Jax’s vision blurred as he struggled to his feet, every movement sent pain pulsing through his body. He gritted his teeth, determined to keep going, but his legs trembled beneath him, threatening to give up on him at any moment. How long had he been lying there, letting his life slip away, he wondered? It felt like hours, but it couldn't have been more than a few minutes.
The courtyard was eerily quiet, and Jax's nerves were on edge. He couldn’t afford to get caught, not here. He was a brother before he was a thief, so he was willing to do whatever it took to keep his little sister safe, to carve out a better life for her.
He looked around and there, strewn across the floor, lay everything he needed to provide her with that life. Jewels, gems, treasures of every kind scattered about like worthless trinkets. “Shit!”he spat out. It had fallen from his pack and he could no longer take it all with him.
He decided to at least take what he can, so with a trembling grip, he clutched the box he had taken from the treasury earlier, the weight of it dragging him down.
He had to get this box to Christa, If he had any hope at changing her life for the better, he had to reach her. He had to reach the fire she had ignited earlier that night.
He forced himself to take a step forward, then another, his blood leaving a trail behind him. The pain coursing through his body was almost unbearable. But the adrenaline pushed him forward.
Suddenly, he saw them - the guards, their armour gleaming in the moonlight. He froze, his heart racing. He hadn’t even heard them approach and not before long he was surrounded.
He backed up against the fountain, box still clutched tightly in his hands. He felt the cool stone against his skin, a strange comfort in this moment of terror. He closed his eyes, trying to think of a way out, but nothing came to him.
In that moment, Jax felt regret. He had dreamed of a better life for himself and Christa, of a future free from poverty and fear. But now, as he faced certain death, he realised that those dreams were empty if he didn't live to see them through.
Jax’s thoughts turned to Christa, to the flames dancing in the distance. Grief washed over him, and he prayed she’d at least survived.
“You didn’t really think you would get away with this did you?” a voice drawled.
Jax opened his eyes to see a face sneering down at him, grinning, with brown eyes that seemed to stare deep in to his soul. A young man with rugged features and short, fiery red hair. Jax recognised the hair at once. He was a member of the Tressa family. But which one? They were supposed to be away from the city today. Jax felt a surge of fear, but he refused to show it. He had come too far and risked too much to let this arrogant nobleman intimidate him.
Instead, Jax met the mans gaze steadily, holding his ground even as the guards closed in around him. He clutched the box even more tightly in his hands.
The face looked down at the box with interest. "I see, you’ve come for Enguwa’s relic…” the man trailed off, a sly glint in his eyes.
Jax had no idea what the Tressa was rambling on about, but he knew enough to remain still. He tried to keep his expression neutral, but he felt his heart pounding in his chest.
The young nobleman turned his sight towards the blazing fire by the prison block that illuminated the night sky. "You know I have to kill you, right?" he said, his tone cold, but casual. “You’ve caused enough trouble today.”
He turned to face Jax again, but this time, his smile even bigger. “Not that I want to, mind you. But I have to.” He crouched down to meet Jax at eye-level. “How would it look on me if I allowed you to get away? Father wouldn’t be pleased at all” He fixed Jax with a piercing stare as he placed his hand on Jax’s shoulder.
Jax noticed a scar on the man's hand that continued up towards his arm, hidden into his sleeve. “Inigo Tressa?” Jax finally muttered under his breath, recognising the heir of the Tressa house.
The Tressa heir's face twisted into a sneer. "Of course, you know who I am” he laughed. “I’m a big deal."
Jax smiled despite the taste of blood in his mouth and spoke, “But, not a big deal enough to join Daddy at the divine summit today, are you? “
Inigo’s face hardened, his smile finally dropping for the first time since Jax had seen him. “You don’t understand anything, do you?” he spat, his grip tightening on Jax’s shoulder. A searing pain shot through Jax’s body causing him to cry out.
“I’m the heir to the Tressa family…” Inigo continued, his voice rising with every word. “Everything you see here will be mine one day. I stayed behind because I’m the only one who can protect this place from people like you.”
Inigo's hand grew hotter and hotter, as if he were channelling the very flames of hell into Jax’s shoulder. Jax shrieked in agony as he felt the fabric of his shirt melt in to his skin, his mind reeling with disbelief.
The pain went on for longer than Jax could bear, but suddenly, a blinding light filled up the night sky. Startled, Inigo quickly shot up, releasing Jax’s shoulder. Jax gasped for breath, his shoulder throbbing with residual heat.
The blazing fire that Christa had set earlier began to dance in the air. It twisted and turned, providing a spectacle of colours ranging from yellow to orange to red. Jax watched in amazement as the flames by the prison block converged into a single point, revealing a figure that seemed to glow from within.
Inigo's face contorted in terror as he realised what was going on, his eyes widening in disbelief. “Orin…” He turned to face Jax again. “What have you done?”
The guards trembled at the sound of Orin’s name as they too looked in the direction of the fire.
“No!” Inigo screamed out repeatedly in anger, his eyes darting around frantically. “I’m supposed to protect this place. That’s why I’m here…”
A blue fire began to form around Inigo’s hands, a flame that seemed to grow brighter by the second alongside his anger.
Despite his situation, only Jax smiled as he looked ahead towards the prison block. He could see Christa standing there, seemingly unharmed. But before he could savour the moment, Inigo lunged at him, his hands wreathed in blue flames. "This isn’t funny!” he screamed.
Jax closed his eyes, bracing for impact. The last thing he saw in his mind’s eye was Christa's face, smiling and full of hope. Then the flames consumed him, a fiery embrace that promised death. Despite the pain, he continued to smile. Because he realised that as long as Christa was safe, maybe all the money in the world didn't matter so much.