"Tonight is the night.", Prince Gabriel whispered to himself. "Tonight is finally the night I become the first in line for the throne."
Gabriel had retreated to a shadowy corner of the large ballroom of the Royal Castle to take the time to revel in the brilliance of his plan. The Prince was almost completely invisible in the shadows, his dark clothes blending with the surrounding darkness. The young man, unlike his older brother, the future king, favored dark clothes, his fashion choice hard to miss considering the dark grey buttoned vest and matching boots, whereas his black, tight pants matched his menacing, long cloak. The only article of clothing breaking the pattern was the white shirt tightly fitting around his muscular arms, which were folded across his chest.
Moving a few strands of his dark, red hair away out of his sight, Gabriel scanned the crowd, searching for his brother.
Alphons, the older of the two princes, wasn't hard to find, and his brother's green eyes quickly located their target. Long, light brown hair was hard to miss in a crowd of men with short, swept back hair, especially when it is flowing over a red cape, the symbol marking Alphons as the heir to the throne. Gabriel stared at his older brother with contempt, remembering all the times during their youth when he was bested. Alphons was only a year older than him, and yet, he would always be better than him in all activities, leading to him being the favorite of his parents, as well as the nobility. Well, all of that would change that night, Gabriel thought, his full lips curling in a sinister smile.
All was set for his grand plan. A couple of minutes before midnight, he would approach his brother and let him know that there was a lady waiting for him on the balcony, an area usually off limits to the guests, away from the crowd, but was too shy to ask him to meet her on her own, and Gabriel was nothing more than someone helping them get some privacy. If the perfect son had one flaw, it was his naivety. He would never suspect that there was anything other than a young woman waiting for him there, where, in reality, a band of trained, foreign kidnappers were prepared to capture him and whisk him away under the guise of the night. They were the best in the business, but nothing Gabriel's royal funds, used under the pretense of acquiring supplies for the reception his father, the King, was hosting, could afford. Additional precautions had to be made to ensure that nothing could be traced to him, meaning that the kidnapper never saw the face of the person hiring them, the Prince always wearing a mask when dealing with them.
The heir to the throne was to be subdued, bound and gagged, and smuggled onto a ship to be taken away, far from the kingdom, far from the throne, leaving Gabriel as the next in line for the crown. The clock struck eleven times, bringing Gabriel back to the present, focusing him on his surroundings. It was time to go mingle with the crowd, and prepare for the time his plan would be set in motion. Stepping out of the shadows, he was soon lost in the sea of nobles, each one hoping to get the most out of the reception, be it new connections and influence, or power and money, and it wasn't hard for Gabriel to get involved in the crowd, for, having royal blood in his veins, he was in high demand among the guests.
Before he knew it, it was almost midnight. Gabriel excused himself, leaving the company of a couple of noble men discussing the latest fashion trends in the east making their ways to their kingdom. It was a rather dull conversation, but it served its purpose. People remembered him being around at that time frame, which was important in making sure nobody suspected him. He quickly found his brother, who was similarly caught in an equally boring conversation with a pair of older lords. While approaching him, Gabriel caught a glimpse of a couple of girls eyeing his brother with disappointed looks on their faces, frowning because they simply couldn't get his attention.
His brother turned around, his goatee moving along with his lips as they turned into a smile, the young man no doubt grateful for the appearance of his brother, his disinterest in the topic at hand quickly disappearing as Gabriel pulled him aside, telling the lords that there was an urgent matter he had to discuss with his older brother.
"Thank god, Gabriel, they were boring me to death.", Alphons said, sighing with relief.
"I have even better news, brother. A beautiful young lady is waiting for you on the balcony overlooking the hedge maze. She was too shy to ask you to meet her, so I offered my help. letting her meet you where you could be alone."
"Really?", Alphons asked, to which Gabriel responded by describing her in more detail. Despite his true feelings, he was always good to his brother, which is one of the reasons he knew the exact type of girls he liked, the nights during their teenage years when Alphons drowned him in his romantic woes, most of which stemming from his lack of courage to approach a girl and talk to her, considering that had he done it at any time, there was little doubt he would be rejected, seeing as most of the girls were head over heels in love with him, finally paying off.
Soon, Alphons was headed to the balcony, whereas Gabriel decided to mingle a bit more among the crowd. The same balcony where his brother was to be ambushed offered a great view of the port, where the ship which was supposed to take the Prince away was waiting. Soon, he would go out and watch the ship sail away with the only thing standing between him and the crown. But first, there was someone he wanted to talk to for a bit. A young noble had caught his attention, and Gabriel would not miss out on a chance to get to know him better. After all, most of the nobles his age stopped coming to events like this once they realized that the girls were only interested in Alphons. Gabriel had always had the idea that the others who kept coming were interested in him rather than having continuous illusions of having a chance with the females. It was time to put that theory to test.
Fifteen minutes later, he was headed for the balcony, disappointed by the fact that the man he was interested in, despite having fantastic looks, turned out to be very boring, only being interested in talking about cats. Gabriel was a dog person, and the conversation quickly had him grasping for any chance he could find of politely ending the pointless small talk. The only thing which could bring joy to his heart now was the sight of a ship sailing away into the distance, quickly cutting through the waves as it disappeared into the night.
Alphons was about to open the balcony door, when someone stepped inside. Indeed, she was perfect, just as Gabriel had described her, the girl of his dreams. He slowly got behind her, surprising her when she turned around.
"Your highness!", she gasped. "I... I was only admiring the hedge maze, I... I....", she proclaimed, the confusion and fear taking over, the girl not knowing of anything else to say apart from the purpose of her visit to the balcony, knowing that she should not have been there in the first place.
"Perhaps I could to show it you in more detail. Would you like to join me for a walk?", Alphons asked, extending his hand, thinking this was the girl Gabriel had talked about, and was simply too shy to speak to him without stuttering.
It would take a mad girl to deny such a request. Alone time with the Prince, in the night, in the Royal hedge maze. It was an offer one does not refuse. And thus, before stepping out onto the balcony, Alphons and his female companion walked away towards the maze.
"Around midnight, the prince will step outside. Capture him, take him to your ship and sail away. What you do after that is up to you."
Those were the instructions he had given to the mercenaries waiting on the balcony. Back then, he failed to realize that he was also the Prince to someone not native to their kingdom. Not much time had passed since midnight when he stepped outside. Walking over to the edge, he looked at the port in the distance. The small black ship was still docked. They were probably still on their way, he thought, looking down as he sighed. And then, something caught his eye. A pair down in the hedge maze. The unmistakable long hair and red cape were clearly visible under the faint light of the lanterns. Before his jaw could drop with disbelief, a hand clamped over his mouth, locking it in place.
Gabriel regularly exercised, and the muscles visible under his tight, white shirt showed it. But he was no match for a band of trained, professional, kidnappers. The hand holding his mouth shut had a firm grip, allowing nothing more than barely audible muffled whimpers to escape his lips. The Prince was forced to his knees, arms much stronger than his own locking his wrists behind his back, crossing them before coils of rope were wrapped around them. In a matter of moments, thick ropes cut into his skin through his thin shirt, keeping his wrists in place. With one swift tug, his cloak was taken away from him, opening the path for the kidnapper to circle his waist with more bonds, pinning his arms to his back.
He tried to scream for help as hard as he could, but it was useless. His mouth was kept firmly shut, and the odds of anyone passing by and seeing his kidnapping were non existent. This area was off limits to the guests, the exact reason he chose to use it as the place where his brother would be captured, the kidnappers using a secret passage he revealed to them to reach the balcony without being noticed, the same path they would now take him.
His eyes were wide open, his heart pounding as the realization that, unless he could somehow speak to the kidnappers, he was about the meet the fate he planned for his brother. And even if he could talk to them, it was questionable whether he could convince them he was the one who had hired them, seeing as they had never seen his face. They would have to take his word for it. But that seemed less and less likely by the minute. The hand covering his mouth let go of him, but just as he moved his lips apart to inhale and speak, a large wad of cloth was forced inside his mouth, filling up his cheeks and making them bulge. He grunted as the material almost made him choke, but before he could try and spit it out, a wide, thick cloth was pulled over the lower half of his face, covering it entirely. Knotted tightly at the back of his neck, it made sure that the captive could not spit out the stuffing from his mouth, keeping Gabriel completely silent.
Before the kidnappers proceeded with restraining him, they made sure he was blindfolded, a black cloth pulled over his eyes and tied at the back of his head, the knot lost in his messy, dark, red hair.
Pushed on his stomach, Gabriel was kept on the ground while rope was tied around his crossed ankles, as well as both below and above his knees. Once it was done, the bound prince could do little more than helplessly squirm in his tight bonds which cut into his skin, each move he made against the ropes only exhausting him and making his limbs go a bit more numb. Groaning into his gag, he could do little as someone picked him up and threw him over his shoulder, the kidnappers disappearing with their captive into the dark, secret tunnels leading away from the Royal castle.
Gabriel's struggling and grunting did little more than annoy his captors. With his tight bonds, his pitiful wiggling could pose no real threat to the man carrying him, barely making his job any more difficult, but certainly getting on his nerves. Any time they would stop to make sure no one was around and the coast his clear, their captive would be instructed to calm down, the words accompanied with a spank and a threat, thought both did little to calm down the struggling prince. His tight gag made sure that none of his efforts to scream produced anything which could be heard at a radius more than the one occupied by his captors, who had done their homework, helped by the details their current victim had given them. Their path was chosen to minimize the chances of anyone coming across for them, and before long, they were in the hold of their ship, their captive stuffed inside a small crate, ready to be sealed.
The leaders of the kidnappers stood next the crate, watching the bound and gagged young man, who kept trying to talk into his gag, despite knowing that only inaudible whimpers made it to the people around him.
"What do you think, let him have his last words before his new life at sea?"
"Why not, not like anyone can hear him."
Gabriel gasped, the saliva soaked cloth leaving his mouth. Panting, he took a couple of deep breaths now that he was finally able to breath freely.
"So, what was all the commotion about?", one of the kidnappers asked him. Still blindfolded, he could only look in the general direction the sound was coming from.
"You got the wrong prince. I was the one who hired you to kidnap my brother!"
The two man laughed it off, and Gabriel didn't blame them. It was a long shot, they'd believe them. Knowing that it was only a matter of time before they gagged him again, out of sheer desperation, he began recounting every detail of how he came in contact with them, how he paid them, how much, times, places, but before he could finish, his mouth was once again full, the cloth back inside. The two kidnappers were clearly thinking more carefully about his words now, for they were no longer laughing. Instead, they were whispering something among themselves, something Gabriel could no hear.
Suddenly, his blindfold was removed and looked straight into the eyes of his captors.
"It's him.", one of them said. "I'd recognize those eyes anywhere, the only green eyes ever to hire us."
Even with the large filling inside his mouth, Gabriel let out a sigh of relief. His eyes were the only part of his face that they had ever seen, as he thought it was a rather insignificant detail. As it turned out, green eyes were not as usual among the criminal underground as it were among the nobility.
Stepping onto the wooden docks, the Prince rubbed his wrists, finally free from the rope, which had left quite a mark on his skin. Luckily, his sleeves were long enough to conceal them for the rest of the night, but he had other things on his mind. He had failed this time, but he was not about to give up. He would be the King instead of his brother one day. But not today.