“So what happened to your dream of wanting to be a hero?”
I stopped and stiffly turned my head. My right eyebrow involuntarily rose, slowly, in time with how fast my incredulousness quotient increased. I was about to share this revelation, but instead I abruptly closed my mouth, remembering that my own love of vocabulary did not extend to anyone else in town. In exchange, I held my eyebrow up as I just stared blankly at Mibel’s face for an extended period of time. Eventually, he coughed and glanced away.
Sighing loudly, I looked away as well and composed a response. “My parents spent a lot of money preparing me to take over the business. Thom joined the guard and Drek was too young, so I was the most suitable at the time. I can’t just run off and learn to fight now, and I like learning the trade.”
I really did; learning cartography, language, and business was very interesting, and it helped put into perspective why Father made certain decisions with regards to the store that I did not understand when I was younger. When once I spent all my time alone daydreaming of going on adventures and battling majestic beasts and slaying dreadful monsters, I now practiced mathematics and pronunciation. “That old dream is… fading as I learn more about the world. It might come back one day, but right now I just plan to do what I must to take over the store.”
Mibel’s head was tilted slightly down, his chin resting on the thumb of his curled up right hand, as he made slow, deliberate steps at my side. “Hmm… it’s definitely nice of you to help your family out, and it sounds like you’re not suffering or anything… I was just remembering how much you went on and on about heroes when we were younger. ‘Gustile of Justice has arrived! Prepare for judgement!’ Ahhh, how embarrassing!”
“Why are you getting embarrassed for something I did? If anyone should be feeling embarrassed here, it’s me, and I’m not, so just drop it.” Ending the nostalgia there, I rolled my stiff shoulders a few times then loosened my leather jerkin a little bit. I did not enjoy wearing this much armor, but, as they say, dress for the occasion.
“Either way, we’ve all been training, so you could maybe take it a tad more seriously. That way, when you really aim to be a hero again, you’ll have that much more experience for it. You can’t deny that this is a great opportunity.” Mibel turned to me and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up as I rolled my eyes.
“Like I said, I’m tied up with merchant studies. It’s hard enough doing both that and military training; if I try too hard learning to fight I’ll fall behind learning to buy and sell.” Shaking my head, I pulled on my leather gloves, checked that my saber was loose in its sheathe, then raised my hand, calling a stop. I turned around to face the rest of the squad.
“All right, you have your orders. Remember, no one gets out. If someone manages to get past you, signal me or Sergeant Hamdy and it’ll be handled. Any questions?” The group of 10 soldiers were lined up perfectly in two rows, taller ones in back. All of them stood at attention, no hands raised. “Good. Let’s get to work.”
“FOR THE KINGDOM!”
With that enthusiastic cry, the soldiers spread out smoothly in pairs, forming a line at the edge of the village. While one stood watch, the other knelt and took out a stick of wood wrapped with cloth and a flask of oil from his pack. A couple of them made short chants and finger movements, conjuring some sparks to light the torches, while others produced some flints to do the same.
Mibel and I watched from a short distance away, watching the perimeter, hands resting on saber handles. As the unsteady orange light of fire and the sound of screams began erupting throughout the village, Mibel yawned. “Hey. Private of Justice. Think you can handle this? I really want to take a nap…”
“No way. If I get any telepathic transmissions from the platoon, I can’t watch the squad and watch for runaways at the same time. Suck it up, Mib, you can sleep when it’s done.” As I spoke, the flames in the village roared to a spectacular height, and a couple high-pitched whistles came from our squad members – some villagers escaped the perimeter.
Mibel traced some symbols in the air, conjuring an arrow of light and aiming at a teenage boy who emerged from behind a large tree. I saw a woman and child appear on the opposite side of our perimeter, near us, and quickly got to my feet, unsheathing my saber.
“You know… I really don’t think I’ll have that dream again.”