I decided I would ring in the new year with a short story (I actually did write this on Jan. 1st, just didn't post it here yet). I chose to write it about one of my characters, Varesh Elm (just admit it, you wish you had a name as cool as that), specifically when he was young. This is kinda a significant event in his life. I actually know almost his whole backstory, now, from writing this. :D
Read and comment if you'd like, just remember this is a rough.
Oh, and be aware: I don't do first-person often. Or males. Or nine-year-olds.
My little brother was the only one who saw me the first time I Summoned. Luckily for me. Summoning, while obviously useful, is not a respectable trade where I come from. To be honest, it’s not a trade at all: it’s a crime. I’m not sure when it all started, but I think years ago, maybe hundreds of years ago, some Summoners went bad and terrorized the countryside or killed someone. That would be enough for my people to not want Summoners among them unbranded ever again. It was enough for me, until I became one of them.
“Ven, stay close,” I murmured to my kid brother, clamping a hand on his shoulder for emphasis.
Venner, or Ven to me, nodded his tousled dark head, but didn’t slow his pace down the street, eager to get out of the rain, pouring down on us in large, frigid drops. I had to hurry to keep up with him, even though he was only six and I was a big kid of nine. The people who kept jostling me, also all on their way to shelter, might have had something to do with my inability to sustain a quick speed. The rain had come annoyingly quickly; I pulled my coat closer around myself, hefted the bag of groceries, and glared up at the sky. My brother and I had been at the market, picking up a few groceries our mother had sent us for, when the heavens had opened, as they say, and the shops, little more than tents, immediately closed.
We hurried on down the street back toward our house, which was little more than the upper floor of a washer-woman’s business where our mother and both of us were employed. Our father worked as a laborer at the palace: an honor we never forgot when we barely had money to buy food for the day.
At last we reached the door to the washer’s shop. Ven pulled it open and dashing inside, leaving me to leap for the door before it closed. I almost dropped the groceries while doing so, but managed to get inside at last, water dripping from every inch of me.
Ven was standing still just inside the door, but before I could ask him why I heard a shriek from the floor overhead: our floor. There was no sign of Neah, the washer: she must have gone home already. Without thinking I sprinted for the door to the stairwell and wrenched it open. The stairs were made up of large, oaken steps but I took them two at a time, pressing my palms against the rough walls for leverage. I told myself the shriek I had heard was not from my mother.
I reached the top of the stairs and stopped, much like Veno had done below, and took in what was to be seen in the front room of our tiny, cramped, messy, wonderful home.
A beefy man with a shock of gray hair was straightening from over my mother’s body, holding a bloody knife. My mother lay still, her eyes open, blood spattered all over her neck and chest. My father was beside her, already dead: he had even more blood all over his body. Perhaps he had fought. There were two other men, who were calmly rummaging through the family chest and the shelves on the wall.
What do they think they will find? a quiet, small part of my mind wondered. We were the poorest class of people: not worth stealing from. Not worth murdering.
None of the men had noticed my entrance, probably because of the rain, drumming like a million miniscule gongs on the tin roof. How often had my mother complained about that leaky roof to my brother and I; how often had she asked my father to fix it; how many times had my father refused because he was so exhausted from the day’s work?
I swallowed: it seemed noisier than the rain. And I realized I was afraid, I was terrified of these men. I wanted nothing more than to turn around, go down the stairs, and disappear with Ven into the rain.
My realization, however, made me angry. How dare I be afraid when my parents’ corpses weren’t cold yet, when their murderers were casually robbing our family, when my little brother needed a place to sleep during the cold, drenched night?
My anger sparked like a little fire in my chest and grew into a fury. I concentrated all my aner and fury on the grey-haired man: How dare he! If only I had a weapon. I’d cut him open in a second. If only I could kill him—
“Oi, boy, whatcher doin’ there?” one of the men said, finally noticing me. His surprise quickly faded to resolution, and I knew they were going to kill me.
“You live here, boy?” the grey-haired man asked. His knife was drawn but held loose at his side. What had they to fear, after all, from a nine-year-old boy? “How long you been standing there?”
If only I had a weapon, I thought again. If only he would just die!
A loud tearing sound interrupted my thoughts, although not my black anger, and I looked at the other side of the room to see something similarly black, apparently floating in midair.
“What in the three kingdoms is that?” I heard the third man say.
It wasn’t actually floating, I noticed with detached interest. It was as if the air in the room had been torn like an old garment, leaving a black rent. As I watched, eyes appeared in that rent. The eyes came out of the gaping hole, set in a face on a head like a cat’s, followed by a shadowy feline body. The entire creature was about the size of the large dogs the lords used to hunt with, but it didn’t seem solid like a real animal: it was more shadow and mist than flesh.
I was too angry to feel fear, but I almost took a step backward as the pair of eyes fell on me.
You called me, a scratchy voice said. I come.
“Help me kill them,” I said, and realized from the soreness of my jaw that I had been clenching it for some time.
The creature’s teeth bared in what could have been a smile.
“What the lukk, Darvin!”
I looked at the murderers: they were backing towards the windows, knives in their hands, staring at the creature. My creature, I was somehow certain.
“Quick, before they get away!” I yelled, my panic and anger feeling like a line, directly from my heart to the shadowy cat.
Without answering, the creature obeyed, leaping at the men. Out of the rent came four other creatures, very like the first, and followed its lead.
I didn’t close my eyes once during what followed. I watched as those men screamed and bled and died. I had to watch, I knew: whether because I thought it would make my revenge complete, or as a punishment to myself, I’m still not sure.
The creatures finished and turned to me once again. Now that it was over I felt a flicker of fear once again.
What about that one? the leader asked, peering over my shoulder.
I spun, terrified, to find myself staring into the eyes of my little brother Ven, standing on the step below me, his own eyes wide with disbelief. Horror replaced my anger like ice water.
“N-no,” I said. “Not him. Not him.”
“Just leave!” I screamed, turning back to the things I had somehow brought into my home. “Go! Get out! Leave us alone!”
The creatures didn’t seem angry. The leader’s eyes didn’t waver as they stared into mine.
Yes. Until you need us again.
It turned away, and one by one they leapt back into the rent.
I know how to close a Portal now, of course, but I still have no idea how my nine-year-old self first managed to do it, as traumatized as I was at the time. perhaps whatever subconscious talent had allowed me to open it in the first place decided to give me a break and closed it, too.
After all signs of my Summon, my crime, had disappeared, I just sat down right there on the floor and wrapping my arms around my knees. I didn’t see or hear anything for hours, and don’t remember anything from the rest of that day. I don’t remember Ven trying to talk to me, although he told me later he had. Apparently, when I wouldn’t respond, he went back outside and got help. He told the lies that I wasn’t able to, to all who inquired: that we had come home to find our parents and their murderers dead.
Ven never told anyone my secret.
But I knew the truth. I knew I had broken a law: the law that says that no one, not even the king, may Summon anything. I couldn’t stop once I had started: that is impossible. And once I began Summoning, I knew I was a criminal. Even if I felt like I was doing nothing wrong, it didn’t matter. In my world, it was a crime, and I was a criminal. I decided that if I was already a criminal, I might as go all the way. That decision was what set me on the path to becoming a part of the Brass Snake, the largest crime syndicate in the northern cities.
But that’s another story.