Status: In Progress

The Majesty of Choice


“Elf!” Edgar says, in a savage way, which sends the first of many chills into Pete’s bones. “What were you trying to do? Did you think we wouldn’t find you?”

“No. I mean, yes. I don’t know! I’m sorry!” Pete shouts. This isn’t how he had expected this to happen.

“What was your goal? Tell me.”

“It was nothing!” Pete shouts, because he can’t let Edgar know anything. Not if he knows what’s good for him. He’s got to keep his head on his plans, not on his own safety.

He feels very small. He is an elf after all, but he shrinks into the corner of the room. He tries to make himself smaller, smaller, so that Edgar can’t see him, can’t ask him any more questions.

“You will tell me,” Edgar says.

Pete just looks down at the ground in front of him, refusing to do anything else. He’s kneeling on the floor, his arms tied behind his back by sturdy, itchy ropes. He doesn’t want to look up at Edgar, doesn’t want to see the face of the man who’s done so many horrible things to him, and is currently trying to decide on even more.

“I can’t say,” Pete shakes his head.

“I have ways of making you talk.” Edgar’s voice creeps into the marrow. Pete physically shudders and looks up at the wrong moment to actually see those evil eyes looking back at him. He sees a flame dancing in them, knows that there is nothing good there.

Gerard had been right. Not like Pete ever doubted it. After what Edgar has done to the elves, how could there ever have been doubt that this man was pure evil?

It’s so stupid, did Pete really think that his family would be here? This kingdom is huge, and there are rumors that Edgar has been selling elves to neighboring kingdoms as slaves. Why would the particular people he’s looking for be here, in this exact spot?

But at the same time, what if they are? Pete didn’t make it inside that building, maybe his family really were there. He had to check, even if they weren’t. Even though he never even got the chance. They could still be there. He could be in the same town as his family for the first time in over five years, and there’s nothing he can do. He came all this way for this one small hope, and he was caught before he ever even got a chance. This isn’t fair.

“You were trying to break in!” Edgar shouts. “That is a crime, you could rot your way through the rest of your miserable life in a prison cell for this. What did you seek?” Does Edgar really not know? Pete was caught trying to break into the building dubbed the “elf barracks” but everyone in Pete’s town calls it simply the House. The House is where elves go to be sold. They go there to die, if not their body than their soul.

“You came with that Gerard boy; did he have something to do with this?” Edgar asks, and Pete shakes his head. Is Edgar so devoid of emotion that it hasn’t dawned on him that Pete was trying to rescue his own family?

“I’ll never tell you anything,” Pete says, looking back down at the ground, because he doesn’t want to give this man the satisfaction of seeing his fear.

“You will,” Edgar says assuredly. Pete doesn’t see it coming at all, he just feels his air completely disappear from his lungs, and he falls back against the hard floor, wishing he could clutch his stomach where Edgar has just kicked him, but he can’t with his hands tied around his back, trapped underneath him. “I have ways of making you talk.” Edgar’s voice rings out Pete’s insides. It’s not the blow to the stomach that makes him feel like he could puke.

Pete doesn’t see it happen, but Edgar motions to his guard to drag Pete somewhere. When he was caught outside the House, someone put a burlap sack over his head before he was taken to wherever here is. He thinks it’s a dungeon of some sort, because there’s no lights anywhere except for the smallest flickering candles in little alcoves on the wall, but these walls appear to be little more than dirt. It must be a dungeon. It smells bad enough to be one.

He doesn’t know where he’s being dragged until he’s just being thrown on the ground on the dirty floor. This room has bars on it. He thinks it’s a cell. Oh great. He’s going to be locked up in a cell for the rest of his life, rotting away.

“Usually, I don’t dirty my hands by doing this myself,” Edgar’s voice says, but Pete doesn’t want to look at him. “But I’ll make an exception this time.”

He forces himself to look, he sees something in Edgar’s hand, though he doesn’t know quite what it is. He’s not just going to be locked up… no things are going to be much worse than that.

“Please,” Pete whimpers. He doesn’t know what he’s asking for. Let him go?

He never thought he would know what the sting of a whip would feel like, but it’s something you recognize the instant it hits you. The snap fills the cavernous dungeon sharply. He yelps. It’s painful, undoubtedly so, but he thinks he will be able to bear it.

“Why were you breaking into the elf barracks?” He asks, giving Pete a moment or two of hesitation before the whip comes down again, this time across his stomach which stings painfully.

“Go to hell,” Pete says. Two snaps, welts appearing across his torso where the whip makes contact with him. He looks up, sees Edgar standing over him, weapon in his hand. He tries to avoid eye contact, looks at the ceiling above him. He refuses to touch the skin where he’s been hurt, he won’t let Edgar know he’s in pain.

Pete can feel large hands, not Edgar’s hands because he’s still standing over him, pulling his shirt off, exposing is skin so that the sting will hurt more. He almost makes a soft pained sound when rough hands ghost over the fresh marks, but he doesn’t. He tries to remain brave. It won’t last long.

“I don’t really care why you were sneaking off,” Edgar says. “Elves are unimportant at best. Vermin in truth. Garbage. Your tiny brain may not even be enough to understand you’ve committed a crime.”

“Fuck you,” Pete says. He shouldn’t say it. He knows he shouldn’t. Because he’s only hit for it. He doesn’t count how many. He doesn’t want to. It’s several snaps. It hurts more now than he thought it would. The whip hitting his skin without the flimsy protection of his shirt is far worse. It’s awful. A tear comes to his eye, but he doesn’t brush it away, he refuses to let Edgar see it.

“What I care about is the boy.” His voice is evil. Positively evil. Gerard said he hated Edgar, and Pete hated him pretty well too. But neither of them could ever have imagined this. Alone in a dungeon, being beaten with a whip just for sneaking off to find his family. “Tell me his weaknesses.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Maybe it’s because he’s been hit mercilessly in the same exact spot a dozen times in a row, but Pete actually can’t contain a shriek when the next strike hits its mark. His side feels warm and as Pete curls up into a ball on the floor, he can feel a trickle of blood falling down the side of his back. He thought it would be fine. That he’d be able to take it. So few strikes and he already sees his stupidity.

“Tell me about Gerard!” Edgar says. Five, six, seven. Maybe more. It feels as though Pete’s entire side has been cut open. He makes the mistake of putting a hand over his bleeding side, but he screams out when the whip actually stings at his hand. He tries to scramble back, but those meaty hands of the guard just push him back. All he can hope to do now is just to cover his face.

“What do you know about him, little elf? You must know something.”

“Why do you care?” Pete asks. Someone’s foot kicks him in the throat. He doesn’t know who’s. He chokes, coughs, can’t tell if he’s breathing or not. Then more snapping. More screaming.

“You will tell me.”

“I won’t!” Pete screams. He’s a lot of things, but more than anything, Pete is loyal. He is unabashedly, unforgivingly loyal. He and Gerard may not have always seen eye to eye, but Gerard is his friend. Whatever information Edgar wants out of him, it will only be for evil. He can’t let anything go. What’s the worst that’ll happen to Pete? He’ll die? That can’t be much worse than this pain. It would hurt less.

“The faster you tell me, the faster this will all be over.”

He struggles to find his voice. It feels as though the foot to his throat kicked out his ability to speak. He barely gets out a No! Snap. Snap. Snap.

He can tell that he’s lying in a pool of his own blood. He doesn’t know how much he’s lost. Doesn’t know if he’ll be able to live through it. If he’s lucky, he’s lost too much. If he’s lucky, he’ll die soon. If he’s lucky, this will soon be over.

“Don’t think you’re going to get off that easily.” Edgar can sense his thoughts.

A bright light fills the tiny dungeon room. Pete doesn’t know its origin; all he knows is he can feel what might be relief under different circumstances. He doesn’t know how he knows, because the room is too bright for him to see what’s happening, but he can feel blood surging back in. It’s almost like the blood he’d just lost is being absorbed back in through the cuts that had leaked it out in the first place. All of it back in.

Pete opens his eyes, looks down at his body, looks at his side where it’s all happening. The light is glowing dimmer and he’s just able to see the last of it, and right before the cuts heal entirely, the light immediately escapes, and the room falls into something close to total darkness now.

All Pete can see are Edgar’s eyes glowing white. He can swear they’re white. Inhuman. But Edgar isn’t the one who created the bright light. He’s not the one who healed Pete. Behind Edgar, a figure. Pete doesn’t recognize it. A fairy. He doesn’t know how he knows, but he knows it’s a fairy. This fairy doesn’t at all match the description of the one Gerard’s been searching. He has white-blond hair. A scar running across half of his face. The troubling thing is, he doesn’t look evil. He doesn’t even look mean. He looks sorry. He’s looking at Pete sadly.

Then he’s being whipped again. An unspeakable number. He’d have thought that so much pain would be numbing, but not so. He can feel each strike more and more.

“The boy is looking for someone,” Edgar says. His voice sounds muffled, like Pete’s ears are full of cotton. “Who is it that he seeks? And for what purpose?”

“I don’t know,” Pete mumbles. He feels like he’s going to fall asleep except it hurts too much. So many wallops. Blood again. Flashing light. Then again.

Gerard’s looking for a fairy. Gerard always does what he’s told. Like he can’t help it. Listens to every instruction. Doesn’t think anyone notices it. Pete notices it.

Screaming. That’s Pete’s own screaming. How long has he been screaming? Someone kicks him in the throat again. Smacks him in the face. His nose breaks, crunches a little bit. Pete pukes. The smell of it enters him and almost makes him vomit a second time.

“What- do- you- know,” every word has a snap between it. Bleeding out. Healing him back up to bleed out again. He could just fall asleep, but then he’s being whipped, waking him up violently. Over and over again.

Pete is crying. Gerard always does what he’s told. Snap. Snap. Snap.

Pete is wailing.

“No one can hear you.” Edgar’s voice.

He can’t give up Gerard’s secrets. He can’t give up anyone’s secrets. What’s happening to Pete now… it’ll only be worse for them. It’ll only be worse. It’ll only be worse.

“Please!” Pete screams.

“Tell me and this will all be over,” Edgar says. “I might even let you live.”

Gerard always does what he’s told.

He cries. He doesn’t want to live. Not right now. He hurts too much. Why is this happening to him? He just wanted to see his family.

He misses Patrick. Patrick.

Hanging upside down from a tree. He didn’t quite think that was the end for him, but he figured those two men that ambushed him in the woods would barter him off to the royal guard and he’d be sold off like his family. Then Patrick and Gerard. Patrick’s banter was on the same tempo as his. He understood him. Patrick immediately liked him, Gerard needed a cooling off period. Patrick wanted him to come along on their adventure. He saw an opportunity. It helped that he’d get to be with Patrick.

When the knights saved them in the woods, Patrick took his hand and dragged him behind a tree. He was scared out of his wits. Thought they were going to die. He went on this adventure just for the chance of finding his family, but he was going to die in the woods thanks to some random ogres. Then he was hiding behind a tree, technically a knight had saved them, but it felt like it had been Patrick. He couldn’t stop himself from kissing him. It was barely anything. It was barely lips touching a different pair of lips.

Those days spent on horseback. His arms around Patrick, sometimes Patrick’s arms around him. Sitting beside a warm fire. Falling asleep, Patrick beside him.

When Frank showed them to their rooms, Pete had crept into Patrick’s room a few moments after. They kissed. Then they just talked. Pete left back to his own room; he was too tired. He would go find his family tomorrow. They spent the whole day together. Patrick fell asleep in Pete’s bed. But he knew he had to find his parents. How many opportunities was he going to get?

He looked at Patrick’s sleeping form. He was so beautiful and soft like this. He kissed Patrick’s cheek. Patrick made a faint noise. He rolled over a little bit, and Pete stood nervous that he was going to wake up. Patrick couldn’t know where he was going. Pete knew he might not come back. He could be shoved into the House and never be allowed to leave. Not until being sold. But his family. He’s only known Patrick a few weeks. His family…

It was such a hard decision. He memorized Patrick’s face. Beautiful. He wished he could kiss him. Hold him tightly. But he made the choice anyway.

Snap. Snap. Snap. Screaming.

“Tell me about Gerard!” Edgar doesn’t yell, it’s almost a whisper, but it’s earsplitting and full of venom.

Gerard always does what he’s told.

“Stop!” Pete’s scream could curdle blood. If Edgar had a soul, it would surely stop him in his tracks. Pete’s eyes are too blurred in sheer white pain to see the face of the fairy, or the brutish guard who’s been kicking him. He can’t even really see Edgar, but he can see the smirk. He’s getting off on the pain he’s causing Pete. He likes it. He understands now how Edgar could do those things to the elves, the giants, the ogres.

The strikes fall over barely healed cuts. The agony of it.

Patrick always smells like candles. He grew up above a candle shop, how does he still smell like candles when he’s miles and miles away? Pete nuzzled his nose into Patrick’s neck so that he could be closer to that smell.

Bright light. More pain. Laughing?

Gerard always does what he’s told.

Please let him die. Let him die. Let the blood leave him and never go back in. Let it all just go. Leave him on the floor to die. Make it stop.

“That boy has a secret. What will it cost you to tell it to me? All of this will end. I’ll set you free.”

“You’re going to do something awful.” He doesn’t know what, but he knows that Edgar is going to destroy everything. What is it he wants? Couldn’t he have just captured Gerard instead? Spared Pete this? If Edgar knows about Gerard… he always does what he’s told. What horrible things would he make Gerard do?

Fetal position isn’t working. Every time he tries to wrap himself up, he’s just pulled back apart by the guard where he’s then whipped, splayed out like a starfish. He thinks he’s naked. He can’t tell. He doesn’t really feel his body, he only feels the pain.

I’ll set you free,” those words echo louder than the crack of the whip. Will he really? Will Pete just be able to go once this is all over? If he just lets Gerard’s secret out.

Everything hurts. He wants his mom. He wants her to hold him in his arms. But she’s gone. She could be dead. She could be at the House right now. She could be thousands of miles away. He misses Patrick. He wants to hold Patrick. Wants to kiss him. He wants what Frank and Gerard have, and with Patrick, he just might have it.

Gerard is in love with Frank. Gerard and himself both in love with people with so much more power than them. Frank the prince, Gerard a peasant. Patrick a human, Pete an elf. They’re so much alike. Giving up on Gerard would be like giving up on himself.

He can’t scream anymore, he just whimpers.

Gerard always does what he’s told.

Covered in his own blood, but then the bright light and it all goes back in again.

“I can do this all night,” Edgar says. Pete doesn’t doubt that. “I have all the time in the world.”

Pete is writhing. Every single snap feels like it hits his entire body. The whip hits him in the stomach but he feels it everywhere. The sound is deafening. The walls are closing in.

Gerard always does what he’s told.

Pete is screaming.

Eventually, Edgar stops. The bright light doesn’t return to the room. Pete is very warm.