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Hapless Circumstances

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While Jasper rests on the shoreline of a lake, he ponders what his next course of action will be. Settling down where he is at the moment isn't an option. Even if he was lucky enough to flee from his old clan's territory, that doesn't mean he will be welcomed in a rival clan's domain. Which is unfortunate. The environment he is currently in is plentiful with resources required for survival. Not only that, but he still has a far distance to travel before he can make it to unclaimed land while keeping a low profile. He also doesn't have much of an idea as to what lies beyond the clans. There could be anything out there!

With a sigh, he turns his gaze so it is focused on the still surface of the lake. His only light source is the few sun rays peeking from the horizon. The sight before him is a painful reminder of what had happened before he fled.

Dry blood covers his cheeks. There are trails of it all the way down his neck and the top of his shirt is stained with splotches of red. It is difficult for him to decipher the exact location of the cuts with all the blood in the way. The cuts intended to scar his face for life.

Unable to stomach the messy image he is presented with, he scoops water into his hands and splashes it onto his face. Desperate to rid his face of the dry blood, he ignores the nip of the frigid water on skin. When his face is soaked, he rubs the blood so it can be removed with ease when he uses more water to rinse it off.

However, having a clean face doesn't make his reflection anymore appealing. Three long cuts decorate each cheek. His face is ruined, thanks to his inability to convince anyone of his innocence. All anyone from any clan has to do is glance at him, and they will assume it's best not to trust him. A pang of dejection fills his chest…

He turns his head away from the water and stands up. There's no time for him to focus on his emotions right now. He needs to keep moving.

Since there is nothing but trees in the direction he plans on going in, he has no choice but to continue his travels through the forest. At first, slogging through a bunch of undergrowth is only a minor inconvenience for him. As time goes on, however, his legs hurt more and more from how overworked they are. He is exhausted from spending an entire night and the first half of the morning attempting to remove himself from the clans' territories. Yet, a sense of urgency warns him against succumbing to the urge to sleep, so he pushes himself further.

When the position of the sun signifies it is nearing afternoon, Jasper is too worn out to continue traveling. He hopes hiding in a forest will help lessen the chances of him being caught as he lies down on a soft part of the ground. Though he is tempted to curl into a fetal position, he lies on his back in an attempt to keep his cuts as clean as possible. After all, an infection will do him no good.

He closes his eyes. By the time he starts to drift off, he is brought back to wakefulness, thanks to the sound of a twig snapping. He drags himself into a sitting position and lines his back up against a tree as he tries to figure out which direction the noise came from. That way, he can come up with a better idea as to where he should hide.

Much to his adversity, he catches sight of someone in his peripheral vision. He whips his head around to find the person (a man who appears to be in his late thirties) is glaring at him. Next to him is another male (he must be a teen), who gazes at him with a shocked expression.

Aw, dang!

The man glaring at Jasper doesn't take his eyes off him, as he takes out a sword and says to the teen next to him, "Don't just stand there. Prepare yourself!"

With practiced ease, the teen takes out a bow and arrow and aims it at Jasper. His eyes widen at the sight of the weapon. How did he not notice the bow and arrow before? He throws his hands in the air without a second thought to admit defeat and says, "Please, don't shoot! I'm not trying to cause any harm! I was just trying to pass through!"

The man walks over to Jasper and holds his sword to his throat, "I'm not buying it! Why do you have those cuts on your face? They look like scarification cuts to me. It's obvious that you broke a major rule back at your old clan and got banished. Why should we trust you?"

"Y-you don't understand! I've been-"

"Save it!" The man says, grabbing Jasper's wrists and yanking his arms behind his back, "We'll see what our leader has to say about this."

The man holds Jasper's wrists together with one hand and uses the other to retrieve some rope, after shrugging a bag off his shoulder and searching for some through his luggage. He uses the rope to tie his hands together and cuts off the excess to tie his arms so they are pinned against his back. He grabs a loose end of the rope wrapped around his arms and torso, as there is enough of it left to be used as a makeshift lead. Which gives Jasper no choice but to follow his captor. Unless he is somehow capable of escaping the strong man's grip on the lead, freeing himself of the ropes binding him, and dodging any arrows the teen fires at him. Which he doubts he can pull off, so why risk it?

The walk through the woods to wherever his captor's leader happens to be isn't a long one. Jasper supposes it only takes around ten minutes. Perhaps if he didn't have to worry about facing the leader of the clan and only had to consider how exhausted he is, the short journey would come as a relief to him. In hindsight, he picked one of the worst clan territories to trespass on. It isn't as if he had much of a choice, though. His ex-clan only gave him the night to leave their land without being killed, and the boundary leading to the clan's territory he is in now was by far the shortest distance from where he was chased out. Despite it being the shortest escape route, he barely managed to make it out in time.

They enter a building that isn't far from the woods. There aren't many people inhabiting it at the moment, much to his relief, as a crowd would be too much for him to handle with his current mental state. Only a few people who appear to be guards are present. Being around these few individuals still fills him with unease, though. They make it clear he isn't welcome here (as if he has a choice to be here).

They arrive in a room where a pale blonde man in white clothing sits on what Jasper assumes is a throne. His legs are crossed and he is leaning to one side so his elbow rests on the arm of the throne. His eyes are concentrated on a knife with a curvy blade. He strokes the silver colored metal with a finger, as if to admire it, but is careful not to go too close to the edge.

His attention is taken away from the knife when the man holding Jasper captive speaks up, "Mr. Heinrich, we found a stranger trespassing in our woods. He doesn't seem trustworthy."

"A trespasser, you say?" Mr. Heinrich's light blue eyes study Jasper before he continues, "I see he has recently acquired the mark of a traitor. He must have been chased out of his old clan."

He pauses for a moment before furrowing his eyebrows. His gaze is now piercing through Jasper, "But what made you think it was a good idea to trespass on my land?"

It takes Jasper a moment to find his voice, "M-Mr. H-H-Heinrich, th-this is all a big m-misunderstanding! I w-was framed!"

"I didn't ask what led to your banishment. I'm asking you why you walked onto my territory when you clearly don't belong here!"

"I was g-given the night to leave my old clan's territory. The Heinrich border was the closest one from where I was chased away. I barely made it out of there in time going this way. It wasn't my intention to stay here."

Mr. Heinrich narrows his eyes, "And you claim the reason why your face has been cut is because you were framed?"

"Yes!"

There is a pause and Mr. Heinrich continues to stare at him. Jasper's heart beats at a fast enough rate to cause him pain and it doesn't help that the intimidating leader hasn't blinked a single time since he first caught sight of him.

Mr. Heinrich speaks up once more, "And why should I believe you?"

Jasper opens his mouth to attempt to defend himself, but closes it when it occurs to him there is nothing he can say to prove his innocence. A smirk appears on Mr. Heinrich's face, "I see. It appears you can't come up with anything to back up your argument."

He takes Jasper's continued silence as an opportunity to ask, "And what did you do that made your old clan decide you're a traitor?"

"I didn't do it! I-I told you, I was-"

"Answer the question, traitor!"

Jasper flinches at the raised voice. He struggles to come up with an explanation. He wants to lie about what he was accused of doing to minimize how serious the crime was, as it is clear no one so far believes him when he says he didn't do it, but he doubts it will work. Even if doing so spares him in the moment, word of his supposed wrongdoing is bound to spread. What will happen if Mr. Heinrich finds out he wasn't being honest?

At the same time, is there anything he could say to make being a traitor less terrible than it is? 'Traitor' is one of the worst titles a person can have. All the crimes warranting scars signifying this character flaw are terrible, as they imply the individual is willing to take extreme measures to backstab anyone for their own selfish needs or wants.

Jasper fails to utter a word and Mr. Heinrich quirks a brow, "No response? That's very suspicious."

He stands with his knife now in a firm hold, "Well, then. Since I can only assume the worst of your crimes, I suppose I have no choice but to take care of you the same way I would any traitor. If there's anything you can say that you think can convince me otherwise, I suggest you say it now. Though there's certainly no guarantee I'll believe you."

The man and the teen hold Jasper in place while their leader approaches him. His breathing quickens at the sight of the knife and he attempts to remove himself from the hold, "No, please! I'll do anything! I don't want to die!"

"I'm sorry, but it's for the best if you die. You can't be trusted." Mr. Heinrich places a hand on Jasper's shoulder and his voice grows soft, "Don't worry, though. I'll make it quick."

Mr. Heinrich brings the knife to Jasper's throat, causing his victim to shut his eyes and anticipate the worst.

Out of nowhere, a voice inquires, "Daniel, what's going on?"

Jasper opens his eyes and finds a man with auburn hair staring at Mr. Heinrich. His hands are on his hips and his brows are furrowed, as if he doesn't approve of what's about to happen.

Daniel sighs and says, "David, sweetie, this doesn't concern you."

"Doesn't concern me? You're about to kill someone!"

"I've killed people before. And you know I always have a reason for doing so."

"And you know how I feel about it!"

Daniel walks away from Jasper so he is now standing in front of David, "This man has trespassed on my land and I'm convinced that he's dangerous. Just look at his face. I have no choice but to kill him."

"And how can you be so sure that he's dangerous?"

"David! Did I not tell you to look at his face? He has the mark of a traitor. He can't be trusted! And when I asked him what made his old clan think he was a traitor, he wouldn't answer my question. I can only assume the worst about what he did."

"And what's his defense?"

Daniel rolls his eyes, "I said he couldn't be trusted. What don't you understand?"

"I want to hear his defense!"

"That he's been framed. But-"

"And what if he has been framed? What if he really is innocent? If he is, then you're killing him for no reason! That's way worse than killing him for a wrongdoing!"

"He hasn't done a good job of convincing me that he's innocent."

"Maybe that's because you should spend more time thinking about this before you make decisions that involve killing people!"

"David, I don't have time for this! I have other things to worry about! If this problem didn't come up during my break, I wouldn't even be discussing this with you. He would be dead by now!"

"Daniel, please! Couldn't we at least escort him off our territory?"

"No! I'm not wasting my men's time for someone who has possibly committed murder!"

"You assume he did something like that."

Daniel runs a hand through his hair out of irritation, "This isn't going anywhere! I'm going to kill him now, before I end up wasting any more of my time."

Jasper struggles once more the moment the words "kill him" leave Daniel's mouth. Said person walks toward him. This time as he approaches him, the grip on his knife is tight enough to turn his knuckles white.

Before Daniel can reach Jasper, David moves so he is standing in between him and his captive. This makes Daniel all the more irritated as he says, "David, get out of the way!"

David crosses his arms, "No!"

"David! Don't be so difficult!"

"Not until you start keeping your promises!"

The anger leaves Daniel's expression, "What?"

"You said you would try to be less cruel! Don't you remember?"

"Yes, I remember! But how am I being cruel? I'm about to give him a quick death for a serious crime he committed. That sounds humane to me."

"Daniel," David holds Daniel's wrist so he will have to rid himself of him before he can hurt anyone with the knife, "you're jumping to conclusions about a situation you know hardly anything about. And your solution is to kill someone over it. Don't you think that's a bit extreme?"

"It's his word against an entire clan!"

"Please, even if you think he did something terrible, can you at least spare his life? Can't we just work something out?"

Daniel doesn't say anything, so David continues, "Can you do it for me?"

They maintain eye contact for a while before Daniel sighs and says, "Fine, I won't kill him. But only because you are so insistent that I don't."

"Thank you so much!" David exclaims, pulling Daniel into a tight hug, "I love you, Daniel!"

Daniel wraps his arms around David, "I love you, too."

They stay that way for a few moments before Daniel releases himself from the hug and says, "Now why don't you go busy yourself with something? I have work to do."

"Okay," David walks away from Daniel and when he reaches the door, he turns his head back to his lover to say, "Thanks again for sparing him. It means a lot to me!"

"You're welcome," Daniel says, "Now go on."

Though he is grateful for the attempts David made to keep him alive, Jasper is still unable to relax. A part of him worries Daniel will break his promise and kill him anyway. Another part of him is concerned about what will happen to him if he is kept alive. It doesn't help that Daniel now has a hand on his forehead, as if he's trying to relieve a minor headache that developed from the dispute.

The man still holding Jasper asks, "So, what do you want us to do with him?"

Daniel doesn't bother to face him as he responds, "Place him in a cell. Get him out of here! I don't want to look at him anymore."

With that said, the man and the teen drag Jasper out of the room.