A little over a year had passed since Alaric sent Bahlreq back to The Pit, since the big fight in the abandoned apartment complex in the middle of the night. Alaric, Kimmy, and Jake had slinked past the patrolling authorities after the dire destruction of the brawl between Alaric and the Demlo. After returning from the fight, they left the alleyway that evening. Alaric had invited the others to accompany them, but Jake was the only one to accept, feeling connected with Alaric and Kimmy. Alaric and his two new companions traveled north, deep into the forest near the American and Canadian border. He moved into a cabin of Alaric’s that he’d abandoned some time ago and, upon their arrival, took some care to bring it back up to livable standards. Most of this work had been done by Alaric due to his inhuman strength, with Jake’s aid when he could help him. Otherwise, Jake kept an eye on Kimmy, even trying to teach her basic things out in the forest, survival tips, and simple life advice from his experiences. For being six years old now, Kimmy seemed to absorb any knowledge either of them parted onto her. Of course, it also could’ve been finally having a positive influence in her life for a change. Alaric had also noticed that Kimmy still had the lining of corruption appearing on her aura. However, dimmer than before, it was still there though. After a year, she hadn’t shown any influence from Bahlreq and therefore concluded that it must have been corruption damage from her trauma or her direct dealings with a Demlo of such power. They had a relatively peaceful year in the cabin, one Alaric was growing ever more skeptical of as peace didn’t tend to follow him, more of the opposite rather.
The cabin had been completed for some time now. Alaric would venture out every other day and hunt for food for the three. However, something Alaric hadn’t told the other two was that he was starting to have a more challenging time each trip finding food. It seemed the animals were beginning to disperse from that area of the woods for some reason. It wasn’t due to overhunting, as he had been changing his routine and area every time he went out for that reason. He even went further than needed to spread out how often things may have been killed and switched up what he was hunting to keep it diverse and their supply unlimited, as the three would need while they lived there. Something didn’t sit right in Alaric’s stomach, and no matter how often he tried to ignore the feeling or bury it, he was only reminded of how often his gut feelings were right. Something was going to be breaking this long run of quiet.
“Kimmy! Don’t venture too far off now, you hear?” Jake called out after Kimmy, the two of them had gone to pick mushrooms for stew.
“Don’t worry. I won’t!” Kimmy shouted back from her hands and knees under a low brush tree, grabbing some lovely hidden mushrooms. She held them up into the air, “See! This is what I saw.” She giggled as she came bounding back towards Jake.
“Oh, that’s a great find there. That’ll do nicely for the stew tonight.” He held out their bag as she dropped them in, and hand in hand, they walked back to the cabin to begin prepping the stew for when Alaric came back with the meat.
Crouched and stalking through the brush, Alaric had been eyeing an eight-pointed buck, to his pleasant surprise. He had trekked further than he had wanted for the day, but this buck would give them enough meat if they prepared it right. Watching the majestic animal bring his head to a peak, its ears twitching as if alert to something, suddenly his head jolts to one direction as his body jerks off in the opposite direction of the darted look, and off he bolted into the brush at a full sprint. Alaric cursed to himself as he, too, looked in the direction as the buck had before it so speedily taken off, only to see leaping out of the brush a placid, muscled-looking hairless ape of a creature. It appeared to have a reddish hue to its skin, completely bald, while its arms were slightly longer than a human’s, and its hands were twice the size of a human’s, at least, and equally thick it appeared. Once it hit the ground, it lurched forward on massive legs, so thick with the muscle they appeared to be small tree trunks, and below the knee, its legs were digitigrade, giving it more speed and agility even for its massive bulk. The hands and feet were covered in what appeared to be razor-sharp claws; the maw looked to have more teeth than a shark and at least doubled in size. Immense, at least three sizes the size of a human’s eyes, were completely pitch black. Atop its head were two massive horns that twisted and turned in horrific directions as well were razor sharp to the touch. Alaric shook his head, muttering, “A Hellion, shit!” The Hellion is a beast from The Pit, which most people don’t believe due to its appearance. They are the soldiers of The Pit and are often sent to scout or hunt victims out for Demlo lords or higher. He could only think this was around because they had been in the area for so long. A year might have been too long to stick to one area as Alaric realized they may not have been as safe as he initially thought.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Alaric said under his breath as he flashed forward with blurred speed. Faster than even the Hellion could keep track of as its vision shifted to the rustling brush. Blindsiding the beast from the right, Alaric’s hand in a rigid martial strike pose, he used his hand to slice halfway through the giant creature’s neck, spilling black vile-smelling blood all about the forest floor. Sizzles and steam came up from the black viscous fluid that touched any sunlight peeking through the canopy overhead. The Hellion hit the ground with a noticeable thud and slid forward ten feet from its previous momentum right before the creature’s blood-curdling death, the last few throws shuddering through the body before finally ceasing to move. Kneeling at the head, Alaric traced a small rune in the forehead of the creature, his finger leaving a white trail of light showing the rune until it was completed. At that point, it flared bright white, almost blinding, then vanished instantly. A second or two later, the entire body and pool of blood completely disintegrated and blew off into the air. “No evidence, well, there’s still the issue of food, I suppose,” Alaric sighed and started to wander off towards the direction the buck ran off, in the hopes of finding where he may have stopped, also hoping that was the only Hellion out here and that he stopped it before it was able to report anything.
Dusk was falling as the horizon glowed red, and the silhouette of Alaric with a large buck draped over his shoulders could be seen by Kimmy looking out the window, “Alaric is back!” She exclaimed excitedly and bolted out the door before Jake could respond.
“Kimmy, be careful!” Jake was about to get to the door and shout after her as she sprinted to Alaric, smiling big as each step came down in a wild thud and relaunch.
Kimmy came crashing against Alaric with arms out, wrapping around his thick waist on contact as she shouted before, muffled by his belly, “Alaric!!”
“Well, hello there, Kimmy,” his large hand cupped over the crown of her head with care, attempting to pry her off of himself. “Alright, let’s get back inside so we can get some of this meat cooking for dinner before it’s too late.”
Nodding, Kimmy responded, “ok, I am getting hungry,” she muttered as she darted off in the opposite direction, leading Alaric as he fell behind her.
“I’m glad to see you make it back before it got too late,” Jake smiled as he greeted Alaric’s return. Moving to help him with the buck to start prepping all the meat, some to cook and the rest to be stored.
Alaric nodded in response, “Yeah, we’ll have to discuss later what happened.” His right brow arched, punctuating his statement.
Jake only nodded in response as they both went into dinner mode. Skinning and cutting down the buck into sections to salt and dry or store as long as possible. Kimmy stepped in, taking some herbs and other vegetables they’d grown or foraged and chopping them up to be cooked and mixed with the meat. They finished a few hours later and had a delicious lovely dinner under the amazing starry night. With no light pollution in the sky, they could see the band of the Milky Way Galaxy, such a gorgeous sight to behold, as they ended their evening gazing at the stars, sitting by a small low fire outside. Kimmy had passed out lying against Jake, sitting in his lap, and he confirmed she was fast asleep before breaking the silence.
“So, Alaric, did you want to discuss what happened today? She’s out. You can tell me now,” Jake has been very curious about what could have held Alaric out in that forest or if he’d been holding information from him this whole time.
Alaric sighed before responding, “Jake, I don’t think we’re going to be able to stay here. I ran into something that my kind called a Hellion. A beast from what is referred to as The Pit. I believe it has been interpreted by many religions on this planet as hell.” He had decided to confide in Jake since he’d been there for the long haul, and most likely, there wouldn’t be a happy ending.
“A… what?! Hellion?! Ok, So Hell isn’t so-called real, but a version of it exists? Wow… Ok, well then, uh… shit… what do we do?!” Jake started to get flustered at all this information, not expecting Alaric to be so frank with him, but grateful he was being trusted all the same, which was his only comfort from the present information.
“We’ll stay here tonight and leave tomorrow after breakfast. We can travel up into Canada and start to make our way toward Alaska. If worse comes to worst, we can make our way into Russia and move into Europe.” He responded almost matter-of-factly as if this wasn’t the first time he had made this same route like an eternal traveler on a routine loop worldwide.
Jake nodded, then motioned to Kimmy and whispered, “I’m going to go lay her down and try to settle myself before I lay down.” Smiling and nodding again back at Alaric as he slowly stood up, careful not to jostle Kimmy, then slinked his way back to her bedroom to lay her down for the night.
Sighing again, Alaric stared off at the sky, watching the satellites skim across the sky and taking the time for a change to absorb the beauty of the surroundings. He never did just sit and take it all in. In all his centuries on this Earth, he never took a moment to breathe and realize the fantastic surroundings around him.
The birds were chirping around the cabin, which was a first in some time. Alaric had awakened to the not-so-familiar noise of late as he arched his right brow, having wondered if that Hellion he’d killed was why things had been uneasy in the forest. He could only hope that was the answer, and now that it was gone, they would be safe for the time being. Regardless, he couldn’t chance it, and they needed to be on their way after breakfast as their location could still be known by any of their enemies, and he couldn’t have that, not when Kimmy’s life was at stake.
Kimmy was snuggled up in Jake’s chest, asleep soundly. However, Jake seemed wide awake as he looked up at Alaric, “She hasn’t been getting good sleep lately. Seems to have been getting worse each night, and she ends up in my bed like she’s having nightmares.” Jake whispered so as not to wake Kimmy.
Nodding, Alaric responded, returning his whisper, “Hopefully, that will be fixed once we’re far from here. We can’t stay here. I think something may have tracked us. I’m not positive, but we can’t take any chances after last year.”
Jake nodded and worked his way up from under Kimmy, careful not to wake her as she fidgeted on the bed until she stopped in the fetal position. Jake and Alaric watched to ensure she would remain asleep until moving into the next room to continue their conversation.
“Do you have any idea what is after us?” Jake asked a hint of fear in his words. Alaric could hear the faint waiver in his voice as he asked.
Alaric shrugged, “That I can’t tell. All I’ve found is the soldier sent to find us that I dispatched yesterday. I’m hoping I did so before it found us. I caught it hunting about two miles from our cabin. With luck, that’s as far into the forest as it had gotten, so anything it may have reported would be old and not have anything about us yet. I fear it may not be the only one out there, which, if that’s the case, they may still be hunting for us as well.” He grimaced at the thought of them all being attacked at once, unsure he could protect both of them depending on how many attacked.
“We shouldn’t dwell on what we can’t change and just focus on what’s ahead and be prepared for anything, you know? We don’t need to over-stress here, especially with Kimmy to look out for right now.” Jake shrugged at Alaric, his voice in a half whisper, trying to keep low not to awaken Kimmy.
Nodding, Alaric could only agree, as Jake did have a point. Alaric would only be helpful to them if he didn’t lose his mind. “You’re right. Let’s get some breakfast out of the way and get out of here. There’s another spot we can go to further north. Depending on how it seems, we may be able to stop there. If not, we’ll have to continue northward into Canada and see where we can hide there.” He sighed as he wandered off to grab some meat to cook for breakfast. Jake went in the opposite direction towards the wood pile, gathering some for the fire.
They met back up in the front living area at the stove. Jake kneeled, setting the kindling along the base as he placed larger logs above it to catch the flames once lit. Alaric had cut up some meat and veggies that they had stored to cook for breakfast and set them on top of the stove, then stepped away. He let Jake light the stove and left him to cook up what he had left while he brought what food they could with them.
Alaric took a large duffel bag and lined it with pine tree boughs, then placed the dried meat along the boughs. He proceeded to layer the rest with the ready vegetables from their garden, then the few pieces of raw meat he felt would be suitable for a few more days at the very least. They’d eat that before getting to the dried preserved stuff if their travels took that long. Taking a second duffel bag, he added the clothing of all three in layers, with his on the bottom and Kimmy’s on the top. He dropped them both off at the front door, so they could be grabbed as they went out. Then took Kimmy’s small bag and picked up the few things she played with daily and some of her favorite items around the cabin. He left that smaller bag still open, leaning against the others so she could add anything else he missed before they left.
Kimmy finally woke up with a big stretch, almost like a cat splaying across the bed, and popped up immediately. She rubbed her eyes as she followed the smell of breakfast being prepared, seeing Alaric moving in and out but mainly keeping his eye on their surroundings as he kept watch. Jake was finishing breakfast as he placed some meat and vegetables on three separate plates and turned to Kimmy, who walked up behind him.
“Good morning Kimmy!” Jake said enthusiastically.
Still rubbing her eyes, she responded quietly, “Morning, Jake, is that breakfast?”
He spun around and grabbed her plate while coming back around to her as he presented it, “Your breakfast, madame.” He bowed his head as he was already crouched by the stove.
“Hehe, you’re silly, Jake,” she said as she snatched the plate and walked out front to her favorite seat on the porch. Jake saw her plop down and dig in.
Jake brought a plate to Alaric, who had been watching their surroundings, still not convinced the Hellion he killed was the only one. He took the plate and nodded thanks, as his eyes never stopped scanning the terrain. Jake leaned back through the back door peeking at Kimmy sitting up front, nodded, and turned back to Alaric, “So once you two are done eating, we can head out, I suppose. I haven’t told her yet. You’ve always seemed better at getting through to her with tough news.”
“I don’t know why. I have no clue what that girl likes so much in me,” Alaric shrugged as he ate the meat and vegetables on his plate, focusing on the area around them. “You should go get her ready, bring her in, and I’ll tell her.”
Jake nodded, “will do.” He walked back through the cabin and up to the front door, grabbing the side as he stepped out. He looked down to find Kimmy’s plate on the porch where she had just sat. Then looked around in a panic as he called out, “Kimmy! Did you wander off?! You need to get back here. We need to tell you something Alaric found!”
“What the hell are you shouting for?” Alaric came up behind Jake, startling him. “Shut up! Don’t yell. We’ll figure this out. What happened?”
“I don’t know! Ok, she was sitting right there,” Jake pointed to the plate. “But when I came out to get her, it was as you see it, no Kimmy. I don’t see any trace of her either,” his feeling of panic was evident.
“Calm down, Jake, just breathe. As I said, we’ll figure this out. We’ll find her. We found her last time. She’s probably just off hiding somewhere to be silly because she has no clue of what is happening around us.” Alaric’s right brow was arched as he broke it down for Jake.
Calming a bit, he sucked deep breaths, “Okay… so, what do we do now? She’s not around here.”
Alaric raised his hand in a shushing fashion, “Keep breathing and let me think.” He pushed past Jake as he walked the cabin’s perimeter, taking everything in as he did. He knelt at something seeming out of place. To his delight, he was right. He reached down and picked up one of Kimmy’s shoes. “I’m afraid she’s gone and in this direction,” he stood up to face Jake. “Finding this leads me to believe she was somehow taken.”
To be continued…
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