"Captain, here is an injured person."
Slowly, I am regaining consciousness. The midday light shines on my face and I see a detachment of armed men on horseback next to me. One of them with brown hair and light blue eyes separates from the group, dismounts and leans over to speak to me.
"Hey boy, are you okay? Do you understand what I'm saying?"
I nod and look at him, waiting for him to continue speaking, my head hurts and I find it hard to think.
"We are soldiers of the kingdom and we came to investigate the pillar of light that was seen 6 days ago in this direction. Can you see the smoke coming out of the town? Is there anything you can tell us about it?"
"6 days ago, an object fell from the sky with a pillar of light in that direction, those who had ever traveled to the capitals said it was a great labyrinth, that's all I know." I say with difficulty, as my mind clears.
"Yes, we can already see the labyrinth from here, but why were you lying on the ground? Did something happen in town? "
I tell them the story of how I came across that creature and ended up unconscious as collateral damage. As I describe the creature, I see how the soldiers' faces darken. At the end of my story I can hear "a dragon" among the murmurs of the soldiers, as if they could not believe it.
"If what you say is true, the town may be in serious danger… I shouldn't say this, but given the situation we find you in, I don't think we can know which place is safer. We are heading there. Do you want us to take you? My name is Joaquin. "
"Yes please, I am Xelean, my parents live on the edge of town, I need to know if they are okay."
When I say that, I see how Joaquín looks at me indecisively, but says nothing.
As we approach the town, we see most of the buildings on the visible edges of the town in various states of destruction, some of them with smoke still coming out. My family's tavern was among them. I am more and more worried and anxious to find my parents.
We see a group of people busy digging what seem to be many graves, too many, I am becoming more and more nervous. The group dismounts and Joaquín approaches them to ask what happened in the town. I can hear their conversation from where we are.
"Greetings, we are soldiers of the kingdom and we come to investigate the origin of the pillar of light that was seen 6 days ago, could you tell me what happened here. "
"Monsters, they arrived at nightfall, giant spiders and wolves, trolls and I don't know what other things… even a dragon appeared at the end. The city guard defended us as best they could, but there were many monsters, those who lived on the edge of the town had already died by the time they managed to organize the defense. In the end, the guards managed to resist and repel the attack, but by that time, all the people who lived on the edge of the town were already dead"
Hearing this, pain stabs my chest and my mind stops working, I feel my whole world disappearing with those words.
"Where can I find the city guard?" Joaquin asks.
"In the center of town, the wounded were gathered there to facilitate treatment." He pointing in the direction of the center of town.
"Thank you." Joaquín says with a sigh and we go in the direction he pointed out to us.
We go to the center of town and I see how Joaquín separates a few minutes from us for, to speak with a member of the guard. When he returns, he tells the group of soldiers to stay in the town to help in case of another attack. He is going to return to the kingdom to communicate what happened. I see all this with indifference, I have nothing left, I do not care about anything.
Joaquín approaches me to ask me some questions, I answer automatically, without really knowing what I am answering. I can't stand his pitying face, it reminds me even more, if possible, of everything I lost.
Joaquín gets me on his horse and rides behind, we leave the town and set out on the road. It's better like this I guess, I don't want to stay in town. I have nothing left in it, apart from memories. On the way he tries to talk to me several times, but without success, the words do not come out of my mouth, there is only pain in my mind.
At dusk, Joaquin builds a small fire and takes some food out of the saddlebags and tries to pass me some food, but I still don't respond.
"I know what you're going through boy, but you have to eat something."
"HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GOING THROUGH, MY PARENTS AND MY FRIENDS DIED, EVERYTHING I LOVED DIED WITH THEM AND THE TAVERN. I HAVE NOTHING LEFT NOW !!!"
Joaquín looks at me sadly and responds bitterly "You are not the only one who lost his family today, boy, my son was part of the town guard, he died defending it. He was the only family I had left ... That is why I say that I understand what you feel, at least in part. "
This partly cools the anger I feel, but I'm still angry. It's all extremely unfair… why did the monsters have to attack the town? Where did the labyrinth come from? Everything is the fault of the labyrinth, if it had not fallen my parents would still be alive and the town would not have been attacked.
"Sorry" I say in a low voice "How can you be so calm then?"
Joaquín laughs sadly "I guess practice… I already have lost many people in the past, with time one understands that it is useless to fall apart. Besides, I don't think my son would like to see me crying and depressed because of him"
I think about my parents… what face would they make if they saw me like this? I think they would be sad to see me fall apart like this. If they are somewhere watching me from whatever is beyond death, I prefer to be seen strong, not letting grief consume me. Upon reaching this conclusion, my mind calms down, the grief is still there but I don't let it cloud my mind.
"Why did you leave the rest of the soldiers in town, do you think there could be another attack?" I ask, changing the subject and accepting the food that Joaquín offers me.
"It is possible… In the village guard there were not many left who could fight, and even though the soldiers that I left will not be able to do much if the monsters attack the village again with so many numbers, in the worst case scenario they will be able to buy some time until the arrival of the troops of the other races. I'm sure the dwarf country, the elven kingdom and the demon empire must have sent their own detachment to investigate the pillar of light. We just got there earlier, though not enough "
"What if they don't go through the town?"
"I don't think so; your town is not called ´Crossroad's Town´ for nothing. It is on the border of the four territories and is the trade center between them. They have to go through it if they are investigating the incident, even if it is only to search for news "
He is right. In the town, people of the four races are always arriving and leaving. The town's population has a great racial diversity for that very reason I suppose.
"Where do the labyrinths come from, how many are there apart from the one that fell in the village?"
"We went from saying nothing to asking everything, I see ..." says Joaquín mockingly "nobody knows where they come from, the church says they are gifts from the gods, it makes sense since labyrinths are a great source of resources and information which was indispensable for the founding of the kingdom. However, this is the first time I have heard that a labyrinth falls from the sky. The rest have always been in the center of the capitals of each race, there is one in each one. "
"Aren't they dangerous for capitals if the labyrinths release monsters?"
"The mazes that we knew so far do not release monsters. Which is fortunate, because there are really nightmarish monsters on the last floors, like the dragon you saw, for example. A monster like that could destroy the majority of the capital before we could kill him "
"So how could the village guard beat him?"
"They did not defeat him. What's stranger is that we can say that the dragon saved the town. Despite the damage it caused, it managed to make most of the monsters flee when they saw it, apparently it only attacked the wolves. When the guards saw that the dragon ignored them, they used that opportunity to defeat the few remaining monsters. When the dragon finished with all the wolves it just flew away, it was really strange. "
Good thing I didn't try to scare him away when I saw him. It could have been the cause of the destruction of the entire town, as spiteful as the dragon seems to have been to the wolves.
"How many... "
"Listen, we have 5 days of travel ahead of us, we will have time to talk about whatever you want. But before going to sleep, answer me a question, how old are you?"
"Yesterday I turned thirteen, why do you ask?"
"At first I thought you were around that age, but talking to you gives the feeling that you are older, I just wanted to check it out."
"hmm, my parents say the same thing"
At the thought of my parents my face darkens and the pain in my chest intensifies.
"Try to get some sleep, we have a long way to go and sleep will be good for you. You will see that with time it will be easier for you to talk about them."
Without answering, I find a comfortable place on the floor and lie down trying to sleep, but the dream doesn't come. When I can finally sleep, I have a nightmare. I was in a dark hallway, my parents were looking at me in the distance, while I saw the wolves slowly approaching from behind them. I tried to warn them, but the words would not come out; I ran towards them, but the more I tried to close the distance, the farther away they were and the closer they were to the wolves. I wake up screaming with tears in my eyes. Joaquín looks at me, but doesn't say anything. He's sitting next to the fire. Without a word, I go back to bed and try to sleep again. In the end, tiredness overcomes me and I can sleep without dreams.