JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Hex 4 - Merlon
The enchanted flame didn’t stop burning until Lion’s body was nothing but ashes.
Hex stood up and started walking towards the girl.
“No, no, please!” The girl said as she backed away.
“I won’t hurt you,” Hex said.
The girl, deafened by fear, kept on crying until she eventually found the strength to run away.
Hex watched her go, confused and scared as to what’s happening to him. He could still feel the intense heat that came out of his palm though when he checked he saw no burn marks; the only thing there was the uncanny looking tattoo. Hex opened and closed his hand.
Lion’s scream as he died burning still rang clear in Hex’s ears. Before him, Lion’s ashes stirred as a light breeze passed by. A couple of feet away, Dog stirred and mumbled something unintelligible.
Fragments of the past resurfaced in Hex’s mind. Flashes of faces and places and conversations floated in and out of focus. Hex fell down on his knees with his head clutched in his hands. His hand burnt with an intense heat and Hex wasn’t able to stop himself from screaming with pain. He directed his palm towards empty space and fire came spiraling out of his hand. It roared and scorched the ground and the air; seemingly never wanting to stop.
Hex felt all life being drained from him. The fire finally started to weaken. Darkness crept in from the corners of Hex’s vision until eventually darkness was all he could see. The fire finally stopped and Hex fell on the ground unconscious.
He woke up to the smell of curry. Hex opened his eyes and he was greeted with a blinding headache. His hands darted to his head as he rolled to the side in a fetal position. That’s when he realized his right hand, the one tattooed with the flame spell, was bandaged tightly with a white cloth though the cloth was now stained red with his blood.
“Ah, you’re awake,” a voice from somewhere said. “Dinner’s just about ready.”
Hex forced himself to sit. He looked around with squinted eyes and saw a small, old man seated by the fire. The old man smiled at him.
“Who are you?” Hex said weakly.
The old man stood up. He was wearing a brown robe that reached all the way to the ground and he had a thick, brown scarf that went around his neck and over his head. “You feel anything wrong?” He asked.
“Headache, a bad one,” Hex answered.
The old man gave a nod and reached inside his robe for something. He pulled out a red colored leaf and he handed this to Hex. “Chew,” was all he said.
Hex looked at the leaf and then at the old man’s face. The man smiled at him. Hex saw that the left half of the old man’s upper teeth was missing. Hex smiled back. He took the leaf and did as he was told.
The juices from the leaf flooded violated Hex’s taste buds with a sickening, bitter taste. Hex gagged and almost threw up but the old man motioned with his hands to Hex, instructing him to keep on chewing.
“Baraya leaf does wonders despite its taste being like horse dung,” the old man explained.
Hex swallowed the juices.
“Good,” the old man went back to his pot over the fire. “Now, come, eat.”
Hex stood up and followed. He looked around. They were in a small house, if house was even the right term for it. The walls and ceiling were made of plywood and scrap metal and the only furniture was the blanket Hex was lying on and the iron pot the old man’s stirring with a wooden spoon.
Hex sat cross-legged on the ground. The old man handed Hex a spoon. “Sorry, no bowls,” the old man said.
“No worries,” Hex said, followed by: “You haven’t told me your name yet.”
The old man blew on a spoonful of curry. “You may call me Merlon,” the old man said in between blows.
“Merlon. Thank you for bringing me here and offering me food,” Hex said.
Merlon gave a nod. “The headache’s gone, yes?”
Hex hadn’t noticed it but the old man was right, his headache was gone.
Merlon saw the look of astonishment in Hex’s face. The old man laughed. “Like what I said, Baraya leaves are one of a kind.”
The small dinner proceeded in silence. Hex was surprised as well at how the curry tasted. He expected it to be bland and to taste of salt at best—as to be expected with the rest of the food found in the slums—but the curry was very tasty. The spiciness danced on Hex’s tongue which complimented well the smooth taste of chicken (at least, that was what Hex thought it was).
When the food was all gone, the old man reached inside his robe and pulled out a long, wooden pipe and placed it between his wrinkled lips.
“What happened? I mean, after I passed out.” Hex asked.
“Well, isn’t that obvious? I brought you here, in my home,” Merlon pulled the pipe from his lips and continued on saying, “But if you want to know the specifics I’ll tell you. I saw the fire and the smoke while I was making my way back from buying food. Many of us saw the fire. Many thought it to be slavers harassing some poor souls.”
“But you thought it to be a different thing,” Hex said.
Merlon replied only with a smile.
“There was another man with me,” Hex thought of Dog. The thug must have regained consciousness by that time.
“Ah. That man. I took care of him,” Merlon replied nonchalantly.
Took care of him? Hex thought surprised.
Merlon saw the smile on Hex’s lips. “Looks can be very, very deceiving, my young friend.”
“I—I mean no disrespect, but that man, Dog, was probably half your age.”
Merlon just shrugged. The old man stood up, yawned, and stretched his arms.
“Age can be very deceiving as well.” Merlon walked towards Hex. “Now, time for sleep. We’ll have to leave very early tomorrow.”
Hex stood up. “Leave? What do you mean?”
“You just incinerated a man to ashes earlier and almost burnt yourself out. You clearly have no control over your magic. Tomorrow, we train,” Merlon said with a smile.
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.