JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Hex 2 - Lion, Ape, and Dog
Val-Kara was the largest of the neutral cities. Its main source of income was from the selling of weaponry. A third of the city was filled with nothing but blacksmith shops. The other two thirds were a mixture of houses and shops dedicated to other things. Hex was currently dragging himself in one of the many alleyways of those two thirds.
His mind was a mess. He forced himself to remember but it felt like there was a brick wall blocking him from his memories. Hex kept on walking.
The alley was wide enough for other beggars like him to set up small shanties. The place smelled of piss and hopelessness. No matter where he looked, Hex’s eyes would land on a person on the edge of death. Shirtless children with dark skin would be seated on the ground; their eyes met Hex’s but their stares were blank. They had huge heads supported by very skinny bodies. Hex tore his gaze from them. Five nights he’d been in the city and he still wasn’t used to the poverty.
Val-Kara was indeed the largest and the richest of the cities, but it also contained the most number of beggars. Every alleyway, every thoroughfare, one would not fail to see someone seated on the ground begging for coins or for some food. Hex was now a part of them.
His aimless walk landed him in a square. On the north side, there was a charcoal colored wall filled with ivy.
The other three sides contained shanties bigger than the ones he just passed in the alley. Hex made his way to the center and sat on one of the three wooden benches. Unknown to him, three men had their eyes on him ever since he emerged out of the alley. The three were now walking towards Hex.
“Well, well, what have we got here?” One of the men said.
Surprised, Hex stood up and turned towards the men. Fear started to balloon inside of him.
“Haven’t seen you ‘round these parts.” The man continued; his right eye was made of glass.
Hex started to back away. The other two went to their positions—one on Hex’s left, the other one on his right. The third man, the one with the glass eye, advanced.
“What’s your name, newcomer?” The man with the glass eye asked.
“I’m sorry if I’ve intruded in your place. I—I’ll be leaving,” Hex said.
Hex turned around but the one on his left grabbed his arm.
“You’ll go when I say you can go,” The glass eyed man said.
Then the man who had him in a vice grip said: “Answer his question. What’s your name?”
“He—Hex,” Hex replied.
“Nice to meet you, Hex. My name is Lion. The man on your left is Ape and this one’s Dog,” the glass eyed man said. “Now, we’ve got a rule here. Rule says that every newcomer must pay a fee if he wants to stay in our part of the city. Dog, explain to Hex how much the fee is.”
Dog had the eyes of a man who enjoyed seeing others in pain. He was a small and skinny man with sharp features. He smiled and put up five fingers. “Five silver coins for each night.”
“I don’t have any coins,” said Hex. He tried to pull his arm away but Ape’s grip was strong.
“Well, we’re sorry to hear that,” Lion said. “But that’s the rule. We can’t just excuse you from it. Why make up rules in the first place then, right?” Lion’s eyes shifted to Ape. “The man has no coins Ape. Remove a finger for each coin he owes us.”
At that, Hex screamed and thrashed and tried to get away. Dog dug his fist in Hex’s belly and he fell down on his knees. Dog then grabbed his other arm.
Lion pulled his hair up to lift his face. “I’m not a bad man. I really am not. But there are rules we need to follow.”
Using his other hand, Ape took out a knife tucked in his boot. Dried blood was still pasted on the blade. Ape looked at Lion.
“Start with the thumb,” Lion said, smiling.
The cool blade kissed Hex’s skin. The skin crack and blood started to seep out. That was when a rock went flying towards Ape’s head. It hit him on his temple which made him let go of Hex’s arm.
Lion, Dog, and Hex all searched for the rock thrower. There, standing by the ivy covered wall, a woman in a white dress with another rock in her hand. She was breathing heavily and her face reflected fear—fear for realizing what she just did. She lifted the rock over her head, unsure at whom to aim it at.
“You…uhm…” she had curly, brown hair that fell down her waist. Her eyes, round and huge, were just as brown. “You let him go,” she finished.
By this time, Ape had recovered from the blow. The man stood up with knife in hand. Blood flowed down the side of his head.
“Another new face,” Lion said. “Is this your boyfriend, here?”
The girl’s hand, the one with the rock, shook. She was crying now, Hex saw. She shook her head in reply.
“She pretty girl, boss,” Dog said. “Dog want pretty girl.”
“I want myself some pretty girl, too,” Lion rubbed his palms together. “All three of us can share.”
Hex noticed that his three assailant’s attention were no longer on him. Dog still had his other arm but the man’s grip had loosened up. Lying on the ground, beside Ape’s feet, was the rock the girl just threw. Hex pushed down the fear. He forced his hand to move. He grabbed the rock and before Dog could react, Hex smashed it on his head. The man fell unconscious to the ground. Lion and Ape turned to him but he was already on the move.
“Run!” Hex shouted at the girl as he ran towards her.
The girl, confused and scared, remained glued in her place. Behind Hex, he heard Lion’s shouts. Hex dared not to turn around. He reached the girl, grabbed his arm, and pulled him away. The two reached the ivy covered wall. Hex jumped and grabbed the top and climbed. But Lion and Ape had reached them. Lion grabbed the girl by the waist and Ape grabbed Hex’s wrist. Ape pulled hard. Hex fell hard on the ground.
The world seemed to sway and Hex could taste blood in his mouth. He lay on the ground and watched. Lion held both of the girl’s arms. The girl was saying something but all Hex heard was a buzzing sound in his ears. Ape started cutting the girl’s dress with his knife.
“Stop,” Hex said but no one seemed to hear him. He lifted his hand, palm out, and repeated: “Stop.”
The girl’s dress lay by her feet. She was naked now. She kept on crying and crying but Lion and Ape won’t stop.
Hex felt anger, pure anger, burning within him. He forced himself to a kneeling position. He watched as Lion drew his face close to the girl’s. A memory flashed in Hex’s head—a memory of a similar event but involved different people. “Stop!” He shouted. And with that, a spiral of flame shot forth from his palm and towards Lion.
The flame enveloped the man as he screamed in pain. Ape and the girl watched in horror. Lion fell to the ground, curled up in a fetal position, as he was devoured by fire. The air smelled of burning flesh. Ape looked at Hex, thought about attacking, but then turned and run.
The girl, arms covering her breasts, continued to cry. “Do—don’t hurt me, please, don’t.”
Hex remained on his knees, stunned. He looked at his palm and saw a spell tattooed on the skin.
JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at http://www.jblearnstowrite.com/ and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.