• ERIC BUTLER

The Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years: The Awakening Part 17

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 11 contains Chapters 33 & 34.


CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Ephraim opened his eyes to a throbbing headache. He lay in the tunnel, covered in debris. His brother's torch remained lit, but the flame was weakening by the moment. He struggled to sit up, the motion intensifying the pain in his head.


"Easy laddie," a voice said from the shadows. The tiny man stepped forward and Ephraim sighed.


"Guess it wasn't a gas leak."


"Of course not you silly nit," the man said as he glared at Ephraim. "The torch should be enough to tell you that."


Ephraim fought the urge to roll his eyes, especially since the man was correct. He gingerly ran his fingers around his head, searching for any damage. So far so good. The thought gave him strength as he found nothing to be concerned about save a tiny gash on the side of his forehead.


"Tis a love tap...use this," the man said as he held out a colorful handkerchief. Ephraim took it with a slight nod.


"How long was I out?" Ephraim asked as he wrapped it around his head. He secured it with a knot and the man nodded his approval.


"Not long," the man turned and began to walk to the large hole made by the Baron. He glanced back, "Whatever you do, don't remove that until I tell you to."


Ephraim stood, scooped up the torch, and followed the tiny man.


***


Henry opened his eyes and moaned. His whole body ached and he had trouble focusing. He blinked a few times before realizing he was being dragged behind a giant hunched figure. The largest hand Henry had ever seen gripped his ankle tightly. He opened his mouth to get the man's attention but something held him back.


Instead, he glanced around in an attempt to gather his bearings. The last thing he remembered was the explosion in the tunnel. How long have I been unconscious? A question he was not sure he could answer. They were no longer underground, and Henry had no way of gauging just how long ago they emerged.


The sun's rays cut through the morning fog, and Henry guessed that only a few hours had passed. Of course, it could be days, depending on when this...person found him. He found the thought unnerving. And where was Ephraim? He found it hard to believe his brother would just let this hulk drag him off without a fight.


Henry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, "Our Father who art in heaven..."


CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR


For a moment, panic overwhelmed Ephraim as he thought they were heading farther down into the ground. He stumbled as a sudden vision of all the tons of earth above him crashed down. But a gentle breeze began to stream by, encouraging the flame on the torch to dance. Ephraim's breathing returned to normal, and the imagined weight lifted from his shoulders.


The little man stomped through the tunnels, twisting and turning without pause. He occasionally glanced back, as if to make sure Ephraim was still following and that he still wore the handkerchief. Each time he nodded and turned his attention straight ahead. The march continued for some time, and Ephraim began to wonder if they would ever see the sky.


"You can remove the cloth," the man said as he stepped out into a field of wildflowers.

Ephraim ignored the man's words as he stumbled past him and sank to his knees. The air was quite chilly within the fog, but he felt a little heat from the sun's rays on his face. Laughter slipped from his lips as he took big gulps of fresh air.


"You know for a bit there I never thought I'd ever get to breathe in fresh air," he said to the man standing off to the side.


Ephraim shook out the weak flame and tossed the torch towards the entrance they just stepped from and turned his attention to the man. In the sunlight, he seemed less man and more stone, and Ephraim had to fight the urge to reach out to touch him. Fingers still hurt from the last time.


The man swept his hat from his head and bowed. As he straightened he pointed northeast and said, "There is a disturbance in nature that will affect us all if not stopped. Head that way, you will know when you have arrived."


The man slammed the hat back on his head and marched to the tunnel and disappeared before Ephraim thought to ask any questions. He hurried to the entrance, pausing as small snippets of complaint slowly faded away in the dark.


"Thank you," he called out, still wondering if any of it had been real.


***


The giant leaned against a mighty oak and sighed. The amount of energy and power required to set his plans in motion was exhausting. He had not expected such resistance from the Lady Farkus or from the man of God. And yet they both struggled against him; one to free herself, and the other to stop the return of the green.


"A fool," he said to the trees. For a moment he wondered if he meant himself or the vicar before he forced a laugh across his lips. Now is not the time for doubt.


Not when he was so close to opening the countryside back up to the powers of nature. He would bask in the destruction of man and his distasteful cities. He was so close, and he wouldn't let anything get in his way. His eyelids grew heavy and he slid to the earth, he needed some rest so he was ready for the final push.


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