With the paladins gone Finn’s city was a different place. He had been here for five days now, and still he remained hidden for fear of being caught. He had promised the old man he would head to the Golden Raven, but that was now a burnt out husk. Kole, on order of the king, had set to the torch a number of seemingly random buildings over the last few days. Finn assumed he was going after the watchers, or maybe the rumoured resistance. With the Golden Raven he was fairly sure his promise to the old man was null and void, so he had decided instead to find the resistance and lend his arm to them. This was after all his city, and he believed it was something he should fight for.
First he would need to be brave enough to walk the streets. The guards now roaming the streets were sadistic and cruel and abused, maimed or killed just because they could. Anyone who tried to stop an attack would be next on their list. The people had fled from the city in droves, then the king closed the gates. He needed people to work and to rule, and his guards needed people to harass.
Finn himself had been badly beaten his first day here, and even now his left leg felt stiff. He had headed straight to the Golden Raven and his eyes had met the red filled orbs that were Kole’s and he had ordered the chase. Four guards pursued him mercilessly, but he would have escaped them if two others hadn’t wandered into his path. He was caught and beaten, a fistful of soil and a punch to a groin the only things that saved his life. It was luck he knew, but he prided himself on the fact he had kept a clear head while it was being caved in.
His sight had been blurry for two days, but became normal on the third. His ribs were still cracked, but had healed better then they should. He was sure whatever magic the old man had infused him with to heal him the first time still lingered, albeit in a much weaker form. The only place it had refused to heal was the left leg. A tinge of blackness seemed to be infecting it, and he was sure it was getting worse.
A young boy had been the other thing to save his life. Finn had managed to crawl into his hiding space, a small alcove below a tiled roof. Although the guards had missed him, the keen eyed boy had watched him crawl up there. For a few hours Finn had feared the boy would dob him in, for the child was clearly hungry and food corrupted even the mighty. He was pretty sure had roles been reversed he would dob a man in for food. The small boy had not. Instead he had returned and placed food and water next to Finn, and had been back every day since to replenish his supplies. As he looked out over the street he could see the boy approaching. He was carrying food and water. Normally this made Finn happy. Today he scowled. The boy was being followed.
A black clad figure flitted from rooftop to rooftop mimicking the path of the boy. The boy had clearly not seen this, and would lead this shadowy menace right to him. Better as he was, Finn was sure he would lose in any fight. If he tried to warn the boy away the figure would see and be upon him; if the boy arrived his hiding place would be revealed. Either way he was done for. Maybe if he scared boy away he could get away at least. Or, Finn could leave. The boy would arrive to an empty hole. Would the figure leave him alone?
He grabbed his sword and swung himself up onto the roof. The pain was immense, but subsided quickly. Still, the effort left him laying with his back on the roof and out of breath. He wanted to turn over to watch the approach of the boy and the figure, but the sound of feet on tile not far from him kept him still. The shadow was near.
He heard the boy climb up to the alcove, heard his sigh of disappointment, then heard him climb back down. He felt the shadow leap from the roof to the floor below.
“What you up to boy?” the shadow asked.
It was a female voice, gruff and mean. It filled him with dread, so he could only imagine the affect it would have on a small boy. Finn, of course, had been a wimpy kid with a long history of lavatorial malfunctions. He hoped this kid fared better then he would have.
“No…no….nothing” stuttered the boy.
The fear in his voice was clear. Finn urged the boy to keep it together. All the same he gripped his sword hard, and prepared himself to intervene.
“What’s with the food and water? Why did you climb to that alcove?” she said.
“Uhhh. Well, you see…I am an orphan boy in love with an orphan girl. We are not allowed to have a relationship and we have been sneaking here to share some time” he said.
The change in the boys voice from start to finish was amazing. He went from stammering child to brave boy, and he told the lie with such confidence that Finn would have believed it, if he hadn’t know better.
“What is the girls name?” she said.
“Myrtle” he said.
It came out quick, rushed and high pitched. Finn heard the sound of hand connected with face, followed by the breaking of the water jug on the floor.
“YOU LIE!” she said.
Finn stood up, sword in hand, and looked down on to the two of them.
“Yes he does” he said.
The boy looked, saw the woman’s attention was elsewhere and ran. Finn didn’t blame him, and was happy the boy was safe. Finn jumped down, pain firing up his left leg. He grimaced but did not fall.
“Who are you, and why do you follow small boys?” Finn said.
“I follow those who look out of place. Nice sword. Finn, I take it?” she said.
“I am Cindy. When Kole set those guards on you I thought you dead, but my orders were to find you dead or alive. I was hoping dead. Dead is always less trouble” she said.
Finn rested his sword on the ground, and leant his weight on it. His leg was burning with pain.
“What…now” he said.
His breath was becoming laboured. Standing was taking it out of him.
“You look awful. We need to get you to a safe house. Skip is keen to meet you” she said.
Finn just nodded. A safe house sounded good right now, as long as it had a bed.
“Freeze” another voice said.
This was a voice he knew. It pierced through the pain and the tiredness, and in someway gave him strength and hope. It was a voice that always had. He turned to see Ariel, and he smiled. Her face flickered, a brief smile, but otherwise her face was stone. Standing beside her was the small boy, slingshot in hand and beaming smile on his face. He had tried to save Finn. Finn smiled at him. They were both surrounded by large men armed with large shields and short swords.
“I have no time for this. This one is mine. We have no beef with the resistance, but we will fight you to keep him” Cindy said.
The small boy loosed a stone, and Cindy neatly dodged it. She did not have suck luck with the huge shield that caught her straight in the face. She went down hard, and before she could move two swords were at her throat.
“See. Living people are always such a pain” she said.
“Tie ‘em both up and bring ‘em” Ariel said.
The large men nodded. Ariel and the small boy left. Finn and Cindy were disarmed, tied up and then marched through the city and into a small store in the poor part of town. He heard a thud and saw Cindy fall to the ground. He then heard another thud, and saw nothing but blackness.