Glad you could join us for the next brave episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
Randall winced as he sucked as much as he could from the shallow puddle. Is all the water in The Arids this brackish? To distract himself from imagining what his son might be drinking, he asked, “Didn’t the General promise to send your child home when you did what he wanted you to do?”
“Children,” Gert corrected him as they left the muddy watering hole. “He took both of our boys.”
Bernie reached for Gert’s hand before he answered. “The General never asked us to do anything. We’ve never even met him.”
“Then why does he have your sons?”
“Because we live here. Our sons believed that maniac’s war was wrong, and didn’t join his army,” Gert explained, “so he sent ‘recruiters’ to draft them into service.”
“We knew they’d come,” Bernie added, “but I hoped I could convince them to let me do some work for them instead of taking our boys.”
“Why didn’t you leave The Arids before they got there?”
Piercing him with a two-eyed stare, Gert said, “Like I said, this is our home. We might not agree with the guy in charge, but we’re not cowards.”
Randall understood cowardice. In Bog, citizens volunteered to serve in the King’s army, and most of his friends had enlisted when the Great War began and they had to fight for their freedom. A few had even gone on to become members of the prestigious Knights of Service.
But many had died leaving grieving families who considered it an honor that their children had given their lives for their Kingdom. His own parents had said they’d be proud if he served, but Randall was afraid. So he ran away.
Shame gnawed at him.
Shaking off the gloom of regret, he asked, “How much further—“
“Shh!” Gert commanded.
Raucous laughter erupted from a hollow space behind the rocks piled up on their right.
“This is their main base,” she whispered. “Now that we got you here, you’re on your own.”
“But maybe your sons are here. Don’t you want to find them?”
“We already did,” Bernie murmured.
“After they met the Assassin,” Gert hissed dragging Bernie by the hand as they retreated. “Good luck to you and your boy.”
Facing the barricade alone, he saw his only chance to redeem himself, at least in his King’s eyes. If he were successful, he could go back home to Bog and bring his son with him. If he failed… well, maybe he’d die right here, but running away was no longer an option.
His heartbeat hammering in his head, he clambered to the top of the wall and peeked over the edge. The messenger General Hai had sent with him to meet the Crone after he broke her out of jail was surrounded by Stingers of all kinds, regaling them with the story of his own escape from the Freelands.
At least they’re in a good mood, he thought. Here goes…
He raised his head above the rocks and declared, “I’m here to see the General.”
To be continued. . .