The Final Battle

by Cleo Saltz, age 11
The Final Battle Cleo Saltz is eleven years old and lives in New York with her parents, twin sister and three cats. In her free time she likes reading and writing fantasy stories, and going outside.

“It’s a dark night tonight, but the sky is clear, and for the first time in a long time, I can see the stars. I duck out of my tent into camp and view it for the last time. The place I’ve lived for the last three months.”

It’s a dark night tonight, but the sky is clear, and for the first time in a long time, I can see the stars. I duck out of my tent into camp and view it for the last time. The place I’ve lived for the last three months. Miles and miles of deerskin tents, with posts bearing torches glowing golden bright. The rain is moving at a fast pace now. How strange that the sky is clear, yet rain falls from it. I step forward and mud squishes beneath my bare feet. I should be in my tent, where it’s safe, but I have a message for The Great One that must get to him before morning. I pass the horses, all tied to their posts, and they neigh for oats. I can’t stop now, though.

As I walk through the darkness, I see sparks flying, and I smell the rotting of meat. I look up again at the sky and see small specks of red flying through the air. It’s normal, but I can’t help but cringe as they hit the east side of camp, and it bursts into flame. I hear the shouts of men as they frantically pass water- filled wooden buckets in a line and try to save their few belongings.

Finally, when my legs are ready to collapse from exhaustion, I reach his tent. It’s beautiful. Made of white elk pelt and at least nine feet tall. He ducks out of his tent. I can’t help staring at him for a moment. He has long, silver- white hair to his waist and a beard nearly as long. He is dressed very simply, in a long, dark blue robe sprinkled with golden moons. He smiles when he sees me, and it brings me a feeling of complete joy. But then I remember what I’m here for and the joy leaves me.

“Why are you here, child?,” he asks me in a voice as soothing as star dust.

I straighten.

“I have a message for you.”

“Excellent. Whisper it into my ear.” He leans down, and I whisper my message to him. He nods and straightens.

“Thank you, child. This information is crucial to winning the war. Come in, come in. The least I could do is pay you for your services.” He lifts the flap of his tent and beckons me to come in. I follow and am immediately greeted with the smell of incense and the familiar flickering of candles. The Great One goes to the back of his tent and returns holding a small knapsack.

“There’s food in there,” he says, nodding to it. “And some other things you may need. Best eat up while you can though, you may not get another chance after tonight.” He gives a hollow laugh and places his hand on my head. His other hand slips a coin into mine. He sighs.

“You’d best be going now, before the bombing starts.”

I nod, and he bids me a last farewell. I slip into the night, but I can’t go back to my tent now. I keep finding myself making detours. This is the first place I’ve actually had a purpose. It’s the first place I’ve actually felt important. When this war ends, I’ll have to go back to the streets. The streets full of sewage and carcasses of dead animals. The streets where rat and caterpillar stew is common and where you must not own anything except the clothes on your back, or it will mysteriously disappear. I can’t go back there. Now that I’ve seen the world… and now I’m crying. Crying so hard my whole body shakes. I sink down into the mud and bring my knees to my chin and sob. I feel two arms around me, lifting me up.

“Sshh,” The Great One whispers. “Everything will be okay.” He carries me back to his tent and sits me in a chair woven from Goosespur weed. I sit there for a long time until my sobbing subsides. The Great One kneels beside me.

 

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