Aaron wasn’t exactly expecting some eatery that would fit seamlessly into a grand palace – he and Valerie were in more or less a refugee camp. But he, at the very least, expected his mysterious benefactor to pick somewhere that had some sort of roof. Anything to protect his gray-haired head from the chilly drizzle overhead.
He grumbled and adjusted the cloak around his shoulders. He looked over to Val, who stood happily and content with a beating tail. The light rain popped and sizzled against her body, vaporized the moment it foolishly dared to touch her. It seemed even the blackened, twisted sky couldn’t manage to put her mood down.
Shifting his focus back in front of him, he carefully studied the shoddy little shack waiting dead ahead. It looked hastily constructed from local timber: uneven boards and jutting nails making it appear like the drunken mishap of an amateur craftsman.
But the sign to its left couldn’t have been mistaken, even in the dark drizzle. Written in bold yellow lettering, the ‘Sloshed Goat’ declared it was open for business on that dreary night.
Aaron scoffed at the cartoonish horns painted at the end of each word. Val was noticeably excited on the other hand, her wagging tail sending waves of steam floating upwards.
She pointed a claw towards the shack, “Ooh! I think that’s our guy, babe.”
Aaron followed the trail of her finger right to the booth at the head of the Sloshed Goat. There, in the murky rain, a lantern hanging above the open bar illuminated the small booth with a fierce orange, like a dragon’s open jaw ready to belch fire. Aaron approached nonetheless, his thick boots sending off wet plops with each careful step through the mud.
The bandits focus was on the albino man seated at one of the wooden stools at the foot of the bar. A tarp was suspended above him, deflecting the flow of the rain, but a few rips and tears allowed light leaks to drizzle down.
Aaron wiped a bit of moisture from the stool next to the albino, taking a seat. Val was at his other side not a moment later.
No words were said, but an odd melody drove away what would’ve been an insufferably thick silence.
The patter of rain from above, growing heavier by the second. A chain of heavy droplets slipping through the tarp above and splashing into a muddy puddle. The soft beat of Val’s tail, and the light sizzle of the last bits of water steaming off her body. The clicking of hooves against wood echoing from deeper into the shack.
And, most sharp to him, were the deep gulps of booze the albino was taking, and the clink of his glass against the counter.
“Ahhh… hello, friend.”
Aaron carefully glimpsed over, meeting the stranger’s scarlet eyes. They studied each other for what seemed to be an eternity mashed into a few awkward seconds. Their lockedeyes were like fire against icy waters; an inferno atop a glacier.
Then, the albino smiled. But the bandit grimaced in return.
Aaron didn’t like how pearly and white the man’s teeth were. Nor did he like how wide his grin was; or how he was beaming at him they were old playmates.
The highwayman didn’t waste any time with pleasantries. He yanked the mystery note from his pocket, slapping it on the counter and sliding it over the short few inches bridging the distance between himself and the pale stranger.
The albino fellow pursed his lips, taking up the note and carefully reading, as if he didn’t already now what was in it.
“Oh, I see. So you must be the illustrious Black Bandit.”
Aaron cocked a brow, “The black who now?”
“That’s what they’ve been calling you.”
“And who’s they, exactly?”
A thoughtful purr bubbled up from the albino’s throat, “The people around Oakvale, of course. Who else, Aaron?”
A brief flash of shock ran across the highwayman’s face. But it didn’t cross fast enough to avoid the albinos attention. The bandit slapped his palms on the bar, leaning dangerously forward, “How’d you-“
“Know your name? You didn’t exactly take proper precautions to disguise your identity.” the albino chastised, swirling around the remaining hooch at the bottom of his glass, “Actually, let me rephrase that – you were careful. Were. So, what caused you to get so sloppy at the very end? Did you really think no one would piece things together and come after you?”
A bitter clump knotted up in Aaron’s chest. His fingertips rapidly thumped on the bar, betraying his stoney expression. Val, with concern mounting in her crimson eyes, glanced between the two humans.
“Or…” the albino breathed on, “Did some unfortunate circumstance force you to rush things?”
The albino’s calculating gaze floated over to Valerie, who returned with a flaming glare and rumbling growl. All of her snapping and snarling only served to further elongate the pale man’s wry grin.
“It’s none of your damn business.” Aaron snapped, fingers bearing down on the wooden bar, squeezing it till it creaked.
An awkward minute passed. The rain started to slam against the tarp all the harder. It’s rhythmic thump and the crackle of Val’s flames served as the only counterpoints to the dreary silence.
“Sorry,” the albino had apologized, sipping down the last of his liquor, “I didn’t mean to touch a nerve.” he went on, tone increasing, slapping his palm against the bar, “Hey, Kacia! We need some drinks up here.”
“I’m comin’’, I’m comin’.” a woman called back almost too immediately. Those clicking hooves sounded off again, and out from the soft glow of the shack, a tall goat woman trotted.
Spotting the curling horns atop her head. the clipping and clipping suddenly made much more sense. Aaron wasn’t bookish by any means, but it didn’t take a scholar to piece together her species.
“Saytor.” he absently mumbled as he admired her form.
Mocking a look of shock, Kacia glanced down at her cloven feet, “Damn, you’re pretty keen pal. Can’t believe I hadn’t noticed before now.” she teased, her slick voice spiced with a playful sort of sarcasm, “Thanks for lettin’ me know.”
“Hardee-har,” Aaron callously snorted back,“I was just a bit surprised, is all. Your shop names a bit on the nose, dontcha think?”
“Well,” the saytor breathed, leaning her elbows against the counter, “I’m a goat and people come to me to get sloshed. No need to complicate matters~”
“Kacia,” the albino softly cut in like a hidden blade from under a sleeve, “Treat my friends here to anything they’d like. And put it all on my tab.”
Aaron was still far too suspicious to properly thank the albino, but just for mere courtesy’s sake, he muttered, “Appreciate it.”
“Of course.” the other man’s reply came curtly and quietly.
Kacia stepped up with bottle in hand, “Those red bastards may have kicked me outta my shop, but lucky ol’ me managed to save most of the good stuff. And thank Bacchus I did… with all the crap the people in this town have gone through, they need a stiff drink.”
‘Bacchus, huh?’ Aaron found himself thinking, unable to hide his growing smirk. He had prayed to the merriment god more than once to whisk away any hangovers he might’ve obtained giving thanks to Bacchus in the first place. While it was embarrassing to say, Bacchus was perhaps the only deity he paid tribute to outside of life-or-death encounters.
At once, he felt a strange sense of camaraderie with the goat woman. Which god or goddess monsters worshiped, or if they were even religious in the first place, had never crossed his mind.
“Anyways…” Kacia breathed, clopping over to the shelf holding all her drinks, “What’ll you have, handsome?”
The bandit found the goat’s eyes lingering on him. Scoffing, he turned away, unsure if Kacia was genuinely complimenting him or just trying to butter him up for whatever scheme the albino had planned.
“Just some whiskey, thanks.”
Kacia swung her focus over to Valerie, “And you, beautiful?”
Two gouts of flame streaked from Valerie’s eyes, glinting with a rebellious spark.
“Strongest thing ya got.” the hellhound challenged, a cocky, fanged grin playing across her cheeks.
A concerned hum rumbled in the saytor’s chest, “You sure about that, beautiful? I’m not doubting you can hold your liquor, but…”
Val’s flames leapt into the muggy air, “I said the strongest stuff ya got, and I meant it! C’mon, I can take it.”
Kacia put on a knowing little smile and shrugged her shoulders. She turned to the albino, “Second rounds for you two?”
“Yes please.” the pale man crisply responded.
‘Two?’ Aaron found himself wondering just what the saytor meant, looking beyond the albino’s back and finding the stool next to him empty. The Lorna woman that had written him the note implied there would be two, and she would be one, but Aaron saw only the pale fellow.
Even without an occupant, Kacia smoothly poured a glass of a sweetened wine with a single hand, not spilling so much as a drop, and slid it over to the empty spot at the bar. Aaron didn’t have time to question just what the hell she was doing before she expertly twirled about. She left two small cups before he and the albino and filled them both to the very rim with liquid amber before he could even blink.
Then, at last, and with a click of her hooves, Kacia skipped over to Valerie. The goat left a pitifully small glass before the hound, barely enough for two sips, before diving under the counter to retrieve a hollowed out gourd, held up with a silky sapphire string.
“Is this some kinda joke?” Valerie snarled out, impatiently tapping the side of her cup with a claw.
“Oh, I’m dead serious honey,” Kacia assured Valerie, shaking whatever liquid was inside the gourd, “This is Oni Tears. Ain’t the strongest stuff I’ve ever tasted, but it’s up there. It makes rum look like apple juice. A full cup of this stuff could blind an ogre.”
“Hmph. Lemme give it a taste, then.”
“Alright, you asked for it~” Kacia cheered, gingerly pouring Valerie a glass. It was clear as a crystal, and even at a seat across, Aaron nearly flinched at the pungent scent. The saytor said it could blind an ogre; Aaron was sure a casual sip would’ve sent him hacking and collapsing onto his back.
“Val, be careful not to-“
Valerie tossed caution to the sky and let it fall to the mercy to the wind. She yanked her drink up to her lips, chugging the powerful liquor down in a single gulp.
The hellhound sat still for a long moment, empty glass clutched in paw, her expression completely unreadable. But slowly, surely, she began to sway back and forth. Kacia and the albino watched her with amused grins. Aaron reached over in concern, gently shaking her shoulder.
“Hey…. Val? You alright?”
The hound tipped over at his touch, collapsing out of her chair and planting into the mud.
“Ohhh…” she yipped and whined like a wolf caught in a bear trap, sinking her claws into her stool as she struggled back to her hindpaws. She coughed once, then twice, shivering and shaking as errant flames blasted from her eyes.
“Izz… wha… shit…” she slurred incoherently, wobbling back and forth like a dead tree in a hurricane. She wasn’t able to keep up for long. Aaron hurried to her side to lend a supportive shoulder.
“Nyah… thank ya shooo much, babe.”
He eased her back into her stool as gently as a babe to bed. But her forehead came crashing into the bar all the same, rattling the cabinet of spirits, liquors, and wines Kacia was standing by. More muffled grumblings came as she slipped two paws under her face. Aaron sighed, gently massaging between her shoulder blades.
“Just… just take it easy for a bit, Val. I’ll talk with this guy.”
Aaron left her snoozing on the counter, then turned his attention back to his so-called benefactor. The first thing he noticed was the pale man’s amused smirk. The second, the wine glass next to him was half way empty.
Just as Aaron started to wonder whether or not the fellow was some kind of alcoholic schizophrenic, he saw the glass rise into the muggy air and tilt forward. But the wine didn’t spill out of the glass; it disappeared the instant it left the glass. The bandit half a mind to feel at his eyes to check if they had bugged out of their sockets.
A woman’s satisfied purr tickled his ears, right after the light clink of the glass against the counter. A violet werecat popped out of thin air, throwing him for a loop. A thin tongue poked out from her smug smirk, licking at her wet lips.
“Hello hello~” the cat cheered, “Black Bandit. Pleased to meetcha~ I’m Lorna the Cheshire~”
The albino tilted his glass up, smiling brightly as a full moon at Aaron, “And I’m Jack.”
“And I’ll give you three some privacy~” the saytor bartender giggled, returning to the back of her shop.
Aaron waited for a long moment, studying both the albino and the cheshire for as long as he needed. He took a sip of his whiskey – he wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it tasted spicy, fruity, and left a pleasant burn along every taste bud and inch of his throat as it went down. A small shiver raced up his back as the amber hit his stomach.
“So, what’s the deal with you two? You want our help or somethin’?”
“Correct.” the albino confirmed, taking a sip of his own drink, “You’re good, Black Bandit. Damned good. You may operate out in the boonies, that hasn’t stopped your reputation from spreading all across the countryside. You’re tactful, and good with a sword… and that’s saying nothing of your girlfriend there. You two are perfect for a job I need assistance with.”
“And just what would that entail?” Aaron asked incredulously, “Because look, I’m in a bit of a rush here. I don’t have time for-”
A loud jingle sounded out, and Aaron shut his lips. It wasn’t the sound itself – it was the fact the jingling was coming from a fat satchel of coins Jack held up. The albino slammed it against the counter, sliding it across to Aaron. Catching it one of his palms, the bandit immediately ripped open the bag, marveling at what waited inside.
‘There are enough silver pieces in here to last me the rest of the trip to Mount Enthya…’
It took every ounce of his willpower not to stupidly gape like a slack-jawed moron. He somehow squashed that reaction, looking up to meet Jack’s cool, expectant smile, shining like a sunbeam off a splinter of ice. Lorna was right behind him, peeking over the albino’s shoulder and sporting a grin nearly too wide for her face.
“What do you two want from me?”
“Simple,” the albino chuckled as if it was a silly question, “Before the briefing, do you know what a relic is?”
A relic. Aaron was sure the albino wasn’t just talking about dusty statues dug up from ancient castles. The term carried a familiar ring to it, and Aaron didn’t have to dig long to dredge the definition back into his scope of relevancy.
“I think so. Never seen one myself… but aren’t they like old magic do-dads or somethin’?”
“Thats one way of putting it, I suppose,” Jack grunted, not sounding to pleased with Aaron’s boorish description, “But yes, you have the basic idea down. Among other things, I’m a bit of an antiquarian. I have no ability to cast magic myself, but I enjoy tinkering with and collecting all sorts of relics for a number of purposes. For example…”
The albino pulled something from his pocket, and Aaron couldn’t have gleamed it’s purpose on the appearance alone. He’d have best described it as some sort of chip. A small circle, of an eggshell colored metal he couldn’t quite place. An even smaller circle sat atop of it, to what end, the bandit couldn’t be certain.
“The hell is this thing?” Aaron demanded, his gaze racing from the chip over to Jack and Lorna then back to the strange little device.
“Press the button,” Jack urged him wryly, “And you’ll find out.”
“You press it.” Aaron challenged.
“Oooh~” Jack cooed through the gust of the storm’s wicked winds, “Think it’s a trap, eh? Well, I suppose I can’t blame you. Hell, I wouldn’t trust myself if I were in your shoes.” he said, his finger hovering dangerously over the chip, like hooked bait above deep waters, “Let me show you, then.”
The albino pressed the button. Aaron didn’t peg Jack for a complete lunatic who’d hand off a bomb, so he didn’t flinch, expecting the entire Sloshed Goat to go up in a heavy ball of flame – he watched and waited, the stench of whiskey sitting on his baited breath. Over the splashing of rain and howl of wind, he heard the tell-tale guttural screech of gears grinding against each other.
Then, like magic, the thing came to life.
Escaping out from under his finger, Jack’s little chip grew six legs. While each of it’s joints were connected by a polished gear, they were remarkably spider-like in design, and it scurried across the counter just like one. Wide-eyed, Aaron leaned back from his seat as the metal arachnid scuttled over to him and peered up with a single artificial eye, burning with an unnatural cyan light.
Jack caught the thing just as quickly as he brought it to life, twisting it’s little button and causing it’s appendages to retract back into it’s circular body. Tucking the chip back into his coat, a slick, sharp smile brushed it’s way onto the albino’s thin lips.
“See? This things just some worthless little toy, all things considered. Some relics can level entire towns, even obliterate entire battalions of men in an instant. They can take all sorts of different forms, Aaron.”
A heavy breath came from the bandit’s nose, “And just what the hell does that have to do with me?”
“You’ve seen that dam, haven’t you? The one right behind Riak?”
“Kinda hard to miss it.” Aaron spat like his intelligence was being challenged by such a worthlessly rhetorical question.
“That things been standing for hundreds of years. Longer than even the new genesis of monsters, perhaps.” Jack informed him, motioning towards the smirking, pretty face of Lorna, “People tend to underestimate the intelligence and ingenuity of their forefathers, but with the skills and resources of this country back in those days, there’d be no way they could create anything like that dam. Especially considering it’s barely been modified for it’s entire two centuries of life.”
“You know what that means, right?” Lorna butted in, swishing around the remaining wine in her glass, “They didn’t build it~ the old king of this country commissioned some geezer mage and lots of pro architects to build it. The design is pretty impressive, but there’s just a few things in place keeping the whole shebang held together~”
“Relics.” Aaron pieced together, “So… they’ve got some kinda of magic junk holding back all the water, huh? Well, what do you want from me? You want me to help find some replacements or something?”
“Not quite.” Jack chuckled icily, “Not quite. No… we want you to help us destroy them.”
Aaron’s fingers clenched down on the glass. Suddenly, the smirks of the albino and the cheshire seemed far more laced with sinister intent than smug self-confidence.
“That would flood the city.” Aaron grunted, deep lines crinkling his scowling face, “Why the hell would you want to do that?”
“Really Aaron?” Jack sighed, sounding more than a bit exasperated, “That bit should be obvious. The Legion’s taken over the town… and trust me, they won’t be leaving. If you ask them, they’ll say the garrison in town is temporary. But I’ve seen more than enough evidence to the contrary to know that that’s a load of horseshit.”
The albino’s wry smile vanished. Now he bore a tired frown, his scarlet eyes scorching into the rippling surface of his whiskey, “Once the Legion’s sink their dirty claws into a city, they never let go. They’re like sores – let them fester, leave them unchecked, they’ll spread, and you’ll be swamped with them before long. Too late for any proper recourse, in other words.” he finished with more than a bit of frosty venom in his voice, “I’d ask you to forgive that crude analogy, but you don’t seem like the type of man for flowery words. I trust you catch my meaning.”
Sour memories ran roughshod across Aaron’s mind, preventing him from arguing to the contrary. He couldn’t deny that. That was the case of his hometown. It was the case of the numerous cities and villages he had passed on his way over to Graeme. And no doubt, it would soon be the case for Riak.
Jack went on, “I’m not planning on blowing the entire thing. Not all at once. Just enough to flush out the legionaries and let the citizens in the lower levels escape. But even then, I can’t feel too bad about any that get caught in the downpour… do you know why there are still citizens behind those walls, and only some rotting in this hellhole?”
Aaron already knew the answer, “They… they didn’t resist. They let the Legion take them over.”
“They gave up on their neighbors. They let a pack of bigoted sons of bitches invade their home, threw their pride and principles to the wind for the empty promise of safety. The cowards deserve worse, if you ask me. But there are children and elderly that had no choice in the matter, so I’m willing to let them off the hook.”
A smidgen of something resembling relief broiled in Aaron’s chest. At the least he could be certain the albino wasn’t a complete sociopath. Thinking a bit on it, Aaron realized that Jack’s scheme actually wasn’t too morally corrupt in comparison to what he had been doing to keep his brother alive.
Although, his banditry was a result of desperation. He couldn’t say the same for what Jack was doing. He wouldn’t have pegged him for it on first glance, but Jack seemed to be an idealist so infuriatingly confident in his beliefs that he was willing to kill over them.
The highwayman wouldn’t have been afraid to admit that those kind of bastards pissed him off.
“Aaron, do you really think the ones out here will be getting their homes back? No! The people here have lost everything. And I’d say it’s better waterlogged than letting the Legion have it. At least then, they have a chance to rebuild. If we let those red bastards stay here, they won’t have anything but a long, hard road into the unknown. Is that what you want for them?”
A deep, unsettled sigh whistled past Aaron’s lips. He impatiently tapped at the bar, matching rhythms with the swiftly calming rain. He glanced over to the albino and cheshire. A determined grin on the cat; something between determination and self-assurance on the human. Both were waiting for an answer Aaron refused to provide
“Preeeety pleeeease~?” Lorna begged through his silence.
Aaron stared back down at the bag of coins in front of him. Those shiny, wonderful little things that could do so much for him. They could very well be the difference between his little brother’s life and death.
Their two-man crusade couldn’t have mattered less to him. The money did, and it sang out like a siren. Every part of the highwayman wanted to accept the offer. His fingers itched to reach out and pocket the coins. His body was already feeling relaxed from all the precious food and transport the sparkling things could afford him. His mind raced with justification, screaming that he had done far worse for far less.
But his eyes always pried away from the open bag, landing on Valerie’s sleeping from, looking so innocent and adorable in stark contrast to her usual wild temper. He couldn’t stop imagining the look of disappointment and grief on her face, nor stop the pangs of agony that hit his heart when he did.
“I’m sorry.” Aaron grumbled, for a reason even he wasn’t sure why, “But I can’t. I’d… I’d like, the money, but I just can’t…”
Jack, who was leaning expediently forward, cocked an eyebrow and retreated back into his seat. He thoughtfully tapped a finger against the bar, not seeming too terribly upset by the rejection.
“Nothing we can do to change your mind?” Lorna hummed, sounding wounded despite the maniacally huge grin cresting her cheeks.
Aaron barely caught it, but he could’ve sworn that he saw a tinge of disappointment race across Jack’s before promptly vanishing. He downed the rest of his drink, deeply exhaling, and trained his unflinching gaze on the counter.
“You absolutely sure? We’ll be doing this tomorrow night. Don’t go regretting this later.”
“Yeah,” Aaron reaffirmed, “Look. I just can’t afford to piss off the Legion right now.” he explained, only half lying.
The corners of Jack’s mouth twinged into a cool little smile. He turned to face Aaron, now looking far from upset in any form, “Don’t worry, I understand. And I’m sorry you couldn’t see things my way. And I trust you won’t try and stop me from doing what needs to be done. Because if you do…”
Aaron couldn’t rightly describe it. The cool, privy-yet-uncaring aura that hung around the albino melted for a just a split second. Like a raging blizzard, something deep, obsessed, and primal possessed him, nearly throwing Aaron for a loop.
“I’ll bury you with the rest of those bastards.”
Then, like his others flashes of emotion, it was gone as soon as it came. His slick and aloof smile returned, and as he looked towards the calming rainstorm beyond the cover of the bar, he pushed himself away from his stole.
“Good luck, friend.” the albino bid his farewell, not bothering to spare a glance as he waltzed away, “And don’t do anything stupid. Lady Luck can only spare so much kindness to fools, and the last thing you want to do is test her patience.”
Lorna threw Aaron a mock salute, vanishing into thin air. The next instant, she was clinging to Jack’s back, arms thrown around his neck. The instant after that, they were both gone. The albino’s shallow footprints in the mud were the only record he was there at all.
Aaron grumbled and muttered, a deep sense of foreboding rattling him. Gingerly sipping down the last of his drink, he threw the snoring Valerie over his shoulders and went back into the light drizzle, trying to find any sort of shelter for the night.
“So… let me get this right…”
Monsters, it seemed, didn’t encapsulate everything he loved about women with none of what he’d consider the chaff. Valerie gave out sex like it was going out of style, was loyal to a fault, and freely spoke her mind without fear of any repercussions.
“Some crazy pale guy says he’s going to flood the city…”
But like any of the human girls he had laid with, she didn’t seem do mind giving him a good tongue-lashing when he fucked something up.
“And you just let him walk away?!”
The bandit, sitting with one leg folded over the other and hand propping his chin, sighed and stared out past the flaps of his tent, not looking at anything in particular, all to avoid the furious, flame-filled glare of hellhound behind him.
“I dragged you all around this shithole on my back to buy us a tent and this is the thanks I get?” he complained, gesturing to the thin, tanned walls around them.
Valerie’s scowl deepened, “ How could you just sit there and let that bastard run away to ruin all these people’s lives?”
“Because,” Aaron huffed like he had to explain it a hundred times beforehand, “It has absolutely nothing to do with us. I’m trying to save my brother, not play hero. If no one’s willing to pony up some shiny stuff for it, I ain’t willing to put my neck on the line.”
“Oh. So you think just standing by and not doing anything is just fine, huh?”
“Yeah. It is to me.” Aaron spat, a sudden fury licking dangerously at his heart, “Why can’t you just mind your own damned business, Valerie?!”
“If I had minded my own business, you’d still be out killing people!”
The hellflame around her eyes flared to an intensity he had never witnessed, and their tent lit up with an overpowering orange-red light. Her blunt words struck him like a hammer, and her screams seemed to shake the very earth itself. But more than that, beyond their initial sting, they cut deep like a knife, shaking him to the very core.
He had nothing to say. Folding his legs together, he placed both hands on his knees and kept his eyes on his lap. Seeing his defeated, sunken form, Val’s fire shrank away. She slowly backed up, towards the opening to the tent.
“I-I’m sorry…” she whispered.
“No. If you really feel that way, just go on ahead and keep going on your journey. I’ll go stop that pasty doofus and his kitty on my own. I’ll catch up to you later.”
A shining smile spread across her face. She turned her back to him, ready to depart.
Aaron felt something inside him stretch to the limit. It snapped soon after, making his fists tighten and his throat close up. With a single shaky eye open, he watched Valerie’s back as she left the tent…
“…fine…” he grunted.
The hound’s ears twitched. She refaced Aaron, wearing a face that looked halfway curious and halfway overjoyed.
“What was that, babe?”
For a brief second, he imagined Jacob, Millie, and the rest of the people stuck in the encampment bawling as they looked upon their drowned home. Then, for a reason he couldn’t place, Douglas’ bright, admiration-filled eyes. Gritting his teeth, Aaron pounded his fist against the tent’s floor, feeling the wet earth underneath cave beneath his knuckles.
“I said I’d help, dammit!” he roared, anger, determination, and fear all broiling in his chest, “Lets go beat down that pasty fucker!”