The Protector, страница 1
A SHADOW TIDE SHORT STORY
Copyright © 2013 by Steven Moorer
Published by Steven Moorer
All rights, including the right to reproduce this ebook, or portions thereof, in any form, are reserved by the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only, and may not be resold or given to other people. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Corian Bouth pushed his hat cart along one of the dusty streets in Cerabeth city. It had been a slow morning, only one hat sold but it was enough to feed his family tonight. He was hoping to walk past someone who was squinting or whose head was red as a ripe tomato. Either one he felt that he could sell either one a hat.
It wasn’t quite mid morning, but the sun was already high and hot. It was early summer and unseasonably warm for the year, but that didn’t stop Corian from doing his daily routine.
“Hats, the finest this side of the palace,” he would tell passing potential customers. Some would stop periodically and buy one from him and others would just turn up their nose and keep about their own business.
The day ran on, as always, he sold three hats before the crowds started to dissipate and the people went home for the night. Another day gone, he had enough money once again to feed his wife and baby another day, but it still wasn’t the amount he wanted or needed to ensure they would eat every day.
The trip back to his small dwelling was the same as always, looking and watching over his back for the possible thieves. At one time theft was so common that traveling merchants such as Corian had to pack up shop and leave before the sun set.
In the last few months, something had changed; the thieves that once ran the streets had since dispersed. Rumors had spread about a man named Faxon who had paid the gangs and thieves to work for him, but the type of work he hired them for was unknown.
He had no idea what Faxon was about, but if he kept the gangs in order Corain didn’t care. He had been able to sell his works for longer in the day and as the word spread of the change in crime, patrons had also begun to shop longer. It was almost like Faxon wanted the smaller merchants to succeed, and they were.
Even though Corain was barely making enough money to support his family day to day it was more than he was making five months earlier. If it wasn’t people shopping due to the crime, it was he being robbed on the way home after the day.
He made his way home; it was a small dwelling located three doors from the south end of a larger building. Overall the building itself had seven dwellings in it. Each one was the same as the other, a large great room with a fireplace, small stove, and wash basin. Off of each great room was a small wash room with a basin and small tub.
Inside Corain’s home he had managed to squeeze a bed for himself and his wife into the farthest left corner. Across the back of the room was a crib for his eight month old son. In the center of the left wall the fireplace stood with a small mantle above it and beside it a small wood burning stove and basin. The only other furniture in the great room was a small table beside the stove used by his wife to prepare food and a larger dining table.
It was small but it served the purpose it needed to, a dry warm place to live.
This night was just the same as the rest. He came home and greeted his wife while she finished dinner and fed the baby. He told of his day and the three hats he had sold and put the small amount of money into the small bank kept under his own bed.
He ate dinner and like always washed himself with warm water from the stove before turning in for the night. Mornings came early and he had to allow himself the amount of time needed to pack all of his hats on the cart and make his way to the market again.
He slept well that night and woke refreshed the next morning. It was early, two hours before he needed to make his way down to the market and begin to solicit his hats to the hundreds of customers and other passer’s by.
Within the hour the sun was starting to rise, and he began the walk toward the market. The walk was just the same as it was every morning, quiet and lonely. Occasionally he would pass other people in the narrow streets, but this early not many people were stirring about.
He made his way through the same alley ways that walked each morning. He could see two men making their way toward him as he walked but as always he thought nothing about them.
He kept his pace and stride and walked, “That’s the hat guy.” He heard one of the men say. “Stop him.” The other said in a demanding and almost horrifying voice.
Corain felt a sudden rush of fear go through him. As fast as the fear came over him, he was face to face with the two men. He could see that both of them were armed, the one who had spoken first had a small wheel lock pistol and the other a dagger.
“Faxon now owns these markets and the privilege to sell on these streets requires one quarter of your daily profit.” The man with the pistol said.
Corain was overwhelmed with fear as he looked the man in his cold eyes. “I don’t have the money, I have a family. Would Faxon take away from my wife and infant?” He asked the man, shaking and literally begging.
He could tell the men didn’t care about him or his family; all of the stories of this Faxon were coming true. “Everyone pays, or they don’t work. Better have something than nothing at all. Now, one quarter.” The second man with the knife said holding it closer to Dorain’s neck.
His heart pounded in his chest. “I don’t have anything, everything from yesterday is gone. I only live day to day,” he lied. There was enough money at home in his bank.
The two men were not happy about what he said but he had to tell them something. “Fine. We will see this evening when the market closes for the day. Remember hat man, one quarter, and we will be watching you.”
The day drug on and Corain dreaded the thought of packing up for the night. Throughout the day he saw the two men, along with two others, bully and intimidate other poor merchants all throughout the street market. He watched them, and like they told him earlier, they watched him all day.
He did well that day. Unlike the other day he sold seven of his fine hats today, enough money he didn’t need to work the rest of the week, but one quarter would make it where he had to work. He thought of ways to hide some on his money so they wouldn’t find it, but he knew it wouldn’t work they would just search him.
As the crowds faded and the day came to an end, fear set in even more. He carefully counted out one quarter of the days wages and put it in a small purse before tucking the rest into the coin purse on his belt. He packed his things and began the slow and now fearful journey home.
He started down the same streets he always took before changing his way. At the last second he decided to take an alternate route this evening, hoping the two men from this morning wouldn’t find him. He hoped that he could make it back to his home before they saw him but, all of his hopes faded.
He turned a corner onto an ally that he always took and ran into one of the men. “Tryin’ to pull one over are we?” He man asked pulling his wheel lock pistol again. “Looks like it,” he heard the other man from behind say.
Terror sank into him and he felt his heart beating from his chest. He reached in his belt and pulled out the small purse he had counted the one quarter of the day’s wages into.
“That’s all, that’s the one quarter you asked for.” He said trembling and holding the purse out to the man holding the pisto
“Better be! No one screws Faxon.” The man said as he suddenly pushed Corain causing him to fall backwards over his cart.
The two men started laughing as they reached down and each took a hat, “remember that hat man.”
They both turned and walked off. Corain no longer felt fear, he want to break down in the street and cry, but his fear was now anger but it faded quickly.
Over the next few weeks it became normal. Every day he would pay his dues. Some days they would hit him saying he was a cheat, those days they took everything. He would come home with bruises on his face, his chest, and his back.
He had no will to fight back. Some days he would see Faxon walking with his six body guards, or collectors as the merchants called them. He had dressed himself in fine cloths and flaunted his new found riches to the people he was taking from on a daily basis. One man had gained enough power using intimidation and threats to live a healthy life, free of the commons that he preyed upon.
Time went on for months and Corain kept paying. He had seen merchants leave the city, go out of business and even refuse to pay. Those who had refused had been publicly beaten and forced to give everything up just to have a chance to live.
“It’s a shame we gots to give up all of whats we gots so that bastard eats beef and wine ev-ry night.” The merchant who sold skins said just talking aloud. Corain had never known the man’s name. He had always been around the street but he and Corain had never crossed paths before until today.
“Sure is.” Another merchant spoke up. “They be a rumor in air, whispers in the dark, of man from the shadows waiting for Faxon. They say dis man is the protector, that he will come at night and take away from Faxon, and give back to us., The merchant said looking up to the sky.
“You get drunk too much.” The skin merchant said.
“No I speak real, just you wait, you all wait, and we will be free. FREE I TELL YOU! FREE! FREE! THE PROTECTOR COMES TONIGHT!” He stood and started running through the crowd and through the market street.
He still yelled, louder and louder about the protector. He waved his hands, he grabbed people, but most of all he was smiling. He was happy, almost like he believed what he was saying.
But his happiness soon faded when Corain heard the unmistakable sound of a pistol. When he looked up from shielding himself he saw the merchant motionless in the street, the man who always carried the wheel lock standing over him, the barrel of the gun smoking. He didn’t need to say anything every merchant and customer on the streets understood.
The sun had set, Corain made his way home. He thought of the man shot dead in the street. How a life could just be taken away in a split second, how someone who was speaking what he believed in be shot in cold blood. The man wasn’t speaking blasphemy or slander; he believed that tonight someone would protect the people from Faxon. Corain wished that someone would protect them but he knew it was impossible.
He was getting closer to home and he realized that he hadn’t paid his money today. His mind was so caught up in the dead man’s last moments that he forgotten to even count his wages for the day. Franticly he reached into his belt and pulled his coin purse, he didn’t have much but he had to pay.
He frantically started counting his wages carefully making sure not to miss any. “Looks like the hat man wants to skip out today?”
It was the voice of one the thugs that always did Faxon’s dirty work, more importantly it was the one who always carried the wheel lock pistol.
“I think he does, what does that tell you?”
“That the hat man wants to have a lesson.”
The two men walked around him and both faced him. Instinctively he handed them money, all of it. “Pleas just let me go, that’s everything for the day.” He told the two men.
“I wish it was good enough, but it’s the principle of things.” The man with the knife said. The man looked at him and then with his empty hand he struck Corain across the right side of his face.
Corain’s jaw was in severe pain as he fell to the ground. “You see hat man, you left without payment.” The man said as he kicked Corain in the ribs. “What does that say about you? It says you are stealing Mr. Faxon’s money.” He kicked him again.
Corain couldn’t breathe every breath was nothing but pain. He fell down on his back and looked up at the man. He knew that this time could be the end; he was as good as dead. The man raised his hand with the knife, the tip of it ready to be stabbed into him, but everything changed.
He never saw exactly when the man dropped the knife but he saw the after affect. Stuck into the man’s wrist was a small dagger, no longer than Corain’s middle finger.
The man fell to knees in pain as the other man looked around franticly. “What the hell was that?” He yelled.
Before the man with the blade through his hand could answer another dagger came flying through the air and struck him in the neck. He made a gurgling sound before falling completely to the ground, dead.
“Show yourself coward, come out and fight me.” The surviving man yelled holding his wheel lock out in front of him turning frantically from side to side.
“I see you,” a voice from the darkness of the narrow streets said.
“I know what you’ve done.” The voice said again.
“And what have I done?”
Corain watch as he turned frantically and what seemed to be from nowhere a man, dressed in all black with a black cape and hood appeared from the darkness.
He was behind the man with a pistol. “Taken from the innocent,” he told him as a blade from his sleeve ejected and went into the man’s body just under his arm.
He dropped his pistol and quickly his face froze and he lost all life. The mystery man removed the blade and slowly let the man fall to the ground.
He looked from under his hood at Corain, his face shrouded. “Go home; don’t be afraid of Faxon anymore.” The man told him.
Corain didn’t ask any questions he quickly got to his feet and started picking up his things. He knew that as soon as Faxon learned that two of his men were dead he would retaliate.
“Sir, Faxon has six men.” He told the mystery man.
“I know. Two of them are here, two of them frequent the pleasure house at the end of the ally, and the other two will be with Faxon until he finishes his drinking at the inn near here.” The mystery man told him
This man already knew everything about Faxon’s nights and his men. “Corain, your name is Corain right?” He asked. Corain just nodded. “After tonight Faxon’s wrongs will be made right. Go home enjoy your freedom.” He said as he bent over and began to move the bodies.
“How can everything be made right?” Corain asked.
“Who are you?”
The mysterious man looked back at him again. “You know who I am.” He turned and started to drag the body out of the street. “I am Ash, the protector.”
TO BE CONTINUED…