A boy named Dhali discoverers a magic book while stealing from the Mayor. Justice entails.
"He saw his breath on the backdrop of the starry night sky from Attia's rooftop. He trained his eyes at the mansion at the top of the hill, cloaked in serene silence. For whatever reason, he knew that this chilly October night would change his life forever."
Dhali let an excited breath warm his scarf as he slipped out from the hallway and into the dark room, gently closing the wooden door behind him. As he eased himself off the door, he squinted, his eyes slowly adjusting to the room. He clenched his fists and smiled, giddy at the idea of rule breaking. The room seemed to be a nice and genuine bedroom, decorated tastefully and posh, but he could see that it had been lived in. For a few minutes, the boy relaxed. This, a virtue of the boy, was quite useful in stressful times. Dhali simply stood in the room, checking. Checking for weapons, or checking for places he could hide, if may be he was caught. He shivered at the thought of such a thing.
He glanced towards the bed, sitting center in the room, decorated with lavish blankets and plush pillows, and shook his head. Only now did the boy realize how sleepy he was. Hell, if he wouldn’t mind a minute or two with a bed like that. For a few minutes Dhali imagined himself as if he lived in this room, in the mayors’ hall. “Ah, yes. My life is one of luxury,” He thought to himself with his eyes closed, throwing around his imaginary cape as he gallivanted across the red ballroom floor, a pretty woman in his arms, whose fingernails dug into his back with burning sexual desire. After he had repeated this dance with a few beautiful women, he ended up sitting in a comfortable, cushioned chair. A waiter wandered over to him, and offered a fancy dish of caviar, just as his stomach rumbled.
That’s when he snapped out of it. He sat alone on the floor of a dark room, his stomach roaring at the thought of fancy foods. Dhali sighed, remembering the reason he was really here. Not to dance with the women, no. Hunger rang true in his gut. He needed to eat, and to eat, you need coin. Where does a poor boy turn to when he needed some money? Friends. A pretty girl named Attia, one of the only shop owners in the village, was Dhali’s sole friend, so of course it was her who was asked for favors. Sometimes, she truly regretted taking him under her wing as a blacksmith, many moons ago. She did have to admit, though, he did occasionally follow through and pay her back, but she could count how many times on her fingers, and she happened to be missing three.
So, next time Dhali came knocking at her storefront, she rejected him. She told him to go get a job, or an internship. The boy nodded, but deep down he knew that he couldn’t score an internship, much less a job. He would grow old of the dreary task in days. So, naturally, he turned to what he had been toying in his head with for years. Theft. And surprisingly, it was right up his alley. Dhali was an agile person, fit, and can throw a hard punch if he needs to. The constant chance that he could be caught at any time loomed over him, every time he went to work. It made the job just entertaining enough for him not to get bored of it. And now, he was here. Robbing the Mayor. He honestly couldn’t believe how easy the task of sneaking in was. (He shambled through an open window on the second story.)
But now he stood in a room, stomach making noises as if requesting to consume itself, and at a loss of what to do. “Think,” Dhali thought, “Think.” And he thought. Moving quietly to the drawers at the sides of the bed, he shuffled through them, slowly sliding each one out and searching them for anything valuable. In the first few, he found a few coins, and a picture of a rather pretty girl. Dhali smiled, and shoved it in his dusters pockets. He climbed across the bed, almost lying down, but reminding himself of his mission, and searched the other set of drawers.
The first drawer held a wallet. The boy laughed aloud to himself at his luck! He quickly extracted all the coin and paper from it, as if some kind of slimy animal that only eats currency. In the second drawer, a cool, worn pendant, whose face flipped out to show a skinny man dressed in red and black, standing next to the woman on the photograph in his pocket, who wore a draping grey dress. They both looked quite exquisite, Dhali thought as he shoved the necklace into his knapsack.
He began to slide open the last drawer when a gust of cold air blew past his face. He shivered, his scarf doing him no good. The cold air, it seemed, had wafted out from the third drawer. Dhali peered inside the dark box, and reached his hand inside. Inside the box was freezing, but his hand bumped into something. A book. He pulled it out, and stared at it. The cover was rather nice; black, with yellow calligraphy in some, foreign language that Dhali did not understand. He traced the font, and turned it around. More of the same. He thought of flipping through it, but his fingertips grew numb from the books icy aura. He chucked it in his knapsack, and quickly forgot about it, as he turned around.
A large fireplace sat crackling in the silence, embers of its last fire only remain. Above it, mounted to the wall, was a modest looking purple gemstone of considerable size. It seemed to gleam, even in the dark. Dhali quickly dropped his sack on the floor, and eagerly stepped towards it.
The door creaked open. In plain sight, Dhali stopped mid-step. His head slowly turned toward the open door. The figure of a large, muscular man stood in the doorway. He coughed quietly, and stepped in the room. The boy was frozen, watching himself in the shiny armor that covered the man’s pectorals. With his shoulder length brown hair and ratty clothes, he looked weak. "So, uh... So who are you?" he said, in a gruff, if somewhat stuttering voice.
"Uh, huh-huh..." Dhali chuckled, quite clearly stalling. His eyes rapidly switched between the brute and the large, gemstone above the fireplace. His hand perpetually called out to the glorified centerpiece. In the dark, he saw the man tense, and the temperature rise. A fist whizzed past Dhali, as he leaped to the left. His back smacked against the brick of the fireplace, and he groaned as pain rippled up and down his spine. By the light flooding in through the open door, he saw the man draw a shiny sword from a scabbard, accompanied by the sharp grind of metal on metal. As the beefy man armed himself, Dhali cursed under his breath and looked to his right. A breath of air akin to a chuckle left his lungs as he watched the man standing above him prepare to lunge the sword through the gap in his ribs.
As he rolled to the right, he heard a loud clang and a curse from the man. Wearing a guile smile, he executed a plan he thought very smart. Dhali nabbed a shard of wood infested with fire from the fireplace as he rolled, intending to shove it in the man’s neck, but as he jumped up from his roll, he seemed to have too much inertia, and he slammed back on the hardwood floor, his tailbone shrieking. He stood up in front of the window; aching back lit by moonlight, and thought in sudden disgust of himself as he watched the man across the room stand in his heavy armor. Was he really about to murder this man?
Shaking his head, he threw the still smoldering shard to the side. The man was standing now, and he was angry. “Pull me once…” he growled. “Shame on me. Pull me twice?” His growl morphed into a loud shout as he swung his sword in reckless abandon towards Dhali. In a quick sidestep, the sword struck the window, sending the glass into a frenzy across the floor.
“God DAMNIT!” The man shouted in regret. The boy stood in fear as the man wheeled around, raising the sword high over his head. The barbarian burst out in short, loud shouts, swinging the sword towards Dhali fast, hard, and again, again and again. He chased Dhali onto the bed, off it, past the fire place against the wall, past the window, and onto the bed again. This somewhat amused the boy, but soon, the brute grew tired, and slowed… and then all together collapsed onto the floor. With a crack, one of the floorboards snapped in half underneath him.
For the first time in about 10 minutes, Dhali took a breath. Careful to avoid the glass scattered on the ground, he picked up his knapsack from the floor, and took hold of the purple gemstone. It felt gloriously cool to his warm body. In an act far from graceful, he mounted the window, and climbed down to the ground, a quiet melancholy resounding within him. Standing in the courtyard of the Mayor’s Hall in the bitter cold, he smelled flowers. They were wonderful. He picked some, and tied them together with an especially long piece of grass, holding them to his nose as he walked the sand road back to his apartment above Attia’s store.
All the way, a black and yellow book stirs far in the depths of Dhali’s knapsack. It has awakened.
"Attia shot up out of her bed. The smell of something burning accompanied her cold panic, as she threw the sheets away and stood to open the blinds. For a few minutes, she breathed heavily onto the cold window, condensation building up and eventually dripping down the window. For an early October morning, it seemed awfully heated in her room. She opened her eyes, and looked down at the sandy street below her shop. And all she saw were pitchforks."
The air was thick with sand. Dhali could hardly breath in the cloud. He lay on the stone road, a cacophony of shouts and jeers directed at him ringed in his ears as he was kicked in the kidney for the third time this morning. Above him, a man with a crooked hat wailed on him mercilessly. He rolled over, defenseless, and moaned quietly.
A young woman, one that Dhali knew personally, stood silently next to her mother as she spat on him. The mother called him a thief, and spat a chewed up piece of tomato at him. Somehow, the juice found it's way into his eyes. The mother raised her voice, and soon the entire gathering was shouting "Thief, thief, thief!"
As the crowd grew in numbers and in volume, Dhali heard the storefront window shatter, followed by another small patter of glass, and the roar of an unkempt fire. A few screamed at the sight of the store bursting into flame. The mother and the daughter stopped, and the cowboy turned toward the house, mouth agape.
"Oh shit," he mumbled under his breath.
Dhali closed his eyes and curled up into a ball as the dust slowly floated back to the street. The sun shone through the dust and hit his back as he whined and rolled on the ground. The majority of the crowd quickly dispersed, peeling away in groups of three and four, but about a dozen still gathered around the flaming two story.
Black, dirty smoke quickly spilled out onto the street, and Dhali tried his best not to breath it in. Through the ash and smoke, a pudgy man in black armor came bounding towards Dhali, the same one who attempted to protect the Mayor's belongings last night. He had the look of something like but not quite justice burning in his eyes as he quickly approached him.
Dhali sat up and pushed himself back, in very real fear of the man, but he was caught by the collar, and pulled up to meet the man's gaze.
"I'll ask this once, and only once. So you best answer truthfully. Do you understand this, /THEIF/?" The man spit in his face, and clenched his teeth as he spoke. The grip on Dhali's collar grew tighter. "Do. We. Understand. Each. Other," he spelled out for him again.
Dhali silently nodded, attempting to shrink down and move out of the man's way, but the man kept tugging on his collar, and spitting on his face. He could do nothing, he was so tired, so helpless.
"Where is the book?" The man asked, "where is it!" He shouted.
"I don't know!" Dhali shouted, "I... don't know what you're talking about..." He looked away from the man, and closed his eyes. He tried imagining himself somewhere else. In bed, in the house. "The house isn't really on fire. Everybody is okay. Nothing bad happened."
Suddenly, the hold on his collar loosened, and he turned his head back to the brute. The man was staring up into the sky, where a shiny iron boot was emerging out of the smoke and ash.
Quite suddenly, loudly, and painfully, Attia's metal boot collided with the man's face, and sent him flying backward onto the ground. Dhali was unhanded, and fell backwards onto the ground again. Attia, wearing a nightgown, a sword on her back, and one iron boot, offered him a hand. Thankfully, he grabbed it, even though she only had two fingers on that one.
For the first time in hours, the two smiled. Attia glanced up at the burning store, sighed, and then glanced down at the man on the floor, just about to attempt to get up. Silently, she put her boot on his throat. He made a choking noise, and attempted to push the foot off of him, but in vain.
"Get me two horses, and some money, now, or the boot stays." She pushed down on his Addam's Apple, for emphasis, until the man nodded.
"Good," Attia smiled.