The Search Party
Aaron was all sweaty from the dream. When he woke up, it was late morning; he had overslept. Aaron hurried downstairs to get some breakfast.
There was nobody there except Mrs. Renn. She was washing the dishes.
“Where is everybody?!” Aaron asked.
“Oh Aaron!”, Mrs.Renn was startled to see Aaron all of a sudden. Your uncle is out to see the causalities of yesterday’s disaster. Brandon is playing in his room.”
Aaron ate his breakfast quickly, washed it down with a cup of milk and came back to his room. He wanted to warn Brandon about the beasts. If the wolves were looking from him, they might harm Brandon, he thought. Aaron walked straight to Brandon’s room.
Brandon was in his balcony, playing with the colorful rocks that he had collected. He looked up at Aaron as he saw him coming in.
“Look! See what my stones can do” Brandon said with a big grin.
Aaron didn’t pay any attention to what Brandon was trying to show him. He held Brandon’s arms and pulled him up gently to help him stand up.
“Brandon, there is something important that I need to tell you.”
Brandon stood there staring at Aaron with his big round eyes.
“There are some big scary wild animals out there Brandon. Now, you promise me that you will not go outside after dark. And, If you see anything unusual, just run and hide in a safe place.”
Brandon smiled at Aaron and said “Don’t worry, my stones will protect me!”
“Brandon! this is not funny. Just listen to me. I saw some really scary animals yesterday. They attacked the villagers and burned their houses.”
Brandon now understood that Aaron was very serious as he didn’t blink at all. Brandon nodded his head in agreement and went back to play with his stones. Aaron kissed Brandon’s forehead and went back to his room.
Aaron again wondered about what had happened yesterday. ’Why did it have to be him?’ It seemed like everything changed for him in just one night.
Aaron knew the village festival was near. But he was not sure if the villagers will pull though what had happened and be ready for the festival in time. He prayed for everything to be ok and for the wolves to never attack them again.
Today, there wasn’t much to do in the fields. And so, Aaron set out to Flynn’s house. He took the usual shortcut and walked straight to Flynn’s house. He saw many ruined houses on his way, black and charred. Everyone was helping each other fix things up.
Soon, he reached the small stream, but there were no red fishes today. They seemed to have disappeared. He frowned in disbelief. As he continued to walk, he noticed a big footprint in the muddy path near the stream. It was large, like that of a big animal.
He then spotted another foot print and then another. Aaron followed the foot prints carefully. He walked cautiously as he doubted that the animal could be hiding right behind the trees. But the prints did not stop. They went on till the dry lands and then they turned to wet patches.
“This is going towards Flynn’s house!” Aaron panicked but then he took a deep breath and consoled himself.
Aaron knew that there was only one house on the hills, and it was Flynn’s.
Aaron’s heart started pounding. He ran faster hoping that Flynn and his father would be alright.
Flynn’s house had no gates. He crossed the pathway quickly and ran towards the door. The door was wide open. Inside, fire was still burning in the fireplace. He called out to Flynn several times but nobody answered. Aaron went into the kitchen and found several broken tea cups and plates. There was a crushed metal mug on the big table in the hall.
Aaron examined the whole house carefully. The small portrait of Flynn’s mother was slashed in half and the curtains were torn with something very sharp. The pillows and bed covers were fallen in all directions. The cloth Aaron had used to tie Zack’s wound yesterday was now lying near the bed, covered in blood. It seemed like Flynn and Zack were there last night. Aaron tried to make sense of the wreckage.
’They must have left for the market today morning and someone else might have wrecked this place’ He hoped as he came outside and closed the door behind him. Surprisingly, the door had no visible damages. But the sheep were all gone and so were the chickens. He knew that someone else had come there.
Aaron rushed to the marketplace. Not many shops were up after the last night’s incident. Flynn’s shop was closed as well. He asked a few neighboring shopkeepers about Flynn and they told him that Flynn and his father had not come to the shop yet.
Aaron sat on the shop ledge desperately waiting for Flynn and Zack.
“Did the wolves come back and take Flynn and his father?” Aaron didn’t know what to do, he felt helpless ’How do I find Flynn now? It’s all my fault, I should have told him that the wolves were looking for me. I should have warned him. I am the one the wolves want; if I go to the wolves, would they let Flynn and Zack go?’
Aaron headed towards the woods, he walked into the forest. ’The wolves have done so much damage to the village and now they have taken Flynn and his Father away. What next? Will they destroy uncle’s house or harm Brandon? I will never let that happen’ Aaron thought as he reached the deep forests.
He suddenly shouted “I am here! you filthy beasts. If it is me that you want, let my friends go.”
No reply came from the forest. Only his own voice echoed back. He paused for a moment and shouted the same words again. After several times of shouting, he knew that nobody was coming. He sat silently on a stone with his face buried in his hands. “What’s happening? Why me?” he murmured to himself.
It was almost dark; he came out of the forest finally. He passed many ruined farms on his way back. There was a lot of damage everywhere but people seemed to be coping with it pretty well. They were working together to get everything back in order. With heavy steps Aaron reached home.
“You are not supposed to stay out after dark Master Aaron” Mrs. Renn closed the door behind him in a hurry. “What if the attacks repeat?” she was worried.
Aaron didn’t say anything. Mrs. Renn never got angry at anyone usually. He knew very well that she must have been worried after what had happened yesterday.
“Is uncle back?” he asked calmly.
“Yes, he is in the common balcony talking to Billy.” Mrs.Renn replied.
Aaron had forgotten all about the fact that Billy had told him about the attack even before it happened.
He reached the balcony and opened the door. Uncle and Billy were standing there, talking. He approached them quickly and interrupted.
“Billy, how did you know?…” Before he could finish he was cut off by Uncle Sentas. “Aaron, Billy was telling me about the wolves and how they have been all over the village.”
Aaron calmed himself and asked “Are more people hurt?”
“Not many, but a lot of properties were destroyed” uncle said.
“Uncle, Flynn and his Father are missing. I don’t know where they are.”
“What?! But nobody else is missing in the entire village!” Uncle was surprised.
“I couldn’t find him and his father anywhere. They are neither at their house nor at the shop”, Aaron said.
Uncle brooded over it for a little while and said “I will send a search party first thing in the morning to look for them.”
“Morning?! That will be too late Uncle. Let’s go right now, we will take your men.” Aaron demanded.
“Nobody will come with us now Aaron, not after yesterday’s incident. Rest now, we will go tomorrow morning.” Uncle said. Aaron was not very happy with it. He knew that Flynn was not safe out there.
“Maybe Billy knows where they are” he said suddenly, narrowing his eyes at Billy. “He knows an awful lot about the wolves, don’t you Billy?” Aaron said.
Billy didn’t say anything but he took a few steps back from Aaron as if he was afraid of him.
“Tell me Billy, how did you know about the attack before it happened?” Aaron grabbed Billy’s shirt collar. “Are you with them? Tell me where my friend is.” Aaron was shaking with anger.
“Aaron! Let him go!” Uncle said in a stern voice pulling him away from Billy. “Goodness gracious, what has gotten into you boy. Why are you behaving like this? I said we will find your friend and his father first thing in the morning. Now, go to your room!”
Aaron released Billy’s collar and gave him a sharp look as he walked out of the balcony banging the door open.
He was angry with himself rather than anyone else. Aaron kicked his shoes and tore his jacket open. He looked outside through his window. He saw Billy walking to the stable. Suddenly, guilt overcame him. ’I shouldn’t have accused Billy. He had no fault in this. If anything, he tried to help me. He doesn’t even have anybody to call his own. He sleeps at the stable and ate leftovers from the house.’ Aaron felt bad as he realized this.
But he knew that he was not in control nowadays, with everything that was going on. He decided to apologize to Billy the next time he saw him.
Aaron sat on his desk chair and tried to calm himself down. ’I have to figure out a way out to find Flynn or I don’t know what the wolves would do to him.’
He started to read the book that Mathew had given him. It read “Believe in God. There is a reason behind whatever happens in your life; have faith during the hard times”. Aaron hoped for it to be true and soon fell asleep with the book in his hands.
Next day, with the break of the dawn, Aaron, his uncle and a search party rode on their horses towards Flynn’s house. Aaron showed them the foot prints of the animal that he had seen earlier. He also showed them the damage inside the house.
“Looks like a wolf attack!” said one of the men.
“We better look everywhere in and around the village. Let me know if you find anyone wounded or dead.” uncle commanded his men. Everyone left in different directions leaving Aaron all alone. He stood there among the wreckage in the hall.
“Dead?!” Aaron never thought about such possibility. Those deadly beasts could do anything. Aaron shivered at the thought of Flynn being hurt.
He searched the house for more clues, but couldn’t find much else. He mounted his horse and rode to his house, anxious to hear some good news about Flynn from his Uncle or the search party. He also wanted to talk to Billy. He thought Billy might know something more about the wolves.
Aaron walked his horse inside the stable but Billy wasn’t around. Aaron asked many of the farm workers about Billy, but none of them had seen Billy that morning.
In a few hours, Sentas and a few men returned to the house. He immediately ran up to them and asked “Did you find Flynn?”
Uncle nodded a ‘no’ and dismounted his horse. He signed one of the workers to take the horse away and came closer to Aaron.
“Not even a sign of them anywhere!” Uncle said in low voice.
“Did you look in the forest beyond the woods?” Aaron asked impatiently.
“We looked everywhere Aaron” uncle placed his hands on Aaron’s shoulder and looked at him straight in the eye. “Nobody has seen them. I think they were taken far away.”
“What do you mean?” Aaron’s heart was racing now.
“I think the wolves took them deep into the jungles” said Sentas.
Aaron looked away as tears began to form in his eyes.
“I have my men all over Brinsar and also in the neighboring villages. The news of your friend’s disappearance has reached all around. If anyone finds them, it will be reported to me immediately” Sentas then gave him a sympathetic pat on his shoulders.
Then he said “I will do my best to find your friend!”
Aaron nodded, but he knew very well that his uncle had done everything he could already. He really appreciated that. All he wished was that he could do something too.
After Uncle and his men left, Aaron walked towards the corn fields feeling gloomy. He didn’t know what news to expect anymore. ’Wounded or dead’ he shook off the thought from his mind.
He had come quite far from the house now. The bright sun made the corn fields glister like yellow gold. He walked among the tall corn plants. He jumped and grabbed a corn and started to eat it.
After the corn field there was a cluster of rocks. He came there often with Flynn. They would sit and speak for hours there. He felt a void as he approached the rocks.
He saw someone sitting on one of the rocks. Aaron stopped and tried to figure out who it could be. The fields belonged to his uncle and outsiders were not allowed there.
As he came closer to the rocks, he saw a boy with blond hair and a dirty brown jacket. The boy was sitting with his back facing Aaron. Aaron instantly recognized the boy. It was Billy. He was sitting with his legs folded.
“Billy!” he shouted. Billy startled and turned around.
“What are you doing here?” Aaron asked
Billy stood up instantly and stepped back as if he had offended Aaron.
“Nothing… just sitting here..” he stammered.
“I was looking for you Billy” Aaron climbed on one of the rocks and sat down.
“Why?” Billy asked. He was worried.
“Billy, I am sorry for the way I behaved yesterday. I was not myself” Aaron apologized.
Billy felt a little relieved now. He came forward and kept his foot on the rocks.
“But tell me, how did you know about the attack anyway?” Aaron asked.
Billy did not feel very comfortable at the question. He lowered his gaze and said nothing.
“My best friend is missing Billy, the wolves have taken him. You have to help me” said Aaron desperately “Tell me if you know anything about those beasts. I want my friends back”
“The wolves did not take your friend” Billy said.
Aaron came forward “What do you mean the wolves have not taken them?”
“The wolves do not take any prisoners master Aaron. They kill and leave the bodies behind.”
Aaron listened carefully as Billy spoke.
“Something else has happened to them.” Billy still avoided eye contact with Aaron.
Suddenly, they heard a few voices at a distance. Billy stood up attentively and said to Aaron “Run! Run Master Aaron.”
Before Aaron could respond Billy took off into the corn fields and yelled once more “Run and Hide!”
Aaron ran towards the corn fields as well. He looked back several times as he ran; he could hear voices but could not see anybody. He didn’t stop till he crossed the fields and reached his house. He couldn’t find Billy after that.
‘Where did Billy go? And why did he ask me to run? Who were those people and why was Billy running from them? Did they get Billy?’ he thought.
Aaron was lost in several questions. One thing he knew for sure was that Billy was somebody with a lot more secrets than he knew about.