Apollos led his horse toward the western road, carefully searching the ground for the trail that Tara had left behind. Apollos shook his head. “Tara could have gotten herself into some real trouble if she tried to get back into the city.”
Aldrick sighed. “We should have avoided going into the city altogether.”
Apollos glared at Aldrick. “If we hadn’t stopped here, we would have run out of supplies before we reached the Farlance province.” Apollos finally reached the edge of road and he paused. He bent over and touched his fingers to a red pool on the side of the path. He shook his head. “It’s blood.”
Aldrick bit his lip and looked at the train of wagons waiting to get into the city. “Maybe some of them saw what happened to Tara.” Aldrick dismounted and walked over to the closest wagon. “Did you see what happened here?”
The wagon drivers ignored Aldrick, and just stared ahead. Aldrick cleared his throat, “I am General Aldrick searching out enemies of Lord Geraldo. If you don’t answer my questions, I will assume that you are protecting them.”
The man sitting behind the reins of the wagon sighed and said, “Forgive me for holding my peace, but after what those Acerbi did to that poor girl, I wasn’t too eager to get involved. Some girl was running from the Acerbi, but they caught her. They tortured her, slashed at her with their hands, and dragged her off to the north.”
Apollos’ hands formed into fists and he trembled. “If they have caused her serious harm, Geraldo is going to regret it. I’m not about to lose Tara too!”
Aldrick got onto his horse and turned it around. “We must not delay, they must be on their way back to the northern road!”
Apollos pointed at the man on the wagon and growled, “How can you call yourself human? A young girl was tortured in front of you, and you just watched!”
The wagon driver looked away and softly said, “It was Geraldo’s Acerbi, wise men don’t get involved in their business. If we had tried to do anything, we may not have gotten off as easily as she did. Besides, you just said that she was an enemy of Lord Geraldo, why do you care how she was treated?”
Aldrick stiffened up. “This old fool has a soft heart for the young girl, says that she reminds him of his daughter. Either way, it’s no concern of yours.” Apollos shook his head and started searching along the path for tracks. Aldrick called out, “Get on your horse, Apollos. The Acerbi wouldn’t allow Tara to walk after she tried to escape, and shadow leaves no sign where it treds.”
Apollos got onto his horse and looked at Aldrick. “Those other Acerbi said that this lot was going to meet up with them on the northern road. That’s our best lead for now.” Apollos and Aldrick urged their horses onward and hurried back toward the northern road.
Tara’s breath came in ragged sobs, and her whole body ached with each one. The blood had started to dry and scab over, and her shredded clothes were sticking to her body. Everytime the Acerbi jostled her, her clothes would shift and her wounds would open up all over again. Tara begged, “Please, can’t you just let me walk? My wounds keep opening every time you bump me.”
One of the Acerbi sneered back at Tara, “Oh, I’m sorry if we hurt you. Why don’t we stop and take a rest? Maybe we could find something for you to eat? This only happened because you tried to run away! If you don’t quit your sniveling we’ll give you more of the same! As long as you are alive when we get you to Lord Geraldo, he won’t care what condition you are in.”
Tara grit her teeth and held her sobs inside. After what they had done when they found her, she didn’t doubt that they would carry out their threat. She was going to die. Geraldo was going to torture her until she gave every last detail she knew about the rebellion, and after that he wouldn’t need her any longer. At least if she was dead she would get to be with Lucas again.
Tara paused. Where had that thought come from? She had always thought of Lucas as a friend that she needed to look out for; but is it possible that she actually liked him? She shook her head, her mind must be so desperate for a distraction that she was thinking about anything. She barely knew Lucas, they had only traveled together four days, that was hardly long enough for her to develop actual feelings for him! He was pathetic, not knowing anything about the world outside of his plantation, and now he was dead.
Tara frowned and she thought to herself, would death really be all that bad? She would get to see her family again, she wouldn’t have to worry about the rebellion or what happened to the country. In fact, if she could find someway to kill herself before she was taken to Geraldo, she could avoid being tortured. If she was able to bite her tongue off perhaps she would bleed to death before the Acerbi noticed.
Tara decided to give it a try. She placed her tongue between her teeth and prepared herself to bite through. Seconds passed by, and then minutes, and Tara started sobbing again. She couldn’t go through with it. She was too much of a coward to take her own life, and as a result, she was going to experience pain worse than anything she had ever felt in her life.
Apollos squinted at the road ahead and excitedly said, “I see them! We’ve finally caught up with them! Oh, the Lord be praised, they haven’t gotten Tara to Geraldo just yet!”
Aldrick pulled the reins of his horse and brought it to a halt. Apollos went a little further before he stopped and looked at Aldrick with confusion. Aldrick asked, “Do you think we’ve been spotted yet?”
Apollos shook his head. “No, I don’t think they’re paying too much attention to what is back here. If we hurry, we may be able to take them by surprise.”
Aldrick reached behind his saddle and pulled out a rope. “If we make this convincing, we may be able to convince them that you are a prisoner, and I’m here to pick up another. If I order them back to the city we might be able to buy ourselves a little more time before Geraldo knows I’ve turned against him.”
Apollos slowly nodded his head. “And we need all the time we can get to prepare for his next attack. Alright, we’ll give your way a try, but don’t bind my hands too tightly; if it comes down to a fight, I want to be able to help this time.”
Aldrick looped the rope around Apollos’ hands and tied a knot in such a way that if Aldrick gave the rope a quick jerk it would come undone. The two of them rode after the Acerbi. Once they drew near Aldrick called out, “Halt! I would have a word with you Acerbi about taking my prisoner.”
The Acerbi stopped and looked at Aldrick with disdain. One of them flowed over to Aldrick’s side and stared at him. “I see you have the old prisoner, what happened to our brothers?”
Aldrick angrily replied, “After I caught up with them and reprimanded them for taking my prisoners without my permission, I sent them back to the city. We need as many eyes and ears in the city as we can while we purge the rebellion from it. Hand over the prisoner and you can go back to aid them.”
The Acerbus shook his head. “I think not. This prisoner has already proven herself to be troublesome, we will travel with you to ensure she doesn’t escape again. I’m not sure a mere human like you would be able to capture her.”
Aldrick puffed up his chest. “After the merry goose chase you led me on to finally catch up with you? You wasted half of my morning! I can handle a simple prisoner escort on my own. In fact, it wasn’t until they were in your care that they managed to escape. Now return to the city before I strike you down.”
The other Acerbi dropped Tara and rushed to their brother’s side. Their hands shifted into a variety of blades and they leered at Aldrick. “You would dare to strike the servants of Lord Geraldo? This will not be accepted!”
Aldrick jerked on the rope that bound Apollos’ hands together and tossed him a sword. Apollos pulled his hands free, snatched the sword from the air, and sliced the head off of an Acerbus in one fluid motion. Apollos snickered and urged his horse into a position to attack another Acerbus. “Have you noticed that none of your plans seem to be working? I never thought that Geraldo’s brilliant tactician would have all of his plans fail!”
Aldrick slashed an arm free of an Acerbus that was in mid attack against him and growled, “My only shortcoming has been trusting Acerbi to do as they are told! Give me humans to command any day and I will guarantee you victory!”
Apollos cut down another Acerbus and shook his head. “I’ll have to see it before I believe it!”
The last Acerbi retreated and picked up Tara, who let out a moan of pain from the rough treatment. The Acerbus held up a bladed arm to Tara’s throat, and growled, “Drop your weapons or the girl dies!”
Apollos glared at the Acerbus and dropped his sword to the ground. “If you harm that girl any further, you won’t be able to run fast enough; I will catch you and I will make you endure worse than what she has gone through before I finally give you the sweet relief of death.”
Aldrick dropped his blade to the ground as well. “Let the girl go.”
The Acerbus let Tara drop to the ground once more. “Lord Geraldo will hear of your betrayal, Aldrick!” He dropped down into a shadowy puddle and darted to the north.
Aldrick called after him, “Don’t forget to mention that you can’t follow orders!” He turned to Apollos. “There goes our chance of having the element of surprise.”
Apollos was already out of his saddle and had Lepidoflita fluttering over to land on Tara. Apollos picked Tara up in his arms and said, “Don’t worry, Tara, you’re safe now.”
Aldrick snorted. “As safe as you can be while being on Geraldo’s most wanted list.”
Apollos turned and glared at Aldrick, and Aldrick shrugged. Tara’s body was shaking from sobs of happiness. “I thought that Geraldo was going to kill us, and after they caught me a second time I gave up hope! They took so much pleasure in cutting me that I thought they wouldn’t stop! I was considering killing myself until you found me!”
Apollos stroked Tara’s hair and made soothing noises. “You’re fine now, see? Lepidoflita has healed all of your wounds, they won’t even leave scars.”
Aldrick cleared his throat and said, “We should get moving. It’s only a matter of time before that Acerbus reaches Geraldo, and I mean to have as much distance between him and me as possible before that happens.”
Apollos nodded his head and helped Tara up to her feet. “Do you think you can ride?”
Tara nodded her head. “Yes, I am hungry though.”
Apollos climbed up onto his horse. “We have plenty of supplies with us, but you’ll have to eat while we ride. We need to reach the rebellion as soon as possible.” The three turned their horses and urged them on into a gallop toward the west.
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more of it, come back on Wednesday when I will publish part two, 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, and don’t forget to check out my new book, The Kids on the Case! You can find it here: The Kids on the Case: Our First Case