Acgozluk has returned for Adventure April! Stop the Demon

Moving to Etonia

Written by George Sanders

Muddy road through a field with the sun shining down
Muddy Road to the South Gate by Stux on Pixabay

The mud made the walk across the camp treacherous. Kale trudged along, lifting their feet high with each step. The greenish-brown soil still coated their pants. The spring rains had lessened, but the road and field where the tent was pitched were still soaked. Their partner, Talia, greeted them. "How did it go?" She asked with anticipation. Their new home was within reach.


"I got a ticket. The Council will be holding the lottery momentarily. Wake Val. We must be there to claim our spot if they pull our names." Kale started collecting their meager supplies, pots, and gear. It fit into two packs that they wore on their backs. In ten minutes, they were walking on the road to the South gate of Etonia.


Kale watched Talia struggle to hold their son while they walked through the soaked field. She had held him while Kale packed. She had held him across the whole forest. The three of them had made their way through forest villages and old gathering sites for the last year. They had not found enough of their people left in the forest to perform the Blessing Ceremony when Val was four. So, when the winter weather cleared they headed to the coast. Rumors gathered from settlers in the villages gave them hope that Etonia would be a safe haven.


They found the city overwhelmed with immigrants like themselves. This whole field was supposed to get new housing construction as soon as the rains stopped. However, the lottery meant houses had become available inside the wall. Kale had stood in line overnight to get their names in the lottery. As they hurried through the mud, Talia looked at Kale. "You have done well, no matter the outcome."



Other families were starting to gather by the gate as well. Two years ago, the city had made a large expansion, building nearly 150 houses and taking in as many as possible. People believed that there would be a better life around the corner with another expansion. Still, to get it immediately and finally have a safe home would be a blessing few would pass up.


Every resident in the city was assigned a job. Kale would be working for the mining guild if they won the lottery. An accident at the mine had resulted in the loss of many people, but their family could get a fresh start even with the risks. The mine remained closed for now, so Kale would be refining ore and help bring it to the docks. They had convinced Talia to try their luck at the lottery because they wouldn't be shipped off to the mine right away. It was important to get a safe place for Val, but Talia had the final say.


The sun barely peaked over the forest on the horizon. Kale and Talia hugged Val as they waited. One, two, then three family names were called. None were them. The fourth name rang out, "Kale Rend, Talia, and Val." They pushed through the crowd. The man at the gate gave them a key, a map to their house, and instructions on where Kale should go for the first day of work.


The crowd let out a collective sigh after the 10th family was called. A few frustrated people yelled at the city workers but dispersed in a few minutes. Kale, Talia, and Val entered the city gate, not as visitors to the market or refugees getting support from the Church but as residents.



They turned left, went one block, then turned right. A long street stretched in front of them. They were 102. They followed the markings further down the street. A man came out his front door carrying a toolbox and some rope.


He looked at the family and smiled. "The docks need my hands." He could see they were new. "What number are you heading to?"


"We got 102." Kale replied.


"Oh, you are just two doors down." Basrin Rend pointed them to the house and walked with them before heading toward the docks.


"Looks like we will be neighbors. I'm Kale, and this is Talia and Val."


Basrin stopped and looked intensely at Kale. "Kale!" He let out a satisfied chuckle and reached out for a hug "It's Basrin. It's been 5-6 years? You have grown!"


Talia reached out to him as well. "Basrin, the forest has blessed us, connecting family again. We are home."


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Cover image: Forest During the Daytime by Tim Mossholder


Author's Notes

This is the original a piece of flash fiction for the Storytelling Collective's Flash Fiction February challenge in 2021. I edited and expanded it into the short story "Home and Shield" in Sept 2023. The full short story is available to patrons and will be available during 2023's Adventure April.

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