Breck awoke to the birds singing. It took him a startling moment to remember why he was sleeping in a cramped hole. Then the memories of the day before came back to him.
"I'm fourteen," he said aloud, still in the hole.
In the marketplace, turning 14 was a very important age to be. It meant he could become an under-apprentice. (The servant of an apprentice.) Then he would turn 15 and become an apprentice himself.
Breck heard the clock tower strike 10:00 am. The marketplace was now open and Breck had overslept. His stomach now growled loudly.
"I might as well go and find something to eat," he muttered to himself, knowing that he would end up stealing it. He tried to find the hole he crawled into, only it wasn't there! It had been filled in. He began to panic, thinking he would suffocate in the cave, soon to be a pile of bones in the mountainside. Then he remembered the hole.
Breck got on his knees and just barely got his head through the hole in the top of the cave.
"Help!" he cried out, although he knew no one was about. "Is anybody there?" he tried again, "Hello! Somebody please help me!" Behind him someone laughed.
"You're in a rocky situation, huh?" came a voice Breck recognized as a girl's, "Do you need my help?" she asked.
"Um…yes," Breck said, ignoring the terrible pun. The girl was behind him and there was no way he could shift himself to see her.
"Well…maybe I'll help you, but only if you help me," she giggled. Breck sighed, he knew there had to be a catch somewhere.
"You girls are so…so-"
"Smart? Funny? Both?" the girl laughed. Her melodic voice echoed in Breck's ears.
"Uh, sure…" he said. He didn't want to say it, but he really needed her help. "What is it I need to do for you?" he asked with a voice of uncertainty. He hoped money wasn't involved, because he had none.
The girl hadn't answered Breck, but he knew she was deciding what she wanted. Or maybe she wasn't sure if she should trust him. He didn't know. The girl came up behind him. He could hear her softly breathing, and a feeling Breck had never felt before came over him. It was if he had swallowed dozens of butterflies. He had no idea what the feeling was.
"I want to you sneak me out of the city walls," she finally whispered, barely audible. The statement confused Breck. Anybody could come and go as they pleased.
"But anyone can leave," he said, still confused.
"Not me," the girl replied sadly. It was the sad like that of a wild animal that had been imprisoned its whole life. That's what she sounded like, as if her whole life she had been imprisoned.
"Who are you?" Breck asked, more confused than ever. The girl came into view as she walked out in front of him.
She had long, caramel blonde hair that shown like the sun. Her eyes were the color of the bluest ocean and her nose and cheeks had only a slight trace of freckles. She had a slim figure, like that of a doll's. She was the prettiest girl Breck had ever seen.
"My name's Gemma," she said softly.
"Shh!" she shushed him with a worried look that unnerved Breck, "I've escaped the castle grounds…all the guards are looking for me. You can get me out. Please, right now, take me to the outer walls…I need to get away.
"But I'm stuck remember?" Gemma suddenly got the first look that he had seen her with, and the one of worry had crept out of her face.
"No problem," she walked over to where the hole had once been and began pulling away at the rocks. As the cave crumbled, Breck stepped over the rubble.
"Thanks," he said to Gemma.
"Your welcome," she said sweetly, with her princess manners, "now take me out!" she demanded.
"Okay, okay, don't worry…were going."
Breck wasn't sure which way was the right way to sneak Gemma out, and he wasn't even sure if he knew how. As they walked through the Bazaar, Breck realized Gemma had probably never seen it before. Her eyes were wide and she stared at everything.
"Have you ever even been to the marketplace before?" It wasn't an impolite question, just a curious one.
"Well, no…at least not on my own, out in the open," she said. She seemed so bewildered that there could be so much commotion, concentrated in one area.
Breck kept on glancing at her as they continued walking. Whenever he did, that strange feeling came over him and he would feel his heart jump. He wished desperately that she wasn't the princess…and that he wasn't an orphan. He wanted to get to know her better.
"How old are you?" he asked. She looked at him with her aqua-colored eyes.
"I'm almost fourteen," she said.
"Oh." Breck watched her walk; he noticed how gracefully she swung her arms, and it made him feel like his were too big and awkward. He looked at her beautiful dress and how it brought out the color of her eyes, and how long and golden her hair was. It made him feel even worse that his were ugly, and that his hair was a common brown.
Breck paused to look around, and he found he was not the only person watching Gemma. Many young men, not many years older than Breck, and even some women were staring at her. Gemma noticed this, but she almost seemed to like the attention.
"What?" she asked. Then she realized she didn't even know her companion's name.
"I'm really sorry, but you…you can't just leave in that dress. Its too well…" Breck couldn't seem to find the right word so he rephrased, "The guards will know who you are."
"Well then…uh…what did you say your name was?"
"I didn't, but its Breck."
"Yes. Well Breck, find me something normal to wear," Gemma demanded. Breck assumed that she often got her way. He realized then, he was facing a dilemma.
How would he pay for Gemma's outfit? He couldn't steal it…she was the princess. He had no money, and Breck had a feeling that Gemma didn't have any either, but then an idea came to him and he quickly formulated a plan.
If he could sell Gemma's dress, he could buy her all the regular clothes she wanted. Without explaining this plan to her, he began to give her orders.
"I need you to take off your dress," Gemma's eye's widened.
"My- my dress?!" Breck hadn't noticed, but she was looking at him, with terror and confusion in her eyes.
"Yeah," he said offhandedly. He didn't even consider how it sounded to her.
"Forget you!" she cried, and walked off. Breck stood where he was for a second, his mind whirring, searching for the answer to what he did. Then it hit him.
"Gemma!" he called out after her, but she quickened her pace. He stopped. It wasn't even worth it to chase after her. She would never talk to him again.
Breck turned and walked in an opposite direction. His stomach growled and he decided to search for something to eat. Maybe a discarded apple core…if he was lucky.
But he wasn't. There were many food kiosks in the marketplace. An apple from one stand wouldn't hurt anybody.
Breck searched for a busy stand. One where he could slip in, grab something, and slip away unnoticed. When he found it, he did just that. Except for something went wrong. Just as soon as he turned to slip away, the vendor saw him.
"Hey!" the vendor called out. Breck ran and the vendor chased after him. As he made sharp turns around corners, he couldn't help but wonder why the guy was chasing him over an apple. Breck began taking more turns; he didn't care where he was going, as long as he wasn't caught.
Soon the vendor's footsteps behind him faded away. Breck had lost him, but he glanced over his shoulder to anyways to see if anybody was chasing him. Nobody was.
Breck looked forward again, and there, not ten feet in front of him, was the scar-faced guard. Breck had no time to even try to stop before he ran into the guard, knocking him to the ground.
He turned to run, but then the vendor bolted from around the corner. It startled Breck and that gave the guard enough time to blow his whistle. Soon Breck was surrounded. As they formed a circle around him, Breck felt a queer sensation pass through him, as if there were some latent person, watching but yet surrounding him with their presence. A guard pulled out a club, and Breck's muscles seized up and he passed out.
"You have two choices," said the man, "one: you can pay for that apple and apologize to my guard, or two: you can face up to five months in the dungeon. I know it sounds absurd but that's the law. Anyone who steals something, no matter what it is, must serve time in the dungeons."
Breck looked at the man, who was the head guard. He didn't understand why this was happening to him.
"I- I don't have any money," he said quietly. The men in the room, he noticed, didn't look surprised.
"Well then, we'll get your parents to pay for it," said the head guard, sounding calm.
"I don't have any parents," Breck whispered, now even quieter. The head guard's eyebrows disappeared into a mass of wrinkles on his forehead.
"No parents? No money?" Breck looked at his feet.
"Well then, we'll have to send you to the dungeons, and I really hate to, but like I said…it's the law," Breck looked up, terrified.
"You have one hour time, we'll let you out to have your last 60 minutes of freedom, but then you'll have to come back. Can I trust that you will?"
"Yes sir. I'll come back," said Breck with no intension of it.
"Good," said the head guard, "because if you didn't, there would be a reward on you so big, you wouldn't be able to go near civilization again," the other guards smirked as he said this.
"You can leave now," the guard said and motioned for Breck to get out.
As soon as Breck was outside the guard headquarters, he ran. He ran all the way to the entrance of the village, by the drawbridge.
He slumped up against the wall. The sound of hooves came to his ears. A horse was walking towards him. It was nothing unusual. Breck touched the cobblestone and ran his fingers through the cracks. He thought about life, and how he was going to miss the next five months of his because of a stupid apple.
The hooves had stopped now; whoever the rider was must have found something worth looking into. Breck looked up at the sky. There were no stars that night, because of the clouds, but it was still cold. He shivered.
Fog was rolling in. It passed over and through everything…giving it all an eerie look to it. As the temperature got colder, Breck thought more and more about his life. He never knew his parents; he had never owned anything but the pendant either. The food he ate and the clothes he wore were all stolen. He could have called them his, but rightfully they weren't.
Breck took out his pendant and looked at it. It looked the same. All tarnished and the words looked the same too. He then felt something was different.
"Its so calm," he found himself thinking, "If life were like this it would be perfect." He listened to the deafness of the calm. To him, the quiet was loud, and it wasn't quite reassuring. Then he realized what was different. The clock tower wasn't ticking. Breck looked to his left, where it was. It looked as if it had long stopped ticking. He didn't know how long he'd been outside, but he bet that it was long past the hour the head guard had given him.
Breck stood up. He head to get the headquarters. He didn't want to go the dungeon, but he would rather have that than be banished from civilization. Maybe he could even persuade them to shorten his term, or even to let him off with a warning. Breck was thinking about what he could say, when a girl screamed.
"Help!" cried the girl. The voice sounded oddly familiar to Breck…
"Gemma?" Breck called, frantically, realizing it was she.
"Breck? Help! Please!" screamed Gemma. Breck began to run towards where her voice was coming from. She screamed again. Breck stopped, because she sounded as if she were all around him.
Horse hooves came towards Breck's direction. The Princess screamed again and Breck realized she was on the horse. People opened their windows or came out into the street to see what the commotion was about.
Breck had stopped in the middle of the street. A man on a black horse was galloping towards him. Gemma was with him, her eyes wide with terror.
"Help me!" she cried out. Breck didn't know what to do though. So he stayed where he was, which happened to be in the path of the rider. The horse was getting closer now and Breck could see Gemma. Her hair was no longer beautiful looking, but dull and her face was white. Her dress was ripped and torn, and from what Breck could tell, she had had a hard day.
"Move boy!" the man on the horse yelled. His accent sounded a bit odd to Breck, and even though he didn't know what it was, he knew the man was trouble. He stayed where he was, and he gave the man a look that plainly said: "No way am I moving."
"Move! You're in my way! Don't make me spill those daring guts of yours boy!" he threatened. Breck remained where he was.
"Fine then! This is your own fault," he called out as he stopped his horse. The man looked at Breck. He had dark skin…too dark for Breck to believe he was from around Dulnoir. The man opened his hand that he had closed into a fist and many people screamed.
The man was holding a ball of emerald green flames. It glowed bright, eerily illuminating the man's dark face. He closed his eyes and screwed his face up in concentration. The fireball hovered about a foot from the man's head now. He then put a hand by his shoulder and then pushed out quickly. The green fire shot towards Breck.
Gemma screamed as Breck instinctively put his hands out, as if to stop the ball from hitting him. Breck shut his eyes and braced himself for the pain, but it didn't come.
Breck opened his eyes. Around him he saw many people looking at him, terrified. Gemma and the man looked bewildered. Breck looked at his hands. His left hand was normal, but his right hand terrified him.
He brought it closer to have a better look. There, in his right hand was the green fire. He had caught it! He had no clue as to why this was happening. It was quite sinister looking. Through the silence that had been created, a guard's whistle was heard.
"The guards are coming! We're saved!" came the voice of an elderly woman from the crowd.
"We'll meet again boy!" called the man and he galloped away.
"Breck!" called Gemma, he voice getting fainter and fainter, then disappearing altogether. The guards had appeared, they were all staring at Breck, who was stilling holding the emerald fireball. Breck closed his right hand and the flames went out.
"What happened here?" asked none other than the head guard. Nobody answered. Another guard who had seen what happened, whispered into the head guard's ear what he had seen.
Breck looked around. Everyone was staring at him. It was dead silent. Finally one man could take it no longer.
"That boy's evil!" Breck looked at the ground. The head guard came over to where the man had pointed at him.
"You!" he cried out stunned. "You cannot stay here," he hissed, "I'm afraid you're going to have to leave. After what happened tonight, I'm afraid were going to have to send you away. Forget the apple. Tonight I'll lock you up and you can leave tomorrow morning," the guard whispered.
Breck nodded and guards took him brought him to the dungeons.
"One night's better then five months" he thought to himself.
The next morning, guards woke up Breck before anyone in the village. They gave him an undoubtedly cheap tunic and cloak. He was also given a hunting knife.
Then he was escorted to the drawbridge. As the bridge slowly lowered, people came out of their houses to watch. The story of the green flame had been passed quicker than the guards had anticipated. Breck, without looking back at the market place or the castle, stepped across the drawbridge and waited for it to close. Then he began to walk away into the vast wilderness.