To my honey bee who despite all the challenges she faces seeks solace in my words…I’ll never stop writing for you, rain or shine ;)
Chapter 17: The Ties That Bind (the next 12 hours)
The day sun was admittedly a little rough, hot…sticky…kind of rude in such a way that if you were to take a nap under it, it would be the jerk friend to wake you up by throwing sand on your face instead of water. Needless to say at this point that his lips were dry and so were his dreams, waking up with a slightly throbbing headache and parched skin around his mouth. A nail that held down the floorboards to the cargo area of this wagon grew hot and seared softly against his cheek. Not unlike a hot poker that would be used to brand cattle or anything with a thick hide…this nail was not of that size but nevertheless hurt just as much. He fluttered open his eyes just a little, taking note that the wagon had stopped moving and the wine bottle that put him under last night lay empty, rolling along the dried wooden floorboards. It rolled toward him, bumping his head and making a hollow glass clinking sound before rolling back toward the wagon door at the end.
He lifted his head up a little and squinted his eyes in the bright sun, skies as blue as God would define them to be and the rolling valleys just a couple miles down this sandy trail, just as green as they were while the horse trod over them. He could see them from a distance and wasn’t sure whether it was a mirage. Though as well fed as the horses were, it became apparent that they had to sustain themselves on something and there was no grass on this barren landscape.
The valleys glowed an emerald green under this bright sun, so bright in fact that close to its point in the sky the blue now seemingly faded into a light yellow from the outskirts but then became a bright white as he looked straight at the center of this star that gave the world light.
He put his hand over his forehead to keep shade and his vision sharpened, looking around for the vultures that surely would’ve sniffed out their close-to-dead bodies by now…but nothing. It seemed that if this was God’s land, he clearly wanted no neighbors.
"It’s hot…" he said, as he thought, to himself.
"It’s hot…" he sighs, "…and there’s nobody around. Yeap…we came out here to die."
The sarcasm was palpable.
His eyes remained in a squinted fashion, almost closed by the light of day but certainly no less focused. He looked around for his wagon master, the giant known as Silas but even he was nowhere to be found. Picked off by the vultures already? This day was starting off in just the right fashion.
"Silas!" his voice echoed off down the trail and through a canyon that he couldn’t see over the crest of the hill.
"SILAS!" he yelled louder, cupping his hands around his mouth, wiping the sand from it gently and whipping them to the ground to remove the grains from his fingers. He looked at his hands and found them callassed, dried up from his passing out in the wagon all morning and allowing the sun to have its way with him.
"I see you’re awake!"
A jovial voice rumbled down the hillside right next to the wagon as sand avalanched slowly down in small groups, giving way to this giant’s footsteps as he rumbled down with an oreck over his shoulder.
"I brought breakfast…", the steadfast smile on this man was unusual for the ordeal they had just gone through in the forest…he was certainly happy about something and, according to Augustus, it has to be good in order for him to keep so happy.
"…and what’s got you in such a good mood?"
"…breakfast…" Silas looked up at Augustus and laughed heartily, patting…no, hitting…him on the shoulder, knocking down the wayward soul that at once just wanted to reach his beloved. He tossed the oreck into the back of the wagon with Augustus, blood splattering along the walls from the arrow wound straight to the heart that the ever-accurate Silas surely threaded with his trusty bow and allowed his eye to be the catalyst in letting the dagger fly, cutting through the air at blinding speed and striking the animal with such effectiveness…it must’ve fallen to the ground painless and lifeless from such a shot.
He was this good.
"As part of our culture, we pray to God before we hunt and explain to him that this is for survival…not sport…I can’t stand hunting for entertainment, it’s pointless and a waste to God’s beautiful creation…"
Silas’ Christian viewpoint comforted Augustus a little though the sight of an Oreck laying lifeless beside him in the wagon shook him…he decided to ride up front with the wagon master himself and take the air straight on in the face as opposed to lay in hiding along with dead animals.
Breakfast was an amazing feast that Silas prepared with spices straight from the land itself…a meal as delicious as one Augustus had shared at the Baron’s house not more than…
He can’t remember when it was last he was at the castle.
"Do you remember her face?" said Silas as he took a bite from his dried out meat, spiced with a grinding of lemon and pepper, rock salt that he’d collected from his homeland before departing on this adventure, "…her face…your beloved, do you remember it clearly? Surely you do or the value of this journey wouldn’t be so treasured."
Augustus closed his eyes as the scent of food distracted him. He was so hungry but tried his hardest to put that aside and remember.
"I…I can’t…this food has got me all tied up, I’m so hungry and I haven’t eaten in a few days…"
At this Silas laughed and took Augustus’ plate, putting it away and covering it from the day’s sun as he did the same with his own.
"Now try…think of a scene, think of a memory with her…one you shared with her, you just need perspective."
Augustus closed his eyes and for a few seconds…it was black. Few voices came into his head as he attempted to sort them out in the library of his mind, putting them in all their proper places as he picked them up from the floor…dusting them off from quite the shaken events that had taken place previously. He could see his hand run over the covers of books with people’s names on them:
[…there you are…this is the one I was looking for but the pages are missing…I see words all thrown together in a jumble.
Maybe if I look at the book a little longer, it’ll come into view]
The pages were parched but slowly repairing themselves; the cracks that were in plain view disappared and the faded text became black with the darkest ink once more. The empty letters filled in and shaped themselve to his view so he could see these words…but they weren’t words that were making sense. First, the letters were in different spaces, floating around on the page as if they were iron heavy upon a river bank of oil…floating along in their ink and coming together, being pulled by the attraction and becoming words.
Though this wasn’t it.
[Damn…what was it that she told me…the most recent thing, c’mon now man you have to remember.]
As he tried his hardest, the memories slowly came together in a soup of words but no sentences…this was the next step. The words were together and yet still didn’t make sense in the order of which they were placed. He placed the book down on the grated floor with books and shelves surrounding him and with his hands he moved the words around on the page, putting them in order and seeing the sentences they’d form…none of which made any sense.
In his frustration, he sat down next to the book, angry at his memories for betraying him and running farther away as opposed to coming closer…almost as if she wanted nothing to do with him, almost as if she wanted to push him away locking her words in a messy combination that would take him 3 lifetimes to figure out. He cried a little and shut his eyes tightly, gripping the closed book titled “Delilah” in his hands.
[“Careful…you can wake up now”]
Her voice rang soft and true throughout the halls of his mind, pictured as a library…soft hands ran over his and slowly caressed them, comforted them, waned the book away as she…Delilah…sat before him, opening the dusty pages and with a simple breath put all the words together in perfect sentences and quotes, bringing numbers on the pages as the book repaired itself to new.
She closed it slowly and put it on its proper shelf in its proper placement among the library of names…but not too far, just within reach.
[“So you can always look at it whenever you feel you need to…”]
She had said with a smile…that magical smile. He remembers her smile and how precious her face was, those eyes brown and dark…mysterious they were…her hair jet black with soft curls, how he loved it when it was wet. Her voice soft and dreamy, a transition from one’s dream into one’s reality…a beautiful reality he remembered he wants with her.
Her smile and her face remained in place, her body too…the library faded and her Father’s castle walls, the white marble walls and floors came into view bathed in moonlight as that one night before her rushed wedding was as crystal as the chandelier that hung above the dining hall. He caught her in his arms as Victor was walking down the stairs.
Augustus stared into those deep eyes and whispered, “Careful…you can wake up now”.
That moment, he remembered…her beautiful features and never ending flow of her body in his hands…his fingers pressed into her back as he felt such the urge to lay a soft kiss on her, she even lost her breath as the moment counted near.
He opened his eyes as Silas kept looking at him in amazement.
"That must’ve been quite the memory you had…I almost don’t want to hear it simply because such things of beauty are not meant to be shared in this world…"
Augustus simply nodded and wiped the tear away from his eye.
"…you keep that close and you remember why you are where you are right now…"
His nodding didn’t cease as he didn’t look at Silas and simply reached over for his plate, running through that moment in time that was in the library in his head, her face prominently at the forefront. He holds an internal conversation with himself and promises to never let her go, keeping her face close up once again so that everytime he blinks his heart can skip a beat.
He ate slowly and relished every bite…he kept quiet and realized he was at peace because he felt her near. The journey continues and his energy slowly regains to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Their wagon continued forth, the axels creaking and bumping along every rock that lay in the road, slowly however…it sank in the thick sand that began to accumulate as they made their way up the crest of the hill. The horses whining a little more than usual as their powerful legs thrust their bodies along with the added weight of their masters up this hill, reaching the top and without a moment to lose, both collapsing in exhaustion. Immediately Augustus and Silas unloaded from the wagon, untying their bridles and cutting loose the wooden guides that connected the burden of a wagon onto these powerful beasts.
"They’re no use in pulling this wagon anymore, they’re spent…" said Silas with resignation. He sighed and considered putting the poor animals out of their misery but just then…an idea came along.
"They may not be able to haul a heavy load but individually they can still be to our advantage…they’re good horses, lets lighten the load and ride them ourselves and send this wagon on its way…the rest of the road is going to break the axels and cause more problems besides…"
Silas looked at Augustus with his plan and nodded an affirmative.
"Lets get our valuables from the wagons and let these beasts rest…when we’re done they’ll be ready."
As the day wore on, the hot sun began to weigh down on the two men, their horses however covered by a makeshift canopy put together from the clothing that was in the wagon, letting them regain their strength while critical things were grouped up on the side of the road and loaded so as the horses could bare a lighter weight. Light weapons such as archery, medium blades, and smaller shields fit for a normal size man were piled up with 2 days worth of food and water…a horse could carry on with this weight for weeks at a time if they had a place to graze which is what Silas was hoping for along their way.
Everything packed and locked into place, they both saddled their own horse and mounted…riding over the crest of the hill as now the true power of these animals was felt with every step…their trot even seemed to be with more event in every step than before.
Galloping at a medium speed, they covered more ground as the sun began to sink into the horizon, Augustus and Silas making their way along the road with their steeds kicking aside the rocks and clearing a path for them as they made it to another crest, 25 miles away. They took a rest and dismounted, walking a short distance, trusting their horses to graze closeby without having to assign a search party for them.
"My ass hurts man…can’t we just sit down somewhere, my legs are about to give out…"
Augustus complained, as usual, behind Silas who was pushing forward to reach the bottom portion of the crest, looking out at the sandy valley with the sun in his eyes.
"The Dunes…friend…are no place for weakling…if you plan on getting eaten in these parts, I’d suggest you keep complaining…if you plan on surviving, I suggest you keep close and keep walking as I do, these parts aren’t made for the weak."
He put his hand on his forehead and peered out into the plain valley that stretched on for quite a distance…Augustus paid no attention and simply closed his eyes, almost panting out of breath. He put his hands on his knees and bent over to rest as best he could as Silas let his jovial tone sound again.
"There it is!"
He pointed out as the Sun shined brightly against a black pattern, creating a shadow in what appeared to be a triangle pyramid…an enormous edifice guarding what seemed to be the entrance of said temple.
"…that’s what we came for Augustus, look!!"
Augustus straightened his back, looking out into the valley and seeing the same thing.
"What the hell is that?" he questioned.
"Augustus, this is what we came for…Rimulan’s cache has an item of such val…"
Augustus cut him off immediately.
"How do you know him?" he asked sternly, suddenly becoming very weary at the idea of his companion…was this all a trap? Should he suddenly feel a knock out blow coming from behind and then wake up to find himself tied up to some other contraption that is to ensure his demise.
Silas turned to him and said, “Merius has been in dealings with Rimulan from the very start…I know him because my brother has used him before to defeat my armies…I just never let on to it…Merius holds a weapon that Rimulan made for him but only an imitation, Rimulan holds the actual weapon for himself in a cache hidden out here in the Dunes in that very temple where hardly a soul could travel. My brother wouldn’t dare think us to be foolish enough to pursue them…but if I could reach them…my armies would finally put Merius into a corner and I could relinquish the both of them from these lands forever…”
Augustus looked on in amazement and anger…for he sees what Silas is about to say…
"I’m sorry friend…I had to use you as leverage…I told the bartender/smuggler back there that I had you as my cargo and we needed to sneak through these lands and be pointed to proper road so you could exact your revenge on Rimulan…your story is famous around these parts…you and your beloved…I know you seek her and I know the Dunes are close to where you want to be…
I used you to get here and, I’m afraid, I plan to use you to get this weapon…but it’s not without justification for you will be closer to your beloved and Rimulan will feel the exact point at which you dig your knife into him…consider this just a small stop along the way to your redemption.”
Augustus stayed quiet at this…simply looking on in anger.
"…maybe I should add that I’m sorry?"
"You son of a bitch…" Augustus whispered as he clenched his fists and walked toward Silas, "I broke my fucking leg because of you! I saved you and this is how you repay me?!" Augustus grabs Silas by the collar of his torn shirt and brings him in close, handling him with unseen strength, despite the obvious size difference.
At just the right moment, Silas turns an eye toward the valley as he sees a group of riders making quick haste toward their position.
They’ve been discovered and are about to be hunted.
[To be continued ;)]