I've been on here forever and haven't posted this yet. I could have sworn I did, but I guess not. Here you go.
“Do you even know where we are going? We have been traveling for hours. Are you sure we are not roaming in circles?”
Why am I even asking him that? I know that we have been traveling in circles. We have passed that broken down wagon fives times already, and the darkening sky is beginning to speckle with glittering stars.
He is sitting behind me, securing both me and himself to our trotting horse with his strong grip around my waist. He sighs through his nose and the small gusto of wind blows two of my chestnut curls against my cheeks, “You worry far too much, milady Azaylia, I promise you that we will not be slumbering with the squirrels and birds tonight.”
He kisses the crown of my head twice at the same time I roll my eyes at his statement, “You have been saying that every single time we come past here.”
The eruption from his chuckling vibrates against my back, “Perhaps because you insist on asking me that every time we come around,” the gnats are swarming around us and I’ve run face first into two knittings of spider webs. My sides ache, I smell of sweat, I’m getting sleepy, and I’m bored senseless. Of course I keep asking him!
“You can’t blame me for being grumpy. I’m tired, Blackberry is tired, and I bet you even the baby is tired!”
He laughs, “It isn’t even here yet, Azaylia.”
“Almost,” I cry, “and this rough, agonizing, suffering, death calling, troublesome ride isn’t doing him any good! Yes, I have decided that it is a boy; do not question me about it,” I shout dramatically, falling against the hard rocky wall that is his chest in a feigned faint.
The crown of my head is stamped with more lingering kisses before he decides to rest his chin in the hollow nook between my jaw and shoulder, “You have bare gone into your fourth month! It still-“
”He! He is a he!”
“He, then, still has a while to wait before making its-“
I feel his smirk forming, “So sorry, dove. I meant that he still has a while to wait before making his grand entrance. Will you allow me to keep my limbs intact now?”
I giggle at the jest and reach my right hand up to caress the soft cheek that is now spotted with ticklish fuzzies, “Yes, yes you may.”
He soon after places three gentle kisses on the skin of my neck and shoulder, making my hairs stand on end, “And as for the...oh how did you describe it? This so called ‘rough, agonizing, suffering, death calling, troublesome’ ride,” He smirks again, “You know better than I that you have enjoyed the charm of my company since I first said, ‘Good morning” to you earlier on.”
I smile slyly, “Hmm...I don’t know. Perhaps I did, perhaps I just needed a distraction so I could get away from all of the chaos at my home.”
“Awww,” he whines, removing his head from off of my shoulder. I chuckle as I turn my head around to face him, pulling my hair behind my ear to get a better view.
He is slumped over with his arms folded across his broad chest. The soft sunny curls that hangs from his head dangles in his face, a cute little pout poking out his honey filled lips. My laughter comes out in shrill giggles and an occasional unladylike snort, “Remus, don’t pout, darling.”
He huffs like a steamed woman and turns his head away from me, “Hmpf.”
I roll my eyes half-heartedly and turn back forward so that I may lean down to murmur into the horse’s ear, “See that, Blackberry? I promise you he probably still has his mother dress him and he probably has her read him stories before bed.”
He yells from behind, “I heard that, Lia!”
I turn back to him once again, “You heard squirrels chittering, you whiny little baby. Plus, all I-“
”Oh sweet Jesu,” he says breathlessly at whatever is displayed behind me.
I furrow my eye brows, “Remus? Remus, what you are looking-“ I stop short, for I have turned around and I am now aware of what has drained all color from my fiance’s face.
Our town is ablaze.
Blackberry whinnies fearfully and bucks around wildly, threatening to toss both me and Remus to the bed of grass and flowers below.
“Whoa! Whoa!” Remus cries, snatching the reins from my grasp. With a few quick yanks to the left and right, Blackberry seizes her bucking.
We are sitting on the peak of a towering hill that leads back into the mass of weeds and trees, in which we call the woods. Looking down, the town is a black and white picture of ashes and soot. The only color that contrasts withe scene before us are the screaming men, women, and children that flee for their lives and the merciless fire that’s scattered everywhere; all else is dead.
Stores and houses are all burned down or very close to being. The cremation of buildings leaves rubble to mix with the gravel and the decaying forms of people who have been burned or shot down. And sitting boldly on tall beautiful white stallions, soldiers clad in Naval uniforms, holding their rifles, gallop up and down the roads, shooting at everything and anyone in their way.
“What’s all this?” I unconsciously whisper aloud.
“I don’t know,” he says from behind and pulls the reins so that Blackberry will turn around, “but we are not going to be finding out.”
Again, Remus tries to guide Blackberry away by yet another fierce yank, but I snatch them away from him, “Remus, no!”
Blackberry cries out as both Remus and I snatch and pull her head around, “What do you mean ‘no’?” he growls, “We are not going down there, Azaylia! Do you not see that town? Those people?”
I glower at him and remove his arm from around my waist, “Yes! I can clearly see our town! Our people! We have family down there!”
A gunshot rings out, startling not only the two of us, but Blackberry as well. She stands tall on her back two legs, forcing me to collide into Rem’s chest. Her forelegs kick around in the air, making it appear as though she’s throwing punches and jabs.
“Down, Girl!” Remus demands in a stern tone. Blackberry whinnies once more before she falls back down on all fours, “You see?” Remus says hoarsely to me, “You can tell it isn’t safe down there. Gunshots? No, we are turning back.”
I turn and plead with him, “Remus, please, my father-!”
“-will be perfectly fine until this chaos dies down.”
My eyes bug, “But...but that could take hours!”
“He will be fine, Azaylia, he was an officer himself; he knows what to expect and how to react!”
“That was years ago, Remus!” I shout in fury. Before I can utter another word, he turns Blackberry around to face the woods and leads us back into wilderness.
“I’ll go back for him, but I have a hidden tunnel that you will stay in until I return. Understood? Do not come out for any reason!” He guides Blackberry to the left and hops over a split log, now covered in fungi.
“But, I want to help!”
We duck our heads under a low branch and Black gallops past the rusty broken wagon, “No, Lia, you must stay there! I know you can take care of yourself, you’ve proven it to me a thousand times over, but you have two people to watch out for this time! If you weren’t with child, I would consider allowing you to join me, but you are currently in absolutely in no condition to venture out there into the madness.” We make it to an open clearing, the once thick mass of tree canopy missing, leaving an open circle above so that the hint of moonlight can pour in; we come to a stop.
I search left and right and all around with my eyes, “Why did we stop?”
Remus hops off the horse with grace and stretches his legs with a groan. His arms intertwine high above his head, giving me a glance of the tanned skin just above his belt buckle, accented by jagged scars and a small scab near his right hip.
His stretching stops abruptly once he notices that he is exposed, and his arms drop to his side like lead, “My apologies.”
“What? Oh! No, no, no; it’s-“
His strong hands grip my waist and pulls me to the edge of the horse’s back. He apparently doesn’t want to talk about it, so I don’t press the matter any further and just hold onto his shoulders as he helps me off of Blackberry, “We have arrived,” he states.
Again, I look around for anything that we could possibly hide in. He chuckles from behind me, and so I turn as he speaks, “Did I not mention that you will be awaiting my return in a hidden tunnel?”
I blush, embarrassed, “Oh. Well, then, lead me to it!”
He nods and motions towards me, “I would be delighted to, but you are...um...kind of prohibiting me from doing so.”
I furrow my brows, “I- I am?’
He smiles so that his rosy cheeks puncture inward with dimples, “You are, as is Blackberry,” his eyes wander to our surroundings as though he is searching for something, “Take her and you both can stand by that pine tree over there.”
His attention averts form me, long enough to point in the direction of said pine tree; I too turn towards it. It is the tallest pine out of all the others around us an d it is also the widest.
“Alright then,” I respond. There is no need for me to pull Blackberry along by physical force; she is quite a clever horse. I whistle to her and pat her side twice, “Here, here. Come along, Blackberry!” It takes not but a few seconds for to comprehend my demand, and she is soon trotting behind me as I step high, to get through the maze of tall grasses.
Remus nods to me once both Black and I are out of his way; he smirks, “Prepare to be amazed, mademoiselle, as I reveal to you--“ he lets that last word hang and pulls out a small skeleton key from his breast pocket. He drops to his knees before a tall stone, that could easily be mistaken for a tomb stone, and pushes the layers and layers of leave that surround it out of his way. Beneath those leaves is a wide spread vine mat, looked to be sewn together.
I am intrigued by this.
There is a small hole carved into the large mat, a hole that I mistook for a snake hole at first. Remus uses his key and jams it into the hole. His hand turns the key, jabbed in the hole, one full turn and a quiet click is heard soon after. He removes the key and lifts up a square of the mat so that it opens like a trapdoor.
The key is placed in his pocket once again and the smirk returns as he finishes his sentence, “-my hidden cove.”
I smile and roll my eyes again; he is very dramatic. He extends his hand out to me, and so I saunter over to him and accept it in my own as he steps down a short flight of steps, me trailing at his heels, and we stop into a narrow room of complete blackness; he releases my hand.
I can hear him jostling about off to my left, and I hear stones colliding repeatedly against one another soon after. Flint. Alas, the clacking seizes and the room fills with a warm glow of light. I am disappointed at what I see.
I am only surrounded by four walls and an overturned crate. Remus and I lock eyes, “Where is everything?”
His brows knit into a long caterpillar across his forehead, “Everything like...what?”
I toss my hands in the air and roll my eyes, “The storage! Where is the food, water, backup firewood if there was a threat lurking about above, and perhaps the weaponry?”
Oddly enough, he laughs, “Oh my, Azaylia, you are simply too precious! Look, dove, I have everything. Whatever a survivor needs, a survivor will find in that little crate over there.” he points to the wooden box off in the right corner; I walk over to it.
I will be very surprised to know what exactly he could use that all fits into such a tiny compartment. I t is no bigger than a foot stool! I try to bend over in an effort to open it, but my ever growing stomach is my only obstacle, so Remus takes to opening it for me. What I have come to see is not only shocking, but bitterly funny as well.
His “key to survival” crate is filled with a pistol, no extra bullets in sight, mind you. There is dagger, four bottles of rum, two bottles of ale, and a few rolls of bread.
“Why do you laugh?” he enquires with a blank expression.
I shake my head and gently usher him towards the entrance, “Remus, you’re a charm; do not ever change.”
He is further confused as he slowly ascends the stairs, “I...am?”
I climb up after him, but stop on the third step as he peers down at me from the upper grounds; I smirk and grasp onto the hanging rope that is tied to the door above, “You are. Now, get moving! Go find my father, and the rest of either my or your family, and bring them back.”
He nods and leans down into the cache to give me a farewell kiss and stands immediately after. He grabs onto the door, ready to shut it, but I call out, “Oh, and Remus?”
He stops shutting the door midway and reopens it, “Yes?”
A long pause permits between the two of us; all humor is non-existent from my expression, replaced by a worried, yet stern, gaze, “Please, be careful out there. If not for your own sake, then for both mine and the baby’s.”
This time, it is his turn to be temporarily mute, “No.”
At this, I literally jerk my head back; I’m shocked and slightly worked up at his bluntness, “No? Remus, what do-“
He takes my hand and places it across his heart, “No, I will be cautious for the sake of us all,” my hand is brought swiftly to his lips in a kiss; I can only smile at his slyness. He releases my hand hesitantly, a flash of fear glows in his eyes, but it vanishes just as quickly as it comes and he is soon sprinting off towards Blackberry.
My head pokes out from the cache so that I may watch him make leave. He’s a natural born rider, a horse saddler since his boyhood. Like a pirate need their ocean, and the sun needs the moon, Remus must have his horses; my nickname for him is centaur. It was merely a jest the first time I referred to him in that manner, when we were younger, but he found it suiting to his character and has kept it till this day.
“Come on, Berry,” he says once he’s comfortably perched upon Blackberry’s back. She snorts and goes into a slow rhythmic trot whilst Remus and I wave goodbye to one another. Once we’ve said our final goodbyes, Remus uses his heels to gently kick Berry in her sides; they are off.
Once I see the two of them vanish from sight, deep into the heart of the woods, I sigh. I am still holding the rope, so I pull it down and a shadow casts over me as the door closes above.
It’s silent; the only sound I can hear is the fire crackling on its torch. I slowly sway to a corner and lay down, my body worn and aching. He probably wouldn’t be back for a few hours, and there is no way I am staying awake for that long with nothing to do. The hay laden floor is cold, but not entirely uncomfortable; it doesn’t bother me at all, though, for as soon as I shut my eyes, I am already lost within my second dream.[/b]