Chapter 2- Loomie - Part 2

Being the daughter of the tribe leader afforded Loomie a certain measure of respect. She was not sure if this was because she deserved it, or simply because of who her father was.

As she passed through the outer gate of the village, the guards nodded before stealing a glance at each other with a raised eyebrow. It was a brief and near undetectable response, but Loomie turned to look back, catching the young men watching her. As she did, they quickly snapped back to resume scanning the lands outside the walls.

Men bold enough to approach her were turned away either in word or glance, and anyone attempting to win her heart through skill quickly found they failed miserably to impress her. This made Loomie even more desirable. If not because she was beautiful, because she was a prize to be fought over and won.

Though she had convinced herself she had no time for affection of any kind, deep inside she was flattered by the attempts. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she walked but was quickly erased when she passed a group of young women who stared at her in disgust.

What kind of woman had no desire to love or be loved? What kind of girl would rather fight than do whatever it was other women did? She heard the words being spoken about her by many of the other women in the clan. She saw their faces as she walked by. They were threatened by her. While she was still single, the men would have no time for them.

She felt sorry for all of them, the men and the women. They were weak and blind. In a war torn world only the strong survive, so weakness got you killed. Loomie worked hard to suppress any desire that made her weak. Instead she focused on being the best warrior she could be.

Loomie continued to walk, nodding and waving to people who smiled until she heard a familiar voice from behind her.
“Loomie!” She turned to see Meg waving at her from the doorway of a small shop near the center of town.

Meg was beautiful, and she was Loomie’s age, but these were the only real comparisons that could be made between the pair. They were opposites. Loomie the rough warrior and Meg the soft-spoken house maid. Meg had no desire to touch a weapon let alone go off fighting. Her father owned a small food store in which Meg enjoyed working. How they became such good friends is still a mystery even to them, but good friends they were.

Meg stepped out from the doorway. Her hair was dark and curly, pulled back and tied up with a rag. She gave Loomie a quick hug. It had been a couple days since they had seen each other, which was mostly on Loomie, who had increased her training in recent days.

“Hey Meg, how are you?” Loomie said as she stepped back. The shop had not yet opened for the day, but Meg was already hard at work.

“I am good,” Meg replied, placing her hands into the apron she wore. “I haven’t seen you for a couple days,” her voice lowered a bit, “I assume you have been ‘training’ again?” A sly grin appeared on her face.

Loomie leaned in eyes wide, “Meg! Keep your voice down!” she said still looking around for anyone who could hear them talking. “People can’t know. Dad would be furious!” Meg leaned back a bit but kept her voice low, “Your dad will only be angry until you show him how good you are.”

It felt good to have someone else to talk to about her secret obsession besides Amiel, but here on the street she still felt nervous bringing it up. Meg could sense that, because she changed the subject again.

“So what is going on this morning!?” she asked, now in a normal voice. “I have noticed several people passing by headed towards Central.”

Loomie seemed to straighten up a bit, visibly less nervous. “Dad has been trying to work out what happened in Cermon City. We are a few days walk from there so if anyone fled, they should be arriving any day now.”

“Do we have the ability to take more people?” Meg asked, “We are pretty strapped for room as it is.”

More and more people had made their way to their little village as word spread of the secret tribe of escapees who found a way to thrive in the wastelands. People who were tired of being oppressed by selfish rulers began making the trek into the wilderness to seek refuge and join a cause that was bent more on helping each other then helping oneself. The only issue was, they were running out of room.

Loomie replied, “I am not sure.” She raised a hand and touched Megs arm, “I need to go find Dad and see what is going on.” She added as she turned, “I will be back later.”

“I will hold you to that!” Meg called as Loomie began into a slow sprint towards Central.

Central was the name given to the buildings near the center of the village, many of which were used as strategic council offices. Decisions regarding the direction of the tribe were made in those rooms, so it is where her father spent most of his time.

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As Meg had suggested, several people stood outside Silas Canning’s office, many of whom just milled about talking amongst themselves. What struck her as odd was that the door to the small building where her father’s office was had been closed and two guards set at either side.

Ever since accepting the role as leader, Silas had gone out of his way to keep that door open to anyone who wanted to be heard. Having established that he cared for the people, many took advantage of this transparency by coming to present problems great and small (though most ended up being small). He frequently came home late, more mentally exhausted than physically, but he reminded her that a leader should always lead by being a servant. To see the door closed and guarded had Loomie on edge.

As she approached the crowd a few noticed her and stepped aside, allowing her to pass through. She made her way slowly towards the front of the group where she noticed a few familiar faces. There were those who were a little less supportive of Silas and took every chance to say as much. They stepped aside as well, but didn’t let her pass without offering a word, “I am not sure what your father has planned Loomie, but he had better consider it carefully.”

Loomie stopped just short of the guards who had begun moving to open the door for her. She turned to face the man who had spoken,short and round with a receding hairline. The man was staring at her with a smug look on his face. Loomie considered him for only a moment (which she would later wish had been longer) before replying, “Don’t worry, he will make sure you still get your share of rations.”

Loomie didn’t wait for a response. She turned to approach the guards who stepped aside to let her in. As they did she could hear the crown snickering as the door was closed behind her.

The middle of the room was dominated by a large table around which sat many chairs. Several of these chairs were occupied by members of the council while others chose to stand. Silas was standing at the head,looking down at what appeared to be a map that had been rolled out.

Not a single member of the council seemed to be bothered by her entrance, but her father looked up as the door shut behind her and smiled, if only briefly, before looking back down.

Also standing in the room were several ranking warriors, many of whom were now looking in her direction. She glanced at them  only to take note of who was in attendance, but a few of them smiled and nodded at her. The interaction seemed awkward considering the discussion that was taking place in the room. She looked away shaking her head.

Weak.

“Silas, we are nearing three days since the explosion in Cermon City. Our scouts have been out and back every day since and have not seen any refugees. There may not be any.” The voice was from the man standing to her father’s left. She knew the man only as ‘Clark,’ what her father had called him.

Silas replied, fists now resting on the table, “Did your scouts make it as far as the city?” he asked. Before Clark could respond Silas added, “or did they come back early?”

Clark hesitated. Everyone knew Silas well enough to know that when frustration began to settle in, it was better not to speak. After a few moments in silence, Clark responded as Loomie made her way around the table to stand near her father. She noticed the map depicted the valley between Manst and Cermon City. The large circle marked on it was near the edge of the territory their scouts routinely visited in the days following the explosion.

“Scouts made it to the edge of our territories,” Clark said, placing a finger on the circle that had been drawn on the map, “close enough to see the thick cloud of dust and smoke that rose above the city. Each day they returned the cloud remained and showed no signs of dissipating.” Clark looked over at Silas again, “Whatever happened to that city was big.”

Taking a deep breath, Silas stood up, looking around the table at each of the council members. “Some of you in this room were with me when we founded this village.” Looking into the eyes of a few of the older council members he continued, “Some of you escaped alongside me from Lanjamin City.” Silas paused for a moment, “So you will understand why I cannot sit here while there could be people wandering the wildlands with the same feeling of despair and hopelessness that carried us around for days.”

A member of the council stood, one Loomie didn’t know well but recognized as having been around as far back as she can remember. “Silas, nobody is suggesting we do nothing. We are suggesting we wait here and let them come to us.”

At this, Silas placed a hand on ‘Red,’ the pistol that hung at his side. “I played the ‘wait and see’ game once,” he said, now looking down at the floor in thought, “it ended poorly.” He looked up again with resolve, “I will not play that game again.”

Before anyone could respond Silas looked at Clark, “Organize a search party and equip the trucks with supplies to tend to wounded. Find and bring back whoever you can, even if you have to drive all the way to the gates of Cermon City.”

Clark nodded, accepting the decision. “Many of our scouts are on routine runs till tomorrow, so we will have to pull from reserves, but I will make it happen.”

Loomie knew this included her brother Amiel who was one of the best Hunter Scouts in the clan. He had left before the sun, telling her she would have to train alone for the next couple days. She instantly felt a surge of energy, a desire to go out with the scouts.

The words came out before Loomie could catch them, “I will go!” she said, glancing around the room, her eyes finally resting on her father. All eyes in the room were on her. Many of the warriors were shaking their heads in disdain at even the thought of her going with them.

“Loomie, you will do no such thing!” Silas’ response was firm and absolute. “We have had this conversation, the wildlands are no place for a young girl, and the area around Cermon City will be dangerous.”

She didn’t back down, as she was furious for having been dismissed. “I can take care of myself. I am better with a weapon than most of the people in this room.” At this, several men in the room began to laugh, but her father just stared at her with a questioning look.

“The answer is no,” Silas dismissed her and looked at Clark again, who was still looking at Loomie. “Clark, report your status within the hour.” Glancing only briefly at Loomie, he opened the door and stepped out to address the crowd that had gathered outside.

Loomie could feel the heat rising in her neck. Her father had shut her down in front of the entire room, many of whom now talking among themselves as if she was not even there. Apparently the depth of her anger had not dawned on a few of the younger men in the room, because one lower-ranking hunter approached her with a grin on his face.

“So it appears Silas needs you to wait here for the warriors to return,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. Without saying a word Loomie turned quickly, bringing her elbow around in an arc that caught him in the chin, sending him tumbling back into the wall.

All chatter in the room came to an abrupt halt as the man cried out in pain from the floor. Loomie said nothing. She just stared at him. As she turned to leave the room her eyes met Clark who had watched the entire thing. He just looked at her for a moment before speaking.

“Tip, get off that floor and start prepping the trucks.” He said nothing to Loomie, just went back to the preparations he was making with his men. The rest of the room seemed to take his lead as they fell back into the same dull chatter that began when Silas left the room.

Loomie glanced down at Tip again as he was being helped off the floor before heading out the door after her father.

Silas had already made it halfway across the courtyard that sat in middle of the buildings in Central, most of the crowd following him as he walked.

Loomie just stood there in silence. She knew why her father refused to let her fight. She was his only connection to her mother. She understood. How long would it last? How long would he shield her? She was no longer just his ‘desert lily,’ and if he was not willing to open his eyes to see who she had become, she would just have to force him to see.

Looking around her, she noticed that trucks had been pulled up to the supply station that sat just outside Central. Men were carrying crates and barrels of supplies to be loaded onto the truck. They gave her an idea. Meg would have to wait.

Chpt. 2 Pt. 2- Written by Matt Henderson, Created by Micah Metz, Edited by Alex Gergely

Matt Henderson