The four of us walked deep into the early hours of the morning. The trek seemed far shorter than it actually was. These men were more graceful than the soldiers were dense; at times I felt they avoided forest hazards even better than I.
When I first saw the columns of smoke billowing from the tops of trees, I was enraged. I assumed another careless wanderer had left their fire unattended and it had crept from its pit and set the surrounding trees aflame. But, a few steps further revealed that is was
a massive bonfire, though it was being well cared for. Two scrawny boys were prodding and stoking the ember with spears.
As my eyes found their way beyond the flames, they were looking upon rows and rows of tents and cabins. Children were scampering to and fro, men were firing arrows at hay targets, women were weaving great tapestries and preparing food, but most surprising of all were the mages huddled in what appeared to be some kind of practice ring. They spun and chanted, summoning stone golems and small bursts of wind, then set them upon a group of wooden dummies.
“Welcome to the Resistance, Peacekeeper,” the dark-skinned mage gestured towards the village and all of its inhabitants.
He only smiled, again. Then without saying a word, signaled one of the fire-stokers to him. The boy dropped his spear and trotted over obediently.
“Show her to her tent, Brigan,” he told the boy. “And find her some clothes.” Then he lead his two accomplices away.
The boy awkwardly ruffled his hair with a grimy hand and said, “well, this way then I suppose.”
“Is he always that annoying?” I asked.
“Is that his name?”
“…yes.” Brigan gave me a confused stare, and said nothing else. My attempt at small talk had apparently failed.
We wove our way through several buildings before we stood in front of our destination: some sort of log cabin with fabrics strung on lines around its entire perimeter. The boy told me to wait outside and ran into the building, only to emerge from it again minutes later carrying a beautiful emerald tunic and charcoal leggings.
“Well, this is all they would let me take, some of the seamstresses aren’t very pleased about giving any merchandise to you.” Brigan handed me the garments with an awkward smirk, as if to say, “and for good reason.”
I didn’t blame them. I had lead fleets of barbaric creatures to ransack their villages, destroy their homes and murder their families. They had good reason to hate me, especially when I already hated myself. Back at camp, or should I say “prison”, it was easy to be oblivious to the outside world. Easy to not shed a tear for the random face you would never see. But here, watching these people live and becoming a part of their life, all of the guilt I should have been feeling came pounding into me at once.
“They are lovely, regardless,” I managed to say sincerely.
I was given a quick tour of the encampment after that. Brigan showed me all of the general facilities I would be visiting during my stay: the armory, the mess hall, the medic, my quarters (a small tent with a single bedroll), and the training area. During the tour I found out that Brigan was my age, which was surprising because even though we looked the same age in years, I felt so much older. I also found out he was a general’s son, not a mere fire stoker. But probably most important of all, I found out he disliked me very
much. He tried to be polite, but the subtle clues made it painfully obvious.
He left me alone at my tent that evening. I didn’t mind, I was glad to finally be by myself for once. The feeling was bliss, to be completely honest. I hadn’t felt the peace of solitude for years. It gave me time to gather my thoughts, whatever they were, and assess the situation. I had one life goal covered at least, my freedom, sort of. I was pretty sure no one here would try to stop me if I wanted to go, but the only thing that would accomplish was my successful recapture by the armies I had just escaped from. These people were keeping me safe, and I owed the mages a favor. I decided I would stay.
I wondered, however, what use they had for me. Why did they go so far to capture me? If it was planned that I just use my same abilities for their
cause instead, then something was going to have to change. Otherwise, I’d be trapped in the same exact situation I just left, and I refused to ever do that again. No more innocents were going to die because of me; it was a pact, a rule, a decision I made then and refused to ever break it.
Sometime during my wandering thoughts and my epiphany, a tiny girl found her way into my tent. She sat Indian-style at the entrance and stared at me with big bug-eyes. I startled.
“I, is there something you need from me, little one?”
“I brought these for you, Peacekeeper!” she smiled excitedly, flaunting the cutest little dimples and the missing tooth from her upper bite. She pushed a wad of cloth into my lap.
It wasn’t until I held it up that I saw how spectacular the clothing really was. This tunic was made of silk instead of cotton, and tinted such an electric blue that it seemed to shimmer even in the dim light. The leggings were the same color as the first pair, only thicker and made with obvious quality.
“My mother made them for you, she said the color would bring out the beauty of your eyes. She said you deserved real garments, not the drab those snotty girls gave to you. She said to tell you they are gifts as thanks for helping us.” The girl hopped up then, flung her arms around me then scampered out of my tent before I realized what happened.
The clothes were so beautiful, I didn’t want to wear them. I felt even the first pair were too nice for me. I left on my ratty armored dress that I’d worn every day of my past life that night. Such forgiveness from the people I had devastated was something I did not deserve, and for the first time I could remember, I cried myself to sleep.
Inspiration taken from Galleon's Vagrant Knight. Somehow I ended up subconsciously putting some of Marrison's personality attributes into my character, Brigan. Mainly the 'higher-ranking guy being a man of the people' type bits. It'll be fleshed out better later.