Miss any earlier episodes??? Click here for a complete list of episodes with episode-descriptions!
EPISODE 8: A CALL UNHEEDED
The five Evil that ran away after we attacked the group of thirty seem to have vanished. Faith and I don’t care to follow them specifically, but we travel in the same direction that they went. I feel like, while we are still struggling with our wounds, there is an unspoken agreement not to talk to one another unless necessary. We are both rather grumpy, or at least I am, but, by virtue of the fact that we don’t talk to each other very much, Faith doesn’t have to suffer from my mood. We press on, the sunsets growing darker and the climate getting cooler.
We come upon a town two days after our encounter with the band of thirty beasts. The village is small, but well fortified by a short stone wall. Even the houses of the village are made of stone, and they have thatched roofs along with heavy, dark brown doors. We are staring down at the village from atop a tall, rocky cliff. I hear a loud crack and the sound of tapping, and I peer down the cliff, seeing a group of men hacking with picks both at boulders and large chunks of the base of the cliff that are bulging outwards. The men are sticking medium-sized pieces of stone into large wheel-barrels. I suppose this is where they get all of their stone. “Do you want to go into the town?” I ask Faith. I personally do, but I want to know what she wants.
“Sure,” she says. I can tell she’s tired. “We don’t have anything to trade, but maybe someone will let us stay at their house for free.”
So we start down the side of the cliff. I jump past sharp rocks and dodge past trees. It’s almost sunset, and I’d prefer to be within the safety of the village. I don’t know why I feel so anxious. But I do. My wounds flare with pain as I quickly move downhill. Faith moves at a slower pace, and I understand why; she doesn’t want to be reckless with her leg-wound.
When we exit off to the side of the cliff, the men hacking away at the boulders look over at us. I nod towards them and raise my hand in greeting. They do the same. “Should we ask them?” I ask Faith.
“I don’t know,” she says.
I cup my hands over my mouth and shout over to the men, “Hey! Mind if we stay at one of your places?”
The men stop in their work and look at me. Faith says, “Couldn’t you have been more polite?”
I open my mouth to reply when one man with a bushy beard, long, curly hair, and hard eyes, shouts, “Come on over here!”
Faith and I shift uncomfortably, but walk over to the man. He is huge, with enormous muscles and a stubborn, gruff look. We come to a halt in front of him, and he turns to us and crosses his arms. “So you want to stay at my home, eh?”
“Well, not necessarily—” I start to say.
“What have you got to trade?” the man asks.
“Well, nothing,” I say. We really don’t.
“And do you know any kind of trade so I can briefly employ you?”
“Actually, no,” I say.
“Then you’re really just a no-good, beggar of a teenager?”
I open my mouth to retort when Faith smiles and jabs me with her elbow, saying, “Pretty much!”
I toss her a look, and then the big man laughs. “My name’s Kirk Lumberhead. I’d love for you two kids to stay at my house.” Then to me he says, “You wouldn’t mind giving us a hand with towing these stones back, would you?”
“Not at all,” I say.
It takes two men to haul one of the wheel-barrels. I team up with one man, and together we transport the rocks to town, Faith walking beside me. When we reach the village, Kirk calls out from behind me, “Kirk and crew returning from the cliff!”
Before us is a large, tall wooden gate. It croaks loudly as two men open it in response to Kirk’s words. We pause while the gate gradually swings inwards, and I get to relax my grip on the wheel-barrel. Although I’m not showing it, hauling the rocks has placed plenty of stress on my shoulder, causing it to throb, and I am happy to cease pulling. When the gate is fully open, my partner gestures towards the village, and I grip the handles on the wheel-barrel and move forward. We enter the village.
Once inside, I hear the gate close behind me with finality, an unexpected reminder that we are here to stay for the sunset. I grimly remember that the last time I entered a village, things didn’t go so well. Remembering my fight with Tarsh, however, reminds me that I should ask around and see if anyone has seen the band of Evil that almost killed me and took my siblings.
We drag our wheel-barrels to the left of the gate and dump them into a large mound of other rocks. “Thanks for the help,” my partner says. We shake hands.
I join Faith and Kirk in the middle of the main street. “Come along now, youngsters!” says Kirk, his deep voice loud and hearty.
As we walk down the street, I notice that few people are about, probably because it’s sunset and it’s getting cold. I like the look of this village. It’s a mixture of a rocky and green complexion; walls and foundations made of stone, roofs made of mud, from which grows different types of greenery. The homes and shops are all placed close together, making me feel secure, and smoke rises from the chimneys of several homes, giving the village a comforting and homey appearance. The air is cool and crisp with a touch of smokiness.
“So,” Kirk says as we walk, “that’s a pretty fine sword you’ve got there. Every Knight of age is supposed to have one.”
“Uh, thanks,” I say politely, even though I know my sword is far from impressive. I look at it from where it dangles on a belt-loop I made for it.
“Mind if I ask what a young man like yourself would need a blade for? Surely you’re not just traveling with it to show it off.”
So maybe he does understand it’s a piece of junk. “Actually,” I say, looking over at him, “I need a sword more than most Knights. I was attacked by a band of Evil. They stabbed me when I wasn’t looking and also kidnapped my younger siblings. I’ve been tracking them ever since.”
Kirk turns to me and stops walking. “Well then,” he says, in a serious tone, “sounds like you do need that sword. I hope you get them. I’ll be sure to have my wife prepare a nice, big meal for you two.”
I grunt and say, “Thank you!”
“Yeah!” Faith says.
We keep on walking, entering into an intersection. Sitting on his front porch, a man whittling a stick looks up at us and nods. “’Evening, Kirk,” he says.
“’Evening, Drinny,” Kirk nods back.
Suddenly, I hear a frustrated groan. Out of the road to my left, a blonde-haired girl quickly paces out across the intersection. She is in a yellow dress, and she is stunningly beautiful. She is a little older than me, I think, and behind her follows a boy also a little older than me. The girl turns to the boy and says, slashing her arms, “I told you, enough! We shouldn’t—”
The boy traps her against one of the houses bordering the intersection and kisses her, cutting her off. When he stops, he says, “But you said so!” He begins necking her, and I look away, feeling awkward. Faith and I exchange a glance.
Drinny rises from where he is sitting and shouts, “Darrel, get your hands off her!”
“Come on now, Drinny,” Kirk says, “let the lad have some fun!”
“It won’t be very fun for her if—”
“We did the same thing when we were younger,” laughs Kirk. “Boys need to act on their passions once in a while.”
I clench my fist and look thoughtfully at Darrel and the girl, who are now kissing on the lips. Kirk walks ahead, and Faith slowly—and perhaps unsurely—follows. I don’t know why I don’t follow after them. I just stare at the two teenagers. I don’t know what I’m feeling. I see the girl release the embrace, and she says, grinning shyly, “Okay, just as long as no one figures out…”
“Don’t worry,” Darrel says, leading her down an alley.
As they start to walk away, I glare and stare after them. “I know this is wrong, but—” I think, gritting my teeth. The boy is downright seducing the girl. He’s pushing her into this. Kirk calls to me. I walk forward towards him, but my eyes never leave the teenagers. As I step, I see the girl hesitate. Darrel turns to her and urges, “Come on!” I keep on walking. But my mind is in an uproar, my anger rising, along with my uncertainty. “Come on!” I hear Darrel say again.
The moment seems to slow down. I hear it grow from a hushed whisper into a loud howl, and the wind sweeps up around me. I don’t know if it is just the wind, or if it is in my head, but I hear a voice, and it says, “Draw your sword.”
I stare after the teenagers once more. Darrel says, “Don’t worry, no one will ever know.”
I stop walking and place my hand on my sword, prepared to act. I still don’t know why I should act, though. I still don’t know what I’m feeling. I tighten my grip on my sword, but then I shake my head and let my hand fall from the handle. “It isn’t my place to act, nor my problem,” I think. I watch as, after another kiss, the girl consents, and the two teenagers vanish down the alley. I am still angry and confused, but I allow myself to relax. “If the girl agrees, then how is it my fault?” I think. “She can make her own decisions.” And I turn and follow Kirk and Faith, jogging to catch up.
“Something wrong?” asks Kirk as I join him and Faith. It is not said unkindly.
I frown and look at the burly man, “Kirk, don’t you think you have an obligation to intervene in those types of situations?”
“Kids need to express themselves,” he says, cheerfully—too cheerfully, I think.
“But that was someone’s daughter,” I say stiffly. “Do you think it’s okay to just sit back and watch a girl be seduced by a guy up to no good?” He looks over at me curiously…maybe even suspiciously. I continue, “You’re a married man! Do you have a daughter? Would you let someone do that to your daughter?”
Kirk turns to me and says, “Look, first of all, I don’t have any kids. Second of all, no, I wouldn’t let someone do that to my daughter, but that girl’s own father should look after her, not me.”
I stare down at the ground, and building up courage, I venture to say, “And you said you did the same thing as Darrel when you were younger. Does your wife know that?”
I gasp and look up at Kirk, who glares and takes a step toward me. I know that, at least insofar as Kirk is my host for the evening, I have overstepped my boundaries.
“Mind your own business, kid,” says the big man, “or you can sleep outside tonight.” And he turns and continues down the street. Faith glances at me, and then follows. I say nothing. I won’t apologize, but, with as much composure I can muster, I follow after the duo.
We reach Kirk’s home, which looks just like all the rest, and he beckons us inside. “By the way,” he says as we cross through the open doorway, “what are your names?”
Supper is already on the table when we enter into Kirk’s home. We meet his wife, Laura, a portly, loud, but silly woman, and sit down to eat an outrageously thick stew. I eat like a pig, accepting whatever they give me. The stew is fantastic.
After dinner, Kirk leads us upstairs to the guestroom. “There’s only one bed,” he says, “but I’m sure you mind being a gentleman, John?”
“Not at all,” I say.
“You two don’t mind sleeping in the same room, right?” our host asks. “I mean, you are brother and sister, correct?”
I don’t know why, but my heart jumps at the word, “sister”. I stare at Kirk, lost in thought, everything seeming to grow slow. My mind, it’s endeavoring to discover something. I’m trying to formulate a connection—a connection to the word “sister”, and…what? I barely hear Faith laugh, “No, we aren’t!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kirk says, “I just assumed. In that case, John, you can sleep downstairs next to the fire. Of course, you might try to sneak back up later.” He smiles down at me.
I return from my thoughts, the moment broken by Kirk’s words. In response to the big man, I refuse even to chuckle. Politeness doesn’t seem to matter. “No, I wouldn’t count on it,” I say grimly.
Kirk laughs, “You’re one uptight youngster, you know!” Shaking his head, he bids us “goodsunset” and goes to bed.
“Goodsunset, Faith,” I say to my friend.
She nods back, but doesn’t say anything. Something is bothering her, I can tell, but we are both tired, so I don’t question her.
I lay down in front of the fire with a blanket Laura gave me. I can’t sleep. I stare up at the boarded ceiling, insulated with what I think is wool, and I frown. I don’t know why, but I can’t stop thinking about what I saw in the village. I can’t seem to dislodge the memory of Darrel imploring and seducing, and the beautiful, innocent girl giving in, allured by the affection he showered over her. I stiffen and grip the floor beneath me, my eyes growing wide. “Dammit!” I think. “I know what he was doing was wrong, but—” I replay the scene of them walking down the alley in my mind. For some reason, the word “sister” keeps on coming into my head. I think and think why the word has any significance to me, but I can’t understand why. “I know it was wrong,” I think to myself, “but that girl made her own decision. Whatever happens to her, it’s not my fault. And why don’t I face it? What reason or right did I have to interfere?” I sigh and grow calm, coming to a conclusion, “If two people start doing what they know is wrong, it’s not my fault if I let that happen. They knew what they were doing, even the girl. Whatever consequences come, I shouldn’t be blamed.”
I roll onto my side, when I also remember the words I thought I heard. The command to draw my sword. I chuckle to myself, “I probably just thought I heard something. It was windy. Or maybe I just imagined it.” I remember how I was so angry, “Heh, or I said it to myself.”
With that, I close my eyes. I try to think of something else, but the two teenagers’ faces won’t leave my mind. I grow frustrated.
I don’t hear them immediately. Not at the lowest possible time they could be heard. But I am not as lost in thought, in anger, in my emotions, as I was that sunset. When I do hear the cries, I perk up and stiffen. I stand and grab my sword, even as a new sound strikes the air. I pause, unsure what to think as the new sound mixes with their eerie, unnatural screams, and then I ascertain what it is. I open my mouth to shout a warning, when right outside I hear an enormous roar—
—and the whole building is engulfed in flames.
TO BE CONTINUED…