Hell to Pay: Chapter 8
Shattered glass adorned the floor and reflected the dying light from outside. Teivel carefully stepped around the shards and gathered his things.
Around one brick in the fireplace was a tiny crack where the mortar had been ground down ever so slightly. It allowed the brick to be slid out to reveal a small hollow space. Teivel reached his hand inside and grabbed at the papers inside. He extracted everything he had written down during his studies, every mention of demons or dark forces. He knelt down on the ground, searching among the papers that had been crinkled and folded countless times.
Thumbing through to a sheet with a blank side, he quickly pulled out a chunk of charcoal from the fireplace. He squinted in the dim light, trying to copy down the markings that still remained on the floor. Something sounded outside, a bird flapping away into the air, getting ready to roost for the night. He exhaled out a heavy breath. Nobody had come searching for him yet, but if they did, he couldn’t be found here, and they should never be aware of the power held in the inscription. He ran his hand against the rough stone of the floor, smearing the markings into obscurity.
His teeth chattered together, ever so slightly. He pursed his lips together and pushed hot air out of his nose. The papers were stacked together haphazardly, and he proceeded to roll them up in a loose bundle and tie them up with twine. The over-sized robe that hung off his shoulders would be too clumsy, and was still stained with the white soot. Pushing it off, the robe drifted to the floor in a pile. He went back to the cupboard and slid open the stubborn drawer that held his clothes. Layers, and something to hold food and his roll of papers. He didn’t know how far he would need to go, but he knew that coming back was not going to be an option.
By the time he had his things ready, the sun had mostly hidden itself behind the buildings across the street. A small sac with the food he could scavenge from the house, and the papers crinkled up and attached by a belt.
Almost to the door, his feet knocked against something. A pair of boots. The dead soldier still laid there. He had been so wrapped up in collecting his things, he had forgotten about the body sitting there, sucked dry of life. Teivel moved in close. The man’s face was devoid of color, body cold. His expression lacked any emotion, like he had given up, being abandoned by his fellow men. Teivel grabbed at the man’s belt, looking for any tools he could use. There was a clink as something metallic hit the ground. He peered by the man’s feet, where a small knife had fallen from a sheath hidden in his boot. Straight and slim, for close quarters. Teivel examined the blade, running his fingers along it. The memory of gouging at a man’s face was fresh in his mind.
Teivel tugged at the sheath until it popped out. He put the knife away in his breast pocket and pushed the limp legs aside to allow him to pass through the door. The street was empty. The orange-red sky shone from above the rooftops, Teivel ducked in and out from the shadows that grew longer by the minute.
He found himself at the edge of town, by a gravel road that continued out to the farms to the east of town. Just down the way was the camp where his parents and neighbors were stationed. The horizon was now devoid of light, man made or not. He would wait just until dawn to try to sneak back into the camp.
Along the opposite side of the road was a culvert draining out of the town. He slid down the loose gravel, finding the pipe that had been buried deep in the earth. Luckily for him, the grate had fallen off, laying rusted among the tiny trickle of water. Teivel propped himself up on his heels, against the side of the pipe. He closed his eyes.
Teivel awoke, his fingers dragging in the water at the bottom of the pipe. His back ached and his stomach seemed to reach all the way back to his spine. The sky outside was bright with stars and a half moon. He turned himself towards the opening of the pipe and looked out at the fields in the night. The moon was about half way through the sky already. Resting his chin on his crossed arms, he attempted to close his eyes again. His heels and toes ached. A rumbling came.
The grains of gravel rumbled against the pipe and trickled down in front of the opening. Teivel crept out and made eye contact with a bright pair of head lights, blinding him. There were several sets, heading in his direction. They grew closer, and the rumbling grew louder. Paralyzing fear entered his body. He could hear treads crunching the gravel as each interlocked section bit into the ground. As they passed overhead, the deafening sound and rumbling was almost enough to knock him over.
As the last one passed, and the rumbling died off in the distance, Teivel took in the silence to think. They had come from the direction of the camp. He poked his head out again, once again to the quiet night scenery. If there were no more lights in the camp, then what happened to the people there?
Teivel stumbled out of the pipe on stiff, unstable legs. He got his bearings, and ran off into the night. By moonlight, he made his way through the bare mounds left over from the harvest. He could see the guard towers looming in the distance, obscured by shadow. As he came closer, he knelt down close to the ground. No guards were on patrol, inside or out. Tievel picked himself up, and cautiously walked to the gate. Just as he suspected, no one remained.
Many of the tents laid on the ground, collapsed. It was unclear how all of the people had been moved, whether conflict had arisen or not. Teivel ran around the tents, but they all looked the same to him. Wherever he and his parents had had theirs, he could no longer find it. There was nothing for him.