"That's the best I can do. It should hide your marks but not cover up so much as to offend an interested Master," Odwill said. The elderly servant finished positioning the decorative cuffs over Chalice's biceps, patting his arm with the familiar touch of a man who'd watched over his charge since birth.
"Thanks, Odwill, it should do fine." Chalice gave his manservant a reassuring smile. He knew the older man didn't approve of Chalice's plans. However, he couldn't argue with Chalice's mother.
Although his mother had died during Chalice's birth, her powers as a seer were legendary. Knowing she would die during labour, she'd chronicled advice to her unborn son and uploaded it into the royal archives. Her encryption key died with her, so no one would be able to alter them or read ahead. Once a week, the device would chime and advice from beyond the grave would appear on the screen. Not once had she steered him wrong. When Chalice was younger, he'd thought of her as his imaginary friend--always there when he needed help. Now he wished she could advise him in person.
When he'd first announced plans to join the outbound pets on the next starship, Odwill had immediately looked for ways to help. They both knew there was no future for Chalice as long as he lived beneath his father's roof. His father loved Chalice in his own way, but he refused to acknowledge his son's problem. In his father's mind, a planetary ruler couldn't have a submissive for a son.
To protect his identity, he'd first needed to cover the tattoos revealing him as a four- elemental mage. No one would take a man on board who could destroy their ship with a single thought. Wide bands of coppery metal on his biceps gave the impression of bondage as well as covering up his signs of power.
Chalice fidgeted with his armbands for a moment before turning to face his servant. "You'd best make yourself scarce after I leave. I don't want you to get into trouble. I doubt father will discover my absence for a few days, but when he does, he's likely to come to you for questioning. Wait to announce your retirement until they discover I'm missing. Don't give him any reason to think you were responsible for my disappearance."
Odwill nodded. Not a strand of his white hair moved. Chalice had always wondered how the man stayed perfectly groomed no matter what the conditions.
"I will wait until they announce you missing, then go stay with my sister in Collinsville. Your father shouldn't object since I will no longer have a charge."
Chalice went to his dresser and pulled out a small velvet bag from the top drawer. "This is for you, Odwill. A small thanks for all of your help." He clasped the servant's shoulder, handed the bag over then turned to away finish packing. He wasn't going to cry. According to his father, princes didn't cry and Chalice didn't plan to start now.
"My lord!" Odwill gasped behind him. "This is more gold than I've ever had in my life."
Chalice took a deep breath but kept his back to Odwill. He was too close to an emotional breakdown over leaving the man who'd been more like a father to him than his own.
"I can't repay you for all you've done for me over the years, but I can make sure your remaining years are comfortable."
"Thank you, my lord. I want you to know that it has always been a pleasure to serve you, despite your handicap. You've never been a bit of trouble. If I could go with you to your new home I would."