ACHARIUS - They Saved Me as Much as I Saved Them
Merwood, Dread Hideout
Acharius caught the piercing sound of a whistle in his ear. Summoning him from his dreams of being on a ship at sea. Catching the smell of salty water and feeling the splash of it on his skin and hair. Listening to the slosh of waves against the bow.
The screeching sound made him lurch to a sitting position. Something’s wrong.
He stumbled from the caves. Blinking quickly to try and fight his way from the haze of his rare slumber he swept up his quiver and bow from the chair and headed out. Shaking his head like a wild animal as he navigated the cave. Materializing clothes, which pooled over him like oil.
As he neared the gates of Meredith House, he caught the whiff of a wild animal. Heard Agatha’s frantic shouts.
Something is in the garden. Still Combatting the fog of sleep, he tripped through the gate. Swinging it wide revealed Agatha standing on the bench. A driter running wild circles around it, grunting viciously and tossing its head to snap chomping teeth.
Acharius squinted his eyes closed to focus. Drawing his arrow, he blew a steadying breath and pulled his bow taught. Aiming the arrow based on the sound of the driter’s grunting. Peeling one eye open he saw it rushing around the front of the bench again. He let the arrow fly and it found its home. Embedding deeply in the driter’s heart just behind its shoulder.
It fell forward on its flat snout and skid through the grass and flowers until coming to a stop.
Agatha let the whistle fall from her fingertips, still dancing uncomfortably atop the bench as she stared at the dead animal, horrified. “How’d it get in here?” She asked. Huffing breaths.
“I’ve no idea.” He strode over and knelt to put his hands to its side. “I would guess someone had to have let it in. You have to start keeping the gate locked.”
“What about-” She slowly climbed down from the bench.
“I can flip it from the outside.”
Agatha nodded. White hair loose from the bun atop her head. Her clothes dirtied and disheveled from her flight to safety and frantic dance to escape the reach of the beast’s ferocious teeth and claws.
“What is it?” Agatha read his face.
“These spots, Aggie.” He pointed to a few red sores on the animal’s side.
“What are they?”
“I’d say they’re the taint of Cimmerii. They had something to do with its presence here.”
“Oh, no.” She breathed. Her head shooting up to look around anxiously.
A door slammed on the House.
“Go!” Agatha shoved his shoulder. “Don’t let her see you.”
“Go!” She demanded. “She’ll be in danger if she’s anything to do with you.
His brows knitted but he climbed to his feet and let her shove him back several steps before he turned and vanished out the gate.
Tonight Acharius’ large gray silhouette sat high in the apple tree, bow slung along his back. Leather hood pulled low. Legs outstretched along the wide branch, his back to the trunk as he tossed the fruit back and forth.
She sat on the bench below him.
The night sky above was peaceful. Quiet. Stars bright diamonds in the blackness.
Acharius’ dark blonde hair ran aside his face and over his shoulders. His light eyes staring Heavenward. The shadow of a beard darkened his chin. Chastain spoke sadly of Udora Novavax.
“How’d you know how to get away?” He asked
“A dream. A voice…He-”
“He?” The apple fell and thunked to the bench next to her.
To her credit, she didn’t look up, keeping her word.
His gut wrenched in fear. Had Radix let her go as a trap?
What if he knows she’s here? Acharius’ hand fell to the branch next to him as he straightened, scanning every direction. We could all be in danger. But there was nothing. The Merwood was silent.
“He told me where to go. A sacred place you could only enter if you were special. A place where light can grow.”
I know where that is. He swallowed.
Radix couldn’t have shown her that. He relaxed against the trunk. Radix had no understanding of Dread doors. If he was able to use them, he wouldn’t have needed his precious Udora to begin with.
“He told me to take them to the center of town and through the light. He arranged for people to meet us.”
“Can you tell me who he was?”
“I knew his name then.” She whispered. “But I can’t remember anymore. I forgot many details when I was pulled through the light to here.”
He drew his knees to his chest.
They were quiet a moment in shared silence.
He wished she could remember more. “Do you know where you came out?”
“A cave, I think.” Her voice was thoughtful. “It was stone, I’m sure I saw a burn where I came through. Then I chased light until I saw the house.”
“High time you get some rest.” He murmured.
I’ve something to check out.
“I am tired. I’m glad you talk with me. I’ve no one else to confide in.”
“Goodnight, Chastain.” He told her as she rose to go in.
Go in. Where it’s safe.
“Goodnight.” She headed in and went to her chamber.
He’d reached the heavy gates and unhooked them when her voice stopped him.
“Wait! Can I know who I say goodnight to?”
He hesitated a long while. “I was Acharius Sevence once.”
When I was something more than a shadow guarding a cave…
“So, who are you now?”
Hard to explain.
“Just his shadow, Little One.” It was all he could think to say. His voice floated over the gate as it closed behind him.
“Confide in the women, Chastain…Perhaps you’re not the only lost soul they’ve taken in hand...”
And he was gone.