Silverbolt enters Rathmore
|Offices, Ethan hated them. Sixteen years of the foster care system is enough to make anyone feel the same. The frazzled arrogant man chortled and chuckled while he read the thick file. Ethan remained tightlipped and tested the cuffs on his wrists. A sympathetic smile adorned the bald man's face, mixed with judgment.
Government workers, Ethan hated them, with their superior attitudes and gold stamped ignorance framed over the peeling paint. Everyone says their situation is unique. Ethan's endeavored to be unique and complicated in the same breath.
"I know you aren't happy, but the government of Alberta states you are in our care for another year. I am Abraham Nottle, your new Social Worker. I have a couple of questions."
"People like you always have questions. Answer one of mine, and I'll answer yours." Ethan said in a condescending tone.
"Fair enough. Ask away." Mr. Nottle mopped the sweat off his bald head. Wheezing escaped his lips. Ethan guessed he smoked two packs a day and preferred greasy takeout to healthier alternatives.
"Did you stick your head in a bowling ball buffer? The glare is bright enough to cause a traffic accident."
"If I stare at your head long enough, could I see the future?"
"I believe it's time for you to answer some of my questions."
"Can you put on my sunglasses? I'll go blind from looking at you."
Mr. Nottle sighed and pointed to a novel thick file. "Can you explain the incident at the Addle house?"
Ethan frowned and glared at the Social Worker, "The Addles were using foster children to make videos and not the fun kind. I brought them to their knees."
"Do you believe hospitalizing them was a solution?"
"The Addles got to feel a fraction of the pain they caused. Some of those kids will never recover."
"Ethan died a long time ago. It's Silverbolt."
"Fine." Nottle held up the file. "Ethan Argent continues to display vigilante behavior. He believes he has been granted powers beyond normal humans..."
The metal gave way, and a link in the cuffs flew across the room. Silverbolt stood and raised a fist. It crackled with taser intensity, and tiny bolts of electricity danced over his knuckles. "You were saying?"
Mr. Nottle was ghostly pale as he stared at the electrified fist. At the same time, the Social worker didn't seem all that surprised by the demonstration.
He's scared, not surprised. He knew the moment I walked in the room. Why make me prove it?"
"The police aren't going to press charges for the comatose drug dealer. Ironically, your work gave them probable cause to hit the Laughing Skulls warehouse. They expect thirty to forty more arrests." Mr. Nottle said in a voice marked with admiration and pity.
"Good. Hexfist will be glad about that. We spent weeks planning the attack..." Silverbolt didn't get to finish.
"Hexfist is missing. He abandoned you. No evidence links you to the arsons murder, which is why you are here and not in a detention center. Though after what I've seen, a facility couldn't hold you anyway."
"He wouldn't do that to me. He made me what I am."
"To use you, Mr. argent." Mr. Nottle said in a firm tone. The was an air of finality in his words. He slid a witness statement over to Silverbolt. There in Hex's writing were words condemning the young hero. Hex signed with his civilian name, Evan Ragland.
"How screwed am I?" Silverbolt asked.
Mr. Nottle smiled and put the tome-like file away. "That all depends on you. The crown prosecutor will not tolerate any more 'superhero' shenanigans. Go vigilante again, and you're in the adult courts, not the juvenile."
"I don't know how to be a civilian. I've been Silverbolt since I was thirteen. I don't belong anywhere or fit in with anyone. It's the one thing I own without question. Don't take away my identity." Silverbolt pleaded.
Mr. Nottle put up his hand. "I happen to think the world needs Silverbolt. However, as long as you are Silverbolt here, your life is destined to fall apart, but I can offer a place in need of a Silverbolt."
Silverbolt leaned back in the chair. "You have my attention."
"I can't tell you anything. You have to go right now and have faith I won't screw you over." Mr. Nottle said.
"I couldn't trust my mentor. Now you expect me to hand trust out like free balloons at a church event?" Ethan said in anger. His body sparked in response.
"The choice is unfair. I get it. Ask yourself, how much good can you do with condemnation hanging overhead? How long before you become the thing you hunt out bitterness?" He raised an eyebrow.
Is that what happened to you, Hex? You let the job grind you out into something you no longer recognize? Is that why you dragged me down with you? "I'll take the offer."
Mr. Nottle smiled and motioned him to follow. "The trip is one way and permanent. He opened a door. "Stay true to yourself, and you'll do fine." He closed the door and locked it.
Darkness fell over Silverbolt like thick sludge, and he cursed himself. "Mr. Nottle is a whack job, and I'm a dumbass for letting him lock me in the closet." A pinhole of light appeared in the distance. "Well, I suppose I should get moving."
A door with two oil lamps attached to nothing sat in front of him. Silverbolt found it impossible to move beyond the entrance. A rush of air hit him the moment he turned the knob and saw an empty street.
The night air filled Silverbolts lungs, and the putrid smell of garbage grappled with his nose hairs and refused to let go. Raw sewage ran in the gutters, rats scurried along looking for carrion, and thick clouds of smoke drifted to the heavens from chimneys. He looked skyward. Two silvery orbs hung over the blanket of stars.
"What the hell? Where's castle downs?" He took a moment to examine the street he was on. He stood on grey stone, not asphalt. Thatch and clay tiles covered roofs. Not a power pole in sight. The familiar roar of vehicles replaced with crickets and the clip-clop of horse hooves.
The cellphone flew from his pocket to Silverbolts hand. No service or internet. "Damn. I'm going to kill Nottle..." He trailed off as an enormous shadow flew across the moons. "That ain't right...did I go back in time? What the hell am I saying? Earth doesn't have two moons. Where is here?"
He pressed the power button on the portable speaker and connected it to his phone. "I am not going to find answers here." He scaled a wall and took to the rooftops. "Maybe, I'll get to punch a dragon. How awesome would that be?"
Lady Constance Reynard walked at a brisk pace. She thought: Why did I let mother talk me into this dinner with Lord Midgely? He is a complete dullard.
Lord Midgely was shorter than her and looked rather homely. He couldn't dress himself to save his life. Constance felt embarrassed to be seen with him. Who needs a sleeping potion with a voice like that.
"And sometimes when I am in a mood, I put droll comments on my documents. A good chuckle..." Lord Midgely droned on, Constance retreated to the depths of her mind.
Mother has the worst taste in men. I think she got lucky with my father. Are all mothers obsessed with grandchildren? She shivered involuntarily. Lord Midgely and I would have ugly children. His only redeeming quality is his enduring kindness.
Heavy boots echoed and came close. Men dressed in surcoats bearing the boar on a black field signified they were Lord Tuxleys men. She hung the brightly colored parasol on her slender arm and glared at their leader. "Captain Rexword, I thought I smelled raw sewage, and now the mystery is solved."
Lord Midgely screamed and fainted amid the laughter of the men in dull grey and rusty chainmail. "He's so brave. Midgely cried through fencing lessons, you know."
"Lord Tuxley is a pompous lout. I'd sooner have dinner with Midgely again than spent another skin-crawling moment with him."
The aging guard flashed his usual cruel smile, and his eyes raked over Constance hungrily. "Lady Constance, what if your future husband, Lord Tuxley, heard you speak to me in such a manner."
The men took a step forward at their captain's command. Rexword enjoyed his work a little too much at times. "I expect he would seek comfort in one of his many waspish maids like he did during our dinner."
Rexword took a step forward. His men followed suit and stepped in disciplined unison. A pallid hand reached out to touch the porcelain face of the noblewoman. "Ouch," He cried, as the bright parasol rapped him on the knuckles.
Constance drew herself up to her full height and brandished the parasol like a blade. "You don't have permission to touch me, Sir Rexword. What would Lord Tuxely say?" Constance spat the captain's words back at him.
"Keep watch. I think the touch of an experienced man will tame." His hand drifted to the hilt of his sword. "Did you see that?" Rexword asked. His head turned on a swivel. He pointed to a roof behind Constance. "What is that?"
Constance turned and saw a man dressed in bright silver armor. The plates threatened to burst with each breath he took. The stranger flipped to the ground and landed on both feet between her and Rexword. He towered over the soldiers, who stood blades at the ready.
The stranger turned. Instead of a face, a black mask with silver lightning bolts around the eyes greeted her. "Need some help?" the distorted voice asked.
"My lady," Constance said with hands on her hips. Is he a knight?
"What are you talking about?"
"You forgot, my lady, at the end of your sentence," Constance said with grace and dignity. Doesn't he know who I am?
The man ignored her words. A chain rattled and clinked. On either end of the chain sat a small weight. "Now, I don't know what's going on here, but I think the lady wants you to leave."
Books told stories of bold men upholding the honor of young maidens. Constance now felt like the heroine of such a tale and the nameless warrior her implacable champion.
Rexword chuckled, "Six to one hardly seems fair, sir?"
The newcomer bound himself in the chain. Constance tried to divine the method behind the action and came up empty of answers. "The name is Silverbolt. I'm sure you can find five more people to help you. I suspect I can rip through you all in under thirty seconds."
The captain raised his hands and shouted, "Teach this impudent fool a lesson." The men closed ranks and marched toward him.
Constance raised a hand to her pouting ruby lips in concern. "You don't have to do this."
Silverbolt moved with the grace of a gazelle and attacked with all the savagery of a wolf. The chain obeyed him without question and looked alive in his hands. Two guards fell after the first swing. The chain bound another's leg. "Ride the lightning asshole," Silverbolt said. A spark danced down the chain with deadly intent. The guard convulsed, and blood poured out his mouth because he bit his tongue.
Silverbolt paused as the other three guards dropped their weapons and stalked away. Rexword opened his mouth, but words escaped him. He pointed at Silverbolt, "This isn't over whelp. Next time, you won't be so lucky."
"Bring more men. It'll be less embarrassing when you lose." Silverbolt said. He stood in front of Constance. He waited until Rexword was out of sight before he attended to her and Lord Midgely. "Is he hurt?"
Constance felt faint, and her knees weakened in his presence. She almost fell but was caught in his steely embrace. Iron grey eyes stared deeply into hers with concern. At first, she was alarmed by the sudden gesture, but the arms regarded her body with gentle care, and the alarm turned to comfort.
"You okay?" the kindness in his words caressed her ears.
"Yes, thanks to you." What is that heavenly smell he wears? I haven't seen his face, and yet he touches my soul.
"Don't look at me like that. Its not worth the trouble. By tomorrow, I'll be another story told around the dinner table." His gentle tone shifted to a low growl. Silverbolt carried her to a stack of crates near Lord Midgely.
Trouble or not, I could stay here in his arms and be content forever. "Is that what you want to be? Another story told at dinner?" Constance felt her backside touch the smooth wood of the crate.
"It doesn't matter what I want. I made a choice, and it required sacrifices. Given the opportunity, I'd make the same choice," Silverbolt said. He released her. Constance shivered as his hand accidentally brushed her side.
She hugged herself and rubbed her shoulders. The male nobility could learn a thing or two about being a gentleman from this man. What he lacks in verbal decorum, he makes up for in action. I wonder what he sacrificed, and for what?
"You're cold." He tore a surcoat off a fallen guard and wrapped it around her shoulders. His stong hands draped the garment over her shoulders, softer than a cloud. "You need to stay warm."
Constance pouted, "I was warm until you set me down."
"I've spent too much time on you already." He said as he turned to attend Lord Midgely.
"Excuse me?" Who does he think he is. No one talks to the nobility that way.
The Gargoyle visage of Lord Midgely saw the armored form of Silverbolt. The cowardly noble screamed louder than a woman in childbirth and passed out again.
"Does your friend pass out often?" his tone sounded grave.
Constance had to think about it. "Come to think of it, yes. Midgely has been susceptible to fainting spells since he was a child. Physicians are at a loss to explain it, and it's Lady Constance Reynard."
"His pulse is strong. It's not his heart. I suspect its a rare condition that causes him to faint at the slightest bit of excitement. I've seen it once or twice. He should be fine ." Silverbolt said as he turned to leave.
Constance rose from the crate and gripped the hero's arm. "Where are you going? At least tell me where to find you. It would be cruel to steal my heart and crush it."
Silverbolt stopped and turned his back to her. "Better I can crush it now in kindness than later by accidental cruelty. Is that an eagle?"
Constance turned her head in the direction of his finger and saw nothing. "A childish trick...where did he go?" A pang of sorrow and emptiness touched her heart. "May we meet again."
Silverbolt leaned against a chimney and removed the mask. The words of his mentor Hexfist echoed in his mind. "Don't name the people you save and don't get involved with their business. You're there to provide a simple service."
He closed his eyes, and all he could see is the shining face of Constance. The hero remembered how she felt in his arms, the softness of her eyes, and her intoxicating smell. Silverbolt wanted more, but it was not for him.
"Loved ones are a liability of our rarified profession. Family is complicated enough without being a superhero. If you want a family, do the right thing and quit. Assuming you can." The betrayal didn't lessen the truth behind Hex's words.
The crystal blue eyes continued to haunt him like an angry specter. "Its going to hurt like hell sometimes, especially when you meet someone who steals your heart." Hex wasn't kidding.
Silverbolt stood and clenched his teeth in frustration. "I didn't come this far to be beaten by Constance's...damnit...I mean some stupid girl and her gorgeous...no that's not right. You are Silverbolt, a survivor of the foster care system, the scourge of Castle downs, the lightning bringing the thunder. Constance...damnit"
He paced back and forth for a moment. "Our paths won't cross again, right?" He pushed the damn girl aside and focused on his living situation. "I need a place to stay for the night."
"Stop thinking with your fists and use your brain. Being a hero is more than punching things and looking awesome," Hexfist used to tell him. I hate it when you're right.
He sifted through his basic knowledge of the middle ages. Gauging the economic climate was impossible and ruled out bartering. "It's either abandoned building or church...do these people have a religion? There's one way to find out, I guess."
The city was beautiful in a primitive sort of way. The Architecture was reminiscent of Celtic design. Maybe the people followed Celtic gods? Statues of a woman carrying a basin of water were the most common. Etched onto the surface of every washbasin, three perfect spirals.
"Okay, time to look for the largest statue of whoever this is." Places of worship tended to be in the center of most towns and villages on earth. Silverbolt hoped the humans here were of a similar mind.
The white marble structure stole his breath. Flags bearing the three spirals hung above the stained glass. A statue of the woman and the washbasin kept a steady gaze on the big iron doors. "I didn't need you this time, Hex."
The doors clicked open for him. He drew the meteor hammer in case the visit went south. The interior was the direct opposite of a Christian church. A bronze statue of the woman and washbasin surrounded by a clear pool of water lay in the center. Stone benches surrounded the pool of calm. A mysterious and sweet scent filled the air.
"I don't know who you are and what you represent. I want to apologize for any trouble I caused you and your people. The jury is still out on Mr. Nottle. Is he one of yours?"
Silverbolt swore he saw the statue lean closer. He removed his mask. "I figure you won't tell anyone who I am. No one knows or even heard of me for that matter. Which brings me to the elephant in the room: why did I come here?"
Armored hands played with the chrome chain. "I don't have an answer for you. I don't know if you guide your worshippers, but if you find some time to help me, I would be grateful. What am I saying? You probably have better things to do than try and fix a broken tin soldier. I'll help your people the best I can, though."
The basin came alive with a steady stream of water. Silverbolt fell backward and onto the glassy stone floor. "How'd you do that?" He scrambled to his feet and wandered around the pool. "The skeptic in me says this is a trick. The child in me wants to believe you're listening. Anyway, I am going to borrow a bench and get some sleep. I hope that's okay."
The sweetness in the air grew more potent, and Silverbolt's eyes felt heavier than lead. The soft-touch of unseen hands guided his head to the bench surface. Silverbolts hands clutched the mask tightly. "Goodnight, I'll be gone in the morning."
The goddess watched the child sleep. They always look more angelic in sleep. Why are you here? The goddess touched his mind only to find a lifetime of sorrow and violence. He is far from broken. His clothing is another matter. A motherly hand ran down the mass of kevlar and chrome, a soft glow followed. That ought to do it. He still needs something. She kissed him on the cheek and left three perfect spirals on full display. You need a mother. I am happy to fill the role. Understand what I do next is in your best interests.
She hefted the sleeping hero off the stone bench. Don't worry, Silverbolt. You'll wake up exactly where you need to be.