Children are taught from the moment they are born to be careful of the crime they commit. For their first crime will brand your cheek. Everyone will know and you spend the rest of your life living that one act down. Despite the warning, many people still become branded. Common brands include Thief, Adulterer, even Murderer.
Rarely does anyone see a smooth cheek and instantly people trust them. The best con artists have learned how to use fake skin to cover their brands. A whole genre of romance novels exists involving reforming men or women with unique brands.
The small town of Snowville received a surprise at a new addition to their town. A tall, white-haired gentleman moved in and opened a small bookstore. A few town bookworms wandered in to see what he sold but left quickly.
“Did you see his brand?” they whispered. “God Slayer!”
The news spread quickly. Leaders of the town met in secret to discuss what actions to take.
“What should we do?” they asked. But no one had a response. The God Slayer brand had never been seen outside of fiction novels. In those novels the person with the brand had great strength or powers beyond human capabilities.
“What will happen if we do anything?” another questioned. Still no one answered.
“What if we did nothing?” another asked. “Will he leave us alone?” No one answered.
While the adults talked, the children listened. They could tell the bookstore owner scared all the adults. They began daring each other to go in to the bookstore. Worried parents warned their children to stay away, coming close to outright banning them from entering. None took that last step, afraid to upset the God Slayer.
A month passed. Then two months passed with no problems and Snowville went back to normal. Still the adults looked askance at the bookstore. The children dared each other to go in the store. The bookstore became the off limits, scary, boarded up house parents told their children to stay away from, while children used it to show their bravery.
On one of these days, a crowd of 10 year old children played in the park. When Rose refused to get on the monkey bars, the other children surrounded her. “Coward!” they mocked. “Chicken!”
“No I’m not!” Rose cried back her hands turning into fists.
Suddenly, Michael, the unsaid leader stepped forward. The crowd went silent. “Prove it,” he taunted Rose, “I dare you to ask the God Slayer how he got his tattoo.”
“Fine,” Rose said and turned to walk across the street to the bookstore. The rest of the children followed. Reaching the door, she pulled the door open and walked through, hearing the beep announcing her presence.
Nervous, Rose began looking at the books as the owner came from the back room. She looked at him and he gave her a gentle smile. Biting her lip she turned toward the window. She could see Michael give her a smug smile.
Squaring her shoulders she turned back to the old man and marched up to the counter. Then stopped, her eyes snagging on the sword in a circle tattoo indicating a god slayer.
“Can I help?” his low voice startled Rose into meeting his blue eyes. They looked kind, even amused, but she still could not speak. “Does it have anything to do with all the kids crowded outside my window?
Shyly, she nodded. He smiled show straight white teeth. “I’m guessing they dared you to talk to me?”
Rose nodded again. He nodded back, still smiling at the brave little girl. Short, with long blond hair in a ponytail, she didn’t look like much but her brown eyes showed determination. He watched her take a deep breath and open her mouth.
“How did you get the tattoo? Did you really slay a god? What’s your name?” spilled out of her mouth.
“Well done,” he congratulated her. She was the first one to speak to him in the town. “My name is John Smith.”
She waited watching him. She could tell he was thinking what to say. Finally, he asked, “Do you know what to slay means?”
“To kill,” she said.
“Correct,” he said. “To answer your questions, I did slay a god and that is how I received my tattoo.”
Rose thought for a second then asked, “But how? How did you slay a god? What god?”
He smiled at Rose’s curiosity. “If you really want to know return on Saturday in the morning and I will tell you.”
Rose nodded, “Okay.” She turned to leave but stopped when she heard her name.
“Rose,” he called, “anyone who wants to hear the tale may come with you on Saturday.”
She nodded again and left, the beep announcing her leaving.