Thwack, Thwack, Thwack!
An immense amount of pain spread across my back and legs. I could barely stand, let alone breathe.
The prince really did it this time... He'd stolen a batch of pastries from the kitchen and eaten them all himself. I was being whipped for it.
You may be asking, 'Why would one be whipped for something someone else did, Elias?' Well... it's a bit of a doozy, this one...
I'm a whipping boy.
I am whipped for all the things the Crown Prince does wrong.
Whether he have a bad attitude, play a prank on a scullery maid, or roll his eyes at his governess... I was the one punished for it.
"Ah!" I yelped. The long, leather cord of the whip had embedded itself in my skin like a hot-iron branding stick. It burned just as much.
"Quiet, you insolent boy! We've only four more to go." The tall, lean man, whom I called the Thrasher, said. He was an older man with a reputation for being snobbish. All in all, he was one of the fellows I liked the least within this castle.
I remained quiet throughout the rest of 'my' punishment. Cruel for a thirteen year old, no?
After the whippings were dealt, I was allowed to clean up, and then I was promptly escorted back to my room. As soon as the large wooden door closed, I breathed out a sigh of relief. I was alone.
Or so I thought.
"Was it bad this time?" I heard a boyish voice ask. I immediately recognized the voice of my best friend, the Crown Prince; Victor. I smiled weakly and turned to him.
"It is alright, Victor. It was not anything I couldn't handle." I replied. The room was dark, so I could not read his expression very well, but I could tell he was on the verge of tears.
"I'm sorry. I did not mean to get you in trouble." He sniffled as his voice cracked ever so slightly. "Do not worry. I am fine, friend. You needn't cry over me. It is my job to take your punishments; I do not resent you for it." I said, moving closer to him.
"Is it possible for one to resent themself? I cannot stand to watch them take you away... for something that I did. It is not right." The prince had shed a few tears. I could see the faint shimmer of water spilling down his cheeks. It had a sort of orange shine, which reflected the dim candlelight.
I sat beside him on my bed and scooted close. "I'm fine. Really..." I was so close, I could feel his short breaths. "Are you sure?" "Yes, of course. I wouldn't lie to you..." I rotated my head, as I had grown a bit red in the face.
He nodded and stood up gracefully. "Alright. I think I'll retire for the night, then." He offered a small smile. "Goodnight, Victor." My small, meek voice echoed within the stone walls.
"Goodnight... Elias." He chuckled and closed the door as he slipped of to his bedchamber.
I began to settle in and change into my night clothes.
As I stripped myself of my day clothes, I could see the freshly added marks of the whip. It was my mark of submission, and of loyalty.
It was what I deserved. I am a bastard child. An orphan. "A scoundrel of a young man", as Victor's governess would say.
I was hand-chosen by the King of Beldare to be a whipping boy. It was my entire purpose in life, therefore I could not be angry with it. You might say that's a bit daft, but it is the cold truth.
A small part of me wishes to be free though. Since I was a small boy, I've dreamt of running away with Victor. We would run away to a place where we could be children forever... but of course, dreams change.
I laid myself to sleep as I closed my eyes. I tried to ignore the stinging sensation on my back, but both sleep and comfort seemed to be on holiday, and they weren't coming back anytime soon.
Painful memories flooded my head rather than dreams. I was taken in when I had just turned four. I wasn't whipped as much when I was younger, and I was only lightly smacked with a small stick, or the hand of anyone who saw it fit. It did not make it just, but it was my place.
I had to do it. For Victor...
I shook my head and erased the thoughts from my mind. I needed sleep badly.
"Elias, wake up- come on!" I felt someone shake me. "Not yet... too tired." I turned over and clutched my pillow to my chest. My eyes were closed still as I groaned. "Come on, hurry! Breakfast is going to get cold!" I refused to get up. I hadn't gotten much more than three hours of sleep...
"If you don't wake up, I'm going to go eat all of the porridge without you, and I won't leave you a single raspberry tart." He whispered close to my ear. I shivered slightly.
Raspberry tarts were my favorite...
I sat up straight and frowned. "You wouldn't!" I cried. Victor laughed a stroked his chocolate colored hair. "Get dressed quickly and come down, I have a surprise for you." He smiled and left my room just as quickly as he came.
I was soon dressed and prepped to the standards of royalty. It is normal for a whipping boy to act and dress as royalty, even though I felt out of place most times. I also received the same education as the Prince. We did practically everything together.
I found myself in the dining hall, but there was no sign of Victor. Perhaps he was on his way... I glanced around the large room adorned with gold. Suddenly, a piece of parchment caught my eye.
There on the table,was a short note. I picked up the note and read the calligraphic writing. I knew it was Victor's writing, because of the curly y's and elegant slant of the letters.
"Come up to my chambers. Agatha is allowing us eat on the balcony. I've got your present!"
I smiled and started up the stairs. I soon came to Victors room, which was always easy to spot, since the same same gold that adorned the dining hall was found around the perimeter of the Prince's doorframe. I knocked on the dark wood and waited for a response.
"Good morning, Elias." Agatha opened the door and greeted me kindly, as always. She was my favorite servant... almost like a mother to Victor and I.
"Oh, yes. Good morning, Agatha." I gracefully strode through the door to find Victor sitting on the balcony with one leg crossed over the other. His smile was tender, yet dashing, as it always was. He seemed to be enjoying his breakfast along with the scenery. The Beldare Kingdom was surrounded by tall, majestic, snow-capped mountains, which stretched as far as the eye could see.
"How long are you going to just stand there?" Victor asked, breaking me away from my thoughts. "Ah, sorry. I was thinking..." "Care to tell what about?" Victor raised a brow and chuckled.
A small blush crossed my cheeks. It was not embarrassing... but what my thoughts led to...were. "Uh... nothing worth sharing. Just silly thoughts." I bit into a raspberry tart.
"You can tell me anything, Elias. I won't laugh at you." He seemed serious. I swallowed the lump in my throat and sighed. "Have you ever wondered what lies beyond those mountains?" "No, not really, why?" Victor shrugged.
I didn't know what to say. I stayed quiet for a moment. "Elias... what is this about?" I stared into his deep brown eyes. "Ever since I was a young boy, I always dreamt of running away. But I don't just want to run away... I wanted us to run away together..." I muttered. I was no good at keeping secrets.
Victor looked baffled. He stopped eating and looked me in the eyes. He began moving closer... and closer... until he stopped. He was right next to my ear, and I could practically feel the heat radiating from him. "You know that we will always be together, right?" He whispered.
I nodded, too afraid to use my words. He moved away with a sly grin plastered to his handsome face. I was a mess, and I couldn't even voice it.
"That reminds me... I have your gift." He smiled cheekily and reached into his pocket. "Ok, now turn around." He ordered. I obeyed and faced the opposite direction.
He didn't seem to be doing anything, until I felt cold metal around my neck. I looked down to see that I was wearing a pendant on a chain. The locket was round, and gold in color. "Thank you, Victor. It's lovely." I said as I turned to face him again.
"I'm glad you like it. Whenever you wear it I want you to think of me. You are my best friend, Elias, and I-" He paused. His face went red.
"What is it?" I asked. "N-nothing." He chuckled. "Alright then. Thanks for the locket, Victor" I said, skipping away.
I had gone back to my room for morning tea. Afterwards, Victor and I had horseback riding lessons. Of course, Victor was always better at those sort of things than I. He was a bit taller than I was, so he had the advantage on his horse. I needed a step stool...
His noble, chestnut colored horse had rippling muscles and a long mane to match. It was practically the prince in the form of a horse. It sounds odd to say out loud, but it made better sense if you saw the prince the way I did...
However, I could not focus on the enjoyment of riding, as I was too busy worrying about what was to come. I wanted to run away, but I didn't. My heart and mind were at war with one another.
The whole day was spent weighing my options. Run away... or don't. Bring Victor with... or don't. Be a coward... or don't.
And finally, I had made my decision.