Not a stone is kicked when the man returns to the southwestern streets of Bree-Town. Tall, covered by coat, and peering through the rain with two frigid light blue eyes, he proceeds without a single unearth in his step. At a brisk pace he approaches that passageway, the one beyond the hedges and the front yards of The Stone Quarter, the passageway that leads itself to another world. Even breezing past Mandrake’s Shop, the heavy boots can’t be heard over the pitter patter of rainfall as it layers the streets of the entire town and then some. Working legs only stop before they pass The Lowbanks’ Estate, to which he turns his head to in a brief moment, then back to that passageway. Tents await beyond, doors that have been boarded up, and a sinister and dark air filters out of it, like the waft of warm bread from a bakery in the morning. The air here is, of course, fouler; it does not fill the soul with a sense of wholeness and mirth as does a pastry, but rather an indescribable dread. People have been known to die beyond the passageway, where sickness is the way to luckily pass.
A hand slowly rises to his chin to grasp it and ponder as he stares. Last time he dared step foot in Beggar’s Alley, a chilling scenario unfolded, and nearly cost him his life at the expense of a lunatic. The very same maniac this man was and is helping to bring to justice, the very same obsessed psychopath that would end this madness once and for all. This plague of a person had been called The Reaver long before the events of now, and would be remembered as such when it is over. The manlets an icy breath escape his mouth, the telltale mist of the cold protruding from him like smoke from a pipe. He had promised he wouldn’t step foot back in Beggar’s Alley alone, and by warranting his death, it may even be considered an act of cruelty to not only that promise, but to whomever might be hurt thereafter.
The answers lie just ahead. Someone within those tents and overcrowded alleyways knows Finn Cornflower, the brother of the first woman who died those ten years ago. Someone can tell him where that man is, and that man can lead him directly to the deranged, of this he is mostly certain. With a bite of the inside of his cheek he steps forward once, determined that this must end. This must end. Now.
A haunting of the past, perhaps. A chill down his spine, a tingle in his toes. The rain had drowned out in his head until this moment, the very moment he hears those words within his mind. Whose voice says it is unclear, a distant memory of his life, or a plea from a newfound friend: “Stay with me.”
He is reminded that beyond the passageway is not his arena, not here, not now. If he moves under that causeway and past those support beams in the alley, it could very well be the last time anyone ever witnesses him. There he stands on the thin line between life and a nearly certain death. For as much as he hunts for this abomination to man, it hunts him right back as it had told him when he only just escaped. For as calm as he remains, he is naught more than a man himself. His heart races, his feet stop, and his eyes stare forward as if blinking could be the end of him. Every muscle in his body tenses, and softly carries him away from the threshold, backing away. This violence, this crude way of the world, though he is capable of it, is not his way. It is not he who chooses this, regardless of his ability to respond to that fire with it. His hand falls on the journal in his coat pocket and he breathes heavily, beginning to calm himself through a slow inhale-exhale exercise. In through the nose, out through the mouth. A few more paces back, not taking his eyes off the alley, as surely some must be staring back at him from within, waiting for that mistake to be made. As he passes The Lowbanks’ Estate backwards, he turns around and walks away, calm and collected. A missing head is much worse than a level one. Not fear, but the wisdom to know where he stands in this situation. He isn’t the apex here, but there are other ways to rid a town of a dangerous animal. That is his job, not to die trying, but to live for the justice that comes after.