Fire paved my way. Part three

Augustus peered into the gleams of the flame dancing on Martin's irises, and he could feel that the leader was tormented by doubt. Now the young knechte was so unlike the image that surfaced in his memory that the adviser felt almost betrayed. Realizing this thought, Augustus immediately discarded it. Too much rests on Martin for the adviser to burden him with his distrust as well.

For a while, the leader of the knechte was silent, as if forgetting that he had called out to the interlocutor. He looked at the hot coals in silence and unblinking, stirring up a piece of wood in a fire with an iron rod until it heated up and Martin threw it away. Looking at the rust-stained fingers, the young man lightly shook them, then got up and went to the counter with weapons again.

— You know, Augustus... — Martin grinned for some reason. — Sometimes, when I think about where our path lies, I’m not sure that I’m doing the right thing. Flanders awaits us at the end of one of the hundreds of paths, but do I — not you, but just me — have the right to trample the grass of its meadows?

— Why would you think that? — Augustus skillfully restrained his unrest. — Martin, if it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t know what dreams of Flanders were. Many of us would not be alive at all. I would definitely be killed, back then!..

Martin ran his fingers over the smooth stock of the rifle and took it off the rack. Feeling tingling tension, Augustus stood up, not taking his eyes off the revolver, and quickly handed the leader a box of cartridges. Martin nodded and slowly spoke again, simultaneously reloading the rifle:

— Each knechte contributed to the paved path, Augustus. It's just that... More and more of my decisions denigrate us. The contract with the Lunatics seemed like a forced measure. We have not been in these lands for a long time, and we need to arm people. But today I sent you to speak with Pete, with a man who has forgotten about honour. For the sake of his disposition, the people of the Wasteland do terrible things, and we have an agreement with him. What if these and my other questionable decisions lead us astray?

Martin spoke quietly so that only Augustus could hear him, and this made his voice sound sad. Now the leader of the Knight riders looked his age, and the adviser saw Martin's young self again. A boy who thinks he’s ready to lose. He needs to remember why he started everything at all.

— Each of us is walking the path that you have laid, — said Augustus, squaring his shoulders. — Day after day, we march towards a land not marked on any of the maps, but we continue on our way, Martin. Do you know why? Because even if we one day find Flanders, but fail to set foot on its lands, its mere existence will be enough. There will be other worthy ones, and we will guide them. Like you guide us all.

While saying this, Augustus smiled. He suddenly realized the thought that had long sat in his head. Flanders was almost unattainably beautiful, but Martin's ideals could live here in this dying world. Augustus wanted only a chance to save another child who saw killers feasting on the ruins of his home, and so that the knechte could follow honour and not lose a single glorious battle.

The adviser lowered his eyes to the revolver standing on the counter. “Emily”. May the weapon that Augustus will use to pave the way to Flanders for his new family and defeat its enemies bear her name. The name of the one that disappeared in the flame on the last day. The one whose smile he will forget only after many years.

Martin did not answer Augustus, but he knew that the leader’s doubts turned to ashes. The adviser again fulfilled his duty.

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7 November 2019