Octavian and the captain had stayed up late that night discussing a mixture of military strategy and wedding plans. They had decided that Octavian and Elizabeth would be married upon their return from this campaign.
Two days later they were ambushed in their own camp. He and the captain had been fighting side by side when the unthinkable happened; the captain was slain.
Octavian had turned toward him just in time to witness it with his own eyes.
The captain had been fighting masterfully until an enemy soldier had put a sword through his back.
The captain had turned immediately to find Octavian, who had gone straight to his side as he fell. He had sworn to always protect and care for Elizabeth. The men had declared their love and respect for each other; then the captain was gone.
Octavian had stood, sword held high, ready to slay them all in the name of revenge; but when he turned to face his enemy, they had been ready.
The sword went straight through his heart. Everyone froze. Then he ran.
He would always regret that decision. He still wished he would have stayed and continued to fight; he could have slain them all without ever falling. He could have had his revenge.
In the present, Octavian clinched his fists. He had been just as afraid as the men around him.
He had run.
He growled in frustration and regret. The pain would never loosen its grip on him.
After several months of running, he had decided to risk a visit to Elizabeth. He had come to grips with his fear and concluded that she should know what happened to her father; and to him.
She should know what they had been planning, that Octavian had been there with him and that neither man had voluntarily abandoned her.
He had crept up through the forest behind the captain’s home; stomach full of butterflies, head full of worry and fear and his heart full of pain.
He had known that even if Elizabeth didn’t reject him, they could never be together. People could never know of their association in any context; she would become a target for the witch hunters, who were especially cruel to women.
Chills shot down his spine as fear and anger for her began to consume his thoughts, making his feet move faster in her direction. His regret doubled when he realized that he should have come to her sooner.
As he approached the edge of the captain’s estate, he began seeing evidence of scorched grass and tree limbs. He ran the remaining distance to the captain’s back yard to discover that the entire place had been burned to the ground.
Where there once was a loving home, a luxurious garden and sprawling yard, there was now only ash.
He clinched his teeth and fists and went to the next place Elizabeth might be; the tutor’s house. It too had been burned down.
Octavian had shed the remainder of fear for himself and became intent to find Elizabeth and secure her. He had decided she would be coming away with him after all.
As he stood silently in the shadows of the alley, he tried to imagine what happened and where she could be. Then he tried to stop imagining as the worst scenarios flooded his mind.
He only knew of one other place she might go. If she wasn’t there, he’d be out of ideas. He decided to risk asking around about what happened to the burned houses and the people who lived in them.
There was only one place to get information at this hour and he could only hope no one recognized him when he got there.
Being careful to stick to the shadows, he made his way to the alley outside the tavern. He remembered an occasion here when he and his old friends had begun sparring inside.
They had been loud, rowdy and happy. They had also broken a few stools, which led to their being escorted out the back door and into this small, grungy alleyway. They had laughed all the way back to his parent’s house.
Upon their very loud entry, Octavian’s father had rushed down the stairs and told them to sleep in the guest rooms on the opposite side of the house. He hadn’t wanted them to wake Octavian’s mother. His father had smiled, patted him on the shoulder and returned to his bed.
Maybe he could stop at his parent’s house on his way back out of town. He could introduce them to Elizabeth. At the thought of her, he looked around the alley, refocusing his attention on his current task. He would have to find her first.
At first glance, the dark alley looked empty but as he approached he spotted a slight shift in the shadow in the far corner. He wasn’t alone.
As he squinted at the figure, it stepped forward and spoke.
“Looky what we have here.” The man was short, round and had a face like a rat.
Before Octavian could look around to see to whom the ugly, little man spoke, he felt a knife point in his lower back.
“Best just hand over yer wallet and let us all be on our way, now.” said the soured voice over Octavian’s left shoulder.
“I don’t have a wallet.” Octavian replied.
“Give what ye have, or you’ll pay another way.” The sour voice said, as the man it belonged to pushed the point of the knife forward to break Octavian’s skin.
“I don’t have anything.” Octavian said.
“Well then, yer in a heap a trouble now, aren’t ye?” The man said as he pushed forward with the knife even more. Then both men lunged at him and began trying to search his pockets. They hadn’t anticipated the fight they would get.
Once both of the attackers lay unconscious at his feet, Octavian reached his hand around to assess how much damage the knife had caused.
When what he found was the handle of the knife protruding from his back, he stood motionless; stunned.
These men had meant to rob and kill him but it hadn’t worked; he wasn’t even bleeding. The reminder of what he was on top of the situation at hand, brought up a fury in him that made him wish there had been more men to fight.
One of the men on the ground began to stir and mumble profanities. Octavian suddenly realized he would have to kill these men. If he didn’t, they would be shouting this occurrence from the rooftops.
He pulled the knife from his back, surprised to find it an easy and painless task, and dispatched of the men in a hurry. He then made his way to the back door of the tavern.
Octavian put his ear to the tavern door to listen for activity on the other side. There was mostly silence with a mix of people setting glasses down on the bar and tables.
It was good and bad. Good because there were less people to see him; bad because he may not get information from the few people that were here.
He took a deep breath and reached for the door’s handle. Just as he started to enter the back room of the tavern, he heard another sound; a strange sound that didn’t seem quite right.
He stopped and listened.
“We will be reaching our next destination in less than three hours. We advise being ready to depart before our arrival, since we will be taking on new passengers. Things can get hectic and lost items are rarely recovered. Please plan accordingly. We will make another announcement within the hour.”
Octavian shook his head. He had been lost in the past when the ship captain’s announcement had cut into his memories.
He gathered his thoughts back into present time and stood to begin readying himself for his departure.
He secured his few belongings in his pockets and stitched them shut. Then he started putting on his two other suits of clothing.
The next part of his journey would be the worst part.
*End of Story 6-Part 4*
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