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       Eldnium, p.35

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  As they came out of the forest, on the high ridge just north of the castle, Landon and Jackson saw the entire valley burned to the ground, castle and all. Landon stopped running immediately and fell to his knees. “Oh no…no…no…no…no…no…”

  “What happened?”

  “It spread…” Landon answered, his breath barely enough to make a sound.

  “What spread?”

  Landon told Jackson about being captured and how one of the guards dropped a torch in the jungle, where it lit the forest floor on fire, and about how they left it burning, running for their lives.

  “I had forgotten about it…I could have warned someone,” Landon said, angry with himself, gritting his teeth.

  “Should we look for survivors?” Jackson asked. “It looks like the fire is out. It’s not spreading anymore.”

  “No.” Landon said, “We need to keep going. Neither of us has the skill to save this place now.” He saw a shadow of disappointment in Jackson’s eyes and added, “Maybe we can come back one day. Save them all. Prevent any of this from even happening. But for now, there are more important things to do. We have to save Li’an.”

  “How could one girl be more important than this entire kingdom?”

  “She may not be,” Landon answered. “But I have to save her. It’s part of my path.” Landon’s eyes glazed over, and he stared silently into the ashes ahead.

  “What aren’t you telling me?” Jackson asked, frustrated with Landon’s cryptic explanations.

  “Come on…we’ll talk on the way.”

  Landon led Jackson forward toward Ah’ni’s village, which smoldered in the distance.

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