Bryant's house was not actually in the village. It was in Cohron, yes, but Cohron was the name of the territory as well as the village. It was also the most fortified building in the territory and probably the entire mountain range.
It looked like a strange beast crouched in the woods, made of pink and white quartz left rough on the exposed area. Its roof was slatted, made of dark gray slate. The windows were little more than slits, and the doors, when closed, were nearly impossible to find. It was a low-roofed single story structure and looked like it was built to withstand a siege- which it was.
Bryant pushed open the front door. If it hadn't already been slightly ajar, it would have been much harder to open, although he himself wouldn't have had trouble finding it. Like Adan's house, his house had doorknobs. Unlike Adan's house, none of the doorknobs were on the outside of the doors.
He went through the house silently, but his mother still seemed to know he was there when he came into the kitchen. It was at the other end of the house and the back door, which was closed at the moment, was there.
Bryant had been waiting for that day for weeks. His mother, Raven, had told him she would show him something amazing. And when Raven said amazing, she meant it.
There was a block of stone sitting on the counter. Bryant had a strong suspicion as to what it was for.
"Hello," said Raven. Her back was to Bryant and had been since he'd entered the room.
"Hi, Mother. I have food today. You don't have to get some. I saw a moondeer earlier, too. It was a doe."
"You did, huh? I saw one too. Actually, I see those more often than I see you anymore. What's going on with that?"
"Injustice, that's what."
Raven turned around. "Oh, really?"
"Remember in spring when I stayed home for two days and disappeared the next night?"
"Of course I do, Bryant. Do you think I could forget that? I thought you might have run away or gotten killed by something. What happened?"
"I almost did die. And it certainly didn't seem to be a problem for the villagers to forget it."
Raven dropped her accusing tone and changed it to one of concern and a little bit of shock. "Who?"
"Everybody except for Ben, Sensei, Lisa, Eva, and Mikael."
"Everyone but your friends. And what did they do?"
"It's too traumatic to even think about. Please don't ask."
"I'm your mother. I have a right to ask. Now, what did they do?"
"I was tied to a tree all night without my coat. I almost froze to death. The last thing I remember from that night is feeling sleepy."
Raven stood suddenly, accidentally knocking her half-formed clay falcon off the table. It fell onto the floor, flattening many of its intricate details. She lifted it back to the table and said, "Someone, or something, must have saved you. If not, you would be dead."
"I don't know what happened after I fell asleep."
Raven looked as though she had a few doubts about that part of Bryant's story, but, like Adan, she knew enough to leave it be.
"I'll go on and show you what I promised, then. Watch very carefully and tell no one."
She went to the block of stone on the counter. Bryant could see a flaw in the side he faced. It appeared to run through most of the block. He watched as his mother drew a deep breath and then let out a sound beam of sorts. He could hear it, but it was so focused that it seemed faint, even though he knew it must be very loud.
The stone began to quiver, then to crack along the flaw as the sound beam pounded it mercilessly. It split open with a sharp crack. Raven then stood back and sat down at the table, already tired from her effort.
"Now try that," she said. "It comes from far back in the throat. I don't expect you to make a strong beam this early, maybe just enough to stir some of the dust from that. Don't worry- you'll sound funny at first, but so did I."
Bryant did try, but his first attempt was only a pitiful whistle that died out quickly. The next try wasn't much better.
"That's exactly what I sounded like on my first tries," Raven said in amusement. "Just keep trying. You'll get it sooner than I did, if your skills at mimicry are what they seem to be."
He tried again, and again and again until he managed to focus the sound. He did it multiple times in a row and knew that he had it figured out. It wasn't strong, but it was something.
"That's great, Bryant. Practice, and you'll be better than me eventually."
"Are you sure?"
Raven smiled. "Of course I'm sure. I'll get some water, and then you can help me fix this falcon."
She opened the back door and went to the well. A rustle in the bushes made her turn her head in time to see three strangers, obviously not ninja, erupt from the cover of the undergrowth. They all attacked at once, but Raven managed to hold her own until the one who appeared to be in charge pulled a gun from his belt.
The noise also alerted Bryant, who poked his head around the door to see what was going on. It was a mistake.
He was seen, and the one with the gun said, "Him too. Leave no witnesses."
Before Bryant could shut the door, one of the men was inside, leaving him no choice but to flee. The halls of the house were narrow and full of turns, and the ninja was quick and agile, giving the stranger a disadvantage. But the building was not large, and the lead Bryant gained was small.
Exiting the house, Bryant closed the door behind him to gain a few more valuable seconds. If he could climb a tree and hide before the man got out, he might have a chance. He ran, unrolling his hood and sleeves, but was just barely up a tree before there was an odd pfak sound and something strangely hot sliced into his calf.
He had been shot in the leg he was using to support his weight. He nearly fell, but barely managed to catch himself before he slipped out of the tree. Even so, the tree was a rowan, and the bark was smooth. This branch was one he could not hold onto forever.
Bryant stabilized himself with his other leg and looked down at his pursuer. The man had a gun of his own, which he was pointing at Bryant.
"Come down now," the man said, "and I won't have to shoot you again."
Bryant looked around. He had no escape route, and the leaves of the rowan weren't dense enough to hide him. Even if he did manage to climb into the area where the trunk split into limbs, he had already been seen. He could not hide now.
He threw several shuriken at the man and used the distraction to get as far away as he could- not far, due to his injury. He could ignore the pain, but he was still slowed. Unfortunately, he was slowed enough for the man to catch up and pin him down.
He spluttered on a mouthful of duff, spitting out enough to hiss defiantly, "You will die, bottom feeder!"
The man only laughed. "Ha! That's cute, squirt. Did you read that somewhere?"
Bryant reared up and twisted out from beneath the man, readying himself to jab him in the throat with stiffened fingers. But the man pointed the gun- a shiny air pistol- directly at his face and said, "Just try it. We don't need you- only your mother."
Bryant had no choice but to surrender. He patiently endured the binding of his hands and the man's cocky comments about his appearance, although many of them bordered on cruelty.
They got back to where the others were waiting and started to move out. Bryant wasn't sure he wanted to know where they were going. His mind was full of scathing retorts to the man's continuous remarks, but he didn't dare to say anything. The man still held the gun to his head.
Bryant and his captor were in the back, just behind Raven and hers. He was beginning to lose hope in the situation when the gun was pulled away from his head. This was followed by the man's neck being effortlessly snapped by a pair of strong hands.
It was Ben Asaka, the blacksmith of Cohron. He let the body down as quietly as possible, indicated to Bryant to stay there, and moved on to the next stranger. That attempt did not go nearly as well. Raven was freed, the stranger was eliminated, and the leader noticed.
The man turned, drew his weapon, aimed at Ben, and missed. He fired again, and the next shot was just as poorly aimed: he hit Raven. She went down, distracting Ben long enough for the man to get away. Bryant didn't know what happened next; in an occurrence common to his kind, his subconscious decided he'd seen enough. He was out before he realized what had happened.ns 126.96.36.199da2