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tripete

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PALS
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12/2014
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PA
Raoljost - (A Guiding Light)

Chapter 1

I wasn't able to run fast enough. My legs and arms were going as fast as I could force them to move and they burned with effort. My breathing was labored, but under control. Sweat poured from my brow and burned my eyes.

I could hear the hounds of hell with their banshee masters close behind them, but just couldn't catch up. The banshee were screeching out their songs of death and the hounds were howling in their mournful wail, producing a deadly chorus that hurt my ears. I was the best runner in Atlantis, but this time it seemed like it wasn't going to be enough.

I put my head down and made an extra effort to move my arms faster. The faster your arms move the faster your legs have to go. I was careful to stay in control and keep my head steady and not to let my arms cross over my body. Running is ninety-five percent will and five percent form. My feet didn't slap the stone paved ground, but instead glided over it. Good runners run on their toes and feel like they don't even touch the earth.

I could see the backs of the banshees in front of me. They were just crossing over the stone bridge that lead to her house. I found the will to dig deeper. I don't know where it came from, but I was moving faster. A branch from a river birch tree growing on the edge of the cove slapped me across the face; I barely noticed. I was at the crest of the bridge and could see the banshees and the hell hound's tails. I was closing in on them.

I was nearing the end of the bridge when the lights went out. I remember a pain across my chest, my head hitting the stones, and then the coldness of the ground pressing against my back. The sky went from blue to gray to black and then time stopped.

While I was unconscious I had a dream that ended as a nightmare. Like most dreams it started out peacefully. The sky was a bright cerulean blue and the clouds were fluffy and white with a slight silver tinge to the bottom of them. The grass was bright green, like it is in the spring and was covered with water droplets from a soft rain. There was a rainbow, the type we often see in the North Atlantic Sea with its bright hues of purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.

I was rolling in the grass enjoying the breeze across my face and the scents of the surrounding forest creatures in the air. I could tell there was a squirrel playing at the edge of the woods, a rabbit with six kits in the field, and several dead fish at the edge of the cove. The smells were intoxicating and more pronounced than they had ever been.

I was excited by the clarity of the smells when I noticed something moving behind me. I quickly whirled around to see what it was. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of what looked like a long furry stick. It took a few more twists to realize that it was not a branch, but that I had a tail. I twisted again and again trying to get a good look at it. Before long I was spinning in circles. When it dawned on me that I was not going to catch it, I stopped and took a physical evaluation of myself. I had pointy ears, a long nose, sharp teeth, and four legs. I wandered to the water's edge with more grace than I should have and gazed at my reflection. My own eyes looked back at me; it was my hair that covered my entire body, but the rest - well I was a wolf, cool.

I looked around and was awe struck by the intensity of all the sights and sounds. Everything seemed sharper, at the same time every breath had an urgency to it. I needed to move, I needed to hunt, to breed, to protect. It was strangely liberating to just focus on the basic needs of life. I began to run. My fur was damp from rolling in the meadow and my legs dripped as the blades of grass brushed against them. The wind I created by running was invigorating. Running was easier than it had ever been. This was amazing. I felt completely free.

Chapter 2

But freedom is an illusion. The bright green grass that had a moment ago tickled my legs turned a dark, dead, brown color and reached up to grab me. I tried to jump out of it's grasp only to be swatted to the ground by a large white branch. The weeds quickly entangled me and instead of the refreshing spring smells that surrounded me moments ago, all I could smell now was death and decay.

As I lay there helplessly staring upward the dream began to fade away and reality asserted its will over me. The blue sky turned to ash and the rainbow dissolved into flickering points of light. I watched the gray bottoms of the clouds press down toward me. In an instant those clouds cracked and a thundering voice shouted, “Vanagandr!” Through a haze of pain and dizziness I saw King Atlas leaning over me from his throne.

I had come out of the darkness that had overtaken me on the bridge and as I did I realized that the bindings that held me were not dead grass, but an unbreakable chain named Gleipnir. Gleipnir had been made by the dwarfs from a cat's footsteps, the breath of a fish, the spittle of a bird, a mountain's roots, and a woman’s beard. It was as fine as hair and completely unbreakable. The pin points of light were torches and the darkening sky was the roof of the hall called Hades. Hades was Atlantis’ hall of judgment. It was intentionally kept dark and dank and used torches as light to add to the menacing ambiance. Above me stood my half-brother, Jormungandr, with his large ivory staff in his hands.

Atlas sat on his throne looming over me. His white beard and hair had streaks of silver through it and floated like angry clouds above me. His dead green eyes showed his age, but pierced me like angry arrows just the same. His body was massive, giant-sized. He rippled with muscles and his shoulders were as wide as three normal-sized men. Vanagandr was my full proper name and the king always called me by it. Most people call me Fenrir, but to the king formality and respect meant everything. He fiercely protected his authority and the power that came with it. He very carefully chose his words so that there would be no question about who was in charge.

I gathered myself, well there wasn't really much to gather. I had been stripped of my clothes and was completely naked and firmly secured to the floor. The best I could do was to get off of my back and try, despite my spinning head, to get to my feet. In contrast to Atlas I stand just under six feet tall, have silver-brown hair that resembles copper, a close cropped beard of the same color, and a swimmer's body with strong lean muscles. My eyes are clear and blue, not the creepy white blue that some have, but more of a sky blue.

I had a bruise that ran across my chest roughly the size of my brother's staff. My face had blood dripping from it, I presume it was from the branch that hit me while I was running or maybe from the beating that it felt like I must have taken when I went down. I took a few moments to push the pain and fatigue away. I stood as straight up as I could and puffed my chest out. Standing there naked with all the bravado I could muster I said, ”Father.”

He sat back on his throne and a small wry smile crossed his face. In a low growl of a voice he asked “Am I your father or king?” I began to respond when he waved his hand to silence me. “Regardless of what you think I am both and you WILL OBEY ME,” he emphasized, his words erupting like a large bass drum in the chamber. “This woman,” he pointed to my left and behind me, “has ...” I didn't hear the rest of what he said.

I quickly swiveled my head and for the first time I noticed she was there. Raoljost was beautiful. She was also naked, dirty and bruised, but still gorgeous. She sat on her side with her legs behind her leaning on one arm. Her hair was long and brown with a red glow to it and her eyes varied in color from brown to green to blue and glowed in the light of the stone hall. Raoljost was just over five and a half feet tall. She was muscularly slim and was the most perfect woman I had ever seen.

As my eyes rolled over her I noticed she was bruised on her back, shoulders, thighs, and stomach with the same long bruises that I had across my chest. Her right calf had a chunk torn out of it and it was crusted with dry blood. I tried through the pain and fatigue to process what I was seeing.

I had been stopped from getting to her home when my brother's staff had come from nowhere to knock me out. The hell hounds and banshees had gotten to Raoljost, and as they will do, stopped her from running by taking a chunk out of her calf. This was a needless act as Raoljost was not one who would have run away, but would rather stand upon her convictions no matter the cost. It appeared that my brother then entered her home and in his usual cruelty needlessly beat her. I was sure that he enjoyed inflicting pain upon her as in his mind he knew that he would be hurting me as much as her.

The anger and rage flooded into me. I pulled against Gleipnir, my muscles rippled and felt like they might burst through my skin. The large stones that went deep into the floor began to move as insane furry strengthened me. But it was a losing battle. They were just to deeply anchored into the ground. I was irrational with hatred and dug my feet into the rock and pushed with my thighs. My arms were back and my shoulders forward. I was enraged and for a moment thought that the rocks would burst free loosening me from my tethers. Instead my shoulders ripped out of their sockets and I fell forward with pain and the sudden momentum. My arms dangled at my side and my knees struck the stone floor with the immediate slack caused by my shoulders releasing from their natural location.

The king had stopped speaking and the whole court was staring at me. Raoljost broke the silence and tried to soothe me. “Stop” she whispered with tears streaming down her pale face. “It's OK, I knew when I began that this would be where it would end.” She turned to Atlas and tried to wipe her tears away on her shoulder. She spoke clearly and respectfully. “My king, I have always striven to obey you and I will continue to do so...” He cut her off and growled, “Will you acknowledge me as the one true God and the one who holds the world upon his shoulders? Will you confess that the Atlantians are the chosen people, that they are superior to all living beings?”

Raoljost ignored her pain and got to her knees. I could see the blood on her calf run more freely as she moved and ripped open the scab that had begun to form. She bowed her head and said in a soft voice “My lord, I cannot. We are merely people. We have been punished and can no longer be seen or interact with the rest of the people of the world, except for those who like us have shaken their fist against the true God and have had the same curse placed upon them. Ships pass through our great land with no idea that we are even here. No my lord we are not gods, but mere people who have been cursed to this life of unseen immortality due to our arrogance.” With this she sat back on her heels, her head bowed and her lips pursed close.

Hades froze over, I mean literally froze as ice crystals formed on the walls. Icy stalactites grew and hung down from the grass ceiling and a thin sheet of ice formed on the ground under my knees. Atlas was furious and his frost giant ancestry was causing ice to form everywhere.

As Raoljost had been speaking the executioner had quietly moved into place beside her. The king glared at her with newly formed ice clinging to his hair and beard. His skin had turned a pale blue and hatred twisted his face as his anger churned. He shifted his gaze to the executioner for just a fraction of a second and quicker than I could register what was happening, the executioner swung his large sword and it was done. My love's head laid lifelessly on the floor and the last sound I heard was her dead body smacking the cold stone floor.

Chapter 3

I don't remember much of what happened next. Pain, agony, fear, frustration and grief caused me to lunge forward yet again. This time though my brother's ivory staff struck me and for the second time that day, the darkness and unconscious closed in on me.

I didn't dream, my light -Raoljost, was gone. My will to continue seemed to disappear. Without her I didn't know what I would do and there was no room left for dreams.

We met when we were kids over two-thousand years ago. At that time she was the daughter of a servant in our home. We were, in more ways than not, different. I was impetuous, quick to assert myself, and arrogant. Everyone either hated or loved me. While the list of those who loved me was very, very, small the list of those who hated me was much larger, but because they feared my father they would not dare say so.

Raoljost was five years younger than me and was liked by most people. She wasn't exactly popular, but had an easygoing manner and got along with everyone. She was a bit of a tomboy and enjoyed sports and games more than cooking or playing with dolls. At that age her hair was completely out of control and she was very thin. Her face had the angles, that looking back, told you she was going to grow to be stunning; and she did.

Due to me being a prince and her a servant it took years before we were allowed to spend any real time together. I was twenty-six and she had just turned twenty-one when we ran into each other outside of the palace. I was on one of my endurance runs when I turned a corner and collided with her. She was on a run herself and was out of breath and wet with sweat, and thanks to my running into her, her knees were now scraped and dirty. I helped her up and while the run didn't wind me, she took my breath away. I had never seen a more beautiful woman than Raoljost. There are not enough adjectives to describe how she made me feel.

Over the years we spent more and more time together and my adoration for her grew as I was able to see that her personality was as wonderful as her appearance. I was forty-five when the curse struck Atlantis. Raoljost had just turned forty and took the change to our lives hard.

Atlas had proclaimed before the world that he was the one true God and that the people of Atlantis were his chosen ones. He sent our warriors to all the corners of the world to destroy any other gods and to convert the people to worship him.

I was on one of the conversion trips when it happened. I was in the middle of a battle when all of a sudden my sword went completely through my enemy. I swung the sword and swung it again, but it never made contact. I turned around and looked at the battle. None of the Atlantians were fairing any better than me. Our swords were not making contact and our enemies looked bewilderingly around them.

The man I had been fighting stepped toward and through me. Instantly I felt overwhelmed by his fear and surprise. His face turned and twisted with rage and a fierce determination. His whole character had changed and I had to fight to remember who I was. It passed after a few minutes and things returned to normal. It didn't take long for me to understand that we had become invisible and that the only type of interaction that we could have was this “sharing” or “exchanging” of emotions.

We returned home to report what had happened to my father only to find out that it had happened everywhere. Atlas immediately proclaimed that it was a sign of our superiority over all other people. He declared that we would no longer participate in the happenings of the world because we were Gods and they were mere mortals and Gods need not participate in the affairs of men. The punishment for trying to break his decree was death.

Raoljost had a very different idea. She tried to speak with the king to tell him that she feared that our “invisibility” was a curse due to our proclamation of deity. The king did not take this well. He banned her from the palace and declared her teachings as heretical. She was labeled an enemy of Atlantis, but because of my pleading was allowed to live.

Raoljost quietly continued to teach what she believed was the truth. She taught humility and love. Raoljost believed that love was counting others as more important than yourself, -even mortals. She gave of herself and never sought her own good when others still had a need. Her teachings were infectious and rang more true than what my father had proclaimed and what I had been brought up to believe my entire life. Still, I hesitated to commit to what she believed. It was difficult to turn from a lifetime of teachings and ultimately from my father.

Raoljost's words had gotten back to Atlas. In turn, word that he intended to execute her had gotten back to me. I convinced her to leave Atlantis and we had quietly built a boat in a cave on the backside of an enclosed cove. We had stocked it and were preparing to leave the next day when I was told that Atlas had sent the hounds and banshees after her. I started my run, my failed attempt to save my love. I had failed her. I had failed the only thing that meant anything to me. The light of my life had been snuffed out.

Chapter 4

I woke up with my head ringing and everything was a blur. Out of my pain induced haze I saw Raoljost walking toward me. A shocked smile stretched my lips and I started to get up. A soft, but older voice said, “Easy, you are badly hurt.” The fog cleared and I saw her face more clearly. It wasn't Raoljost, but her grandmother, Grace.

Grace looked like a ninety-year-old version of Raoljost. The same strong angular face, thin build, and strongly determined, but gentle mannerisms. When I realized it wasn't Raoljost the momentary joy I had felt broke like a damn and anguish, grief, and despair all rushed in. I lay there quietly crying, my chest heaving and causing pain to shiver through my body as it did. I don't know how long this went on, but eventually the weeping gave way to sleep as exhaustion took its place.

I woke to see Grace treating my wounds. She had put my shoulders back in place, bandaged my face and ribs and scrubbed the grime off of me. I had been bound to my bed to keep me from wrenching my shoulders back out of their sockets. My neck and chest were heavily bruised and I think I had several broken ribs. Jormungandr had apparently taken delight in kicking me while I was down.

The pain was gut wrenching. I laid still and mentally evaluated everything. My mind was hurting worse than my body and so instead of pushing my body's pain away I just let it flood into me. I couldn't get over the grief, but maybe I could let the physical pain displace it. When I closed my eyes I saw her as she was in Hades beaten, bruised, but calmly settled to her fate. She had shown no fear. The knowledge that she was gone overwhelmed the physical pain. I didn't think I would be able to go on without her and I didn't believe that I wanted to. The grief overwhelmed me as I fell asleep again.

Each morning my first thoughts were of desperation, hatred and loneliness. The events in Hades played over and over again in my mind and I was ready to give up. It was then that Grace's voice traveled in through the darkness of the hopelessness that I was feeling. It was a soft voice that spoke with experience and its own underlying grief. She quietly admonished me to stop feeling sorry for myself and to realize that everything has a purpose.

At the time these admonishments did little for me, but to let me know that there was someone else that understood and cared. Over time they would become some of the most important words that I could hear. All depression is based in a self-righteous notion that says “I don't deserve what is happening to me, I deserve better.” Raoljost and Grace knew and gently taught others that we deserve everything that happens to us on account of our own pride and arrogance. She insisted that our lives were not about what we received, but about selflessly serving others. These were the words I needed to remember, even if I didn't see it at the time.

As the days passed, Grace not only did wonders healing my body, but she began to teach me how to go on. She had snapped my shoulders back in to place and with her counsel and love, began to do the same for my will.

She recounted for me the death of her own family and how hopeless at times life had seemed to her, but how in the end she always found a way to keep going. She reminded me that Raoljost had given her life in love for the truth and that for me to stop living would cast a dark shadow on all that she had done. She reminded me that Raoljost had loved me and that I needed to keep pressing on.

Through all of her words she most often spoke to me about being happy again. This was not something that I could ever see happening. It was too hard to think of the years to come and of not having Raoljost by my side, so I just tried to focus on getting through the days one at a time. I woke up in the morning and focused on making it to noon, then I just kept pushing to make it to night.

As I regained my strength and was able to get up out of bed and take care of myself, I also started to do small chores for Grace. The work kept me from thinking too much and aided in my mental recovery. In time Atlas had me moved from Grace's house to my home on the north tip of Atlantis. As time passed Grace's visits to take care of me decreased as my physical recovery was nearing its completion. After about three months of being house bound I decided that it was time to go outside.

Chapter 5

There were guards posted discreetly outside of my door. Most people would not have noticed them, but I had been trained to fight and it was my “job” to be observant and see such things. As I often did when I was mentally challenged, I decided to go for a run. The added benefit being that it would be easy to lose the guards.

As the average temperature in the North Atlantic is about ten to twenty degrees above freezing we have grown accustom to and quite resilient of the cold. However we still do wear clothes and our engineers and scientist have taken lessons from nature to bio engineer a material that closely resembles the skin of a seal. It is built using natural materials and has a “grown” layer of fat that insulates us from the cold. The garments are waterproof, flexible and sweat as we do. It is similar to a neoprene suit worn by divers, but is effectively a “living” garment that adjusts to our body's temperature as we need it to.

My suits are all black, long sleeve, and feature a large hood that tucks into the neck and have Raoljost and my insignia burnished in them from the left arm pit down to the hip. The design is about as wide as a hand and has a dove and wolf interwoven among wild flowers and thorns in a Celtic style design. I stared at the design and as I did a lump of grief and rage simultaneously stirred within me. I closed my eyes and tried to slow my heart rate down and calm my mind. I needed this run to release some of the fury that was bubbling up in me.

Atlantis is designed to use nature and our inherent physical abilities to maximize our lives. Our houses are either part of the cliff face in the mountain sides or are dug into the ground with moss, grass and flowers used as insulation and roofs. Either one is difficult to spot as they are so well designed to melt into the landscape.

Our homes are warmed through an elaborate tunnel system created to take advantage of the geothermal heat cast by the volcano range that formed our islands. For lighting we use a living phosphorous material that we forage from the ocean floor and keep in floating vessels on the walls. We feed our lights and keep them healthy and in return they respond to our commands to illuminate our residences.

The seven different islands that make up Atlantis are connected by underwater tunnels and bridges, effectively creating one kingdom. As a general rule the islands at the top of the crescent shape formed by the chain are more forest-like and the lower half more craggy and grass covered. We use the bottom half to raise and graze elk and caribou and in the upper portion, we jealously guard and replant the forest to have materials for building.

I live on the smallest island on a peninsula at the northern most tip of Atlantis. The island is called Mani. My home is on a heavily wooded parcel that is protected on its sides by the sea. It is where Raoljost and I had planned on spending our lives together. The beauty I had once seen here now seemed lonely and desolate.

I walked outside and started my run. Long ago running had stopped being exercise to me and had become more about the quiet time where I could sort out my thoughts and determine my future. I had a lot to think about and consider now that my light was gone.

Chapter 6

I could feel every wound that had been inflicted upon me as I wound my way through the trails and paths that crisscrossed the islands. I buried the physical pain deep inside of me and concentrated on coming to terms with the loss of Raoljost. I'd been running for about half an hour when I looked up from my mental reflection. I noticed that I was coming up to the cove and bridge that were near her house. Without realizing it my pace had increased and I was at a full sprint. The emotions were bubbling through me and I was racing as though my, or her, life depended upon it.

I forced myself to stop at the water's edge and not to cross the bridge. I gazed at it and wondered if I could ever go over it again. Raoljost and I had spent many hours on that bridge staring up at the waterfall that fed the cove below it. We talked about our future and how maybe one day this curse would end and that we could grow old together. I wanted to take care of her, to love her and give her all that she needed or wanted.

I had to come to grips with the fact that despite how strong, powerful, and highly I have always thought of myself, there are just some things I can't control. For the first time ever I began to see how truly insignificant I am. As my eyes lingered on the bridge, reflections of my ineffectiveness and the perceived injustice of Raoljost's death, caused rage, bitterness and sorrow to fill me.

I tore my gaze away from the bridge and down to the cove. Without much forethought I dove in. I swam underwater for six or seven minutes toward the opposite shore and came up into a swimmer's crawl. I angled away from the shore and headed west out toward the sea. When you live as long as we have without aging, you can train your body to become stronger to do things like maximizing the flow of oxygen in your blood so that holding my breath for that long was really no problem. This is probably where the myth came from that we have gills and live underwater.

I made the decision to stay in the water for a while so I turned southward to skirt the coast. Like running, swimming is very therapeutic to me. Unlike running though, swimming is more about technique. Yes, will still plays a large role, but all the will in the world without proper technique will get you nowhere. So I concentrated on my elbow lift, my hand placement, my breathing and my ankle position as I kicked. My shoulders burned and I knew that I should not be pushing them, but I needed the emotional release more than the physical rehabilitation.

As I swam, thoughts of swimming out as far as I could and then just giving into the exhaustion and drowning myself crept into my mind. But I just kept swimming, focusing on the task at hand and putting away the despair. The cold of the sea and physical exertion helped to alleviate the mental pain.

I exited the water at a gravel beach just below the largest of the Atlantian islands called Olympus. As you can probably guess it is a mountain of an island where dear old dad lives. There was a shear cliff face in front of me and I decided to scale it to get back on a path that would allow me to begin my run again.

Once again my body was objecting to the work I was putting it through but I forced the pain and fatigue away. I had learned a long time ago that pain, while it informs you that there is something wrong, is also something that you can ignore and “file away” to be dealt with later.

I had reached the top of the rock face and began to run again when I heard voices shouting, “Oh Raoljost, my dear Raoljost,” in a mocking tone from behind me. I turned to see Jormungandr and several of his friends striding toward me. In his left hand he held by the scruff of it's neck Raoljost's black cat, Nyssa. In his right hand he held his eight foot ivory staff. He swung Nyssa back and forth as he walked toward me. She was growling at him the whole time.

I felt that I had no choice, so I stopped and waited for them to approach.

Chapter 7

Jormungandr is a bully and always has been. Anything or anyone that is smaller or weaker than him is a potential target of his venom. He stands almost as tall as his staff. He has a flat, but wide chest and is toned with rock hard muscle. He has a severely recessed hairline and his green eyes pierce you with his evident loathing for anything that breathes.

With him were three friends that varied in size and appearance, but all were undoubtedly as twisted and bent as he was. They were armed with his own personal weapon of choice. One had a sword, one a mace, and the third carried a spear and dagger.

In my father's court we were all taught to fight. He held regular practices and tournaments so I was sure that I had fought all of these men before. As I was one of the better fighters in Atlantis I was sure that I had beaten all of them at one time or another. The difference was that it would have been one at a time.

My brother on the other hand, -well he had been the one who most often beat me. He used any means available not to lose and because of his size had a natural advantage. He was quick to strike and agile enough to keep from being struck himself. He would lie, cheat, and steal to win.

“Raoljost forgot something when her head was severed from her body,” Jormungandr said when they had encircled me. He tossed Nyssa in the air and caught her by the tail. She shrieked in pain and fear. The minion with the sword had unsheathed it and held it in his hand. Jormungandr asked “Shall I have the executioner send her to mommy?”

I cannot express how intense the white hot furry was that sprung to life within me. It came on like a bolt of lightning streaking across the evening sky and before another word could be spoken I was in motion.

The lackey with the spear and dagger stood behind me and to my right. He held his spear in his right hand and his knife was sheathed on his left hip. I turned and rolled my left shoulder into his right armpit and placed my left hand on the small of his back. My shoulder kept him from being able to use his spear and my left hand gave me leverage over him. With my right hand I plucked the dagger from his belt.

The piece of elk dung in the middle swung his mace toward me. With my left hand I spun and pushed spear boy into the path of the heavy steel ball and spikes. It was a direct hit to his forehead and as he fell, I used my now free left hand to take his spear from him. I continued the roll and with one strong swing of the bade that I held in my right hand I severed the sword arm of the third dingus clean off.

Elk dung was desperately yanking at the mace to pull it out of spear boy's forehead when I gutted him with the business end of the spear. I tossed him aside with it and took the blunt end directly back and into my brother's testicles. He dropped Nyssa and fell to his knees.

I had struck extremely fast and caught them completely unprepared. It took less than a handful of breaths for the fight to end and Raoljost's cat to be free. Nyssa did not stick around to see what would happen next. She ran toward the path that headed northeast toward Raoljost's house. I took her lead and followed.

Chapter 8

Cats know things. They are one of nature's greatest predators and survivors. Nyssa took a path that led through briars, thistles and other low brush. She was instinctively going in a manner that she hoped would keep larger predators like my brother from following her. I was surprised that as we approached Raoljost's house, she took a sharp easterly turn and headed up the mountain side. It took me a few seconds to realize that she was headed toward Grace's.

I stopped following her and watched from a distance to make sure that she would be safe. I had just injured and likely murdered two Atlantians for trying to kill and torture a cat. My father had a law that strictly forbade the killing of our own people except by his order. This was a necessity since the curse had made it no longer possible for us to reproduce.

I knew I was now a marked man that would be executed and anyone associated with me would also be in danger. For this reason I could not go to Grace's house and I could not go home. These would be the first places that the king's guard would look for me.

It only took a few seconds to decide that I would go to the cove where Raoljost and I had built our boat. I continued north past Grace's house and crested over one of the uninhabited lower mountains. The trees were thick here and provided good cover. I reached the east shore and continued north as the moon began to rise and the day came to an end.

The only way to get to the cave where our ship was hidden in the cove was by boat or swim. As our boat was inside the cave, I decided to swim. We built the boat in secret and no one knew of its existence.

It was a tri-hull version of a Viking type sail boat that was roughly thirty-six feet long and fifteen feet wide. It had out riggers that could fold up to create a “tent” like roof or could be left down for more stability. The tri-hull design is excellent for speed and provides adequate room for storage and sleep. On the front end of the prow is carved a large dove heading forward and on the back end, a wolf looks forward as if to chase the elegant bird. We left it the natural color of the white birch from which it was made.

I started a small fire and recovered some rations from the boat. I needed time to think and consider what I was going to do next. My options were very limited. I could go to my father and plead for mercy or hide from him and the warriors that he would send to bring me in.

The thought of asking him for forgiveness after what he had done to Raoljost stirred up anger and resentment in me. The idea was completely abhorrent. Besides, mercy was not a word that anyone would associate with Atlas. My only choice was to run.

I milled over the idea and decided that there was nothing in Atlantis worth staying for anyway. They had taken all that I cared for away and there was no future for me here anymore. I decided that in the morning I would set sail and head west toward Snaeland.

Chapter 9

I awoke to the mournful wail of the banshees cry followed by the baying of the hell hounds. At first I thought it was another nightmare whereby I would be forced to relive my failure to save Raoljost over and over again. But no, in the distance I heard their cries and knew they were on my trail.

I quickly got up, tossed my provisions in the boat and dove into the cove. I could not allow them to find my cave and boat as it was my best means to leave Atlantis.

I swam the shore line until I was perpendicular with those that were hunting me. I quietly got out of the water, ran through the woods, and circled behind them. Armed with a long shaft of driftwood that I picked up from the shore line, I attacked.

I struck the guard that followed the banshees from behind and quickly dispatched five or six of them before getting to the front of the pack to where the hell hounds led. I swiped the staff left and right connecting with the beast on each pass of my improvised weapon. The thing to know about hell hounds and their banshee leaders is that they cannot do or go anywhere with directions from a puppet master.

I knew that their commander must be close by, but that he would be hiding from sight. My brother had been the one leading them to Raoljost's house and had surprised me in my chase of them. This time I was determined not to be surprised.

I was keeping the hounds at arm's length while trying to identify the location of their master, when the guards that I previously knocked down began to rush me from all sides. I had stopped them from locating my cave by sneaking up behind them. Now would I be able to survive to return to it?

I twisted to meet them. The driftwood staff lashed out from me like an extension of my own limbs and connected with them time and time again. I had gotten the majority of them to the ground when I was struck from behind and forced to my hands and knees by the impact of the blow. I was dazed and in the time it took me to get my senses back, the remaining guards were pelting me with a torrent of kicks to my ribs. I had been, once again, surprised by the banshee's leader.

I felt my newly healed ribs crack and my right shoulder dislocate from a huge stone that struck it from just above the shoulder blade. I rolled onto my left side only to expose myself to more torment, as my captors continued to pummel me with their boots, staffs, sticks, and rocks. A squeaky voice that somehow also managed to growl called them off of me.

I looked up to see the third dingus whose arm I had taken off the day before standing above me. His stump was heavily wrapped in bio-moss that we had engineered for just such an injury. It kept it from bleeding and provided antibacterial properties that helped heal the wound. It was the flat side of his sword, held in his left hand, that had struck me in the back. He was the banshee's master and before I could digest all that was going on, he sicked the hounds of hell upon me.

They bit and gnawed at me; the pain was excruciating. Hell hounds have an extremely acidic saliva that coupled with the sharpness of their teeth causes white hot blinding pain with each bite. A small scratch from one tooth will send a grown man to the ground reeling in agony and I was getting bit time and time again.

As the pain washed over me so did the desperation that my life had become. I felt helpless, and without Raoljost, everything seemed useless. I was giving into the notion of letting it all end. In a distant place in my mind, I was still registering all the bites that I was taking, left arm, lower right back, right butt cheek, etc... But it just didn't seem to matter as death was the preferred option.

Then one of the hound's took a chunk from my right calf. Raoljost's face leaped into my head and it instantly caused me to think of the pain and terror that she had felt when the hounds had caught and bitten her. I remembered the teeth marks on her right calf and with that my desperation, self pity, and desire to give up were carried away by hatred, loathing, rage and anger. I grit my teeth and cursed under my breath. I bit my tongue and blood filled my mouth as I thrust myself up hitting and kicking the devil dogs as I rose.

The blood and its taste in my mouth fueled my hatred. I still did not care if I lived or died only that everyone around me would perish with me. I struck the sword dingus first. He was their leader and when he went down the hell hounds and banshees would return to Hades.

He was caught off guard by the fierceness and strength of my attack. I leapt toward him and drove him to the ground with the weight of my body. Before he could react I had my hands around his neck and was smashing his head into the ground. Blood was everywhere. It splattered my face and I relished the taste of it as it mixed with my own. I bent down, and with my teeth, ripped his throat out.

The guards saw what I had done and turned to run, but it was too late. I could smell their fear and I pounced on them. I was berserk with rage. I continued to kill everything near me until nothing was left moving except the dried leaves that rustled with the wind.

Chapter 10

The rage burned off and I lay there among the bodies, exhausted, filthy and in a great deal of pain. I had to calm the adrenaline down (from the action and the injuries) and think. I took a few deep breaths, spit blood out of my mouth, and pressed all of my emotions deep inside. I pushed myself to get to my feet, stumbled a few steps, and walked to the same place that I had come up from the shore moments before.

From there I quickly walked south down the coast away from my cove. I knew the hounds would be back and I hoped that this would lead them in the wrong direction. I dove back into the water and went east away from the coast and then started swimming north toward my boat. The hounds are excellent trackers, but even they cannot track in open water and I had hoped that the back tracking would give me enough time to set sail.

It was a much longer and more exhausting swim then it had been earlier. Swimming in the open ocean with one arm and broken ribs is difficult at best. I used a modified breast stroke and eventually made it to the cove.

Once in the cave I immediately boarded our boat and headed east away from Atlantis. I kept the sail down and paddled with the large rudder until I was far enough off the coast to be beyond anyone’s sight. I then rose the sail and headed north. When I hit the arctic circle I changed course to head west toward Snaeland.

I used the side of the boat to put my shoulder back into place and cleaned myself with water from the sea. I then used fresh water from one of the holds to rinse the salt off. I ate some. Even though I was not hungry I knew that my body would need food and rest to heal. I decided that I would stay at sea for as long as I could to give myself the best opportunity to recuperate. My ribs ached and the chunks of flesh that the hounds had taken out stung when the salt water hit them, but that was nothing compared to their bites.

The loneliness and vastness of the open sea gave me plenty of time to think. Maybe I could find a quiet place and some peace in Snaeland. If not I would replenish my boat and continue west. If there was any question about it before all doubt had now been removed, I am in self imposed exile from my home.

If I were ever to return to Atlantis I would be put to death. Atlantis will always be my home, but I doubt that I will ever see her again. My only blood family, Atlas and Jormungandr, want to see me dead.

The only one who I ever loved, Raoljost, is gone. She is my guiding light and I will never forget her. The love of life that she once imparted to me has been replaced with fury, desperation, grief and anger. I will never forget her death and those who brought it upon her.

I am certain that father will send hunters after me, but beware to any of them that find me.
 

chally

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Great story Pete! Hope you voice bank it for your family.

Keep writing!

Love ya
Chally
 

Angiegal

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Riveting Pete!

Angie
 

tripete

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Thank all of you. This is a prequel to a full novel that I have been working on but don't think I will be able to finish as my hands are not working well.

Chally it is to late for me to voice bank. I dragged my feet on doing it and now I talk with a fat tongue and lots of pauses and hesitation and a lot of unintelligible words.
 
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