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Chapter 38



There was an indescribable mass of people in front of him, nearly all were completely featureless, all but three. Three led the mob that had pinned him in. One punched him. His face was horrid, scarred, torn, patched hair. Derrl was shaking vigorously. He was doubled up from the pain of the blow. He could not focus on anything properly. Only one thing pierced his perceptions: a vulgar voice demanding something from him. He did not hear all of it.

"I want yer boots. Give 'em to me. Now!" was all he heard. Suddenly he was lying in snow. He seemed to recall having done this all before. He was bruised and cut, barely fourteen, but with a build of almost an adult. He had lain there for some time, the blood from the cuts had stopped flowing, largely due to the fact that it had frozen in place. His nose had been broken, and his leg as well, though not shattered. He had been mugged, mugged for his boots, because some poor bastard had thought that he could get some money for them. He lay there stunned, feet completely blue and numb. He had been in pain, but the cold was so intense that it soon relieved him of that burden by numbing all sensation. He would soon give up, and give himself into the cold. As his sight faded, he saw a light go past the end of the alley. It disappeared, then reappeared briefly before he lost all sight. Unconsciousness overtook him.

The intense pain brought him back to consciousness. A healer was setting his leg so that it would heal, but that was not the cause of his pain. The searing pain that wracked his frame was from his feet. The numbness no longer shielded him. The sheer pain from his frostbitten limbs was overwhelming. Staggering, the pain shot through him as the blood began to flow through extremities deprived of blood by being frozen. His vision cleared, and as the pain sharpened he saw that it wasn't a healer, it was the cobbler. He was the closest thing that they had to a healer. Not much of a healer, but he was what there was. In the corner, a figure was seated. He could not make out the face, but he could see a sword leaning against the wall in its leather scabbard. The cobbler he finished setting his leg and was splinting his leg so that it would not move.

Through teeth clenched in pain he managed to spit out 6 words, punctuated by gasps of pain at intervals. "I… need…gasp… a pair… AH!… of boots!" The look of fear and pain on his face concerned the quasi-healer.

"Look, you can't put boots on those feet. You'll never be able to with the pain, and you're not going anywhere." He couldn't understand the child's need for boots.

"Please!… I need boots!" He said through clenched teeth, "I need… them."

The figure in the chair spoke. "Just get him a pair of boots. The trauma is too much. He can't handle this. Give him what he wants." The cobbler nodded, left and returned with a pair of boots and placed them on a table near the head of the bed on which Derrl rested. Derrl mumbled a relieved "Thank …you!" and succumbed to unconsciousness once again.

His eyes opened to see the mob, still led by those three figures. The one who had struck him advanced.

"Gimme yer boots now!" He punched Derrl once more, felling him. He rained blow after blow on him, as Derrl curled into a ball, drawing in upon himself. He was mumbling something or other under his breath.

"…My boots… they're my boots… boots… not getting them… no… no…." He rocked back and forth as he hugged himself. His mind began to race as it searched for a way to protect him. As the other two thugs joined in to help get his boots, all he could say was "no…no...no no…no! my boots…" As one of the brutes reached for his boots, the stricken mage's mind hit one rune, and as it did, his eyes flashed open. His mouth opened. Protected by the rune, his voice now amplified by magical sources, he stood, eyes blazing. "THEY'RE MY BOOTS!" The sheer volume of sound staggered the three, and the mob disappeared from Derrl's sight. Only three muggers were in his sight now. His mind struck a rune once more. He screamed, unleashing the power of the rune. "MY BOOTS!" The violence of the rune hurled the three out of the alley with such force that one had a split skull when he hit the cobblestone street and another had a broken neck. All were unconscious. He couldn't handle himself. His mind still raced. As it struck another rune, he crumpled to the floor, huddling in a corner of the shed behind the Pint, rocking himself, and humming tunelessly.

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