‘Jodar, run! Downstairs! Get out of the house now!’ Jonrah had to yell over the sound of the crackling fire and the screams of his burning wife.
Jodar did as he was told, clutching the rug even tighter to himself, and running towards the stairs with no regard for his father. But Jonrah didn’t mind. He knew his son was too young to understand what was happening around him.
As soon as he saw his son descend down the steps, Jonrah started to kick at the beam that lay on top of his wife, crushing her organs and burning her flesh at the same time.
It was horrible to look at, and it was almost definitely too late for Karlin. From the moment the beam had landed on top of her, she had been as good as dead. Now, even if she escaped the house, she’d be severely burnt beyond healing, and her organs would be useless to her. She would either die here, slowly and painfully, or die later, more slowly and more painfully.
This didn’t occur to Jonrah though. He kicked at the beam with all his strength, hoping to get it off his wife. When she saw this through the flames, she momentarily stopped screaming, and small smile appeared on her face, before the flames covered her face and she was no longer recognisable.
She was now either dead, or on the very edge of life with no support rope to pull herself back with. Jonrah felt his eyes well up and a lump rise in his throat as he gave up on his wife; something he had vowed never to do so long as they were together.
For a moment, he let the smell of burning flesh enter his nostrils, and he suppressed the urge to throw up, both at the sight, the smell, and the general situation.
Not once taking his eyes off his wife, Jonrah made his way slowly to the stairs, and began to descend. When the banister eventually came between them, he focussed on the stairs in front.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs was Jodar. He looked scared and confused. And as Jonrah took another step, he saw why.
With a knife to his son’s throat, Jonrah recognised the hooded man that had been spying on him at Lorda’s house.
It had obviously been him behind this attack; he had killed Karlin, and now he no doubt meant to kill Jodar as well.
Now, finally, Jodar understood the danger he was in. He understood what was happening. Now he let out a small wail, and let the tears of fear flow freely down his face.
This was when he heard the arsonist’s first words: ‘Shut up, little brat.’
For somebody who had set this all up, he seemed to have a perfectly normal voice, and such normal prose. For some reason, Jonrah was surprised.
Jonrah brought himself to ask the question that had been on his mind since discovering the symbol in the tree.
‘Who are you?’
There was a silence, when all could be heard was the crackling of the fire, which was rapidly destroying the house around them, and the occasional moan of terror from Jodar. Jonrah took a moment to reassure his son.
‘It’ll be okay, Jodar. The bad man will go away soon. Don’t cry. There’s a big boy.’
Jodar tried to put on a brave face, but his father could see right through it. However, he encouraged him that he was doing a good job once again.
The attacker chose this moment to interrupt and speak.
‘Gurden. I am Gurden, leader of the Litana faction of The Eden.’
Jonrah had never heard of The Eden, but instantly figured that their work wasn’t as dedicated to good such as the name suggested.
‘Now back the hell up, or I’ll kill your son.’
Jonrah hesitated, unsure of whether a seemingly lone ranger would kill a young child. However, as the knife obviously tightened on Jodar’s throat, he let out a yelp, and took a few steps back.
‘What do you want with my family?’ Jonrah asked.
‘Your family? Nothing.’ Gurden bluntly answered.
‘Then why are you doing this?’
‘As a warning. It was a ritualistic sign. We burnt a house with our emblem as a warning that we are coming. This time tomorrow, your king will be dead. If he’s smart enough to decipher our code, he will protect himself, go into hiding, something like that, and is less likely to be killed. He may not survive, but he stands more of a chance with a warning. It’s more fun like that.’
Jonrah couldn’t understand any of this.
‘Back up the stairs, now!’ Gurden demanded, and Jonrah instantly obliged, not taking into account that most of the roof was now on the floor, and burning wood was strewn across the floor, preventing him from getting any further into the room.
‘Eden will rise.’ With these words, Gurden backed towards the back exit of the house which lead directly into the forest, Jodar still in his clutches.
Jonrah waited until they were out of sight, then made his way back down the stairs, after them. But he was shocked to hear another crack, and see a hunk of wood dislodge itself from the roof and once again block his path.
Jonrah was now trapped, and his son was being taken further and further away from him.