The hooves of Fane’s stallion fell silently on the rooftops of the abandoned buildings surrounding the Dead Zone. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the girl, sitting surrounded by the strange vagrants, eyes distant, clutching a blue doll, featureless except for its button eyes and yarn mouth. The meandering masses seemed to draw warmth from her presence despite the fact that she didn’t acknowledge them Or anything, as far as Fane could tell from their brief encounter, her only communication a small silver bracelet with the name ‘Marie’ engraved on it. Now he searched her out again at the behest of Joshua, but so far he’d had no luck.
He had searched the area where he first saw her, but to no avail. He felt she was close though, as if he could feel her calling to him from the dark. A ridiculous notion, he thought. Why would she call to him? Had she even noticed him there before? He judged her to be no older than maybe 10, but the look in her eyes held something older. Something forged by suffering. How quick such things could age us.
So now he broadened his search, galloping from the rooftops in hopes of spying her wondering down one of the lonely alleys, perhaps searching for him as he did her. “Get a grip, Fane,” he scolded himself to the open air. He stopped briefly, straining to hear signs of life from the empty buildings below. Somewhere in the distance he heard glass shatter and a wave of urgency and need nearly knocked him from his horse. Directing his mount, he leapt from the roof to the alley below and sped toward the sound, but as he approached where he thought it originated, the feeling subsided. “Nerves. Must be nerves.”
He continued on the ground, slowly, searching for the source of the noise. Nerves or no nerves, it was the first clue he’d been given and it was better than nothing. He moved along remnants of businesses long dead, their shells corroding, glass windows caked with dust where they weren’t already cracked or vacant. As he rounded a corner he thought he caught movement through one of the plate glass memorials. As he approached he heard a deep and threatening voice boom from inside, “So you’re the little bitch that’s been setting them free.” Fane strained to see through the murky glass. There she was, inside the cavernous abandoned waste, being backed into a corner by large mass of muscle and menace, “Guess we’ll have to do something about that.” Fane only saw the hulk start to grab the girl before he was crashing through the window, galloping hard to save her.
As the shards cleared from his vision he saw the surprise and anger on the man’s face, piercing with eyes of pure black. He had the girl by the neck in one giant hand as she grasped at his arm trying to stop him. Fane saw part of her shirt ripped and fury overtook him. He charged at the figure, causing him drop the girl in order to dive out of the way.
Before he could recover, Fane turned, unsheathed his sword and planted it into his chest, pinning him to the ground. Darkness like blood flowed from the the wound and from his eyes and mouth. He let out a scream that reverberated through the shadows with mass. Waves of terror and despair flooded into the hollow shell of the room. Fane felt almost as if he could see it rising like dark water. The girl was looking around frantically like she could also see it, but before it could overtake them the sword grew bright, giving off light like the sun to beat back the darkness. The brute screamed again, but this time in his own terror. Not waiting to see if he’d recover, Fane quickly swept up the girl and fled.
He rode to outrun the devil with the girl clutching him with one arm and the strange doll with the other. When it seemed he’d gone far enough he stopped and eased himself and the girl to the ground. He held her as she shivered; eyes more distant now then they had been before. “Are you alright?” he asked, though he didn’t expect an answer. “It’s okay. Everything’s alright now. We’ll take care of you.” He smoothed back her hair and looked into her broken eyes, “I’ll take care of you.”