Author: Dancer27 PM
The world has been torn apart by war and is now led by Alxender Dormi, a man in love with cruelty and destruction. When he learns of the Hinterland, a supposed mystical land that exists outside from his rule, Xen sails there in the hopes to obtain their land or to destroy them. Once there, however, his whole world is turned upside down by the people and their strange land...Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,790 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 12-15-12 - Published: 11-11-12 - id: 3073336
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The riffraff living in the Downtown Shafts defined it. Situated in Brooklyn, the Shafts only held troubled lowlife; no man ventured there unless he had a death wish. Gangs of young men roamed the streets and wreaked havoc on any passerby who did not identify with them.
To outsiders, distrust and cruelty influenced all, but to those who operated with them, they proved to be cooperative. The young men wore rags and their skin had layers of dirt, but they equipped themselves nobly with weapons formed from any misplaced and forgotten pieces of wood, metal, and other scraps. They may have been barbaric, but they inspired fear.
Xen loved this kind of man the most—the violent, spirited, ambitious, and rough. They were the perfect candidates to recruit into his ranks. They had nothing to gain except power and respect. Some, though, preferred to lead and not follow, but Xen did not allow such dreams amongst the Rajaton Valta. Nevertheless, he found it easy to take care of such young men. It also garnered the chance to make an example of the insubordinate and persuade the others to join.
In the Downtown Shafts, Ian Dimanche led these miscreants. Although young, he kept his men in line and kept them well-trained. Little did Xen know that Ian actually yearned for the day when he could sail with the Rajaton Valta.
# # #
"Hey, Ian!" a husky voice called from around the corner.
A young man with shaggy brown hair looked up to find one of his followers coming toward him. Rising from his crouched position by the fire, Ian flashed a charming smile. "Hey, Reed. What do you need?"
Reed smiled, like a Grinch who knew he was causing trouble, and held out his grim covered hands, which matched his equally dirty clothes.
"I need some money," Reed muttered with a slur. The unsettling smile remained plastered on his brown, greasy face as he held out his wobbly, drunken hand.
Ian crossed his arms and raised his brow. "I gave you money yesterday. What did you spend it on?"
Just then, Ian's steady eye noticed the blonde girl standing behind Reed. She wore stilettos, a short, blue skirt, and a tiny, black top that barely covered her breasts. Glancing at Reed's smirk and the way his eyes roamed around, unfocused, in his red sockets, Ian said, "Never mind, I don't even want to know."
Reed responded with a high-pitched, squealing hiccup.
At that moment, one of Ian's oldest friends came over and shoved Reed to the side, making him stumble on the cement and fall flat on his bottom. With an overly dramatic gasp, the woman rushed to his side and tried to pull him up by the arm pits. However, her attempt only caused her to fall over as well, and she landed, bare belly down, in Reed's lap.
The man who had caused all the uproar had dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes, steady and unwavering. His eyes slanted as he stared at and loomed over Reed, who tried to get himself and his friend to their feet. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Reed? As if Ian doesn't do enough for you already, you're asking for more?"
Once back on his feet, Reed rubbed the back of his neck and mumbled unintelligibly. Ian stood with his arms crossed over his chest and a deep frown on his face as he watched the two with worry. Even if Dylan, his second in command, held a great deal of respect in the group, Ian still tried to avoid inner confrontations, and he knew Dylan was aware of this fact.
Walking over to the disputants, Ian clasped his hand on Dylan's shoulder, and his comrade, who stood rigid enough to look like he would punch Reed at any given moment, immediately relaxed his stance. "That's enough, Dylan. I have money, and Reed aides us with all the recruits he gets."
"Yeah-" started Reed, holding up an unsteady finger, but Ian held his hand up, shooting him a warning glare like a parent to a child, and Reed instantly clamped his mouth shut.
Ian returned his gaze to Dylan, who said, "You don't need to give him money, Ian, especially if he wants to waste it on trash."
Sighing, Ian looked at Reed. "He has a point, Reed. I gave you twenty dollars yesterday. It would be unfair to the others if I gave you more so soon, especially seeing how you spent it."
Unmoved, and probably unaware of any insults, Reed simply shrugged his shoulders and blinked. "S'Okay Ian, I understand." Then he turned on his heel and linked arms with his woman companion. "Come on, Gazelle, let's go."
Ian and Dylan both blinked and raised their brows.
After watching them leave, Ian asked, "Did he just call her 'Gazelle'?"
Dylan remained still, with his eyes still glued to where the two had previously stood. "Yes."
They both continued to stare. "Hmph."
"'Hmph' is right."
They stood there for another moment, heads cocked to the side, awed, yet slightly confused, at their friend's behavior. Then Dylan rocked back and forth on his feet and said, "Well, I guess we should check on your wares, then, and see where we're at."
Ian nodded, the spell suddenly broken, and turned to the left, going into the brick building, where the sign threatened to fall off and in the windows hung old sheets. Dylan followed in Ian's steps and whistled a happy tune.
Inside the building, old, wooden floors creaked and every breath struggled to obtain oxygen through the musty smell. Directly to the left of the door, a staircase led to a walkway above the foyer and had doors on both sides of the hall. Electricity no longer existed as leisure here nor anywhere in the Shafts, and for lights they used old kerosene lamps and candles. However, they rarely lit candles because more often than not, it simply led to fires.
Walking inside, Ian went into the living room and pulled back an old, moldy picture hanging on the wall to reveal a safe wherein he kept his stash of goods. Ian was a peddler, a leader, and had an assortment of men looking for treasures. Being in charge turned out to have its benefits, even for someone who never wanted to lead.
After Ian opened the safe, he stepped aside to have Dylan take a look with him. As his eyes went over the treasures inside, money, gold, silver, and various gems, Dylan nodded his head in approval. "Good, there's still quite a bit left from when your father led us. You've done well in saving his legacy."
Ian's back stiffened as he sorted through his goods. He hated being associated with his father. It meant that people rarely gave him any credit of his own. "Yeah, you could say that."
"He was the main opposition when the empire started taking over," continued Dylan, lost in his reverie. Ian pursed his lips. "Men flocked to him for leadership and help. He was probably as popular as Alxender is now."
Abruptly Ian turned around, his eyes flashing. "What have I told you about using that name?"
Dylan straightened his back like a board. "R-right, Ian. Sorry."
He turned back around. "And stop mentioning my father."
"Sorry, I forgot you don't like talking about him."
Ian grunted. He finished sorting through the goods and turned to face Dylan. "Everything seems to be in order, then."
Looking at Dylan, Ian couldn't help but think back to the times when his father was around. At that time, Ian was still a young boy and never understood what was happening, why his father always seemed distant. Looking at Dylan always reminded him of those times, and he hated it. Despite his feelings, he had to have Dylan around. Dylan was one of the few people Ian actually trusted with his life. He was about two decades older than Ian, but still had his roguish good looks and a quick hand in a duel. He worked an advisor to Ian and proved to be a powerful asset to the group.
Dylan noted Ian's lifeless, faraway gaze and stated bluntly, "You reminisce too much."
"Your face has a lot of memories."
Dylan sighed. "You really shouldn't live in the past."
"What else do I have to live for? I hate it here."
Ian turned and trudged out of the room, winding his way to the front door once again. Dylan immediately followed him silently. When they were on the front steps, however, Ian suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, and Dylan almost ran into him. Without turning around, Ian said, "Can I ask you something?"
Dylan stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Of course."
"What's the rest of the world like?"
Taken aback by such a line of questioning, Dylan slid his hands back out of his pockets and down his legs.
Ian waited patiently for a response, knowing that Dylan would struggle with an answer. Because Ian only had him as a confidante, Dylan was aware of all of Ian's problems with this place. Here, many painful memories lived that Ian did not wish to remember. Now, Ian wanted to be comforted, placated by some knowledge that the rest of the world still retained some beauty, unlike this decrepit place. Although Ian did not enjoy placing such a burden on Dylan's shoulders, Ian knew that Dylan had accompanied his father during the battle and had sailed all around the world. Ian had no one else to ask.
After another agonizing minute, Dylan pursed his lips and said, "Well, Ian, it's a beautiful but dangerous place. I hope that you'll get to see it one day, but with… with the Valta controlling everything, I don't think you could. That is… unless…"
Ian's ears perked, and he turned around to face Dylan, his eyes glowing. "Unless what?"
Shifting his eyes around, Dylan leaned in close, his hot breath washing over Ian's face. "Have you heard of the Hinterland?"
Dylan looked around before he whispered again, "The Hinterland. I figure you probably wouldn't have heard of such nonsensical things, but in my voyages, people spread the name like wildfire."
"Well, what's it like?" Ian asked, curious.
"It's a freedom land. It's rumored that the Rajaton Valta don't control it."
Ian's eyes glowed. "Do you know where it is?"
The excitement and hope in his voice made Dylan lower his eyes in shame. "I shouldn't have said anything to you, Ian. It's just a myth, a fantasy. No one knows where it is."
"I bet someone does. Myths like that can't just come from lies."
Dylan shook his head. "Forget about it. Besides, even if it were real, how would you get there? You'd need a ship, for one thing. I guess you could pull together a crew, too, but the Valta… they'd never let you leave!"
Ian pondered over this for a moment, placing his head in his hand. His eyes sparkled as he got an idea. "The Valta can leave."
Dylan snorted. "Yeah, sure they can! Let's just go round some up and we'll be on our way!" He snorted again.
"You're missing the point, Dylan. I can join the Rajaton Valta."
Dylan's head snapped up. "What, you join the Valta? They want to see you killed!"
Ian rubbed his hands together. "They're always looking for extra hands…"
"I don't like where this is going…"
"Surely they'd want a young man like me?"
"I don't think so…"
"I'm looking to see the world, join their ranks…"
"I should have kept my mouth shut…"
"I'd be a fine addition to any crew upon the ships with red sails…"
Dylan threw up his hands as he shook his head in submission.
"I can imagine the breeze, the water splashing my face, the roaring high seas, the battles, the sword-fighting, the new sights and places, the world…"
Ian's eyes glazed over and his mind wandered off in the adventure. Turning to face Dylan, he imagined them on a large ship, red sails flowing in the wind, the captain yelling orders. They would make port in some foreign, unfamiliar town. They would meet new people and see all the sights in the world. They would be almost… free.
As Ian wandered through the streets in a daze, Dylan followed behind uneasily and kept glancing over his shoulder. One never knew who lurked in the shadows.
However, Ian continued with his questions, overcome by his curiosity and unaware of the unease. "Do you ever think the commanders get to sail wherever they please?"
"I highly doubt that Xen would ever allow that. Actually, I'd say it's quite impossible."
"Do you think the ships ever get caught in big storms on the sea? That the ocean gets mad and tumultuous?"
"Well, sure. The weather is highly unpredictable and the soldiers have to follow Xen's orders no matter what."
"Speaking of the soldiers, do you think they are any less fearful of Xen?"
"They probably have easier lives so long as they obey orders. Xen probably likes them more since they are under his rule, although that means he probably watches them more closely all the time, too."
"Do any of the other cities speak different languages?"
"No. Xen requires everyone to speak English in order to communicate with his troops. All other languages have since died out or the people have."
Just as Ian was about to continue with his line of questioning, Dylan raised his hand to shush him. Three dark figures headed their way, and by the looks of it, Dylan knew who they were.
Ian, however, failed to take notice of anything strange and said, "I bet all the myths about the Hinterland are true…"
Then Ian looked straight ahead and realized his mistake.
Xen stood across from him, arms crossed over his chest, his black coat swaying in the light breeze. "The Hinterland? You dare to mention the Hinterland?"
Ian hesitated and stumbled over his words. "I, uh, I want to sail there to destroy those heathens!" he exclaimed, pumping his fist in the air for extra effect.
Xen stared at him skeptically, his eyes slanting into small slits and his mouth set in a firm line. "Oh really? Then you presume that this place actually exists?"
Ian hesitated with his response. He had just heard the rumor from Dylan and still didn't know much about it. His answer now could determine whether he lived or died.
Squaring his shoulders, Ian looked Xen straight in the eye and said, "You're a fool if you don't think that the Hinterland exists. It could be the greatest threat to your empire."
Xen shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head. "You're right. This last decade, I have only been making my hold stronger on the people already following me. I should be out there, taking down those who dare to live outside my jurisdiction."
Ian almost took a step back. Uncertainty swept through him. "E-exactly."
Xen nodded. "Hinach." The swordsman stepped forward. "Take this boy back to the Obloquy. I have plans for him."
Hinach smirked. "With pleasure."
However, as Hinach made a move toward Ian, five men jumped out from the shadows and stood in front of him, protecting their leader. Dylan remained by Ian's side, but did not pull out a weapon.
Xen opened his arms wide. "What's this, my boy? Why try to stand against me?"
Ian waved his men down, and they obeyed their leader's orders. "I will join you, actually. I would love to go the Hinterland, if that's what you're planning."
Xen's eyes shone maliciously under the light as he said, "Such a clever boy. If only we could lessen your fiery spirit, you could be a great asset. I would hate to have to kill you. Maybe if you play your cards right, I will make you a commander of your own ship."
Ian bowed, albeit mockingly. "I should be honored."
With a snap of his fingers, Xen said, "Come! We must return to the ship and make plans for this adventure."
He turned on his heel, and Hinach grabbed the boy by the arm and shoved him so he walked in front. Ian cast one last look behind him at Dylan, whose brow crinkled in uncertainty. His friend tossed him one final wave, and then Ian was shoved out of sight.
Before he turned and left, Hinach glared at the riffraff who stayed behind, who also returned a look of malice.
Hinach raised his sword and pointed it at each of the five men. "Don't think that I won't be back for you."
Then he turned and followed the same path Xen had taken.
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