• Brent Streeter

Talentless




The cobbled-street stretched out before me, devoid of people. The buildings that lined it watched in somber silence, their windows dark and foreboding. I stepped from streetlamp to streetlamp, grateful for their small pools of light that kept the night at bay.

I popped up the collar of my trench-coat, before stuffing my icy hands back into the warm embrace of the coat’s pockets, to keep a sudden chilling breeze from piercing my bones. The windswept down the street as if it were my escort.

I glanced about fervently, hoping that my careful watch would deter anyone watching. People often disappeared in the early hours of the morning; only to be found dead, their throats cut and their possessions pilfered. Such was the modus operandi of the gangs that prowled the streets when the city slept.

As much as I detested the thought of killing another person, I could not fault those who committed the act. Work was hard to come by for those not born into the Fold - the city’s elite - and the old ways of peddling magic to the outer-cities had died with the last of the magicians. The Fold had made sure to outlaw any form of magic ever since. To be caught wielding magic now was a death sentence, such was the law of the Fold.

Once a talentless used magic, they were always discovered by the Fold and torn from this life screaming.

The figure of a man detached itself from the shadows a couple of yards ahead of me. The blood froze in my veins. I dared a glance over my shoulder and saw two more figures lurking in the shadows behind me. I silently cursed my luck.

The man shrouded in shadows ahead did not move, content to wait for me to reach him, knowing that I had no choice in the matter. Thoughts raced through my mind, perhaps I could convince them to let me go, once I gave them what they demanded. Or perhaps I could convince them I was not worth the effort.

Each stride brought me closer to the man in shadow, each slow and purposeful step sealing my fate like a funeral process making its way to the burial site.

“Tha’s far enough, boy’o,” the figure’s voice growled, and I was forced to stop within the shimmering pool of a streetlamp.

I took a shaky breath, trying to steady my nerves. The glint of steel flashed in the man’s hands. I swallowed hard. I don’t want to die, I thought, not like this, not here. I scanned the surrounding buildings, hoping, silently pleading, for any signs of help. Anything to deter those that now surrounded me, but I was alone, left to the whims of my assailants.

Words tumbled from my mouth in haste, “I’ll give you whatever you want, just please don’t kill me!” The last words were a mere squeak.

The man spat. “Now why woul’ we do a thing like tha’? Let ye run off to flap yer gob abou’ our lil’ meetin’.” He shook his head as if he was insulted by the idea of my plea, “No, better to kill ye and take wha’s yers. Much easier tha’ way.”

The man took a step forward into the pool of light as I attempted to take several paces back, coming up against firm hands that grabbed and held me in place. The gruff voice that belonged to the hands that held me, barked, “Yer not goin’ anywhere, you sniveling worm.”

I fervently tried to pry loose from the iron grip that held me as the man with the wicked-looking dagger closed the distance. His eyes were hard and cold, his oily smile revealing only a few yellowed, rotting teeth. His rancid breath washed over me and I fought against the urge to retch.

Fear was replaced by panic, as the dagger’s edge came to rest against the soft flesh of my throat. The men that surrounded me were laughing amongst themselves, reveling in my fragile and helpless state. Content to drag out my sentence at a leisurely pace, they knew I would not cry out; it would only hasten my death.

I DON’T WANT TO DIE! The words roared through the swirling chaos of my mind, and all fell silent. The world seemed to slow around me. I could feel the beads of sweat that sluggishly rolled down my face. The increasing pressure of the blade at my throat as it began to draw the smallest trickle of blood. The tightness in my gut as my bowels threatened to give out. And the stench of fear, so thick in the surrounding air that I could almost taste it. My head felt ready to burst at the seams and I could do naught to relieve the pressure that was building up, engulfing me.

My body vibrated with a silent scream, and the world echoed that vibration. The windows of buildings shattered, sending showers of broken shards pattering against the cobblestone street. The paving cracked and splintered as if struck by a great unseen weight. The streetlamps bent at odd angles.

I felt the hands grasping me go lax and drop away. The man before me wore an expression of confused agony as blood gushed from every orifice. He crumpled bonelessly to the ground. The dagger clattered to the street beside him. I did not have to check to know that neither he nor his companions would ever rise again.

I trembled with adrenaline. What I had just done! The talentless were not supposed to be able to channel magic! It was an affront to everything the Fold stood for. I hastily scanned the street for signs of pursuit, the Fold always knew when magic was used. Time was against me now, already lights could be seen flickering into existence in the buildings around me as people came to investigate the disturbance.

My life was over. I was now an apostate, and there was only one choice left for me to make: run or die at the hands of the Fold.

I chose to run.