A loud clinking noise echoed through the cold winter air as Sadon Corith hammered at a glowing clump of metal. He was a black smith's apprentice, and was proud of it. He had been living with and working for Mister Ulric Williams since he had been left there by his father seventeen years ago. His mother died during Sadon's birth and it was well known that his father was a drunk and had no interest in putting any liquor money towards a child. Sadon was fully aware of this fact and it consumed his thoughts. He hammered loudly as the sun descended behind the buildings of the city. He didn't notice Miss Sarah Lawson and her young apprentice, Elizabeth Everbright, staring at him from their fletchery across the road.
“Boy! It's nearly night and I would like some quiet!” Ms Lawson yelled. Sadon snapped out of his day dream and looked at the blade he was trying to make. It was severely bent and still glowing red, but he just waved at Ms Lawson and tossed the blade into a barrel of water.
Through the hissing of the steam, hooves could be heard smacking the cobblestone road. Sadon dismissed this as the guards that had been patrolling the market district with increased frequency of late. Ms Lawson was not as forgiving and her flustered face poked out of window and she opened her mouth to give the rider a stern verbal lashing, but stopped and gasped.
“What the hell?” she exclaimed. Sadon looked and saw Arthur riding a giant white horse. His black bald head shined almost as bright as his steel armour. He was the king's leading soldier and was not often seen inside the city walls. But what was more interesting was the thing being hauled behind him on a cart. On this cart was a cage with a man inside. The man had grey skin and was missing nearly all his hair. He was biting at the bars and reaching through them and scratching at the air. His hands were caked in dry blood and there seemed to be blood all over the man's body, it even appeared as if he was crying tears of blood.
He growled at the people now crowding outside their houses to see the sight. Elizabeth and Ms Lawson had both exited their fletchery, and even Mr Williams—who rarely left his hut—was now outside. The man in the cage was growing excessively vicious as more people came out. He managed to grab one woman who got too close to the cage by the arm. She pulled and pulled until one of the guards managed to hit the man's hand away.
“She's been scratched Arthur. What should we do?” asked one of the guards in dull armour and short black hair. He was dirty and unshaven; it was obvious he had just returned from a long journey.
Arthur looked at the woman's terrified face, and casually looked away. “Lock her in that house, straight away.” He said pointing at an expensive looking two story home. “This house is now under quarantine and must have two guards at all exits.”
The woman's face turned pale, and her jaw dropped open. “What? I have a home, a husband, children! I can't just hide in some stranger's home!” she yelled.
A man stepped out of the house obviously angry because he was the owner of the house. “You will not be doing this to my home! If you think, for one second…” Arthur cut him off.
“Now, now. Don't squabble. I'll not argue with a citizen. This is the way it's going to be, and you'll just have to deal with it. Macabee, Jones, do it quickly!” And at Arthur's order, the two guards pushed past the man and shoved the woman into the house, and slammed the door shut.
As Arthur began to ride off down the road, the owner of the house was yelling “This is madness!” and profanities at anyone who would listen. Ms Lawson began to discuss the situation with Mr Williams.
“Probably up to the castle for more of our king's mad experiments. I only wonder what will come of this one.” She said.
“I wouldn't wager anything good. That man looked sick beyond anything I've seen. And the way they reacted to that woman's scratch was absurd!” Mr Williams said.
Elizabeth ran over to Sadon. Her long wavy blonde hair bounced in front of her face as she ran. She was shorter than Sadon, by only a few inches, the same age, and long-time best friends.
“That was exciting.” Sadon commented to her, still looking off down the road.
“Yes, sad too. For the both the man and the woman.” She looked up at Sadon, “I want to talk tonight, same time and place as usual, okay?”
“Sure thing,” he said in an absent minded tone. Lizzie turned and sprinted back to her house.
As soon as the streets emptied, Sadon laid on his cot. It was pitch black except for the glow from the small fire in the furnace. He slept beside it to try to keep warm, with little success. He heard a window creak open down the street, but dismissed it quickly. He was lost in thoughts of the day and couldn't sleep. He heard another loud clang, but this one was his own hammer falling off his anvil and he jumped up grabbed the dagger from under his bed.
“Who's there?” he said looking out of his small pavilion into the dark street. He saw a short figure walking slowly towards him with its hands stretched out in front of it. Sadon prepared his weapon for a fight.