Scar of the Downers by Scott Keen
Publication date: February 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.
Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.
Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings, and scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.
To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before – escape from the city of Ungstah.
Orgon aimed a devious smile at Crik, who was too afraid to move. “Tell me, boy, what is your hand doing on a plate that you didn’t buy?”
Crik said nothing. His hands trembled and his stomach suddenly felt as if he had swallowed lead. He tried to jerk away, but he could not free himself.
“Let’s see what we have under here.” Orgon tore open Crik’s sleeve, which revealed an ample scar on his shoulder. The man’s mouth widened, bearing the gaps where many teeth should’ve been.
“It appears we have a Downer, and in my inn no less. What shall we do to him?” Orgon looked toward Crik. “What shall we do to you? Shall we skin you? Hang your flesh above my door?”
All the men and women in the inn jumped to their feet and shouted, as if Orgon had just announced free drinks for everyone. Crik tried to pry Orgon’s fingers off his wrist, but the man’s strength was too great. He dragged Crik into the center of the hall as if he held nothing more than a doll.
“You have sticky fingers, do you?” Orgon said. “We’ll have to cure that, won’t we? Bring me my butcher’s knife! I’m about to do some carving—make me some souvenirs.”
As Skora walked behind the counter and retrieved a crudely sharpened blade, Crik searched the room for a merciful face. All of their eyes yearned for his flesh, for fresh Downer blood . . . all but one. Durgan was neither shouting nor smiling—he was standing and smoking. Though Crik didn’t see mercy in his eyes, he didn’t see the lust for his blood there either. But he knew the man wouldn’t help. Crik was on his own.
This was it. This was his end. How long would Jak wait for him in the alley, he wondered. He stared at the table in front of him, his gaze falling on a plate that still had pieces of food on it. That was all that he wanted: a bite of food.
Skora handed Orgon the knife and Crik felt the owner’s hand grow tighter around his arm. He leaned in close to Crik’s ear and whispered. “Your death won’t be completely in vain. Know that you’ll provide a meal to my dogs for a good week.”
Just then, the door to the inn opened. Orgon glanced at the cloaked woman who entered. Without even thinking about it, Crik grabbed the plate from the table in front of him and swung it, crashing it into Orgon’s face and breaking his few remaining teeth. Orgon threw his hand over his mouth, blood dripping down his chin.
Crik was free. He leapt onto the table and kicked a plate at Skora, catching a piece of chicken in his hand. Too fat to get out of the way, she tripped over a chair and fell on her bottom. Pieces of food rained down on her. Crik hopped to the next table and snatched another piece of meat before jumping to the next one. Table after table he did this, stealing food along the way and leaping over grasping arms, until he reached the door and pushed past the woman who unwittingly saved his life.
Scott grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing – he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools.