• ERIC BUTLER

The Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years: The Awakening Part 10

This story takes place 5 years before the first Ephraim Godwin Chronicle Serial. It will be longer than a simple stand alone story so I will be releasing parts of the tale every Wednesday. Part 10 contains Chapters 19 & 20.


In case you missed last week's chapters - click here


CHAPTER NINETEEN


Joseph Risewell stood in a field. He preferred to be in a wide-open space when dealing with Lady Farkus, although he questioned if it really mattered. After witnessing her work on the Baron, he found himself questioning...well, everything. More than once he found himself at the Vicar's house but his fear of Lady Farkus's retribution stayed his tongue.


"Mr. Risewell, so good of you to meet with me," her voice called out from the trees at the edge of the field. He turned and offered a slight bow, his face expressionless. He learned early on to betray no emotion to this woman. Anything she perceives as weakness can be twisted into a weapon.


The Lady stepped from the forest and strode towards the Baron's manservant. She had an easy way to her movement as if gliding no matter what surface she walked upon. With each step, her body moved in such a way to attract the eyes exactly where she wanted them, controlling not only the person's attention but clouding their perception as well.


Risewell knew better than to let his eyes linger, an early lesson the Lady taught with rigor. His chin tucked down to his chest, helped move his eyes to the ground. Better to look down then suggest equality. Something the Lady didn't believe existed. Perhaps it had once, but now Risewell was well aware of his place. She slowed, stopping a few feet away.


Her burning gaze, like flames, caressed his skin. His cheeks darkened as he squirmed under her scrutiny. She expects me to kneel. Risewell remained standing. Even I have my limits. A slight smile danced upon his lips, as he fought to contain his emotions.


Moving closer, Lady Farkus's finger slid under Risewell's chin, and she tipped his head back enough for their eyes to meet. He flinched but kept his eyes up. A scream built in his chest, and he fought to not release it. Her finger now tapped against her lips as she studied the man. Sweat built up on his hairline, but his eyes stared straight ahead, focused on nothing.


"Report," Lady Farkus finally said as she leaned forward a bit, slipping uncomfortably close.


Risewell cleared his throat, suddenly afraid he would not be able to find his voice. After a moment he spoke, "All goes according to plan. The Baron is one or two treatments away from having the mental state you predicted. He is malleable to the skull, and to the instructions it provides."


Lady Farkus barked out a laugh, stomping her foot in excitement. Risewell continued to fight the urge to show a reaction although her display was unexpected. She slid closer, her body inches from his, and reached out to place her palm on the side of his face. Heat surged through the touch, and Risewell body began to shake from the contact.


"You must hurry home, my dear Mr. Risewell, and deliver the final treatment," she said, bell-like laughter following her statement as she held up a sack. "You will find all you need here. When the deed is complete, light two candles in the highest most western window; until then my dear man, remember our bargain." As he gripped the sack, she spun around and stalked back to the woods.


His eyes lingered a moment as his hand laid over where hers just rested.


"Mr. Risewell?" her questioning tone made the man start in surprise. His eyes quickly darted to the bag he held, one more day, and his master would be no more. His stomach rolled as he began to walk back to the only life he'd ever known, the sound of Lady Farkus's laughter chasing after him.


CHAPTER TWENTY


Ephraim opened his eyes. His head pounded, and he was grateful for the darkness surrounding him. He resisted sitting up, fearful of its effect on his headache. Instead, he rolled to his side, attempting to limit how much the uncomfortable cold stone came in contact with him. A weak light flickered across the way. Was he in a room or a cell?


From the odor, dampness, and soft pattering of feet Ephraim decided a cell most likely. Taking a deep breath, he rolled to his stomach and began to crawl towards the light. With each movement, the pounding intensified until his vision blurred with shooting bursts of color. His muscles screamed out in protest and Ephraim struggled to continue.


Practically blinded by the pain, Ephraim paused to take in deep gulps of air. A gurgle sounded in the darkness. Ephraim blinked through the pain and blurred vision, straining to hear the noise again. It came a moment later, and he burst towards the light. A gasp of pain slipped past his lips as he bumped into a table bolted to the floor. His hands gripped the edge, and after another moment of concentration, Ephraim pulled himself up.


He looked down at a thin, pale candle with a weak flame waving back and forth. Ephraim reached out, unsure if the candle actually existed or was a simple trick of his mind. His fingers wrapped around the delicate wax, winching when hot wax dribbled over his skin. The discomfort providing him with needed focus.


The gurgle sounded once again. Now that he stood closer, Ephraim was sure of what he heard. It wouldn't be the first time, his ears picked up the struggled breaths of a man missing his tongue. He shuffled towards the sound, careful to not trip over the individual. His left foot struck soft flesh, turning the bubbling gurgle into a harsh gasp of breath. A low moan followed, filling the cell and Ephraim's ears with despair. Crouching, he waived the candle around illuminating the torn and battered body of Mr. Tanner. A hiss of surprise escaped from Ephraim as he took in the damage done to the man assigned to assist him.

Tanner's hand flexed, moving around like a blinded animal searching for comfort.


Ephraim's free hand grasped it, so dismayed by the harm done to this man, his own pain forgotten. He leaned closer, allowing the weak light to illuminate the empty sockets, the jagged rips upon the man's exposed skin, and the gaping maw where Ephraim spied the bloody stump wiggling around.


The stench of death grew stronger and Ephraim began the Lord's prayer. At first, the words merely whispered, but with each one, his volume increased. There was no noticeable recognition from Mr. Tanner but as he finished, the man's grip tightened. A moment later, it relaxed for the last time and Ephraim swore to repay this soldier's suffering a hundredfold if it was the last thing he did.


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