Beast Blades, Chapter 8: Sparing General Aldrick

beast blades

Tara splashed through the river calling out Lucas’ name, and Apollos sat upon General Aldrick’s chest, quivering in rage. “Choose your next words carefully, they’ll be your last!”

Aldrick sighed and turned his head away. “Go ahead and kill me. Without those beast blades I won’t be able to stop Geraldo’s plan.”

Apollos looked at Aldrick in confusion. “What do you mean you won’t be able to stop Geraldo’s plan without them? Weren’t you going to take the legendary beast blades to Geraldo so that no one would be able to stop him?”

“Those were my orders, but that’s not my reason for searching for them. Geraldo isn’t the same young man that he used to be, Apollos.”

Apollos scowled at Aldrick. “I am aware of that, and I have you to thank for that. If you weren’t searching for the legendary beast blades to aid Geraldo, then why were you looking for them?”

“I was looking for them because my success is the only way that Geraldo will listen to my council. I had hoped that bringing him a legendary beast blade would earn me his ear more than ever, and I would be able to change him back to the young man I used to know, to alter his course from dominating to protecting.”

Apollos snorted. “You were ever the optimistic one. As long as he has that shadow blade it is going to keep corrupting him and twisting his will to the blade’s. Giving him the legendary beast blades would only accelerate it. As much as it saddens me, my son must die.”

A tear formed in Aldrick’s eye. “Then allow me to be the one to swing the blade. It’s my fault this happened, and it should be my responsibility to correct it.”

Apollos sighed and sheathed his sword. “You never did pay any attention to my teachings, did you? Only the one who has gathered all five legendary beast blades can stop the wielder of the shadow blade, and the one destiny chose for the task may be dead.” Apollos got off of Aldrick’s chest and helped him up.

Tara looked up at the raft in horror. “What are you doing, Apollos? Why aren’t you killing Aldrick?”

Apollos sighed. “He was a fool doing bad things for a reason he thought was right. I believe that he wants to correct his mistakes, and I mean to give him the chance to do so by helping us.”

Tara scowled at Aldrick. “You actually believe what he said?”

Apollos shook his head. “Not completely, that’s why I’m going to keep a close eye on him.” Apollos drew a sword from one of the sheaths on his back and held it out. “Awaken, Aeroslithe, and watch over Aldrick.” Air swirled around the blade, and transformed into a cobra made of air.

Tara turned her back on Apollos. “This is a bad idea, Apollos. He’s manipulating you and is going to kill us all.”

Apollos stepped off of the raft and started searching the river for Lucas. “I believe that he is being sincere, and if I’m wrong Aeroslithe will take care of him. If I’m right, think of how well your rebellion could do if they had the infamous General Aldrick leading them?”

A smile crossed Tara’s face. “That would be amazing, having a master strategist like Aldrick leading us.”

Aldrick’s eyes opened wide with shock. “Woah, who said anything about joining a rebellion? I just want to stop Geraldo, that’s all.”

Apollos turned and glared at Aldrick. “Lucas, Tara, and I will stop Geraldo. You are going to do your part and help the rebellion in Falance out. Now help us look for Lucas.”

Aldrick sighed and stepped off of his raft and into the river. Tara searched along the right hand bank, checking every overhand and hollow spot along the river for Lucas or any sign that he had passed through there. Aldrick did the same along the left bank and Apollos searched the center of the river. They searched three miles of the river before the three of them climbed out onto the left bank.

Apollos climbed up onto the wagon and slumped his shoulders. “I didn’t want to believe it, but I’m afraid that Lucas is dead.”

Tara sniffled. “Don’t say that, Apollos. Maybe he just got washed a little further down the river.”

Apollos shook his head. “If Lucas had survived he would have climbed out of the river by now. I’m afraid that he drowned in that river.”

Aldrick chuckled and shook his head. Tara glared at Aldrick and drew one of her beast blades. “This is all his fault! I’ll kill him!”

Apollos jumped off of the wagon and took the sword from Tara’s hand. Tara looked up at Apollos with confusion on her face, but Apollos didn’t pay her any attention. “What do you find so funny, Aldrick?”

“Nothing, only that once I decide to betray Geraldo the only thing that can stop him from killing us all is lost. It’s so horrible that all I can do is laugh.”

Tara gasped. “That’s right! Lucas had two of the legendary beast blades with him when he fell into the river! How are we going to stop Geraldo now?”

Apollos sighed. “I can only believe that destiny has chosen someone else to take up the quest, and they will find Lucas’ body and the two legendary beast blades, and continue on from where we left off. My question is where do we go from here?”

A look of resignation came over Tara’s face. “We have to go back to Falance and give aid to the rebellion. I think they are our best hope of resisting Geraldo until the new champion rises up.”

Apollos slowly nodded his head. “That could be our best option for now. We can aid the rebellion however we can, and listen for rumors of more legendary beast blades being found. I can go and help guide the one finding the blades after that. For now, we should make a large pyre in honor of the passing of our friend and ally.”

Tara nodded her head, but Aldrick shook his. “That would be a mistake.”

Apollos turned and glared at Aldrick. “What?”

Aldrick looked down at the ground. “If you make your memorial pyre tonight, you won’t make it in time to save Jerome.”

Apollos pulled one of his blades free. “Why does Jerome need saving?”

“I left a hoard of Acerbi behind to watch to see if Jerome made any move to aid you, and if he didn’t they were to wait until night of the second day after I left to break into his home and steal his beast blades, but knowing the Acerbi, I believe they will kill Jerome, regardless of what I said.”

Apollos quivered with rage. “Why are you waiting to tell us until now?”

Aldrick sighed. “You were searching for your friend, Apollos. I didn’t want to distract you from that until you had given up.”

Apollos climbed up into the wagon and reached out his hand to help Tara up. “We don’t have any time to lose then. Come on, Tara.”

Aldrick climbed up onto the wagon and crossed his arms. “Rushing in to help him could be a mistake, Apollos.”

Apollos snapped the reins and Terrumbarrus started lumbering along. “What would you suggest? Abandoning one of my oldest friends to his death?”

Tara looked up at Apollos. “Why not? He’s just a grumpy old man who already said he doesn’t want to see you again.”

Apollos glared at Tara. “I’m aware of that, thank you very much. I have no intentions of abandoning my friends when it’s in my power to aid them, whether they want my help or not.”

Aldrick held up his hands in defense. “I’m not saying we should just abandon Jerome. I’m just saying that you rushing in to help him is a bad idea. I left three score of Acerbi behind to guard the place. I think that even you, Jerome, and I would have a difficult time dealing with sixty Acerbi by ourselves.”

Apollos’ eyes opened wide. “Sixty of them? Why didn’t you bring any of them along with you to attack us?”

“I thought that Hugh, Charles, and myself would be enough to deal with the three of you, and I wanted as many soldiers as I could spare for Jerome incase he found them ahead of time.”

Apollos sighed. “Fine, but that’s all the more reason that we need to get to Jerome as soon as possible. I won’t leave him to fight them alone if I can help it.”

A smile crossed Aldrick’s face. “That’s the beauty of my plan, if everything goes right, we won’t have to fight them at all.”

“How do you plan to stop sixty Acerbi without fighting?”

“Simple, I approach them alone and tell them that I killed the two of you and tell them to return to Geraldo with news of your deaths and that I am going to continue searching for Lucas who escaped. Once they are gone we can go and join the rebellion and Geraldo will think that everything that could threaten him is gone.”

Tara’s eyes opened wide. “Apollos, we can’t go along with this! He’ll just go and order the Acerbi to attack us! You can’t trust him.”

Apollos bit his lip, and turned to look Aldrick over. Finally he sighed, and said, “We’ll give your plan a try, Aldrick. But if you betray us, then I won’t hesitate to kill you next time.”

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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.

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Apollos joined Tara and Aldrick outside, the new bag of supplies slung over his shoulder. Tara looked at Apollos expectantly. “Do we go back to looking for Lucas now?”

Apollos hung his head, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. “I’m afraid that Lucas is gone, Tara. I think the best thing for us to do for the moment would be to go and join up with your rebellion. Perhaps we will be able to slow down Geraldo’s conquest enough for the next wielder of the legendary beast blades to rise up.”

Tara jumped up and down excitedly. “That’s great news! With a fighter like you and a strategist like Aldrick, I’m certain that the rebellion will have no problems kicking Geraldo’s forces out of the Falance province! After that, we’ll drive them out of the whole country!”

Aldrick snorted and shook his head. “It’s not going to be as easy as that, miss. I’m afraid that the other generals at Geraldo’s disposal will be more of a threat than you can imagine.”

Apollos glared at Aldrick. “That can wait until later, let the girl feel some hope for the moment.”

Aldrick smiled. “I’m not saying that the situation is hopeless, as a matter of fact I’m certain that with my strategies we’ll be able to defeat the other generals. I’ve always wanted to do this, to see which of us was the greatest, and I’m finally being given an opportunity to find out.”

Tara smiled weakly and glanced at Aldrick. “Even Aldrick thinks that we can win.” She turned to look at Apollos and smiled with more confidence. “We should head for Falance right away!”

Apollos shook his head. “There are a few things that we have to do first, such as seeing what kind of state our wagon is in. I’d also like to stop in Sharen City to see what has happened to the city since we passed through.”

Aldrick shook his head and sighed. “You may regret that, Apollos. I left Sharen City under heavy guard. Getting back in might be impossible for you.”

Apollos started walking into the valley. “It’s a good thing that I have you with me then, Aldrick. You can be my eyes inside of the city, but we aren’t going anywhere until we check on that wagon, so come on you two.”

Tara and Aldrick started following after Apollos, and Tara kept a cautious eye on Aldrick, but she tried to make it look like she wasn’t watching him. Aldrick smiled, “You don’t have be so worried about me, I won’t bite you.”

Tara allowed herself a weak smile. “I don’t fully trust you yet. Yesterday you were trying to kill us after all.”

Aldrick sighed. “I know that trust is something that has to be earned, and I have much to atone for, but I will do everything I can to stop Geraldo.”

Tara walked on in silence for a while, until she finally said, “You said before that the other generals will be a serious threat to the rebellion, and you know them better than either of us do, so who do you think Geraldo will send against the rebellion?”

Aldrick closed his eyes for a moment, concentrating, and then he opened them again. “Geraldo only has two of his generals left, Elymas and Ezra. Ezra specializes in using power blades, and is a very dangerous fighter in his own right, but Elymas is Geraldo’s magic specialist. Of the two, I think that Elymas is most likely to be Geraldo’s pick. If I’m right, that would mean that the rebellion is in lots trouble.”

Tara looked at Aldrick with curiosity. “I’ve seen magic used a few times before, and it didn’t seem so dangerous.”

Apollos turned and looked at Tara. “That’s because you have never seen a true magic user at work. Someone with the proper spells could devastate an entire city.”

Aldrick nodded his agreement. “That’s correct, and Elymas and his squad of casters have those types of spells at their disposal. Imagine an entire flank of your rebellion wiped out from a single fireball. But those spells aren’t the only thing to worry about. With scrying spells he can learn exactly how our troops are arranged and the best way to strike. That’s why it will take all of my cunning to make everything different from the way that it appears. With enough deception, I will be able to overcome him. You can expect many people in the rebellion to lose their lives though.”

Fear filled Tara’s eyes, and tears ran down her face. “No, my friends!”

Apollos glanced over his shoulder. “Is it true that Elymas has discovered a way to bring more of the magic ink with him that just what is written on his body?”

“Yes, he has. He has discovered that as long as the ink is on human skin, it will work. He has started skinning humans and making them into magic scrolls.”

Apollos swallowed. “How did he ever discover something as horrible as that?”

Aldrick shrugged. “Not really sure, There are a lot of different rumors floating around though. The two most likely tales say that after he defeated an opponent in a magic battle he tried to use spells off of his dead body and discovered it that way, other stories say he just enjoys skinning people alive and tried writing on their flesh on a whim. Either one is possible, Elymas is cruel enough to have done either of them.”

They finally reached the wagon and Apollos began to look it over for damage. He nodded his head. “It’s not as bad as I expected, the bed is a little splintered, and one of the wheels are loose, but it should last us as far as Sharen City at least. We can have it repaired once we reach there.”

Aldrick gave the wagon an appraising look. “Are you sure it’s worth saving? We’d probably make better time if we just went on foot.”

Apollos looked up and smiled at Aldrick. “That would be fine, as long as you are willing to carry all of our supplies.”

Aldrick snorted. “Very well, the wagon it is. I’m trusting that you are going to have it pulled by that elephant of yours again.”

“Are you saying that you don’t want to pull it, Aldrick? I was hoping that you would want to, since you wanted to walk anyway.”

Aldrick glared back at Apollos. “Very funny, Apollos. Don’t you think it would look a little strange to have one of Geraldo’s generals pulling a wagon into Sharen City by hand?”

Apollos nodded. “It certainly would look strange. Help me to get this wagon off of its side and we can start our journey to Falance.”

Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my review of what happened previously in Ahir, Guardian of Malor, as well as a sneak peek at what will happen in the next chapter. Then come back on Monday when I will post part of one the next chapter of Ahir, Guardian of Malor.  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!

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