Characters Rowan and Astrin from ‘Hostage’ are here today and agreed to a joint interview. Greetings, Rowan and Astrin. Thanks for stopping by.
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A: Rowan, of course. I have to say that, don’t I?
R: *Rowan swats his head affectionately* Please don’t feel constrained by me.
A: *Astrin laughs* Of course it’s you. It’s always been you. We’ve been through a lot, haven’t we? It was a great adventure, but I don’t think I’d have got through it without you.
R: *Rowan melts and hugs Astrin* You can get through anything, with or without me. You’re amazing.
*Astrin ducks his head and blushes*
- Okay, on to the next question. What’s your favorite journey?
A: Oh, I don’t know. We’ve had a few. I can tell you which one wasn’t my favorite. Do you remember when we had to ride camels? *Astrin shudders* I don’t ever want to see a camel again, let alone ride it. I wasn’t too fond of the train either, but that was my fault.
As for my favorite…hmm. I think that was the one I took down the aisle of the cathedral. My whole world was waiting for me at the end.
- What is your most marked characteristic?
A: Oh. I don’t know. What do you think?
R: *Rowan shrugs” You know what I think.
A: *Astrin chuckles and rolls his eyes* Rowan things I’m stubborn. *He gives Rowan a sideways glance* Okay, Maybe I am a little stubborn. Okay, a lot stubborn.
- What is your greatest fear?
A: That I let down the people I love. I take my roles very seriously. One day, I will be king of House Raphael and when I am I will give myself to my country absolutely. Rowan knows well that my commitment to my people comes first, but I worry that one day my commitment to them will conflict with my commitment to him, and I fear terribly what would happen if it did.
R: *Rowan cuddles him* I know the score. If you weren’t such a good prince and a good person, I wouldn’t love you as much. I know I have to come second to your people, and I’m good with that.
A: Yeah, until the situation arises. So many people have found themselves unable to accept a reality they thought they had peace with.
R: Well, it won’t be me. I promise.
A: *Astrin gazes up at Rowan and gives him a sad smile* I pray you’re right, but I fear you’re wrong. We shall see.
- What is your greatest regret?
A: I have no regrets. If I had to live my life over there is little I would change. Perhaps I would have accepted my feelings for Rowan a little sooner. Perhaps I would have trusted our families a little more. Perhaps I would have been a lot more careful in the castle of Strebo Michael and not got myself into a situation that could easily have been my last.
- Which talent would you most like to have?
A: I’m happy with the talents I have. House Raphael has a long association with water and I have strong abilities with healing, manipulating water, and influencing emotions. They’ve always worked well for me. Although. *he glances at Rowan* I would love to have Rowan’s abilities to manipulate stone, so I could make him beautiful things like he makes me.
*Astrin reaches into his pocket and takes out a tiny stone head* Rowan made this the first night we spent together in the South. It was his first try and it doesn’t really look much like me but it’s kind of a memento. I’d love to have been able to make something like that for him.
R: *Rowan shrugs* I have plenty. Besides, without your healing talent I wouldn’t have been there to make the head in the first place. And I wouldn’t have survived the prison.
A: *Astrin shivers* We had an adventure, and looking back, a lot of it was fun, but we need to remember that it was deadly serious and we both almost didn’t come out of it alive.
*Rowan turns solemn and chews on his lip*
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A: Being completely alone. That’s one of the things that made it so hard for me to cope when I was Rowan’s prisoner. I felt so alone. Usually, I’m never alone. Even if there is no one physically with me, they’re only a thought away. It’s not always a good thing, especially when my mother tries to start a conversation when I’m…er…busy, but I know there’s always someone there. When I was a prisoner I didn’t even have myself.
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
R: *Astrin glances at Rowan* Impulsiveness, and proclivity for temper tantrums
*Rowan cuffs him lightly and they both grin*
A: No, seriously, I like spontaneity. Many of the men I grew up with hold important positions and have to abide by rigid rules of conduct. Rowan was like a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t care about protocol and tradition. He just does things because they feel right, and he makes sure that sometimes I do things just because they feel right, too.
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
A: Knowing when not to drop into someone’s head unannounced. Hear that, Mom? *Astrin grins* No, seriously, I’d say it was having a great sense of humour. Things are getting better but it’s still harder for a woman to get on, especially in House Gabriel. Melissa is doing a great job, as Queen and I know my mother is helping, and being helped, a great deal. Both of them are very level headed and sensible, but they have a wicked sense of humour, and that makes a huge difference, I think.
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A: I’m weak. I would like to be stronger, like Rowan.
R: *Rowan’s eyes widen* Weak? Are you crazy? You’re the strongest person I know.
A: Yeah right. How many times did I almost die? How many times you have to save me?
R: About the same number of times as you saved me.
A: Yeah, but those were accidents.
R: And you…. *Rowan makes a huge effort and chews his lips* I not ‘going off on one’ as you keep saying. Let’s just say I totally disagree, and move on.
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A: Cruelty. Everyone hurts people sometimes, mostly without intending to. Even when you don’t care it’s not deliberate. But when someone hurts another living being just because they can, because they enjoy it or get some twisted kick out of I just don’t understand that.
*Rowan keeps chewing on his lip, his eyes firmly on the ground. Astrin squeezes his arm* I know you didn’t really mean to be cruel to me. You’re not a cruel person. You were blinded by your anger, and I’ve forgiven you a hundred times.
R: I don’t want your forgiveness. I don’t deserve it.
A: Okay…moving on. This is an argument I can’t win.
- What do you most value in your friends?
- Which living person do you most admire?
.A: My father. He’s had to fight hard for me, and he’s done it without thought for himself. He is the strongest, wisest and most admirable person I know. He’s a true king.
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
A: I don’t think any virtue can be overrated. I try to be the best person I can be, and I don’t consciously try to be virtuous, but I think that if you constantly strive to be the best version of yourself you can be, you’ll always be virtuous, without being sanctimonious.
*Astrin gives a wicked grin* Although Rowan’s working at loosening my virtue and I have a feeling he might try to steal it.
- On what occasions do you lie?
A: Never if I can help it. Sometimes I have to give slightly different versions of the truth, but I try very hard to be truthful whenever I can.
- If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A: Definitely not a camel. Um…something soft and cuddly I think. I like being cuddled.
R: I’m very glad about that, because I like cuddling you.
A: So what would you be?
R: A camel.
A: What? Why? Why would you be a camel?
R: *Rowan whistles and rolls his eyes” I thought I might be able to teach you to ride me properly.
A *Astrin coughs* Moving on.
- What is your motto?
.A: Never give up.
Author: Cheryl Headford
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
Astrin Raphael wakes up in a strange place, frightened and confused. He is told to trust someone who seems to hate him, and he tries—he really tries. However, things change rapidly when he discovers his friend is actually his archenemy, Rowan Gabriel, whose abusive behavior stems from a deeply ingrained, if unwarranted, hatred over something that happened many years before, and simply wasn’t Astrin’s fault.
When Rowan’s uncle and Astrin’s father are kidnapped by Strebo Michael, the two crown princes are catapulted into an adventure that forces them to work together, and along the way their feelings for each other grow. Rowan is quick to let his hate go, but Astrin can’t release his inhibitions. It takes Astrin almost dying from a poisoned dagger before he finally accepts Rowan’s love.
When they return home, their problems continue as their Houses try to negotiate a way for the young men to be together. It soon becomes clear at least one of them will need to relinquish his throne.
ROWAN WASN’T smiling. He was simmering gently and muttering to himself under his breath. He’d understood and fully appreciated everything his uncle said to him, but it changed nothing. He hated Astrin Raphael, hated him with a vengeance—vengeance for his parents, to be exact. When Astrin’s father had given the order to attack the armored convoy carrying Rowan’s parents back to the capital, he had shattered Rowan’s world. At four years old, the young prince had hardly known his parents, but he could remember the soft touch of his mother’s lips on his hair, the strong arms of his father cradling him and making him feel safer than he ever had since.
That was all gone now, wiped out in one round of intensive fire and a couple of old-fashioned rocket grenades. Gritting his teeth, Rowan pressed his thumb against a panel that checked his DNA. As Crown Prince, there was no security level for which he was not cleared, and almost instantly the panel changed from red to green, letting out a soft hiss as the seal around the door released.
Quite apart from his feelings for Astrin, Rowan hated coming to the infirmary wing. It was thankfully small, as it catered only for those who lived and worked in the Palace Complex. The door opened into a central lobby from which other doors led in three different directions. One led to the administrative center, another to the main body of the hospital, which was more often accessed through the main entrance at the other side of the building, and the third to the private royal apartment. This was used and accessed only by members of the royal family, their personal physicians, and retainers.
As usual a senior administrator sat behind the desk, working before a bank of computers. Because of the unusual circumstances, soldiers stood on either side of the door into the royal suite. They were elite bodyguards, eternally alert and ready to act in a heartbeat should the need arise.
Nodding to the soldiers but ignoring the administrator, Rowan again pressed his thumb against a panel and was admitted to a dimly lit corridor.
At the end of the corridor was an administration chamber similar to the one he’d just left. This was manned predominantly by nurses, as it dealt with only a fraction of the information handled by the mainframe.
Today there were three nurses at the station. One was working hard on a keyboard in front of the monitor screens, apparently updating paperwork.
The other two nurses were lounging. They snapped to attention as Rowan entered. He ignored them.
Crossing the floor, he activated another thumb pad and pushed the door open when it hissed.
His first thoughts when he passed through the door were of utter contempt and disgust. If he hadn’t retained some sense of honor and decency, he would have spat on the sleeping prince. Fortunately, despite his complaints to his uncle, he realized it was necessary to treat the other prince with a degree of respect. It was vital the negotiations with his father were a success. Rowan therefore swallowed his feelings and went to work.
The boy was unconscious and completely helpless. As a Class One Prisoner, it was too dangerous to allow him any kind of freedom, even the freedom of consciousness.
For normal Class One Prisoners the overcrowded prisons had, over the years, developed containment chambers. Here, many men and women could be economically housed in pods, kept in a comatose state for however long their sentence might be, constantly played audio messages designed to precipitate rehabilitation. They were roused from their coma only during the last months of their sentence, when they had regular consultations with clinical therapists who assessed whether their minds had developed sufficient conscience to allow them to be released back into society.
Some prisoners had committed crimes so severe it was unlikely they would ever be roused. Their pods occupied a room all of their own, which was entered only to install a new pod or to remove that of a prisoner who had died.
However, no one was going to put Astrin, Crown Prince of House Raphael and The Western Kingdoms, in a stasis pod. Although he was a prisoner, he was still a member of the royal family of a major ruling House, and therefore deserving of special treatment.
Instead of a pod, he was reclining on a state-of-the-art bed, his head and shoulders propped up on white pillows. Although it was not possible to see from casual examination, his body was suspended from the shoulders down within an electrically generated field. No part of it was touching either the bed or the covering sheets, thereby preventing bed sores. In addition the field provided constant deep stimulation to his muscles, preventing atrophy and circulation issues.
Tubes inserted into the veins in his arms fed him a regular mixture of drugs, which maintained his perpetual coma, and another tube inserted into his stomach through his abdomen was used to feed him daily with a concentrated, thick liquid that contained all the nutrients needed to keep him alive.
It was Rowan’s duty to feed the sleeping prince, then disengage the force field and wash his body, making sure he stayed clean and there was no infection or irritation of the skin. Rowan hated it. He hated Astrin, and touching him repulsed him. Also the mixture of sedative drugs and the soupy liquid diet produced an absolutely foul waste that made him ponder at times whether it was deliberately engineered by his uncle as a rather basic lesson in humility.
It never occurred to Rowan that, if he found the whole thing demeaning and sickening, had Astrin been conscious enough to be aware of what was happening to his body, he would, no doubt, have found it even more so.
It never occurred to Rowan that, if he found the whole
thing demeaning and sickening, had Astrin been conscious enough to be aware of
what was happening to his body, he would, no doubt, have found it even more so.
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