21. Captured

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

At the sound of whispered voices, Fisher and Sandy sat up from their sleeping bags. Grandfather said, “It’ll be daylight soon. We thought you might want to get an early start.”

“Yes we do,” said Fisher, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “We can make it to the trail in one long day, but I don’t know how far we’ll have to go before we catch up with the Rendezvous team. We’d better plan on a couple of nights on our own.”

He and Sandy began rolling up their sleeping bags and organizing backpacks. Strapping his sword onto the outside of the pack within easy reach, he added, “I don’t need to remind you of the danger we may face. The Evil Man won’t like it if he sees you leaving, and any place away from the trail he considers is his. We may have to fight our way out.”

Grandfather pulled out a curved scythe from his own backpack. “This is the best I could come up with. I haven’t had much practice in fighting, but I’ve spent more hours with this thing than I care to admit.”

Fisher smiled and said, “I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that. You’ll do fine.” Grandmother took one last look around the room and said, “Well, it’s not much, but I’m ready to leave it. Let’s go.”

Grandfather opened the door and they all stepped outside. The sky was just beginning to turn gray in the east, but there was enough light to reveal the faces of the men standing in a half circle in front of them. There were at least twenty, all armed with axes, pitchforks and scythes. Standing near the center of the group was Grandfather’s son Ken. He spoke.

“We had an idea you might do something like this.”

“Ken!” Grandfather exclaimed. “Listen to me, all those old stories about a Power stronger than the Ruler’s? Those stories are true, son. Come with us, all of you! Don’t let yourselves be blinded anymore.”

Fisher studied the faces of the men in the dim light. They seemed to be listening, but fear kept them from speaking out. Given more time, they might come around. But Ken kept that from happening. “Enough of your treachery!” Turning to Fisher, he continued. “You’d have us put our lives, and the lives of our families in your hands? Who knows what you’ve brought down on us already, just by coming here? There’s just one chance for us, and that’s by sticking to the plan. You’ll take us to where Lisa is, so that we can bring her back to her people. Your wife and my parents will stay behind until we get back. After that, you can all go. But Lisa belongs with us.”

“So you can carry her to Bamah and face the Ruler’s cruelty? I’ll die before I see that happen.” He was reaching back to pull out his sword when Sandy put her hand on his.

“Wait,” she pleaded. “You don’t have a chance like this. Do what they say, please. We’ll be okay here.”

Fisher looked closely into her eyes and saw the unspoken words. To resist now would mean certain death. Wait…. Wait.

There was so much he wanted to say, but before a word could come, the men had grabbed him from behind, tearing off his backpack with the sword and throwing it to one side. “You won’t need any of this,” Ken said. “We go there and come back, then you leave for good. Fletch!” he called to one of the men. “You’ll go with me while the rest stay here and watch over these people.”

“Ken! Listen up,” Fisher said. “Those brutes won’t let us leave this place without a fight. They killed Brian and Charlotte, and they’ll try to kill us too. Have you seen them?” The blank stares told him that they had not. “Ask your father. He has.”

As a man, the whole group turned to Grandfather, who nodded in affirmation. “I’ve seen them. Once, a long time ago. I was looking in the next valley over, trying to find better farm land. Yeah, I know we’ve been told by the ruler to never leave here, but I was young, and curious. I saw them before they saw me, and that probably saved my life. They passed right by where I was hiding: huge, gray things. I don’t think they’re even human. I counted five. Every few steps, they’d stop and listen, testing the air. I think they may have picked up my scent, because they kept looking in my direction. I got the idea they were patrolling, on the look out for people just like me, too far from home. That idea was confirmed just the other day when Brian and his family left here. You’ll meet them out there too, Ken. Believe it.”

Ken was silent for a long time. Even in the dim morning light, it was easy to see the fear on his face. But set against that was the fear of failing to provide what the Ruler demanded. Finally he said, “If these creatures know we’re going to get Lisa, they won’t stop us. Still … Fletch, pick ten more men to go with us. Make sure they have something to fight with.”

He bent down to Fisher’s backpack and pulled out the sword. It was obvious he’d never seen one before. “What kind of tool is this?” he asked.

“It’s a tool for defending myself and my family,” Fisher replied. “Let me take it, and if I have to, I’ll use it against the demons.”

Sandy spoke up from the front step of the house, where she and the grandparents had been pushed. “He knows how to use it. He’s already killed one of those things with it. You’d do best to let him carry it.”

The entire group looked open-mouthed first to Sandy, then to Fisher. Ken held the sword with a new reverence, then taking it in both hands, he gave it to Fisher. “Don’t forget,” he reminded him, “your wife is staying here. She doesn’t have one of these.”

Fisher said nothing, but strapped the sword to his waist, his eyes locked on Ken’s. With a glance to Sandy to assure her, he turned on his heels and started in the direction of the river. The men gathered up axes, scythes and pruning hooks and followed along behind.

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