Unfortunately for Crow, Penelope wasn’t so quick to forget about teaching him how to fight. He frowned as she went on to explain why she thought it would be good for him to learn, and as much as he hated to admit it, her reasoning made sense to him. With so little time to prepare, there wasn’t much of a chance that they would get out of the palace without getting spotted at least once—and that was only if they were lucky.
At the end, Penelope asked the question he had been dreading to hear. He hesitated, toying with the idea of fabricating a lie to sate her curiosity, but ultimately decided against it. He loved her, and he wanted to make the relationship last. While he had never been in a long term commitment before, he knew enough about them to guess that lying wasn’t the best way to start out. He had to tell her the truth.
“I’ve never told anyone this before,” he started, staring down at the floor. “I… I can’t stand the sight of blood. Every time I see it, even just a little bit, I feel like I’m going to faint.” He looked up to meet her gaze. “It started when I was about eight years old. I was running an errand for my mother, since she was sick at the time, and I went to a marketplace in a village near to our home. While I was there, the king’s tax collectors came to secure the money owed to him for the season.” He paused, wincing as the memory he had been trying to forget resurfaced.
“They rode in on horseback,” he went on. “It was nothing out of the ordinary for us. Tax collectors come at the end of every season in the outer villages. The difference this time was that the people of this particular village had planned a rebellion. As a child, I had no idea what I was about to walk into.
“As soon as the tax collectors dismounted, the farmers in the market attacked them with hoes. They tried to overwhelm the knights with their numbers, but… it wasn’t enough.” He took a shaky breath as the scene replayed through his mind. “The knights killed every farmer in the rebellion, but they didn’t stop there. They went on to pillage their homes, attacking anyone else who had the misfortune of crossing their paths—men, women… and children.” He lifted his tunic to show Penelope a long, jagged scar across the right side of his torso.
“I was lucky to have survived,” he continued, letting the shirt fall back down. “After one of the tax collectors struck me with his sword, I played dead. It saved my own life, but unfortunately, I also had to watch them kill all of the other villagers. For a while after that, I used to get flashbacks of the slaughter every time I saw blood. Now, the flashbacks are gone but I still feel sick whenever I see it.”
He laughed mirthlessly and stared down at his hands, “I know this probably comes as a shock, since I’m ‘the most wanted thief in Brerra,’ but I’ve never killed a man in my life. I can’t bring myself to do it.”