterbred. Realizing that turning to avoid the large raptor would give me a distance advantage, Richard whistled for his raptor. That was when the great white kite began to rise up swiftly. The red-breast’s dive was intense, however the larger great white kite inverted bearing it’s monstrous talons. Fearing the wrath of the powerful feet of the kite, the falcon broke it’s dive.
However, the falcon was not one to back down easily. It inverted into an insanely fast snap roll, diving back on the kite again. The kite knew the falcon was going to attempt to make contact this time. The keen raptor’s reflexes allowed it to drop a wing just as the falcon came streaking past.
The powerful falcon overshot, giving the kite the advantage of elevation. The falcon, realizing it could now be dove upon, ascended rapidly. However, even it’s momentum assisted climb wasn’t fast enough to outpace the buoyant accession rate of the great white kite. Both birds, spiralled up one trying to out climb the other for the height advantage.
In that time, I scored the winning flag. The game was over.
“I like this raptor… What is his name?” I asked.
“Why don’t you play?” Richard insisted, angered I beat him.
“Because father wouldn’t let me.” I said plainly.
“Why not? What does that have to do with your situation?” Richard said back, unsure why father would refuse to let me play. All I could do was smile.
“It has everything to do with my situation.” I said, picking up the ribbon boxes from the ground.
“How?” Richard asked.
“Because, when father learned what happened, I became nothing to him… He began to boost you up, to ready you for the throne… He didn’t want me to be better at anything than you… I was just his failure…” I said, accepting this as what father believed.
“Wow… so every time you were saying you sucked at this… you really didn’t? How about we have a rematch…” Richard said, finding this hard to believe. I stopped the horse, turning it around.
“Okay…” I said.
            We set the field back up, playing another game. I made the win quick and easy for myself, just too tired to entertain my brother any more.
“Wow…” He panted, beat.
“Flukes don’t happen twice…” I said, cleaning up the field.
“So father really put you down so I can believe I’m better than you…?” Richard persisted. I stared at the boy for a long time.
“I’m just not going to tell you shit else.” I said, shaking my head. 
“Wait, what do you mean?” He asked, following on his horse.
“I mean,” I began, unsure how I wanted to word this, “You claimed you’d be there to listen, to understand… but all you’re doing is meeting my every concern with skepticism… Even when I’m telling you shit from my past, stuff that had me ruined for so long…”
“I just like to reason, to weigh all my options… I just don’t want to jump without ground beneath my feet…” He said.
“Yet, you did for Kijus… You did for those fools that used you so they can compete in the major tournaments, and you’re doing it for father…” I said.
“You just insist that I’m so damn gullible.” Richard said, shocked. He never saw this side of me before. However, there was nothing left to discuss anymore. This conversation was a horse long beat to death. I sighed, heading back to the stables. We put up the horses and the raptors and made our way to the palace.
“You wanna get something to eat?” Richard asked.
“No…” I said plainly, heading up the stairs of the balcony. He paused, looking at me in shock. He realized his actions have really bothered me deeply.
“Look, Roi, I’m sorry for not believing you… It’s just hard to put everyone into the perspective you paint them in.” Richard said, quick to apologize.
“No, you’re good. You’ve proved a major point to me already…” I said, opening the door.
“And that is?” Richard asked, unsure where this was going.
“I actually thought I had someone… I don’t have anyone… Anyone at all.” I responded. It stopped Richard in his tracks. It was definitely a blow to his heart, one he needed.
“How can you say that??? HOW?” He asked, clearly upset.
           However, he didn’t know just how much bottled up rage I had inside, the tears I wanted to let out, the years of being abused that just wanted to get back what they deserved. It was not worth explaining it to him. Someone as arrogant as Richard wouldn’t grasp this pain. I just continued to make my way up the stairs.
I felt like I was crying, but no tears came out. It was a feeling I haven’t felt in years… That one feeling you feel when you know you’re tired of crying, you know…when it’s time to do something about it! You’re too tired of being hurt, tired of being neglected, tired of not… not loving yourself! This revelation hit me hard. How can I expect someone to love me, when I can’t love myself? I had to start somewhere.
As I ran my bathwater, I stared in the mirror. I was smarter than I gave myself credit for, bolder, more ruthless and definitely more willing to get these hands dirty than my brother. I poured my bath salts into the steamy water, realizing the time to play it safe was over. Destruction of our family, this city, this region was eminent if something wasn’t done. I stripped off my clothes, it beginning to dawn on me that relying on Kijus to save us and this place was as dumb as any idea could be.  He hadn’t even written us back yet, and could be dead for all we knew!
I stuck one toe into the nearly scalding water, easing the rest of my body into it. My fingers found themselves fiddling with each other as I began to plot how I could prove that Sir Socoshian was responsible for this all. Truth be told though, it was hard to think about putting myself back in a situation where Sir Socoshian could get close to me. However, I was adamant that father was on drugs and that Sir Socoshian had everything to do with it.
Planning wasn’t for me, though. It ended up frustrating me more than anything. I needed results. I got dressed, putting no more thought into it! Surely there had to be something in my parent’s room that was telltale. I made my way out my room and down the hall. Surprisingly, this place was vacant for us to be in heightened security
I walked up the stairs, where the long hall led to the oversized royal suite. No guards stood century! Everything about this just seemed wrong. Still though, I entered the room. All things considered, I could get in serious trouble for this! I wasn’t allowed up here but I didn’t care! The search began.
No pillow went unturned, cabinet went unsearched, or recess unexplored. I went into father’s haberdasher's room, finding something that ripped my heart apart…. flasks. There were thirty or so odd empty flasks, all in a black silk pillowcase. Tears cascaded down my cheeks at such a grim sight. This meant he had been taking this drug for months.
With no security presence, and father’s reckless behavior, I took the pillow case back to my room. Thirty flasks though… That was an incredible amount… Lithium Opioids were a very, very deadly drug and I knew it killed fast. However, I didn’t know just how long it took to kill, how long father had left.
This was something I needed to know. I put the flasks down in my room, making my way to the cellar. I left through the service tunnels, walking until I exited through the catacombs. The giant hearse horses were free, roaming about the graveyard. I summoned one over, getting on to ride it. The horse took me to the library in the middle ring.
The frantic search to find information on the narcotic crystal began. It took several books before I found out about it.
“Lithium…” It read, “Opioids are a rare and hard to synthesize drug, used by the world’s elite and rich as a new way to achieve and extreme high. Lithium opioids damage the neurological system, making cognitive processes more difficult. The dangerous stimulant causes a heightened production of stress hormones that can cause explosive outbursts, inability to process thoughts and in more extreme causes panic attacks and heart and lung problems. Eventually the drug can interfere with motor skills and cause permanent paralysis. However, it can shut down any part of the body with its extensive damage to the nervous system.
            Initially used as a mood stabilizer, lithium citrate was mixed with nitric acid to produce the powerful salt. It is unknown when lithium opioid was first synthesized and for what purpose, but it is thought to have originated in France two hundred years ago…” I flipped a few pages, not caring for the history, “Dosages and Consumption… Typically grinded into a fine powder and snorted, other methods of ingestion are intravenously, cutting of flesh and lining a bandage, or through eye drops…” I took a quick look over my shoulder before ripping the pages out the book. These were coming with me.
I went back to the palace, ready to read more about this drug. One thing that I needed to know was how it got here in the palace and who was the dealer. If I could get all this evidence added up together, I could confront whoever was responsible.
Everything now drew my suspicions: the mail, the servants and definitely Sir Socoshian. The worst part about it was having no help. I was all on my own, and this mission was an extreme undertaking. There was no one here I could trust enough to include, not my brother or my sister. The only person I knew who probably would know what to do was Kijus. That left me to wonder. What would Kijus do?
            I didn’t know, but I went down to the lounge, searching every cabinet for any tell tale signs. I had to make it look inconspicuous, as the lounge was incredibly crowded with guests and servants. Despite the familial drama, everything functioned as normal. My parents were not among the crowd, so I didn’t know what was going on. However, Sir Socoshian was. He was hosting some type of event, but I had no idea what. It was a shock. Father really gave this man too much freedom to do what he wanted.
Sir Socoshian and I made eye contact. It was enough to send me out of the lounge. He could make my skin crawl so easily. He also was a very dangerous man… I didn’t know the extent of the freedom he had so going through with this digging of evidence could be to my detriment. But still, I didn’t care. I was beyond tired of putting up this facade that he and father made for me.
He watched me as I walked down to the caravan dock. This is where all shipments of food and packages entered the palace. It was cold, refrigerated to store perishables. I knocked on the door where the servants who ran this docks worked.
“May we help you, prince?” The young servant asked.
“May I see the inventory records for the past six months?” I asked with a smile.
“I’m sorry. They’re locked in the safe and I don’t have the combination to it. You’d have to ask an official to open it.” She responded.
“Alright… Thank you.” I said.
“Why do you need it?” Someone asked from behind. I slowly turned around, seeing the dreadful sight of Sir Socoshian standing there.
“I’m just tired of not getting the orders I’ve been requesting for the past few months…” I said, giving him the most deadened gaze I could muster.
“What is it? I can personally make sure you never miss an order again.” Sir Socoshian said, happy to reassure me.
“Don’t worry about it. When father stops his shenanigans, I’ll go out in town and pick up what I need.” I said, walking past him. 
            The whole while, my stomach was in a knot. I just couldn’t stand this man! He made it seem like all my problems were in my head, made it so that he had no trail to follow. It literally was impossible for me to get the evidence I needed. God, if father could just open his eyes, to see the evil his most trusted official was capable of. That’s all I wanted… all. 
I entered my room, returning to reading the pages about lithium opioids. There was nothing in them about the dealings of the drugs, just pointless pages about possible origins, and the numerous ways it has killed people. It was a terrible drug and could make people do terrible things. I just couldn’t believe father was actually on it. It was an inevitable death sentence.
“Roi,” Someone said from behind me, “You know if something’s bothering you, we can talk right.” Slowly, I turned around. It was Sir Socoshian… standing in my room!!!
“Who told you that you could come in my room?” I asked. He seemed shocked, surprised by my hostility.  
“I was just checking on you! You’ve seemed upset the last few days and I just….”
“GET OUT!” I screamed. It seemed to make him very upset. He glared at me, as if he were refusing.
            Something snapped, something went off in my head. The world around me moved in slow motion as everything not fastened to the ground became a weapon. I threw urns, candles, plates at this terrible man… even picking up a floor lamp.
“Easy…” Sir Socoshian said, holding up both hands. He was trembling. Fear was struck into this man, a fear I knew that wouldn’t let him view me the same.
“Get… Out…” I said, my gaze nothing but penetrating rays. He did so. I locked the door after him, falling to my knees.
            My hate for him made me sick. How he could be so malicious and act as though he was this ever righteous saint was impossible for me to wrap my head around. He could so easily turn everyone against me, make everyone who didn’t bear witness to what he did to me believe him. I could already feel it happening. This fight was futile and it was wisest to just leave but I just couldn’t. There was a tiny chance I could save this family and I would expend every ounce of energy I could to save it.
            After I shed those tears, I was right back to devising how I could get the information I needed. The schedule for the next shipment cycle probably was posted somewhere in the docking station. If there was a shipment of flasks on it, that would be another piece of evidence I had in my arsenal. Not only that, but it was also crucial who signed off on it. That got me to thinking, though. Another official could have access to the safe, just like Sir Socoshian. In fact, Sir Socoshian wasn’t over inventory. It was Sir Eleonard, the culinary official!
            The mission to track this man down began. I found myself back down in the inventory office.
“May I help you?” The servant asked again.
“I have two questions? When will the next shipment arrive and may I speak to Sir Eleonard?” I asked.
“Um… The shipment orders are here,” She said handing me a clipboard, “And Sir Eleonard is on the night shift. He’ll be in a few hours from now. Do you want to leave him a message?”
“No…” I said reading over the orders, “I’ll be paying him a visit though.”
            There definitely was an order for flasks, and the shipment would be arriving in four days time. However, I was uncertain who signed off on that particular order because it was separate from the normal orders. Still though, this was a sign I was stepping in the right direction. The evidence I needed would be at my fingertips in a matter of hours.
            I returned to my room to wait, stepping over the shattered glass and broken lamp with this tiny joy building within me. This happiness, this anticipation made my hopes rise. Soon, knocking on my door interrupted these blissful thoughts. Again, I found myself dancing over the broken glass as the knocking persisted. I opened the door, shocked to see mother and father standing there. There eyes went past me and straight to the floor.
“What happened in here?” He asked, brushing past me, walking on the broken glass with his metal boots. It was such an unorthodox visit, I couldn’t even come to words.
            I just looked at them both, wondering what on earth brought them to my room.
“Why are you both here?” I asked.
“Sir Socoshian said he checked up on you today and you just exploded… He says he’s deeply worried that you will hurt someone or yourself so he told us we need to have an official watch for you.” Father said. I couldn’t help but give this man the most blaring glare I could.
“Really?” I asked back, my arms folded.
“That man works hard making sure this palace and the law enforcement is running smoothly! There’s nothing he did to warrant this…” Father said, waving his hand over all the broken glass on the floor.
“I wouldn’t be so sure…” I responded.
“What boy?” Father said, growing upset.
“Nothing at all…” I said back, observing father closely. He clearly was not acting himself.
“And what did you mean when earlier today you told me to open my eyes?” The irritated man asked. I slowly shook my head.
“It doesn’t matter any more. I think I’m too late.” I said, glaring at him. Father whipped some snot from his nose, as he tried to decipher what I meant, “You’re trying to use your words to send me in tail spins… well it won’t work…”
            Mother walked around the room, investigating the papers I had on my desk… the ripped out pages I had on lithium opioids. She looked alarmed and deeply concerned, but began to hide it. I began to fall silent, just returning a blank stare back at my father.
“So…?” I began, unsure what they wanted to happen next.
“Is this about your claims of what Sir Socoshian did to you?” Father asked plainly. All I could do was roll my eyes.
“No…” I snarled. It seemed to drive father closer to the edge.
“You have one more time to roll your eyes at me before I take them out of your head…” Father threatened.
“I wonder what is making you say that…” I said, looking at him deeply. His face lit up with alarm.
“What do you mean?” He asked, starting to figure out I knew something.
“Nothing at all…” I said, beginning to dance around my room to dodge the glass. 
“Have you been plundering, boy?” Father asked.
“I don’t think so.” I said back, sarcastically.
“You really are pushing my nerves…” Father warned.
“I am? Well guess what…” I smiled. Father’s face began to drop, as he could feel I was about to reveal something that would change the scope of this confrontation.
“What?” He said back. Mother looked at him, seeing the alarm in his face.
“Richard and I had a raptor polo match to day, after over a decade… and guess what? I DESTROYED him… and he wanted to know why… and I told him.” I said.
“You didn’t…” Father said, deeply shocked.
“I did but he doesn’t believe me. I mean the fact that I beat him twice in a row and he didn’t score once should be more than enough evidence to back up my claim, but you know… headstrong people…” I said, looking intently at father.
“You are just pestilence on this palace.” Father said through the grit of his teeth.
“You don’t know the half of it.” I smiled.
“I could just knock the living piss out of you RIGHT NOW!!!!” Father said, rushing towards me.
“NO…” Mother screamed, coming to stand between us. She hugged father, whispering something in his ear. The man scowled at me before leaving the room, continuing to crunch glass under his boots.
            Mother’s gaze was unrelenting as she stared at me with concern. She waited for the sound of the door to close.
“Why do you have information on salts over there?” Mother asked, her eyes drilling into my well being.
“Don’t worry about it mother… I’m just doing some research.” I said, hoping she would believe me.
“I’m not your father! He doesn’t know you like I do so he can’t see through you! Now tell me…” She demanded. It then hit me… Mother had no idea father was on these drugs.
“Mother… I’m just really worried about father… really worried. He has changed a lot.” I said.
“And what does that,” She pointed to the lithium opioid papers on my desk, “have to do with anything…” All I could was just shake my head, refusing to talk. She grabbed my face, forcing me to look at her, “Hello?” I still refused to talk, “Just clean this room up…”
            She left, closing the door behind her. I was glad she did. I was literally five seconds away from spilling everything to her. Those cold blue eyes she had could get everything she wanted. I did as was told, cleaning up the shattered glass. A lot of things in this room had to be replaced though, but it was worth it. It let Sir Socoshian know that he no longer had the same grasp on me that he normally did.
The night shift began for the palace staff. I went back down to the shipment dock, and there Sir Eleonard was, checking every box and crate off on his clipboard.
“May I help you?” He asked, not looking up.
“Yes, I was wondering could I have access to the safe records?” I smiled. He finally looked up, seeing I was the prince.
“Why?” He asked, a bit concerned.
“I need to see who signs off on a particular shipment order for an item.” I said.
“Sure…” He said, leading me into the office. He quickly punched in the codes for the safe, taking out the pile of documents. I began reading over them, and just as I suspected, Sir Socoshian was the only one who signed off on the shipments of nitric acid over the past six months. Sir Eleonard didn’t even touch these documents.
            The flask shipment documents only dated back to five months.
“So that is when all of this started…? But why?” I asked, still having too many missing pieces. Sir Eleonard looked extremely confused, as I began to look over the rest of the documents for any more signs.
“What are you looking at?” Sir Eleonard asked.
“Nothing…” I responded, trying to think where would lithium citrate be located. It was afterall, a mood stabilizer, “I’m taking these records with me…”
“You can’t do that!” Sir Eleonard said, coming over to stop me.
“Watch me…” I said back.
            I took all the records of the nitric acid flasks with me. I placed them in my room as I headed back down to head to the medicinal corp. It was located on one of the numerous cobbled paths on the upper ring, between the palace in the prestige neighborhoods. Just as I was leaving the palace I was stopped by my brother and his old entourage.
“Where have you been all day?” Richard asked. I looked at the Robin, Snare and Miles, very unimpressed.
“Really?” I asked him, bordering on disgust. The three boys looked back and forth between each other, surprised by my blatant disdain for them.
“Really what?” Richard responded. I rushed past him, growing upset with the boy’s antics.
“You’re just as blind as your father.” I sighed, continuing on my way.
“What the FUCK does that even mean?” He asked.
“You know damn WELL these boys don’t give a FUCK about you apart from the money you have! You know this, yet you still entertain them! Just have fun…” I sighed, so done with him.
            After a brisk fifteen minute walk on the windy hills, I arrived to the medicinal corp. This was an environment that I wasn’t familiar with, so I had to play it careful.
“Hi…” I smiled at the receptionist, “I’m prince Roi… I was wondering have there been any major shipments of lithium citrate running through here?”
“Give me a moment. I’ll bring the chief of inventory out to answer your questions…” The receptionist smiled. He left, returning minutes later with the chief.
“Yes?” The chief asked.
“I was curious to know of any large shipments of lithium citrate came through here.” I asked with a grim.
“Come with me.” The chief said. I followed him into a massive room, filled with binders of paperwork. He began, sorting through them, finding numerous orders for such drugs, “Here are about five.”
“Okay, thank you.” I smiled, reading them. All of them were signed by none other than Sir Socoshian. This was another nail in his coffin as far as I was concerned, “Do you mind if I take these?”
“Sure…” The chief responded, unsure how these could be useful to me.
            I left returning to my room. The last piece to this puzzle was learning precisely how this drug could be synthesized. Simply mixing nitric acid and lithium citrate wouldn’t result on the forming of lithium opioids. There was something else I was missing. I took a seat at my desk and began reading.
“Okay…” I began, “Though nitric acid is not the most stable acid, lithium citrate takes effort to get into a state in which it is able to react with nitric acid to produce lithium opioids. Many agents can be used in catalyzing the substances for use including, peroxide, baking soda, bleach, and borax. Upon mixing of these three chemicals, a volatile reaction will occur, one that can cause explosions and chemical burns. Extreme pressure is needed to contain the reaction in order to turn it into lithium opioids,” I stopped reading, “So… peroxide, baking soda and bleach? All of those are bases… Extreme pressure?” I thought long and hard on would could provide extreme enough pressure to produce this reaction. There were massive vacuum lock cauldrons deep in the depths of the cellar. I continued to read, “It is important to note that air makes this reaction all the more unstable. The exclusion of air makes the reaction far less volatile and far more efficient. It also makes for a purer form of the lithium opioid salt with no to little oxidation.” This was beginning to taxi across ground I knew little about.
            Nonetheless, I returned to the shipping dock. Sir Eleonard was still there, again surprised by my presence. He probably was quite upset with me showing up.
“Yes?” He asked.
“Do you know if anyone has been using the pressurized cauldrons in the the cellar?” I asked.
“Um, they’d have to check out with me first.” He said, “Why?”
“I’m just trying to make sure of something…” I said.
            He looked at me suspiciously before heading down the stairs into the cellar. I followed. He stopped, shocked at the sight.
“We’re missing one…” He said, jaw hanging.
“How many are there suppose to be?” I asked.
“Five. There are only four…” He said, looking everywhere around the cellar. Maybe someone had moved it. However, it was nowhere to be seen in the massive cellar. 
            I stood in front of a door, one bolted shut. It wasn’t normally secured like this so something was up.
“Maybe it’s in here…” I said. Sir Eleonard came rushing over.
“Who the fuck locked this door?” He asked, “God, the king is gonna be pissed… Wait, how’d you know?”
“I’m….” I hesitated, “Trying to get to the bottom of something…”
“What?” He asked.
“I feel like my father’s in danger and he’s too blind to see it so I…” It then hit me, “I need your help…”
“My help?” He asked, shocked.
“I have no one here to trust… You know little of my plans so I just need you to confirm that one of your cauldrons is missing without your authorization tomorrow at the brunch… That is all.” I smiled.
“I can do that.” He nodded.
“Great.” I said, leaving. It was now showtime.
            However, I wasn’t done. I was going to get into that room of the cellar that night. I snuck back in with a frozen nitrogen tank, a syringe, jar of water, and a pair of tongues. I grabbed the syringe, filling it with water. Then I grabbed the lock holding it upside down. I squirted the water into the keyhole, before grabbing the nitrogen tank. This part always was nerve wracking. As I held the lock with the tongues, I began spray it with the frozen nitrogen.
“What are you doing?” Sir Eleonard asked.
“I couldn’t wait… I know something telltale is in here. You might want to stand back…” I said. The frozen nitrogen caused the water to expand to the point that the pressure expanded the lock past its breaking point. It popped open, falling off the door. 
            Sir Eleonard stepped forward, his curiosity drawn. We entered the room, Sir Eleonard’s missing cauldron sitting in the rear.
“So, it was in here!” He said. However, something else had caught my eye. Sitting on a clipboard were strange written documents. They were written requests for the nitric acid and lithium citrate, both with specific addresses not that of the palace. I took these, looking at the rows of borax lining the shelves below.
            The room was filled with a portable oxygen tank, vacuum pump and battery powered lights, all to reduce the risk of a volatile reaction.
“What is all of this stuff?” Sir Eleonard asked.
“Evidence…” I said back, ready to leave, “Let’s get out of here…”
“You know who did this?” Sir Eleonard asked.
“I do…” I said back as we both left the scene.
            The next day had come, and I had all the evidence I needed: the flasks, the records from the palace inventory, and the records from the clinic. I got dressed, dressed like I normally did. So many hopes were riding on what would happen this morning, as I sat at the vanity, staring at the mirror. Richard had come in, looking worried.
“Are you okay bro?” He asked.
“I’m fine.” I smiled. He sat next to me, feeling it was an open invite for things to go back to normal.
“I’m sorry if I said, or did anything that offended you… Sorry for having a hard time believing you, but you are my brother and I do love you and wish you well!” He apologize.
“No need for that… I understand.” I said, not bothering to look at him.
“Okay, what does that mean?” He asked.
“It means, brother’s fight.” I shrugged.
“Oh… See, you’ve been on a clever string of word use that I’m not quite used to so I’m thinking everything is just a double entendre.” He laughed. I slowly looked at him, my face void of any emotion.
“It might be.” I thinly smiled, getting up. It left the boy scratching his head.
            I took a once over of all the evidence before looking out the window in the hall. The table was filling up, the only one missing being me. I grabbed all the evidence I needed, heading down the stairs. Just as I was on my way out, Sir Eleonard was helping to bring out the food.
“This boy is always late…” Father said as he saw me coming down the hall. Alarm spread across his face as he saw I was carrying the black pillowcase. Even mother was confused. 
            I turned the bag upside down, dumping the thirty odd flasks on the table.
“You’re on salt, father?” I asked, my glare burning deep. He couldn’t even come to words. His eyes darted around as he fought to find an explanation. Everyone at the table was shocked, even Sir Eleonard, “You’re not the same man that began raising me. What you are now is a self destroying monster! And it’s all,” I turned to Sir Socoshian, sitting next to my mother, “Your fault!”
“How is it my fault?” Sir Socoshian asked. I slapped all the paperwork on the desk, from the inventory sheets in the shipping docks, to the hand written orders with foreign addresses to the clinic inventory sheets.
“Your name is on everything! How can you do this? You’re supposed to care about this palace about your kingship but you’re letting him kill HIMSELF!!!” I said, taking steps over towards him.
“Now wait a minute… You don’t know what you’re talking about…” Sir Socoshian responded, ready to defend himself.
“Oh but I do! If these order forms are not enough explanation. Tell me why there are vacuum pumps, borax and a pressure sealed cauldron in the cellar? Tell me why there is hazardous material gear!I bet if I dust in there right now, all I’d find is YOUR FINGERPRINTS! How could you?” I asked him once again. The entire table was silent, eyes darting everywhere, “And in fact if that is not enough, I know precisely what this shit does you’ve been giving my father!” I said, slapping down all the ripped pages I had taken.
“Where did you get all of this?” Father asked.
“It doesn’t matter…” I said turning back to him, “What does matters is that I brought you something to open your eyes! You let Sir Socoshian get away with too much! You know what he’s done to me now look at what he’s trying to do to you! You didn’t care to think that if he’s willing to do what he did to me he would do anything to you? You don’t think he didn’t know the repercussions of giving you this drug? You’ve been on these salts for five months! They can kill you! One more dose and you could be gone! You are showing final stage symptoms, father! Stop… while… you… can!”
“Where did you get this SHIT?” The king asked, growing upset.
“Can’t you see this is a symptom of these drugs? Why are you upset?” I asked him.
“Answer ME!” He demanded, banging on the table.
“Your… ROOM!” I shouted. His anger multiplied sevenfold.
“You went behind my back and trespassed in my ROOM?” He said, rushing out of his seat, over towards me.
“STOP!” Mother said, rushing to her feet. She was the only one who could break the king out of his rampage, “Is it true?”
            Everyone’s eyes darted back and forth between me and my father. It was the deciding moment, between who was being honest. My heart pounded as the seconds without an answer passed.
“Yes…” He finally said, unable to look at mother’s unbearable eyes.
“Really? And you’re just gonna break the family apart like that? You tried to go after your first son, who after you BEAT COUNTLESS TIMES, still tried to save you? After you subjected him to abuse, disowned repeatedly, he still had enough love to try and break through to you… and this is how you treat him? Really?” She asked.
“That faggot doesn’t deserve any of this!” He snarled, pointing to me. I began to back away, completely done.
“I tried…” I said, my heart tearing with each step, “I tried…” Both hand went up as I gave up.
“Roi…” Mother said, turning to me. I pointed to Sir Socoshian as I backed away, looking back at father.
“He’s going to ruin you, just like he tried to ruin me… but you’re too neck deep in your own shit to see it… And I won’t be here to watch. I can’t.” I said, before looking down at Sir Socoshian, “You won!”
            These were words that sank in an unimaginable way for the entire family. I turned away, walking down the stairs of the balcony.
“ROI!” Mother screamed, following me. However I didn’t stop… I couldn’t, “Baby,” She said, grabbing my hand, “Listen to me… thank you for trying so hard to show us what was really going on. Don’t leave… Stay, we can fix this together… Just don’t leave!”
“Mother… not even you understand! I can’t… I just tried and I can’t. Ever since I was seven years old, I’ve been fighting this fight. I’m twenty one one and I just can’t any more. It’s been fourteen years of torment, abuse and neglect… And I just learned how to love myself too! You know the first step to loving yourself? Getting yourself out of a toxic environment! I’ve never done anything because I loved myself and this is the first day I start!” I explained.
            It broke her heart. Something felt like it snapped, something between us. Here eyes were wide and wild, look she had been delivered even more tragic news. However, she knew it was little she could do. She walked back up the stairs, deeply hurt. Next to follow was Richard and Brija.
“Roi…” Richard said out, rushing to catch up with me.
“There’s nothing you can say to make me stay… I’m leaving.” I said.
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry… You, you were right! You were absolutely right and I’m so stupid for not believing you, just please don’t go…” He rambled.
“Too little, too late.” I said, not bothering to look at him.
“Roi, I’m begging you…” Richard said, standing in my way.
“Boy, I will fucking fight you, now move!” I said, pushing him out of my path.
“Where are you going?” Brija asked.
“I don’t understand the dramatics… You already know where I’m fucking going.” I said back.
“Well, I’ll be sure to write you.” Brija said, not feeling as awful about it anymore.
“Don’t…” I said, rolling my eyes as the girl followed.
“Not to give you updates. I can imagine… you wouldn’t want them. Today just made me realize that… I really don’t know my older brother.” She said.
“Very well…” I shrugged, as I entered the stable.
“What am I supposed to do now?” Richard asked.
“Are you stupid?” I asked unsecuring Mercury’s prized palomino’s reins, “Do what you always did before we started actually being brothers. Hang out with those posers who use you!”
“Come on, Roi. Don’t be that way…” Richard said, my words stabbing deep.
“Man, fuck you...” I said, riding the horse out. 
            There was no turning back. I was leaving this hell on earth for good…  


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