I feel like it needs more editing, but there's not time. So apologies if it feels too choppy. It is supposed to have a mildly choppy feel for experimental reasons/ if you really want to know ask me in the comments. I tried not to over do it.
I strained my eyes to determine silhouette from shadow. Behind me, came the men's shouts about extinguishing the fire from gunpowder explosion. The dark woods muffled the chaos of the camp. Here it was deceptively calm. Captain Rillis was to my right somewhere in the underbrush, and solider Teny on his right.
I walked as soft as the forest dwellers on the leaf litter. Rillis had often commented on how uncanny it was. I once feared he may suspect. It used to keep me up at night, you know. If I was found out, I'd be dead. Unless I escaped, in which case Chief Moss would reject me for exposing myself.
A shadow slipped slow and silent to a tree. My gun was up, but I did not follow the shadow. I kept my direction. The shadow flitted again, in and out of trees. I prayed that no one would see it.
"There!" Rillis shouted. "Stop, Wildman!"
Rillis and Teny closed in and I pretended not to fall behind. When I emerged into the clearing, they had already trained their guns on-- I kept my face as natural as possible.
No. Not you. Anyone but you. I should've gotten there first. I could've let you go. Let you wound me and pretended you had escaped. But it was you and I had failed.
Why'd you have to set the powder supply blazing? It could've been any of Moss' errand rebels. Any little snot kid's life he'd happily throw away. But he didn't even send someone worth throwing away. He sent you, the fool. I had told you to stay away from him.
You stared at me as Rillis shoved the end of his rifle in your shoulder. You turned and spat at him. You idiot! You'd no idea how much I wished to scream at you. Your defiance only made him shove harder.
"Shall we shoot him here?" Teny said.
"Ought we not bring him back to camp?" I said before Rillis could answer. "Perhaps we could get information out of him."
You shot me another glance. You should've made it a glare, you dunce. The wonder and curiosity of your open blue eyes shone through. You never grew up. Off you went to join Moss' cause and you still couldn't hide a thing.
"Excellent thinking, Burns," Rillis said. "Lead the way."
So I led the way back to camp. All that remained of your fire was wet, black ground and rising smoke. I wasn't sure where to go exactly. We had no prisoners. But when I seemed to falter, Rillis said, "We'll take him to the general."
I stepped into General Isen's tent. She looked up from a table. Both her hands propped on it in a downward V as she studied a map of the area.
"General, ma'am." I saluted.
"Lieutenant." She nodded.
"We have found the troublemaker." At least my voice sounded as bored as normal. Inside though, I tell you, my heart had dropped into a pit. When they brought you in, I wanted to shoot everyone of them. I wanted to beg to take your place. I wanted to snatch you away and run for it.
I just wanted it to not be you. Why was it you?
I just wanted it to not be you. Why was it you?
Perhaps you wouldn't believe me. For truth, we did fight often. But brothers fight. It doesn't mean they do not care. Because I care I told you never to go near Moss. He is a heartless chief. He holds no value for your life. He is not worth dying for.
But of course, you didn't listen. You had never listened. Why, why?
General Isen looked you over. I melted into the background. This was bad. So very bad. How could I save you? Could I save you? They would surely find out. Especially if Rillis suspected. He would smoke us both out.
I was already a Lieutenant and gathering important intel for Moss. General Isen had been taking more notice of me recently. She hinted at making me a captain, which would better Moss' cause. But if I was found out, Moss would not take me back. He would throw me out into the cold, leave me for the Arderwains, or kill me himself for jeopardizing such a valuable position to him.
I cared nothing for Moss. I cared nothing for the King of Arderway; he was just as rotten. All of them. The whole world. I would be a traitor to the world if I saved you. There would be no place left but death.
But to be a traitor to blood?
I was kept out of the matter though. The General ordered Rillis and Teny to direct you to a tent to be watched, starved, and questioned. I wanted to see you in the night, but one can never leave the sleeping quarters without notice. All day the next, I had to attend to my men otherwise something would be suspected. Even after, Rillis kept me busy. I did not even eat.
At the end of the day, I determined to inquire of you, as odd as it may seem. Perhaps I could pretend to hate you, all forest dwellers, so as to justify my inquiry. Before I could, General Isen required my presence. I could do nothing but oblige.
She stood in her tent with a little pistol. She held it loosely, aimlessly. But I knew in a snap second she could kill with a purpose.
"Lieutenant Burns," her voice like iron as normal. "I have considered promoting you to captain for sometime. Since the death of Lak, troop 59 has been sorely in want of a captain."
"How ever I can best serve his Majesty." I bowed. It was always such a game. Feign loyalty to Moss when he calls or he'll kill your family. Feign loyalty to his majesty of Arderway in order to feign loyalty to Moss. Feign loyalty to Isen in order to feign loyalty to all.
There was never an honest person who lived to old age.
"I had wanted to do this sooner." Isen fingered the gun. "But you see, someone had, hinted at your loyalties. I've investigated and found the suspicion lacking in real proof."
I bowed again. What was there to say?
"Then you are a captain," Isen straightened. "You begin drilling troop 59 in the morning. But at present," she stepped closer, "as your first act as Captain, it is your privilege to rid the earth of this filth."
Finally I noticed, in the corner, by the entrance, near hidden by the tent flap, you sat tied to a chair. Blood ran down your face. Your clothes were tatters.
She pressed the gun into my hand. "He answered to nothing. The Wildmen never do. He is only stealing oxygen now."
The gun was cold and slick in my hand. Or perhaps it was my hand?
At first your gaze seemed lazy. A defiant indifference. Was it my imagination, or did you nod? Ever so slightly? You knew my intel was too important to Moss. If you'd had met Moss, you'd not care a twig about his intel.
I thought you'd not understand. Not when I feared that you believed I hated you. I do not hate you. I've never hated you
You almost seemed to forgive me.
I wish I could forgive me.
Dear brother, I am so sorry. I am a traitor. I thought life was empty before, but I did not know emptiness then. I wonder sometimes why, but I know the answer. I was scared. I'm a coward. I thought I had everything to lose when in truth, I had nothing to lose. Nothing but you. And now I've nothing.
So hope you all enjoyed that. . . Originally, Burns was going to "do the right thing." But then I let myself wonder, what if he didn't? What if he made the wrong choice? I nearly wrote an alternate ending though just because I really, really wanted him to save his brother. D:
Have you done Starting Sparks yet?