Chapter VI : Journey Home VIII

Chapter VI : Journey Home

“ Fight or Flight  “

Panic finally struck when the sun reached its apex. The gardeners were close to running out of plants which could be used as fuel for the wall of fire, the animals were getting restless, and water was scarce. As the humans scurried about, Errol stood at the top of the town hall and thought about a meeting that transpired early that morning. It happened behind the closed doors of the town hall where the only the Captain, the Keepers and the Overlord were present.

White was as quiet as ever. He had always been the ever-cranky one, the Keeper who voted against the other two just because he could, and the one who always grumbled whenever Xing arrived early for his daily reports. And then there was Valor who seemed to be rather fond of Errol. He was youngest among the three and had no more than a few grey hairs; some say that Steel was born before Valor, but that the two were evenly matched in skill when they were still both farmers. He was disturbed by his friend’s story about Ochre’s demise; nonetheless he was relieved that Steel survived the journey and returned to 27. Lastly, there was Anise who was every bit Thyme’s opposite. She was a cheerful little woman with very white hair. The oldest Keeper seemed to be frail but she used to be a very capable guard herself. Anise once mentored White when the latter decided to be a guard, though they ended up with very different outlooks in life.

When the inevitable question Should the Overlord protect the town? came up, Errol was sure that the vote would have been at least two to one, in favor of Yes. But humans had always surprised her, and the outcome of that deliberation was no exception. All three Keepers voted No. The Captain didn’t even say a word; he knew that the Keepers were serious when they needed to be, and even White did not vote against the others.

“ Many towns are suffering. The Overlord is not with them, but we believe that they are still fighting the wayward plant life, “ Anise explained, “ We can manage by using our own skills, our own hands… you ought to do what you must. Reclaim the Citadel. “

Errol thought about the current scenario as she stood on the hall’s rooftop. The old woman was right. She could help 27, and then what? The plants would still continue to advance unless the cause of their growth was taken care of. If, at that point, she revealed to the townsfolk that she was the Overlord, it would just distract them. At the meeting, Errol declared that she would let the Keepers disclose her true role at their discretion. They knew the townsfolk best. After the discussion back then, the black-haired girl went up to the rooftop so that she could see if there was a clear path towards the Citadel.

With her sharp eyes that could see clearly beyond a normal human’s range, Errol searched for any clearing or paths beyond the wall of fire. Those which led to what once was the Overlord’s Sea were gone. However, she did notice that the crazed plant life was focused around the town. Beyond the town’s edge, particularly at the direction from which they came on their journey home, the plants were more or less normal. Once again, she looked at Citadel in the distance; that place which used to be her home. Errol blinked, and then she looked at the endless expanse of open forest which remained untouched by her copies.

The Overlord immediately went back into the town hall and spoke to the Keepers and the Captain once again. She told them about what she’d experienced in her travels, and about what she’d seen beyond the town. At first, the humans were confused as to what she meant, but as Errol explained her observations, they could only nod in agreement. Xing hurriedly gathered the townsfolk for an emergency town meeting. The gardeners left just enough plant materials so that the fire would continue to burn until late in the afternoon, and a few farmers stayed at the wall to keep the blaze at bay. Just as the sun dove into the horizon, the wall of fire died down.

The humans bade farewell to the stone structures which they thought would be their homes until their death. With large bags on their sides and their backs, and on very annoyed sheep and cows, the townsfolk began their journey towards the river which stretched throughout the oak forest. Guided by the Keepers, Xing, and, strangely enough to them, the little black-haired brat named Errol, they made their way past the sleepy plants. They were eastbound, to that place where the sun vanishes when a day ends and a night begins. When someone asked the vertically-challenged historian about their destination, her answer was blunt.

“ To the Iron Wall. “

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