Scars of a Lonely Man

The door to the hallway softly clicked shut. Dayen placed steady hands against it and drew in the air around him. Trouble would come. Best be prepared.

“I never seen anyone fight like that before.” The breathless voice of the young woman he just rescued floated through the air, breaking the silence as he listened through the door for stomping feet. Most mages would seal the door with Earth, but no one would compare Dayen the Bastard to the likeness of other mages. Air was so much more efficient. Undetectable. Easier to break in an emergency.

“That was brave,” she gushed. “And you were so fast! Those men never saw you coming!”

His dark eyes tilted over his broad shoulders, taking her in. The deep hood of his black cloak kept his face mostly masked in shadows, but that dangerous glint was still hard to miss. The lantern on the table suddenly blossomed, reflecting light over the polished darkwood walls of the room.

“Keep your voice down,” he hissed. His movements were brisk as he stripped off the cloak and coat, dropping them onto the bed. The twisting, burning pain of torn flesh curled the corner of his mouth as he unfastened his knife harness and pulled his shirt up. Someone managed to get a knife in him. Not an easy feat.

“You’re wounded!” The young woman’s big brown eyes widened when she saw the blood. “I can fix you.”

Dayen’s withering look Dayen made her flinch.

“I can handle this.” His words were as sharp as his knives. “Get me the flask in my coat. Inside middle left pocket.” Remembering the poisoned knife there, he looked at her. “Be careful of the top pocket.”

While she did as told, Dayen stripped out of the bloody shirt. A clean and stitch and it would be fine. He could always steal a new one later.

“I’m Chloe, by the way,” she said, offering flask to him. Dayen tore a strip of cloth from the inn’s bed linens without comment, wet it down with the whiskey, then applied it to the wound. His teeth ground together so hard his head throbbed. A growl rolled out from deep in his throat.

Dayen was very aware of how exposed he was. More than a hundred years worth of such scars marred Dayen’s flesh. Chains, knives, arrows; any weapon man could hold in his angry hands laid badges of passing on his flesh. His neck and face were all that remained untouched, perhaps by some small mercy of whatever god remained in this forsaken world. The whip marks were mostly courtesy of his human father, who had loved his mother far more than him even after her death. He learned a lot from his father: that trust was an illusion for the weak; that the shadows were his friend; that it was better to be alone. Company was a matter of convenience.

Eager to cover the scars, feeling Chloe’s eyes inspecting each intricate web of the pattern, Dayen pulled the cloth away from the wound and pressed his palm against it. His dark eyes fixed on the flames of the bedside lantern. No time to stitch it up pretty. Not that it mattered. Just another scar, he thought. His free hand clenched the sheet in a fist as he pulled Fire into him, using magic to cauterize the wound. A whimpering cry leaked into the room and faded. Dayen realized it was his own. Eyes closed tight, he took several deep breaths to center himself. Cool. Collected. Distractions were costly.

“Who done that to you?” Chloe’s voice was tinged with pity. Dayen hated pity.

“Everyone.” He started dressing himself again. The shirt could be cleaned and mended later. Every movement made the still searing wound burn anew, but pain was nothing new. It was an old friend.

Chloe tried to speak but was cut off by a sharp gesture as Dayen moved toward the window, peering into the darkness. He needed to assess the situation, find out if he had time to move before more men came.

Moving in the dark was easy for him, like soft ripples across the surface of a lake at night, only visible when the moonlight hit them just right. This was how he traveled. A ripple in shadow. Chloe was safe for now, but he wasn’t. There was no safe haven in this forsaken world for a bastard like him.

She seemed to realize he was about to leave. Her thin fingers wrapped around his arm. Large, round eyes gazed up at him. He knew that look. Desperation. Next she would beg. He hated beggars. The same people who begged for his help in the darkness of night condemned his evil ways in the light of day. They were all hypocrites.

“I go alone.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand off. Despite the urgency in his tone, there was a tenderness to the way he touched her.

“But you must be lonely,” she said. “Let me come with you.”

Long lashes fluttered up at him. Dayen had to admit, looking at those juicy lips and rolling hips he was terribly tempted to stay. One night wouldn’t hurt anything, would it? Except that they would be looking for him. Those men he rescued her from would seek him out for revenge. He killed at least two of them tonight. Possibly three. Staying was too dangerous. By morning he would be dragged into the street to receive a new set of scars for tonight’s offense. She was tempting, but not worth the trouble.

Dayen slid into his coat. “Women slow me down. I don’t know what you heard about me, but there’s one truth. In this world there is only one thing that matters to me.” He fastened his cloak and pulled up the hood. “Me. I would abandon you if you slowed me down. Then men like those would close in on your again. You want advice? Get outta town or they will come looking for you tomorrow night.” Dayen would admit to himself that sometimes he was lonely, but he could find company when he wanted it. “I prefer to be alone.”

“I don’t believe you,” she said. Despite how meek Chloe was before, the doe-like look in her big eyes was set off by the way she placed her hands on her hips. “If you didn’t care about anyone else you wouldn’t have bothered saving me from those men tonight.”

“You misunderstand me.” He opened the door. The Air spell that sealed it dissolved at his touch. “I don’t like seeing what I saw tonight, but that doesn’t mean I give a shit about you. Stay away from me. You’re better off.”

Dayen disappeared into the hallway, moving through the shadows before she could say anything more. With any luck he could reach Homlyn and complete his job without drawing attention. He knew what he was leaving in this town come morning. More rumors of his unlawful disregard and immorality. The reputation followed him everywhere he went. It helped him find work, even if it meant hiding in plain sight.

Dayen could feel those big eyes seeking him out in the darkness. It had to be this way. For himself and her.

Star Grey

Character Assassin at Star Grey Fantasy
Star Grey is a Wisconsin native with a strong love of all things fantasy. You may have heard of her as the Character Assassin. In addition to short stories, Star is writing a 3 book YA series, and is worldbuilding for an epic fantasy series and a historical fantasy series. You can follow Star on her website, or social media pages.

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