CHAVIAS - Haircut for a Dread Boy
Black Mountains, Battling Border (Radix’s captive for two years)
Chavias was drug down from Peak Mountain with a shackle around his neck.
Okine brutally drug the lead. His huge square smith’s hammer dragging the ground in his other fist.
Chavias stumbled to keep up. With his hands shackled together and every chain link as big around as his bicep, it bore some doing, to wear it and walk.
Okine enjoys the indignity in it. Chavias knew.
“What are we doing?”
A large crow cawed. Flying circles above them as it kept Chavias in view. Drawn to me.
The bird had a knack for sensing him when he exited the cave.
Okine yanked the chain again. Wrapping another fistful of it around his hand. “No business, Slave.” He spoke in his broken way. Making it clear he’d no intention of explaining himself to his prisoner.
What am I doing here? The mountain was cold. It was late fall and every branch and blade of grass was covered in frost. But Chavias couldn’t feel any of it. Just the numbness in his fingers and arms where the cold might be damaging his skin.
There were many firoque ahead, half-turned to cimmerii people. Their eyes shined onyx and skin blackened around their sockets and mouth. Making them seem hollow. Their skin was blotched with freckles the size of black coins. Hideous.
It may be what I look like some day. Chavias was filled with dread at the prospect.
Once down the mountain they wove through the dense woods of the Netherlands. Where vines knitted the trees together. This time of year, there were so many, they had to be hacked apart to make a path.
Serpents writhed under the dirt. And sparking fairy lights danced through the darker parts of the trees. Leaves the size of his head draped their faces. Saturating them in wet frost. With the heavy shackles weighing down his hands, it was hard to even slap them from his face at the speed they traversed the Netherwood.
It was almost two days before they reached Grier Country. Drawing near King Ocnomad’s Citadel.
What are we doing this far in?
Radix had in tow, a handful of the dark cimmerii. We’re after a prize.
“Still promise?” Okine squawked in his shrill voice.
Radix glanced over his shoulder at Chavias then Okine. “It is hard to tell. I have felt less connection over the years. He may be harder to sway than originally anticipated. But his vicious heart pulses. Unyielding and ferocious. He is capable of great violence.”
“Child?” Okine asked.
“The Dread is probably still a child.” Radix acknowledged.
We’re after a Dread child? Chavias could make no sense of it. It was common knowledge Dreads leaned towards evil. That was why they were so often feared throughout Ardae, forcing them to hide what they were everywhere but in Dread Country which was littered with them. And why Radix favored recruiting them. Usually simpler than most, to turn into Cimmerii. More willing to believe…More filled with dark desires.
They eventually neared the Dreadfall, the great pouring waterfall behind the Citadel, separating Grier from the Dread Country border. A filthy, stinking man was knelt, leaning over the rushing river pouring from Dreadfall to feed the NetherRunnel near Merwood Forest. The man gripped a boy of around seven, by the back of the boy’s skull. Forcing him over the bank and into the water. He pushed the boy’s shoulder blades with his other hand, to keep his face firmly underwater.
The boy wrestled like a wild animal. Kicking and lashing out as he fought for his life. Much stronger than his size should’ve allowed.
The man struggled to drown him.
“Okine…” Radix rasped in his hoarse voice.
The giant yellow-skinned demonling dropped Chavias’ chain. Hefting the huge hammer, he’d been dragging the last few days.
Preparing to use it.
The crow landed heavily on Chavias’ shoulder, now that Okine moved away. Rubbing the top of its rounded head lovingly against Chavias’ cheek.
Okine walked to the man deafened by the Dreadfall and the flailing of the boy. Oblivious to Okine’s lurching step. Before the man even knew he was there, Okine held the hammer aloft and brought it down crushingly on the man crouched over on the edge of the bank. Shattering the would-be murderer’s shoulders and smashing vertebrae in his back, until he was folded completely in half. Slumped over his own knees.
The moment his grip slipped, the boy shot his head up from the water. Roaring like a feral beast. Eyes vivid gold as he twisted from the man’s reach. Ready to continue a brutal fight for his survival. As he blinked up at the giant yellow demon holding a massive square hammer he froze, jaw gaping. Crawling backward with overly long ratted blonde-brown hair hanging to the ground.
“Wh-what are you?” He hesitated only a moment before rolling further away and leaping to his feet. Crouched as though he’d fight. Prepared to attack Okine.
The giant mammoth of a demon. The child couldn’t possibly win. But he’s prepared to try.
With nothing but his bare hands. Chavias eyed the helpless whelp. Wondering if Okine intended to crush him with his war hammer.
“Little animal.” Okine looked to Radix.
“He does still seem half wild. We will take him back with us.”
“Come.” Okine reached past the boy’s snapping jaws and swinging hands to catch the back of the boy’s tunic. Gripping the furred collar. “Little Savage.”
Chavias realized the child’s whole tunic was lined in fur with gold buttons. Expensive. As the group strode away, they left behind a wakkon fur cloak which had been removed from the boy before his drowning. Because even the mercenary trying to murder the boy recognized the finery as something usually reserved for…Royalty.
Chavias’ eyes flashed back to the sodden boy. A flaxen-haired little beast ready to fight all of Ardae just to…Survive.
I know that feeling.
Okine would come and put the shackle around Chavias’ neck and drag him to Radix’s chamber where Radix would tell him who he would kill or what town to burn.
Today was no different. “You head to Gilwynn Village. Take the boy with you.”
“The boy? What good would the boy be? He’s small and inefficient.”
“Take him.” Radix snapped.
They walked into the corridor with Okine dragging Chavias by the chain.
Okine yanked it and walked into the hall where the boy was lurking, he’d put out the torch here, despite that it should’ve been high enough he couldn’t reach.
But Okine can see.
The boy was huddled in the shadows, but Okine spotted him. The lumbering demon commander snagged boy by a fistful of his hair.
The boy yelped and turned. Clawing at Okine’s meaty fist and dragging his head forward. There was a strange scraping that Chavias was very sure was the boy pulling his own head out to escape. He lurched forward and was huffing as he tugged from Okine’s unyielding fist.
Okine turned his grip more deeply into the boy’s hair, closer to his skull and drug him from the caves grunting and jerking.
Okine is always going to get ahold of his hair. Chavias could tell it was hurting the boy and knew that’d bring Okine joy.
Over the next few weeks, Chavias watched the boy. Scuttling around the caves as though accustomed to the dark. The barred door of Chavias’ prison chamber was kept closed since he’d healed from his last wounds. It was hard for him to get a good look at the wild child.
The boy, running to and fro on all fours and skulking in the dark often watched Chavias from the deep corners of the cave halls.
“What is it you want, Boy?”
No answer. Chavias sat on his cot, staring through the bars. Sensing the child across the black stone floor, leaned against the wall. Staring at Chavias with equal intensity. Chavias let his eyes turn yellow, flaring in the dark like a candle brightening.
The boy’s burned gold in answer. Dimming in the same way. Animal to animal.
After a time, the boy stood. Rocks rolling underfoot as he walked to Chavias’ cell door. Stepping into the light of the torches with his head tilted far sideways in interest. “Who are you?”
Chavias’ chin lifted at the boy’s boldness. “Better question, lad, is who are you?”
“She called me Jaxson. I’ve no name now.” Though his voice was disheartened, his eyes were unflinching. Refusing to look away.
She? A mother?
“Everyone needs a name.”
“Then it falls unto you to gift me one.” His chin lifted.
“I knew a man. Fierce like you. Wild like you. Vicious to the core.”
The boy was motionless, waiting.
Neither insulted nor impressed.
His name was, “Acel.” Chavias thought better of giving him the name Mardichi in-case the boy’s allegiance was to Radix, already.
Or will be in future.
“Let us call you Acel Jaxson.” Chavias continued.
“Call me what you wish.” The boy said dispassionately.
“Boy give me that blade.” Chavias leaned his face between the bars
He followed the direction of Chavias’ gaze to a small knife hanging off his belt in a pouch that looked to be made of rat skin.
Something he probably constructed. I’d be more interested in knowing where he got the dagger. Okine didn’t give him that.
The boy pulled it loose and slapped the handle into Chavias’ huge waiting hand.
Chavias gestured in a turning motion with his pointer finger.
Boy gave him an assessing look and then rounded. Putting his back to the bars.
Chavias got a handful of the matted yellow-brown hair and began scraping at it with the dagger. Pitching the filthy locks to the cave floor as he freed them.
The boy hissed through his teeth but didn’t move. Patiently waiting until the task was complete.
Not even asking questions. Chavias noted.
When he was finished with the last fistful it broke free and he tossed it down. “Now Okine will have nothing to snag you by.” The boy looked at the hair on the ground.
Does he miss it? Why the long study?
“Easier then doing it myself.” He murmured.
“Were you going to?” Chavias was startled that he’d seen the need.
“Of course. Why I took the sticker.” He held his hand out for the dagger and Chavias handed it back. Offering it blade first.
To see what the lad would do.
The boy gripped the knife. Apparently without cutting himself since he didn’t wince or hesitate. He put it back in the ratskin pouch.
But Chavias caught the whiff of blood. And heard the drip of a heavier droplet into the puddle at their feet.
He did cut himself. He just didn’t react.
Unemotional little Dread. Chavias’ black brow lifted in surprise.
A rat squeaked to the side of the boy and his head whipped to see it. Without anything further, he lunged and landed on it. Sinking white teeth into its thick sides. Making it shriek in pain as he bit through rodent bone.
He ate it without blinking. Clearly starved.
Obviously starved much of his life to be so comfortable eating vermin. Chavias gathered it was safe to assume that with the child’s strange flaring gold eyes and brutal nature, his parents had feared him. Likely hidden him away somewhere as cold and dark as this. That’s why he’s so comfortable here.
A dungeon. It pained Chavias to realize someone had thrown this child in the bottommost level of a castle. And, it appeared, left him to die. A feat which he’d refused to comply with until they felt it necessary to send him off in finery as a last farewell.
Paying a mercenary to kill him.
Chavias had no idea why he was drug straight from the torture room to Radix’s throne room the following day.
Radix sat on a stone seat framed by jutting boulders. An expansive room. Littered with fallen granite.
Chavias blinked up into his beady eyes. He’s something that can only look at you from dark corners. Chavias’ contempt was obvious on his face.
“It fascinates me. That all my attempts to converse, charm, or cajole the boy have failed. He scurries like some animal in these corridors.” Radix gestured around. “But hardly says a word. Yet my nonis tell me he has spoken to you. Sought you out.”
“He’s spoken to me.” Chavias acknowledged. Uncertain where this was going.
“Then you will take him in hand. He will accompany you on your missions.”
“You don’t fear I’ll sway him from you?”
“It matters not. I have found him immovable. He will either see your bloodlust and learn it or he will not, and I will kill him. It matters little to me.”
I think you underestimate him. Chavias thought. But was willing to play Radix’s little game.
Chavias had seen the intelligence in the boy’s eyes. Heard the sharpness in his tone. And it had occurred to Chavias that in all these caverns and all the versions of evil filling them. It’d been Chavias, the only one with a glimmer of good still remaining, that the boy spoke to.
He’s not evil. I don’t believe he ever will be.
But I will train him, mentor him, teach him to fight…And one day he will turn on you like the animal he is.