Join Brad as he starts his journey of action and adventure in a world he was never born in
Chapter 1: From Fight to Fight
It was a cold night with the air of summer giving place to autumn’s cooling hand. The sky was clear, and the stars were shining brightly without the moon. A gentle breeze walked through the tree tops: the leaves all danced at its coming. In a large clearing, the night’s black blanket was being held back by a circle of fires. Men sat around them, and added sticks sending sparks of red into the sky. The older men were telling stories of a strange world to their eager audience.
“… and there was music, lots of music,” said a red bearded man. “I personally had a device that could play almost unlimited amounts of music, and it fit nicely inside my pocket.” The young teens were amazed. They had heard the stories before, but they were still in awe at the wonders the older men had seen. “I listened to a lot of rock music then: I hope you all have a chance to one day. It’s the best music in any world.”
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” injected an older black man. “He never had the mind to broaden his experience.”
“As I recall, it took me well over a week to get you to eat meat when we first started this enterprise.”
“To which end I have never been happier.”
The two men burst out laughing at each other. The camp was in high spirits tonight: every man ready for the morning’s work. Stories of the past continued to go round the fire, even the newest members had something to share.
“Alright, your turn Brad,” said a new recruit as he finished his tale.
The teen beside him rose and quickly left the firelight. The older black man leaned in a little closer to the fire, “Brad doesn’t have any memory of our world, Matt.”
“Was he born here?” questioned Matt.
“No,” answered the red bearded man. “He’s the only one ever taken as a baby.” The whole company went silent.
“Everyone to bed now,” said a tall figure approaching the circle. “We have work in the morning.”
The company dispersed into their tents that surrounded camp. The tall man stood at the center observing everyone as they went to their tents. “Joel, where’s Brad?”
“He went off that way,” answered Joel as he pointed into the woods. “He went to be alone for a moment.”
“You and Lance take the first watch,” said the man as he walked off in the direction Joel had pointed. “I’ll be back with Brad in a little while.”
“Don’t bother,” said Brad as he stepped out of the shadows.
“Where’d you go?”
Brad continued past to his tent, “For a breath of air.”
As Brad entered his tent, Joel leaned in close to the tall man. “You’re going to have to talk to him, Alpha. He’s too much of a loner.”
Alpha said nothing; he just nodded at the advice. He was already deep in thought about another youth that had gone down a similar path.
* * *
The chill morning air bit into his face as he rushed through the forest. Brad knew time was of the essence. At last, he came to the edge of the ridge with the road several meters below. Brad drew three arrows from his side quiver. Now the ambush was set.
The air became completely still. A doe wandered onto the road utterly unaware of the trap surrounding her. Lucky for her it was meant for a different type of prey. Brad squeezed his bow nervously. He wasn’t nervous about the mission, he was concerned about the results.
“What will we do with this group of people?” Brad thought. “We’re already pushing the amount we can hide in base camp, and this rebellion of ours will mean nothing if we’re all caught.”
The doe’s head jerked up from her grazing, and looked down the road behind her. Brad scanned the road to see what had got her attention. Nothing was in view yet, but now Brad could hear it to. The sound of wagon wheels turning, the grunt of oxen, and, most importantly, the sound of soldiers marching. At last the convoy came into view. The doe took off into the forest, and was replaced by a cloaked figure coming out of a thicket by the road.
The convoy came closer and the man let out a crisp, clear command, “You can go no further.”
Instantly the drivers reined in their oxen, horsemen stopped dead, and infantry froze. It seemed like an eternity to Brad before the commander of the convoy rode forward to confront the man. “Who are you to bar the passage of the king’s men?”
“I am Alpha,” came the answer as the man drew his sword, “and you are unlawfully holding my citizens.”
The commander wavered a moment as his steed side stepped against its master’s will. Then, as if remembering who he was, the commander laughed aloud before turning to four of his men. “Bring this renegade to me.”
“Must be a new one,” Brad thought as he pulled back an arrow into his bowstring.
The four soldiers fanned out around Alpha. The results were instant as first soldier fell to the ground reeling in pain, and a second staggered back from a head blow. The third collapsed to the ground as his legs were swept out from under him, and the fourth joined him as Alpha flipped him over; both were then put into the same uncomfortable state as the first. The last soldier then joined his comrades as Alpha began to come towards the commander.
“If you wanted my presence all you had to do was ask,” taunted Alpha.
The concern on the commander’s face was now painted on in a dull shade of white. “Soldiers seize him!”
Alpha smiled and gave his answer, “Rangers drop them!”
Brad released his first arrow taking out the driver of the first wagon. His second took out the driver’s guard. The soldiers became aware of his presence as he repeated the action on the third wagon bringing up the rear. As they were about to counter him with crossbow’s, more arrows pierced through their ranks from the forest side.
Nothing else seemed to exist to Brad except for the next target. The next wagon was soon neutralized. Confusion was rampant as men ran in every which direction trying to escape the barrage of arrows. Then the chanting came from the forest. “On the ground! On the ground!”
Brad joined in as he let another arrow fly, “On the ground!”
The chant continued as soldier after soldier fell to the ground; some green soldiers threw down their weapons and cowered on the ground. A horn blew, and out of the forest erupted a force of cloaked men. They started rounding up the survivors, and handling those that would not yield.
The fighting died down, and Brad started making his way down to the road. The hill was steep so he used roots, and saplings to slow the descent. There was only one soldier still fighting, but he was surrounded. It was just a matter of time.
Brad walked past the wagons as he went straight for the men he had shot. The people inside the wagons peered out of their cages to see the marauders. Terror was on all of their faces. Brad paid them little attention. He had already seen lots of people like them before. His focus right now was to retrieve as many of his arrows as he could.
The last soldier was finally subdued. Brad glanced over to see Alpha give an order to the men. A ranger then plunged an arrow into the soldier’s shoulder. A pair of men then moved in on the body to take it away.
Brad continued picking up his arrows. His were easy enough to find with their blue heron feathers sticking out of the various targets. Alpha and some of the men had now turned to the wagons. Several languages were now being shouted around the sight till finally the call went out.
“English,” called one of the men at the back wagon, “They speak English, sir.”
“Good,” replied Alpha, “that is one camp that can still take more refugees.” He then turned and started calling out orders. “Alright, men you know what to do; those that speak English tell them they are coming with us, break those locks, come on people let’s move.”
Men set about with their assigned jobs. Those that spoke English were assigned to help the refugees and to reassure them of their intentions. Some of the larger men carried off those that had been picked from the enemy soldiers. A large section of the company were set on taking what supplies and weapons they could. Brad was among those who were picking up their arrows; he would need them if the enemy surprised them as weighed down as they were.
Brad now had all his arrows again. Sixteen, just over half of his quiver. Two were broken, but orders were not to leave any identifying marks about who was in the raid.
The soldiers that had been corralled after the fighting were now ordered into the wagons themselves. They went in with few hesitations. Once inside the wagons were secured and several men placed to guard the wagons till the rest had gotten far enough on their way so as not to be tracked by the soldiers.
At last the order was given to move out, now the dangerous part began. The refugees spoke English which was good and bad. The English speaking camp was small and thus could house all of these new comers. That was the good. The bad was that it was the furthest camp from the ambush point. The quickest way to get there was to travel two miles on the road before taking a slow moving barge down river before coming onto the forest road that ran between the camps. The trip would take all day, and with all the refugees and plunder they had it might even go into the night.
Brad was concerned; every life was now in danger till everyone was down the river on the forest road, “Even if we make it the next raiding party won’t be able to save anyone.”
Alpha came up to him and put his hand on his shoulder, “It’s been a demanding morning so far, but I need you to perform one more task today.”
“What is it, sir?” Brad asked already knowing the task about to be given him.
“I need you to go ahead of us to the river,” Alpha commanded, “and make sure there are barges waiting for us.”
“Consider it done.”
“Go quickly.” Alpha stopped Brad from running immediately, “We will need all seven to make this possible. So remember it.”
Brad nodded in acknowledgement and took off down the road. This was easy, he could run now at his real top speed without having the forest in the way. Soon he was past the company, and around the bend in the road on his way to the river.
He noticed a couple of men run around the turn behind him. Slowing his pace for them to catch up, Brad noticed the black and white feather tipped arrows sticking out of their quivers. “Looks like I get the company of the Dorr Brothers,” Brad thought. Soon, the two brothers caught up to him.
“Alpha send you?” Brad asked though he could guess the answer.
“Yes,” answered Jack the older of the two, “we are to assist you if there is opposition on the road.”
“Wonderful, I needed to be slowed down.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” replied Job. “Me and my brother can run just as fast as you want us to run.”
“Let’s test that. Keep up now, I have to make up for lost time.”
The three ran on, Brad took the lead by a solid six paces, followed next by Job, and Jack a step behind. No one spoke. The terrain on both sides was now leveling out to the same height on both sides on the road. Now it was just ancient trees that stood above them.
The road soon took them up a ridge that overlooked the river. The chill wind kissed their faces as they viewed the rest of their journey. It was another ghastly reminder that winter was no more than a lunar cycle away. The leaves were still hanging stubbornly onto their branches, but the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges, told the story of a forest preparing for winter. From the position on the ridge, the scene was spectacular. The river flowed like a blue ribbon across a red and orange garment ornamented with gold.
But Brad, and the Dorr Brothers, didn’t have time to stand and gawk. In fact they didn’t even pause to look at the stunning sight. The only thing they saw was the road ahead… and the mounted men on the bridge at the river.
“That complicates things,” thought Brad as his speed was compounded by the decent from the ridge. “We could sneak past them easily, but we have a whole company behind us that needs that passage.”
“You see that, Jack?” asked Job as they continued down.
“I saw it, brother.” Answered Jack, “I saw it.”
“Let’s turn back and tell the others,” suggested Job as he began to slow down.
“No,” answered Brad not even slowing down, “we go on, get in close, and see what we’re up against.”
“We should first warn the company,” Jack stated as he came to a stop.
“Do what you have to,” Brad called back, “I’ve got a job to do.”
Brad then left the road, and soon his steps went silent. His objective was the river, and those soldiers as far as he was concerned were in his way. He continued quietly through the forest beside the road. He knew his one advantage was stealth. Brad just hoped he had more arrows than they had men.
At last Brad reached the river with the bridge to his right. Getting close to the bridge was the easy part, the rest would be tricky. The horsemen were on the other side of the bridge, and Brad thought he counted over fifty of them. He only had twenty-eight intact arrows. This was not going to be possible by himself unless they crossed the bridge, and then it would be a one-sided battle at best.
Quietly he snuck to the road. The world seemed to move into slow motion as he stepped out onto the road, and knotted his first arrow. Sound disappeared for a second that seemed to last hours as he raised his bow and took aim. Slowly the world came back to Brad as he released his shot. The twang of his bow string, the shuffling of gravel under the horses’ hooves, the cry of the first rider as the arrow struck true, the neighing of the horses as the man fell, and finally the shout of the men who had now spotted him.
The world suddenly came back faster than ever. Three men reined their horses in quickly and charged forward. Brad shot the first before he had reached the bridge, the second half way across, and the third he took out at the end of the bridge. Brad rushed for the cover of the forest as the rest of the horsemen began their charge across the bridge. Brad fired one more shot before disappearing into the forest; a cry let him know he had hit one more.
Brad had just a moment to completely disappear into the forest before they started to search for him. These were critical seconds he had to get to a place they wouldn’t search for him. He went instinctively, and carefully under the bridge. His instincts proved invaluable once again as he watched unseen as about twenty men dismounted and went into the forest to look for him. Silently he loaded another arrow, peeked out from under the bridge, fired, and quickly disappeared again. The sound of confusion let him know he had hit another target.
“That’s good,” Brad thought as stood pressed up against the bridge, “but it’s not enough. I need to break their will.”
Looking out at the wooden support structure, he spied his way across the river. Securing his bow onto his back, he made his move. He jumped, grabbed the support beams, and pulled himself up. Orders were now being shouted around as Brad crawled his way across the support structure. He had made his move perfectly. A soldier cautiously came under the bridge, but didn’t think to look in the supports.
“This is hopeless,” cried a soldier, “the demon is one with his surroundings.”
“How is a man on foot worthy six horsemen?” shouted another.
“Silence,” barked the commander. A falling branch threw all the men on edge. “Show yourself, coward!”
Brad was only halfway across the bridge, but the invitation was too good to pass up. If he could just get a shot off, and stay concealed, it would do wonders in breaking their morale. Balancing himself on a cross beam, he got his bow out with an arrow. A man looking over the river provided the target. Brad settled his aim on the soldier and let his arrow fly. The effect was better than he hoped for; the splash of the body falling into the river was chilling for the unsuspecting soldiers.
“He’s toying with us,” shouted a frantic soldier.
“I said Silence!” yelled the commander trying to maintain control of his men.
The air was now stiff with anxiety, and the uneasiness of the soldiers was now another sound in the wind for Brad. The bridge’s end was now just a few more steps away before he could swing down to dry land.
“Where are Jack and Job they should have made it back to the company by now?” Brad wondered a little nervously. He knew the longer this game of cat-and-mice went on the better his chances of breaking their wills, but so did their chances of finding him. “A squad of them should be halfway here by now.”
Touching down on the other side of the river, Brad instantly disappeared into the forest on the other side. The same trick wouldn’t work twice: he needed a new plan. Sneaking up to the road with the cover of some bushes, Brad spied his opportunity; one of the horses was standing midway on the bridge without a rider.
Slowly, quietly Brad stepped onto the open road completely exposed. The horse glanced at him without a sound. Brad silently breathed as he approached the wonderful beast. The shifting of the gravel beneath his feet seemed to get unnaturally louder to him with every step closer. At last he stood right beside the horse.
In one swift motion he stepped into the stirrup and onto the horse’s back. Grabbing the reins, Brad spurred the horse into action. With shouts and curses behind him, the chase was on.
The forest flew by as Brad clung to the horse for his life. He had never ridden anything this fast before: everything seemed to fly pass in a blur. The churning gravel under the hooves of the horsemen behind him was loud and uncomfortably close. He looked back to see the anger of the soldiers seemingly propelling them forward.
“Please, let this work,” Brad clenched the reins tighter as he spurred the horse on. The forest fell back as the road led out onto rolling, green hills. The road went into a tunnel in the side of a steep hill, and in a moment the sun disappeared as the horse raced in. “This has to work!” The light rushed back as Brad emerged from the tunnel. Pulling back on the reins he turned the horse about and off of the road. Brad directed the horse off to the side of the tunnel opening just as the pursuing horsemen rushed out. Again Brad spurred the horse on again: racing into the tunnel just as the last rider exited the dark.
Coming out of the tunnel again he pulled his horse to a stop, turned around in the saddle, and quickly knotted an arrow onto his bowstring. A moment passed and then the sound of a furious tramp of hooves echoed out of the tunnel. The first rider emerged and Brad greeted him with an arrow to the chest. He spurred his horse on again as another pair came riding out followed by the remaining horsemen.
This time the horsemen had momentum and easily gained ground towards him. As the pursuit continued the horsemen held close to him in a crescent formation. A horseman on his left moved in close with his sword raised to strike, Brad swiftly swung his bows out at the man. It landed on the man’s head and took him clean out of his saddle. Another horseman came up on the right thrusting his sword at him. Brad ducked under the blade, and then grabbed the arm of his attacker. He pulled down as he spurred his horse to go faster. The rider screamed as he fell to the ground beneath the horsemen behind him.
The chase continued back onto the forest road as the trees once again rose above the riders. “I hope they’ve taken the bridge,” hoped Brad as he again urged his mount on. Another rider got close to him as they came to a turn in the road, but Brad quickly batted him off in the bushes beside the road. “That was close, too close.”
The horses ran on, each one snorting and neighing as the roar of gravel rolled on beneath their feet. The riders shout their curses and threats, and continued to drive their beasts forward.
Turning another corner brought the bridge into view. Brad looked up. There was no soldiers, horses, or bodies, to be seen. As they chase got to the bridge, he could see an arrow stuck in the ground on the other side. He smiled a little beneath his scarf as he urged his horse onwards one last time.
He finally reined in his mount as he reached the marker; the other horsemen swarmed around him as they all came to the abrupt stop of their adversary. Swords were drawn and pointed at Brad as he sat there with his hands in the air. Arrow after arrow suddenly flew out of the forest knocking down every rider and sending their mounts into a fit of hysteria. One rider raised his sword to strike Brad, but his sword fell to the ground as a red-feathered arrow flew past Brad’s face and in the rider’s chest.
Alpha emerged from the forest with the other rangers behind him. “We have to talk.”
Brad wielded his horse about, “Can it wait?”
“I want to see you in my cabin at sunset.”
Chapter 2: A Guest
Brad marched into the small, wooden shack of Alpha’s cabin. He closed the door behind him and stood at attention. “You wanted to talk, sir.”
Alpha looked up from the multitude of crude maps on his desk. His piercing, brown eyes went straight into Brad’s own. Brad braced himself for a long lecture as Alpha audibly took in a breath. “Do you know what a scout is? Do you know what a scout does?” Brad remained motionless as Alpha rose from his seat like a bear in all its fury. “Your first field operation, and you do this!? Have we taught you nothing?”
Brad glanced down for a second before returning to Alpha’s gaze, but it was long enough to see Alpha’s knuckles were white. This wasn’t the time to talk. Alpha continued, “Of all the…” Alpha had learned six languages since the start of their resistance, and, while not a master of all of them, he could cuss in all of them profusely. Brad had been taught by his master, Derek, that cussing was a waste of breath and to ignore. “…this takes the cake.”
Brad swallowed as Alpha began a new set of profanities. “…taking on a whole company; what were you thinking? You endangered all of us today.”
Brad spoke up, “But sir…”
“Shut it! You…” shouted Alpha as started a new tangent of profanities, “…put lives at risk: my men, the refuges, and everyone who now live in our camps and settlements.” Alpha was now red in the face, and his temper nearly palpable. “You’re going back to training till I decide you’re ready.”
“To hell with your but!” Alpha continued, “Report back to Derek Herts in the morning. Now get out.”
Brad gave a half-hearted salute, and turned on his heels to face the door. Stepping outside, He could see the sun getting lower in the sky with a vibrant orange painted across the bellies of the clouds. Small columns of smoke were already going up as people throughout the camp prepared their evening meals. “All these people, and I’m still alone.” Brad struck out towards home. He walked down the leaf covered trail past mud and stick houses. Most people were inside there shelters, while a few pairs of sentries weaved their way throughout the camp.
At last Brad was home. He had been told never to refer to his shelter as home, but he had never known anything else. As he approached the door he became aware of a sound that he hadn’t heard in his home in years, crying.
He flung open the door and called out, “Julia?”
The house was dim with most of the light coming from the fireplace and a couple of faint candles. Brad’s eyes began to adjust to the light, till he could make out two people at the small table on the other side of the room.
One figure stood up as he entered, “Ah, there you are?” Slowly the details of the figure came to Brad. “Brad this is our guest, Tanya,” said Julia as she looked from her to him, “Tanya this is my ward, Brad.”
“Nice to meet you,” answered Brad as he unclipped his quiver and started putting his weapons away.
“You’re one of the men who rescued me?”
“If you can call that a rescue,” answered Brad as he unstrung his bow.
“Yes, he did,” interjected Julia.
“As long as you don’t mind being hunted.” Brad threw in as he walked past to his closet of a room. “Or not knowing if you’ll ever see that darn other world.” Julia glared at him for a moment before turning back to Tanya as fresh rivers started to flow from her eyes. Julia shot one last look at him as he pushed past the curtain to his room.
The room was small: a little too short for Brad to fully stretch out, and just wide enough to be comfortable. There wasn’t anything to see, but that was fine. A straw bed covered in blankets was the sole article of furniture in the room, and it nearly took up the whole space. Brad threw his aching body onto the bed and groaned with relief as his muscles relaxed. The walls and curtain that separated him from the rest of the house, was no barrier at all to the cries of Tanya, or Julia’s attempts to calm her down. Brad tried not to listen – or even care –, but it had been a long time since a refuge had sheltered under their roof that he couldn’t help himself.
“Shh, it’s all right; your safe here,” came Julia’s motherly voice. Even though he called her Julia, Brad had always wanted to call her ‘mom’.
“I… I’ve just… lost everything,” Tanya said as she heaved the words out in between sobs. “My… family… friends… my future… all… gone!”
“We’re going to get you back to them,” Julia said reassuringly, “you’ll still have a future.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because Brad has a future.” Julia’s answer stunned him. Tanya’s sniffling quieted a little like a signal to explain. “Brad was taken as a baby, and he’s going to have a future.”
“Again,” Brad thought, “am I only good at being a symbol?”
Tanya sniffed a bit, “But he’s sixteen…”
“Eighteen actually,” corrected Julia.
“Still means in all those years you’ve failed to make that happen…” Tanya’s sobbing started to come back, “so… what hope is there?”
“Hope enough to get us home,” Julia chimed back in, “no matter how long it takes.”
* * *
“Brad, Brad wake up,” said Julia as she gently shook him.
“Huh,” muttered Brad as he sat up. “What?”
“You’re not sleeping though another meal,” answered Julia, “not when we’ve got company.”
Brad grunted as he propped himself up. His legs and groin were still sore from riding that horse. “Alright, I’m coming.”
Julia stepped out of the room, and with another groan Brad followed her back into the main room. The table was set with bowls of potage, spoons, and three candles. The fireplace continued to throw its warm, orange light into the room. Brad took his place next to Julia; Tanya sat right in front of him.
“Well, I hope you’re hungry,” Julia said to Tanya.
“What is it again?” asked Tanya as she examined the spoonful in front of her.
“It’s a mix of peas, carrots, potatoes, lime beans, and cabbage.”
“Better than yesterday’s,” said Brad in between bites. Noticing Tanya looking at him, he suddenly felt uncomfortable. “We didn’t have the cabbage.”
Tanya tried her first bite of the potage. “Is it organic?”
“You know I hear that a lot from new people,” said Brad frankly, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
“Yes, it is,” answered Julia. “Agriculture isn’t anywhere near the same level as back home.”
“So I keep getting told,” muttered Brad as he put another spoonful in his mouth. Julia suddenly kicked his leg under the table. It didn’t’ hurt; in fact if he almost didn’t notice it. But he had, and he knew what she wanted. He raised his head to look Tanya in the eyes; her eyes darted away. “I’m sorry about my behaviour earlier… I was tired.” Brad thought, “I still am.”
“Thank you,” answered Tanya as she briefly lifted her gaze to meet his. Her eyes looked like pools of melted chocolate in the candle light. It was only a few seconds, but Brad felt it was a bit longer than that.
“So, where you from?”
“I’m from Canada.”
Chapter 3: The Refuge
It was dark as Brad rolled onto his back. His room was always dark, but his internal clock told him that it was morning. The sun wouldn’t be up for another hour, and already he could hear Julia working on breakfast.
“Tanya’s most likely still asleep,” Brad thought as he sat himself up. She seemed nice enough last night, but she was a new refuge. New refuges always became a pain.
Julia began humming. Her sweet voice had command of more than four dozen full songs from the other world, double that in incomplete ones, and half a dozen originals. Brad recognized the tune she was humming. It was a favourite lullaby of his that Julia had made up for him.
Smile for me, child of earth
Smile, be not afraid
Let dreams dance in your head
Dream for me, child of earth
Dream, be not afraid
Let hope build faith inside of you
Hope for me, child of earth
Hope, be not afraid
Let love hold tight your heart
Love for me, child of earth
Love, be not afraid
Let courage grow up inside
Courage for me, child of earth
Courage, be not afraid
Let strength rise up inside
Strength for me, child of earth
Strength, be not afraid
Let smiles reach to your ears
Smile for me, child of earth
Smile, be not afraid
My hopes rest on you, little hero
“That’s a beautiful song,” came Tanya’s voice after Julia finished her song.
Brad was a little surprised to hear Tanya up already. He quickly started to get some clothes on.
“Thank you,” answered Julia, “It’s an old lullaby of my own. Breakfast will be ready in a moment. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, I guess I was really tired last night.”
“I understand. . . You’re up early though.”
“It’s a habit. I like to run in the morning.”
“Didn’t you go to school?”
“I’m . . . was home schooled.” A pause hung in the air as Tanya audibly breathed in to calm herself. “What ya’ cooking?”
“Porridge,” answered Julia as Brad emerged from his room.
“Morning,” he said as he entered the main room. Julia smiled at him, and Tanya turned to look at him. “Her eyes look . . . warmer, maybe it’s just her smile.”
* * *
After breakfast, Brad took his bow and walk out the door. Julia started washing the breakfast dishes while Tanya sat at the table. A bird started to sing. It was quiet for a long while as Tanya thought about what to say.
“Someone will probably be by today to see you,” said Julia as put the last dish into the water. “They always want to know what’s been happening back home.”
“What . . .” Tanya hesitated, “but I’m just a teen. I don’t pay attention to the news.”
“That’s alright; their also very interested in movies, TV, books, games, etc.” Julia turned away from the dishes. “Answer what you can, and saying ‘I don’t know’ is a good answer for everything you don’t know.”
“Why haven’t you asked me any of this?”
“A meeting is usually held a week after a rescue mission where all the news and gossip is presented to anyone who wants to hear it, and I stopped going a couple of years ago.”
“Because I want to know that the world has noticed so many of us go missing, but I guess not enough of us have.”
“But . . .”
“Yes, I know how high the missing statistics are, but I want to know that people are trying to find us.” Julia seemed to be on the edge of tears.
Think about what her older sister might say to her, Tanya said, “They are even if you don’t hear about it.”
“Thanks, but after eighteen years I doubt if my family is.” A tear escaped Julia and ran down her left check. She wiped it away as Tanya felt her own eyes begin to well up. Julia breathed deep to regain her composure; it felt good knowing she still had tears to cry. After a long pause, Julia spoke up. “Let me show you around camp.”
“Is there much to see?”
“No,” answered Julia as she got her cloak off the hanger by the door, “but you’ll need to know your way around if you want to keep your habit.” Taking down a second cloak, she turned to face Tanya. “Coming?”
Tanya gave a half smile and took the cloak. It was a green plaid just like the ones used by the rangers that saved her though a lot cleaner. Julia showed her how to pin it so she could have a hood as well.
“There you look ready for a walk through the woods,” said Julia as she quickly adjusted Tanya’s shoulder pin.
“I feel like a hobbit,” smiled Tanya as she looked down at herself.
“Hopefully you’re just as surprising,” replied Julia. The two girls laughed together.
“It’s odd,” Tanya thought, “to think that she’s two decades older than me.”
The pair set out with a blue sky painted with white clouds. Everything was now in green shadow as the last of twilight tried to hide from the sun. The path was wide enough for four people to walk shoulder to shoulder and flanked on each side with tall grass and bushes.
After maybe ten minutes of walk, Tanya turned to Julia. “Were are all the other huts?”
“Down the narrow paths we’ve been passing,” Julia answered as she gestured to one as they stepped past it.
“Why is yours so isolated?”
“They’re all like that.” Julia answered without missing a beat, “One for each path.”
“Lance tells me that it makes it harder for anyone in the mountains to spot us,” answered Julia as they continued along the path, “and the spread of disease is easier to manage.”
She pointed up to the trees. “There are lookouts posted,” Tanya looked up to see an archer standing on a platform in the trees, “so you don’t have to worry about being alone.” The archer waved upon noticing he had been spotted.
“So where does this path go?” Tanya asked Julia as she waved back.
“Three places,” replied Julia as she began to count on her figures, “The well, the main road, and the English fort, though you could get away with calling it the main fort as well.”
“The leaders and founders of our resistance spend most of their time there.”
Tanya nodded in acknowledgement, and the two continued on around the bend where sat the well. It was a short circle of rocks around the shaft with planks of wood serving as a lid.
“Hello Misses J,” came a voice from the hut hidden in the nearby trees. “Forget your bucket again?”
“No, Sheldon,” said Julia as she continued leading on. “Just passing by.”
“What’s the hurry,” asked the man twisting his mustache into hooks as he came forward. “I haven’t even met your friend.” He swiftly took Tanya’s hand and did a flourish of a bow. “Princess allow me to introduce myself. I am Sir Sheldon H. Norman the Third at your humble service.” And with that he tickled Tanya’s hand with his nose neighbor as he quickly pecked her on the hand. “May I inquire what my lady’s name is?”
Giggling at the whole thing, she answered, “I’m Tanya. You may rise good sir.”
Julia with a slight smile interjected, “Don’t encourage him.”
“Please, fair Tanya,” said Sheldon as he pulled her hand close to his chest, “encourage me so I may steel myself towards the love of my life.” He said gesturing to Julia.
“You’re embarrassing yourself.”
Releasing Tanya’s hand and taking a sudden step back, “I am truly wounded.”
“He does this with all the ladies,” said Julia to Tanya. “He’s a regular clown.”
“It’s true,” said Sheldon faking sadness, “I’m not even the Third.”
“You’re definitely the first.”
“Thank you,” said Sheldon as he bowed and started backing up to his hut. “Have a nice day ladies. Peace!” And with that he closed the door.
“Oh, brother.” Said Julia as she began to walk again.
“I like him,” said Tanya as she stepped quickly to catch up.
Julia quickly glanced back, “He’s the biggest child you will ever meet.”
Tanya laughed while Julia shock her head with a smile. “So why is the world’s biggest child living on the well?”
“He’s its caretaker,” Julia responded. “Keeps debris out, helps draw the water, and rations it during drought. Luckily he hasn’t had to do that.”
“I take it each well has a caretaker?”
“Yes, I think.”
“Sounds like a lot of planning went into making this resistance.”
“Hard to believe so many people were taken with the skills to make it happen.”
“Actually, our leaders learned these skills after they were taken, and then shared their knowledge with the rest.” Julia looked up at the tree tops, “We get very few reenactors.”
“They must be useful when you do?”
“Yes, well,” Julia paused as she looked into Tanya’s eyes, “Those that do more than just re-enact fights.”
The two women continued walking till they came to the place the path intersected with the main road, which was only a few people wider than the path they were now on.
As they crossed the road to continue on their path, Julia gestured to the left, “That way takes you to the river and the rafts that brought you here,” then to the right, “and that way takes you to the other camps like this one according to the different languages.” Tanya nodded as they continued on their set path. “Next stop the English fort,” continued Julia.
It didn’t take long for the fort to come into view. The path widen as they got closer, and went from a dirt road to a rough stone one. A trench went around the perimeter of a dirt mound that the wooden fort sat on. Trees grew almost right up to the ditch, but Julia thought that it must be for camouflage. Tall, thick trees grew inside and were used as towers while there canopies added to the façade. Split logs made up the bridge into the fort past the spikes that Tanya now noticed in the ditch which was much deeper than she first thought. Once inside the gates and pointed walls, Tanya really did feel safe.
“Hey!” Both ladies turned around to see a red-headed man walking towards them. “What are you ladies doing here?”
“I’m showing her around,” answered Julia taking Joel’s eyes off of Tanya, “so she knows where everything is.”
“Well, since you’re already here,” said Joel turning back to Tanya, “I may as well interview you myself.”
* * *
“Again,” Derek shouted to the recruits as the arrows sank into their targets. The recruits ran to retrieve the only arrow they had been given to train with. They rushed back to the rock line and shot again. “Again,” Derek cried. And they repeated the exercise. “Again.”
Once more the recruits repeated the task. “Again,” said Derek and one other recruit. The recruits started to run. “Halt,” Derek shouted, “Everyone drop and give me twenty.”
Everyone groaned as they put down their bows and began the arduous push-ups. One guy smacked the smart-mouth recruit as he went down to start his set. That was a mistake. “Twenty-five push-ups!”
Another groan escaped the recruits, but Brad barely cared about the training. He’d been training for most of his life, and this morning’s exercise was nothing new. If anything he actually he preferred his time with Derek and the new recruits. The new recruits didn’t know him, and Derek never talked about him. Derek insisted on Brad learning for learning’s sake.
Brad still remembered Derek telling him years ago that, “Even though you’ve never been to a formal school that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, or ever stop, learning.”
“But Derek there’s nothing to read out here. There’s only the next fight, and I want to be in it.” His eight-year-old self had said.
“That’s what the drills are for, but you’re wrong if you think brawn is all you need in a fight.” Derek said as he pinching the kid’s small biceps. “You need brains too,” he said ruffling Brad’s brown hair. “Besides you’ll be dying to read the moment you have the chance.” Kneeling down to look the skeptical child in the eye, he continued, “All those stories I’ve told you, I read in books, and there are so many more stories to be read yet.”
“But what good is English?”
“I’m not teaching you English; I’m teaching you Boinyan. The language of our enemies.”
Derek’s voice jarred Brad back the present. “Everyone up and running. Those targets don’t shoot themselves.”
Like a spring Brad was off the ground and at the target. With the arrow in hand in rushed back to the line like he had done a thousand times before. He load the arrow and looked up before drawing his bow. Everyone else was just starting to run back. He waited. Everyone ran back, and nocked their arrows. All the bows were drawn and all the arrows were loosed.
“And Halt,” Derek shouted. A few people almost ran forward. “Take five everyone.”
As everyone moved into various talking groups, Derek came up to Brad. “Meet me in my cabin after today’s drills.”
The adventure continues in chapter four: http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2067900-Stolen-Chapter-4