Isem, страница 1
The day had started out with so many good things going for it.
For one, Arlin was back in the village after spending the last six months at the Academy in the capital of Insen. Trouble was always so much more fun to get into with Arlin as an accomplice.
For two, Shirina had a free day for the first time in what seemed like forever. Isem knew that this would be the year he'd ask her to the dance on Sowain. Arlin's gloating about the girl he'd met over the winter had assured that.
For three, Isem had actually managed to convince his parents to let him have the day off from the farm. Well, not so much convinced as ran away when their backs were turned, but he had gotten away with it.
And finally, all three friends had spent the better part of the day together, catching up on what had happened in the past six months while wandering the streets of the village.
But now, staring up at the man in front of them, easily seven feet tall and three hundred pounds, with alcohol heavy on his breath, Isem realized his day had peaked about twenty seconds ago.
"Outta my way," the man mumbled.
Isem was only too glad to obey, moving to one side of the narrow alley and sweeping an arm in front of him. "After you."
Arlin, however, thought he had a better idea. "Do you need any help?" he asked.
Isem plucked at Arlin's jacket. "Do you know who that is?" he whispered. "That's Rochan! If you're trying to get us all killed, then by all means keep talking. Us smart ones back here are going to back away slowly and not make eye contact." He gestured to Shirina to move away, but she gave him a glare that could have melted stone. Isem sighed, but held his ground. What else could he do? He wasn't just going to leave her there. Arlin, maybe, but not Shirina.
"We can take you to the Healer, if you need." Arlin continued as if Isem hadn't spoken. Rochan raised his eyes to meet Arlin's. He seemed to be having difficulty focusing. He took a couple of stumbling steps closer to the group.
"Don'need a Healer, kid," he growled. "Jus' get outta my way."
"Well, you tried," Isem said. "Nobody could ask any more. Now, let's go."
"But-" Arlin protest was cut off as Rochan grabbed him with both hands by the front of his jacket and lifted him off the ground. They were face to face and Arlin's feet dangled a foot in the air.
"I said MOVE!" Rochan roared. With a grunt of effort, he thrust his hands forward and sent Arlin flying through the air to land on his back a few paces away. He skidded through a couple of feet of dirt before he came to a stop.
Shirina ran to him. "Are you all right? I can Heal you..."
Arlin's response was drowned out by a flash of anger that roared in Isem's ears. In two steps, Isem found himself in front of the massive man, whose eyes were now tightened with barely suppressed anger.
"Move," Rochan said.
There was no warning. Rochan moved faster than Isem would have thought possible. His fist lashed out at Isem's face, and it was only Isem's quick reactions that kept the fight from ending right there. Isem jerked his head back, and the blow glanced off of his cheek. A black eye, maybe, Isem thought. I've had worse.
There was no more time for thought as the two men circled each other. Isem dodged another clumsy punch and managed to land one of his own to Rochan's stomach. It was like hitting a brick wall. Isem clutched his hand in surprise. Distracted, he didn't see Rochan's fist connect with his nose.
The taste of blood filled Isem's mouth, and tears filled his eyes. Knowing he was beaten, Isem backed away, one hand to his nose, the other in the air as a sign of submission. The fight was over.
Which made it all the more surprising when Rochan grabbed Isem's shirt in one hand and lifted him into the air. The man took two steps and slammed Isem into the nearest wall. Isem's head bounced off the wood, and his ears rang. The fight's over. What -
Any remaining thoughts were knocked out of Isem's head as Rochan's fist nearly broke his jaw. Blood dripping down his face, Isem struggled to remain conscious. Rochan was going to kill him. There must be something he could do. Something – was someone laughing? Isem tried to look around for the newcomer that would laugh at this, but his vision was too blurred. Someone was definitely laughing.
Isem's vision cleared enough to see a face contorted with rage, and a raised fist ready for another blow. The laughing voice had grown louder, and as Isem's vision grew dark, it cut off and spoke a single word.