Chapter Five- Fire
The leaf twirled in the air, swaying back and forth and stumbling along a gust of wind, before finally landing gently on the pond's calm waters. Aluitte stared at the glass sheen from her perch in the tree in melancholy. She just wished the war would someday pass. Aluitte only hoped that her father would someday come and tuck her into bed once again. Aluitte fancied he might even hum to himself once in awhile.
Aluitte's head snapped up. Something smelled off. In the distance, smoke rose in thick black plumes. For an instant she panicked. It wasn't burning season yet. The hay in the barn must have caught fire, or someone was careless enough to leave a fire unattended. Aluitte rushed to climb back down the tree and when she nearly slipped, Aluitte caught her breath and slowed down. She needed a clear head.
Aluitte got down from the maple with her usual cautiousness. Without Donner, Aluitte had to gather her shoes and run. Aluitte cursed herself for walking all the way there. Riding Donner was so much faster and efficient, but this morning Aluitte felt that she needed to waste time and waste time alone. As the girl pulled her skirt above her knees and ran, she wondered if Donner was alright.
Ten minutes later and the smoke became unbearable. Aluitte could no longer run, let alone see clearly. She knew she was close to home, but it was hard to walk much further when her eyes watering from the smoke. Too much smoke. Suddenly the realization came to her. This was no ordinary burn pile fire. This was something much larger and much more ominous. This was a war fire.
Despite her burning lungs and hoarse throat, Aluitte started to jog forward. The fire was in sight now, bright and tangled like thorns. With dismay Aluitte realized it was her barn that was on fire. Aluitte kicked her feet faster off of the ground, her father's face clear in her mind's eye. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she stumbled across the sheep pastures. There were figures at the barn. Dark figures.
Aluitte nearly fell to the ground from exhaustion and the rawness of her lungs. She gasped for breath and continued to walk toward the chaos. Where was Papa? Where was Donner and Jessie and poor little Penny? Where were the pails of water and the help of the community? Who were those black figured intruders?
As Aluitte inched closer, her dread and grief grew larger. A man robed in a black fur cape and silver armor sat proudly on a horse in front of her. Donner was being pulled away from the fire by four men all clad in drab pieces of metal. Behind the robed man that sneered with a face full of silver teeth, an army of dim-armored men stood, trampling the grazing and watching on with indifference. Aluitte scanned the armies of armored men, searching for her father. There, being held hostage by two other men, was her father, disheveled and hopeless.
Aluitte was about to run up to her father when he caught her eye. His eyes were full of fear and told her very clearly to run. Aluitte wanted to help her father, but knew that she would be of no use. Just as Aluitte was about to turn and run, another man in armor caught sight of her in the smoky distance.
Before she knew it, one of the horsemen rode over and snatched her by the collar. Aluitte kicked and screamed and fought with the rest of her remaining energy, but it was of no use. More soldiers caught a hold of her and Aluitte was soon imprisoned in the arms of strong and armed men. Tearfully, Aluitte was led to the feet of their caped leader.
Aluitte could just barely hear her father beg and plead for her release over the roaring of the flames. The man's expression was set firm. Aluitte knew who he was. This man was Lord Grippar of the east. He was the man that had destroyed her life and countless others. He was the man that would take her father away by force to fight in his army. He was the man who would take pleasure in her tears.
"I do not like to leave a child orphaned," Lord Grippar announced with a strong voice over the noise of the fire and the protesting father. "But we need all the men we can get, am I right men?!" With that the crowd erupted into shouts of agreement. "However, I take pity, and would leave this place with a deep sense of regret if I left this child alone to fend for herself. We shall take her too, and with her father's heroic death I shall adopt her as my own!" With that the army once again burst into noise. Aluitte only cried.
As Aluitte and her father were loaded into separate carts, they watched the last remains of their home collapse to the ground.