Chapter III

The Recruiter: Flashback

Arthen was reminded of the journey to the nearest sign of civilization he made at ten-years-old after the burning of his family’s house. That child would have died on the second day if he had to follow a pack of wolves through the wilderness. But fortunately, the small village Saltwell outside of his family’s land had been close enough for a boy to reach after a day of walking.

Bloody knees and broken feet–following a string of fireflies as they gently guided him through the approaching darkness of night. He remembered saying to them quietly through his tears, “Please help me. Guide me out of here.”

Engulfed in the purple glow of the dusk haze, they led him out into the meadow. He remembered seeing for the first time a young Reflynn on the road. She was tickling fireflies with her nose that rested on her finger. Reflynn used to tell the story of how Arthen had fallen down and cried an embarrassing yelp when they first met. That, he did not remember. But what he remembered afterward–and he always would replay it in his mind–was seeing Reflynn run up to him through foggy vision.

She had asked “Are you alright? Ifla Beigraun?”

He didn’t understand at the time what the second question she asked was. But he learned later  she had just asked the same question as the first.

She also used to poke fun at him for how frightened and weak he seemed at that moment when they first met. How ridiculous he looked with fireflies around his head. But she would always end those taunts with reminding him how the fireflies then encircled the both of them in a hemisphere of light rotating in a smooth pattern of cascading sparks. And how one nestled on Arthen’s nose to tickle him awake.

“Do you have a name?” she had asked. Arthen had apparently not answered.

Her father, the Farmer, had started to make his way to her down the road, seeing his daughter holding the dirty, feral boy. What an innocent start to the things to come.

“You don’t have a name? What kind of creature are you?” she giggled.

And the thing Arthen remembered the most in that moment, what she said to him then, her voice imprinted on his eardrums forever. “I don’t like cats or dogs. But you seem friendly. I will name you Gleim”

Arthen didn’t remember smiling afterwards. He didn’t remember the fireflies dispersing after their job was done. He didn’t remember the Farmer picking him up and carrying him back to the house. But he did remember Reflynn’s endearing eyes right before he shut his.

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Saltwell

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