In the Woods – continued…

Continuing on from where we left off…

**

After a few tried to get past his defenses by themselves, they started coming in groups.  That was harder to stop.  One caught his wrist, where he held his mace, and two more pulled him off his feet.  He fell to the ground with pained cry.  He heard a loud pop as he tried to catch himself and pain radiated down his arm.

They hadn’t eaten all day and the monsters were strong, as well as fast.  Darius cried out as he felt a sharper pain in his wrist.  His mace vanished and he squirmed as he realized that one of the vilkolakiais was biting him, drinking his blood.  He glanced at the others and saw another snatch Sofia away from the group.

Squeezing his eyes closed, Darius began singing the banishment song, focusing on pushing the monsters back – away from them.  A moment later, Timo and Nora joined in with the song.  Hissing and growling, the monsters fell back from them.

Darius sat up, trembling and panting.  He hugged his arm to his chest and blinked to clear his vision.  Water dripped onto his hand and he realized that he was crying.  He flushed, wiping the tears away as he got to his feet.  Then, he looked around quickly.  “Where’s Sofia?” he said, shaking his head.

“The one that grabbed her…” Nora started.  She shrugged and let out a deep sigh.  “We need to get help.  Do you feel well enough to travel?”

For a moment, Darius didn’t understand the question.  Certainly, his shoulder was dislocated, but that wouldn’t hamper him very much.  The bite from the vilkolakis was more troublesome, but it didn’t seem to be bleeding.  “It’s just a little… bite,” he said, glancing at his wrist.  Actually, the wound looked red and inflamed, like an infection.  He blinked when Nora set a hand on his brow.  “What?” he said, meeting her gaze.

“You’re hot,” she said.  Heaving a sigh, she nodded.  “Let us know if you need to take a break.  We need to get down to that village and see if someone there will help us rescue Sofia from those monsters.”

By the time that they reached the village, Darius was actually starting to feel a bit better, except that he was very thirsty.  He followed Timo and Nora as they went to the first house in the little square to knock on the door.

The person who answered opened the door just a crack.  Darius couldn’t blame them for being cautious, particularly if there were monsters so near the village.  Her eyes widened and she said, “Oh, my Gaia!”  Then, she practically dragged Timo and Nora into the house.  Meeting his gaze, she said, “You are not welcome here,” before slamming the door in Darius’s face.

Darius blinked in surprise.  For a moment, he just stood there, too stunned to move.  Then, he stepped back from the door and closed his eyes.  He tilted his head, listening to the wind.  What was happening?  Why had the woman dragged the others inside?  Why wouldn’t she let him inside?

You’re like them, the wind told him, the monster that bit you made you like them.  You’re a danger to her now.

“What are you doing, little one?” a soft voice said.

Startling, Darius looked up to see that the monsters had returned.  He looked down at his arm.  The wound was still there, but it was no longer red and inflamed.  It had scabbed over.  He blinked away tears and looked back up at the monster that had spoken to him.  “I… was trying to understand what happened,” he said.  He stepped closer to the vilkolakis.  After all, they couldn’t harm him now.  Could they?  “I’m a Hammer.  We… have the gift of knowing.  I’m… like you now?”

“After a fashion,” the vilkolakis said, nodding.  He smiled as Darius stepped closer to him.  “What is your name, little one?”

“Balchunas,” he replied, “Darius Balchunas.”  He shook his head and fidgeted with the compass pendant that his mother had given him when he’d dedicated himself to Tilvar.  “I don’t want to be a vilkolakis.”

Wait for daybreak, the wind said, Get the antivenin.

“The antivenin?” he repeated, tilting his head.  He sensed danger and tensed, glancing around.  The other monsters had encircled him.

“Aren’t you thirsty, little one?” the one standing in front of him said, reaching towards him.  “Come with us.  We’ll help you.”

If you feed, it will be harder to cure the illness that makes you like them, the wind told him.  They don’t want you to have the antivenin.

Darius gasped and kicked off from the ground.  He flew, as he’d seen the one that had attacked him do.  Then, he landed on the roof of a building and closed his eyes, singing the concealing song until the others had passed by overhead.  He needed help, but it was clear that none of the villagers would help him.  They would be too afraid to do so.  He would also have to be careful of the others like himself.  They wouldn’t want him to be cured either.

“Who can I trust?” he asked the wind.  He felt the breeze ruffle his curls and heard the answer.  He flew away from the roof, letting the wind guide him until he saw a young man with long dark hair.  He landed behind the young man and said, “Phillipe?”

Frowning, the young man turned to face him.  He looked Darius over and then frowned.  “What do you want, little one?” he asked, his tone almost hostile.

Tears welled in Darius’s eyes and he shook his head.  “I don’t want to be a vilkolakis,” he said.  “How… how do I get the antivenin?  The wind…” he trailed off.  He wasn’t meant to tell people how he knew things.  Then, he wiped at his eyes and decided it didn’t matter just then.  “The wind said that you would help me – that I could trust you.”

“The wind?” Phillipe said, frowning.  When Darius nodded slowly, he heaved a sigh.  Then, he took out a small box.  “Drink that.  It will help you feel better.”

Darius blinked at the box.  It was coconut water.  He stuck the straw into the box and sipped at it.  Then, he fell into step behind Phillip as they ran through the town.  They came to a large estate and Phillipe led him to a smaller house behind the larger one.

“Patrice,” Phillipe called, rapping on the door and then peering inside.  “Are you here, gran frere?”

The man inside frowned at Phillipe and shook his head.  “I’ve said that only you are welcome here, Phillipe,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Phillipe rolled his eyes.  “This little one doesn’t wish to remain a vampire,” he said, waving at Darius.  “I thought that I could leave him with you, so that you could see to it that he was able to get the antivenin.”

Frowning, Patrice stepped over to the doorway.  He looked at Darius for a moment before he nodded.  “Come in,” he said.

Darius stepped inside and gave him a weak smile.  “Thank you,” he said.

Waving his words away, Patrice said, “You’ve been envenomed, but you’ll be fine.  You haven’t fed yet?”

“Only the coconut water that Phillipe gave me,” Darius said, shaking his head.  He gave Phillipe a weak smile.  “I feel better now.  Thank you!”

Nodding, Phillipe said, “Rest here, little one.”  Then, he nodded at his elder brother.  He said something that Darius didn’t understand before he flew away into the night.

As Darius turned to Patrice, the other said, “I’ll take you to the Health Clinic in the morning.  Dr. Durem can give you the antivenin then.”  His brows furrowed.  “I’ll see if I can find something for you to wear.”

“The ones that attacked me took a girl too,” he said, his brows furrowing.  “Is there any way to help her?  The… probably did the same thing to her that they did to me, right?”

“It’ll be up to her,” Patrice said, shaking his head.  “If she doesn’t feed and is able to slip away from them in the morning, to get to the Health Clinic, she’ll be fine.”

“She’s a Hammer too,” Darius said, nodding.  “We’re sworn to protect our Crosses and we can’t do that as vilkolakiais.  She’ll know that.  All Hammers have the gift of knowing.”

Patrice frowned at him for a moment longer.  Then, he nodded.  “Rest here while I find you something to wear,” he said, his tone firm.

Darius sat down in a chair and waited patiently while the man headed out of the room.  Soon, he returned with a simple shirt and trousers that would fit Darius, as well as socks and boots.  Darius ducked into the next room and changed out of his pajamas.  When he returned, he gave Patrice a weak smile.  “Thank you, again, for helping me.”

“It’s no problem,” Patrice said.

Nodding, Darius tilted his head slightly.  “What did your brother say before he left?” he asked.

Patrice met his gaze and chuckled.  “He told me that you were odd and perhaps mad, but that you truly didn’t wish to be a vampire,” he said, nodding.  When Darius nodded, he arched his brows.  “It doesn’t surprise you to be called mad?”

“I’ve been called mad quite often,” Darius admitted.  He shrugged.  “Hammers are always odd, it comes from knowing things that we shouldn’t know.  It’s very off-putting when I do that, so people always find it odd.  As for madness… well, I listen to the wind.  When you don’t have experience with it, that can strike you as crazy.”

Chuckling, Patrice nodded.  “I’ll get you some more coconut water,” he said.  “Dawn is still hours away.  Make yourself comfortable for now.”

Darius nodded and settled down to listen to the wind blowing around the eaves of the house.  He would be fine now, as Patrice had said.  Timo and Nora would find their own way home, as he could once he’d had the antivenin.  Sofia’s fate was in her own hands, but the wind had told her what she needed to know.  Darius said a little prayer that the Great Father would guide her.  Then, he drank some more of the coconut water.  All he could do now was wait for the dawn.

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