Reflections W-4 part 2 of 3

Wlvn woke at first light and found that Badl already had the fire up and three perch cooking on the end of sticks. “Morning Lord.” Badl tipped his hat before he pulled a good-sized clay cup out of a hidden pocket in his cloak and wandered down to the river to fill it. Wlvn looked over at Wlkn, who appeared to be sleeping comfortably despite the loss of his mattress. He looked to see that the horses were near, and then he paused as he heard the baby wailing in the distance. The night creatures had crossed the river in the night, and Wlvn stood to get a better grasp on his bearings and perhaps get a better determination on how far away they might be. There were a few trees nearby, and he thought to climb one to look, but he supposed that crying sound likely traveled for several miles and the creatures might be too far away to see. He knew that they would make up the distance soon enough once the night came so it did not really matter if they were a mile away or three.

“Son.” Wlvn heard the word and paused. Someone stood in the shadow of the trees, someone hard to make out in the dim light of the dawn. “Son.” The man spoke again, and Wlvn took one step back. When the man stepped out from the shadow, Wlvn took another step back, not believing what he was seeing.

“Father.” He breathed the word because this could not be his father. His father got selected by the helpers, and as he looked closer, he saw the deadness in the eyes. A sudden breeze blew the stench of death in his direction.

“Son.” The body spoke again. “I have come to help you.”

Wlvn shook his head. “I don’t know what demons are keeping your body upright, but my father is dead.” He spat the words, for even in death and decay, this man did look like his father.

“Wlvn, my son. I am your father. I set out with six others, and they gave me their flesh and bone so I could reach you. I want to help. I know you seek to kill the Lord of All and I have come to show you how that can be done. Here, take my hand, I haven’t much time left.”

The man reached out his hand and tried to smile with putrid, decaying lips. Wlvn jumped back. “No! Keep away.” Wlvn had watched a fly enter a hole in the man’s cheek and come out somewhere near the opposite eye. He knew this man was stone dead and he felt afraid to listen, yet he could not help himself, because this man looked and sounded so much like his father. “I will listen,” he said. “But you must stand where you are and come no closer. I will not be infected with your death and demons.”

“Son.” The dead man paused for a moment as if thinking of what to say or do. At last, the putrid smile returned and he grabbed hold of his left wrist with his right hand. One yank, and the left hand broke free of the arm. “You are right. A touch would infect you, but it would also infect the Titan. Here. Take this hand in a cloth so when you find the Titan you may infect him with death.” The man shuffled forward one step and came out from the trees altogether.

“No!” Wlvn jumped back again. He loved his father so much he wanted to cry, but this was not right; it was not good. It had to be a trick to kill him—to give the demons entrance to his soul. “No!” He shouted again. “You are demon flesh. You are not my father.”

“Son, I am your father.”

“My father does not know what a Titan is,” he yelled and found two tree branches come up along each side of him. Wlkn held one and Badl had the other. They caught the zombie in the chest and arms and shove for all they were worth. They might have knocked the zombie on its back which would have accomplished nothing, but the zombie was slow to react and was still holding out the hand, trying to get Wlvn to take it. With that bit of balance going for it, the dead man began to stumble backwards.

“Son.” It spoke once more as its legs tripped back over a fallen log. It headed toward the water, a bane for any dead man, and when a foot stayed at the log, it became completely off balance. It rolled when it caught the riverbank and as a last gesture, it tossed the broken off hand in Wlvn’s direction. It fell short, even as the dead man fell into the water and began to break up into little pieces of flesh and bone.

“Don’t touch it.” Badl yelled at Wlkn about the hand and the foot while he went to find the right sort of branches to pick up the appendages and add them to the body in the river. All Wlvn could do was cry.

Once settled back around the fire, no one felt hungry.

“Save these for later,” Badl said, and they disappeared into a pocket in his cloak. Wlvn got the horses while Wlkn put out the fire and Badl protested. “Not up on those things again!”

Once all got settled, no small task in itself, Wlvn started them upriver.

“But the creatures are this way,” Wlkn protested.

Wlvn said nothing until they were well beyond the place where the zombie had fallen in. “Cross.” He said, and he went down once again into the frigid water. They rode all that day along paths Badl selected and in that way, they came in the late afternoon to a strange sight. It looked like a mansion; at least that was what Wlvn called it. It stood two stories tall, all painted white, and it had great columns along a wide porch, and double doors in the front where Wlvn half expected to find a doorbell. Out beside the mansion, there stood a great orchard which looked to be filled with apple trees and what he guessed were golden apples.

Badl shook his head. “Never saw this place before. It must be new.”

“Who lives here?” Wlkn asked the more practical question.

“I have an idea,” Wlvn said. “I only hope she will shelter us for the night.” He rode up and tied Thred and Number Two off at a railing. Wlkn followed his lead. Badl was a little slower getting down. He sniffed the air and did not trust what his senses told him.

“Apples,” Badl confirmed. “God’s apples. Not for the likes of me.” He got down and did not care if Strn’s horse wandered off.

Wlvn found a great copper knocker on the door and when he knocked, he heard the boom echo through the house. The door opened of its own accord, and they stepped in, Wlkn and Badl doffing their hats in the process. Wlvn, who had no hat, shook out and ran his fingers through his long red hair before he spoke.

“Hello?”

“Hello.” The answer came from a woman, and they moved as a group into what appeared to be a dining room. The table looked laid out with a sumptuous feast of boar’s head, venison, pigeon, salmon and flounder. Plenty of vegetables and fruits completed the feast, though Wlvn noticed there were no apples. A kind of rude beer sat ready to wash it all down, not that they needed any encouragement. They were starving, only having tasted a bit of perch at lunchtime, surprisingly still warm, but full of lint from Badl’s pocket.

“Smells wonderful,” Wlkn said, but he felt unwilling to move forward until invited, no matter how tempted he might be.

“Welcome.” The woman’s voice came before they saw the woman. That only happened when she stood up from a high-backed chair that sat facing away from them and toward the fire. “Please, come and help yourselves.” The woman smiled and put out her arm to invite them to sit at the table. She opened her robe in the process in what seemed a most innocent and welcoming gesture. Of course, the men were unable to move, seeing what they saw. This young woman had skintight, see-through clothing on under her robe which hid nothing, and neither was there a smidgen on that glorious body that needed to be hidden.

“I’m too old for this,” Wlkn mumbled.

“I’m too young,” Wlvn echoed.

“Gentlemen, please.” The woman smiled more broadly, apparently satisfied for the moment with the reaction she provoked.

“Well, I’m hungry,” Badl said. “Er, thanking you very much.” He tipped his hat and he moved to a chair at the table, and that got the others moving as well.

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