His legs were sore and he was frazzled, weary after the three day trek towards Castle Town. He came in over the drawbridge and the soldier standing guard by the left wall raised an eyebrow. He looked terrible. His breathing was labored from his desperate attempt to get to the marketplace before night fell again. He was not sleeping outside again. If you can call the past two nights sleep worthy. That first night…
He shuddered thinking of it. The way the ground had exploded from almost under his feet. The sight of those beady, red eyes. The way the skeletal, foul-smelling bodies jerked with uncoordinated movements. There were dark rings of exhaustion under his eyes and his blond hair was matted to his forehead with sweat. He leaned against the wall for a second, trying not to burst from relief. The guard looked away, once again disinterested. He turned and saw the small guard shack, the wooden door tempting.
He straightened and headed for the door, throwing a wayward glance back at the soldier who continued to ignore him. He pulled open the door and inside was an empty room with another soldier standing at the end. The door closed shut behind him. Strewn all over the floor were crates and ceramic pots. He was about to walk out again when a voice spoke out.
“That’s a nice little sword you got there, kid.” He turned again and looked quizzically at the guard. The guard was staring at him with veiled interest. “Pretty handy craftsmanship. Yup, yup, yup. You could really do some damage with that thing.”
He shrugged, still confused. What was this man getting at?
“Yup,” the guard repeated, sighing. “I’m stuck in this little room, bored out of my mind with all these pots.” He paused and looked at the boy again. “All these big, breakable pots. Really boring. Sometimes, it’d be nice for a little excitement. And that sword looks like it handles well. Besides, who knows what is in these pots?”
He suddenly understood the hidden desire and pulled his sword from its sheath on his back. Swinging it in a nice, even arc he connected with the first pot and it exploded in a flurry of clay-dust and broken tile. The guard’s eyes widened with a devilish glint and a devious smirk curled his lips. The boy fed off the energy and continued swinging his sword gracefully, easily. Every once in a while, a couple of spare rupees would fall to the floor, but he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to pick them up. At the end, when the dust settled to the floor, he put his sword back in his sheath.
It had been an odd exercise, but the guard gave an audible sigh of what sounded like relief and satisfaction. He turned to go again.
“Wait, aren’t you going to take your money? You earned it.”
He hesitated only a second before collecting the rupees that were littered on the floor. At the end of it all, there was about thirty rupees in his small wallet. He grinned a thanks, suddenly and unexpectedly refueled, and sprinted out the room. The outside gave him one more confused, sidelong glance, then ignored him once more. Finally, he turned and headed out into the busy, surprisingly loud marketplace.