Part two, and the final part of this story. Click for Part One. Again, so much fun to write. 😉 Guessed the significance of Eric’s and Jeremiah’s names? Here’s a hint: first letters of their names. Please let me know waht you think of this story in the comments below! 🙂
A mixture of rage and terror overcame him. He put his head in his hands as he realized the hopelessness of his situation.
As he sat there, he felt something change inside of him. Peace and calmness filled him, replacing the anger and fear. He stood up, determined to find his way home.
King Eric walked for days, carrying the blanket and living off of nuts and berries. His lack of weapons prevented him from hunting. He could only hope that he was walking in the right direction. Birds, squirrels, and other small forest creatures were his only company. His only thought was that his situation couldn’t get any worse. He was sure that he would eventually find a house or a cottage.
About two weeks after his advisors had abandoned him, he stumbled into a clearing. He froze as enemy soldiers surrounded him, just as startled as he was.
King Eric was kept in a tent surrounded by guards all night. The next day, the enemy unit began marching back to their castle. The king and about fourteen prisoners from his army were forced to march through thick, sloppy mud. They were surrounded by guards that taunted them from atop their war horses. Many prisoners tried to escape, but they were quickly shoved back into line, often by the crack of a whip.
At night, the prisoners were put in a huge tent with guards patrolling around it. Two guards were in the tent to keep the prisoners in order.
After the third day of endless marching, King Eric sat, exhausted, on the blanket he had been assigned. He felt no pain from the blisters on his feet, only a dull, aching sense of dread. He could only imagine the horrors of what might happen when they arrived at the castle.
He glanced, uninterested, at the two guards. One of them caught his eye. He was tall and strong. He removed his helmet, revealing his stunningly bright red hair. Eric’s eyes widened. In his entire life, he’d only seen one person with red hair: his childhood friend Jeremiah. His teacher had said that red hair and blond hair were both very, very rare.
King Eric watched as the red-haired soldier moved quietly behind the other soldier. The next second, his fist connected solidly with the other soldier’s head. The soldier tumbled to the floor, unconscious.
All of the prisoners stared as the red-haired soldier grabbed a coil of spare rope and tied the other soldier’s hands and feet. The redhead turned to face them.
“I am Jeremiah,” he announced quietly. “I am here to rescue you, but you must follow me quickly, quietly, and in an orderly manner.” He moved to the opposite side of the giant tent, turning to one of the men. “You must lead the other prisoners. I will be in the back of the line, and I shall tell you when to go.”
Jeremiah peered out of a small peephole in the side of the tent. A few minutes later, he guided the prisoners to a hidden hole in the floor of the tent.
The prisoners slipped out of the tent, unseen by any guards. King Eric stayed in the back, only a few steps ahead of Jeremiah. They rushed through the cool night air as quickly as they could without arousing anyone’s attention.
They heard a distant shout from behind them. Oh no, King Eric thought. They must have discovered that we escaped. The escapees moved faster through the thick woods.
“Run,” Jeremiah called, his voice loud enough to be heard by all of them, but quiet enough that it wouldn’t help the guards find their position. “Try to stay in pairs, but still split up,” he added.
The other prisoners quietly paired up, and they quickly took off. King Eric was paired with Jeremiah.
Eric and Jeremiah ran through the forest, dodging trees and listening closely. Soon they heard the hoof-beats of their pursuers’ horses.
“We’ll never be able to outrun them!” Eric panted.
“We can try,” Jeremiah replied.
The hoof-beats drew nearer. “You go that way,” Jeremiah called softly to Eric, pointing to the left slightly. “I’ll keep running this way and hope they’ll follow me.”
Eric frowned at him. “Are you sure?” he asked reluctantly.
Jeremiah nodded, dodging another tree. “Don’t worry about me. Just worry about getting back to your people, Eric.” He smiled.
Eric’s eyes widened, but he didn’t have time to reply. Jeremiah nudged him off toward the left. He ran slower, looking over his shoulder as he split off from Jeremiah. The hoof-beats now sounded like a pounding heart. A shot rang out, and Jeremiah thudded to the ground, clutching his chest.
Eric started to turn, but Jeremiah’s pain-filled eyes locked with his. “Run,” he mouthed.
The pain of an aching heart started in Eric’s chest as he turned and continued running.
Eric made it back safely to his people, and they eventually won the war. The advisors who had abandoned him were never found, and everyone believed that they were either killed or captured. Eric had a happy, long, and prosperous reign, and was well-loved by his people. He never forgot the sacrifice that Jeremiah, his true friend, had made for him.