Equilibrium

Equilibrium

This is for the writing contest. Comments and rates are appreciated. :)

Chapter 1

Demise

Nicholas Deverham walked along the cobblestone streets, his hands behind his back and his head held high, just like any other man of his stature. He enjoyed his morning walks with his best friend and squire, Luke. The red haired young man was always by Nicholas' side, and it was on very rare occasions that the two were seen apart.

"Squire, it is impolite to stare at a lady that way," Nicholas said, laughing at his drooling companion.

"You're one to talk." Luke averted his eyes from the blushing girl. The squire shook his head and let out a soft chuckle. "Where are we going again?"

"Father asked us to collect the Hull widow's rent."

"Why us?" Luke complained. "It's still early in the morning!"

Nicholas laughed. "How did you ever become a squire?"

Luke smiled. "I'm one of the lucky ones."

*
It was high noon by the time the pair reached their destination. Exhausted, Nicholas and Luke stood outside the old cruck house on the edge of town.

"Open the door!" Nicholas commanded.

"Who is it?" a small voice asked from inside.

"Master Nicholas Graham Lennser Williamson Deverham, son of Duke Graham Lennser Williamson Deverham of North Medallonia," Luke said. "We are here to collect your dues."

The makeshift door creaked open, and an old woman stepped out, cringing as the sun rays made contact with her eyes. "Have I not paid already?" the woman asked, wrapping her tattered cloak tightly around her.

"No, you haven't, ma'am," Nicholas replied.

"Are you sure?"

Luke nodded.

The woman's head dropped sadly as she made her way back into the house. She came back out with a coin sack in hand. "The land is barren, as you can see, and the rains haven't come for months. I barely survive on what I grow. Please give me more time and I shall pay what I owe."

"You know what happens to those who do not pay," Nicholas said to her, his voice bearing a warning tone.

"I do," she said, bowing her head. "But I also know that you, Master Nicholas, are known for your daring nature. You never say no to a challenge." She raised her head, and smiled wryly. "How about we strike a deal?"

The squire's hand moved to his sword, and slightly drew it. "Watch your tone, woman."

Nicholas, intrigued by the mysterious woman's offer, nodded.

"Nicholas-"

"Good," she said.

"What are your terms, widow?" he asked.

"If you win, I'll pay you my dues . . . and give you my land as a bonus."

"And what if he loses?" Luke asked, his sword fully drawn by then.

"I take his body and make it my own," she said with a smile.

"Deal."

"No, no deal," Luke said. "Nicholas, I have seen these kinds of women, and they are nothing but bad news."

"She's just an old woman."

"And those are the worst. Do you really want people knowing that you battled and killed an old woman just because of your silly pride?"

"Young squire," the woman said, tossing the coin sack from one hand to another, "I believe it would be best if you kept quiet and let the boy think for himself."

"Give her your sword," Nicholas ordered.

"But-"

"Do not make me repeat myself, squire," he warned. Luke reluctantly gave the weapon to the woman who held it weakly with both arms.

"These are heavier than they look." She began to raise it and examine the blade. "Fine workmanship. I haven't seen one of these in ages."

"Nicholas, don't do this," Luke warned. "She is one of them." The woman raised the sword and, with incredible speed, stroke him dead. Luke fell to the ground, where he lay in a pool of fresh blood.

Nicholas immediately drew his sword and took a step back.

With the same speed, the woman raised the bloody sword and, drove it into his chest. The young man's body went into shock. His fingers numbly felt the warm blood pouring out of him. A crippling wave of pain shot through him as he fell to the ground, his limbs too weak to get up.

"You can't," he said weakly.

The woman knelt beside his motionless body and ran her hand through his dark hair. "Hush, child," she said to him. "You are mine now."

The world darkened, nature was silenced and the eyes of Nicholas Deverham were closed forever.

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