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Still Time - Fall Anthology 2023 - Leap of Faith Due 10/1 ×
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Silence of Vonir - 2. Chapter 2 - A Beginning

Kelar was running for his life. The slums were never a safe place, but he had really taken the bull by the horns when he stole Drens and a sword from the Burning Dragon gang. As with so many other small gangs littered across the city, the Burning Dragon was a small and petty criminal organisation that survived purely because such a gang was the only protection the orphaned children of the slums could get. The children stole and kept watch for the gang leaders and in return were protected from the outside world and given a place to sleep, but if you failed to steal enough each day to pay for your well-being, the gangs would throw you out onto the streets or simply kill you on the spot - if they felt merciful.

The Burning Dragon owned a small patch of the slums, backing onto the northern branch of the river. They were currently led by a vicious man called Jazel, and he had taken Kelar’s ‘liberation’ of his possessions as a personal insult. The gold was not a huge sum, just enough to allow Kelar to live safely for the next few months and not starve to death. The sword was a problem though - it had given Jazel a solid edge over the other gangs, and swords were so rare in the slums that it was probably the only one this side of Emperor’s Way.

His feet splashing in muddy puddles and other such detritus on the roads, Kelar was being chased by 3 large men from the Burning Dragons, intent on hauling him back to their master to make an example of in the only language the other thieves would understand; a slow and painful death. Two of the man carried large wooden clubs, studded with shards of rock, the frontrunner was unarmed, but clearly the leader of the three.

A narrow wooden beam appeared in front of Kelar, just before the alleyway emerged onto a larger road. Jumping upwards, he grabbed hold of it with his fingertips, and hauled himself on top, reaching upwards to the rooftop on his left. Cursing, the men chasing him ran around into the road and kicked in the door to the house. Almost all buildings in the Cavaria had rooftop terraces; the weather was reasonably warm, so it effectively served as another room.

Grabbing a piece of wood, Kelar shoved it behind the door handle leading down to the house. It wouldn't hold the men for long but it’d give him some time to get a lead. Jumping back over the alleyway, he started running along the rooftops, keeping his pursuers a few buildings behind him. After a few minutes, the road he’d been following on his left met with another, creating a gap too big for him to clear. Kelar stopped at the last alleyway before the junction, dropping down to the dirty track below, where he ran deeper into the alley.

Following the alley around to the right, Kelar heard a crash as one of his pursuers made a rather ungainly landing. Smiling to himself, he ran to the expected dead end, and turned around to wait for the thugs to catch up with him, readying the sword he had stolen. An arrogant grin found its way onto the face of the huge man leading the Burning Dragons, and he slowed to a walk, beckoning for his cronies to follow him.

Closing his eyes, Kelar reached out with his consciousness, ignoring the three men in front of him and the woman in the house behind him. Focusing on his own mind, he imagined the streams of magic, and saw them taking form within him, spinning and pulsing through his mind. Cutting through the chaos, he separated his power into two separate outlets, willing it to remain still. The two white spheres contracted and expanded constantly, shimmering in and out, but otherwise they remained still.

“Die.” Kelar snapped his eyes open, and two black spheres appeared, flying towards the two men with clubs. The air around the spheres flickered into darkness, and they gained in size and speed as they travelled, leaving a fading shadow where they had passed. As the spheres crashed into the two men, they were thrown backwards down the alleyway, smashing into the wall of a house with enough force to buckle the wattle and daub structure. The two corpses continued smouldering, the black fire devouring them slowly.

The leader stopped in his tracks, his jaw hanging open for a moment in sheer amazement, before the expression was replaced with one of terror. Before the man could move, Kelar reached out to the two corpses, retrieving the magic essence and stretching it into a wall of flames, which he used to seal off the alleyway behind the fear-stricken man.

“Please!” The man fell to his knees, begging for his life. “We weren't going to hurt you; we were just going to take back what you stole.”

“Even if that were true, I doubt Jazel would have shown such mercy. He hates me even more than I hate him, and besides, it would be taken as weakness if he spared me. Now, tell me everything you know about the Burning Dragons.” Kelar slowly turned his back to the man, so that the thug wouldn't see the concentration on his face.

Hesitating for a second, the man began talking, describing to Kelar where the hideout was located, how to gain entrance, how many people were in the gang, and how many of these were fighting fit. As he talked, he grew more confident, his fear subsiding slightly. He thought that he was too important for Jazel to kill out of hand. Besides, whilst the kid was dangerous, he doubted that he had the intelligence or ambition to take revenge on the Dragons. “But Kelar, you already know most of this; you grew up with the dragons.”

“I know. I merely wanted to keep you talking whilst I wrested everything you didn't want to tell me out of your mind; strange, Jazel seems to trust you. I’m not sure I want to know what you did for him. You think that the Dragons plan to meet with the Red Hand? I wonder what would happen if I told them that your master plans to have their leaders killed in the meeting. Still, you can go; the fire won’t kill you. It never would have, actually.”

Staggering around, the man edged through the flames. As he reached the other side of the wall, he screamed in pain, clutching his throat. “Your tongue might grow back in a few days, when you've forgotten everything you’ve done today. I find having people underestimate me useful; I’d rather you didn't tell anyone about our little secret.” Absorbing the magic from the flames, Kelar let the man run off, before leaving the alley casually and turning right onto the road, taking a left at the next junction.

Kelar lived in a small abandoned house backing onto the canal separating the slums from the city walls. Since its previous owners had vanished, Kelar had begun installing magical traps on the entrances, to stop opportunistic guild thieves from laying their hands on his possessions. So far, these had been successful; people attempting to enter had been blasted back into the shit infested mire, and quickly gone in search of easier pickings. The house itself was small and ugly, but far more than most other children in the slums would ever hope to earn, and Kelar felt a certain attachment to it; he had lived here for the two years since he escaped the control of the Burning Dragons two years ago.

It had been the middle of winter, about a month after Kelar’s 6th birthday, when he had returned the Burning Dragon’s guild ‘hall’ with nothing to show for his days work. Like most of the other members, he had been taken in by the Dragons at birth, and knew nothing except the daily struggle to steal enough money to please their guild master and house them for the night. There were around a dozen children arranged in a line, ranging from his age to 10 or 11. A brute of a man stood in front of them, clumsily brandishing a sword; clearly with no idea how to use it. Jazel went to the end of the line to Kelar’s right, grabbing the girl by the throat, and leering crudely in her face. “So, you got me money today missy? You know what’ll happen if you haven’t, don’t you?”

A look of horror coloured the girl’s face, as she shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “N-no sir, please sir, please, I’ll sleep out on the streets, please, don’t hurt me again!” Jazel grinned back at her, amused by her suffering.

“Now, we can’t have that can we, we don’t want you all cold outside! It’ll be much cosier with me. Besides, this job’s gotta have some perks.” Jazel signalled one of the older gang members who roughly grabbed the girl and carried her through a door at the far end of the hall, locking it behind him. Turning back to the line of children, he roughly prodded a lanky boy wearing an almost nonexistent shirt in the chest, and the boy hurriedly tipped a dozen or so copper coins into Jazel’s outstretched hands, before noticeably flinching backwards and looking down at the floor. Turning to a slightly younger, black haired boy on his left, Kelar whispered “Wow, he stole a lot of coins today. Do you know where he’s been?”

“No idea.” The black haired boy whispered back, looking desperate. “I didn’t get anything today. Do you have anything extra I could have?”

“Shit, I don’t have anything either, what’re we going to do Tarl?” Tarl looked around, as if expecting some coins to materialise out of thin air, before shrugging helplessly and wiping his eye. Looking up, Kelar saw Jazel step in front of him and hold out a calloused hand.

Trying to sound confident, Kelar stated “I don’t have any coins Jazel.”

“Oh? Don’t you now? Maybe if you joined the little bitch in my room tonight you may feel more motivated.” Jazel slapped Kelar across the face, sending him tumbling to the floor. Blood dripping from his forehead, Kelar heard Tarl sob quietly, and then watched as Jazel threw him to the floor as well, before standing over the downed boy and kicking him mercilessly. Wiping the blood from his eye, Kelar staggered up, throwing a feeble punch into Jazel’s ear in an attempt to save his friend. Jazel turned slowly; the grin wiped from his face, and stared at Kelar, disbelief written across his features. Suddenly afraid of what he had done, Kelar began backing away, but Jazel whipped his arm out and hauled Kelar into the air by his throat.

“You dare touch me? You dare strike me in front of my entire guild? I’ll have your head for this! I’ll flay you alive and feed the shreds of your skin to the rest of these pathetic excuses for thieves. No-one threatens me, do you hear? NO-ONE!” Kelar was shaken about like a wet rag as Jazel ranted, red in the face, spittle flying everywhere. Looking at the floor beside Jazel, Kelar saw a small stone; hoping against hope that it would just fly off the floor and into his oppressor’s face. To his amazement, the rock quivered on the ground, flopping pathetically towards Jazel. Shutting his eyes, Kelar redoubled his efforts, but all he could think about was the pain being inflicted on him, and of his hatred for the evil man who had controlled his life. In his mind, he saw the stone fly into the side of Jazel’s face; crushing his temple.

The grip on his neck suddenly loosened, and Kelar fell back to the floor, and opening his eyes he saw Jazel clutching his eye, collapsed onto the dirt floor and screaming in pain. No-one knew what to do. Some of the children ran to the room where they slept on the floor, hoping to escape from any repercussions. Many others just stood there, open mouthed and in shock. For a few seemingly eternal seconds, Kelar remained motionless, before shaking his head and standing up. Running over to where Tarl lay on the ground, he picked his friend up. Tarl immediately threw up, clutching the back of his head where Jazel had kicked him.

“Tarl, listen to me. We have to get out of here, quickly. He’ll kill me if he sees me again, and he’ll probably kill you as well” Kelar intoned urgently, gently shaking his friend to keep his attention focused.

Tarl looked around drearily, before focusing on Kelar and replying “What happened? What did you do?”

“I have no idea, but we need to leave, now!”

“Kelar, we’ll never survive out there on our own; what would we eat or drink, where would we sleep? I’d rather deal with Jazel here than get sold into slavery.” Tarl’s head was slowly clearing, his thoughts becoming more rational. He didn't want things to change; he hated his life, but at least he had food to eat, somewhere to sleep, and a guarantee of safety.

“Please Tarl; I don’t want to do this on my own. I’ll never be allowed to live if I stay here; I don’t have a choice in this. It’ll be hard, but imagine it; we can keep our own money and spend it on ourselves, rather than get forced to give it to people older than us. We can find our own place to live and do what we like there!”

“I... I can’t. I’m sorry Kelar, but I’m scared. I’ve spent all my life being told what happens to guildless children out there, and I don’t think I could face it.” Kelar looked distraught for a second but then nodded and hugged his friend.

“Goodbye, Tarl.”

“Goodbye.” Kelar turned away and made his way towards the door. As he reached it, he turned once, looking back at Tarl, and at the authority figure for his entire life, writhing in a pool of blood on the floor. Turning back, he rubbed his eyes and pushed open the door, unsure, but determined to somehow survive.

Kelar hadn't seen Tarl since; for the most part he’d been content to stay away from the Burning Dragons, stealing from the smaller guilds that weren't so well protected. As he learnt to harness the power he had discovered during his escape however, he’d become more bold and began taken on more difficult targets, and over the two years his name had become somewhat infamous amongst the guilds of the slums.

Wafting the stale air out of his face, Kelar pushed the door closed and remained still for a moment, re-activating the various traps protecting the entrance. Turning around, Kelar lay the sword down on a table, and walked through an empty doorway into the other room, containing a small bed, two wooden chairs and a battered but strong chest. Kelar trudged forwards, and lay down on the bad, drifting quickly into a dreamless sleep; too exhausted from his earlier flight to stay awake.

Copyright © 2013 Shanaar; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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