Time seemed to slow as the coin spun in the air. The world faded around Elias as his eyes fixated on the gleam of the copper coin. The ruckus of the busy tavern around him, so crowded that you couldn’t hear your own thoughts or have even a foot of space to yourself, all quieted. The floors sticky from the boots of mercenaries, merchants looking for a deal their peers would frown upon, watchmen who didn’t care to follow the laws they enforced, and anyone else who had trouble on their minds, disappeared. The stench of stale bread and whatever new concoction the bartender was brewing became nothing but a faint memory. It was just Elias alone in the universe with the small coin about to decide his fate.
Elias didn’t know why everyone seemed to despise him so. It was as if the cards were turned against him from the beginning. People ridiculed and harassed him simply for the fact that he was a bit different. His white hair and eyes stood out against his dark complexion, and he was of short stature. He was constantly called a freak, simply for being born with hair and eyes that were a bit different. He’d done everything to try to change it. He’d shaved and dyed it more times than he could count. But no matter what he did, it refused to change. Eventually his aberration grew on him, and he came to accept it. But his acceptance did nothing stop the ridicule from those who believed he wasn’t normal.
Shoving down all the fear and anxiety that was currently swirling in his stomach, Elias summoned a smirk and shifted his gaze away from the coin and into the eyes of the man who’d started all this. Jarl Drechslerg.
He was a watchman with a temper who would do anything for a few coins. What he collected from his high paying job and countless bribes never seemed to satisfy him; he’d gamble wherever anyone would let him, willing to lose it all at the possibility of gaining something. And he did lose it all again and again, but that never seemed to stop him. Elias knew him well and had the bruises to prove it.
He had course brown hair who was in desperate need of a shave. He stood shorter than most of the other watchmen, and his time drinking away and filling his stomach at any bar he wasn’t kicked out of showed. The brown leather of his uniform stood out against his light skin and fit him a bit too tightly.
Jarl’s greedy brown eyes snapped over to Elias, and he leaned forward. Elias fought back a gag as the man opened his mouth; his breath reeked of ale and cigars. The smell clung to the man and burned Elias’ nostrils. Ignoring the smell, Elias kept on his smirk and refused to look away from Jarl’s eyes.
“This is your end boy,” Jarl sneered, wearing the smirk of a man who thought he was about to win the world. Elias shook his head with a chuckle.
“You sure about that?” Elias asked.
. . . . . . . . . .
Elias strolled down the street, guided by memory and the light of the moon. The streetlights had long since burned out, but that didn’t stop everyone from cutting their night short. At the sound of voices, Elias came to a stop, creeping close to make out two voices whispering in an alley. He risked a peek into the alley to see two men at the back of the alley, but the moonlight wasn’t enough to make their faces visible in the dark.
“Look. This is worth more than ten pounds of gold. This could revolutionize the world!” someone said. Elias didn’t recognize the voice of whoever was speaking. He stopped himself from another peek to see whatever they were talking about that could be worth more than ten pounds of gold. Ten pounds of gold would easily make a man rich.
“Bullshit. That’s just a dumb rock,” another voice said. Elias tensed as he realized who the second voice was; Jarl Drechslerg. A watchman who took pleasure in causing Elias pain.
“You do know what gold is?” the other person said. Elias fought back a laugh as Jarl grumbled.
“Don’t you dare mock me. Do you have any idea who I am boy?” Jarl sneered. “So. What exactly can this little rock do?”
“This little rock…explodes!” the voice shouted. They were immediately hushed by Jarl.
“Keep your damn voice down! What do you mean it explodes? How is your little science project worth money?”
“This isn’t some little explosion we’re talking about. This thing could bring down a building.”
“A building, eh? Now that’s interesting. So I let your little thing slide and you give me a supply of this?”
“So. What sets this thing off? It’s not going to blow up in my hand, is it?”
“No no. It’s heat activated. Your hand would have to be very, very hot for it to explode.”
“Alright. You have a deal,” Jarl said. “This could make me a pretty penny.” As they walked out of the alleyway, Elias walked towards them, bumping into Jarl. Jarl stumbled, letting out a string of curses. “Watch your damn step!” Jarl spat. Elias nodded, keeping his head down.
“So sorry sir,” he mumbled before walking quickly in the other direction. Elias grinned despite Jarl cursing him as he walked away. In his hand, Elias held the rock that Jarl now deemed so precious. There was absolutely no way Elias was going to let Jarl sell this just to make some more money. It could destroy the world. Wars would be rampant everywhere, there would be countless deaths. All so Jarl could gain even more. Jarl wouldn’t be getting his hands on this piece, or any other piece. Elias would make sure of that. He shoved the rock into his pocket, grateful that he’d heard Jarl when he did. He risked a glance over his shoulder to see Jarl frantically patting his pockets. Elias quickened his pace, trying to get out of eyesight but not draw attention to himself.
“Shit!” he heard Jarl yell. “Where is it where-” Elias took one more look back to see Jarl staring directly at him. “Goddammit Elias! Get back here you little bastard!” Jarl yelled, breaking into a run. Elias quickly turned, darting away from Jarl. The wind whipped his face and his blood pumped in his ears as he darted through twisted streets and alleyways. Surprisingly, Jarl kept up with him, screaming at him as he ran.
Elias ran and ran, but Jarl still stayed on him despite Elias’ best efforts. Elias’ knees ached, threatening to give out on him. He stumbled, but quickly recovered. He knew his trip would cost him, and he could almost feel Jarl’s breath on his neck. His lungs burned, and he doubted he’d able to keep running for much longer. He darted into another alleyway, hoping to find something, anything, that could help him lose Jarl. Dread rolled over him as he stopped, met with an empty alley ending in a brick wall. He turned around to run out before he was trapped to see Jarl standing in the alleyway opening, very out of breath. The other man from the alley was nowhere in sight. Elias guessed he wasn’t able to keep up, and was still surprised Jarl was.
“You. Little. Shit,” Jarl growled as he stepped towards Elias. His face was bright red and puffy, more so than usual. “You’ve really screwed up this time boy.” Elias scrambled back into the alley, desperate to get away from Jarl. In his desperation, he tripped over his own feet. He reached out for anything that could keep him upright as he fell back onto the cold, hard cobblestone. As Jarl approached, Elias searched for anything that could get him out of this situation. Jarl would surely kill him for this; he’d done it for far less to people far more important than Elias. Elias’ chest became tight as he fought for breath, panic taking over his body. He had to get out of this. He’d gotten out of worse before.
A small gleam caught his eye, and an idea sprouted in his head as he lurched to his right. He winced as Jarl’s foot came down on his arm, but he kept his grasp on the little thing that just might save him. Elias took a breath, summoning some strength, and kicked Jarl’s leg as hard as he could. Jarl jumped back, freeing Elias’ arm. Elias quickly pushed himself up, and stepped back deeper into the alleyway, wanting to put some space between himself and Jarl.
“You are going to regret-” Jarl started, but Elias quickly cut him off.
“Wanna make a bet?” Elias questioned, stepping forward, holding up the coin he’d found that he prayed would save him. Jarl cocked his brow, the anger that had consumed him moments before turning into curiosity.
“What are you wagering boy?”
“A coin flip. Heads, I give you your rock back, you can sell it and get rich or whatever the hell you want, and you can very well kill me.”
“Tails, you turn this little rock in. You’ll be praised and rewarded and honored. Either way, you win.” Jarl cocked his head to the side, considering Elias’ offer. Elias did his best to keep on his smirk and hide his worry.
“Alright. You have a deal,” Jarl said. Just as Elias let out a sigh of relief, Jarl grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, dragging him away.
“Where are you taking me? I thought we had a deal!” Elias shouted as he clawed at Jarl’s hand, attempting to release Jarl’s grasp on his shirt.
“Oh, we do. But we aren’t going to just do a wager in a lousy alleyway, are we boy? We’re doing this right. And with an audience.”
. . . . . . . . . .
Elias watched as the coin flew up in the air, about to decide his fate. He held his breath as it shot up to the ceiling, turning again and again. With all the courage he had, he looked into the eyes of the man who might just be his end. He was met with a grin of a man who looked as if he was about to acquire the world.
“This is your end boy,” Jarl snickered.
“You sure about that?” Elias asked, hoping it wasn’t clear that his confidence was all an act. They both looked up to see the coin falling back down, and the entire tavern seemed to hold their breath to see the outcome of the coin flip that would decide future of the world as they knew it.
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