The Realm, 165 years ago
"The kinslayer's awake."
The words came to Tiernan like the loving caress of a needle blade driven directly into his ear. It was dark around him and cold. Well, no. Yes, it was cold, but not necessarily dark; whatever was over his head let in just enough light to give his eyes the same sweet attention his ears had already received. He tried to raise a hand to magick off the sack -- or whatever the hell it was -- but the vicious cramp in his gut told him his hands were chained with truesilver an instant before he felt the cool clasp around his wrists.
The movement, as slight as it was, was greeted by the sound of steel being drawn. One hell of a lot of steel. Tiernan froze, even the lip hidden by his shroud ceasing to curl. He was sick, probably drugged, blinded, and truechained, against at least six. Not odds he liked.
"Wise choice, kinslayer."
If the sound of swords had paralyzed his body, the voice reaching him through the darkness damn near stopped his heart. Ardan Carraig. The Prince Royal of Tiernan's own house, that of Earth. And... kinslayer. The word was like ice. I. Am. SO. Fucked.
Tiernan drew in a deep, slow breath. The Prince didn't necessarily know anything. And even if Ardan thought he knew, the crime of which he was accusing Tiernan was so unthinkable for a Fae, he might yet be persuaded he didn't know, after all. "Highness." The word didn't so much issue from his throat as crawl out over shards of broken glass; he coughed and tried again. "Highness, are the chains really necessary?" The truesilver, which had been quiescent while he was unconscious, was heating now that he was awake, and feeding off the magick inherent in his nature. If he tried to actively use magick, or had any used on him, he'd be greeted with a twist to his gut like the length of it wrapped round a spiked pole, and more heat as well. He'd end up permanently branded, or worse. Although there was at least a possibility he wouldn't be around to care.
Growls came from several places around wherever he was. From the echoes, it sounded like a stone cell of some kind. Small. And crowded.
"Hands that slew a brother should be severed. Would you prefer that?" Ardan's voice was cold, almost a monotone. "It could be arranged easily enough." Someone muttered, as if in agreement or perhaps it was meant as an offer of help in the arranging.
A muscle jumped in Tiernan's jaw. He has no proof. There's no fucking corpse. "If those are my choices, Highness, I'll wear the chains. But why?"
A booted foot slammed into his kidneys, and he shouted as his back spasmed hard, arching like a speared fish. "Do you insult our intelligence, boy? Or our honor?" Tiernan couldn't quite place the voice, especially over his gasps of pain, but somehow it sounded as if the speaker wore the tabard of the Royal Defense. Trimmed with gold, no doubt, And probably stained with the blood of the last luckless son of a bitch who'd pissed him off.
"Is there..." He sucked in a breath. "...any answer... that won't get me another one of those?" Tiernan realized in that moment, something in him had accepted his imminent death, and had apparently chosen this way to embrace it. Well, fuck it. The Prince Royal could get away with using that tone with him. But Tiernan Guaire was of a Noble house and line -- albeit a line now shorter by one -- and he still had some small shred of pride left to die with.
"Highness, time grows short."
Tiernan cursed under his breath as another piece of what must have happened to him during the last few hours fell into place in his abused brain. This voice he knew; he'd last heard it over cheap uiscebai in The Maid's Round Heels. His hands had still been shaking from the doing of a murder and the aftermath of the magick that had done away with the evidence, and a shot or two of the amber liquor with his chance-met former lover had seemed just the camouflage for that little problem at the time. But he'd forgotten the dear boy's sister was in the Royal Defense, and he'd also overlooked the peculiar taste of the uiscebai
"What did you put in my drink, Niall? Veissin, I'm guessing from the headache, and knowing for fact that you're too damned cheap to spring for anything that could have done the job without leaving me with --."
This kick caught him in the throat and left him gagging.
"You're lucky the Prince Royal had a sworn warrant for your delivery alive." Niall's usual silken tenor had taken on a hard edge, disgust and anger. "Else you'd be dead by now, and I'd have had much more pleasure by it than dragging your oblivious ass here from the tavern afforded me."
Tiernan shook his head, trying to clear the last of the drugged haze from it. "So sorry my ass seems to have lost its capacity to please you --"
The sack was pulled off Tiernan's head, cutting him off mid-jibe. His head was jerked up, then slammed back down onto a floor of black stone. Bright lights flashed behind his eyelids, and he groaned. And then he groaned again, as he opened his eyes to try for more than a brief glimpse of his surroundings. Torchlight flared, dazzling him until his eyes watered and his skull pounded. Whoever had removed the sack stood before him. Blinking tears out of his eyes, Tiernan recognized the boots. Niall had always been one for leather play, and the boy did love his spikes.
He struggled up onto an elbow, awkwardly since his wrists were still chained together, with blisters rising under the truesilver links. The room lurched, swam, and finally came into focus, though the edges of things still seemed to vibrate with the beating of his heart. Niall was nearest, stepping back in the sudden silence to give him a clear view of the raven-haired Prince Royal. In that moment, Ardan could have been sculpted of stone, every inch an embodiment of the element of his Demesne. He was clad all in black, wearing both his circlet of rank and his signet. Tiernan's heart sank. Whether or not there was any evidence against him, the Prince had obviously come prepared to pass sentence, and Tiernan was as good as dead.
Around the Prince Royal stood some Tiernan knew well, the heads of the four Noble houses of Earth other than his own, likewise arrayed for judgment in their various somber finery, together with a lapdog bodyguard from the Royal Defensce, a sandy-haired swordsman with a bored expression but a fine array of weaponry. The room itself was unremarkable, round, with walls of ancient stone, torches fixed in wall brackets the only features visible. The floor was black stone, smooth and featureless, almost mirror-like.
Mirrorlike? No. Something in the floor was catching the torchlight. No one spoke or moved as Tiernan studied the elaborate tracing of hair-fine silver wire set into the gleaming black surface. His heart started racing, bile rose in his throat. "You're exiling me." The polished floor showed him his own eyes gone wide with fear, whites clear around the blue of them, before he turned his gaze on the Prince and the four councilors who flanked him with drawn swords. "To the human realm."
The Prince Royal nodded gravely. His gaze flickered from side to side, as if to take in the four Heads of House. "Execution would also have been proper, but there was no one who wished to defile a blade with a kinslayer's blood." Ardan's fingers tightened around the hilt of his own undrawn sword, as if they took issue with the decision. "We could have left you here to await the opening of the portal alone, but your accuser is oathbound, and wished to confront you."