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Chapter III Endless Restless

Several days had passed since I was captured and Liana taken from me. I was becoming accustomed to my new "home"-a small dark cell located in a facility somewhere on the outskirts of Madalva. They'd been rationing me little food, enough to keep me alive, I suppose. There were few other here to speak of. I spent the first few days in solitude but was recently paired with a cellmate. A father of two, he'd been jailed for stealing meat and cheeses to feed his hungry family. He ran a farm, but it was destroyed six weeks ago during the wet season when a large flood swept through town, devastating crops and killing livestock.

The Council was never sympathetic to such individuals. All were expected to make ends meet on their own within the boundaries of the law of course. It was not uncommon for children to go hungry in community organization controlled by the Council. There were so-called relief groups who tried to provide food and shelter to those in need and help educate some of the children. But even those who ran such organizations were themselves corrupt, and most children and families went uncared for.

Liana and I were part of that bunch, that is, until Elis took us in. He fed us, clothed us, and taught us to read and write, and when I was old enough, he showed me how to defend myself. We lived under him in secret, he never claimed us as his own, officially. I guess so as not to bring any unwanted attention our way.

It was cold in my cell. I huddled up against the corner trying to keep warm. Hal was the man I spoke of, my cellmate. He was to be released soon and was taken a few hours ago to prepare for departure.

He spoke of things he'd seen outside Madalva, great technologies such as energy-based weapons, massive tram station that ran on pure matra energy. I'd only read about such things or was told of them by Elis, I never had an opportunity to see them in the flesh. He said the world had changed, and some just weren't ready to accept it. I didn't care about the world. I just wanted to go home, take care of Liana. I dreamt of her, somewhere afraid, begging for me . . . a thought I now tried to suppress.

I think they kept you hungry to keep you weak. My stomach pained me. I leaned my head back and rested it on the concrete wall then took a deep breath and exhaled. The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall, growing louder with each step. I looked at the cell door and saw it was Hal being escorted back to the cell. A guard followed closely behind monitoring his every move. They stopped in front of the cell; the guard opened the door and ordered him in. We made eye contact but didn't speak. We never spoke in front of the guards.

The door closed behind him, and we waited a few seconds for the guard to walk away. Hal then walked over to his bed and sat down.

"I'm being released tomorrow," he said. "I guess I'll have to make my way back on foot."

"I'm glad to hear it," I replied. "What will you do?"

He looked down to the floor and clasped his hands together.

"I'll go home to my family," he said. "I hope they managed to keep the farm in order. Tend to the crops, feed themselves, take care of their mother. My boys are good gardeners, green thumbs." He chuckled.

"Have you heard from them since you arrived?"

"No, but I'm sure they are all right. What about you, Elliot? What will you do?"

"I'm not sure . . . I haven't received word when I'll be leaving for Gala Meza. Though I suspect it'll be within the next few days . . . I mean, I've been here about a week."

Hal sucked his teeth agreement. "Damn Nobel, it takes them an eternity to get anything done."

I nodded my head.

He sighed and lay down in his bed. "You know I wish you the best, Elliot. If you ever make it back to Madalva you know where to find me."

"I'll do that," I said.

"Good night, my friend." He replied then rolled over to sleep.

"Good night, Hal."

I lay down as well and tried to sleep, though it never came easy. I remained awake a few hours after Hal had turned in. When I was finally able to fall asleep, I dreamt. I saw her again, Liana standing at the edge of a high cliff, the ocean far below her.

She turned to me and smiled, her hair blowing in the gentle breeze. Her smile soon fades and she now has an eerie look of discomfort. She began to look weary, her face pale, just like she had the last time

I lay eyes upon her. Her arms reach out for me. I race to grab hold of her, but during my sprint, she falls backward, her eyes rolling in the back of her skull.

The sky went from blue to gray in an instant, and it began storming. I was too late; she fell. I screamed, gazing in horror at her rapidly descending body, my arms reaching out to her in anguish. She never hit the water. Instead, her body exploded into dozens of black crows. They flew upward, screeching and cawing, swarming all around me. Their cries and the beat of their wings were overbearing. I was blinded, disorientated, and driven over the edge.

Tumbling and shouting, I plummeted to the jagged rocks below in the now mud-like sea. The experience was horrifyingly real. I awoke in a cold sweat just before I hit the surf. I placed my hands over my face, reassuring myself it was just a dream, then looked over to Hal's bed, and he was gone.

I must have slept for quite a while. I leaned over and placed my feet on the cold floor. There's chatter down the hallway. One of the voices sounded familiar, and I believe I recognized it. It was the man

I'd seen outside the fields of Madalva. The warrior Margus, it was unmistakable.

The pair approached and my assumption was correct, the giant man with the scar appeared. His gauntlets and armor recently polished with an unprecedented gleam.

"Here's the one," he said, pointing at me.

"He is to be prepared from transport to depart tomorrow morning for Gala Meza."

"Sir?" The guard nervously interrupted. "Do you request he be held under your private sanction?"

"No, he shouldn't be any trouble. He may travel via the Great Hall, just use restraints."

"Yes, sir," the man replied, saluting his commander.

"Thank you, lieutenant, that will be all, you may take your leave." He looked over to me with a smirk across his face. "Not feeling very talkative today, are we?"

"Where's Liana?" I demanded, leaping out of bed, moving toward the cell door.

His grin faded. "The child? Lord Siesle has taken her to Solitaire; she's no longer a concern of yours."

"Solitaire? Why take her there? Why take her so far?"

"Lord Siesle requested such. I do not question his orders."

"What is to become of her? What of her condition?"

"I'd be lying if I told you. She remained in his custody the entire time he was here in Madalva, until he gave the order to have her brought with him to Solitaire under his care. That was several days ago."

He looked at me with a certain disdain in his eyes. "You are now a prisoner of the Council. We leave tomorrow for Gala Meza where you will be tried and most certainly convicted of your crimes. I'd suggest you prepare yourself."

"Prepare myself for what?" I said.

"The Magistrate doesn't take lightly the assault of its officers. The usual approach to such acts of depravity results in mandatory racking of the accused; blood for blood."

His grin resurfaced. He gave me one last look then turned and walked away, soon disappearing down the hall.

I was left to my lonesome once more, and I'd run out of options. I'd be taken to Gala Meza tomorrow unaware when or even if I'd be returning home. Though the thought of never seeing my home again bothered me, it was trumped by the thought of what was happening to Liana in Solitaire. What possible reason could he have to take her there, I wondered.

I sought answers, and one thing was for certain, I wouldn't find them locked inside these walls. By now, Elis should be worried sick, wondering what has become of us, but I'm sure he'd be no help to me in here. I felt an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and panic set in as I struggled to remain calm. I felt like screaming, crying, tearing down these walls if I had the strength. My breath became heavy, my palms sweaty, and my heart raced. I walked over to my bed and sat down.

"Keep it together," I said aloud. Talking to myself seemed to help. The uncertainty was the most difficult part to deal with. I had assaulted an officer for the Council, a serious offense, and now my fate was obscure. All I could do was sit and wait until tomorrow. Maybe a solution would present itself.

Although I needed nothing short of a miracle.

I spent the rest of the day like I had done the past several days. Sitting, standing, and occasionally, pacing about the cell. A few hours later, the guard brought me dinner. I ate quietly, and when I was finished, I slid the plate under the cell door. I later decided I'd try to sleep. The night came quickly, and once again, I found myself lying in bed, pondering my situation. If anyone could think themselves to death this would be that moment.

Eventually, I fell asleep, and the next morning, I was awakened by the sound of my cell door opening as two guards stepped in and demanded me out of bed. They then placed me in chains and led me out of the cell and down the hall.

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I noticed these guards were different than any I had ever seen. Their armor was similar but had slight variances. It was well-kept and polished, not rusted and worn like the others and had a sleeker design, not bulky and rigid. The swords were different as well, polished, well kept, and razor sharp, no nicks in the blades like they'd never been used in battle.

We stepped outside, and I was greeted by the warm sunshine, my raised hands shielding my eyes from the bright rays. I breathed in deep then exhaled, the air smelled fresh and felt crisp in my lungs. The two guards directed me toward a small transport, and I was once again dazzled. I've had seen transports before but nothing quite this fancy.

This vessel was clean, silver, and also had a sleek design. I was seated in the rear and the two guards sat up front. The seats where made of a gel-like material that encased the body. The driver started the ignition, and we began our drive away from the complex and into the open fields.

I could see Madalva growing smaller and smaller until it completely vanished behind the hills. There was no turning back at this point; my home was gone and, with it, the life I knew. My only thoughts now were to pick up the pieces and start over. Maybe we could return home one day and resume our humble yet joyous lives . . . "our" lives . . . Liana's and mine. But I couldn't go back. Not yet. Not until I'd found Liana..Margus told me she'd been taken to Solitaire. Taken by Siesle, that man with golden eyes . . .so that was exactly where I was headed, to find her and bring her home.

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