Haidee actually yelped when she fell back down this time “shit!” she cursed when she hit the ground, angrily picking up a rock and throwing it against the wall of dirt opposite her. She threw a few rocks, needing to release frustration about more than simply being stuck here. Her heart still ached at the loss of her fiance. She couldn’t move on, even four years later she wasn’t even close to moving on. Everyone told her he’d want her to be happy but she didn’t know how to be happy without Autry. The only way she could keep herself out of depression was thrill seeking and that might have now lead her to starving to death. Nothing lived down here and she wouldn’t for much longer having already been down here two days without anything to drink or eat and whatever bit her a few hours ago was obviously going to cause something. The place where it had sank its tiny teeth into was only looking worse with time.
She sighed, leaning against the wall of dirt she was nearest too. Maybe starving to death wouldnt be so bad. Maybe, if there was an after life she’d see Autry again. She shook the thoughts away, no, she wasn’t a quitter, she wouldn’t surrender her life to this stupid ravine she had fallen into. She decided to stop trying to go back up and try walking forward awhile. The village elders had always told her this ravine just went in a humongous circle but if she walked forward instead of trying to go up maybe, just maybe somebody would see her that could help her out.
Autry hid in a bush, it stabbing into his open wounds but not bothering him. He was determined, he was going to get away from these monsters this time and he was going to get revenge on his so called friend who had drugged him and given him to these things. Most importantly, he was going to get back to Haidee and hopefully still marry her if she hadn’t moved on. He wouldn’t blame her, but he desperately hoped she hadn’t forgotten him.
“Auuuutrrryy” The goosebumps inducing, creepy voice taunted. All these beings had these otherworldly voices that were hard to describe beyond creepy. Autry clutched the dagger he had stolen, ready to fight. It wasn’t taking him back, he was more determined than ever and ready to do anything to finally get back to Haidee.
Be still. He told himself, just be still, be quiet, and wait. His fingers further tightened on the weapon and his muscles tensed when it called his name again, this time closer. He waited until it was right on top of him before making his move. Even though he was wounded, he had adrenaline and anger on his side. The blade sank in to the hilt and he quickly drew it out and struck again then turned and moved as quickly as he could away. It was wounded, maybe even worse than he was, but he wasn’t going to give it a chance to get its hands on him again. He clutched his side where his wound oozed fresh blood, but still he pushed on. Haidee, he had to get to Haidee. He had recognized the ravine the moment he had exited the dark lair of those things and it enraged him that he was so close, yet so far away from his home.
“Keep moving.” He told himself. He had to or he might fall down. He was tired and weak, pain radiating from his wound, but if he told himself to stay on his feet then he would.
That all too familiar noise those creatures made when they would move caught his ears, the others found out far sooner than he imagined. Maybe they hadn’t been stupid enough to leave only one in charge of him. “fuck” he forced his body to run, knowing it would irritate his wound but he was getting away, he had been a prisoner far too long, he had left the love of his life possibly by herself far too long. One snarled “wait” it called to it’s brethren but Autry didn’t pause, he was grateful something else would catch their attention until it uttered “a woman, the one this man smelled of when he was given to us”
Autry couldn’t help but actually stop and look around. He didn’t see her anywhere but most the pack ran toward the ravine. He remembered her wild, always doing something to scare the life out of him but would she really do something that could land her in there? There wasn’t any way up once you were down there unless you were like these creatures. He didn’t have time to question it too much even though the thought crossed his mind they could be tricking him into making himself helpless and unable to escape. Haidee could very well be down there and there wasn’t any way he was going to leave her to them.
His wounds probably wouldn’t kill him, he knew that. He was more like them now than he cared to admit to Haidee after all their experiments on him but right now, he had a small reason to be grateful for it because he couldn’t run to salvation, he had to run to her.
Haidee’s stomach twisted with hunger and thirst gnawed at her, but she ignored it. The bit itched and had swollen even more with each step. She was exhausted, but the idea of sitting down and possible not getting up again made her press on. Two days. She told herself. Two days was nothing, she could do this. “Helloooo young one.” The voice had her freezing in her tracks, her heart tripping over itself. She held her breath, listening. Was she going crazy? Had that bite been full of some sort of hallucinogenic venom? There was a laugh and she slowly turned. She nearly fell as she stumbled back at the sight of the creature. “Are you all alone?”
She reached for her sword and it laughed, sending chills cascading up her spine. “Stay back.”
“Now, now, little one. My brothers would be disappointed if I killed you before they got here. Coooome to me.”
“Leave me alone.”
“You should be far more afraid than you are, you are just like our toy. He doesn’t know when he should cower either” She tried to surprise it with an attack but it had obviously read her movements and nearly managed to steal her blade from her “tsk tsk, you don’t fight fair?”
“I’m guessing you don’t either, talking of toys” Suddenly they were everywhere, like some sort of infestation. She wished she could banish the fear from her heart but there it sat, trying to consume her as depression once had tried but she wouldn’t allow it, especially since someone obviously needed help. She felt sorry for whomever their toy was but she didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t dealing with humans and even if she was they had her outnumbered. The ones on the walls of dirt were the creepiest. There was just something unsettling about how their bodies move and grasped the dirt in their hands. She wanted to curse them simply for the fact they could somehow hold themselves up that way. Every time she had tried to even use her sword it wouldn’t hold strong enough.
She had never been one for books, the world and adventure called her name but as she stood here now she wished she was because sometimes being outnumbered doesn’t matter if you have more knowledge than the others in the situation and being humans were a fairly common thing they must know way more about her than the nothing she knew about whatever was in front of her.
When the first one moved, she barely had time to block and she was knocked back. She nearly tripped over her own feet, but managed to stay up, her fingers tightening on her sword. The thing laughed at her and she gritted her teeth. “Just leave me alone.” She said.
“Poor little human, all alone.”
“All alone and wounded.” Another said. She swallowed, but she shifted her stance, ready to fight through them or die trying.
Autry made his way down into the ravine when he came to its edge, using some of the “gifts” he had been given to cling to the side and slow his descent. The moment his feet hit bottom he took off at a run, completely ignoring his injury as he raced to save Haidee. He knew these creatures intimately, their speed and strength, how unrelenting they could be. If they caught her, they wouldn’t just kill her, they would take her back to their lair and experiment on her.
They were too well aware of their surroundings for Autry to surprise them beyond the fact he would come running to them when he had been trying to escape so long. Their attention was moved from Haidee, back to him, their four year long toy. “Autry” the leader said his name in an amused tone then laughed “truly, we thought you’d still run, at least, I did but maybe that was foolish of me. You’ve never been a coward, not for a second we’ve had you which has made you all the more fun to play with. Part of what we’re curious about is what it takes to finally make you obedient but maybe we’ve found our answer with this human female”
“Autry” she stuttered, she felt like she could barely breath. “Autry” she said it again emotionally, a few tears spilling down her cheeks. This didn’t make sense, Gormen has been the one to see him slain and devoured. She hadn’t even been able to bury her beloved and he had always been so trustworthy. She wanted to utter the question, how but she was afraid if she asked Autry would vanish. That this was hunger and her bite making her hallucinate and even though she seemed to also be in danger she wanted to stay in this delusion as long as possible if that was what it was.
It tugged at his heart to hear his name uttered by Haidee again and he wanted nothing more but to run to her and hold her tightly against him but there were all these terrible, pale, disgusting creatures between them and he was afraid of what they now might do to her to break him. Their leader had always gone through with anything he threatened so he didn’t put it past him to do unspeakable things to Haidee.
He charged at them, letting his modified senses flare out as he cut through the first of them. He could see their auras, a drastic black contrast to their pale skin. He had found it was one of the many ways they hunted, seeing the colors surrounding their victims change depending on their emotions. Even though he was fairly new at this, he could tell Haidee’s was off. She had a beautiful red mixed with orange, but it looked murky. His nose brought the scent of sickness, something he had grown used to in his time with these monsters. There was something wrong with her, but he forced himself to focus on fighting, knowing he could look her over once they were safe. “Haidee, you have to focus, baby.” He said as he dodged one of the creatures.
Haidee snapped out of her shock, her grip tightening once again on her sword as the lead monster came at her. She barely managed to get her sword up in time and shoved its hand away. Autry, she had to get through this for him. She forced herself to ignore the pain from her bite, the fever she knew was moving through her, even her thirst and hunger. She and Autry cut a path through these creatures until they were standing back to back. Her heart stuttered when she felt the pressure of him there and knew he had to be real and alive.
“stop” the leaders word was so harsh, making a few of them flinch. He sighed, smoothing the shirt he was wearing out like he was trying to gain composure “fine Autry, you have proven yourself to be too much trouble. There is always another to buy so for now, take your woman and go but be mindful, I wouldn’t mind having you both just to see how her suffering would affect you.” The group suddenly began to leave and while it seemed strange at the same time it truly was sad how easily those monsters could find another person to buy. There were too many people in this world that couldn’t see each others humanity, could sell them into a life of suffering without any thought to that person or their family. The few dead were all that remained and the two of them finally hugged, surrounded by the corpses and their green blood.
“How?” she finally asked it, already crying. He savored the hug a few more moments before saying “How can wait a second, something is wrong with you, something bad”
“you’re just confusing me more but it may be this bite and the fact I haven’t eaten in two days. I fell in here and couldn’t get out. I don’t really tell people what I’m doing any more so…I figured I was going to die down here. Am I already dead? It’s okay Autry, just tell me. You feel so real…either you didn’t die or I’m dead too now”
“Is that what he told you? That I died?” The only thing keeping the anger out of his voice was her, was touching her again and hearing her sweet voice. “are…are you telling me he lied”
“Yes he lied, he drugged me. He offered me water and though it tasted strange I drank it, thinking nothing of it since we were on the road and some rivers taste worse than others. I couldn’t do anything and my vision was hazy but I could still hear. I heard him selling me”
“selling you” her shakey, emotional voice was crystal clear now and full of out rage. “calm down my love, I have enough anger for the both of us. For now, lets get back to you. I…I’m like those creatures now…I can sense certain things so let me check you” he looked ashamed so she took his face in her hands and kissed him “listen to me, I don’t care what they’ve done to you, how they’ve changed you. I love you Autry, I haven’t stopped loving you for a second. Don’t you dare feel shame over anything your so called friend let them do to you”
He had to kiss her again, his warrior goddess was finally close to him and knew the truth and now he had the added relief she obviously hasn’t moved on to another man in these past years. It meant the world to him that even after four years he was all she wanted, even as he was now, some sort of freakish monster.
“It looks like you were bit by one of the snakes living here in the ravine. You must have startled it when you fell.”
“Is it bad?”
“You have an infection, so we need to get you out of here and to a doctor.”
“I tried getting out and now you’re down here. I shouldn’t have been so stupid.”
“Shh, it’s okay. I’m going to get you home.” He turned and squatted down. “Get on my back baby.”
“But you’re wounded too.”
“It’s alright, I’m fine, but you need help now before your infection gets worse.” He looked over his shoulder, giving her his best smile. “Trust me, I can climb out of here.”
She climbed on “still, there is nobody I trust more than you Autry. Just be careful”
“I love you Haidee, so much” he said even as he began climbing. Those horrible beings had given up on him for now but wanting to get far away from them was also on his mind. Once they were out she said “wow, so…if this will be too painful to answer it’s okay but what have they done to you. Why can you climb like them?”
“I..well…I basically am one of them now, They wanted to witness a human be changed…”
“I’m so sorry Autry, maybe if I hadn’t trusted Gormen maybe…”
“just as you told me not to feel shame do not feel bad for trusting him. I trusted him too, you had no reason to think you needed to look for me.”
“He still lives next door…”
“good, then I know where to find that sorry son of a bitch”
“perhaps you should speak with Impa and Nerweigh first, just so they are on the same page”
“if it will make you feel better I will but first thing when we’re back you’re getting checked over by a doctor”
“I don’t think that’s possible Autry, everyone is going to have questions when they see you carrying me”
“Honestly, is Keba still in the same place?”
“then we go to her. I don’t want Gormen having time to run off like the low life he is while I’m tending to you and questions”
“Thats a much longer walk and you’re hurt. Just you taking me to our home worries me” He set her down “Look at it” he knew she got it when surprise covered Haidee’s face “it’s..it’s healing on it’s own..wow”
“I will be fine” she hugged him and he cradled her now that he didn’t need his hands for anything else “emotionally though you can’t just instantly heal…don’t try to be overly brave…I’m here for you Autry”
“Thank you Haidee….” He kissed her head then asked “now how did you end up down there?”
“I was trying to vault jump over…like some child”
“why, you’ve always been wild but” he didn’t want to be mean so struggled to find a word “stupid?”
“No no no, I’ve been stupid a lot these past four years but…you have to understand…when I first heard you died..I thought I was going to fall apart but a few months later I figured out doing daring, dangerous things could keep my depression at least at bay so I just started doing risky things just to do them so I wouldn’t have to be so sad. There…there really hasn’t been any other man these four years Autry. My family..even yours told me to move on but my heart just couldn’t. It was all I could do not to just lay around and cry all the time so I’m sorry…I really am for putting myself in danger but I guess I figured it was better than drinking, drugs or trying to sleep around to fill a void I knew only you could fill”
“I get it Haidee, I am just relieved you’re still alive and we can be together again” Her stomach gave an incredibly loud, painful growl and he frowned “Maybe I should hunt you food”
“we’ll be at Kebas soon enough, truly, by the time you hunt and cook we could be there” he looked utterly distraught “Hey, I’ll be okay Autry”
“It took me so damn long to escape…too long….I could have lost you in so many ways forever because I allowed myself to get drugged and to be held so long…you could have died down there”
“Autry, I’m a grown woman who did a stupid thing. You can’t blame yourself for my foolish behavior and you certainly can’t blame yourself for what’s happened to you, I mean that, I wont hear you blaming yourself”
He sighed. “Are you sure you don’t want me to hunt something?”
“Yes, I’ll be fine.”
He nodded and continued on. He hated seeing her in so much pain, hated knowing she was hungry and thirsty. He was so relieved when they made it to Keba’s that he nearly forgot everyone thought he was dead. He let Haidee knock and wasn’t surprised when Keba froze upon opening the door. The look on her face was one of shock and disbelief and she even blinked a few times, thinking she was dreaming. “Au…Autry?”
“Oh my god, it’s you, but how?”
“Keba, we need your help. Haidee’s wounded, she has an infection and she hungry and thirsty. Please, I’ll explain, but please.”
“Um, of course…just set her down on my couch and get something going in my kitchen.” Autry did as he was told and Keba started with “dear god I don’t even know what to ask you Haidee”
“well I got hurt vault jumping something again”
“well, he’s back, he’s truly back so you wont have to worry over me any longer” By the time Autry had food ready Keba had Haidee bandaged “she should be fine now but I will send another round of antidote home just in case. Plus you know you can come right back to me. Anyway, lets sit down at the table and Autry, I need to hear about how you are alive” Haidee wanted to devour the food before her but she took it slow. She had Autry back and she didn’t want to risk feeling crappy later. She mostly just drank, grateful to finally have some water. All the while Autry filled Keba in on all the details “that…that fucking asshole” her voice was a near growl.
“yeah….I dont know when he stopped being my friend but christ. I just would have never expected it”
“we can never truly know anybody. It just pisses me off, especially with him living so close to Haidee. He watched her suffer all that time and never came clean….what is your plan of action on this?”
“I told him we should talk to our village leaders before we do anything”
Keba sat back with a sigh. “This is all still such a shock. You’ll need to make sure a hunting party is sent after those things.”
“I will, I won’t let someone else suffer the way I did.” There was still so much fear in him, fear for the future. What would his transformation mean for them, for any children they planned to have? Would it cause him to hurt Haidee? He knew he had their gifts, but what else had he inherited.
“Autry, are you okay?” Haidee asked as she took his hand.
“Yeah, just tired and angry and worried, especially for you. You need rest.”
“After we’ve spoken to our leaders.”
“You two should wait until nightfall. If word gets around to Gormen, he may run. It’s better to go into the village once everyone else has gone to bed.” Keba said. “You can stay here until then, catch your breath, eat and drink.”
“That’s probably the best idea, He’ll know he’s in trouble the second he sees Autry since he claimed he saw him eaten.” Autry felt rage bubble again and Haidee took his hand “he’s not getting away with it, you know that. I’m sure at the least he wont be welcome in our village any longer” Keba now spoke “It’s sickening he sold you Autry, absolutely sickening. I hate those harsh reminders that you can never truly know people, no matter how close you are” He didn’t want to get too angry and he had missed Haidee so intensely so he steered the conversation to her instead of what happened “besides putting yourself in risk situations what had changed for you in these past years?”
“Nothing really, that’s been my life.”
“if it makes you feel better, I have gone with her a lot to make sure she came home” Keba added and Autry thanked her before suggesting “well if we’re staying lets go ahead and lay down. I’m worried about you Haidee” she smiled “okay”
Keba took them to her guest room and made sure that they would call her if they needed anything. They promised and she left them, giving them their time alone. Autry helped Haidee out of her boots before taking his off then just cuddle with her on the bed, his arms locked tightly around her, his face close to hers so their foreheads touched. He feared falling asleep, knowing that if he woke back there with those things, he wouldn’t survive. “Autry, are you okay?” She asked softly.
“Yes and no. I’m scared.” His arms tightened around her a little more, but he was mindful not to hurt her. He knew he was a lot stronger now.
“Me too. If this turns out to be a hallucination, I don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t lose you again.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“You better not.”
He inhaled her scent, let it wash over him, calm him. That was one thing he was sure he could enjoy about his new existence, his enhanced sense allowed him to really take in everything about her. Her scent was so sweet, the beating of her heart and her soft breathing making him feel at ease. He pressed a kiss to her shoulder and closed his eyes, knowing they both needed rest. “Sleep, Haidee, I promise I’ll be here when you wake up.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
They slept until Keba woke them “everyone should be sleeping by now” she said softly “okay, we’ll only be a moment, are you coming?”
“Of course, I may not look it but I’m pissed off beyond belief. I want to see him punished for myself, hearing about it later wont do” Keba left them to wait in the living room. It was a relief for both Haidee and Autry to still be in each others arms. She wasn’t imagining things due to the venom and he wasn’t simply dreaming of her again. They could have laid there being grateful to have each other forever but Gormen needed to be dealt with so they got up and hastily readied themselves to go. As Keba locked up her home she asked Haidee “How’re you feeling?”
“perfect, I mean, my stomach hurts but I didn’t eat for two days so I suppose that’s normal”
“yeah, you held dinner down well?”
“yeah, thank you so much for it”
“Your fiance cooked it”
“It was still your food. You’re going to let me pay you back, if not for that at least for the medical care”
“Oh please, we do enough for each other for it all to be equal.”
“It doesn’t hurt to walk?” Autry asked and Haidee shook her head “save your strength in case you need to help the leaders contain Gormen. I’ll tell you if I need you” He took her hand “okay” Before long they were standing outside their village. Kiba stopped them, casting a spell over them so that they wouldn’t be seen. She wasn’t willing to take the slightest risk of Autry being seen by the wrong person. They hurried, even though none would be able to tell they were there. They were so close and while Autry wanted to high tail it to Gormens he went with his fiance and Keba to the leaders of their village. Keba made them visible again as Haidee knocked loudly on their door.
It took awhile for them to answer but they had undoubtedly been sleeping. Impa’s hair was all over the place, her clothes disheveled and her eyes heavy with sleep. She rubbed her eyes hard when they caught Autry “I’ll be damned…that can’t be Autry” Impa was suddenly awake “It is and we need to talk to you.”
“I’ll wake my husband, hurry inside. He’s cheated death, lets not have him catch a cold” They stepped inside and Impa rushed to her room, coming back with Nerweigh who had hastily put on pajama pants to greet them “as I live and breath…Autry…how has this come to be?” His voice alone was filled with shock. Autry told his tale again, fighting off the shame that came with it. “That slimy little toad. We should have gone with our gut husband” Impa said angrily. Her husband was obviously tense, holding down a boiling rage at Gormens callousness. This village was a family, was supposed to be anyway and Gormen had betrayed that family.
“Your gut?” Keba asked and Nerweigh answered “the story made Autry sound foolish but Autry has always been a thinker. It just didn’t make sense he’d be so foolish and get himself killed but we didn’t press it due to the close relationship they had with him adn the fact we haven’t known him to be a liar before…I deeply apologize Autry, we should have brought up the questions in our hearts when he came to us with his bad news…you have lost four years…you and your fiance and there’s no apology that will be enough”
“I don’t blame anyone but him. I don’t understand why he did it and at this point I don’t care. I just…” He wanted to hurt Gormen, not just beat him, but force him to go through the same hell he had been subjected to and that shocked him.
“Autry, it’s okay.” Haidee said as she took his hand. He hadn’t realized how tense his muscles were until she touched him and he forced himself to relax.
“I want him punished.”
“I want to know why.” Haidee said. “Why did he stay even after what he had done? Why did he hurt his closest friend? I’m angry too, but I need to know why.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Autry said.
“But it does. Everyone has a reason and I think both of us deserve one.”
“Let us get a little more dressed and we’ll join you, Keba, would you please go wake Cyndel and his husband as well. Bring them here and don’t fill them in until you’re back in this house” Impa asked and Keba nodded “Yes mam” she rushed off. Cyndel came from a long line of people who took this villages history, most villages in this world had one since they viewed the past as a tool to help their futures. It was important nobody forgot where they once came from and it was important to not needlessly recreate past mistakes. It would normally be a treat to see Cyndel and his mate, they were kind and impossible to be bored around. It was also interesting having wolves in their little village. Cyndel was only half but his mate came from a pack a few days away from their village.
She missed Cyndels parents sometimes, his human mother Marigold and his wolf father Nicolas but it had been hard for Nicolas to stay contained to one village so when their son became old enough they left, coming back only a few times a year. It had only been love that tethered him here as long as it did and it was only love for his son that ever brought him back. Soon the wolves stood before them, also looking barely put together. Once again Autry found himself explaining the situation and hoped since the official person for writing that stuff down was here he could finally stop.
“we’re ready” Nerweigh said when they came out of their room. It had taken them so long Haidee wondered if they had discussed what to do about Gormen after he confessed to why. She might have asked but she was eager to know and put this all behind them as fast as possible. The group set out, entering Gormens home without even knocking so he’d have no opportunities of getting away.
The house was surprisingly quiet when they came in and they quickly spread out. Haidee wasn’t expecting to be the one to find him. He was sitting in his bathtub, blood dripping from his wrist. It shocked her, her entire being told her to get out of there, but instead she called for the others as she moved toward him. “Oh my god.” Korben said. “Is he?”
“He’s still breathing.” Autry said. “His heart is still beating, I can hear it.”
Korben quickly found a towel and wrapped it around Gormen’s wrist. “We need to get him out of here.”
“Why…why would he do this?” Impa asked as he husband moved around them to help Keba lift Gormen out.
“Guilt?” Nerweigh answered.
“He’s had four years to be guilty.” Autry said. “Why now?”
“We’ll find out Autry, why he sold you and why he did this. Haidee, grab a blanket and wrap it around him.”
It took Haidee a moment to move, but she finally forced herself and went into Gormen’s room and grabbed a blanket. He was so pale, she wondered how long he had been like that. She quickly wrapped it around him and knotted it. “Thank you. Impa I need you to come with us, you too Cyndel. I want the rest of you to look for a note of any kind. If you can’t find one, we’ll get his reason when he wakes.”
“Okay” Keba, Nerweigh and Cyndel carried Gormen out while they began looking around. Anger among them was already fading. Before it had seemed he had callously done what he did but maybe there was some explanation. Maybe Gormen wasn’t the snake they had begun to believe he was. What he had done was still wrong, there were probably other solutions to whatever his problem had been but still, seeing him like that showed it hadn’t been purely selfish. Autry started looking through the garbage pails in his home when the search was turning out nothing and found multiple crumpled up papers. He opened them one by one, each and every one of them starting with “I’m so sorry Autry” maybe he had wanted to explain then felt nothing he said would make anyone understand and just went right to taking his own life.
“Haidee, Denham, Impa, come here” Autry called, showing them the crumpled papers. Impa sighed “we were so sure what to do with him and now I don’t know. This is a terrible situation” Impa said sadly. “we should take these to Nerweigh and Cyndel, they should see them” Denham added and they all agreed, only staying long enough to get a change of clothes for Gormen. When they returned Nerweigh asked “you found something?”
“these…” Impa collected the notes and handed them to her husband. He deeply sighed “damn it”
“I hope he lives”
“me too, not only for his sake but so Haidee and Autry can have their answers. I’d also like history to know more of the situation and Cyndel can only write what we know for certain. I don’t want his line to go on, never knowing the reason for his betrayal”
“I don’t know what to say.” Autry had been so ready to beat Gormen, so angry at what he had done, at the four years of life stolen from him, but now he didn’t think he could even raise his voice at him when he woke. “How bad was it really?”
“He cut deep, he wanted to die. It didn’t look like he tried to stop the bleeding last minute, he was fully prepared to leave this world.” Impa said.
“It must have ate him.” Denham said.
“Do you think he’ll make it?” Autry asked.
“Only time will tell. I was told he lost a lot of blood.” Nerweigh said. “If we had not gone over when we did, if Haidee had not found him, he would have been dead. We can only hope that he pulls through.” Autry sighed and Nerweigh placed a hand on his shoulder. “Perhaps you two should head home, spend some time together, get some rest. We’ll let you know when he wakes.”
“I don’t even know what I’m going to say, how I’m going to say it.”
“Let’s try for compassion and understanding then go from there.”
“Lets go Autry, a lot of time has passed. If we wait too long we may never get back home to rest” He lifted her into his arms, needing her close as he walked back to the home they had shared for so long before he was taken off by those things. He almost cried when he stepped inside but he kept it at bay “it looks the same”
“Like I would change a thing…I didn’t want to taint any memories I had with you…sometimes the memories were nice and when they hurt I simply went to do something crazy for awhile”
“I swear to you Haidee, I don’t care what it is, nothing will take me from you again.”
“I think the best rule is no more trips apart”
“I agree with that, I think if he would have drugged you too my adrenaline from anger could have had me fighting off those drugs. That or I may have been more weary of the odd taste since you would have been consuming it too”
“do you want to shower with me?”
“that sounds amazing Haidee” He took her to their bathroom and they both stripped down. She adjusted the water and they soon both stepped under the hot spray. He was almost embarrassed when he got hard so fast. She smiled, looking happy and amused despite the pain they had both been feeling. “I’m sorry, I’m sure sex isn’t on your mind at all”
“It might help us feel better, us worrying about Gormen wont help him get better. He’s in good hands and I want to, it’s been four years”
“You didn’t even have a one night stand during that time…I..” he felt emotional “Of course not Autry….I haven’t been anywhere near over you and you know me, I’ve never been into meaningless sex.” He began kissing her, glad for the hot spray of water so she wouldn’t see him crying. It felt incredible to be this close to her again, to hear her moan, especially with his heightened senses. They made love in there until the shower was too cold but then it only moved into their bedroom, him only stopping when she told him she was too tired to continue.
It was two days later when Gormen was recovered enough to speak. “are you ready?” Nerweigh asked as he stood in Haidee and Autrys doorway “yes, we want to see him” When they arrived Cyndel and Denham were standing at one side of the room and Gormen lay in a bed, looking mortified that he finally had to face what he had done “Gormen…what happened back then” Autry came out with the question, feeling it would be best to get the conversation over with so they both could heal.
“do you remember when I had that fight with my son and he ran away?”
“He didn’t, he just went to a nearby creek to get away from me for a bit, to cool down really. They took him and that was when I also left for awhile. To get him back I promised them someone better, stronger who could take more than my son ever could….he’s a good boy but facts are he’s not very strong in mind or body…never has been….they accepted and that is how I ended up giving them you…my son said he couldn’t face our village…knowing what we had done so he moved, pretty far away and I stayed here with my guilt…I stayed to take care of Haidee for you. I wanted to be here if she needed anything or fell on hard times because I figured I owed you that much Autry….I knew you were coming home because the leader came to me, angry about you escaping. He said if he ever finds my son again he’ll kill him for making a bad deal…I couldn’t face you…hell I’m as weak as my son…it’s probably time I admit that”
Autry could see he was in pain, it was evident on his face, in the way he held himself. Gormen wanted to die, he thought he deserved it, a life for a life. “Gormen, it’s okay.”
“It’s not, I’m a coward, I’ll always be a coward. How could I do something like that to you? How could I put such a burden on my son? I should have traded myself, but I didn’t. I should have died.” Gormen touched his bandaged arm.
“He’s your son, Gormen.”
Autry sighed as he moved closer and rested his hand on Gormen’s shoulder. “I…I forgive you.”
“Don’t, I don’t deserve it.” Gormen covered his face, tears filling his eyes. “Don’t.”
“It’s okay. You protected your son.”
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry.”
Autry had never seen him so broken down. Gormen who always smiled and laughed, who was always ready to help, looked so broken and fragile and it was all because those creatures had manipulated him, knowing he would do anything for his child. What parent wouldn’t? Gormen had never been a fighter.
“we need to track these things back down and eradicate them before they cause more pain. From their words when they left us they intended to replace me” Autry now spoke to Nerweigh who responded “I agree, Impa, my darling wife, will you gather our best people from the village?”
“Of course” they kissed briefly then she left. Gormen just sobbed, it adding to his embarrassment but he couldn’t hold it at bay. Haidee hugged him, trying to show him they could move on from this. She spoke softly “we should bring your son back. Maybe we can go together, the three of us. Like old times, we’ve been on so many journeys”
“I just…I can’t believe you two can forgive me…you shouldn’t”
“we do Gormen, you’re a father, you protected your son”
‘yes Gormen, I’ll help them wipe out this group then we’ll all go so I can let your son know face to face I understand” When the men and women arrived they set out straight away, not willing to let someone suffer needlessly. They checked where Autry was held first but there was no sign of them but with his new abilities and the help of the few others in his village that had heightened abilities they found them a few days later, slaying every last one in the group and freeing the new captives they had been bringing home. Autry was glad they decided to make haste since they truly had just went out and bought new toys Now he was just eager to get his fiance back home so they could start the rest of their life. They needed to go with Gormen to get his son and more importantly, they needed to finally have their wedding day.
~ The End