Tuesday, May 9

Chapter V

A knock at the door woke Adam from a restless slumber. "Just five more minutes." He scoffed faced down in his pillow. Honestly, it was the only position he felt the least uncomfortable. Although at this point almost everything felt like it irritates the burns on his back. The third knock came and it sounded awfully louder and faster this time around. "Fine!" He groaned with an infuriated sigh. Some days, he feels like he's dying to live or living to die. Only time will tell which will outweigh the other. 

The voices shuffling in were Damus and Garret. All it did was urge him to slip beneath the bed to avoid being seen. He cradled his legs close to his chest, hoping not to be found - at least not like this. 

Damus briefly glimpsed in, "He must have slipped out quietly this morning." 

"Well... tell him I'll stop by again later." Garret insisted after Damus closed the door. 

The last thing Adam heard was Damus saying, "Will do, I'm glad you two are getting along so well now."

Patiently he waited until there was nothing but silence. He wasn't sure how long ago Damus had left before he realized it. When he finally felt ready, he crawled out and prepared for the day. All of his clothing looked like an older brother's hand me downs, due to an odd assortment of different sizes. It didn't matter much since everything is usually a couple of sizes too big on him anyway. 

Despite having days off to do whatever he wants. He still wanted to personally talk to Acran about the incident with the ogres. And for all he knew, Damus probably thought that's the exact amount of time he needed to recover from his injuries. Approaching the window, he opened the shutters, allowing a beam of light to illuminate the dust that swirled in the air. When he was about to climb out the window a voice startled him. Looking down he saw Garret peevishly standing there. 

"What do you want!? You shouldn't come here unannounced like that!"

"I came for my retribution." Garret innocently smiled. 

"Is that all? You could have just waited until noon."

"It'll be too late by then." He thought out loud. 

"Too late for what?" 

"Look do you have it or not?!" He yelled. 

Adam couldn't help but roll his eyes. To him, Garret was a pest - a fly - the kind you can't ever seem to swat no matter how hard you try. Without saying anything further, he grabbed the shudders and heist himself onto the base of the window. Him and the sky met briefly up till he departed. The fall wasn't too bad, considering he's only on the second floor. Once he's on his two feet again, he shoved the coin pouch into Garret's hands. 


His expression became perplexed by not only the jump but the amount he's been given. "That's way more than what I asked." 

"Yeah well, maybe there's somebody who needs it more than I do." 

Rolling thunder sounded across the streets, in the form of horses galloping. On a large white stallion rode Marcus Luthur. Anyone who dared cross his path would be conquered by a sword. Garret and Adam watched the raggedy shambles of peasants hurried out of the way. 

"What's going on?"

"The king has passed an order to brand any magic users." Garret explained, "Instead of "T" for theft on the top of their forehead -"

"It's "W" for witches and warlocks. This isn't right...."

"Whether you think it's right or wrong doesn't matter. An order is an order. Better get used to it sooner than later." He shrugged.

"Like hell I am!"

"W-w-wait! Where are you going!?" He chased after him. 

The decision became quite clear when Adam barged straight through Acran's door. He received plenty of mixed reactions from Ser Reynard and Viscount Bishop. However, Marcus Luthur was completely a different story.  He looked as if it took every fiber in him not to throw a fit of rage. Adam attempted to be pleasant, but there's no guarantee he would idly stand by if violence were to break out.

"What do you want with Arcan?" 

"That's no concern of yours boy." Luthur grimaced, although subconsciously his hand swarmed the hilt of his sword.

Reynard continued preparing the fire for the iron brand he carried. 

Acran legs barely managed to steady themselves even with support from the store's counter. Squeezing his eyes closed, he pushed back the pain and stood tall before all of them. "Since when was it against the law to run a business without being an official resident of Rivale?" 

"As of today." Bishop declared while unraveling a freshly signed parchment. 

"Let me see that!" 

Adam took the scroll for a closer look himself. 

"I, King Roderick hereby decreed those associated with magic regardless of status or wealth is to be known publicly by branding - But why now? What about the Royals that possessed magic traits? Are they receiving the same treatment as well?"

Bishop snatched the paper out of Adam's hands then said, "We don't get to ask questions and neither do you." 

"Isn't that what's wrong with the world? Does nobody dare to question anything? Just doing whatever they're told." 

"It's what keeps us above the rapid animals." Luthur stated.

"If we don't use the voice we've been given... there's not much of a difference if you ask - "  

Luthur threw his body weight behind a fist that edged closer and closer to Adam's face. He felt the punch sink in - followed by a snap which sounded awfully similar to a wishbone being divided. 

Blood pooled into Adam's mouth when he dropped beneath the impact of Luthur's gauntlet. His tongue became aware of the copper taste, but within an instant, he felt something was missing in particular - so he spat. There sitting in crimson and saliva is a tooth. Never once did he thought this would be the day he would experience the displeasure of spitting out his very own teeth. The lateral incisor was gone, however, his central incisor had thankfully only been chipped. He would have swung back if the sharp pain between his eyes hadn't blurred his vision. The whole world spun on an axle until settling in the view of Bishop's laughing face. Deliberately his throat vibrated to allow mucus to mix with plasma right before ejecting the combination into Bishop's eyes. 

"If - if you think a punch will change my mind then you are surely mistaken!" 

Adam didn't like the way Bishop looked at him. Instead of being repulsed by the incident he seemed rejoiced. Those crazed eyes weren't just another hole in the wall. They were hungry - seeking the pleasures of the misfortunate. Similar to an addict and Adam would be the fix. 

"Prepare the iron." Luthur casually commanded. 

"WHAT!? You can't - isn't this against procedure!?" His arms were raised in an x formation then held firmly in place by Bishop, "Fraud - corruption even!"

"Pathetic ramblings of a desperate boy." Bishop mentioned. 

Reynard approached after the branding iron had begun to glow an incandescent red. Adam could feel the heat radiating from the metal and had a moment of sheer panic. All the hairs on his body curled up as if they were trying to escape the impending doom. But unfortunately, his head was held in place. Suddenly, it's as though his blood has become acid, the intent of destroying himself from the inside out. All he could do is writhe against his involuntarily screams. A sizzling smoke that smelled awfully close to leather burning emits from his forehead. He could hear skin hissing back at his oppressors. And worst of all the tissue began to erupt like an over-boiled soup. 

When the branding was finally done. Garret walked in and saw Adam released to the floor. He fell huddle - trying to live heartbeat to heartbeat. For his world has been stolen and replaced by an empty shell.

"Sir!" Garret chivalrously bent over into a bow, but his body felt so stiff - almost as if he had aged into an old man in just the past thirty seconds. The greeting is finished off with an arm across the chest to allow his fist to lay right above his heart. 

"Peyton." Luthur acknowledged him, "Speak." 

"Sir - Sergarus requested aid in the town square. There's a mob of rioters -"

"Riot!?" Bishop yelled extremely loud or the walls of this shop were so thin that they would be hearing his voice for months. 

Although Luthur features harden he still sounded quite relaxed, "How fickle."

"What about the old man?" Reynard raised the iron in disappointment. 

The blubbering and cursing of the guy wasn't helping matters at all. If Acran going to be a coward he could at least be a quiet one Garret had thought. 

"This has become a low priority." Luthur simply put, "Peyton clean this mess up."

"Yes sir."

"Make sure he stays put. If you have to roughen him up -" He smiled, "Well... who's to say his heart may have given out. Very common for someone at his age." 

"Understood sir."

"Oh and one more thing." He added, "Be sure to send a physician for Charlet." 

"Right away sir." 

Luthur signal for the rest to follow him. Garret respectfully bows his head to Bishop and Reynard whenever they passed by. Neither one of them seemed to notice or care. His feet which felt heavier than any stone he had lifted in his entire life - lighten the moment the door shut close behind. Certainly, all the relief he felt dissipated once the realization settled in. Although he's reluctant to see Adam up close he needed to assess his condition. The tips of the charred w took a notch out of each eyebrow. The wound itself doesn't appear to be hurting him. (Because the pain receptors have been obliterated.) However, the healthy skin that surrounds it is another story.

Adam's half-lidded eyes glanced up at him, "You've come here to make fun of me?" 

Garret diverted his own, "We need to get out of here - unseen if possible."

"We?" Acran flicked his face to swat away invisible insects, "What of the riot? It's common sense to stay in here than out there."  

Garret tone was quieter than usual when he said, "I lied."

"Well isn't that nice." Acran humbly replied, "I have just the route." 

Behind the counter, beneath Acran feet lies an old worn out rug. Many years ago the color must have definitely been red once, but now has aged to a burnt umber. He grabbed one end and pulled away til it reveals a latch. Garret was taken back by surprise the moment he saw the hidden trap door. He could only wonder if Acran created the contraption out of mere genius or pure madness. 

A faint voice interrupted his train of thought, "Don't start worrying about me now." 

The funny thing about his statement is that Garret knows if he were the one lying on the floor instead. Adam wouldn't ever leave him because that's just the type of person he is. Despite his efforts to keep Adam awake and aware, exhaustion has finally overtaken what's left of his consciousness. He turned to look back at Acran with a silent plea for assistance. 

"Don't look at me!" Acran laughed while throwing his hands up, “Dead weight is dead weight after all!”

"You're lucky you've earned my respect today..." Garret swung Adam up into his arms as if he were nothing more than a ragdoll.

 "Could've left him in the rug." Acran thought out loud. 

"Just shut up and lead!" 

The tunnel was filled with an overwhelming pungent smell of mustiness. Yet the ground felt wet and soft - almost like you could sink down into it for days.  From time to time, Garret thought about asking what exactly the purpose of this passageway was for, but he figured it probably has something to do with smuggling illegal imports in and out of the Rivale. Then again, the less he knows, the better he may be off. However, Acran's presence seemed to infuriate him to no end. Every movement and every word he executed were so obnoxious. He might as well had been a giant anchor around his neck, pulling you deeper into the brink of insanity. 

"How far does this go?" 

Wrinkles on top of more wrinkles emitted from Acran's face when he turned around to say, "Not far enough." 

Garret returned the smile, although his was quite brittle with an eye visibly twitched out of irritation. 

Further on, tiny bits of light peeked through the wooden floorboards which now overcast them from above. Voices that sounded clear as day echoed, along with the sound of footsteps. Patictuarlly, Garret noticed a pattern - there was absolutely no rhythm. Whoever is moving about is likely scared to death. 

"Please, he's just a poor little boy! He doesn't know any better!" 

Garret looked up the instant he felt something warm and wet land upon his forehead. What had been a blank canvas only moments before became painted in a fountain of red. Through the cracks, he saw what was left of a broken boy. Their eyes met momentarily, but something about his was off. Sad blue eyes stared into the cold abyss, leaving behind an infinite of sadness. He looked away, knowing this may haunt him for years to come. What exactly is the purpose of beheading a defenseless child? That's when Garret realized something... The king's men were killing those who oppose no current threat right on the spot. Knowledge or magical ability - it did not matter to them. Anyone who cannot be controlled or taken to their side must be dealt with in their eyes. Perhaps there is more meaning behind these w markings. Maybe they will become a brigade of crusaders? Hunting down magic users that pose a greater challenge to the common man. But how far will loyalty go once the task has been completed? Will the hunters become the hunted?

He glimpsed back down at Adam, "Your heart is way bigger than your head."

Acran stopped dead in his tracks - looking rather confused - well more than usual. 

"This singular path has now become plural... How complexed." Adam muttered in a daze. 

"You don't even know the way of your own tunnel!?" 

"Pipe down." Acran insisted. 

"What are you mad!?" 

"I'm quite happy, thank you for asking." He casually replied.

Before Garret could make a remark, a chicken's butt popped out of Acran's raggedy robe. 

"Herbert!" Acran delightfully exclaimed. 

Several threads of silk released into the air, creating a triangular shaped parachute. Garret looked speechless while watching the slightest breeze carry her down the left channel. 

Acran raised his sleeve, "After that chicken!" 

Garret's shoulders clunch up in an awkward hunch. Then he made an adjustment that brought the warmth of Adam's breath closer. Quickening his pace, his footsteps and voice managed to carry over the now demented laughter of Acran.

"You do realize we are relying on a chicken for directions, right!?" 

 There were no signs of stopping till they've reached a ceiling hatch. Instead of opening it, Acran performed a rhythmic knock. Garret nearly dropped Adam when he saw the one who unfasten the door. 


"Damn she still hasn't kicked the hay." Acran quietly muttered under his breath. 

"What did you say?" 

"I want to give you a big smoochie!" Beth said rosy in the cheeks. 

"Get off my back ya old hag! And go get the rope ladder!" Acran hollered his demands. 

"Such a charmer." Beth looked bedazzled. 

Once they were out of the tunnel - Garret lowered Adam into the furthest chair. 

"Why isn't food on the table?" Acran yammered while taking a seat. 

"Wait a minute, I made your favorite." Beth sweetly replied. 

There was a knock at the door. Garret took it upon himself to handle whatever business someone had brought to his grandmother. However, he didn't expect it to be Reynard and Peyton. Immediately he slammed the door and turned around enough for his back to press up against it from behind. 

"Why do you look so concern?" Acran asked him.

"Why wouldn't I be!? There's an underground tunnel that leads straight up into my grandmother's house!"

Knock. Knock.

"J-j-ust a moment. And my grandmother who has spoken about my grandfather for years. TELLING ME every day that today's the day he'll be coming home from work. I was sure my grandfather was dead all these years, but apparently, it's now you! AN OWNER OF SOME ILLEGAL MAGIC SHOP!" 

 "That's no way to talk to your grandpa." Acran shook his finger from side to side. 

Knock. Knock.

Damus sat up in bed without any warning. His eyes flung wide opened, restraining in the sunlight. All the while taking air in and out of his lungs - like a fireplace bellows. Shortly he calmed down after realizing exactly where he is. Although his mind had become clear as day. His attention was drawn toward the voices that passed by the door. 

"Arm yourselves and assemble at the gate immediately!" 

"What's going on!?"

"What did I say!? Skedaddle!"

Damus rolled back over, sitting up and running his fingers through his hair. That was all he intended to do with it anyways. Standing, he splashed water on his face from the basin to better wake himself up for what lies ahead. Warm steel without conscious or judgement. That was what he needed right now. There was no God or Devil to the sword, nor on the battlefield, not that he would ever like to see the battlefield ever again. The last time had been more than enough. Just the mere thought of it made him grimaced. Lifting his head up, he called out Adam's name. When there was no reply, he barged right into his room only to find an empty bed. 

"Damnit kid." 

Although anger seemed to be the only emotion settling in. He took a moment to calm his nerves.  For all he knew, Adam could have been running some errands or expanding his new reins of granted freedom. Once he armed himself appropriately for battle, he met with the rest of the knights. He was taller than all of them, but then again, he had always had been. A number of squires appeared to be even smaller because they were cowardly trying to make themselves unnoticeable whenever he passed by. From what he could tell, there were only a handful missing among their ranks - including Adam and Garret. 

Widening his steps, he met up with Ser Loys and whispered, "What's the situation?"

He clasped his hands behind his head then replied, "Quite a dosey one I've heard."

The commander stood before them, clearing his throat - calling everyone's attention. "So, as you all know. There are riots breaking out in almost every sector of the kingdom. If this isn't controlled quickly, we will have an uprising on our hands. I don’t expect killing to be an issue, however, it may be the fastest solution to peace by establishing dominance through fear."

"They really expect us to fight against spell-casters?" Loys quietly asked Damus. 

"We have the numbers." 

Every time they were dispatched for patrols they had to hear this sort of thing.  Damus supposed it was for their safety, but still, it got tedious. Usually the ones that died were those too stubborn to heed warnings and honestly, there was nothing he could do about that. If they chose to fight and lose, it was on their own heads. 

The commander crossed his arms, "Anyone marked must submit. Refusal isn't an option.

Loys laughed warmly, "Why do I get a feeling this more like a fox hunt instead of a precaution?" He glanced back at Damus through lazy, half-lidded eyes. 

His blond hair was a bit messy, yet the mess is quite charming to most who know him. Although his built is rather slender, he's covered in various scars from his previous battles in life - including the very day he was born.  Soft wails came from the newborn as it was held gently by his mother. The father helped carry the two, the mother obviously too weakened by the delivery. Smiling down at the infant, his eyes caught something peculiar. It was not long before his  face was filled with horror. She - a peasant woman had given birth to noble blood with blue eyes. Afraid, she accidentally loosened her grip on the baby, dropping him. And that's where he stayed until he was taken in by a fellow knight. Growing up, he was nothing but a young man wanting to experience the world. He wanted to travel with his brothers in arms and experience great battles. He was a young, bright individual, and somewhat naive. Despite most being fearful of Damus - he indulges every single bit. 

Before Damus could reply, a thick overcast paled the skies, draining the world of its warmth with muted hues of blue and gray. A woman in dark red slowly approached the gate. Her somber visage plagued with subtle traces of torment. The king's crest dangled from around her neck. (Figure out what that looks like...later.. <_< lol.)

"That's all they've sent? Where are the others?" The commander demands to know. 

"These knights have shown signs of a weak continence and poor mental disposition. Because of this I fear we are ill-equipped for battle Rowan." She spoke over his words, forcing him to listen instead. 

"We needn't any more servants or lavish accommodations from the king!" Commander Rowan explained, "What we need are more men!" 

Beneath the hood she wore, the scar shaped like a 'w' was clearly visible. She took a deep breath, steadily regaining her composure. It would do her no good to dwell on the state of things, and she knew better than to get flustered. Oh well, it was a fools errand to think she could simply tell him - she would just have to show him.  A hardly audible chant hummed from her inner most breaths, a trance like state faltering her every gesture. The hedges snapped into two, causing the gate to clatter loudly against the ground. She turned around only to say, "Enough talk..." 

"She seems fun." Ser Loys smiled. 



A calm fell over the noble district, like the world had begun to hibernate beneath the thick layers of fear. Damus and Loys followed their temporarily appointed patrol leader; Rune.  Her bright yellow scarf fluttered wildly behind her. Eventually the scarf rested over her shoulder after she had stopped to look down. 

Hands, blackened yet burned grasped at the edges of the hole. She took a few steps back as the figure managed to pulled them-self out. The large man before her looked wild, covered in soot and was completely naked. 

"You look more like a dirty heathen than I." Her tone was lined with a smile, just another self deprecating joke to conceal the subtle sting of indignation.

He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound would come forth. However his body came running full tilt. She extended her hand out to call a rhyme on instinct, but someone interfered first. When the two collided she was taken back by surprise. Damus strength had made the whole ordeal look effortless. 

"Why were you standing there like a damsel in distress?" Ser Loys wondered. 

"Damsel, yes. distress, no. And what do you care? You don't really seem like the Prince Charming type to me." She shrugged apologetically. 

Listening to her responses, Loys could only smile wider. 

© Tiffany Ann Adkins 2015 - 2019