When Tomorrow Comes
That night, the seekers shared stories passed down by their elders. Mhutig entertained his new friends with tales of his son who was always getting into trouble.
At daybreak, they set out for Strawbridge – the gap between strangers and friends closed. And after Mother Nature’s false alarm, everyone was grateful to see the sun begin her slow ascent over the land.
Their ride to Strawbridge was spent in quiet companionship while everyone enjoyed time with their own thoughts. Occasionally, the quiet was broken when someone decided to share those thoughts.
So, as he was fond of doing, Roy turned to Ewart for some conversation.
“I hope my father is doing well at the bakery. He has no one to help out besides me. When I mentioned that he should take on a new apprentice during my absence, he insisted on waiting for me to return. I just wish that he not be so stubborn.”
“I may know someone like that,” Ewart teased his friend. “Remember the time Chester challenged you to a sword match? Chester was three years older than you and a lot more experienced, but that didn’t stop you from accepting his challenge. And although Chester won the match, you held your own, proving that we can all stand up to the challenges thrown our way if we are brave enough.”
“I was only fourteen and didn’t know any better,” Roy answered with a low chuckle. “If Chester were to challenge me now, I’m not sure that I would accept so willingly.”
“Nonsense, Roy. I have never seen you back down from anything in the ten years that we’ve been friends.” Edward had always admired his friend’s courage, and he couldn’t imagine Roy ever giving up without a fight.
“Time willing, we still have many years ahead of us. Let us hope that each challenge we face is never greater than our ability to overcome it.” Roy raised his sword in the now familiar salute.
Unable to resist his friend’s gesture of faith, Ewart raised his sword in return. “To the challenges that lay ahead.” he added.
At Arm’s Length
The sound of thundering feet crashing through the woods underscored their tributes. Then, in three blinks of an eye, a giant creature with only one eye appeared before them. The creature did not pause for introductions. Instead, he jumped in front of Henry who was closest to him, and with the sweep of one arm, sent the seeker flying through the air. Henry landed in a silent heap no less than three arms from his horse.
He was about to sweep Aspen off her horse, when Mhutig charged forward with his sword in hand. And with a single thrust, Mhutig’s sword pierced the creature’s heart. Crying out in protest, the one-eyed giant placed his hand as though to stop the blood – the same hand that had struck Henry. Thereupon, he toppled to the ground in a final act of rage, punctuating his fall with an emphatic thud.
Lisette leaped from Daisy’s back and ran to where Henry had landed. Lying with his face on the ground, Lisette touched him gently. She wanted to scream, but what good would it do? Joined now by the others, Calder helped her to turn over Henry’s limp body.
A Brush With Death
Unable to discern anything from his friend’s lifeless condition, Calder placed an ear on Henry’s chest and listened for a heartbeat. The others observed in fear and shock. No one spoke. For any words they might have uttered were stuck in their throats.
“I can hear his heart beating,” Calder reassured everyone.
“We need to wake him,” Roy responded. “We need to know if anything is broken. That creature threw him pretty hard.”
“Here. Try these smelling herbs.” Mhutig withdrew a pouch from his satchel. “I should warn you that they smell awful, but they always do the trick.”
Calder reached for the pouch and waved them in front of Henry’s nose. The pungent smell filled the air, bringing tears to the group’s eyes as it bit their noses. Henry, however, remained unconscious.
“It’s not working,” Calder choked out.
“Keep trying,” Mhutig advised. “It can take a few minutes.”
Calder continued to wave the pouch in front of Henry. And true to Mhutig’s words, Henry’s nose began to wiggle.
“What is that awful stench,” Henry asked as he opened his eyes. “What have I done to deserve such punishment?”
The group breathed a collective sigh of relief. Florette flew over to kiss Henry’s forehead.
Awake to Tell the Tale
“You gave us quite the scare,” she scolded.
“I’m not going to disappear, am I?” Henry asked with mock fear.
Pretending to be insulted by his question, Florette placed both hands on her hips before responding.”I will have you know that magic only works when it is intended.”
“Am I happy to hear that,” Henry answered, feigning his own sigh of relief.
“Does anything feel broken?” Roy asked.
“My entire body hurts, but I do not think so,” Henry concluded as he sat up. “I have never felt so fortunate. Although I cannot say the same for that creature,” he added.
“Such a creature has never been reported in the land of Wrunwicks,” Lisette thought out loud.
Monsters in the Forest
“It is a cyclops, like the ones that I mentioned yesterday,” Mhutig informed the seekers. “Myself, and other centaurs like me, have formed an alliance to protect humans from these monsters.”
“This cyclops must have arrived here in the same manner that you did, Mhutig,” Aspen remarked.
“For the sake of your people, I hope he is the only one. Cyclops are savage creatures who never hesitate to kill. We must proceed with caution.” Mhutig turned toward Florette with the brightest smile he could muster before continuing. “Perhaps, it would be wise to camouflage ourselves for the remainder of our journey to Strawbridge.”
The seekers also turned toward Florette to smile. And once again, they were grateful for her presence.
“What about you, Henry? Will you be OK to ride?” Calder asked while observing his friend for a sign to the contrary.
“I think I can make it,” Henry said simply. “Just give me a hand so I can stand up.”
“You are one lucky son of a farmer,” Calder observed, after helping Henry walk back to his horse.
“Let us hope that there is plenty to go around,” Henry grunted before flinging his leg over Mystery’s back.
~~~To be continued ~~~
You can read parts 1 – 5 of this story by clicking on the link below. Until next time, be kind to yourself. You’re worth it.✨