Timothy stared down at the body of Jakeb Butcher, his rival since childhood, and felt a grim sense of satisfaction. He leaned down and pulled his knife from the cooling corpse, wiping the old, worn blade clean on the fancy white linen of Jakeb’s shirt before tucking it back into his badly worn boot.
As the only child of the village butcher, Jakeb had lorded over him since they were small, ridiculing him for his missing father and what little his mother could afford for them as a laundry washer. Timothy could feel the rage well up inside him again as he remembered all the suffering the dead man had brought upon him. He could recall vividly when Jakeb had spit on his brand new leather boots that his mother had saved up to buy him. And the way he had stolen away Joanna’s affections with expensive gifts and pretty words. Or how whenever Timothy had found work as an apprentice in a trade, Jakeb would happen to stop by and, after having a word with the craftsman, Timothy would soon find himself out of work. He couldn’t even enlist with the soldiers heading out to fight the raknar thanks to Jakeb’s cruel influence.
Thunder rumbled overhead, heralding a midnight storm. He gave the body a savage kick.
It was all over now. Never again would he be kept from happiness by another’s senseless cruelty. It was time to celebrate! He rifled through Jakeb’s pocket, collecting the coins there and headed into town. Being a small village outside the massive city of Talithis, there was only a single tavern. But the alcohol would help him ignore the black churning inside his heart.
Timothy was well into the cups several hours later when the barkeep, Frank, called out over the low rumble of his patrons. “Oi, Jakeb, what happened to you? You’re a mess, boy!”
Disbelief sent a chill up Timothy’s spine as he turned to see the rain-soaked, disheveled man storm over to him before throwing a quick jab to his nose. Timothy’s head snapped back as his nose exploded with blood, his septum thoroughly shattered. He grabbed his nose and howled in pain.
“You drunken sop!” Jakeb railed as two quick-acting patrons restrained him from the injured Timothy. “How dare you! What manner of buffoon knocks a man unconscious, strips him down, then leaves him naked in the mud during a thunderstorm?”
Hearing the last bit, the barkeep gives the pair a concerned look before waving his volunteer bouncers to the back door with Jakeb. The pair of friends often fought, but this was sure to escalate and he didn’t want them to have an audience. Frank personally grabbed Timothy by the collar and hauled him, wailing, behind the trio.
With the two young men deposited behind the bar, Frank gave them a dismissive wave before closing the door behind him. “You boys sound like you got issues to work out. Why don’t you stay back here in the rain an’ cool off for a bit.”
Trying to hold onto a shred of dignity, Jakeb scrambled to his feet and habitually dusted off his wet clothing. He glared at Timothy, the rain doing little to cool his rage. “You worthless…”
Timothy’s eyes grew wide and he tried to scramble away from Jakeb. “You-you’re supposed to be dead!”
“What are you talking about, you imbecile!?” He shouted at the injured drunk. “Do I look dead to you?”
“But…” Timothy began, confusion warring with his fear. He reached for his dagger and offered it up as proof, pointing it to the stain on the other man’s chest. “I stabbed you.”
Jakeb glanced down at the bloody ruin of his shirt, first confused then angry again. “You likely just grazed me, and then like the pathetic coward you are, you ran. Then maybe I slipped in the mud and fell… or something.”
He finished, looking uncertain. “Then you came back and striped me of my clothes as some sick joke, and then left me to freeze in the rain!”
“I never took your clothes off!” Timothy protested, growing angry. The alcohol made is tongue loose. “Why would I mess with your prissy clothes anyways? I stabbed you with my dagger, and then once you were dead I took your money and I left you to rot while I got drunk, you snotty som’obitch!”
“Then you are a thief as well as an incompetent murderer! Because I’m standing here in front of you, without a scratch on me! I shouldn’t be surprised, you were never competent in anything else you’ve ever done either!”
Timothy climbed awkwardly to his feet and jabbed the dagger in the air between them. “Shaddup you jackass! I’m not im… I’m not incompetent!”
“Not just incompetent, but a lazy burden!” Jakeb shouted, just getting started. “Your poor mother, to be free of that nev’r-do-well of a husband, only to break her back caring for a hopeless nincompoop like you! The whole village sees her work her fingers to the bone, hoping that you’ll do something with your life, but you can’t even keep an apprenticeship! Even the guard won’t have you!”
The truth of his words was more than the intoxicated Timothy could bear. He roared his anguish and charged at Jakeb, swinging the dagger wildly. The swing threw his balance off and he crashed into the other young man, the pair falling to the ground in a jumbled heap.
“Timothy! Get off me!” Jakeb cried, grabbing the dagger-wielding wrist. He anger vanished, replaced with concern. “Stop this before you hurt one of us!”
Timothy did not respond, instead he grunted his frustration and grappled with Jakeb, shaking violently with the effort.
“I mean it, Timmy, don’t make me hurt you!” When the threat failed to illicit a response, Jakeb rolled over onto his friend. With a quick strike to the wrist, he broke Timothy’s wrist and snatched up the dagger as it fell to the ground. The injured man bucked beneath him, throwing him off.
“This has gone on long enough Tim!” Jakeb pleaded. “Calm down and we’ll get you to the healer’s. I’ll help you!”
“I don’t want your help,” Timothy replied coldly, clutching his damaged wrist to his chest. “I never asked for your help, not ever!”
Timothy threw himself at the focus of his hatred. Jakeb flinched, falling backward under the weight, and cried out for help. Timothy pummeled at him violently and Jakeb raised his hands to protect his head from the blows. He didn’t have a clue why his friend was so angry, they had argued in the past but rarely came to blows. But this time was different; it seemed like Timothy really wanted to hurt him. The violence abruptly stopped and Jakeb hesitantly opened his eyes to find the cause. He gasped in horror to find that his friend had inadvertently impaled himself on the dagger Jakeb clutched in his hand. He released it immediately and climbed out from under Timothy, shouting again for help.
Patrons of the tavern were already in motion, having responded to Jakeb’s initial cries for aid and witnessed the struggle of the two men. Frank eased Timothy to the ground and tried to examine the dagger in the dim ray of light from the tavern’s window. Jakeb could see the dagger from where he sat, sobbing for air and his friend. The blade, Timothy’s most prized possession and only gift from his father, was sunk up to the hilt. Crimson bubbles formed around the blade, indicating a lung puncture. Frank tried to stem the bleeding with an old towel, padding either side to keep the dagger from moving. Someone was sent for the healer, but Jakeb knew in his heart it was already too late.
He sought out eye contact with his friend and watched the life seep out of him. He couldn’t tell what was tears or what was rain as the villagers helped him to his feet and carried him to the healer’s house.
A hooded figure observed the scene with mild interest from a safe distance. It was curious really, he thought to himself. The spell had seemed to work perfectly and resulted in the desired consequence; the death of the Butcher heir. However, now it seemed that it was the tool that ended up breaking instead. It was perhaps the fact that the Timothy boy had been that incompetent, or maybe the spell wasn’t as successful as he had thought. Whatever it was, it wasn’t important. This was only a minor setback in the grand scheme. There were over a hundred ways to kill a person after all.