The Reign

“Leave him,” Pog said. “We have little food as it is, and he is too weak.”

The heavy rain poured down around them, occasionally dripping inside of their hut to remind them that they were still a party to the outside world. Pog ignored the summoning of his conscience, which pricked at him with every gentle plop against his freckled skin.

The boy would die without his help; without a roof, dry clothes, and some sustenance. The rain continued to patter, rebuking him.

Pog ignored it all, turning from the open doorway.

Every member of their small band did the same, except for Eleanor.

“Bring her inside, quickly!” Pog had shouted. “She’ll die out in the cold!”

He and Olsen had dashed into the rainstorm, their feet splashing in the mud with every step. They had braced her between them, dragging her into the safety of their hut.

Siehara had spread a blanket over the newcomer, and Tabitha had handed her a crust of bread.

“You’re safe now,” Pog had said, crouching beside her. “What’s your name?”

Eleanor stared into the rainstorm, her heart shattering for the boy who was being left for dead. Slowly rising from her corner, she stepped outside of the hut. She approached the small boy lying in the mud and scooped him into her thin arms.

Eleanor walked back into the hut. She settled them into her corner, spreading her blanket over him and offering him her ration of bread.

“What’s your name?” she whispered.

The boy’s teeth chattered. “Jerick.”

“You’re safe now,” Eleanor smiled, squeezing his hand. “You’re safe, Jerick.”

The rest of the children tore their eyes from their laps and stole glances at Pog, who was slowly approaching the two.

“Welcome,” Pog said, looking over the muddy boy coldly.

Jerick shivered.

“He would have died out there,” Eleanor whispered. “You did the same for me.”

Pog’s eyes softened. “I know.”

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