After taking one final look at the sky, Pahwon pulled the heavy door ajar and stepped inside. Once inside the darkened interior, it became apparent no one was home. Relieved that he wouldn’t have to tell his mother what he was planning, he strode across the small entryway and into the kitchen. The morning fire had crumbled into barely visible embers beneath the now lukewarm pot. In the centre of the table he spotted a small piece of paper. Pahwon hesitated for a moment before snatching it up.

It was from his mother, instructing him to come to the south docks after dark, and to not use anything to light the way. Interpreting this as confirmation that his father’s ship had arrived and his mother was now safely aboard, Pahwon strolled towards his room, feeling a weight lifted from his shoulders.

Once in the hallway, his reassurance wavered slightly as other possible meanings flitted through his mind. He ignored them, convincing himself that the first idea was true. Once in his room Pahwon hoisted himself into the hammock, pulling a little curtain across the window.

After lying down and finding a comfortable spot, Pahwon tried to sleep. The thoughts swirling about his head and the bright sun shining through the window made this nearly impossible. Slowly and after much tossing and turning, he managed to drift into a restless nap. In his mind, he stepped out into some vast horizon, looking into the swirling colors all around. After walking a few feet however, he realized it was a dream. The vast landscape before him melted away and Pahwon groggily opened his eyes.

Somehow more tired than when he had lied down, Pahwon feared for a moment he had overslept. He pulled away the window covering and looked out, the sky darkening as the sun sank out of sight. Wearily he hopped down to the floor, unsure of how to feel. As he looked around his small room, at the small odds and ends he had collected littering the shelves; he realized that he desperately wanted to stay. He stepped back and leaned against the wall, taking in the small ceramic figurines and little gizmos lined on his shelf.

After waiting longer than he thought he ought to, Pahwon walked over and picked up a small statuette of Inanna. The goddess looked back at him. As he examined it, he felt a tear well up in his eye, though he had no idea why. He pocketed the thing, remembering it had something to do with good fortune. Sighing, he grabbed up a scarf his mother had knitted and a sailing cap his father had picked up in the Union. He looked over his lucky hat, pulling on the firm shiny brim and running a finger over the shiny medallion in the centre. Hoping it might help disguise him, he pulled the squishy hat over his head.

After wrapping the scarf around his neck, Pahwon looked around his room one final time. The thought of writing a letter to his mother occurred to him, but he decided against it. He’d come back in person and tell her. Realizing there was no reason to remain there any longer, he stepped out through the kitchen onto the street.

The heavy door clunked loudly behind him, the darkened street completely empty. Pahwon turned towards the setting sun and headed up the road. As he walked through the warm night air, the loneliness began to unsettle him. Something moved in the corner of his vision, causing Pahwon to spin around. It was Hiwei only, looking rather uneasy.

The two exchanged a glance before continuing their trek. He was glad she had come, though he also felt uneasy, knowing she would be in harm’s way. He peered back at her several times, starting to regret her company. They arrived at the end of the bridge. A lone figure stood in their path. They approached cautiously, until the figure cam into focus.

“Hiwei stop,” Ette said flatly, walking towards the two of them, “Stop, you can’t go with him. I will not let you.”

“Hettej, you aren’t going to stop me,” Hiwei replied. “My mind is made up.”

Hiwei sighed, a calm expression coming across her face. Her shaking knees, however, betrayed her true feels. The two stared at each other for a few moments. Then Hiwei turned and walked right up to Pahwon planting a kiss on his cheek. The surprise nearly caused Pahwon to jump back. Of all the things he had been expecting to occur that night, Hiwei kissing him was not one of them. Hettej shook her head in contempt.

“Fine, fine go die you…you,” Hettej started, unable to finish. “Uh, or, ah.”

She looked away, blushing in shame. They stood still for a few moments, waiting uncomfortably for Hettej to move. After a few moments Hettej turned and walked back down the road quickly. They watched her go, feeling very odd inside. After she turned the corner and walked out of sight, Pahwon and Hiwei looked at each other. Feeling as though they had no other choice now, they crossed the bridge.

A lone figure leaned against the door of the orphanage. The two carefully appraised the area, weary of guards or worse. It was soon clear that all the foreigners were holed up in the office itself. For a moment Pahwon stood at the end of the bridge, feeling a chill run up his spine. It felt noticeably cooler to him, though he wasn’t sure why.

After crossing the bridge they walked past the building they were about to attack, acutely aware of people laughing and talking inside it. Neither looked, they forced themselves to not look, heading straight for the orphanage. The figure leaning against the door was Tossmek, who gave them a weary look as they passed.

“You’re really doing this?”

“We’re really doing this,” Pahwon said in detached tone. “Are Kuhhal and the others here?”

“Yep, him and the other eight who showed up.”

This statement caused Pahwon to falter. Eight he thought to himself, recalling many more that had gathered around Kuhhal just hours before. Telling himself that the rest must simply be running late, he continued into the entryway. After walking through several rooms he arrived in the large classroom at the west end of the building.

Kuhhal was pacing along the back wall when Pahwon arrived. The moment he noticed him, Kuhhal advanced towards Pahwon with a sheathed sword in hand. Hesitantly, Pahwon took the weapon. The weight of the steel blade pulling down on his arm was equal to the weight now sinking into the pit of his stomach. He looked around the room, trying to build some confidence in the plan.

With nothing else to do, Pahwon and Hiwei sat down next to each other by the door. They waited for a minute, then another. As time passed, the younger trainees began to grow restless. Kuhhal started to realize that he needed to put the plan into motion or things were going to start falling apart.

“I think that’s everyone,” he said confidently. “Ok, everybody, this is it. Follow me out the door.”

“What about the others?” Pahwon asked. <<>>

“There are no others, we’re the only ones with the courage to show up and do what needs to be done,” Kuhhal retorted. “Heh, says a lot for them that you showed up when so many didn’t, eh Letal?”

They marched through the hallway, past several confused young girls. Tossmek had moved inside the doorway and looked over the approaching group with fear. She and Pahwon exchanged a glance. As they gathered by the door, he couldn’t shake the sinking feeling in his gut. The group prepared, drawing weapons and readying bows. Kuhhal walked up to the closed door, grabbing the handle.

“We’ll go down in history,” he called, waving his sword above their heads.

Then he yanked the door open, racing out into the street. The others followed him, spilling out onto the road. They carefully approached the building, Kuhhal heading right up to the door. He grabbed the handle and prepared to pull. The door then flew open, a loan guard exiting to investigate the odd noises. He stared for a moment at the crowd before Kuhhal lunged. The frightened foreigner pulled out a matchlock pistol and pulled the trigger. The hammer fell with a deafening click, Kuhhal’s heart stopping for a moment. But the powder didn’t ignite, dooming the man. Kuhhal ran him through, the pirate screaming as he fell.

A thunderous noise echoed through the building, the windows bursting open. Several pirates stared at the crowd through the windows, unsure of what to make of it. Then one of the younger students let fly an arrow. I flew through the upper window, striking a man in the chest. All hell to broke loose. Kuhhal and four others dashed inside the door just as several pirates jumped out the lower windows. One honed in on Pahwon, launching at him. Pahwon batted the first thrust away, fear dictating his every move. The pirate swung back the other direction, Pahwon countering the blow and nailing the pirate in the hand. The sword flew out of his hand as he staggered back.

Pahwon hesitated, staring at the unarmed man. The thought of landing a killing blow sent a chill through him. As he wavered, the page behind him fired an arrow, striking the man in the throat. The pirate collapsed to the ground, gurgling as he writhed in pain. Pahwon averted his eyes, his stomach clenching. He turned to the stunned boy, who looked at least two years younger. A bang emanated from an upped window, a bullet striking him. Pahwon spun around, spotting two marksmen in the upper window, one aiming strait for him.

A white hot blast of energy struck the man, Hiwei’s magic saving Pahwon’s life. The wounded man recoiled, howling in agony as he clutched his burnt face. Pahwon spotted Hiwei, a look of horror on her face, as she stood by the corner of the orphanage. He took a single step towards her when a searing pain struck his hip. Pahwon staggered, pain issuing up his side from where he had been shot. The sword fell to the ground as he grabbed at the wound. A haze came over him as he stared towards the still open door, watching Kuhhal clashing at the base of the stairwell with an ax wielding man. The man hacked wildly, though Kuhhal was able to hold off his thrusts.

The wounded man stepped into view behind Kuhhal, loading a blunderbuss as he descended. Kuhhal deflected an over handed Ax swing and thrust at the man, nearly running him through. Then the ax wielder fled up the stairs. Kuhhal turned around and looked up the stairs, only now noticing the man who was about to kill him.  Knowing what the weapon was capable of, Pahwon looked away.

A loud explosion signaled that the short life of Kuhhal, the most skilled of Zatheid’s students, had come to a violent end. Pahwon barely felt the next musket ball tear into his shoulder as he collapsed to the ground. The blood leaked quickly from his leg now. The two remaining boys ran, throwing their weapons to the ground as they made a dash to the bridge. Hiwei rushed out to Pahwon. She grabbed him and pulled with all her strength. A cold feeling came over Pahwon as movement failed him. The pain was overwhelming, pain from his injuries and from what he had witnessed.

As he was dragged past the end of the orphanage he saw two pirate gunmen rush out and take aim at the two fleeing pages. They fired, killing them both just before they reached the bridge. He began moving faster now, causing him to look up. The pained face of Tossmek came into view, or so he thought. The world was growing fuzzy around the edges, thoughts becoming less clear. The two gunmen now advanced towards the three of them, their strange voices echoing as though from a great distance.

The two men advanced slowly, carefully reloading as they eyed their next victims. It was the end, Pahwon realized. A hand was laid down upon his chest as he stopped moving. Tossmek’s face came into view above him. Tears began to flow as he realized he hadn’t the strength to apologize to Hiwei and Tossmek. He couldn’t tell his mother how much he loved her, how much she meant to him, any of it. Then the advancing men seemed to freeze in place, their eyes bugging out of their heads. Then Pahwon’s world went dark.

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