Grievances of a Lost Soul | Teen Ink

Grievances of a Lost Soul

May 31, 2021
By Acah, Boise, Idaho
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Acah, Boise, Idaho
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Author's note:

I am a first-generation Cuban American writer from Boise, Idaho. I have always enjoyed writing because it gives me a chance to communicate to others when there is always an eraser- a second chance- to change something that I find doesn't "work," unlike with other expression methods. When I'm not writing, I'm reading the latest fantasy/sci-fi novel, studying, or taking care of my three geckos. Grievances of a Lost Soul is one of my first dives into the vibrant realm of short stories, and I find that it communicates a great, meaningful message that I feel all of us should embrace in our lifetimes. 

I shivered.

Shivered from the cold, damp air that wrapped itself around my tattered clothes and bruised skin.

Shivered from the chilling touch of raindrops that cascaded down upon me in a harmonious plink plink plink from the grated ceiling high above. 

Shivered from the damp, unsightly concrete room around me, coated in vines and fungus and darkness.

Shivered from the metal cuffs that clamped themselves tightly against my wrists and chained me to the wall.

When did it all start to go wrong? 

I looked through the iron bars of my cell door, at the long, torch-lit hallway that stretched to a much better place. A place I knew, a place I wished I could go back to.

When did I cast my fate into peril?

And why?

It all began, I decided, the night of the 21st. 

The night when Jonha had returned from Baldun. 

“Kingdom of Deami,” Father had thundered that moonless evening. “Your prince, your fabled son, has returned from the great desert wastes!” His voice was glorious and entrancing and hopeful, a spell of infectious loyalty that enslaved even the bittermost of resistance. “And he has emerged...victorious!”

The crowd of people below us erupted in applause. Cheers shook the air, causing the stage in which Father and I stood. 

“He has tamed the wild tribes of the east, converted them to Truth, and founded several mighty nations- each of which are loyal to us and only us! Please welcome him back home!”

The crowd burst into a fierce storm of applause and excitement once more as Prince Jonha- my brother, friend, and the leader of Deami’s diplomacy division- rode into the arena on a dazzling white stallion. Tall and proud, he sat upon the noble creature with dignity, exotic jewels adorning his royal robes. Bushels of sunflowers- the official symbol of the kingdom and centerpiece of our flag- trailed behind him, tossed by excited passersby begging for his attention. 

“Greetings, all!” he welcomed as he ascended upon the stage. He gently guided his horse to the right hand side of Father, a proud smile lighting up his sculpted bronze face. “I am pleased to announce that my year-long journey abroad has been an absolute success! Not only have I conquered the wild lands, but I have also established several mines, facilities, and factories throughout the area! Therefore, our nation shall be richer than ever, and with these new resources we will conquer the world!”

The crowd erupted into applause after that, showering him with unwarranted praises and cries and shouts until the clock struck midnight and they were ordered to depart so we could get some rest before dawn. 

Firchesc- the acclaimed daughter of Deami’s exclusive treasurer- talked with me about Jonha’s attitude later that night in the palace library.

“When did Prince Jonha get so...noble,” she had questioned, her voice laced with curiosity. “He was always so reckless and rebellious before he left!”

“I guess life abroad has changed him.” 

“But...wasn’t he only with savages and barbarians? How could he become more civilized from being among them,” her sharp emerald eyes narrowed.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he discovered that we’re superior to those wretched creatures.”

“Maybe…” Firchesc shrugged. “But I don't buy it. It’s not in his character.”

“Look,” I had replied. “Can’t we just move on? There’s really no need to question this. He’s changed, and that’s that. Who cares how that happened?”

“Oh, Prince Emman. Don’t you just feel to unlock every secret in the universe?”

“Not in the slightest. Speaking of which…”

“Brother!” Jonha smiled as he raced into the library, embracing me with hard, muscular arms. 

“Hi,” I greeted gleefully. “It’s good to have you back.”

“Same here,” he smiled. “You know, it’s so good to be back. All these really makes you appreciate what we have here in Deami,” he scratched his head, almost in a nervous manner. “You know, in the Baldun, all we get is sand, dead shrubs, and vultures. Nothing else. Even the tribes live in the open, albeit with blankets and makeshift tents. They’re...they’re…” he looked like he wanted to say more, but instead turned to Firchesc. 

“H...hi,” she giggled, stroking back a loose strand of her bright orange hair. I rolled my eyes.

“Hey,” he said. Her cheeks turned crimson at his smooth, casual voice. “Could you fetch your father for me? I need with him.”

She looked away, clearly disappointed in his lack of interest. “Uh...sure.”

“Thanks. Now, I better get to sleep. I can’t wait to rest in a real bed for once!”

Only when he was long gone did I speak to Firchesc again. “I see you still have feelings for him.”

Her freckled cheeks turned strawberry. “I guess.”

“You know, he doesn’t care for you. Not back then, not now.”

She nodded in acknowledgment. “I’m smart enough to know that. Doesn’t mean I can stop liking him.”

“That’s what’s so great about you,” I smiled. “And don’t worry. You’ll get him someday.”


“Curses!” I snapped my fingers, realizing something. “ Adreon...requested that I attend his meeting with the captain of the guard at dawn tomorrow. I better get some rest before then.”

“Emman, Emman, Emman,” she sighed. “When will you ever get organized for once?”

“Not for a while, Fir. Just don’t tell father that.”

She laughed. “If you put in a good effort to change your ways.”

“Sorry, what? I didn’t hear that! Goodnight now!” I hurried off before I could hear any more of her playful scolding. 

“Prince Emman. Good to see you here.” Father’s ancient, hazel eyes bore into me as I stepped into the chamber.

“Likewise,” I replied nobly as I gently lowered myself onto the one remaining chair around the table. I took a breath to survey my surroundings, noting a crystal chandelier that casted brilliant golden light down on us from the room’s arched ceiling and several oil paintings scattered throughout its polished granite walls. “Why have I been called here?”

“Jamie’s grave was vandalized two nights ago. We suspect, as always, that the Kingdom of Briar is behind this...disgraceful act,” Father replied, adjusting his sapphire-speckled crown so that it fit more properly around his gray mane of hair.

“Poor Jamie,” I murmured. 

“Your brother would have wanted you to be on the lookout for them,” Father continued. “And keep a watchful eye on anyone who could potentially be one of their spies.”

“He was too young to want anything but candy and chocolates,” I grimaced. His sweet blue eyes, golden hair, and soft cheekbones still remained ingrained in my mind, a painful reminder of the Kingdom of Briar’s endless evil. 

“They’re bad folks,” a second man, this one with a much gruffer voice, grumbled. I immediately recognized him as Aer, Deami’s Captain of the Guard, who was renowned for his fierce battle tactics, muscled physique, and bushy, coal-black beard. “Folks that should be decimated if we get the chance.”

“Undoubtedly,” I growled, my fists clenching into tight orbs. First they murder him, now they vandalize what little remains of his body? What awful people.

“Monsters, even,” Father noted. “Monsters that should be swiftly taken care of. If they didn’t pay the price for our youngest prince’s death then, they will now. Aer?”

The captain of the guard, who had been occupied smoothing out his set of chainmail armor, averted his beady brown eyes upward. “Yes, King Adreon?” 

“I want you to launch a full-scale attack on Briar as soon as you can. Remove troops from other warzones if you have to. Revenge must be swift if we want Deami’s name to continue instilling fear into the hearts of our enemies.”

“...And justice for Jamie,” I reminded, almost baffled he hadn’t mentioned that.

“Of course.” 

The proud thump of boots grazing concrete jolted me into reality. The dark, dreary room I was enclosed in began to fill my vision once more, slowly replacing the bright memories of blissful innocence I had summoned over the past hours. The steady plinks of rain re-entered consciousness, my senses overwhelmed by the wretched stench of human decay and rotten food. 

I suddenly became aware of the numbness that gripped my entire body in an icy sheet of nothingness. Compared to the warm halls and blazing fireplaces of the palace, this was hell. Who is it, I thought, reminded of the boots’ presence just outside my cell as they resumed moving in a perfect series of thumps. 

I found out seconds later. A chain mail-cloaked soldier with narrow cheekbones and a handful of crimson badges, he held a loosely woven sack in his gloved grasp. 

“Dinner,” he sneered, reaching deep into the bag to pull out a handful of maggot-infested rice. The vile potency of the substance caused me to cough as the man tossed the clump at my feet with a single careless throw. The gooey texture of the rice stuck to the cell floor mere inches from my bound hands. 

Annoyed, I raised my head to stare directly at the soldier’s coal-black eyes. “You piece of filth. Do you know who I am? I’ll get you…”

“You are no longer a prince,” he spat. “You are no higher than the rest of the rotten-minded criminals you call allies.”

Twitching, I continued to stare at the man, my eyes sharp as daggers. “Give me another handful. One that I can get.”

Unrelenting, the soldier walked away, leaving the rotten pile of filth just beyond my finger’s reach. 

Guess I’ve got nothing better to do but keep reflecting. 

But where was I? Ah…

Jonha’s messenger had awoken me that night. He had carefully knocked against my chamber door, then, when I didn’t respond, casually stepped inside. 

“Who is it?” I could recall muttering, wiping hours of exhaustion off my concrete-sealed eyes. 

Ignoring my question, the messenger walked over to my bedpost, unwrapped a silk-bound scroll, and began reading. 

“Prince Jonha cheerfully invites you- Prince Emman of Deami, Master of Agladon, Regulator of the Supreme Council, and harborer of many other names- to his quarters for a brief conversation regarding…”

“Fine, fine,” I grumbled, reluctantly getting up. “I don’t need to hear anymore of my brother's formality. I’ll go.”

“Very well,” the messenger said, scurrying off before the hazy fog of sleep could recede enough for me to catch his features. 

“What do you want, Jonha? You know I’ve had a long night.” The prince’s quarters were dotted with flickering candles, their tangerine-infused light bright enough to pester my vision further into the realm of reality. Across from me, he sat on a velvet armchair, sipping an exotic, violet liquid from a golden goblet. Had I cared to survey my surroundings a little further, I would have noticed that his typically tame, domesticated hands were clasped in a tangled knot of anxiety. 

Only now, upon reflection, did I recognize the clues, the glimpses of Jonha’s true self, that lay in that moment. 

“Emman, I’ve seen things. I’’s hard to explain, but, but…” A tear streaked down his bronze cheek. “Emman, our father, King Adreon...he’s...he’s not what you think he is. Deami’s not what you think it is.”

I scoffed. “What have the wild people told you, Jonha?”

“They told me that Adreon is a tyrant. That, outside the palace, he cares only for blood and money and land. He doesn’t care for his- our- people, or even us.”


“I’ve seen things. Seen his men- our men- do unspeakable things. The very soldiers that walk through our palace, I’ve seen them pillage towns, burn forests, and...and kill...” 


“Please don’t tell him, Emman. He’ll kill me.”

My mind whirled with confusion. “Who?”

“Father! The country! Emman, I’m leaving this place. I don’t know where, I don’t know how. But I’m leaving. Heck, the only reason why I came back here was to ask you to join me. Maybe some of our friends, too.”

“Are you mad? Jonha, you know those wild people are crazy! They’re just feeding you with nonsense! Now let me go back to my chambers and sleep!” Sighing, I leaped out of my chair and stormed out the room, my brother’s pleas not to reveal his crazy thoughts following me out the door and back onto the warren of hallways that framed the palace. 

He’s mad. The wild people have brainwashed him. It wasn’t even a question. Jonha needs to be fixed as soon as possible. 

“Father, I have something to tell you.” Adreon’s throne loomed high above me, ribbons of diamonds, rubies, and sapphires spiraling down its golden body. 

“What is it, son?” He studied me with the same intoxicating hazel eyes that had raised me since childhood, evidently curious. 

“Jonha. He’s...he’s gone mad.” 


“I know, I know, he seemed fine last night, but today he started rambling on about bloodshed and evil and the murder of your own people. Something’s not right with him.”

Father’s gray eyebrows shot up, only stopping their sudden liftoff when they reached the periphery of his bushy gray hair. “Indeed.” His voice echoed off the chamber walls, engulfing me in his deep, kind voice. 

“What...what should we do with him?” 

“First, I must congratulate you on this discovery. I never would have noticed.” A twinkle of pride bloomed inside my heart at the sound of his admiration. I want more of this. More of this...feeling. 

A pause ensued. “But he must be fixed.” A crystal star shone in his eyes. “For the sake of his sanity. I can only pray we will be able to cleanse these...uncivilized notions out of him before it’s too late.”

“Another thing,” I said, motivated to earn more of his pride. “He plans on fleeing.”

“Do you know when?”

I shook my head. “Only that he plans on doing it soon.”

“ a problem. I will seek to dispose of him as soon as possible.”


“Now leave, my faithful son, and treat yourself to a sweet reward. You have done a great deal for Deami.”

“Of...of course.” Without another breath, I raced off, a whirlwind of memories, of lies, already swarming in my mind.

They engulfed me in their iron grip the second Adreon’s chamber door slammed shut.  

The first one stood out more than the rest. 

I was ten. Jonha and I were playing hide and seek, with I the seeker. I had just searched through a chandelier- lit common area filled with dust- coated furniture when I saw the door to Jamie’s playroom. It was barely ajar, allowing me a glimpse of Jamie- who was two years my junior- and his relatively private life. 

Curious, I had raced my little legs over to it and peeped my chocolate eye through. Inside, Jamie was playing with some wooden building blocks, stacking them as high as he could. A nanny sat on a nearby couch, her face eagerly thrust in the latest edition of the Deami Times. 

Jamie’s tower of wood had just titled over and crumbled to the ground when a pair of soldiers stormed into the room, their weapons fresh and newly polished. Just as they realized that they were in the wrong room, a single scroll spiraled out of their pockets, landing mere inches from Jamie’s toys. Curious, he walked over to it and unraveled its silk binding before immersing his face into it, much to the two men’s objections. 

The soldiers had dashed over to him, snatched the scroll out of his grasp, and raced back out of the room before Jamie could read it for more than five seconds. I had returned to my game without a second thought moments later. 

That night, Jamie was reportedly killed in his sleep by a duo of assassins from the Kingdom of Briar.

“Jonha! Jonha!” I was running to his chamber now, shouting as loud as I could. “You’re right! You’re right! We need to get out of here!” The last word faded just as I reached his door, which immediately swung open to reveal a longsword-wieling Jonha and a bow-stringing Firchesc. 

The two jumped back in surprise upon seeing me, but quickly recovered and pointed their weapons at me. “And what makes you say that?” Jonha questioned, although eagerness and excitement had already lit up his face. 

“Yeah,” Firchesc added. “You rejected him mere hours ago.”

“I...I heard Father slip up,” I admitted, raising my hands above my head to show I was unarmed- and avoid contracting any further suspicion. “He said...he said he would dispose of you. Dispose! just leader…”

“...Would ever do that,” Jonha finished. “I’m glad you came to your senses, brother.” 

“One problem, though,” I admitted, not caring enough to ask Firchesc when and how she had joined Jonha’s desperate escape attempt. “I ratted you out.”

The clank of soldier’s armored boots filled the hallway, as if on cue. Both rebels- no, friends- cursed. 

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” Jonha acknowledged. “But it’s only delaying the inevitable. Here,” he tossed me a shield. “Let’s move.”

“How are we getting out of here?” I asked hurriedly, my eyes already darting from left to right in search of palace guards. 

“I sent a servant of mine to open the back gate,” Jonha replied. “There’s already a wagon waiting for us there. And from there, well…I don’t know. But we’ll go somewhere. Somewhere that’s not in the clutches of Father.”

“Good enough for me. I would rather be enslaved for millenia than live another day under that scoundrel.”

“That’s all we need to hear,” a gruff voice retorted from somewhere nearby. I gulped, instantly recognizing the owner of the words. “And exactly what’s going to happen.” Suddenly, Aer- the infamous captain of the guard that had terrorized men since as long as I could remember- stepped into view from an adjacent hallway. Flanking him were a dozen or so archers, each cloaked in silver armor that glimmered like a mountain lake. A pair of muscled, spear-wielding men led the pack. 

“Stand down,” one of them ordered, thrusting his arm back. His shiny black spear glared at me with soulless onyx eyes. 

“This is not your fight,” Jonha cautioned. “Let us pass and no one will get hurt.” After no one replied, he added a desperate, “just let us leave!”

I saw it before he did. Aer, grunting from the middle of his bloodthirsty, metallic pack, stomped forward like an ox, throwing aside his men as he did so. After pushing past the two spearmen, he pulled out two hooked, pale knives from his bear-fur belt. Without uttering a word, he threw them. 

My bones tensed before I could react. A sudden chill washed over me, and suddenly blood was pouring out of my chest, crimson stars exploded into reality, and the world became a hazy mess of confusion and fog-veiled chaos. 

In the mist, I could see Firchesc pinned down by a trio of soldiers from behind, Jonha swallowed up by feather-tipped arrows. Then they were moving; being dragged, from some unknowable, unseen force, and then I was moving, too. At first across a smooth, polished floor that squeaked like baby mice, and then, ever so slowly, a grainier, rockier, colder terrain that caused me to shiver and cry out in my barely-conscious state. 

It was the last I saw of the innocent, warm light of the palace. 

Of home. 

A drop of dew splattered against the chain connecting my handcuffs to the wall with a loud plink. 

A sigh escaped my lips. What a long journey it’s been. And all for this. To be chained up with a knife wound cemented in my chest, just waiting to die.

I looked up at the barred window far above me. From it shown a fading pink-and-orange sky, the bright colors of sunset slowly being swallowed by the growing darkness of night. 

I gulped, the weight of my predicament finally crushing me. I might not even live to see another day.  

The grated ceiling above me choked out a disturbingly loud creak as its metal was strangled by a trio of pine-green vines. I might not even see Jonha again. 

Cold- true cold, cold that I had tried to hold back by reminiscing- ran through my veins. Hopelessness swallowed my senses in a layer of pure, agonizing numbness. 

And then he appeared. Stealthy as a jungle cat, he materialized behind my barred door, draped in royal robes that reeked of lies and death and hate. His hands, usually adorned in fancy jewels and royal garments, were bare. Exposed, just like the lies that had once wrapped themselves around his seemingly mighty figure, his seemingly enchanting; good, words. 

“You killed Jamie.” It wasn’t even a question, more an affirmation of the horrors he had unleashed behind my back. 

No. An affirmation of the horrors he has unleashed right in front of me. 

“Yes. Yes I did.” His voice was far from heavy, but neither was it light. It was as if he was just a normal person, speaking without power, without pride. He was no longer a king, but a man, who had cast away all his inspirational words and crowd-pleasing voices and whatever else had caused an entire kingdom to fall for him in the first place. 

He knows there’s no use in pretending to be the noble man who raised me. I know better now. Maybe I always have- maybe I was just too blind, fear-ridden and desperate to please him that I never cared to notice. 

After all, I don’t think I ever even questioned his antics, his decisions. 

“You’re a monster.” My voice was cold, dead, no longer carrying the lightheartedness of innocence- innocence that had stemmed from the palace above and had vanished the second I left it. “A scoundrel.”

“I have brought order to a chaotic world. Saved millions from lives of danger and chaos. Emman, I am no scoundrel.” His words lacked emotion, tone. As if he was just telling the truth, as if he was just a normal man telling a normal child a normal explanation to a normal circumstance. 

“And yet you killed. Killed so many, even your own son.” Anger seized my heart, rage my lungs. Yet my voice remained stable, steady, unyielding. Like him, not a speck of emotion left my chapped, pained, frozen mouth. 

“All necessary.” His eyes bore into mine, their once bright, hazel orbs now cast in shadow, revealing the true menace- whether he knew it himself or not- that was my father. “Law- order- comes at a price.”

“I hate you.”

“Oh, please. You are a lost soul, Prince Emman, and your words mean nothing to me.” I grimaced at how he still called me a prince; I no longer wanted to be associated with Deami and all the wretched evils it produced. “Nor to anyone. You are dead to this world, and all you have left now is regret and grief. Let them die with the rest of your once potential-filled spirit and give up like all who have rebelled against my nation before.”

I tried to will my mouth to open; my lungs to speak, but I couldn’t. Something was sealing my lips shut, keeping my quiet. Unperturbed, I merely shook my head. 

Adreon had already walked away by the conclusion of my gesture. 

A madman. That’s all he is. A normal man struck with the curse of insanity. 

The damp air of my vine-coated cell wrapped itself around my skin. 

The chilling touch of raindrops forced a grimace out of my lungs. 

And the metal cuffs that clamped my wrists in steel remained as tight as ever.

And yet I did not shiver.

Did not grieve.

Not even as the cool waves of death gently rocked my silenced spirit across a dimly lit ocean and onto the shores of a distant land. 

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