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       Eldnium, p.41

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  As Tommy, Landon, and Li’an started clearing the rubble and carrying heroes to one side of the village and fallen soldiers of The Control to the other, Landon saw an arc of smoke moving across the sky.

  “Look,” he said, pointing it out to Tommy and Li’an.

  “That’s Iclovar’s ship,” Li’an said. “He’s leaving.”

  “Coward,” Tommy huffed.

  “Where do you think he’s going?” Landon asked.

  “He’s on the run now,” Li’an said. “With Isaac gone and this planet exposed, he’ll need to find a hiding place. I doubt he’ll leave the galaxy, but he’ll almost certainly head to the outer rim.”

  “Then we need to track him down,” Landon said. “I have questions, and he’ll have answers. When we’re done here, I’m going after him.”

  “You haven’t the slightest idea on how to fly a ship,” Li’an said.

  “I have,” Tommy said. “And I’m with you. We’ll bury our friends, and then we’ll hunt that coward down.”

  Li’an looked concerned.

  “You want to stay behind?” Landon asked.

  “And be stuck here? Of course not. I can’t fly a ship, either.”

  “Good. Then we’re agreed. We’ll take proper care of things here and then head to port, steal a ship, and hunt Iclovar down.” Landon felt refreshed just having a solid plan.

  “That’s fine,” Li’an said, “but don’t expect him to have all of the answers you need. He’s just a trainer. Isaac never told him everything.”

  “He’s on the run. He knows something we don’t. And I want answers. I want to know why Isaac looks like one of them. I want to know why time froze if you have no abilities. And I want to know why he ran. If he can’t give us those answers, he’ll tell us where we might find someone who can.” Landon struggled to toss another masked soldier onto the pile of dead Control, and Tommy helped him.

  “I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask,” Li’an said. “I’m just saying we shouldn’t expect much.”

  “She’s right,” Tommy agreed. “Cowards aren’t known for talking unless tortured, and Iclovar will not be easily tortured.”

  “But we can’t stay here, either,” Li’an added. “There are bound to be more Control on the way. We need to take care of the fallen heroes and get out of here as soon as possible.”

  The three of them went back to work, quickly and respectfully, fighting the battle between not wanting to let go and being ready to move on.

  Goodbye Heroes

  Landon and Tommy set fire to the bodies of the dead Control and watched it burn until the flames fully engulfed the carcasses. Landon saved the caped man’s mask and fixed it to the flag pole in the center of the courtyard so that it was visible to anyone returning to the village. During this, Li’an went to work writing a letter to leave beneath the mask. It read:

  To Whom it Concerns,

  The Control came. They killed many of us. They killed Isaac. They destroyed our village. We have sent off our fallen heroes, and we have burned the corpses of The Control.

  We are moving on. I can’t tell you where because you could be one of them. If you are not one of them…if you are a hero…then you need to know that you are not alone. We are still alive. We are still fighting. And you should keep fighting, too.

  Do not be discouraged. Be brave. Keep searching.

  In peace,

  The One

  “Why did you sign it like that?” Landon asked after reading the letter.

  “Because,” Li’an said. “I don’t think that I’m The One, but whoever reads this letter must believe that The One is still alive, still fighting, and still prepared to save us all.” She looked at the burning pile of bodies. “If The Control find this letter, then they’ll know they’ve failed and that we aren’t so easily defeated.” She looked at the bodies laid carefully into three wagons, each being pulled by its own rabodon. “If it’s found by returning heroes, they’ll know that there is still hope. Even without Isaac.”

  “Is there hope without Isaac?” Tommy asked.

  Li’an paused for a moment, considering the question. “Hope exists where it must. Even against the impossible, hope can push us to the dying breath. It is what makes us fight. And the ability to fight is what gives us hope.”

  Landon lowered his head. She was right. He felt empowered by the thought that there were still questions needing answers. The promise of those answers was all the hope he needed.

  “We should take the heroes to the sea,” Tommy said. “We’re running out of time.”

  Landon and Li’an agreed, and the three heroes mounted the wagons and rode over the countryside.

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