I ran down the dark corridor of the maze for the thousandth time. I didn’t know what was attacking me, only that I had to get away. I heard my feet slapping the smooth stone of the maze and large claws scraping the same stones just seconds behind. I whipped around the corner, whatever was chasing me was right there and I had to hide. I found the door that I have seen so very many times before. I poured on the speed and threw myself into the door at the end of the hallway. The crystal-clear soldiers were pointing swords at the door again. The thing chasing me was faster than I remembered, reaching through the doorway and grasping my throat.
“You cannot have it if I can reach you little-” His voice cut off with the sharp knocking sound.
“Saxon! Get up you lazy shit!” My father, the ever pleasant drunkard, bellowed. I groaned into my pillow. School again. Rolling over, I glanced at the spot where my clock on my wall was...Only to remember my father sold it to satiate his habits.
“Might as well get ready.” I mumbled to myself. Today was actually a good day. The knights from the Kings’ Castle were making their yearly trips for recruits down in the slums; I had to impress them. If I could get one of them to see how skilled I was with their techniques, I might be able to get out of this hell-hole and away from my father. Suddenly, there wasn’t any lethargy left in me. I quickly threw on my jeans and struggled with my belt and its herb pouches. I stopped in front of my dresser and picked up the picture of my mom. She died, three years ago. Because of the King’s highest commander, Farley Ravensgate. A name I will never forget. Because of him shutting down the only hospital in the slums...She died of an infection in her chest. An infection they could have been cured. I shuddered and set the picture back down. I grabbed my best, cleanest, dress shirt and slipped it on. Walking to the door of my room, I stole a glance back at my mom.
“I love you Mom...” I closed my door behind me and walked to the front door. My father was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t care. He never loved me. In fact, he probably considered me a nuisance. I tugged my boots into place and slipped on my coat when I noticed that it was missing. My mom’s scarf. The only thing I had left that my father didn’t spoil.
“Looking for this?” Turning, I saw him standing there. Holding her white scarf.
“Give that back.” I stepped towards him.
“Why? It's silk. I could sell it for food money.” His eyes were glazed over and he reeked of his booze.
“No you wouldn’t. You’d sell it for booze.” I made a grab for it and he jerked away.
“Come on little Sax-y! Let me have the money for what I need.” He smirked at his own humor. I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped on him and just started punching,
“YOU. WILL. NOT. SELL. HER. SCARF!!” I emphasized each word with a punch. He let go and I pulled it away and quickly threw it around my neck. Not looking back on him, I walked out. Slamming the door behind me, I knew then that I wasn’t coming back. Recruitment or not, he wasn’t going to see me ever again. The door clicked open and a glass bottle sailed over my head, breaking against the stones ahead of me.
“Don’t you dare bring your worthless ass back here Saxon!” More bottles flew at me, all of them missing their mark. I bolted from my home and went to the slum’s school. The city was cramped and cold. The winter this year was going to be harsh. I shivered into my mom’s scarf and pulled my coat tighter around me.
“Smart Saxon. Smart. You don’t have a home.” I shook off my thoughts and slipped into the school. Luckily I was early, I could get warm in peace. Glancing at the clock, I noticed that there was twenty minutes until I was supposed to be in here. Naturally, I wandered around waiting for the teacher to get there and enjoy the time alone. Until I noticed that I wasn’t as alone as I thought. That new red haired kid from last week was there.
“Hey new kid!” He flinched and I regretted speaking as loudly as I had, “You know that the school doesn’t officially open to the students for another twenty minutes?” He looked up at me and then said, in what seemed like a forcefully deep voice,
“What about you then?” I shrugged. I didn’t really have an answer or any reason to explain myself. I sat next to him and he looked back at his lap. I leaned back and sighed, today was the big day.
“Hey...The knights are coming down right? That’s today?” The red haired boy asked.
“Yeah...Listen,” I looked at him hard, “Today is the only chance I have to prove myself. If I don’t get recruited today...I doubt I’ll survive the three months to the next one. If I encounter you on the battlefield today, don’t take this personally but...I will beat you within an inch of your life.” I looked down and knew that what I said was true. I wouldn’t survive this winter without being recruited.
“It’s gonna be okay. You’ll get recruited.” I looked up and stared at this kid, his dirty red hair hung in his face but his eye peeked out, gleaming with truth and determination. Kinda shocked from this sudden acknowledgement, I didn’t know what to say and stuttered a thanks.
Now a few other students started slipping into the school. I pulled my mom’s scarf up over my nose and sighed into the warmth of it. Today was going to be long.