And it’s time again for another taste of what will never be…chapter three of Huntress: Of Gods and Men.
Part of me wishes that I had finished this story, but in my own twisted mind, it couldn’t be just ONE story. No, it would have to be a trilogy, just like Sven’s story had been. What’s fair is fair, right?
Anyway, onward and upward. Read on for Chapter 3 of Erica’s story. Please remember that this is the raw, first draft. It’s unedited, unproofed, etc.
I opened my mouth to speak and mother shushed me. “Close your eyes. Relive the events and describe it to me.”
I swallowed hard. As soon as I closed my eyes, I was transported back to that exact moment.
“He said that I wasn’t from around there. I told him, no…I was from America. Then I turned. I didn’t expect what I saw even though Thor had shown me what he looked like. He had olive skin, amber eyes, jet black hair and a smile that made me want to smile.”
I felt my mother’s hand squeeze mine and I took a deep breath, continuing my story.
“He said, ‘There’s something different about you.’ I pulled back my hood and revealed my face to him. He was still smiling. Then he asked me, ‘where are you from?’ and that’s when I told him I was from America. He said that he hoped to visit there one day. Then he told me his name is Alejo. He held his hand out to me and…”
I felt the familiar squeeze of my mother’s hand and I knew she was right there with me.
“When my hand gripped his I felt a rush of power stronger than anything I’d ever experienced. Even stronger than when I’m near Thor.” I opened my eyes and couldn’t read my mother’s expression. It almost looked sorrowful. “The strength I felt hit me like a truck, but in a good way. Does that even make sense?”
She nodded and patted my hand. “Go on, Erica. You can do this.”
I closed my eyes again and saw the confusion on his face. “He didn’t know what to make of it either. We were both stunned. I gripped my sword and slowly pulled it from the sheath. He never stopped staring at my eyes. Then suddenly the air crackled with intensity and the lightning struck between us.” I opened my eyes and stared at my mother.
“I remember his eyes. He was just as stunned as I was.”
Mother nodded. “Then it most likely came from somebody else. Could there have been two demigods there?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I only sensed him and he was gone when I got my feet back under me. I searched everywhere, but the pull was gone. Whatever it was that lead me to him had vanished.”
Mother finished her tea and pushed the cup aside. She seemed to consider my story for a moment before she spoke. “I can’t begin to understand your life Erica. Your strength, your agility, your powers…it’s all more than my mind can comprehend. I have to remind myself daily that you were born with these…things. They are inherent. You’ve known nothing else.” She stood and placed her cup in the sink then turned and leaned against the counter. “After years of training to be the best at what you do, you have finally met somebody who could possibly match you in strength, speed…even your ability to fight.”
I had a distinct feeling that I wouldn’t like where she was headed but I held my tongue and gave her the opportunity to go on.
She crossed her arms again and almost seemed to hug herself as she spoke. “I think that perhaps you should speak with somebody who has more knowledge of these things before you make another attempt at this mission.”
Okay, that wasn’t where I thought she was going. Her words actually caught me off guard. I shook my head slowly. “But who? Who could I possibly speak to about this?”
Mother shrugged. “Normally, I would suggest your father. But…” her words trailed off as her mind worked. “I don’t think that even he could truly help you with this.”
Mother bristled slightly. She still wasn’t used to me calling him that. Considering how he nearly killed my father before sharing his power with him, I think she still holds that against him.
“No. I think you need to speak to somebody else.”
Mother stiffened. “Definitely not.”
Aunt Helen isn’t really my aunt. She’s a witch that my mother was friends with before she met my father. She tried to help my father when he searched for his soul. She also tried to seduce him but he was too wrapped up in Mother to allow that to happen. I think she still resents her for trying.
“Then who could I possibly turn to?”
She bit nervously at the tip of her thumbnail while she thought. “There is somebody.” Her voice was barely a whisper. “I just don’t know if it’s a good idea to even try.”
I came to my feet, anxious to know what she spoke of. “Who, mother?”
Her eyes met mine for the briefest of moments and I saw fear. She dropped her hand from her mouth and seemed to stand taller. “An angel.”
“No!” I was pacing the kitchen, my mind racing while my mouth continually repeated, “No, no, no. Not just no, but heck no.”
“I’m not saying that you need to work with one, only speak with-”
“You know how father feels about angels. It’s the one thing he drilled into my head from the time I was born. Angels are assholes.”
Mother nodded. “Yes, they are, and yes, he’s right. But they also have knowledge that could really enlighten-”
“No!” I spun and planted my hands on my hips. “Not just no, but-”
“You wanted to know who might could enlighten us. All I’m saying is that an angel could tell you what you need to know.”
I finally calmed myself and gave her that look. The one that she always uses on me and father. I had spent a long time practicing it in the mirror. “And what will father say when he finds out that we went to an angel for help?”
Her face blanched and I’m pretty sure it was what I asked, not the look I was giving her.
“Okay. You’re right.” She pulled her chair out and sat back down. “Then I have no other answers for you.”
I stood over her and stared, my mouth hanging open. Those were the last words I ever expected to hear from her. She always had the answers. She is my mother…who else could I turn to for answers besides her?
I pulled my chair out and sat across from her. “I’m sorry, mother.”
She shook her head and gave me a tight lipped smile. “Don’t be. You’re right. It was a bad idea. It was just the only one I could come up with.”
I felt my hand wrap around hers and I gave her a gentle squeeze. “I’ll figure it out.”
I thought I saw the glimmer of a tear in her eyes as she squeezed my hand in reply. “I know you will, sweetheart. I know you will.”
The next few days had me trying to focus on Alejo and trying to transport myself to him.
I couldn’t leave the yard.
No matter how much I tried, it wouldn’t work. It was as if he no longer walked the earth.
More than once I feared that the lightning had somehow killed him. Destroyed him…burnt him to dust. But there would have been something left. A body. Ashes. Something.
I found myself lost in thought and wishing I could speak to somebody else who could enlighten me. Anybody but an angel.
I squeezed my eyes shut and screamed internally, wishing that there was somebody out there who could help.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself standing at Svartalfheim. I had transported to the land of the dark elves. I knew the realm as I had trained here with their warriors, but I stood in a wooded land that I didn’t recognize.
I turned slowly and peered deep into the shadows. I could sense somebody out there, watching me. I just couldn’t tell where they were.
I stepped from the mossy mound I stood upon and worked my way down past the hanging branches of the nearby trees. “Who is there?” I called out, hoping for a reply.
“Why are you in my forest, little demigod?”
I spun and faced an older elf. She barely came to my waist and she appeared withered. Her gnarled hand gripped a walking stick and her eyes shone with mischief.
“I came seeking guidance.”
She snorted and waved me away with her cane. “I’m no warrior. Shoo! Go away and pester those who know such things.”
I watched her turn and hobble away from me. I don’t know why but I knew I couldn’t let her leave. For whatever cause, she was the reason I was here. She had the knowledge I needed.
“Wait! Please, wait.” I tried to hurry after her but the branches seemed to reach out and grab at me, preventing me from moving. “Please!”
I watched her enter the trunk of a tree near its roots where the long tendrils gapped and bit into the soft earth below. I pulled at the branches and nearly fell at the foot of her door.
“Please wait.” I stretched a hand out to her. “I need your guidance.”
She paused in the doorway and slowly turned, her eyes narrowing. “Why should I? What’s in it for me?”
I got to my feet as best I could, wiping the damp soil and bits of moss from my clothes. I dropped to one knee and softened my voice. “Please. If I didn’t need your help, I wouldn’t have come here.”
She seemed to assess me with cautious reserve. She stepped back out from her door and sat on one of the great roots that created the entrance to her tree home. “You didn’t answer my question. What’s in it for me?”
I couldn’t think of an answer for her. What could I possibly offer her? I shrugged as I sat down. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what I can offer.”
She tilted her head and her eyes narrowed again. “You come asking for my help but offer nothing in return?” She snorted with derision and I could see her jaw working.
“What would you like?” I held my hands out to her. “I have little, but please, tell me what you desire.”
“You cannot give me what I desire.” Her eyes grew sad and for a moment I wanted nothing more than to grant her wish.
“Tell me. I might be able-”
“My son!” Her voice cracked as she yelled at me. “Bring him back from the dead. That’s what I want.”
I was stunned. I had always thought of the nine realms as the afterlife. Everybody’s afterlife. The land of the gods. I assumed that the elves here were…already dead. Wasn’t this their version of Valhalla as well?
I opened my mouth to speak but my tongue couldn’t form words. I slowly reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. “What happened?”
She wiped at her eyes and avoided my gaze. “He went to battle for the Elf King. He never returned.”
“When was this?”
She shook her head and turned her eyes to the tree canopy above. “Who can say? Many lifetimes ago.”
I crossed my legs and sat quietly. I didn’t know what else to do but let her talk and share her feelings. I knew I had to pay homage to her pain and pay attention to her words.
“What was he like?”
She smiled gently to herself as she focused on her lost child. “He was a smith. Not a good one, mind you, but when he was home, I convinced him that his work was beyond compare.” She sniffed at an unshed tear and wiped at her eyes. “But then the king sent his men to collect all males of age. Dabner was of age and he had a skill that the warrior class could utilize. He was taken and I never heard from him again.”
I didn’t want to appear overly optimistic, but I had to ask. “Is there a chance he survived the battle?”
She shrugged. “I would think he’d return home had he been able.”
I gave her a soft smile. “Perhaps he found a woman. Made a family?”
Her eyes turned even more sad. “And he wouldn’t want to share his newfound happiness with his only mother?”
Dammit. I need to think things through before I open my mouth.
“You’re right, of course. I’m sorry. I was only…”
“You were hoping to soften the blow of his being gone.” She reached out and patted my arm with her withered hand. “I appreciate the thought.”
She spoke of Dabner’s early days. How he had only begun learning his trade from his father when he passed. Dabner had to learn on his own from there. How he was really a horrible blacksmith but he truly put his heart into everything he tried to create.
She told me how she had spied on him as he sat on their stoop and he stared at the stars through the canopy at night. How he dreamed of one day making a name for himself. I watched as her face brightened when she recalled his younger years and how it fell once again as she closed in on that fateful day that he packed his meager belongings and left with the king’s men.
Afterward we sat in silence for a very long time and I dared not speak lest I say something inappropriate again. Many times I wanted to speak a thought that wandered into my mind only to bite my tongue and keep the thoughts to myself.
Finally she sighed and turned to me. “What do you seek little demigod?”
I gave her a soft smile and shrugged. “It seems unimportant now.”
“But you’ve come all this way.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice, “Besides, I have a feeling that you have much to learn.”
The twinkle in her eye was back and I could tell that she was eager to share with me now. Perhaps speaking of her son somehow endeared her to me. I couldn’t be certain, but the air around us seemed less heavy now.
“I have no way of giving you what you want. I couldn’t dream of asking you to-”
“Shush now child. Tell me what you wish to know.” She scooted closer to me and patted my leg. “I’ll teach you what you need. You can…owe me.” I raised a brow on that one. “A favor. You can owe me a favor.”
I nodded hesitantly. “I’m not sure where to start.”
“Let’s start at the beginning.” She braced both hands on the edge of her walking stick and eyed me. “What do you know of the gods and demigods?”