The stars. Oh, how he longed to see the stars once more. When was the last time he had seen the stars shimmering in the night sky, glorified by the pale sickle moon that gazed down on the plains and forests? How long since the cold evening breeze had caressed his bare skin last? The only breeze he felt in the dark stone prison was that imaginary one his dying state called upon to satisfy his insanity.

He was weak. The iron shackles had rubbed his wrists and ankles raw, the red skin clinging to his bones which were visible in his arms, legs, and chest. He had never been so hungry in his entire life, trapped below his own home – his own palace! – with no company but for the rats that fed slowly on his mind. Sometimes the guards came with water, but it wasn't often, and they were quiet, silently slinking through the shadows while he slept.

Sleep was his only comfort, his only freedom. In his dreamless unconscious state, there was no pain, hunger, thirst, or walls. He simply was. Only existing, floating in that inevitable place just between reality and fantasy, truth and imagination.

It was always cold and dirty. And dark. The darkness was the worst, so empty and silent, like a creeping devil that comes to strangle you in the night. In the day, as well, in his case. What was day? He hadn't felt sunlight on his face in so long. Was there such a thing as sunlight? Had that warm tingling sensation been some invention of his mind? It seemed that all there was, ever had been, was the tiny stone cell with the thick iron bars. And the rats. The rats, he knew, were real.

There was time to think in the dungeon, and time to regret every moment he had lived. He wondered what was happening above him, who had taken his place. Were the village people treated fairly? He doubted it. Did anyone wonder where he had gone? They probably thought him dead. Dead. How nice the word sounded in his head. Why didn't his tormentors – his own parents! – put an end to his miserable life? The water kept him alive, but he was dying. It was slow and painful, dying. Sometimes he was overcome with the urge to bash his skull against the ground and make the process quicker. He was too weak, though.

His mouth hung open slightly, flies crawling in and out at their own leisure. The only time he moved was to drink the dirty water he was brought. He wondered if the guards knew who he really was. They had once been his loyal servants – even friends. Had his friends betrayed him? It didn't seem so unbelievable. His family – his own blood! – had betrayed him, why not the palace guards? And then there was the thing that was killing him slowest and most painfully of all: why? Why in God's name had they thrown him down there to rot away like some condemned thief? Hadn't they raised him? Hadn't they named him heir? Hadn't they loved him?

He'd been a good all his life. He'd tried hard to succeed in everything placed before him, and always had. There had never been any challenge too great or any goal too far from reach. He had strived to not only be good, but to do good. All the things he had learned from his people-to-be while walking through the village had been thought of. His plans to lower taxes and be fair to all who lived under his rule had been just. Was being good not good enough? Or was that in itself the problem?

His parents were afraid, perhaps. The ideas and opinions he held highest were ones that had always been hated by them. They were afraid of change, maybe. Change and loss of power. Oh, yes, he knew that word well. Power drove sane men to do strange things. Power was the thing that hell itself held most esteemed. Thoughts of it lurked in every man's mind, hidden beneath wishes of health and good harvest.

Then there was love. Wasn't love enough to overcome power? He'd always thought it was. It was the very principle by which he lived. Had his parents thrown him down there just to prove a point? The point was made! It was taken and understood! Oh, love and freedom were two words he had forgotten.

There had been a love in his life, though her name was forgotten in the chaotic swirl inside that drained him every moment of his pitiful existence. She had been intelligent, he remembered. And beautiful, as well, though the image of her face escaped him. Did she wonder where he was? Why he had not come to dance with her at the last ball? Perhaps she thought he had forgotten her. No, she was still there, part of his slowly beating heart.

When were the guards coming? Wasn't it past time for water to arrive? He didn't know. Time was useless in the dark, like a flameless candle. Mayhap, they'd been ordered not to bring him any water, any life. It did not matter. He would die eventually, anyhow, then be thrown in the moat, never to be heard of again. Maybe one day a young scholar would uncover the truth and record his findings for all to know. His parents' treachery would be unveiled and his love's ancestors would forgive him for leaving without word. They would take back the times they cursed his name, and that would be enough.

Death was close, now. He could feel it in the air, taste it on his dried out tongue. The cold crept slowly over him, and he would have breathed a sigh of relief if his weak body had had any strength left in it. Soon it would be over and the pain would be gone, lost in the darkness like the rats that would soon feed on his flesh. One life was given for another. Soon he would be free of the dungeon, free of the ground, free of the mortal world! Silently, on invisible wings, he'd float up above the trees and rooftops, soaring around the castle battlements. He'd sit amongst the glistening stars and bathe in their beauty, free at last to breathe the night air. The stars! Oh, how he longed to see the stars once more. And soon he would. Soon he would see the stars again.

I don't know what inspired me to write this. It really was just some twisted spawn of my mind. Please review for me, loves.

-Revna Eundon