Chapter 3: Devastation
WARNING contains violence and blood
The life of a mortal is such a feeble and fragile thing, akin to the tiny candle light. A single flame burning its way down to the end of its life, with the possibility of being put out at any time by the frigid breath of the grim reaper.
It was nearing afternoon as Lark began to stir again. Time creeped by at an unnaturally slow pace, each moment drawn out longer then it should have due to the throbbing of his head. Lark had only just started noticing the uncomfortable sensation. It caused him to toss and turn in pain “erg… my head” he groaned raising his hands up to place them upon his head. Why was he laying out here on the ground exposed? He couldn’t remember why or what happened at first.
The throbbing sensation dulled and escalated with every movement he made making it nearly impossible to think about anything for more than a few moments. Lark rolled over slowly onto his back and rested there with his eyes closed. He could remember he had been out hunting. Hunting one of his favorite food sources, but what was that? What had he been hunting and why, oh why did he feel like he had been kicked in the head by a Karkadann?
A foul stench entered his nose, one he knew only too well. It was the metallic stink which only came only from blood. By flicking his forked tongue out of his mouth and picking up the scent partials on it similar to how a snake would he could tell it was his blood. His blood, and the blood of some other creature… a human. That’s right! He frowned darkly as the memories of what had happened earlier began to return to him. He had captured a weird little human boy and eaten him only to discover the little pest had a knife with him. After coughing the blonde child up he had taken the knife and thrown it away. After that however he remembered very little except for an excruciating pain in the back of his head.
“Oh he’ll pay” a lethal hiss came from lark as he got up, the coils of his serpentine body causing nearby foliage to rustle “I’ll make that little human youngling pay for this” he bristled in anger only to pause as he noticed jacks bloody handkerchief on the ground beside him. “This is the boys…” he muttered and picked it up. It was unmistakable that the blood on it was Lark’s but he couldn’t figure out why the kid had wiped the blood off his face. Come to think of it… there was another human with him. The child should have asked the elder human to kill Lark after being eaten by him. They had left him alive though and that alone managed to quell some of Larks anger and replace it with a slight intrigue. Oh he would find the boy again, he would find out more and once he had learned all he wanted, then he would devour him once more. This time however he made a mental note to search for hidden weapons beforehand.
Meanwhile the boy who had narrowly escaped becoming naga chow was on his way back home. After taking a dip in the river to wash off he had been greeted with the unpleasant surprise of how cold the water was. Granted it was far better than being soaked in saliva but the chill soon had him shivering. To prevent Jack from getting a cold, Alvie gave him a thick traveling cloak he used while traversing the mountains with his troupe. The cloak was far too big for Jack but he didn’t care. He was grateful for the thick fabric to wrap around his shoulders even if half of it trailed on the ground behind him.
The sun had begun its slow decent from its high noon position to the western horizon, as the two of them entered the town and went to Jack’s home. Alvie escorted him there and accepted his traveling cloak back once they reached the door “Well that was one heck of a day wasn’t it?” Jack began chuckling, he couldn’t believe how happy he was to be home for once “yeah it was… Thank you for saving me back there Alvie”. Alvie placed his hand upon Jack’s head and ruffled his hair “don’t worry about it twerp” he smirked and winked playfully before spinning around, tossing his damp traveling cloak over his shoulder and returned to the troupe.
Barely a moment later the squeal of “Jackie!” came and jack found himself getting tackled by his little sister from behind. Jack stumbled forward nearly losing his balance, however he managed to remain standing and laughed “easy Lucy I only just got home”. Lucy giggled happily hugging her older brother tightly “sorry… I’m just happy your back!”. Jack gave a slight nod glancing towards the trees of the forest “yeah, I’m glad I’m back to. Come on lets go eat I am starving!” he grinned and pulled Lucy along inside of the house. She followed him inside without complaint until she noticed he was holding his left hand gingerly and she could see a deep cut on his thumb.
Lucy grabbed Jacks hand pulling it towards her before he could really react “You got hurt!” she looked at jack, a look of complete distress on her face. Jack tried to pull his hand back but she was clinging to it tightly “I… I just got a tiny cut. It’s nothing really, it just happened on accident” He blabbered on muttering other half hearted excuses and complaints that it was nothing to worry about. She ignored him though taking out a handkerchief similar to jacks with a monogram of their family crest stitched into the center. However while his was a dark leaf green color hers was a bright blue like the sky at noon. “Be more careful big brother” she whispered wrapping it around his thumb and tied the corners off to each other so it would stay put. Jack looked at his thumb giving his sister a slight smile “I will Lucy, I promise”
One week later Jack found himself laying on his back upon his bed, tossing a small toy in the shape of a little knight into the air only to catch it again as it plummeted back down to him. He had to admit he was bored. Bored as a kid could get laying there with very little entertainment, which was a very dangerous thing knowing how rambunctious little boys could get when not stimulated. Heaving a deep sigh he tossed the knight to the far wall of his room. It made an unsatisfactory thud and jack flipped over on his bed to look towards his window. The sun was setting bathing the sky in deep shades of orange, pink and purple. “It’s too late to go out…” he mumbled to himself. He had been kept inside ever since his last trip out a week ago, unable to get a chance during the day time to sneak out. He would love to go out during the night but he could never bring himself to do so. It was dark after all, and all the cool sights and stuff would be hidden from his sight.
Jack closed his eyes for a moment deciding he should leave the adventuring for today to be done in dreams so he curled up under his blanket. Maybe he would try to get out in the morning before his mother woke up. His mind started to drift slowly into sleep but a sudden thought came to his mind. What was that sound? Had he imagined it? He thought he had heard the sound of something cracking. There was silence for a moment making Jack believe it had just been his imagination.
Unfortunately for the residents of the Valderan household it was not an imaginary sound. It was the lock on the front door being broken. Silent as shades several figures swung the door open and came into the house. The intruders split up going into separate rooms.
Jack woke up, the horrible sound of his mother letting out an unrestrained shriek startling him so badly that the sound would haunt his nightmares for years to come. Chaos broke out in the building as the few servants Mrs. Valderan kept on staff woke up and rushed out of their rooms to see what was going on. Jack stayed in his bed to terrified to move from the false protection hiding beneath his blankets seemed to give. For a couple minutes all jack could hear was exclamations of agony, shouts, curses, and the shrill clangs of metal striking metal.
All of a sudden things seemed to get quiet. Jack began to creep out of his bed and headed towards the door to his room. He froze in place however when he heard a voice. A deep male voice, which broke the temporary silence “Where is the boy?”. Jack stayed back away from the door afraid that his heart would be heard because it was beating so hard in his narrow chest. “He’s not here right now!” said a voice which he recognized as his mothers “he went to sleep over at a friend’s house”. Smack! The sharp sound resounded through the rooms making Jack cringe but it didn’t make him cringe as much as he did when the sound of his sister sobbing reached him. “Leave mommy alone!” she cried, yelping as she received the same as her mother “shut up kid” Snarled another male voice, this one sounding older then the first.
The first voice spoke up now “we have no need for these two, kill them then go search the town for the Valderan boy. He has to be here somewhere”. When he heard those words Jack threw open his door taking out his little dagger. Instead of seeing a bunch of bad guys though he found a tapestry hanging in front of his door, hiding it from view which explained why he hadn’t been discovered yet. That didn’t matter to him though. He couldn’t sit idly in his room and let his mother and sister die! He had to do something. He threw the tapestry aside and ran out to the living room “Mom! Lucy!” Too late, he hadn’t come out soon enough and was greeted by the image of the point of a sword sprouting through the front of his mother’s chest. She had been stabbed from behind by a man warring dark clothing. Nothing about the uniform was identifiable except for an emblem blazoned upon each of the intruders chests placed to rest over their hearts.
The smell in the room reminded Jack of the scent of old copper coins, he knew though that it was blood. The entire room was painted red with it from the struggle the servants had put up, and was now receiving a fresh coat of the crimson liquid as Jack’s mother collapsed to the ground. Jack’s eyes fell onto his sister who was on the floor now as well. Just like all the rest, gone. An involuntary scream tore from his mouth, filled with horror and despair. The boy was so distressed he didn’t notice yet that the front door was barred but something on the outside was making it shake violently.
Several of the dark cloaked men turned to jack and began to advance on him “well well looks like you’re here after all. Thanks for coming out and saving us the trouble of looking for you” said the man who had been speaking before. Jack took a step back then spun around running back to his room. Before he reached it a hand snatched him by the back of his clothing “oh no you don’t lad”. Jack screamed “LET ME GO!”. There was only a slight chuckle that came from those assembled in the room “yelling will get you no where… no one is coming to save y-“ The window by the speaker burst inwards showering him with shards of glass as Alvie leaped through it. He raised his Bash-n-smasher, wielding it like a mad man now that he had finally managed to get into the damned house. Several others from the Errance Troupe followed their leader in, joining in the fight and starting a full on brawl in the blood soaked living room.
Jack saw the man holding him become distracted and bit down hard on his hand. With an exclamation of pain he released Jack giving him an opening to sprint into his room. The fight spread quickly and thankfully he wasn’t followed yet.
Jack felt weak at the knees, he could hardly breath and his whole body was shaking worse then he thought possible. He glanced back to the living room then snatched his travel pack. He had to get out of the house, get out and get away from those people. Opening the window in his room Jack started to climb out. Half way out he heard someone shout “he’s getting away!” the shout was followed by a sharp pain in his side. The one who had yelled had thrown a dagger at the boy trying to injure him to the point running would be impossible. Jack fell out the window landing hard on the ground below. That hardly mattered though he could hear that the troupe was losing in there. They were mostly performers not fighters. Jack got up clutching his side where he had been sliced by the knife. “Hey! Come on I’m getting away!” he shouted over his shoulder as he ran into the forest. Jack couldn’t let Alvie and them die to. He had to lead those men away, since they were after him in the first place. He had to run and loose his pursuers into the place that jack knew better then over half of the town’s adults.
So run he did, through the town, past the closed shops, past the houses of sleeping villagers, beyond the housing structures that were just at the beginning of construction, and out into the forbidden forest. Out where he would no longer have anyone to save him from those who seemed to be after him for some malicious reason. Jack kept running long after he could no longer hear the sounds of his pursuers. He kept running, and running until his legs finally gave out and he collapsed by the river.