Aldrick looked at the setting sun and bit his lip. He turned to Apollos and said, “Can’t this wagon go any faster?”
Apollos growled back, “For the tenth time, no, it can’t. Tarrumbarrus wasn’t built for speed! We should be grateful that we going this fast! If you have a problem with that, you are welcome to get off and push!”
Aldrick sighed. “We’re not going to make it in time at this rate!”
Tara pointed at a house that came into view at the mouth of the valley. “Yes we will! There’s Jerome’s home!”
Aldrick squinted his eyes for a moment and then shook his head. “I don’t see the Acerbi anywhere! They must have started their attack early! Those creatures never could understand strategy.”
Apollos closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. “Quickly, everyone climb onto Tarrumbarrus’ back. If we ditch the wagon, we might be able to get there a little bit faster.”
Aldrick jumped from his seat and onto Tarrumbarrus’ back and made his way to the front of the elephant. Tara looked at Apollos with uncertainty. “Are you sure about this? The wagon could get destroyed if you abandon it now.”
Apollos nodded. “If it means I can get there in time to help my friend, it is worth it. Now get onto his back.” Tara jumped from the wagon onto Tarrumbarrus’ back and moved to make room for Apollos. Apollos slashed through the harness that connected Tarrumbarrus to the wagon, and jumped onto the elephant’s back. “Forward as fast as you can go, Tarrumbarrus!”
Tarrumbarrus trumpeted and surged forward in a burst of speed. He pulled away from the wagon and Apollos and Tara watched as the wagon started to swerve left and right until it crashed into the side of the valley. Apollos sighed. “Looks like we’re back to walking if we make it through this.” After a short time, Tarrumbarrus neared Jerome’s house. “Stop, Tarrumbarrus!” The elephant stopped and trumpeted once more. After the three of them climbed down from his back Apollos said, “Slumber, Tarrumbarrus.” Tarrumbarrus transformed back into a sword in Apollos’ hand.
Apollos drew his sword from his side and rushed toward the door. Aldrick cleared his throat. “You weren’t planning on sending me in there without at least one sword to fight with, were you, Apollos?” Apollos sighed, turned around and handed the beast blade he kept at his waist to Aldrick. Aldrick looked at it confused. “This isn’t my beast blade.”
Apollos drew another sword from the sheath on his back. “No, it isn’t. That is one of mine, one that you won’t be able to summon if you decide to betray us.”
Aldrick frowned. “You don’t really think that I would betray you, do you?” Apollos raised his eyebrow. Aldrick sighed. “Fair enough, but I would think you would know that a sword in my hands is a more dangerous weapon that actually summoning a beast blade.”
Apollos kicked open the door. “You shouldn’t have anything to complain about then.” Apollos was met by a scene of pure chaos. The room was filled with black smoke, and chairs smashed to pieces and an overturned table were strewn around the room. Twenty Acerbi surrounded Jerome, who was bleeding from several wounds and breathing heavily. Apollos rushed into the back of the group of Acerbi and cut the heads from two of them before they realized he was there.
Aldrick rushed in right behind Apollos and slashed through one of the Acerbi. The Acerbi at either side of the one that Aldrick killed turned and looked at him. “General Aldrick? What are you doing?”
Aldrick growled out, “Something I should have done a long time ago!” Aldrick brought his sword around in another slash and cut the Acerbus that had spoken through its chest.
A group of Acerbi turned and glared at Aldrick. “You betray us? Then die!” Their hands turned into an assortment of blades, some straight and long, some cerated, some curved, but all sharp. They lunged at Aldrick, and Apollos rushed in and began to deflect blades and cut down the Acerbi.
Aldrick began dancing amongst the Acerbi, dodging and deflecting attacks and striking out whenever he got a chance. “I expected you to leave me to fight on my own.”
Apollos snorted. “I intended to, but I don’t know if I would have been able to live with myself if I sent you into your death knowing I didn’t arm you as well as I could. It certainly helped seeing you attack the Acerbi.”
An Acerbus flew past the two of them and crashed into the wall. It erupted into a cloud of black smoke that rose up to mingle with the larger cloud near the ceiling. Jerome picked up another Acerbus and ripped it in half, and threw the two halves into the group that surrounded him. “This is a fight, not a social gathering. If the two of you want to talk, go do it somewhere else!”
Tara stood in the doorway watching the fight unfold with amazement on her face. She had seen Apollos and Aldrick fight beast blades with their swords before, but she had never seen anyone attack a beast blade with their bare hands. She was even more amazed that Jerome had only taken as many injuries as he had while doing so against sixty opponents. She ducked to the side and narrowly avoided being hit by another Acerbus that had been sent flying by one of Jerome’s powerful punches.
An Acerbi ran at Tara. “Move out of the way, girl!” Tara held one of her beast blades in front of her, but Aldrick turned and sliced through the Acerbus before it could reach her. Tara looked at Aldrick gratefully, but he turned and jumped back into the fight without looking at her.
In a short time the rest of the Acerbi were defeated leaving behind nothing but a cloud of dark smoke hovering near the ceiling. Jerome sat down on the ground and sighed. “Someone get a lantern burning and get the remnants of those creatures out of my home. Dirty buggers, waiting to attack me until after they thought I had gone to bed.” He turned and glared at Aldrick. “I’m sure I have you to thank for that.”
Aldrick held his hands up. “It’s true that I brought them here, but I ordered them not to attack you at all.”
Jerome grunted. “That is the spawn of darkness and evil, do you really expect them to follow orders like that?” Gerome fixed his gaze onto Apollos. “I’m surprised to see you back here, and with him no less. I thought you were going to kill him if you ever saw him again.”
Apollos sighed and pulled a stone out of the pouch tied around his waist. He struck the rock against his sword a few times next to an exposed wick of a lantern, and a small fire burst to life. The shadowy cloud gathered at the ceiling began to break down and disappear. “I want to, believe me. He seems to have changed his ways, and I decided to give him another chance. He could be a powerful ally in the fight against Geraldo.”
Jerome shook his head. “Thanks for dragging me into that fight by the way. I’d keep a sharp eye on him either way, Aldrick always has been a crafty one. Letting him get this close to you again is like scooping embers into your lap, you’re going to end up getting burned.”
Apollos smiled. “Believe me, I’ll be keeping an eye on him. How badly were you injured?”
Jerome grunted. “Just a few gashes, nothing too serious. If that’s all the power that those Acerbi have I can’t believe that they are giving you so many problems. Grab Lepidoflita down from the wall for me, would you?”
Apollos walked over to the wall and pulled a sword down from where it was hanging. “I thought you weren’t seriously injured.”
Jerome snorted and crossed his arms. “Just because an injury isn’t life threatening doesn’t mean I want to have to deal with it.” Jerome accepted the sword from Apollos and touched the tip of the blade to a piece of a broken chair. “Awaken, Lepidoflita!” The wood of the chair wrapped itself around the blade of the sword, and leaves started to bud along the blade. They grew out until the sword was covered in leaves, and the leaves exploded off of the sword, leaving a butterfly fluttering on wings made of leaves where the sword had been. “Heal my wounds.” The butterfly flitted over and landed on Jerome’s shoulder, and a green glow surrounded Jerome’s body.
His wounds grew shut and his flesh looked as good as new. Apollos cleared his throat and Jerome sighed. “Go ahead and heal any wounds that they have as well, Lepidoflita.” The butterfly flew over and rested on Apollos, and the same green glow surrounded him. “Where’s that boy that was traveling with you? The one that was so interested in my collection?
Apollos took in a deep breath. “He was claimed by the river, and we’re not sure what happened to him after that.”
Jerome shook his head. “Sorry to hear that. I didn’t know the boy well, but he seemed to have potential.” Jerome looked around his home and sighed. “I’m going to be busy fixing all of this up. Stay the night if you wish, but I expect you to be gone in the morning.”
Apollos bowed his head. “Thank you for your kind offer, Jerome. We will be happy to accept.”
The butterfly fluttered over to Jerome’s hand and turned back into a sword. Aldrick and Tara settled down onto the floor, and Apollos sat down with his back to the wall. He pulled a beast blade from his back and whispered, “Awaken, Aeroslithe.” The blade twisted itself into the shape of a cobra, and sat coiled up at Apollos’ feet.
Jerome nodded his head. “Maybe you do have more sense that I gave you credit for.” He crossed the room and sat down on his bed. “Make sure to blow that lanturn out once that cloud is gone if you’re going to stay up. I don’t need to be wasting any more of my oil than necessary.”
Apollos watched Aldrick sleep long into the night, and he finally allowed himself to be claimed by slumber as well. He was awoken several hours later when sun streamed through one of the windows in Jerome’s home landed upon his face. Apollos looked around the room and found everyone still slumbering, with an exception of Jerome. He was no where to be seen. Apollos shook Tara and Aldrick awake, and said, “I think we should go.”
The door of Jerome’s home burst open, and Jerome walked in carrying an armful of food. “You weren’t planning on leaving without all these supplies I woke up early to find for you, were you?”
A smile crossed Apollos’ face. “I wouldn’t dream of it. I merely wanted to go and inspect our wagon. We had to abandon it in our haste to get here yesterday, and I’m afraid it has been damaged.”
Jerome grunted. “There’ll be time for that after you help me to get these supplies packed up.” Jerome set a pile of berries, roots, and two large fish onto his table. Apollos walked over to the table and helped Jerome load the food into a supply sack.
“You didn’t have to do all of this, Jerome.”
Jerome shook his head. “Sure I did. You came to aid me yesterday, and I don’t mean to stay in your debt for that.” He tied the bag shut and pulled a sword and sheath from his side and handed it to Apollos. “This should be of some help too.”
Apollos stared at the hilt of the sword in wonder. “You’re parting with Lepidoflita? Jerome, I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything, just take it and leave. If you wanted to come and visit me some time, I wouldn’t mind too much. Come alone though, you know how I feel about company.”
Apollos smiled and bowed his head. “I will take you up on that offer my friend. Are you sure that you don’t want to come along with us?”
Jerome turned his back on Apollos. “I don’t get involved with the affairs of others, and you know that. It only brings me pain and suffering, and I’ve had more than my share of both of them. I want nothing more than to live out my days here in my home alone, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Apollos motioned for the other two to head for the door. Apollos grabbed the bag of supplies and turned to go. “Thank you for everything you have done for us, Jerome.” Apollos walked out of the door.
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more of it, come back on Friday when I will publish part three, and check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page to connect with me and give me some feedback: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read. Also, if you enjoy reading my stories, and you enjoy drawing, I’m looking for pictures of my characters. If you want to send me your fan art, I promise to include it with some of my posts! I look forward to seeing that art!