The Brick maker
The journey had been quite treacherous for Edward and his mother. They had been riding the desert for one day straight without enough resting in the middle. To top it all off, they were also attacked by necromancers and zombies. Just when Edward thought that he had enough for one day, he was burdened with the history of the world around him that he never had a clue about. He was still a little salty about the fact that his mother had kept such important things from him given how they weren’t too graphic for children. Death is a fundamental part of history so that cannot be an excuse for hiding it from them. He didn’t know what her reasons were, but it still bugged him.
However, he was too tired to complain. One look at his mother and he could tell that she was in worse shape than he was. She had been riding with them throughout the night, her son was almost killed by mages who she had no idea existed till this point and she now probably thinks her son hates her for hiding such basic and vital things from him. Edward was mature enough to understand what she was going through and kept his complaints to himself. Ravenna seemed to be in better shape than these two. She had been on longer and more excruciating journeys than this as she had boasted earlier so this was routine to her. Not a lot of time had passed since the end of her generous history lesson and now they had entered the shabby mining town called Braumchester.
Just when Edward was convinced that there wouldn’t be a shabbier town than the last one he’d been to, he was proven wrong. Sitting on top of an elevated plateau was this small, bleak mining town. There were several closed mines at the bottom of the plateau indicated by the barricading outside despite rails leading inside. There were also paths running around the plateau.
‘They’ve emptied these mines out. The ones they must be working right now are probably in a different corner of the plateau. They’ll soon run out of ore to mine on the mound they sit upon. I wonder what’ll happen then. The nearest mineral rich mountain is miles away” commented Ravenna, feeling pity for these poor souls.
Truly, the sight was despicable. They hiked upwards on the path leading up to the town. It was deserted at this point of day as Ravenna had earlier predicted. Most of the people were out working. They could easily spot the only brickyard in town at the edge of the town, sitting by a cliff. The smoke bellowed over the town, clouding the town in darkness in blazing daylight. Soot lay on the ground like snow on a winter morning. The horses left prints all the way up to the small and shabby inn at the centre of the barren town. The three of them stepped in and woke the plump innkeeper sleeping at her desk.
“Who’s there!?” she was startled. Her gaze clearly indicated the height of her confusion. “Umm, what do you need?”
“We need two rooms for the night” said Ravenna. “We won’t be staying for any longer right?” she asked Mirriam to which she nodded.
“We have two rooms. Just the two. Please don’t mind the quality of your stay, we don’t often get people here. The ones we do are just regular merchants. They know what they are getting so we’ve never had to improve” she was clearly intimidated by their appearance. She led them to their rooms. The wooden walls were rotting with algae and a strange scent clogged the room. Edward thought the furniture was almost a century old as he examined them.
“Looks like this will do. It’s not like we have many options but at least it’s not dusty like the rest of the place. Fetch our bags and tie up the horses” ordered Ravenna. Mirriam wasn’t pleased with the place but Ravenna had already made the call and she didn’t dare to pester her about it. Edward didn’t seem to mind. He wanted to see how life would be when you live in such poverty.
The innkeeper carried all the bags inside. Ravenna dressed down to relax. “Where’s the bath?” she asked the innkeeper.
“Right this way” she lead her to the back of the structure. “We only have cold well water right now. I’ll heat up some water if you want. It won’t take long” she was a bit embarrassed about the services of her inn.
“Who wants to bathe in warm water in the middle of the desert? I’m good. Go ask the princess. She must have never bathed in anything but warm water in a large tub” said Ravenna playfully. It stung Edward because it was also true. Vereen was strangely cool throughout the year and they had never bathed in cold water.
“Princess!?” exclaimed the innkeeper.
“Must be. I’m not sure either” said Ravenna, trying to toy with her. The innkeeper bolted past Edward and ran into the room looking really nervous. He could hear her repeatedly apologising for the state of the inn and in turn hear his mom trying her best to clear the misunderstanding. He wanted to go in but he wanted the innkeeper to leave first. For a moment, the conversation stopped and he was about to step in. Before he could open the door, he heard his mother ask the innkeeper “I’m looking for a man here. He goes by the name Tyler Gullet. Where can I find him?”
“You’re looking for Ty? I’m not sure if it’s strange or wonderful.” She sounded surprised.
“Why is that so?” asked Mirriam.
“Our Ty has been here for thirteen years and none of us know anything about his past. Where he comes from, who he knows or why he moved here. A locked chest ever since we’ve known him. We’ve tried to get him to open up but nothing good has come of it. But what a darling he is. Works the hardest, helps anyone out without thinking twice and never speaks ill of anyone. He doesn’t speak much in the first place. I don’t think he’s the shy type but he’s all dark and mysterious. Always brooding. Wonder what kind of life he had before he got here” she went on about him. “He a friend of yours?”
“A friend of a friend. He told us we’d find him here. I had a few questions for him.” said Mirriam. She wondered if he was the same person Randall had mentioned.
“Oh, that’s wonderful. An friendly face might cheer him up. He’s working in the brickyard. It’s the only one in the town. I’ll take you there” she was excited.
“No, that’s fine. I saw the place when we came here. I’d like to rest up a bit before I go there” said Mirriam, trying to avoid company.
“Very well, your highness” said the innkeeper with a bow as she walked out of the room, leaving Mirriam flustered. She didn’t notice Edward standing outside. He had listened to the whole conversation. After waiting for a few seconds, he walked in.
“Ah, Ed. Why don’t you change and lie down for a while. I’m going to the market to see if there’s anything we can buy. We could use some extra supplies” said Ravenna while rummaging through her bag. Edward wondered why she was lying. Clearly, she was going to meet this Tyler person. He knew that they were here to meet someone so why hide the fact.
“I’ll join you too” he said.
“NO” said Mirriam in a voice too loud which surprised them both. “No, you need to rest. I can take care of this. You also need to stay and watch our supplies. Who knows what kind of people it is that we’re dealing with here.”
It was clear to Edward that she wouldn’t let him accompany her. Instead he had something else in mind. “Alright. I’ll lie down. But don’t presume everyone to be thieves mother. It’s unfair. The innkeeper seems like a nice woman.”
“You’re right dear, but I have reasons of my own to have such presumptions. You never know who might turn out to be a thief” she said with a smile. Edward was totally thrown off by that. He wondered what she meant by that. He noticed she took her coin purse but she also put something inside her cloak. It was too fast to see but it was something small. He lay down on the bed and watched as she left the room.
The weak flooring of the inn creaked as Mirriam walked out of the inn. The end of this annoying creaking was Edward’s signal to begin trailing his mother. If he wasn’t getting answers the straight way, he was willing to peep in on her secret adventures. The path to the brickyard was quite straightforward and wide open which made it really difficult for him to stealthily follow her. Luckily, there weren’t people around to notice him creeping up on a lady and the noise from the brickyard masked the voice of his footsteps.
The brickyard was much smaller than what he had expected. There was no fencing around the building. The temperature kept getting hotter as he got closer. There was a large doorway at the entrance. He stopped right outside, knowing that it was as far as he could go. Luckily for him, his mother didn’t venture too deep inside either. He peeked inside and the most notable feature about the place was the sweltering furnace inside the building. Most of the workers were bustling around it. Closer to the entrance, stood Mirriam, looking around for Tyler or someone to lead her to him. She walked up to a man scouring inside a large toolbox.
“Umm, excuse me. Is Tyler around?” she asked him nonchalantly.
“Hmm, you’re looking for Tyler? And who might you be miss?” asked the man, pulling his head out of the ridiculously large box.
“An old friend of his told me that I could find him here” she said nervously.
“It’s been 13 years since he started working here in this yard. Haven’t seen an outsider trying to find him. I’m not surprised it’s a pretty woman like you.” He sniggered. “HEY TYLER!! THERE’S A WOMAN HERE LOOKING FOR YOU. AN OUTSIDER NO LESS.” He shouted. It took a few seconds for a reply to reach back.
“I’ll be right there” his shout reached back through the noisy factory. Mirriam awkwardly waited with the man till a shadowy figure came walking through the hall. Edward could hardly see him even when he reached all the way up to Mirriam.
“Hey Tyler, we’ve all been waiting for the day a pretty little thing like this popped into town, looking for you” he chuckled. “Old flame of yours?”
“Didn’t Pam ask you to get her a shovel Dreyfus? Two more minutes and she’ll have your head on a plate” said the other other man. The one who went by the name Tyler.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Ah, there it is.” He drew a shovel from the toolbox and ran inside the building. They both waited for him to be out of range to speak.
“How do you know my name? Who are you?” he asked her in a very intimidating manner
“Randall sent me here” she said immediately.
“Randall? How does he know I live here? Since when? How does he know my name?” To Edward it looked like this Tyler had more questions than he himself did. “Heh, I should know better. Of course he knows. To think that I went through all this trouble and yet he…” he stopped short. “Why are you here?” he asked Mirriam.
“Can we go outside?” asked Mirriam.
“I was about to suggest that myself. Can’t have you spoil what I’ve built all these years.” said Tyler.
Edward dashed away to the nearest corner when he saw the two figures approaching. Tyler lead Mirriam out of the building as they walked to the edge of the cliff the structure was mounted upon. There stood a sad, wrinkled tree which looked almost as dead as the zombies Edward saw yesterday beneath which stood his mother with this new stranger. Edward moved in closer and to his luck, he had several mounds of bricks as cover to hide behind. Obstacle by obstacle, he stealthily made his way closer. As a boy of the forest, he had developed quite the soft feet after spending years on covertly following animals. Even on the crunchy leaf-ridden grounds of the forests, he had learnt how to move swiftly without making a single noise. This plain, rocky ground was child’s play.
There was still opportunity to move in closer but he felt like he had already reached the danger zone. The hunter-like instincts he had developed over the years were now stopping him from going any further. He peered through the brick mound behind which he now found his cover and the atmosphere was silent enough for him to hear everything even though he was beside a busy brickyard.
He noticed that in the time he carefully moved in, both of them still hadn’t started talking. Mirriam was looking down at her feet, thinking of where to start. She was taken back by Tyler’s last statement. Tyler however was looking straight at her, expecting her to state her business with him. Now that it was clear and bright, Edward got a good look at his face. A tall, well-built man with beautiful blue eyes and messy black hair just like his own which ran all the way down to his shoulders. He looked as old as Mirriam and his facial features were well endowed. He had a lush unkempt beard and there was a very noticeable scar on his right ear. Even though he had such a strong physical presence, Edward felt as if the man was empty. There was something dark about this man as though, he had been consumed whole by something sad and gloomy. He looked like a cog in the machine who was just trying to get through another day without dying. That would be true for most people, but Tyler didn’t look like a person with any purpose in life.
“What did you mean by what you said earlier?” Asked Mirriam, now breaking the silence.
“Why did Randall send you here? Why now of all times?” asked Tyler, totally deflecting her question.
“He told me to give you this without saying too much beforehand.” Edward saw Mirriam now draw the thing she hid in her cloak earlier and hand it to Tyler. It was a piece of paper, a fresh one. Tyler unfolded it and walked out of the shade of the lifeless tree to get a better look at it.
Tyler was now engrossed in this new piece of communication
It’s been a while huh? I know you wanted to left alone but you can’t expect me to sit back and watch you disappear right? Finding you was quite the chore. It took me seven years to track you down. I was here in this town to meet you but I backed off once I saw what you were doing. I figured it would be best if I gave you the space you needed. Maybe one day you would show up again. It’s been fourteen years now and you still haven’t. I guess you’ve decided to leave everything behind for real. I don’t really know what happened that day but I know that there’s more to the story than the rumours suggest. Remember that I’ll always be on your side.
I kept dropping by every year to check up on you, leaving you undisturbed but something has come up. If you’re reading this, then it means that something big came up or something happened to me. The woman who handed you this is from a place lost in time. I know that it’ll be hard to swallow, but she’s the mother of a prospect. Yes, her son is a soul keeper.
Tyler flipped the sheet around
I couldn’t believe it when I first stumbled across him. Don’t worry, I’m not mistaken. I put a lot of thought into this. He really is a soul keeper. A fourteen year old kid. I thought I could restore everything, thought I could save the world. I didn’t know how but I knew that I had to get him out of the hole they were hiding in. They’re packing their stuff as I write this. I know I’ll most likely be running into some complications which is why I’m taking this precaution now. Now that this letter has reached you, they’re just two lost souls in a cruel world. You know very well that if the prospect is not realised by the day of his sixteenth birthday, he is going to die. I wanna help him brother, I want to help them both. Now, I want you to do it. I didn’t want to disturb your exile but I have no other options now. There’s no one else I can trust this with and there’s no one else who knows how to help them. Please, do this for me, my trusted friend. Know, that I have no other cards left. I don’t know if you’ll ever see me again. Maybe I’m rotting in a cell or maybe a coffin. Consider this my final wish.
Your old friend
Tyler had an unchanging expression on his face as he read the whole letter. He calmly folded it back and threw it down the cliff, completely startling both Edward and Mirriam. “Please, leave me alone” he said as he began walking back to the brickyard.
The shocked and scared Mirriam desperately ran after and grabbed his hand. “Please. He said you’d help us. We don’t know where to go or what to do” she begged.
“He was wrong. You’re on your own. Leave this town by nightfall and go back to your own. I don’t want the people here to ask too many questions. I’m sorry but I can’t help you.” He shrugged off Mirriam’s grip and began walking back inside. However, Mirriam was not having it. She ran back up to him and grabbed his collar. “He knew you’d turn us down. That’s why he asked me to give you this.” She pulled another piece of paper out of her cloak, this one much smaller than the last one and thrust it into his hand. He pushed her back in annoyance and threw the paper on the floor without reading it. Mirriam still picked it up and ran after him.
The sight made Edward go red in fury. How could that man treat his mother this way and why was she still running after him. What was the reason for this absurd desperation? Mirriam, thrust it into Tyler’s hand once again. “Just read it. That’s it. I’m not asking for too much” she said. Tyler noticed that she was inches away from breaking down. “Ah, what a pain” he said and opened the small chit.
It only took him a few seconds to read and he had the same unchanging expression on his face but Edward noticed something different. Tyler froze where he stood. He wasn’t even blinking. A hard wind blew the piece of paper out of his hands and he still stood there, unshaken with his hands reaching outwards as if he were holding onto something invisible. Both Edward and Mirriam were surprised by this sudden turn of events. Tyler fell down on his knees and was now staring at his palms, his eyes wide open as if he just saw a ghost.
Mirriam put her hands on his shoulders. “Hey, are you alright?” she asked him with a lot of concern.
“Where’s the boy?” he asked her, with the same terrified expression. Mirriam looked like she had brightened up but she still had doubts about it given how dazzled this man was. Edward wondered what was written in that piece of paper that shocked him so much. He noticed that it was a few feet away from Tyler, now laying on the ground. He wanted to pick it up but that would mean getting exposed even though Tyler wanted to see him now. He did not want to be caught sneaking. But it looked like his wish to read the letter was being granted as a gust now blew it into his direction, right up to his feet. It was strange because the gust was in the opposite direction of the wind in general. Edward picked the letter up and read the small, poorly written message.
So, that wasn’t convincing enough eh? Guess, you’ve actually given up everything. Man, I hate doing this but it looks like you leave me no choice.
Trisha has been looking for you. With her daughter.
Join these people and help them. Only then can you find those looking for you. They’re marked and I’m not around to mask their tracks anymore. You need to hurry.
Edward couldn’t make much of it but he did get some answers. His mother needed help with something and this man was the only one who could do it. Also, he looked like he has been hiding here for a long time and someone called Trisha is looking for him. An old friend maybe? There were even more questions in his mind but now there was more clarity than before. He crumpled the sheet in his palm as he saw Tyler, still on the ground, while Mirriam was trying to check up on him. A jolt of shock shot up in Edward’s spine as he felt a hand on his own shoulder.
“Someone’s being a creep” whispered this person.