Chapter 3: Smoking Tower
Chapter 3: Smoking Tower
For the past few weeks, the guards have been roaming the streets nonstop looking for me because that damn Fire Seeker told them to. I hate that man. I hate him so much. Because of him and the panic he caused, the market was still out! STILL OUT! Even if the market was still around, I wouldn’t be able to take two steps out of the alley, because guess who the guards were looking for even more than they have been? If you guessed me, congrats! You win absolutely nothing, just like the amount of food I’ve been able to get myself.
“See ya’ until we get back!” some little kids had called out to me.
“Aren’t you guys sick of apples?” I called out.
“It’s food,” one of them said.
“Fair enough,” I shrugged.
“Just don’t leave. The guards are still looking for you. They just finished sweeping the Northern slums for you.” Haroj warned me before leaving.
“Fine. Whatever,” I said as I rolled in my hammock. I stared at the wall as I heard their footsteps march out into the streets. I closed my eyes as I tried to ignore the familiar rumblings that came from my stomach.
I was rudely awoken by the loud noises of guards in the alleyways. It sounded louder than thunder and more annoying too. I just wanted to sleep. At least when I’m asleep, I’m not as hungry. It’s annoying being awake and hungry, not to mention the loud noises.
“Not here, Fire Seeker, sir!” the guards chorused. Of course it was him. Who else could it be?
“She’s here somewhere. Keep searching,” Fire Seeker ordered.
“You are not going to find him by using such barbaric methods,” an old guy said.
“The other things we have tried didn’t work, Lord Ilidecian. ” I heard him say. I guess that was Lord Ilidecian. I never thought they would be so dumb to pass my alleyway so many times. Why were they even in the bad area of the town?
“Remind me once again why we are not only taking all the sixteen year old males, but searching for a single girl,” Lord Ilidecian asked. His voice annoyed me a lot.
“I have to agree with the Fire Seeker on this. Finding that girl seems to be a key in finding the Lord of Fire, ” Lord Sorak said.
“That seems useful. We get the girl—” Lord Ilidecian was like the soldiers, putting the pieces together.
“We are a step closer to finding the Lord of Fire.” Fire Seeker finished for him.
Wow, they were dumb.
The stampede came back with shouts, sobs, and several other voices came back. “These are all the sixteen-year-old males in the city. What do you want with them?” A guard asked the Fire Seeker.
“I’ll take care of the boys. You should go find that girl. Go, go, shoo,” Lord Ilidecian said. I heard Fire Seeker’s feet rush off, away from me. Against my better judgement, I went out of my ‘house’ to hear them better. I couldn’t tell you why, but something in me wanted to hear exactly what they were saying.
“I don’t think any of these males are the Lord of Fire,” a voice I never heard before said to the others.
“Neither do I,” Lord Sorak said.
“I agree,” Lord Ilidecian said.
“So, what does this mean?” Lord Sorak asked.
“Not quite sure,” other voice said.
“Well, we need to find him soon. I’m rather annoyed by the record temperatures we are facing,” Lord Ilidecian groaned. “It’s such a disappointment that the Fire Seeker we have is only a handicap.”
“Leave him be. It’s hard enough to be the only Fire Seeker,” Lord Sorak said.
“Oh, you’re taking the Fire Seeker’s side over mine?” Lord Ilidecian asked.
“What? No.” Lord Sorak sounded so confused.
“It seems like you are.” I looked down at my feet and I saw leaves and flowers and other plant-y things whizzing by. Weird part: there was no wind. Then again, Elemental Lords.
“Just because you are quite displeased with the situation, that does not mean you have the right to take it out on your equals,” other voice said. His voice was deep and rumbly. Like when Lord Ilidecian talked and that weird plant thing happened, the ground started to shake.
“Please stop. We are on the same side. We just wish to find the Lord of Fire as soon as possible. If we divide ourselves now, we can bid our chances of finding them farewell,” Lord Sorak said.
“Feh. You exaggerate as always,” Lord Ilidecian spat.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t find her,” the Fire Seeker was back. I immediately ran back into my ‘house’. I wasn’t taking my chances with him around.
“How do you know this girl could even use the Spirit of Fire?” Lord Sorak asked.
“I’m the Fire Seeker. I just know,” Fire Seeker explained.
“Comforting,” Lord Ilidecian scoffed.
“It’s the furthest we have gotten. You should describe her to us when we get back to the palace.” Lord Sorak just sounded like a nice guy. Like a genuinely nice guy.
“Thank you. I promise I will find the Lord of Fire,” Fire Seeker said.
“Escort these men to the Palace of Embers. We will keep them until the girl is found,” Lord Ilidecian ordered, completely ignoring Fire Seeker’s words.
“Understood, Lord Ilidecian,” Fire Seeker said. “Let’s go.” There was loud clanks of armor and lots of feet shuffling against the ground. Everything fell silent once again. After a few moments, I started to chuckle. That evolved into a howl of laughter. I just couldn’t believe that that happened right outside my ‘home’. That was great.
I could barely contain my joy when I saw the market actually going on. I never thought that I would miss all that noise, all the pushing and shoving. Even if it was only for a few days, I would never take the market for granted ever again. I was so relieved that I wouldn’t have to eat apples for breakfast, lunch and dinner for another day. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the apples; they were really good, but I needed a little bit of variety. I swiped a small loaf of bread and a small wedge of cheese. I wasn’t going to be greedy, so I just kept with the food I had and went back to my ‘house’. I ripped apart the loaf of bread and bit into the creamy cheese. I continued the cycle until there was no bread or cheese left. I let out a gigantic burp before settling back to fall asleep. . .
. . . but of course, guards had to ruin it by running by. Judging on the amount of rumbling there was, there was a whole ton of them. I rushed out of alleyway to look on what was going on. I reached the market place and saw the guards spread throughout the crowd, taking girls my age without even questioning them. They didn’t do this gracefully, oh no. They were dragging these girls by their arms, legs and even their hair. I backed away in fear. With my luck, I bumped right into a guard.
“Hi, I’m just going to go.” I tried to walk away from them but the guard I just bumped into grabbed my arm.
“You’re coming with us,” the guard declared.
“No.” I shook my head. I pulled my arm out of his grip. His grip wasn’t too tight so it wasn’t hard. I took off as fast as I could, not wanting to be dragged just like those girls but because I was sort of a wanted criminal. Yeah, I was screwed.
“Found a runner!” the guard yelled before he started to run after me. I ran through the alleyways, hoping the twisting and turning will make them give up on me and find me way too difficult to actually go after. When I rounded a corner, I saw more were waiting for me.
“This is rather unnecessary,” I commented before running away again. I ran right into the next alleyway. It took a lot of fancy footwork to get them off my tail. It was annoying that they were actually keeping up for once. I wasn’t keeping track of the alleyways and ended up inside a dead end.
“Look. We don’t mean you any harm. We’re just conducting an investigation,” one of the guards called out to me. He was making his movements slow like he was talking to a wild animal that would attack him whenever he got close.
Well, he wasn’t wrong in some aspects.
“So that screaming was just for show? You know, when you dragged girls by their hair?” I rolled my eyes, sizing up the walls and how deep in trouble I was.
“Just come with us.”
“Fine.” I sighed and walked up to the guard. He relaxed and held his hand out. I took his hand and then pulled on it with everything I had to bring him down. Once he was low enough, I was able to jump onto him to gain that height to reach the lowest windowsill. I pulled myself up to stand on that before leaping to the other wall and then managed to get to the top. I leaned over the edge to look down at the slack-guards. To be honest, I surprised myself as well.
“Come down! Or else we’ll get in trouble!” The guards yelled.
“Yes, because I did all of that exercise to just come down because you asked,” I scoffed.
“Get out the ladders, rope, anything!” They shouted to each other. It was fun to see them scramble so much.
“Why do you have to get an alleyway child like me? I mean, the Fire Seeker would much prefer fancy girls,” I called down to them. “I think you should just give up on me, honestly. Just let me go and never bother talking to me, looking at me, do anything with me ever again.”
“This isn’t a matter of his harem. We were just ordered to find every girl between the ages of fifteen and nineteen,” the guards said.
“Sure sounds like a matter of the harem to me,” I said.
“It isn’t. Now come down,” the guards said.
“Nah. I’d rather not,” I shook my head. “Bye!” I shouted before running across the rooftops. I ran to the edge and jumped to the next one without even thinking. It came naturally to me. Something about being high into the air just felt better.
“AFTER HER!” the guard shouted. I heard the clanks of their armor as they followed me from the ground.
There are pros and cons with running on the rooftops. Pros: the guards are totally unable to get you as long as you keep moving. Cons: Once you hit a large street, it’s impossible to jump across and then the guards finally get their ladder and start climbing. I took too long trying to figure out where to go because I thought it would take them forever to get onto the roof. I didn’t take into account that they could take off their damn armor. I tried to run back, but guards were already on the roof with me, driving me into the corner of the roof.
“We tried to be nice--” the guard leading the charge said as he got closer to me, sword pointed right at my stomach.
“You must not be popular if that’s your ’nice’.” I looked behind me, trying to find any way out. Was I too high up to jump to the ground? Even if it weren’t, there were guards crawling around the house like ants.
“Come quietly and we may not hurt you.” the guard glared at me.
“I never do anything quietly,” I said before turning to the street again. I took a deep breath. I only had one option: the clotheslines. I jumped off the edge of the roof and reached out to the line. I tightened my grip on the line, dangling there like the laundry on it. I looked at the guards; I would never tire of them being slack jawed. I started to swing myself back and forth so climbing across was easier.
“You buffoons! Cut the rope!” One of the guards from the street shouted at the guards on the roof. I pulled myself across even faster, throwing the laundry out of my way. I didn’t get across fast enough because the line suddenly went limp and I went swinging. I held onto the line because it was the only thing keeping me from death or whatever they were going to do to me. Pretty sure it’s worse than death. I smacked right into the next house. That really hurt, but I couldn’t stop there. After making sure I didn’t break anything, I started to climb the rope to get to the roof.
“Fire at the rope! Cut it! But keep the girl alive! Fire Seeker’s orders!” The head-honcho guard shouted. I looked down to see arrows firing at me. Well, more the rope, but close enough. Eventually, they got sick of arrows and started to throw Spirit-damned spears. I don’t know how or why they had so many spears, but it was really annoying. Not to mention that they were lousy shots. I nearly got to the top, I was nearly free when fate said “nah, bitch.” One of them was such a bad shot that instead of hitting the rope, they went right through my side. There was a collective gasp as people saw my blood paint the wall and stain my clothes. I slid down the rope, barely stopping myself right above the guards’ reach.
“You need medical attention! Come on down!” The guards’ voices were wavering now. Didn’t know why. They never cared about me before.
“Go to hell!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. With a surge of energy, I managed to forget that there was a spear stuck in me for the time being and I climbed to the top of the building. I yanked the spear out of my side. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I guess it was all that energy because right after, I wobbled down to my knees, breathing heavily.
“Get the ladder!” the guards shouted again.
“Please, stop! You don’t need to die!” A guard was shouting at me. “Please, let us help you!”
I leaned over the edge to look at the guards. I flicked my hand out, letting my blood rain on the guards. “I’ll repeat myself: go to hell!”
“She’s actually insane,” one of the guards commented as I wobbled to my feet, using the spear as a support. I started to run along the rooftops.
“Get the Fire Seeker! Someone, go get him!” A guard shouted as they started to follow me by the streets again. I tried to jump to another row of houses off to the left, but the gaping hole in my side prevented me from actually jumping. It was more like I tripped off the roof. Luckily for me, the buildings were close enough that I could stick the spear out into the wall and use that to get down to the ground instead of becoming a bloody mess on the road. I dropped down to the ground, spear falling on top of me. I got back onto my feet despite that being practically impossible. I walked to the door and slammed my hand on the door, leaving a bright red handprint on the door. A guy around Haroj’s age opened the door.
“Mother!” The boy called out. I heard the guards’ armor and I pushed passed the boy to receive a scream from the mother who was coming to the door. I closed the door behind me with the spear end while clutching the hole in my side. The boy went to his mother, clutching her leg.
“Is there anyone else in this house?” I choked out, feeling weaker by the second.
“What do you want with us?!” the mother shouted at me.
“GET OUT OF THERE NOW!” guards shouted at me from the outside. I rushed past the mother and went up the stairs. I looked at the rooms, hoping to find the hardest one to find. I looked behind me and realized it didn’t really matter because there was a literal trail showing my every movement, so I went to the first door and opened it. I saw it was a cozy room with a bed big enough for two. It wasn’t nothing too fancy, but it was nice. I touched the bed frame, leaving a blood trail on the wood. I knew I shouldn’t but I had to. I flopped onto the bed, dying the cloth crimson, but didn’t really care. It was soft, comfortable, luxurious. I sighed with relief; at least I was going to die having lied on a real bed at least once. I looked at the ceiling as I bled out. I always thought I would die of starvation or disease. I guess I had thought about getting beaten up, but never impaled. I laughed; life sure was unpredictable. After I was done laughing, I started crying. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be taken to the palace either. What was I supposed to do? I was bleeding out on a bed with the guards coming after me.
Then don’t die, something told me.
I wiped my eyes with my blood covered hand. “I don’t think I have a choice.” I shook my head, laughing.
There’s always a choice.
“We’ve got you surrounded!” a guard shouted at me as he burst through the door. I felt everything become numb. “Get the Fire Seeker up here!”
I felt myself shake with fear and the energy flow through me again. For the first time in my life, I prayed to the Spirits to help me out. I closed my eyes and prayed as hard as I could. I was answered with screams along with a shout “GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!”
I opened my eyes and saw fire eating away at the door frame and it started to gnaw at the ceiling. The guards pushed at each other, trying to duck through the flames.
“What about the girl?!” one of the guards shouted.
“She’s dead anyway! Leave her!” another guard pushed him out.
“Fire Seeker! It’s not safe here!” a guard shouted.
“I’m fine! Get everyone else out!” Apparently the Fire Seeker shouted back. I saw a figure beyond the flames run towards me. The fire grew more and more violent as it swirled around me. The bed caught fire and soon I was sitting on a bed of flames. Red, orange and gold swirled around me. Mainly red. I couldn’t tell if it was the heat or the blood loss but I became really sleepy. I guess I just lost enough blood not to feel anything as the flames wrapped around me. I looked out to a figure, just standing there burning with me. I wasn’t sure if he was a guard or some nut that really wanted to go in a painful way. I did an obscene hand gesture at him before flopping down on the bed, accepting my fate. I wasn’t sure, but I was pretty sure I heard laughing before everything went black.