“There you are, Hanice.” Corey and Emilee had found the man they were looking for mending the corner post of his goat pen.

 

“We wanted to check on you after all that stuff back at Dannon Hall.”

 

“Yeah?” Hanice leaned on the shovel he was holding. “I guess that’s nice of you.”

 

“Looked like one of the guards was getting the hurting end of your fists.” Corey shrugged.

 

“Maybe… Look, what do you want? I’m sure this has less to do with the other night and more to do with something else.”

Hanice tilted his head a little as if doing so would let him see what they were thinking.

 

“Oh,” Corey replied, “it has everything to do with the other night. We were taking note of who was there and who did what.”

 

“Figures.” Hanice spat on the ground. “I’ve told a few people to keep their eye on you. I see you going ‘round to all the houses cleaning stoves and chimneys and all that, but I had you marked as one of Trendon’s spies.”

 

Emilee laughed out loud. “Wow! Hanice, just… You could hardly be more wrong about that.”

 

Hanice looked at Emilee, and she could tell he was revisiting his conclusions. A smile crossed his face and his eyebrows raised a little.

 

“Oh… Is that how it is?”

 

“It’s hard to know who to trust, but you’ve lived in Bitter Springs your whole life, and seeing how you stood up for the town and all…” Corey shrugged. “We need to get better organized, and we have some important things to do.”

 

“You got something needs doing?” Hanice looked between Corey and Emilee. “I might know a few folk up for some doing.”

 

“Yeah, there’s some doing to be done. Won’t be quick, thought. It’ll take a few days. We’ll meet up at the old Potterson Farm at first light on Three and Five, then head out.” Emilee shrugged. “Whoever lives should be home by Four and One… Four and Two maybe.”

 

“Whoever lives?” Hanice nodded.

 

“We don’t need to know who would be with you… it's safer if we only know a few others.”

 

Hanice cut Corey off. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

 

Corey nodded. “But can you say how many will stand with you?”

 

“Be gone a few days? I think I can count on three others, so a total of four. Good men who have had enough, and who are smart enough to get involved in your secrets without letting on and messing things up. When the time comes to stand in the street and fight, I can name two dozen at least who’ll be counted for that.”

 

“That time will come.” Corey nodded.

 

“That priest involved?” Hanice looked at Emilee, then back to Corey.

 

“She is sort of.” Corey looked over his shoulder as if someone might be sneaking up on them. “We asked her to help us learn about things that are going on. She just happened to be here when all that at Dannon Hall happened. She’s not taking orders from us, if that’s what you mean.”

 

“I don’t think she takes orders from anyone walking around on two legs.” Hanice looked up at the sky in a way to suggest the dwelling place of Johvah, then raised his shirt to show a two inch wound that had closed up and looked very clean. “She touched my side and stopped me from bleeding instantly. The wound just closed right up where the knife had gone in. Never seen anything like that. She’s a priest and a mage, too.”

 

“I think her order put her through some healing magic training.” Emilee nodded.

 

“I got to thinking about things after all that.” Hanice shook his head. “If we’d had our way, we would have killed every last one of those Legionnaires, and when word got out, we’d be facing five hundred swords in the hands of soldiers with orders we wouldn’t like.”

 

“Emilee and I came to the same conclusion last night. Trendon can only push us so far, but we can only push back so far, too.” Corey nodded. “Eliz says closer to the capital, the soldiers line the people up in the morning, feed them a little bread, and put them to work all day, everyday.”

 

“Young ones, too.” Emilee nodded.

 

She told Hanice about the plan to make a refuge for young boys and girls. He thought it sounded like a nice thing, but he said he was worried for how they would feed them.

 

“Eliz said she would be working on that, and that the boys and girls would play a part. I’m only nineteen, myself. I guess I had to start playing a part in earning my meals when I was that age, too.” Emilee shrugged.

 

“Yeah, I was nineteen, nineteen years ago.” Hanice nodded. “This fight with Falicor has fallen on the shoulders of children and old people.”

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Copyright 2018, 2019, 2020  —  Bill Snodgrass