As some of you know I have been experiencing writers block, but I am working on Part 4 of the dagger, and hopefully, some other works which are rumbling about in my brain. Maybe it is the winter blues, or maybe my mind is just locked at the moment, but I will not give up. I will keep writing, even if it takes me forever.
That is all.
Voices heard beyond his realm of understanding, like children in the fog. He couldn’t open his eyes, not all the way. The world was but a dark room to him, as the voices grew louder.
“I couldn’t leave him there to die,” one said. This was a man, his voice strong and commanding.
“Pray tell, husband, why it had to be you? Surely one of the other ramblers might have stumbled across him,” a woman replied. She sounded angry, as if his being here was an inconvenience to her existence. “I don’t like it. Why was he there? Who did this to him? What if they come looking for him?”
“I doubt they even know he is still alive, whoever they were. Look at him. He is lucky to be breathing, by the Gods.”
Silence befell for a moment, but it was only through sleep. A few days must have passed, for the pain of his wounds had mellowed, and the room he lay in was darker, lit only by a single candle on the window sill. Outside, it was snowing. Winter was still upon this place, embedded deep within the hills of the ward.
He wasn’t alone. A single figure stood by the bed. A young woman with piercing green eyes, she was watching him, only to flinch when she realised he was awake. “I apologise,” she spoke, softly. She can’t have been much older than seventeen, maybe a little younger. Her skin was still soft, her fingers delicate as they rested against her stomach. Her eyes told of inexperience with the world. She still had much to learn.
Bayn swallowed. It hurt, but he didn’t show it on his face. He was good at hiding his emotions. He couldn’t speak, either. His throat felt tight, as if someone had plunged their hand down his throat and taken away his voice. “You were sleeping,” she continued. “I just wanted to change the water in your pail.”
Bayn turned his eyes back to the window. The snow was falling hard. How long have I been here? “My father says you were carrying this when he found you.” She nodded to the nightstand next to his bed, and Bayn noticed the gleam of the metal from the light of the candle. His dagger rested atop a tunic and some dark pants, probably left by his carers. They were expecting him to get better.
They had left the dagger there, a sign of trust perhaps? Could they not see it was stained with blood? Most of it had been washed away. “This is far from any city wall,” the girl went on. She went to the window and looked outside. “The winter is not over for all of us, and we still have many days of this to come.” Turning around, she folded her arms across her chest. “I am curious, though. Who are you?”
He would not be able to answer her, but even if he wished to do so, he would have been cut off by the door opening, bleeding some light into the room from the hallway outside. Bayn turned his head and saw a man in the door way. Human, with dark hair and a beard, he held his hand out. “Come, child, leave this poor man alone to sleep. He is injured, and needs his rest.”
“But father I…”
“Come I said!” He had a booming, powerful voice. “You have much work to do.”
Then she was gone, and Bayn was looking at this hard-working, grease covered man. “I apologise for the interruption to your sleep.” Bowing his head, he left Bayn alone. It was no nuisance, of course, but he didn’t have the voice to project that. For now, he was just a mute.
* * *
A day must have passed. Bayn opened his eyes and saw the glow of the early morning sun creeping in through the window. Outside, the snow covered mountains were lit up by a ginger hue. He could perceive the sounds of cows somewhere outside the log cabin, and the beating of horse clogs on stone pathways. There was laughing and clink-clink of ceramic mugs, surrounding him like some imperceptible scene playing out in his mind.
When he tried to turn onto his side, he was hit by an intense stabbing pain in his side. Gently, he reached his hand beneath the covers and felt something where his ribs should have been. Grimacing against the pain, he lifted the covers up with his other hand, and saw the white band of cloth encompassing his torso, wrapped around his body like a cummerbund. Possibly, to hold my body together, he considered. Wincing, he rested his head back on the pillow and pulled the covers back up to his neck. The sun might have been out, but it was deathly cold. Where his skin was still exposed, he could feel the wispy cold breath of the incessant winter conditions touching him. Somewhere, a cold wind breezed into the cabin, and for the first time in his life, Bayn felt a numbing fear course through his body.
Bayn had been touched by death, and he didn’t like it.
* * *
Another day passed. Perhaps it was two. He awoke in the bed when the night was still darkest, and he was lying on his good side. The window was at his back, but he could feel the tendrils of ice-cold cold chills down his spine. He pulled the sheet a little closer around himself, and resolved to go back to sleep.
It didn’t happen.
There was a noise, somewhere outside the room. Throwing the covers off, Bayn tried to sit up on the bed, but he scarcely managed it before collapsing back onto his side. There were voices outside his room. The door was blowing softly back and forth, and Bayn could see a luminous tinge of colour just through the small opening. A shadow passed over the glow, and he felt his own heart skip a beat in his chest.
“Is someone… there?” he asked. His voice was still trying to come back, and he sounded more like an adolescent trying to call for his mother when he had bad dreams.
It hurt to for him to swallow, let alone speak. “Show yourself.”
A second passed, not even that, when the door flew open, and he saw a dark shape come into the room, only to stop at the rear of the bed. Looking right, to left, the intruder saw Bayn on the bed, and then started to raise his arm. Like something in slow motion, the finger outstretched and pointed at Bayn, two eyes set in crimson red beneath a leather cowl.
With mouth opened, this thing started to shriek piercingly, like a wailing banshee. The din cracked his skull, sending strands of non-stop pain down his spine. Bayn let out a cry of his own, just as the hooded figure spun around and withdrew a long handled cleaver from his robes, swinging it through the air and bringing it in an arc down onto the bed…
… Bayn woke with a start, almost coming off the bed as he let out a loud roar. It took a few moments for him to realise he was still in the log cabin, but in that short time, Bayn ran his hands all over his body to make sure he was still alive. The door to the room came open with a clunk, and several people stood over him, as he sat on the floor. It was only when a hand came to his shoulder that Bayn looked up, with a startled look on his face, and knew he was safe. It was but a nightmare.
* * *
“Where did you come from?” The child at the side of the table was a somewhat chunky boy, with a broad nose on his face. His hair was a mess, and Bayn would wager he hadn’t seen a comb in his life.
“Bastor, leave the man to his meal.” The mature gentleman must have been the father. His beard was turning a shade of white, but he still had the body of a hard worker, with brawny leathery skin around the arms and trunk, tanned from the warmness of the sun.
Bayn coughed into a fist as the child moved away from the table, the look of a wounded beast on his face. Seconds later, he was picking up his timber sword and swinging it like some soldier. Bayn checked his environment vigilantly, like the stalking-predator he was trained to be. They had a normal family home, the shelves with pots, pans and plates, food laid across a set of tables near a stone oven. Something was cooking within, and Bayn could detect snowberries, possibly a hint of ginger. His senses were still kicking in. It had been nearly a week since his bad dream, and after some much needed sleep, he was coming back to the physical fitness he once enjoyed before he was…
Quickly, he put those ill thoughts out of his mind. “May I ask, sir, what circumstances you found me in?”
The man with the pallid beard had identified himself as Sol Gavon, a farmer who owned Little Pale Stead, a plot of land just outside of Huntingwood to the east. “I found you at the base of my mill about to be minced by the propeller,” Sol replied, pouring some spicy tomato bisque into a wooden bowl. “You must have been washed down the river from Faircross, I wager.”
“Did I have anything on my person when you discovered me?” Bayn noticed the others were looking at him, curious about this stranger.
“Only a dagger,” Sol replied. “I left it on your nightstand. You were holding it quite tightly, to the point of blooding between your fingers. My daughter Gaila was able to clean most of your wounds otherwise, but…”
“You found just the dagger?”
Sol hesitated for a moment, then started to place freshly cooked bread rolls onto a platter in the centre of the table. “That was all. Your clothes were torn and waterlogged where your body was carried downstream some ways. You were fortunate to have survived the ordeal, my friend.”
Friend? I have no friends. I am an assassin, a dark shadow in the night. And I would contentedly place a dagger in your throat if paid to do so. He swallowed that reflection down deep, and watched as more of his children played near the crop-fields, just outside the back-door to the cabin. It was a large habitat, with several rooms, and an additional block that someone had erected onto the side. There was a small trophy room at the back, where Sol and his family, no doubt, had placed all the spoils of their hunting expeditions.
“Thank you,” Bayn finally said, after a prolonged silence filled the room.
“What for, son?”
“You saved my life, sir. Any other person would have been happy to leave me awash on the side of the road,” Bayn admitted.
“Around here, we look after each other,” Sol told him. “Now, time to eat.”
“I am indebted to you,” Bayn went on as the family spilled into the room. He had three children, although Gaila was nineteen now, a grown woman. The other two, Bastor and Gallus, were twelve and nine respectively, and had about them an air of grace as they sat at the table. Sol’s wife, Jada, still had long hair that fell to her shoulders, but it was turning a shade of grey like her husband. Sol had brothers and sisters, but none of them were here tonight.
It was him and his ideal family.
For the first time in his life, Bayn was thinking about how he was going to repay these people for putting him up, and saving his life. Shadows guide me.
Blood fell into the water.
It was carried downstream by the powerful currents, flowing, disappearing into the white-water as it mixed. It poured from the wounds like water from a ewer. Fingers pressed forcefully around the dagger’s hilt, he moved forward gingerly, his hands and knees in the water, his body mottled with wounds over his back and torso. His left arm hung limp at his side as he tried to propel himself along the river, only for every single movement to feel as if lightning was striking his joints.
Every cut and bruise was a reminder of this night. He had never been so foolish in his life, and yet somehow, he had allowed himself to walk into a trap. He cried out as he hit the water.
There was a copper taste to the blood in his mouth. Nostalgic emotions of a time when he was but a simple learner in the art of assassination came flooding back to his mind. The smells assaulted his olfactory senses, like his life was flashing before his very eyes. Every breath he took was like a knife in his lungs. Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself along the rushing water to the nearby rocks, reaching his hand out and feeling the cold, wet stone as he tried to heave his body over the wetlands.
Oddly, the jagged rock was comforting. He rested against it, turning sideways to look up at the rising sun over the horizon. The skies were a hue of orange and yellow light, spread over hundreds of miles. Below, at the bottom of the ravine, he could see the small town of Faircross. Lanterns were switching off as the sunlight hit the meadows, and the farmyards. They were just waking up. He wondered if they knew what had just happened in their small hamlet. Blood had spilled on their land too, and in their homes.
Bayn had no guilt as he lay against the landscape, his head pressed to the cold stone. The skies above were darkening, even as the sunlight spilled across the world. He shivered, even as the warmth touched his body. He had lost too much blood. He knew what was coming. He had seen death in its many guises before, and he could feel the light fading from his own eyes.
He grimaced as his lungs burned. His back arched, he started to turn on his back, and gave the sunrise one final look, memories of that cold betrayal fresh in his mind. He knew he would never see the faces of those who deceived him, and sent him to his doom, but he would forever remember their names.
Galinor, Imen, Wulf Anders, Gyndry Verne, Brona Easter, Naste Bana, Lurkil and Argond Sunhill. Names he would never forget ever again, even in death, as it came to claim him. As his blood ran cold, mixing with the water of the stream, he closed his eyes and waited for the end. It would be good to see the faces of those who had been lost in service to the guild.
But it was a bittersweet passing.
As he closed his eyes, the night replayed over in his head.
The walls came alive. Figures stepped out of the darkness, shrouded in some sort of cloud, invisible to the naked eye till Bayn saw the first swing of the sword. Instinct kicked in, and he lifted his dagger up, the clang of metal striking metal. It sent sparks through the air, and as he parried, a second figure came to his side, blade directed at his side. He moved with grace, dancing around the arc of the sword, and threw a hard punch at his attacker. The man went down with a crunch, but Bayn had little time to celebrate his victory.
He was surrounded by agents of death, men and women whose faces were hidden in the darkness of the chamber. The figure on the bed had not yet moved, but Bayn had little time to appreciate his surroundings. They were striking at him before he could drink them in, and throwing his arms up, the gauntlets of his shadow-armour deflecting each smack. Now they were coming fast and strong, and he was forced to go back to his training. He pictured every attacker, their weapons coming down to meet him, their eyes, and their lips, the way they curled when they were bringing their death down on him. Bayn was good, but he was losing ground.
There was barely room for him to move in this small chamber, but he fought good, and hard. When they pushed, he pushed back. It was what he was waiting for all his life. Sooner or later, he would come up against an enemy that was harder to beat, and all of his training and life experiences culminated in this moment, right here.
Even then, the challenge was great.
They shoved at him, he shoved back. His arms ached, but he was giving just as much fight back to them. He used the room as a weapon, slamming heads into cupboards, into the walls, and smashing urns and bowls over their heads. He kicked out, shoving them over the bed and chairs, breaking those chairs over the back of others as they fought back. He was ushered into the living room where there more waiting for him. Their blades at the ready, Bayn brought out his own short-sword, and parried, defended, and swung in attack. He caught one of them across the face, blood seeping from a cheek wound as the young guard hit the floor.
It only spurred them on more. Attack after attack weakened his resolve even more, and Bayn found himself backed into a corner, near where the fireplace still burned with the embers of a warming fire.
The first one struck; quickly Bayn sidestepped and brought the blade down to meet the shoulder. It entered the guard’s body with ease, slicing through skin and bone. He cried out, but had little time to feel pain as Bayn swept it through his shoulder to the neck, taking a chunk of his throat with it as the blade came free. Blood sprayed his uniform, and the body dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Two came forward in anger, but it was their own undoing, their bodies falling to the ground as Bayn held his short-sword and dagger forward, urging the others to make their move. Three down, but he didn’t count how many others had attacked him.
The room became a cacophony of dance moves as he battled one after another, their blades meeting, but each time, the guards showing their amateurism against his prowess. He was a trained killer. In a heartbeat, he could destroy them all, but he was beginning to weaken, his legs and arms aching from the long night.
One of them managed to get a hit. Blood dripped down his arm, where the skin had split the muscle was ripped. The attacker was soon on the floor, blood gushing from the side of his neck, but Bayn had very little chance to admire his work. There were few left, but they were faster, younger and stronger, each hit knocking the muscles in his arms and legs. He took more hits, blood oozing from the wounds, but he wasn’t done yet. When they were finally down, he took a moment to admire his work, and headed for the door of the house. As his hand reached out, he could hear the sound of voices outside.
More guards were coming. Quickly, he stepped over the bodies and returned to the bedroom. Those that were still alive were groaning as they held their wounds. Moving to a window at the back of the room, Bayn saw the rear escape was untroubled, just the woodlands of the surrounding ward his enemy.
Something clicked in his mind. Bayn was a keen observer, and noticed things around him. It was his job to see everything as a shadow assassin. He had to know where people were placed, if there were obstacles in his way, and every object in the room. It was how he worked, how he was trained. He was supposed to remember everything, but it took him extra long to realise there was something different about the bed.
It was flatter than he remembered.
He spun around, but the blade was already inside him by the time he raised his arm to defend. A long, thin Katana, the blade moved all the way through his body and out the back. The cold steel touched his insides, and he felt a shiver throughout. He looked up at his attacker. A woman, she held the hilt tightly in her hands, her eyes on his. Brona Easter. She was a sister of the night, like he was a brother. Now, she was his doom. The blade held inside him for a bit longer, before she started to twist. Bayn could taste the blood in his mouth, but he never looked away from her once. Cocking her head to the side, she smiled, just a little, and then yanked the sword from him, holding it back. The blood dripped off the blade and onto her armour, like crimson cherry.
He stumbled a little, but Bayn still had his senses. When she didn’t attack straight away, he realised she wasn’t alone. Behind her, two figures had emerged from the cupboards. Their forms silhouetted against the darkness, they stepped in close enough for him to see their faces.
As she was a sister of the night, they were brothers.
He had been betrayed.
The next few moments seemed to pass by as if they were a dream. Bayn felt like his body was being lifted towards the heavens, and each strike was but a stroke of Sky God’s hands. He felt cold, hard metal pushing into his body, punches to the face and ribs. He was beaten so hard by hammers and maces he felt as if he was going to explode. By the time they were done, he was in the garden behind the house, blood dripping from his own lips. His blade still in hand, he fought back, but was quickly subdued and thrown onto his back. Blood was weeping from every wound.
He looked up and saw them all around him. He had little chance now. His own brothers and sisters had betrayed him, but he had to know this day was going to come. This was how the Dagger’s Guild operated. He wondered who could have put the hit out on him, or if a hit was put out at all. He asked himself over and over in his mind, and knew he had too many enemies to count.
The Sky God’s themselves could have ordered the hit on his life.
The killing blow was to come. Large and proud, the Orcish warrior Lurkil stood over him with her war hammer in hand, but there was no glee in her eyes. Just sadness set in her eyes as she held the weapon over her shoulder and sniffed. “Is this to be it, then?” he asked her. “You will be my doom bringer?”
She frowned at him. “What did you expect would happen, Bayn? You have become far greater than the sum of the Dagger’s Guild. They couldn’t allow you to rise any further than the heavens would allow, my brother.”
“Brother and sister no more,” Bayn spoke, spitting out blood. “Do it, and know that I go to my resting place as a warrior.”
Lurkil hesitated for a moment, and then nodded her head. “This is my kill alone,” she said to the others. None of them argued. They were gone from her side in a few seconds, and left with them a silence that seemed deafening for Bayn, as he lay on the ground and waited for that kill. “You have been one of the best shadows, brother. Know that I do this will a sad heart, not because I want to, but because it is the will of the Shadow Lord himself.”
Bayn closed his eyes. “And may he come to a bloody and violent death himself.”
“Indeed.” The Orc waited no more, lifting the hammer higher and then chanting a prayer under breath.
The next thing that happened perplexed Bayn. It started with the sound of a thunderous roar in the skies, and was followed by a flash of light that turned night into day. All around them the ground shook, and Lurkil was thrown backwards by the sheer weight of the hammer. For a moment, Bayn froze. It was as if the world had given him a second chance. He could barely move, but he climbed to his feet, and threw himself forward, nearly slipping on the wetness of the mud. Above, the clouds opened up like a shout from the Sky Gods, rattling the inside of his skull as he ran for the rising hillside.
Lurkil didn’t have time to react. She was on the floor, trying to ascertain what was happening. He didn’t look back. Bayn just kept running and running.
He opened his eyes. He was still resting against the rock. Memories of the night plagued him, as the skies lit up with the illumination of the sun. He was close to it now, and could feel the last of his own light becoming dark. His heartbeat slow, the blood pumping through his veins merely a reminder he was once alive.
He couldn’t keep his eyes open. His stomach growled and his throat burned with the taste of his metallic blood. Turning his head, he stared at the sunrise one last time, at least knowing his final minutes were in the company of the Sun God. Still, as he lifted his hand to guard his eyes against the powerful rays seeping through the early morning clouds, he noticed he was still holding the dagger in his hand. Blood covered the blade, his fingers unable to unfurl from the hilt.
A smile formed on his lips.
He was forever a Shadow Brother. Forever an assassin.
Midnight struck at the town clock just as Bayn settled into the small cavern at the foot of the river. Just beyond the line of trees, he could make out the lights coming from Faircross, a small town about half a mile from the city of Huntingwood. With less than twenty citizens living just within the walls, Faircross was the sort of place that could easily be forgotten in such a large world like this. Bayn could almost see it being washed away in the deluge of the river current, never to be seen again. Would a single citizen of the nearby Huntingwood even consider it in their own minds after that day?
With gentle breeze, the night winds blew against the flap of wolf skin hanging from his camping post. A fire burned before him, the light protected by a sheet of dark bear skin across the passing of rocks which led to the mouth of the cavern. Above, the moon spread light about the Shaded Forest, which surrounded the small town. The shadows that fell on the ground looked haunted, and combined with the movement of the animals, it made the woodlands look as if it was coming to life before his very eyes. But Bayn wasn’t scared. He had spent the night in this forest many times when he was a boy, when his father would take him hunting before the onset of winter. The family had no choice but to stock the meat within the ice of the local river, which froze for seven months of the year in the coldest of winters. Now, he was the hunter. This was his arena, and he wasn’t hunting small prey.
The moon was moving across the skies slowly tonight, with the wind picking up close to one in the morning. From where he sat, cooking venison cut straight from the deer, he could see lights flickering through the foliage that served as the environment for Faircross. Lights sometimes moved across the panorama. The guards were on duty twenty-four seven in any small town, but there was only a handful of guards protecting this place, because, unlike many of the other townships surrounding Huntingwood, Faircross was of very little importance. At least to the highest echelons of power back in the Capital. It served one purpose; a farmstead, directly at the pinnacle of over sixteen different crop-farms, wheat gardens, production warehouses and fish hatchery companies, all of which served the wealthiest of the families within the Capital itself.
Grudgingly, Bayn wasn’t from a wealthy family. His bloodline was one of common folk, growing up in the small Port of Howy, where the fishing docks were filled with growing custom every day, but where most of the earnings given to his father and brothers were handed to luxuriantly adorned ladies and gentleman of title. It made him sick to think of, but he had long learned to live with his circumstances.
There were those who mourned what they didn’t have, and those that accepted what they were given. Bayn accepted it. He had extraordinary gifts, nurtured from a very young age to adulthood. Now it was part of his life, and he didn’t look back in regret as his fingers grew redder with the blood of his victims.
Bayn was an assassin, and on this night, he was on one final job for the Dagger’s Guild. It didn’t matter who the target was. In all his years working for the secretive assassin’s guild he had never come across such a miserable target. A farming man, he had spent most of his life living in this drudge of a town. He didn’t even try to breach the walls, and spent most of his coin on prostitutes from the local tavern. There was even a story doing the rounds in town that he once disfigured a young girl for not performing certain tasks at his behest. It didn’t matter. When Bayn got the call, he didn’t question the reasons why. It was none of his business was the target had done, only that they would, by nightfall, be dead.
Bayn had read the information in the log book; his name was Tyll Wincent, and he was nearly fifty years old. He ran the wheat farm just outside the small town since he was in his early thirties, after his father was killed in a boating accident. He had no children, nor a wife to speak of, and he had no friends to speak of in the village. Whoever wanted him dead, it was well paid for. Good coin rested on Bayn’s belt, and every now and then he would stroke the cloth holding it together just to make sure it was still there. It had plenty of coin which Bayn would use to return to his homelands across the oceans.
Less than an hour passed. The lights from the town guards had stopped fifteen minutes ago, but Bayn had given it a little extra time before he made his move. Succulent meat tasted, he placed the venison remains in a small sack, and then tied up any loose ends, from kicking the fire out to hiding the carcass beneath some broken twigs and leaves scattered about the forest.
The town was quiet. He moved with silent grace, having studied the movements of the guards and the people. There were three young men by the docks, watching the fishery while filling themselves with mead. The guard tower was well lit on the top floor, with several flags draped down the side of the building to show they belonged to the Royal Guardsman, sent by the capital to keep a watch over this tiny investment. Lanterns lit the way along the avenue of trees, and there were empty carts sitting outside each of the stores, small family run businesses which probably made barely a gold coin to give to the Capital.
Death and taxes were two of life’s very sure things.
One of them could be easily felt at the tip of an assassin’s blade. Bayn moved so quietly, he had reached the tavern in the middle of town without a single light falling upon him. There were still people inside; a few by the windows, but none of them looked up from their drinks to see the hooded figure pass by, between the old oak trees near the mill.
The house was right at the end of the brick road. Two obstacles stood in his way; the first, an old guard still watching the dark road in and out of town. He had long passed the age when he could make a difference, but beside him, sat a large rotund piece of metal, which served as an alarm should he ever need to bash the mallet against it. Then, there was the locked door.
No locked door had ever given Bayn trouble.
There was no barrier he couldn’t pass through, and no target he couldn’t take down. They were two very menial obstacles, and two minutes later, he stood behind the wall of the dainty cabin where Tyll lived. The old guard didn’t stir as he rested his head against the wall behind him, unaware of the trouble that waited in the shadows. It was how Bayn liked it.
He waited. He could wait for hours, if needs be. But the hours were wasting away and he had very little darkness left. It only took a second for the old man to look up and see him. He had to be very careful. With gentle steps, he walked across the wooden porch, his soft shoes making no sound, and reached above his head. With delicate touch, he turned the lantern and the flame went out.
No one reacted, and he let out a sigh of relief. Even in the darkness he could still be seen, but he was already at the door and turning the apparatus in the lock before he heard the tumbler snap, and the door opened ever so gently.
Inside the house was Spartan. Two wooden chairs rested against the back wall, one of them covered in stacked books. A fireplace burned lightly, the embers of a fire still glowing within, and there was a smell of cooked fish in the air. Bayn wrinkled his nose at the aroma of herbs and spices, and saw a half-eaten meal on the dining table, the fork still protruding from the mashed potato and pointing towards the ceiling. The bedroom was through an arch that split the living room as a separate room. Inside, Tyll Wincent was sleeping, on his side with his arm draped down across his chest. Beside him, a book lay open on the nightstand, with the lantern burning dimly. There were dark shadows all over the room and Bayn hid within them, creeping from one side of the room to the other.
He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a note. He had not seen what was on it. The note had been written for Bayn’s eyes only, so he could see why he was being punished.
Yet, even as he pulled the note from his pocket, Bayn got the sense that something did not feel right about this whole scene. For a moment, he froze, his hand resting on the note. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Shadows within the room seemed to whisper at him. This isn’t right. It was too easy. He had never been so careless on a job before, normally taking a good long look at the scenery. The town was too quiet, the door too easy. It was all laid out before him like some staged act in a play.
A tingle went down his spine. The note in his pocket felt heavy all of a sudden, and he lifted it out, holding it in front of his face. Tyll was still asleep, so he slipped his finger under the seal and pulled it free. The note was a small piece of paper, black ink seeping through the back. As he turned it over, Bayn felt a lump in his throat.
The name on the paper was clearly written. The ink had dripped at the bottom of some of the letters, and beneath it, a red cross, the signature he knew too well. When the note dropped on the bed, the light struck it from the open window, and the words were highlighted;
The lump in Bayn’s throat became a war cry as the walls in the room seemed to explode all around him…
TO BE CONTINUED.
I am a wreck without you.
I am a boat washed ashore with no crew. A car with no engine, a plane with no fuel, a man without a purpose.
I always want to feel your warm fingers on my cheek, your soft lips on mine.
Your kiss could cure the cancer eating away at me. Your lips could calm the savage beast within me when the red mist ascends. Your eyes could melt a thousand icebergs.
The way you always pulled the cover up over me when I was sick, or held me when I was too weak to stand.
The way you cared for me when the world was already black.
Your heart beat against mine. Your breath on my face. Your fingers at my back, when we are lying on the couch.
The way your fingers interlocked into my own, and the squeeze when you pulled closer.
The way you weren’t afraid to show affections for me when everyone else was turning their back on me.
The way you cared for the words that came from my mouth, and didn’t spit them back in my face like the others.
Every song makes me think of you. The rhythm, the tune, the music, the voice, the lyrics, they all remind me of you who was with me then.
Every sound reminds me of you.
Every sensation makes me want to be with you.
I feel empty like a hole when you are a million miles away, the only memories of you those special that will always be in my mind.
In my dreams.
I grow old with you.
I die with you.
Inspired to put up my “The Moon” story. Several chapters long, this one. Thing is, I put the last one up, and got a pretty good reception and some honest comments about the grammar, which is one of the reasons I am putting them on here. I need complete honesty, also, bear in mind a lot of this stuff is fairly old, stuff I wrote a while ago and I am just updating and reworking some of it. Well, trying to, migraine permitting.
Looking forward to reading “Bunny Apocalypse” material today. I have been itching to do this for the past 24 hours. Especially now I know who wrote Chapter 2…
Somewhere in London
Just the usual afternoon. The weather was wet and damp once more, and the summer had long since passed, a distant memory in the mind of those who lived in the city. Streaks of sunlight sometimes squeezed through a gap in the clouds, but the year had forgotten summer. The buildings would light up from the reflection of the sun burning its warm touch upon the pavements. From his flat in East London, Perry Mayweather could see the clouds already forming, like swirling masses of smoke. As the traffic passed by, Perry couldn’t help but think things seemed to be a bit too quiet today. But then Sunday’s rarely threw out anything of interest in his life, particularly these days. Something does not feel right about this morning.
He was right to be nervous. Ever since he woke from his nightmare, he could feel a tingling down his arms, and this morning, down his back. It was like he woke from a nightmare and was only just feeling the cold stabbing of the events. Like, the world itself was the nightmare. In the back of his mind only a few things really stood out; he was yet to see his daughter, Amy, who was living with her mother in Chelsea. She was due to marry the very man who took her away from him, and destroyed their marriage. Now Amy was going to call him father. But that wasn’t it. He had seen Amy the week before, and Perry had no feeling that she was any different around him. On the contrary, Amy was indifferent the day she stayed over. As she always was. Maybe it was something that was coming with her then. Perhaps he was awaiting some bad news from the young girl when she came to his house this week. Or maybe I am just spending too much of my time worrying about something that is out of my control.
Another worry was work. Tomorrow, he and a few others were being considered for “promotion” at the office, and Perry had been waiting a long time to move from the junior desk he spent the last ten years sitting at. Every day was the same. Work piled on his desk, and he could spend seven hours compiling data for people in an office upstairs that he had very little chance of meeting. Work made him want to stay in bed, but every morning somehow, he was able to push himself out from beneath the sheets and make his commute to that hell hole. But he braved the walk. A walk because he didn’t get his driving license, and hated taking the bus.
He was tired of it. He was done. Perry wanted a holiday. No, he needed a holiday. Even as he watched the world go by through his living room window, he could feel the itch of feeling the warm sun on his face. But not the sun over England, no. He wanted to feel the warm sun from the skies of Jamaica, or somewhere remote in Europe, somewhere high. He smiled even as he thought about it. On the computer behind him, Perry had brought up the hot destinations points for the coming winter, a time when everyone was desperate to escape the lacklustre weather of England. Holding a warm coffee, he just felt that urge. Like an itch that needed to be scratched.
As he sipped on his coffee, he felt a cold chill go down his back. The pit of his stomach was stirring, like there were feelings buried deep down they were swimming around in the bottom of his gut. He put the coffee down and looked back at the door. For a moment, he was sure he could see a shadow pass over the light from the outer corridor, but his mind was playing tricks on him. He was completely unsettled, and he couldn’t think of a reason why.
Just as he reached for his coffee, there was a soft tapping at the door. His heart skipped a beat; for a moment, he could every sound in the room, his fingertips stroking the rim of the coffee mug. A minute passed, and there was only silenced returned. Sighing, he looked down at the coffee, startled by the sound of knuckles rapping against the wood again. Perry looked at his watch. It was close to two in the afternoon. Checking the clock on the wall as well, just to make sure, he looked a the door and swallowed.
What is wrong with me? Each footstep felt like a hundred miles. His stomach churned, noises seemed to blurt from his throat that he didn’t have control over. He never took his eyes off the door, not once, even as he reached out. Taking a deep breath, he turned the handle, and pulled the door open. The light from the corridor bled into the living room, and Perry winced, noticing the tall figure standing before him.
The first thing he noticed was the hair. He had very little hair, where he close-shaved it every month, and wore a goatee, with some side rough that looked recent. As he focused on the face, Perry noticed that glistening smoky look that seemed to come with that familiar face. It was like he was always asleep. His lips were thin, pressed together as he forced a smile, and nodded his head. When he spoke, that sound, the voice of a Cockney lad, brought up on the streets of London, seemed to echo across the room.
It was all too a recognisable noise. “Hello, brother.”
Perry looked his brother Steven up and down with a pensive uneasiness, unsure of what to say. After all, it had been nine months since the two brothers had spoken to each other. Perry looked him up and down. Nothing much had changed. Perhaps Steven had lost a little weight, but he still recognised him with ease. In fact, Stephen might have looked a little worse. Finally, Perry had the strength to speak, his throat feeling a little constricted. “What are you doing here?”
Stephen offered a weak smile. “Good to see you too, brother.”
“I don’t have time for your games, Stephen. I have a full day of work tomorrow. Did I forget someone’s birthday, again?”
“Not that I am aware of, bro.” Stephen looked down at the floor, almost child-like in his stance. “I just wanted to talk for a bit.”
“Talk? You don’t come here to talk. What’s wrong with your wife?” Perry felt himself losing control again. The voice of his doctor warning him about his blood pressure resonated in his head. Quickly, he started to click his fingers, counting under his breath. “Nine months ago, you and I parted company on bad terms, Steve. If I recall, you wanted to kill me.”
“A sentiment returned, brother, if I recall. You had already sworn to sever my head should you see me again.” Stephen nearly sniggered. “I didn’t come here to fight with you, I swear. I wanted to clear the air before…”
“Before what? Why has it taken you nine months to come and apologise to me?” Angry again, Perry stepped back and bit his lip. “No, you know what? I won’t do this with you again, not after the last time.”
“That’s why I wanted to talk to you. We need get this out into the light, Perry. I need you to know…”
“Look,” Perry barked, holding his hands out. Palm forward, he came forward a step, jabbing a finger at his brother’s chest. “We said all we wanted to say at the barbeque. It was clear I was being pushed into a corner by the rest of the family, and then you came along on your high horse. It isn’t like you are perfect, Stephen.” When he said the name, it sounded like he almost spat the words. The blood boiled in his head. A migraine was coming on.
Stephen reacted as if he was shot in the face. He closed his lips tight, and nodded his head. “I know things ended badly between us, but we are still brothers, and blood is thicker than water.”
“Didn’t feel that way,” Perry argued. “It felt more like you were trying to push me out of the family, in fact.” Shaking his head, Perry felt like slamming the door shut, but for the moment he stood there, his hand trembled on it.
A hand came to his shoulder. “I understand how you feel, Perry. For a long time, I was the outsider of the family, remember? I made poor choices in my life that almost got me killed. I ended up being locked in prison, I missed many years of valuable time I could have shared with my family. I missed you. All of you.” For a moment, Perry was sure he could hear sorrow in his brother’s voice. When he looked up, Stephen’s face was brightly lit. One of the lights above his head must have been malfunctioning again. It looked odd. “Listen to me, Perry. Whatever has passed between you and I, it doesn’t change how I feel about you.” Hesitating, Stephen cleared his throat, then looked up at the light for a moment, as if he saw something there. “You are my brother, and I love you no matter what. But you have all this anger inside you, and you need to find a way to vent that anger, before it kills you.”
Perry had a strange feeling wash over him in that instant. It was as if something had passed through him. He shivered, all over. His arms and legs felt cold. Stephen cocked his head to the side, his hand still on Perry’s shoulder. “I didn’t have the chance to right my wrongs,” he went on. “I kept on riding that dragon until it burned out, and when I came tumbling back down to Earth, it hurt, little brother. I have sores and bruises all over me from the mistakes I have made. Don’t be me. Don’t walk that same path.”
Perry grimaced. “What are you talking about? I am nowhere near as foolish as you ever were! I have never taken drugs, or stolen cars to pay for my sick addiction. You know what really winds me up? When you came home, they opened their arms to you like you were the second coming. How fair was that? I spent… no, dedicated my life to this family, and I ended up on the rubbish tip, like some discarded old fridge!” Perry went to slam the door when he felt a powerful wind push him back. He nearly slipped, keeping his hand on the wooden edge. As if a gust of wind had struck his face, Perry could taste salt in his mouth. He licked his lips, straightening up, knowing his face had turned a shade of red.
Before he could ask what happened, Stephen went on: “It doesn’t have to be like this anymore. Let go. Let it all out. Let the world know how you feel. I did it, and I felt better for it.”
“One of your prison therapists?” Perry spat. “Well good for you. Know what I was doing while you were pouring your soul? I was trying to put this family back together. Dad was losing his mind, blaming himself and mum was desperate to save her firstborn. Neither one of them gave a damn about me trying to keep it altogether up here.” Perry pointed again, his anger rising into his throat. “It was all you. Your fault, not mine, not theirs… yours!”
Then, Stephen simply smiled. “I know what I did was wrong, and I can never change that. I have to accept what I did, but I only ask that you forgive me. I need you to forgive me, Perry. Save your soul, because I can never save my own.”
Perry felt a discomfort in the back of his throat. He gripped the door firmly, and frowned at his brother. Stephen, pouring his heart out, after all this time? He should be able to forgive that, shouldn’t he? After all, brother love was supposed to be a strong thing in this world. Yet, every time he thought about embracing the man before him, the more his anger seemed to lift from the pit of his stomach. Like a fire reaching into his throat, it swept through his blood. Finally, he snapped.
Perry snarled. “Get out of my house! Don’t come here and tell me what I am feeling! Not after you took everything from me! Everything!” This time, Perry put a lot of force behind him, and shoved hard against his brother, the door closing immediately behind him. For a moment, he stood with his hands on the wood, pressing his palms hard against it, each breath as painful as the last.
Outside, he could still hear the shuffling feet of his brother. “Goodbye, Perry.” For a moment, he thought that was it. Then: “Tomorrow, you will get a letter in the mail. Please read it, just this once, for me. I won’t ask for anything else, I swear.”
Then silence. Perry wanted to open the door and let his brother in, try to fix the damage to their relationship, but he couldn’t move. His head was pressed to the door, his eyes wide open as he stared at his own feet. His heart was pounding against his chest. Nine months. Why now? Why now?
He was startled out of his reverie by the phone ringing. Clutching his chest, he locked the front door, and walked slowly to the phone. As he reached for it, he stopped again. Why was he still feeling as if there was a great pressure pressing down on him? His heart was aching. He wanted to run back to the door and call his brother back, but instinct made him pick up that damn phone. As he pressed the receiver to his ear, he slowed his breathing, long enough to hear the sound of the voice down the other end.
The phone slipped from his fingers ten seconds later. There was no sound as it hit the table, then plummeted to the ground. Eyes wide, Perry spun around and ran for the door, pulling it open so fast, a cold breeze of air rushed into his face. He didn’t stop, looking down the corridor and seeing only darkness. His heart was beating so fast, he could hear the blood rushing to his brain. Above him, the light flickered, ever so lightly, and he remembered it was broken two days before. Down the corridor, only darkness, and an aching feeling in his gut. He tried to call, but nothing came out.
He rushed down the hallway, passing the doors and the odd sounds of the TV coming from each, muffled through the oak barriers. The stairs were clear, and the elevator was still open. Perry nearly collapsed, the weight of his own grief taking over, and he gripped the rail of the stairwell to hold himself up. Below, only darkness. No sounds. No feet on the steps. Nothing.
He was alone.
His apartment felt empty. The phone sat on the floor beneath the table, the sound of the voice on the other end calling his name. He pulled it to himself slowly, using the cord, and stared at it for a moment. Any second now he was going to wake from this dream. But it didn’t come. He was still looking at the phone thirty seconds later when he could hear his mother’s voice down the other end.
Slowly, he lifted the phone to his ear and listened as she confirmed what his father had said. “Stephen is dead… Perry? Can you hear me? He died this morning in hospital… they said he had been stabbed!” Her voice was breaking up as she said it, but Perry couldn’t hear anything. He was looking back at the door, the outline of his brother fresh in his memory. Dead. Stabbed to death. “They’re saying it was one of the people he used to hang around with…” Then his mother’s voice was gone, replaced by the deafening silence in Perry’s own mind.
He fell to his knees, and felt no pain, just holding the phone in his hands. Everything just disappeared all around him, taken over by a ton of grief which seemed to grip his heart so tight, he thought it was going to be ripped from his chest. When he fell to the ground crying, he remembered his brother’s last words. The letter. Asking for forgiveness. Something not even Perry could have given.
He didn’t sleep right that night. The phone rang a few times, but he didn’t have the words. Nothing came to his mind. Morning came, but it felt like an eternity had passed. He sat on the armchair, staring into the abysmal downpour outside. Work day. He was numb. He couldn’t think about work. Six messages had been left on his mobile phone, but he waited. Waited. The phone rang at nine. His manager wanted to know where he was, but he let the answering machine get it. Ten, then eleven. The door made a slamming sound, louder than it usually sounded. Jumping out of the chair, Perry spun around and saw letters on the welcome mat. Five. Two from the bank, a circular, a bill and…
Sitting on the floor, his brother’s writing on the front, was the letter. It took him three minutes to pick it up, but when he touched it, he was sure he could feel his brother’s mark on the paper. He opened it slowly, trying his best not to damage the envelope or latter inside, then unfolded the paper with ease.
He closed his eyes, preparing himself. Then, he read the letter.
Two words. Two simple words, turning Perry into a blubbering mess by the door, wrapping his arms around himself as the paper fell to the carpet, and looked up at him as if judging him. Perry, through his soaked eyes, the world a blur, read the two words out loudly.
T H E E N D
First post. First blog. First time.
I have a mind filled with ideas, but not the capacity to put those ideas down to paper. Example, I am currently writing a short called “One Evening in London”, and I have been through it about a hundred times, and I can’t tell if it is even worthy of being “posted” yet. It is the way my mind works, sadly.
Maybe I need the criticism of other people to tell me if my work is any good. I have other works, but only a handful I want to publish to the internet, and even then, I am completely unsure of their “potential”. Maybe I need a kick in the right direction, the kind of kick that would entice me to rework and edit a lot of my other work to consider for publishing on the net.
Is it just me that feels that way?
Dénouement: the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work; the outcome of a complex sequence of events; the end result
Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.
In 1846, a year after “The Raven” was published, Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Philosophy of Composition”, a prose essay explaining his famous poem. A friend and former employer of Poe’s, George Rex Graham (who had declined to be the first to print “The Raven” — a poem he didn’t like — the previous year), would publish the essay…
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