flASH fiction: Volume 4: Made for Different Things (7)

Made For Different Things
Jason Pere

“Shhh, pay that sound no mind. Just keep listening to my story. We have not even gotten to the best part yet,” Pratt said gently to Sarah. He tightened the embrace he held around the girls quivering shoulders. The gesture was enough to pull the frightened child’s eyes to his for a moment. That was all the brother Councilman required. With a glance from his soft comforting brown eyes he delivered Sarah from the madness outside.

“Is it really all true? People say that you red cloaks just make up all the stories that you tell,” Sarah said with a heartbreakingly innocent voice. The words fell from her lips like the first sublime snow flurries of early winter.

“Oh yes indeed. Every last bit is the truth. If you do not believe me then you can read it for yourself. More than one library has a book on the subject. When so many different people have the same story to tell over the years then it is hard not to believe something,” Pratt said confidently. The sound of steel on steel rang outside of the covered wagon and he had to fight to push his words though the commotion. He could not compete with the volume of the noise but his conviction and intensity was enough to hold Sarah’s focus.

“I can not read,” Sarah said with a frown.

“Oh well than when you learn to read, you can find many stories written in the books about the Royals but for now you can listen to me,” Pratt said with a smile. A scream came for nearby but was cut short and ended in a crushed wet gargling sound. The Councilman pulled back the canvas flap of the wagon enough to peek out. He saw Sir Liam Boradcliff standing over the source of the scream and Pratt winced squeamishly as he let the canvas fall back into place. “Do you know why they were called the Royals?” He asked Sarah kindly as he tried to forget the image of the Helm Breaker sounded by mangled dead men.

“No?” responded the grain merchant’s youngest daughter. Sarah started to reach for the canvas of the wagon to look outside but she was quickly stopped by a protective had from Brother Pratt.

“It is because they were possessed of more power than any King living today. In the beginning of our world they were the ones who could speak with the Phoenixes and the Dragons. It was their bargaining with the great creatures of the past that saw Argaia become fruitful and prosperous. The Royals are where our magic came from. They filled all of Argaia with splendor and fantastic sights,” Pratt said with an engaging shake of his head.

“But there is not so much great magic today. I have never seen any magic myself. Father says he has seen some magic but not often,” Sarah said warily.

“Ah that is because that the magic of the Royals has grown weaker over time,” Pratt said with a raised finger.

“Why?” Sarah asked with baited curiosity.

“Nobody knows for certain. The reason that their magic has started to lose it’s power is a mystery,” said the Councilman with a shrug.

“Are there any Royals left?” Sarah wondered aloud.

“You know, I wondered that very same thing. I can say that I have never met one and I do not know of anyone what has met one, but I like to believe that maybe some of these ancient beings are hiding in some unexplored corner of the world,” said Pratt with a wistful hope resonating in his voice.

Sarah and Pratt jumped in their seats as the flap of the wagon was thrown open. Pratt felt his senses come back under his control as he recognized Tinaca standing at the back of the wagon. His skin was still on fire and his blood was still pulsing in his ears form the sudden interruption. The Councilman took in the disheveled sweaty state of his traveling companion and noted a few traces of blood splattered on her bare arms. Most of the red stains on her body had come from somebody else.

“Is it over?” Pratt asked Tinaca.

“It is,” She responded amide some quick panting while she attempted to regain her breath.

Pratt turned his focus back to Sarah and managed to recapture her wandering attention with his bottomless kind eyes. “I have to go for a little while and talk with my friends. You are going to be safe inside here,” He said to the child in his arms.

“I do not want you to leave me alone,” Sarah said with alarm filling her voice.

“It will not be for long. I will be back to check on you soon. I just need to talk outside for a bit,” Pratt said with a comforting pet of Sarah’s long blonde hair. He leaned into the girl and smiled big and wide. “If you promise to stay right here and keep the flaps closed up tight, I will give you some hot chocolate when I come back. Have you ever had hot chocolate?” Pratt asked.

“No. I do not know what that is?” Sarah responded with the twinkle of anticipation in her eyes.

“I will just tell you that it is as good as it sounds,” chimed Brother Pratt as he slipped out the back of the wagon and secured the canvas flaps.

The Councilman looked over the aftermath of the ambush. It appeared that none of the covered wagons had lost their cargo to the raiders. The travelers path lay cluttered with the bodies of deceased brigands. Many of the would be thieves had met their end by the blades of the caravan guard but Pratt noted that a disproportionately large number of the bandits had been ended by swings from the Helm Breaker’s great maul or peppered with arrows from Tinaca’s quiver. “Did they make off with anything?” he asked softly while taking in the scene of the brief but bloody engagement.

“Not a scrap. There were not well organized. The caravan guards were up to the challenge as it was but with us riding along they raiders never stood a chance. As soon as that lot saw Sir Liam fighting against five on one odds and winning they all quickly lost the steel in their spine and ran back into the wilds,” Tinaca said as she let her eyes wander over the field for any enemy that still clung to life.

“Desperate men trying not to starve to death, then?” Pratt said with a bitter tinge of remorse in his voice.

“Seems as though that was the case. Probably will not be the last of this sort we see on the way to the Bloodwoods,” Tinaca responded with a nod. She began to scour the field and start retrieving arrows from the bodies of the men she had killed.

“How sad it is that men have to resort to such means just to try and fill their bellies,” Pratt lamented.

Tinaca said nothing as Pratt walked beside her. She continued retrieving spent arrows and cleaning the blood for the shafts that could be reused. The Helm Breaker’s apprentice looked back at the Councilman who was starting to lag behind as she walked the field. “Are you hurt?” she inquired with a softer cadence than was usual for her voice.

“No I am not injured but…” Pratt started but abruptly stopped.

“What is it?” Tinaca asked with piqued interest making her voice.

“Just feeling a bit guilty. I forget how useless I am in the middle of a fight. Makes me remember what it felt like to be an apprentice under Father Mazeon,” Pratt said with shame as he returned to his childhood tick of picking at the dirt with his toe.

“That is not true,” Tinaca immediately responded with an out of charter fervor permeating her words as she took several forward steps into Pratt’s immediate space.

“What do mean. I hid in a wagon while you and Sir Liam fought to protect us all,” Pratt said with a reflexive step backwards as Tiniaca encroached on his person.

“You did more than hide. You protected a little girl. If one of them had found you in the back of the wagon, would you have let any harm come to her?” Tinaca said as she pointed at one of the dead raiders with the end of her longbow.

“No,” Pratt said after a short moment to think.

“And you also protected her from seeing what happened out here. This is not the sort of thing that is meant for young eyes. I know,” Tinaca said with well matured silent pathos she stared down the Councilman with her dark and troubled eyes.

“I guess she is not the first girl I saved either,” Pratt said as he reminisced on the first day that he and Tinaca crossed paths. His words put a smile on Tinaca’s face. Pratt blinked in shock as he saw the corners of her thin lips curl upwards. He raced to think of the last time he witness’s his longtime companion express any hint of joy and proceeded to fail horribly in that endeavor. He found that a smile suited Tinaca quite well, taking her sullen way and transforming it into something beautiful.

“No she is not,” Tinaca responded as her face was lined with nostalgic reminiscing. “If you want to learn how to fight, we can show you. In case you feel the need to join us in the fray latter on,” she said after a few moments of uncomfortable silence.

“No, I think not. If the Vermillion Council wished its brothers to be proficient in Warcraft then it would be so,” Pratt responded almost instantly. “Besides, I do not think that I have the will to end the life of another human being,” he continued with a more vulnerable measure in his words while he looked at the body of one of the raiders. The corpse was a boy who must have been younger than the junior Councilman by several years. Pratt had to look away from the boys lifeless eyes as they seemed to cast vengeful accusations back at him. It was wrong for a hungry boy to die so young and so angry.

“Perhaps not humans but what of chimera. Any qualms about ending one of them?” Tinaca queried with an arched eyebrow.

Pratt thought of the twisted beast brought on by the red rains. His fingers started to tingle and his ears began to burn while he contemplated killing claws and razor teeth. The fantasy of meeting one of the creatures in battle quickly threatened to break Pratt’s resolve. He needed escape. “Are there any wounded?” he asked.

“Yes there are some,” Tinaca responded.

“I should go and tend to them,” he said. Pratt gave a quick glance at the contents kept in the apothecary’s pouch on his waist. He made a quick mental inventory of materials that he would need to resupply at his next option.

Tinaca shook her head in the affirmative. “Now I am the one who feels useless now that the fighting is done,” she said with a squint and purse of her lips.

“I guess we are made for different things,” Pratt said tenderly. “There is something you can do. The girl in the back of the wagon, Sarah. She should be taken to her father. Would you? I think he was up at the first or second wagon when the ambush started.”

“I will,” Tinaca responded dutifully.

“If you can, keep her from seeing any of the dead that still lay,” Pratt said with a gentle protective air in his words. His face went long in recall as he remembered his promise to the merchant’s daughter. “Oh and see that she gets this. Tell her I will make her a cup before the caravan gets on the move again,” Pratt said as he handed Tinaca a pouch filled with chocolate shavings.

Tinaca glanced down at the pouch and blessed Pratt with another smile before departing. Her eyes flickered with something deep, kind, even maternal for a moment before she turned away. The Councilman lingered in the moment and found himself thoroughly enjoying the image of Tinaca’s face breaking from her hollow mannerism and portraying warmth. He knew it would soon become a favored memory for him to visit. The sweet moment faded as Pratt was returned to the present by the smell of death setting in. The councilman readied his medicinal items and followed the sound of wounded men crying out in pain.

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