Life After Life

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Chapter 2 - Axel

9 years ago

The sun beats down on my back, burning me to where I feel as though my skin will melt off. I’m trying to salvage what’s left of our crops, but this year’s drought is the worst we’ve ever had. I take one of the sticks that I have sharpened on one end and drive it into the ground then I pick up the corns limp stocks and with string tie it up gently so that it hopefully will survive. I look over to where my brother and father are bringing back four buckets each full of water from the almost dried up stream about 2 miles east, the stream near us dried up 2 months ago. Their bodies are drenched in sweat, and I can see my brother’s arms shaking, but he doesn’t complain at all. I puff my 12-year-old chest up, to be brave and strong like them. But after about thirty seconds of standing up straight all the air escapes in a wheeze. My father stands beside me and gently sets the bucket down, careful not to spill any water.

“Axel, why don’t you water the plants?” I look up at him from the dirt, the sun is behind him, so I can’t see his face, but his outline is aglow with light. I scramble up from the dirt, trying to wipe my hands on my pants, afraid to get the water dirty. I grab my watering cup and clean it with my shirt. Shaky hands scoop the water up and I carefully pour it only directly atop the roots, not spilling a single drop. I look to my father and he only nods and turns to take the three other buckets inside. Over and over I carefully water each plant.

My throat is burning but I know I am not supposed to drink the plant water. I look around and see that my brother is busy tying sticks together to make a trap for our dinner. I turn my body so that he can’t see what I am doing, and I take my cup and scoop up some water and I bring it to my lips. The water isn’t cold it’s warm almost hot, but stick the liquid runs down my dry throat and feels amazing.

I feel a fist hit the back of my head.

“Delguranian trash!” I fall over onto my back and try to scramble away. My brother looms over me.

“You don’t belong here! You are so selfish.”

This time he sits on me and tries to punch my face, I put up my hands trying to block his blows, but one gets through and clocks me right in the eye. I scream out and I hear footsteps running towards us. Dad grabs him off me.

“What in the God is going on out here?” My brother pouts in front of my dad “He drank some of the water for the plants!” he takes a breath.

“He is a selfish Delgurian and he always will be!” My dad looks at me, disappointment clouding his features.

“Axel, I thought you were better than that.” I crumple and look at the dirt, my Dad finally just walks away. My brother stands a moment longer and whispers.

“You gonna cry baby? Why don’t you go tell your momma, oh that’s right, because she’s dead.”

He walks away and goes back to making a trap. I sit there staring at the dirt and then I make a decision. I get up and start to walk, I hear my brother get up and call out.

“Where are you going?” I start to pick up speed and I run as fast as my 12-year-old legs will let me.

My brother chases me for a while and I hear him behind me, I’m running towards the patch of trees near our house, unsure of my final destination. All I know is that I can’t live there any longer. My blonde curls bounce on my head as a duck under a tree branch. My breathing hitches in my chest and I struggle to keep going. I don’t hear footsteps behind me any longer, but I still hear my brother yelling at me.

I wipe the sweat from my eyes and keep going. I slow down a bit and try to catch my breath. I decide that I am heading for a village about 10 miles east of our house. I look up and see that the sun is now starting to set. I pick up my run again the sun beating at my back.

I get to the village long after the sun has set and find that all the fires are out in the village. Everyone has gone into their homes and closed up shop. Except for the tavern it’s a short squatty building made from brown mud bricks, the roof is an actual wood roof, it must be new. A soft dim glow comes from the door. I look in and see that the place is nearly deserted.

I slip inside and try to sit in a table that not well lit. I just want to lay my head down for a moment. My right eye is fully swollen now, and I can barely see out of it. The pain is starting to register now that I have stopped running. I hear footsteps coming near me and I pray they go away. I don’t have any money and I don’t feel like being kicked out so soon.

“Can I help you?” a gruff voice comes from the keeper, his fat belly swollen probably from a delicious dinner his wife made for him. I stammer.

“Uh no-no sir. I just wanted a place to rest my feet.” He looks taken aback.

“You’re only a child! Get out of my tavern! Where are your parents?” he makes a noise like he is consuming his own snot.

“Go home boy.” He grabs my shirt collar and pulls me toward the door, my legs are so weary from exhaustion that I don’t even fight him. He pushes me out the door and turns to go back to his shop. I collapse outside into a dirty muddy puddle. The muck seeps into my clothes and I scramble to get out. I look down and try to wipe some off, I walk around the side of the building into an alleyway and decide to sleep here, my eyes feel so heavy that I don’t think I could move even if I wanted to.

I hear soft voices somewhere far off in my sleep, but I choose to ignore them my dream is better than any reality. Mom stands near our garden that is blooming and full of life. She turns to laugh at a joke Dad made. My brother runs up and my dad picks him up and puts him on his shoulder.

I walk up and nuzzle against Moms side, she puts an arm around me and squeezes.

“Axel” her melody like voice cascading down to my ears, I look up eager to hear anything that mom says.

“Yeah mom?” She looks so peaceful and then tears brim in her eyes. I watch her lips move but I am suddenly unable to hear her, I look to my Dad and brother, but they are standing looking out past mom and me. I turn and see pitch blackness rushing towards us, my brother looks down on me.

“This is your fault. You brought this when you were born.” The blackness devours mom and then takes me next.

I sit up quickly and a wet cool cloth slips off my face and onto my legs. I reach up and touch my right eye it doesn’t feel as swollen and I can see out of it a little. I throw my blanket off me. I give a yelp suddenly as I remember falling asleep in the alley and now as I look around me I realize I am not in an alleyway but a bed, an actual room all to myself. The cloth stuffed with hay crackles as I get up, I hear shuffling coming towards me and I am stuck half panicked to run and half curious as to how I got here.

An older man comes around the corner.

“Oh good, you’re not dead.” His blonde curls are streaked with gray and tied up behind his neck. His hair hangs down his to just past his shoulder blades, he turns away and calls over his shoulder.

“Follow me if you want.” I decide to follow him, I have nothing to lose and they did give me somewhere to sleep for the night.

I come out and realize that we are at an INN, they must be wealthy I think to myself, if they can afford one of the rooms with a with a large fireplace in it and 2 beds. I see a woman, with blonde almost white hair braided down her back, sitting in front of the fire boiling a pot of something that smells like cinnamon? She turns, and I see soft blue eyes staring at me and realize she’s not as old as I thought she was, her skin is pale, it doesn’t look beaten by the sun like my skin after only 12 years.

“Good morning sweet heart.” she calls softly, I look back to the old man, assuming she’s talking to him but he’s putting on his boots and coat to go somewhere. For being an old man, you can see the muscles move beneath his shirt as he stretches. There’s a sort of stern gleam in his eye. I turn back to look at her, he blue eyes staring me down.

“Morning” I murmur. She pats the chair next to her and I walk over. I hesitate only for a moment before I sit down. She begins to ask me questions.

“What is your name?”

“Axel Mai-” I stop not wanting to be associated with my family anymore, I decide on a new last name. “Axel Wood.”

“Where is your family?”

“I don’t have one.”

“So, you’re alone?”


“How did a young Delgurian boy such as yourself become orphaned here in Carastil?”

I just give a shrug unsure of how to answer, I wonder how she knew that I was from Delgurany?

“It’s your blonde curls, such beautiful color could only come from one place” She speaks quietly reading my mind “Did you run away all the way from home?”

“No, I came here with my mom, but then” I stop unable to continue, I just stare at this woman, understanding what I am not saying she nods her head like that made up her mind on whatever she was deciding.

“Can I ask you a question?” I murmur, the cinnamon smell making my belly ache with hunger. She picks a spoon and start stirring.

“What is it?” she says quietly

“What’s your name?”

Her smile deepens. “I am Ellen.” she picks up a large wooden bowl from next to the fireplace and spoons some oatmeal into the bowl. “Here have some Axel” I hesitate for only a moment, before grasping the bowl in my hands. It’s warm and I actually feel like smiling, I look up into her blue crystal eyes.

“Thank you, Ellen.”

We arrive back in Delgurany, me laying on the seat in front of Ellen and Bracen driving the carriage. I sit up and look out the window and see the massive wall surrounding the kingdom guards are posted everywhere. As we approach the gate a guard steps forward to stop our carriage and peers inside at Ellen, she waves at him and he nods back, he sees me and looks confused. I hear Bracen’s voice.

“He was an orphaned Delguranian stuck in Carastil. He would have starved to death if he hadn’t been where we could find him. You know Ellen.” It’s quite for a moment and I look to Ellen, but her eyes seem to have gone glossy. Suddenly I hear a click of boots and the guard say.

“Yes, General.” as we roll by I see him saluting our carriage. I look to Ellen confused and now her eyes look mischievous

“Bracen is the king’s royal military advisor and I am one of the Queen’s royal advisors.”

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