Alexander ran as hard and fast as he could, running through trees and heavy brush, until the adrenaline carrying him was exhausted from his body. The suddenness of everything he’d lost hit him like an invisible force that threatened to paralyze him. He stumbled over a tree root, falling to the forest floor, but his mindless fear continued to push him forward through the silent forest. Pulling himself forward with his uninjured arm, he dragged his ruined body across the carpet of pine needles blanketing the forest floor. His useless right arm left a trail of blood behind him, its acrid scent calling to the predators living within the woods. Grunting softly with the effort, he moved until his body could not go any further and he fainted face first into the ground.
He had no idea how long he laid there, but could feel the warmth of the sunlight on his back as it broke through the trees and heard the birds singing high above him. His heart was beating too quickly when he awoke with a start, expecting a demon to jump on him at any moment. He remained still, breathing through the mud and trying not to groan as fierce pain wracked through him. The pain and shock became too much once more, and just as the forest sounds began to fade around him, a pair of boots appeared in front of him and he could feel strong arms rolling him over. He looked up and tried to see the owner of the boots, but his eyes refused to focus. Instead he simply whispered, using whatever strength he had left to him, “Kill me. Please, end this.”
“Cyrus, this one is alive!” Alexander vaguely heard the voice shouting, just before he lost consciousness.
Alexander faded in and out of consciousness for some time as he recovered. On some level, he knew he was in a medical facility, but his mind was too disconnected to fully register his surroundings. Sometimes he heard muffled voices speaking around him when he was awake, while other times the strange room was completely silent. Time no longer had meaning as each wakeful period bled into the next; days or weeks could have gone by, but he could not tell. When he was finally able to wake up enough to see his surroundings, he had no idea where he was or how long he had been there. He turned his head and started to look around. The room was small and sterile holding only his bed, a small table, and a wardrobe in the corner across from the door. There were no windows, though the room was illuminated by a single candle upon the bedside table. He tried to sit up, but the sharp, stabbing pain in his shoulder made him gasp and lay back down onto the pillows. It was then he heard the friendly voice and realized he was not alone. “Best not move, boy; you’re not yet well.”
Alexander turned his head toward the voice and saw a strict looking man with blonde hair standing in the doorway watching him. He lifted his good hand to his shoulder and felt the heavy bandages around it. He cleared his throat and spoke weakly, “Who – um, who are you?” His voice cracked and was rough from disuse.
The handsome man walked in with a disarming smile and sat on the edge of the bed, “Jonah Remington. And who might you be, young man?”
Immediately, Alexander felt at ease with Jonah. Smiling weakly he said, “Alexander Montgomery, Sir.”
Jonah took Alexander’s hand gently, “Well, Mr Montgomery, you have caused quite the stir here. The mere fact that you were able to survive what you did shows great strength; but finding you covered in demon’s blood piqued the curiosity around you still further. It would seem that you have quite the story to tell.”
“I – “ He began, holding his hand over his eyes as the memory of his ordeal came flooding back to him. Suddenly, he could feel the bile rise within his throat as the images replayed within his mind. No matter how hard he tried to stop it, he could not end the waking nightmare that plagued his mind. Somehow, he managed to whisper through the sudden surge of tears, “I’ve lost everything.”
“I know, Alexander. You’re safe here, just let it out,” Jonah whispered softly, watching the boy with sympathetic eyes before adding, “You need to talk about it; tell me what happened. I promise it will help.”
Something in Jonah’s voice made the frightening images fade away, but the sheer magnitude of trauma he had suffered continued to assault him. Even as he wiped his eyes with the back of his good hand, the tears wouldn’t stop. Jonah sat still as Alexander wept as only a man that was still a child could – with deep, wracking sobs. Unable to sit up, he turned his face away from Jonah and tried to stifle the sobs that shuddered through him by biting the knuckles of his good hand. It felt like hours before he could wipe his face and not find new tears. Jonah handed him a handkerchief to wipe his running nose, then gave him a horn cup filled with cool water.
“I can come back if you’d like more time.”
“No,” Alexander whispered hoarsely after a soothing sip of the cool water. It was then he realized his thirst. Finishing the water, he spoke again with a stronger voice. “I think I can tell you what happened now.”
He told his story slowly, recounting everything he remembered from the demonic attack upon his farm and how he and Ruben tried to fight back. Through renewed tears in the telling about the last time he saw his mother and stepfather, he became quiet once more as he thought of the happier times. Wiping his nose, he told Jonah about how he defeated the demon and felt a small rush of pride reminiscent of when Jonah looked at him in the same way that Ruben once did. Once his story was finished, his curiosity got the better of him and he asked meekly, “Sir, who found me?”
Jonah smiled and pressed his hand to his chest, “I did; along with a small patrol of soldiers from the L13.”
“L13 is an elite group of knights based out of Monastery,” Jonah answered.
Alexander furrowed his brow, the answer only serving to create more questions in his mind. “What is Monastery?” he asked.
“Monastery is an oasis. It is the one safe place in the world where the demons cannot enter.” Jonah shifted on the bed to face the boy more fully to continue, “I built it and now I run it. We train the L13 to fight the demon threat now roaming over the land.”
“Oh,” Is all Alexander could manage as he took a few moments to digest what he had just heard. After a long silence, he shocked himself with the determination of his desire. He looked up at Jonah, stating plainly, “I want to be an L13 knight, Sir.”
Jonah chuckled and patted his hand, “I figured you would. How old are you?”
“Twelve, Sir. But I know how to fight, I killed a demon!”
“Easy there, son. Let’s get you well before we put a weapon in your hand again,” Jonah answered. “Rest now. I will be by to see you again in a few days.”
Alexander reclined back onto the bed and tried to relax. He believed Jonah’s reassurances to be true and felt absolutely safe in his tiny room for the first time since the night of the attack. Despite the horrors he so recently faced, a warm glow of hope spread through his chest, pushing away the dark visions of fire and swarming demons as he closed his eyes to sleep. In his dreams, he saw himself wearing golden armor and wielding a heavy sword fighting alongside Jonah and standing as equals. This man saved him. This man created a safe haven in the middle of a dangerous world. This man was the hero to look up to and idolize. Alexander was determined to prove that he could be a brave warrior too. Though he missed Ruben and Miranda greatly, he know Jonah was a man that could teach him how to be a warrior who could stop the terror he felt.
Written By: Joni Graham – Artwork By: Savoula Tsoraklidis