On a Hill Somewhere

  • The sun was slowly descending behind the mountains. Shadows gradually extended over the land and engulfed a lone boy who sat atop a small hill, overlooking a little village. He’d been there for a few hours, watching the villagers go about their lives. Men, women, perfectly normal and happy children, family mutts... At one point a little girl and her brother had climbed the hill, they’d asked him to play with them, but he was quick to scare them off. He looked on as they rushed down the hill. For a moment he worried that they might call their parents, but no... It only took the short run back to the village for the younger children to forget his existence. It was better that way. Better off. That’s what he told himself each time. Friends would only complicate everything further. He had enough complications to last him a couple of lifetimes.

    “You were particularly hard to find this time.”

    The whisper came from somewhere above and behind his back. He briefly glanced at the tall woman standing over him, her eyes hidden under the brim of a worn leather hat. “If only that were true,” he muttered.

    “If only a lot of things were true...” She answered, sitting beside him and grabbing the half-empty bottle he had dropped on the grass. “You’re too young to be poisoning yourself with this crap,” she scolded, emptying the bottle into the earth.

    “It’s as good of an escape as I’ll ever get. Or at the very least the only one I haven’t tried yet.”

    “There’s no escape to be found in the bottom of a bottle. Only an early grave.”

    He chuckled. “Close enough. Not like anyone really gives a shit.”

    The woman responded by swiftly smacking him right in the mouth. It was a weak strike, not enough to cause him any pain, but enough to startle him into silence. “First of all, I give a shit. Second of all, mind your words,” she warned.

    “Sorry,” he mumbled. “It’s been a bad week.”

    For a little while, they both sat in silence. The boy’s eyes occasionally straying from the little village below to examine the woman’s face. She’d taken off her hat and it was now resting on her lap. Over the years he had never managed to get any concrete answer out of this woman; who she was, why she kept coming back, why she hadn’t just lopped off his hand when he first tried to stick it in her pockets... Why did she care? In fact, she had flat out told him that he would never have those answers. That one day she’d just stop showing up and he’d do well with forgetting she had ever been there. She seemed to understand a little too well what his life was, know a bit too much how things worked in his family. It was weird to trust her, but he had literally nothing to lose either way.

    “He found my coin stash,” he blurted out. “I thought he was going to murder me this time, but...” He let out a bitter laugh. “He took it and said it would count towards my quota this month.” Another laugh escaped him, this time a little bit more high pitched. “He told me I didn’t have to work for it this week. Like it was a gift he was giving me. Like I was supposed to thank the fu-...reaking heavens that he’s so unbelievably generous and accept that Life will never, ever, be this kind to me again. If there was anything remotely sharp within reach just then...” He cut himself off and shrugged. “He’s not wrong. This was my last chance. I’m never getting out now.”

    “I told you to hide it somewhere only you would ever find,” she spoke, shaking a travel bag from her shoulders and rummaging through it.

    “One of the younger kids followed me. He told.” A sigh escaped his lips. He wanted to be mad at the kid, but it was pointless. The boy needed to look out for himself first. It was the best way to survive after all.

    “Of course.” She deadpanned, pulling a small box from her bag and setting it down on his lap. “I know you don’t believe me, but you’ll be alright.”

    He shook his head, opening up the box to find six small powdered cakes inside. “That sounds emptier than usual today.”

    “I’m a lot of things, but I’m not one for lies or empty promises.” She heaved a lengthy sigh, staring up at the multitude of stars shining over their heads. “There’s not much I believe in this life, but I do believe one thing... Acts of cruelty will always, always, one way or another, yield some form of punishment. That man thinks he has you in a prison, and so long as you depend on him; you are. Sooner or later he’ll realize, he was always the one inside the cage. Because you’ll be stronger and taller than you are now, and he’ll be a frail old man, crumbling under the weight of his mistakes. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

    “I guess.” He took one of the little cakes and bit into it, chewing in silence for a little while. “You look tired,” he pointed out.

    “I am.”

    “Rough week too?”

    “You can say that.” She snorted a small laugh. “Kid, I... I don’t think I’ll be coming back again after tonight.”

    The boy froze, only his jaw slowly moving as he chewed on another piece of cake. He swallowed hard. “Why?”

    “Let’s just say some of my mistakes are about to catch up to me.”

    “That explains a lot. As usual.” He frowned at her. “If you’re not coming back, at least tell me...”

    “No,” she cut him off. “We talked about this before. You knew this was coming.” There was another silent moment between them, the boy’s eyes once again darting between her face and the now empty village below. She sighed. “I did some horrible things in my life, kid. I’d like to say I regret them, or that I wish I could take them back, but the truth is, I can’t. I’m just not that great of a person. That’s the truth. So I’m leaving and I’m not coming back, and you’ll forget you ever knew me because I don’t matter. Are we clear?”

    He nodded his response, closing the box of cake and pushing it aside. “I’ll save these for later, I think,” he mumbled, leaning back and resting his weight on his palms, his eyes staring up into the starlit sky.

    He didn’t speak another word and neither did she. They simply sat there watching the stars. When she finally stood and walked away, the boy didn’t take notice. All he knew is that when he finally turned around to look, she had already gone. Right in the spot where she had just been sitting, a thin wooden box had been left behind. He picked it up and underneath it was a note.

    “I made this for you. Use it wisely.”

    The boy opened the box with a curious look on his face and grinned at the sight. Inside there was a small knife made of a silvery-white metal. It was just about the length of his hand; from his wrist to the tip of his middle finger, with a round grip and a small hooked curvature on the end of the blade. It looked just about the right size and shape for swiftly cutting a coin purse from someone’s belt. A thief’s stool that asked to be ‘used wisely’. He wasn’t one for empty promises either, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

    Random thing is random. And so very not-canon. I wrote it some time ago under the premise that Gabrielle had at some point met Luke's father and randomly visited to give him some sisterly advice. Without ever telling him that she's his sister. And pay no mind to the fact we have the same extremely rare eye color, random child who tried to rob me once. :P

    This makes me very sad because I know Luke's father, as good of a person as he was, had a horrid life. And maybe if Gabrielle hadn't up and died like a stupid, things might have been different. :|

    The next non-canon thing I write needs to be about stabbing their birth parents in the face with a rusty fork.

    And on a lighter note: yes, Kyle will be smacked in the mouth for cursing in Shadows Rise. Possibly at some point in this chapter. Look forward to that. XP

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