Eagle Perfect: Legend of the First is a parody of dystopian young adult novels, in which two ‘chosen ones’ vie for the status of world-saving protagonist. New readers should start at Chapter 1, or you can consult the Table of Contents.
Chapter Five: A Twist At Cutter's Turn
Eagle had found it horrifying enough to watch Frumf jam a gold mark through the innkeeper’s eye socket, but now the old man needed the valuable coin back. He cursed as he fished blindly inside the dead man’s cranium.
“Sorry if that was disturbing,” Frumf said to Eagle, “what with you in a heightened emotional state and all. But threats are just promises no-one wants you to keep. And I keep my promises, unless I forget or don’t feel like it.”
“Then promise you’ll get me to safety,” Eagle said, making a tenuous segue so he could be the topic of conversation again.
Frumf shook his head. “Can’t do that, boy. Time channeling’s powerful magic - every Magic Knight for a hundred miles sensed what you just did. I’ll find us another inn, hotel or B&B so we can wait out the curfew, and I’ll do my best to get you to the Lyceum. But no promises.”
Eagle embarked on an internal debate, something he always found beneficial due to his large intelligence. He could stay with Frumf, go to this school-like place and learn more about his own importance. That all sounded okay, and Frumf had saved him twice. But Frumf was presently wrist-deep in a man’s skull for no good reason, and Eagle found that unsettling. Still, the alternative was to let the other Magic Knights find and torture him, and the ‘torture’ part of that clinched the argument.
Frumf retrieved the coin and polished it with his sleeve. For now, he was Eagle’s best option.
* * *
After a heavy sleep and a bowl of breakfast flakes, Eagle returned to his hessian sack for another gruelling ride. He found that the trouble with being inside a sack, apart from the stiffness, cramps, stale air, abrasions, jarring bumps, thirst, hunger and ever-mounting urge to urinate, was that it gave him too much time to reflect.
Eagle had killed a man. Not intentionally, and not in your usual ‘stick something pointy in them’ way, but he had done it. He somehow knew that this was a bad thing. But why? The killing of humans was banned by the Administration, just like novel poetry and unjustified displays of sadness, but he was now living in disobedience to the Administration. So why shouldn’t he compose a verse, or burst into tears, or kill a man? After all, Frumf had killed the innkeeper virtually on a whim, and the old man was currently the nearest thing Eagle had to a role model.
The thoughts of Coordinator Nicer reminded Eagle of the boy from the wanted poster. What was he called? Legging? Legume? Whatever his name, Eagle envied him. He had looked so vacant and simple. Surely he didn’t have to deal with complex emotions like guilt, let alone the burden of being humanity’s only hope and not really understanding why that was the case.
“Frumf, how long do you think saving humanity will take me?” Eagle shouted through the sack.
The only response was a gentle blow to his kidneys.
* * *
A biting wind rushed over Eagle as he clambered into the afternoon sun. Frumf had stopped the motor-horse beside a huge living complex comprising hundreds of identical, adjacent huts. It felt so removed from his home among hundreds of identical, adjacent farmhouses. In the distance, a narrow trail cut through a jagged mountain range. Eagle had never seen mountains, and he was glad Frumf had explained the concept or he would have screamed at their enormity.
“This is a mining camp,” Frumf explained. “Cutter’s Turn, they call it.” He pointed toward the mountains. “The Great Wall’s five miles that way. And past that, the Unsectored Lands.”
“We’re close,” Eagle observed, hearing the relief in his own voice.
“Aye,” Frumf replied. “And I know the camp superintendent. Name’s Minkrat Stoatsfield. For a gold mark, which we still have thanks to me, she’ll smuggle us into the Unsectored Lands.”
He pointed out a grey-haired woman heaving thick logs onto a horse cart. Her skin was as rough as sandpaper, so much so that the logs were polished to a smooth sheen after she touched them. Her countenance softened slightly when she saw Frumf.
“Can those brittle bones still lift a log, you ancient old idiot?” Minkrat asked Frumf. This was clearly frontier territory. The Administration had not quite eradicated the art of insult-rich banter this far from the Capital, but Minkrat probably still didn’t get much practice.
Frumf’s abusive, curse-laden reply breached several regulations but essentially meant ‘no’. He tossed Minkrat one of his many hip flasks.
“We have business,” Frumf said, indicating Eagle.
Minkrat hawked and spat into the flask and swallowed the contents, making awkward eye contact with Eagle the entire time.
“Help me with this first, you extremely aged nincompoop,” she said to Frumf, squatting behind the largest of the logs. “Then we’ll talk inside.”
Frumf unclipped his scabbard and cast it aside so he could help Minkrat. The task complete, they disappeared into the hut, insulting each other with escalating creativity.
Eagle sighed and sat on the porch, resting his chin in his hands as he watched the horses drag the cart away. He hoped Frumf and Minkrat would not be long, as he had recently spent far too much time in internal monologue and too little engaging with the outside world. Then something caught his eye.
Beneath where the cart had been, in the dirt track, he saw a faint pattern. In contrast to his slightly subpar hearing, his vision had always been excellent, so he was confident of what he saw. Motor-horse tracks. But that would mean…
“Correct,” said a strange female voice from behind him.
He turned to see her tall, pale form slide out from a conceptual hiding place in the hut’s front wall. Eagle panicked and flinched. A nearby pair of squirrels were hurled millions of years into the past, but the pale woman remained, the rays of afternoon sunlight bending around her as if in terror.
“Frumf!” Eagle cried.
On cue, Frumf was marched out at crossbow-point by six Administration guardsmen.
“Sorry, lads,” Minkrat said, trailing after them. “But she offered me half a gold mark and also offered not to kill me.”
“Eagle, meet Viper Sloen,” Frumf said. There was something about his tone that hinted at a romantic history between them—
“What? No!” Viper exclaimed. “That’s vile. We’re acquaintances, that’s all.”
She read my mind! Eagle thought, catching on much faster than other people might in a similar situation. He decided to communicate directly with her by thought, since she was no doubt busy and it would save significant time.
“I appreciate that,” Viper said. “Let me know if I can do anything in return, like give your companion an efficient death.”
Let him go, Eagle replied. It’s me everyone wants.
Viper scoffed. “Now you are wasting my time.” She nodded at the Guardsmen and they dragged Frumf around to the rear of the hut.
“No!” Minkrat fumed. “You lied to me, you weird liar! Had I known you’d kill a friend, I’d have charged twice as much!”
Minkrat rushed at Viper, trying to catch and crush her in a bearhug, but stopped with wide eyes. Of course Viper had been ready. Minkrat charged straight into a dagger.
Eagle had to act. He remembered Frumf’s sword and dove for it, picking it up, whipping it from the scabbard and rolling to his feet in one fluid motion. He had never held a sword, but somehow he wielded it with an effortless, unpractised grace. It felt so natural.
So natural that it required no thought at all. He could clear his mind completely. There was nothing left for Viper Sloen to read.
Puzzled, Viper let Minkrat fall from her dagger, drew another, and leapt down from the porch. Without thought, Eagle closed and met his opponent. Their blades arced and sang through the mountain air in a glorious contest.
I’m good at this, Eagle thought after about five seconds. He planned his next move and was promptly disarmed and kicked in the stomach.
He doubled over, winded and at Viper Sloen’s mercy. The sharp tip of her dagger pressed into his chin, lifting his face so she could look him in the eye. Eagle wondered whether torture would be as bad as everyone said.
“I’m not here to torture you,” Viper whispered with the coldest of smiles. “I’m here to employ you.”