“Come-along, come-along down to the courtyard; Come-along back where it all began,” a deep baritone voice bounced off the narrow alleyway’s brick walls. But the man, hands deep into his coat’s pockets, was barely registrable over the ruckus from the crowded establishments of Cod Row. It was a seedy district, particularly at night it would seem, but perfect for those who wanted to forget or not be remembered. “Back where they strung up the bard; After all, some truths can never be spoke. Shush now, shush now, don’t fret, my dear; Come-along back where it all began, dear; Words are dangerous things but have no fear; Some truths must be–”
He ceased his song as feet displaced the wet stones behind him. Shink! A sharp object pierced his coat, just to his skin before it stopped. Ah, so this is personal, Alvar thought. Looking out the corner of his eye, there was nothing to go on; his “friend” remained shrouded in darkness just out of his peripheral vision. He didn’t speak. No, it wasn’t his turn, and he was never one to give into the whims of people who would put a knife in his back. They were usually jumpy, too–and he only seemed to provoke.
“Dreary horse piss that,” the voice of an old acquaintance said. The man then spat off to the side. “How you been, Alvar? Gotta say, I’m surprised you aren’t strung up yourself after Aldonske.”
Ah… “Small miracles, Villi.” Alvar smirked. “Made it through the net, you know.”
“You’re so good at that, ain’t that right?” The sharp point broke skin. “Just wriggle, wriggle, and land on your feet like a damn cat. Always landin’ on your damn feet.” Villi stepped closer and clapped his hand on Alvar’s shoulder rather hard. “But gotta give credit, where credit’s due. You are a hard worm to find. And it’s impressive for you: You’re a walkin’ disaster.”
Alvar tilted his head toward the fingers that had ensnared his shoulder like a vise, and as he did so, he could feel Villi’s breath against his skin. You’ve made it too personal, he mused. So many mistakes. Clearing his throat, Alvar said, “I’ve given up that life, completely cut ties. I’m making amends–”
Villi’s cackling interrupted him. “This–this is too rich. You, you of all people-”
“Why do people always have that reaction?” Alvar shifted his weight; it went unnoticed. “I am trying. No accidental deaths, no starting unattended fires, no mayhem–no, just helping out here and there, all sorts of odd jobs. But sometimes–” his frame tensed in preparation. “Unfortunate things just happen around me.”
His elbow shot backwards, nailing Villi high in the ribs. He spun. Distance separated him from the knife and also allowed him to land a punch to the smaller man’s face. Villi staggered, knife still clenched in his hand. The word bastard barely registered with Alvar as he moved. Have to keep him off-balance. It was a mantra ringing in his head. Villi was fast; he used his small stature to his advantage. The knife came close to Alvar’s throat, but he contorted his body to avoid it and ended up swinging around Villi. He kicked hard, sending his attacker into a brick wall.
“You are dead, Alvar–a dead man!” He threw rocks at him before launching himself at Alvar. “All those years in Dersco… all I could think was watching the blood drain from your face!”
Alvar dodged the sloppy move. “Then you should have stabbed me in the back rather than let your emotions get the best of you.” Grabbing Villi’s arm as the man came at him again, Alvar slammed him into the ground, coming down heavy on the man’s back to bar any further resistance. The knife had clattered to the ground at some point during the struggle. “I’m not eager to die; I wasn’t just going to stand there for the Sisters’ sakes!” He ground his knee into Villi’s back. “Five years in Dersco isn’t enough to lose your mind. And you being there, really wasn’t my problem. You made your own mess, and you paid for it. Move on, leave me alone and li–”
A gurgling sound emitted below him, a very familiar sound… “Shit.” Alvar stood immediately and rolled Villi onto his back. The knife dislodged from where his sternum ended, the fabric in the area of wound darkening visibly despite the absence of light. His would-be killer just gurgled; there really was nothing else he could do as the blood pooled inside him. The knife had gone in deep. How had it gone in that deep? Alvar truly had the worst of luck. The gurgling quieted as Alvar tried to stem the flow of blood using his already ruined coat. And now he had a corpse.
Throwing his blood soaked coat against the wall, Alvar began to pace. His arms were trembling. Always trembling. Aldonske had really ruined him, just as the Schattern had said. He could just walk away, the city guards would never find him. No, he was still too good for that to happen, and city guards were usually pathetic at best. He looked down at Villi. They had never been friends, just means to an end– not to this end. They had never–or at least he hadn’t–saw this end coming. Clenching his eyes shut, Alvar forced himself to stop all movement, except the trembling, nothing could stop that. Blue eyes sprang to his mind, judging him up to the very moment he had stopped them. He banished the thought.
Instead, routes, which he had memorized upon his arrival to Kairolski, vividly appeared behind his closed eyelids, all leading to one point. He retrieved his coat and draped it over and behind Villi’s head before he lifted the very still form. It wouldn’t be long–about three to four hours–before he would go stiff. Gotta hurry, Alvar decided beginning on one of the routes, carrying Villi as one might drag home a drunken friend. He would see he got a decent burial. He started down the alleyway, becoming fully encased by the darkness. It would more than likely come back to bite him–it always did.
Copyright Sarah Wright, 2014