Zander Frost, prince of Teodora, walked down from the docks his left hand resting on his grandfather’s sword, wearing a naval-blue uniform with white stripes going down the side, as he examined the docks of the Kardok Empire. The strongest empire on the eastern side of Dunia. Zander was far away from home, and he knew he had to tread carefully if he hoped this mission was going to be successful.
“Why are we here again, father?” asked Zander.
King Winford stood tall scratching his short white wool beard awed at the fact that his heir to the throne have forgotten the plan already. It was at this point he wondered if his son lacked the skill to remember plans, or if he was messing with him. To amuse him he answered his question and reminded him how they needed to talk to the Emperor about securing a trade route.
“We have enough trade to last us for years. I don’t understand why we…I mean, you, need a few more,” said Zander.
“Tell me, if the kingdom is at war and our supply caravans are captured, what would you do?” asked Winford.
“I would send in a small unit and recover the lost supplies,” he answered.
“But why waste men, when you can use a naval trade to store supplies on our docks?” Winford asked again.
“Why wait three months when it will only take a day or two to get our caravans back?” Zander questioned back.
Winford was impressed with his son’s fighting skills in battle and his love for military history and culture. But he lacked in skills when it came to strategies, which is why Winford needed to teach him about choosing the right people for the right job when they returned home.
“And where will you get the men from?”
Zander broke eye contact to see his best friend Ryder, a dark skin man, sporting a naval blue uniform with two gold stripes going down, along with two curved daggers, walking between the two. He was known throughout the kingdom as a Royal Protector, those sworn to protect the throne and its heir. A job not to be taken lightly.
“Simple, from one of our fortresses,” replied Zander.
“But what if the fortress you chose is being attacked?” asked Ryder.
“I’ll choose another one,” replied Zander.
“Then it would be an easy target for the enemy to attack because there are fewer soldiers there. Do you see what you are trying to do here?” asked Ryder.
“I’m trying to save everyone,” stated Zander.
When it came to tactics and strategy, Zander was decent but compared to Ryder. He was nothing but a mere student. Where Ryder was willing to achieve victory by any means necessary, Zander wanted to save as many lives as possible. Ryder respected his friend for it, and he saw him fit to be a great king, even better than those before him. Which is why he became a protector. Not only to protect his friend from physical harm but mental as well.
“Just remember, son. As a king, you must make tough choices. I know you want to save everyone, but unfortunately, it does not work that way,” said Winford.
“Of course, father.”
“Remember I’m an emissary for the king. Ryder, your status remains the same. Zander, today you’re not the king’s son. You’re just a simple soldier providing extra protection. Your skills should be enough if need be,” explained Winford.
Zander and Ryder agreed as they walked the crowded streets of the merchant district. People bumped into them either buying items or merchants trying to sell items to them. Ryder gently pushed each person away while he maintained focus around him. Zander, on the other hand, had been tempted to buy some bread for his mother. Something she longed to taste one day, but never really had the chance. Unfortunately, she would have to wait a little longer.
“Just a few bronze coins and I’ll throw in some extra bread for you,” said the merchant.
“I thank you for the kind gesture, but I’m on important business right now,” said Zander.
The Merchant gave a defeating look and put down the Kardok’s empire famous bread and proceeded to shout out a few seconds later about the fruits and vegetables that he was selling. Zander knew his mother would be disappointed when he returned. But a grin grew on his face when he realized that his father would face her wrath.
A guard bumped into Zander, taking him out of his thoughts. Zander turned around to see the guard dragging a chain that was about three feet long and pulling a dark skin woman at the end of it.
She struggled against her captor a little, but the man proved to be too strong and yanked her to the ground. The people around her laughed in unison as they continued to walk either around or over her.
“Move it, or I’ll kill you right where you stand!” commanded the guard.
“Go ahead! At least I know a swine like you will soon follow me in death,” shouted the woman. She moved her long green hair behind her ear as she stood firmly against her oppressor.
The people around stopped in their tracks and turned their attention on them. Wondering what was going to happen next. Zander, Ryder, and Winford did the same thing. Not wanting to gather any attention from the crowd.
It pained Zander that he had to sit there and watch this woman get treated this way in front of everyone. But she stood her ground, no fear, but enjoyment in her eyes.
“I will not ask again,” said the guard.
The woman looked at the ground and spat on his leather boots. As she raised her head and gave him a wicked smile. The guard swung his hand, his backside connected to her face, making a loud pop sound for all to hear. The crowd not shocked, stood there as she fell to the floor caressing her cheek.
“Fuck you!” said the woman looking straight up.
The guard sent a swift kick towards her torso making her scream in agony. His attacks continued as the crowd cheered him on chanting ‘sahira’ something that neither Zander, Ryder, nor Winford knew.
Zander had seen enough and pushed through the crowd, even getting his hands into people’s faces. Some shouted, while some even looked at him. He finally made it to the middle of the crowd and pushed the guard away from the woman.
“That’s enough!” said Zander.
“You dare to interfere with our affairs, outsiders?” shouted the guard.
Zander ignored him as he watched the woman struggle to get on her feet. Feeling concerned about her condition, he extended his hand out, but she just looked at him and got up on her own. Zander was hypnotized by her beauty. With the scrape knee and bruises on her arms, and dirt piled onto her face. He was able to see through it all.
“I don’t need your help, but thank you,” said the woman.
“Everyone needs help after an attack like that,” stated Zander.
“You’re a real charmer,” she said sarcastically.
Zander smiled at her as he turned back to the guard who had his curved sword unsheathed. He knew he’d offended the man by interfering and needed to think of something to diffuse the situation. Ryder and Winford stood there but both were confident in his ability to talk the situation down. Both knew that he had his mother’s tongue when it came to diplomacy.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I could not sit here and watch you hurt this fine specimen,” explained Zander.
“Specimen?” the woman gritted.
“Just go with it,” Zander snapped.
“What are you two whispering about?” asked the guard.
“Nothing of importance. I want to know how much for her?” asked Zander.
“How much?” answered the guard.
“Yes, how much would it cost to buy her as a slave?” asked Zander.
“Everyone here knows you have to go north to buy slaves,” explained the guard.
The woman rolled her eyes with frustration as she knew she wasn’t going anywhere. She kicked the dirt hitting the lower end of Zander’s pants. “You’re a damn fool,” said the woman.
“My name is Zander and I’d appreciate it if you called me that. Which reminds me, what is your name?”
“My name is of no importance to you. Now leave and let me handle this,” barked the woman.
“She is not for sale. She is a criminal and is set to be executed at the Arena for tonight’s game.”
“What are her crimes?” asked Zander.
Without saying a word, the man yanked the chain and the woman bumped past Zander eyeing him one last time. Zander knew he failed in trying to rescue the woman, but he thought he can procure another chance at the Arena after their meeting.
“What were you thinking?” asked Winford
“I was thinking I could save her,” replied Zander.
“By purchasing her as a slave?” Ryder asked.
“That does not matter now. The bottom line is you almost blew our cover. Do not forget we are just common folk serving the king,” said Winford.
Zander stood in silence as the image of the woman’s beauty invaded his thoughts. Even though he failed to secure her freedom, he couldn’t help but feel some deep connection as if their destiny were intertwined by the gods themselves. But he remembered the stories his mother used to tell him about how they didn’t interfere with the lives of men. Was she wrong about that?
“Are you okay, Zander?” asked Ryder seeing his friend in deep thought.
“W-what, yeah I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? You look unfocused,” said Ryder.
“I felt something back there. But I don’t know what it is,” stated Zander.
“It’s probably nothing, but we must go. We don’t want to be late,” said Winford.