"Again!" Jonas bellowed, his voice reaching the opposite side of the open field our regiment was using for drills. There were about twenty of us or so, including Luke and myself. About half way across the distance of the field, I stopped running. I bent over, placing my hands on my knees, panting.
"I can't do anymore of these," I said, barely able to speak. Luke stopped and came back to me, grabbing me by my arm, attempting to drag me back into motion. But, I wouldn't allow him. "No, I can't do anymore."
"You know Jonas will make an example of you like he did to that poor fellow last week," Luke reminded me.
"He can try," I uttered, mostly under my breath.
I had joined the army to kill some Handrin soldiers, to do something about my country's predicament besides standing back, hearing my father go on about the sorry affairs of our defense.
My father, Bernard Evans, was on the Iberan War Committee (or IWC for short). The members on the committee often disagreed about what to do with Handrin constantly encroaching upon our territory. My father had always been in favor of more direct action.
Even still, he had been mixed about my decision to join the army, informing me that the army was the last place for a member of the Evans family. Not only had our family been key in the revolution that gave Ibera the level of freedom that we currently were still fighting for, but the importance of our family was evident even in the earliest records of the kingdom of Handrin. In other words, we had always been in the lime light, members of our family helping shape the direction of the region. Common soldiers we were not.
I joined the army despite my father's reasonings. However, his words did not reach deaf ears. I had heard every word, in fact. I didn't see any danger in joining. If things got dangerous, I would simply use my surname to elevate myself to a position of importance once again. That time seemed to be coming sooner than I thought it would.
"Evans. Elliot," Jonas screamed. "Get moving or else."
"Now is not the time to .... " Luke didn't finish his sentence. Instead, he started running again, leaving me behind.
Some friend, I thought, but I couldn't blame him. The Elliots weren't anybody important, so there was nothing he could do to protect himself. When I didn't start running again, Jonas headed in my direction.
He never made it to me, though. A courier came running out of the tree line, heading straight for him. There was a short conversation between the two of them. Then, Jonas yelled, "Elliot, report to the regiment commander."
Jonas tried to prevent me going with Luke, but I placed my hand in his face and left anyway. "I will have your head," Jonas yelled as Luke and I left the field, heading back to camp.
"What do you think this is about?" I asked, still panting. Luke was definitely in better shape than I was. Life on the farm, I thought.
"It must be important to pull us ... me ... off drills," he replied, slowing his pace not one bit. In fact, I had to speed up somewhat to keep up.
"Maybe this war is finally going to get started," I commented, hoping that I would get the chance to use my status to demote Jonas to cook or something.
When we reached the commander's tent, Luke was allowed in, but the guard placed his hand in front of me, preventing me from going in.
"You are not authorized, soldier," he declared in a flat tone.
"Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is?"
"I don't care if you are the richest farmer in Ibera. You are not going in."
Sebastian, our regiment commander, popped his head out of the tent and stated, "His father would never forgive me or let me forget it if I didn't include young Lewis here in the discussion. Let him in."
"Yes, sir," the guard said, jerking his body into a formal salute. I sneered at him as I entered the tent.
There were several people standing around the commander's desk, a candle illuminating most of the space. Mr. Elliot, Luke's father, was among them as well as a couple of men I did not recognize. In the corner of the tent stood another man whom I could not see, the candle light not reaching his face.
Pointing in the direction of one of the men I did not recognize, the commander said, "This is Fredrick, one of our couriers and a spy." He paused before saying the word spy, obviously cautious of revealing that detail.
"He has delivered some interesting information," the commander continued. "Mr. Elliot. Luke. It affects you directly."
"Is there something wrong back at the farm?" Luke asked.
"Everything is fine on the home front as far as we know," the commander replied. "I will not beat around bush." He paused, lowering his head in thought. When he raised his head again, his expression had changed somewhat. I couldn't tell if he was mad or sad. Perhaps a little of both, I decided.
"Jon Hanway recruited some women to help him spy on Handrin, including your sister Katrina, my sister Alex, and Eliza, the daughter of Sir Frances." The news was received with silence. Mr. Elliot was breathing hard but remained composed. Luke, however, was not so adult about the situation.
"How dare he!" Luke exclaimed. "We trusted him so much, and he did this to us."
The commander softened his expression somewhat as he spoke up again. "The blame game can happen later, but that is just the first part of recent developments. His plan worked."
"What do you mean?" I asked, glad to find a spot to join the conversation.
"Alex and Eliza infiltrated the court of Handrin and have relayed a message," the commander continued. "There has been a problem, though."
When the commander didn't tell us what the problem was, both Luke and I spoke up at the same time. The commander did not reply to our inquiries. Instead, he looked in the direction of the man standing in the shadows, who stepped out, revealing himself to us.
"Sir Frances," I said with a slight bow. "We could not see who was in the corner."
"That was on purpose, young Mr. Evans," Sir Frances replied.
"If I may be so bold, sir," I said with my head still bowed in a show of respect, "what has happened?"
"Jon has not heard from Alexandra or Eliza in quite some time."