Chapter 3 - Eren
EREN Galloway despised witches and everything they stood for. During nights at the local inn, when people asked him just why he hated witches so much, he said: “They are creatures that travel about, unbound by laws, sell their sham wherever they go and make a profit off the honest man’s suffering.”
There will be some who heartily agreed with him and some who would smile slightly, excuse themselves and hurriedly exit the conversation. Eren was aware that some of these men were sympathetic towards witches or perhaps even had a witch for a lover—uncommon, but not unheard of—but he never pursued that matter. He had other things to worry about.
Today was his little brother Kolin’s fifteenth birthday. Eren had traveled to the commercial zone of King’s Pride, the proud capital of the kingdom, and cajoled the baker into giving him a birthday cake that had fallen apart; a proper cake would have been impossible with the measly wages he received as a guard.
Together they lived in a barren hut at the edge of the capital city where rent was low and space was plenty. And although life in this little hut had few comforts, today was different.
Eren brought the cake home and Kolin's eyes glowed with fascination. It was the first time he had seen a cake—such luxuries only existed within large trading cities such as King’s Pride, as sugar had to be imported from foreign kingdoms.
Eren did not touch the cake, but he watched his little brother stuff his face with his dirty hands. He smiled woefully and ruffled the boy’s brown hair. Kolin noticed that Eren’s smile was a strained one.
“What is it?” Kolin asked.
Eren shook his head and took a bite of the cake. Kolin’s fifteenth birthday was something he had been dreading for years. Fifteen was when the boys of this kingdom were eligible to be drafted for the front line. The age used to be twenty. Then it had been reduced to eighteen, then seventeen...sixteen, and now fifteen. There was a war being fought against the King’s brother in the neighboring kingdom and the frontline had a bottomless hunger for more men—and the kingdom had to quell this demand.
Eren himself had so far managed to avoid the front line and stay by Kolin’s side, but now Kolin may receive a drafting order any day.
How to avoid this...
Through connections he had made in his schooldays, Eren had received a posting as a guard in the capital of the kingdom—King’s Pride. What a glorious city it was; built in the midsts of a mountain range, it was naturally fortified by the rocky giants surrounding it. A vast underground river connected this city with the sea and so despite its sealed off location, it flourished as a trading hub. It was the beating heart of the economy and the center of government.
Moving to King’s Pride was not an issue for Eren. He had no family, save for his little brother Kolin. A young boy of the tender age of fourteen, now fifteen, Kolin was his first and best friend. They had played and fought together when they still had their parents and together went through thick and thin after their parents were killed. No matter what happened, they had stuck together.
But if a drafting order arrived...
“Eren, are you all right?”
“Yes, don’t worry, I—“
A knock on the door.
A voice from the outside: “Mail delivery!”
Eren’s heart sank. The Word of Light could not be this cruel, right? Not now, no—
His gut cold, his breathing shallow, Eren stood and walked towards the door like a man walking towards the gallows to meet his end. He opened the door.
“Order from the barracks,” the man said and handed Eren a letter sealed with the wax emblem of the army of King’s Pride—a lion head.
Eren thanked him and closed the door. He stared at the seal. He knew what was written in this order. What else could it be? The kingdom kept close records of the boys it had and the recent advances on the front line had put even more pressure on the kingdom to provide sons and fathers, brothers and cousins.
“What’s in that letter?” Kolin asked.
Eren didn’t answer. He hoped that this letter might be an order for him and not Kolin to go the front line. At least that way, Kolin could stay out of harms way. He ruffled Kolin’s hair again. Perhaps they could run? Run where? Run to the north? Hide in the mountains?
Eren broke the seal and opened the letter.
Come immediately. I have a witch for you.
Commanding Officer Reinhard
A/N: Good morning! Allow me to introduce Eren, the second protagonist of this story. See you tomorrow :)