Previously on Fractured Dawn . . .
A man wakes on a beach with no memory and discovers a strange purple stone embedded in his chest. Through a series of altercations he finds himself in the town of Bridgewood, a tree farming community far from the larger cities of the state.
To pay off damages caused in a bar fight, the man now known as Cook works in the kitchen of the Highwayman’s Hat.
But people are nervous of the stranger and are not afraid to let him know.
Cook stared at himself in the mirror. The face looking back was still new to him, still a stranger. He traced a light scar from his left brow to the cheek below. His nose looked like it may have once been broken. Even one of his teeth had a tiny chip.
His face had a history, a tale laced with experiences, and he knew none of it. All he could account for was the bump on the back of his head courtesy of Tanel and the bruise on his forehead from his recent bar fight.
He splashed water over his face and stared again at the man looking back. The grinning man with the purple glowing eyes.
Before Cook realised anything was wrong the reflection reached through the mirror and stabbed him in the throat with an ornate knife. The room filled with evil laughter as blood flowed down Cook’s chest and dripped onto the floor.
The world faded to purple.
Cook sat up in bed and reached for his throat. There was no wound, no knife. Only sweat. He threw off the sheets and got out of bed. He caught his breath as he crossed the room and stood looking at himself in the room’s only mirror, a man highlighted in the faint tint of the night’s moon, the purple stone in his chest glowing softly. He balled his fist and punched the mirror. A spider web of cracks spread from beneath his knuckles.
He returned to bed, content.
It was still early morning when Cook arrived back at the beach. With no real knowledge of the towns surrounding area, he’d figured the best place to get away from people was also the only other place he knew.
Things had changed dramatically since the afternoon he’d woken up in the sand. While the spot that he’d woken was host to a few small objects, further down the beach the rest of the ship wreck was clawing its way up into the sands. It was as if a God had scooped the ship from the seas and thrown it towards the nearest landmass. Timber, sails and furniture littered the beach As far as Cook could see.
Not knowing where to start, Cook walked among the wreckage sifting through anything and everything, trying to find something familiar. All it would take was one thing to cause everything to come flooding back; something with his name on or a picture that might cause some small memory to unravel just enough.
Or maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t he only survivor to wash ashore. A person or persons could be hidden out there among the wreckage, someone with answers.
“Hello?” he called out.
He headed to his left and climbed up a small, rocky outcrop to get a better look. On the other side of the outcrop was a large section of the ship’s bow that rested against the rocks like a head laying on a pillow.
Cook surveyed the carnage.
Still nothing; no reply, and no movement. His hopes were slowly dashed. He sat on the rocks and looked out to sea, wishing he didn’t have this hope, this need for unlocking his mind. It hurt too much each time that he begun to realise the futility of it all. There was nothing there, nothing at all. His past wasn’t on the edge, just out of sight. It wasn’t teasing him with small glimpses. There was nothing at all. Nothing except this beach and the town of Bridgewood.
“Why are you looking so glum?”
Cook turned to see Tanel making her way through the ship’s wreckage.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Nice to see you too.”
“Are you following me?”
“In a way, yes,” she replied with a smile. “Father thought it was best you not be left alone in your current state.”
“My current state?”
“I know you think you’re big and tough,” she said as she climbed the outcrop to join him, “but you’re lost in a big, big world and you don’t know the rules that surround you. You’ve got into two fights in as many days.”
He tapped his chest. “I’ll be fine, remember.”
Tanel stepped up closer. “You might want to keep that little fact to yourself. If I had a strange rock stuck in me that granted mysterious powers I’d worry about what kind of people found out about it.”
“You mean like your sheriff?”
“He came to see me last night,” said Cook. “Made it clear what he thought of me.”
“Sheriff Lenton can be a bit of a tough nut but he only has the town’s interests at heart.”
“That much was clear.”
“What did he say to you?”
Cook turned away from Tanel and gave his attention back to the sea. “He said enough for me to know that once my debt with Dusty is clear I’ll need to look for somewhere else to lay my head.”
“He would never kick someone out of town,” said Tanel. “Especially someone who was in trouble.”
“Why would I make it up?”
Tanel went to object but thought better of it. “Maybe you could speak to my father. He can say something.”
“I’m not here to cause trouble, Tanel. I may not know where I am from but it’s not here, it’s not Bridgewood. There’s no point in fighting to belong. The sooner I go looking for answers the sooner I’ll find them.”
“Fine,” said Tanel. She looked around at the shipwreck they were both stood at the centre of. “Did you find anything among all this crap?”
“Nope,” he replied. “Nothing at all.
“It looks like it was a big ship,” said Tanel. “It’s strange you were the only survivor.”
“Right now I’d be happy to find a body,” said Cook. “Just to know I wasn’t alone on this ship.” He started to climb down the rocks when movement caught his eye. “Hey!”
“What is it?” said Tanel. She followed the direction Cook was looking but saw nothing.
“There was someone there,” he said. “By those crates.”
“Are you sure?” said Tanel, but Cook ignored her and scrambled down the rocks. She chased after him. “Wait. It could be those bandits. News of the wreckage will travel fast. Looters will take everything they can.”
Cook continued to ignore her. He jumped down to the sand and sprinted towards where he’d seen the person. “Hey!” he yelled. “I need to talk to you.” He could hear Tanel cursing as she struggled down from the rocks but he didn’t care. If it wasn’t a bandit or a looter then it could be someone with answers. Hope burned alive in him again. He leapt a pile of shattered barrels still roped to a pallet and ducked under the large side section of the ship. He came to a sudden stop when he saw who it was.
The woman with the red hair.
“You again.” He felt his anger rising. This mysterious, silent woman who’s only purpose was to taunt him. “Why are you doing this?”
She gave a hand gesture but it meant nothing to him.
“Just tell me who you are.”
The woman shook her head and gave the gesture again.
“Cook,” called Tanel from somewhere nearby. “Where are you?”
The woman with the red hair put her finger to her lips. Shhh.
“Cook?” called Tanel.
He looked behind as she found her way behind the section of the ship. When he looked back the woman with the red hair had vanished.
“Did you find anyone?” asked Tanel.
“I . . . no.”
“I was serious about the looters. We’d better get out of here.”
“I think you’re right.”
It was nearly midday as they made their way back through the woods towards town. Clouds had stolen away the sun and shadows spread out from every tree. With a little walking still to go the sky opened and rain poured down.
“Great,” said Tanel. “This is what I get for helping with our town’s new charity case.” She gave him a teasing smile to make sure he got the joke.
“Could do with a little rain,” said Cook. “I can’t say I find the heat very comfortable.”
“There you go.”
“’There I go’ what?”
“Maybe where ever you’re from it’s somewhere cold.”
Cook shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a start.”
Tanel smiled and nodded looking content that she’d lifted his mood. Cook liked her company. But then she wasn’t trying to run him out of town.
He thought of apologising for his earlier attitude as he bumped into her after she stopped walking.
Tanel didn’t reply. She slowly raised her hand and pointed to something in amongst the trees. Cook followed her finger but couldn’t see anything.
“Are we in danger?” he whispered.
Finger still pointing, she nodded.
He felt the warmth from the stone start to spread throughout his body. His skin started to harden. He felt taller, stronger, and close to invincible. He kept looking between the trees trying to see what Tanel was fearing.
And then it moved. Just a little, just enough. If you weren’t looking for it you would never notice it, at least not until it was too late. It was some kind of creature that looked like it belonged in nightmares. Taller than a horse, its green and brown fur hiding it well from plain sight, and teeth that could rip you in half. And it was staring straight at them.
“I’ll draw it’s attention,” said Cook. “You run.”
Tanel shook her head.
“It wasn’t a suggestion!”
“Look in its mouth.”
“What?” said Cook but he understood straight away. Though mostly hidden by the grass the creature was creeping through, he could make out an arm, a head, and legs. A body was cradled in the creatures jaw. It wasn’t a large body either, it could only have been a child.
In the distance a horn sounded. The creature growled and then fled.
Tanel fell to her knees and wept.
Tanel fell to her knees and wept.