The Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years: The Awakening Part 7
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 13 & 14.
Ephraim stifled a yawn. The adrenalin rush from the early morning excitement finally wore off as he sat in Lady Farkus's library. Once he carried Tanner inside and laid him down, she directed him to the room. The house was about the size of the one he grew up in, and Ephraim found the layout close if not exact. He hadn't been expecting a roaring fire when he entered the room, but it was welcome.
Ephraim stepped to the chair closest to the warmth and slumped down with a sigh. A few minutes later the yawning began. He wondered if the Lady would find him asleep when a distant bell sounded. Should I go investigate? He pondered on this for a moment before offering himself a shake of his head. Better to wait here...where it's warm. The last thing he wanted was an upset hostess.
A smile flitted across his lips at the thought. He imagined anger only magnified Lady Farkus's beauty. A beauty that Ephraim knew was a problem; for him and his brother, if she was using it in a war with the Baron, a man not to be trifled with. A hard lesson Ephraim learned on the battlefield. A lesson, in all honesty, Ephraim wanted to repay.
"I apologize for the lack of refreshments," Lady Farkus said as she slipped into the room.
Ephraim stood, sluggish at first as he stifled yet another yawn, and turned to face her. She offered him a sly smile, and his heart beat faster. A flush of heat colored his skin, and he hoped she would mistake it as an effect of the fire.
"No apologies needed," he replied as he waited for her to step to the opposite chair and sit. "We are unannounced guests...it is I who should apologize."
She motioned him to sit as her bell-like laughter filled the room. Her eyes flashed once again; a bit of humor at his expense he thought, and yet there was something else there...a mystery he so desperately wanted to solve. He took his seat with a nod of his head and waited for her to continue.
"Even had I known," she said after a moment, "I would still be ill-prepared. All my servants are gone now...well except Tanner, but he is helping you."
"Yes. Why is that?"
"Because I want to stop the Baron from stealing the last bit of land he doesn't already own...besides the Church's of course."
Ephraim noted the sour expression that flashed over her face before the smile returned. She understands the effect she has on men and uses it with a master's precision. Releasing a sigh, he forced himself to relax and sink into the chair's comfort. He needed to be on guard at all times around her, he decided.
"Your land, you mean?"
She nodded, glancing down at her hands clasped in her lap, before returning her gaze to Ephraim. He struggled to not rush to her side, take her hands in his, and declare no one would take her lands while he yet live. Her smile widened as Ephraim's legs twitched. Of course, she noticed. He kept his expression neutral, as he patted his thighs.
"Yes, but not for the reasons you think," she said, her voice suddenly innocent honey caressing his ears. She slid forward a bit, bringing her knee close to his. His eyes darted toward her leg before glancing back up to her face. If we should touch...
Ephraim didn't finish the thought as a throat cleared from the doorway.
"Ah Doctor," Lady Farkus said as she stood, "Please come in and meet the Vicar's brother, Ephraim Godwin."
Ephraim rose and turned, taking the doctor's hand in greeting, "Pleasure to meet you, Doctor...?"
"Crane, John Crane, and the pleasure is mine. Your brother speaks quite highly of you, and I am pleased to see you here, helping Lady Farkus and the others. Someone needs to stand up to that...that...bully," the doctor said.
Ephraim nodded while offering a neutral smile. Lady Farkus stepped past him and slid next to the doctor, "I'll see you out and you can give me an update on poor Mr. Tanner."
The doctor smiled, nodded towards Ephraim, and stepped out into the hall with Lady Farkus. Ephraim listened until the voices were no longer clear before sitting back down. The warmth of the fire quickly returned him to his original state, and within moments he was snoring softly in the chair.
Baron Hall opened his eyes. He was sitting in the garden, his back to his favorite fountain, with no idea how he came to be there. How can that be? He pressed his palm against his forehead, scrunching his eyes while attempting to force the memories to appear.
"Sir, are you injured?"
The Baron opened his eyes and glared at the speaker. The anger welling in his chest from either the man's interruption or the fact the memories were not coming, he couldn't tell. But he welcomed the distraction.
"Of course, why do you ask?" he said, his lips drawn back in a sneer as he moved to stand. He was not about to speak to the gardener while sitting on the ground like some commoner.
"The blood sir...and, well..."
Hall's body ached, and he found his struggle to stand disconcerting. His gardener had stopped speaking, instead pointing at the Baron. He glanced down, unsure what he would find, and shocked to discover he worn not a stitch of clothing. More confounding was the amount of blood that covered his bare skin.
The Baron stumbled back, slipping to the ground. His hands ran over his skin, searching for an injury but found none. His head rose slowly, locking eyes with the gardener. William Rutter...yes that's his name, another of those gypsy half-breeds roaming the countryside; Hall's eyes narrowed as he glared at the man. Could this be some gypsy trick? Had that blasted Farkus woman sent this man to spy or worse yet bewitch him?
"Well help me up, damn you," the Baron growled at the man.
Rutter stood still a moment longer before lurching forward. He reached down, offering the Baron his hands. Hall gripped the gardener's wrists and jerked him down. The man not expecting the sudden force on his arms tumbled toward the Baron, who shifted enough that Rutter's forehead struck the edge of the marble fountain.
Hall shifted to his knees, grabbed the back of the man's neck, and forced him over the side to plunge the man's head under the water. The gardener clawed at the Baron's hand with one hand as he tried to push up with his other.
"Die with some dignity," the Baron snarled as he leaned forward and placed his free hand on the man's back. His struggles slowed, then stopped but the Baron pushed harder. He had no plans of letting go until he was sure the spy was dead.
"Good heavens," a voice called out. "My lord must be careful. You'll catch your death out here so early in the morning."
The Baron straightened up before pushing up on the fountain's edge. His legs shook from the effort, and the dull ache returned. He wished he could pinpoint the issue, but it seemed everything hurt. Turning to his butler, Hall offered a slight bow of his head.
"Ah, thank goodness you've arrived Risewell," the Baron said, the words slurring together as he neared the end. "It appears I need help to get back to bed."
As he spoke the last words, the Baron tumbled forward into his butler's arms and his world returned to darkness.
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