Warning: an occasion of swearing and mentions of peadophilia.

Chapter Five

Knight Mares

The orange clouds of the perpetual twilight rumbled, and from his vantage point, ten year old Aiden could see forked lightning in the distance. The Deity was clearly not happy with someone further down into the Land. He strained his eyes, but could not see anything travelling his way, so looked down at the shanty town sprawled around the foot of Mount Eyrie. His eyes glossed over the majority of residents who were going about their business. Petty thieving, lying their way out of trouble...the usual. After a moment of searching, he found who he had been looking for.

She was tall for a woman, nearly six feet in stature. Aiden could tell it was her from her haughty gait. Lady Anastasia was her name. Whether the title was true or not he didn't know. In life she had fronted a brothel for clients with particular tastes. Particularly young tastes. In death, she maintained some purpose to her existence in the Lower Lands by continuing her business. Aiden didn't usually concern himself with the affairs of others, but she had tried to involve him, had drugged and captured him, sedated him so that he wouldn't put up a fight against her customers, and that couldn't go unpunished.

Aiden watched her for a while longer. It looked like she was heading back to her business premises. Hoping he was correct, he carefully made his way down the steep hillside.

Using the numerous back alleys and covered markets, Aiden wound his way towards Lady Anastasia's abode. It was the opposite side of town from The Broken Arms, so although he knew the general location, Aiden didn't have allies and contacts to back him up if the shit hit the fan. Better to keep himself inconspicuous.

Aiden emerged at the front of the premises. There was nothing to announce that it was a place of business, but a couple of shady characters entering the building - grim old men with snivelling faces - reassured him that he'd found the right place. From an alley across the street, Aiden examined the house. It was a blank brown brick building, with only one window on the first floor. This had to be his entry point.

Aiden scurried up the drainpipe of the neighbouring house, and crouched on the roof. He waited until the street below was empty, then swung himself across to the window ledge. He gripped on by the tips of his fingers, and arduously pulled himself up. His biceps burned but through the dirty glass he could see Anastasia alone in what looked like her bedroom-come-office. It was a bare room - the wooden walls and floor were unadorned, and she only had minimal furniture. Her back was to him, stood over a desk. It's now or never, he thought.

Silently pushing the window ajar, Aiden crept in. A floorboard creaked and Anastasia turned curiously. shock stamped across her features to see Aiden standing there.

"Remember me?" He asked threateningly. He wished his voice had broken.

She smoothly covered up her surprise and asked sweetly, "So you've come back? Do you want to be a big boy? You can learn what secret things grown ups do that they normally don't want children to see. I'm sure you'll enjoy it."

Aiden suppressed a shudder. "Actually, I've come to show you something." He retorted.

He grabbed the chair in between himself and the woman and shoved it in her face. She cried out as two of the legs cracked across her cheeks. She staggered back, hands across her face. Aiden dropped the chair and pulled a knife out of his boot. It was covered in dirt and a red hue that wasn't just rust.

"Now, normally, I say 'each to his own', 'live and let lie' that sort of thing. But when people like you," he spat, "think you can force me into something, when you think I'm just gonna sit there and take it, I have to show you that you're wrong."

Anastasia was cowering on the floor. Aiden aimed for the top of her head, hoping to bury the knife deep- A hand shot up and grabbed his wrist.

"Now, now, little boy. That's not how to speak to your elders." Her grip tightened and Aiden was forced to let go of the knife. It skittered across the floor and disappeared under the bed. Aiden squirmed to get free of her grip, but her nails dug into him painfully. He stamped on her foot, hard, then kneed her in the groin. She may be a Lady, but it still hurt her and her grip slackened enough that he managed to wriggle free.

He dove for the bed, Lady Anastasia hot on his heels. With one arm he scrabbled around blindly, whilst with his legs he kicked out, trying to force her away. Eventually, though it was probably only a second or two, he felt the sharp blade in his hands. He quickly found the handle and thrust his arm out. She didn't expect him to have the blade, and he caught her across the palm.

She gasped in pain and fall back for a second. That was all Aiden needed. He called upon his magic to rush him to his feet, grabbed her uninjured arm in one hand, and stabbed her in the belly with another. She chocked and fell back to the floor. Aiden twisted the blade as he withdrew it.

"You might not be able to die in the Lower Lands, but you can sure as Hell feel pain," he spat. He walked out, making sure to step on her bloodied hand.

In the corridor, Aiden took two deep breaths. He wiped his bloody blade on his trousers, then tried the next room along. It was a basic bedroom, but empty. The next door yielded two children, eternally younger than him. They must have done something truly appalling to be forced to these wretched Lands before even hitting puberty, but Aiden wasn't thinking about that right now. His thoughts were occupied by the two men stood over them, groaning in pleasure as the children knelt before them.

Both men gasped at Aiden's unwelcome interruption. Before they had time to think, he had thrown his knife, using his magic to ensure accuracy, and speared one man in the neck. Blood spurted out onto the boy before him, who shrieked and ran past Aiden out the door. The other child, a girl, followed almost instantly. The other man stared at his partner, who gurgled incomprehensibly. Aiden darted forward, pulled the knife out of his victim, then in two seconds stabbed both men in the groin. They collapsed to the floor, moaning in pain. Aiden didn't even spare them a glance. He wiped his blade on one of the men's shirts and exited the room.

He stopped short on the landing. A blonde woman, radiating light, dressed in white robes, gazed at him. This wasn't how it happened. Suddenly, he was his thirteen year old self again. The lady paid no heed to her filthy surroundings, and Aiden felt his chest grow warm in the knowledge that he was loved.

"Aiden, my darling," she said. Her voice was lilting, musical. Aiden longed for her to keep talking. "You have suffered enough, you have brought justice to so many who have escaped persecution in the Lower Lands. Keep the fire in your heart. I am waiting for you, my Flame Knight."

She faded out of existence, a benign smile creasing her eyes and lips. A final twinkle brought Aiden's attention to her star pendant necklace.

0o0o0o0

Aiden awoke with a start. It was still dark outside, and there was absolute silence. He took a few deep breaths and extricated himself from his sweaty duvet. He sat on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers through his slick hair. His pyjamas were stuck to his legs, but the cool December air of the bedroom felt refreshing.

What was that? His dream-memory had been interrupted by someone. He had never seen that person before, he was sure of it, and yet she felt familiar. She was warm and loving. But could he trust that? Magic had been used for worse, after all...

He couldn't wait to speak to Elizabeth Cryer again.