The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 50

Roddy knocked on the door to the school as the sun was sending reddish orange streaks of fading light across the rooftops. He removed his hat as the door opened.

The lady answered the door, telling her teen-aged students to hush.

“Yes?” she asked. Her face was lined with the marks of time but her eyes were sharp and took in his meager clothing and aw shucks facial expression in one fast tick. She had measured him. He wondered what she had made of him in his dirty overalls, weather beaten hat, and dim, slack-mouthed face.

“Ma’am,” he began, affecting a local accent to the best of his ability. “I’m here to ask if you’d come meet my son. I’d like him to school with you.”

“You don’t look like a local,” she said, brow bending in a v shape. “Are you new?”

He nodded deeply, bouncing his head up and down and affecting a wide, dumb grin. “That’s correct. Me and him are gonna be moving in to one of the old husk houses.”

The locals called the abandoned noble vacation homes Husk Houses. He had picked up the phrase from frequenting the market and pub over the past few nights. He may have been simple but he wasn’t stupid.

“Which one?”

He turned and pointed up the path, towards the edge of the village. “That one over yonder. Past the square and up that hill there.”

“Burm keep?”

He nodded. Researching the old place had been difficult. He only knew of its name from a dilapidated sign at the base of the hill. “That’s the one.”

“How old is your son?”

“About ten cycles. I ain’t too sure, actually. His momma left us a while back. Not much money in tending land nowadays. She always kept up with that better.”

She pursed her lips and then took a glance back at her students. “And he’s at the house now?”

Roddy nodded.

“And your name?”

“Russ Cinna, ma’am.”

She eyed him a few moments longer before tell him to wait just a moment and turning back to her students. The door shut.

Through the thin wood he heard the youngsters fighting with their teacher. He surmised they were advising against leaving with this new strange man. By the tone of her voice, she was trying to assure them that she was safe, that she didn’t need help.

Finally, the door opened.

“Ok, Mr. Cinna, lead the way.”

Roddy looked over her shoulder to a threesome of very disappointed and weary looking teenagers. Must be some teacher for them to care so much, he thought.

They walked up the path, through the village market, and past the small Sigil post that marked the entry to the village. He turned up an inclined path and she followed.

“What kind of education has your son had, Mr. Cinna?”

“Wife usually took care of that. That’s why I wanna make sure he continues down that path. Maybe even past twelve cycles. He’s a smart boy. Smarter than me for sure.”

“I can teach until they reach sixteen.”

“That sounds fine.”

“So you’re planning to stay a while, then?”

“That’s the plan,” he replied, eying the house in the distance. He had cased the surrounding area the previous day. Besides refuse littering the floors from adolescent thrill seekers and a few broken boards and windows, the house was in decent shape. He had placed a few lit candles an hour previous to knocking on the school door to ensure the place, at least from mid-range, would look inhabited.

“I haven’t seen you around much,” she told him as they grew ever nearer, the sun now beginning its slow fall below the horizon.

“Been working on making the place livable,” he responded.

“Yeah, it’s been empty for a while.”

“Yup,” he replied, not far at all now. He checked the front window and indeed, a small shadow sat at the table. The small boy facsimile had cost him one back of horse feed, a roll of twine, and lots of hay. The feed had cost him two gold but the rest he had swiped from a nearby farm that itself looked both bland and abandoned, its only point of interest a small headstone with the Imperial seal carved on it. It had made him pause, but only a moment. He wasn’t one for mysteries.

He motioned for her to step in front of him as they neared the front steps. “He’s just inside. He’ll be glad to meet you.”

She gave him a small smile, stepped in front of him, and then saw that she was about to interview a tied up sack of feed. With a quickness he had not anticipated, she whirled around and grabbed his face. Her hand turned bright yellow and searing flame light up his vision. The pain was beyond his own vocabulary. He howled, pulled the thick, serrated knife, and lifted it up.

She saw the flash before she felt the pain. The knife had cleanly separated her wrist from her arm. Her severed hand dropped from his face. Elara thrust her other hand to his chest and more flames erupted.

Roddy jumped back, slashing the blade across her face, leaving a long gash over the bridge of her nose. A guttural growl echoed from deep within her belly and she charged him.

He met her charge with his feet planted wide apart. She met him shoulder to shoulder and he pushed forward, driving her back. As they fell forward, he brought the knife in and out of her belly, in, out, in, out in rapid succession, deeper with every thrust. She gasped as her internal organs were flaying.

“Lottie sends his love,” he growled.

To his shock, she smiled and spat in his face. “Tell that son of a bitch that his reckoning is coming,” she cackled, trying to put her burning touch back on him.

Roddy grimaced and continued his stabbing. She eventually fell, gasping for air, blood coating every surface around them. His face and chest were searing. He could smell his own seared flesh.

Roddy looked down on her, watched her take her last gasping, shuddering breath. After confirming that her breathing had stopped, he walked through the doorway and kicked over the small table. The lit candle toppled over and he stayed long enough to ensure the fire would spread without dying.

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