:: Chapter One ::
The Angel in Black
"Help!" he heard the female cry out from far away behind him. "Thief! Thief! He has my bag!"
No one reacted. Well, atleast, Garter didn't think so. He must've been running too fast for anyone to do anything. Besides, Garter had tried his best not to reveal his face too much back where he had been leaning against the building wall. He was quite skilled at that too, seeing as he used the help from shadows and the high collars of his shirt. So he was pretty sure no one had been able to see him. Sure, he was a Rich man, but the laws were still there, and strong as ever. Many people in power, whom serve the Baron, clearly disapproved of the poverty outside the gates. But they refrained from saying anything, in fear of facing the Baron's wrath.
He sped down the pebble streets, down the middle-classed neighborhoods. This whole entire town of Thorngate was sectioned off into two parts. Since Thorngate was in the shape of a rather large circle, (with solid, strong, and thick walls as the circumference), the center of the town was made the Townsquare, where the Baron lived in a high-security, and high-classed mansion. Surrounding the Townsquare for several miles lived the high-classed community. And from those several miles, to the very walls of Thorngate, lived the middle-classed society. Both sections were evenly spaced out. The middle-classed had a bit higher population though.
The Poor district was outside of the walls of course. In their small camps and tents. Who cared about them?
No one. Which was why they deserved the most disrespect, They were dirty, poor, and witless. Every bad luck thrown upon them was reasonable, and no one will ever lift a finger to help them.
Garter reached the border of the high-class community. How he knew this was obvious. The surroundings changed; from standard buildings to high, rich-looking ones. Statues and strong oaks lined the streets, even an occasional working fountain. It was a wonder that no one's attempted to steal one yet.
He ran towards a seemingly deserted road, and turned a corner. Garter wasn't going to head on home, just in case someone was trailing him. But he doubted that. Afterall, he was a highly advanced at losing any trackers, and running.
He slowed down as soon as he reached a quiet and neat road. From both sides, loomed buildings and stores, with butlers, maids, and stewards milling about in the stores. There was no market place here. If you wanted to buy fruits, and you just so happened to live in the high-class community, you'd have to walk to the middle-classed society. Here, butcher shops, fancy restaurants, and expensive clothing stores were common. Those stores were also common in the middle-classed too, but only less fancy.
He ran into the small forest to his left. The forest-instead of being cut down like any other forest that had once resided in Thorngate-was kept whole because of the precious herbs living in it's depths. A bit dark and damp for Garter, but suitable for a hideout.
Dodging stray branches and jumping over big roots in the ground, he ran through it all with swift agility for a chubby man. Several minutes after this, he came to a clearing, bright with the sun's bright light, and quiet.
Garter hoisted the bag over his shoulder, and rested the palm of his hands on his knees, taking occasional deep breathes. I seriously need to lose some weight, he thought, breathing heavily. My mother will scold me. Who knows, she may even sneak into my house and hide all of my wonderful mint cookies.
Mothers were always capable of anything. Garter had learned this the hard way.
He stared at his perfectly laced brown shoes. He examined every loop this shoelaces made, the very position his shoes had taken at this moment. He was still breathing very hard, and the burning in his lungs were still there. So he rested for a while. He was prepared to run for it at any time though.
Now, middle-aged Garter Lionsbate was a simple man of the Rich, with graying hair and light blue eyes. He was quite on the plump side-which was the basically the same with all the other Rich folks (perhaps the same healthy weight as a young beluga whale), and dressed in normal clothing of a simple loose brown tunic, and respectable black pants. He had chosen this day to steal from that young girl, due to the fact that the Poor-were rising again. Dirty savages should stay of the town's walls.
Before, the Poor had been soulless. Hope lost, and just walking about. They didn't care if they died or not. So it was quite a surprise, when recently, the Poor have been regaining their courage and bravery. Many came back into the town, and asking for jobs and the like.
What had been their inspiration to come back? many wondered. Why are they back?
But Garter didn't care for all that. He just wanted to break their morale once again, and shove them back out the gates of town, where they truly belonged.
He stayed like this for a few minutes; breathing in and breathing out. Finally, he gathered himself up, and raised himself with a grunt. He lifted the bag into a comfortable position, and before he could even straighten his back-
"Oy! You enjoying yourself over there?"
Garter nearly jumped out of his skin in fright. He looked around frantically.
"Who are you?" Garter replied, loudly. "What makes you think I'm enjoying myself?" Was he finally going to be caught, after all this time? Had this person spot him stealing the bag? Certainly not, Garter was quite an experienced runner. He must've lost any pursuers back in the Marketplace.
But this voice-sounded young. Which was hard to believe. A mere child tracking down the amazing Garter! He almost laughed out loud at that. It was complete and utter nonsense. He'll have to eat his own socks first. But then again, the voice could be older then a child. It was difficult to unveil this voice, and judge it's age.
"Hey, you're shaking in your boots. Kinda suspicious, don't'cha think?"
Garter spun on the spot, trying to peer past the bushes and tree branches. He glanced at the trees and the tall grass lining the ground. "Where are you?" he thundered. He was still pondering if this voice was a child or an adult. The small echo made around this place magnified any voice, could fine-tune any childish voice to a strong booming.
"Around," the voice replied. It laughed.
Now, this completely freaked Garter out. "Who-Who are you?!" he demanded, curling his fingers into fists.
"Your worst nightmare," the voice replied, amused. "You know, you should return the bag to that female, before anything bad happens."
Garter froze. So the voice did know. He was not liking this voice, not liking it at all. Whoever this person was, it must've followed him from the Marketplace. Either that, or Garter was hallucinating (which he sincerely hoped not.)
Should he reply to his voice? Or should he just run for it?
Without even thinking, Garter yelled, "Oh yeah? My worst nightmare eh? And what's going to happen to me? Nothing! Nothing is going to happen! That's what's gonna happen!" Garter stopped. Then, on second thought, he added, "And besides, I've done this a hundred times before! No one's stopped me! No one! No one, I say!"
There was a long moment's pause. Then, the voice replied, light amusement in it's tone. "Whoa, you're fiery. But let's start from the top, shall we? Yes, I'm your worst nightmare. You'll see what I mean in a bit. And 'nothing'? Of course 'nothing' is gonna happen to you, old man. Something bad will." The voice laughed at it's own wit.
Garter frowned. This voice was a definite male. A female wouldn't pull such weird stunts like this. Not only that, but the line this voice quoted didn't make any sense. But before Garter could yell at the voice to shut up, it stopped at it's own accord. Then it said, a bit angrily, "You know, the only reason why you've been able to run away from it, is 'cos I allowed ya to. I've been watching you for quite a while. You're so obvious, it's embarrassing."
The color drained from Garter's face. He had been watched the whole entire time? How was that possible? Then his resolve hardened. Garter yelled, "Ha! Nice bluff! But you're not fooling me! You lie!" Garter hoisted the stolen bag onto his shoulder protectively. "No one has caught me so far! No one! Ha!"
Garter felt reassured now, and smiled. That will show the voice who's boss.
"'No one'?" the voice asked, sounding happy. Garter felt his face fall. "Well, unfortunately mate, I'm that 'no one'. 'Cos you don't need to know who I am. So to you, I'm no one. So, I've caught you."
The voice laughed again.
Garter blinked. Who in the world is this voice? Who in this almighty world even has this weird common sense? Who, in this world, could possibly be as nuts as this mysterious person? "Look," Garter growled. He wasn't going to give up. "Whoever you are, show yourself! Be a man! If you are one! Show yourself, and face me-"
"Finally!" the voice cried out, in a jolly tone of voice. The male's voice bounced around the walls and echoed in various places. Garter felt a bit depressed; after all, he had just been cut off. "About time!" the voice continued. "I thought you'd never say that! Well, try to look for me first lad! Go on! Or I'll never show myself! And trust me, you'll be disappointed if I don't; I'm quite a looker."
Garter couldn't believe it. This voice was playing around with him. Garter was wasting his time, he should just walk away-
But he couldn't. Garter felt the foolish desire to show this voice who the boss really was. He wasn't used to being ridiculed like this.
So he did as the voice said. He peered closely into the trees again. He viewed most spots in the shadows. He even kicked and peered around some boulders lying around. Nothing. After five minutes of fruitless searching, Garter sighed. "Where are you? Just come out! Are you chicken to face a real man?" Maybe the voice had deserted him. Hopefully.
"Don't kid yourself, mate," the voice replied, out of the blue. His tone was light and merry. "I should be asking you that."
Garter was irritated. And aggravated. And frustrated. He yelled, rather loudly, "THEN JUST SHOW YOURSELF ALREADY! ARE YOU MOUSE OR ARE YOU MAN?!"
"Me?" the voice replied, happily. "Isn't it obvious? I'm... a mouse! No, I'm joking. Now, you must be very excited to see me, old man, I'm quite an attractive fellow-"
"JUST SHOW YOURSELF ALREADY!" Garter hollered.
"OK OK, keep your skin on, old man," the voice grumbled. "I'll get to it..."
Garter stood there, as patient as he could. Moments passed. Nothing happened. Perhaps, Garter had scared the voice away...
"Hey," Garter called out, uncertainly. "You... still there?"
"Definitely," the voice replied.
The temperature rose again. "THEN WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!"
"What? I'm not waiting for anything."
"OK, I was joking with you. I'll show myself right now..."
Garter stood there and waited. Again, nothing happened.
"Alright alright, I was testing you. That was a test. Now, I'm appearing."
Just then, a small pebble fell onto the floor, feet away from Garter. His eyes reacting quickly, Garter spun in place looking for the source that had thrown the pebble. (and nearly toppled over in the process.) Garter's eyes calmly searched the bushes and trees, when, out of the corner of his eye, a tree branch swayed.
Garter turned his head to stare at the swaying branch. What he saw nearly had him toppling over again.
A figure was standing on a branch. The male was dressed in all black, black tunic, black leather shorts that reached the middle of his shins. On top of all that, he wore a long, black trench coat with a high collar. But what caught Garter's attention more, was the set of the male's face.
The male in black was wearing a black cloth mask, one that was long, and wrapped around his head, with eye holes for his eyes. He had cropped black hair, and dark eyes like the night, high cheekbones, and full lips that any female-or male, for that matter-would kill for. Tall, regal and tanned, the male smiled a smile that could cause any female-or possibly, a male-to faint.
"Well?" he asked. "Any compliments?"
Well, earlier, the male certainly didn't exaggerate about his good looks. But Garter wasn't going to admit this out loud. Instead, he said, quite loudly and clearly, "Nope. Just some questions."
Then, the male erupted into a fit of laughter. His laugh and smile was quite majestic, it dazzled Garter. Shaking his head, he concentrated on the male and waited for him to stop his laughing. But the male kept laughing.
He laughed some more.
And flung an arm over a branch.
But he kept right on laughing.
Then, quite suddenly, the male stopped. He straightened. "Really?" the male asked, amused. "Questions for me? And ya think I'm in the mood for answering questions?" He spread out an arm wide. "Just hand the bag back to the female you stole it from, and no one will get hurt. Simple right?"
It took quite a while for Garter to recover from all the dazzle going on. He blinked, shook his head, gripped the stolen bag all the more tighter to his other shoulder, and frowned.
"No," Garter answered. "You go away. You're pro'bly just some one who gives the Poor charity. You think you're a hero? Well, I say, leave 'em alone. They'll die off soon enough anyway. The Baron isn't going to let them hang around. They're rats, and deserve to die like rats. They're imbeciles, who don't deserve to live here. This place"-Garter waved his hand vaguely-"is out of their league."
Just then, something small but solid struck Garter on the shoulder. A rip opened up on his sleeve, showing a small red bruise that stung. A lot.
"Shut up," snarled the male, in an angry tone. Garter, struck dumb, stared up at the majestic male in the tree. "Just 'cos you're Rich, and high and mighty," the male continued, "Doesn't mean you can look down at others who you think are beneath you. It's stupid, and wrong. It just shows what a snot-nosed idiot you-and every one else Rich-are."
Garter was awed. The male, angry, was even more godly-like then when he was smiling. Garter examined the male's face. Anger and courage was what showed-and a sort of young-ness-
Young. Garter blinked. The male; wasn't as old as Garter had thought. The male-when looked and stared at closely-looked merely fourteen.
And this godly-like male with a killer smile and dangerous glare, was at least a fourteen year old.
A godly-like fourteen year old, who had thrown a pebble at him, as a weapon.
Now, Garter laughed. And he laughed hard.
The male's face, twisted handsomely in outrage before, now looked curious. "Have you lost your nerve?" he questioned.
"No!" Garter laughed some more. "But have you? Acting all tall and boss-like, you're just a kid! And-throwing pebbles around! How immature! And here I thought I was dealing with-a young man-"
The line was drawn right then and there. Garter had only a few moments, when he heard a smooth, 'whoosh'. His laughter abruptly cut off. Before he could even look up to see the expression on the male's face, something stabbed into the earth, two inches from the tip of his right foot.
Startled, Garter gave out a cry. He stumbled back, and stared at the thing sticking out of the ground with close examination-
It was a knife. A throwing knife.
Garter looked up, horrified at the male in the tree branch. But somehow, the male wasn't there anymore.
Garter stared in horror. Where had he gone? Where had the male gone? Where-?
"Hey," breathed a voice just behind Garter's left ear.
Garter screamed, and jumped back. Miraculously tripping over the knife that was still stuck in the ground. He fell with a loud thump!
Just then, other smooth whooshing sounds were heard. Garter squealed. He curled up in a ball on the ground, covered his head and closed his eyes shut tight; waiting for the metal of sharp knives to pierce him.
But none came.
Garter laid there for several moments. Then, he opened his eyes, just a crack. Everything was still. Nothing moved, not even a breath of wind.
Was the male gone? Garter wondered. Has he given up and gone away? Did he impale himself with his own knife? Garter was hopeful.
He sat up. Well, atleast, he tried to sit up. Instead, some unknown force kept him down, prevented him from sitting up straight.
Struggling, he lifted his head and looked over his shoulder. What he saw nearly had him faint.
The edge of his loose tunic - it must've flapped out when Garter had tripped-was laid out on the ground behind him. It was still attached to his shirt, but a knife had been stabbed through it, lodging it solidly into the earth. Garter-looking down at his shoes-found that his wide pants were attached to the ground in the same manner.
Garter couldn't move. He was in a very bad situation.
"So, how do ya like it down there?" asked the male's voice. Garter, trembling, looked up, and found himself staring into the face of the fourteen year old's, which seemed to loom above him. Garter gaped. The boy wasn't frowning or glaring, as Garter thought the boy would be. In fact, he was smiling. Brightly. The boy looked amused.
"Well," Garter gulped. "Uh... it's cooler down here." What else was he to say? He was entirely at this boy's mercy.
"That's lovely," the boy replied, grinning. "Now... am I a young man or what?"
Garter wanted to shrink into the ground and disappear. "Yes," he mumbled. "Y-you are."
"What? Didn't hear ya," the boy replied. He leaned in a bit closer.
"Y-you're a... young man," Garter replied faintly. He was scared, no doubt about that. Was the boy going to kill him? Torture him perhaps? He shouldn't have underestimated this boy, he shouldn't have; it was his own wrongdoing.
"Good," the boy said. He beamed brightly, and Garter nearly fainted.
Garter couldn't help it, being shown completely to this boy's mercy, and thrown around like a puppet. He was angry. And highly disgusted with himself. "Stop doing that!" snapped Garter. "Stop smiling! It's-it's..."
"It's-?" the boy trailed off, questioningly.
Garter was just about to answer and complete his reply, when the boy fluidly-and with inhuman speed-flipped back one side of his trench coat.
Revealing rows and rows of throwing knives. All different shapes and sizes.
Garter's sassy retort instantly died in his throat.
The boy beamed another dazzling smile. Garter felt his eyes roll up.
"Now...," the boy said. "I'm going to go."
This snapped Garter out of his reverie. "Wait-go?" he demanded. "Go where? Aren't you going to help me out of this? Afterall, you-"
"I-?" the boy trailed off, inquiring.
Garter was just about to answer and complete his retort, when the boy lazily-and with inhuman smoothness-flicked up the edge of his tunic.
Revealing a belt stocked full of throwing knives. All different shapes and sizes.
Garter's voice nearly stopped functioning.
The boy chuckled lightly. Garter almost died from the light chuckle.
"Now...," the boy said. "I'm going to go. And no, I'm not gonna help you out. After you stole from that girl? No. I'm going to let you here, someone will come by and when they see you, they'll either help you out, or run away screaming, thinking you're a dead body. Not my business, I seriously don't care. But"-the boy looked threateningly serious-"No more stealing. Got it? You can bet that I'll be watching you." The boy stopped, looking thoughtful. Then added, "You'll be keeping our meeting a secret too, got it? Do not tell anyone. 'Cos if word of this 'meeting' crept out, trust me, I'll know who to hunt down. Now... promise and swear it. Promise and swear you won't cause any more Poor citizens any more trouble either."
This boy isn't human, thought Garter hopelessly. "Got it," he said, helpless. "I swear that I won't tell anyone about this. I also promise that I won't steal anymore stuff from the Poor, or cause them trouble of any kind."
"Good," the boy nodded. Garter slumped. How was anyone going to find him in this place? People rarely came in here. And when they do, Garter would no doubt be a dead body by then.
Now, whilst Garter was thinking about his tragic demise, the boy paused for a second, and cocked his head to one side. He just seemed to finally notice Garter-who was obviously in sulk mode-laid out in an uncomfortable position. The boy smiled. Turning, he called out into the trees in an inhumanely childish voice, "Help! Help! This poor man has been attacked by assassins! Help! Help!"
Garter gaped. "W-what-?" The boy was sending help after all? After all he had done?
The boy grinned at Garter's blank face. "No need for thanks. Just tell them when they come running; that 'the child witness'" -he motioned towards himself-"Ran away to his mother who was calling him."
Before Garter could even react to that, the boy turned on his heels and started walking away in the opposite direction.
"Wait!" Garter cried out. "Wait!"
The boy halted in his tracks. "Hurry up dude," he said, without turning around. "They'll be coming any moment."
Garter wanted to ask how the boy knew that. But instead, he asked, "What-what are you?"
The boy was silent. All was quiet in the forest. Occasional birds chirped, and Garter was surprised by that; he hadn't even known birds lived in this forest.
"An angel," the boy answered with finality. Garter didn't have time to answer that, when all of a sudden, a cry from somewhere to Garter's left yelled out, "Hey! Poor guy! You all right in there?"
Garter didn't answer. Instead, he watched as the boy walked away in smooth and quit steps. The boy adjusted the bag in his hands, then hoisted it onto his shoulder.
Wait. A bag?
Garter searched himself, and sure enough, the bag was gone. Amazing, was Garter's only thought.
"Hello?" another voice called, somewhat nearer now. "Anyone in there?"
"Yes," Garter called out quickly. "I'm OK." By the time he looked back to where the boy had walked into-that space in between the trees-
The boy was gone. Disappeared.