When the king finally died, the regent, Castor, began to make changes. New faces replaced old among the guard and the dungeons became overfull, necessitating the building of more and deeper floors. Rulings became just as costly for the complainant as it was for the transgressor and tax collectors multiplied. The most alarming change was in the young prince as Castor did his best to involve young Matok in as much of the brutal rulings as possible and rewarded him for his creativity. When the queen protested, Castor made her understand that it would be so very easy for the prince to have an accident. Castor also worked to separate Matok from the queen until one day she simply vanished ‘heading for some convent in the north’.
No longer contested, Castor worked hard to make Matok the most hated prince in history. What Matok didn’t realize, despite how he had been taught to watch others for lies and deceit in their words and faces, was that Castor was manipulating him.
When Matok turned sixteen, Castor sent him to learn the workings of the military, but the double standard that had surrounded him nearly all of his life, didn’t change here. He got the best or fanciest armor and weapons, and in every fight, Matok was automatically declared the winner. If some complaint ever went to a higher officer, Matok was automatically right.
But Matok had a driving goal that he voiced to no one. He had promised his father that he would be the greatest king ever. The definitions surrounding that goal had been warped over the intervening years, but it nonetheless dictated his actions. He reasoned that a strong military commander could evolve into a strong ruler. He was determined to be the best at whatever Castor threw at him.
One day Matok asked for a greater military force to be sent out into the land; the people were rebelling and the dissidents needed to be rounded up and punished. Being only a squad leader, Matok didn’t have the authority to order any military movement, but Castor was thrilled with the request. As a reward, he had a new set of armor made for the prince. Despite his low rank, he wanted him to look like a prince.
Matok found it puzzlingly difficult to subdue the people; all the things he had learned from the military and all the things he had learned from Castor didn’t seem to work so well out in the land. But he was convinced that if he could just find the seed, it would all collapse and the people would be under control again.
One dark night, Matok found himself on the other side of that brutality. A heavy spear shot out of the dark and pinned him to a tree - and then his commander followed it to bind his hands away from the spear and stifle his cries with a gag. The hated prince was to die, killed by the rebels who hated him most.
Matok, however, didn’t die. He was rescued by someone who knew him of old and understood why he was so hated now. Boromir and his team got Matok to a healer where he fought the long battle against blood loss and infection. He also fought the battle against his volatile nature that had been so carefully nurtured and encouraged ever since he could remember.
As soon as he was strong enough, they took him into the village where they colored his hair; they couldn’t hope to hide Prince Matok, but Mat, the mercenary, could go wherever he wanted.
Matok spent the entire summer striving to make amends to the people he had brutalized for so long. Not only did he work at whatever task that earned him a meal, he also searched out any of Castor’s men to deal out a more personal kind of justice. He made sure that Castor knew that he wasn’t dead; that fact alone ensured that his crown was secure - at least for a little while.
Castor wasn’t at all pleased with Matok’s actions. He couldn’t claim the crown if he didn’t have any proof of the prince’s death. He sent the commander who was supposed to have killed him to find Matok and bring back proof of his death, while he encouraged much of the rest of his military to search out and capture the renegade who was causing so much turmoil.
Then Castor had an idea; he’d set a trap and force Matok to come to him. He sent an invitation to Matok’s betrothed, Princess Aukell, from the kingdom on their southern border. It was early, but he said he’d agreed to turn over the crown. He said he wanted to have the crowning and wedding ceremony that winter and he’d sent the invitation early because traveling in the winter would be too much of a hardship on such a delicate young lady.
When Matok learned of the princess’s arrival, he knew that it was a trap, but knowing that didn’t save him from having to go in after her; he wasn’t about to leave her in Castor’s clutches. He knew what Castor liked to do to young girls.
Once Castor got his hands on Matok, he took him to the torture chamber and began to work his art - Castor loved to torture. He worked until Matok lost all track of time and still Matok challenged him to a duel. Castor had promised him a duel that would test his manhood. Matok kept accusing Castor of trying to weaken him, accusing him of being afraid to duel with him.
When torture didn’t seem to work the way he wanted, Castor tried a different route. He brought Aukell in and threatened to turn his attentions on her. In his effort to make Matok uncontrollably mad, he made a mistake and Matok came to realize that Castor could not have children.
Castor had no choice now. As he saw it, his only other choice was to humiliate Matok in front of a lot of people, but he would be innocent of any deception. Wash water, soap and clean clothes were provided, and the house doctor and Aukell were there. He was confident that Matok would storm past all of it to appear as a maddened and crazed creature not fit to rule. He would be forced to continue to rule - oh my.
Thanks to Aukell, Matok didn’t make the mistake Castor had hoped he would make. He appeared in the dinning hall looking very like his father and so very angry.
After Castor’s very sound defeat, Matok had to undo all his horrors.