Sage had Baron tend to the weak army while she wandered about what's left of Galvenston to clear her head. Small huts were in the process of being rebuilt. The population of the empire was cut in half when the fire spread. That was how She came upon the city when she returned from a voyage with Baron to gather supplies.

It had happened over a month now. Reparations were in order. There was only so much the farmers and freed prisoners could do for themselves. They had no materials, and little money to buy them. The drought wasn't helping either, the ground was to hard. The riverbanks had dried up. Their source of building clay had gone stale from the dry air. The crops were destroyed. They were forced to become hunters and fish in the allying empire Gallia, only as permitted. Merchants had left the town taking their business elsewhere. After her father's death and before the fire, Gallia was the only other Empire that would continue to trade with them. They traded their silver, in return for fish. Now the little silver they had left was to be melted down for ammunition. They had nothing to trade, nothing to offer. Sage and the citizens both knew they had only made it thus far, by relying on the kindness of Gallia. As it is was that Empire was suffering from their association with Galvenston.

Galvenston's former watchmen, to whom they now referred to as tyrants, began to colonize, settling in other lands, promising people prosperity in exchange for power. The tyrants merged the sects of land into one large Empire known as Syriona They built the Syrion army and enforced the harsh laws that used to command Galvenston. Now Galvenston was a free land, but at what cost? Half of the population died in the fire, and the other half was battling starvation, and not to mention those left homeless after the raid. The castle was nearly stretched to it's limits in capacity housing families and orphaned children.

On this thought it was hard for Sage to carry on. She sat at the once grand fountain. A gargoyle lion used to deposit recycled water through his mouth, into a small pool, that children could wade it, even that was broken. The lion's nose became distorted in the fire appearing weak and fragile instead of strong and resilient. Another sure sign, she thought, that she was leading these people to their doom. She took her shoes off and stuck her bare feet in the empty pool. She imagined a cool stream running over her toes, the moisture restoring her dried skin.

“Empress?” A voice said drawing her out of my daydream.

She pulled her feet out of the fountain at the sound of a male voice. Just what she needed,  another man to think she was incompetent. After all who was she to daydream in this destruction? Sage turned to the stranger only to realize that he wasn't a man, just a small boy. He had burn marks on both of his cheeks. Black hair framed his pale freckled face. His wide blue eyes stared at her expectantly. He was skinny, far too skinny. Sage couldn't bare to look him him in the eye. “Where are your parents?” She asked pulling her boots back on.

“They died.” He said, without further explanation, his burn marks said it all. They died in the fire She provoked.

“Empress, they died with honor.” He said, as if he could read her thoughts. “They died as free people.” She looked into the boy's eyes he couldn't have been a day over twelve. Why was he trying to rid her of guilt?

“You should have sought refuge at the castle. How have you been surviving all of this time?” She stood up. The boy was not much shorter than she was.

From his satchel bad he produced a small forked piece of wood secured with an elastic. He picked up a loose stone from the ground.

“A slingshot?” She asked skeptically.”How have you survived with only that small gadget?”

He nodded his head “I am determined Empress. I learned to hunt with this when I was a small boy.” He said puffing out his chest. “ Let me fight for you empress. I would fall on my blade at your will.”

Horrified, she shook my head. “No. You are far to young and frail to fight!”

The boy looked offended. Sage lowered her voice.“What is your name?”

“It's Pierson.” He answered dejectedly.

“Pierson, I am flattered by your kind words. Please humor me, show me how to use a slingshot.” She encouraged.

Pierson shot her a look of annoyance, “I am not a jest. If I hit my target dead on. Will you busy me with work around the Empire?” He asked hopefully.

“Sure.” She agreed before she could ask what his target was.

“Alright than, here goes.” He said placing the rock in the elastic band. He aimed towards what was left of our forest. Swiftly he snapped the band back sending the rock reeling into the air. Sage hadn't seen what he was aiming for. She only heard the disgruntled cry as Baron came storming out of the small wooded lot, holding his eye.

The End

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