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  Excerpt: Chains

  Rowan McBride

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Chains 2013 by Rowan McBride. All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or in part without author's permission.

Holding a lantern high in one hand, Saiven crept down the damp stone steps leading into the dungeon. It had been no trouble getting past the guards at the entrance. Being the king's son gave him open access to the castle; being the king's least favorite son allowed him to explore without the troublesome royal guard trailing after his every move.

Water dripped from an unseen source and echoed through the cavern. The lonely sound sent a chill through his body, and he shook it off to press onward. There were many dungeons within the castle, and he had seen them all many times. But this one was special. This one had always stood empty.

Until now.

He cautiously approached the far wall. The single cell was marked by thick, age-roughened bars standing floor-to-ceiling as they cut across the final third of the room. Darkness cloaked the prisoner within, so dense that the flickering circle of light given off by the lantern couldn't pierce it. Frustrated, he looked around. An iron stand bolted to the floor not far from the cell held a large torch. Without a second thought, he opened his lantern and carefully removed its candle. Fire scarcely touched pitch when the torch burst into flame, illuminating the prisoner in an explosion of orange light.

The candle slid from his fingers as he stared in awe at the man shackled to the wall.

Given the rumors skirring through the castle, Saiven thought certain he'd see a beast straight from the pits of hell. He had not expected to lay eyes on such radiance. It unsettled him, so he dipped his gaze and set the lantern on the floor beside his broken candle. He stole a few shallow breaths to regain his calm, straightened, and went right back to staring.

He was a prince. He should have more dignity than this.

Yet he could not keep himself from studying the man on the other side of those bars.

The prisoner wore naught but a loincloth and had to be at least seven feet tall, with midnight hair that flowed past his chest and eyes like the amber stone Saiven wore around his neck. Every hard curve and etched line emanated power as the torch's light danced over his body. Even the mark on his shoulder--sharp black lines that wove and sliced their way through an equally black ring--seemed somehow...bright.

Saiven's gaze drifted to his wrists, manacled and chained high above his head.

The captain of the guard had been bragging about this one: a warrior captured three days ago. How could he endure the torment of being chained in the same position for so long? And how could he still wear that insolent smirk on his mouth?

Saiven tilted his head to the side, and the prisoner mirrored the action.

"Why've you come here, boy? Do you not know that monsters dwell in these deep, dark places?"

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