To my honey bee who is currently navigating the very stars that will bring her home ;)
Chapter 16: The Next 24 Hours
"So that’s it?"
Water dripped from the ripples of his furrowed brow as he looked discontented. Something rumbled deep inside of him that could’ve been one of two things: hunger or nerves. He knew there was more to the story and tired of hearing her screams, her cries for help…her crying all in itself…he didn’t want to hear anymore, he lacked the will to kill and was deprived of any and all stature to watch someone else die.
He threw the trident down the hall and watched it skid along the puddled floor, water dripping from the ceiling and rotted walls. She looked up at him with such a vacant stare.
"A lot has happened in these last 48 hours and I’m just…I’m tired…I just want to keep going, I just…", his voice fell to a slight whisper and his head hung down, "…I just need to keep going…please don’t keep me here". All that was left to do was to be on his knees to make this a fully fledged beg. The energy to do so, however, just wasn’t there. She reached up to his forearm and grabbed hold, tugging on it just a little as he gripped her arm and pulled her up standing. They used each other for balance as they both stood straight and tried their best to keep from falling.
"You need to know something…" she said.
"Your beloved…your cherished…she is not where you think her to be." Her face showing resignation toward this fact though all in all it didn’t stop her from telling him.
"What?" He said, hardly ever the chance to emit that same tone of anger or worry…he just accepted whatever fact she could tell him now without the required "aha!" moment of surprise. His eyes could barely look up as he knew she was nodding.
"She’s not in Hollas…Victor knew you’d be coming after her and proposed to throw you off…he had you from the very beginning. The whole idea was never to stop you…but to kill you. You’ve no clue the damage you’ve done to him and you just being alive this very moment makes the world a very difficult place to live."
He simply sighed and kept his eyes closed, almost falling asleep due to the very lack of it. He put an arm on her shoulder and shook his head.
"Don’t lie to me…"
"I’m not lying to you", she took his hand off her shoulder and let him sway a little as it settled back to his side. He ran his fingers through his wet hair and took note once again of the battered state he was in. Feeling like the wheels of a wine wagon ran over him 10 times and the hooves of said horses kicking his legs 10 times more. Standing wasn’t the hardest part.
It was living.
"Where is she…" he said silently.
"You know I ca…", he cut her off.
"Where is she??", just slightly more gruff.
"Look…I’m stuck down here just as you are and you might as well accept the fact that we both aren’t going to make it out alive."
"I didn’t ask you that…you tell me where she is…", his voice complacent, hardly the energy to raise it above a single octave as they seemed zombie-like, standing in the middle of the hallway mumbling to each other from an outside perspective…though between them their words were as clear as day…a day he hasn’t seen in 48 hours. She reached over and clutched his hand softly.
"Accept it…", she whispered. "You’re never going to see her again."
He looked up at her and said nothing.
"You’re kidding me with this? I save your life and you’ve got me bent over a horse like a bag of supplies, useless supplies heading out to be thrown into the ocean…why?!?!", his screams went unheard to the rider. Silas, trotting along on his horse while Augustus was bent and tied over the rear end of this mighty steed.
"Hush up…if we don’t ride like this, they’re going to know that we survived and our own fates are to end much worse than what they could’ve been."
Both riding out onto a plain valley, a river laying just on the other side of a hill they were trailing alongside of. Silas knew his destination while Augustus was simply covered in a potato sack, wiggling to get free but deep inside knowing that if he does his freedom will be short-lived.
Uruk patrols going along the forest edge in search of both missed the obvious signs of two men on a horse leaving the far end of the brush and now hidden behind the tall rolling hills and blowing grass which led straight to where they needed to be. The water sounded sweet to Augustus, only able to view it through the slight pinholes that a potato sack could afford; the cross-stitching scratching his skin and causing minor irritation…both personally and physically.
"You’ve gotta be kidding me…"
"I’m not Augustus, now hush…up!"
The stallion of which trotted along the banks of a clear-water river flowing to gently, its trickling speed almost hypnotic and just enough to provide the perfect pastoral scene…laying along the banks and just closing one’s eyes, letting the water itself carry a soul along for the ride, gently caressing and rocking it to a sweet slumber. The impossibility of this happening, along with everything else that’s happened, is obvious…but it never hurt to imagine.
Augustus did just that, the horse’s rolicking tempo slowly bringing Augustus toward the banks of unconsciousness, teasing him to jump in and forget everything that’s happened…if only temporarily. And he did. Passing out with only the soft click of the horse’s heels and trickling water to keep him company, better than a mother and her newborn staying together in a room with not but the silence of air around them. Her, singing softly…the baby closing its eyes with a gentle blink and forgetting the minimal state of existence. What a soft tune she sang, free-flowing like a river and carrying along an improvised rhythm…something gentle…water lapping against small rocks and continuing along its journey. To this, he fell asleep not minding the rough road this horse decided to take or the silence that befell Silas as he held the reigns firmly, but not tightly.
As sudden, however, as the scene faded into recent memory and recorded itself deep within the mindset, Augustus was rattled awake by a pair of giant hands grabbing the sack he was hiding in and feeling as if he was tossed over a shoulder and carried with a grunt into a market. Hardly one to see, Augustus looked through the cross-stitching and noticed a few things:
- It was dark (must be night)
- There were a few men standing with candles and whispering
- The door that opened had rusty nails louder than stampeding cattle
- The slam rattled his teeth but rattled a few floorboards just as well (they were on a floor above a room)
- The rough accent and heavy glass that hit the table every so often indicated a man of ill reputation
"Oi…whot is this? Potayt’os?"
His accent was heavily English…upgraded to a very ill reputation. Augusutus kept motionless, apparently this gentleman hadn’t noticed that this sack of potatoes contained a very live, very scared man inside of it.
"From the marshlands, the villages over there cultivate using the special herbs in the forest…not only do they look good, they taste amazingly good."
He could hear the other man smile.
"Nauw oi didn’t become the best transpoht mahn in the entyyyyre country by bringing alohne bahgs of pots…whot cahn you ohffa mee in tha fohm of payment?"
Silas could be heard digging in his pockets and a soft dangling dragged out from the material, slamming it down on the table as both men stood silent for some time. The only image being played in Augustus’ head was that of swords unsheathing and blood splattering and sinking through the cross-stitch. This didn’t ring as a good situation at all.
"Ha!! Thaht is a bit of shine to us, ay lads!"
A hardy chorus of men standing around the room, unnoticed from inside the sack harkened their approval and they laughed loudly, bringing out what was heard to be the finest silver pints a bartender could ever dream of.
"So…this is good enough?" Silas said.
The man’s shadow cast over the bag as his arm raised into the air, closer to the candle that was lighting a dim room. Investigating it slowly, the angle of his shadow changed carefully, dancing against the cross-stitch as Augustus tried his hardest to predict what it was.
"Ay…" the man said without further linguistic approval. He carefully looked at the object and said in a lowly voice, almost as if he were bemused by what he held.
"Ay…Oi’d say this is ah staht of a new pahtnaship…lads?"
The other men, now less loudly, groaned their approval and their nods could be seen by the shadows projected on the walls.
"Straight to the Dunes?"
"Ay…streht to tha Doons with you…"
As sudden, again, as it had all started so now the sack was grabbed by the feet end and dragged along the floor, splinters from the boards sticking through the small holes in the cross-stitch and sticking Augustus in the back; he struggled to stay quiet and even covered his mouth.
"Oiiii…" the man who was dragging it had drawled out in a jagged voice, "…this…is…heavy…"
Augustus felt the weight of the bag shift, surely now he was pulling it over his shoulder and leaning his body forward to drag him out the door and into a wagon, loaded up with baked goods that Augustus could smell and no less resist the temptation of sneaking a peek…maybe a bite of said bounty.
He peeked outside the bag just far enough as the bag tailgate was closed and the men retired for the night into their upstairs bar room. Torches lined the wall outside the door which glowed two sillouhettes: one which was Silas, and the other he couldn’t make out other than just being a large man, both in height and in dimensions…he was round, fat perhaps…and his head stayed on point with Silas as he pointed a road out straight ahead.
"Tayke this road and it’ll tayke you streht out uv heah…buht beweh…sentries alohng this roahd keep an eye out foh people liyke ya…" he let out a hardy laugh…
"Speahk friend…and entah…"
Silas nodded and knickered the horses with their bridles, the wagon knocked along slowly and found the smooth part of the road as the shadow of the fat man passed saluting Silas at once. Augustus kept a careful eye outside of the bag, making sure he wasn’t seen. Though…it seemed strange that even as the wagon passed, the fat man kept his eye locked on it…with Silas’ back to him, the fat man saluted once again…almost as if looking straight at Augustus hidden in the sack.
He laughed loudly and entered the bar.
"You’re not going to keep me here…you can’t stop me, nothing…can stop me. If I survived your little house of horrors and faced down those two ass-looking, poor excuses for witches…you’re nothing but a grain of sand I’m going to push over with my foot."
His hand raised and grabbed her shoulder, feeling the strength gather in his arms, he attempted to move her…pushing her slightly and making her swaying body tilt to one side, allowing him passage, she tried to stop him.
"You can’t…you won’t…you…are going to die"
"So sure of it huh? Well…you keep being sure of it and while you’re at it, take that assignment for me…you die…I’ve got better things to do."
With that said, she allowed him passage in the slow tempo he could carry…but without further surprise, she pulled a knife out from behind her, one she’s had hidden all this time…an 8 inch monster picked up from the same plaque that he kidnapped the trident from. She swung around with such force and energy, almost as if she regained total life again and vanquished whatever fear held her down. She grabbed him by the shoulder with such strength, he turned in amazement and saw the gleam of the weapon flashing down at him from above.
With a deft move, he swatted her hand away and simply stepped aside, letting the weight of the enormous blade carry her body past him, giving him the leverage to knock her down and turn the tables. Wrestling the knife away from her and laying her on her back as he now pinned her down and held it high above her heart ready to strike, required to strike…he wasn’t going to have anymore surprises and finally lost whatever trust he had for the people down here. Without further a due, he lowered the knife and plunged it deep…
Though this would’ve worked in another situation, this time was completely different. In his mind, it worked out like clockwork but no matter…he had no energy to move at all and simply watched her with this blade in her hand, her hand on his shoulder and the eyes of a killer focused straight on its prey. He stayed in place and watched her lower the knife almost immediately, as if the wind had given her extra strength and the Fates grabbed her wrist speeding her strike.
He moved not.
Her hand struck down with the strength of the Gods, Zeus himself would’ve struck such a powerful pose if he were driving such a knife through the heart of his enemy, so hard it was driven that Zeus could’ve gone down to one knee…his enemy smote on the ground laying flat with its hands in a “stop, no…wait…” figure…almost as if it pleaded for mercy from the God of Thunder before he dug the metal deep in its dark heart.
This was the strength she moved with and struck with and pushed so hard with.
A huge clang was heard…and Augustus simply looked on in general disgust.
"Even when I let you live…you turn and try to kill me…"
Her eyes darted, she didn’t know what to do…the knife bent, it broke…it shattered and fell to the ground as soon as it touched what she thought was his skin. She fell to her knees, now her strength zapped from the magical place from whence it came.
The time of revelation, the piano of discovery…it played a soft tune, three notes of realization…he leaned down and whispered as she was on her knees.
"Where is she…"
"But you can’t…you can’t…you can’t survive, you shouldn’t have survived, you…"
"…Katja…I’m not human…I’m a disease, I’m…I’m what the darkness once feared in this God forsaken place…I’m an idea, resilient and death-less…I’m everything that love, lust, power is…never ending. Now, I’m going to let you live and let you figure out how you’re going to get out of here so you can run back to Rimulan and tell him what has happened here…and you tell him this.
I’m a form that takes place when his fear of the dark bubbles up inside of him…I am the teeth of his fear, the sharp claws that grip his heart when he can’t sleep…I’m not imposing but I promise you…I’m coming for him and when I find him…
I will end him.”
Unusual for the soft-faced lover he is…
"…where is she…"
She didn’t respond as he lowered his shirt and revealed the golden armor draped over his shoulder where she attempted to dig the knife, a huge dent all that was left of her weapon. The armor appeared much similar to that of Merius’ gloves…but golden and no less strong.
"I came what I was looking for…and I’m leaving here with or without your answer."
"Rune…" she said weakly, "…she’s in the desert of Rune."
Augustus turned and walked through the door, breaking off its knob and pushing it open ever so slightly as he turned back and looked at her.
"I’m coming for her…tell Victor…I’m coming for her."
[To be continued ;)]