The sun was almost covered behind the hills when Damien reached the last house. His cart’s wheels creaked and whined as they trudged through the rocky trail. He sighed as the sweat trickled down his forehead. Heavens, he really did miss Stallion, his old donkey. She used to pull his cart for him and keep him company during his long trips. But with all the coins he spent on the new equipment for his weaver-giver, he could barely afford the food to keep him from starving, let alone take care of Stallion. He had to sell her to the baker and promised to come and get her as soon as he could.
Until then he had to pull his own carts. He stopped and grabbed the last box in the back. It was small compared to the earlier deliveries. About as big as a small watermelon, and thankfully, much lighter than one. He jogged towards the small blue porch. It took a few series of knocks for a faint voice to respond. a combination of footsteps and crying followed before a lady with light brown hair and a protruding stomach, holding a crying toddler opened the door.
“hey, Emily. H-”
“oh thank goodness you’re here, Damien.” She said as she grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. She led him through a corridor and up a set of stairs.
“I just came to bring you your eggbeater. I changed the springs. It should work perfectly now. Just turn the key a few times and it should be-”
“Oh that’s wonderful sweetie. But I need your help with something else now.” She opened a door and lead him into a nursery.
“Damien!” a young girl jumped up from the corner of the room, where she had her stuffed animals sitting around a small table. She ran to him and hugged him, almost tipping him over from the impact. He crouched down and hugged her with one arm while still holding the small box in the other.
“hey, Samantha. How’s my favorite little princess?” he tousled her hair and she giggled. “good.”
He opened his mouth to tease her when he was cut off by her mother.
“Emma won’t stop crying and the toy you made for her isn’t working.” She pointed at the small box above the baby’s crib. It had four intercrossing wooden sticks attached to the bottom of it, each with a string tied to a different wooden toy. He had tried to decorate it with stars but his hands worked much better with wrenches and screwdrivers than they did with paint and brushes.
“can you fix it?”
“of course he can!” Samantha chimed in. “Damien can fix anything!”
Damien chuckled and stood up. He put the box on a nearby table and walked to the small crib. “do you have a screwdriver?”
She nodded. “I’ll be right back.” She hurried out of the room, Emma all the while crying, only stopping to hiccup or rub her eyes.
Damien unattached the box from its stand and sat down on the small chair, turning it around in his hands. He could smell dinner simmering in the kitchen downstairs; lamb stew. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a warm home cooked meal. The closest thing it got to that was a spinach pie from the bakery. But that’s okay, he thought. It will all be worth it. Especially when she’d be by his side. He will make sure she-
“so how’s Mina?” Samantha cut through his thoughts.
“I don’t know. I didn’t see her in a while.”
“mommy says lying is bad.”
“I saw you last night from my window. She was with you and you were holding hands.” She teased and giggled.
“I- wait, aren’t you supposed to be sleeping after eight?”
Her eyes widened and her cheeks turned a rosy color.
“I heard that, Samantha.” Emily walked in and handed Damien a screw driver. Emma lay her head on her mother’s shoulder, her thumb in her mouth and sound asleep after she exhausted herself from crying. “don’t expect a cupcake after dinner tonight.”
Damien unscrewed the lid on the box and inspected the puzzle of gears and springs inside.
“she got a new suitor yesterday.” Emily said softly.
His shoulders tensed and his muscles stiffened. “I know. she told me.”
“this can’t keep going on forever you know.”
Damien took out the two front gears and turned the third around. It was stuck. “I don’t need it to keep going forever, just for a couple of more weeks. Robert’s main complaint was that I’m not a weaver. So I’m working on it.”
“and how’s the weaver-giver going?”
“it’s done. I just need an energy source. I’m leaving tomorrow to the Giminian hills. I’ll find some power gems and come back.” He unlatched the small chain and inspected it.
“the wonder gems are a myth, Damien. No one has ever seen them-”
“They’re not a myth. They’re just rare. But I will find them and I will use them.” He snapped. He was tired of hearing the same thing from everyone. His invention will work and they will all see in the end.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt.” Emily’s voice softened. “Robert is a hard man to please. And sooner or later he will get tired of his daughter’s rebellion and force her into a marriage.”
“that won’t happen. I will make sure of it. The weaver-giver will take the power from the gems and transfer it to me in the attached chamber. It’s as simple as that. And then I can go and ask for Mina’s hand in marriage again. And this time, he won’t say no.” his eyebrows bunched and his grip tightened on the screwdriver.
“you guys should be in a fairytale.” Samantha sighed and they both jumped. They had forgotten that she was still there, watching them and hearing their conversation closely. “the pretty princess who won’t marry anyone except her true love and the prince charming who will do anything to marry her.” She held up two rag dolls and waved them around as she talked.
“I’m far from being a prince charming, believe me.” He chuckled. Some of the tension leaving his body from the five years’ old’s words. “do you have a pin?”
Emily took one off her apron and handed it to him.
He wiggled it between two gears until he heard something snap. He held the box upside down and about a spoonful of what looked like thick sand fell out. He replaced the gears and snapped the box shut before hanging it back in its place. He turned the key a few times and the melody of Emma’s favorite lullaby drifted into the room.
Emily placed Emma in her bunk and mouthed a ‘thank you’ before ushering him out of the room. She led the way downstairs and into the front hall. “thank you so much, Damien. You are an angel.” She dropped five coins into his hand. “this is for the eggbeater. And how much for the toy?”
“nothing. Emma is my favorite little neighbor.” He smiled.
She frowned. “okay then wait here.” She quickly strutted down the corridor. And returned with a small basket.
“this is some lamb stew and a couple of cupcakes.”
“Emily I can-”
“don’t. you think I don’t see how little you’re taking care of yourself? You are not eating properly at all. Take it and have a nice meal. You deserve it. You’ve been working very hard. Too hard if you ask me. I can see the light coming from your workshop all night.”
“Refuse again and I will take it that you don’t like my cooking.”
“Fine.” He surrendered and took the basket.
“And I hope you’re not mad because of what I said earlier. You know I want all the best for you and Mina. I’m just worried that you’re fighting a lost cause.”
“I’m not.” He sighed. “I can’t give up. Not on her. I just can’t.”
He opened the door. “Thanks for the food.”
“you’re welcome.” She smiled. “and maybe someday come and teach Edward how to fix these things so I will stop bothering you.”
“and lose my excuse to see the girls every other day? I think I’ll pass.” He laughed. “Good night.”
He only noticed them once he reached the small gate. Two men in light grey coats stood at the front of his house one was banging on the door while the other was trying to look inside through the window. He stopped and put his cart tongue down. One of the men saw him and said something to his partner. The two walked towards him. “Are you Damien Fate?” The first one asked.
This close he could see the ribbons of gold around the collars and cuffs of their coats. Everyone knew that uniform; the king’s guards. He felt the cold seep into his bones. The king was a cruel monster who was known for executing men for the smallest of mistakes. He took pleasure in torture and didn’t give a flying bull’s crap about the economy of his country as long as he had enough wine to keep him drunk and servants to do his biddings. So having two of his guards at your front porch isn’t exactly a joyful surprise.
“Yes. Can I help you gentlemen?”
They looked at each other before the first nodded at his comrade. The latter grinned and swiftly punched him in the stomach. Damien gasped and hunched over in pain. He felt one of them grab him by his upper arm and push him forward. “His majesty wants to see you.”
Damien’s eyes widened and he froze in fear. No. he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s far away from Silverfort and he never stole or fought in his life. This can’t be happening. Not to him.
He elbowed the man in the gut and as soon as his grip loosened he turned and punched him in the nose. The man staggered back and Damien took this chance to turn around and attempt to sprint away. But he was faced by a flood of water. The second guard stood in front of him with a now empty bucket. A water weaver, Damien realized a second too late.
The blond man smirked as he lifted a finger upwards. Suddenly, all the water that dripped from Damien crawled up his body, up his neck and into his nose and mouth. Damien coughed and gasped. Clawing at his throat as if he could get to the water that was slowly trickling down his windpipe and into his lungs. He was drowning. He was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. He fell to his knees, now tears ran down his face as he coughed over and over but to no avail. The brunet now stood straight again with a smug satisfied grin on his bloodied face.
Damien was on all fours. His fingers clenched on the dirt underneath him. This was it. This was the end. Robert was right. He can’t even defend himself. How did he ever think he could defend Mina? He fell down on his side. His breathing got harder, wetter. Through his tears he could see a pair of black leather boots walking slowly towards him. The water suddenly stopped. Then slowly, ever so slowly, it came back up his throat, causing him just as much torture as it did going down, before coming out through his mouth and nose seeping into the soil beneath him.
“Get up.” The blond’s distant voice said, his words were accompanied by a kick to his ribs. When Damien didn’t respond, the man crouched down and grabbed a fistful of his short curly hair. He pulled his head up.
“Consider that a warning. Don’t try anything like that again.” He let go and Damien’s face hit the ground once again. “Now get up.” With another kick, Damien staggered up on weak unbalanced feet and was immediately grabbed by both men.