Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
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Jake found something wet sprinkle against one cheek and something else squelch against the other. His felt cold, devoid of the natural heat fire elementals possess. His mind scattered in a million directions, unable to process what had happened, but the sudden snapping of branches brought him back into rationality.
‘Well, that was easy.’
Huh? A woman? Jake thought. He didn’t recognise the voice but the ominous nature of it sent a shiver down his spine and a ringing in his head. His eyes remained shut, out of both curiosity and fear, then his ears pricked up when he heard a different set of footsteps following close by.
‘Is that all of them?’ a male voice asked, again unrecognisable to Jake.
‘Let’s see,’ the woman paused. ‘One. Two. Three. Four. Five. And the others?’
‘Burnt in the fire.’
‘Brilliant. Just dispose of that by the others.’
Something thudded against a nearby tree, rolling against the sloping bark, making a bumpety noise every odd interval. The sound turned into squelching that grew closer and closer until silky softness caressed the tip of Jake’s nose. It tickled his nostrils, causing him to almost sneeze, but he held his urges, shifting his head against the mud to avoid further contact with the round object. However, the object rolled once more, smacking his nose with something pointy and rubbery.
Jake opened a single eye bit by bit, adjusting to the darkness, turning the hazy silhouette into something recognisable. The silky softness became hair and the pointy rubber became a nose. As Jake looked further, he noticed a single hole before he realised that the person was missing an eye while the other stared into the void, bereft of life. A trickling on his chest alerted Jake to look down, his brain processing the image as slow as possible, unwilling to understand what he was witnessing. Still, his eyes wandered until he saw nothing more but a puddle underneath the head. Then it dawned on him.
Jake flinched backwards, scraping his scalp against the roots, letting out a soft yelp. On the spot, he bit his tongue before he made more noise. His heartbeat raced and he closed his eyes, trying in vain to get the image of the severed head out of his mind.
‘What was that?’
Shoeless footsteps grew closer, squelching on the mud as they did so, stopping right beside the back of Jake’s head. He held his breath, unsure whether the mystery person was friend or foe, hoping the person would go away.
‘By the way, is it wise to have the guy behind you listening to our conversation?’ the man questioned, his breath tickling Jake’s ear.
‘Who? Oh! He’s not dead yet?’ the woman exclaimed.
The presence of the man became so apparent that Jake could feel the heat emanating from the body. He wanted to breathe. He wanted to shake in fear. He wanted to just dash for an exit. Yet, he remained still like the corpse the assailants thought he was, controlling his instincts through gritted teeth and bleeding tongue.
‘Guess not,’ the man confirmed.
‘I could finish him off in one go if he does try anything,’ the woman assured.
‘If you say so. Though I’ve recently taken a carefree approach to life, I’m still a perfectionist at heart. Don’t want anything to go wrong because of him.’
‘Ha! Don’t you worry.’
‘The ex-colleague of mine didn’t take these sorts of things into account either and screwed us both over because of it.’
An awkward silence fell upon the two. Jake just laid there, too scared to move. Too many questions circled his mind. Who was this man? Who was the woman? Where did he come from?
‘My job’s done anyway,’ the man said, breaking the silence. ‘The boss doesn’t like it if I’m gone too long.’
‘Too bad. You don’t get to see when I succeed,’ the woman joked.
‘If you succeed,’ the man warned, before his footsteps weakened, the echoes growing fainter and fainter from the forest.
‘If you say so,’ the woman continued. ‘Hey, Gin. Help a childhood friend out here and finish this trash off. I know you’ve hated him for a while now, so think if it as a present from me for helping us out this past year.’
Gin? Ha! I knew it. I was right all along. He really was a AAA spy. I need to tell everyone. Then Brim could praise me for protecting everyone. I need to escape.
A new pair of footsteps, this time heavier than the others, walked up to Jake’s location. But, before he could react, a deep sharp blade pierced his right leg, causing it to twitch and squirm under the pain. He wanted to scream but he knew his situation didn’t allow for it. However, that didn’t stop Gin from continuing the assault, as the left leg became the new target with the blade penetrating the thigh, leaving it dead and unresponsive.
‘Please finish him off. It looks pitiful and I can tell Rob’s on his way. We need to dispose of the other bodies too,’ the woman ordered as Jake began to lose consciousness. ‘Although, for a manush, you sure know how to get a job done, Gin,’
Eh? What? Manush? So that explains everything. Brim…Rob…anyone…please save m-
But a third and metallic thrust through Jake’s abdomen sent a shock that cut off all remaining thoughts.