A/N: This is a story for the Original Ficathon, meaning I had to create a story with these ideas in mind. Personally, I think the entire story is something of a grey area without any real villains up until the last one.

Challenge #: 19
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Any
Likes: Characters I can care about, villains who are more than just foils or clumps of Evil Things (tm), maybe some grey areas? A romance that isn't obvious would be nice, too. Oh! Maybe a setting that isn't temperate? I've always wanted to see something set in a savannah.
Dislikes: Tolkein-esque elves or dwarves, halfbreed angst, stupid twists that rank up with "Luke, I am your father" and "It was all a dream." Oh, and no random apostrophes. Every time you insert an unnecessary apostrophe, a would-be writer dies.
Words/phrases to use: pique, "My dreams? Eating on a regular basis is my favourite one.", morbid.

Chapter 1


Sebas' eyes glared angrily at the large, black haired man. Eighteen months had passed since that day, and the man looked just as Sebas remembered. The same dirty brown boots, the same rusty sword at his hip. The same laughter that echoed through Sebas' ears in painful memory of that night.

He forced himself to sit still in his chair. The black haired man, whose name he still know after six months of tracking him, laughing raucously among dirty men playing cards. Leaning forward as far as he could without being noticed, he picked up the dregs of their conversation.

A man whose face looked like it had been pinched together dealt the cards. "Constables dead," he said in passing.

"Good riddance to him," the black haired man spat. "Good for nothing but getting his pants down."

"Shush," another with thick eyebrows muttered. "Jus' 'cause you don't like him doesn't mean others don't."

"You liked him, Telbit?" the black haired man growled. "After-"

"Don't be worrying, Simms," the pinched face man said. "We know what he did'n'didn't do, and we know how useless he was. Like you said, good riddance to him."

"That's right," the black haired man, Simms, said, soothed. They returned to their game of cards.

Sebas looked hungrily at the man. Simms they called him. It had taken him a year and a half, but he knew the man's name. All he had to do was wait to find where the man lived, and then all would be well again.

Johnny running through the woods. Sebas winced at the memory. Never again would Johnny run.

After hours of sipping at his drink, Simms ordered a cup of milk while his friends laughed.

The pinched faced man slapped Simms sinewy back as he chugged the drink down his muscled throat. A drop of the white liquid escaped his mouth, trickling down the side of his mouth till a massive paw wiped it away.

This was the man Sebas had come for, the bastard.

Johnny finishing up his final years of school. Coming home after a long night at the school's library, or fencing at the king's academy. Sebas remembered how proud he was when Johnny had graduated at the top of his class. Never again would Johnny think.

The pinched faced man was talking again. "How's your daughter doing?"

Simms replied something Sebas couldn't hear.

"And the brat?" Telbit asked distastefully.

An angry look crossed over Simms' face. Again, his words went unheard to Sebas' ears.

After another hour of round after round of endless cards, Simms bid his companions farewell.

This was what Sebas had been waiting for. He touched the small, decorated stone the wizard had enchanted. It belonged to his son. With the touch of the stone, his footsteps were muffled and his image blurred into invisibility.

An empty chair pulled itself backwards, and bent around a moving pillar that touched nothing.

Simms wandered out the door, walking straighter than either Telbit or the pinched face man were. Sebas followed silently, careful to stay away from the owner's dog. The wizard had warned him a canine's nose would be able to smell through the deception, and their eyes see through it as well. The spell was for misdirection, not complete invisibility. As soon as the owner knew someone was there they would easily see through the weak charm.

Johnny had been sitting before the fire the night. The sweet smell of apple pie wafting through the air like a fragrant breeze. Never again…

Simms walked slowly down the gravel road, Sebas following every step along the way. Through the town and down the hill by the river. Simms walked for miles with Sebas invisibly following. The black haired man would stop every so often and rest his feet.

Sebas didn't dare take his eyes off the man lest Simms disappear with the ease his little stone granted him.

Simms hooked his hand on a wooden fence by an old farm house lovingly taken care of. He steadied himself, trying to shake of the last vestiges of his intoxication.

He stopped again at the barn, dunking his face in a barrel of water and allowing the cool savannah air to caress his face. After drying his hair with an old horse blanket that looked as if it hadn't been used in years, Simms marched steadily to the house.

A cry pierced the air, a bawling cry that shattered the stillness of the night, causing Sebas to fear discovery and Simms to clench his fists and go rigid.

The cry was quickly hushed, but Sebas' curiosity was piqued. Even if Simms hadn't walked forward, careful to stomp his feet on the wooden patio to announce his coming, Sebas would have gone to see what made such an eerie, frightful noise.

Contrary to Simms' size, he gently opened the door and slipped inside. The crying started again only to be immediately hushed once more.

After looking around the house to see if any dogs were around that might lead to his discovery, Sebas stalked towards the window.

He saw Simms sitting in a large chair that easily contained his girth. Opposite to him was a dark haired woman of middling age, she reminded Sebas of his own wife. He hadn't seen her since he started his quest eighteen months ago. He prayed there was still a place in her heart for him when he returned.

In a small rocker close to the fire sat a young girl, maybe in her twelfth year, with a bundle of blankets in her arms.

The cry came out again, and the girl in the rocker rocked faster and fast, mouthing silent lullabies to the swathe of linen and wool held lovingly in her arm.

Sebas had seen his wife do a similar thing when Johnny was a baby. Such a sweet baby he was, almost no trouble at all. Sebas himself had no trouble recognizing the small child held dearly in the young girl's arms.

He heard Simms speaking through the open window. "How long is it going to do that?" he asked.

The rocker moved fast though the crying did not cease. The girl caressed the child with a tender hand.

"Alice," Simms said. "I'm talking to you. How long is that thing going to be bawling its head off?"

"Leave it alone, Charles," Simms' wife said. "It's a baby, not a whistle."

"Makes as much noise as one," Simms muttered. "And don't take its side on this, Janet. I won't have it."

Sighing, his wife reached into a basket beside her chair and pulled out a variety of colored clothing.

"What are you doing?" Simms asked suspiciously.

"I'm just making clothes for the baby," Janet said innocently. "No harm in that."

"No harm," Simms sputtered. "No harm you say? Look at her!" He pointed his finger wildly at their daughter. "She hasn't said a word since that thing was born! She cries half the time all on account of that stupid bastard that did it to her!"


Simms walked quickly over to his daughter. "I'm sorry, Alice. I don't blame you for this, no one blames you for this."

Sebas watched as Simms stood there, standing over his daughter. He saw the large man trembling and shaking and his wife knitting gaze tearfully into the fire.

He went to the barn Simms had dunked his head in earlier. It was empty. No grain or horses filled it. No plow or oxen. He looked out over the fields and saw them untilled and overgrown. A chicken coop stood deserted and a dog house lay, thankfully, bare.

The foul stench on an outhouse filled his nostrils, but it wasn't the smell of decaying feces that caught his interest so much as the axe imbedded in a nearby tree stump.

Sebas wasn't sure what to do. He'd planned it for so long, what to do at this moment, but now that he was faced with it he could easily walk away. There would be no harm done.

He'd only wanted Simms, not the man's wife, daughter, and grandchild. If he left now there would be no harm done and the morbid scene would be avoided.

Never again would Johnny smile. Never again would he laugh, cry, sing, live.

Sebas gripped the axe by its handle and walked to the door. He hoped he'd have time to draw his sword after the axe had fallen, doubting he'd get a second blow in with the axe.

Just outside the door, he dropped the small stone that he'd clutched so close to his heart. The heart that wept for Johnny and all the years his son's laughter wouldn't fill.

An owl hooted somewhere behind him, maybe finding a midnight meal, or seeing a man where one hadn't been before. Regardless, Sebas readied himself.

Sebas kicked the door in, knocking it off its rusty hinges and onto the floor. Simms rose to his feet automatically only to meet the biting blade of his own wood axe.

The wife screamed, the daughter looked on in horror, though not at her father.

Simms' daughter, Alice, backed against the wall, terrified at the face of her father's killer, so similar to one she could never forget.