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Plans on Silver Country #3

Aaron sprinted down the dark tunnel. He put one hand on each side of the walls, so he could easily navigate the turns. A grin spread across his face when he spotted morning daylight illuminating his exit. Aaron reduced his speed before reaching the opening. He cautiously poked his head out to see if anyone was around. Aaron gazed upon the horizon as the sun’s light slowly filled the landscape. He noticed how the brickyard boarded a sandy desert.

“Aaron?” a familiar voice spoke as Aaron rotated his head to the voice. It was Henry.  He was holding Aaron’s sword and scabbard, and Aaron’s pack at his feet.

“I am NOT going to say, ‘I am an idiot,’ but you are a sight for sore eyes, brother,” Aaron laughed.

“Glad to see you well, Aaron!” Henry exclaimed, approaching his brother. “Here is your sword and scabbard. The map and compass directs us to be heading north east to avoid the desert. It’s good to see that you are okay. I’m glad Lee was telling the truth.”

“Why did a Scarlet guard assist us?” Aaron asked with a puzzled manor.

“He is not a Scarlet guard. Turns out he is an undercover Pearl Kingdom agent, and had much to share with me. The Scarlet Empire has discovered other islands full of resources and are producing ships to vanquish the other colonies. Lee warned me that the Scarlet Empire is selling prisoners to pirates, who terrorize the sea.” 

“That can not be good,” Aaron voiced. “Henry, we need to put more distance between us and the Scarlet Kingdom’s troops.” Henry nodded and the two took off speeding away from the brickyards. It wasn't long before they detected a road marked by the Scarlet Kingdom seal. As they were crossing the highway, an arrow whisked past them. Two archers and four foot soldiers, who were posted at the bend in the road, charged the boys from the east. Aaron and Henry darted west heading for the closest gully past the road in the desert. Arrows rained down. One struck Henry’s left shoulder, and he screamed in agony. Aaron yanked the bag off his brother, which allowed Henry to maneuver better.  They jumped into the head-high gully, which provided cover from the arrows and ran along it as it passed between two dunes.  The soldiers halted their chase of the princes, when the boys passed the dunes. Aaron and Henry continued bolting and after a few more miles of running, Henry collapsed in the desert sand, trying to catch his breath. Aaron kneeled down, sitting his brother upright, and tended his wound. He knew better than to pull the arrow out. They needed shelter, water, and preferably clean bandages and probably sutures. As they rested, the wind picked-up, blowing more furiously by the moment.  Aaron pulled Henry’s and his tunic over their heads in an attempt to shelter themselves from the wind and beating sun. He could feel his lower back being cut by the sharp, sandy wind. Steamy tears rolled down his cheeks as he desperately tried to keep his composure. He felt completely spent and Henry’s wound kept bleeding. They were in desperate straights. 

Aaron felt a large cloke placed on his back. He weakly raised his head to see what was happening, but the blinding sun blurred his vision. Aaron succumbed to his exhaustion and slowly surrendered into unconsciousness.

Henry slowly sat up rubbed his face as he wondered how many hours had slipped by since he fainted. It was dusk. A couple feet from him a hooded man, who was armed with 2 short swords, tended a small fire. Henry attempted to stand but felt a searing pain in his left shoulder, which caused him to gasp and clutch his wound. The arrow, which had penetrated his arm, had been removed and secured with clean bandages. The hooded figure turned around, approached Henry, and kneeled by him.

“I am glad to see you are awake. I have lamb stew by the pit. You are probably famished,” the stranger said. “Some call me… Bruce,” he smiled as he helped Henry move closer to the fire and gave the prince a wooden bowl filled with stew.

“I’m still waiting for the other fella to wake up. You boys must have been through a lot.” Bruce began to chat away as Henry sat and listened, while blowing on his stew to cool it. He escaped into his imagination, where he and Aaron made it to the Pearl Kingdom, and he was hailed the hero of Silver Country. “What if I fail?” he said to himself, while stroking his wounded shoulder. He dismissed his daydream and scanned the camp for his brother. Aaron was lying down with a thick cloak wrapped around him. Henry turned his attention back to the fire, this time concentrating on the missing and focusing on objectives to be completed, not some childish glory. 

“Ah, look who is finally awake,” Bruce announced, while Aaron made his way to the fire, sitting next to Henry with a bowl of stew clutch tightly in his hands.

“Thank you,” Aaron said gratefully, bringing the wooden spoon to his mouth.

“Now, I’m wondering why I found two young men in the middle of the desert. You boys care to explain that,” Bruce requested as he scratched his scruffy chin?  The princes sat still, unsure how to answer.

“We are from the Pearl Kingdom,” Henry remarked. “My brother and I were out exploring, when we stumbled upon the Scarlet Empire’s territory. Their soldiers chased us, shot at us, and we ended up here.”

“And we probably wouldn't have survived if you hadn’t shown up and helped us. We are very grateful and wish to repay you,” Aaron added with a smile.

“Well, you fellas have been through a lot. I’ll tell you what, I’ll escort you back home first thing tomorrow. No payment needed. I’ve had my run-ins with shoot-first-ask-questions-never soldiers, and I’m glad to be of assistance. Now, you boys rest up, you’ll need your strength.

The next morning they packed-up and started walking. Bruce expertly navigated them around what seemed to be insurmountable terrain and arrived safely on the other side, just before sunset. They spent the night in a struggling but quaint, Pearl Kingdom village. The brothers sat around a small fire and while Bruce hunted for more wood, Henry pulled out his map to get his bearings and plot a course to their destination, the Pearl Kingdom.  Aaron leaned over to see what he was doing. 

“Very impressive, Henry, you’ve finally learned focus and responsibility,” Aaron teased. “If only you learned it before you put on your arrow shirt.” 

“You know, Aaron, the good thing about being shot is now my navigation skills are ‘on point’,” Henry responded with a sassy smirk on his face. “Anyway, we need to cross Pearl bridge and make our way to the Four Towers. The city entrance is between the two, western-facing towers, through the Twin Gates.” Henry rolled up the map, placing it in his leather case. 

“Understood. Where did Bruce go?” Aaron pointed out, causing both boys to probe around town. As Henry searched, his heart stopped, when he discovered a wanted poster of Aaron. He snatched the parchment and tucked it in his bag. Henry found Aaron talking with Bruce. 

“I found Bruce, we are just about ready to head towards the bridge,” Aaron informed his brother. Henry glared at Bruce for a minute before heading towards the Pearl bridge. The rushing river pounded both sides of its banks. As the brothers carefully crossed, Bruce drew both of his swords and charged Henry.

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