Aldrick groaned and held his head. He had certainly managed to drown his troubles in his wine last night, his hangover was proof of that. That and the fact that he couldn’t remember anything after he finished off his first pitcher. His head pounded and he let out another groan. He felt so groggy and sleepy, he couldn’t figure out what had woken him up. The pounding seemed to stop and he heard a muffled voice call out, “General Aldrick! I must speak with you at once!”
Aldrick pulled back the covers and found that he was completely naked. The pounding started again and he groaned and climbed out of the bed, searching the room for his clothes. “Yes, yes, stop all that pounding! I’ll be with you in just a moment!” Aldrick finally found his clothes neatly folded on top of a chest. He found a note sitting on his shirt, but he put the note aside while he hastily pulled his clothes back on.
He made his way to the door and pulled it open. “What is so important you had to come banging on my door at this early hour?”
A frazzled looking guard saluted before reporting, “Sir, I was told to inform you that several of the Acerbi in this town have taken it upon themselves to transfer your prisoners to Lord Geraldo. The Captain said that you would want to be informed about this.”
Aldrick’s face turned to panic. “I gave specific orders that I would be taking the prisoners to Geraldo myself once my wagon was repaired!”
The soldier shrugged. “The Acerbi were informed of that, but they didn’t care. They said that Geraldo had waited long enough for these prisoners and they weren’t going to make him wait any longer.”
Aldrick scowled. “I’ll just have to chase them down and reclaim my prize. When did they leave?”
“Less than half an hour ago, sir.”
Aldrick nodded his head. “Good, good. Have the repairs been made to my wagon that I requested?”
The guard nervously shuffled his feet. “The carpenter was convinced to drop his other projects to rush yours, but he said that the repairs wouldn’t be finished until tomorrow afternoon. It appears that it took quite a bit of damage.”
Aldrick shook his head and sighed. “I’ll just have to abandon it then. Go and fetch three horses and enough supplies for a week’s journey for three to the front of the inn right away. I’ll need to move fast if I want to catch up with them.”
The guard looked at Aldrick curiously. “No disrespect, sir, but what difference does it make if you take them to Lord Geraldo or if the Acerbi do? Either way the prisoners are being delivered.”
Aldrick scowled at the soldier. “Have you ever gone hunting before?” The guard stared blankly at Aldrick for a moment or two before Aldrick repeated himself. “Have you ever gone hunting before.”
“Why yes, my brother and I go once a week or so to keep food on the table. What does that have to do with the prisoners?”
Aldrick stalked closer to the guard and spoke quietly. “How would you feel if you killed a large stag, one that would keep your family fed for quite a while, but your brother was the one that brought it home and took the credit for it?”
The guard scoffed. “My brother wouldn’t do that.” The guard’s laughter died in his throat when he looked at Aldrick’s serious face. “But if he did, I would be upset with him.”
Aldrick nodded his head. “That’s how I feel about the Acerbi taking my prisoners to Lord Geraldo. Now go and fetch the things I requested!”
The guard saluted once more and took off running. Once he was out of earshot Aldrick groaned and held his head. Why had he done that to himself? He swore to himself that he would never have more than three goblets of wine in one day ever again. The piece of paper in his hand crinkled when he held it up to his head and he unfolded it and read the note. “Dear Aldrick, Maria and I had a wonderful time with you last night. It’s a pity that the guards hadn’t paid for a full night with you. If you ever make your way back to Sharen City seek us out. Next time it will be entirely for pleasure, and not for business. Love Annie.” Aldrick truly wished he could remember what had happened last night after that first pitcher of wine.
Aldrick’s horse galloped down the northern road, and the two other horses followed after him. He finally caught sight of the Acerbi harassing Apollos to move faster. Apollos was covered in cuts and bruises, and both of his eyes and his lips were swollen. Aldrick urged his horse to run faster until he finally caught up with them.
The Acerbi turned their attention to Aldrick and one of them asked, “What do you want, Aldrick?”
Aldrick replied in an angry and authoritative tone, “For starters I want to know why you fools decided to take my prisoners when I left specific orders for them to be left there until I was prepared to deliver them myself. You do know how to follow orders, don’t you?”
The Acerbus sneered at Aldrick. “We follow the orders of Lord Geraldo, and not those from you.”
Aldrick growled, “Last I checked Lord Geraldo’s orders were for you to follow the orders of his generals. In case you couldn’t figure it out, that means me!”
The Acerbi glared at Aldrick, but one at a time they bowed their heads in deference to him. “What are your orders, General Aldrick?”
Aldrick nodded his head. “That’s better. For starters, I brought two prisoners into Sharen City, what have you done with the other one.”
An Acerbi snarled, “The female tricked us. She distracted us and managed to escape while we were focusing on this old one.” The Acerbi punched Apollos in the ribs and Apollos grunted. “Half of our number chased after her. Once they have captured her they will do their best to rejoin us on the way to Lord Geraldo.”
Aldrick nodded his head and snickered, “You Acerbi shouldn’t take it upon yourself to transfer prisoners if it’s too much for you to handle. You five return to the city; I’ll track down the girl myself and deliver both of the prisoners to Lord Geraldo personally.”
An Acerbus frowned. “We will go with you. These prisoners are proving to be more than a handful. We will help you make sure they don’t escape again.”
Aldrick climbed off of his horse and strode forward. Once he neared the Acerbi he drew his sword and cut off the head of the one that had spoken. “Does anyone else want to question my orders?”
The Acerbi shied away from Aldrick momentarily, but then their hands sharpened into blades. “Traitor! No servant of Lord Geraldo would ever strike down one of his minions!” They lunged at Aldrick.
Apollos stuck out his foot and tripped one of the Acerbi as they raced past him. The Acerbi stumbled up to Aldrick only to have its head chopped off. Aldrick spared Apollos a grateful look before turning his focus back onto the other three Acerbi attacking him. Aldrick’s blade darted out, alternating between blocking attacks and returning attacks of his own. The struggle was over after half a minute, and a dark cloud formed overhead from the smoky shadows rising up from the Acerbi’s bodies.
Aldrick cut Apollos’ bonds, and Apollos started massaging his wrists. Aldrick said, “This wasn’t part of the plan. I’m sorry that this happened.”
Apollos shrugged. “It’s not your fault that the Acerbi are over zealous. I’m just glad that you came for us. How did you find out about it so quickly?”
Aldrick untied a bundle from behind one of the saddles and handed it to Apollos. “Would you believe a guard pounded on my door until he woke me up to tell me about all the noise you and Tara were making? You owe me for this, Apollos. You have no idea how difficult riding a horse with a hangover is.”
Apollos untied the bundle and pulled out his beast blades and he smiled. “You getting drunk was never part of the plan, so don’t go blaming that on me.” Apollos pulled one of the swords out of its sheath and touched the blade to the grass. “Awaken, Lepidoflita!” The grass wrapped itself around the blade and a small butterfly appeared out of a whirlwind of leaves. The butterfly landed on Apollos, and his wounds started to glow as they were healed.
Aldrick watched the butterfly with interest. “Can that creature cure hangovers as well?”
Apollos frowned as he thought for a moment. “I’m not sure, but we can find out as we ride. We need to go after Tara. I hate to think about what those Acerbi will do to her once they manage to catch up with her.”
Aldrick nodded his head. “Do you have any idea where she ran off to?”
Apollos shook his head. “I was unconscious when she escaped, but I don’t think it was too far outside of the city. We might be able to pick up her trail if we backtrack a bit.”
Aldrick climbed onto his horse. “We have no time to waste then.”
Tara held her breath as she heard complaints from others in the wagon train as their wagons were searched one at a time. Should she try running again? Perhaps they were distracted enough that she could slip away without them noticing. The city wasn’t far, perhaps she could disappear amidst the crowds and find Aldrick somehow. She decided to give it a try. It was better than waiting for them to find her after all.
She began to sneak off the wagon she was hiding in, but she knocked over a sack filled with kernels of corn when she did so. The string tying the bag shut loosened and kernels bounced onto the wagon bed one at a time, like a rapid drum beat. The Acerbi looked at Tara’s wagon and saw her half way off of the wagon. “There she is! Get her!”
Tara squeaked in panic and jumped off the wagon and started running toward the city gates. She glanced over her shoulder at the Acerbi that were quickly catching up with her, and she didn’t notice the rock sticking out of the side of the path. She tripped over it and fell to the ground. She struggled to get to her feet and start running again, but before she could do so pain erupted in her side from a kick aimed by one of the Acerbi.
The Acerbus growled, “You didn’t think it would be that easy to escape us, did you? You’ll wish for the treatment we gave the old man once we’re through with you!” The Acerbus’ hand turned into a blade and slashed along Tara’s cheek. Tara screamed out in pain, and those on the wagons turned away. “Hold still, the more you struggle, the more this will hurt!”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more like it, come back on Monday when I will publish part one of chapter 16 of Ahir, Guardian of Malor, come back tomorrow when I will have all of chapter 9 for you, and Sunday for an update video on what happened previously in Ahir, Guardian of Malor, and a glimpse of what is going to happen in chapter 16. Check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page 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, and don’t forget to check out my newly published book, The Kids on the Case: Our First Case. You can buy a copy of your own here:The Kids on the Case: Our First Case.