“Don’t go. I don’t want you to leave.” Little Maggy’s eyes burned into Carson’s. Their hazel complexion always reminded him of a sparrow’s wings, soaring high above the earth, sparkling and free.
Now they were broken, defeated. Coated with the dull stain of dust.
Carson knelt on one knee, lifting his calloused fingers to his little sister’s bony shoulders. He never broke her gaze. “It’s going to be okay, Sparrow. We talked about this months ago. We have to leave for something very, very important. But we’ll be back soon.”
Carson looked away and studied the blue sky above them, free of any clouds. He could find no words to respond. Not without lying.
Maggy rubbed her little fist against her eyes. They left her face wet with unshed tears. Her lower lip stuck out in a defiant manner, but Carson could see it quivering. “You and Flynn and Daddy are all leaving. It will just be me and Ma. Why can’t one of you stay?”
“We’ve all been requested to meet King Trayton for an important task. We can’t turn him down. But you forgot about Grandpa. He’ll stop by every day to make sure you’re both doing all right. And all the neighbors in town too. They’re just a ten-minute walk away.”
Maggy glared at her toes and pulled her arms tight across her chest. “I still don’t want you to go.”
“I know. But you’re seven now, Sparrow. You need to be strong for Mother while we’re gone, okay? Make sure she’s alright, and help her around the house when she asks you to. I need to be able to count on you.”
When she looked up to meet his eyes again, they were dry of sorrow, and a glint of determination had lit inside, a hopeful lantern promising shelter in the suffocating darkness of a rainy night. “I will, Carson. I’ll look after Ma.”
Carson’s chest swelled with pride, and he couldn’t help but smile as he wrapped Maggy in a hug. “I know you will, brave Sparrow.”
“Carson, it’s time to leave!” Flynn’s call drifted through the summer air from across the lawn of the family’s farmhouse. “We can’t be late for the gathering.”
Carson pulled away from Maggy and climbed to his feet, swatting at the knees of his trousers. “Goodbye, Maggy. We’ll be back soon. Watch the road from the west for our return.”
Maggy said no more but nodded from where she stood, hands holding her sides, hair streaming behind her like a tarnished war banner.
The sword at Carson’s side rattled against his leg as he jogged to join Father and Flynn. He clasped the iron pommel to hold it in place. Its warmth from the sun soaked through his fingers.
Father met him with a clap to his shoulder. “Ready, Carson?”
Carson bobbed his head. “We’d best get moving. The drafted soldiers need to be in Garlinsville by sundown.”
“Aye.” Father’s dark gaze scanned his farm one last time. Storm clouds brewed in the older man’s eyes, a harsh contrast to the peaceful day surrounding them.
The eyes fell on the slight form of Maggy and hesitated there, as if regretting every decision to leave her.
“You’ve reminded her what she must do, then?” The rasp in Father’s voice betrayed his attempts at an emotionless departure.
“Aye Father. She’s a good girl, and very strong. I don’t doubt she’ll be able to take care of herself and Mother. I’m going to miss them.”
“Me too. I can’t even bring myself to say goodbye again.” Father’s hand fell upon Carson’s shoulder again and gripped it with comforting strength. “But we are doing what is right. If we don’t answer the king’s call…if we don’t join the draft and march to war, everyone will perish. We must first protect our land on which to protect our families.”
“A necessary sacrifice.” Carson let out a long breath of air. “You are right, Father. It must be done.”
The men turned toward the sun and strode down the road without looking back, marching to war.
Hey there, I really hope you enjoyed reading the flash fiction! I wrote this during a sprint session at the Young Writer’s Workshop Conference 2022, in a room of nearly 100 other writers all typing at once! It was a fun experience, and I thought it’d be fun to share.
Thank you for reading!! Until later,
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