Fifteen years had passed since that evening on the rooftop, though nothing had interfered with the vivid memory that Hex held of the occasion. The impression of those eyes remained burned into the back of his mind as surely as the symbol of their passing was etched into the flesh of his right shoulder blade.

He scratched at it now, in passing, as the cart rumbled beneath him. The sun was high in the sky, and sweat beaded on his brow before trickling down the nape of his neck, making the itching worsen significantly. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't ignore the discomfort it caused him every time the wagon rolled into a new town. He could never shake the feeling that it was trying to tell him something. And the older he got, the more the sensation chafed at him, the feeling becoming more and more unbearable every time. It was as though it was trying to warn him of some impending misfortune, or tell him that you know, Hex, entering this town is a bad idea.

You might wonder how the boy, now grown into a man, had come across a name like Hex. You'd be right in assuming that it wasn't the name he was born with. You might wonder about its origins, but you'd be more likely to receive a ham-sized fist in the teeth than to actually have your question answered. If you were to ask him to his face, that is. Most children had just spent the time snickering behind his back, coming up with one nickname after another before the simplest one managed to stick. And so we have it. Hex.

A plentiful temper he had. And rightfully so, as Hex had endured more than any child should throughout his rough upbringing in the little town of his youth. Much of this was due to his disruptive nature, and more than a little was due to the mark burned into his right scapula, just above the major muscles of his back; muscles now strengthened and taut from the years of his life spent working the fields behind his uncle's farm.

Long gone were those days, though. His uncle had disowned him at the age of sixteen, seven long years ago, telling him that he was no longer welcome and to get the hell out of his home and his acreage. The reasoning was still unclear to Hex, though he assumed the mark had something to do with it. No matter where he ended up in life, the mark followed him like a beaten dog groveling after its unforgiving master.

It could also have had something to do with knocking up the neighbour's daughter. Sure, his uncle had warned him -- repeatedly -- to stay away from her. Of course, he hadn't, and the pitchfork that was waved in his face the day he found out was enough of a lesson to him to steer clear from then on out. But didn't that kind of thing happen every day? Maybe, maybe not. He tried not to think about it.

As the cart rolled across the town limits, searing pain flared in Hex's right shoulder, as it had so many times before. He gritted his teeth at the familiar sensation, tucking his head down into his worn cotton shirt. Hex was perpetually careful, not wanting to expose himself to the driver nor to the other half-dozen men sharing the back of the cart. He was looking for work, not looking for trouble.

But trouble had a way of finding Hex, one way or another.

The End

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