That night Acharius worked to build the girls a shelter in the woods. Somewhere hidden and-with any luck, safe. Before reinforcing the structure, itself, he built a high wooden fence. That ought to deter most Cimmerii.
When he came to check on them the following morning he came with gifts. Kneeling before them he handed them a tiny bag with seeds he’d collected during the night.
The girls sat on the grass before him.
“Plant trees here.” He pointed to the grass below them, surrounded by the tall fence. “Fruit will keep you fed. And hide the structure from the woods.” He pointed beyond the fence.
“Thank you.” The younger one whispered.
Don’t thank me. You still might die out here.
The older one stepped forward. “She’s Agatha and I’m Margaret. We’re daughters of Igonox. That means we pay our debts.” She formally announced. “How do we repay you?”
“You repay me by living here safe, until you’re old enough to leave. And by planting these trees so you may eat well. I’ll not always be able to find meat for you.” He warned.
“All of which helps us.” The older said.
In theory. He eyed their tiny frames askance before nodding to himself. Ye, they’re going to perish.
“How do we help you?” The younger insisted.
“You may watch the ridge,” he pointed to the hilltop where there was a break in the trees. “up there in the evening before you rest. And if you see something unsettling you blow this.” He lifted two tiny wood whistles he’d painstakingly carved for the girls.
“If anything tries to harm you. Blow into them.”
“What’ll happen when we blow them?”
My ears will split in me skull.
“It will make a noise so horrible it’ll wake me from any slumber.”
The girls nodded.
“Today you’ll weave some baskets from the wide grass. Do you know how?”
Please bloody well know how.
The older sister nodded.
“In the afternoon I’ll return and show you where to find berries to eat.”
The older girl impulsively lurched forward to clutch his neck. “You’re a savior.”
He reared back but she hung on. Bloody Hell. He’d never been good with touching. Not how I was raised.
“I’m just a man.”
There was a long silence as he set her back from him. “You’ll have to be careful in these woods, do you understand me?”
They blinked at him.
They’re going to die. He frowned.
“There are things like what your father was becoming, out here.” He gestured to the woods.
“We understand.” The younger girl of perhaps eight years, said solemnly.
No, you don’t. They will eat you.
“You’re going to protect us.” The older girl said slowly. “We understand. Someday, we’ll protect you.”
Oh…Now that’s simply nonsense. He felt awful. Looking from one face to the other he sighed.
Lips moving into a faint smile. “There’ll never be a need for that.”