After I had set Melody to bed, the night went by faster. A few times I heard howls I knew belong to the beast, but they had been far away. It was easy to tell, despite the constant crashing of the water falling over the cave entrance. The sun came not long after the last of the howls disappeared.
And with it came footsteps.
I jumped up, stumbling as dizziness waved through my head. I had been sitting all night, after all. Shayleen would have told me I was a fool to not stretch every now and then if I had to stay in one place. I would have chuckled at that thought if I had not been on alert. Someone had come, but I couldn’t bring myself to think of them as friend. Not with the night so freshly gone.
“…wondering where they told me to go,” a voice said, sounding oddly happy. “By the Light of Dawn, this is a magnificent place to hide! I should think only the truly genius or truly dark would think of it!” The voice grew louder as it spoke, then a figure appeared near the walk way. It was now or never.
“Who are you?” I said sternly, causing Lillian to stir. She was always a light sleeper.
The figure stopped moving. “God bless me, you must be Mr. Stevens!”
He knew my name? “Yes, I am. Who are you?”
The figure took a step into the cave, showing him to be a large man in leather armor. I noticed a sword as his hip and spear and shield in hands, as well. He seemed to be a soldier of some foreign kingdom or a mercenary. The latter was more likely. How had he survived the night, though?
“I am Kameron Jacob Zerene, also called Justice,” he said with an elaborated bow, “I swear I bear you no ill intent.” He eyed the crossbow I held with eyes I now realized to be nearly red. Obviously he had not seen much sleep as of late. His blonde hair was even a mess.
I lowered the crossbow and walked over to the man, extending a hand. “I am Timothy Stevens,” I told the man, shaking his hand firmly. “I apologize for that, but we have had a rough time so far.”
The man smiled widely, oddly looking more childish than anything else. “No worries, my friend! Darkness always grasps at our hearts, but it is the truly strong men like us that fights it off in the end!” He looked down the cave just in time to see Lillian sit up. “I was told there were four of you?”
A pain flashed across my heart, but I fought the longing it held. I was finally coming to terms with reality. I still didn’t want to believe Shayleen was gone, but I found I could move on now. I had to. “Beasts took her,” I told the odd man. Justice? I swear I heard that name before.
“Ah,” he nodded. “Well, may God find a special place to keep her while she waits on you.” He gestured to the rough beds. “May I sit? There is much you need to know.”
I nodded, walking back toward the end of the cave to pull some dried meat that had been stored here a few weeks prior. It was Austin’s idea. He was a master huntsman and lived for the hunt. I was inclined to listen to him more often than not when it came to hunting. His advice on women was not to be trusted, though.
After I convinced Lillian to sleep once more, both me and the newcomer settled in to eat. At first he didn’t talk. He just dug into his food ravenously, like he hadn’t eaten in a while. I wanted to hurry him up, feeling annoyed he didn’t talk first, but I decided it would be better to wait. It would be what Shayleen would have adviced, anyway.
I had questions for this man. How had he survived the night? How had he found this place? How did he know about me and my family? Who was he? They piled on and on as I watched him eat an entire duck. I had one more I would split between the girls, but part of me was angry that he had eaten a whole one.
Finally, he finished and wiped his mouth like someone of nobility. Then, he spoke.
“I was sent here to find you and get you to safety,” Justice said. Where had I heard that name before? “The good people of Homerson have built a barricade for beasts they have called Darkwolves.”