A Man Owned
AU Teen Titans
His throat was too tight, too dry to answer. He could only switch his gaze to the man on the floor and wonder how many years another death would haunt his conscience.
Moonlighting? Who, me?
Really. Think of this as… a diversion for when I'm stuck on Volte-Face. It certainly won't merit the same amount of focus, time or planning, but my medieval muse is throwing a tantrum and no matter how quirky the language might have to get, some things just beg to be written. Well, it's not so much begging as using crossbows and javelins to stab its way into Word…
Oh—and I'm a fan of enslaved!Roy. What can I say?
Edit 4/10/08 - From here on out, my beta will be the lovely Immortal Sailor Cosmos! (Why? Well... because I'm physically unable to write in proper English? Is that a good reason?)
Enormous wooden doors, worn with use and age, crashed unceremoniously against the marble pillars as the dark-haired prince shoved through them. "Mother, I utterly refuse to meet with Deverell! How is it that you cannot simply tell him that I am away on business, or planning an addition to the northeast wing, or meeting with a courtier or something?"
The Queen turned on her stool, ignoring the protests of her maids who, until that point, had been curling her hair into a tower of ripples. "Garth," she sighed, closing her eyes. "You fear Deverell as if he is some horrid monstrosity. He's just a boy—your cousin, in fact—and, if anything, you should appreciate his return. He bears gifts whenever he comes, don't you remember?"
The prince stepped closer, hands clenched within the silken violet gloves. "Of course I remember. I also remember that his gifts are as worthless and insulting as a crude peasant's tongue." He smirked. "I'd prefer him to be a horrid monstrosity, if you can believe it—the worst he could be is a squid. I'd prefer a stubborn ball of tentacles to Deverell any day."
The Queen sighed once more and then stood, swatting the maids' hands from her head. "He's important to your father and me both. Neither of us can meet with him today, so when he comes I expect you to be there, handsome and proper as always." She caught the strangled look on her son's face. "Garth, by Poseidon, what ails y—"
"Neither of you are meeting him? That's… that's not fair!"
"Garth, be reasonable. You sound like a child—"
"I will not be reasonable!" he hissed, turning toward the door. "As of now, I'm officially meeting with the architectural branch to expand the northeast wing of the castle. The gods know that hall needs more space, and—"
"Garth!" The Queen's voice was shrill and loud in the spacious chambers. Her maids froze where they stood, eyes darting between the two royals. "You will meet with Deverell!"
"No. You will show him courtesy as is befitting for one his relation and status." Her eyes were slivers when he finally faced her. "Do you understand?"
"You are not away on business," she continued. "You are not planning any elaborate building project. You are not—and this is by far the most ludicrous idea!—meeting with courtiers! You've shunned all the girls we've brought in for you thus far with your picky critiques of their personalities! It's more likely that Deverell has changed in the past two years than it is for him to be fool enough to believe a sad excuse such as that!"
Garth could only stare at her. There was no excuse against her, and yet he couldn't face Deverell. Not after their previous visit…
"Excuse me, Your Highness," a petite, elderly maid called as she hobbled into the room. If she noticed the awkwardness in the air, she ignored it; as a worker in the castle for over six decades, Zetta wasn't one to stick her nose into family matters. "If you don't allow for the girls to finish your hair in the next few minutes, I'll have to take tonight's dinner out of your schedule. You still have your gown, coat and jewels to put on—these things take time, madam!"
The Queen, keeping her gaze solidly fixed upon the prince, nodded. "Thank you, Zetta. Please take Garth to ready himself for Deverell's arrival. Be sure to tell Coulson to arrange for a large dining party as well; Deverell's group mustn't go hungry."
"That woman is out of her mind!" Garth shouted just before he collapsed into the feather-stuffed chaise of his bedroom. He leaned his head back, staring up at the ornate ceiling. "She thinks she can order me to see Deverell—well, just watch, he's going to arrive with his fiancée and minions in tow and I won't be there!"
"Actually, seeing as she's the Queen," laughed one of the four maids around him, "she can order you to do anything, least of those things being to meet with your cousin."
Garth glared at her for a moment, lips set into a scowl until Novia grinned and tossed him a clean shirt. She flitted back to the dressing table as Jette and Isolde pulled him off the chaise, twisting him this way and that until his jacket came off.
"I really can get dressed by myself," Garth argued, moving to unbutton his shirt when Jette's quick hands slapped his away.
"You tried that last year at the summer banquet, if I remember correctly," Novia muttered from across the room. "And you wound up wearing orange and green."
"Why do you even own something orange?" Isolde giggled. "Those tassels made you look like a diseased jellyfish. Why in the world—"
"I understand!" Garth interrupted, shaking his head in amusement. "I made a small mistake last time, but—"
"You're forgetting the year before, with the salmon-colored… what would you call that thing? A shawl?"
"I'd call it more of a robe…"
"And I'd call it ugly!"
The three girls erupted in laughter, forcing Garth to look for a bit of assistance. "Quintonice, do you think I could possibly dress myself?"
The quiet brunette thought for a moment before her large hazel eyes caught his gaze with assurance. "I believe the prince could dress himself very well," she murmured, "if he wished to look like a jester for the empire."
The others burst into fits of hysterics again; Quintonice smiled softly and shook her head, returning to Garth's sleeves without another word.
The procession had begun. From over the nearest hill, stretching back to the pastel-painted horizon, came the carriages, each led by a six-horse team. All the horses were black with dappled white speckles across their hindquarters and they all had white bells around the base of their hooves, clinking and ringing in harmony.
Garth wondered how many people Deverell intended to insult. The noise had started nearly an hour ago and, judging by the stream of coaches still rising over the sunset, wouldn't fully cease for another hour, perhaps nearly two.
"Ostentatious," he whispered against the cheery clangs. The first carriage, fully adorned with flags and gold accents, was nearing the castle's first gate.
"You have one minute to finish getting ready," Novia called in what had to be nearly a scream, and yet it seemed like only a murmur over the noise of the stagecoaches. "His Highness' entourage will be waiting in the dining room as you descend the main staircase, but His Highness himself requests to see you in a personal meeting beforehand. Does that bid well with you?"
"Do I have a choice?" the Prince chuckled.
The only one near enough to hear was Quintonice; she was giving last-minute fixes to the hem of his cloak. She smiled at the remark but hid her face, flushing, when Garth looked at her.
Garth stepped away from Quintonice and turned to Novia with a nod. "If this evening's mockery is shorter than his previous amusements, perhaps Deverell will be finished with me before dawn breaks."
The clacking and ringing only escalated with each step toward the stone-walled carriage foyer. By the time Garth could smell the horses, his head was pounding too loudly—or was it his nervous pulse?—to even discern what was happening. It was only when Coulson, the head butler in charge of meals and seating, yanked his sleeve that he realized he'd almost passed the entrance to the study where his cousin was waiting.
Coulson paused outside the door, turning to Garth. Without a word, the man brushed away mud and hay clinging to the Prince's clothes, giving him once-overs after every pat.
"Coulson," Garth muttered. "Please. Deverell's to insult me no matter how I look. I could very well come nude and—"
"—he'd still act just the same as he will now." He put a gloved hand on the elder's shoulder, smiled, and raised a brow.
Coulson let out a hoarse sigh. "Very well. Proceed."
"Good man," Garth whispered, reaching for the door.
The moment the wooden portal creaked open, Garth could smell the sickeningly sweet rot of tobacco in the air. He tried not to wince and instead focused on the familiar, angular-looking man seated by the fireplace.
"Deverell," Garth nodded.
"And you," the dark-haired man grinned back, extending a wiry hand as he hissed out each syllable. "My dearest cousin, Garth, Prince of Atlantis."
"Pleasure to see you," the prince answered, shaking his hand. He knew all too well that, once the cordial greetings had been exchanged and the menservants excused, the wickedness would begin to show.
"And where might the lovely Theodosia be?"
Deverell's narrowed eyes watched as Garth sat adjacent to him; his lips were set in a deceptive smile, a long cigarette hanging elegantly from between two fingers. "I'm afraid Dosi has come down with a headache from the bells they so foolishly forced onto the horses' hooves. The head maid is taking her to our quarters—Zetta, was it? Proper woman, she is, with manners but still a business attitude. Yes; if our maid were such as that…"
"Zetta does well," Garth agreed. "But enough talk of maids—you've proposed to Theodosia, I've heard. My parents told me she was a charming young woman, a pearl like few others with the face of an angel. Is she truly such a girl?"
"A girl indeed, naïve and dainty as a rain-spotted lily." Deverell sighed, eyes roaming to a time far away. "I care not for looks, pearls or charms, and yet she is ideal. Oh," he said suddenly, twisting in his seat to face the line of servants waiting obediently. "Please make yourselves useful with the carriages. Dosi's trunks are mixed with mine in the second carriage; if you would, send both sets to our chambers, as well as Dosi's maidens. They'll be on the fourth carriage."
The servants' turned their eyes to Garth for approval. Some were of Deverell's castle, but they knew in which home they stood.
Garth hesitated to give consent. "But dear cousin," he asked, turning Deverell's smug face back toward him, "you never directed a location for the contents of the third carriage."
Looking as if Garth had just made him king, the man smiled. "Of course," he laughed. "Take the third carriage to the entrance of this room. Once there, be sure Keir is the one to unload my adored cousin's gift. Once that has been emptied, you are free to send the other gifts to the King and Queen's private reception hall."
To his own family's servants, Garth added, "Zetta and Coulson will likely wish to take the gifts. Seek them out while Keir unloads… what gifts he must unload."
The servants nodded and rocked on their feet, unsure whether to move. "Be quick, and avoid startling the horses," Garth said, waving his hand once. Before either royal could blink, the men were gone, the door shut.
"You're looking just as horrible as when I last saw you," Deverell laughed, his speech abruptly coarse. "One would think that a man would change in two years but, as you must see every morning in the mirror, you have not. Does that drunken soul still break through your filthy skin every time you see a handsome man?"
"Does your spiked tongue pierce any others' hearts, or is it solely me to which it owes the pleasure?"
"My tongue pierces only hearts that exist; I must grieve in the fact that a heart for any but a woman is no heart at all." Deverell flicked the end of his cigarette, smirking as ashes marred the velvet of the chair.
"But cousin!" Garth smiled back. "A heart for one so vulgar and lewd as your beloved Theodosia—certainly you cannot consider one such as her to be even remotely a woman! And you claim that thing in your chest a heart—hah!"
"If not a heart for a woman, at least not a heart for a man," Deverell answered. "Have your perversions continued since that day two years before this very season?"
"Perversions, I assure you, only come to me when some such as a dear relative coerces me into imbibing far too many spirits. If not for your taste when it comes to insulting a man, no so-called perversions would even have occurred!"
"And yet here you are, cousin, of a ripe marrying age, and yet you have no desire to wed, no desire to produce heirs—no desires, in fact, at all!" Deverell stood, taking slow steps toward the wooden door. "You've not even to touch your dressing maids! It astounds me—what did you assume the maids were there for? Dressing? I think not! As soon as a man marries, he is to be rid of other women in his bedroom. But before he gets married, before he becomes chained to a single female, he is alone with those women—you have four, do you not?—day, after day, after day. It would be ludicrous to think a grown man could even resist the charms of young women!"
"Your sadistic desires have made you insane," Garth snarled, jumping to his feet. "If my parents intended for me to—"
"They did intend for you to toy with the girls," Deverell interrupted darkly. "If they are to remain untouched, why are they all young, beautiful and well-groomed?"
"You've gone insane—"
"Have I?" He shrugged, opening the door to the staircase. He looked down the hall and beckoned to someone within.
"Before my hunger forces me down to the banquet, I have a gift to present to you," Deverell smiled. "I hope it will be… of use."
Deverell looked back into the passageway and, after a moment of consideration, joined Garth on the far side of the room.
"What monstrosity did you bring?" Garth hissed, tense as yelling and scraping met his ears. The crack of a whip against hide made him swallow; the same noise brought a quiet laugh from Deverell. The racket got louder until Garth could specifically hear the orders of Keir, Deverell's personal assistant.
Keir led the way into the room, a mass of chains in his hands. It took two black-clad servants—part of Deverell's personal entourage—to aid him in yanking whatever beast it was up the steps.
But then it tripped into the room. Garth saw an arm, a leg, and when the entire defiant figure of a man landed on the wood floor before him, he found himself unable to breathe.
"Well, cousin?" Deverell's voice only barely registered. "Are you—"
"What have you done?" Garth shouted, spinning on his relative, eyes wide and furious. "Treating a human with such disdain—Are you aware of the consequences for such a deed in our kingdom? Your head will rest—"
"On my neck and shoulders, firmly as it has for the previous nineteen years," Deverell cut in. "If you had allowed me to explain my darling gift, I could've assured you that this fate of his should have gone horribly askew. He was a criminal, a man given to the executioner unless someone would bid enough of a sum to save his neck from the gallows. I, in need of an insult worthy of one such as yourself, had groups bid so much money that the executioner couldn't say no."
Now Garth's breath couldn't slow. He stood absolutely still, silent with shock of the man's audacity. "Deverell—"
"If you don't want him," Deverell continued, "you aren't required to take him. You have other gifts—true gifts—waiting amongst your parents'. And yet," he said slowly, tone turning smooth and solemn, "by turning down such a gift, the man will simply go back to the gallows. I can understand your need to give him back… but surely, Garth, you don't want another murder staining your royal hands?"
His throat was too tight, too dry to answer. He could only switch his gaze to the man on the floor, staring at him through insolent green eyes, and wonder how many years another death would haunt his conscience.
The answer that finally formed was resolute; Garth met Deverell's eye and, with a curt nod, spoke.
"I thank you, Deverell, for this gift so bestowed. I accept it with the utmost honor."
If you read their 'tongues and hearts' argument aloud—especially with a British accent—you'll likely find it oddly fun. Huh.
And now… I'd like to make a point of something. This is in an alternate universe, and this particular AU is 99.9 percent made-up, including the characters. Besides Garth, Roy, or any random TT-character I decide to throw in later, the people are original. Get over it. In my opinion, sticking in 'Starfire the hot servant girl' or 'Robin the carpenter's assistant' kind of ruins the whole mood of things…
Feel free to argue…