The Greatest Treasure in the World

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 7 (v.1) - Of Little Children

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 9

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Submitted: June 12, 2019

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VII. Of Little Children
 

After a good night’s sleep, Sebastion rose at sunrise, put on his light chain mail and then checked out of the Calibut Inn. Hungry, he stopped at the inn’s café for breakfast. There, he bolted down a pair of dove eggs (after the cook assured him they were not crow’s eggs) and a slice of ham. After finishing his meal, he went across the street to purchase supplies from a local merchant.

With his supply bag full of food and fresh water flasks, Sebastion returned to the stables to prepare his unicorn for the journey. There, while Rosie was finishing his morning meal of hay, Sebastion, with the help of the elf stableman, installed the unicorn’s armor, saddle, bags and packs.

Sebastion patted the young elf on the back. “You did a great job taking care of my unicorn and I appreciate it. Son, how much money do you make working here?” he asked.

“The boss pays me one silver a night, sir.”

“Only one silver? Is this your only job?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You have a family to care for?”

“Yes, sir. Me and the wife just had our first born!”

“You’re a father! Congratulations.” With a tinge of envy, Sebastion thanked the elf again, and then tipped him ten gold pieces.

The elf was stunned and responded with a beaming smile.

Leaping up into the saddle, Sebastion flipped the gleeful elf an extra silver piece and then rode out onto the avenue. With his mind buzzing from what he had learned from the Great Mystic the previous night, Sebastion was excited that he was about to explore an old dungeon . . . a place that may be hiding the great treasure chest.

The weather was sunny and warm with a light, westerly breeze. Heading west, on the way out of the city, regrettably, Sebastion had to pass through the ‘District of Dregs’ again. He had been thinking about the two little children that he had met the night before, hoping he would have a chance to see them as he rode through.

The breeze carried the unmistakable smell of sewage filth from the Dregs, growing more intense the closer he got to the area. Eventually he had reached the place of disgust and although what he saw the previous night had stunned him, this time, he would see it in the daylight.

He halted. Stunned again, he took it all in.

The daylight had unveiled the true horror of just how bad the District of Dregs was and what he saw shook him to the bone. Had it not been for the smoke of a few burning fires and the many hapless souls sitting, lying or stumbling around, the area looked like the remains of a long abandoned, ancient city . . . thousands of years old, that was crumbling away to nothingness. Row after row and block after block of diseased, filthy, sewage soaked ruination met his eyes.

The stench seemed even worse than it was the night before.

Sebastion’s stomach, still a bit queasy from dealing with over two hours of the reeking, Library of Shem last night, was forced to cover his face with a heavy cloth from his bag. The smell of the week-old battlefield that lay between Toof and Claww in the Orc Clans, with its five thousand dead orcs and humans was bad enough, but it could not hold a candle to the stench of this place.

He hurriedly pressed on, though he continued to look for the little children. Soon, he was approaching the intersection where he had first encountered the little ones. About a block shy of it, he heard a loud commotion up ahead.

Rosie, sensing danger, snorted a warning. In case of action, regrettably, he had to put the stench-blocking towel away. Petting Rosie’s head, Sebastion said, “Easy my friend. Let’s investigate.”

They continued forward at a very slow pace, cautiously approaching the source of the disturbance. Sebastion heard yelling, moans, screaming, cursing and the other typical sounds that are usually associated with a violent street fight. The battle was just around the corner, near where he had first met the two children. Concerned for their safety, he hoped that they were nowhere near the fighting.

Sebastion noticed that there was a gang of humans trying to take control of the rubble of a city block, which was being defended by a group of elves.

“Mikal, get him! That one, yes! Cut his throat! Why, you son of a—Ahhhhh! Ooooof! Kill all those bastards. Kill em all! Joham, behind you, watch out! We told you to stay away from here! Eat this club, ‘WHAACK!’ Hit ‘em again! Kren, watch your back! Time for knives, boys. Stab em all, slit their throats! Ah, shit! Kren’s done for. They killed Kren!

Unnoticed by the combatants, Sebastion observed the battle from a short distance. The fighting was vicious and close quartered. Several on both sides were already seriously injured or dead. Bricks were flying and knives were flashing. Some were armed with clubs, chains, broken bottles or a combination of several, ad hoc weapons. He counted about twenty of them, but it was impossible to tell which side was winning because they were all entangled in a chaotic melee.

What Sebastion saw next horrified him.

The little ones he had met the night before. Both of them were huddled behind the dirt mound of filth, hugging each other while cowering in fear. The little girl was holding her half-deflated ball and the little boy held what looked like a rusty roller skate. Sebastion assumed they were probably outside playing when the two gangs became engaged in the brawl.

The children looked scared to death. Sebastion feared that if they recognized him, they might try to run to him for protection and possibly be exposed to danger. With a nudge, he directed his unicorn to retreat a few feet so the children were just around the corner and out of sight.

He continued to watch the battle, still terrified that the little ones would be harmed or killed in the melee. Sebastion grasped his sword’s hilt and considered going in but there were too many of them. Because he was an outsider, Sebastion feared that if they noticed him, both gangs might band together and attack him. He would have to wait for the right moment to act.

The fighting was a bitter, butcher fest. Several lay wounded or dead, and as Sebastion watched, more fell. A few fled, trailing blood from various wounds. A female elf, wearing a torn white shirt, ran by Sebastion. As she went by him, he saw that a big knife was stuck between her shoulder blades and that the entire back of her shirt was now dark red with blood. Sebastion watched as she stumbled into a nearby alley, still clawing at the knife in vain with her hands.

In the street and on the corner, blood was everywhere, even flowing along the gaps between some of the cobblestones like little, dark crimson streams. Here and there, several body parts soaked in expanding pools of the red stuff.

The carnage had little effect on Sebastion because, of course, he had witnessed far worse on many fields of battle. However, even though they lived in this hell every day, the violence and gore still bothered the children. Sebastion could hear their little voices blubbering and weeping as they quailed behind the dirt mound. He moved his unicorn closer and prepared to go in and rescue them.

Now, there were only a few left alive, but it appeared that the humans had won. Sebastion watched as one of them repeatedly stabbed a fallen foe in the abdomen. The victim, screaming in horror, thrashed wildly with his hands, unsuccessfully trying to block the vicious swipes from the long knife and in a moment, it was over.

The victorious killer stood up, looking around for more opponents, but finding none, triumphantly wiped his long blade on his own torn, already blood soaked shirt. With everyone else, either fleeing, dying, or dead, only two human males remained of the victorious gang that had now gained new territory to add to their growing empire of ruins.

When the two survivors turned to explore the newly won area, they spotted the children.

“We should call in the rest of the gang as soon—well, lookie here, Joham. We have us a couple of spies!”

“Get ‘em, Mikal! We can sell them to the slave traders!”

Both children took off screaming, running barefoot in their worn rags across the street, still clutching their toys. They did not get far before they were overtaken by one of the large killers. Grabbing both of the youngsters by their arms, Mikal started to drag them back. “You little brats are coming with me.”

A booming voice sounded off behind them. “They’re elves. I don’t think they understand Avalonian. Release those children.

Surprised, the two killers stopped and turned around to find a huge knight riding on a unicorn, approaching them. Incredulous, they were stunned by what they saw but only for a moment.

“What? Hey, it’s that big guy and the unicorn I told you about, Joham. I think he’s a knight or something. They’re the ones that I saw kick the crap out of Duncan’s gang last night, up by that library. That unicorn is the one that splattered Duncan’s brains all over the place!”

“He’s a knight? Well, he don’t look so tough. He looks like a dope sittin’ up there on that thing. You’re in our territory now, Mister big shot knight. Get down off that freak of a horse and face me man to man!” shouted Joham.

Sebastion halted about fifteen feet away and sized them up. They were two big swaggering bullies, perhaps as large as he was. Both of them wielded long daggers and were likely veterans of many street battles. They were seedy, cold-blooded killers and Sebastion feared that angering them might endanger the children’s lives, so he said calmly, “There’s been enough blood shed here today. Release those children to me and we’ll leave. Then you can just go about your business.”

Joham elbowed Mikal and growled, “Heh, he’s afraid. Are you sure this is the same guy you saw last night?”

Mikal was nervous, if not frightened. He had seen what Sebastion and the unicorn did to those hoods the previous night. “Yes, that’s him. Joham, we have these two little bastards, let’s just take ‘em and get the hell out of here,” he said quietly but with a shake in his voice.

Joham squinted at Mikal. “Mikal, what are ya worried about? Snap out of it will ya? He’s nothin’! I’ll show ya, just watch.” Joham lightly slapped Mikal across the face a couple times. “Remember who you are. Now hold on to those little shits tight until I’m finished with him, okay?”

Mikal cautiously eyed Sebastion and nodded.

Joham knew that because they held the children and could kill them anytime they wanted, the knight was powerless to do anything. Thinking that he held all of the cards, he decided to try to embarrass Sebastion.

“I think you’re a little bitch,” he said, glaring up at Sebastion. “Hell, I thought knights faced all challenges. I challenged you to face me, but all you want to do is sit up there on that ugly horse and try to talk your way out of it like a sissy girl? Jump down and show me how tough you are, hahahaha!”

Sebastion was now convinced that these two were likely insane. He had no choice. “Move those little ones out of the way, and I’ll get down and face you.”

Slipping his dagger into his belt, Joham shouted, “Okay, Mister big man; hand to hand, no weapons.”

Joham turned to Mikal and said, “I’m going to teach this clown a lesson. If he pulls any funny stuff or if he starts to win, kill those two. Cut their throats.”

Turning back to Sebastion, Joham screamed, “Get down off of there! After I kill ya, I’m going to gut that unicorn and eat it for dinner. Then, I will cut off his horn and gouge the eyes right out of your dead skull!”

Sobbing and trembling, the two little children were scared to death. Both had been struggling in vain, trying to escape Mikal’s strong grip. Finally exhausted, they gave up and tried to sit down on the ground.

Joham yelled, “Mikal, control them, damn it!

Mikal violently shook and jerked them up. “Get up to your feet, you little asses!” The children, forcibly brought to their feet, wailed. Mikal then pressed his long dagger precariously close to the little boy’s tiny throat.

Sebastion’s anger seethed within, but he kept his composure. “I told you to release them. Release them and I will face you both at the same time,” he said heavily.

Joham sneered. “You’re in no position to bargain here, Mister big shot. I said, get off that freak of a horse, and face me like a man. What’s the matter, you scared?”

Sebastion hated these lowlifes and wanted to knock all of their teeth straight through the back of their heads. However, he knew that if he tried to attack, the children would likely die on the spot. It was indeed a perilous situation, but Sebastion remained calm.

“I am only going to tell you one more time. Release those little children and walk away,” said Sebastion, in a slow, deep voice.

Joham sneered again, while Mikal, still holding the youngsters tight, nervously watched on. “Heh, just more big talk coming from Mister big man-knight. So if we don’t release them and walk away? Watcha gonna do?”

Sebastion knew now that there was little he could do to save the children. His only hope was to somehow, distract Joham and Mikal long enough so he could act. “Since you’re probably going to harm those little children anyway, maybe I’ll just have my unicorn burn you alive right where you stand.”

“Oh, really? Bahahahah! Mikal, he thinks he’s sittin’ on a fire breathin’ dragon! Even if you could somehow burn us alive, you would burn these little shits too, you idiot. They’re standing right next to us, ya stupid dink.”

Sebastion, stone-faced, was all business. “You’re going to kill them anyway, so, why not burn you?”

“Mister big shot knight, that’s not a dragon. It’s a stupid lookin’ horse that has a pole stickin’ out of its goofy head.”

Sebastion’s anger raged inside, but he calmly said, “Rosie, show them.”

Joham and Mikal watched as both of Rosie’s eyes began to glow red. They looked as the unicorn turned his head slightly away and much to the surprise of the thugs, bright, continuous beams of red light burst out of Rosie’s eyes, striking a huge pile of trash across the street behind them. The trash heap exploded into a massive fireball, sending flaming debris in all directions.

The two killers, in shock, turned towards the smoking, burning pyre while covering their heads to protect them from the hot particles that were raining down. During the commotion, the children with their toys, fled back to the dirt mound and hid behind it, because Mikal, surprised by the explosion, had accidently released them.

“Damn it, kill those little elf bastards!” yelled Joham, still trying to cover his head while pulling his dagger.

“They got away!” screamed Mikal.

Turning back around, Joham and Mikal were surprised to discover that Sebastion was now standing directly in front of them. They both blinked. Before either could react, Sebastion, using his powerful, bare hands, grasped them by their throats, causing both to drop their daggers. Before the dropped weapons could strike the cobblestoned street, Sebastion effortlessly lifted them straight up and held them with their feet dangling. “I told you that if you’d release those children, I’d face you both at the same time. You kept your part of the bargain, so I’m keeping mine,” Sebastion said grimly, his eyes blazing with anger.

Joham and Mikal’s faces, each wearing an expression of shock and bewilderment, were already turning a dark red, with the color gradually shifting towards the purple and blue shades of the palette.

For a moment, Sebastion studied their faces and thought that the mottled, purple colors reminded him of the clouds during a sunset after a storm. With his incredible strength, Sebastion held them steadily at arm’s length, slowly tightening his grip on their throats.

Gurgling, their eyes rolled back into their heads while they kicked wildly, struggling in Sebastion’s vise-like grip. Their hands were still clawing at their throats when the sound, like that of old sticks breaking, began to emanate from the inside of their crushed necks. A moment later, Sebastion banged their heads together for good measure, crushing their skulls. He then released his grip, dropping them into a heap, where they both lay twitching, though very dead.

Concerned that the children had seen all of this, Sebastion turned to find them huddled together where they usually played, near the front of an old shop, hiding again behind the large mound of dirt and trash. He could hear them sobbing as he approached with Rosie in tow. Reaching them, Sebastion glanced around; still concerned some troublers might return. He said, “Rosie, watch our backs.” The unicorn responded with a soft neigh.

Walking slowly around the mound, Sebastion found both of them sitting and huddled together, still sobbing and trembling. He carefully knelt down next to them. “It’s okay my little friends,” he softly said in Elvish. “It’s over and you’re safe now. They are all gone. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Though kneeling, Sebastion still towered over the small children.

To avoid frightening them further, he sat down with them next to the mound. They looked at him, their little faces full of tears, mucus and the usual grime. Pulling a small towel from his pouch, he wet it with a bit of water from a flask and wiped their eyes and faces as clean as he could get them.

When Sebastion had first met these children the evening before, it was rather dark, but this time, he got a good look at them. They were dirty, tired, thirsty and famished. Shoeless, they wore only grubby, torn clothes that did not fit. Their little bodies were full of small cuts, scrapes and bug bites; their dirty bare feet looked calloused and sore.

Sebastion noticed that some of their wounds, though minor, were also infected. They were in rough shape, but fortunately, they seemed to be free of lice. Aside from the rags that they wore, they had with them their only worldly possessions: One rusty roller skate and a half-deflated, worn out rubber ball.

“My name is Sebastion, and I will protect you now. You have nothing to fear anymore, okay?” he said gently.

Both children, still upset, though calming a bit, smiled. They were innocent and cute beyond anything Sebastion had ever seen, despite the grunge that covered them from head to toe. Sebastion sat there and held their tiny, trembling hands until they had completely calmed down.

Sebastion reached out and tweaked their little elf ears. “You know, I’m leaving the city today, and I was hoping that I would get to see you both again,” he said, almost in a whisper. “I wanted to thank you for helping me find an inn last night. You did well.”

They were speechless, only able to stare, with their big, tired eyes, in awe of the large knight sitting next to them.

“Do you both live around here?”

The older boy, holding his little sister tightly, slowly nodded. “Yes, sir,” he replied, in near perfect Avalonian.

“Oh, you do speak Avalonian,” said Sebastion, surprised. Sebastion now realized that these two were half-elves.

He looked at the little girl who was holding the partially deflated rubber ball and asked gently, “Is that your ball?”

“It’s bofe of ours . . .” she replied, also in Avalonian. Her tenderly sweet little voice trailed off and ended with a sniffle.

Sebastion smiled and tenderly patted her head. Addressing the slightly older boy, Sebastion asked, “Is that your roller skate? Where’s the other one?”

The little boy nodded his head and replied, “Yes, sir. I only have one. I pretend it’s a wagon and I drive it around in the dirt here.” The boy pointed to the mound of dirt and rubbish next to them. Sebastion could see the little roads he had made with the wheels of the old skate.

“Are you brother and sister?”

They slowly nodded.

“How old are you?”

“I’m six, I think. My little sister is almost four.”

“Little ones, where are your parents?”

“They were killed, a long time ago by bad people,” the boy returned dolefully.

Sebastion’s heart was heavy. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Who do you live with? Who takes care of you?”

“We live with each other. We take care of each other,” said the little boy.

Sebastion’s broken heart spoke. My . . . God.

“Are you hungry, little ones?”

They nodded.

“Just a second.” He stood and reaching into his supply bag, grabbed a couple biscuits and some dried meat, then leaned down and offered it to the famished youngsters. They looked at each other, astonished. Despite the fact that they were starving, the children hesitated to take the food from Sebastion.

“Please, go ahead and eat.”

Having not eaten since they ate the apples the day before, they both slowly reached for the food. Sebastion expected that they would bolt it down but was surprised to see them treat the food with respect, eating it slowly. He then offered them a drink from one of his water flasks. Thirsty, they gulped it down, wetness pouring down the front of them. While they were enjoying their meal, Sebastion, not wanting to leave these little orphans here, tried to figure out what he could do to help these children. After a moment, he had an idea.

Sebastion patted Rosie on his chest. “Hey, would you two like to go for a ride on my unicorn? His name is Rosie and he likes little children.

Noses running, nodding their heads, they smiled, while munching on the last bit of food.

“Okay then, let’s go. It will be fun!” Sebastion said happily.

He took the towel out again, then carefully wiped their little faces. “Hang on to your toys.” He grabbed them both in his arms and placed them upon the saddle. Carefully, he mounted the unicorn and skillfully placed each child on his lap. “You ready? Grab hold of me.” The two nodded in excitement, each grasping Sebastion’s chain mail with their free hand.

Sebastion, not wanting them to see any more of the horror around them, said, “Close your eyes tight, and don’t open them until I tell you to, okay?” The little ones, not understanding why, closed their eyes, still excited that they were riding on the back of a unicorn. They passed by the still burning pile of trash and headed down the avenue towards the western entrance of the deplorable city of Calibut.

As they rode, Sebastion saw other children and lost souls wandering in the filth, their faces etched with fatigue and fear. He felt for them, longed to rescue all of them, though he knew he could not. However, for some reason and he could not understood why, these two little half-elf children were endearing to him. As they went, to ease any fear, he sang to them while they clung to him tightly.

 

***

 

Sebastion returned the Sergeant’s salute. “Where’s your commander? I need to see him immediately. Please inform him that Sir Sebastion of Scot is here to speak with him.”

The Sergeant replied, “Captain Russell? Yes, sir. Corporal, go fetch the Captain.” One of the guards near the main gates scrambled, and after about ten minutes, an officer, a male half-elf, approached Sebastion on horseback. The officer recognized Sebastion and promptly saluted.

“Sir Sebastion, “I’m Captain Russell, commander of the Calibut Militia. I had no idea you were in the city! What brings you all the way up here?”

Sebastion returned the salute. “You might call it a vacation,” he replied, not wanting to reveal his true reason. Sebastion was surprised because the militia captain had recognized him.

Sebastion presented his papers. “You seem to know me. Forgive me but I —”

Captain Russell politely interrupted. “Sir, there is no need to present your papers. I do indeed know you. I served under your command many years ago when we sacked the orc capital of Glum.”

Sebastion looked at him, trying to recall his face. “I’m sorry.”

“My name is Russell of Gifford. I first met you over a decade ago when I was a lowly private in the small, expeditionary force of elves sent from the Alacarj to help your country in the war with the Orc Clans. I don’t expect that you would remember me. However, I remember you, Sir Sebastion. Your fame is known far and wide.”

Sebastion nodded. “Thank you for those words and for your service.”

“What can I do for you, Sir Sebastion? Give the order and it will be done.”

Sebastion looked down at the two innocents in his lap. “Captain, is there a decent orphanage in this God forsaken city?”

Captain Russell looked at the little half-elves who were clinging to Sebastion. Captain Russell’s expression revealed that he understood their plight.

“Yes, there are a few. Last year, a new orphanage was built on the other side of the city. In fact, the city elders placed us in charge of overseeing the construction. But, like the others, it’s likely already filled.” Captain Russell looked at the children again. “Unfortunately, in Calibut, everything is full. Orphanages, jails and graveyards.”

“Captain, will you see if it’s possible that an orphanage might find a place for these two little ones? They are my friends and were both very helpful when I first arrived here. I’m in their debt.”

Sebastion looked at the children again and hugged them. “This morning, the three of us went through a tough ordeal together. Can I count on you to see that they are well taken care of?” The two children looked up at Sebastion and he gazed down into their eyes. “They’re fine but are in need of medical care, a warm bath, a hot meal and perhaps a good bed. If you could see to all of that as soon as possible, I would be in your debt, as well.”

Captain Russell nodded. “Yes, sir, I will see to it right away.” He then rode over next to Sebastion, who tried to hand the children off, though they did not want to leave his side.

“It’s okay, little ones. This nice officer is going to take you to a new place to live where you will never be hungry or afraid again.” They reluctantly released their grip but never took their eyes off of Sebastion. Sebastion passed each of the children, one at a time to Captain Russell, who then carefully seated them on his lap.

“Take good care of my little friends, Captain. That’s an order,” he said, with a wink and smile.

“If there is no room in any of the orphanages, I will personally take charge of the children until a room is available. They will be well cared for, no matter what. I will see to it,” replied Captain Russell.

“Very well. I promise you that I’ll return to make sure that all is good with them. I won’t settle for less. Take this—use it to help them.” Sebastion tossed a small bag full of gold coins towards Captain Russell. It jingled when he caught it.

“Sir Sebastion, orphaned children are rarely adopted here. If I can get them into a facility, they will likely spend the rest of their childhood within those walls.”

Sebastion looked sullen. “But it has to be far better than the filthy death trap they were living in when I found them. Anything is better than that. Captain, this city is a disaster area, why are you here in this mess?”

“I was born in a small village southwest of here called Gifford, and I attended school in Calibut, so this city is special to me. I know this place is bad; I’m trying to fix it,” Captain Russell replied proudly.

Sebastion nodded in admiration and said, “Understood. You have a lot of work ahead of you. All my best to you and good luck, and please, take care of those children. They’re very precious to me.”

“And good luck to you, sir.”

Sebastion looked over at the children. “You’ll be safe my little friends. I will miss you, but maybe one day I can return to visit you.” Sebastion’s eyes welled with tears as did theirs. Then, they each waved goodbye to him.

He tapped Rosie on the neck lightly and the unicorn began his slow walk. As he rode through the gate and out, he could not turn himself away from the children’s big, sad eyes. Sebastion watched until he could see them no more but he could still hear their voices crying out to him.

“Thank you, sir. Bye, bye.” Soon, their voices also disappeared, lost in the distance, replaced by the regular sounds of the city. Sebastion feared he would never see them again, though he would never forget them either. Those two little faces would appear in many of his dreams. Legends say that a knight never cries, however, not all legends are true.


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The Greatest Treasure in the World

For her hand, the maiden demanded a treasure . . . the greatest in the world. For her heart, the knight would risk everything searching the world to find it.

© Copyright 2019 Scott Curtiss Tucker. All rights reserved.

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