(There is still more of this story left. I'm not going to guess how much is left. I have been wrong three days straight.)
The boy asked Annabella, "Which way did you travel to get here?"
"Same way I came yesterday."
Puzzled, the boy asked, "Did you see me swimming?"
"Yes." Annabella looked at the boy's wet clothes and said, "I didn't know you were swimmming clothed. I was afraid to cause you embarrassment. I see now that I could have stopped and talked to you."
The boy tugged at his wet shirt. "I swim and wash my clothes at the same time."
Annabella shook her head in disbelief. "Well, I thought I would come up here to wait for you. Ambernia took it upon itself to entertain me. I hope you don't mind my riding your dragon."
He did but said, "No. That's okay." He decided to change the subject and asked, "You know, you never told me anything about yourself yesterday. You live around here?"
"A little ways upstream. Not too far."
"Did you grow up here?"
"No. My brothers and I have only been here a little over a year. We joined my father here after our mother died."
"Your father didn't stay at home?"
"When he could. He was a soldier with the troops that conquered the Dacia Kingdom. Once lands were safely under Roman rule, father would find a home and bring us to join him. The bad part was after a month or so of being was under control, father and the troops would move on for further conquests. So we would catch up to father, make a home together for a few weeks, father would leave, and in a few more weeks we would be moving again."
Worried, the boy asked, "So your father is a soldier?"
"Not now. When mother died, he left the service and stayed with us. This is the last place we lived with our mother. I think father wants to stay here because this is where she is buried."
"How did your mother die?"
"She got sick. I think she was sick when we first arrived here, but she kept it to herself. She just got weaker and weaker. Father had already moved on when she passed. He hates himself for not being here. The last couple days she hardly got out of bed. Finally she just went to sleep and died. It was strange when she died, she looked terrible the last few days but when she died, she suddenly had a peaceful look about her. It was like she willed her body to look at peace to make it easier on my brothers and me. I still miss her everyday."
"Yeah, I still miss my family."
"You had it much worse than me. Losing your entire family like that."
The boy shrugged indicating that he knows that the world can be cruel and he can only ride the waves of fate, not control them.
# # # # # # # # # # # #
Around dusk of the same day, Annabella's father approached the sentry. "Hail Trajan," he said and saluted the soldier.
"Who goes here? State your business."
"Am I that easily forgotten? Do you not recognize me, Draco?"
The sentry looked at the man and grinned. "Barnicus! Greetings, friend. Have you come to rejoin us?"
"I wish that was the case. I must tend my children. Perhaps when they can fend for themselves, I will rejoin the ranks. Tonight I am seeking out Lionus. Do you know where I can find him, my friend?"
"His tent is the fifth one to the left. But he may be at the bonfire center camp."
"Yes, it is still too early for Lionus to cease spinning his tales and drinking his wine. I shall find him at the bonfire."
Annabella's father, Barnicus, entered the Roman camp and headed to where the soldiers socialized at the end of the day, the mid-camp bonfire, a place they gathered to exchange conversations and indulge in drink. Barnicus walked up behind Lionus who was talking with another soldier.
Loudly, Barnicus interrupted the two men, "Is that Lionus boasting again of his heroic deeds? How does his mouth find room for the ale when all that bragging is pouring out?"
Lionus spins around to face the intruder. Seeing it to be his old friend Barnicus, he immediately smiles and greets Barnicus with a hug. "Barnicus, my old ally. You have returned to do battle at my side. I should have known you wouldn't keep away."
"Sorry, Lionus, I am here only to visit. Next year may be the time for my return. But right now, I need to talk to you in private."
Lionus lets loose of his friend and excuses himself from soldier to whom he had been talking. He and Barnicus walk off down the row of tents. When they get to Lionus' tent, the two enter and Lionus sparks a light in a lantern. The flame flickers giving an eerie quality to the faces of the men.
Barnicus asks, "Do you remember telling the tale about a farmboy killing officers?"
"Yes, it happened two years back near Neapolis. You were not with us on that?"
"No. I was on furlough with my family. What can you tell me about the farmboy?"
"We never found him. What more do you want to know?"
"Can you describe him?"
"Certainly..." And Lionus gave a description of the boy.
(Okay, it's bedtime for me. More tomorrow.)