Untamed gift (book one o.., p.1
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       Untamed Gift (Book One of the Items Trilogy), p.1
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           H. Lee Morgan, Jr
Untamed Gift (Book One of the Items Trilogy)
Untamed Gift (Book one of the Items Trilogy)

  Copyright 2012 H. Lee Morgan

  Thank you for your support.

  ISBN: 9781301066537

  Chapter 1

  “Alex!?” He could faintly recognize his uncle’s boisterous voice off in the distance. “Where are you hiding, m’ boy!” Alex couldn’t help but smile knowing that his only father figure and best friend was up to something yet again simply from only the excitement in his tone.

  It had gotten extremely warm outside this summer’s day just as the sun rose high overhead and Alex knew that inside their home would be even more unbearable. He decided to climb one of the trees that grew around the outskirts of their family farm when the direct sunlight and breezeless morning became warm; after his meager morning chores were completed of course.

  He opened his eyes and looked down to the ground to judge the distance too high to drop safely, then up into the sky to see that the clouds were finally starting to build properly and the sea breeze had finally kicked up enough to help cool the stagnant air, if only slightly. He could tell that it wasn’t going to rain today, but at least the clouds would help keep the heat bearable to work in.

  Alex yelled back in the direction that he heard Gambit’s voice originate. “I’m over here, Uncle Gambit!”

  “Well get over here! I’ve got something for you from the market!” At that he climbed down the tree in instant anticipation. There were few things he has ever liked growing up and Alex’s uncle knew that. And of those gifts his favorite things were actually books, a rare pleasure. He hoped that his uncle finally found the one book he loved, just like the one his spiteful cousin ruined last growing season. Books were his only outlet from personal own misery.

  Once he finally managed to scale down the tree safely and firmly plant his feet on the ground his gaze swept over towards their home.

  Most of the property his uncle owned is fertile farmland. He could see only a small bump in the distance where their farmhouse stood. There was a small chicken pen where they kept the livestock close to their home. It was made with three wooden walls and a slanted roof. The front side was open and closed off with linked fencing. Earlier, Alex laid rows upon rows of crops that were green and healthy thanks to the rich volcanic soil that they lived on. It would take several minutes to get to his uncle so he decided to survey the fields as he meandered back home. He looked from the left to the right and saw that no fiends or unwanted pests stealing any of the ripening crops. Alex knew they also needed to wait at least another week until they could start harvesting enough of the crops to make some money. They needed to save up enough to hopefully buy another horse because the last one died of old age about three months prior and they honestly needed the extra help only a horse could supply.

  He finally spotted his Uncle Gambit sitting on a bench outside the home he built with his own hands, when he scrounged up enough coin through some unknown business venture that he never spoke upon. He was sitting under the awning and looked relaxed under its breezy shade. Uncle Gambit was smiling from ear to ear once his pale blue eyes spotted Alex’s approach. His smile lines told Alex he had a great success since he left three days ago to go retrieve some much needed supplies from the market. Before Gambit stood up, he mindlessly grabbed his hoe and used its butt like a walking stick. His hoe was as tall as he was and the tilling blade was as wide as his neck and sharper than any man made blade. The shaft of the hoe was solid brown and mimicked wood, but it was made of a special material that the ancient ones sought fit to bestow upon him. It was his item.

  As his uncle made his way up to him he noticed how well he looked from his travels. Lightly grayed hair around his temples gently blew in the wind as did his full and thick beard. Gambit is a relatively tall man, but being a farmer he was built as solid as a mountain. Alex was almost as tall, standing around six foot three, but wasn’t very strong in comparison. His uncle’s grey tunic’s sleeves came down to his elbows and brown pants came all the way down to his hardened leather shoes. He wore a gold ring on a necklace in remembrance to his late wife. His skin was tanner than his nephew’s only because he has been working on the farm before Alex was even born and as a child Alex had a difficult time being in direct summer sunlight because he became easily overheated. As a young adult he didn’t take any chances in overexerting himself for he feared fainting although it has been two years since his last spell.

  His Uncle Gambit came up and patted Alex on the shoulder with his free hand. His voice was deep, but very relaxing. “Did you miss my absence?” He began to chuckle.

  “Of course I did. So what were you able to retrieve at the market? Did you get all that we needed in the coming months?” Alex wondered.

  “Follow me and I’ll show you.” Gambit took his hand away and started walking to the large barn door of their farmhouse.

  The farmhouse wasn’t too large, but it is still their home and the only one Alex can remember with any clarity. It needs some roof work done from the last storm season that blew through, but they’ve managed. The walls are made from the wood of the land they lived on and it is coated with a black tree sap that keeps the termites and insects at bay. Otherwise the insects would eat their home and food stores out from under them before they would wake the next morning. The front door was opened and made of several hand cut planks that were hammered together with great skill. Off to the outside of the doorframe held a torch to each side that they lit every night so that when either of them needed to relieve themselves they could see where they were going, but only Alex used it to make his uncle feel safer because he can see in the dark better than anyone he’s ever known. The only time Alex’s night vision ever bothers him is on a new moon or the sky is shrouded in thick clouds.

  Alex walked into the first room of the house after his uncle told him to quit daydreaming and come inside. The moment Alex entered the house he was bombarded by rolling waves of stagnant heat that was contained inside and he instantly began to sweat again. He wanted to be back up in the windy tree again, but he was even more curious about what his uncle retrieved from the market.

  The first room held all of the usual equipment one would expect in a farmhouse. They were low on nails, but good on tree sap for any places that needed minor places to be sealed. Off on the far wall contained the plowing equipment and on the other side of the room held the harvesting tools and the wagon they use to pull their crops to the market. Alex looked down at his bare feet and smiled because the hard packed soil was the only thing cool in the entire house.

  He continued walking on the cool soil floor and into the next room. The main room is where they have their morning and evening meals together. Sometimes his cousin Rakkel comes by when he can’t find a woman who will bed with him, otherwise it is only the two of them who lived there now.

  The cooking and meal room is also floorless, but Alex didn’t care because their entire home was like that. Off on the furthest wall held a wood burning oven and it doubles as a fireplace during winter. It is made from the black volcanic stones that were shaped from the rocks that littered the island and it is held together with mortar. Its smoke stack is pushed up through the roof so that no smoke ever choked them out of the room. During the winter they use it as a fireplace, but during the summer they do not use it unless they needed to cook. Off to the left side of the room sat his uncle’s chair. Above the plush chair hung a painting of Aunt Jeda. She was one of the most beautiful women in the land, from what his uncle told him. She was blonde and a very skilled healer, but she died in giving birth to his unruly and uncaring cousin. When his uncle sits in that chair he carves on wood for fun, but always gives his figurine master
pieces to the young children. Needless to say, just about everyone loves Alex’s uncle. Up against the right wall stood their circular meal table and three wooden chairs sat around it. Off to the back left wall stood a door that led to the three bedrooms.

  The meal table was loaded with supplies that Gambit brought back from town. He looked at his uncle as he silently watched Alex. Gambit was doing his upmost to suppress his excited emotions, but he found a way before Alex could understand what he was doing. Though Gambit loved Alex as his own, he was sometimes frightened by how quickly the lad pieced things together. Alex could see that his uncle was hiding something behind his back, but he pretended more convincingly that he didn’t let him know that he knew. Upon the table were five sacks of flour for bread and two bags of seed for the next field planting. There were two medium sized sacks of roofing nails that would be perfect for repairing the damaged parts of the roof. There was also a small box filled with scented soaps and Alex already knew that he needed to bathe. He saw five small packages tied in dyed paper and upon opening them he could see that they were new handmade clothes that were too big for himself, but just the right size for his uncle. They were made from expensive materials and he felt the soft and sturdy textures. Alex knew of only one person in town who makes such fine materials.

  “Uncle Gambit, did you get these from Kori’s?” Alex asked his uncle while turning back in his immediate direction.

  His uncle grinned again once their eyes met. “Aye, aren’t they the best… oh don’t go looking at me like that. She gave them to me for free, I swear it on Jeda’s name. They were a gift that her daughter’s told her to make for me. I gave them my crafted dolls three months ago and they don’t seem to put them down. Kori said those clothes were a gift for giving her girls something that they love playing with.” He turned his head to the side and averted his twinkling eyes. “Are you still upset with me for accepting them?”

  Alex scratched his jaw and remembered that he hadn’t shaved in five days. “It’s fine as long as they were only a gift. Also I’m glad the girls loved your dolls. Were you able to find any suitable horses to help us pull the harvested crops to the market in a few weeks?”

  Gambit’s lips pressed into tight white lines under his beard just before he looked down at his shoes angrily. He grew upset for some reason. “I’m sorry, but I wasn’t able to find anything within our budget. They were either too young to be of any use or too expensive or on the verge of their grave. I know we desperately need one, but it looks like we might have to pull the cart together, if we’re to get any profits this season. Maybe if we find a proper buyer we can afford one on our return back home, if the taxes haven’t been increased again.”

  Alex sighed, knowing how depressed his uncle felt. Unfortunately they both knew that there wasn’t going to be anyone who would buy their crops and give them enough to afford what they required. Times were tough all around. “We’ll manage like we always have.” His Uncle Gambit looked up at him with a half smiling beard, knowing that it wasn’t his fault. “Was this all you were able to get from the walk to the market? If so I’ll start turning the flour into bread. We should be able to have some ready by morning, hopefully.” Alex reached forward, grabbed the flour off the table and walked over to the cabinets to get started.

  “Hold on for a moment, m’ boy.” He stopped and sat the flour back down. He turned to see his uncle holding out a package, wrapped in brown parchment and twine. It looked like it wrapped a large box. So that was what you were hiding behind your back, Alex thought. “I was given this and I thought you would enjoy it.”

  Alex smiled and gratefully took the package offered. It was remarkably heavy. He placed his left hand on the underside of the present and slowly managed to unwrap the tightly tied twine. Once he pulled the string and sat it on the table he pulled the paper away carefully, minimizing any damage. His eyes went wide once he realized what he held. Alex read the title aloud.

  “How the World Changed Forever.” He looked up to see his uncle’s blue eyes twinkling with glee. Gerieg was proud of what he gave over.

  Alex opened the leather bound tome to a random page, there were hand painted illustrations along with beautiful writings. He recognized the common dangerous fiends and even some of the rare ones, he skimmed the details upon the page. When he managed to find his thick voice he asked “Where did you find this? I thought the Royal Guard outlawed this book and had every volume destroyed. I heard you say that the king doesn’t like people knowing about the past, especially this one. He doesn’t like people who like to think for themselves.”

  He grinned and Alex already knew a decent story was about to be told. “I had an old friend from another island who showed up at the market just as I was about to head back home. We sat down at a tavern and had a drink to catch up like old times. He was selling some meat and cheese to a butcher from his goat and sheep farm. He is somewhat like you. He likes to read and he’s not very strong because he’s only a Level One Specialist. He has an item that frightens away only the weaker fiends and nosy animals… Well he said that since the Royal Guard outlawed that book some decades ago and it was still his favorite, he wanted someone to have it before they had a chance to burn it too. When I told him that my nephew loves to read he became overjoyed. I walked with him to the docks and he gladly gave that over to me.” Gambit tapped the book. “He said there is much information in there that is useful and intresting. He also said for me to be careful with it and show it only those who are honorable.” His uncle’s tone then became guarded. “We could get in serious trouble if someone found it, so be careful and keep it hidden whenever you’re not using it.”

  “I promise.” Alex smiled and looked down at the leather bound book. It was rather large, thick and well aged. His curiosity was peaking again, but he knew that he had other obligations to do before delving into the written words. He looked back up to his uncle and said “Thank you for getting this for me. It is even more precious than the last book I had.” He walked up and embraced his uncle. Gambit wrapped an arm around Alex and gave one fatherly squeeze before letting go. “I’ll get started on this a little later.” He gestured to the book. “First off I need to get out of this hot house and collect some food for our supper. After that I’ll bathe in the pond and start cooking.” He sat the book down on the table after carefully wrapping it back up.

  “I’ll go out as well.” Gambit grinned and followed him outside.

  Outside once again Alex felt the breeze instantly begin to cool his perspired body. Gambit held the bag of nails and Alex knew that he was going to work on the roof while plenty of daylight remained. He still held his item as he grabbed a hammer and some wood planks. He soon disappeared behind the house and Alex heard the familiar sounds of physical labor. If there is one thing Gambit was good at it was how skilled his hands were.

  Collecting the eggs from the chicken cage would be simple enough so he grabbed the wooden pail on the side of their cage. They scattered once he entered the pen and they tried giving him much room while clucking angrily at the intrusion. He blocked the strange and annoying voices out of his head so he could finish the task. As he collected all of the eggs he looked over in their feeding trough and their water dishes to find that both remained full. He’d give them more feed and scraps tomorrow evening.

  Once he finished collecting the eggs from their nests he shut the gate and sighed once the voices subsided along with a headache. He was glad to finally walk away and have the voices finally cease. He knew he was weak for a man so he allowed his uncle work alone on the roof and wouldn’t get in the way. Alex went to do another small task so he could help Gambit in any minute way that he could. It kept him doing something at least.

  He went over to the compost heap, by the tree line, and picked some large and edible white mushrooms. He also walked over and picked some ripe red berries. He put everything in the pail and knew the contents needed to be cleaned before anything could be eaten safely.

  By the time
he finished with his mediocre tasks he walked back to the farmhouse and realized that the hammering sounds ceased. When Alex came closer to the house he saw that Uncle Gambit was leisurely sitting on the bench again. He too was sweating profusely and his item rested over his lap. He opened his eyes as Alex asked “Was it warm up there?”

  Gambit smiled and then laughed. “Aye, that it was. At least I finished patching up those bothersome holes. They should hold for awhile yet.” He sighed and looked at the full bucket. “I see you found us enough for supper.”

  “Aye. This should go down really well tonight with all the work you did.” Alex then started making his way around back and towards the pond.

  “Hold on a moment, Alex.” He stopped to see his uncle’s blue eyes studying him closely. “I know you think you don’t do much, but life isn’t all about using your muscles. I can see you still wanting to get stronger and you will, if you put forth the required effort. What you need to know is that there is more than just one kind of strength in this world.” Gambit said when he felt and saw the loneliness in his nephew’s expression crying out for help, whether Alex admitted it or not. The last thing Gambit wanted was for his adoptive son to feel weak when he knew how much potential he had. Alex was always a kind person to talk to, but he knew so little of himself.

  He sat the pail down and leaned against a post that was holding up the awning. Alex was curious as to what he was getting at so he asked “What do you mean more than one kind of strength? You and everyone around here know I’m the weakest person you’ve ever met. I’m a slave in the village’s eyes. You know I wasn’t born with…”

  “Aye, you are…different.” Gambit said in honesty while emphasizing the word, different, but it still hurt Alex. “What you’ve yet to realize is that you have a strength I never will. A strength no slave or itemless possesses.” Alex opened his mouth to disagree, but Gambit raised a hand to him so he could continue. “Aye, I do have physical strength, but I’ve never been able to match your intellect or your quick wit.” He smiled genuinely. “What’s more, if there was an army led by a knowledgeable person, that leader will think of a way to win with more surviving numbers than an army lead by any brute. The mind will always be stronger than any muscle, blade or fiend. You could be a leader and if you were, I’d gladly follow you because you are a thinker and not an animal. What you need to learn is to have a balance of strengths and once you have that…” His uncle’s whistle was drawn out for emphasis. “I’d hate to ever pick a fight against you.”

  “Thanks, Uncle Gambit.” Alex sighed while being grateful for those supportive words and suddenly had a thought. He looked up again to see Gambit still gazing calmly at him. “Do you really think that I could be strong?”

  His beard moved into a proud smile. “Aye, that I do. You might be a skinny young man, but I can see by your frame that you could be very powerful if you put your back in it.” With that said, Alex proudly picked up the weighty pail and made his way around the back of their house.

  Behind their home laid the familiar crystal clear pond that only they used. There weren’t any fish since it is a natural spring fed pond and because it’s too small to provide anything for fish to survive on. If they needed to fish they’d need to travel an hour to reach a proper stream or another three more to reach the ocean. Unfortunately there were many animal prints who have come by to get a drink of the clear and vibrant water. Alex was also glad that the water pools and flows away constantly so that they needn’t worry about dysentery and could drink the water straight without any fear.

  Off to the side of the pond stood a small stand that his uncle made so that they could shave and have a place to put the food in so they could be cleaned.

  He walked up to the simple stand and looked into the small wooden basin and dumped the contents of the pail into it. The highly polished metal on the backboard reflected and showed that he needed a shave.

  Alex walked down to where the pond fed into a small stream. He cleaned the pail first with sand and water before he walked to the edge of the pond. He dipped the cleaned pail into the fresh water and walked back over to the stand. He poured the water in the basin and thoroughly washed all of the mushrooms, berries and the white shelled eggs. He then pulled the bottom plug of the basin so all the water could drain down into a hole beneath the stand and not flow back into the pond. Then he refilled the pail again and gave their dinner one last wash. He put all of the food back into the pail again and eventually walked back around the house.

  Alex sauntered through the front door silently, cursing the unbearable heat and pressed into the kitchen to find his uncle carving in his chair with his sharp hoe again. Gambit smiled as Alex grabbed a new soap cake and a sharp knife before leaving the room. Alex returned to the pond knowing he was finally going to be able to cool off after the blistering summer day.

  He eased himself down into the cool water and felt the late afternoon heat getting pulled away from his body. After finally relaxing he used the new soap to clean his flesh. Once that job was thoroughly finished he scrubbed his old clothes. As they were being cleaned he saw how much dirt came out thanks to the clear flowing liquid. Finally getting clean, Alex walked out of the pond and up to basin stand to shave. He forgot to bring a pail or ladle to fill the basin so he decided to cup the water with his hands and it only took three short trips to hold just enough water to shave with. He lathered the five days growth of beard with the soap and carefully shaved with the knife. He was so glad that he sharpened the blade four days ago because the blade was still sharp and he didn’t cut or nick himself.

  His pale grey eyes looked over his polished reflection, making sure that his jaw didn’t have any stubble with his fingertips. Alex saw that his solid black hair wasn’t wild and remained just short enough to still brush back with his fingers. He lacked a brush, but didn’t need it. He smiled knowing that he looked somewhat rugged like from the many adventure books he’s read.

  After finally feeling refreshed from the bath he put the wet clothes back on and headed back to start dinner. His wet clothes would keep him cool for about an hour inside until the house cooled when night fell.

  As he was about finished eating the last of his meal was when the two of them heard someone knocking on the front door. Alex could see through the cracks that another torch was moving in front of the door, beside the two that were placed on either side of the door frame. Uncle Gambit stood up and asked defensively “Who’s out there?”

  Alex instantly recognized the cold and dreadful voice. “It is I, Father.”

  Gambit walked up to the front door with his item in hand. Once he opened it Alex heard him say calmly “Rakkel, it is late. Why have you come at this hour?”

  “I have some news I must tell you about.” The voice remained still cold and neutral. Every time he opened his maw, an annoyed headache appeared in Alex.

  “Come on in then.” Uncle Gambit said and Alex saw his cousin leave his torch out by the front door. He took the last bite of food from his plate and stood up. He walked over to the basin of water and dropped the wooden plate into it.

  “Evening, Alex.” His cousin said and Alex replied airily with a calm “Good evening, Rakkel.”

  His cousin strolled into the oil lamp lit room. Rakkel appeared remarkably handsome and he knew it. A strong jaw complemented a perfectly shaped nose. He had his father’s blue eyes and his mother’s blonde hair. He had a somewhat decent muscle structure and categorized as a high Level Four Specialist. That was why he could go to bed with so many of the beautiful women who lived on the island. His item is always wrapped around his ear like a pink caterpillar and it looks like one too. He is capable of hearing things from over three leagues away as clearly as he can at a conversational range. He can also hear through walls or other solid matter.

  Alex also noticed that his usual garb seemed different. He wore new combat boots that are issued to the Royal Guard. His leggings were black and his tunic was full sleeved and deep red. He looked alm
ost like a handsome yet cruel killer. The local women seemed to like that about him for some inexplicable reason.

  Rakkel sat down at the table after the greetings ended. Alex wanted to leave the room because they cannot get along, nor have they ever, but his cousin had traveled during the night, and alone at that. He was curious as to why one such as him would attempt to do that.

  Alex stayed over by the cooling oven and wash basin as his uncle sat across from his son at the table. With his uncle’s back to Alex and his hoe resting in his lap Alex listened to the start the conversation. “So why did you chance coming out here so late? Were you hunted by any fiends?”

  Rakkel’s cruel killer’s smile became barely noticeable, but Alex could sense animosity from him towards this family. “Of course not, Father. They are so rare these days. You know fiends are exterminated on sight. Only the Fury live on the island anymore. With my item I could easily go around them and they never knew I was ever there. I’m versed in stealth and deception. As to my being here, I wanted to inform you about a glorious chance that has been granted upon this family.” Alex could see his uncle’s back muscles bunch up and the pulse on his neck increased, but he remained quiet. The hairs on the back of Alex’s neck began to rise in fear for what he expected to hear. Rakkel glanced at them both. “I have joined the Royal Guard.”

  “YOU WHAT!” Gambit yelled and immediately stood up. If there was one thing he loathed more than anything else it was the oppressive government they were forced to live under and becoming a guard only showed lack of respect to your fellow man. His own son had betrayed him and this was the ultimate insult to Gambit. Rakkel didn’t even flinch from the outburst nor did he show any emotion except for uncaring coldness. Alex witnessed his uncle’s grip on his item tighten and all of his knuckles were white from such a forceful grip. He could almost see the anger rolling off Gambit. Gambit spoke evenly, but Alex could feel the danger in his voice fighting desperately for control. “What have you done? You joined forces with that tyrant, King Runkamon… You joined a man who relishes in killing all those who don’t bow to his will? I have seen with my own eyes what he has done to those who don’t support his teachings…”

  “FATHER!” Rakkel dropped the cold, emotionless mask and he finally managed to appear angry. His blue eyes were lit with a slow smoldering fire. He slowly stood and looked his father dead in the eye, without wavering or fear. “I am now a servant of your one true king. Say one more word against him and I’ll charge you with heresy.” Gambit became silent, but was still fuming from such a backhanded statement. “This is my authority.” Rakkel went to his neck and pulled a necklace from under his red tunic. It was a gold medallion with the letters ‘RG’. Only the Royal Guard could wear them and the double line signified him to be a squad leader. “All lands are ruled by King Runkamon or soon will be. It is our duty as citizens to use our lives in the service of all. Your philosophy is wrong, Father. Our live are not privy to ourselves, but to the government and to all of its people so it shall flourish forever.”

  Alex had heard enough from him and his firmly warped mind. Rakkel had successfully become a mindless drone like so many others. Everyone has heard the teachings of self sacrifice. All lands had to learn it as children when it was mandatory to go to the town instructors. Even slaves like himself. It was the worst eight years of his life. All children had to learn how to survive in their dangerous world or wind up becoming some fiend’s next meal. What the instructors didn’t let the children realize is that they were also trying to groom each child into a mindless servant of the King. Alex was left out of most of the classes because of his disability and status as slave without an item, thankfully; he always thinks. He knew the teachings were wrong, but he went along with the classes. His handicap was already an attention grabber.

  As Alex turned and began leaving the room he stopped when Rakkel said “Where do you think you’re going, Slave? You haven’t been dismissed. Aren’t you the least bit proud of me for doing something as important as becoming a Guard?”

  Alex set his suddenly and dispassionately dead grey eyes on his cousin’s. He spoke in a neutral and passive voice which seemed to have the best effect he desired. “Not really, Cousin. I don’t like people who can’t think for themselves. I might have lived here since my mother passed away when I was only five, but I’m not a mindless parasite like someone with a fake badge of justice.”

  Rakkel’s face flared red hot in anger, but Gambit put his hand behind his back to give Alex a silent gesture of approval. Gambit’s heart swelled after hearing that his nephew wasn’t going to end up like his own worthless son. Alex walked over to the back door when he heard Rakkel speak under his breath. “I’ll make sure you’re sorry for that, you worthless slave.” His uncle didn’t hear the whisper and Alex wasn’t going to respond to such childish insults.

  Alex strolled through the door and closed it behind himself and then traveled down the dark corridor and could easily see through the darkness, but his family couldn’t for some reason. The dirt flooring was still soft and cool. He resided in the bedroom at the furthest end. It wasn’t the largest, but it was the only place that he could call mine.

  He opened his door and closed it behind himself. A cloth hammock hung from either side of the room and it looked inviting. He looked up to see that the small hole in his roof was fixed and wouldn’t leak any time soon. His uncle repaired it perfectly. The room remained a little warm, but it was manageable. Unfortunately he knew it would be difficult to sleep in the warmth. On every wall and shelf of this room were all the books that he’s read. Alex was proud of his wide verity of collected books. Many people didn’t know how to read or they didn’t even want to learn. School on the island was only for survival and brainwashing, not furthering knowledge.

  Each and every book has been read more times than he cares to remember and he even knows every book; word for word. Alex was missing the only book that he treasured as much as his own life. It was the last thing his mother gave him before she died. Unfortunately his hateful cousin destroyed the last remaining tangible memory of his mother. It was a book she gave to him. It might have been a children’s story, but it was his one true treasure.

  Alex walked over to the corner of his room and knelt down in the dirt. He used his fingers to silently dig out the new book his uncle brought home today. It was still covered in the same paper wrapping it came in; only because Alex didn’t want to ruin the well aged leather book. Once he pulled it out of its wrapping he heard his uncle and cousin verbally fighting. He grew up with them yelling at each other and knew tonight’s match would be going on for hours, if not till dawn.

  He went through his mind while trying to figure out how he could read the book and not listen to them continually bicker. Alex then thought; What if I stuffed something in my ears? But then again I hate things in my ears. Maybe I could read loud enough drown out their boisterous talking…no, I promised to keep this a secret from everyone and if Rakkel ever found out about it he would find a justification to do something truly horrific… How can I slip...? Then it hit him, I need to slip out of the house for the next few hours without being seen.

  There were two loose boards that Alex used to use as a child, to get away from it all. He walked over to the familiar boards while keeping the book tucked comfortably under his left arm. When he found them again he sat on his bottom and carefully removed each from the wall. Alex sat each panel next to the solid wall. And he was glad to know that they couldn’t hear the escape. His freedom was assured for the next few hours at least. Even if they did realize he escaped they wouldn’t find him in the night.

  He leaned his head through the hole and saw the surrounding area was clear of fiends and it was a full moon on a clear and starry night. The wind had died down, but it barely cooled the hot humid air. Alex pulled his head back in the room and sat the heavy book outside, in the grass. He dropped down to his left side and stuck his arms through the opening. With his legs, he pushed himself through
the hole. His shoulders cleared, but his chest didn’t. It’s been six years since he last escaped out of this hole and he’s grown since then. He smiled at his own childishness since he’s running away through an escape hole. For what he had planned, silence would be needed so there was little choice. He pushed all of the air from his lungs and managed to barely squeez through the small hole.

  Now outside, he reached back into his room and grabbed the panels. Uncle Gambit and Rakkel were still arguing passionately. Panels were replaced back into their original positions and the arguing remained intense.

  Grabbing the new book he stood barefoot in the night. He wanted to find the perfect secluded spot to get away from all the screaming. Then it hit him. He did know of the perfect location, but it will take some time to finally get there.

  He turned around and started making the short journey. He passed the pond and saw a crow drinking graciously. It was a beautiful creature even though it was still a scavenger-predator. Once it spotted movement he became still and watched Alex’s every movement. The last thing he needed was for it to caw and alert anyone to his departure, even though it would be a miracle if they heard through the shouting match that continued. Crows weren’t known for silence.

  Then before he knew it he was free and clear in the woods and didn’t even cause any alarm in the escape.

  Alex walked over roots and smooth rocks so he didn’t intentionally hurt his feet, even if they are as tough as leather. A limb snatched at his arm, but only managed to deliver the smallest of cuts that didn’t even draw blood. There were many small hills along with streams around this area. He also traversed over trails left by the wild animals that shared the island with him.

  His journey lasted for well over an hour until he stopped to see the perfect reading spot.

  Before Alex lay a small valley of hills that supported large trees that were spaced far apart. Most of the grass covered hills were empty of people because this place is said to be riddled with fiends, but it’s worth taking the chance just to see it. He found a nice sized tree in the meadow, crested upon a hill, and he leaned back against its trunk for support. He took the time to make a quick scan and found himself alone and isolated. Once he felt positive that all was safe he laid the heavy tome in his lap. He then opened it up to the very first hand drawn page.

  It was a map of their lands and its distributed cities and boarders. Alex remembered seeing a map like this when he was a child, but couldn’t truly remember from where.

  He knew right where he resided on the map and pointed to the very bottom left of the page. He said to himself “Yep right here in the south west of the Waget Islands.” He could see how petite his island was, but knew it would take just over a fortnight to travel from one side to the next without resting.

  For the next thirty minutes he studied every detail of the map. He knew he would probably never leave this island, but the page was a fact and he always memorized worldly facts.

  Turning to the next page, he began to read the hand written texts aloud.

  “In the past, when humans were actually not much more than mindless beasts, there was an old and powerful race called the Ancients. The Ancients ruled almost all life, but found that they were dying and sadly, for some reason, stopped procreating new life. Not one child of their race had been born within thirty years and in that time they became desperate for a solution. The Ancients had many remarkable talents and their most valued ability was known as creation. Anything they wanted to happen, they made it come to be, but they could not create new life and that was their only regret and downfall.

  “In their search for a solution to their dying race, they knew that they were doomed to oblivion should nothing happen. Knowing they wouldn’t and couldn’t be saved they devised a way so that a piece of their lives and civilization would remain behind. Their only hope for remembrance lay within humanity.

  “Seeing how humans were similar to themselves, the Ancients devised a way to infuse their special gifts into all humans, for all time. Their final gift of creation was given to humanity in the form of Items.”

  Alex sighed, knowing what was coming next, but still he wanted to read every detail this book had to offer. He could tell it might become handy one day. “All human children from then on were born with an item. The item appears next to the child soon after the mother gives birth. In most cases a child is only born with one item, but it is not unheard of that children can possess multiple. In rare cases some people can carry the same kind of item. It is unknown why a child gets their specific item, but many researchers believe it is the will of destiny that the child will need their specific item sometime in their life.

  “Although the items they were born with could be potentially dangerous to themselves and others, they weren’t capable of harming anyone until the child became physically mature, around the age of sixteen to twenty years old. What seems impossible is that as the child grows, so too does their item. Upon maturity, the individual’s item remains the same until the day the wielder dies.

  “Once the Ancients gave humanity items, they all disappeared forever.

  “As a horrible side effect to humanity obtaining their new gifts, some the land’s animals changed and soon became known as fiends. Some fiends could bend the light around their bodies and become invisible to escape from predators. Some grew new appendages or strengthened what they already had and remained animal. The more astonishing effect came from the few apex predators that had been changed. Those species soon became as dominant in the world as humans because some began to exhibit multiple abilities. And of the rarer fiends, some of their species become Lords. The lord’s of a species are larger, stronger, smarter, and more powerful than any of their common brethren. If you ever come across a predatory Lord, your chance of survival becomes slim at best.”

  That put a smile in his lips for some strange reason.

  “What is more astounding for humanity was that most of the items themselves react to only their born master’s and their master’s carry their items wherever they go. Their items could be connected and apart, or both of the person they were born to. And another interesting fact was that items reflected things during the rule of Ancient’s history. Some children were born with small and strange Ancient machines.” Alex knew this to be true because his cousin had one of those tiny machines from the past. The caterpillar thing on his ear was exactly like that.

  “There soon became four broad categories for classifying items.

  “Those children who were classified into weapon’s class would be if their item could be used as a device to deal harm to another. Some items were explosive and will reappear to their owner after they were used. Most items are solid and have unique properties amongst themselves. And some weapon’s class items could change their shape into something else entirely. Weapon’s class, are physically strong, as are their items.

  “Items that can be used, will reappear in time from some unknown process.

  “Those born with medicinal items are known as Healers. Healers don’t have any offensive abilities in their items, but used in certain ways they can be just as dangerous. Since Healers know how the body works they use that knowledge to their advantage.

  “Should one have support items they are considered Specialists and there are many items in this category because some items cannot be classified and are thus put into this grouping. Specialists can communicate over distances or can distract their enemies. Specialists are also crafty with what they must do. So proceed with caution.

  “The final classification of items are of the Utility class. They are mainly cleaners and repairers. They tend to be helpful and use their skills to make life run as smoothly as possible.

  “Each of the four classes are then broken down into five levels. The stronger and more unique the person’s item, the higher their class and vice versa…”

  Alex closed the book because he was getting sick of reading about the classifying system. He grew angry at himself because he
was the only one in all the lands who couldn’t be categorized as nothing more than a slave. He laid his head against the tree and closed his eyes to sigh again. He needed to calm himself down if he wanted to finish some the book and return before being noticed. That thought seemed quite interesting to him suddenly. The sounds of the insects filled the night air with their music. And also he had pushed the flurry of voices out of his head again. He felt the breeze pick up and it carried the hint of salt from the ocean.

  Once calmed of all thoughts, he realized the insects and other creatures stopped making noise. Something else was out here besides him, if every sound suddenly stopped like this. Alex immediately opened his eyes and searched for the reason as to why they all went silent. He scanned the grassy hills and saw movement in the distance, once the moon’s light hit just right.

  Exposed and out in the open felt frightening until he realized that the movement wasn’t walking in his direction. He felt around the tree and located a hole just big enough down by the roots. He turned and slid his book into the cavity in the ground for safe keeping at the moment.

  Carefully, his legs brought him into a standing position. He was curious about the figure because it seemed so odd by its walk, compared to other nightly creatures. The strange being in the distance made him curious. He knew how to walk silently, and being barefooted has its advantages when stealth is required.

  He began walking towards the peak of the next hill. Once he made it he dropped low to the ground. Scanning the area he spotted the figure again, walking towards the tree line. Upon a closer inspection he saw that it was a person making their way through the lands. He always had a curious side and right now wasn’t an exception. He followed. Alex continued following the person through the night.

  When he eventually made it inside the comfort of the trees he could see from the prints in the dirt that the person wore boots. He followed the shadow person’s prints until he could tell exactly where the person was. The person was off in the distance and kneeling by a flowing stream. Alex could tell the person had loose, pale white hair that brushed at the shoulder. The person cupped the water and drank from their hand. He could tell that this person was used to being in fights because when you drink like that you can still see your surrounding rather than sticking your lips in the water to drink and expose yourself to an enemy in wait. When the figure stood again he saw that the person carried two short swords in pure white sheathes that hung to either hip.

  He didn’t know a single person who had twin swords as items on this island. The person could only be a foreigner. His interest grew even more.

  Then the person began moving downstream and he followed again. During the course of his trek through the woods he didn’t remember to block the voices out. He then stopped cold when he heard a deep menacing voice speaking off in the distance. Alex’s heart started stammering when the malice began consuming his hearing. “I killed both your mother and father, you little whelp. What chance do you think you have against me?”

  A small yelp was preceded by a weak voice trying his best to be strong. “I might die, but I will know who I fought because you snuck up and killed my parents like the weasel you are. I face my opponents, even to my death.”

  The malicious voice rumbled again. “You’ve yet to know what life is truly about. Life is there for only the fittest, and the weak will die, only to be eaten as prey. Too bad you didn’t get to see your next day of life.” The voice was by far the deadliest Alex has ever heard. “Now I’m going to correct my brother’s error and eat you.”

  Just then the person with white hair stepped on a dry stick as he made his way downstream. It felt as if someone stepped on the loudest stick they could find as it echoed in the nearby area. Alex’s heart started beating rapidly and he was honestly scared with knowing there was a killer close by. The murderous voice also heard it and said “Wait here, Pup. If you run away, I’ll extend your misery.”

  From the foreigners unhindered movements he apparently didn’t hear what Alex could. He just continued moving downstream without any awareness of what’s happening. He was about to be caught unaware by a murderer.

  Alex then looked around in the darkness, knowing that the voice wasn’t coming for him because the voices came from a distance. He then noticed a huge shadow racing along the ground and he wasn’t sure what it exactly was to cast something so large, but he understood it was heading in the person’s direction. It could only be seen when the shadow moved in the moon’s light because darkness is everywhere.

  What happened next Alex will never forget.

  Alex’s heart began thundering like never before, knowing that the person by the stream was going to be killed by whoever else was out here. His heart began beating harder than he’s ever felt and it felt like it would literally beat out of his chest. He was afraid that it created too much noise, but his acute hearing only picked up what he usually hears. And the heat, it felt like his skin was hotter than ever, fire hot, but it didn’t hurt. What is happening to me? He thought. What am I even going to do? I need to warn him before he is killed.

  Without thinking Alex stood close by a tree and managed to tear off a stick while running. Wait why am I running? He asked himself. I’ve never ran at a speed like this before because my legs are pumping with strength I never knew I had, but things look slower too. Alex was whizzing through the forest without making a single sound or touching a single limb of a tree. How fast am I going? I feel like I can outrun the swiftest of steeds. Alex didn’t know how he was accomplishing this, but he was. The wind on his face felt like a raging tempest blowing against him, gently holding him back, but he pushed on, knowing what he had to do would separate life from death.

  Alex closed the distance to the unsuspecting person before he managed to take a single step along the stream. With only his empty left hand he pushed the traveler in the center of his back and the force of the impact was unreal. As the person was launched off into the shallow stream, Alex turned around to see that the huge shadow reached his feet. What seemed odd that nothing casted the shadow from above, no birds, no trees, nothing; and in the direct light of the moon no less.

  It seemed the world began to slow to a crawl as a massive head emerged from the shadow beneath his feet. It was nearly twice as large as his torso. The head was jet black with large gold eyes that were directed only on Alex. Long whiskers were all pointed straight out from its muzzle. The fiend had pure white, eight inch saber-like teeth and its bottom jaw opened wide enough to easily engulf a person’s entire torso in a single bite.

  It was then Alex knew it was none other than a Shadow Fang.

 
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