Friday, September 17, 2010

Chapter Two

The pub in Weirech was quite a bit more crowded and noisy than that of Novaharod, and Wilder was glad to be out of it. He much preferred walking through the streets in the dark, making his way through the winding maze of the city back to where Ashen and Jenna had left the caravan. When he found their caravan/camp in a field on the edge of town, he took a seat around the campfire. The two of them fell silent as he drew near. "Well?" Ashen asked.

"The guy with the sword has been killing a lot of people on the road to Hemmelsbach," Wilder said.

"How long?" Ashen asked.

"A few weeks is what they said," Wilder said, "And the last one was pretty recent. There's more, though. He was with someone."

"Who?" Ashen asked.

"They didn't give me a name, but they said that this guy killed someone," Wilder said.

"Under what circumstances?" Ashen asked.

"No one knows. He went into a room with the guy and left a few minutes later, and the guy was just dead. No wounds," Wilder said.

"Poison?" Ashen asked.

"The mortician couldn't find any in his body," Wilder said.

"...Interesting," Ashen said, staring into the fire.


The banging on the church doors grew louder as the sound of the door splintering urged the crowd onward. The priest hurriedly pushed the young boy and the travelers into the tunnel and, without a word, rushed up the stairs hoping to quell the crowd. They rushed to the exit hoping no one in the village knew about this escape route. The child’s green eyes gleamed in the torchlight a worried yet calm expression hovering in them. Part of him was frantically searching for answers, but the other part just accepted it as fact. It wasn’t as if it was anything new. Everywhere he went it was the same. The sun stung his eyes as he left the safety of the tunnel. One of the men quickly grabbed his hand pulling him along.

“Jaromil, you must move faster.” He spoke in a hushed tone.

Jaromil nodded his agreement to the man he just met a few hours ago.

The priest’s words still rang in his ears clear as day “Be as a child.” He whole heartedly agreed with those words for he feared that there would be no escape this time.

Their small group managed to slip away from the town and deep into the forest. They decided that this would be a good place to camp for the night. From the group of travelers the leader walked over to Jaromil.

“Sleep well kid. The morning will be rough.” With that he turned and walked away. Jaromil didn’t like the smile on the leaders face.

With out notice he was thrown from his makeshift bed. Laughter surrounded him making him even more confused. When his head cleared he looked up at all the men that traveled with him.
The leader stepped forward and said “We know what you are, freak...We can fetch a good profit for giving up your head to Princess Katrina.”

The man kicked Jaromil forcing all the air in his lungs to burst forth. He gasped for air as they tied him. They cruelly jabbed at him and tripped him laughing as they walked dragging him onward. Nearing mid day they crossed onto an actual road making the abuse a little easier on Jaromil. That night when they stopped to camp they tied him to a tree and moved back to their campfire. Later on one of the men stumbled toward him holding a bottle of Mead.

“Sthay sum… thing smthart.” He managed to blurt out before falling over from his own intoxication.

The boy smiled. “By drinking as much as you do. You are in a sense committing suicide.”
The man focused on the boy for a second, “you’re not… changed.”

“It’s because I’m being childish for indulging your idiotic wish.” Jaromil sighed. He was slipping, his skin growing wrinkled, his hair slowly turning white. Being around a bumbling fool was starting to rub him the wrong way. “Do you even know what your idiosyncrasies are? For that matter do you even know what idiosyncrasy means?”

The man attempted to stand but fell back down. “I’ms going to Idiosythrasy you.”

“You really are an ignoramus aren’t you?” he couldn’t help himself anymore. The drunks face turned stern as the transformation from young boy to a small, aged man completed itself. “You's really is old.”

“For your simple aperception to conceive the difference of age and appearance you’d have to ponder it for an eon. Than again, I’m still not sure if you could pay mind longer than a minute.” The man stared in response for a moment, then walked away, scratching his head and wondering if he'd been insulted.


The priest was reading over passages of the Good Book, unable to shake his memories of Jaromil. There was nothing he could do now except pray for the boy, but still he found himself unable to turn his focus elsewhere. For this reason, by the time the echoing sounds of booted feet on the church floor struck him as unusual, the man making them was already halfway across the floor to him. He was wearing a tophat and long red coat, walking with the aid of a cane he clearly didn't need. Walking by his side was a young girl wearing a porcelain mask. "Far be it from me to tell a man of God how to do his job," the man said, "But I think you might want to invest in a new door. The old one's got a few scratches." He gestured back to the splintered remains of the door.

"Yes, I know," the priest said. He wasn't sure what else to say. "There was a mob involved."

"A mob? I can't imagine why," the man said.

"I'm afraid you wouldn't understand," the priest said.

The man glanced at his companion, then back at the priest and said "Are you now?"

The priest hesitated a moment, and then said "He'd never done anything wrong. He was just a boy! The villagers thought he was the cause of the famine...But if there's any cause to that, it's their own sins!"

"Same song, second verse. Or more like the fourth, really," the man said, "Why don't you just give me the details?"


The screams woke Jaromil from his slumber. Remembering that he was tied to a tree all he could do was wait. Once the screams had died down, Jaromil noticed a slumped form walking toward him. As it got closer he couldn’t even see who it was through all the blood. Jaromil lost his stomach hurling onto the ground than he passed out.

The sound of two men talking gently brought him from his slumber. His eyes popped open the flicker of a fire danced on the cave ceiling. Sitting up his head swirled making him nauseous again.
One of the men spoke, “So our interesting companion has awakened.”

Jaromil quickly glanced over to the men near the fire. One of them was dressed in a decent looking shirt even if it was a bit dirty; his dark brown hair hung loosely around his head, and his bangs was angled to cover his left eye. The other man had a black shirt with an image of a white flower on his right shoulder, and he had short jet black hair.

“Well, your awake the least you can say is thank you.” The black haired man motioned to his companion.

Looking at the brown haired man Jaromil asked, “Were you the one who saved me?”

The man laughed, “I guess you could say that. Do you have a name?”

“It’s Jaromil.”

“Well Jaromil, my name is Ceslav and my companion is Byelbog.”

“It’s nice to meet you two.” It had just dawned on Jaromil that he had an unnerving fear for Byelbog, but he couldn’t explain why. He couldn’t even bring himself to look at the man’s face.

Byelbog stood up and stretched. “I’m going to check the snares.” And with that he stepped out of the cave.

Ceslav seeming to notice Jaromil’s displeasure with Byelbog spoke “Don’t hate him.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s not him. As far as he has told me it’s always been with him. Everyone just hates him when they see him. He isn’t too bad of a person once you get to know him, and you learn to get over the feeling.”

“What about you?” Jaromil inquired.

“What about me?”

“Why are you here? And why did you save me? And did you kill all of those men?” he asked but he knew the last answer already.

“I’m here because just like Byelbog and you I’m different and I tend to be hated when people find out about me. But that’s not important what is important is when is he going to get back with something to eat.” Ceslav smiled.

Jaromil started to feel a knot in his stomach. “You know about me?”

“Well it’s hard to miss a young boy whose brown hair turns grey and his skin wrinkles in your arms agreed?”

“You don’t hate me for it?” The knot started to ease itself.

“As I said before, we are all different. If we started hating people for being different than us we would have a long list of people to hate.”

Jaromil chuckled, “you have a point.”


Ashen closed his eyes and tried to imagine the scene, and quickly. He didn't like leaving Wilder alone with the caravan for too long. The boy, presumably Jaromil, had vomited, which was expected. There was another pile of vomit, but curiously enough it seemed to be coming from the same set of footprints as the swordsman who'd killed the men in the first place. Was it just a coincidence that the vomit landed there, and it was actually the swordsman's companion who'd vomited? Ashen couldn't tell if the boy had struggled or resisted, but he'd definitely been carried away. There were no remains and no footprints of the right size leading away from the campsite. "I'm guessing our swordsman is a Devil's Hand, took the boy as food," Ashen said, "But that doesn't explain why he'd shack up with Deadly Jack."

"They could just be friends, you know," Jenna said.

"Could be," Ashen said, "But I doubt it. I'd guess it's a mutual defense sort of thing. Jack's aura gives the swordsman a bubble that others daren't pop, and the swordsman dices up people who try to kill Jack."

"No. They're just friends," Jenna said.

"So that gypsy made you clairvoyant, too?" Ashen asked. Jenna just stuck her tongue out at him. Ashen smiled and turned back to the scene of the battle, looking for more clues, when suddenly he heard the sound of approaching footsteps. “Stay here,” Ashen said, ducking off into the shadows.

“Hello?” the approaching figure asked. Jenna just stared back, occasionally glancing around to try and find Ashen. “Who are you?” the figure asked, drawing slowly closer. A sudden wave of dread washed over Jenna, and she stumbled backwards, tripping over one of the bodies at the scene. The figure backed away and said “I'm not going to hurt you!”

“No kidding,” Ashen said from about two feet behind the man.

The man whipped around and backed away quickly, saying “Don't get close.”

“My name's Ashen, what's yours?” Ashen asked, offering a hand to the stranger. The man hesitated a moment, looking at Ashen's hand. “Ah, you're Deadly Jack!” Ashen said, pulling his deck of cards out of his coat pocket and shuffling them.

“My name's Byelbog,” the man said his good eye narrowing.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Ashen said, “Where's your friend?”

“How do you know I'm not alone?” Byelbog asked scratching at the scar crossing over his white damaged eye.

“I'm exceptionally clever,” Ashen said, “Where is he? And the boy, what'd you do with him?”

“They're both waiting at our camp. Why?” Byelbog said loosening one of his gloves.

“Byelbog,” Ashen said, ignoring the question and sliding the Jack of Spades out of his deck, “When you were a little boy, did you ever wish you could run away and join the circus?”

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