Prince Zacharia, 28, Prince, Courtship
Prince Zacharia stared down at the chained man. He was ridden with sweat, causing the dirty rags he wore to cling to his muscular form. Each breath the man took seemed to seize his entire body. The prisoner — Prince of Nator and Zacharia’s political rival — waited patiently for his death.
Zacharia twisted the axe in his hand. The handle was firm. Reinforced hardwood. The sun glinted of the face of the fine steel blade. Eyes bared down upon Zacharia, blinding him like a burning sun. Zacharia pulled a deep breath of cool air and looked upon the crowd. He traced the many faces that stood within the stone courtyard of walls and towers. So many smiles. Zacharia turned to his right, looking upon his father. He sat upon a tall wooden throne, red with forest blood. Regal. Powerful. The man showed no emotion. But Zacharia saw through it. He saw the beatings, the scoldings, the embarrassments. Those painful memories — lessons, as his father had called it — shaped his life. They rocked him back and forth, seizing him in the chaotic order of royal responsibility. Zacharia looked back upon the prince in chains. Perhaps the man had lived the same life.
Zacharia eyed his father once again. A single word — no more, no less — left his mouth. “No.”
Zacharia threw down the executioner’s axe. It clanged loudly against the dark wooded stage. The crowd held their tongues, noiseless. The silence tore through the open sky. Only a soft wind caused the prisoner’s chains to rattle. Zacharia turned sharply. He wouldn’t let his father see as red rose in his cheeks and a smile grew upon his lips. With long strides, Zacharia marched off the stage and stepped down onto the stone courtyard floor. He relished in the stunned crowd as he parted the shocked and disgusted faces. Zacharia wasn’t a fool — there would still be an execution today. In fact, as he walked away, he heard a swoosh of rushing air and a prominent thud. Steel on wood. But no eyes left the prince. For today, Zacharia defied a king.