The cave was just as I remembered it.
Hidden behind a waterfall, it was something me and the other hunters who used it had never seen before. It wasn’t deep, but the rushing water covered every bit of the entrance with the exception of a small path that had been made. Sound and light were both muffled nearly to the point of being gone. It was the perfect place to keep the girls safe for the night.
As we settled into the makeshift beds made from gathered hay and animal hides, I couldn’t help but think of Shayleen. She had always wanted to visit here once the girls were old enough to be left alone. After hearing of the waterfall and the forest around it, she was hooked. Nature was always a thing of beauty for her. I would never understand it, but now I felt guilt at never finding a way for her to come sooner. Before…
No, I had to be strong.
“Melody,” I said, sitting down on my own makeshift bed. “Make sure Lilly falls asleep and doesn’t come toward the entrance. You stay away, too.”
Melody nodded slowly, grabbing Lillian’s small hand with her own. “OK, Papa.”
I smiled as best I could, and then left them to sleep. They had walked long and hard this day, so they needed the rest. I, on the other hand, would get no rest this night. Cranking my crossbow – I had left my smaller one behind to stem the weight – I positioned myself just inside the walkway. It was hard to see through the waterfall, but that only made me relax a little. If I couldn’t see much, they could see at all.
I must have sat there for only an hour, but it felt like an eternity. My eyes focused on the walkway, searching for the creatures I feared would find us, but my mind played my first meeting with Shayleen. I had been young then. Only twenty two years of age. I had been looking to drink and try my luck with the first woman I found.
Ah, yes. It was a good memory. My mind now pulled in my vision and played it like a theatre show.
I found myself walking down a street in Homerson. I had just been paid and decided to stop in the closest village to enjoy some of my rewards. It was only a few moments before I saw her in an ally, pressed up against a wall by two men. Neither looked friendly, but I didn’t need to see their faces to know what this was.
Shayleen, however, hadn’t had the look of a woman in fear of violation. Instead, she stood their looking defiant to the end. I had no doubt the men would not have an easy time of her as they had no doubt had others. For a moment, I had thought to stay and enjoy the show. These types of things happened often in the life I lived.
But then I saw Shayleen kick the larger of the two thugs in a sensitive area. The fury I felt when the other one smacked her to the ground was unknown to me. I had felt anger before, sure, but this was nothing like that. This wasn’t the fires of revenge I felt. It was like I had a need to fulfill and the rage was simply a means of doing so.
Before I knew it, I had attacked the two men and saved Shayleen. In return, she forced me to allow her to purchase a meal for me. I remembered I was embarrassed that a woman would feed me, but my selfishness was still more powerful then and I had taken the meal. We had ended up talking…
And the next moment, I had married the woman named Shayleen and bought a farm with the money from that job. The people of Homerson weren’t too happy – apparently Shayleen was popular among them – but we had eventually earned their blessing and lived happily.
So why? Why did she have to die!?
Fresh tears spilled onto my cheeks. My mind was sometimes a very evil thing. It seemed to show me something I longed for only to trick me into seeing something dreadful. Right then was a moment like that. I saw Shayleen as she had died. Blood – hers and the beasts mixed – covered the ground and her dress. Her brown hair was ruined, her face lifeless, her…
A set of small arms wrapped around me. It took me a moment to realize Melody was holding me like I was the child. I started to stand and grow angry with her for disobeying me, but found that I could not. It would tear me apart if I moved. That’s how it seemed to me.
Instead, I let the tears flow from my eyes, feeling the agony that still poured from my heart, as my daughter held me. A warm wetness on my shoulder told me of her weeping as well. I was glad the waterfall hid the sounds. If I had heard them, I might have never stopped crying.