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A Darkened Light – by Josiah
Jacob Harrunson had always wanted to be a hero.
Unfortunately, living as a trader wasn’t helping him achieve that dream.
“Quickly—get him water!” Jacob heard his mother’s voice calling out from inside the tent and he moved closer. A wounded man had just been brought into the camp. Rumor had it that the man was a mage. His father had always told him to keep his eyes open for opportunities. And while, in context, his father had been talking about bartering well with strangers, Jacob was pretty sure he could apply it just as well to the situation at hand.
Jacob moved closer to the tent and stepped to the side as a girl with a bucket dashed out of the tent. Slipping past the folds of the entrance, Jacob moved into the tent to see his father lay a wounded man on the cot next to where his mother was standing. Jacob didn’t know that much about anatomy, but he was pretty sure that blood didn’t normally exit in such mass quantities. And he suddenly doubted whether or not this was really going to be an opportunity for much longer.
“Go see if you can find the person who did this to him!” his mother continued, now talking to his father, as she grabbed a knife. She ripped it down the front of the man’s shirt before stripping the bloody cloth off of him. “We can’t let them escape after doing this!” Jacob again moved to the side as his father dashed out of the tent.
The man opened his mouth to speak, but Jacob’s mother spoke first. “Jacob!” she snapped. “Stand by this man; I need to grab my supplies to try and save him!” Jacob nodded his head quickly—his mother was unwittingly giving him what he wanted. He stumbled over toward the man’s side as his mother hurried out of the tent and finally got his first look at the wounded mage. Upon further examination, the man was definitely dying. His aged face was bruised and his whitening gray hair was partially soaked with blood. Scratches and bruises could be seen all over his body, and his cloak was torn apart on his shoulder to reveal a nasty-looking wound. Two black arrows were lodged in his chest. Jacob felt a twinge of guilt for once thinking that this could be an opportunity for him. In truth, as much as his mother wanted to put on a good face, this would be nothing more than a funeral.
The man looked up at Jacob and tried to extend a clawed hand toward him, dried blood and skin under his black fingernails. “You…” the man said, and he suddenly clutched at his chest in pain with the other hand. “You… You there,” he gasped out hoarsely. “Come here—I want to help you.”
This man thought he could help him? Jacob felt bad for the man but he was really just fighting against fate at this point. Still, even a dying man should be pitied. Jacob knelt down beside the man as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Come closer,” the man rasped and lurched forward. He grabbed Jacob’s shirt with a surprising amount of strength and pulled him closer. Startled, Jacob began to pull back, but the man’s grip didn’t lessen. With his free hand, the man reached into his satchel which still hung loosely at his side and drew out a shining golden orb. Jacob stared at it in shock. But no sooner had the man pulled it out of the bag than he went into a coughing fit, bending over in agony. Blood spattered out of his mouth as he partially released his grip. Jacob stepped back, but his eyes remained fixated on the orb.
“Wait…” the man gasped hoarsely as he finished his coughing fit, looking up as a line of blood trailed down from the corner of his mouth. “What is your name, boy?”
“My name?” Jacob asked hesitantly. He glanced at the man’s hand, which was oddly distorted. White lines which appeared to be etched into his skin ran down from his fingertips into a white-etched circle in the palm of his hand.
Jacob looked back up at the man’s face. “I’m Jacob.”
“Iakob,” the man confirmed.
“No,” Jacob said frowning. “Jacob.”
The man seemed puzzled by the way Jacob pronounced his name. “Aye, Iakob,” he stammered in his accent. “Take it, Iakob.” He extended the golden orb toward him just as he again lurched into a coughing fit, doubling over in pain. Hesitantly, Jacob took the orb from his hand. While he came into this tent looking for an opportunity, he didn’t think that taking it from the hands of a dying stranger was generally a good way to do it. But he didn’t want to make the man angry. Jacob looked down at the orb. It was clear and lusterless, and despite the few sun rays that made it into the dim tent, the golden orb sparkled. Many different shades of gold seemed to move within it, as if it was golden smoke contained in a hollow container.
Biting back another cough, the man wiped his mouth with his cloak before letting it drop down again at his side. The cloak was smeared with blood. “You… you’ll need this as well,” the man gasped, holding out a ragged page that looked like it had been torn from a book. “Recite the words on it with your right hand on the Capstone to bind yourself to it and take hold of its power for yourself.”
Less hesitantly now, Jacob took the page while he looked at the man curiously. What did this man think he was doing—giving a prized magical object to a boy such as himself? This seemed too good to be true. And his father had always told him that if a deal seemed too good to be true, it was probably because he was being ripped off…
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