The Boy in the Woods: Part 18
Bristol hurried over to the sobbing girl. “Come with us,” she said. “We can get you out of this place.”
Palesa looked up at Bristol, anger filled her eyes. “No,” she said. “I will make them pay for what they did to my father.”
“We can help you,” Bristol said. “But let’s not do anything rash. Come with us for now. We’ll make a plan and decide how to deal with these bullies later.”
Palesa looked around. The people around them went about there day. Nobody looked at the girl or the strangers. “Will you really help me?” Palesa asked.
Bristol nodded. “I promise,” she replied.
“Okay,” Palesa said. “Let’s go.”
The group quickly left the town. They made there way to a nearby oasis that Michael had spotted on their way to the town.
“What happened to the town?” Oda asked Palesa when they were safe.
Palesa shook with fear. “It’s the king, Gunther,” Palesa replied. “He started all of that.”
“The king?” Oda cried. “What year is this? There are no more kings.”
“Tell that to Gunther,” Palesa said. “He had himself crowned king when the town became rich.”
“What?” Oda said. “The town was never poor, but it wasn’t rich either. When did the town become rich?”
Palesa thought for a moment. “Um, five years ago maybe?” she said. “I was very young.”
“Oda,” Bristol said. “When was the last time you were here?”
“Probably around five years ago,” he replied. “I was banned from this town when I was a teenager. Something about disturbing the peace.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Bristol replied.
“Hey, if you’d just lighten up a bit you could have as much fun as me,” Oda replied. “You’re no fun, baby.”
Bristol turned to face Oda. “What did you just call me?” she snapped.
“Chill out,” Oda said. “I meant it as a compliment.”
“So referring to me as an infant is a compliment in your eyes?” Bristol snapped. “What part of being a baby do you find complimentary?”
Oda sighed. “Women,” he said. “You’re so sensitive. You see that Michael: no matter what you say, women are always going to have a problem with it.”
“Actually, I think she just had a problem with you calling her a baby,” Michael replied.
“Whose side are you on, kid?” Oda asked.
“Why do I need to be on somebody’s side?” Michael asked. “Are you two fighting?”
“Um…I hate to interrupt,” Palesa said. “But can we talk about saving the town now?”
Oda and Bristol stared at the girl for a moment.
“Oh…right,” Bristol said. “Where were we?”
“She was telling us about this king,” Oda replied.
“Right,” Bristol said. “Can you tell us about how the town got rich?”
Palesa nodded. “It was some miners,” she said. “They were mining for borate when they came across these little red stones. At first we thought they were rubies, but it turns out they were something much rarer. It’s called a red beryl. People came here to get rich off the stones, which made the town a lot of money. Gunther capitalized on the wealth, but he was greedy. He sent his men out to collect as many stones as they could. He started making himself rich. That’s when he crowned himself king. He had learned that the gems were great for amplifying magic, so he had them sewn into all of his clothes. He had a minor gift, but now he’s as strong as any of the best magicians. Between his wealth and his power, nobody could stand up to him.”
“So why didn’t everybody leave?” Michael asked.
“They tried,” Palesa said with a shrug. “But Gunther programmed those robots to hunt people down and kill them. He would send them after the families of anyone who tried to escape. Soon people stopped trying: if they left, their family would die, and it was too risky trying to take the whole family. So they stayed.”
“I still woulda left,” Oda scoffed.
“You would abandon your family to die?” Michael cried.
Oda snorted. “What do I care?” he said. “At least I’d be free to do as I pleased.”
“Oh yeah,” Bristol replied sarcastically. “Because you should be allowed to do as you please.”
“It’s a free country,” Oda said.
Bristol snorted. “Yeah, with laws,” she said. “Contrary to your opinion, other people are protected under those laws and you don’t just get to do whatever you want to people.”
“And whose going to stop me?” Oda snarled.
“I already have,” Bristol said with a smirk.
“Uh…guys?” Michael said. “Aren’t we supposed to be helping Palesa?”
“Yes, yes,” Bristol said impatiently. “What else do we need to know?”