The Seekers – The Real Question (Part 7)
Monsters in the Forest (cont’d)
“What should we do with him?” Aspen asked, pointing to the cyclops, who even in death, looked ready to kill – his one round eye cold and unblinking.
“We could cover him with branches and let Mother Nature take care of the rest,” Ewart duly replied.
“Or, we could just leave him be,” Henry winced.
“I would agree that this monster deserves nothing more than to be left beneath the rains, Henry. But if someone were to come across his body, it could incite panic,” Lisette observed. “It would be a simple task to cover the creature in branches with everyone’s help,” she added.
“I can no more argue with your reasoning, Lisette, than argue with the rains. And while I would love to help, it might be best for me to sit this one out,” Henry answered in return.
“I think we can manage it on our own,” Ewart grinned.
“Then let us begin,” Roy concluded, already dismounting his horse.
The others followed while Florette remained with Henry. And in just over an hour, the seekers were on their way to Strawbridge once again.
The Journey Forward
Camouflaged, the seekers felt safe, but each of them kept an ear to the forest. After the arrival of Mhutig and the cyclops, they wondered who else might show up without warning.
“Are there many cyclops in your land, Mhutig?” Lisette asked as the sun hid behind a cloud, fearing the answer.
“No one knows exactly how many there are of these monsters,” Mhutig replied. “I was surprised to see that one travelling alone. They usually travel in packs of at least three. He must have wandered off and like me, ended up here.”
“Or perhaps there are more we have yet to encounter,” Lisette mused.
“If there are more, at least now, we have the advantage of being invisible to anyone but ourselves,” Mhutig replied. “I just hope there are no other travelers in this forest today.”
“Those unfortunate travelers would not have a centaur to protect them,” Henry added – grateful to be alive.
“Perhaps my presence here is not so accidental,” Mhutig smiled at Henry.
“You said that you hunt cyplops in Krousus, Mhutig. Were you on your way home from one of those hunting trips before arriving in Wrunwicks?” Roy could not resist asking.
“I was. My wife would prefer that I not go on such trips,” Mhutig answered honestly. “For there are many who disagree with hunting cyclops. They argue that it’s not our place to destroy another creature. Unfortunately, humans are no match against cyclops. I fear that without our help, the people of Krousus would eventually be wiped out.”
“We can only hope that no others have found their way to this land. The people here are no more equipped to fight them than the people of Krousus,” Roy remarked. “I fear the age of peace has made us complacent.”
“And yet, here you are – willing to face the wrunwick if necessary,” Mhutig observed.
“We cannot allow the vanishings to continue without a fight. Too many people have already disappeared,” Roy answered.
“We will have to warn the villagers of Strawbridge. They deserve to know of this new threat,” Lisette informed the group.
“We will also need to explain Mhutig’s presence,” Calder pointed out. “They have never laid eyes on a centaur before.”
“It is true that we have much to tell the villagers,” Lisette agreed. “And just as we have come to appreciate Mhutig’s alliance, so too, shall the villagers,” Lisette concluded, smiling in the direction of their new friend.
Calder was about to respond, when Florette waved her arm from Lisette’s hood to signal the others.
Two More Makes Three?
“Does anyone hear that?” she asked.
The group stopped to listen and scan the forest. A deer scurried off while an eagle supervised from its lofty height. And to their right, they heard the steady thump of footsteps approaching.
Lisette’s heart pounded in response. Taking a deep breath, she addressed the group. “We have no reason to fear whatever is coming through those woods. As long as we stay out of its direct path, we will remain safe. It should not be able to detect us. This time, we have the advantage.”
The others nodded, listening as the footsteps continued their approach. A seasoned hunter, Mhutig appraised the sound and distance of the thumps.
“From what I can hear, there are two of them,” he notified the seekers. “They should be within sight before this hour is complete.”
“Perhaps it would be best to keep moving,” Henry said. “I feel like an ant next to a shoe, even with the camouflage.”
“I must agree with Henry,” Aspen said, directing her eyes toward Lisette. “And we still need to get to Strawbridge.”
“What do you think, Mhutig,” Lisette asked. “Should we wait to confirm the presence of more cyclops, or should we create as much distance between us and those footsteps as possible?”
The Real Question
It had become clear to Mhutig that the seekers looked to Lisette for leadership – a heavy responsibility for someone so young. And although she appeared well-suited to the role, he knew from experience how difficult such a role could be.
“If indeed, more cyclops have arrived in Wrunwicks, they will eventually find their target,” Mhutif answered the young leader. “They make up for their one eye with their keen sense of smell. In Krousus, they stay away from the villages to avoid any centaurs who might be waiting. But if they discover that the people here are alone and defenseless, they might attack an unsuspecting village.”
Absorbing his words, Lisette paused before addressing the others. “Henry and Aspen are wise to be concerned. We have already witnessed the destructive power of these monsters. And our camouflage has not been tested against them. So, the decision to stay cannot be mine alone. What do you say, seekers? Do we stay, or do we continue to Strawbridge?”
“I say that we stand our ground,” Roy spoke up. “We set out on a journey to find an answer to the vanishings of our people. Now it is time to answer the question of who we are. Are we cowards? Or, are we the truth seekers, defenders of Wrunwicks.”
“To truth and Wrunwicks,” Ewart raised his sword in salute.
“To truth and Wrunwicks,” the others chimed in agreement.
~~~To Be Continued~~~
Thank you for reading! You can read parts 1 – 6 of this story by clicking on the link below. Until next time, be kind to yourself. You’re worth it.✨