• ERIC BUTLER

The Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years: The Awakening Part 8

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 5 contains Chapters 15 & 16.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


Henry stared at the altar. He enjoyed his life, enjoyed the peace and quiet he was able to achieve once he left his father's home. The constant pressure to succeed, to follow in the old man's footsteps, was rather distasteful...for both Ephraim and myself. Both escaping as soon as possible, their mother's passing only making it that much easier. A sad smile crossed his lips. It wasn't always bad. Memories of them growing up flashed through his head; the three brothers arm in arm before age and responsibilities drove them apart.


A simpler time, true, but Henry wondered had they truly been happier ones, or was this the wishful fancy of an aging man? Shaking his head, he decided it would matter little in the end. Samuel was happy running their father's estates and had sent word that both brothers were welcome back home anytime. Will Ephraim accept...does he even know? The thought blared in Henry's pounding head, and he wondered if he had time to make the trip to see the doctor or possibly Lady Farkus.


A halfhearted scowl flashed on his face. Maybe if his head didn't pound quite as much, he would be able to commit more energy to his foolish act. Her face appeared before him, floating and foggy, like an apparition. His breath caught at her beauty as he struggled to glance away. Her dark eyes held his for a moment before he slammed his lids shut, pressing his palms against his eyes. She was visiting him more and more lately.


Henry peaked around his hands, let out a sign; her face no longer there. His headache, however, remained. Slipping from the church, he made his way to the tiny stable. After a few moments, he rode out. Slowing his mount, he hesitated at the fork, and then angled the horse towards Lady Farkus's house. She's closer and there is so much to do when I get back. The horse sped to a trot as he winced at every step.


***


Ephraim woke to the smell of roasted chicken. His stomach grumbled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since dinner the night before. He blinked away the sleep, surprised to find he sat in the same chair but now covered with a blanket.


"Ah, wonderful, you're awake," Lady Farkus said from across the room.


Ephraim shifted so he could see her. She stood by a table near the window, a large platter before her, and two glasses in her hands. With a motion of her head, she instructed him to join her. He glanced back at the blanket then the fire, suddenly unsure if he wanted to move away from the pleasant warmth. Another grumble from his stomach informed him that was not an option.


"Lady Farkus," Ephraim said as he folded the blanket into a tight rectangle. "I just want to apologize for nodding off...early morning and all, and to thank you for the blanket."


"Enough with this Lady business," she said as he moved towards the table. "Please call me Selina, and I'll use Ephraim?"


Ephraim stopped by the table, and said with a slight nod of his head, "It would be my pleasure...Selina."


His eyes swept across the table while his stomach rumbled its approval. The platter was a massive porcelain oval. He hadn't seen anything like it, as much of the detail was covered by the roasted chickens and root vegetables. The pattern appeared to be a crisscross of wolves chasing deer through a forest of blue.


"Please sit," Selina said as she slipped into her chair. Ephraim hesitated, wondering if he should help with her chair, but the moment passed, and he sat.


"Again, I must apologize for the lack of the help," she said with a laugh as she cut the birds into fourths.


"Quite all right," he replied as he studied the wine bottle between them. "I prefer it that way if I'm being honest."


"As do I, but appearances must be kept whenever possible," Selina said, her mouth turned downward for a second before her smile returned. "As I'm sure you well know."


She passed him a plate piled with chicken and potatoes while he removed the cork and filled both their glasses. They ate in silence, enjoying the open view of her land as it swept up from a flat plain into the forested hills. He suspected that wherever the slope ended, there would be a tremendous drop.


Ephraim pushed the plate away, an impressive pile of bones the only thing left. He fought the urge to pat his stomach, as he tried to remember the last time he ate so well.


"I see your cook has stayed and should be commended," he said, offering a wide smile of contentment.


A laugh slipped past her lips, and she tilted her head, her wine glass resting in her right hand, "Of course I've stayed...it is my home."


Heat flushed Ephraim's cheeks as he coughed at his gaffe behind his napkin.


"Well for that I am grateful. That was the best meal I've eaten in years...possibly since I left my father's estate."


"Such honeyed words...is it my turn now to blush," Selina said, her laughter once again filling the room.


Ephraim was pretty sure he now blushed enough for them both, but he found he didn't mind. Instead, he found himself searching for other ways to encourage her laugh to continue. Nervous energy buzzed throughout his body, an almost uncontrollable urge to stand and move about. He didn't think he was experiencing anything other than the contentment one finds in fine food and good company, but as his head grew lighter, Ephraim began to ponder if this was the effects of something else.


Selina leaned forward, a broad smile on her lips. She reached out and gently touched him on the forearm. He blinked, first at her, trying to stop her face from spinning; then in general as everything began to grow dark and wavy. His mouth opened, a question forming but before the words slipped out, Ephraim's eyes rolled back, and he slumped forward onto the table.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


"Why Vicar," Selina said with a sly smile, "what a pleasant surprise."


Henry slipped from his horse, winching and pressing his hand against his head.


"Oh, you poor thing; the headaches are back," she said helping him navigate the stairs. At the top, his face reddened, and he pulled away, holding himself rigid and still. Her smile returned for a moment and she stepped closer.


"Lady Farkus," he stammered, turning his head to look out over her fields. "I was wondering if you had seen my brother or your man today."


Sighing, Selina shook her head and turned to open the door. She glanced over her shoulder and motioned for Henry to follow.


"I have some tea that will help with your head and you can tell me what is going on," she said, gliding towards the kitchen.


Henry stood in the doorway a moment before giving a start. Flustered, he hurried to catch up, falling in step with the woman as they moved to the kitchen.


"Please, sit," she said, pointing to one of the stools. She grabbed her pot and moved it to the kitchen table. "Lucky for you I happened to just make what you need."


She filled two cups and pushed the sugar bowl towards Henry. As he fiddled with the spoon, adding what he expected was too much sugar; Lady Farkus moved to a cupboard and produced a few cakes for the table.


"Thank you," he murmured after the first sip, the tension in his neck and shoulders retreating. Another sip and his headache faded quite considerably. He bit into the cake and offered a tight smile as he chewed.


"My pleasure as always," she said her voice sweet as honey. The kitchen was warm, but Henry knew that wasn't the reason his face was burning up.


"What was it you were asking?" she said as she reached out and took his free hand. She pressed her hands over his and held it tight. He glanced down then back to her face. Selina leaned closer, her gaze overwhelming.


"Um...my brother," he said, his voice slow and thick. "He seems to be missing. He left this morning with Tanner..."


Henry trailed off, his unblinking eyes staring into hers, and he wondered what she hid behind those dark orbs.


"What was I saying?"


"Nothing dear," she dropped his hand as she stood. Selina slipped behind him, helping him off the stool. "You were telling me you were going home to wait for your brother. You expect him there later today."


Henry nodded, slowly at first but with each nod, his indecision faded, "Yes...yes, that's right. I must get back. Thank you so much, my headache is almost entirely gone."


They walked to the front. The Vicar's horse had wandered over to some wildflowers and was pulling them up in bunches. The horse whinnied as they stepped to its side. Selina placed her hand on Henry's shoulder and squeezed. Her smile returned as she leaned closer, "I'm sure your brother is in good hands."


He nodded, glancing at her hand as she removed it. Silently he mounted the horse and set back to the church. Something bothered him, but he couldn't quite place it. Oh well, at least my headache is gone.




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