The Color of Rage

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A firm blow on the wooden tube sent its contents bursting forth. Mixing with the gritty desert air, a bluish fog struck the rugged-looking man menacing Kaden square in the face.

The thug promptly dropped his dagger on the ground of the alleyway, collapsed, and huddled into a fetal position. There he remained, blubbering like a heartbroken teenager who'd just received a stern rebuke from the girl he loved.

Kaden left him to his despair, but not before collecting the abandoned blade. Once the effects wore off in a couple days, this scoundrel would require a new weapon before menacing anyone else. Kaden hid the steel in his belt under the folds of the apprentice shawl draped over his shoulders and hanging down to his knees.

Now he would have to return to his father's shop before completing his daily deliveries.

It wasn't far out of the way, not through the back alleys, and thankfully there were no further incidents during his detour. In no time, Kaden was staring down the freshly painted sign on the facade of their family's storefront: Grayson's Apothecary and Distillery. Underneath it another proclaimed, "Exclusive supplier of the Royal Guardians of Ison."

Kaden shook his head. Everyone knew who his father was, making such a bold announcement unnecessary.

As he opened the door, clanging the bell overhead, Kaden preemptively cleared his throat.

"Back already?" Behind the counter, his father interrupted his work restocking a shelf. All around the shop were a variety of neatly arranged potions, salves, and ointments.

"I uh... need another Sorrow."

His father's eyes narrowed onto him. "Another? Why?"

"Ran into some trouble."

"Kaden?"

"I'm fine. Had to spray a thief to stop from being robbed."

Grumbling proceeded his father down the small ladder under him. "Kaden? How many times have I told you? Stick to the mains."

"The alleys are quicker."

"And more dangerous. Even in the Upper Ring, some places are not safe. What's that?"

Kaden's shawl had fallen back, exposing the hilt of the bandit's dagger. He pulled the covering to hide it again. "Took it from the thief."

"You know what would happen if you're caught with that?"

"Wasn't planning on keeping it."

"No? Going to sell it? Don't I pay you enough? Stay out of the Lower Ring. Am I clear?"

Kaden arrived behind the counter, stashing the blade in a secret compartment. "I'll pay you back for the one I wasted."

With a firm hold on Kaden's shoulder, his father's face softened. "I'm just glad you're safe. Please, stay to the mains?"

Kaden nodded at the request, but he didn't verbally agree.

His father eyed him, but opted to set the topic aside. "Come, I'll give you another. Wouldn't want Captain Uson to go berserk."

While his father produced a key from his pocket, Kaden cringed. "He wouldn't need the treatment if you weren't supplying the military with weapons."

"Yet you used Sorrow as a weapon today." Key inserted into the solid lock securing the door behind the counter, his father turned it.

"In self-defense."

"A weapon is a weapon, regardless of its use. Do you think our enemies don't use Rage to bolster their own troops? Or Fear to subdue ours? If we didn't do the same, Ison, and all of Imeron, would fall."

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