The eighth chapter is here…
I just want to show my everlasting gratitude to my amazing beta RubinAmigo, I bow before your awesomeness.
The silence in the prince's room was nerve-racking. The two slaves waited for the crown prince to seal the fate of the guilty one.
"Before I'll make the announcement, I would like to call the one who helped me set my verdict." He opened the backdoor of his room and Prince Sam came in.
From the corner of his eye Castiel could see the smile that spread over Balthazar's face.
'For crying out loud! We all know who it is and what the punishment is, so what's with the dramatic tension? Let's just get this over with,' Castiel grumbled to himself.
Prince Sam sat down on a twin sofa on which the crown prince had sat the moment before, while his brother came closer to the two slaves.
"Balthazar," the crown prince called and directed his gaze to the one he called.
"Yes, my lord?" Balthazar took one step forward, a tiny smile on his lips.
"Leave my room; I would like to talk to Castiel alone." His eyes refocused on Castiel, completely ignoring Balthazar.
"Yes, my lord," he said. He was a bit disappointed that his victory wasn't announced immediately, but he was patient, he could wait for the prince to finish playing with his prey.
On his way out he made sure to give Castiel a look full with poisonous satisfaction. He had won and it was time for the whole palace to know.
When Balthazar opened the door two huge guards were waiting at the entrance, completely blocking it.
Balthazar moved a step closer, expecting them to clear the way, which they didn't. Instead they reached out and grabbed Balthazar firmly by his arms.
"Take him to the prison cell. I will hand him his punishment later," the crown prince ordered and the two guards nodded in understanding.
"My lord," Balthazar went completely white in an instant.
"My lord, what is the meaning of this? Why are you punishing me?" he protested while desperately trying to fend off his holders.
"Take him away now" the prince ordered in a louder tone, completely ignoring Balthazar's cries.
The two enormous guards forcefully pulled Balthazar out of the prince's room and closed the door behind them. Balthazar's cries for the prince were heard long after the door was closed behind him.
After Balthazar had *left* the crown prince sat back down on the sofa. At first he didn't say anything, he seemed to be lost in his thoughts, but eventually he spoke up.
"Do you understand my decision Castiel?"
It took Castiel a moment to snap out of his shock long enough to understand that the prince was talking to him.
Prince Sam smiled. "Calm down Castiel," he appeased the overwhelmed slave.
"Perhaps we should explain everything first," the crown prince suggested.
Castiel was honestly considering panicking right about now. He wasn't sure what was going on; was he still in danger? It made him feel like a cornered animal, much like before, only now there were two hunters instead of one.
As perceptive as ever, Prince Sam noticed the slave's distress and spoke up first. "The whole thing was a test the crown prince set up for you and Balthazar, to test your loyalty, integrity and righteousness. You won and were chosen to be the crown prince's personal slave."
"Chuck and prince Sam played the bad guys," the crown prince took over. "It was my idea if I may add, to deceive you into believing they were plotting against me," he added with a huge grin.
Castiel looked confused and still a bit overwhelmed.
"Let me start over," the crown prince tried again. "My brother and Chuck staged the little show for you and Balthazar. Not for nothing did I send you to work with Madam Savar. She made sure you would be in the right place at the right time to see the *conflict*. We gave you a few days to try and deal with the situation and observed your behavior".
Castiel nodded in understanding.
"The original plan was to test your reaction to that act alone, however Balthazar unknowingly provided us with another test."
Castiel tilted his head.
Prince Sam rolled his eyes and said, "Balthazar, like you, was a witness to the whole thing, but he took advantage of it right away. He came to me and offered me his help at getting the necklace. He was so sure of himself that he even tried to blackmail me," the prince tone rose at the last sentence, making his anger perfectly clear.
Prince Dean continued. "Somehow Balthazar found the young slave, I don't know his name, and tried to persuade him into doing his dirty work, but it turns out that the slave is not that stupid. He came to me immediately and told me everything. I admit it was a bold move. Had this been real, I would have had him thrown to the dogs for such an accusation against my brother. Unlike you, he didn't know the danger he was in," he added with a small smile. "I blame that on his youth."
"After the slave came to my brother," Prince Sam proceeded, "we came up with an additional test. I instructed the young slave to wait for you in my brother's room, to pretend to take the necklace and then blame it on you, while all that time making Balthazar believe that his plan was working."
"From then on it was up to me to observe your behavior with and without my presence," the crown prince said with a big smile on his face, all too happy that his plan had worked. "Despite the danger you knew you would be in, you tried to do the right thing and came to talk to me about it. And when that didn't work you tried to keep a close eye on my brother and his slave's return and of course Chuck. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't been caught *red handed* but I assume you would have put the necklace back in its place and made sure to *educate* the young slave."
"Although it was difficult to tell, every now and then I could see a flash of worry and distraction in you, I could tell that something was on your mind. I must admit you do know how to conceal your thoughts."
The prince didn't notice it but Castiel's pale cheeks became a bit pinkish.
"Now do you understand my choice?" the crown prince asked and Castiel nodded.
"In addition to that you were even willing to take the blame for someone who is innocent; you have proven to me that you are trustworthy and righteous. Balthazar on the other hand betrayed me right away and tried to blackmail my brother to get this position."
Prince Sam nodded in agreement. "You also didn't discriminate against the young slave because he is human, like Balthazar did to angel slaves in the palace," he added.
The crown prince nodded and said, "That is very important Castiel. I would not tolerate any kind of discrimination, is that clear?"
Castiel bowed his head. "Yes, my lord," he answered as if it was a command.
"I have to give it to you though; you sure made it a lot easier for me when you encouraged Balthazar to confess to the whole thing, especially since my father was there to hear it. With him as a witness I have all the evidence I need to do with Balthazar as I see fit. I have to admit I didn't expect that from you, you are very interesting, Castiel," the crown prince said with a bit of pride in his voice.
"Well, now that we are done with this, may I go brother? Your games are tiring me," prince Sam said mockingly.
"Of course," the crown prince answered.
"Gabriel," prince Sam called and Gabriel came in.
For a fraction of a second Castiel could see the relief in his brother's eyes before it was gone. Gabriel bowed in respect for the crown prince and together with prince Sam, he left.
"I'm sure you have a lot of things you don't understand, is there anything you would like to ask? I promise I'll answer all of your questions. It's a onetime event so you should take advantage of it," the prince said after his brother had left.
"If I may, my lord, you said the king was there, may I ask why? I can't believe his majesty came here for the test."
"My father presence here was a coincidence; luckily the door to my bedroom wasn't completely closed so he could hear Balthazar's confession."
'Luck had nothing to do with it,' Castiel thought to himself, the coincidence was too great to be random.
"Anything else?" the prince voice broke through his thoughts.
"Yes, my lord, at my first night here, you told me that I'd be your personal slave. Was Balthazar's nomination as a candidate to be your personal slave also part of the test?"
"No, when I saw you I already had my mind mostly made up, but it was strongly suggested I should take a human, not an angel, as my personal slave. So I offered to make a contest, to decide who is better."
Castiel nodded. It was a smart move, he had to admit; since the crown prince couldn't formally reject whoever it was who had made that demand, he had at least given Castiel a chance.
"That also allowed me to test both of you, and learn more about you," the prince continued. "You see, I've known Balthazar for a long time and I knew he wouldn't be loyal to me. Those that oppose me tried to place him as a spy in my ranks for years. That's one of the reasons that I didn't choose a slave up until now."
"But my lord, couldn't you just choose another slave?"
"No, I couldn't openly declare why I didn't want Balthazar as my slave, because I didn't have any evidence to his lack of loyalty. I just said I didn't want any slave at all. In order to be able to choose someone else as my slave, it had to be an angel and I didn't find anyone until you came."
So the prince was voting for him then, that is a very good thing. There was only one small matter that bugged him: how much of the past few days had been planed?
"Back in your room, when I first saw the box, was that all staged?"
"No," the prince answered and lowered his head, a bit embarrassed. "That was a complete accident. I didn't originally plan on telling you about the location of the necklace personally. I had planned on making you aware of it through another slave, that's why it was placed in such an unprotected location. But somehow I ended up almost giving away the whole thing; you tried to talk to me about it, and I just couldn't let you, because it would have ruined everything."
He paused for a second. "But if at anytime you feel there is something important that I need to know, come to me about it. I promise I won't turn you down again, understand?"
Castiel nodded his head.
He'd had another agenda in asking it. He wanted to know if the prince had been awake during his *mesmerized* episode while resting on the prince's chest.
"If I may ask, why is that necklace so important to you, my lord?"
The prince averted his eyes, he really didn't want to answer that, and Castiel noticed.
"It wasn't my place to ask that my lord, I'm sorry."
"No," the prince nodded his head. "I told you to ask and I promised to answer all of your questions."
He opened his hand that still held the silver necklace and raised it close to his face, allowing Castiel to have a closer look.
"This necklace was a gift that my brother gave me. It belonged to my mother. Bobby, one of my father's advisors, found it and gave it to Sam. He said that my mother used to hold it close to her heart at all times."
"I take it, that there aren't a lot of people that have seen it, or even know about its existence?" Castiel asked, seeing how close the prince still held the necklace although there was really no reason to be so overly protective over it.
"You're right; in fact you were never supposed to see it. The young slave was just supposed to steal it and then frame you for it, but you entered the room too soon."
An uneasy feeling spread in the room and Castiel considered to finish the whole thing, but he couldn't miss such a golden opportunity.
"Aside from mental value, does it have any other properties?" he asked a bit worried. This was a very delicate matter.
"Properties?" the prince frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing, my lord," Castiel backpedaled before he could reveal too much. 'So the prince doesn't know what the necklace really is'… he added it to the mental list of *Things for which he would strangle Gabriel for not telling him about*.
The prince wasn't an idiot. He could tell something wasn't right, but he decided to let it go for now.
"Before we continue I want to ask you something," the crown prince interfered. "You could have told me the truth. You could have told me that it was the young slave who was the criminal. Why didn't you?"
"I knew he was following orders. I didn't know it was Balthazar's until a moment before we came into your room, but I knew he probably didn't have a choice. I didn't want him to be punished for following an order he couldn't disobey. I hoped he could be spared."
"But why did you take the blame?"
"My lord, I told you I didn't commit any crime and I haven't. I couldn't tell you the whole truth. You would have never believed me and I wasn't going to give the slave away, so the only choice I had was to keep quiet."
"I understand that, but next time, don't take the blame for a fault that is not your own, especially because you think I won't believe you."
There were a few silent moments before the prince spoke. "I just remembered," he announced. "I put a close watch on you and Balthazar so I could judge you better and I noticed a very interesting thing; I knew Balthazar's every move. You on the other hand, my *spies* lost every time. Care to explain that?"
Castiel's face turned white. How was he going to explain how an ordinary looking slave that had no powers, had the ability to vanish into thin air like a ninja?
"My lord," he almost choked nervously. "If you continue to give me compliments like that I'll be spoiled. I'm sure that the spies just mistook me for another angel, so they thought they lost me. I'm really not that skilled."
He couldn't really give a better answer and thankfully the prince didn't ask him to. "It's okay, I don't really need to know. Be mysterious, I like it that way."
Castiel gave him a small smile.
Afterwards the crown prince declared Castiel as his personal slave to the palace head butler, who in turn made sure to spread the news to every corner of the palace. That made his status a closed deal. Every slave and servant in the palace knew that he had to be respected for he represented the word of the crown prince.
"Gabriel! I'm going to kill you!" Castiel voice echoed through his new residence. His right hand was raised up in the air in a threatening way, holding a simple white vase.
"Now, now Castiel. Put that vase down before someone will get hurt," Gabriel's voice came from behind the small black sofa.
"That's the idea," Castiel hissed and raised his arm a bit higher, aiming for the right angle. "You lied to me!" he said with a raised voice. "You knew about the test and you didn't tell me anything!"
"That is not true," Gabriel stated, and straightened his body to a full standing position to support his words.
A very, very bad move. He barely managed to draw back to safety before the vase flew, in a perfect arch right above his head and smashed into the wall behind him.
"That was close, Castiel!" he protested in an amazed voice. "You could have really hurt me!"
"Again…that's the idea," Castiel said while reaching for the nearest thing that would most likely cause damage. It happened to be a book that to the great irony of it all, was about etiquette in the palace and had been a present from Gabriel.
"You sold me out!" he yelled while throwing the book right above Gabriel's head, who had peeked for a second to see what was going on.
"I didn't know, Castiel, I swear," he tried again. It was not easy to make Castiel angry, but when he got angry it was very difficult to calm him down.
A pillow flew, followed by another and then a shoe.
"A shoe? What, are you out of weapons?" Gabriel asked mockingly.
He looked behind him, at the different objects that the *Castiel- pissed-as-hell express* piled behind him making it harder and harder for him to hide behind the sofa.
He raised one of his hands above the back of the sofa.
"I surrender," he said. "I would have raised a white flag but you didn't provide me with one back here."
Nothing flew, or smashed so Gabriel concluded that Castiel's arsenal must be depleted. Very slowly he came out from behind the sofa with both hands raised above his head.
"Five minutes, give me five minutes to explain, okay?"
Castiel lowered the other shoe that matched the one he'd thrown before.
"Okay" Gabriel said and lowered his hands and sat on the sofa that a few seconds ago had been his bunker.
Castiel sat on the other sofa and waited for his ass of a brother to talk while sending death glares in his direction.
"I swear to you Castiel, I didn't know, not until me and prince Sam were out of the palace, and by then I couldn't do anything. I tried to send you a massage but it didn't work. I begged the prince to allow me to get back, but he held me captive. I was a nervous wreck the whole time we weren't here."
"The prince knew-"
"Yes, he knew, and he kept it away from me. I swear to you Castiel I would have never done something like that."
Castiel gave a small nod of agreement.
"He might know something about us by the way," Gabriel continued. "I think he suspected something when I asked him to reassign Anna, but he is sure to know something is off by now, especially after my desperate attempts to return to the palace before the decision of the Crown Prince."
Castiel was still giving him death glares, so Gabriel continued.
"When I finally came back, the damage was already done, you had been *caught* and isolated in your room. I tried to find a way into your room but it didn't work. I tried to talk to prince Sam but he wouldn't even listen. I had no way of telling you that it was a test, so I tried to turn the odds in you favor. I went to Chuck and convinced him that it would be in the crown prince's interest if the king was present in the crown prince's room during the verdict. I told him that he would see how the crown prince is skilled in the art of deception and how good his original choice was, since he, the king, preferred a human slave. I hoped that he would see you in action, or at least see Balthazar's deceiving act."
Castiel tilted his head. "So you are responsible for the king presence?"
"Yes, well indirectly anyway. After the king heard Balthazar's *confession*, he ordered to exile him and then publicly supported the crown prince's original choice to make you his personal slave. The king's support also hushed everyone else who had something more to say."
"But how did you make sure there would be a confession?" Castiel asked. The death glares were gone, but he still wasn't all too calm.
"Balthazar is a very smart man, but he is also very arrogant, like you have already noticed. So I went to him shortly before he was summoned and I bragged about how angels are so much better than humans, since both of the princes have angles as their personal slaves. Obviously he mocked me and said that he would be dealing with one slave at a time, that you came first and then me. He told me about his scheme and I bragged that he had planned a masterpiece yet no one would ever know about it, not even the central piece, you. From then on he was practically eager to tell you everything. All I had to do was to make sure that the king would be able to hear his confession. It was surprisingly easy. The king's presence in the prince's room, made sure everyone was on their best behavior and therefore very quiet. I took advantage of a moment when no one paid too much attention to me and made sure to open the door just a bit so you could be heard yet not too much that it was noticed." He had a huge smile on his face, not even bothering to hide his pride.
Castiel didn't say a word; he just wordlessly stared at his brother full of amazement. He was glad to know that the long years as a slave hadn't taken too much of a toll on Gabriel. In many ways he remained as he had been, deadly with an unhealthy but creative sense of revenge. Not for nothing was he called a Trickster.
"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
Castiel snapped back to reality. "Nothing, I'm just glad you are on my side Gabriel. You did all that in an hour, I'm afraid to think about what you would have done in a day, or a week."
Gabriel's smile grew to a full size smug grin.
"So Balthazar is gone? Forever?"
"Yes, that's the whole point in being exiled."
"Isn't it a bit harsh? I don't feel sorry for him, but exile?"
"He did try to undermine the crown prince and blackmail Prince Sam. The king isn't all too forgiving when it comes to his family."
"Makes sense," Castiel said with a nod.
"I do have two questions though," he continued. "Chuck called Prince Sam a *monster*, why?"
Gabriel thought for a second. "It was directed at Balthazar, not you, but I wouldn't give it much thought if I were you." He stood up, ending the conversation.
'Right, that is exactly why I'm going to give that a lot of thought,' Castiel decided. Gabriel wouldn't deliberately withhold vital information from him, but whenever Prince Sam was involved, Gabriel was different. He would have to keep an eye on him.
"And the other question?" Gabriel changed the subject.
Castiel considered how to ask his next question "What do you know about the prince's most precious possession?"
Gabriel looked confused. "The necklace that prince Sam gave him?"
"Not much, I have never even seen it. Why?"
"No reason," Castiel declared. "I was just curios."
Gabriel gave him an odd look but didn't say anything more on the subject.
"So we're cool now? No more throwing things at me or threatening to hurt my devilishly gorgeous body in any way?"
Castiel suppressed a little chuckle and only nodded his head.
"Good," Gabriel announced. He clapped his hands and looked around. "You do need to clean this place a bit, the prince will surely come to see if everything is fine here."
Castiel didn't move from his seat, he just gave him a half-angry look.
"I still have a few more things I can throw at you if you insist," he threatened.
"What?..." he asked innocently "Oh… well because it's partially my fault-" a cushion flew near his shoulder.
"Okay, okay, it's completely my fault! I will help clean that up… Happy?"
The first few weeks were tiring for Castiel. He had to learn many things and re-establish his position at the palace, especially to all of those who thought they could take advantage of his alleged weak character by threatening. He was challenged a few times, he even needed stitches in one case, but all in all he knew how to set order and discipline around him, and the small provocations soon stopped.
In addition to that he also had to take care of every little thing that had to do with the prince. His habits and daily routines, things he liked and disliked, his sometimes hot temper and lack of patience. His fondness of the opposite sex and drunk nights out of the palace were particularly hard on Castiel, who had to accompany the prince to everyone of those places and stay with him until he had finished his business.
"At least he lets me stay out of the room when he is in the presence of a young lady," he confessed to Gabriel after one of those nights. His head was resting on the table in complete frustration.
Gabriel nodded, trying his best not burst out laughing. Castiel was already on the edge, there was no point in pushing him over it. It would only result in Castiel not coming to talk to him ever again.
"There are worse fates than hearing the prince dancing the naughty dance. How is he by the way? Any good?"
Castiel raised his head from the table and gave his brother a bitch-face. He actually gave him a bitch-face, which no doubt he had learned from Prince Sam. The imitation was so good that Gabriel just couldn't say anything.
Castiel soon found out why there had been such a commotion around Lady Jo. In fact there had been a commotion near every member of the royal family lately. The Memorial Day of the queen's death was coming up in 3 months or so and the royal family was setting out to the northernmost part of the kingdom.
The royal burial site, in which all members of the royal family were buried, was located in the most northern part of the kingdom, at the foot of a mountain. Each year all the royal family set on a long journey to show respect for the dead.
Prior to the queen's death, the king was the only one who set out on this journey on the first day of the new year, but ever since the queen's unexpected death at such a young age. The king declared that the pilgrimage would be moved to a month before the queen's Memorial Day, so that they would arrive close to the actual Memorial Day. The two princes had decided to join their father on the journey, and after fights and several hunger strikes, he had agreed. That had led to the joining of the other members of the royal family like the queen's parents, lady Jo and her family. And of course Bobby, who was the princes' informal surrogate father, because theirs was too busy with the affairs of the kingdom, since the death of his wife, to pay too much attention to his boys.
Frantic preparations were made. Like strict security arrangements for the royal family and their entourage, huge amounts of food were gathered and stored, new clothes were prepared for each of the royal family, decisions about the camp setting and location were received and implemented, different flowers to put on the graves were ordered, and on and on and on.
Castiel was lucky in the sense that the crown prince wasn't a fuss-liking man (unlike Prince Sam), so his entourage included only the absolute minimum set of the most needed people, about 30 people including the guards. The prince insisted that it was more than enough and that he didn't want any more people fussing around him. When Prince Sam insisted on adding more and more people to his brother's entourage the crown prince threatened to kill people on the way if he would not be left alone.
At the end of that month everything was set. Every member of the royal family had a small group of slaves and servants to accompany them and tend for them during the one month journey to the burial ground, the week of rituals and the one month journey back home.
A list was hung out in every wing of the palace detailing who was coming and who was not.
Everyone wanted to go. It was a rare opportunity to leave the palace for about two months and see the kingdom and of course get *acquainted* with the locals, especially in the brothel.
The journey would be long and difficult this year because of cold weather out of season, but none the less the royal convoy set off exactly on schedule.
Little did they know how much their journey was about to get very dangerous.
I haven't felt well for some time, so I decided to take a short break from writing, so I deliberately chose not to end this chapter with a cliffhanger.
I hope I can go back to writing again soon, because I have many plans for this fanfic.
I admit, originally I didn't plan on making the final test a big deal. It was supposed to be something minor and I would have ended it in a sentence or two. But because of your reviews I thought of creating a big test that also helped me a lot with the rest of the story that will come next. So if you have any further ideas to continue the story, I would be love to hear them.
Anyway I hope you all liked this chapter, please read and review.