Anecdote XX. A Childhood Dismembered

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March 3rd, 1945

“Get in there, boy!”

Tiermond’s rough hand shoved Falient back toward the leering Demon. The boy’s breath came in trembling gasps, but he dared not cry. He was already covered in bruises and cuts, but his father insisted he learn to fight. This was not the first beating he’d received in pursuit of this, but today the Demon Foko, who was overseeing his father’s expedition, offered to practice with him. It was hardly practice, as every time the boy came within reach, the Demon would smash him back to the ground. The handful of Warmongers and Lakvos traveling with them laughed raucously each time from their place watching on the jagged rocks surrounding the pair. The Dark Viatrian Tiermond sat perched on one of the rocks among them, and rolled himself a cigarette.

Falient raised his fists, aware of how tiny his hands were.  He moved his feet with careful steps, advancing back into Foko’s reach. The Demon swung, and the boy dodged to the side, skirting around him. Foko spun after him, and Falient darted toward the edge of the makeshift ring to where his father sat puffing the only black leaves available to smoke.

“You don’t get to run away, boy.” Tiermond grabbed him by the scruff and turned him around. “I know you know how to kick and punch. Show him.”

“Tabo–”

“Don’t call me that, boy. Get back in there.”

Falient looked up at him with plaintive brown eyes, but found no sympathy from his father. He turned back to Foko, who cracked his knuckles. Falient swallowed and approached again, once more raising his hands.

Foko lunged for him, and Falient skittered away. As the Demon turned after him, the boy swung, putting as much force into as his scrawny arm could muster. His fist glanced off the Demon’s side, and he heard his own knuckles crack. He shook his hand, the bones aching, and found he had scraped his knuckles on the Demon’s rough hide. Foko laughed, showing pointed teeth, and swung back at the boy.

Falient was sent sprawling, the breath rushing out of him. For a moment, he could only gasp in the dust. He heard heavy footsteps behind him, and forced himself to scramble back to his feet as Foko advanced on him. The boy raised his tiny fists again, clenching his teeth to avoid making a sound. He was aware of his father watching him, of the Lakvos tittering all around him, but he only saw Foko’s smirking face as the Demon loomed over him.

Falient swung again and Foko caught him by the wrist before the blow could strike. Falient felt his feet leave the ground as the Demon hoisted him up by one arm. Falient struggled, kicking and punching to no avail. Foko laughed, holding him higher, and snapped his teeth at the child. Falient yelped and flailed, then all of a sudden, his foot contacted with the Demon’s face.

It was sheer luck. The kick threw the Foko’s head back. His nose shattered sideways in a spray of black blood, and four teeth scattered on the stone. The Lakvos and Warmongers went silent. Foko turned his head back to the boy, and Falient felt a thrill of horror wash through him at the sight of the venom in the Demon’s eyes, and the ragged teeth in his bloody black mouth as he snarled,

“You little shit.”

The Demon swung the boy like a ragdoll over his head and slammed him to the ground. Falient felt pain flare in his side when he hit, likely the crack of ribs breaking. He struggled, but Foko’s grip didn’t yield. He felt the Demon’s clawed foot step between his shoulder blades, pinning him to the ground. Falient flailed again, clawing at Foko’s leg with his free hand, throwing futile kicks back at the Demon. He felt Foko’s grip tighten on his arm and begin to pull. Pure terror flared in his chest.

“TABO!” the boy screamed.

Tiermond took a long drag on his cigarette, then gave a smokey reply of, “Get yourself out of it if you don’t like it.”

Tears broke from the boy as he struggled. Foko snorted at the sight of them. The boy kicked and and beat at any part of the Demon he could reach, but Foko’s foot on his back was like a lead weight, and Falient could not wriggle free. He screamed and wept freely as there was a sickening tearing sound. Dark purple wisps of magic rolled off him in his panic, but did little more than sting the Demon’s ankle.

“TABO!” the boy shrieked, voice raw between his sobs.

There was gut-wrenching crack and a wet rip, which was nearly inaudible under Falient’s ragged scream. Tears turned the dust to mud under his face, as he wept in the searing agony. There was a thump in front of him, then Foko removed his foot and stalked off elsewhere. Falient opened his stinging eyes and sputtered with unspeakable horror at the sight of his own arm in the dust in front of him. He screamed anew at the sight of it and floundered in the dust, scrambling away from it as if it were a snake, leaving a trail of blood. He fumbled, reaching for his shoulder, unable to stop screaming as he felt the limp, tattered flesh at his shoulder.

The spectacle over, the Warmongers and Lakvos began to disband, and Tiermond jumped down from his perch to approach the boy. Falient sobbed as he watched his father pick his arm up out of the dust.

“Quit your screaming, boy. We can put it back on. If he were rightly pissed, he would have eaten it.”

Falient shook all over, as if he were trapped in some rickety train car, and his voice seemed to leave him entirely. Tiermond held his son’s arm as if it were nothing more unusual than tinder for the fire, while he grabbed the boy by the back of the shirt and pulled him up.

“Come on,” said the Sinvator. “Let’s get you cleaned up and see about reattaching this. Not a good idea to leave that much blood flowing around this lot.”

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