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A Flaming Arrow


Jonathan Isenor

Strife sat in the blenchers high above the stadium below him. Strife was different from your average boys; his father was Ethos a famous archer. His face was clean, but his clothes were that of a beggar's, his ruffled blond hair was messy and matted; his blue eyes seemed to be the color of the deep blue ocean. Strife was always a good boy although at times he was depressed. Strife had a perfectly good reason to be sad though although no one realized it. 

Young Strife's mother passed away when he was born, and he has been living with his father alone ever since. Although he is only a mere eight years old he already has seen much violence, the game his father Ethos plays is a dangerous one. The game is very simple, two men run about the open area in the stadium, and they use bow and arrows to shoot at each other. Sounds rather barbaric, but they do have a point system. Both competitors wear armor on their chest, legs, head and their back. An arrow shot in the chest is two points, in the leg is one point, in the back is one point, and in the head is three points. Most points in five minutes wins. The winner usually gets a bag of gold coins or some form of meat. Whether it's ham, beef or chicken the winner was always happy; sometimes, though, they'd get a cow. That's only when the king was in a good mood though.

King Reznor seemed to be a half decent king, he always kept the people fed, and no one ever complained. Strife, like most eight year olds, gets along well with his father, and enjoys going to see his friends when he can. Raine was Strife's most loyal friend ever since he began his life in Glazier. Strife sat in the blenchers by himself not afraid of anything, he watched as his father continued to jump about. After a couple of minutes, King Reznor stood up and announced that Ethos had won. He was awarded a ham and a bag of gold coins. Ethos rushed up the stadium's stairs to his son; he picked him up and hugged him tight.

" I won today, Son! What did you think of our match?" his father asked, still feeling very excited.

Strife hugged his father tightly. "You did great today."

Ethos put Strife back down on the blencher he once sat on. Both smiled at each other, as Ethos put his arm around Strife and led him down the stadium's stairs. The stadium itself was cold like always, the steps were made of an old wood, and the open area was full of scuffed up dirt. The stadium had no roof, which made it very hard for Ethos to compete in the rain. 

They walked out of the stadium and back to their home. The village was quiet with only a few candles lighting the occasional window along the way home. Strife and Ethos found their home quickly, opened the old wooden door and walked inside.

Their home was nothing out of the ordinary, the normal dirt floor, cause they couldn't afford anything better. Constructed mainly of wood, the house would usually leak when it came to rain storms. The floor although dirt, did not host any rat's homes as Ethos made sure it kept clean. 

" Could you put on a fire in the woodstove?" Ethos asked.

"Right away." Strife said with a hint of excitement in his voice. Strife collected some small sticks of wood, and placed them in the wood stove, then he used a flint to ignite the flame. The red flame caught quickly, and he closed the woodstove's door and latched it. 

Ethos walked over and placed a slice of ham in a frying pan over the woodstove. Then on the other burner he placed a pot of freshly peeled potatoes. Strife and Ethos never ate that well, they barely got by. Without his father he would be completely useless. 

Strife and Ethos sat at the kitchen table while waiting for the ham to cook. Silence swept over them, as no one said anything. Strife fiddled with a stick, drawing a picture in the dirt floor. But secretly he was thinking about his mother; she had passed away when he was born. Strife really wanted to get to know his mother but never had a chance and that depressed him. He always loved his father, but he just wished that he had another family member. One that would listen to all of his problems and care just as much as his father did.

"Strife, what's wrong, my boy?" Ethos asked feeling concern for his son.

Strife dropped the stick and looked up at his father. He felt tears in the pockets of his eyelids, but held back and decided to change the subject.

" I'm fine just tried that's all, father." He replied trying to hide his hurt feelings.

Ethos sensed that Strife was feeling down, and right away he knew why. After all he had been this way ever since he was a mere four years old. That's when he asked about his mother and his father reluctantly gave him the answer. He felt so bad that day, but Strife had to know. Ethos missed his wife after all. 

"Listen, Strife..." He began. " I have something of your mother's and I think it's time you have it." Ethos reached behind his head, and unclasped his necklace. The necklace had a silver chain and a lion pendant on it. The pendant though was extremely rare; it was made out of a solid metal and was carved ever so carefully. Strife knew how much it meant to his father but sat in the silence as he placed it on the table.

Strife picked up the chain and pendant; he looked it over and handed it back to his father. He couldn't accept it; he thought to himself this is my father's memento of mother. Ethos pushed the pendant back into Strife's hand and made him close his hand around it, making a fist. 

"I can't take this, father I appreciate the thought, but I can't take it. Mother gave this to you." He said opening his hand.

Ethos' smile fell to that of a very serious facial expression. "Strife, it's time to take it. You seem very depressed, I would like it very much if you would take this and wear it. That way you're wearing a piece of your mother, that way you might not be so down."

Strife decided in his mind that his father was right. He took the chain and clasped it together behind his head. Then he let it fall down onto his little chest. Feeling a great deal of appreciation for his father's gift he finally smiled. "Thank you."

Ethos finally felt happy, as his boy had finally smiled, for the first time in days. He tended to the ham and potatoes and they ate together, both seeming silently happy.

Strife dug into his ham and shoved it down quickly. He washed it down with a cup of water and continued to fill his little stomach. 

"Strife, tomorrow I will take you to the blacksmith's. There I will teach you how to forge a great arrowhead. Then after that we will go to the forest just outside the village; there I'll teach you how to hunt. What do you think about that?" Ethos asked, hoping that his son would respond happily.

Strife thought about the idea and had no objections. "I think it would be good to do," he replied.

"Good; we leave tomorrow at dawn."

Strife finished his supper, and then went to his bedroom. He plunged himself down onto his bed, and lay there. The bed was comfortable as he sunk down; he pulled back the covers and got in the bed. He closed his eyes, and with thoughts of his mother he fell asleep. He awoke to bright patches of orange sunlight dancing on the walls. Strife was very lucky for he had his own bedroom, most boys in Glazier did not have that privilege. 

His father burst into the room and pulled him up out of bed. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, they left and went to the blacksmith's. No one was in the little hut; Ethos went right in and began to heat up a piece of metal in a special oven. Then he grabbed a hammer, and handed another hammer to Strife. No questions were asked; instead he removed the metal from the oven and used a special pair of cutters on the metal to form an arrowhead shape. Then he hammered the metal until it was flat, making sure that Strife was watching. He occasionally quizzed him on what he was doing. Strife was never caught off guard as he kept tabs on his father's actions. He answered correctly and then made his own arrowhead. 

Ethos was impressed and thus moved to his next plan for the day, hunting. Ethos took his son far from the village and showed him the Dead Forest that everyone was always talking about. The forest was full of large trees that seemed to reach to the sky, unlike a normal tree though these trees all didn't have any leaves. All of the trees, like the name suggests, are dead. Many creatures reside in the forest, deer, bear and sometimes a rare creature, the griffin. The griffin though was used mainly for transportation, not really for food purposes like the other creatures. 

Strife and Ethos entered the forest carefully, Strife followed close behind his father. With each step they took, they stopped and surveyed the area. Upon seeing a deer, Ethos reached back, grabbed his bow, put an arrow against the string, pulled back and with a loud yell the deer fell down with blood pouring out of it.

Strife felt bad for the deer, but never said a word to his father, as this was their only way to survive. They needed to hunt and kill for food, because they couldn't always afford food, which was just their way of life. They dragged the carcass back to Glazier and to their home. Ethos showed Strife how to clean a deer and he caught on quickly although he was grossed out and wanted to vomit.

Years passed as if seconds. Ethos and Strife lived quite well; Ethos went to the stadium and Strife watched him. Occasionally he'd take his son to a nearby field and teach him archery. Strife still remained very dependent on his father through the years.

And so two years passed.

Strife sat high above in the blenchers watching his father compete. Today he'd be facing a man named Thorne. Strife had seen the man once before. His pale white face was always exposed, his long black hair fell past his shoulders, and black triangles hung under his eyes. His eyes were empty and gray with no life. The last time Strife's father had a match with Thorne he had beat him. Thorne wasn't happy and walked away very frustrated. Feeling his interest grow he walked down from the blenchers and made his way closer to the action.

Both men leapt and shot their arrows, then Thorne glared at Strife. Feeling his heart sink, a bad feeling twisted and turned in his stomach. The black eyes haunted Strife; his pale white face gave him the creeps. 

Then it happened, as Strife stood beside the fence protecting him from the action. Thorne was losing, so he let out an arrow that shot straight into Ethos throat. Blood poured from his neck as he fell to the ground. The crowd went silent. Strife jumped over the fence and ran over to his father's body.

" Father no!!!" Strife yelled.

Strife fell to his knees beside his father, and checked his father's body but it was ice cold. Ethos had died; tears poured down the cheeks of Strife. The crowd stood silent.

Then Thorne smiled at Strife.

"You know he could have beat me," Thorne said smiling.

Tears continued to pour down Strife's cheeks. The crowd kept silent. Thorne left the stadium laughing. The crowd slowly left as Strife was left staring at his father's deceased body. Strife took his father's death right to heart; he sat in the stadium for a good while, crying his heart out. Late that night he went home and rested.  With his heart broken, Strife couldn't stop crying. He'd stop crying for a few minutes and then the tears would just keep coming. The little rest he had would not come easy that night. Hot tears poured down his cheeks, as he sat on his father's bed, clenching the lion pendant he was wearing from his father. It was so sudden and unexpected. Nothing a ten year old would expect, nothing anyone would ever expect. The harsh reality though was still there haunting Strife with his every movement. Life is going to be a lot harder on poor Strife, with his father now gone. 

Dawn did not come quickly, the night seemed to last forever. The darkness of the night made Strife feel so alone, so lost, and so heart broken. His heart felt as if it was ripped out and stomped on, until it was mashed into several thousand pieces. All Strife ever wanted was to be with his father and live a normal life. Reality had deprived him of a mother already, and now his heart ached from the loss of his father.

Morning finally came. Strife took his father in the morning and buried him with the help of his best friend's parents; having nowhere to go, Strife was forced to survive on his own. It was hard on him; he had no parent to look out for him. After that day it was clear that he'd have a hard time moving on. When he got better he'd go after Thorne. He took his father away from him, and Strife would take away his life. Strife found it so hard being on his own, he had to hunt, cook and try to make sure that the house was always in okay shape (meaning no robberies, everything had to be locked up).

Strife's best friend Raine, was a little help to him; he tried to help Strife have something in his belly before he went to bed. Raine's parents would also help out Strife by checking up on him and trying to help him out. But nonetheless it was all so hard for poor Strife, he cried himself to sleep for countless nights. The nights he didn't cry himself to sleep he'd dream of killing Thorne. It took him a while to adjust to the fact his father was gone, and much of his time he spent depressed, sitting at the kitchen table, crying, thinking about his lost parents.

He came into the world with only one parent and then lost the other, he found himself holding himself at night, wishing his father was there with him. Raine was the only one that stuck by him though, best friends for life they are, the day Ethos died Raine was there in the stadium. 

He talked to Strife that day, but Strife insisted on staying with his father's dead body for a while. He explained it to Raine as his way of saying good-bye. Raine was always there for Strife and that he appreciated. Strife was depressed but still managed to get by, and occasionally he'd go to the field where he had practiced archery with his father and he'd try to practice; the absence of his father made him break down and cry. Most times he'd pick up the bow, pull back the arrow and the tears would just pour out his eyes drop after drop like a waterfall. 

Hunting wasn't the same either; he'd go to the forest and break down. Just looking at the forest, he'd picture his father pulling back the bow and shooting an arrow at a deer. The tears from that point on would just pour out. Even walking through the streets of Glazier,  hurt Strife. He'd remember walking that road with his father and that
was it, he'd find himself weeping. 

Life just wasn't the same for Strife, he had lost his father, and with his losing his father he lost part of himself. Part of him was lost and it seemed like he'd never get that part back, not until he had gotten better. Every day he awoke to the orange blotches of sunlight on his wall, but he'd just lay there, he wouldn't move he'd just lay there and start crying, he'd cry sometimes for a good few hours. The harsh world just wasn't doing him any favors. 

Strife was alone and that was the fact, which killed him the worst. He had no one to live with, he felt as if there was no one in the world to keep him company; loneliness engulfed him at every corner. 

The years slowly passed and with their passage came Strife's day of reckoning. He trained hard and had made his way into the stadium as one of the top archers; he waited for the day Thorne would come. That day came quicker then he thought it would, they stood in the middle of the stadium, eye to eye, nose to nose, bow to bow, and with the sound of the bell their match began.

Thorne shot an arrow, but Strife quickly dodged his arrow and let one of his own go, Thorne dodged it, turned his back and began to run. Strife let an arrow go and it stuck in Thorne's back. Thorne kept going though and ran to the other side of the stadium. The crowd seemed to be on Strife's side as they only cheered him when he let an arrow go, the match was scheduled for ten minutes rather then five at the request of Strife. 

Strife seemed to have Thorne right where he wanted him with points - that is until a rather tragic event occurred.  The match up until that point had been a normal one, but Thorne, sensing his defeat, shot an arrow.  But it was no regular arrow, instead it cut straight through Strife's armor and caused a red blood stain to materialize. Strife was clearly injured and had a hard time pulling the arrow out. 

"What's wrong, Strife? Did I hurt you?" Thorne asked in a devilish growl.

Strife stared hard at Thorne trying to ignore his injury. His chest ached as he felt more blood pour out. "Let's do this the right way."
Strife pulled off his armor and threw it on the ground. Thorne laughed
at Strife's brave approach. 

"Come on boy, show me what you got. You'll die here just like your

Thorne ran to the other side of the stadium, reached back for an arrow but found he had none. Strife reached back, took his last arrow, reached up and lit it with the use of a torch that decorated the stadium. 

"I WILL NOT DIE TODAY!" he yelled as the crowd cheered.

Next he pulled back the arrow and shot it. The arrow caught Thorne straight in the throat, blood poured from his neck, and he fell to his knees and then completely flat on the stadium floor. 

Strife had killed his father's murderer, and though it seemed like a grand task to have done, Strife also died that day. The arrow wound he had suffered was too great, and he also died on the stadium floor much like his father, only this time with thousands of people chanting his name.

Strife found light in his life, just in another reality, high above in the clouds with his family, what always had truly meant the most to him. 

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