Wings of Paper - Chapter 12

Wings of Paper - Chapter 12

A Chapter by A.L.

The Protector's Past


My mind was fuzzy but I was still clearly awake. I felt around myself, the world still plunged into the inky blackness. Had Sammy somehow made me go blind? It was unlikely, but still a possibility. Elves were truly magnificent creatures. 

What felt like eons later my vision cleared enough for me to make out a few blurry shapes. Trees sprouted from the ground around me, springing into the air and erupting into leafy towers. Pine needles crunched beneath my feet and the smell of the forest hit me straight on. 

Tension boiled in my chest, rising to my shoulders. This was not the same forest I had been in moments ago. 

I felt a presence beside me and reached for my sword but a small hand wrapped around my wrist. I looked up to find Sammy’s earnest gaze meeting mine. “It’s all okay, Luke. Just don’t freak out.” 

Rich words from the master overreactor. 

“What is going on?” I asked, my voice reedy with panic. 

A thought struck me, one terrible and horrible and possibly true. I met Sammy’s eyes again. “You’re in league with Dee, aren’t you?” 

Sammy’s brow knit together. “You can’t be serious?” he laughed. “Luke, if I was in league with Dee do you think I would’ve spent all this time protecting Sadie?” He made a good point. 

Maybe I was actually overreacting. 

“Where are we?” I asked, not apologizing for the accusation. I couldn’t be sure of anything anymore, even my friend’s loyalties. 

Sammy sighed. “Hiro has his dizzy spells, right? And Kenzie can’t read minds easily. Well for me, I get flashbacks. I was born in the outskirts of our kingdom, so the Darkness would hit me before Sadie. I get these every time I sleep - they started the day our van broke down. And sometimes they hit me when I’m not expecting them, like now. But I’ve never shared them with anyone either.” 

It made sense, but why wasn’t anything happening? I voiced the question to Sammy. 

“They take a moment to start. I think this is my first day of guard training,” he explained. “Don’t move, though. The people can’t see us, or at least they haven’t seen me in the past.” 

I wondered to myself how many times Sammy faced this before. 

“Are the memories… bad?” I silently cursed myself for not keeping my mouth shut. But curiosity was overriding all of my rational thoughts. 

Sammy shrugged, I could tell he didn’t want to talk about it. “Sometimes.” 

I heard footsteps approaching and froze before I could do something stupid. A large group of boys appeared in front of us, and they slowed to a stop, panting from their run. A man with a bushy mustache appeared behind them. 

The boys formed a line as rigid as a board, all straightening as to not appear tired. 

All of them except for one. 

He was probably the youngest of the group, his hair dark and his eyes like liquid chocolate. He looked to be about six at the oldest, whereas the others looked to be about ten. The young boy was out of line, keeled over in an attempt to catch his breath. 

Mustache-Man frowned at him, stepping close to the boy. “Samson, are you unable to catch your breath?” The question was simple yet complex. 

The boy met Mustache’s eyes. “Nope, after a ten mile run I’m perfectly fine.” 

“Step into line,” Mustache ordered, ignoring the boy’s remarks. 

The boy - Samson - smirked, shaking his head. “No.” 

Mustache sighed. “Samson, I let you stay here when you’re far too young. I accepted you into my program. I let you compete with the other boys. Have some respect.” 

Samson didn’t move, although he did straighten up, though his head barely reached Mustache’s torso. I had already made the connection that this boy was Sammy, but I didn’t know why he was so sarcastic. The Sammy standing beside me was serious, he almost never laughed. 

This younger Samson seemed carefree. He wasn’t burdened with the constant thought to protect Sadie at all costs. 

Samson still didn’t talk. And the Mustache dude drew a sword. I held my breath, waiting for the man to strike down the boy. The man grabbed Samson’s arm and held it out, preparing to slash his skin in retaliation. 

Before I could register what was happening, Samson whipped a knife out of his belt, slamming it against the blade of the sword and knocking it away. He pointed the blade at Mustache’s neck. The man’s face was swelling with anger, turning shades of purple and red from anger. 

“What do you think you’re doing?” one of the boys stepped out of line, shoving Samson aside. The smaller boy almost dropped the knife as he fell to the ground. The older boy kicked Samson in the side, making the boy curl up in pain. 

“Enough, Tedros,” Mustache ordered. “Stand down.” 

“The Runt threatened you,” Tedros argued as Samson crawled to his feet. “Surely you won’t tolerate that.” 

Mustache pushed Tedros’s shoulders and forced him back into the line. “I will handle this.” His voice was firm as he turned towards Samson, the boy picking pine needles off of his shirt. 

Mustache didn’t hesitate, he slammed his fist into Samson’s face. Blood spurted from the boy’s nose leaking down his lip. But he didn’t cry or retaliate. He simply stared at Mustache. 

Tedros laughed. “I think you’ll need to hit him a few more times if you want him to learn his lesson.” Sammy tensed beside me, but he didn’t move so I remained still. It was probably weird to watch his younger self get harmed. 

“I have a better idea,” Mustache smirked. “The boy stole a knife from the armory, surely he can fight with it.” 

Some of the boys let out whoops and they spread out, forming a ring around Mustache and Samson. Mustache tossed his sword aside, which Tedros grabbed and held above his head. Mustache drew a knife from his coat, his eyes never leaving Samson. 

The younger boy was nursing his wound. He wiped at his face with a scrubby sleeve, his face emotionless when he saw the blood. 

Mustache lunged and my heart leapt into my throat when Samson made no move. 

Then at the last second, Samson flung himself aside, ducking into a roll and leaping to his feet. He didn’t wait for Mustache to recover, he jumped at the man with his knife poised for attack. 

Mustache was outraged to have been outsmarted and he grabbed Samson’s shirt with one hand, holding the boy upright. Samson didn’t complain, nor did he show any sign of what he was thinking. Mustache dropped his knife and slapped Samson across the face. Tears well up in the boy’s eyes, prompting laughs from the surrounding bullies. 

My fists clenched and Sammy grabbed my arm, reminding me that this was the past. I could do nothing about it. 

“Please, sir, it won’t happen again,” Samson pleaded. His voice broke my heart. 

Mustache was not affected. “You bet it won’t. See to it.” He dropped the boy to the ground where Samson curled into a ball. 

A flash of movement caught my eyes and Mustache gripped his ankles, surprised to find they were bleeding. Red dripped off of Samson’s blade as the boy stood. He wiped the blade on his shirt. 

Mustache glared at the boy, unable to walk or even stand at the moment. He leaned against a tree for support, the other boys exchanging looks and whispers. 

“A proper bodyguard would never lose so easily,” Samson said, his voice strong and determined. “If he knew that the opposition was stronger than him he would beg for mercy and attack when retaliation would be unexpected. Here, let me help.” 

Samson bent at Mustache’s ankles, pulling bandages from hidden pockets. He wrapped the man’s wounds, applying a paste of leaves to the skin. 

Mustache seemed impressed. The other boys seemed upset. 

Tedros was still gripping Mustache’s sword, and he glanced at the other boys before bringing down the flat of the blade on Samson’s head. The scene went dark and began to shift. 

“They really hated you,” I said, unsure of why. 

Sammy shrugged. “I had just barely made it into the class, and only because my mother sold herself into slavery for enough gold for me to take it. The other boys were jealous that I had gotten in at an early age and they did everything they could to keep me from succeeding.” 

“What happened to them?” I asked. 

Sammy shrugged again. “I presume they went to the academy and began as soldiers, but by now they’re probably consumed by the Darkness.” 

He held no remorse and no desire for more conversation. 

The air finally settled and I recognized our place in a courtyard. King Orion stood erect between two blossoming trees, his posture rigid and his auburn beard trimmed to perfection. Beside him was a tiny girl, maybe six, blonde ringlets cascading to her waist. She was wearing a deep violet dress, the sash tied loosely. 

A row of boys identical to the one from the previous vision stood across from King Orion. Each one showed no emotion, their sapphire uniforms were impeccable. One of them was shorter than the rest by nearly a foot. Samson. 

“This is the day I was chosen to be the princess’s protector,” Sammy whispered to me. 

King Orion was inspecting each boy closely with his eyes, scanning them. Mustache stood at the end of the line. “Your highness, may I present to you the boys I have handpicked for your guard.” 

King Orion nodded. “Yes, yes,” he muttered absentmindedly. “The short one - is he your idea of a joke?” 

Mustache sputtered. “I never joke, highness.” He scanned the line, his eyes falling on Samson. A scowl appeared on his face. “This boy was not supposed to be here. I can escort him out.” Mustache started for Samson’s shoulders, but the king held up a hand. 

“He holds his frame like a guard should,” King Orion said. “Let him stay with the others.” 

“Samson is a naughty little boy, he is surely not worthy of such a high position,” Mustache protested, but he was silenced by a glare from King Orion. “I suppose there’s no harm in letting him stay.” 

“Good. The princess herself can be a naughty girl,” King Orion laughed, placing a hand on Sadie’s head and tousling her curls. Sadie pushed his hand off, rolling her eyes. 

“They can all fight,” Mustache explained. “They’ve had extensive sword training. All Elvish as well, they have talents that could be useful in holding the witches at bay. They can track, and they’re willing to be loyal entirely to the princess.” 

King Orion thought for a second. “I assume they all have a similar level of skills, and I believe the most important test is compatibility with Sadie herself.” 

“Emotional attachment can hinder the protective process,” Mustache began, but the king shushed him. 

Sadie stepped forward, her eyes creeping along the rows of boys. 

“Pick out three, darling,” King Orion ordered. Sadie nodded, though she was more focused on the boys themselves now. 

She paced back and forth a few times. “This one,” she pointed to a dark-skinned boy with feminine features and large muscles. “This one,” she pointed at Tedros. She tapped her lips, carefully inspecting each person before stopping in front of Samson. “And this one - he is … interesting.” 

The three chosen boys stepped forward at Sadie’s command and the girl fell back to her position beside her father. 

“Persuade the princess to choose you,” King Orion said. Sadie stepped away from her father so the boys could speak to her separately. 

The dark-skinned boy fainted on the spot and Sadie frowned. Mustache blushed, his face turning the shade of an eggplant. A few boys stepped out of line to drag the dark-skinned boy away. 

Tedros ignored this, stepping forward and bending down on one knee. He grabbed Sadie’s hand and placed a kiss on her delicate wrist. “I will keep you safe,” he promised. “Your life is more important than mine, after all.” He stood straight, dropping Sadie’s hands. “You will be safe as my charge.” Sadie giggled as Tedros stepped back into place, a smug grin on his face. 

Samson stepped forward. I wondered what he could possibly do to make Sadie choose him. Of course, I already knew how this went. Sadie would choose Samson. But why? 

Samson stepped forward. Surprisingly, he removed a knife from his belt and grabbed Sadie’s hand, placing the blade in her palm. “You like trouble, I will be there to help you escape from it. You like to fight, I will be at your side to protect you should you fall. You prefer me to leave you, I will do so but I will never entirely stray. Your wish is my command.” 

Sadie’s fingers tightened around the knife but then released the blade. It clattered to the stone ground, shattering the silence. 

She turned to her father. “Papa, I want this one.” 

King Orion masked his disappointment. “Are you sure, princess? He’s rather … scrawny compared to some of the others.” 

Samson wrapped his bony arms around Sadie’s neck. She grabbed his hands and held them tight. “Sir, I promise that I will do everything in my power to ensure that your daughter lives.” 

The sincerity in his voice brought tears to Orion’s eyes. “Very well, my boy. Is there anything I can do for you?” 

Samson didn’t hesitate. A single tear slipped down his cheek. “My mother, sir. She sold herself to the witches in order to provide for me and my expenses for the academy.” Samson’s voice cracked. 

King Orion nodded gravely. “You are forgiven from your debts. As for your mother, I will see what I can do. For now, welcome to the family.” 

The scene shifted again. 

Sammy was at my side, tears in his eyes. “I had forgotten that day,” he mumbled. “Tedros was livid. He tried to poison me the next day, but I could smell it.” 

“She chose you,” I repeated, still in shock. 

When the movement around us finally slowed I found myself in a cabin on the edge of the woods. Sammy was at my side and he pressed closer to me as he took in my surroundings. “Please end, please end, please end,” he mumbled under his breath. The vision continued. 

“Mommy?” The voice was high and a tiny Samson appeared from a room in the back of the cabin. He looked to be about five or six, not as old as in the first memory but not much younger. “Mommy?” I realized he was carrying a wooden sword in one hand and false shield in the other.

“Samson?” The female voice sounded exhausted. “Mommy’s busy right now. What do you need, Lionheart?” 

Lionheart. A name for someone brave and determined. Samson smiled at the nickname and he found his mother staring out the windows in the front of the cabin. Her dark hair was rumpled and her almond shaped eyes were red. “Mommy, what’s wrong?” 

“Nothing,” Samson’s mother replied, scooping up the boy and perching him on her lap. She was sitting in a worn chair, the wood chipped in some places. “Whatever happens, just know your father and I love you lots and lots.” 

“Why are you saying that?” Samson asked. “What’s going on?” 

“Lionheart, darling, baby. You know that Mommy is kind of low on money, right?” Her voice was calm but her words cracked my heart even more. Samson nodded anyways. “Well, Mommy wants what’s best for you. Even if that means being forced to get money the hard way. It will pay for years of schooling, enough to get you fed until you can make a living.” 

There was a ruckus occuring outside, and Samsom craned his neck. His mother pushed his head back down. “Be my brave little lion.” 

“Mommy?” The door flew open and a parade of women forced their way inside. Each one was uglier than the previous one until about ten witches occupied most of the cabin. A few grabbed Samson’s mother’s arms, pulling them behind her back and securing her with a green cord. 

“Place the gold on the table,” the mother ordered, her voice betraying her. 

A witch placed a small bag of gold on the table and the mother spoke. “Samson, take this to the mustache-man who lives on autumn street. Tell him to accept you. And don’t come searching for me.” 

“Enough,” one of the other witches ordered. “Say your last words and be done with it. The soldiers will see us soon enough.” 

His mother’s eyes filled with tears. The dribbled down her cheeks and I felt similar emotions rising in me as well. I had never written this. Never imagined it. And yet it was happening in front of us. Sammy beside me was breaking down but I couldn’t focus enough to comfort him. 

“Lionheart, my boy,” his mother purred. “Don’t come for me. Mommy will be fine.” 

“Mommy!” Samson cried, suddenly grasping what was happening. He rushed forward but a witch swatted him aside. 

The witches dragged Samson’s mother outside. There was a sound of clanking metal and I realized the soldiers were coming. The witches would be outnumbered, wouldn’t they? Samson stood on the chair by the window to watch and I rushed outside, not heeding Sammy’s warning. 

Not far down the street the soldiers were engaged in a brawl with the witches. 

Sammy’s mother was cut down by a soldier. I watched her head roll away from her body and her scream die in her throat. The witches flew away on broomsticks waiting in the forest. 

Samson screeched and fell to the floor, screaming and crying. None of the guards paid any attention to the innocent woman they had killed. They turned tail and hurried away, leaving the body behind. 

I rushed back into the cabin where Sammy was huddled in a ball, racked with silent sobs. “I should’ve saved her,” he cried. 

“What would you have done?” I asked him. “You were five.” 

“I was her Lionheart and I failed her,” Sammy wailed. “The witches took everything from me. That’s why I was a jerk during classes. I didn’t want to be there anymore. But the guard instructor reminded me that my mother’s last wish had been for me to attend so I put work into the classes in secret.” 

“You fulfilled her dream,” I assured him. 

“You know nothing about her!” Sammy spat at me. “You know nothing! She was taken from me by the witches and I swore I would never let them have me. I can’t let them take away the only other thing I care for.” 

Sadie. That’s why he was so infatuated with protecting her. It was his mother’s death all over again. I could think of nothing to say so I crouched beside him, hand on his shoulder. 

“I keep thinking I’m glad she died then,” Sammy whispered at last. “Because now she doesn’t have to worry about the Darkness taking her.” My stomach felt like it was filled with rocks. 

The scene shifted again, dropping us back into the real world. Although I was awake, Sammy was still asleep against the tree. 

I brushed a stray strand of hair off of his face. Sammy might have lost more than anyone. 

I had to make sure he kept Sadie, his only hope, alive. 

No matter the costs. 

© 2020 A.L.

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Added on August 30, 2020
Last Updated on August 30, 2020
Tags: fantasy, young adult, short stories, teen, adventure, imagination, kingdom, castle, heroes, darkness, quest, fiction, confidence, doubt



I've been writing for a little over two years now - just short stories and occasionally a book (by word count alone). My main works are sci-fi and fantasy, aimed at a teen audience. I'm still in high .. more..