The wooden gate creaked only slightly when he opened it.
The smell of the blossoms was both intoxicating and relaxing.
For the first time in a long time he felt safe.
With every step toward the door, the shadows of his past fell further behind him.
The singular lamppost, glowing a soft yellow in the moonlight welcomed him home.
His old bones, stiff at first, felt younger with every breath.
His pack, though full, was light upon his shoulder.
The road, cracked and worn, lay before him out to the horizon.
The weapon, his weapon, rested upon his hip.
The dark, toned, chrome guard of the hilt caught the sunlight.
He was young again, adventure before him.
Smiling, he strode forward into the unknown.
The trail was old. At least three days.
It might even be false, it was hard to tell.
He thought of his home, the garden and the lamp post.
Had he made the right decision?
Was adventure not a young mans duty?
He thought of his soft bed, but pushed that aside.
He could find her, he would find her.
He’d made a promise and would keep it until death.
She would be returned, her captors brought to justice.
Rising, knees cracking, he shifted his weapon lower onto his hip.
He pushed on, rightly or wrongly, fate would decide his victory or defeat.
His blade was thick with blood, crimson and beautiful.
His enemies lay around him. Their cries turning to ragged gasps.
The breath of the last man before him was steady and calm.
They had not expected such a fight from an old man. But they did not know him.
They did not understand who he had been. They had no idea what he’d become.
The girl, unconscious, staked down in the dirt was alive. Her clothes, muddied and torn.
The last man, the leader, howled and rushed at him. Screaming oaths of vengeance.
The old man laughed, his wounds did not bother him, the rush of combat was his world.
He raised his weapon high, the blade dripping, gleaming.
Motionless he waited with the patience of stone.
The leader got closer, the old man did not move.
The leader was screaming in rage, the old man did not respond.
The leader lifted his weapon over his head, preparing to strike.
The old man smiled.
Three days on the road, barely a word exchanged between them.
She was in shock still, yet perhaps she would recover one day.
She was young. Younger than he’d ever been.
She would never be innocent again, but perhaps she might find peace.
She’d awoken at the killing blow. Her scream had been unexpected.
At first, she’d thought she was being saved from one demon, to be taken by another.
Her father’s sigil in the old man’s hand turned her scream into sobs of relief.
Under the caked blood, the soft smile of her savior made her feel safe.
His face, sunburned and wrinkled, was wise and weary.
He cut her loose, lifting her in his arms as if she was a feather.
He carried her for miles that first day. She’d been walking on her own since.
In the safety of the darkness beyond the fire he smiled.
She was eating, that was good, her wounds were healing, that too was good.
But the scars, the real scars would take decades to heal, if at all.
He hoped she would not be held prisoner by her trauma.
She could build a fortress within herself, allowing those she trusted inside.
He nodded to no one in particular, making a pact with himself.
He would watch over her, even after he returned her. She would never know of it.
He’d be the shadows again, but not like before.
He was something new now, and because of this he felt young.
She’d slipped her hand into his at some point, though he did not know when.
It was small and soft, he held it, not too tightly. Their arms swinging forward and back.
They would be home soon. She would be back with her people. Saved, if not safe.
He would stay too, the silent shadow. Watcher, protector, foreboding statue.
They’d given him the home, a seemingly generous and selfless boon.
His reputation had frightened them, perhaps that’s why they’d offered it to him.
Once the request had come from her father’s house, all had been made apparent.
He heard the bird, that was not a bird. The call from her father’s sentinel.
They passed between the ancient steel skeletons that once housed people.
The ghosts within the rusted bones, hundreds of years old, paid them no mind.
The message was being sent. She was returning and him with her.
The old man, the young girl, walking hand in hand smiled at each other.
The pocket of civility in this rabid world growing closer with every step.
Their pace quickened, hands clasped, their arms swinging back and forth.
She stood before the wooden gate. The night was quiet and peaceful.
The house and gate, both freshly painted, stood empty.
The singular lamp post glowed softly in the moonlight.
Had it been fifty years? Fifty years since he’d saved her?
She was the leader now. The scandal of her father’s house all but forgotten.
But not him. Not the old man. He would be remembered into eternity.
The house had been his. It would never be another’s. She would not allow it.
She still remembered the day of her return, her father’s look and her mother’s tears.
The old man had remained. She had not known until much later what the true tale was.
But he had kept his silent vow, he’d protected her and her people.
It had been ten years since his passing. Ancient then, feeble of body but not mind.
No one knew how old he was when he finally passed on, but older than counting.
This house, his house, would remain his as long as she ruled, as long as she breathed.
A silent reminder to her people. There was goodness in the world, you just had to look.
The weapon rested low on her hip. His weapon, now her weapon. His final gift.
She turned and strode into the darkness. She was not afraid.
So there you have it. I do hope the individual stories worked for you and that seeing them all together told a larger tale. But, with experiments in writing one can never tell what’s going to work and what’s going to suck balls*
Have a great rest of the week and stay cool this weekend, unless it’s winter where you are in which case stay warm this weekend. I’ll see everybody next Wednesday for something else cuz I have no idea what I’ll be doing next Wednesday so check back and be as surprised as I’ll probably be.
*That’s a technical term. I’m pretty sure it’s a technical term. Hell let’s make it one, yes now it is officially a technical term.