Jake's Quest

By: David Ihnen

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This story is Copyright by David Ihnen. Please do not distribute without permission.

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As he knelt by the small grave, the events of the night before burned through Jakes memory once again. He had been curled up in the stable of the little town Jackson Hill, warm with his dog friends, drifting off to sleep after a long day of grooming the horses and the exhausting sadness of burying Scout. It had been a bit too emotional the last few days for him to entirely think straight. First Henry had been accused of being a witch, turned into a dog, and ran off. Lord Jackson had beaten Jake that night, he still had some bruises on his back from it. The sadness of having to bury Scout, who died taking a bullet for Henry. He sighed and fantasized of running off and finding Henry, leaving this nightmare behind.

There were again screams of demon from outside. Jake buried his head between a couple of the dogs. His body wracked with silent sobs, gripping old Ruth in his arms. She licked his tears gently from his face. Jake cried for Scout, for Henry, for himself, against the evil outside.

Jake didn't hear the cries change to "Fire! Fire!", his head buried in dog fur.

The dogs jumped out of his arms, barking madly as the building became engulfed in flames. Old Ruth grabbed his arm, trying to pull him up, away from the danger. Panicked Horses kicked their stalls open, running out the double doors into the town square. Dogs were barking, the frantic yips of puppies close by. Jake was pulled from his grief by the pain of her grip. He looked around, realizing the situation. Just then, a cieling beam crashed to the floor, hitting the bitch with a sickening crunch. She made only a sharp yelp.

Jake collapsed to his knees, tears streaming down his face in a flood as the loving brown eyes looked into his, dimming as life slipped from her. He tried to lift the beam but it was far too heavy. The boy shook with rage and grief, mouth open in a soundless scream. He angrilly lept to his feet. Ignoring the flames, he wrenched a stall door open. He efficiently collected several panicked puppies into a cloth lined wicker bascket. Grabbing their cowering mother by the ruff, he dragged her out of the burning stall and towards the door. She saw safety and ran out ahead of him. The building collapsed around the boy.

A few seconds later Jake broke through the thatched, roof, pulling the basket after him. He walked into the open and set the basket down. He angrilly beat out the flames that burned at his tunic, and scowled. His hair and clothes were half burnt off, his skin behind the holes bright red from burns. The townspeople were building a brigade line from the river, desperately attempting to preserve the chapel from the flames. A griffin swooped from above, easily lighting the dry wood with a clutched torch.

Jake stared coldly at the griffin's form. It flew up in the light of the fires and dissappeared to the north. His lips moved, but no sound came out.

The next morning Jake sifted through the ashes of the stables, piling the smith-work to one side. Several dogs helped him, rooting through the ruins, picking up interesting finds and carrying them over to a nearby tree to chew on. The mute found his slate and chalk. The chalk was blackened from the fire, and the slate's frame was burned off. Their leather pouch, a gift from Henry, was nothing more than ashes. He sighed and scraped most of the blackness from the thick chunk of chalk, resulting in a grayish color as he wrote on the slate. He walked resolutely over to Widow Downing, and showed it to her.

The woman straightend up from her sweeping, and peered at the slate nearsightedly. "I will... kill... the fire.. monster" she read carefully. She looked at Jake sharply. Jake pointed to the charred corpse of his would-be rescuer, and thumped his chest, tears in his eyes.

"I won't be telling you what you should be doin." stated the Widow. "Its your life, you know that. God be with you if you go." She handed him a plain folded piece of cloth, blackened and burned in the fire. "I know its not much, but it'll make a decent shroud for old Ruth there." She patted him on the shoulder and went back to sweeping, removing the detritus of her former home from the rough stone foundation.

Jake nodded gratefully, and pocketed the chalk. He hugged her tightly and, clutching the cloth and slate, trudged back to the remains of the stable to finish cleaning it up. It wouldn't do to leave without helping the good members of the town. They had done alot for him. The boy finished clearing the foundation of the stables so that construction could begin. He then started the macabre task of digging a grave beside the fresh mound of Scout's. A makeshift wooden cross of two carved sticks stood at the head of the fresh grave, engraved with "SCOUT".

Old man Job stopped by to rest while Jake worked.

"Hey, young'un. I hear you're going to kill that monster!" he said, sitting down on a charred log with a creak.

Jake nodded. Tears stained his charcoal-blackened face as he dug with vicious stabs at the earth.

"Easy boy, you're gonna hurcherself there." warned the old man, concerned at the youth's vigor.

Jake signed angrilly, "kill love monster die" in his makeshift way, and kicked the dropped shovel back into his hands. He attacked the ground with a furious intensity, shovels of earth piling beside the grave quickly.

Job raised his hands, opened his mouth to speak, and stopped. He sighed and leaned on his musket, watching the small grave form under Jake's shovel. It was clear that the young mute was not going to take advice from him.

Jake finished digging. He carefully lay the corpse in the shallow grave, wrapped in the remnants of Widow Downing's good tablecloth. He knelt by the small grave and cried, his diminutive frame racked by silent sobs and uneven breath, his tears dripping onto the shroud. Job's hand rested gently on his shoulder. Several dogs drew near and whimpered, nuzzling the unresponsive boy, then laying down nearby. As he worked out his grief, his mind burned through the recent events.

Finished and resolute, Jake stood and shook his head, clearing the memories to work with the present once again. He tiredly picked up his shovel and began filling the grave with the rich soil of the land. Tomorrow, he thought to himself, he would go. He would find the evil that killed his mate, and he would kill it dead. Justice would be served. He would not mark the monster's grave.

--- end "Jakes Quest" Part 1 By David Ihnen ---

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