If you haven't read the prologue yet, please do! And as always, if you like what you're reading drop it a follow. I try to add two chapters a week. Feel free to leave reviews too! I usually always return the favor. Anyway! Enjoy!
Rowan's rage wasn't appeased. Eddie Malone and little gang of backstreet hooligans had been giving the others in the Grey District more than enough trouble and it was about time someone did something about it. Everyone here is poor and in need and everyone is trying to get everything they can, but that doesn't mean you get the right to take what doesn't belong to you just because you're stronger. People who thought like that needed to get some sense knocked into them, and that was why he had come here.
With only his dexterity and courage to arm him, Rowan managed to climb up the narrow buildings and slip onto the large pipes stretching directly above Eddie's ally, his little hangout or base or whatever. He moved quietly, like a hungry street wise cat stalking an unsuspecting mouse. It was easy, he'd been climbing these buildings and pipes all his life. Unlike the richer Districts in the city, the Grey was a dangerous pile of metal scrap crudely re-constructed to form barely functional homes. Thick pipes that carried the garbage and sewage from the other areas coiled and wound their way through here like the body of some huge snake. Steam poured endlessly out of the smaller ones, filling the hard, desolate paths with a thick fog, making every day hot and muggy.
He hated it here, everyone did, and without any guards to maintain the peace it was up to the citizens to keep themselves alive and well. So, sitting perched upon one of those thick pipes, Rowan watched through narrowed, orange eyes as his four targets stood together smoking cigarettes and laughing. They probably stole those too, lord knows they didn't work for what they had.
He saw Eddie standing there with them, a huge boy for his age with mature muscle bulging in his shirt and short, blonde hair. He was hard to miss, not only because of how big he was, but also because of that hook shaped scar on his jaw.
Hope you're ready, ya punk.
Rowan dropped down from the pipe, letting the momentum of his fall take him down into a low squat. Like a coiled spring, he came right back up, spinning as he rose and letting one foot fly out behind him into a vicious kick. His blow caught one of the stunned jerks square in the chest, knocking him backwards with enough force to send him toppling across the hard concrete.
Surprised, the other three moved into action, but they were clumsy. They weren't ready for him. Their hands were still clutching at cigarettes or sitting in pockets, too far out of place for any viable defense. That was exactly what he was hoping for, and wheeling on them without mercy, Rowan rushed forward. He closed the gap between one of the others in a single instant, and always moving never slowing, he punched out with a hard fist and knocked his target to the floor. Then, he took hold of that punk's hair and with a powerful jerk, hurled his body into the boy at his side. They both toppled over each other, sprawling onto the floor in a tangled mess of limbs and cloth.
Only Eddie was left, but unlike the others, he had enough time to get passed his surprise and ready a defense. His hands came up and sat close to his head, and his eyes, bright blue orbs of cruel ice, watched him carefully, closely.
"You're gonna pay for that you damn Sewer Rat." He said, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
"Am I?" Rowan smiled at him, as if greeting an old friend instead of preparing to beat him senseless. "And how do you want that payment? Coin? Song? Dance?"
Eddie wasn't some average thug, and he made sure everyone in the Grey District knew it. He was one of those blessed by the Ancients, one with a Gift.
Gifts are beyond rare, and they are one of a kind. If one was touched by the spirit of Fire and could call flames to life with only their mind, then there is nobody else in this entire world who can do the same. It is only after that person dies, that their gift can bloom again, manifesting inside of a different body with a different personality and different goals.
Thankfully Eddie wasn't able to summon fire or anything dangerous like that. If he could, he'd have left for a richer district a long time ago, maybe gotten a job as a soldier in the Azurian army. No, Eddie's gift was brutishly referred to as the Wall. Like one of those silly mimes, he could create a thin but strong, impenetrable wall anywhere he wanted. That was it, and while it might be useful if applied creatively, Eddie was as far away from artistic as one could get.
"Walls up already?" Rowan asked when Eddie didn't try to punch him, "really?"
Eddie said nothing, he just stared at him, a smoldering hatred burning in those vindictive eyes.
Rowan took that moment then to survey his friends. They were all down, groaning and whining as they tried to draw themselves together. He felt bad for knocking them around, really, he did, but sometimes a show of force is needed and these guys needed to know they can't get away with stealing, especially stealing from his friends.
"Tell you what, buddy." Rowan pocketed his hands and grinned ear to ear. "How about you drop that little trick of yours and fight me like a man. Unless… you're scared?"
Demanding anything out of Eddie was usually an impossible task. He was as stubborn as he was dumb, but there was strength there still. He could probably overcome that strength, but not if he had to punch his way through a damn wall.
"Well Eddie?" He tilted his head, waiting for an answer. "I don't got all day here."
Twitching, furrowed brows raising, Eddie dropped his hands and grunted.
"You think I'm a fool? I ain't gonna try and fight you one on one."
"Can't say I blame you." He replied, a mischievous smirk spread across his tanned features. "Look Eddie, if you have to steal, head into Red District and steal from them. We're all struggling down here, and we don't need you making it worse."
Eddie grunted, and crossed his arms. "If it was that easy, I'd have done it already."
Rowan wanted so badly to beat on him. If he had a Gift of his own, he'd never let Eddie get away with the crap he pulls… but some fantasies are just that. Fantasies.
"Either way." Rowan balled his hands into fists and started moving forward. "This is gonna be the last time I tell you to back off."
Eddie sneered and moved forward too, but before either of them could get close enough to hit each other, a flurry of movement burst between them, causing them both to come to a complete stop. It was like a powerful gust had suddenly torn the dirty ground apart and kicked up a cloud of dust.
And when that dust settled, a familiar face stood between them, cloaked entirely in a thickly stained Grey cloak. Rowan didn't need to see the face underneath that hood to know who it was… and on instinct, he turned right around and tried to run. Eddie did too, but it was hopeless. Before they even took their first step, the cloaked man grabbed them both by the collar of their shirts and slammed them together.
In an instant, head swimming and pain exploding behind his eyes, Rowan found himself lying on the floor right beside an equally dazed Eddie. In front of them, pushing his hood back, stood Elder Primm. He was an elderly man, unassuming with his snow white wispy hair and thick, tangled beard, but he was the last man Rowan wanted to see right now.
At a glance, he resembled your average beggar, dirty and unkempt, but there was a gentle kindness in those green eyes of his. He had always been a mysterious man, wrinkled face a mask that hid an uncomfortable amount of secrets, but he had only shown them kindness. In the absence of a family, it was the Elder who took care of the many children running about.
"So now." He said, looking for a moment at the other boys scattered on the ground. "It seems I came at a rather important moment. Tell me boys," those eyes focused back on them, and Rowan shrank before them, feeling like a child again. "What is going on?"
"Sewer rat Rowan here jumped us!" Eddie shouted at once, "It wasn't my fault this time I swear!"
The Elder looked back and forth between the two, silence demanding answers.
"Yeah." Rowan added, his cheeks flushed and warm. "I had to because you won't stop stealing from Elicia's family!"
"Edward." Murmured the Elder. "We of the Grey do not steal from each other. What would you do is Gresha heard of this? Elicia's family is off limits. Now get out of here."
Eddie spat on the floor and jumped to his feet. He obviously had more to say, but he knew better than to argue with the Elder. He stomped off, rousing his gang awake in passing until one by one, they clambered out of the ally and back into the streets. Rowan remained where he was, sitting there on the hard concrete with a pinched gaze.
"I'm sorry, Rowan." The Elder sighed as he moved to a sit across from him. What moments ago had been a disapproving and disappointed tone, softened into something kind and understanding. "What happened to Elicia was a tragedy… and you are doing her memory proud by watching over her sisters and brothers, but you will only hurt yourself if you go out looking for violence."
"So what should I have done then? Huh?" Rowan spat the words at him, Elicia's name filling him with a hot anger, and a deep sadness. He didn't even notice his eyes starting to water until he had to rub them clean against his sleeve. "Just sit around like some weak wimp and let that pipe sucker get away with it?"
The Elder shook his head. "You could have come to me. Edward is a disturbed boy and has yet to find his way. Attempting to fight him will only create more problems, and you do not want that, do you? Do you think Elicia would want that for you?"
Rowan said nothing, biting his tongue as he focused on the floor between them. What did the Elder know? Elicia wasn't the kind of girl who'd let people steal from her. She'd have definitely beat Eddie sideways, knocked the sight out of him until he was blind and crippled. Without her here anymore, someone had to keep these thugs in line, someone had to protect those who couldn't protect themselves.
He could still remember it… her fading smile, her sweet voice weakening, cracking as the sickness flooded through her. Even as her body quit on her, day by day draining her of her light and her senses, he continued to love her. He still did, and the memory of her, the simple mention of her name… it made him want to fight against the world, to make it pay for what happened, as if it was the one responsible.
"I will deal with Edward." The Elder continued, "but you… you should go home and get some rest. Tomorrow will be a busy day for all of us and I do not want you nursing a black eye because you can't control yourself."
"Whatever." Rowan dusted himself off and jumped to his feet, eager to leave. "Anything else? Or can I finally go?"
The Elder gestured for him to leave, but remained where he was, sitting and watching him… those green eyes shimmering with something otherworldly.
Without saying bye, Rowan stomped his way out of the ally and back onto the main road cutting through their district. He had other errands to attend to before tomorrow, but he after what happened with Eddie and the Elder, he just wanted to go home and sleep it off.
Where does he get off? Rowan asked himself as he wandered back to his little hole in the wall, the steam that hung on the street parting as he walked. Mentioning her like he knew her? Like he knew what he was talking about? That old goat… stupid wrinkly idiot…
He cursed the old man all the way home, not even bothering to stop the tears as they poured down his face.
Elicia… I miss you so much.