Last night, Alice had crossed off the final day of the second last month. There were only forty three days now, as she had left five days before this month’s end. There were no classes for her today. She was just helping her second father, Jithin.
“Hurry up Alice, we don’t have much time,” He called out across the skeleton of a house.
Apart from becoming the strongest person on the workforce, Alice had also learned to climb, and had also developed a strong sense of balance to go with it. Today was the first day of the week, a day off. But, Jithin was eager to finish the roof.
She called down from the frame of the second storey, “Really? It’s only midday, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, well, we had better be back home before noon.” He stared up into the sky.
“Don’t worry about all that. It is best that we go home soon. Actually, let’s leave right now.”
He began to pack away his tools, and took off his work belt.
Alice was surprised, but she listened. She leaped down, dropping fourteen cubits with a thud. Jithin was sure that the earth must have quaked. This young woman was over 220 pounds by now.
Alice and Jithin walked home together. Jithin wore brown tattered work pants, and a sleeveless shirt with a few holes in the front, near the bottom. His face was as hairy as his chest, mostly because he couldn’t be bothered to shave. Too much effort. His arms looked strong, but they were not toned or contoured, unlike Alice’s.
Alice herself looked like a tall weight trainer, but the closer you approached her, the shorter she appeared. She was actually still shorter than him, and hadn’t grown much in height recently, despite continually growing in muscle. Supposedly the Plainkind were short, so he doubted she would grow further.
She was also beginning to cost a lot in food, as she preferred raw meats to affordable things like bread and lettuce. It seemed Alice was a no-filler kind of eater. Jithin now found himself asking the butcher for entire animal carcasses. Alice would consume them, making sure not to waste the blood, and then she wouldn’t eat for three or four days.
Jithin had once asked her if she was a vampire, drinking blood so. Alice had laughed.
“I don’t know what that is, but if it means someone who drinks blood, then I guess I am one!”
He asked Oritha about this unusual habit, and she had just nodded, “The Plainkind require more iron than most. In their homeland there is no water, it’s a desert. One-hundred percent of their liquid intake is blood.”
Jithin had laughed, musing that his daughter was a vampire.
When they arrived to the cramped home, Alice ran up her ladder. She sat on her bed, staring at her calendar for a while. Downstairs, Jithin took a jar of water from the cool-box and took a drink. He sat down on his second-hand couch. It was the signature colour of second-hand couches, green-brown. After a few minutes, Alice came down and followed his footsteps, taking a jar and sitting down on the wiry and creaky chair across from him.
“So why did we stop?” She asked.
“We shouldn’t be out in town this afternoon.” He said.
Now Alice was really curious, “Why? Why?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Alice crossed her arms. What were they going to do for the rest of the day? And in this small house? Maybe her second father would tell her another story! Or, they could read one of the tall tales of Victimus and his noble mystical horse! Alice figured out exactly what she wanted to know.
“Hey, you said you had a family once, right?”
Jithin nodded. He seemed to agree that this was a good time.
“Yes. That was when I lived in Hannibal.” He nodded.
He took a deep drink of his water, and then put it down.
“The buildings here are all sturdy. Murdock was built under the intelligent watch of the Solune King. Hannibal is an architectural nightmare. Some buildings are amazing, most are decent, but others look like they were based off of the plans of someone who had spun around fifty or sixty times before putting pen to paper.
“It was one such building, a temple of the Servant of Death, that had fallen. It had always looked threatened by the wind, but I never imagined that it actually was. We had been walking home, we had just picked up school books for my boy’s first day at school. But after the crash, I looked back, and just saw stone, wood, and glass.”
Alice looked horrified, then sad. She shed a few tears.
But moments later, her face turned to anger, “Did you say the Servant of Death?”
“Yes. Sometimes I fancy that my family were some sort of chosen ones by her. Marked.”
Alice crossed her arms, her face in a tense grimace. Jithin watched her eyes brighten a little.
“Conflict. Death. Are there no good Servants?” She shouted suddenly.
“What? Well, a few people like Birth. And Mother Nature is a favourite of the N’Tariel people.” Jithin wasn’t sure where this was going.
“Okay, fine, but are there no Servants that are nice? Like, a Servant of happiness! Or joy!” Alice nodded at these fine suggestions.
“I suppose Tendrils? The Servant of Tendrils? He watches potential timelines and tries to guide the world towards a better future.”
“Hmm…” This wasn’t good enough for Alice.
“Really, Drake knows more about Servants than I do. I think he’s an Agent.” Jithin said.
Alice stood, and walked out the door.
It took Jithin a few minutes to realize that she had just walked out to danger. Worried, he stood up to go find her, hoping that he would not encounter them.
Alice strode towards the main street, but just before reaching it, she turned right, and began scaling a wooden, two storey house. She hopped onto the roof, and knocked on a trap door. It swung inward, and a dark haired man watched her with his unusually large black irises.
“Hello Alice. Come inside, it’s dangerous today.” He said.
Alice jumped in, just as Jithin rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of her sandy hair.
Drake’s house was also small. The second floor was a metal workshop, and the first were his living quarters.
“Are there any good Servants?” She asked him.
“What?” He asked, and then, “Tendrils, Birth…”
“There isn’t one for being happy?” She said.
“No, not really.”
“Hmph.” Alice crossed her arms.
Outside, Jithin looked for the door, only to find out that there was none. He would have to climb, and he wasn’t particularly good at that.
Alice sat down on an anvil.
“So, why is it dangerous today anyway?” She asked.
“Bandits have been spotted.”
“Aren’t there guards?”
“No. Only the cities have guards. The shops are closed now, but they aren’t locked. If you don’t let them in they break in. Generally, the shops will leave a convincing amount of coin in their tills too.”
“What? No one stands up to the bandits?” Alice was surprised.
“Some of them we do. But this is the band of Diesel Dirge. She isn’t afraid of killing people. Some say she’s marked as one of Death’s followers, so killing is easier for her. Rewarding even.”
By now, Jithin was on the roof, and he opened the hatch and dropped it.
“Am I ever popular today,” Drake said.
“I think we’ll be staying here until night, Drake. Sorry to disturb you, but I saw them coming from the roof. They’ll be in town very soon.” Jithin said.
For the first time in her life, Alice sneered. She crossed her arms.
“They aren’t taking anything today.” She said, opening up the ceiling door once more.
“What?” Jithin stared at her, and then as she climbed out, he shouted, “No! Stop!”
Both men followed her out, Drake more out of curiosity than anything. Alice jumped down from the roof and headed to the main street. Jithin cursed. He would have to climb down.
“You know what?” Drake said as Jithin began to descend, “I’m one of the King’s Agents. It’s my duty to help her stop bandits.”
“That’s great, but-”
Drake interrupted him, “Go find anyone who will join us.”
“Tell them that we’re out there. Tell them that Alice’s Militia is standing up to the bandits with the help of a man of the King.”
Jithin’s voice caught in his throat, so instead he just nodded. He scaled down the wall, and let go three-quarters of the way down. It hurt his ankles, but it was worth it. Drake followed him down shortly after.
Alice stood in the middle of Main Street tentatively watching the bandit group approach. All but two of the nine were Riley. The leader, this Diesel Dirge, had the expression of someone who thought very highly of themself.
Diesel had a slow, confident gait, and her head was tilted up so that she looked down on everyone. He eyes were squinted a little, and she was flanked by two large men; one Solune, the other an unusually tall Riley.
“What are you supposed to be? Some sort of mutated Solune?” Diesel scoffed.
Alice was the shortest and youngest of them all. She looked up and them and smiled brightly.
“Hallo, I’m Alice! I am have to ask not that you steal anything.” She said.
“Just stay out of my way and there won’t be any trouble, lass.” Diesel said.
“I am here in your way,” Alice stated , “But if you’re just as visitors coming here, there will not have issue.”
“What the hell is wrong with your speech? Get out of the way, girl!”
Her two flanks stepped forward. The Riley punched his fist, the Solune cracked his knuckles.
Alice’s first plan was to try to befriend them. It wasn’t working, but she wasn’t ready to give up yet. Alice wasn’t sure if her second plan, to fight, would work out or not. It made her nervous. There were quite a lot of them, and she was a sixteen-year-old girl.
Despite all this, Alice was sure she would not be able to convince them to stop. And yet, she didn’t mind. She hadn’t fought seriously, not once, and something primal within her was calling out, crying for the hunt. Alice had developed a high tolerance to such rages. She was very patient thanks to her schooling, and also thanks to being among the children of Murdock.
“I’m sure we can be friends? If you do not break any then rules everything is good.” Alice offered.
Diesel wasn’t paying attention any more.
“Kill her.” She muttered absently.