It was finally the Spring festival, the day that sixteen year old Courtesy had been waiting for. She loved the spring because her birthday was in spring and because they would celebrate what their Creator had provided them.
She watched as children ran through the crowd bumping into people as they did.
Older siblings chasing them telling them to watch where they were going and apologizing to the people they bumped into. Couples walked by, girls giggling in delight as their husbands or partners smiled warmly at them. The feeling of joy danced across every one's faces, young and old. Courtesy passed the stage in the square, music was already playing, sending the festival into full swing. “Hey Courtesy!’’ Courtesy turned to where the voice had called her. Her younger brother John, A handsome fourteen year old boy walked up to her. She smiled brightly. “Hi, John, how was the archery competition?” She asked, glancing at the young girl next to him. She was a bit shorter than Courtesy, her fawn colored hair cupped her delicate face, making her brown eyes seem doe-like. John enthusiastically answered her question “It was amazing! Sir David’s son won, which is expected of him.” John held his hands up demonstrating how the bow would sit in his left hand and how the string would be pulled to his cheek.
Courtesy noticed the girl next to John was fidgeting uncomfortably. Courtesy smiled gently, and Introduced herself. "Sorry for my brother's rudeness." John's face turned a beet red from embracement. "My name is Courtesy Whittle nice to meet you.'' The girl smiled sheepishly "Oh, John wasn't being rude. But anyways, my name is Mary Lande, Nice to meet you. John has told me a lot about you." Courtesy chuckled, nudging him with her elbow. "I hope it was all good things.'' Mary giggled, placing her hand over her mouth. "I assure you it was all good things." John scratched the back of his head, giving his sister an annoyed look. She shrugged it off and continued talking to Mary. "So you are Mr. Landers, the shop keeper's daughter right?" Mary nodded smiling, "Yes! How did you know?" Courtesy brightly explained whenever Mary's mother came into her father's physician's office she would always talk about her sweet little Mary and how beautiful she was. Mary's face flushed. "Oh Mother, Sometimes she can talk too much." Courtesy shook her head. "No! It is always pleasant to hear your mother speak. Her eyes sparkle when she speaks of you." Mary's eyes beamed with pride.
A trumpet sounded from the square, asking for the attention from the crowd. A voice boomed , after the crowd had silenced. “Citizens of Fort Drag in an hour the general of this great nation will give a speech.”
Courtesy gently punched her brother’s shoulder.
"Well, You two have fun and John come to the booth before the speech." John turned on his heel, he sighed. “Alright see you in a bit.” Courtesy hummed happily after her and her brother parted ways. She headed back to the booth, She had taken a break and had enjoyed the sights long enough. When she came into sight of the booth her mother was dealing with a customer. It was a young man he had well kept blonde hair, he looked to be early twenties. He picked up one of the satchels that Mrs. Whitle had made with the leather her father had given her to use.
Courtesy waved to her mother calling out to her. “Mother!” Her mother looked up, she waved back. When Courtesy was close she tapped her mother’s shoulder playfully. “How’s business?” Courtesy’s mother laughed, “It’s doing fine.” Courtesy watched as her mother looked out into the crowd. Then she turned to her daughter. “COurtesy could you run the booth for me until I get back.” Courtesy smiled nodding, assuring her mother she could. “I will be back. I'm just going to get your father before the speech starts.” Mrs. Whilte disappeared into the crowd.
“Miss, how much for the this satchel?’’ The man who had been looking through the satchels, asked, smiling politely. “Seven copper coins.” he reached into his vest pocket pulling out a little brown pouch. “Here you go, Miss seven copper coins.” Courtesy took the coins and put them into her own satchel for safe keeping.
“Coal!!” Courtesy jumped, almost dropping the coins, She looked up to see another young man, he was tall, with dark brown eyes and chestnut brown hair. The man named Coal smiled mischievously leaning on the booth he responded. “Hey William, just buying a souvenir.” Coal’s partner, William, was not amused. He quickly shot a glance at Coal. William faced Courtesy, giving his best apologetic voice he had. “ Sorry for causing a scene at your booth.”
Courtesy stood there stunned, she tried to sound composed. Her words stuck in her throat.. “It's fine.” William grabbed Coal’s shoulder pushing him away from the booth. He politely excused himself, then his voice called to his companion. “Coal! Let’s go!” Courtesy snapped out of her daze and quickly called out to them. “H...Have a good time at the Festival!” Courtesy felt silly after she called out to them. They probably didn’t even her. Slightly embarrassed she plopped her arms on the booth covering her face, trying to hide the blush that had crept to her cheeks..
Three Days earlier…
William skillfully swung a wooden sword at a man in front of him. He was doing the daily training that the Keir army required of their soldiers. Today he was sparring with Bart Lonin, who was all brawn and no brains. Bart pivoted on his toe dodging William’s attack. Bart smirked, thinking he had won, swung for William’s head. William had set up the man, ducking low enough not to get hit by the sword. He extended his leg, knocking the man off his feet. Bart lost his grip on the sword and it fell behind him leaving him defenceless. William towered over him holding his weapon to the man’s neck. The beaten man, red with anger sneered at him. “You cheated.”
To William, sparing with the men in this army was child’s play. They were all just thugs who were being paid to fight. William backed away from the man, tossing the sword to the next person in line. William grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it to his forehead wiping the sweat off. He sighed, annoyed at how foolish Bart was. “In a real fight, would you let a man take your head off just to play by the rules? No! You’re going to do whatever you can to stay alive.” Bart growled. “Why You! One of these days your attitude is going to get you killed. And I’ll be happy to do that with my own hands.” Bart jumped to his feet charging at William, but the men held him back, he threw insults at William, but William could care less. He turned his back on the furious man and walked back into the cave that made up their base.
William was restless and wanted more than this but it was what he had to do to survive. He would wake up every morning, eat, train, eat, have some free time, eat, train, sleep and repeat. For him there were no friends or family to spend time with. In his life there was no time for those things, survival was his main priority.
William went to his quarters. To pass the time, he pulled out his sword and cleaned it and to also hide from the other men. As he did everyday. Friends would one day betray you and forget you ever existed.
“Hey Will, good job at training today.” William looked up from his sword, his commanding officer Lieutenant James Allington was leaning in the doorway. William replied, indifferently “Thank you, Sir.” William sat on his bed still holding his sword. James watched William, pitying him. “Just some words of advice, try to loosen up a bit. When I was your age I would surround myself with friends. So why don’t you join them in their games.” William knew that James was trying to look after his men but William didn’t want history to repeat itself. “Sorry, Sir I would rather stay here, but thank you for your concern.”
“Suit yourself, but it wouldn’t hurt to watch. Anyways there is a meeting at sundown about the raid. Don’t miss it!” “Yes Sir!” James walked back down the long corridor. William had been under James for two years now, training and learning military strategies
He placed his sword back in its resting place and flopped himself onto his bed. A small candle lit the dark room casting shadows on the ceiling, he watched the shadows dance making different shapes. The shadows reminded him of things that he would rather leave buried in his mind.
It was time for the meeting in the Great Hall. William walked down a damp hallway that led to the Great Hall. Two guards stood at two large wooden doors with carvings of an army on either door waiting to rip each other apart. The guards pulled the doors open, creaking as they did. The Great Hall was large, like a king’s throne room, not like William knew what a throne room looked like. Of course a king’s throne room wouldn’t have holes in the ceiling and cracks in the walls. but it was close enough to what he thought a throne room would look like. William walked over to his squad. He stood close enough that if James said anything he would be able to hear but far enough that he wouldn’t have to worry about talking to anyone. However Williams wishes to be left alone would not be grated.
“Hey William, my man!” Coal, a blonde haired twenty-five year old man, who always finds a way to bother William. Coal threw his arm over William's shoulder, putting him into a headlock, pulling William closer to people then he wanted. “I heard you made a new friend during training.” William pushing Coal off him straightened his clothes. He answered Coal, more aggravated than earlier. “I highly doubt that man would consider us, friends.’’ Coal was the complete opposite of William, funny , outgoing and had people surrounding him.
“Attention!” Everyone stopped talking. They all looked to the middle of the room where the voice had come from. A man in his forties, wearing the Keir army uniform, was standing there and William knew from the way the room had silenced at his command that it was General Jonathan Marshall of the Keir Army.
William watched as the general looked over the group. He couldn’t help but feel disgusted by the way he looked them over like there were mere animals. Granted some of the men did act like animals. But still they were human beings.
The general continued his voice booming. “In three days we will raid Fort Drag. We'll take it and use it for a tactical advantage later on in the Great Rulers plan.” No one has ever seen the Great Ruler, which makes many of the men uneasy. But as long as they have food, wine and a roof over their heads they will follow him. “The raid will start at sunset when the Estallen general will give a “heartwarming” speech. And when you are there, there are going to be fun festivities and lots of pretty ladies.” The General raised his voice to make his point clear. “STAY!! FOCUSED!! You can have all the fun you want after.” General Marshall and William made eye contact. William wasn’t going to look away, he may be the general but to him he was just another man. The general smirked, he was surprised that William didn’t look away, usually whenever he made eye contact with anyone there eyes would frantically look away. Either out of fear or respect and neither emotion shown through the young man, well it looked like the only emotion that showed through would be hatred.
General Marshall continued, “Your squad leader will give the details concerning what your job is. You're dismissed.” A chill went down William’s spine as he watched the man walk away, but he stopped, and turned to face William. “William Peters.” William straightened replying, “Yes Sir!”
“Meet me in my chambers after dinner.” General Marshall turned leaving the room before William could voice his reply.
William walked down the dark damp hallway that led to the general’s chamber. The walls were made of solid rock making it impossible for any outside light from coming in. Lucky for William there were torches that lit the way keeping him from colliding with the wall. Breathing in sharply William prepared himself before entering the general’s chambers. It had been two years since He had been at this side of the underground fortress. It hasn't changed much from when he used to roam the dark tunnels freely. The tunnels made a great place for a bunch of thieves to hide.
William knocked twice, he waited silently for a reply. “Who is it?” General Marshall asked from behind the door. “William Peters, Sir.”
“Come In.” William opened the door cautiously. The general was sitting at a desk in the corner of the room. His bed was on the other side pushed against the wall. William stood stiffly and he could feel the sweat running down his back. He was never afraid of people but General Marshall was a different story; he was reported to be more skilled than anyone he has ever known.
“Sir you wanted to see me?”
“Yes. Nice to finally speak to famous William Peters.” He smiled menacingly . William did not like this man, the longer he stood there the more his nerves were going haywire. He wanted to leave as soon as possible. “I wouldn’t consider myself famous.” William replied coolly General Marshall stood sizing William up. “No you would say you had more enemies.” William glared at the man, “Sir if there is nothing important you want to discuss then I will take my leave.” The general looked amused. “Well actually, I have a special mission for you. You will lead a group of four men to get a vantage point in the crowd. You can position the men however you would like but I want you to corner the Estallen general, Sir David King .” William was surprised that he was the one they wanted to use for a mission like that where one mistake could ruin the whole thing. Granted he did have fighting experience from his past before the Keir army had recruited him, but he wasn’t an experienced soldier. So being asked to lead an important part of a mission was not what he was expecting. He saluted, and turned to leave the room. “Oh, and William. Be careful.” General Marshall smiled, but there was something behind that smile that William couldn’t put his finger on. It almost.... looked like pity.
William left the room feeling that this might be the last time he walked down these halls. He was probably being set up, again. It’s not the first time someone has tried to kill him but this time he would let them. He could care less, if dying could end the pain, why not. No one would care.
He was halfway to his room when Coal came running around the corner. “Hey William, just the man I wanted to see.” William let out a small moan after dealing with the general; he didn’t want to deal with this blockhead. Coal’s demeanor suddenly changed from his usual carefree nature. “So you’ve got a special mission.”
“Yes, and what about it.”
“ William I’m giving you a chance to leave, I won’t tell anyone! Your smart, you probably already knew they were going to get rid of you while taking down the Estallen general.” William had figured that much out, but it wasn’t like they were trying to hide it. Coal cleared his throat. “Everyone has seen how you’ve fought and how you don’t answer to anyone. The general has seen it and it scares him because you are smarter than any of us in here.”
William just stood there, his face never changing. Not a hint of fear even flickered in his eyes. Coal couldn’t believe it. This guy had completely given up on life! Rage pumped through Coal’s blood, he grabbed William’s collar slamming him against the rock wall. “William why aren’t you scared! They're out to get you and you're going to let them!” Still holding William against the wall his voice softened. “What about your family?” William went from indifference to being as cold as ice. “I have no family.” Coal’s face twisted from anger to complete shock, he slowly released William. That’s when Coal finally understood William, it all made sense; he always kept a distance from people, he acted cold to keep people away from him. He had thought that William had just taken things too seriously, but no he just lost trust in the human race.
Coal backed away from William, “Listen Will, you're still young. You can get out.” He breathed in sharply “Just think about it. See you tomorrow.” With that Coal left.
William slid down against the wall, He laughed bitterly. “Coal, one thing you don’t understand I’ve always gotten the short end of the stick.”
Father came running over to the booth with mother right behind him. Immediately Courtesy knew something was wrong. “Courtesy, do you have your medical bag.” Nodding she went over to him. “What’s wrong?” Her father didn’t answer, he grabbed her wrist guiding her through the crowd. She looked past her father, she saw the Lander’s shop. Her heart started pounding hard in her chest. “Make way!” Mr. Whitle shouted, as he forced his way through the people. They ran through the door, Mrs. Lander was limp on the floor. Courtesy quickly went to the woman's side. Mary was holding her mother’s head in her lap, sobbing uncontrollably. Mr. Whitle started checking her over for any possible head injuries. Courtesy asked Mary gently. “How long has she been out for?” In between sobs Mary answered. “A couple minutes.” Mr. Whitle asked a few more questions than asked Courtesy to take Mary out to calm her down.
Courtesy gently squeezed the girl’s shoulders motioning for her to follow. Mary slowly followed, trying to choke her tears back. When outside, Courtesy wrapped her arms around Mary tightly. Her shoulder started shaking violently sobbing. Trying to comfort the girl Courtesy whispered in Mary’s ear the only thing that has ever brought true peace to herself. “Hey it’s going to work out alright, He’s got a plan. We may not understand, have courage.” Mary's tears had subsided, she looked up at Courtesy, her eyes filled with fear she asked. “How can you be so certain?” Courtesy smiled gently, “ the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid. That is how I am certain.”
Mr. Whitle came out of the shop with Mrs. Lander holding on to his arm for support. She smiled weakly at her daughter. Mary leaped out of Courtesy arms into her mother’s. She watched the two embraced, Mary crying but this time tears of joy. Mr. Whitle put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders. “Mrs. Lander make sure you take care of yourself.” The woman nodded gratefully.
The two left heading back to the rest of the family at the booth. “Good job Courtesy.” Courtesy smiled up at her father warmly. “Thanks though I didn’t do much.”
Mr. Whitle was a doctor and farmer. He was very skilled in his practice. Courtesy watched him for years, all she has ever wanted to do was help people. So she asked her father whenever she was done helping her mother with the chores, if he could teach her how to heal people. The night she had asked, he placed her on his knee and explained to her there are two types of wounds; one was physical and the other was mental. He also said “The most important tool a good doctor must have is faith.” At first Courtesy didn’t fully understand but as she matured she started to see what he was saying. She would see her father pray over every patient, of course God didn’t always answer his prayers in the way he had wanted. Even though people would mock him because of his faith, her father would never bend to others only to his Savior.
“Samuel!’’ Mrs. Whittle came running up to the two, John not far behind. “How is Mrs. Lander?” Mr. Whitle pulled his wife into his arms laughing. “Take a breath, Abigail, she’s doing fine, just too much stress and not enough food.” Mrs. Whitle let out a relieved sigh. “Thank God.” Courtesy’s father pulled them all into one of his big bear hugs. “So shall we go to the square?” asked Mr. Whitle smiling from ear to ear. In unison they all headed for the square.