The room was heavy with silence and thick with blood. The light of the few candles only allowed for a small amount of light. Deep shadows accented the death which just took place.
Brick stared absently, in a daze. Serah was still upon the bed, a sheet covering her from view. Though he could no longer see her, his mind’s eye was still strong.
She had gone into premature labor. Having died, the room was now silent.
“Sir,” the nurse brought him back to the present. “What will you do with it?”
Brick tightened his grip on the bundle in his arms. The tiny, dying boy had only just gone quiet. There was likely no means for survival. Yet, he couldn’t leave him.
“I’ll give him a comfortable place to die,” he said weakly as he left.
Though it was incredibly unfortunate, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Walter was gone for two nights, allowing Serah to give birth without his supervision.
Now that she was dead, however, Brick vowed to do what he could for the boy.
With it being night, everyone was stowed away in their beds. Brick ran freely down alleyways, heading for where Aslin had been staying. He prayed against all odds that the man was still in the city.
Rounding a corner, he faced the very door he sought after. Without hesitation, he hammered his fist on the door repeatedly until someone stirred within.
The door opened to a short, somewhat round, man. His eyes seemed to take in all details, looking from Brick to the bundle he cradled. Instantly, he stepped aside, allowing him in.
Slowly, people gathered into the room, awoken by the sudden banging at the front door. Aslin finally came into view, narrowing his sleepy eyes at the sight.
The first man looked into Brick’s bundle, inspecting the infant. He was tiny. Born far before his time. The man took him, looking him over.
Aslin was the first to speak, asking, “The babe is here already? How is his mother?”
Brick’s ashen expression was enough an answer. The room fell silent, pose for the baby’s cries as the man turned him in his hands for a closer look.
“Is anything to be done for him?” Aslin asked.
“I shall see,” the man answered as he took the babe into the back room.
The owner of the house and his wife stood together, wide-eyed and fearful. Aslin soothed them with a gentle wave of his hand, saying, “All is well. Please. Rest assured we will take care of things.” He, then, turned to Brick, noting the blood across the front of his figure. “Brick. You should clean up and rest as well. We’ll discuss a plan tomorrow.”
After a moment of dazed hesitation, he nodded in agreement.
"Torin!” Ark shouted as he headed toward him.
Torin paused and faced the man. The sunshine was bright and beautiful as it bled through the leaves above him. He clutched his bow, his quiver hanging on his back.
The tall man reached him and slapped a hand to Torin’s shoulder. “I thought I might not find you.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Well, somewhat,” he shrugged. “Your mother, she is--”
Torin grumbled as he nodded and headed back toward the camp.
In the center of the camp, Anille argued with one of the elder women over some sorts. Reaching his mother’s side, he silently grasped her wrist and guided her away.
“Torin, what are you doing?” she finally huffed as they came to a stop out of earshot of anyone.
“Quit causing an uproar, Mother,” he sighed heavily. She stared at him with drawn brows and a heavy frown. Her chest expanded as she crossed her arms. “You are stressed, but it is no reason to harass Jetelli--”
“Mother,” he barked. “Stop,” his voice softened. “We are all under stress and we all have to get along for the duration of this trip. It won’t be but a couple of more days, alright?”
“I am sorry,” she shook her head. “I am...unaccustomed.”
“I know,” he gently patted her arm. “Come on, you should go see Father. I need to go hunt.” He lovingly wrapped an arm around her shoulders, rubbing her arm as he led her forward.
Raven squatted in the tree branches, her eyes narrowing as she watched the smoke rise from the city in the distance. It was alarming how the buildings were crumbling and birds flocked to it.
A sharp whistle caught her attention from below. She lowered her eyes to Kane and she slid out of the tree, landing mere inches from him. Resting a hand on his large arm, she steadied herself. “I believe that city is dead,” she said.
“Dead?” he lowered his brows. She nodded and he exhaled heavily. “It seems as such...but why?”
“Raven,” someone panted as he neared. They turned to face one of their scouts. He stopped before them, breathing heavily, but otherwise held a calm composure. “There are five people heading our way.”
“No, but they appear to be well armed,” he answered. Kane demanded their description and he nodded, still trying to control his breathing. “Three men, two women. The men vary; one is large with armor and a sword--he may very well be a soldier--another man with less impressive gear, and the third with no armor and is rather...plump. The women, they seem to be just regular folk, dresses that seem dirty.”
Kane glanced to Raven with an uneasy look. “If I had to guess, they’ve been traveling for many days and they seem to have been hounded. Their horses are wounded and weak,” he added.
“Torin is hunting,” Raven cut Kane off. “Have his father and a few others go see to them,” she suggested. “Milas has been itching to lend his assistance and he may know others of the cities more than any of us would.”
The young man nodded and glanced to Kane. “Do so, boy.”
“Right,” he bowed his head and darted off, his body reluctant to break into the slow jog.
The small tent fell once Milas untied knots and pulled on parts of the canvass-like material. All while Anille harped and barked and told him how she felt the old woman had wronged her, Milas kept silent and worked.
Finally, once the tent was packed away, he faced his wife and said, “Anille...that is quite enough.” She opened her mouth to retaliate, but he held his forefinger to his lips. She glared with all her might, though she said not a word. “Our son has become wise. When he requests that you leave something be...Do it.”
A young man approached them with a flushed face from running for so long a distance. Anille rubbed his back in a motherly fashion and handed him a waterskin. “Thank you,” he panted and took a heavy drink. Then, “There is a request of you, Sir Holloway.”
“Ha! Finally,” he rested his hands on his hips. “What is needed of me?”
He explained the situation and he nodded slowly, running a hand over his heavily beared chin. “It would be best to have you speak to them...you might actually recognize one of them. Or at least know how to handle them more than the rest of us here,” he concluded.
“It would be best...perhaps...” Anille mumbled her thoughts aloud. They faced her and she sighed shortly. The sun made her hair glow like bronze. “However, my husband...” She stepped before Milas, patting his large forearm and lowered her head with a short sigh. “You are unable to fight if they...are hostile.”
A slight smile spread across his lips and he said, “Let them try, my dear, I’ll not let any enemy near you--crippled or not.” He had a slight limp from childhood which exonerated him from the military. Then, as he got older, he had injured his right elbow, which hardly bends correctly without shooting pains through him. It proved impossible to continue smithing.
He kissed his wife and stood upright again. “I’ll return shortly, Anille. Keep yourself out of trouble.”
“I suppose I can’t promise you that,” she said playfully, touching her fingertips to her lips. After all their years together, she still blushed at his affections.
Milas followed the young man eastward, three others with them, though Milas could never remember their names.
The people were spotted in a field of grass and skinny saplings. The cold air cut through them the further north the tribe traveled. Reaching a thin line of trees, they waited in the cold shade.
Milas narrowed his gaze at the group of horses rushing toward them. And by rushing, he realized it was a relaxed trot. They seemed not to be worried about trying to reach them quickly or by surprise, and they certainly didn’t appear dangerous.
“Do you recognize them?” Arrin, the young man, asked.
“They are too far to tell,” he answered. “There is no way they could be too dangerous. Let us simply go and see what they need. We both appear rather normal--and by normal, I mean not tribal.” Arrin had very few tattoos, which helped his scouting missions if he were to ever go into town.
Milas let out a short laugh. Looking to the other three, he said, “Wait here and keep watch. You’ll know if there needs to be an intervention.” They agreed and he waved Arrin on. They headed forward and he said, “We could both be from a nearby village and we hoped to see if they need assistance.”
“Aye,” Arrin agreed.
They walked through the thigh-high grass. The closer the horses got, the more detailed the strangers’ features seemed to be. Milas shook his head with a large grin. “I’ll be...” Milas said happily. Arrin looked to him and he said, “That is Brick, one of Torin’s companions.”
“I have no idea,” he said with a hint of excitement.
Once they noticed Milas and Arrin, Brick lifted a hand into the air, hailing him loudly. “Holloway!” he shouted. “We’ve come from so far!”
“It looks like it,” he crossed his arms and relaxed his crippled leg. Pointing a chin toward the others, he asked, “So, who did you bring?”
They came to a stop before them and Brick climbed off his horse. “Some friends, don’t worry.” Patting his horse, Brick said, “Are you still with the Zeil?”
“Aye, we are,” he nodded.
“I have some...We have some news,” he said solemnly.
“Well, let us go!” Milas turned around. “Follow me; I’ll bring you to Raven and Kane.”
It was late into the night as Brick rested on his cot. He stared at the shadows cast across his tent, unable to rest. They had explained everything of import to Raven and Kane. However, once Torin returned from hunting, Brick and Aslin explained everything to him alone.
His thoughts continually drifted back to the birth of the premature boy and the death of his mother.
Amazingly, it turned out Aslin’s companion was quite skilled. He was able to heal the babe enough to survive its underdevelopment. They thought it best to leave him in the care of the woman who housed Aslin and his companions.
She would take care of the child until they could relocate him. They had the perfect place and the perfect person to move him.
"It would be safest out of the country,” Aslin had said.
Torin’s response to the news was hopeful. ”Stella is from Kamoni. Once she returns, we could have her relocate him there.”
Yet, as Brick thought of it...How would Davin feel of this? To learn that his child had been born and was whisked away into the care of a foreigner? Likely, he would rush to find him.
It all made him very sick to his stomach. Sleep would be a thing of the past.