• ERIC BUTLER

The Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years: The Awakening Part 6

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 6 contains Chapters 11 & 12.

CHAPTER ELEVEN


"Faster," Tanner cried out as he crashed through the forest towards the horses.


Ephraim glanced over his shoulder, dark shapes chased after them. Deep growls filled his ears as they pulled closer to the men. Aware he was unarmed, Ephraim cursed his lack of foresight when a shot rang out. A yelp sounded behind him, but Ephraim focused on the horses now in sight.


They pawed at the ground, pulling and tugging on their lead, desperate to get free from the post.


Another shot fired, and Ephraim quietly thanked God for Tanner. At least one of us had their head on straight. A third shout sounded as Ephraim slid to a halt next to his horse. He patted her neck, offering soothing noises although he was well aware that he was in no shape to calm anyone.


Tanner fired once more before grabbing the reigns and scurrying into his saddle. Ephraim followed suit as the two horses bolted. The howling and snarling faded as they pulled away. Ephraim held on for dear life, drawing on every lesson he ever had on horsemanship. The trees whipped by, slapping and slicing at both mount and rider, and he wondered just how long they could keep up this pace.


Another howl sounded off to the right which was quickly answered from their left. As long as we can I guess. Ephraim pressed closer, fighting the urge to shut his eyes as the dark of night gave way to the morning light, turning the forest gray.


The two riders burst from the forest. We've done it...it should be a straight shot. A loud snap and the screams of Tanner's mount interrupted his thoughts as it tumbled to the ground. Ephraim pulled up, guiding his horse to turn around.


Tanner's limp form tumbled over the ground and came to a stop a few yards from the still shrieking animal. Howls sounded, much closer than Ephraim expected. He drove his heels into his mount, springing towards Tanner. He tumbled from the saddle and did a quick inspection of the unconscious man.


Nothing broken, breathing shallow but regular, and the man's pulse is steady enough. All these thoughts flew through his head as he glanced back towards the injured horse and the edge of the forest. No time to waste. He slipped his arms under Tanner and lifted. Ephraim stumbled forward a bit before gaining his footing and balance. He slung Tanner over the back of the horse and followed up. It took a moment to situate himself in the saddle and set Tanner in a position that Ephraim could hold on to.

Ephraim glimpsed back at the sounds of snapping and snarling. Four large canine shapes circled the felled horse, only causing the creature's cries to intensify. They offered him a glance before deciding he wasn't worth the effort and attacked the mount, ending its cries in short order. Ephraim dug his heels into the horse's flank wanting to be long gone before they finished.


As he glanced back one last time, an enormous wolf stepped from the forest. Shocked, Ephraim almost fell from the saddle. The beast walked upon two legs.


CHAPTER TWELVE


As the sun burned away the darkness, Ephraim slowed the horse down. He knew she wouldn't last much longer, her neck shined with sweat and her breaths came in labored gasps. Ephraim checked one last time behind them to make sure none of the wolves followed and pulled the mare to a stop. He slipped from the saddle, careful that Tanner stayed in place.


After a bit of situating, Ephraim was able to walk next to her without Tanner falling from her back. He let her guide them since the horse seemed to know where they needed to go; and they were moving away from the pack. At least I hope so, won't do at all to meet up with those beasts again on foot. He shuddered at the thought before saying a small prayer for Tanner's horse. Nothing deserved to die that way.


As he followed the mare, Ephraim realized they were lost. He assumed she would lead them back to the church, but it now appeared they traveled away from his brother.


Ephraim checked on Tanner, but he was still unconscious. Shaking his head, he wondered how close the nearest doctor might be. A series of deep barks pulled him from his thoughts. Ephraim's head shot up as he searched for the four-legged attackers.


"No worries, Soldier," Lady Farkus called out as she stepped out from behind a rise. Two mastiffs loped beside her as she strode towards Ephraim. She wore her dark hair loose, and her clothes were as vibrant today as the first time they met. She offered him a worried smile as she arrived at the mare's side.


The mastiffs continued around the horse, pausing to sniff around Ephraim before pressing their faces against his pants. He stayed still, afraid any movement might end up with a part of him in either creature's mouth.


"Don't mind them," she said offhandedly. "You'd be dead if they had any doubts."


"Good to know," Ephraim replied while continuing to stay still.


Lady Farkus let out a light, bell-like laugh, as she glanced over to him. Her eyes sparkled with mischief, and he wondered once more exactly how close she might be with his brother.


"My home is just around those hills," she said, motioning with her head as her eyes stayed locked on Tanner. "I'll have the doctor look him over. While we move him, perhaps you can fill me in?"


Ephraim heard the question in her voice, but it was a question in politeness only. He hesitated before deciding he had no reason to hold back with her. At least not yet. Lady Farkus took the reins and started back the way she came. Ephraim waited a moment too long leading the mastiffs to begin to poke and prod him to follow her. He let out a yelp as he stumbled after her.


With another laugh, she glanced back and whistled. The two dogs surged forward, leaving him to catch up. Just what did you get me into dear brother?



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