Two moons over, p.35
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       Two Moons Over, p.35

           Levi Shipley
 
around the stone in which Bane Edge was stationed. None of them were older than sixteen, and the youngest might have been ten. There were six of them, the oldest of which was an elf. The youngest was an orc, or perhaps an emaciated ogre. The other four were all novians that were shorter than the young one. The elf’s hair was long and dirty, but where it was clean it was white. The orc was bald headed and missing half of his bottom row of teeth. The four novians were clean and wearing hooded jackets but were also very gaunt. The orc was wearing pants that might have been made of an old corn sack. The elf, who was probably also their leader, wore a leather vest over a black t-shirt. His pants were gray and made of cotton. None of them had shoes.

  The boys were taking turns trying to pull the sword out of the stone. The orc and the novians looked comical in their attempts. The elf was only the smallest bit more dignified, but he looked like a skeleton trying to prove his strength. They didn’t stop when Cecil approached, and he thought they wouldn’t. They had their little gang, and Cecil was just one. But as he did, the four novians huddled together into a little wall and allowed the elf to keep trying alone.

  Cecil tied a bag with his old clothes in it and set it on the ground. Then he walked into the opening with the stone and waved to the boys. The orc regarded him with some fear, but the rest were smug and confident. “Hey there!” Cecil raised his right hand in salute. “The boy Arthur this way never comes.”

  The elf didn’t notice at first, and it was his job as eldest to answer. He released his hands from the swirling hilt of the sword and turned toward Cecil, who was coming up on the right. “Sir, we got here first and that’s all there is to it.” The elf looked at his side where a dagger hung from a rawhide strap. He raised his eyebrows at Cecil and went back to the sword. The rest remained silent and in place.

  Cecil approached the boy with the dagger. The boy released the hilt of Cecil’s sword and stood as straight as he could, giving Cecil a forced glare all the while. There was a fear in the boy’s face, not from Cecil but from what he was steeling himself to do. He meant to attack Cecil if it came down to that, but there was a fear of that action. And Cecil thought that that was a good thing.

  The elf kept a hand on his dagger but never drew it even as Cecil stood between him and the sword. Cecil didn’t bother to look the boy in the eyes. “So where did my sheath go? I had it hanging on the hilt.”

  After a moment the novian farthest to the right spoke up. His voice was light and impish, and it matched the pink color of his hair. “Haven’t seen it. Someone must’ve taken it.”

  Cecil sighed. He knew boys could get themselves into trouble if they were left to their own devices. And he thought he too had done just the same. But a bit of fear always helped to set them straight again. Cecil wrapped his right hand on the sword’s hilt and pulled it in the direction opposite of the one he remembered thrusting it in with. The cross guard lifted from the stone and the dark blade revealed itself. After just a few seconds, the whole sword was free and in Cecil’s grip.

  He turned and let the enormous sword rest on his shoulder. The elf retreated to the front of the novian wall and had drawn his dagger. “Well,” Cecil began, “I sure would like to have my sheath back.” An all-knowing smile appeared on the werewolf’s face that said both “I know” and “I’m waiting.”

  The second novian to Cecil’s right began to shake. The knees of the boy were made of gelatin and his voice of breaking strings. He yelped and was unable to get any actual words out. There was a scuffle between him and the pink haired one. The other two seemed to be in a different world and stood without any reaction. The sheath came from behind the four in the second’s hands. The pink headed one tried to stop him, but the yelping one managed to fling it over the elf at Cecil.

  Cecil snatched his flying sheath from the air and reequipped it. After this he replaced the sword and crossed his arms. He thought that he might seem much older to these boys than he really was, because fear has a way of exaggerating.

  The boy held out the silver dagger in front of himself. The handle on it was big enough to let both of his slender hands grip it. There was sweat beading on his forehead even though the day was cool. His elbows seemed to shiver and his hands quaked. The boy almost dropped his dagger several times just standing in place. He was no longer afraid of what he might do. Now he was afraid of Cecil.

  Seeing the distress in the boys’ eyes, Cecil raised the palms of his hands, which at first only seemed to frighten them even more. “Now calm down. You’ve given to me what’s mine.” His hands lowered. “I’m not going to harm you kids.” Though Cecil knew he wasn’t much more than a kid himself, he felt his eternity stretch before him and thought what he said was appropriate. At this the boys seemed to ease up at least a bit, and he continued. “Now what are you six doing out here? Other than trying to see who’s next in line for the crown?” He said this hoping his foreign joke would ease them into the first question.

  The third novian spoke up now. It was the first and last time the boy spoke to Cecil. “Where else and what else is there?”

  Then the first in their wall spoke. “We have no homes, not anymore. And if we tried to explain that to anyone else . . .”

  Now the elf. “We’d go straight to the work mines until we turn into adults. Then they would extend our sentences until we’re old and worn.”

  The pink haired one. “And not to mention that would separate us. And we’ve been best friends ever since he was my height.” He pointed at the elf that stood at twice the novians’ heights.

  Cecil scratched his chin and looked up at the dying light in the sky. A wind had picked up from the south behind the boys, and it blew their scraggly hair over their eyes. “Listen, there are better things to do than to wander around outside of a city looking for goodies.” Cecil felt a bit uncomfortable telling the boys this. He was, after all, not much older than the elf, and he could see how they could turn to a life of wandering. “If you go south a bit further,” He said feeling like it was the wrong thing to say, “there’s food to be had. I’ve seen plenty of apple trees and game.” He looked left and right at the leaves that were falling freely from the trees. “A bit harder to get the fruits now, but the game is still out there.”

  “Man,” the elf said and put his knife back into his rawhide holster, “we wouldn’t last a month into winter.”

  And Cecil knew that was true. The boys had no shoes to begin with, and the elf seemed about as skilled with that dagger as Cecil was at reciting Shakespeare. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the trifold. He removed two, no, three hundred troths and replaced his wallet. “It’s not much. And yes, I could spare more. But I won’t do that, or you kids are just going to beg for the rest of your lives.” Cecil held the money out and waited for the elf to step forward and take it. He did, and Cecil swept his eyes over all the boys. “You’re all going to have to pull your own weight.” Then he focused on the elf that was looking at the bills with starry wonder. “And you have to be their leader. You must act like an adult. If you do, everyone will assume the rest are in your responsible charge. Then no one will be sent off.”

  The elf folded the money and placed it in the bag of a pocket on his right hip. He tried to look back up at Cecil, but his gaze fell shamefully to the werewolf’s nose. “Thank you, but this won’t last through—”

  “No it won’t.” Cecil interjected. “Buy some boots and coats. Maybe some thicker pants.” Cecil crossed his arms and felt the blood flow through them. “You may even have some left over. Use that for emergency food. But you’re going to need to find work. The kind that pays and doesn’t come with a collar.” A smile stretched on Cecil’s face and made him look more like the boys than a man being grizzled by the world. “Go to Redora after you’ve got the clothes. Go over the mountain. It’ll take a week, but the weather should hold, and there’s still fruit on the trees down that way. When you get there, apply for work at Cor
nelius’s General Store. I know he’s got at least one opening, but it’s an advanced position. Mention my name, Cecil, and he should find something for a few of you to do. If not there, go to Steaks For Goodness Sakes or The Straw House. They could always use more dishwashers.” Cecil could see the dismay in the elf’s face and added, “It won’t be glamorous, but you’ll all be able to get by. And when you kids get older, you can move on to better things.” Cecil looked over his shoulder in the direction of the city. “There might even be better things by the time you get older.”

  The boys left after than without much more talking. Cecil could only hope they would be alright. And he went back to his camp and thought. He knew as much as he could and now came the waiting, a thing he could do forever.

  Battle

  One

  The night of the twenty fourth was cold and rainy. Well, it only rained until everything was drenched. After that the temperature dropped, and it began to snow with fury. It was the only time since Cecil came up to the city that he couldn’t hear the hustle and bustle of the city below the ridge. The people here hated snow just as the ones on Earth did, and he thought many would be shut-ins
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