This was written as part of a larger story delivered in a serial format.
Previous episodes can be found here.
Colt lay alone staring into the darkness of the small room above the forge he once shared with two others. The room felt almost large now that the two other apprentices, Jare and Tom, had gone. He had room to stretch out, or walk around stretching without stepping on another. Colt missed Tom often, but never Jare who was mean as a snake and often earned him and Tom beatings or beat them himself.
Tom had been a good worker, friend, and confidant. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that morning when Colt woke to find Tom gone. He had said often enough that he wanted to leave, that they could leave together, whispering to Colt in the dark so low that Jare couldn’t hear. Colt never thought he would go. Had hoped that he would not, being scared to go along, selfishly fearing what would happen to him if Tom did go. And then one morning, he realized his fears.
Jare terrorized him. Colt was younger and smaller, and Jare was a bully that used the difference in age and size to his every advantage. From getting first choice at meals, taking the best spots in the forge, where a draft could come through to provide a slight relief from the heat and pushing Colt to the rear where the air was hot and dead, to taking longer breaks and blaming the lack of production on Colt. When Colt dared to stop any of this, Jare would beat him to tears in the dark of the small room where there was no escape.
But a forge was full of weapons, and not all of them the kind you hang on the wall for display and sale. Some tuck nicely up a sleeve or into a boot, and are there when you need them in the dark.
Fifthday had been long and hot, the salt wind had blown hard and Colt was sticky with sweat and tired. He collapsed to his blanket to lay atop it in hopes the cool night air would give some relief.
Perhaps it would have, given time. Colt let the aches of the day’s work ease its way from his tight, tired muscles. He relaxed, letting the worries and heat of the day seep away as he lay in the near darkness.
Jare was nothing more than a presence in the room. One that Colt was happy to ignore. Jare wasn’t ignored easily though. He shuffled around the room, restless as ever after a day that should have had him exhausted. Perhaps if he had done his own work… With energy to burn and a mean streak that refused rest, he made his way over to where Colt lay and kicked him in the ribs.
Colt rolled into a ball, protecting his body, covering his head as the kicks continued to pound into him. Even protecting himself as much as he could, the kicks begin to take their toll on his arms, legs, and ribs, but he knew they would stop soon. Jare was mean but not stupid. He wouldn’t hurt Colt to the point that he could not work the forge.
Colt could not say how long the beating lasted, only that it stopped before he passed out. He lay bleeding in the full dark of the room listening to the slow steady breaths of Jare’s sleep, his own sleep now forgotten. His mind raced with options, but there was only one real option that made any sense to him. It was time to stand up to Jare, even if that meant killing Jare or dying himself. In his bloody, beaten state, life seemed not worth living anyway. Things were going to change tonight.
Reaching down into his boot, colt pulled out the length of slender metal he had secreted away the week before. He had carried it for nine days. Nine days with perhaps ninety opportunities to plunge the spike into his abusive bunkmate and ninety times he had not the guts to do the deed.
Lying hurt on the floor, he was of four angers. The anger he felt toward Jare for being Jare and beating him, sometimes nightly, was the most obvious, but it perhaps was not the hottest anger, only the most obvious. There was anger for waiting that burned hot below the surface. How many years had he endured this? Let himself and Tom be beaten bloody, and forced to do the work of three while he did nothing. He felt anger at Tom rise up, but pushed it away. Tom had done what he had to do. Tom left and had offered to take Colt with him, but he was too scared to go, choosing to stay in the relative safety of the forge even if it meant enduring Jare.
Beneath it all he found the real anger buried beneath years of guilt and hate, piled on him threatening to take him to the grave more than Jare ever had. The anger of staying. He ran his hand along the spike of metal, imagining the iron length he held as glittering silver and laid it against his throat.
With just a bit of pressure, he could end it all. He hated himself all the more for the thought and tears began to streak his face. With an effort, he stood, positioned himself over where the other boy lay sleeping, raised the spike high, and brought it down with all the weight he could bear.
That same anger welled up in him now. Why had he stayed? There was nothing here for him. Could he do what Tom had done? Was Tom even alive now? Would he live if he left?
The dark presented so many questions, and Colt dug for an answer, only to find the same answer he had all those years ago. He was scared, and he hated himself for it.
He overcame that fear once though, and he would do it again.
This is the eighth installment of my serial lovingly named Warriors. It is my goal to have a new episode every week or so depending on life. Please bear with me if I’m not as punctual as I would like. Another portion will be posted soon with a target word count between 500 and 1,000.
If you would like to read the previous episodes, I have linked to the Warriors page at the top of this post!
I hope you enjoyed this portion of our story! I look forward to seeing you as we continue the journey and welcome any comments you may have.
Thanks for visiting!