I had to rub the sleep from my eyes as I watched Taavi climb up onto the carriage. I pet the horses’ manes as I asked him where his family was again. “They’re in Hillbrook, so it’s relatively far from here.” He responded tiredly as he loaded on his last bit of luggage. I yawned deeply as I noticed Loki sniffing at the horse’s legs. He then moved over to me with his tail between his legs. I smiled and picked him up so that his belly was face up. “You big dummy…” I murmured to him, and he only let out a whimper. “Which one of us?” I heard Taavi ask, and I rolled my eyes. “Shut up…” I joked, and he poked his head out. “Well, that looks to be everything.” He said as he piled out and walked over to me.
“I’m not sure when I’ll be back specifically, so you go ahead and take care of the house.” He told me. “And if I don’t make it back,” He then winked at me flirtatiously. “Assume that I was attacked and murdered brutally, then my body was dumped in the forest.” I smirked and said, “And I won’t come looking for you.” “Exactly.” He responded, and I laughed slightly. He then pinched the tip of my nose as he said that he would be back probably during the winter. “I’m not 100% sure what day, but I know it’ll be then.” I then paused for a brief moment, contemplating. “You alright?” He asked me. I shook my head and said that I was fine. “Just going to miss calling you stupid around the house.” I admitted, and he smirked, bringing his hand up and petting me on top of the head as though I were the dog. “You missed the dog.” “Really? I think I got it spot on.” He joked, and I stuck my tongue out. He smiled perfectly, and I thought about what he had said. He would be coming back to an empty house… He then let go and said that he would go. “Alright, well don’t die in the forest.” I joked, and he smiled. “I won’t. Probably.”
Taavi then pecked me on the cheek, and within a second, was on the carriage, leaving. I could only stare at the carriage as it slowly shrank in size. It eventually rounded the corner into the forest, and I sighed and looked down at Loki. “Well, I’m not going to be sleeping for a while…” He licked my hand as I went to pet his head. I smiled and set him down before walking back inside. I switched on a lantern, seeing as how it was too dark inside of the house for me to do anything. “You hungry?” I asked Loki, and he perked his ears up. I then walked into the kitchen and gave him some meat. As he ripped apart the slightly bloodied meat, my eyes met a bookshelf. Several of which were cookbooks. I pulled one off and flipped it open. Of course, the first thing I noticed in the table of contents was a recipe for a Lörtsy. I flipped to the different page and asked Loki, “With how much I eat these things, how have I not gotten fat?” I asked him. I looked over and imagined him explaining, “It’s because you work a lot with bandits and other ruffians.” “Yes, I suppose.” I responded before starting to pull out the ingredients.
I managed to make a plateful of the pastries by the time Loki finished eating his food. Of course, the moment I sat down at the table with the food, he started begging for the plate. I narrowed my eyes and commanded that he knock it off. “I’m not going to give you this food.” He blinked and tilted his head, trying to act as cute as possible. I turned myself away from him, only for seconds to pass before he stuck his head between my legs and tried to whimper. I scooted away from him with the plate in my lap and proceeded to eat it. He wagged his tail, and I eventually had to retreat into my bedroom to avoid his gaze.
Eventually, I went to the tavern, but instead of a bounty, the woman working at the counter told me that two guys have been coming in and harassing people. “They were kicked out for inappropriate behavior, and now they won’t leave anyone alone.” I agreed to take care of it and asked when they show up. “About three in the afternoon every day.” I nodded and said I would take care of it. It was maybe 2:30, so I decided to just plop into a seat and listen to the lute playing. Several times I was asked if I wanted a drink, and each time I denied it. I didn’t want to be drinking when I needed to focus. I hummed along with the music as 3:00 came and went. “I guess they’re not showing up today…” The woman had said before apologizing. I shrugged and said that it was fine.
Just then, another woman came tumbling out of the kitchen, her head bloodied, and she cried out that they were in the basement. I quickly ran past her and over to the stairs I nearly tumbled down. As I rounded the corner, I nearly puked due to the overwhelming scent of alcohol. I looked down and saw it spilled out all over the floor. Following the trail up revealed two men, one holding a lantern, the other with a large plank of wood with nails hammered into it. I pulled out my bow and shouted, “HEY.” They whipped around, and I shot the arrow, only for the man I was aiming for to dodge. “Just the guy we’ve been looking for.” I scowled and asked what they were doing. “We knew you were dumb, but not that dumb!” The other man on the right said. I drew another arrow and commanded that they told me. “Doing a job.” They responded before rushing at me. One of the men punched me in the jaw, practically making me airborne for a split second. I collapsed onto the ground and kicked at the men. I then stood up and drew my dagger, lunging at them. I scratched one of them, and he winced as he covered the wound on his side with his hand.
The other man then grabbed me by the hair and slammed my head onto his knee. I stumbled back and slashed at them again. As we fought, I couldn’t take my eyes off the lantern as it swung wildly. I stabbed the man with the lantern in the gut, and he fell down, knocking the lantern onto the ground and into the alcohol. I felt my heart stop as a flame erupted, nearly knocking me and the other man to the ground. I mumbled a curse as I looked back at the other man, who was now smiling. “Heh… See ya.” He then shoved me down and bolted up the stairs. I quickly followed and shouted for everyone to get out and that the basement was burning.
I could smell smoke as I eventually grabbed the man and ripped him back away from the door. I then slashed at him again, and he jumped back. I then had an idea as I continued to flail at him with wild abandon, and he continued to jump back and call me an idiot for missing constantly. “Your supposed hero we came here to hunt is really a–” By the time he had made it into the kitchen, I tackled him, and we both went tumbling down the stairs. As I got up off of him, I started to run back upstairs, but he grabbed my ankle before I could. “Not so fast, princess!” He shouted, and I stabbed my dagger down onto his leg. He cried out heartily as he let go of me to get the weapon out of him. I rushed up the stairs and slammed the basement doors shut.
I grabbed a broom and placed it between the handles. The floorboards upstairs were catching fire as I ran into the main hall. I tried to find somewhere to get across safely, but I was surrounded by flames. A row of planks then collapsed, and a large hole formed. I took a deep breath and jumped across. I managed to catch myself on the edge, and I struggled to pull myself up. As I kicked, I tried to climb up, but I was stopped by a hand on my ankle. I looked down and screamed as I saw a man, engulfed in flames. I kicked him away, and the extra adrenaline allowed me to pull my legs up. I dashed for the door and whipped it open. I gasped for clean air as I looked over at the tavern as it burned.
“What…” I heard Lucia say. I sighed and was about to explain what had happened when she finished her sentence. “…Have you done?!” I whipped my head around and looked at her. “You’ve ruined me!” I stood up and said that it wasn’t my fault. “He said they were here for you!” She shrieked, shoving me away. “Now I’ll never get out of debt!” Someone else then shouted that they used to live upstairs. “We were almost able to afford a home of our own!” I frowned as she shouted at me, “Why did you even come here?! Just to ruin our lives?!” “I SAVED ALL OF YOU!” I screamed, and someone responded that they would rather die than not have that tavern. “YOU’RE ALL CRAZY!” I shrieked, my voice cracking, and she screamed for me to leave. “JUST GET OUT OF HERE!” There was a moment of silence as the fire raged intensely behind me, and I sighed. “A man cannot expect to do good and not have some kind of karma.” I whispered to myself before walking away.
I stared at the wall of the house for the longest time, Loki licking my hand. I glanced down at him and asked what I should do. “I helped them, and they still were angry because I apparently wasn’t good enough.” I explained to him, and he let out a low whimper. I sighed and said, “I can’t leave right now, but I don’t have work any more. No way they’ll let me.” An evil thought then popped into my mind. “But I can do something else.”
Walking up the mountain in a dress was difficult, plus the fact that it was night. The moment Kai noticed me, he asked where I was. I scowled and snapped, “You locked me in that cave!” He quickly apologized, claiming that he had forgotten. “I never speak to other humans, let alone let any of them in there… I suppose I had gotten used to not having anyone around…” I sighed and said that I had to crawl out of the hole. He apologized again and then asked me what I was doing, and why I was dressed the way I was. “Revenge.” I responded bluntly as I reached the top of the hill. The mills had several logs around them, and I thought that they must be rebuilding the dam. “What did they do?” He asked, and I explained what happened.
He seemed to fall silent as he said that I didn’t deserve their response. “I know, right?!” I asked as I began to arrange the sawn logs. “They ought to be corrected.” He said in a low voice, and I explained, “That’s kinda what I’m doing. I’m going to make them think they’re actually being punished. I arranged the logs into a satanic symbol as I explained that the dress was in case someone started to follow me. “Kinda like another disguise on top of my other one.” I said, and he shrugged. “I don’t know what exactly they’re supposed to think of that.” He stated, and I sighed before explaining, “They’re extremely conservative and always judge women and accuse them of being witches…” I grunted as I pulled a log on top of one another. “So, if there were a sign, almost as if to tell them that they aren’t as holy as they believe they are.” I said, realizing just how far fetched it was. “Ugh… Whatever…” I mumbled as I placed down the final log. A pentagram was formed, and I asked him if it needed anything. “I know nothing of that, so I could not say.” I sighed and plopped down onto the grass.
I sneezed as the wind blew into my face, and Kai asked why I was so open with my revenge. I sighed and looked over at him before explaining, “I’m leaving soon.” He tilted his head, and I elaborated, “I came here just to get enough money to leave.” “Where would you go?” He asked, crossing his arms that rested on the shore. “I don’t know…” I mumbled. “Maybe America… But then again, I would need to get a boat.” “America isn’t any better than here.” He said, and I asked him what he meant. “I’ve been there before I was dropped off here.” He said. “There’s lots of murder, racism and slaves…” I frowned and said that it must be better than here, but he shook his head. “Nope. Here is better.” There was a moment of silence before I asked, “What did you mean by ‘dropped off here’?” He then sighed as he said that he used to live in Norway. “Then these men took some water, unknowingly taking me with them on their ship. When they opened the barrel, I toppled out and into the ocean, but I can’t survive in salt water.” I was now turned fully to look at him. “So I kept swimming as long as I could until I made it into America. Then some fishermen came to the lake I was in and fished me out. They then were planning on going to the UK, but I escaped again and came here…” I frowned and claimed that it all seemed a bit excessive. He shrugged and said, “Well, I don’t know what to say to you.” I sighed and said that I was going home because I felt exhausted. “Alright, well good night.” He responded, and I walked myself home, hoping to not draw attention to myself.
“LAWRENCE!!!!!” I heard Aabraham scream, and I shouted back in response to the sudden noise. He burst into the room and commanded that I get up. As I threw the covers off, he yanked my leg, claiming that I was too slow, and he bolted out of the house, dragging me across the ground as Loki followed behind quickly. “AABRAHAM!” I screamed, and he eventually let me go, allowing me to stand on my own. He then grabbed my wrist and continued pulling me as I wiped the sleep from my eyes. He finally stopped, and I nearly fell over due to him suddenly stopping. I looked at what he was motioning at, and I saw absolutely nothing. “…Aabraham…” I said to him. “I need sleep. I don’t need to be woken at like five in the morning.” “Whatever, you don’t need that much sleep, but LOOK!” He pointed at the nothingness again, and he explained, “NOBODY IS HERE!” I only blinked at him in a grumpy way, and he groaned and elaborated, “THIS IS THE MARKET! IT’S ALWAYS PACKED EARLY IN THE MORNING.” I then finally registered what he was talking about as Loki panted and licked my hand at the same time.
There was a compilation of different stalls forming a circle, all selling things like fish, fruit, meats, clothing, jewelry, and other things, and yet, nobody was around, save for a tiny wharf roach crawling across the cobblestone. “You sure it’s not just an off day?” I asked, and he said that it was always busy. “Even in the winter!” He claimed. “They just sell more clothes and blankets at the time.” He then turned towards the emptiness and said something was up. I yawned and said, “Look, I don’t think this is enough to worry over.” He scowled as I said that I was going back to sleep. He yanked me back by my raven hair and snapped, “I am not overreacting!” I shoved his arm away and shouted that he was. “They’re probably just sleeping in. Or at church or a town meeting?” I sighed and rubbed my scalp, tender from his harsh pulling. He sighed also, and I thought that it was probably the latter.
I walked back home and practically collapsed in the doorway, Loki padding my back with his paws. I closed the door with my foot and began to sleep almost instantly. The dog was licking at the back of my neck, almost as though to tell me to get up. Nearly five minutes of him constantly doing this, I finally rolled over onto my back. He laid on my stomach, and I pet him, staring up at the ceiling. This continued for what felt like hours until the sunlight seeping through the window and right into my eyes became unbearable. I sat up and ruffled up my dirty hair. “Ew…” I mumbled as I looked at my hand that now felt clammy. I stood up and walked into the kitchen to wash my hands. I finally walked back outside, and now that it was a relatively bearable time, it seemed eerily quiet. Normally, at least birds chirped and people spoke about their mornings. Nothing. I began to walk, and I only saw the occasional man, woman or child. In total, including myself and Aabraham, there were probably 100 of us in a tiny village of 500 as of winter.
Waltzing up to Aabraham’s door, I reluctantly knocked. A woman answered, and she looked done with me, before I even said anything. “I’m here to see your husband?” I asked, and she stepped aside, telling me to come in and she would get him. She told me to sit down, and I did so in time to see two little boys running down the hall with wooden swords. They looked to be about five years old. “STOP RUNNING IN THE HOUSE.” The mother snapped in a brash voice, and I watched as one of the boys stuck his tongue out in her direction, but by the lack of reaction, I guessed it was when her back was turned. They both began to swing at each other wildly, the black haired one making eye contact with me and instantly dropping his sword. He came over and asked if I was Lawrence Valentine. The blonde boy followed him as I said that I was. “Papa told us that he knew you!” “But I didn’t believe him…” The blonde one murmured, and I gave them a smile. “Well, yes. We met when I first came into town.” “Where did you come from?” One asked, and I began to tell my story. The black haired boy stared up at me with almost awe while the blonde one asked why I looked like a lady. “What do you mean?” I asked him, slightly nervous. “Well, you’re short, you have the face of a lady, and you sit with your legs crossed like a lady.” I only then noticed and explained that I just grew up with lots of sisters. “I guess they kinda rubbed off on me…” I responded, a bit shaken.
They only stared at me before he asked, “Why are you dressed like a man?” “Because I am a man…!” I responded, and the same harsh voice from before told the boys to not bother me. I looked up to see Aabraham next to his wife, and the second we made eye contact, he told her to take the kids out of the room. She did so, and he plopped himself down in front of me. “…So?” He asked, interlocking his fingers and staring me down. I sighed and did the same mockingly. “You were right.” “Aaaand?” “And I’m sorry.” He then sat up and said, “I haven’t seen anyone around all day, and it makes me worry…” “Well, what do you want to do?” I asked.
He then narrowed his eyes as he said, “Most of the survivors are women.” “Alright…” I said, going along with what he was saying. “Women we’ve accused as witches.” “…No…” “Yes… I think it may have been one of–” “No, I mean…” I fumbled with my words as I wanted to say there was no such thing. “W-witches have gone missing too.” I stuttered, improvising, and he asked who. “T-that one up in the mountains…” I mumbled, and I felt I had stabbed myself in the gut. He raised his brow and asked, “Her? I was wondering where she went. She was one of the worst.” He stood up, and I frowned. “One time, she was trying to poison our water, but…” He then smirked as he said he stopped her. I remembered the feeling of the mud on my face. “But that stupid Taavi stopped me from killing her.” He then crossed his arms over his chest as he said, “But why don’t we go up to her home and see if we can find anything? Just in case?” I narrowed my eyes and said, “I know it wasn’t her.” “What makes you so sure?” “She’s been missing since early spring…” “Yes, but what if she just went into hiding. She may be getting her revenge!” I then stood up and said that we’ve done a lot together. “You may have been at my side while we fought, but I will not accuse women of being witches.” “Why are you acting like this?” He asked, frustrated. “You’re acting like a woman!”
I then finally snapped, whipping around and punching him dead in the jaw. He stumbled back and into a bookcase as he grabbed his square jaw and looked at me with hatred filled eyes. “That the best you’ve got?” He then shoved me back into the door, causing the knob to practically stab into my spine. I winced, and he grabbed me by the throat, lifting me up so that my feet didn’t touch the ground. “I will find and kill that wench… With or without you.” He then whipped open the door and threw me outside onto the cobblestone. I winced as I felt the cobblestone scrape across my back. He slammed the door violently as I struggled to get up. I made a vulgar gesture at him and began to walk home. I felt like an old woman, walking around holding my back. I made it home, and I sat at the table as Loki pressed his nose against my leg. I felt a bald spot in the middle of his head as I pet him. I sighed deeply and felt my eyes burning. I willed myself to not cry, just like I was brainwashed into thinking long ago.