A phrase I once heard from a priest has always intrigued me. He had said that “dark times must come to teach and prepare us for even darker times.” I hadn’t known what he meant, of course, but now I think I knew. My past was one of killing, stealing, and all matters of villainy – as Justice might have put it. It made me a man who knew how to see well in the dark, who could sense the worth of a man just by talking to him, and someone used to seeing death. I think my past is the only thing that kept me moving forward after Shayleen had died.
“Why did they send you after me?” I asked Justice as we prepared to leave. The girls had finished the duck, though Melody had complained about the taste, and were now getting ready for the long walk to Homerson.
Justice was attaching his shield to his back as he answered. “I was sent by Kory Dove,” he said in his usual jolly tune. I was almost used to it after the last hour of conversing with him. “He said his sister was married to a Mr. Stevens and… Well, he wasn’t friendly about you.”
I nodded. Kory never had liked me. He knew of my past, just as everyone else in Homerson. Shayleen had been his only family, too. “I can’t imagine you risking your life for the request of a single rude man, though.” The blonde man just laughed, making his large frame shake in humor. It wasn’t the laugh of a joke, though. It was more like a laugh you gave when someone said something obvious.
“I am Justice, my friend. I do whatever is right, not whatever is safe.” He lifted his spear, making Melody stare in awe. She had been inspired by the man since she had woken and been introduced to him. “I would gladly give my life to save another if it was required! I do not fear anything but straying from the path of righteousness!”
He was a very odd man and I knew that in the past I would have scorned and hated him, but now I was happy to have someone like this Justice in my company. The world had few truly good men like him. I knew that from looking. Despite his overly enthusiastic nature, Justice was a welcome anomaly.
“Mister Justice, are you going to slay the monsters?” Melody looked positively amazed by the man. I should have been jealous that my daughter thought highly of another man, but I was simply happy her mother’s death was not weighing on her so much now. It had only been one day… Shayleen, your daughter was as strong as you already.
Lillian was quiet and still eating her food. It was her I was worried about the most. She hadn’t spoken much since she got up and Justice’s presence didn’t seem to faze her. It was as if she moved in a different realm all together. I had met a man like that before. He had lost his wife to sickness and eventually committed suicide. I only hoped Lillian would recover soon.
Justice kneeled down to Melody and gave her an odd bow. “I will do my best, my lady!” His voice echoed through the cave now. “Every one of the beasts will go down if I can manage it! Taking down monsters is the duty of the righteous!”
Melody smiled widely. “My Mama was righteous,” she told Justice in a joyful tone. “She killed a beast to protect Papa and us.” I surprised myself by not feeling that stab of pain in my heart. Was it because I was in awe of Shayleen’s feat? You were amazing, my love.
Justice glanced at me in astonishment before turning back to Melody. “Well, if she managed to slay one, then she truly was!” He gave Melody another smile and stood, making his way for me. When he got close, his face took a look of urgency. “It is true then, my friend?” he whispered.
I only nodded. What else could I say? I didn’t want to relive that moment, no matter how much easier it was for me to resist the abyss of despair in my heart. I had to focus on my daughters just to resist the urge to leap in.
Justice looked thoughtful. “That knife must have been blessed by her dying wish to save her family,” he said after a moment. “God blessed her strike. There is no other explanation.”
“I think you may be right,” I told Justice. I wasn’t sure about God blessing anything, but I didn’t have a better idea, either.