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Plans on Silver Country #2

Henry and Aaron walked quietly, unsure what to say. Henry interrupted the silence with a loud yawn. He wanted nothing more than to lie down and take a nap, but he knew what was at stake, if they didn't cross the border by sunrise. Aaron stopped and turned to face his older brother. 

“The kingdom is counting on us to succeed, Henry, I do not think you are ready for this,” Aaron scolded “I was watching you in the Great Hall during the meeting. I am disappointed you can’t stay focused even when your own country is under attack.” Henry looked at Aaron’s glaring expression. He didn’t care enough to argue, so he walked around where Aaron was standing.

“Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?” Aaron questions with a judging tone. Henry stopped, clutched his leather bag as he took a deep breath, and said,

“Aaron, our country is depending on us to succeed, will you quit your whining and keep…,” Henry immediately stopped talking, quickly sank behind the tall trees and deliberately reduced his breathing, so he wouldn't be heard. Aaron copied Henry’s example, and they laid motionless and hidden in knee-high grass, as the footsteps steadily approached from a distance, still hidden in the darkness. Waiting, waiting, the adrenaline of the moment quickly faded, and Henry felt a rush of fatigue wash over him. The ground was soft and the night was peaceful, and his eyes grew heavy despite the possible, approaching danger . He began to doze off to sleep. 

Henry awoke to swords clattering and loud shouting by a group of men. Henry rolled onto his stomach, army-crawled, then peered from behind some thick brush. His heart stopped. The men were surrounding a large oak, where Aaron kneeled unarmed in surender. Henry tried to move, but his limbs were too heavy and tense. His throat was tight and his heart pounded. One of the men tackled Aaron, while another tied his hands. Henry could do nothing but watch as the men marched off with their new prisoner. Surprise, guilt, anger and shame raced through Henry’s mind as he felt his face become hot. Because he fell asleep, Aaron was gone. Henry wiggled even deeper into the thicket. His body was like lead, and his head throbbed. Would he ever see his brother again? Should he pounce?  He was a skilled swordsman.  Or should he scurry home and get help? 

“No!” Henry shook his head to focus and gather his wits. “Think, Henry. Quit acting like a scared rabbit, and start thinking like a hunted fox.” He watched the band of men, counting their number, noting their weapons, evaluating their strengths and potential weaknesses. “I vow to get Aaron back. Our King is depending on us and princes must rise and defeat every foe.” Henry clutched his scabbard and leather bag, sprung to his feet, and methodically stalked their formation at a safe distance. Henry saw the men halt, the two guarding the rear fanned-out in a search pattern and one of the soldiers headed right for the prince. Henry immediately took deep cover. “Looking to complete a brace of rabbit or perhaps catch a wolf?”  Sorry to disappoint,” Henry thought to himself, as a sly grin crept up his face.

Aaron looked at the ground as the soldiers chattered in an unfamiliar language. The nine man party suddenly halted. Aaron looked up and observed a two-man rearguard move off to scout behind the column. The leader of the group scanned the area ahead, then turned to look directly at Aaron. He had long, thick scarlet feathers pointing up and draping down his helmet. Aaron thought he looked like a plump, nervous bird, fussing over a bunch of hens. Each was dressed in thick layers with chainmail on top and had oddly shaped short swords. As time passed, the leader became agitated and yelled at the soldier with red epaulets on his shoulder. Clearly, something was wrong.  Aaron rotated his head and counted eight men. “So one person short.  Perhaps one of the rearguard hasn’t returned yet,” Aaron thought to himself. The man with the red stripes on his soldiers pointed at three men, who fanned out and advanced toward the tree-line.  Suddenly, a lone figure sprinted out of the forest. He was searched by the detachment, while being loudly reminded of how much he annoyed everyone. Within minutes the column had reformed, the sergeant with the red stripes bowed to the leader. The leader briefly shouted at the straggler, then turned around and the group began marching again. It was still dark out, but Aaron could make out the Scarlet Empire’s flag as they walked through the gates. All of the houses had strange architecture to them, similar to the soldier’s hats, only the houses had four, symmetric points. The group stopped, the leader pointed to the rearguard and they grabbed Aaron, pushing him towards a tunnel leading downward. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Aaron saw a row of prison cells, dimly lit by a single lantern. The soldiers opened the second one and roughly pushed Aaron inside. The two guards spoke briefly, then one departed. Aaron sat on a stone slab that was his prison bed. He glanced over at the remaining guard, who was still in a shadow.

“Aaron,” the guard whispered, “Are you alright?”

“Henry is that you?” Aaron responded in a quizzical voice.

“No, but The Fox sends his sleepy regrets and wants me to pass to you, he has an escape plan.”

“I did not know my brother was capable of regret,” Aaron chuckled.

“I’m sure he won't make a habit of it. You can call me Lee. It’s not my given name, but it will do for now.

“Yes of course,” said Aaron as stood and moved closer to the guard.

“I need to place a few things in order. I will return soon, so be ready to depart.” He handed Aaron a small canteen of water, walked up the stairs, leaving Aaron alone.

 An hour passed before Lee returned and unlocked Aaron’s cell. He gestured for  Aaron be quiet and proceeded to the entrance of the tunnel. They walked past the stair landing, through a few rooms then into another tunnel. In the distance, an alarm was raised, men were shouting and pounding footsteps filled the cavern. 

“The roving guard must have noticed your absence.  You must proceed on your own.  Follow this tunnel as quickly and silently as you can. You will come out in the brickyard.  Bear right and head to the large, updraft kiln. There will be someone to take you from there.  Say the pass phrase, ‘I am an idiot’ answered with ‘Aways.’  Good fortune, Prince Aaron.”  Lee nodded and pointed down the tunnel.

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