|Crimson Flames, Dark Clouds
Author: OmegaDork PM
A short story of two men with a major conflict between them surrounding the word "justice".Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 4,631 - Published: 02-15-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3101287
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Dark, cotton clouds were strung across the sky in fine rows, water spilling out as if they were all being wrung out at once. Beneath them the lapping flames of what was once a fair size fire was dying down. Most of the peoples of the small village who had gathered to watch the burning had departed back to their homes where they would be sheltered and not get wet. Now the town center was far more silent than it had been a while ago, but the screams of the woman that had recently departed still rang in the head of the man who still remained. He grovelled on the ground like an injured animal, tears streaming down his face and mixing with the rain.
She had been his one, his only. The only one left of who he had to love. She was humble, fair, and ever so kind, and yet they burned her. They burned her without even a trial. The worst part, he knew was that she wasn't even in a witch. Not once in her life had she practiced the craft. She was a good woman. They had falsely accused her. They hadn't even given her a chance.
He hated whoever dare accuse her of such a treachery. It was an outright violation that brought her to her painful death. It was cruel and inane. He wasn't going to let this incident go and continue on with his life. He couldn't. He swore to himself that as soon as he found the lying one... whoever it was, woman or man, child or elder, he was going to right their wrongs.
He was going to get revenge.
All the meanwhile, another last spectator, a young man, thinly sculpted and sharp witted observed the other, rain beginning to seep through the stiff fabric of his clothes. He knew what the woman had done. In fact, he was the one that claimed that she was a heretic in the beginning. He did what he had to do. She had committed a sin and she had to be punished for it. Such a criminal could not live in this world. The man had somewhat a reason to grieve, he figured, but to such an extent as this display of anguish he didn't really understand.
He sighed and, turning on his heel, briskly walked back to his place of residence.
It was far past casual roaming times when Klein heard a knock on the door. His wife looked up curiously from her needlework as he got up to answer it. He was rather surprised to see the pale, shrunken Arwel Hasdock on his porch, but he kept his face straight and his tone emotionless. This was the man who had wept that day those years ago, and things had been a bit queer since then.
Hasdock disappeared from society for a good few days it seemed before returning a changed man. No longer did he smile as much as he used to. No more did his laugh ring out, unless in crude sarcasm. He never really seemed to have anyone to speak with more than casual chatter, but when the heretic woman passed on... it seemed like his world had ended. It was like life had no meaning to him but to routinely get up and sulk around until night. Sometimes he could be seen talking to someone or another, but that wasn't very often, and whenever it happened, the conversation was always grim.
As time wore on, his body seemed to go twice as fast. Now he seemed much older than he really was, and his figure was almost ghostly. Some wondered if he was sickly, but never bothered to ask. It was evident that he spooked them, and, even though they despised such thoughts, wished that he would leave the world.
It also seemed to some of the townsfolk, as well as Klein himself, that he had been the main thing on the dark man's thoughts as of late, but what was really on his mind, no one could guess. All they knew was that of his few questions. Brief interrogations seemed to be what cropped up whenever he spoke, but every time, they were directed at Klien.
He never really worried, though, as he had assumed Hasdock a bit of a crazy fool from the start on that first encounter by the ashes of the departed lady. However, mostly because of his ever-loving, curious newlywed wife, he had began to wonder if and what exactly Hasdock could be planning for him. If anything of all, of course.
Now here he was on his doorstep, looking as bleak as usual, if not more-so in the dim light that the lanterns provided.
"What is it?" Klein asked, his voice strict and sharp, but ending bluntly.
"Come." That was all that Hasdock said.
"No," Klein responded to the command with some slight annoyance and uncertainty as to what was going on, "Not unless there is reason to."
Hasdock took a moment to respond, but in a deep, yet quiet, somewhat timid voice he said, "I need to speak with you." He looked up, the shadows under his eyes darkening in contrast with the shadows of his face, making him look even worn than he normally did. Then he quickly added, "Privately."
Why Hasdock was requesting this at such a late time of night, Klein still didn't understand, and was very, very reluctant to accept. He quickly pondered what in the world the man could need, before finally, with some resignation and a quick nod of the head to his wife, he stepped out onto the wooden porch, closing the door softly behind him.
"I do hope that you have a good reason for intruding me at this time of night." The way Klein looked at Hasdock made it unnecessary to even say that, and yet the smaller man seemed to be unfazed. Then again, that was how he had been for the past few years, so it hadn't really come as a surprise.
"I have something I believe may be of interest to you," Hasdock explained duly, and Klein regarded this with an odd stare. Yet, once again, Hasdock didn't seem to notice. "If you should grab your horse and come with me, I believe this is an urgent issue."
Klein glanced around the silent, peaceful town. There was nothing that appeared to be out of place or in need of immediate attention. No fires or fierce animals tramping through the dusty roads as they pleased. The lack of explanation displeased him as well. He scowled at the man, wondering if he was up to some sort of childish trick. It wouldn't come as surprising, especially with all that he had been up to all this time.
Then again, he thought as he placed a hand to his chin and continued to look at the shrunken man, perhaps there was indeed something of immediate notice and he just couldn't see it, perhaps far out of town. That would explain the need for a horse. Though it didn't necessarily explain why he himself was needed, instead of someone else. But the man was most likely trying to fool him, and with that in mind he was very inclined to deny.
However... A new idea appeared into his thoughts. It was time-wasting and foolhardy, but if it got the man to leave him be from now on, then so be it. Besides, he would only use it if indeed this was a play of tomfoolery, exaggerated or otherwise. In which case, there was nothing wrong with contributing to society for the better.
"Let me grab my cloak," he growled, swiftly turning around and heading inside, leaving the other to wait in the cool chill of the early autumn night. Not that he necessarily cared the most for this fellow and especially not now.
Upon hearing the re-closing of the door, his ever-wondering wife anxiously peered at him from her seat.
"What is it?" she asked softly.
"Some urgent issue apparently," Klein grumbled in response, but not near as strictly or hotly as he had with Hasdock. He reached for his heavy coat, and his wife contemplated him with interest and some slight distrust, but all in playful spirit, as if she knew that he wasn't in any danger at all.
"Shall I await for your return?"
At that, Klein chuckled quietly to himself, turning his head to briefly smile at the woman across the room from him, then returning his gaze forward. He also knew that he most likely wasn't in any danger either.
"If you wish," he said, much more in good spirits than just a moment ago, "But I don't believe that I should be long." At this, she giggled good-naturedly.
By this time Klein had struck a match and was lighting a lantern to help him in the darkness. The last thing he needed was to get lost in the never ending shadows of the night. He quickly set it down as soon as the wick was aflame. Then, swiftly and discreetly while his wife's eyes were back down on her needlework, he snatched up his nearby hunting knife and tucked it beneath the layers of his cloak.
He felt very distrusting and somewhat a suspicious fellow himself for doing this, but if Hasdock tried anything, he was in for a scare.
With that, Klein shuffled out the door again, and headed to his stable to ready the horse. Hasdock remained by his, impatiently waiting. It was blatantly clear that he was eager to get going, and because of that Klein had to fight the temptation not to take his precious time getting set up to go. He resisted, though, as he knew that course of action would make him no more mature than the other waiting for him. Besides, what if there were actually someone or something in need? That would make him even more foolish.
In a matter of minutes his horse was ready and, upon seeing him, Hasdock was on his own as well, and hurriedly leading the way. They galloped out of the little village and into the dark, surrounding hills that blended in with the sky, dotted with stars and filled with the blue rimmed silhouettes of the clouds that somehow seemed to make themselves darker than the black canvas behind that they awkwardly spread themselves throughout. The moon was not visible, as if it was covered by a thick blanket, making the world even dimmer.
Barely a thing could be made out in the dark and Klein found himself holding his lantern high, trying to take in his surroundings and piece together where they were headed, if anywhere. He peered out, but of what he could see, nothing really seemed out of the norm. The further they progressed, the more Klein began to regret his decision. He quietly cursed under his breath, but continued on.
Finally, after a few minutes, though it felt much longer, they arrived at was seemingly nothing. Black hills, black sky, and not much more than a lone nearby tree to liven up the scenery. Needless to say, Klein was very much angered, even though he knew it was partly his own fault for getting himself there.
"Why have you brought me here?" He tried to keep his voice somewhat steady but immediately failed upon the first few words of the next sentence. "You know I hate being made a fool of!" His voice began to rise a bit. "Do you really think I have time for your childish antics? Are you wanting me to lose trust in you?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Well, I don't, and leading me along for no purpose at all..." Now he stopped mid-sentence. The explanation he had just outright spoken pretty much proved that Hasdock was obviously up to something.
The other man picked up the conversation from where he had dropped off.
"Clearly you have... or, at least, had the time to invest into... making up false conclusions, per say? Time to investigate and convince people that innocent people are servants of the underworld." Hasdock's voice was as dull and monotonous as usual, and he just stood, staring at the ground. Or rather, as Klein quickly noticed, at a simple cross, nearby the tree. He grimaced. This was easily the last thing he wanted to be brought up, especially in such a situation as this. He found his hand fluttering toward the knife, though the exact reason as to why, he wasn't really certain of himself.
"It was not a false accusation. I had the proof, the notebook. You saw me holding it. She was a witch. All know that beings as such must be punished." Klein frowned greatly at the grave where her ashes most likely lay.
"That notebook was fake! I don't know who gave it to you, or how you got it, but I can state for a fact that it was not from my wife's hands!"
Klein didn't answer. He knew it was a hopeless cause to try and reason with him. Arwel would battle for the proof that his wife was innocent, even though she was long gone already. He would forever fill himself with his fake thoughts, never to see the truth that he refused to believe. He knew this. Various reports from acquaintances told him so.
There was a long, rather awkward silence as a slight breeze ruffled the dry grasses and gave the moment a bit more of an eerie feel. Klein shivered a little.
"What if it was your wife?" Hasdock asked boldly, "What if I said that she was a witch and-"
"Don't you dare accuse her of such a sin!" Klein loudly interrupted, his eyes flashing briefly for a moment. Then, as if another personality had taken over his very being, he composed himself, and resumed calmly, "If such a cruel fate should befall her... not that I should ever expect it too... I would do as such as I would to any other, and have her get her proper punishment."
"Tch." Hasdock scoffed, "Heartless fiend."
"What was that?"
Klein's answer was a strike to the face. Caught off guard, he dropped the lantern in his grasp and it shattered on the ground, the flame quickly going out in the process. Hasdock proved to be much stronger than he appeared. Dodging another hit, Klein ripped the knife out from under his coverings and brought it up to the face of his opponent in the now very dim light.
"One move," he breathed, "And I will put a pretty fine number on that maniac face of yours." It was evident that Hasdock had began to lose his mind all those years ago, but now he had just proven that his stability was most definitely something to be questioned.
He stared, wide eyed at the blade nearly caressing his face. It was apparent that he hadn't been expecting Klein to actually be prepared for something like this, and at that thought, Klein inwardly laughed. Sure, he was gullible enough to fall for wasting some moments of his life doing worthless things, but he wasn't braindead.
He could hear Hasdock's heavy, panicked breathing and he lowered the knife, though he still kept it tight in his grasp.
"You are lucky that I am forgiving and will let you ride home tonight," he stated through the pain in his jaw due to the blow. It hurt, but he tried to ignore it best he could. "Don't ever try something like this again, or so help me I might consider stooping to your level."
He turned to leave back to where his horse was waiting, but Hasdock grabbed him before he could even take a step.
"No," he half-whispered, staring hard at Klein, "You're not leaving."
Klein scowled and attempted to rip his arm free but Hasdock's grip was like iron, solid and strong, and he could not break free. Klein hated to admit it, even if it was just to himself, but he had underestimated the small man's strength. His appearance was indeed very deceiving.
"I did a fair bit of researching myself to find out who dare to falsely accuse my wife to her death." Oh, for the love of... had he not just proven himself? Why couldn't Hasdock just let the point rest? Klein continued to attempt to break free, but every try seemed to be in vain, just wearing down a little bit of his energy and getting nowhere. "I told myself, on the day a crouched by her ashes that I would get vengeance on whoever did this to her." Klein wasn't certain that he liked where this was going, but halted his struggling. It was leading him nowhere.
"After a much prolonged detour, I finally began my hunt which, as you can see, lead me to you." Saying this, Klein saw Hasdock's eyes flicker toward the dark shape of the tree for a split second. It was only for that tiny moment of time, but it perked his curiosity, and he too peered into the darkness. There was barely anything to look at, the dark enclosed near everything around the two, but now focusing much of his attention to that space Klein was pretty confident that... unless this was an illusion of his mind, that there was something behind the tree. Something he had missed when first standing by it.
He couldn't tell what it was. His grip on the knife tightened, but he didn't do anything. He knew that at that moment it would be irrational to resort to another fight. He kept his ground and, though a little worried at what the "vengeance" was, tried to appear strong.
Hasdock began to lead him on into the darkness. Klein trailed along behind, but every step was stiff and slow. They progressed toward the tree, and the closer they got, the more Klein began to think that perhaps he was indeed in danger. As they approached, though still rather difficult to make out, the shape became more and more defined. But it wasn't until he was standing near in front of it, that Klein was finally able to piece together what it was.
It was a coffin. Judging by the circumstances it was most likely meant for him. Klein immediately knew what was going to happen next and he did not like it one bit.
Hasdock, had started to say something, but barely a word was out before Klein slashed the knife-which Hasdock seemed to have forgotten about in that short time-across the hand grasping his arm. By the time his cry of pain had subsided, which wasn't much more than a second, Klein was already near his horse. He bolted like a streak of lightning through the overgrown plants to the animal, now very afraid of the man who was surely proven mad now. He bounded, every instinct to getting on his steed, and his fingertips had just brushed the fur when...
Klein fell to the ground, not even able to scream. Above him stood Hasdock, shovel in hand, presumably taken from near the coffin.
Klein kneeled, head on the ground. His body trembled all over as he shakily wrapped one hand around his stomach as the other loosely placed itself by his mouth, as if it could stop the trickle of blood coming out with every breath and cough. He heaved in air heavily, though that didn't subside the pain at all. He writhed on the ground, even worse than Arwel in his mourning. In an instant he felt very sick and faint.
...And in a sense, now hopeless. He was with a madman who wanted him to die and he couldn't do anything to save himself. He trembled a little more, as he tried to will himself to get to his feet, but his body would not seem to listen.
He could hear Hasdock's voice, but the ringing in his ears was so loud that he couldn't understand a single word being said. Then again, perhaps he wasn't really sure as to if he wanted to.
Klein began to pitifully squirm along the ground, putting all the effort he had into getting away, but Hasdock was in far better a condition health-wise now and put his plans into place first. Before he could grasp what was going on, Klein found himself being dragged by the underarms back towards the coffin. Every fiber in his being wanted to fight against the psycho holding him, but his body couldn't even seem to attempt to move. He felt as if paralyzed, and all he could do was watch his horse, most likely spooked by the attack, run off into the inky black curtain of the night.
He went to speak, but all that came out was a muffled grunt followed by choking and more blood shed from his own being. He took another shaky breath before finally hanging his head. He couldn't escape. The thought of death, now so vivid and possible, plagued his mind, and without even knowing of it, he found himself feeling tears dripping down his face. He heard Hasdock's mocking laugh, and let out a shuttered cursed ever so silently.
Hasdock, as being much more healthy and efficient than once thought, had quickly returned to the coffin. Klein, though he knew it might be impossible, struggled again to escape, but it was useless against the man who could potentially overpower him when he was well. But not wanting this fate, to be killed ever so unjustly by this man, he continued to try. His head pounded and his ears continued to ring, but he put all effort into getting away. He couldn't die. Not now, not like this.
All Hasdock did was smirk and tighten his grip a little. Finally they stopped, and as if to give one last thing for Klein to ponder, he asked, "As you see my wife as a witch, what does that make me for loving her?"
"In this...case," Klein panted, "A murderer."
The response resulted in a tight twist of the arm from Hasdock and he shuddered in pain before being roughly thrown to the coffin. Klein fought with all the energy he had, and a little more. Much to his dismay, all it was achieving was a slight struggle from Hasdock, and soon he was pinned inside the case like a packaged object.
Through the dim, Klein saw Hasdock grin, as if all this were some sort of joke, and he was more infuriated than ever before. For better, or worse, though, the coffin was soon shut, and he could see it no more. However, the thought of a possessed man's smile was still better than the long, suffocating death he knew he was about to face. Klein pounded his hands against the lid of the coffin, but it did not budge. He clawed and scraped at the confinement he was in, but inevitably, it was all in vain. He was getting about as far as he had trying to fight the other man, and it most certainly wasn't helping ease his pain nor his wounds.
Klein felt the coffin being jostled, and after a few brief moments, the sound of earth covering itself on the case.
He was being buried alive, forced to starve and suffocate in the shadows... slowly, painfully. He'd start to die, and he would know he was dying. He'd be forced to think of things that he wanted to do as he lay there, as thoughts sometimes seemed to take a life of their own. All the while he'd know that he was dying. As every breath grew fainter, he'd have to accept the fact that he was dying.
He didn't want to know that he was dying. That was a cruel punishment that hurt the soul as much as the flesh. To know that your life is ending and that you can't do anything about it. Even a quick death was far better than this. To suffer for such a time, in which the reward was the end of your life, that was a trail of a living heck. No, he didn't want it to end this way. It was torture. Why was this happening? Why to him? People like him didn't deserve such a fate. People like him... they didn't deserve to be treated like... like heretics.
I faint yell escaped his lips as he weakly pounded again on the encasings that so tightly surrounded him. Unfortunately, it couldn't be heard over the shovelfuls, much less by the nearest person who could possibly save him. Tears flowed even more as his cause became more and more hopeless.
Klein struggled until finally, the shovelfuls could not be heard, and the air around him felt as if it were becoming more and more compact. Darkness swallowed him whole, as if devouring his very soul. Everything was calmly and bitterly silent, save his rugged breaths. His head throbbed more than ever, and his whole body ached, but that didn't matter to him anymore. He was done. He had been unfairly punished and now this was the end of his tale. He shut his eyes tightly, though it didn't make much a difference as to what his sight portrayed. Fear took control over all the parts of his being that it hadn't already, and, with what little bit of life he had, Klein tried his best to yell, though it really wasn't more than a whisper, but that didn't matter to him. He pleaded for help and he cursed Arwel Hasdock as his lungs burned and desperateness raged war over his mind.
It wasn't until his physical body finally caved and fainted from both the strain and the lack of ever decreasing oxygen that he stopped. But his life wasn't done yet. He still had a bit of time left in the clock of his life. A few of which he was destined to be awake for.
Hasdock had finished piling the rest of the dirt as his lantern began to flicker, indicating that it's span was beginning to run short. He both grimaced and smirked at the new grave that the world surely wouldn't find until the plan was completed and that Klein boy was dead. He could have easily taken Klein's life from him in an instant with the shovel, but this was the way the plan had to go. He had wanted him to die slowly and isolated. He needed time to think about his wrongs. He needed to regret what he had done to the very core of his being, and his punishment was to die with those thoughts. If the innocent deserved to die agonizing deaths, the guilty deserved at least twice as much.
A murderer... He thought to himself. Well, if that was what he had to resort to in order to achieve justice for this scenario, then so be it.
He casually ambled back toward his steed, shovel still in hand, as if he had done no more than till the soil. He observed the knife on the ground, stained with his own crimson blood and with a grim chuckle, carefully pocketed it. He would dispose of it later. Then he packed up all his things, leaving but a very slim trace of what had happened that night, leapt onto the back of his horse, and rode off into the twilight, back to his empty excuse for a place to live that he called home. But he still smiled a bit. He had finally achieved what needed to be done.
Justice had been served.