Run. There was no time left to contemplate and what had just happened or a chance to catch his breath. The only thing that he could seem to think about was to run as away as fast as he could. He’d ruined something that he’d been striving for all his life and now it lay back in Kohlingen in ruins. The forest was dark as Locke ran through the forest his eyes blind with tears and he had no idea where he was running until he ran into something that felt like a wall. He staggered back felt the blood trickling from his nose, taste the tang of metal in his mouth.
“Do you think he’s from the village?” a childish sounding voice asked from behind whatever he’d run into.
“He could be little one, but stay here where it’s safe alright?” an older voice ordered gently.
“Alright Papa,” the child replied quietly.
Snap. Heavy sounding feet snapped twigs several feet in front of the treasure hunter as he scrubbed at his face. Idiot, he scolded himself harshly. Hurry up and get your wits about you, he continued on as a pair of rough hands cupped his shoulders. Dragged forward, a torch burning with the energy of a group of small children was thrust in his face. The holder of the torch saw the treasure hunter in the orange light of his torch and smiled sympathetically at the boy.
Locke looked back at the man and saw a gentle face with weathered skin, brown eyes, grey hair and sharp, angular nose and jaw line. There was blood running freely down his skin from a laceration on the treasure hunters’ forehead that throbbed intently and made Locke feel dizzy. Of course he’d naturally gotten it from the door or whatever it was he’d run into while running away from the burning village behind him.
“Are you hurt?” the man asked Locke who shook his head in reply. The trails of dried tears on his face showed that he had been robbed of his voice at the moment. Perhaps he would find it again later but his grief was far too apparent as the treasure hunter was guided out of the forest and toward the wall that shone in the light of the torch. The pain at Locke’s temple pounded like a drum being played with far too much enthusiasm as he lurched forward at a dangerous angle. His answer had been a lie as the only thing he had on his mind at the moment was running as far away from the village as possible.
The Empire’s soldiers burning the house, flogging the elderly and children who tried to escape played through his mind like a broken record. He’d run through Kohlingen as fast as he could to Rachel’s house only to discover the house she shared with her parents in ruin, blood painting a horrific picture on the ground and rubble. A hand went to his mouth in an attempt to cover up the ghastly odour that wafted through the entire village. To think back on that now made the treasure hunter sick to his stomach as he brushed the old man off and tottered off only to crash to his knees on the hard earth strewn with decaying leaves and heaved the contents of his stomach onto the earth.
“Oh God no…” he croaked while staring at indiscriminate parts of the bile beneath him. “I should have never—”
“My boy, I think you need to rest right now. Come with me, I will protect you in my home,” the old man said from behind Locke.
The ground wheeled in every direction possible as Locke attempted to stand. It was a feeble attempt as the old man crouched next to the weary youth and slung his left arm over his shoulders and hefted Locke upright and slowly walked the two of them over to the house.
Birds sang sweetly from a perch nearby a bed whose lone inhabitant had rested fitfully the days he had lain in it. Perhaps it was the pain in Locke’s heart that had kept him such pain but finally, the old man had concocted a potion that would both ease his pain and mind into a state of mindless bliss. It was during this time that the old man and his daughter had treated his injuries.
The daughter, a young teen known as Bella was dressed in the garb of a peasant had just placed a cool cloth on the treasure hunter’s head when his eyes opened slightly. Her blonde locks fell into her face as she looked into the cloudy looking eyes of the wounded party as tears fell from his eyes.
“Rachel… I’m sorry…” he rasped before his eyes closed once more.
“I’m not…” she began softly before watching Locke fall back into whatever dreams he’d been having. Instead, Bella fluffed the pillow behind his head, smoothed the blankets back over his feet and went back to mending the holes in the treasure hunter’s garments.
Locke didn’t want to stay in any one place for very long – especially if he was at the mercy of these strangers who had taken him into their home. The treasure hunter was particular in leaving the forest home of Bella and her father as soon as he was able. They’d done more than enough to mend his body but he knew that he had other matters to contend with.
It had been a few days since the Empire had invaded the village and Locke was earnestly hoping that they had disembarked from the town because he knew that there was something he had to do. He didn’t have time for rest or reprieve because the treasure hunter had to go back there and find Rachel, to see if she was still alive. Something inside him had to keep up hope, no matter how blind it may have been for him to do so.
He leaned up against the old wooden house staring up at the foliage above him and thought about how he should be bring Rachel here if he ever got the chance, if she were still – No! I can’t think like this, Locke scolded harshly before walking away from the sanctuary he’d called home the past few days. He’d left a short note thanking them duo for their help and promised to repay them someday, somehow.
It was time to go.