Under The MoonMature

The sounds of his footfalls as he ran across the desolate rooftop barely made it to his own ears. His breathing was calm and controlled. The cool dusk air didn’t slow his movements in the slightest. He was as graceful as a hawk soaring through a clear blue sky. He vaulted across a narrow alleyway to a lower rooftop, lithely rolling into a short crouch at the opposite edge of the building overlooking the cobblestone street. His dark cloak billowed out as a fleeting breeze enveloped him.  

            Jonathon eyed the empty street with great scrutiny. The man he was pursuing must have been tipped off. But who could have warned him? When he realized his thoughts were distracting him, Jonathon dropped down onto a crate and then to the ground. When he stood, there was a faint clatter of metal. Jonathon turned and darted toward the sound. When he rounded a corner into a meager side street that tapered near the end, he saw a stout man on the other side of the street scurrying into a slender, vacant alleyway and out of the pale moonlight.

            He didn’t want to risk marching straight into the crevice blindly, so Jonathon began to assess the surrounding structures. However poor the people on this street actually were, the buildings in Winterhaven were larger than any in the village he once called home. With a brick foundation, the second levels were made of wood and protruded out, hoisted by thick wooden beams that were buried in the cobblestone. Short joists jutted from underneath the edge of the flat rooftops. Clothes silhouetted by the moon were strung between the buildings over the street. Clouds overhead scuttled in front of the half moon as the solution came to him.

            Jonathon tore across the narrow road and launched himself up one of the wooden support beams, reaching out and grasping a sill of a second level window. Pulling his knees up to his chest and pressing his feet to the wall, he leaped further up the window to the edge of the roof, using a joist for a tread. As he stalked along the edge of the roof, he could hear his prey’s forced breathing; staggered and heavy. Jonathon peered over the ledge at the trapped man. He was stout with a dark beard and thick curly hair. Sweat beaded heavily from above his creased brow. His back was to a wall at the end of the abrupt alley. His eyes were fixed on the opening he had stumbled. His right hand shook vigorously, holding a long knife so tightly his knuckles were white.

            Jonathon shifted his weight and leaped down in front of the man who gasped with terror. The man staggered back into the brick wall and let out a low grunt through his heavy breathing. Jonathon slowly unsheathed his short sword and inched toward the trapped man. “What do you want from me!” the man yelled in a strained voice.

“Who told you I was chasing you?” Jonathon glared at the man with intense green eyes, his jaw muscles twitch as he ground his teeth.

The man was panting, visible in the cool air, were heavy and nervous. Jonathon took another step forward and the man flinched. ”What did I ever do to you!”

            Jonathon stopped. In a heated voice, he said, “Me? It wasn’t me you did anything to.” His fist tightened around the hilt of the sword.

            The man’s brow creased even further. “What are you talking about?”

            Jonathon’s rage could be held back any longer. “A certain young woman you raped and murdered! What could she possibly have done that would justify what you did to her?” The man knelt in silence. He opened his mouth to speak, but Jonathon answered for him. “Nothing! You took her life for your own wretched pleasure. You disgust me down to my very core. You deserve to suffer in Hell for all eternity.” He lifted his sword about to strike. The man fell to his knees, dropped the knife, and began pleading for his life. Something caught Jonathon’s eye. So he lowered his arms, put the flat of his sword under the man’s chin and pulled his face up. There was a sudden familiarity to it. A thick scar ran down the man’s cheek, parting his beard. “What’s your name?”

            “Mick, my name is Mick.” The name wasn’t nearly as familiar as his face so Jonathon disregarded it.

            “Well, Mick, give me one reason why I shouldn’t gut you right here.” Jonathon pressed the tip of the blade against the side Mick’s neck. The man’s beard was wet with tears and drool from his sobbing. The man seemed to be thinking fiercely, for his dark eyes were darting about. Then he slumped in submission.

            “Just kill me.” Mick’s sobbing died out and he knelt in silence with his head bowed, awaiting the inevitable justice to be reaped. Jonathon only nodded and lifted the sword in both hands. He brought the sword down with unimaginable speed. Blood and bone spattered along the dark alleyway as the man’s gaunt head tumbled to a stop, spewing blood in the crevices between the cobblestones. The limp body fell onto its side. Jonathon drew the flat of his bloody sword across the dead man’s shirt to clean it off. Then he slid it home in its scabbard. Lying next to the man’s corpse was a small shimmer.

            Jonathon knelt and picked it up, clearing off the dirt with a quick stroke of his thumb. It was a thick, rectangular gold medallion on a leather throng with an imprint of two crossed swords below a skull. The insignia was more familiar than the man’s face, but he couldn’t place it in his mind. A memory flashed in but escaped just as quick when he heard a woman’s scream out in the street. He looked up and saw an old woman pointing in his direction and calling out for the city guard. He glanced down at the medallion one last time trying to evoke the memory he had seconds before. Nothing came. Jonathon shoved the medallion in a pouch on his left hip, said a silent prayer to the spirits and then disappeared into the darkness of night. Justice was served tonight. One more vulgar man was banished from the world of the living as was his duty.      

Since he was twenty, Jonathon dedicated his life to justice by any means. He has killed, stolen, lied, but all of them were to bring justice to individuals, groups of people, and in some cases, an entire city. He frees people from the clutches of dictators. He is called outlaw by many governments but by some, he is a phantom in the night, the spirit of justice, the avenger of the poor, avenger of the hurt. Avenger of those unable to stand up for the heinous crimes and laws thrust upon them by the tyrants and so-called nobles who are more interested in their own success and wealth than the well-being of their people. Jonathon was the protector of the innocent. No one could stand in his way.

            As he sat on a fallen log by the fire he built, Jonathon spun the medallion between his fingers. He set up camp just outside the city walls in a dense part of the forest as he had done many times before. His bay mare, Annabelle, was tied to a tree nearby grazing in the tall grass. The saddle lay over a thick oak branch across the small camp next to the mare, a long bow and quiver hanging from the saddle horn. A stew brewed in a pot being held above the short flames by a short scaffold he made out of the surrounding oak.  Behind Jonathon was a small tent made of a few deer hides. However meager it would seem to anyone who might just happen by, to Jonathon, it was home. He never stayed in a tavern within the city walls. He would be risking a chance of his capture. Or worse.

            Jonathon slid the throng holding the medallion back into his pocket and stood. Grabbing the ladle laying by the fire, Jonathon poured himself a bowl of venison stew. When he took a spoonful of the stew, and let the taste saturate the inside of his mouth, he realized how hungry he was and didn’t bother to chew. He ate all of the stew in his bowl before long. Then he stood to pour himself another bowl and sat back down on the log. He reached down and took a swig of his canteen. Warm water streamed down his throat. Although warm, it was one of the best drinks he’d had in a while. When he set the canteen back on the log beside him, he felt a sudden twinge of fatigue. Jonathon’s mind began to wander to things only of dreams. Friends. Love.

His duties made it near to impossible to have friends or a relationship. But he always had his horse. Jonathon set his bowl aside and rose to his feet. He walked over to Annabelle, who lifted her head at the sound of his footsteps. He scratched her neck. Annabelle bobbed her head in pleasure. “Yeah, you like that don’t you girl?” Jonathon couldn’t help but let a smile touch his lips. He gave her one more pat on the neck and turned and stared into the small fire. The blue and yellow flames danced in the night, letting a cloud of black smoke rise gently into the air, leaving behind the aroma of smoldering timber he knew so well. It smelled like home. Jonathon glanced up between the thick trees and looked at the half moon before ducking into his tent. Before he had time to remove any of his clothes or weapons, his eyes were closed and he was asleep.

When he came to, it was almost dawn. A haze settled over the camp. The fire pit had only a few hot coals sporadically placed throughout it. Jonathon stepped out of his tent and stretched. Annabelle glanced at the sound of his yawn. It was the start of a new day. He glanced around the calm camp, listened to birds chirp in the distance, and removed his belt. Against the front of his right hip, the belt held three fist-sized pouches. His short sword hung on the left and a knife hung in a low holster behind the pouches. When he let it all fall to the ground, he ran his fingers through his hair, feeling free of his duties. Without his weapons he was no longer Jonathon Alvi. He was just another man.

He walked over to his pack which lay against the fallen log and retrieved two small pieces of bread. Jonathon fed one to Annabelle, scratching her neck, and took a bite of the other.

The End

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