Johnny pinched the bridge of his nose, tired of looking over the old map for the hundredth time. He wasn't getting anywhere, nor was he making any progress with the information he already had. He knew that if he announced to the army that he had discovered nothing, they would start to grow restless. He leaned back in his chair and sighed. What should he do?
Just then, Johnny’s grandfather, William, came strolling into the tent with two cups of tea in his hands. He smiled at his grandson and said, “You've been at work for hours, my boy. Have some tea with me and take a break.” He set a cup of steaming tea on Johnny’s desk.
Johnny eyed the tea, watching the steam rise and dissolve into the air. He shook his head and went back to examining the map. “Grandfather, I don’t know what to do. I've looked at this map over and over again, and I've read up on at least fifty different reports! But I can’t find this damn hideout!”
The tent went quiet. William looked down at Johnny, his old, grey eyes saddened by the state of his grandson. “I know you want to catch the bad guy. But you can’t do that when you’re weak like this. When was the last time you had a decent eight hours of sleep?”
“I've slept, grandfather," Johnny muttered.
“No, you've taken naps. You haven’t crawled into bed and actually slept.” He sipped his tea and sighed. “I’m worried about you, Johnny. Overworking yourself will be the death of you.”
Johnny stood up and walked over to a stack of papers. He took one off the top and skimmed through the details, his dark, blue eyes shooting rapidly from side to side. “Grandfather, I won’t end up like Dad.” He turned and gave William a reassuring smile. “I just have to keep working on this. I know I’m close, grandfather. I know it.”
William wanted to believe his grandson, but he couldn't. The bags under Johnny’s eyes had grown substantially over the past few weeks, and his face looked tired and worn. But William knew that Johnny wouldn't listen to anything he said. He’s just like his father, William thought.
“Alright, I’ll leave you to your work then. Just promise me that you’ll get some sleep tonight. Okay, my boy?”
Johnny sat back down at his desk and nodded. “Yes, I’ll try. Goodnight, grandfather.”
The old man smiled before taking his tea and leaving the tent. The entire camp was already asleep, minus the night watchers. William wished that Johnny would see the importance in taking care of himself. If only he would see it.
Johnny knew his grandfather was worried about him, and he wanted nothing more than to calm the old man's nerves, but this was important. Johnny was in charge of uncovering the location of a hidden bandit camp which has been at large for years. If he could pinpoint their location and terminate it, many roads would be safer for travel.
The steam from the tea started to disappear altogether. Johnny sighed and grabbed the cup, taking a sip and feeling the relaxing powers of his grandfather's tea going to work on his tired body. He smiled, happy to have such a caring family member at his side.
Just then, the tent door flew open, and a man dressed in dirty leather armour stood before Johnny. He looked ecstatic and out of breath.
"Sir, we've captured one of them!" he shouted, gasping for breath in between words.
Johnny stood up and asked, "You caught one?"
The tired man nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! Come, hurry!"
This was it. If Johnny could get the information out of this bandit, then he might be able to find their base and exterminate them all! But then again, this was a base of highly skilled criminals. Who's to say this one would talk to him? Truthfully, it was a surprise to Johnny to hear his men had actually managed to capture a bandit. Nevertheless, Johnny threw on his jacket and quickly followed the army man in dirty leather armour.
It was in the centre of their camp where everyone was gathered. There was shouting from the excited men, all aiming their angry words at the young bandit who had been tied to a post in the middle of the crowd.
Johnny pushed through everyone until he stood before the captured bandit. He walked up and looked down at the pathetic-looking teen. His clothes were ripped and dirty, his black hair hung over his face in a tangled mess, and he didn't move. Johnny almost thought the boy was dead.
"Bandit, you have been captured by the men of Arbour Province," Johnny announced, loud enough for everyone to hear. "I suggest you co-operate with us, or else there will be consequences." Everyone quietly waited for the bandit's response, wondering if he would say anything at all.
The bandit swayed his head before looking up at Johnny. His pale face was covered in black bruises and bleeding cuts. When Johnny looked into the bandit's eyes, he was surprised by the beautiful amethyst orbs staring back at him.
In a hoarse voice, the bandit said, "I am of the Conatio Bandits. We are a not just a group, but a family. And as a member of that family, I would never give them up to the likes of you." He scowled, anger eminent in his violet eyes.
The crowd started acting up, shouting and cursing at the bandit. They wanted to run up and beat the young bandit to a pulp, but they knew they shouldn't get too close. Not when Johnny was still talking to him.
Johnny crossed his arms and glared at the dirty boy in front of him. He looked no older than twenty, yet he had the aura of an adult. Johnny almost felt pity for the boy, being raised as a bandit and all.
"You have the night to think about what you want to do. Until then," Johnny turned and faced the men in the crowd surrounding him, "I want everyone to leave this boy alone, you hear me? If any of you lay one finger on him without my consent, I will personally see to your immediate disposal. You have been warned." He looked down once more at the boy, still somewhat intrigued by the unusual shade of violet in his eyes. When he was satisfied, he spun around and headed back to his tent, signalling for all of the men to get back to their beds or stations.
One man was still left where the large crowd had been standing. He slowly walked towards the young bandit until he was only a few feet in front of the boy. The bandit looked up at the old man and asked, "What do you want?"
The old man smiled and held out a slice of bread. "You'd best eat now, while no one's around."
The bandit was confused, but ate the bread from the old man's hand. "Thank you, sir," he uttered through a mouth full of bread.
"I must be going. It's late and way past my bedtime." The old man stretched his arms into the air, cracking his back and letting out a relieved sigh. With a smile and a wave, he whispered, "Sleep well, bandit."