Chapter One: Wherein Thievery Occurs and Days are Ruined

Arthur Kirkland was having a rotten day.

Dealing with his oldest brother that morning while trying to open his bookshop was not an auspicious way to start the day. Apparently, Allistor felt nine in the morning was the ideal time to stage a drunken rant outside his shop. Trying to reassure wary, early-bird customers that everything was under control while simultaneously trying to beat Allistor within an inch of his life were rather opposing ideas. Unsurprisingly, customers thought of better things to do with their morning.

Then there was his youngest brother Peter, who seemed to live for knocking over his book stands and setting important tax receipts on fire just to see Arthur squirm. And finally, as always, there was the nauseating task of actually operating his bookshop and the utter idiots who often frequented his store. Logically, he couldn't the only person in Berth with a functioning brain, but days like this often tested that theory – there were only so many times a man could be berated for not having books with larger print before he called a pox in the day.

At nearly twenty-four, Arthur had lost count how many times he had contemplated forgoing his career as a bookshop owner entirely and simply not selling any of his books, becoming a shut-in hermit instead of a business owner. He certainly gained more enjoyment from reading his various fictions, histories, and biographies than anyone else possibly could and he was confident he could cultivate a satisfactory 'crazy shut-in' persona if he tried hard enough. Still, it was his shop, a shop he had worked and saved and scraped for and he loved it. Plus, money was a necessary evil to surviving outside of his family's estate, which was little more than a hovel now due to years of drunken mistakes and gambling, so needs must.

As the day wore on, villagers knocked over stands in their clumsiness, his lunch was overcooked (due to a faulty pot, nothing to do with him), and the supply of used books he received from a neighboring village had, in fact, been somewhat disturbing smut exclusively. Used erotica of any kind was not something he wanted in his shop, let alone sell, even if it was classy, which this was not. Arthur had a terrible headache by the time he slammed his store's door shut that evening, wishing nothing more than a chance that the next day would be even a little bit better. Arthur pinched his eyes shut before he started on the task of going through his records for the day, taking a small comfort in the silence that currently surrounded him.

When his hand began to cramp, Arthur stole a quick, furtive glance around and outside his windows, ensuring that no one was around or peeking, then took a deep breath.

"Write," he murmured softly to his pen.

He let go of the quill and, instead of falling still as it should in any other case, it continued to write his ledgers from the day, the gentle scratch echoing in the quiet of his empty shop. He stared at the pen for a moment, warring with the usual sense of unease that came any time he used his Voice, before pushing away from his register counter and heading to his back office.

Arthur had always had a Talent. His family preferred to forget its existence entirely. Arthur hadn't known any better in his youth what to call it, so Voice it was, and it stuck to this day. He spoke like most others in Britannia, properly and clearly with no real special reason for his voice to be different, but underneath it all, there was a power there that only had to be called to appear. It was more a pain than anything else. His home country of Britannia was not the best when it came to the acceptance of anything of a mythical nature and his village of Berth felt by far the worst of them all at times. Magic was a taboo that was feared and reviled. Arthur didn't know of anyone else who had any sort of Talent like he did and expected he never would.

Revealing you had magic or Talent anywhere in Britannia meant exile at best, and a death sentence at worst.

He oftentimes wondered if those that were born with Talent simply left Britannia for some other country in Avrupa, where they wouldn't have to worry about hiding who they were for fear of beheading. Sometimes, he even wondered if he should have followed suit. He did not fool himself into thinking his life held some great purpose or meaning in Berth with his bookshop, but ultimately it was his and he had his family, for fuck all they seemed to care, to think about. Still, it would be nice to not constantly worry about being 'found out' and executed for a small, little vocal Talent he'd been born with.

Want it, speak it – his Voice was as simple as that. He didn't use it often as, growing up, his family ensured it was barely even talked about let alone used. But, in his limited experience, it could make all sorts of things possible, like getting a pen to write up your inventory on its own. Still, it wasn't practical to use often when one ill-timed glance could end up having him accused of 'witchcraft' or some such rot – it wasn't witchcraft, the whole bloody world save Britannia (or someone who actually read a book on the subject of Talents) understood that. However, when the common complaint in his shop was not having enough pictures in his books, he didn't hold out much hope for understanding from his fellow villagers should they witness anything like his quill writing out his daily ledgers.

Arthur heaved out a deep sigh as he went about straightening his back room. There was no sense in dwelling on things he could not change. As useful as his Talent was on a day-to-day basis, he mostly wished he didn't have to deal with it. He, admittedly, didn't have the best of tempers and his Voice did tend to unleash unwanted consequences when he was upset or particularly emotional. The time he accidental set Allistor's shoes on fire by speaking a few choice words in the middle of a fight certainly came to mind – he smiled at the memory of his brother dancing about and trying to fling off the shoes. Still, hard to pass fire-shoes as anything other than magic and anytime he lost himself in anger, it opened an opportunity for him to be found out and publicly executed.

Arthur put away the last of his wares and focused on the small pile of dust he had collected during his cleanings. "Go."

The dust sparked and disappeared in a flurry of brown. He dusted off his hands and made his way back towards the front of his shop, sure that by now his records for the day had been completed. More than anything, he wanted to grab one of his books and head upstairs to spend the rest of the evening in the quiet of his bedroom, but he knew that wasn't going to happen. It was the weekly Kirkland dinner tonight at his family's ancestral home and he was all but forced to attend that night. He made a mental note to try and stop by the butchers before it closed, sure that his brothers were going to need something for dinner besides whiskey. However, the thought met an abrupt end when he walked back into the main area of his shop.

There, holding the once scribing quill in his hand, was a tall man with hair so pale it looked white, and an oversized scarf wrapped around his neck. Arthur froze and felt his breath stutter for a moment before he narrowed his eyes and grabbed the wooden club beside his back door his brother, Patrick*, had given him as a store-opening gift to deter theft. He fixed his face into a grim look as he went to confront giant of a man. Arthur may have always been on the slimmer side, but he could hold his own against his brothers, thieves, and ruffians in bar fights. He knew how to fight and how to defend himself. The man turned to face him, a child-like smile on his face and bright, violet eyes. The man looked at him with an interest that made Arthur's skin crawl.

"Good evening," the man said in Common. His voice had an accent to it Arthur did not recognize, tone soft and gentle. It was a stark contrast with how big he was and did little to ease Arthur's apprehensions.

"Good evening my arse. Did you missed the 'Closed' sign out front or did you just think that I'd roll over and let you steal from my store? Get the bloody hell out!" Arthur brandished the club to strengthen his point, his brows drawing fiercely together in his glare.

The man, unfortunately, did no such thing and continued to smile at him. Arthur felt a chill creep down his spine. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination or not, but the very air around them in the shop seemed to freeze. He gripped the base of the club tighter. He focused on the man and felt the power build behind his Voice – this man was dangerous, he could sense it, and if he didn't leave on his own Arthur was prepared to make him. He may not like to use his Talent in front of others, and he had never used it on someone before, but he wasn't about to roll over and let the man rob him.

"I said Get O—"

"Your voice, it is very nice, da?"

Arthur choked and froze, staring wide eyed at the man invading his bookshop, the power in his voice stopped abruptly as it had been about to be unleashed; it felt like the air itself had been ripped out of his throat. In his shock he dropped the club, and his hands went up to his throat, circling around as he felt it constrict and air was stopped in his lungs. Arthur looked up at the man who was staring at him, eyes glowing, bloody glowing, hand closed in a fist-type motion and making his way closer to Arthur. He jerked and tried to force his feet to move but could hardly find the strength to do so with those eyes pinned on him.

A chilled hand wrapped around his arm, his vision going spotty with the lack of air. He shoved at the man again, but only succeeded in stumbling over his own feet, which felt heavy and leaden. Another hand wrapped around his throat and tilted his head upwards to stare into those frightening violet eyes, Arthur's panic and dread reaching a crescendo when the man's smile widened and loomed over him.

The last thing Arthur knew was that smile and rather nasty bump to the head via a lead pipe.

The first thing Arthur realized, sometime later when his eyes blinked open, was that his head hurt something fierce but that he was still alive.

The second thing he realized, to his great frustration and worry, was that he was laid out and tied down by the arms to a table in his kitchen and surrounded by black candles and gagged. None of which was a good sign. He turned his head and not far from him was the man from downstairs, eyes no longer glowing, but still terrifying. He felt sluggish and heavy and each time he tried to move his arms tied above his head, they felt as if they were stuck to the table. Even though his legs weren't tied down, he found he couldn't even get them to budge. The man chuckled a bit as Arthur's slow movements caught his attention, walking around from another table set up, holding a knife in his hand. Arthur did not think the situation could get much worse.

"Ah, you are awake now? You should not struggle too much, you won't get to far, comrade."

Arthur attempted to give the man a piece of his mind, but his voice was muffled against the gag. The man smiled and leaned in close, the blade of his knife coming with him and reflecting Arthur's pale reflection, moving the knife up to brush away some of Arthur's hair. Arthur's breaths quickened and he tried to push back into the table to put some distance between him and the man. This seemed to amuse his captor and he chuckled softly at Arthur, who normally would have drummed up a scowl at this but was too preoccupied thinking he was about to be ritualistically murdered.

"I have watched you for some time, Mr. Kirkland, and you are special, like me. Your voice, it can do things, da? All kinds of things. I admit my own cannot compare and even my other Talents cannot command like yours."

Arthur blinked and stared at the man in response.

"It is a shame you must hide such a wonderful gift, a shame that it hinders you and makes you different, don't you think?"

Arthur shook as the knife drifted down the side of his face, the tip lightly pressed to his skin, and settle against his neck. He didn't know what else to do but respond to this man, anything to keep him from using that knife, so he slowly nodded his head as the man continued to stare at him.

"You may not understand, but this is necessary. You cannot use your Talent to its full potential, but I can. I think you will be happier afterwards. Eventually."

Arthur mumbled pleas, curses, any string of words together behind the cloth to try and keep the huge man away from him, to keep him from coming any nearer, but it was useless. The man's eyes glowed again in that eerie purple glimmer and he cut the palm of Arthur's hand with the knife, eliciting a hiss from him. The man smiled and took up a spot standing beside Arthur's head, placing one hand over the bleeding palm and the other untying the cloth from around his mouth and clamping a hand over it before Arthur could let out any noise. The man mumbled on in some sort of language he didn't recognize, but all Arthur could focus on was how an odd sort of pressure began to build up in his head.

Through his body.

In his very soul.

He felt as if he was screaming but couldn't make a sound.

The candles around him flamed higher and a gust of wind started to swirl around him and the man the more words he spoke. Through it all, he saw a glow formed in his throat and was pulled out of him and into the man.

It was all too much for one miserable day, so Arthur didn't feel much shame in the blackness that overtook him again ringing grew in his ears and his throat burned as if something had been ripped away. His eyes went hazy, unfocused, began to slide shut, but not before he felt a rush of sudden stillness and could hear a voice whisper against his skin.

"I thank you for your sacrifice, Mr. Kirkland."

For the second time in less than a full day's cycle, Arthur awoke to a blinding headache.

He blinked his eyes open and looked around blearily, feeling as if he'd had more than enough whiskey to get all of his brothers, and himself, drunk. Unsteadily, he pushed himself up from the floor in his kitchen. He was disoriented and nauseous and wondering just how much of what he thought happened the previous night was a nightmare and what was real. And then he looked down at his wrists. They were raw and blistered - key features of wrists tied and restrained by rope to a table. He looked around once more, much more alert and cautious than he had been before, looking to see if that man was still around, lurking by in a corner with that bloody creepy smile.

To his relief, there was no evidence of the menacing man anywhere, and aside from the splitting headache, the raw wrists, and the black candle wax on his table and dripped onto the floor, there was no sign that the man had ever been there. He felt supremely lucky that he hadn't been killed or violated (the man had tied him to his kitchen table - Arthur was fairly confident that made him a pervert) and stumbled his way into his washroom. The sun had already risen, which meant he was late in opening his shop, but he could hardly find it within himself to care.

Arthur glanced at his wan reflection briefly before he splashed some cold water on his face, promising to eviscerate his no-good siblings for being absolutely no help to him. He obviously hadn't shown up for their weekly dinner and not even a whisper of help sent his way to see if anything was amiss. The fucking arseholes.

He rubbed at his eyes and toweled off his face of moisture when he saw it. He dropped the towel down to the floor and looked closely at the thin but intricate band going across his neck, a vivid red against his pale skin. He gingerly touched is and flinched when it seemed to burn against his fingers. He felt something cold settle in his stomach as he stared at the band, the man's words from the night before etching themselves into his memory before he worked up the courage to try and say something.

Nothing. He tried again and nothing. Nothing sounded but air.

Arthur stared at his reflection and saw the horror he felt in the mirror. He tried to laugh, he tried to scream, he tried to say anything, but nothing made a sound, not even the terrified gasp as his hands encircled his voiceless throat despite the burn. He hurried out of his washroom made his way downstairs to his shop, uncaring that he was still dressed in his clothes from the day before, looking for anything telling the violet-eyed man may have left behind. There was nothing and he felt himself begin to panic.

That man, that fiend, he had stolen his damn voice, both his actual voice and his Talent.

All right, all right, calm down old boy, this can be fixed, Arthur thought to himself. A good healer or apothecary must have some kind of potion or-or-oh fucking hell, who was he kidding? No one in this blasted country was going to know what to do!

Arthur took a couple of deeps breaths to try clear his head, to replace his fear with anything more useful, before he stomped out of his shop. He ignored the morning greetings the other villagers shouted his way. He wouldn't have responded even if he could so there was no worry that there'd be anything amiss. He half contemplated going straight to Allistor's pub and explaining all of what had transpired, but considering it was nearing noontide, his brother was probably well and shit-faced by this hour and would be no help. So, with determination, he stomped his way to the local constabulary. He had been stolen from after all, it was only logical he informed the authorities. They hadn't known about his Voice – while magic had clearly happened, it had happened to him, not by him, so surely there would be something that could be done.

He stormed into the constabulary, grabbed a pamphlet from the entrance desk and a quill off someone writing out a complaint notice. He marched up to one of the officers, began scribbling angrily and gesturing at his throat, writing down a description of the man who had attacked him, what had happened, and the like. He thrust the defaced pamphlet in the officer's face after he was finished. One of the burliest men was called over, the Sheriff, and he read the papers before looking at Arthur critically. He gestured to a smaller officer who promptly came over and Arthur felt something like relief that someone was about to do something to help.

"You heard him men, take him in."

Well, fuck.

Instead of beginning their deliverance of justice, they grabbed Arthur roughly by the arms and hauled him outside, the Sheriff calling out for the folks of Berth to gather in the town square. Arthur felt a moment of sheer disbelief as he was paraded down the cobbled streets that this, this, on top of everything else he had been put through was happening. He could hear the whispers as he was tugged along, and he could see how they all pointed at his neck, the red markings which stood out even brighter in the sun.

"Did you see those, Bernice?"

"Cursed, the poor boy's been cursed!"

"One of the Kirkland boys, always seemed a little odd to me."

"The color of blood they are, dangerous!"

Arthur was brought to a halt in the center of the village, a crowd of villagers surrounding him and the officers. The Sheriff strode forward with the village's mayor striding alongside with a pinched and carefully constructed mournful expression on his face. The man, a sort that looked as if he had consumed too much wine in his youth and had a permanently ruddy face as a result, tilted Arthur's chin up, looking closely at the red markings but not moving to touch them. He utterly ignored Arthur's voiceless curses and pleas (though the pleas were not as numerous as the curses). The mayor looked back up and gave Arthur a sad look that looked purely for show and made Arthur want to punch it clear off and shook his head before he turned to face the crowd.

Arthur tuned out most of what was said. It was generally about how it was unfortunate, a terrible tragedy, that Arthur had been attacked and cursed by a malignant sorcerer, but how they had to keep the greater good of the village in mind. Arthur was cursed and marked now, whatever evil stole his voice could return and whenever it wished and maybe even cause untold damage to the rest of the village. He was cursed, voiceless, and marked and it would be a mercy to just put him out of his misery.

Standard fare, really, for a witless mob.

Arthur scanned the crowd to see if any of his siblings were there, might speak in his defense or suggest that instead of outright killing him they could always just banish him. Banishment was all right, at least one still breathed. Someone in a different part of Avrupa may even be able to help him.

None were though.

With a shuddering sigh that no one could hear, Arthur knew, deep down, that if they were informed, they likely wouldn't do anything anyway. He had always been 'touched' with his Voice, was always the one of them that could be a danger. Arthur was the one that would bring shame and danger to the rest of the Kirkland family, because if he was cursed and had magic, then what about the rest of them? This was their way to finally be rid of the one thing that could damn their family. Arthur felt a swell of hurt and furiously blinked back the tears he felt pool – the blighters weren't worth it, and these fucking spineless cretins didn't get to see him falter.

The walk back to the constabulary building was equal parts somber and revolting, people following, some crying, some gawking, and all murmuring what a shame it was that such a young man had befallen to such a fate. Arthur wanted to do nothing more than tell them all exactly what he thought about their fucking platitudes, but as he could not speak, he settled for glowering at them balefully. The crowd, unfortunately, was too busy acting sad for him and feeling relieved that someone tainted by magic would soon be take care of to notice. They dispersed as Arthur was herded into the building and subsequently led down into the dank dungeons reserved for dangerous criminals.

As Arthur was locked into a cell, he made a silent vow that he was going to make it is personal business to find that violet-eyed giant and serve as his personal poltergeist if he could. He sank down to the floor and pulled up his knees, resting his head on them as he fought with himself to not suffer an emotional breakdown on top of everything else. Yesterday, just yesterday his life had been set, somewhat boring and mundane, but set, nonetheless. And now - Arthur looked around for a moment and gave a silent, rueful laugh at how much had changed in such little time. Now he was going to die for something he had no control over and there was not a thing he could do stop it. How could you argue for your life without a voice and without a family that gave a shit to help?

It was a comfort that his cries and shakes were silent as well.

The fitful 'last night sleep' he had been having was interrupted when Arthur was awoken by several loud, very obnoxious voices. He narrowed his eyes in confusion at the door of his cell, wondering in his sleep-addled state just who the hell would be traipsing down the corridor of a prison in the middle of night, knowing that the officers had all left for home hours before. He pushed himself to his feet slowly, eyes trained on the door as the voices drifted closer and closer.

"—know is your damn 'vision' led us here so you can damn well come on the patrol!" That voice was loud and self-assured, with a swagger that clearly thought highly of himself.

"You wound me, Gilbert, making a poor, blind man traverse these horrible smelling—" A cultured and Gaul-accented voice which immediately Arthur felt himself disliking.

"If you both don't shut up I'm going to run you both through!" That was a woman, her voice had a pleasant lilt on the vowels.

"Come on guys, cool it all right? He's gotta be around here somewhere. Let's see, oh! Definitely here, this one's locked!"

Arthur froze as the door, which was very heavy and very metal, was pounded on twice before it flung open wide and a bright light flooded his dark-accustomed vision, outlining the four figures in light. When Arthur blinked away the harshness and opened his eyes, he was met with the bluest pair of eyes he had ever seen, belonging to a tall young man with golden hair, a handsome face, and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose. He was the kind of man that young women and men did crazy things to get a second look from and he was smiling a perfect smile at Arthur.

"Arthur Kirkland, right?"

"Well who the else could it be, Hero?" The self-assured and cocky voice belonged to an equally cocky looking man with white-blond hair and red eyes. Or maybe they just looked red – he did have a manic look of someone who was drunk. "Not like there are a lot of other guys down here."

"Are his eyebrows as, ah, distinctive, as I saw?" The remaining male voice belonged to a man with long, blond hair, which he kept sweeping elegantly from his face, and a horrible looking goatee. His eyes were also blue, but they were unfocused and had a milky film covering them - blind. Arthur, however, felt no pity for the man as he had just insulted his eyebrows.

"Shut up, Francis, it's not the time." The woman was shorter than the men but nearly as tall as Arthur was, with a long, dark braid that spilled down her back and olive skin which complemented her dark eyes. She was beautiful in a dangerous sort of way, like a wild cat or wolf.

"Guys, chill out, you're freaking him out." The young man shot them all a disgruntled look before smiling back at him like Arthur was some sort of skittish colt. "Hey, no worries, they're all cool. So, you're Artie Kirkland right?"

Artie. He hated the name Artie.

He scowled and swatted the hand coming near him away, opening his mouth and fully intending to let these four have a piece of his mind, when all that came out was air. Oh fucking hell, this was going to take time to get used to. He didn't really take into account how much he had insulted people and how much he really relied on it to defend himself until now. The young man's smile abruptly morphed into a serious frown at the sight of Arthur's failed attempts to speak and he leaned in closer, tilting up Arthur's chin with a warm, steady hand before he could move away. Arthur heard a knowing set of hisses and grunts as the red band came into view, but he was focused on how nice the young man's broad, calloused hand felt against his cold skin. Arthur inhaled sharply at the thought and pulled away quickly, resting his back against the stone wall – he didn't even know who these people were.

"Well, looks like you were a little late there, Francis."

"How was I to know that Ivan would attack so soon? My Sight is not what it was, you know, mon ami." Arthur noticed that Francis looked directly at Gilbert when he responded.

"At least he's not dead, others were not so lucky. He must have had a Talent Ivan wanted."

Arthur scowled deeper as they spoke about him as if he wasn't present. He gestured to get their attention and pointed at his throat angrily and made several sarcastic attempts to speak, demonstrating what exactly was missing.

"We know he took your voice, Artie, just talking about the why of it." The young man was smiling again, but it was harder. Arthur felt a small swoop of disappointment in his stomach that the young man's smile was not directed his way and ruthlessly crushed it down. "Anyhow, first things first, we gotta get you outta here! You do know they want to execute you, right?"

"I think he's fully aware Alfred, it's not as if he's deaf like Gilbert." The dark-skinned woman flashed Arthur a bright almost feral grin before she whirled out of the room with her curved sword in hand, winking at Gilbert as she passed.

"Even though I can't hear you, I know when you're talking about me, Esther*," the man quipped after her. "Just awesome like that."

He flashed Arthur a cocky grin before he pulled out a long sword and headed out the door after the woman, Esther, looking quite eager to start hacking anyone who might get in his way. The other man, Francis gave a flourished wave and followed, moving with more surety and confidence than Arthur thought a blind man should have in an unfamiliar space. The young man, Alfred, looked at him expectantly while he bounced impatiently on the balls of his feet, flashing Arthur a grin.

"Well, you gonna come with us or would you rather get your head cut off? I know you probably don't trust us, that you don't know us, and you probably don't even know what's going on, but I can tell you that we do. The guy who took your voice, we're tracking him down and we'd be more than happy to let you join in. You probably got a bunch of questions and stuff, but we can answer those later. Right now, I want to know if you wanna bust outta here or not?"

Arthur weighed his choices briefly as he looked into the honesty reflected in those blue eyes. True, he did not know these people and by all accounts they seemed to be a group of dangerous lunatics. They were talking about leaving the only home he'd ever really known. They were talking about going on what could only be assumed as a dangerous journey. But - they seemed to not only know what had happened to him, but also who the violet-eyed man was who did it to him.

That, and they were offering to save him from the chopping block; it wasn't a hard decision.

He gave Alfred a firm nod and followed him out of the cell and out of the guard house where Francis was waiting for them, motioning for them to both be silent (Arthur did not appreciate that). The white-haired man, Gilbert, was further up the road, scouting and motioning for the others to follow while Esther was farthest ahead, her sword glittering dangerously in the moonlight.

They continued in this vein for some time and Arthur started to feel a thread of hope that maybe he could sneak out of the village without incident. However, as they made their way nearly halfway across the village and a dog ran up and tackled Gilbert with a large bark, he felt he really should have known better to think it would be that easy. Gilbert swore angrily and loudly, most likely because he couldn't hear how loud he truly was, which of course alerted anyone within the immediate vicinity and then, out they poured, all calling out what was happening.

"Get going!" Alfred yelled, giving Arthur a healthier-than-normal shove that nearly sent him flying forward. Francis grabbed Arthur's wrist and dragged him along, weaving and dodging with flourish while Alfred punched the ground, literally punched the ground. It seemed to cause the earth to shake and caused quite a few villagers to scamper off and the rest to stumble before they continued their chase, some with pitchforks and torches. Lovely.

Arthur blinked a few times as he watched the young man stand up and smile, shaking his hand off while he followed them at a run. Gilbert pushed off the dog and took off at a sprint to where Esther was waiting for them at the edge of the village, steadying five black horses and calling for them all to hurry up, slapping her horse's rump for emphasis. They were ahead of the villagers, who all seemed intent on getting Arthur back so they could execute him right and proper, but Arthur knew that with the time it would take for them to mount the horses and get going, their lead wouldn't mean much.

He had just about had it. He stopped running and yanked his arm out of Francis' hold and stomped back towards the stampeding villagers, ignoring Alfred's look that clearly said he did not understand what he was doing. Frankly, that was warranted – Arthur didn't know what he was doing. He just knew he was done.

The past two days had been awful. Nothing had gone right at the store that day, his brothers were uncaring prats, his voice had been stolen by a mad man, and he'd been condemned to death and now wouldn't even get the chance to pay back that giant bastard since the villagers were complete morons.

He had had enough.

He screamed at the mob silently, screamed all his anger, all his frustration, and how he just wanted them to leave him the hell alone and then, funnily enough, each and every one of the villagers were halted and thrown backwards as if by a huge gale of wind. He stared at the villagers before taking a chance and mouthing one word before he turned back around and made his way to the waiting horses.


And sure enough, they did, pushing themselves up only to have their limbs give out and send them back to the ground. It was only once he got to the waiting horses and mounted that the anger started to fade that realized that his Voice, the whole reason that man had attacked him in the first place, was still there, buried deep within.

The others mounted and nudged their horses into a gallop, each of them looking at him with varying degrees of interest; Arthur had to look away quickly when Alfred's eyes zeroed in on him, feeling a rush of heat flood his cheeks. Oh bollocks, this was just ridiculous - he just met the lad and was running for his life. This was NOT the time to develop a ridiculous crush.

"Well, guess we know why Braginski went after him. Guy's got a set of powerful pipes, don't he? Don't you worry, Artie, we'll fill you in on everything once we get back."

Alfred didn't say anymore about where or what 'back' was, but Arthur couldn't find it within himself to question it. The weight of everything that had happened to him in the past day and a half had finally started to come to fruition and he simply felt too drained to care. He was alive for now and surrounded by a group who at least seemed to understand what had happened and who had attacked him that was enough for now. No, for now he was just going to go with it and try hard to not stare into perfect blue eyes of course.

Gods, it was going to be a long day.

Revised/rewritten 5/2021

*Patrick – Ireland

*Esther - Israel; please note when I originally wrote this character, it was over 12 years ago and I did not have the understanding I do today as to the complexity of this OC personification inclusion. While this character remains in this story, that in no way reflects any support for the ongoing violence being perpetuated by the Israeli government against both Palestine and their own people.