From where he crouched in the thicket, Dubnorix could not see the inferno that consumed his village. He could feel the scorching heat emitted by Waygnordis in her death agony. Dubnorix scowled as the shouts of soldiers reached him. The voices faded away and all that could be heard was the crashing of dead huts.
The sun veiled itself in a misty gray to escape the horror. An autumn wind whined bitterly in the naked elms and shook the drizzle onto Dubnorix's head. He sank down, pressing his aching back against the grandfather oak. He glanced down as a drop hit his arm. It was blood. He twisted around and ripped a piece off his cloak for a bandage.
The caramel hair matted in his wound irritated him. Everything irritated him. Especially the Romans. He felt so helpless fighting them. He wished that he could have been one of the heroes in the stories the elders told. As a chief's son, he ought to have been.
Dubnorix cringed as he heard the heavy crunch, crunch, crunch of footsteps. He pressed the cloth tightly against his throbbing forehead. He tried to convince the cold earth to awaken and to swallow him up. He had nowhere to go. The flames consumed his village, Waygnordis. A line of soldiers cut off his escape. The usually lush landscape had grown incredibly sparse. The leaves fell to the ground all through the forest. Like us, Dubnorix realized, our village died and fell, and winter is returning, but spring never will. Fortunately, the Romans didn't know these woods as he did. Maybe there was hope.
The footsteps seemed purposeful. Dubnorix closed his eyes. He did not open them when the noise ceased. He kept them closed as calloused hands gripped his shoulders.
"I knew I would find you here. Hiding." Dubnorix heard a sneer. It sounded familiar. He cracked one eye and flinched.
"Mogurix," he said coldly, "what an excellent time for you to come home. We never expected to see you so soon."
The only reply was a scowl. "Why, it is such a pity that you were not at the banquet last night."
Mogurix growled, "there was no banquet."
"You're right. An unexpected incident ruined our plans," green fire clashed against solid steel. Mogurix's sneer became a etched into his face. His wounded twin's face remained frozen.
"Where is your company?" Dubnorix asked.
"How am I to know?" his brother countered, then the steel melted. He dropped his eyes. Dubnorix grinned weakly.
"You deserted, then?"
"You can never be a Roman, brother. I am glad that you deserted. Perhaps, even with the village gone, we can....."
"Stop." Mogurix interrupted. "I want to see Waygnordis This is not the time for words."
Dubnorix nodded. He struggled to his feet. Mogurix slipped his arm around Dubnorix for support. They trudged down an overgrown trail that they had blazed together many years ago. Dubnorix gritted his teeth and stubbornly advanced in spite of his pain. It was not Dubnorix's injury that slowed them, but the knowledge of what lay ahead.
Mogurix groaned when he saw what remained of the village. He had left years ago as a hot-headed rebel. He had convinced himself then that he never wanted to see Waygnordis again. He would have given anything now to have it back. The twins wandered among the smoky ruins. A fog crept in from the river.
Suddenly Dubnorix weakened. He collapsed on a nearby boulder.
"Did you help destroy this village?"
"No. I slipped away before it happened. I tried to warn you."
Dubnorix stroked his mustache, "you sent the message?"
"It is well. You are welcome in Waygnordis. Our father, Chief Vaglonus is dead. I hereby take his place."
"To rule over me?" Mogurix sneered again.
Dubnorix smiled sadly, "no, I have nobody to lead. I just wanted to feel important before I died."
"And I want to forgive you," Dubnorix held out his hand.
The wanderer froze, "you can't. I let you down."
"How could I forgive you if you gave no offense?"
The rebel squirmed, "you don't understand." His eyes flitted to the edge of the wood. Dubnorix turned around. He swallowed hard.
"I forgive you for that too."
The traitor hung his head. Dubnorix held out his hand.
"Brother, do not worry. I shall never be a slave. Please," Dubnorix pleaded, "accept my friendship and forgiveness before the soldiers come back to find me."
Mogurix clasped the trembling hand. Then he fell to his knees and kissed it. "I can save you."
"No, save yourself. I'm dying."
Dubnorix brushed him aside, "go care for the villagers in hiding."
"I can't leave you."
Mogurix bowed and vanished into the ruins. Dubnorix lay down and let the rain run over his face. The darkness settled in. All is well, Dubnorix sighed. His brother at last had come home. He felt tired. His eyelids closed. The warrior never heard the soldiers come and he never saw them go. Mogurix returned at daybreak and wrapped his brother in a cloth and buried him with their father.
ps. A big thanks again to Katrina for doing this exercise with me. I hope you all enjoyed reading these stories. Let us know if you try writing flash fiction!