Story 9-"Reunion"-Part 4
Octavian was with his new friends for a few days before they heard from Aldo’s nephew, Piero.
“They’re all gathering in a couple of hours at the church. They are planning on setting fire to some businesses in town because they’re owned by ‘foreign invaders’.” Piero reported.
The men gathered their supplies, dressed, and readied for the night ahead.
The plan was simple enough.
They would wait until all twenty-seven members of the group were in the basement. They would block the exits. They would drag them by their hair a few at a time out the back door of the basement. They would beat them unconscious and tie them to stakes in the middle of a secluded field.
Once all group members were staked, they would burn their church, strip them, wake them, coat them in fuel, and set them ablaze.
And they would know very well why, and for whom all of this was being done.
There were only twenty men in Octavian’s new family, versus the twenty-seven group members of the church.
But the captain’s men still had the advantage. They each had decades of military experience. Octavian was the exception, with only a few years in the military, but he’d had mixed combat and defense training his whole life with his father. He was younger, stronger, faster, and smarter than all the members of the church group combined.
Plus, he was immortal. Something he would flaunt tonight, just to watch his enemies squirm.
Once all was ready, the men set out for the church.
Piero and four others went into the front of the church and barred the doors from the inside. They were to guard the basement door and act as look-outs from there.
Octavian and the others went straight to the back basement door and kicked it in.
The group inside had been preparing for their outing and were caught completely off guard by the intrusion.
Octavian, Antonio, and Aldo moved to stand between the group and the stairs that led up into the church.
The others formed a line between Octavian and the back door.
When the surprise faded, the group started demanding to know the meaning of this.
Octavian held up his hands to signal them to get quiet and listen.
“A while ago, you all stole and desecrated the body of a good friend of ours. You tried to destroy his reputation, and tarnish his good name.” Octavian started.
When the leader of the group opened his mouth to protest, Aldo stepped forward and punched him, breaking his nose.
Aldo stepped casually back as Octavian raised his hands to silence them again.
“We know you have done these things, as well as; hunting down his parents, his daughter, and her tutor. What you did to them, will now be done to you.”
Some in the group charged Octavian’s men, while others ran for the exit.
All were met with violence.
As they loaded the unconscious men onto the wagon they’d parked outside the back door, Antonio started to chuckle.
The others looked over to see him pointing to the bald heads of some of the group members.
“So much for dragging them by the hair.” He said as he began to laugh in earnest.
The others joined in and soon their whole laughing gang was on its way to the field, with a wagon full of unconscious enemies, as the church burned behind them.
When they reached the field, they unloaded the bodies and began tying them to the stakes.
As that task came to completion, Octavian stood back and began to sing the captain’s favorite song. The rest of his gang joined in, and the staked men woke to the sound of it. And as they woke, their clothes were stripped from them, and their bodies coated with fuel.
The last fire was lit as the captain’s song came to an end.
They stood watching the fires blaze while their enemies screamed through their gags.
Now that the score was settled, it was time for drinks.
Back at the hide-out the gang drank, sang, told stories, and laughed until they passed out.
The next day, they said their goodbyes, and Octavian went to visit his parents one last time before setting off to find his sister.
He was awakened by the sounds of the ocean around him and the burning of his forearm.
Octavian brought his mind back from the past and read the message from Faith.
“Welcome to the island.” It read.
He sat up and looked around. The foot end of the coffin was on the edge of a narrow strip of beach. About eight yards from the shoreline, clean, smooth sand gave way to thick forest.
All was calm and quiet, save the gentle lapping of the water and some birds overhead.
Octavian stood, walked to the foot of the coffin, and stepped down onto the sand. He turned around to see a clear view of the ocean that spanned miles before a wall of thick fog blocked his view.
He spotted the enormous rock cliff, that the ship had hit, in the distance.
He began stripping the layers of clothes from himself and removing the stitching from his pockets.
Once he was down to one outfit, he emptied his pockets of the plastic bags he’d used to secure his non-waterproof belongings.
He took a long stretch and breathed in the ocean air. He would rather be in an open field or a forest any day.
He looked down at all his clothes and things and wondered where he’d put it all, since he’d had to leave his duffel on the ship.
“Look behind you.” Faith messaged.
Octavian spun around expecting a threat, but there was still nothing but calm and quiet.
“Walk straight to the clearing.”
He let out an exasperated sigh and did as Faith directed. He found himself in a small circular clearing that the enormous trees seemed to loom over and look down into. It was as though they were all staring at him.
He began to back up, then turned and moved briskly back to the beach.
“You trying to lure me into a trap, witch?!” He grated.
Suddenly his arm began to burn as though it were submerged in lava. He dropped to his knees and growled in anger. “Stop this!” He shouted to his forearm.
“DO NOT CALL ME WITCH!” Faith responded in large, bold, angry, red letters.
“I’m supposed to just let you trap me?! Is that it?! Just be a nice, complacent, cooperative little victim?!” He yelled.
His other forearm began to feel frozen. He stared at it in disbelief as his skin dried and cracked open to reveal a new message.
“The only one you’re a victim to is yourself!”
When his left leg started burning, he screamed out in agony. His pants leg burned away to reveal another message.
Octavian gritted his teeth and watched the letters form. It was like an invisible pen was writing on him; only instead of ink, the pen strokes decayed his skin.
“Been a long time since you’ve felt pain, huh?” The new message said.
He responded with a growl.
“Be more respectful, do what I ask, and all will be well. Otherwise…”
His right leg started to feel numb as if deadened by blood loss.
“Alright! Alright!” He screamed.
All of the pain stopped suddenly. Everything went back to normal, even the pants leg that had burned away was back.
“You will apologize.” His left forearm read.
“Sorry.” He spat between gritted teeth.
“Take the coffin into the clearing.” Faith messaged.
Octavian strode toward the coffin.
“Don’t expect me to perform any rituals.” He said. Then he paused, waiting for a response, but there was none.
He let out a breath, rolled his eyes, and began dragging the coffin toward the clearing in the forest.
“Can’t you just zap it there yourself?” He complained.
“No.” She messaged.
Octavian stopped. “Why can’t you?” He asked.
When there was no reply, he continued on.
“Now what?” he asked as he reached the center of the clearing.
Still no response.
When there was still no reply, he dropped his arms to his sides. He let out an exasperated breath and looked around.
There were ancient stone pillars, not much taller than him, standing around the edges of the circular clearing. He hadn’t noticed them earlier.
“Faith?!” he demanded.
He looked down at the coffin. “Well, I guess this is where we part ways, buddy. Thanks for the lift.”
He made his way back to where he’d left his things on the beach. Instead of his stuff being in a pile in the sand, there was a tactical backpack.
He knelt down and looked through the bag to find all his things neatly packed, his clothes washed.
“Thanks, Faith.” He said.
“Thank you too.” She replied.
Octavian picked up the bag and walked back to the tree line. He sat, back against the tree, and took the canteen from the side of the bag. It was full of fresh water.
“How did you know?” he asked through a smile.
He didn’t need to eat or drink anything, but he enjoyed drinking fresh, cool water anyway.
She messaged “Wild guess” followed by a winking face.
He found himself relaxing as he sipped his water and took in the view.
“What happened to you earlier?” He asked. “Why weren’t you answering me?”
“Magic doesn’t work inside the clearing.” She replied.
“Good to know.” He said.
He took a deep, calming breath and let his head fall back to rest against the tree.
“How long do you figure it will take me to map this place?” He asked.
“Get your watch.” She said.
He raised an eyebrow at that. “Okay…”
“Tap it twice.” Faith messaged.
Octavian did as instructed, not knowing what to expect. “Maybe some kind of timer?” He thought to himself.
After the second tap, a holographic map popped up from the face of his watch.
“Wow.” He said. “Now that’s cool.”
Faith replied with a smiley face.
“It’s interactive.” She added.
“Interactive?” Octavian questioned.
“Ask it where you are.” She said.
“Where am I?” he asked the map.
A red X appeared to indicate his location.
“So. Very. Cool.” He said in amazement.
“It will help you find anything on the island.” Faith replied. “Food, shelter, supplies, people…”
Octavian thought for a second before he said, “Show me where my target is.”
“You have to ask.” Faith said. “Work on your manners.”
Octavian rolled his eyes.
“Where is my target?” he asked.
A bright, yellow circle appeared around a cave on the other side of the island.
“Gotcha.” He said.
“Now, how long will it take to get from here to there?” He asked himself aloud.
A red line appeared on the map, from the red X to the yellow circle, along with the words “Eight days on foot, without stops.”
Octavian stared at the map. “I love this thing.” He said.
“15 days.” His arm read. “There will be stops at night.”
When Octavian dropped his arm to his side, the map disappeared. He started to protest against making stops then thought better of it.
“Why will we be stopping at night?” he asked instead.
“Night creatures.” She said.
“What kind of creatures? And why should they concern me?” he asked.
“Bad ones. They will give away your position.” Faith responded.
“Wouldn’t want that now that I’m so close. Good looking out, Faith.”
She replied with another smiley face.
Octavian looked out at the horizon. It was sunset now, and since he wouldn’t be traveling at night, best go ahead and find a bed.
“Guess I could sleep in the clearing.” He said aloud.
“NO!” the message said.
“Oh. Yeah. We can’t communicate there.” He remembered.
“And your map won’t work, and you’d only be safe from magic there.” Faith said.
“Hmm. Well, where do you recommend then?” He asked.
“Ask the map.” She answered.
Two taps on his watch and the map reappeared. “Love this thing.” He repeated.
“Where’s a safe place to sleep tonight?” He asked his new favorite gadget.
He watched as the map created a blue dotted line from his position at the red X, to a nearby spot in the forest. The words “Ten minute walk” were next to the line.
He lowered his arm and watched the map vanish again. “So cool.” He said.
Octavian knelt down, put the canteen back in its place, donned the backpack, and brought the map up again.
As he started walking the mapped path, he noticed the red X move along the blue line.
“In real, live time.” He marveled before putting the map away.
As he neared his destination, his watch began to vibrate. He stopped and brought the map up to see the words “Four paces ahead. Then up.”
He raised his eyebrow and walked the four paces right to one of the biggest, strangest-looking trees he’d ever seen.
“Whoa. What kind of tree is this?” he asked.
“No time.” Faith’s message read. “Climb.”
He looked around before starting his ascension and saw nothing. He paid extra attention to the sounds around him as he proceeded.
It was an easy enough climb, thanks to the interesting shape of the tree.
It was probably around fifteen feet wide and who knows how tall, with a spiral-shaped trunk and a veil of something resembling ivy that nearly reached the ground.
About twenty feet up the tree, branches reached out a short distance from the trunk before flattening into what looked like tiny floors. This pattern seemed to repeat all the way up the tree, with the ‘floors’ getting bigger instead of smaller.
“Weird-ass tree.” He murmured.
Once he had climbed nearly thirty feet, he came to one of those ‘floors’ with a hole in it, big enough to climb into.
“Go ahead.” Faith encouraged.
Octavian climbed through the hole and found himself inside a small chamber. He could see the last of the day's light fading through an opening several feet away from him.
Then the ‘ceiling’ started to glow and light up the space. It was just tall enough for him to sit upright in, and just long enough for him lay down with an extra foot or so to spare.
“Weird. Ass. Tree.” He repeated as he tried to figure out what made the ceiling glow.
“It’s the vine’s sap.” Faith messaged. “Open your map.”
He tapped his watch, but instead of the map, it was a blueprint-like image of this tree. There were at least thirty to forty hollows like his, spanning the height of the tree. And there was his red X resting inside one of them.
Words began to form under the picture.
“Ages ago, the island natives created these ‘rooms’ by training the trees and vines to grow together in a particular way.”
“Oh. A bedtime story.” Octavian said through a smile. He took his backpack off to use as a pillow, laid back, and rested his forearm over his stomach so he could view the ‘screen’ comfortably. “Thank you for not telling it on my skin.”
The blueprint of the tree was replaced by a smiley face, and then by a live view of the tree from the outside. The tree was dimly lit by the glowing sap.
“Beautiful.” He whispered.
The words changed as the story continued.
“They spent years shaping the vines and branches.”
A short, quick video showed the transformation of the tree from sapling to its present state.
“They did this so they could move off the ground and into the trees, for life on the ground was unsafe.”
In the video, silhouettes of tribal people climbed the tree.
“They referred to these trees simply as nests. In their native tongue, of course.”
“Of course.” Octavian said.
“You should rest now. Tomorrow will be a long day.” Faith messaged.
“Yeah. Thanks for the story Faith.” He said.
“You’re welcome. Goodnight.” She replied.
Octavian straightened his arm to put away the hologram. “Goodnight.” He said, before drifting into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
END of Story 9-"Reunion"-Part 4
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About the Creator
Author Jennifer Treece
I’m Jennifer. I am an indie author. I write novels, short stories, and poems. My genres are mixed and include mystery, supernatural, and paranormal.
You can also find me on my website authorjennifertreece.com!
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