While the two women were making their escape with the aid of their friend and his canine companion, the man whose appearance in town made flight necessary, stood in the smoldering wreckage of their shop. He was holding in his hand the burnt shell of the now empty cash box. His eyes had intensified to a deep purple and many of the onlookers were convinced that there was more smoke coming from his ears than from what remained of the building.
When he had arrived, he was convinced that power was almost in his grasp. After years of searching, and after the torture of many, he was finally in a position to remove the only obstacle that stood between him and total rule over this whole, miserable land, namely his idiot brother’s brat. So long as rumours of her survival continued, his claim to the throne of Gildamoor would be undermined.
His investigations had led to this place. A pathetically small, village of imbecilic peasants; finding her amongst these cretins would be simple. Her superior breeding alone would make her stand out beside these wretches. No doubt, wherever the girl was hiding, the amulet would be nearby. Once he had eliminated her, and seized the amulet, his claim to the throne would be unchallenged.
While he did not believe the superstitious nonsense surrounding the amulet, the people were clearly convinced that its owner possessed great power, and would follow that person unquestioningly. He was not above exploiting such folk lore if it got him what he wanted.
He had arrived in Murpodompous, in the flashiest H.O.R.S.E. that he owned. He believed that a demonstration of his incredible wealth, and superiority would make these people more amenable to his wishes. He was not disappointed the ‘Oohs and the Aahs’ and the gawping of the town populace had been satisfying. Then as he searched the faces of the crowd amassed around him, he spotted what he was after. The girl.
Of course, that was when everything went wrong.
He had only caught a glimpse of her, but in the time it took for him to register what he saw, and look back again. She was gone. He tried to see where she might have gone, but the wall of people surrounding him obscured his view. He started slashing at the crowd with his walking stick, trying to clear a path for himself. Fortunately, he only had to beat a couple before the rest started to cower and move out of his way. He waded through the throng toward the direction he had seen her. She can’t have gone far.
But no. Even with the threat of force, the people were still slow to move. By the time he made it through, his quay had disappeared. He looked around the Town Square; assorted shops and business ringed it. She had to be in one of these. But, which one? How to find it before she could slip through his net?
By now his driver had come to his side. He turned to the tattooed chauffeur and simply said,
The man with the tattoos needed no further prompting. He withdrew a long, silver plated pistol from a holster at his waist, and fired a shot into the air. The crowd fell silent.
“Listen here, you arseholes! We’re looking for a girl. About this tall, “he indicated with his hand, “She’d be about eighteen. Black hair. Now, you lot just tell us where she is and nobody gets hurt. All right!”
The crowd remained silent. They stared at the two men. Clearly frightened, but defiant too.
“We’re not going to wait all day. Where is she?”
Still there is silence, until there was a shriek of pain.
The other man, the one in charge had grabbed the nearest child. A six-year-old girl named Dorothy. He was crushing her against his chest, and was holding the blade of an elaborately carved knife to her throat. A droplet of blood was slowly sliding down her cheek, from where he had just cut her.
He looked at them, his violet eyes narrowed and like pieces of ice. In a quiet, clear and menacing voice he said,
“It’s up to you. Either you give me what I want. Or I gut each of your children, starting with this one.” He pressed the tip of the blade into her neck, so that more blood appeared.
The people of the town were brave. They had sworn to protect the girl and her secret, when she and her parents had arrived all those years ago. This was their own children at risk now. Were they prepared to sacrifice their children for the sake of someone else’s? The answer, was no.
They directed the man and his servant to the dressmaker’s shop across the Square.
He dropped the child to the ground. The two men then ran across the Square to the shop. The man entered the shop; he was not surprised to find it empty. No doubt, the girl had gone upstairs. He had become impatient for this to be over. He had learned that one of the best ways to get people to leave a building, of their own volition, was by setting fire to it. He picked up a piece of cloth. Taking out a hip flask from his coat, he poured liquor over the material. Then with his cigarette lighter, he set it alight. He then threw the whole thing into a pile of rags by the counter, and ran.
With so much flammable material, it didn’t take long for entire ground floor to catch fire. The man and his driver, stood in the Square looking at the upstairs window waiting for the girl to come to the window, begging for rescue.
The town’s people had gathered to watch the fire, while those that formed the volunteer fire brigade ran to get their equipment.
They still waited.
The flame has started to overcome the living quarters upstairs. But, still she did not appear at the window.
A rumbling sound came from across the Square. It was the fire brigade pushing their wagon toward the burning building. The flames now engulfed the entire building; the fire was threatening the buildings on either side.
Where was she? There was still no sign. Aside from the roar of the flames, there should have been screams come from the upstairs. But there was no sign that anything human was in any kind of distress. The penny dropped. She wasn’t there.
He whipped around to glare at the town’s people, his nostrils flaring, and eyes turning purple, as they always did when he was in a fury.
“Where is she?!?!?!?”
He looked to for a child to throttle. He didn’t really care about getting information at this point he just wanted to hurt something. However, in the commotion the town’s people had quietly gathered all the children and sent them with the school’s governess to hide. So, the best he could find was a ruddy, faced man with dirty, blonde hair.
He wrapped his fingers around the man’s throat. Looking into the man’s eyes, which were huge and looking at him in panic, he said to the man, his voice soft,
“Where…is… the girl?” His fingers began to tighten. The smell of shit began to permeate through the air.
“Wha..wha..wha.. what girl?” The man cried.
Unfortunately, the man he had grabbed was the town idiot. He was genuinely unable to answer the question, even if he wanted to, and he really wanted to, as the fingered became tighter and tighter, until he passed out.
He let the man’s body fall to the ground. Stepping over him, he turned to his driver and said,
“Sort this mess out would you. I’ll be waiting in the car.” He then proceeded to the vehicle, climbing into the back seat.
Sometime later, in the hours before dawn, his manservant knocked on the window, waking him.
“The fire is out Sir.”
“And the girl… was she…was she in there?” He knew the answer, but still held his breath, holding out hope.
“No, Sir. I’ve search the rest of the town. She’s gone Sir.”
The man let out a scream of frustration, and started banging his head on the seat in front of him. Once he had calmed down, he slowly got out of the car.
“No matter. We found her once, we shall do so again. Let’s see if they left any clues behind shall we.”
But, it wasn’t clues he was looking for, he was hoping that in her rush to escape, she had left behind the amulet.
The fire was mostly out now. While the outside shell of the building was largely intact, the inside was guttered, and the first floor had come down. He began to pick his way through the debris. His keen eyesight searching until he saw it. A box. An average, non-descript metal box, with a label that claimed that it once contained biscuits. The box was blacked, but not completely destroyed. He knew he had found the secret hiding place. He could feel power coming from the box, only faint, but there just the same.
He bent to pick it up. Gingerly, he opened it; he was not one hundred percent certain how the amulet would react to his touch. That he was blood kin meant that the amulet should know him, but while the heir remained alive, it might still reject him. The lid came open. He stared in horror. It was empty. All the remained was the residual glow from where it had been.