Rosen woke up from his slumber. He attempted to roll out of bed, but remembered it had been his turn to sleep on the floor. The stone floor was not forgiving; his muscles were almost frozen with aches. He looked over to his sister, Lina, and wondered how it was possible for her to look so content. Even on the days Rosen was in bed, he woke every two hours. Careful not to wake his sister, Rosen stood up and went to the closet, pulling out his work uniform and headed to work. Rosen didn’t have time for breakfast, but even if he did, he doubted there was enough grain left for both him and his sister to eat – he hoped he found something to trade at the market while digging at work. There had been a raid two days ago, and he anticipated that the vendors would decide to set up shop today; it usually took a few days to resume business.
Rosen and his sister had been chosen as part of the group to migrate and create what was now known as North Settlement. Rosen worked with the construction team; the current project was building new huts. It was harder than he would’ve ever expected, but he was holding on… barely. His sister had much more hope than he did – she kept them going. He reached the construction site within half an hour, ignoring his rumbling stomach along the way. Rosen immediately walked over to his best friend, Druen, upon arrival.
“Rose! How’s it going, man?”
“It’s good,” Rosen said, stretching his shoulders, “I had the floor last night.”
“Yikes,” said his best friend.
They still had a few minutes before it would be time to resume construction on the huts.
“What’s up with you?” Rosen said,
“Nothing much. Mom reheated the chicken again for breakfast,” Druen rubbed his gut. “She knows what that does to my stomach.”
“At least you got something, I’m here on an empty stomach,” said Rosen.
“You’re right… my bad man.”
“No worries, Dru. Let’s get to work,” Rosen smiled and took off towards the dig site.
A few hours later, Rosen and Druen set their shovels down for a midday break. They walked over to the makeshift bench and sat. Rosen took off his shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his forehead, offering it to Druen with a smile.
“No thanks Rose, I’ve got my own.”
Just as Druen began to gesture towards his own shirt, the boys heard a smack of something against the bench they were sitting on. In between them, sat an arrow freshly embedded in the bench.
“Shit! Another raid?” Druen said.
Horns blared in the distance. Rosen squinted through the trees and sure enough, he spotted a band of several men running through the undergrowth.
“Why are they coming here? They always hit the market,” Rosen said, making a break for one of the unfinished huts. Druen was right on his heels as they ducked inside.
Peering out the window Rosen saw the raiders strike down builders that had been closer to the edge of the forest. Blood splattered on the bare chests of the attackers as they cutdown villager after villager. Eventually, the near-massacre subsided and the shirtless raiders retreated back into the cover of the woods. The two boys were able to walk out of the hut, climbing over several of their fallen companions. They headed toward the village chief – what other option did they have?
“That’s the first time they’ve hit anywhere but near our food stores…” Vaynen, the village chief pondered to himself. Rosen and Druen had made good time to Vaynen to let him know of the assault on their crew.
“Chief, I don’t know why we were a target, but I have to go check on Lina,” Rosen said.
“Rosen, they didn’t hit the completed huts – she’s fine. We need to focus on how we can prevent more attacks,” Druen said reassuringly.
“You both are right to be concerned. We already have trouble feeding everyone in the settlement without the raids. And with the lack of fighting power, my hands are tied.” Vaynen said.
“We could return attack tonight… We’ve got some good forms here – Lina is an elephant!” Druen exclaimed with his hands raised.
Rosen shot him a sharp glance, “She’s a child!”
“Well, we’ve got to do something…” Druen kicked at a rock on the ground.
“Go see your sister, Rosen. Druen, come with me. We can figure out if fighting back is the best choice…” Vaynen said as he began walking out of the door.
Rosen arrived back at the hut he had left just hours ago. And to think I thought this morning was rock bottom, he thought. For the countless times since Rosen had decided to volunteer to be one of the first settlers, he had sat in front of the hut to compose himself. A tear crawled down his cheek before he wiped it away with his sleeve – he just wanted to escape his parents overbearing rule. He could’ve managed if he had just ran away himself, but he had gotten Lina involved, and now he hated himself even more for being so stupid. I hope help is on the way, he thought as he stood up and strided into the hut. Lina might be an unending source of optimism but Rosen wasn’t sure how much he had left inside himself.