by adrian.dakota

Anyone would wake up to the cry of “thieves” in the middle of the night. Including a fourteen-year-old teenager living in the village, who awoke, startled, as the voice screamed outside the window. It was the voice of the local village boy — a couple of years ago, Jeron would probably have fulfilled the same role right now, running through the streets at night and yelling at the top of his voice.

“Thieves! Robbers!” came the cry.

Thieves were partly abundant around the village, because they were situated along a ridge of mountains that made it easy for them to hide. As Jeron jumped up and picked up his pack of gear from the floor, he readied himself into battle mode just as a dark shadow passed outside the window.

Sticking his head out of the window, he spared a glance to observe the situation. On the streets, people were hurrying out into the streets with burning torches, knives, swords, and the like — and there! A little distance away, on the same straw-strewn roofs, was a dark figure, poised.

Jeron threw himself out of the window and landed softly on the straw, racing toward the shadowy figure as the latter jumped across the gap in the roofs and spread on the house nearby. Frustrated, Jeron leaped across the gap, hanging in the air for a split second before crashing down on the straw roof and smashing his knee into the ceramic tiles. But the shadowed thief only moved on, treading across the rooftops like he was splashing on water. Jeron could imagine the water coming up in small droplets around his feet… he leapt up, dispelling the thoughts from his mind, swung his bag onto his back and chased after the robber.

The thief was fast. Jeron paused, crouched down, and reached into his backpack. Direct, aim, judge, throw. Jeron tossed the weapon into the air, listening to it swoosh as it flew. The throwing knife spun once through the air as it speeded toward its target. It would hit. There was never once Jeron missed. He prided himself on it.

But the shadow only took a smooth step through the air and the knife failed to even touch him. Jeron jumped up, shocked, and leaped after the thief clumsily. His knives never went wrong. Never failed. Who was this person that could avoid them?

“Stop!” he yelled.

And, against all odds… the figure ahead of him stopped moving and turned. Jeron stumbled, and stopped a good distance away. Behind him, the rest of the villagers were catching up. He could see the outline of the face, and guessed that he couldn’t be much more than fourteen, fifteen. So young. The fires were getting closer. Jeron was going to have to fight.

“Quinton?” said the thief quietly.

“No,” said Jeron shortly, reaching into his pack for a pair of trusty daggers. He hated having to get personal. He hated fighting in itself. But it was necessary. Just as stealing was necessary was these people. It was so unfair, both for the village and the thieves. Both of them needed the food and resources. Not everyone ended up with them.

He lashed out with the knife, just as the latter dodged it. Swinging, Jeron executed the only move he knew — he spun around and pushed himself into the air, raising his arm and slashing down with the knife. It wouldn’t be too effective against somehow way more expert than him — but it might stall the thief long enough for the rest of the villagers to get here.

A soft, firm grip held onto his wrist and twisted the knife out of his hand.

“Sorry,” said a voice softly. “Sleep, now.”

Jeron tried to resist, but a sharp blow to his head knocked him swiftly unconscious.