Ch. 50.1 – Eli pushed through the rejoicing throngs and raced back outside, searching for his brothers. He was looking for giant boars, but what he saw were two large human men coming towards him, dressed in rags. Even with their long, tangled hair and beards, he recognized them.
His brothers’ faces lit up when they saw him.
“Eli!” Matthew rushed forward and wrapped Eli in a bear hug. Then he pushed away and looked down at him. “Eli, I’m sorry I sent you away that day. I never listened to what you had to say. I was cruel to you and Ezra, and my selfish actions have probably cost us our father’s life. Can you ever forgive me?”
Eli looked into his brother’s face. The arrogance was gone. Sorrow, weariness, and humility had replaced it. “Of course. We’re family, right?” Eli hugged him again, and then turned to Mark.
Mark had tears in his eyes. “Forgive me too, little brother?”
“Come here.” Eli’s heart soared as he hugged Mark.
Mark looked at his hands in wonder. “I’ll never take anything for granted ever again.”
“Have you seen Ezra?” Matthew asked. “I need to apologize to him too.”
“Sorry, I haven’t seen him yet. I’m sure he’s here somewhere.”
“Do you know what happened to my wife and son?”
“They were taken by the trolls, but I don’t know where.”
Eli looked at Matthew, who swallowed hard. There was a possibility that Ella and Sam hadn’t survived.
Butterfingers came up beside them. “Never fear, Sire. We gnomes will sort through the people. If we find Princess Ella and Prince Samuel, I’ll personally bring them to you at the castle.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate any help you can give.”
Eli gestured at the castle. “Right now we’d all better go up and see Father. The last I heard, he was barely alive.”
They had just turned to go back to the castle when they heard a shout. They turned back around.
Coming across the dirt valley was a woman, holding hands with a small boy.
“Ella! Sam!” Matthew bellowed. He raced out across the valley and met them. He grabbed them into his arms, weeping. “I thought you were dead.” He and Ella kissed each other.
Sam tugged on Matthew’s beard. “Daddy, Daddy, guess what? I was a donkey.”
Matthew swung his little son up onto his shoulder. Then, with his arm around Ella, they made their way back towards the castle.