The rain felt invigorating for Secrat and was what finally helped him muster the strength to return to his feet. His left ankle showed mild bruising at the side and was swollen, but it was nothing that really slowed him down or limited his mobility. For the life of him, Copé couldn't figure out what had happened to his ankle as he was for certain that he dropped onto his back. He must have hit it on something on the way down.
The water dampened his clothing, and his hair, but it was also starting to make the ground around him slippery and like mush. He knew he had to escape from the hole sooner rather later or risk illness or even death. The rain hadn't started up very much yet, and so Copé took advantage of the hard dirt to make his escape.
Equipped with his knives, he drove one into a wall of the hole and one knife near it. They were dug deep enough to support his weight. He pulled himself up and dislodged one of them from the dirt before stabbing it higher up. Using this method, it wasn't very long before he made it out. His hair wet and his body was covered with filth, he was out.
No time to enjoy his freedom, however. The feeling of steel at the side of his neck is what he felt next.
Copé turned his head. The blade of a sword rested on his shoulders. He kept his eyes down at the ground. As if halfway expecting himself to be beheaded right then and there. But it never came.
His eyes went up off of the ground and up at the man with the sword. A dark-skinned man. Muscular. Likely of Jalint origins. He looked cold and as if he could do the deed of beheading and feel absolutely nothing at all. The look in his eyes told a story of brutality, but Copé didn't necessarily care to hear it. His skin neither suggested youth nor wisdom, but Secrat could see that he was somewhere in the middle of his life. The man's face didn't offer too much explanation. It didn't offer insight on anything other than the fact he was angry, but it didn't tell Copé if he was about to die. But if he was about die, chances are he'd already be dead.
Secrat offered a grin at the man. The man said nothing.
Secrat started to make his leave, leaning away from the man's sword. Part of him was thinking about just jumping back into the hole and calling it a day.
The man had something else in-mind, and when Copé backed away, the man moved with him, keeping the sword on his shoulders.
The man's head was bald, the rain made a certain shine off of it. A faint one. He wore black leggings and didn't wear a shirt. Copé, on his knees, was vulnerable, his knives could've sliced the man into pieces, but the man's sword kept that from being a viable option. Secrat struggled to find the words to speak. He liked to consider himself sharp-tongued and well-versed, but there was nothing he could think of to find a way out of this situation.
Luckily, he didn't have to speak, the man spoke for him: "Why are you here?" His voice matched his demeanor well. He sounded deep and mirthless. There was no room for enthusiasm, and no room for much else of anything other than a general void of nothingness. That's what his voice reminded Copé of - nothingness.
Copé struggled some more in finding words. If he would've had it his way, he would've remained silent, but the man's voice demanded a rebuttal. "I'm was here in search of shelter from the rain." Copé responded. The man's body jerked for a moment as if he was about to make a strike, Copé flinched at it and looked down, but then nothing came. Secrat moved his head up for a second and saw as the man sheathed his sword back into its place. Copé climbed up to his feet. The mud dampening his knees. The man turned around and started to walk away, "There's nothing here for you. Leave."
Copé smirked. He felt at the handle of the Sword of Tertius, feeling a lot more at ease and confident now that there wasn't a sword anywhere near his neck. He watched while the man walked away and noticed something peculiar about it. The way he was walking was not simply back to the cabin. It was, but it was also more than that. He was not walking a straight-line but moving in a specific, deliberate pattern. He was navigating past all the traps he had set.
"A fan of holes," Copé noticed. "Must have something worth hiding." Copé smiled as he spoke. It was a sudden feeling of confidence that was likely ill-advised.
The black man stopped. Dead in his tracks. He didn't say anything for a while. He merely stood there. His back turned from Secrat. It was at that moment that Copé could truly appreciate the size and demeanor of the man before him. The thief didn't feel afraid. Didn't feel intimidating. But a lot of that might very well been for the fact there was a distance between them. Had he been close and had he still had his sword out. It might have been a different story.
The man finally turned his head. Although, not his body. All he offered Copé was but a glance: "It is in your best interest that you leave. You don't want none of what I have. That's all there is to it," he said.
Secrat took that as a challenge. He didn't know why.
Perhaps it was sheer curiosity of the spectacle. Maybe he had felt his masculinity threatened in recent days. Maybe it was about nothing more than wanting to try out his fancy, new sword before being forced to surrender it over to Father Toucan Veras.
But whatever the reason, he took out one of the knives in his hand and chucked it at the man. The knife spiraled and twirled throughout the air, making a whistling sound before it met its mark. The knife punctured into the back of the man. Sticking into his back and drawing blood. The man dropped off of his feet to one knee. Felt around his back in agony and looked for the handle. The wound drew blood, but it wasn't enough to leave a lasting impression and wasn't enough to be fatal. Copé knew he had to strike fast.
Secrat welcomed the Sword of Tertius out from his scabbard and felt it in his hands. It felt no different than any other sword, but the novelty of it was not lost on him. Even if he didn't respect any of the men that had sat on the throne and ruled Acera.
He walked forward. The man beside him might have been physically stronger than him, but a slash with a blade across bare skin was enough to put down the strongest. Before he'd have a chance to, however, he stepped upon another hole disguised beneath leaves and twigs. The fall would've been unpleasant and surely wouldn't have been much of a picnic to get out of, but luckily, Copé managed to catch himself with his sword. He drove it into the dirt as hard as he could on his way down and dangled down from inside the hole as a result. His fingers scurried and his arms worked to have him return to his feet.
His life depended on it. The man wouldn't be down and out for very long and that Secrat was more than vulnerable now.
Secrat fought his way up. The task wasn't difficult, but the raining that came down below made it a challenge to climb his way up, and because of this, he had to use all his allotted upper-body strength to pull himself up by the sword. He succeeded. Dragging the sword out from the dirt and mud, he readied it in his hands. Holding it tightly. Braced to be on the defensive, but as he looked around. He saw no signs of the man.
At the front of the cabin, the bloodied knife rested on the ground, barely visible within the grass, and a trail of blood led from over to the porch. Copé started to walk toward the cabin. His eyes looked down and around, making for certain not to step into any more holes. It was difficult to distinguish some of them. Some of them blended very well, and some areas could be seen to be covering something.
The muscular man kicked the door of his house open, startling the thief. The noise was loud and enough to cause Secrat to flinch. The black man walked out, one of his hands holding his sword, and the other hand clutching his back, near his shoulder blade. A look of anguish on his face but there was also a look that simply shared his anger. Copé tried to look him in the eyes but the man didn't abide. Instead, he turned his head over back to the door to his home.
A large dog came running through.
Secrat could only assume it was a dog, it looked almost like a wolf, with silver fur and a prodigious frame. The rain made it difficult to make everything out. The sky becoming blacker and blacker and the rain hitting the ground even faster than before. Copé heard the roar of thunder as lightning struck somewhere far off.
The thief readied himself. His eyes transitioning over from the man to the dog. His sword was in his hands. The rain having washed the mud off from the blade. It shined some. Copé's clothing was drenched. Mud covered his leggings, and water dampened the top of his head and his torso. The man finally threw his eyes over to Secrat and spoke: "Get him!"
That was all it took, and in that moment, and moment's thereafter, the silver canine was after him. The dog barked as it ran fourth. One thing Copé noticed was the way it ran, navigating the little traps and spots with ease. Its nose started to point to the gravel for some of the time. Copé held his sword in his hands. A swipe is all it would take to kill the mutt, and he could offer a presumptive strike much faster than it could sink its teeth into his skin.
He overheard the sound of scurrying nails on hardwood floor and it broke his concentration. Three more dogs of the same breed came pouring out of the cabin. The confidence he once felt had now left him.
Copé sheathed his sword back into his scabbard and started to flee. He heard the dogs start to run the minute he did, but he didn't stop at all. He cornered around one of the holes and made a massive leap over the last one, the one that he had fallen into in the beginning. The jump was a large one, and it almost didn't pay off, but he managed to make it to the other side without falling or having to catch himself.
He started running deeper into the wilderness, away from the cabin, and hopefully away from the dogs. He could hear them barking behind him, and he knew it was unlikely he'd be able to outrun them for long.
Four of them. Each more ferocious than the last.
He felt one of them make a lash at his leggings, nearly grabbing a bite of his Achilles in doing so. Copé was able to swipe away in time but the fear of it was in him. The realization that he was in a lot of danger. He turned abruptly to the right, it didn't create any distance away from him and the dogs, and in-fact, it might have lost him an inch or two, but he was starting to develop a method for survival in his mind. A tree, plain and ordinary, but a sanctum for him, nonetheless.
He ran faster, the fatigue was starting to set in and the heaving would come after. Hadn't kept in the best of shape since leaving the Red Flux. And a leeriness in running too fast. Afraid that the mud might engulf one of his feet and trip him. He jumped off into the air toward the tree, reaching for a lowhanging branch.
Grabbing it with both hands. His feet still dangled freely, but he lifted them up to keep out from the dogs' grasps. They didn't let off on him either, all they did was bark and bark and bark some more. The tree did the same. Copé smirked at the thought. But then started to climb up onto the branch, worried that it wouldn't be able to support his weight. The limb had some thickness, but it also was bending beneath him. He slowly climbed to his feet on it and reached out for another of the branches.
This arm of the tree had more girth and strength to it. He almost lost his balance in the process while doing so, trying to reach near the larger branch, but forgetting to tell his feet they couldn't accompany him for the ride.
The dog's stopped barking when they thought he was about to fall. Anticipating their food coming down to them. The wetness of the tree branches made it difficult, but he was eventually able to find his footing again.
Once that happened, the dogs went back to barking, but Copé didn't care. He let out a breath of air. A sigh of relief. A release that told him he had long-since forgotten to breathe.
The rain hadn't stopped and hadn't died down any either, if anything, it had started up a little more. Copé admired his situation. How did I ever get into this predicament? It's like I go looking for danger! His back rested itself against the body of the tree. There were a lot of leaves. Green ones. Beautiful. The kind that showed that one might forget how beautiful the wilderness really is. And he mostly shielded from the rain as a result. The pitter-patter of rain slapping down the leaves would've sounded pleasant in a different situation.
A scary thought entered his mind though that kept him from enjoying his livelihood and survival for very much longer. The thought the owner of these dogs might go looking for them, and that the barking might lead him right to Secrat Copé. With that thought, Copé knew he had to do something about the dogs. Something to keep himself as far away from the man as possible.
He took one of his knives out from his pocket. Dropping a knife down would certainly be enough to pick them all off one by one.
Copé took out one of his knives and looked at it. He had so many of the goddamn things, but their use had proven themselves to him. They had earned their keep.
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)