BOOK OF IMMORTALS

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TEVERIUS - Meeting a Starved Boy

Netherlands

TEVERIUS

Teverius was on his way back to his hut. Winding through the forest expertly on the narrow dirt trail he’d worn. Pausing as he neared the familiar clearing. Hearing his Demon Dogs rumbling from the pen within the trees behind the hut. Unsettled.

They know someone’s here. Tev’s head snapped up to see his hut perched in the tree overlooking the clearing. The rope up to the front door swayed and Tev heard pottery breaking inside. Circling far enough to the front, he saw the door beyond the wide wooden deck was swung wide.

A whistle warned the interloper, generating from somewhere behind Tev.

What the-?

When the skinny whelp fled out the door, thanks to the warning, and scurried down the rope, Tev positioned himself in the bushes next to the trail he’d worn in the grass. When the boy ran by, Tev caught him by the scruff.

No, you don’t. He was prepared to beat him for rummaging through his home until he glimpsed the partial loaf of bread the starved creature desperately clutched.

Tev looked at the boy’s face. Hands white knuckled gripping the food. Brows set in determination and eyes hard.

Prepared to hang onto it despite any beating.

Tev heard a small sound and realized there were more boys nearby in the woods. Dirty ones, from the smell of them.

The frail thing Tev held was clearly the only one bold enough to hazard a Dread’s Hut for a bit of bread. The most courageous, apparently.

“You dare raid a Dread’s hut? What if I were to curse you, fool boy?” Tev bluffed. Surprised to see the boldness in the boy’s eyes when he looked at Tev.

Definitely courageous. Tev’s tight grip lessened.

“If you’re going to lead, Starved Boy,” Tev sighed, conceding. “Then you must know how to defend your reward. Come back tomorrow and I will teach you.”

The boy turned hopeful eyes on him.

The bread.

“Yes, yes. You may keep the bread. Go share with them. After training tomorrow, I’ll send you to them with a bit of rabbit.”

“Meat?” The boy’s eyes brightened.

“Meat.” Tev confirmed. Stepping into his hut and closing the door decisively.

When the boy returned the next day, Tev made him put his hut to rights under Tev’s careful eye.

Afterward, he rose and handed the boy a tiny wooden dagger. Let’s see what you’re about.

“Wood?” The boy looked betrayed.

Wood. Tev pulled a wooden spike from his waist to show the boy it wouldn’t be a competition where the child was outmanned.

“I-I’m fast.” The boy cautioned.

“I’m faster.” Tev assured in a bored tone. Climbing down the rope with the boy close behind. They walked into the trees. And Tev painstakingly began teaching him the footing. Followed by the swaying motions to make with the little wooden dagger.

“We will do this for days.”

“Days?”

“You will leave with meat each day.”

“Days!” The boy’s chest puffed with excitement and he nodded vigorously.

“When you master it, you will get a better weapon.”

“Metal?”

“No.”

The boy frowned.

“Eventually there will be metal.”

The boy’s face brightened.

“When you’ve earned it.”

His nose wrinkled. “I don’t like this game.”

“It’s not a game. It’s your life. And the lives of this pack that follow you.”

“My boys?”

“The whelps that have charged you with stealing for them.”

“My boys.” The boy eyed him askance. “Why do you pay me with food for you to teach me to fight?”

“I’m not teaching you to fight. I’m teaching you to defend yourself and your boys. I pay you because practicing with you will hone my skills.”

The boy grinned and jabbed the scrap of wood wildly at Tev.

Tev spun around it, so it grazed only his tunic. Tev’s white hair spun out behind him but never crossed his vision because He moved too fast.

When he stopped, he was knelt before the boy with the makeshift dagger pressed to the boy’s belly button.

The boy squawked and lifted his arms as he curled away from the weapon. “That’d be awful.”

“The slowest way to die.”

“I don’t want to die that way.”

“I don’t want you to die in any way.”

“So, we practice?” The boy asked.

“We practice.” Tev nodded. “But I do require one thing.”

The boy eyed him cautiously. “What?”

“You’re name.”

“Zierno.”

“Okay Starved Boy stand like this. And lean this way.”

“Why did you ask my name only to call me something else?” He gasped.

“You haven’t earned me calling you by name yet.”

The boy scowled. “I cannot decide if you are likable.”

“I am not.”

The boy nodded slowly. “That’s what I figured…”

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