"In this time of war, I ask of you but one favor. Just one. Save yourself, for I cannot."
It was midday in the lands of Aesteria, the sun shining high and bright on the plains and gentle hills of the kingdom. It felt, warm peaceful, as though the sun was ignorant of the destruction just beyond the horizon. Following the gentle curve of the land were large, partially paved roads, mostly dirt, but with traces of neglected cobblestone and flagstones, poorly maintained, but enough to show the general curve of the road. Off of the road were clearings of grass of about fifty feet, from the road to where woods and large forests began, home to dangerous animals, some beast, others human. Dust and dirt clouded the road, as a multitude of caravan wagons clopped by, making relatively good pace. Quick, but not overly rushed, these caravans made a constant clattering sound, as hooves and wheels hit against the hard dirt and stone ground.
The caravan carts were relatively plain in appearance, there were carts encased of wood, essentially rolling boxes with a door in the back, often without windows, there were half open wagon carts, some with canvas and tarp providing a canopy, others exposing their contents to sunlight. Several of these wagons carried crates of food, barrels of drink, and boxes of supplies, though the majority of these caravan wagons seemed to carry children, some as old as 16, 17, others no older than 6 or 7.
The general attitude was difficult to determine amongst the entire caravan as a whole, some wagons were filled with crying younglings, their misery spreading the seeds of doubt among the wagons closest to them, other individuals were enthusiastic and eager to see the sunlight, others still remained silent and contemplative, deciding not to share their feelings or misgivings with others. Each caravan wagon was giving their own complement of guards, though they typically only numbered two or three guards per wagon, which carried anywhere up to a dozen children. Furthermore, the majority of the guards came in a mixed bag, soldiers that the King deemed important enough to send away, likely for the purpose of training children volunteers, soldiers that were too inexperienced to be used effectively in heavy conflict against the Nevermore Elves, and soldiers that were too old or crippled to fight extended battles.
In one of the rearmost wagons was a group of children, most of them older than the majority of the others, sat collecting their thoughts from the previous night. No one had yet to make any significant conversation, and like most other wagons, most, if not all of the children were complete strangers to one another.
Sitting in the open back of the canvas-canopied wagon was a young blonde youth, his legs dangling off the end of the wagon, one arm wrapped lazily around a support beam in the corner of the wagon, the other resting lazily on his lap, atop a bow covered in a leather case. He wasn't really of this world, his thoughts wandering off to thoughts of his last night at home, his vambrace covered hands lightly tapping against the surfaces at hand.
The home had been silent that night, as had the rest of the city. There were no dogs barking, nor the yelling of mother as she went about preparing food for dinner. The typical hubub and busy afternoon noises were quelled and left ever more silent and hushed by a blanked of late fog. The three members of the Wilder family stood somberly at the doors of the home, as they said their final goodbyes to eachother.
"Stay safe son. The war will be over before you know it." his father had said. "Everything's going to be okay."
"I just don't understand why-"
"Don't." his father had interrupted wearily, already knowing what Hart was about to ask, "It'll only make saying goodbyes more difficult."
Approaching him, his mother handed him a knapsack, a bedroll tightly rolled and strapped to the top. "Here," his mother said as he accepted the bag "I've put some sturdy clothes and some other useful bits in there, your father put some extras tools in their for fletching as well, in case you should need it."
"And this," his father continued, pulling out a wrapped case, "Is for you." a leather case, flat on one side, and slightly curved on the other, Hart didn't have to open it to know what it was.
"Father, are you sure? But this is yours, you might need it."
Hart's father shook his head. "They're going to be putting me up on the wall to defend the city. I won't need a bow as short as that up there. My bow will be better off serving you in your travels. Take good care of it son, that was a piece of work my father had helped me make, and has served me well for decades."
"Now go my son. The caravan's will be leaving soon."
With their final goodbyes said, Hart left the Wilder home, leaving an aging couple behind in their dreadfully silent estate. The couple's eyes followed their child sadly, for they knew it was unlikely they'd see eachother again.
Stirring himself from his thoughts, Hart looked around and sighed, unslinging his arm from around the post and pushing himself full back onto the cart, where he leaned against the side of the wagon. Gently opening the leather case, he pulled the unstrung bow out of its protective sheath. It was a well crafted composite bow, though not the work of a master craftsman, it was of good quality, and anyone could tell that a great amount of work had gone into taking care of the old bow. He held it in his hand, the well worn and used wood and bone comfortable and familiar in his hand.
He breathed out deeply and looked around the wagon, there were others his age, some older, some younger. He recognized none of them. He caught the eye of one of the guards on horseback, who had been eyeing his bow. Seeing that the teen had noticed him, the older guard nodded and spoke to him.
"Nice piece of work there. Old but still strong isn't it?" the guard said, his voice deep and gravelly, though calm, like the sound of large pebbles grinding against eachother under the current of a river.
Hart nodded quietly, and the guard returned the nod and spurred his horse, riding back up to the front of the wagon. Hart returned his gaze to the others. Several had the looks of potential warriors about them, while a few others like him looked like bowmen. Others looked like plain children, but Hart could hardly judge people he had yet to speak to. The wagon was far from crampt, in fact, it was quite spacious, as it was most likley used to transport large quantities of goods. There was even enough space to stand and walk around if one so desired, though the rocking of the wagon would make walking around a bit more difficult.
Pulling a waterskin out of his knapsack Hart drank deepily and realized that he was not only quite thirsty, but hungry as well, they had yet to eat since they left the night before. Contemplating for a moment, Hart held his waterskin out to the view of the rest of the wagon, perhaps one or two of them were as hungry and thirsty as he.