After two more days of mostly staying in the barrack and not hearing anything helpful from Tom and the others, I was ready to start doing something on my own. It probably would not be wise, but I couldn't sit here and read any more of The Hobbit (the only book of any interest they had in the collection), though I was starting to feel an affinity with Bilbo and the fact that he didn't really want to go on an adventure. I was a hobbit at heart.
"You need to learn patience," Tom told me as we sat at the table. The sun had gone down on another day with no word about anyone. Tom could see I was starting to lose my temper.
"I need to learn a great many things," I said. "Patience is the very least of them."
"Matters are delicate," he said. He'd said those same words so many times already that I snarled a little at the sound of them. Then I thought that might make me look and sound too much like a were-creature, so I sighed instead. "I know this is not easy --"
"I must find out what happened to the others." I put both my hands on the table before me and looked into his face. "I'll take my chances with the desert -- just find me a way out of here."
"I wish it were that easy." He sounded sincere.
The guards would be by soon. Last night it was not Collins and from the way the others reacted, I could tell this was not one we could trust. I marked him; his brown eyes and balding head, his sneer when he looked our way. I hoped he wasn't the one that came tonight. I had come to like Collins who was worried about us and who had to be in a very dangerous position.
I couldn't say I trusted him, though. I didn't trust any of them, to be honest. They were hiding things from me. And besides, they weren't trusting me, either, which made it very hard to trust them in return.
We were nice to each other. We were polite. I was even careful to follow their rules and even stay close to the barracks and out of sight, but I did that for my own reasons. If people stopped seeing me, it might take a while before they noticed I was gone.
Tom had just made it clear that he was not going to help me, though. Fine. I would find a way out on my own. I was not going to abandon the hope that I could still find the others.
"Mark, I know this must be annoying -- no, listen to me." I had been about to say something rude, but I shut up and stared at him instead. I had lost all patience; he was right in that respect, but there was good reason for it. I think Tom realized that I'd been pushed too far. Whatever he had been about to say, he rethought the words while I sat there and glared.
"We haven't told you much --"
"No shit, Sherlock."
The words almost amused him, and I don't know how I would have reacted if he'd laughed. Then I realized that he was admitting to something on his side. I shut up and gave a little nod.
"We haven't told you much," he said again. "We have to be very careful. Your arrival and claims aren't easy to veryify, either. I would like to trust you. I know, to some degree that you are telling the truth. But I won't risk the lives of the others just because I think you are a good kid."
"Kid," I said, the start of a snarl -- and then stopped. "That's the problem, isn't it? I'm a teen. You think I'm exaggerating the stories I've told you."
"Or you could be far worse than a teen with a good imagination," Tom replied. He leaned over the table and looked me in the face. "You have people you are worried about. I'm trying to find more information. But I have people to worry about, too."
It made sense. I tried to consider what I would do if I were in his position. Well, wasn't I? I was a Protector, and it was more my job than his to make certain everyone -- including the Nons -- were safe here. I suddenly realized that I could do nothing that would make trouble here, like disappear off into the desert, and the realization almost won a cry of despair from me. I wanted my friends here!
"I want Maggie, Davis, Snow, and Edmond to show up here," I said. My voice trembled a little this time. "That's all I really want. If we're together, I can wait out anything."
"I'm sorry. I hope to have more information soon."
I nodded and sat back. The guards came a little later, and Collins took his place. Everyone was relieved, even me. He gave a nod, made the requisite noises, and then settled in with us.
"We've heard there is a lot of trouble out East," he confirmed. "Some sort of major magical battles."
"Maybe my friends weren't taken, then!" I said and felt better. I smiled, probably for the first time.
"Maybe so," Tom agreed. He looked relieved as well. "But I imagine that makes everyone else around here nervous."
"Yeah. So be careful --"
Something hit the roof, bounced, and came to a stop.
"I have got to figure out that landing stuff," a voice said from above us.
I was out of my chair and to the door before anyone could stop me.
"Edmond!" I had just enough sense not to shout.
He threw himself off the roof and into my arms, but I could hear more of the guards coming our way. There was no time to run away and hide.
To Be Continued....