People Don’t Get Killed in Kid’s Books.

Derek’s fingers flew over the keys, punching them rapidly and with purpose. The words poured from his mind ceaselessly, each keystroke a defining choice. He spun through sentence after sentence, driving his protagonist, a young swordsman trapped deep behind enemy lines, ever onward into what was surely to be his doom. The rain smashed into the thin pane of his windows as he typed. It had been pouring for hours and the lightning had just begun to flash, momentarily lighting up the otherwise dim living room of his small house.

The phone rang and he answered it with a curt “Hello?” His voice conveyed his annoyance very clearly. Only one person had this number. His agent.
“Derek. My man. How’s the novel coming?” Derek rolled his eyes. He hated his agent.
“Fine until about ten seconds ago. You know I hate when you interrupt me.”
“I know. I know. I’ll make it quick.”
“We got another offer for a sequel to the kids book. Twice as much as the last one. They really want this, man. And I’m tellin’ you, the money is starting to sound tasty.” Derek could easily picture the short, balding and harried man licking his not insubstantial chops at the prospect of a new deal.
“You know how I feel about this Stanley, is that all?”
“I’m just sayin you should think about it. The kids books are much easier to sell than what you’ve been handing in. People want happy, not death man. People don’t get killed in kid’s books, Derek.”
The phone slammed into the cradle angrily. He took a drink from his lukewarm cup of coffee, and set his mind back to his work. He had been making amazing progress on his current project, writing nearly fifty pages in the last twelve or so hours. Everything seemed to be flowing perfectly, the words were coming to him as they never had before.
He smiled to himself as he placed yet another obstacle in the path of his young swordsman. The group of mercenaries that had been hunting him through the last two chapters had him cornered and were closing in.
The wind whipped the rain into Aril’s face violently, turning each small drop of water into a painful projectile that felt as though it was going to pierce his skin. He could still hear them coming as he ran blindly through the small copse of trees. It was dark and more than once he had ran blindly into a leafless branch that bit into his skin and clung to his armor like grasping hands. Twice, the sword hilt sticking over his left shoulder had gotten caught so that he had nearly been knocked off of his feet. He heard a loud crash from behind him – too close behind him – and could only assume that one of them had fallen. He could only hope that the man was seriously injured. His lungs burned, and he swallowed air in greedy gulps. It felt like he had been running for hours, and they were still as close – if not closer – as when they had stumbled on him trying to get a few minutes of sleep under the a large oak.
Lightning flashed again, and the lights in the living room dimmed momentarily. Derek looked up from the bright white screen and glanced around the room. The fireplace cracked loudly, and he looked that direction as well.
“Well at least it will be warm.” He said quietly to himself. If the power went out completely he could always pull his chair in front of the fire and read for a while. He held “Ctrl” and hit the “s” button, the last thing he needed to do was lose all the progress he had made.
Lightning flashed brightly, illuminating the small copse eerily. Aril could only see the outlines of the trees and their gnarled, grasping branches. He heard the heavy crashing of a man running to his right, and shortly after a very similar sound to the left. They were closing in on him and he barely had the energy to lift his legs anymore. His eyes were frantic as he ran, trying to use the small amount of light to watch out for any high roots, or low branches that might catch him up. His hand went absently to the warm piece of polished gold around his neck, just for a moment. He could not let them have it.
Derek paused for a moment, rubbing his eyes and reading over the past few paragraphs quickly, looking for any obvious corrections that he could make. He placed a comma and corrected two typos as he read. The lightning flashed again and he could hear the wind moaning through the trees in his front yard. The thunder followed almost immediately after the flash, so he knew that the strikes were close. He could smell the ozone in the air.
Aril leaped over a downed log and dug his feet into the dirt as he tried to gain some speed. He could hear them shouting now. Every time they caught sight of him they would call out to one another and slightly adjust their course. It reminded him of a pack of wolves hunting an elk, working together to slowly tighten and eventually close the noose.
Aril knew he would have to pull his sword and fight eventually, but he would run as long as possible. If nothing else, he would choose the ground on which he would make his stand. He would choose the ground on which he might die.
He rounded a particularly thick tree and his heart, pounding hard enough for him to hear it audibly, nearly stopped at the sight before him. He had burst into a small clearing with what looked to be a hunting cabin in the center. A warm light glowed in the only window he could see. He forced the last bit of speed he could muster into his burning legs, and crossed the small clearing swiftly, reaching the door and pulling the latch as hard as he could. He groaned as he realized that the door was locked. He took a step back and threw himself into the door. The sturdy wood frame shuddered but stayed put. He took two steps back and put everything he had into the door, snapping the latch on the other side and bringing him into the cabin with an explosion of splintered wood.
Derek’s eyes lit up with excitement as his fingers hammered word after word onto the screen. His heart was racing as the vivid images flooded from his brain. He was barely able to process the information it was coming out of him so quickly. Just as his excitement reached a fever pitch, he jumped clear out of his chair as something slammed into his front door hard enough to shake the entire front wall of his house. His breath was ragged with fear, and he had no time to think before a second thud crashed into the door, shattering the latch at the exact moment another flash of lightning filled the sky and snapped the power out violently.
The scream that burst from Derek was drowned out by an impossibly loud peal of thunder. A ragged shape had exploded into the room, and was standing in front of him soaking wet and looking as though he had been dragged behind a horse for all of the cuts and scratches on his darkly stubbled face. With only the light of the fireplace to light the room it was difficult to see much detail, but what he could make out made his mouth go dry immediately.
The man’s clothing was torn in places, and blood seemed to stain his coat around a few of the holes. The most striking thing he could see from the mans outline however was the sword sticking from above his left shoulder. When their eyes met and the man stood to his full height, apparently as surprised and frightened as Derek, Derek saw the golden seal hanging around his neck and gasped in the sudden horror of realization.
Before Derek could get much farther in his surreal train of thought the intruder bounded back to the door, slamming it shut and dragging a heavy cabinet across the jamb to block it.
“Do you have anything that will keep this closed?” He barked the question at Derek fiercely, not bothering to look at him as he scanned the room for something that would suit his needs.
Derek stared at him blankly, doing everything that he could to remember to breathe and to keep himself concious. “Quickly, man. We do not have time for this.” He walked to Derek and placed his hands on his shoulders. “I do not have time to explain, but suffice it to say there are men outside who you do not want coming inside.” He spoke slowly, apparently having had some experience with frightened commoners.
“Of course he has experience with this, there was the scene in chapter 4 where he had to convince those women to follow him out of that burning church when Rerodin was being sacked.” Derek said to himself more than to the man in front of him.
“What are you talking ab…” He paused and looked at Derek very confused. “How do you know about Rerodin?”
Derek could not form a coherent thought in his head. “Aril.”
Aril’s eyes became saucers of confusion as he stared at man in front of him, for the first time noting the strange clothes he was wearing. “How…” He stammered unsure of exactly what to say or ask. He shook his head. “None of this matters now. They are outside, and they are going to come in here after me. We either have to fight, hide or escape.” Again he stopped to look around the room frantically. “Do you have any weapons?”
Derek began to speak, he was not exactly sure what he was going to say, but he did not have much time to think about that because a very loud voice came from outside the front door.
“We’re knowin that ye’re in there bai’. And we’re knowin that ye aint in there by yerself. Bring us the seal and we’ll let ye and yer friend be. Dun’ make us come in there after ye bai’. There’s only one way that’ll end.” The voice was harsh and was thick with an accent Derek had never heard aside from inside his own head. This was all too sickening to be real. The voice started again.
“I’ve got men surroundin’ the house, so dun’ go tryin’ ta run hear? I dun be wantin’ to hurt ye’ but I wills if ye makes me.” There was a deliberate and resounding pounding on the door. Derek opened his mouth to scream again but Aril stepped forward quickly and covered his mouth with a gloved hand. He placed a single finger over his own lips and shook his head very slowly.
He took a step back from Derek and drew his sword in a slow practiced motion, bringing it between himself and the door as he slowly inched backward away from it. To Derek’s left he heard a crash as the glass shattered and an arrow slammed into Aril’s chest with a dull thud. Aril looked down at the shaft of the arrow sticking from his body and dropped his sword. His face was a mixture of surprise and fear as he fell backward against the living room wall, blood already starting to sputter from the corners of his mouth. Derek stood still but his muscles vibrated with fear. They were corded and taut like a deer about to bound away as soon as it could.
The door crashed open a second time and the man who stepped through had to duck to get through the doorway. He towered easily over Derek and grinned the thick featured broken tooth smile of a man who made his living on the edge of a sword. He lifted his blade and pointed it at Derek’s chest. The mercenary took a quick step toward him and the last thought that went through Derek’s mind as the sword plunged into his body, blasting the life from him almost immediately, was that his agent had been right.
“People don’t get killed in kids books.”


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