A young girl walked across a large, grassy field. A slight breeze blew in her dark hair that fell about her shoulders. Her young, pretty features were hidden by the mud and dirt that plastered her face. Her dark brown eyes stared straight ahead, her expression was blank.
She wore an old dress that was so covered in dirt it was impossible to know what color it had been originally. On her feet were old, tattered sandals. She was very beautiful, but you couldn't tell by looking at her because of the dirt that covered her from head to toe.
The young teenage girl walked on and on across the field, the morning sun shining gently down upon her. A few trees stood proud and lonely here and there as the breeze rustled their leaves. It was warm and peaceful.
The Young Girl walked on and on. Then at last she saw a group of buildings in the distance. She was coming to a small town.
As she entered the town, she saw rows of small wooden or mud brick buildings. A few people milled around here and there along the dirt path, but no one seemed to notice the filthy brown-haired girl.
Suddenly she heard shouting from one of the buildings. It had large wooden doors with a sign hanging beside it that read “Pub.” The loud yelling coming from inside drew the girl's attention, and filled with curiosity she went to see what was going on.
As soon as she pushed open the double doors and stepped inside, she saw the reason for the yelling. Two men were fighting in the middle of the pub, while others stood around them, shouting. A muscular man with long brown hair tied back in a pony-tail fell to the floor as his opponent, a man of about the same height and weight, stood over him. His brown hair was spiked up, and he had a small scar under his left eye and huge bristling sideburns.
As soon as the Man with the Pony-Tail landed on the ground, he lashed out his foot and kicked the Man with Sideburns in the stomach. The Man with the Pony-Tail then kicked out his legs and leaped from his back up onto his feet, with the same motion delivering a punch to the guy's face. He was down.
The Man with the Pony-Tail reached his hand into his cloak. His adversary lashed out his legs, grabbing the man's legs and pulling them out from under him. He fell hard on the solid wood floor, and the Man with Sideburns got to his feet awkwardly. He was slightly bigger than the Pony-Tail Man, but he wasn't in as good of shape. Before he had got his balance, the Man with the Pony-Tail rolled himself into his legs and tripped him. He was down again.
Now they grappled with each other on the floor. The Man with Sideburns managed to get on top and sent his fist toward the other man's face. He moved his head, and the fist cracked against the hard wood floor. As the Man with Sideburns howled in pain, the Man with the Pony-Tail slammed his elbow into the side of his head and rolled over athletically, getting on top. Then he wrapped his left arm around his opponent's neck, and grabbed the skin under his right ear.
As the Young Girl standing near the door watched, she was surprised to see the big tough man cry out in pain. He stiffened up, clenched his teeth and seemed unable to move. “Ow ow,” he said. “Okay you win!”
The Man with the Pony-Tail man released his hold on his opponent, whose tense muscles relaxed. The Man with Sideburns stood up quickly and rubbed his neck. “What is your problem? What do you want?” he asked angrily.
The Man with the Pony-Tail also stood up. “Nothing,” he said as the other man glared at him. “I thought you were someone else.” With that he walked out the door, fixing his pony-tail.
The Man with Sideburns stared after him in surprise, rubbing a red spot on his neck and looking shaken after the fight. “Man,” he said, “I'll feel sorry for whoever that guy's looking for when he finds him!”
The Young Girl followed the Man with the Pony-Tail outside. She ran up beside him and started walking beside him through the dusty streets.
“What were you two fighting about?” she asked.
The well-built man didn't answer. His solemn expression remained fixed and his eyes stared straight ahead.
“Can you hear me?” she asked again, raising her voice. “I said, what were you fighting about?!”
He sighed. “What do you want, kid?” he asked in annoyance.
“I just wanted to know what that fight was about,” the Young Girl answered.
“I don't know. Just curious I guess.”
“Curiosity killed the cat,” he replied.
She looked up at him with curiosity. “What cat?” she asked innocently.
The young man heaved another sigh. “Never mind. The fight back there was a mistake; I thought that guy was someone else. Someone I'm looking for.”
“Oh,” the pretty young girl said simply. She kept walking next to him.
“Who is it you're looking for?” she asked him.
“Shouldn't you be getting back to your family, kid?” the man said, even more annoyed.
“I don't have a family,” the girl replied. “At least, I don't know if I have a family.” She paused, and looked as if she was trying to remember. “I don't know who I am, or where I'm from. I don't even know what my name is.”
The Man with the Pony-Tail finally looked down at her in surprise. He studied her muddy face for a second, then returned his gaze straight ahead. “Lost your memory, huh,” was all he said.
“I guess so,” the girl said slowly. “What about you?” she asked him. “What's your name?”
“Flint,” he answered.
“Flint,” the Young Girl repeated to herself. After a short silence, she asked, “Do you have a family, Flint?”
Flint sighed in annoyance again. “You sure got a lot of questions, kid.”
“I do?” she asked.
Flint realized she wouldn't leave him alone until he answered her questions. “I don't have a family,” he said after a pause. “I usually prefer to be alone.”
She didn't take his hint. “So who are you looking for?” she asked.
“A man who goes by the name of Zachiarus,” Flint answered.
“Is he a friend of yours?”
Flint couldn't help but chuckle a little. “Not exactly. Actually, I've never seen him before in my life.”
“Then how will you know when you find him?”
“The only thing I have to recognize him by is a description,” Flint answered. “Everyone who sees him says the same thing. They say he's around six feet tall, has spiky brown hair and a scar under his left eye.”
The Young Girl remembered the man from the pub; he fit the description perfectly. “How did you know that guy back there wasn't him?” she asked.
“Because of the rest of the description,” Flint replied. “Some people call him the walking death, some call him a son of the devil. Wherever he goes they say he leaves a trail of death and destruction. He's cruel and heartless, and he kills people for seemingly no reason. Those he leaves as survivors say that he has the ability to control people's minds, to make them do whatever he wants them to. He often makes people kill each other, even their friends and family. Whenever he walks by, chaos breaks out. These are some of the things I've heard, anyway,” he said somewhat skeptically. “How much of this is true, I don't know. But it's obvious that this man has caused a lot of deaths. Anyway, that guy back at the pub wasn't no walking death. He barely knew how to fight.”
The young girl thought about Flint's description. “If he's that dangerous, why are you looking for him?” she asked.
“Because it's my job,” Flint replied. “I'm a bounty hunter. This Zachiarus guy has a big price on his head, so I'm gonna catch him and bring him in to the City officials.”
The young girl looked at the resolve in the pony-tail man's face. He talked like catching this man would be a walk in the park, but a question was gnawing at her. “You really think you can beat him?”
“I don't have to,” Flint said, reaching into his cloak. He pulled out a sharp knife with a round black handle.
“You're going to kill him?!” the young girl gasped.
“If I killed him,” Flint answered, “I wouldn't get as big of a reward. But this is a special knife. When you put pressure on the handle just right...” He squeezed the handle of the knife and suddenly a long skinny needle stuck out of the bottom of it. “The handle is filled with a very potent liquid that causes unconsciousness,” he explained. “Just a small poke with this needle and anyone would sleep for hours. Even the great Zachiarus,” he added, retracting the needle and putting the knife away.
“Hm,” the girl mumbled. “So where are you going now?”
“A neighboring town just north of this one,” Flint said. “It's called Marcus. Now, if I've answered all your questions, then...”
“I have just one more,” the girl said. “Can...can I come with you?”
“Please?” she asked again. “I don't have anywhere else to go. Besides, you're the only person I know!”
“Then go meet someone else.”
“It's out of the question. My mission is way too dangerous for a little girl like you.”
“I'm not that little. I'll be alright. I may even find someone who knows me! Please, I won't be any troub―”
“Alright!!” Flint grunted. “You can come with me to Marcus on one condition.”
“No more questions. In fact, no more talking at all.”
“No talking means be quiet.”
They came to the edge of the small town. A grassy plain stretched out before them.
The Young Girl spoke up again: “But I―”
“That ain't quiet!!”
About an hour later, Flint and his newfound tag-along drew near to the town of Marcus. As the two walked, Flint noticed the girl humming some kind of tune. He was surprised at how beautiful her voice was. “What's that?” he asked, strangely moved by the melody.
“Hmm?” The Young Girl seemed to wake up from a daydream. “What's what?”
“What you were humming,” Flint answered.
“Oh,” the girl said absentmindedly. “It's one of the only things I can remember. It's a song, or at least a tune. I don't know if there are any words. All I remember is a melody. I wonder where I heard it...” her voice trailed off.
They could see a line of trees in the distance. “Marcus is just past those trees,” Flint said. “We'll be there soon.”
The two entered the town of Marcus as the afternoon sun grew hot above them. This town looked much like the last one: dirt streets running in between rows of wood and mud brick houses and buildings. People walked about here and there, talking or laughing, and a few children ran around playing games.
Flint and the Young Girl walked through the town till they came to a wooden building. Above the door hung a sign that said “Pub.” Flint looked at the girl and was about to say something when her stomach growled.
She looked down at it and then giggled. “I'm hungry,” she said.
Flint reached into a little pouch under his cloak, pulled out a few coins and dropped them into her hand. “Here,” he said. “Go get some food.” He pointed at another building on the next block. “There's a Restaurant over there. And,” he added, “you might want to visit the Bath. You look like you've been rolling around in the dirt.”
“I do?” the girl asked in surprise. She hadn't seen her reflection yet.
“I'll be in here,” Flint informed her. As he walked by a window in the side of the Pub, he glanced inside, then stopped. “Ah,” he said, “there he is!”
The Young Girl looked through the square hole. A man stood at the counter inside, ordering something from the bartender. He had brown hair that was spiked straight up, and a green bandanna wrapped around his forehead. She saw a small scar under his left eye.
“Are you sure that's him?” she asked.
“He fits the description,” Flint replied. “How many six foot tall men with spiky brown hair and a scar under their left eye could there be around here?”
The Young Girl pointed at another man sitting at a table on the other side of the room. He had spiky brown hair and a cross-shaped scar under his left eye.
“Great,” Flint muttered. “Well, there's only one way to find out which one's Zachiarus.” He opened the large wooden door and walked into the Pub.
“Wait, what are you going to do?” the girl called after him.
Flint walked across the Pub and straight up to the man with the bandanna. He was just about to sit down on a barstool when Flint grabbed it and pulled it out from under him. The man missed the chair and fell on the hard wood floor. He looked up, startled. Before he could say anything, Flint gave him a kick to the side of the head. He fell over and landed on the floor, then tried to scramble away, staring at the bounty hunter in shock. “Wha...what did you do that for?!” he stammered, rubbing his head.
“Not him,” Flint said to himself. The Young Girl was still watching at the window. She felt bad for the guy and wondered if Flint always used such straightforward methods.
Next Flint turned to the other man sitting at the table. Found you, he thought.
When he saw Flint glaring at him, the man froze with a mug halfway to his lips. The two locked eyes and stared at each other for a few seconds.
Suddenly the man with the spiky hair let out a high-pitched scream. He dropped the mug, which clattered off the table onto the floor. He seemed to panic, threw his chair back and fell backwards onto the floor. Then he scrambled up and ran off towards the window, screaming, “SCARYYYY!!!!!” The Young Girl moved out of his way as he leaped through the window and ran off down the street. “HELP!!!” he yelled. “A scary man is gonna hurt me!!” Flint just stood staring after him in surprise.
The Young Girl was also puzzled by his odd behavior. “Wait!” she called as she ran after him. Suddenly the man tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face. As the girl ran up, he groaned, rolled over and looked up at her.
His eyes grew wide and he stared at her as a look of surprise crossed his face.
“Are you okay?” the Young Girl asked him.
The look disappeared as the spiky-haired man laughed awkwardly. “Oh, haha, yes, I seem to have fallen...” He sat up and scratched his head. “Don't worry, I do that all the time.”
“Are you sure?” the girl asked, concerned. “That looked like it really hurt!”
He waved his hands and gave her a goofy smile. “No, really, I'm alright! Say,” he added, “are you hungry?”
As if in answer the Young Girl's stomach growled again. The spiky-haired man burst out laughing, and the girl laughed along with him.
“In that case,” the man said, getting to his feet, “let's go get something to eat, my treat!”
The Young Girl clapped her hands. “Really?! That sounds great!”
He laughed. “But first,” he said, brushing the dust off his plain white tunic, “I think we could both use a bath. Come on!”
“What's your name?” the girl asked him.
He winked at her. “My name's Ratchett!”
Meanwhile back in the Pub, Flint slammed his fist on the counter in frustration. “Another dead end!” he muttered. He went and sat down on one of the barstools―but it wasn't there! He lost his balance and fell to the floor. He realized someone had scooted it back just before he sat down.
“This is not my day,” he mumbled, feeling stupid that he let his own trick be pulled on him.
“You bet it isn't!” said a voice. A hand reached down, grabbed him by the front of his shirt, lifted him up and slammed him into the counter. The hand belonged to an enormous man with huge muscles bulging out all over his body. He stood about a foot taller than Flint, and he stared down at him with menacing eyes. On top of his otherwise bald head was a black mohawk, and big veins popped out all over his ugly face. His incredibly muscular arms stuck out of a gigantic sleeveless tunic, and his huge hand wrapped around Flint's neck. He grinned at the bounty hunter.
“You remember me?!” the huge man snarled, holding his face about an inch from Flint's.
“I think a face like yours is pretty hard to forget,” Flint quipped.
The man slammed his fist into the counter right next to Flint's head, putting a dent in it. “Then you must also remember my brother, the one you put in prison!” His hand grew tighter around Flint's neck.
“Yeah, I seem to remember something like that, Joktan,” Flint answered. “I also seem to remember kicking your butt the last time you picked a fight with me, so I wouldn't do this if I were you!” He looked at the huge man warningly.
Joktan hoisted the bounty hunter up in the air by his neck. “This time things'll be different!”
Flint suddenly grabbed Joktan wrist and squeezed it. Joktan just laughed. He effortlessly swung Flint around and threw him to the ground. He landed on his back and lay coughing.
“That's right,” Flint sputtered, “pressure points don't affect you.”
Joktan cracked his knuckles. “I'm goin' to enjoy this!” he said. “No one messes with my family and doesn't pay for it!!”
Joktan's huge bulk came toward Flint. The bounty hunter rolled to the side and leaped to his feet. Joktan swung an enormous fist, but Flint dodged it. Another swing, another dodge. Flint kept ducking and dodging to the side until Joktan started getting frustrated. He swung faster.
Flint put up his hand and caught Joktan's punch. He winced as the huge fist connected with his hand. Joktan reached out his other hand, grabbed Flint by the arm, lifted him off the ground and hurled him over his head. He landed hard on the solid wood floor.
Joktan grinned evilly. He lifted up an enormous sandaled foot and tried to stomp on Flint's head. Flint rolled out of the way just in time. Again and again Joktan tried to stomp on him, but Flint kept rolling away. He rolled up to a wall, then pushed off it and rolled into Joktan's leg. His other one was in the air, and the huge man lost his balance and crashed into the wall.
Flint quickly leaped up and grabbed a chair that sat nearby next to a table. He swung it at Joktan, but the big man caught it. He wrenched it out of Flint's hand and threw it across the room. Then he got to his feet.
He was mad now. He charged toward Flint, towering over him. The bounty hunter jumped up onto the table and lashed out with both feet. He struck Joktan hard in the face, and he stumbled back a couple of steps. A small trickle of blood came out of his nose.
Then he came back toward Flint. Another kick to the huge man's face. This time it barely fazed him. Flint kicked him again and again. Blood started trickling all down Joktan's face, but he just wouldn't quit. He grinned crazily and came toward Flint again. He lifted up his huge, muscular arms and brought them down with incredible strength onto the table. Flint rolled off of it just in time and heard a loud CRACK. The thick strong wooden table now had a gigantic crack in it.
As soon as Flint landed on the floor, Joktan was after him again. Flint rolled away as his adversary charged around the table toward him. Then, all with the same motion, Flint jumped to his feet, grabbed another chair, spun around, and with all his strength smashed the wooden chair into the side of Joktan's head.
The chair broke into pieces. Joktan leaned back, teetered for a second, and then fell backwards onto the table, which then broke completely under his weight. He laid there on top of the pile of wood, motionless.
Flint left the unconscious man and limped over the the counter. “Get me a drink, will ya,” he said, sitting down on one of the barstools.
The bartender stood behind the damaged counter, calmly drying a mug. “I hope you're going to pay for that chair,” he said nonchalantly.
“Didn't you see what happened?” Flint retorted. “He picked a fight with me. I was only trying to defend myself. He's the one that started it, so he should pay for it.”
“I did see what happened,” the bartender answered. “And what I saw was that he broke the table and the counter, but YOU were the one that broke the chair.”
At a table over in the shadows in a corner of the Pub sat two men. They were watching Flint's every move.
One of the men was tall and lean. His blond hair came down to his shoulders and he had a solemn expression on his face. He wore a long-sleeved black tunic with many strange gray designs woven into it.
The other man was shorter and fatter and had a bald head. His ugly face, decorated by a huge gold ring that stuck out of his nose, resembled an evil pig, only perhaps slightly uglier. He wore a long brown cloak and sat fidgeting with something beneath it.
As soon as Flint sat down, the bald man started to get up out of his chair. The other man put a hand on his shoulder.
“Patience, Borace,” the blond man said calmly. “This place is too crowded. We shall wait until he is alone. Then we shall strike.”
With that the blond man got up and walked toward the door, and the bald man grunted and followed him. The two left the Pub unnoticed.
The Young Girl was having a much more enjoyable time than Flint. After a bath, She went to the Restaurant with the strange spiky-haired man, Ratchett. He treated her to a big meal, and soon she was completely full.
When they finished eating, the Young Girl sighed with contentment. “That was so good!”
“It was, wasn't it?” Ratchett agreed, smiling vacantly. He pushed his plate away and then leaned forward. “So,” he said, “do you live here in Marcus?”
“Oh, no,” the girl answered, shaking her head. “I just came here with Flint. He's the guy you were running away from earlier.”
“You mean that scary guy?” Ratchett asked as his eyes widened.
“He's not really scary!” the Young Girl said emphatically. “He's looking for someone named Zachiarus, and he thought maybe you were him. He may seem a little mean sometimes, but he's actually a good guy! I...I think he's lonely.”
“Oh, that's what it was!” Ratchett laughed nervously. “I thought he just likes to attack people willy-nilly. Well, I'm certainly not Zachary, because I'm Ratchett, as I already told you, and I can only be one person at a time.”
“Zachiarus,” the girl corrected him, laughing.
At that moment the door of the Restaurant opened and Flint stepped inside. Ratchett immediately dove under the table. The Young Girl waved at the bounty hunter. When he saw her, he barely recognized her. All the dirt and mud was gone, and her bright clean face almost seemed to glow. Her dark silky hair was combed neatly and shimmered in the light of the Restaurant. Even her dress, though slightly tattered and stained in places with patches of brown, shone with a pale green light. Flint was taken aback at how beautiful she really was. He walked over to where she was sitting, and she leaned under the table and said, “It's okay, he's not going to hurt you!”
Flint saw the tip of spiky hair come up slowly from behind the table. Ratchett's face appeared as he peeked out at the bounty hunter.
Flint recognized the strange cross-shaped scar under his eye. He stared at the man blankly.
Ratchett stood up and extended a shaky hand. “Sorry about takin' off like that back there,” he chuckled awkwardly. “That was one scary face you made. Hahaha...”
Flint just stared at him.
Ratchett's expression froze and he slowly sat back down. “And...you're making it again...” His voice trailed off.
Flint ignored the strange man and turned his attention to the Young Girl. “I see you've made a new friend,” he said.
“This is Ratchett,” the girl answered, smiling.
“Yeah, well, now that you're getting settled in here, I guess there's no reason for you to come with me any further.” Flint started to turn around.
“What do you mean?” the girl asked, still smiling. “I still want to come with you, Flint.”
“Why?” Flint asked sharply. “Now that you have a new friend, you can stay here with him. There's no reason to come with me now.”
The girl's smile started to fade. “But, Flint...” she said, her voice quavering, “You said I could come with you.”
Flint sighed. “I said you could come with me to Marcus, I never said anything about after that. I'm not a baby sitter! My job is too dangerous to let little girls tag along!”
“But...Flint...” The girl's lip started quivering as tears came to her eyes. “You promised!”
Uh-oh, Flint thought. Don't...
The Young Girl suddenly burst into tears. Some of the other people in the Restaurant turned to look at them. They started murmuring to each other. Flint started to feel very awkward.
Without warning Ratchett started wailing and crying exaggeratedly. More heads turned. Ratchett grabbed Flint's shirt and pulled him down so his face was inches from his own. “Have a heart, Flint!” he said loudly, tears running down his face. “Take the poor girl with you!!”
Flint looked at the man in disgust and tried to pull himself away. He could feel every eye in the building staring at him. He couldn't think of anything else to say, so he finally said, “Alright!! You can come!!”
Ratchett looked up and his expression changed instantly. His tears disappeared and he looked at Flint with an enormous goofy grin on his face. “Really??!!” he yelled. Flint pushed him away and straightened the collar of his shirt.
The Young Girl wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled up at him. Flint looked at her for a moment, then turned and walked out of the Restaurant.
“What a character,” Ratchett commented, picking his teeth with a finger.
The Young Girl watched Flint until he was out of sight. “He's really a good guy,” she said again.
The Young Girl spent that night at the Inn in Marcus. Flint refused to sleep in an Inn, saying they were too crowded. “Inns like the one in Marcus have only one room, and no privacy,” he said. “They're basically just a bunch of beds scattered around. Nothing like the Hotels in the big Cities. I'll spend the night outside in the open air.”
The town sat quiet and peaceful that night under a sky full of glittering stars. Flint sat just outside it next to a small fire. As he stared into the flames, he tried to decide where to go next. Zachiarus had been seen traveling in this direction, but there was no news of him in Marcus. The closest City was Elizabeth, but that was a two and a half day journey. Flint could go on to Elizabeth, or he could start over with his search. Maybe he was going on a wild goose chase, or maybe...
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted. He noticed that someone was standing behind him. “Salutations, Flint,” said a voice.
Flint stood up slowly and turned around. Two men were standing there. One was tall and thin and had blond hair, and the other was short, bald, rather fat, and had a big gold nose ring.
“You remember us, I presume?” the tall blond man asked.
Flint did. “Well, if it isn't that murderer Peleg's henchmen.”
The blond man made a face of disgust. “Please, Flint,” he said, “do not use the term 'henchmen.' it is very degrading. We are fellow warriors, fighting for justice.”
“What kind of justice kills a City Mayor in cold blood?” Flint asked.
“That Mayor was corrupt. The unjust must be disposed of so that the just can take their place. That is the only way for justice to triumph.
“The world is unfair, Flint. I discovered this a long time ago. However, I also believe that the world can change. As we weed out, so to speak, those who are unfair, we are left with those who care about justice, equality, and fairness. That is why I―”
“Zedekiah here likes to talk a lot,” the bald man suddenly interjected.
“I noticed,” Flint replied.
“I wish you would not interrupt, Borace,” Zedekiah sighed.
“Me, on the other hand,” Borace said, “I'm not much for talkin'.” He reached under his cloak and pulled out a huge double-headed ax. The big polished metal head glistened in the firelight. “I prefer to get straight to the point,” he said, touching the keen blade lightly with his fingers. He grinned wickedly. “Get it, the point? You see, what ol' Zed's tryin' to say is that, we're here to kill you!!”
Borace suddenly charged at Flint, swinging his ax. The bounty hunter jumped back just in time, and it missed him. Borace flipped the ax around expertly and swung it back, but Flint ducked and it breezed over his head. Then the ax came down, and Flint jumped to the side. Again and again Flint dodged the huge weapon, bobbing and jumping backwards.
Now Borace was starting to sweat and breathe heavily. He was also getting angry. He started swinging faster and more wildly. As Flint became more familiar with his enemy's pattern of swinging, he dodged more easily. Then Borace swung the ax back and up, spun it, and brought it straight down hard. Flint was ready for him. He dodged to the side, spun around, and dealt Borace a hard punch to the face. The bald man stumbled backwards and rubbed his cheek. He gasped for breath as sweat poured down his face. Flint stepped back and smirked at him. The bounty hunter was in much better shape and was barely breathing hard.
Borace was really mad now. He came at Flint in a rage, swinging the ax wildly. Flint stayed just out of reach of it. Then suddenly, as Borace swung the ax across horizontally, Flint moved in instead of away. He jabbed the man's wrist hard with his knuckles, and with a grunt Borace released his hold on the ax. It flew a few yards away and landed on the ground.
Borace stood holding his wrist in surprise for a split second, then in a fury swung his fist at his opponent. Flint dodged, and the next moment Borace found himself on the ground with his opponent on top of him. Flint sat there with his knee in the ugly man's back and his arm pinning his neck to the ground.
Zedekiah looked on with a hint of surprise on his face. “Impressive!” he said. “You carry no weapon, yet you defeated an armed opponent. You have some skill, Flint!”
Borace squirmed. “He hasn't beaten me yet!” he muttered angrily. He suddenly drew a hidden knife from under his cloak and swung it at Flint, who jumped back off of Borace's back. Borace scrambled to his feet and started running after his ax. Flint took off after him, slid forward and tripped him with his feet, sending him to the ground face first, just out of reach of the ax. Flint then rolled around, grabbed the wrist that held the knife, and squeezed it. Borace released his hold on the weapon as Flint grabbed it with his other hand and held it against the bald man's neck. Borace finally stopped struggling and lay there panting.
Flint leaned forward and asked, “Have I beaten you now?” Borace just growled at him in anger. Holding the knife in one hand, Flint took his other and hit him on the side of the neck. Borace went limp.
Flint slowly raised up off his unconscious opponent and looked at Zedekiah. “Who's next?” he challenged.
“You are more skilled than I thought,” Zedekiah said with a hint of admiration in his voice. “Even though your opponent used such unfair tactics as pulling out a hidden knife while you were unprepared, you still managed to defeat him. That was very impressive!”
“Save your breath,” Flint retorted. “Where's your weapon?”
“I do not need a weapon to defeat you,” Zedekiah answered calmly. “Weapons are...what is the expression...cheap, and I do not mean that in the monetary sense. What I mean is that they are unfair. Weapons are only needed by those who are weak, those who...need a crutch, so to speak. I do not carry a weapon because I have something much better: raw skill. It has taken me much time and training to develop it. You have some skill also, and do not wield a weapon. Because of this, you will present me with a rare pleasure: a fair fight. No weapons, only your skill against my skill. We will see whose skill is superior!”
As Zedekiah walked closer into the firelight, Flint noticed his intricately designed tunic. “That's right,” he said, “you're from the Upper Clan, aren't you?”
“That is correct,” Zedekiah answered. “My mother and father were extremely wealthy people. Because of this, from the moment I was born I had everything I could ever want, or so I thought once. But despite the fact that I was born into one of the richest and most powerful families in the world, I was not saved from the injustices of life.” It sounded like Zedekiah was getting ready to make a long speech.
Flint sighed with impatience. You don't have to tell me your life story, he thought.
“When I was very young my mother died,” the blond man continued. “That was my first real awakening to the unfairness of life. My mother was a good person, and she loved me very much. But in spite of that―”
Zedekiah didn't get a chance to finish. Without warning Flint suddenly lunged at him and swung his fist.
He stared in astonishment. Zedekiah was no longer there!
Flint felt a blow to his back and fell to the ground. “I am disappointed, Flint,” the blond man said, standing over him. “I expected a fair fight, yet you tried to take advantage of me and attacked before I was prepared. In other words, you cheated.”
Flint looked up at him. “You sure talk a lot, don't ya?” he commented, ignoring his last remark. The bounty hunter got to his feet, then aimed a punch at Zedekiah's face. Suddenly the blond man was behind him, and Flint found himself on the ground again. He could barely even see Zedekiah move. “You don't call that cheating?” Flint groaned.
“I am not cheating,” Zedekiah replied, standing over him. “My speed is a skill that I have labored long and hard to develop. I do not use a weapon because I do not need a weapon. A weapon is useless if the wielder cannot hit his enemy.
“You did well to defeat my associate Borace, but you cannot defeat me. You cannot match my speed, which means my skill level is far beyond yours.”
“Do you ever shut up?!” Flint asked, getting up again. He swung at Zedekiah, missed, swung again, missed, then felt a blow to his side, then his back, then his stomach. He doubled over and Zedekiah slammed his elbow into the back of the bounty hunter's neck. Flint was on the ground again.
He struggled to his feet. “You never give up, do you?” Zedekiah mused.
They went at it again. Flint tried to follow his opponent's moves. He kept swinging at him, but his fists only hit air. He took some more blows, then was laid out by a hard strike to the face. The bounty hunter lay on the ground and spit blood from his mouth. Suddenly he reached for Zedekiah's leg, but the next moment it was on his back, pushing him into the grass.
“You might as well give up,” Zedekiah said. “I have already won. I have proven my skills are above yours, so you cannot defeat me in a fair fight.”
Flint pushed himself off the ground, rolled over and threw Zedekiah off his back, lashing out at him with his legs. Zedekiah moved a couple of feet away and stood there as Flint pushed himself up onto his feet again.
“Not taking my advice, I see,” the blond man said.
Flint came at his opponent, swung his fist and missed. Zedekiah moved. Flint spun around, jumped back and felt a rush of air across his face. He dodged Zedekiah's punch.
Flint was immediately kicked in the stomach. He leaned over, then quickly threw himself to the ground and rolled toward his opponent. Zedekiah was taken off guard and found himself tripping over Flint. He fell to the ground, caught himself, and was back up in an instant. Flint sprang to his feet, but Zedekiah was already there. The bounty hunter was hit several times and went down again.
Flint leaped right back up and went on the offensive. He swung and missed, swung and missed again, then turned, dodged another punch, and with the same motion sent his fist toward his opponent's face. It connected! Zedekiah stumbled backward and fell to the ground. He looked up at Flint in surprise as he wiped blood from his nose.
Flint stood over him, bruised and breathing hard. “Give up yet?” he asked confidently.
Zedekiah stood up shakily. “Excellent,” he said. “I am surprised. You were actually able to hit me. You detected the patterns in my movement and predicted where I would be. I congratulate you!” Then his face grew stony and his eyes glinted dangerously. “However, do not think that just because you managed to hit me once, that means you can defeat me. I have not even shown you my true speed yet. I have enjoyed the fair fight, but, unfortunately...it ends now.”
Suddenly Zedekiah was gone. Flint tried to dodge, but his opponent was moving even faster than before. The bounty hunter couldn't even see him now, except for a slight blur a few times as Zedekiah whizzed past. Flint felt blows all over his body. He struggled to remain standing and swung at the air a couple of times, but he couldn't follow his opponent at all. Soon he was laid out on the ground. He lay there on his face with one arm under him, gasping for breath, bleeding and bruised all over. So much pain shot through his body that he could barely move.
Zedekiah stepped on the back of his head and pushed his face into the ground. “You have fought well,” he said, “but you have lost. I clearly am more skilled than you are. Now I must complete the mission I was sent on, and kill you.”
As Zedekiah was talking, Flint was slowly moving his hand under his cloak. Now he suddenly grasped the handle of his knife and drew it out. His opponent saw him and quickly stepped on his wrist, pinning his hand to the ground.
“So you do carry a weapon,” Zedekiah said, frowning. “You understand now that you have been beaten, and in desperation you resort to using a hidden weapon. You are no better than Borace. But it does not matter. You cannot defeat me, even with a knife. I have already won.”
Flint looked up at the blond man and smirked. “Not on your life!”
Zedekiah suddenly felt a sharp pain shoot through his foot. He jumped back in surprise. There was a small red dot on the side of his foot. He looked at Flint's knife and saw a silver needle sticking out of the handle.
Zedekiah started to feel very weak. His head started to swim. His legs gave way and he fell to his knees. “You...” he stammered, “You cheated!!” With that he collapsed and lay there on the ground, unconscious.
Right then Flint heard a groan. Borace was waking up. The bounty hunter struggled to his feet, walked over to him, and stuck the needle into the back of his neck. Borace immediately collapsed again. Flint then limped off toward the town, leaving the two men lying there.