“You there, boy!” Demetrios called out. “Please, we must speak with you.”
The boy knelt fearfully in front of the young captains and pledged to do their bidding. With great tenderness, Linus gently raised the boy to his feet and urged him not be afraid.
“It seems we ought to be bowing to you, not the other way around,” Linus insisted. “You’ve done us a great kindness but I fear we must ask your pardon to indulge us just one more favor. Please, what did you see last night? Can you offer us any explanation?”
The boy nodded and confided that he was instructed to meet privately with the four captains, away from the troops, to relay some dire news. Stuffing some bread, cheeses, fruit and a jug of wine into a sack, the boy led them through a wildflower speckled meadow and down to a babbling brook. They were far enough away that the village no longer looked like a smoking husk of death. They sat in the shade, nibbling at the food and sipping wine as the boy screwed up the courage to unload his message.
“The others….they’re all dead.” The boy announced after draining most of the jug. “I’m the only one left from my village. All my family, my friends, neighbors, even the girl who said she’d sooner marry a cow than me…they burned so hot and so fast I don’t know if I’ll ever get that smell out of my nose again. Even you guys, you were all blackened and the skin was melting right off your bones. Then, just when I was sure that I’d die too, this light shines down from the heavens. Everything got cool, like when I’d kick off my shoes and dip my toes into the water after walking our herd out here to graze. Oh yeah, they’re gone too. The livestock was cremated along with everything else but us. Anyway, there’s this sort of bluish light and out of nowhere there’s hundreds, maybe thousands of golden-haired warriors. They were so…I don’t know if beautiful is the right word because they were terrifying but I’ve never seen anything like them before. They made short work of that demon thing but I just wish they would have shown up sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have been the only one left but I guess they have their reasons. I was hidden inside one of the water troughs for our cattle watching the whole thing. At first I thought they hadn’t seen me. They went on about their business so efficiently, burning the carcasses and disposing of all the festering waste, that I just floated in the water, watching. In a blink, they were finished and poof, they disappeared. I hopped out of the trough and looked around but I didn’t see anyone. You and your men were still sprawled out on the ground and there I was dripping wet, wondering what just happened. I turned around and there he was…their leader. Even his skin seemed golden and when the sunlight hit his hair, I swear it was gleaming. He told me that you and your men would wake soon and you’d require nourishment to break your fast. He said after I’d served you to find the four captains and take them away from the others. He said that even though the news may seem dire, to take heart for you are in good company."“You keep mentioning dire news yet you have yet to give us any news at all,” Eleon snapped, moodily. “Get on with it and tell us what you know.”