The child sat perched on the stool gazing up at the only parents he knew. His mother's eyes were filled to the brim with tears while his father refused to look down at him for fear that his military gait would be spoiled by the sight of the round face and large, beautiful gray eyes.
'If we don't do it now, I won't have the heart to again..' the mother sniffled.
'Aye, woman, yer righ'....we'll gader some i'ems fer 'im an' be on er way.' his father replied
With tears streaming down her cheeks the young mother packed up a small knife, a few rations, and Denny's treasured lockpick. She dresses him in the quiet stillness of the poor shack in his best tunic and breeches, and wiped the dirt of the play yard off of his face. She ruffled his hair softly and then placed a warm kiss on his forehead. As she held him in her arms she whispered in his ear, 'Me love, I know you may not understand this, but we want you to have a better life. We cannot offer you that, and so we will place you in the hands of someone who can. Promise me that you won't forget us....please, dear son, don't forget us.'
The young brow furrows tightly as Denny says, 'How can I forget my mommy and daddy?'
With this simple, innocent answer, the mother shivers uncontrollably and gazes over at her husband, the fallen hero, the refugee who had run from a country so as not to fight in a war, and had in turn left his family poverty stricken and ostracized, to find him sitting in a corner of the room. His hands are wrapped tightly around his knees, his clothes rumpled around him....no longer is he the stiff upper lipped soldier with his head raised high, but a scared and tattered mess in the corner of a shack. Despite this, he rose to his feet shakily, and straightened his clothing.
'Well den, lets wipe dem eyes an' git 'ssembled' he said rather gruffly.
He proceeded to pick up the small sack and sling it over one shoulder before calling his son to follow him out of the home. The mother quickly grabbed a small snack of Denny's favorite pear slices, before running out of the house to meet them in front. She scooped the child up in her arms for what would be their last journey, and reached out to take her husband's hand tightly in hers, entwining their fingers. They walked briskly down the side streets, with only the glow of a single torch to guide them. The mother's shoes clicked lightly along the cobblestone roads, as they speed to her sister Vettie's hovel where Denny would remain until further notice. At last they took one last turn, and found themselves before the place. The father knocked lightly on the door and the middle-aged woman opened it to them. As Denny gazed up at her, putting a single thumb in his mouth he found himself standing before a pleasant lady with wide hips, a rounded belly, shiny black hair that fell to her thighs and was pulled into a snug braid, almond shaped gray eyes, and a beautifully gentle tan face. Vettie nodded slowly to his parents and then turned to address him saying, 'So there little man, why don't you give mommy and daddy a nice hug and kiss good bye now?'
Good bye? It was the one word his young vocabulary had no place for. The one concept he had yet to learn. What was this good bye? Did it mean that they were not coming back. His young face looked up to her parents, his eyes swelling with tears and a fear gripping his heart. His father's lower lip trembled slightly as he kissed the boy upon his cheek and hugged him close. His mother did the same and slipped into his pocket a simple copper wedding band.
'Daddy gave mommy that so that she knew he loved her. Now I am giving it to you so you know we both love you.' She said softly.
He fingered the warm ring in his pocket and mustered his strength as he was lead inside by his aunt. With his face pressed up against the glass he waved one last time to his parents as they sped off into the night. He never saw them again.
News reached his aunt's ears soon after that his mother became ill at heart and ended her life and that his father fled the city but was caught in the forests surrounding Iridine by bandits and killed. Eventually, even Vettie got terribly ill and passed on leaving the poor lad on his own.
The morning after Vettie's funeral, he rose early. He walked over to the small washing bowl, and splashed the water on his face, before dressing in his tunic and breeches. He slipped the sack over his shoulder and put the oversized ring on his small finger. He walked across the room and down the narrow stairway and exited the home through the front door. As he stepped out into Iridine and wandered the streets he had so often with his mother and father he found himself in front of the Stone Toga Inn.
Denny is 5 years old and an orphan, but there is a love in his heart, and an innocence in his eyes that even the hardest in Iridine cannot look at without feeling a bit of light shine on his soul. He carries a heavy weight for one of so little years, but he bears it with a smile and remains content. Denny has and will keep his promise. He will never forget the parents that loved him so dearly, nor the aunt that made sacrifices so he might live comfortably. Instead, he will keep them in a sheltered place within himself and remember them each time the morning sun kisses his round face, and the night's cool wind lulls him to sleep.