I thought you had no one of age here.

Barouk looked at Martin, then at the lieutenant, then back to Martin, Then back to the lieutenant. Although his mouth was working, no sound came out. Then he looked at Tessa, who was covering her mouth in shock, her eyes wide. Barouk didn’t know what to say, nor what to do, as they watched Martin calmly cross the field to stand before them. It wasn’t until he cleared the house that Tessa saw him and quietly say “No!”

Martin looked at his father, then at the lieutenant. “Hello, am I interrupting something?” He said this with all the nonchalance of someone who had nothing to hide. He tried to ignore the scathing look he was getting from his father, and didn’t dare look at his mother at all. He already knew he was breaking her heart and he couldn’t bear to see the look on her face.

“How old are you?” asked Cromley.

“Well, he’s ah, he’s ah…” Barouk stammered.

“I’m sixteen sir, just turned” announced Martin.

“No” cried Tessa, loud enough for everyone to turn to her. The sudden attention made her start, and she covered her mouth quickly with a shaky hand.

Cromley recovered from the distraction and turned his attention back to Barouk. Nodding towards Martin, he said “What say you?”

“Sir” interrupted Martin. “Please don’t blame my father and mother. I didn’t want to be conscripted and my father let me hide in the woods. I realized the trouble I would get them into, so I came out. Please don’t get mad at them. They were only thinking of me.”

Cromley eyed Martin, then Barouk. “Bit of a spoiled brat, are you?”

“Oh, yes sir. But I’m ready to serve my country. My mother always said I need to be more of a man. I think serving the king would do this for me.”

The other soldiers chuckled as they looked at each other. Barouk stood silently, mouth hanging open. Martin looked to Cromley with all of the innocence of a young boy. Cromley looked hard at Martin. After a minute he made his decision.

“Young man” he said, “you are being conscripted into the service of the king’s army. You’re participation will ensure that the kingdom is safe from foreign invaders. If you’re ready, hop into the cart with the others.”

“Oh, okay, I guess I should grab my things.” He patted himself up and down, then said “I really don’t have anything but the clothes on my back.”

“Wait” cried Tessa. “Let me, uh, get you some food for the trip. Come with me.” This was something Martin didn’t want. To be alone with his mother. “Uh, ok” he said, and followed her into the house.

Once inside she turned on him. “What were you thinking! We told you to hide in the forest!”

“I know mom, but I really want to see the world. I’m sorry but I don’t see myself being a farmer all my life.”

“Oh, farming is beneath you?” asked Barouk. He had followed Martin and now stood in the doorway, his back to the soldiers that were taking his son away.

“No dad, it’s just that I want to see what else is out there.”

“This is from all that daydreaming you been doing. Now you went and joined the king’s army. Well, good luck to ya. You wanted to see the world, but instead you’re gonna get yourself killed.”

Tessa gasped, holding her hands in front of her mouth, then broke down in tears as she clutched at Martin.

“Mom, don’t worry, I’ll be careful, really. And I’ll come to visit as soon as I can, I swear.”

Barouk laughed. “Like you’ll get a chance. Tessa, let the boy go and get him some food. The lieutenant is waiting.”

Tessa stroked his face, then went to put some food in a clothe. Barouk stood at the door, his arms crossed, and just stared. Martin feeling the weight of his father’s gaze and watching the tearful motions of his mother, just stood there, not knowing what to do or say. He didn’t like disappointing them, but he also knew if he were to get out of there this was the only way. He just wished it could have been under better circumstances.

Tessa had put some biscuits and dried meat into into the clothe and handed it to Martin. As he grabbed it she didn’t let go. In a sudden rush of emotions she grabbed him and held him close. Martin buried his face in her shoulder. He didn’t know what was in his future, but he knew where his past was and for a moment was reluctant to let it go.

But the moment came, and he let his mother go. She released him reluctantly, eyes full of tears. Barouk came to stand by her, and gave Martin a nod. Martin nodded back.

“Goodbye Mother, goodbye Father.”

“Goodbye son” said Barouk. Tessa turned her face to Barouk’s shoulder to bury her grief.

Martin, feeling suddenly awkward, could only nod as he backed away from then. He turned and walked out the door and was ready to climb in the cart when he caught a glimpse of his two younger siblings. He stopped and rubbed the hair of the two doleful faces looking up at him. Then headed for the back of the cart, mostly because he couldn’t bear looking at them any longer. He made sure to take a seat with his back to the house. Looking at it any further would cause his own tears to flow.

“Right then” announced Cromley. “Onward.” He kicked his horse into a walk, and the cart and other soldiers moved out with him.

This was the last time he would see home, Martin thought. But that’s okay. Adventure lays ahead, and I’m not going to miss it.

But he still couldn’t look back at his house, His father and mother standing by the door, Emma and John looking on curiously, Drake somewhere in the forest. This is what he wanted, and the moment he got it he felt a wave of regret. But he wouldn’t let that stop him. Not at all.

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