Crossroads Part 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A boy with unnatural talent is put into circumstances that make him question who he is and how far he is willing to go to protect his loved ones...and to avenge them!

Submitted: April 21, 2013

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Submitted: April 21, 2013




Ryhs ran down the narrow side street at speed, hitting the wall and using it to catch his balance. His legs burned and he struggled to gulp in the air that his body was screaming for. His heart thudding in his chest drowned out all the sounds around him, including the woman who shouted in indignation as he shoved past her.

He frantically looked back to see if he had lost his pursuer but there he was, the big brute bearing down on him. His red face was a fearful mixture of pain and anger. Thinking about being caught made him shiver in dread. He would get beaten up to within a hair of death in retaliation for making the big man run for the last half hour and for being caught in a semi-dressed situation with his daughter.

The day he had met her was clearly etched in his mind It had been a couple of years ago when he was 16 and she was 14. He had been stealing an apple as he had done countless times before. Her big oaf of a father was slow of movement and eye, making him a prime target amongst the young and hungry. His daughter, on the other hand, was far quicker. He had frozen when he realised that she had caught him. His every instinct yelled for him to run away but her beauty captivated him, keeping him rooted to the spot with his mouth agape.

She had laughed, a twinkle in her eye. She winked at him but still he stayed and stared. Finally, with a look of exasperation, she waved her hand to shoo him away. She often teased him about their first meeting and his unfortunate reaction. She also admitted that there was something about the way that he had first looked at her that stopped her from crying out.

Dynira was a girl blessed with beautiful, delicate features. Her thin but sensuous  lips, slightly upturned nose and green eyes were tinged with brown combined with her small, pert breasts and slender form made her the most exquisite girl Ryhs had ever laid eyes upon. Even though her father’s cart was in Egonst, a part of town that Ryhs seldom visited, he found excuses to walk past the cart in the hope of catching a surreptitious glimpse of his new love. Soon, he was making the trip daily and sometimes even stayed in Egonst all day so that he could walk by her two or three times a day .

As the time flew, Ryhs noticed that Dynira had been looking better each passing day and that she was there without fail by her father’s side. He tried imagining what her name would be but there was none that was beautiful enough to do her justice. He imagined what she would be like to talk to into the late hours of the night, to hold, to touch, to kiss. He imagined what her personality could be like, what she enjoyed doing and whether she was mischievous. He would imagine a hundred different scenarios of  how they would meet and fall madly in love. Each day, his courage built up a little more.

Then, one day, his usual reverie was broken when he found her missing from her father’s side. He furtively looked for her but she was nowhere to be seen. He was so lost in his search that he walked into someone standing in the middle of the street. As he fumbled to apologise, he froze. It was her. She stood with arms crossed and pursed lips.

He saw her swallow and say in an almost hurt tone, “Is there are a reason why you stalk me and stare at me like I’m some circus freak?”

“Wha-I-I don’t stalk you. And you’re not a circus freak.” Ryhs started to hyperventilate.

“You stare at me all day like I am one.” Her big accusing eyes bore into him.

“I don’t stare!” Ryhs struggled to calm his beating heart. He swore that she could hear it pounding away.

They stared at each other. “You’re staring now.”

“I-Well, you’re staring at me!” Ryhs had fantasised about meeting her dozens of times every day and all that practice availed him little in this moment. All the smart and witty things he had planned to say to win her over fled him.

“Stop looking at me!”

“What? How? I would but you’re right in front of me,” Ryhs said, trying get his thoughts in order.

“So, you wouldn’t look at me if I wasn’t in front of you?” Her eyes widened, on the verge of tears.

“What?” Ryhs was thoroughly confused. “You just asked me to stop. Of course I would look. I look at you every day even though you’re not in front of me.”

“Ha! I knew it!” A look of triumph replaced her previous doelike expression.

“I-” Ryhs could not think of what to say next. He realised that was mouth was hanging open and clamped it shut.

The girl laughed, that twinkle returning. “You boys are all buffoons. I’m Dynira.” She extended her hand.

Ryhs just stared at it.

“Are you one of those mental retards? My cousin, Jori, is a retard. You don’t look like one though,” she said as she narrowed her eyes.

“I’m not retarded!”

“You act like one.” That twinkle again. She sighed. “I know this is a bit much for you. If you’re truly not retarded, shake my hand and tell me your name.”

So began a friendship more beautiful than any either of them could have imagined. It blossomed into true love and Ryhs could not imagine life without its touch. Her fool of a father refused to accept that there was nothing he could do to stop them from seeing each other. He had forbidden her from meeting him when he had found out and refused to understand how true their feelings were for each other. Ryhs had been saving all his money for the last few months because of this and they were almost ready to elope. All Ryhs had to do now was stay alive and in one piece till then.

Ryhs had lost count of how many turns he had made in the narrow confines of the Warren but he knew where he was going. Growing up on the streets of the Warren had taught him all about the best routes to run through when evading trouble. He was surprised at the vehement determination of his father-in-law-to-be in chasing him. He did not look like a very active fellow and Ryhs felt that he would succumb to a heart attack if the man continued chasing him. Dynira would surely be upset with Ryhs if he was the cause of her father’s death. This chase had to stop now.

As he turned yet another corner, Ryhs's face lit up. The house that he had robbed a couple of nights ago was still empty. When he had cased it earlier in the week, he had found out that the scholar who owned it had been gone for weeks and would not return till the following week. The window Ryhs had broken would have remained unrepaired. He skidded to a halt and, taking a quick look to ensure that his pursuer had not come around the corner yet, Ryhs carefully slipped through the window, which belonged to the basement of the house was level with the ground.

The basement was musty, filled with books and cobwebs. Ryhs had to stifle a sneeze as he leant back on the wall. A few boxes lined the wall, filled to the brim with books. He could make out a faded, dust covered map hung on one of the walls and a table in one corner of the room. It appeared as though the basement had been used as a study prior to its transformation into a storage room.

After a few minutes, Ryhs had caught his breath and was sure that he had escaped. It was best to play it safe, however, and stay hidden a while longer. Ryhs froze has the floorboards above creaked slightly. His heart pounding again, refusing to believe that he had been found. He strained to hear whether the footsteps were coming down the stairs. Silence. Another step, causing the floorboards to creak again. Then another. Followed by yet another.

Someone was about to come down the stairs and Ryhs was not waiting to be found. As he scrambled to climb back out of the window, he saw his nemesis outside, searching for him. Ryhs ducked his head back down and quickly took stock of his options.

The person upstairs obviously knew nothing of Ryhs hiding in the basement. His best move was to stay down here till nightfall and sneak out then. Another footstep. Finding some boxes that would serve well to hide him, Ryhs hugged his knees to his chest. Closing his eyes, he worked to bring his breathing under control.

As his heart slowed and his thoughts melted away, he stretched out his senses. This was a trick he had learned early on, in a similar situation. By calming himself down and removing all thoughts from his mind, Ryhs had the ability to extend his senses beyond those of most people. When he was in this zone, his mind could recall everything his eyes saw and his ears heard. He could make out details in the darkest of shadows and hear the most muffled of words. It was an incredible gift and it was the reason why Ryhs had become the most successful thief in the Warren.

"...valuable if you knew how to read it. It goes without saying that we need to get the stolen sapphire back now!"

A chair scraped. "The sapphire was hidden in a secret compartment. I was the only one who knew of that compartment's existence. I'm amazed that anyone found it."

"You sound like you admire the fucking thief. Whoever that bastard is, we will find him."

"I have to admit, I do. He either has the luck of the gods with him or he is exceptionally skilled. Either way, there's a little to envy. I have no doubt that you will track him down though. That, I do not envy." He chuckled. "A gem of that quality will surely be difficult to fence"

Panic struck Ryhs. He forced himself back into the calm state he had been in. He had no idea who the people above were but they sounded dangerous and they were right. He had been over the moon when he found the thumb-sized sapphire in the secret compartment. He had immediately taken the blue gem to the jeweler he used to fence his stolen gems and could still remember the look of astonishment on his face. He had taken a good long look under his loupe before saying a word.

Pursing his lips, he had said, "It's beautiful! This gem is going to be difficult to get rid of. It is surely going to be noticed, especially with the inscriptions on the surface. It will take some time to cut and polish them smooth." His face was grave. "Unfortunately, because of the inscriptions, I can only give you half of what I would normally give you for something this magnificient."

Ryhs had questioned him briefly about the inscriptions but the symbols had been foreign to both him and the jeweler. He had briefly considered taking it to another jeweler but, while he did not fully trust this one, he trusted the others who dealt with his kind even less. All the way to the jeweler, Ryhs could not stop thinking about his stroke of luck. The money from the sapphire would be enough to bring his plans with Dynira forward by weeks. He could not think straight and had told the jeweler that he would consider it, and left. He still had not figured out how he was going to fence it.

"We found the jeweler. He finally talked when we took his eye out." He laughed, loud and guttural.

"Well, where is it?"

"The boy had a change of mind when the jeweler only offered him half of what he wanted for it. We found the thief's friends. None of them talked except one. I have sent out Kesel and his men to wait for the boy."

"Only a matter of time now, then."

"He's bound to show up soon. I will skin the bastard alive."

Rhys opened his eyes. He could no longer keep control of himself. He felt helpless. He had no idea what had become of his friends or how a simple job had turned to this. He had no idea who these men were or why the sapphire was so valuable to them.  Anger and anguish took over.

It didn't take long before Ryhs began chafing in his prison. He decided to risk the wrath of Dynira's father and clambered out of the basement through the broken window. A passerby gave him a strange look and seemed like he was about to raise a shout. Ryhs did not wait to find out as he ran off toward the docks.

Weaving through the late afternoon crowd, Ryhs hoped to find out which of his friends betrayed him and at what price. He did not know what he would do to him but he would surely make him pay for this betrayal. They had a strict code within his band of thieves that they would never rat each other out, no matter what.

Almost at his destination, he turned into an alley. He would climb to the top of the roof and scout out the situation before he decided on his course of action. The poor construction of the buildings in this particular area leant themselves well to climbing, with many cracks between the timber boards that made the walls.

It took him less than a minute to climb up the two story building. He lay himself flat on the roof and inched forward. The clay tiles dug into his arms and ribs as he watched the front of the building across the crossroad, such as it was. The narrow streets intersected often and at random angles. Some buildings were even joined together at the second floor and traffic passed by in the tunnel created underneath. In the Warrens, space was in every short supply.

There was a man hanging out not too discretely in front of the safe house. Ryhs had no idea how they had found the house. All who knew were sworn to secrecy and no one ever used the front entrance to get into the house. Perhaps that was what made the house conspicuous. Ryhs made a mental note to ensure that that they used the front entrance of the next house they occupied.

Ryhs inched backward and climbed back down to the street. He turned away from the house, planning to circle around and use one of the secret entries from the sewer. With his heart pumping with adrenaline and his mind screaming at him to run as far away as possible, Rhys considered abandoning his friends. He quickly banished the thought from his mind. He would never betray his friends. That was not the man he wanted to become.

Ten minutes later, Ryhs ran through the tunnels below the Warren. Before the Warren had become known as the Warren, it used to be filled with just taverns and brothels. Its location next to the docks made it perfect for sailors, travellers and merchants. Over time, many travellers decided to stay on in the booming metropolis that Criitahk had been a century ago. Hearing the riches to be found in this region, many had followed. Soon, there was more people than there was jobs and the red light district turned seedier and more dangerous as vagrants and the unemployed filled it up.

Wealthier patrons now preferred accommodation and entertainment within the city's outer walls while sailors and travellers with lesser means still frequented the Warren's dockside offerings. Despite this downturn in fortune for the Warrens, one of the everlasting legacies of the golden days was a vast and still functioning sewage system. There had been instances of sewer tunnels collapsing when certain residents had decided to knock holes into the ground and into the tunnels themselves. This led to the creation of one of the few rules that was adhered to in the Warrens was that all new housing needed to be approved by the Housing Committee in order to ensure adequate sanitation.

Ryhs was frustrated for the first time since he had learned his way around the tunnels that they were as frustrating to navigate as the streets above. There were small markings on the walls at every intersection to signal which tunnel leads where. He did not know who had come up with the system but it was invaluable during his first couple of years. Now, he knew all the routes by heart, just as he did above ground. He sped past one intersection and turned down the next, knowing he was just a couple of minutes away from the house.

There only light source in the sewers was from the phosphorous algae that lined the walls of the tunnels. It took a few minutes for the eyes to adjust but it was as bright as day once they did. It was only because of this that Ryhs managed to skid to a stop before tumbling over a dark form lying still on the floor of the tunnel.

As he knelt down and peered closer at the person's face, he bit down a gasp. The face was covered in blood and had a large gash running down the left side but it unmistakably belonged to Ikima. He had known her for years and, while they had not been close, he was sure that she fancied him. The other boys laughed at him and told him that he had to reign in his imagination. Whether or not it was real, he had always carried a soft spot for her.

Gently lifting her head and cradling it on his lap, he brushed back some hair that was stuck to the dried blood on her face. "Ikima. Can you hear me?"

There was no response. He felt for a pulse on her neck. It was weak and her breathing was shallow. Ryhs knew he had to get her to the witchdoctor as soon as possible. If he did that, he would be abandoning his other friends, for it would take at least an hour for him to move her in this state. Even then, he had no idea whether she had the strength to hold on.

"They're all dead," a weak voice croaked. Ikima's eyes were open, the left one barely. "I'm so happy to see you."

"Sshhh," was all Ryhs could think to say. He started to gently rock her without realising that he was doing it.

"They raped Syo. In front of all of us. They raped her. She screamed and begged for them to stop. I couldn't take it any more and I told them what they wanted to know. I'm so sorry, Ryhs. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."

The horror of what Ikima was saying left Ryhs without words. As the words played over in his mind, he realised he did not want to know what he must. "Forgive you? Forgive you for what?"

"I can still hear her screams. They didn't stop after I told them. They said I was next."

"Ikema, I need you to focus. What did you tell them?"

"I ran for it. A couple of the boys bravely tried to distract them to let me get away. They cut them all into pieces. They hacked at them even after they were all dead."

"Ikema..." Trepidation, anger and hate was fast building to a boiling point. That feeling of helplessness returned.

"I don't know how I got away. I can't remember. I don't know how I'm alive. I don't know why I'm alive. Why am I still alive, Ryhs? Why me? They all died for me!"

"Ikema!" Ryhs snapped. Ikema's dazed eyes focused on Ryhs for a moment. "What did you tell them?"

Ikema let out a sob and shut her eyes tight. "Dynira..."

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