Event 2: Darkness Inside
Kafei has always been a favorite character of mine and I don't believe I did his backstory justice. Even with this 'vignette' event chapter, it still isn't enough to encapsulate everything that he is as a character. However, I wanted to seriously juxtapose the calm, cool, experienced demeanor with which we encounter him within the story to where him and his Bomber Gang were young boys and completely inexperienced with the art of warfare and killing. These are innocent boys intruding upon a man's war and I wanted to reflect that as best and as briefly as I could without drawing too much attention to it and beating it over your head. I wanted readers to see the start of darkness within the group and where it stemmed from and why Jim and Clarence had such a different disposition from the other three kids within the Bomber Gang. This can be read separate from the main story or between Acts 1 and 2, prior to Event 1.
Event 2: Darkness Inside
He could smell the smoke and the acrid stench of burning flesh long before he saw the plumes of billowing smoke rising beyond the crest of rocky cliffs. He scrunched up his nose in preparation for what was going to be a rather uncomfortable recon into Kakariko. It had been a good fortnight since the traumatic attack on their home in Ordona but the only thoughts on Kafei's mind were of Anju.
He frowned at the memory of his father and mother scoffing at his notion of love with Anju. They called it puppy love and that it would never last. Even though they had seen each other off and on for two cycles during his trading trips to Kakariko, he was never more sure of anyone or anything in his life. He loved Anju, even though he didn't fully comprehend all that it could or would entail.
He hated dragging the boys into this mess and indeed decided it best to leave Ashley behind with Toby and Ivan. The poor boy was buried under a pile of corpses of his best friends, family and loved ones. Everyone he ever knew was murdered before his eyes and their blood stained both his clothes and his mind. Ever since that day he refused to speak and would stare listlessly at some unknown point on the horizon. Without further recourse and anxiously wanting to see Anju and get her out of the path of the incoming army, Kafei proceeded to split the Bomber Gang and take just Jim and Clarence with him.
Dread gripped his heart as he and the others dove into the shrubbery at the edge of the river meandering alongside the mountain face that bordered Kakariko. A horse mounted patrol surged past them, rumbling the ground and jittering their hearts at their passing. They were on a vector towards the seething mass just west of them. Upon seeing that frightening visage of death and despair, they decided to stop traveling by day and proceed only at dusk to avoid being seen.
A twinge of fear coursed through Kafei's body as they slowly ascended the steps up to the town entrance. They could hear raucous laughter and the crackling blaze of bonfires in the distance. He cursed softly under his breath as he realized he should not have brought Jim or Clarence along with him. These were adult soldiers, warriors who would show no pity to young children such as them. He cringed at the sight of a mutiliated boy at his feet, splayed out with limbs broken at awkward angles and a gaping fissure where they had raped him.
"I think you two better stay back and wait for me at the river." Kafei turned to them with intense concern in his eyes.
Tearing his eyes away from the descrated corpse, Clarence shook his head vehemently at Kafei. "Nuh-uh, we promised we'd be here for you."
Jim tightened his red handband even more as a serious look spread across his face, "Yeah. That's right! We Bombers gotta stick together!" He gave Kafei a shaky thumbs up, completely unsure if it was meant in all sincerity.
Kafei returned the thumbs up with one of his own, a sorrowful smile on his lips. His heart swelled with pride at these young boys, his friends. They were not even eight cycles old and they showed courage well beyond their years. "Very well, stick close to me and do exactly as I say. We have to assume everyone is an enemy up ahead." They all nodded and crouched low as they followed him up the steps.
They rounded the corner and spied two raging pyres, one in the central square of the village and one further up the hill leading to Death Mountain. Cries of women and children were heard from within several of the remaining structures that were not burnt to the ground. They slinked along the edge of the rockface towards the bushes flanking the tattered welcome sign, broken and strewn across the dirt. Thinking the white particles mixed in with the dirt odd, Kafei picked up some of the earth and tasted it. He spit it out in disgust.
"Salt." Kafei grimaced with disdain. "They are destroying the land too."
He glanced around to see if there was a clear path towards the inn where Anju worked. He could see the light from the fire casting a bright swath of light along the path leading up to the inn. Even if they stayed alongside the border wall, they would be spotted for sure. He groaned as he saw there was a patch of darkness between the two fires along the northside of the village where there was a lot of foot traffic between them but more chances of remaining hidden.
"Stay with me and do not make a sound." Kafei warned.
With a signal of his hand, the three boys darted low through the tall grass towards the northern rise. The loud laughing and baying at filthy jokes masked any sound they would have made. Kafei assisted Jim and Clarence up the high hill before climbing up himself. With their backs against the cold plaster of a house which was most likely a store at one point, they peered around the corner to see the way ahead.
Directly across the main thoroughfare was a dark alley between two buildings and then a fence they could jump over to get to the eastern side where the windmill was perched. It was only then that he noticed the lower half had been blown clear open and multitudes of rock and rubble were strewn outwards in a pattern of uncontrolled chaos. Kafei wondered just what exactly had transpired in this village when it was attacked.
Creeping slowly up towards the main stairs, formed brick embedded into the dirt to give off an air of civilization, a group of men staggered past them within a few inches of their position. Kafei toppled back onto his rump as he spread out his arms to prevent Jim and Clarence from pitching forward into their view. His chest was heaving from the unexpected surprise and shock at almost getting caught.
Narrowing his eyes at the drunken gaggle, he looked back down the hill towards the central plaza and deduced no one else was forthcoming. With another signal they scurried across the path and into the safety of the shadows on the other side. A cough from above jolted their nerves as they realized a man was situated atop the raised watch tower in the center of town. He had not seen them yet but the slight movement was enough for him to take a closer look at the ground beneath him.
"We need something to protect us!" Clarence whispered harshly.
"I know!" Kafei hissed back, slightly irked that a kid five cycles younger than him was telling him what they needed. He never expected this much opposition in trying to reach Anju or he would have rethought how they'd go about doing this.
The soldier grunted as he began to make his way laboriously down the steep ladder. Cursing again, Kafei motioned them to follow him up the fence. Jim slipped twice as they clambored their way up the wooden fence. With extreme effort, Kafei flipped himself over before hanging firmly on the other side before assisting Jim and Clarence over. A quick shout from above signaled the worst.
"Hey!" The man cried out, pointing at them dangling off the other side of the fence. "Stop right there!" The brute picked up his pace climbing down.
"Go! Go!" Kafei panicked. Kafei hopped down swiftly before looking up to catch a falling Jim.
Kafei landing with a wheeze with the wind being knocked out from him as Jim landed squarely on his chest. Clarence cried out in pain as he dropped down from a height higher than he should have and sprained his ankle upon impact. Stumbling towards the brick wall nearby to steady himself, he looked up at Kafei with tears welling in his eyes. Glancing up to see the glare from the man peeking through the holes of the fence, Kafei signaled everyone into the nearby door. The man swore and ran down the hill around the building to thwart their escape.
"Barricade the door! Now!" Kafei cried out.
"Barri…what?" Clarence asked, confused at the big word.
"Block it!" Kafei yelled, quickly pushing a table in front of the door, unsure if it would actually hold.
With seconds, the two young boys were trying their best to drag chairs and boxes they could manage to carry to the door. None of them knew how much time they had left before the man rounded the bend and began pounding on the door. Rapidly snooping around room, Kafei realized they were in a storage room of some sort. He noticed dangling hooks and other implements of slaughter hanging from the ceiling beams. Was this a butcher shop of some sort? Without a second thought, he yanked down two metal rods with forked hooks at the ends.
The banging was almost immediate. Kafei was thankful that the din outside was loud enough to mask the imminent confrontation about to happen. Jim and Clarence began whimpering as they backed up past him into the dark corners of the room. The door spintered open as the top half slanted forward over the table. The brute readied an arrow and began to take aim at Kafei through the opening before letting it soar.
On instinct, Kafei raised the dual hooks before being knocked to the ground at the force of the impact clanging off cold steel. He looked in shock at the metal and blanched at the dull pain traveling up his arm. A splintering of wood forced his attention up as the man ripped open a bigger gap with a hatchet. Shakily getting back up to his feet, Kafei was determined to meet the man head on, despite the frantic pounding of his heart. Images of the massacre in Ordona flashed through his mind.
Storming through the door and sliding off the table top, the limber man raise his bow a second time, ensuring he would not miss. Deep down in his heart, Kafei knew that he would not be able to rely on dumb luck to save himself this time. The stance and air of confidence in the brute's posture screamed experience. He knew that no matter which direction he moved that the man would be able to compensate and pierce him through.
"Leave him alone!" Jim screamed from the side.
It was enough of a diversion to provide an opening for Kafei to exploit. He ducked low and ran straight at the man before swinging his right hook towards the man's shin. Recovering hastily from the distraction, the arrow loosed and whisked by nicking off violet hairs from Kafei's head. The hook locked around the man's calf, unbalancing him and bringing him to the ground. Without thinking, the second hook rammed down into the man's brain as the man hit the floor. The eyes dilated before the body went still.
"What did you do?" Jim exclaimed.
Kafei snapped back to reality as he saw the handiwork before him. His chest was undulating heavily at the exertion and adrenaline of it all. He crumpled over and wretched all over the man, emptying the bowels of his stomach. He just killed a man. The very idea was alien to him and he was quite unsure of how to take it. Trembling furiously as he ripped the hooks out of the grunt with a sickening schluk, he wiped the steel down on the man's tunic.
Unsure of what else to say to explain what just happened to Jim, Kafei stared blankly out the fractured door. "We still need to find Anju." He gazed down at the quiver of arrows and bow. "Please take that with us." He gestured to Clarence as he picked up the hatchet to toss to Jim.
Awkwardly half carrying and dragging the rather large bow beside him, Clarence followed Jim and Kafei back out into the night; none heard the low moans coming from the man they thought had just died. Numb to the world around him, Kafei focused on the blood pounding in his ears as they skirted the eastern edge of the village, making their way around to the backside of the inn. Why did all these men commit such atrocious deeds? What possible reason could they have to be so vile? These questions began burning a rut through his mind as they came up on the knee high picket fence that originally was meant to be a pen for chickens.
Kafei knew something was wrong the moment he entered the enclosure. A body was half obscured by the hay bale situated alongside the building. Disbelief and horror was evident in his face as he beheld the form of Anju on the ground before him, her clothes shredded and blood stained. He collapsed to his knees beside her, the twin steel hooks clattering to the ground. His eyes roved the length of her body, soaking in the insanity of what was done to her. It was clear she had been kept alive for hours in excrutiating torment before the end.
A ragged cry erupted from his soul. His fingers shook with rage and grief as they traced up her body to the dragon lily pin he had made for her. It was strangely untouched. Unclipping it from her breast, he gripped it tightly within his fist as his body was racked with the force of his moans. He rocked back and forth as he covered her prone form with his own, running his hand through her ginger hair and kissing her bloodied cheeks over and over again, whispering undying words of love and sorrow. Her eyes stared unknowingly and unfeelingly upwards.
"Kafei…" Jim wavered, stepping back a bit as he tapped Kafei's shoulder.
"What?" Kafei wailed miserably as he wiped the tears from his eyes and faced the direction Jim was looking. Clarence was struggling in vain to hold the large bow with an arrow loosely nocked and ineffectively secure on the string, it would have looked almost comical if the boy weren't dead serious.
Staring at the man he has just killed, Kafei uttered something incomprehenseively before gripping the two hooks and rising to meet the soldier. His mind reeled that the man had recovered at all, let alone show no signs of injury beyond the trail of dried blood from where he punctured through his skull.
"Three little boys thinking they can be heroes. What could you possibly hope to accomplish?" The man snarled, licking his lips at the thought of young, unadulterated flesh before him.
A yelp from Clarence swiveled their gaze onto him as he accidently let the arrow fly. It soared true and rammed itself into the man's chest. Knowing the opportunity wouldn't come again, Kafei strode forward and jabbed both hooks into the man's throat before pulling them apart, ripping the neck clear open. Gurgling on steaming blood, the man lurched forward at the youth before hitting the ground.
"What do we do now?" Jim whispered fretfully, his eyes on the central plaza where the rest of the men had yet to notice their skirmish.
"Can they all come back to life?" Clarence speculated, having recovered unusually fast from his first violent act upon another.
Breathing heavily as he looked upon the men with hatred, something deep inside Kafei snapped. He spat savagely. "It doesn't matter. I am burning them all to the ground."