Things rarely ended how Bellris intended. He’d kept his hood pulled low and his face in the shadows, but somehow they had noticed him.
He hit the wall at the end of the alley and scrambled for purchase. The stone was wet with rain and too smooth for climbing. The crates stacked next to him were soft with rot and half collapsing into themselves, with little to offer anyone hoping to scale the sheer wall.
He glanced back the way he’d come and the crowds still surging past the entranceway.
Hallows’ Night. The same explosion of revelry every year and every year he found himself in the same position.
Edget’s voice crawled inside his ear as the three shadows from the tavern emerged from the crowd, the rain shimmering in front of them.
They came down the alley single file, their bodies too wide to fit them any other way.
‘Oh Bellris…’ The two behind Edget cackled and Bellris threw himself against the wall again, the skin on his fingers tearing as he fumbled for a way to pull himself up. ‘Now, now. None of that.’
Edget’s hand came down on his shoulder and Bellris spun. His spine slammed into the wall and his skull bounced off the stone sending sparks of lighting crackling across his vision.
Hallows’ Night, let it be dammed by the Nine Lords of Chaos and every single one of their insane followers.
He felt the air leave his lungs as he double up, Edget’s fist lodged in his gut.
Edget should not have been the problem that he was. Granted, he was twice Belris’ size, almost three times Belris’ size in fact, but the brute was slow and cruel. Instead of taking out his opponent quickly, he liked to play, dragging the torture out until he grew board. Belris was different. Belris knew how to take the ending shot when required and preferred to finish things before they started. While Edget was all rolls and weight, Belris was corded muscle and sharp reflex, the perfect fighter, trained to be deadly.
Edget’s fist came in for a second below and Belris thought about the way he could pop the boy’s spine at his neck, or cut off his air with one well aimed blow to the throat. He mapped out the various pressure points and joints he could break along Edget’s arms and legs as his own knees buckled beneath him and he hit the cobbles with a dull splash of muddy water.
Just before his vision turned black he wondered if he could ever work out how to win a fight without killing his opponent first.
The light came back slowly. Belris blinked against it resentfully, his hand coming up to drag away the hair tickling his eyes as he rolled away from the brightness. He was aware that the rain had stopped, he was dry and warm, it was no longer Hallows’ Night and he was not lying bleeding in an alleyway behind the tavern.
‘Did you fight him?’
Belris felt his skin tighten at the voice that wasn’t his father’s. He loosened his grip on the blankets and realised that they weren’t his and the bed was wrong in comparison to the small sleeping cot beside the fire in his father’s hut. Carefully he uncurled himself, ignoring the way his muscles protested as he sat up.
‘I said, did you fight him?’
She was younger than him by a few months, one of the girls he’d seen hanging around on market day when the whole town congregated in the main square. She was pretty with blue eyes and tanned features. She wore her blonde hair mostly loose, with two braids twisted along the sides of her head to form a small crown, while the rest lifted slightly in the breeze from the open window.
The window. Belris noticed it for the first time, the glass and the lead piping.
‘Where am I?’ He already knew the answer but he wanted to be sure.
‘The Upper Quarter,’ she answered. Jill he remembered, she was called Jill. ‘Now answer my question please, did you fight him?’
‘Fight who?’ asked Belris.
‘The boy who beat you, or do you not remember that bit of last night?’ She glanced him over. ‘He did knock you about the head a fair bit.’
‘You were watching?’
‘No, but others did and they told me what I wanted to know when I asked, unlike you that is.’
Belris belt his cheeks flush.
‘No,’ he said ‘I didn’t fight him.’
‘Good. I think we both know what would have happened if you had.’ She leant forward, resting her arms against her knees. ‘Tell me, do you know who you are or are you just another fool who’s never considered the prospect of anything other than life in this decrepit little town?’
Belris kept his mouth closed. His father’s warnings were hammering in his skull, each one an echo to a blow that he was supposed to be defending against.
‘I think you have me mistaken with someone else,’ said Belris. He made to stand but the moment he left the bed felt his head began to slid from his shoulders, the world tilting rapidly to one side. He sat down again quickly. ‘What was that?’ He clutched his head between his hands. ‘Did you drug me?’
‘Poppy milk. Even you can’t go around with broken ribs and a fractured ankle, no matter how little of it you feel.’
The dizziness had receded slightly and Belris turned his ankle experimentally to see the damage. It throbbed but that was the worst of it. It was healing.
‘I need to leave,’ he said. ‘My father’s waiting for me.’
‘No he’s not.’ The girl was frowning at him. ‘He’s been gone three years with no signs of returning. No one is waiting for you. No one cares about you.’
‘Says everyone in this town.’
She patted her trouser pocket and pulled a slip of paper free. ‘Here, take this.’
It was a map, folded over and over until it was the size of the pad on Belris’ thumb. Nervous about tearing the frail parchment he teased the map open, smoothing the wrinkles with his fingertips when he was done.
‘It’s the town,’ he said, looking down at Felmouth laid out on the paper.
‘Yes,’ said the girl. ‘For now it is. Tomorrow it might change, or the next day, but for now it is Felmouth, and that-‘ she reached over to tap a small green spot on the map, ‘that is you.’
Belris squinted at the tiny dot.
‘No,’ he said. ‘It can’t be.’
‘Yes, it can. If you have the right map.’ She plucked it from his lap and folded it up. It vanished as quickly as it had come about and she returned to resting her arms against her knees.
‘The question is,’ she said. ‘ Why did it lead me to one of your kind?’
‘One of my kind?’
‘A Kellrath, a killer. You do know what you are right?’
Belris could hear the blood pounding in his ears.
‘This is what we are son. They call us Killers, some call us Kellrath. They don’t know for certain though, all the know is that they’re scared of us.’
‘Ah, ah,’ she cut him off. ‘I don’t care. I don’t care about why you are hiding in this town, or why you would rather take a beating than get into a fight, or why you happen to be the thing this map wants me to find first, what I care about is how you’re going to help me find the next thing it lands on.’ She tugged a dagger from her boot. ‘If you’re not going to help me however, things can end here and now.’
Belris studied the blade pointed at him and wondered how soon after breaking her wrist could he tear out her throat or her heart. He squashed the thought.
‘I’m listening,’ he said. ‘What is it you want?’
Combining #freewritefriday with Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Two birds, one stone and a whole can of worms now ready to wriggle round in my brain while I’m trying to write Dawn Shadows.