When I woke up the next morning and went down to have breakfast, I found I was the first one of our group up…I always was a morning person...so I went on a run to increase my endurance. If I have more endurance, then I can heal more wounds and/or worse wounds without overtaxing myself.
When I got back I felt tired, but refreshed. People still hadn’t woken up so I went out back to a small stream and took a quick bath. I then went back to the inn, feeling thoroughly refreshed. When I got there Emily was up and waiting for me. However she was looking at the steps not the door, unaware that I had already woken up. So I crept up to her.
“BOO!” I shouted as I put my hands on her shoulders, pushing her forward, but not letting her fall.
“AAH!” she screamed, “Luuuke,” she complained, “Why do you have to do that?”
“Because it’s fun!” I exclaimed happily hugging her, “besides, you know you love it!”
Emily just harrumphed and acted all cranky. I put my arms around her shoulders and planted a quick, playful kiss on her cheek and she smiled, “Oh, alright! You Win!” Emily gave in with a smile and hugged me back.
“Mornin’ you two,” Michael said as he plopped down next to me.
I pulled out of the hug, “Good morning to you too,” I said, my voice showing that I was annoyed that he had interrupted us. Michael just grinned at us and didn’t move or apologize, “So what are we going to do now that we have saved the village?” he asked.
“We find Julia some parents and then move on with the next caravan,” I told him simply.
“You mean we aren’t going to keep her?” he asked, both surprised and disappointed.
“Think for a second, we are saving the world! Not only that but remember what happened to Emily and Erin in the last caravan? I doubt Julia would have lived through that; and I am sorry but as much power as I have, I can’t raise people from the dead,” I said, then realized I was getting to harsh and softened my voice a little, “we can’t put her through what we will be going through, it just isn’t right.
“What isn’t right?” came a little voice from the staircase.
“Julia!” I exclaimed, as I got up and went over to her to pick her up, “Nothing important,” I told her.
“Good morning!” she said happily.
“Good morning to you too,” I said as I tickled her.
“Stop! Stop!” she giggled as she squirmed in my arms. I hugged her and planted a kiss on her cheek, then set her down on my lap as I reclaimed my spot next to Emily.
“Hi, Emily,” Julia said with a bright smile on her face. She loved all the attention she was getting from us.
Emily smiled back, “Hello right back you cute little thing.”
We all cooed over her until breakfast arrived, then we began to eat happily. Erin came in about halfway through breakfast, blinking sleepily.
“Welcome back to the world of the living sleepyhead,” I exclaimed as she sat down across from me.
She was still half asleep, and mumbled a sleepy “G’morning,” in reply.
I placed a bowl of porridge in front of her. Then I passed her a bowl full of clover honey. Her eyes widened, and she poured half the bowl into her porridge, then started to dig in eagerly, “Whoa, somebody likes clover honey I see,” I said with a smile. Erin, who had her mouth crammed with the porridge/honey mixture, nodded emphatically. I laughed and put the rest of the honey into my porridge.
When Erin finished she immediately went over to Julia and began to play with her. They both giggled happily as they played. I leaned over to Emily, “How are we going to break it to Erin? She won’t be happy when she learns that we can’t take Julia with us where we are going…”
“I have no idea,” Emily said “but that’s your job,” she put in with a smile. I gave her an evil look, which only made her laugh harder.
Just then the governor and his entourage came into the inn, “We have some gifts for you in thanks for what you have done, you have saved many lives,” He said without any preamble. I motioned to Erin and Michael who came to stand with Emily and me. There was a small ceremony and then the governor produced five amulets. They were made of emerald and each one consisted of a beautiful dragon with ruby eyes, inside a circle.
“Thank you! These are beautiful!” I exclaimed as the governor handed my mine.
“Now, every village in Beledh will accept you and treat you as hero’s this is the highest honor we can bestow upon you,” he finished
All our eyes widened and we all gave our thanks again, “It is the least we can do for those who have saved our lives,” the governor replied.
Just as the governor was about to leave I took him aside and asked whether there was anywhere I could possibly find possible parents for Julia. He said to ask around in the caravan that had arrived the day before, there were several newlywed couples there, maybe one of them wanted a child. I thanked him then let him get back to his work. I went that day to see if there was anyone there who might like to take on a child.
The first couple rejected me outright; they didn’t want any children for a long while yet. There were three couples in the caravan, so I was discouraged when the first couple completely rejected me. However I went to the next couple they wanted to see Julia, so I brought them back to the inn. On the way there however, I noticed the way they looked at and treated the people they passed, at one point they chased one beggar boy away. I really didn’t want Julia to be in a family where they wouldn’t sympathize with her, so I told them that I had changed my mind and would rather not give her up. I thanked them for their interest and willingness to help and then watched as they left.
One more couple, I really hoped that they would accept her. I went back to the inn first, I had to tell Julia and Erin. I told Erin first.
“WHAT! Why?” she asked sounding both incredulous and hurt, “I will take care of her if you won’t,” she put in.
“And what are you going to do when we go into battle with the evil that we will surely be fighting if we are going to save the world? Will you bring her into battle with you to be killed? What if the evil kidnaps her? What then? Even if we save her, do you really think she’ll have a good time there?” I had a thousand other reasons why we shouldn’t take her, but I saw the pain in her eyes and decided I had listed enough for now, “If you really love her, then you will do what is best for her, not necessarily what is easiest.”
Erin nodded dejectedly and sniffed. “She is still with us right now though, you can still go play with her…and do you want to break the news to her or should I?” I asked.
Erin sighed, “I will I guess…”
I nodded then went back to the caravan to see if the last couple would take care of her. When I got to their wagon, I noticed a little girl there. She was happily playing with a carved horse, making it race across the ground and making whinnying noises. I smiled at her, “What is your name little girl?” I asked.
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” she said with a serious face that made me smile.
“Well then, can you at least show me where the people who travel in this wagon are?” I asked.
She nodded, “Mommy is in there,” she said as she pointed to the wagon, “and Daddy is out buying supplies.”
“Lorraine! Who are you-“ came a female voice from inside the wagon, the woman, I assumed she was the girl’s mother, paused midsentence when she saw me, “Lorraine come here right now,” she ordered. Once Lorraine was safely in her mothers arms the mother fixed her gaze on me, “Who are you and what do you want?” she demanded her anger masking her fear as her eyes strayed to my longbow.
“My name is Luke, and I really don’t mean any harm.”
“Then why are you here?” the mother asked suspiciously.
“Well, have you heard about how this town was, until very recently, under constant attack?” I asked and when the woman nodded I continued, “Well, one little girl, about your daughter’s age, has had both her parents killed and has no family. I saved and would love to take care of her…but I cannot safely take her where I am headed.” At this point I looked hopefully at the woman’s face it had softened some, but still held a lot of disbelief, “I-I am looking for someone who will take care of her because I cannot just leave her on the streets.”
The woman looked closely at my face, “You are that boy who led all the captured people back aren’t you?”
“Yes Ma’am,” I said, “she was one of the captured.”
All the while I kept a close watch on the woman’s face, when I confirmed that I was indeed the one who had saved all the people all the suspicion left her face and her expression softened, “When my husband get’s back I will talk with him about it; where are you staying?”
I explained to her where I was staying and how to get there then thanked her for considering this and took my leave. When I got back to the inn Julia came running out, “Why won’t you take me with you?” she asked, hurt filling her voice, “Don’t you like me?”
I picked her up and sat her on my arm as I walked toward the inn, “Oh I like you alright, and you don’t know just how much I want to take you with me…”
“Then why don’t you?” Julia cut in.
“Because where we are going, we won’t be able to take care of you, and you might end up being killed or taken away by bad people. I just can’t let that happen.” I said, hugging her close as I finished.
I could tell she still didn’t understand completely why I wouldn’t keep her, but she didn’t argue anymore, she just hugged me back. When we got inside the inn, I put her down and she ran to Erin to start playing again.
I had stopped by the leader of the caravan before returning to the inn and signed me and my team up to go with them to their next stop, Valkensdorf, in Magnir. I looked around for Emily and couldn’t find her so I went up to Michael, who was talking with some of the locals, “Have you seen Emily around?” I asked him during a lull in their conversation.
“Yeah, she went up to her room about ten minutes ago and hasn’t come out yet, you may want to check on her, she wasn’t looking very happy when she went up…” he replied.
“Thanks,” I said then turned to go up the steps into Emily’s room. I knocked on the door and when I got no answer I came in, closing the door behind me. Emily was curled up on the bed in a fetal position. She was shaking with silent sobs and tears had already darkened the fabric under her head.
My head immediately filled with a thousand questions. What had happened? Who had done this to her? As well as many others. I walked up to her bed and sat by her head. I didn’t say anything; I just started to stroke her beautiful brown hair and waited for her.
Eventually she sat up just long enough to bury her head in my chest. I put my arms around her and held her there, with my cheek pressing up against the top of her head. I started to rub her back, “I love you,” I whispered in her ear. She squeezed her arms tighter around me and screwed her eyes tighter shut.
Erin knocked gently on the door then opened it a crack and peeked through, “Lunch is being served if you want it…”
“I don’t think we are up for that right now,” I said gently, “Emily is having a hard time,” I added as I tightened my arms around Emily. Erin nodded and quietly closed the door. We weren’t bothered for the rest of the day.
At sometime around four Emily actually fell asleep for a few hours. When she woke up sometime around seven she was still feeling sad, but not nearly as bad as she had been, “I miss my parents,” she sniffed. So that’s what this was. I really felt really sorry for Emily; I never really knew my parents and I still had times like this. For Emily, who actually knew at least her father, it must be ten times worse.
“I know, it’s no fun not having parents…” I said, rubbing her back again.
Her stomach growled loudly and we both smiled, “Do you think you are ready to go downstairs and eat something?” I asked. Her eyes had lost the swelling and most of the redness from crying and my shirt wasn’t visibly wet anymore. She nodded and I helped her up.
We walked down the stairs; her head still leaned on my shoulder, and my arm around her waist. When Erin saw us her mouth opened like she had something to say, but I gave her a warning look and she shut it again. We sat down at the table with every one else and started to talk. Soon Emily got drawn into the conversation, and in no time at all she was talking and laughing as if she hadn’t just finished having an episode.
Then I remembered that I had signed us up to leave tomorrow, so I made the announcement then and there to everyone. Everyone complained about having such short notice, but they drifted upstairs to pack. Eventually it was just Emily, Julia, and me left downstairs as we waited for dinner to be served and everyone else to reappear, “So how are you feeling?” I asked Emily.
“I’m fine now,” she said as she leaned her head against my shoulder.
I smiled and put my arm around her, “Good, then I’m fine too.”
Not wanting to be left out, Julia walked up and climbed on my lap. We both smiled and I ruffled her hair. “Hey there,” I said, as I tickled her. She squirmed and giggled. Then slithered off my lap and landed in a still-squirming heap on the floor. I let off and straightened back up. I looked at Emily and when I looked back, Julia was on my lap again, grinning at me.
“Oh, so that’s the way it is huh?” I asked in a playful tone and started tickling her again. She slithered off my lap and again ended up in a squirming heap on the floor. This time when I stopped and Julia got back up, I stood up and chased her outside. She ran screaming happily around the inn’s yard as I chased her. “Gotcha!” I exclaimed as I finally caught up with her. I would have tickled her some more, but we had been running for a while and she was breathing really hard. So I just picked her up and threw her in the air. She squealed in delight, and I did it again.
“Alright, it’s time to go inside now,” I told her.
“Awww, do we have to?” she asked, sad that the fun was over for now.
I smiled, “Yes, I’m all tired out from chasing you!”
Julia made a pouty face but did as she was told. I had turned and was about to follow when I heard a noise behind me. I turned and saw not only the lady from the wagon, but another man who I assumed was her husband.
“Was that the child you found?” the man asked hesitantly.
I smiled at him, “Yes sir that was Julia.”
“Why would you want to give her up? From the way you were playing with her I can tell you care about her,” the man asked curiously.
I looked away for a minute before answering, “Well, that’s precisely the point sir; I do care about her and I want what is best for her. Where I am going is certainly not the best place for her. There will be a huge amount of danger, also, as much fun as she is, I don’t believe that I am ready to properly take care of a child. I want to raise her properly…but I am not sure I am mature enough myself to always do right by her. Hence, I would give her over to someone who can provide for her, keep her safe, and raise her well.”
They looked at each other with surprised looks as if they didn’t expect anyone my age to be as responsible as I had just shown myself to be, “May we, ah, see and talk to her?” the man asked.
I nodded, “Follow me,” I said; then turned and walked into the inn, stopping at the door to make sure they were following. When they came in I called Julia over. “This is Julia, Julia, these are two nice people who might take care of you when I have to leave,” I introduced them.
“Hello,” Julia greeted them brightly as she clung to my leg.
Emily came up to me, and stood beside me, “Who are these people Luke?” she asked.
“These are a couple that might take care of Julia for us,” I told her.
“Oh, hello,” Emily said, a smile appearing on her face.
“This is Emily by the way,” I told the couple, they smiled and nodded.
They talked with Julia first for a while. Next they talked with me and Emily. Eventually they went off and talked together to make a decision. When they came back they had an apologetic look on their faces. Oh no. They had to take her! There was no one else!
“We have decided that we cannot take her away from you, she is so happy here and we would hate to break that up,” The man said, “We are truly sorry, but it wouldn’t feel right taking Julia away from you guys, we also would like you to know that we feel you are responsible enough to take care of a child or we might have decided to take her,” the woman put in.
Emily and I both sighed, I would have tried to argue but I could hear the finality in their voices and I knew there would be no changing their minds. So we let them leave.
About five minutes after they had gone Arianna appeared at the bottom of the staircase, she was the first to finish because she had never really unpacked, nor did she have many things to sort through. The others eventually leaked in and when everyone had come back down and dinner was served, I made the announcement that we would have to find a home for Julia elsewhere because the last people who might have taken care of her had just refused to do so. There were mixed emotions about that, but most of it was actually rejoicing that we could keep Julia with us for a little longer.
The rest of the night passed by quickly and I retired early after carefully tucking Julia into her bed. I woke up again in the middle of the night to the sound of crying from Emily and Julia’s room. I walked over there and quietly knocked, “Come in,” Emily’s voice called from inside. When I went in I found Julia in Emily’s arms as Emily rocked back and forth, Julia was almost asleep again and only blinked sleepily at me, then, with one last sniffle, she fell asleep. Emily put her gently back in her bed then came over to me.
“Another bad dream huh?” I asked and Emily nodded, “It really is horrible what she must have witnessed in the attack where she was taken. I don’t remember much about when my parents died…but when I have nightmares about their death, there is fire and screaming,” I shivered, “it’s horrible. The worst part of it is that I think that that is really the way it happened…all that screaming, fire and death.” I leaned my head on Emily’s shoulder and shuddered.
Emily didn’t say anything, she just led me to her bed and sat me down there and then sat beside me and put her arms around me. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to be there. Not say anything, just be there for the one you love. Times like now…it was nice to know that I could always rely on Emily; that she would always be here for me. Eventually I sat up, “Thank you Emily…sometimes I just need someone to be there…and yeah, you were. Thank you again.” Then I got up and left the room, closing the door quietly behind me. I headed back to my room to catch some sleep before leaving the next morning.