• ERIC BUTLER

The Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years: The Awakening Part 18

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 35 & 36.


CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE


Ephraim jogged through the field, at first mindful where he stepped but soon he left a trail of crushed flowers in his wake. Feelings of guilt exploded through his body with each crunch as flashes of his time in Crimea overwhelmed his senses. He slowed, growing dizzy as he struggled to find breath.


Stumbling to his knees, Ephraim attempted to gulp huge breaths hoping to combat his sudden breathing difficulties. The flowers around him swayed as a gentle breeze moved across the field, filling his lungs with more and more pollen. He clawed at his throat before slumping over unconscious.


***


"Quiet," the hulking giant said through gritted teeth as Henry began the Lord's Prayer again.

Henry was no longer aware how many times he'd spoken the words allowed but he had begun anew as soon as he finished. Apparently enough times to get on my captor's nerves.


"Our Father," Henry restarted staring at the man's massive back. "Who art in heav..." The word cut off in a yelp as the Baron jerked Henry forward and held him up so they could see eye-to-eye.


"I said quiet." The words hung between the two men in challenge.


Henry focused on the Baron's glowing red eyes. Evil radiated from there, overwhelming Henry and stealing the breath from his lungs. He always felt the Baron was a wicked man but now he seemed so much more. This man is corrupted in some type of unholy alliance.


"And if I refuse?"


"Then I will break more than your arm," the Baron hissed as he reached out and gripped Henry's forearm before twisting.


Henry howled in pain as he struggled to free his arm from the Baron's iron-like grip. Cold laughter filled his ears as the man continued to twist and turn, breaking Henry's arm in a number of places. The Baron slammed him back to the ground and began to march, once again dragging the vicar behind him.


As Henry's vision faded he started the prayer once again.


***

The giant slumbered. Thick, knotted roots ran from his back and legs into the ground and pulsed as they pulled nutrients from the soil. His hands lay, folded, in his lap as his back pressed against a mighty oak. The shade from the overhead branches hid his expression of exasperation.


This close to his final goal and still he found himself in a struggle against man. Who would have guessed all those years ago that his worshipers would abandon him to chase false gods in cities of stone and metal? Anger flooded him, forcing his dreams into a dark reflective corner he preferred to avoid.


If only he could remove two pieces from the game board, he knew he would finally be successful. The vicar was in the hands of a demon and would most likely be removed without the giant having to do anything but the infernal Ephraim Godwin was stomping through a field of wildflowers toward him at this very moment. The giant easily pictured the human marching through the field as he tapped into all the nature around the man.


"What's that?" the giant mumbled as his eyes moved under his thick lids. A swell of excitement rose in his chest as he recognized poppy plants mixed within the other flowers.


The giant took a deep breath and let it out slowly. In his mind's eye, he witnessed his breath blow through the blooms, shaking the pollen loose. A smile grew across his lips as Ephraim struggled against the poppy's effect and slumped to the ground. Success is closer than I realized.


CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX


Ephraim's eyes fluttered open. He lay in a field but no longer surrounded by wildflowers. Shuddering he rose to his knees, horrified to find he was in the middle of a sea of bodies. Those closest to him were easily recognized as British, but he spotted Sardinians, French, Turks, and those bloody Russians throughout the carnage. Mounds of earth and flesh exploded all around as the thunder of cannon fire drowned out all but the loudest of cries.


Ephraim searched the ground, hunting for his revolver or better yet a rifle. The weight of his saber was missing from his hip, and he struggled to remember the last time he had it. Why had I thought I was home? A vision of wildflowers quickly disappeared as the ground to his left exploded.


A hoarse scream sounded to his right, drawing his attention. A Russian soldier stumbled towards him. He limply held his revolver in his right hand, his left wrapped around the hilt of Ephraim's blade, which happened to be sticking through the man. Ah there it is. He had no memory of leaving it in an enemy but now was not the time for quibbling.


"How kind of you," Ephraim shouted as he sprang toward the soldier.


The Russian tried to straighten his revolver but his arm shook from the effort and he tumbled to the ground. Ephraim stepped on his chest and gripped the handle. How very Arthurian of me. He smiled at the thought as he pulled his blade from the dying man's chest. Bending over he snatched the revolver, checked it was loaded, and nodded to the dead soldier.


In the distance, Ephraim caught sight of a horse milling around the dead and dying. It was a lovely shade of grey and appeared unaffected by the chaos all around it. He stumbled towards the beast, praying nothing happened to the magnificent animal.


Ephraim slowed a few feet from the horse, holding out his hand and making calming noises he was sure the beast couldn't hear. The horse shied from him a moment before snorting and stepping forward, nuzzling its nose against his hand. Ephraim fought the urge to cry out in celebration, still worried about spooking the beast.


He gripped the bridle and stepped to the side of the horse, swinging up to settle in the saddle. He tested the horse's reaction to his knee pressure and smiled when it responded as he hoped. Ah, must be from back home.


"Shall we see what mischief we can make?" he asked the beast as he urged it forward.

The horse started off, gaining speed with each step. Ephraim took aim and fired, all five shots found their way to a different target, thinning the number of adversaries between him and the bulk of the enemy force. Out of bullets, Ephraim threw the revolver at the closest soldier who dodged out of the way.


With a war cry, he raised his saber and charged forward. With each step, a surge of enemy soldiers appeared as if from the dead themselves and crowded around Ephraim's mount. They clawed at his legs, tore at the horse's flank, and moved to block their momentum.


Ephraim slashed, changing sides like he was rowing a boat. The horse rose high, stomping down with its front legs and kicking out with its back. Yet the number continued to swell.

Ephraim became unbalanced, teetering off to the side as a number of hands pulled and clawed at him. His saber slipped from his grasp as he tumbled into his attackers. Struggling to turn, he landed on his back with a thud. His vision blurred a moment and he feared he would lose consciousness at any moment. Don't you dare! You are British and will die on your feet!


Ephraim moved to stand but the enemy fell upon him. It was then that he noticed they were not actually Russians but instead something else entirely. They stood like men, although many had a hunch to their back. Their skin was dark like many of the Russian's Ephraim faced in the war, but these had a reddish hue. Horns, big and small, jutted from each one's forehead and their eyes glowed with a heat unknown to man.


"What is this place?" he asked as they pinned him to the ground.


"Why this is your own personal hell," a voice said as the battleground grew deathly quiet. A man stepped to Ephraim and displayed his lost saber. Offering an excited smile, he drove the blade into Ephraim's stomach. "We hope to make your stay legendary."


Ephraim's vision faded to black as his blood soaked into the ground, the only sound on the battlefield the man's harsh laughter.



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