2 - When A Shout Was Heard

A shout rang out of the woods, awaking Markus from his
slumber. He yawned, stretched, and stood up, nearly forgetting that the roof of
his tree house was quite small. He lazily strolled over to the window and gazed
out of it, wondering what exactly had caused the racket. After hearing no noise
for quite some time, Markus gave up searching and began to climb down to the
lower level of his house.

For many years now, Markus had lived alone in the forest,
successfully avoiding the war brewing between the rebels and the Tyrant’s army.
Many passing travelers, raiders, and bandits, never looked closely enough to
notice his camouflaged residence. Markus reasoned that he would be able to live
this lifestyle for decades until he uttered his last words to no one in
particular.

Markus had given up on relationships for many years, nearly
as much as how long he had been by himself. ‘The disease’ as it was known, had
swarmed the kingdom Markus previously lived in. The children weren’t nearly as
bad off as the adults, who were forced to measures as drastic as suicide. No
explanation or cure was in sight. This epidemic was conquering the world, bit
by little bit. Markus, however, considered himself to be a ‘carrier’ of this
disease, infecting people with it without harming himself. This was part of the
reason his isolated himself.

Another shout was heard in Markus’s ears, and it was from
the same direction and from the same voice as before. He immediately guessed it
was another bandit or a raider robbing some poor fellow. Markus’s natural
knightly instinct to help the troubled individual kicked in, but he managed to
shut the urge down. Involving himself in any matter, he reckoned, would tie him
back up in affairs he wished to not be in.

When the shouting persisted, Markus forgot his isolation and
went towards the source, pushing the thick bushes away in his wake. He
continued until he reached a clearing in the woods. Right across from him was a
large group of Imperial soldiers, all gathered around a poor man carrying a
bloodstained sword. This was a common occurrence; the man had most likely
slayed an animal in the Tyrant’s woods, which was illegal without permission
granted.

“I-I didn’t mean to! I swear!” the man shouted to no avail.
The soldier who was presumably the leader snickered.

“Killing an animal in our great King’s landscape is a crime
punishable by an execution. You rotten peasants should know” the leader spat.
Swinging his sword in a large arc, he batted the poor man’s sword aside. It
landed with a dull ‘thud’ on the ground.

“It was a wolf! What was I supposed to do, let it kill me!?”
the man retorted. He was sweating profusely, his hands and body in general
shaking.

“You little rats only take up space for the nobility. Of course,
let it kill you! As I said, that is against the law, which should be pounded
into your skull, unless it really is that thick!” the leader exclaimed angrily.
His face was slightly red.

Markus could only watch as the scene before him unfolded. He
had not brought his weapon of choice, a steel longsword with a diamond hilt,
along with him. However, he knew how the government in his kingdom had been
corrupt, and how cruelly it had treated his people. The Tyrant had been rumored
to have been the most vicious man ever to breath air.

They say that his pale white skin which turned red quickly
when he was angry, his blazing red eyes, his long pointy beard, and his flowing
cloak made him resemble a cursed Blood Dragon, a species that had long since
been chased out of the countryside. Rumors stated that he could shape-shift
into such animals at a moment’s notice. Whatever people said or described about
the Tyrant all revolved around one fact; he was a villainous, arrogant
dictator.

Markus had always been talented when it came to combat
situations. Even when unarmed, he could easily overwhelm the enemy. Slowly, he
crept out of the bush he had hid himself inside and approached the soldiers,
who were too busy with the poor man to even glance in Markus’s direction.

His fighting senses kicked in, and Markus swiftly swept his
leg to knock one of the soldiers off balance. Snatching his sword, Markus went
on to face the two other soldiers that stood in his way. The leader, out of
what may have been cowardice, positioned himself behind the two soldiers.

“You’re in league with this filth, hmm? You shall face the
same fate!” the leader declared. He pointed towards Markus. “Kill him! And when
you’re done, finish the peasant!”

The leader had no idea just how much a formidable opponent Markus
was, and Markus immediately took advantage of this. While he despised the
government that ruled over the kingdom, he was not prepared to kill members of
its army. Doing so would only bring him back into a violent war.

With a fake swing to the left, Markus was able to disarm the
soldier on the right, then he threw him into the other soldier. He rapidly ran
over and promptly knocked the two men out using the hard hilt of the sword. The
leader was stunned, unable to comprehend what he had just witnessed. Those were
some of his best men, and they were quickly proved rubbish by this lone man.

The leader’s name was Brandit Keith. He was popular among
the nobility due to how he kissed up to them and the king. With blazing speed,
he progressed through the ranks by eliminating his enemies and hiding behind
others. His swordsmanship skills were mediocre, and fell flat when confronted
with a much stronger opponent. Brandit preferred to stay hidden and away from a
battle where he was safe, not having to get into the heat of a battle.

His sword had an elegant golden hilt, courtesy of the king’s
blacksmith. Markus’s eyes fell onto this weapon; stealing it would earn him
another sword to keep around just in case, and possibly for decorating his dull
wooden house.

“Who do you think you are, rebel?” Brandit said, using words
to try and get Markus off-balance. Such antics were futile. The two men began
to circle around each other, neither one making the first move.

Markus had nothing to say against the leader’s jab, so he
went on as though nothing had happened. Before initially striking, Markus faked
continuous swings until finally he brought down his sword with surprisingly
speed, nearly knocking the blade out of Brandit’s hands. He followed up with a
swing from the left and from the right, an uppercut, and then he brought the
blade close enough to disarm Brandit, who was too inexperienced to counter the
move. His sword fell on the ground and was quickly snatched by Brandit.

“Next time” Markus said, throwing the other soldier’s sword
aside, “don’t come around picking on the poor. You can make sure I’ll be there”
he threatened.

Brandit looked at Markus angrily. “Who are you, some sort of
Robin Hood? Please” Brandit teased. It was the most he could do in his defeated
state.

Markus, without warning, brought the hilt of the sword down
on Brandit, knocking him unconscious just as he had done to the others, though
this blow was far more fierce. A small trickle of blood was emitting from his
head where the hilt had struck. Thinking nothing of this, Markus quickly backed
away and began to retreat into the woods.

The End

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