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Not Revenge, A Reckoning
By Myths n’ Wraiths

    “Thank you sir,” the young girl gasped. She stared up at him with eyes as wide and blue as the spring sky that hung over Paragon that day. Her face, despite the smears of dirt and grime, was covered with a smile of innocence that only an eight year old could boast after the ordeal she had just endured.
    “My name is Sarah.” She pushed an unruly strand of long curly red hair behind her ear and waited expectantly for her savior to introduce himself.
    “My name is Shawn,” the hero replied in a voice that seemed unimposing, even soft, when compared to his considerable size. His stocky frame towered over the petite child, who was still working off her baby weight. His sandy brown eyes met hers with a degree of confusion and uncertainty.
    He had stumbled across a small group of Circle of Thorn, who had abducted Sarah, and dispatched them with ease but this was his first time rescuing a child. His adventures as a hero had been limited to say the least and until today he had never saved anyone who couldn’t at least handle finding their own way home. The soft expecting look in Sarah’s blue eyes told Shawn that this was not going to be as simple as his past exploits.
    With a consistency that had been established since time was born, a child’s intuition sensed out the feelings of uncertainty and fear and with the same level of consistency, reached out to it. Her small hand rose as high as she could reach after standing on her toes and she waited expectantly.
    After a moment of reservation, Shawn concluded that since no other options were coming to his mind he might as well let the girl call the shots. He placed two of his fingers into the young child’s gentle grip and the pair turned to depart the area.
    “I live close by. It won’t take long,” Sarah said, taking the lead and practically skipping toward a row of apartment buildings that decorated the horizon of the local park that Shawn had found her in. The sun beat down on the pair of unusual companions, giving the rolling grass covered hills that they were traveling over a radiant green glow.
    Looking around himself, Shawn found it hard to believe that only moments ago these hills were the site of horrific cultist ritual and the beautiful young child that was escorting him vivaciously across the park was a heartbeat away from losing her soul. Shawn smiled, at no one in particular, and raised his hard, lean face to the sun, soaking in the afternoon’s warmth. He was proud of his new life, proud of what he was now capable of and proud the group of people he was now affiliated with; a group of people known the world round as heroes.
    “You sure showed those bad men,” Sarah said with a giggle. “Mama says that there are a lot of bad men in the city but that the heroes fight for us to keep us safe. You’re a hero aren’t you?”
    Shawn opened his mouth to confirm her question but never got a chance to get the words out before the youthful red head started up again. “Of course you are hero.” She sighed and rolled her eyes at her own ignorance. “It’s just that I have never met a real super hero before. I thought heroes all wore capes and costumes,” she continued, eyeing Shawn’s faded blue jeans and red and white T-shirt that sported a logo of a cresting wave. “Who were those bad men anyway? They sure dressed funny.”
    Again Shawn began to speak and again he did not make it past opening his mouth. “They must not have mommies because my mommy always helps me pick out good clothes.” At this the young girl stopped in her tracks and looked down forlornly at her tattered and soiled dress. “Mommy is going to be mad that I got my clothes dirty,” she sighed, looking up at Shawn once again. The same blue eyes that had mirrored the sky after nearly loosing her life at the hands of possessed mad men now pouted pitifully at the realization she may have to face the wrath of her mother over a dirtied dress. “It was a new dress and she told me to be careful,” she continued, grabbing the hem of her dress and stretched it out to look the ruined fabric over. “Why do bad men have to mess things up so much?”
    Shawn briefly considered allowing Sarah to answer her own question once again but quickly realized that she had no answer for this problem. The irony of the fact that he also was at a loss to answer the question hit him with an almost physical force. “I am trying to find an answer to that myself,” he replied, kneeling down to meet Sarah’s gaze on her level.
    “Did they ruin something of yours too?” she asked with an almost motherly concern in her voice, quickly forgetting her own plight and focusing on the tall rugged man.
Shawn’s broad shoulders slumped solemnly. Did they ruin something of mine? He repeated the question in his mind, weighing the meaning of it and holding that meaning up to the brilliantly harsh light of reality. The truth was not what he had expected to find.
    Flexing his fist, Shawn saw the fighter’s veins that lined his wrists pulse with hyper-regenerative blood. Did they ruin me or refine me? He questioned himself again. The truth was that, were it not for the cursed spells of the Circle of Thorn, he would have no more strength or endurance than an average six foot eight inch man in his mid twenties. His body, which could heal from even the most brutal wounds in seconds, would be as frail as any other mans.
    “No, they did not ruin anything of mine,” he answered honestly; he was incapable of doing anything else. “But I have some new friends. The bad men have hurt them… very much.” Shawn’s voice trailed off when his mind recalled the plight of his newly found super group.
    “Are your friends super heroes too?” Sarah asked, suddenly perking up at the idea of other crime fighters.
    “Yes,” he replied with a half smile and a light chuckle at her youthful exuberance. “This is their ‘super’ symbol,” Shawn pointed at the picture of the cresting wave on his T-shirt.
    “What did the bad men do to them?” Sarah asked, reaching out with one of her tiny fingers in awe to touch the emblem on Shawn’s shirt.
    “They… took someone very special to them,” Shawn replied slowly. He couldn’t help but wonder if Sarah, at her tender age, would even understand the concept of death. It was not much of a surprise to him, however; when the young child’s face melted into a heart breaking frown. This was, after all, Paragon City; where even the babes know death; where even the innocent suffer with the guilty.
    “I hate them. They hurt people; they are mean,” Sarah said, stomping her foot resolutely.
    Paragon City; where children learn to hate during their trips to the park. Shawn reached out and placed a strong hand on the young girl’s red hair. Inside of him was the pressing and unshakable urge to try and shelter the innocence that was still held in her mind. He longed for the power to not only save her body but also her soul from the evils that plagued even the most peaceful of Paragon’s neighborhoods.
    “Many of my friends hate them too,” Shawn shook his head sadly. “But hate…” He stumbled for his words, struggling to suppress the frustration that rose up inside of him when he could not express the thoughts that he so desperately wanted to convey. “It is like a fire, deep down in here,” he blurted out, suddenly finding the words he needed and pointing to the center of his chest.
    “It burns you up inside until one day…” he wanted to say something profound, something convicting, something unforgettable. “…there is nothing left,” was all that came out.
    “But you fight the bad guys. Don’t you hate them?” Sarah persisted, unconvinced by Shawn’s logic.
    Again, he shook his head sadly. “No. No, I don’t hate them.” Shawn said standing up and taking Sarah’s hand. He took the lead and resumed walking towards the red brick apartment buildings that now stood only a couple hundred yards. “For me, it is not about revenge… it is a reckoning,” he said with a resolute nod of his head.
    “A reckoning?” Sarah questioned, her curiosity piqued.
    “Yeah, a reckoning,” he replied and then found himself struggling to put into words a meaning that would make sense to anyone but himself. “It is just something that has to be dealt with, that has to be done whether we want to or not,” he stated, feeling small amount of pride at what he considered a very good definition.
    “Like having to eat Brussels sprouts?” Sarah wrinkled her nose and practically spat the name of the vegetable out as if she were speaking the name of some arch nemesis.
    Shawn’s brow furrowed and he cocked his head curiously. “Well I suppose it is something like that,” he said, his face finally breaking into a smile. “I suppose it is a lot like that.”


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