As Aldrich passed through the familiar streets and alleyways he caught himself lingering at some houses. And he hesitated but never stopped.
Somehow his leg kept walking through it all. He did not want to look, didn"t want to recognize the houses or the people living in them. Sleeping without a worry, in a drunken dream expecting to wake up as usual.
But in the back of his head he recognized them, after all he grew up with them, played and even fought with some of them. That was Wyter"s place a carpenter.
As he walked he saw more and more. There was also Agayla, Baran, Jafer, Hake, Pamela- he didn"t want to look anymore but felt that he was somehow obliged to.
He came here running like a fool thinking he was going to save everyone. Some part of him thought maybe he should have listened to Cazmer. If he ran away there and then maybe he wouldn"t have to feel like this.
Eventually Aldrich found himself back home, Aldrich hesitated by the door, it was more habit than his own will.
He pushed open the door and entered, he walked grimly to the bed room and was surprised him mother wasn"t asleep as usual. Instead she was staring at the burning flames in the fireplace.
"Where were you?"
"Mother, theres no time, we have to go."
"Go? Go where? Did you hit your—"
Aldrich snapped, "I"m serious! The village will be attacked! We barely have an hour to run away. I"ll tell you everything else later! Leave your things, we have no time."
His mother stared at him for a hard minute.
"I"m not going anywhere."
"Mother I"m not joking there—"
"I heard you the first time! The village will get attacked, yes? Great. I am staying."
"Whats wrong with you?! I have enough coin to take us to Voryhrm and I can learn in the academy, I can become a Crestmaster. Come with me."
"At last. You"re so dumb, you decide to make something of yourself now when it"s already too late? Useless! One step too late for anyone of us."
Her words although Aldrich was already used to them still stung. It"s not like he could control something like that, but that was just an excuse.
"So what if you got a Crest? You"re just going to fail. Why even bother? just sit down here and die with the rest of us. You"re can"t make anything out of yourself. Just die."
Aldrich was tempted to do it. Isger was between life and death because of him, Cazmer was going to sacrifice his life for him and Krynt was going to die too.
All because of his weakness because of he"s worthless, he went through all that but couldn"t change anything. He convinced Cazmer to buy time with his life only to achieve nothing.
"No. There are things that I must do."
"Whatever, go fetch me my dreamshade stashed in the corner under the drawer."
Aldrich had to be impressed by her consistency at least. How she still managed to get dreamshade after all his measures to stop her is a mystery.
It was a small hand-sized pouch. Aldrich gave it to her unwillingly. He watched her take out her pipe and fix the powdered substance in place. Then she directly used the fire to light up her pipe. She took a beep breath.
Aldrich watched as her eyes shined and her body looked alive at that moment.
"You never listen to me. I never liked you. If you go out there, be ruthless. Be your own master don"t be a pawn, a slave. As you are now you probably can"t be anything but a pawn. But if one day you can be ...free, that wouldn"t be so bad, free, yes, just like a dream."
The blue smoke veiled his mother"s face he couldn"t see her expression and didn"t want to. Aldrich turned around and walked towards the door. He stopped, as he opened the door he turned to look back at her.
"I will make something of myself, I"ll be a great man. From whichever hell you go to, watch and see."
Then he stepped out and closed the door.
"Fuck off!" He head the curse echo behind him.
Aldrich didn"t slow down he was already late, he couldn"t afford to waste anymore time. He jumped over the wall and continued on his way right back where he came.
The messenger monkey rode on his left shoulder so quietly he almost forgot it was with him. It was only the size of his forearm and very intelligent.
As he made his way, he took out a waterskin and took a generous gulp. The light of the stars was fading and the dark sky was brighter.
This gave Aldrich more visibility but also told him that he was almost out of time.
Panting and huffing as he ran up the hills and through the woods, he didn"t doubt his direction even once, without any evidence he simply followed where he thought was the right way.
Eventually he found his way back to the clearing where thirteen corpses greeted him, he ignored them. When he suddenly stopped in his tracks to think carefully.
From this direction, Cazmer probably wanted Aldrich to go around the mountain and go straight through the woods till he reached somewhere.
But now the time was too late, the cover of the darkness that they banked on will soon desert them.
And the mountains were homes to savage beasts much more so than the woods around the village, the mountains were wild and unforgiving.
Cazmer thought of this escape rout with himself as the subject, these beasts were nothing to a Crestmaster but to Aldrich this was a death sentence.
He could easily get lost too as Aldrich had never explored these parts too much.
There was a river stream that was close by. Aldrich had his eyes on this stream as it descends it would join with the Drnaine river that passes right through the middle of the village to Uleq and then up to Ado"merin.
It was too shallow for big boats here. It was used for fishing and drinking in the village. Aldrich saw a bunch of logs around the stream.
He would hold on to one of them and escape by passing right under their noses. Then he wouldn"t get lost and he will cover a good distance in a short amount of time.
Aldrich looked for a suitable log when he happened on a huge log that was hollow on the inside. Perfect. Aldrich dumped his bag in and broke some offshoots that could get the log stuck.
He then proceeded to push all the logs around into the stream. If there was only one log it would be too conspicuous. With so many logs the chances of getting away increases.
He mad two holes in the hollow log, one to breath and the second was to the right side so he could maneuver the direction if needed.
Aldrich then pushed the log into the water and guided it downstream, the log was not to heavy because it was half-hollow. when he felt the time was right he hopped in the hole in the log and breathed deeply.
The monkey went into the leather bag to hide of its own accord. Making Aldrich praise the creature"s intelligence.
Cool air filled his lungs. The breathing opening was above the water. He could see through it the sky getting brighter at an alarming speed. The water flow was slow and lazy very spring-like.
There was a real chance that he could be too late but there was nothing that Aldrich could do now, he ought to just wait. But his racing heart and his rising anxiety didn"t allow him to just relax.
Aldrich who was busy cursing the river water for being slow was struck dumb by a loud noise. Aldrich looked at the sky expecting thunder clouds but saw a clear sky.
The loud noise was like thunder. He was sure it would shake awake whomever was sleeping in the village. It was like someone fired off a musket right next to you.
Then he looked around and he knew he was now going through the canal that passed through the village. That noise it came from the direction that Cazmer went to...
The first noise was unknown to Aldrich but the second was obvious, it was a trumpet, multiple trumpets then sounded from many directions as if to answer the first.
"Who in the hell is play—"
As Aldrich was passing through the village he heard men go out of their homes and barking angry questions at being woken up in such a way.
Then came the shaking of the earth, as the log was constantly moving he couldn"t see anything properly. But he knew this was the charging horses, and then screams. First confusion and then horror.
Aldrich was desperately trying to breath and failing. It was actually happening.
He started smelling smoke, as minutes passed like hours to Aldrich the stench of smoke grew stronger, the air thicker. He looked at the now clear sky and shuddered, the sun had risen.
Aldrich saw sudden flashes of light—fire. Thick smoke billowed into the sky, from a dozen places. Aldrich heard a dozen sounds of breaking glass, wood and the cracking of bones.
In minutes the smoke blossomed to raging fires towering above the roofs. Aldrich shut his eyes and tried to shut his ears but even then he could hear everything.
To Aldrich"s horror there was a sudden thud and he was pushed someways through the log. Quickly he scrambled back in.
The log got stuck at the base of the village bridge, the last stop before completely leaving the village. This gave Aldrich a good look at the massacre unfolding only a few meters away.
He saw Baran, a hunter, carrying his aged grandfather on his back and making a run for it. A bullet hit his father on his back and they both fell, hard. Another shot ended Baran himself.
Aldrich was looking for a way to frer his log through the second hole he made through the right side of the log.
Aldrich was startled by a voice that came from directly above him.
"From here we really can see the whole thing, huh."
"As I said no matter how talented you are you need experience just as much. I could tell this is the best place, the view is so wide."
Aldrich recognized these voices like he knew them for a lifetime though he only heard them once before. This was the masked man and his disciples. Standing right above Aldrich on the bridge. If one of them happened to glance downwards...
Just then his eyes unwittingly caught on to a horrific scene even among all the madness around.
He saw father Gombst in his faith robes impaled on the tip of a spear held high by the spearman even on his horse. Father Gombst was still alive, even bleeding from his eyes and ears.
The spearman was looking directly to Aldrich"s direction, Aldrich even had the illusion that they made eye contact.
"Ah, is that guy showing off to us?"
"I have to admire his ass-kissing in the midst of a massacre."
The spearman, satisfied that he got a look from the Crestmasters above the bridge, hurled Gombst across the air. Aldrich heard the sound of his breaking neck clearly.
Finally, Aldrich pushed off the stuck log and the log passed through the bridge smoothly. It was while later when Aldrich felt his body losing strength.
The voices and the sounds of the slaughter faded, at least they should have, he shouldn"t be able to hear anymore of that and yet they won"t go away. He could hear them as if he was still there.
His eyes felt as heavy as boulders, Aldrich was afraid to sleep but if he returned to that nightmare at least he might be able to see Isger. From one nightmare to another.
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