The very first thing I can remember is a dim attic. Noises, like shouting and screaming, were just barely audible.
An insistent tugging at my front brought me further into the world from the abyss in which I had been sleeping. The noises became louder, and other senses kicked in. Touch, the room I was in was warm and humid. The tugging feeling at my front became more insistent. I could smell dust, recently stirred, and sweat.
I opened my eyes. What met them were storage boxes, dressmaker’s dummies, and some furniture with dust covers.
“S’il vous plait! Pouvez-vous m’aider, s’il vous plait!” A young girl’s voice was saying desperately. I looked down and saw a blonde girl of maybe eight summers looking back up at me. Her eyes were wild, her face tear-streaked and slightly bloody where it looked like she’d been struck on the cheek.
I could hear men shouting and shrieking below. Was it some kind of attack? I didn’t understand the girl’s words, but their meaning seemed clear. She was asking for help.
I looked around me, the first thing was to hide the girl from whoever her assailant was. I spotted several chests that might serve and opened them. One had old blankets carefully folded, and so I picked up the now startled girl, who made a quick surprised squeak and gently placed her in the large storage chest.
I pulled the corner of one blanket out the back of it so the lid would not close entirely, giving her some light and air as I placed her there for safekeeping.
I didn’t know how, or why, but somewhere in the back of my mind was an order, or maybe better to call it a directive. “Protect them.”
Protect who? The girl? But it wasn’t “Protect her”, but “them”, so who else was I to be aiding?
A shriek sounded from below and then drowned out in an unhealthy gurgle. No time to be wondering, I found the stairs down.
At the landing below I found myself on the second floor, a hall with doors to various rooms. The building appeared to be some kind of manor house. Someone heard my footsteps as a pair of men wearing hauberks and conical helms appeared on either side of me from where the hall I was in branched off.
“No Te Muevas!” One of them shouted at me. I didn’t understand what he was saying. A desperate noise came from a room nearby, and I headed towards it.
The man I was approaching had sword out, about two and a half feet of sharpened steel, and poked it at me. I don’t know why it didn’t even occur to me to dodge, I think somewhere in me I knew that it wasn’t a threat.
The blade struck and tore the nice buttoned coat I was wearing, but otherwise skidded off my skin as if I too were made of steel. He shouted in dismay and the other man joined him to take a stab at my back as I reached for the door where the noises were emanating from.
The room inside was a stunning tableau. A man in another hauberk had his trousers off, and a woman was laying on the bed, her dress thrown up and her genitals exposed. She was making weak distressed noises, intermittently cut off by a wet cough.
I needed to solve this situation, and I saw a ready method to do so. I spun as one of the men behind me took another stab at my back, apparently unwilling to believe that I couldn’t be harmed by him. I grabbed the arm holding the sword, then heaved and swung him bodily in an arc, knocking the man next to him down.
His trip didn’t stop there, however, as I took a step into the room, and with a strength I had no idea that I possessed, I swung him into the attempting rapist, and my aim was such that when I let go, both men were defenestrated.
Being the only one left at the moment, the remaining raider wasn’t one to be easily put off by watching his fellows so handily disposed and again stood, leveling his blade at me.
However, I was looking at the woman lying on the bed, still in distress. I pulled her skirts down to hide her shame, and in turn, spotted a Cinquedea sticking out of her shoulder. The man had pinned her to the bed with the knife. She was crying weakly and coughing. The coughs were bringing up some blood.
I could feel in my mind that she was one whom I was to be helping. But before I could tend to her, there was at least one problem remaining.
I left the woman as she was, for all that she’d been stabbed, the wound wasn’t gushing blood, so no arteries had been hit, and besides, my medical training was nonexistent. Not that I could remember any training of any kind previous to my waking up in that attic. However, at the least I knew I wasn’t able to deal with her wound professionally.
Surely there was a doctor or hospital somewhere near wherever we were? But again, first thing’s first.
The remaining raider, or perhaps soldier considering how uniformly equipped he and his recently departed fellows were, was again trying to do me harm with his weapon. I didn’t have the time or patience to address the issue gracefully. So I grabbed his arm, and he was allowed to complete a similar arc through the air and out the already broken window.
The immediate threats were now cleared. However the woman still needed medical assistance, and I had the feeling there was at least one other I should be attending to.
I began a sweep of the building, both ensuring each room was secure, or at the least absent of any soldiers, and learning the floor plan of the building. It was three stories in total, counting the attic. The second floor was as I thought, bed and bathing rooms.
The first floor was for daily living. Kitchen, opulent living and dining areas, a den, though that room looked like it had been unused for some time, and so on. I found no other unwanted persons throughout.
And yet, I had the nagging feeling there was one more person, somewhere. I took a moment to review what I had seen of the house.
The upstairs consisted of several bedrooms. The lady was in what was clearly a master bed, it had a large open bathing room connected to it. One room was that of a young girl, likely the one I still had safely stored in the attic. Another room looked to be that of a younger boy, then several servant’s rooms. The servant rooms all had the same disused look of the den, and the house overall had signs of a once noble family in decline or perhaps mourning some loss.
Given that information, it was clear I was missing a young boy. Photos of the family could be seen throughout the house, which in fact, seemed off considering the rudimentary setting. Somehow I knew camera technology shouldn’t be around in what appeared to be a 16th century manor house. Then again I considered that my memory was a strange thing anyway. It started only an hour or so ago yet was already full of information that would be normally known to a man grown, perhaps twenty-five years or so. Yet while full of knowledge, I couldn’t summon up a single life experience. No childhood, no adolescence, nor young adulthood. None of my knowledge had a context, it was just there. I knew something or I didn’t.
But I was getting distracted. I still had to find the boy. The pictures looked to be a few years old and showed a girl of maybe four and a baby boy of about two years. That meant if the girl in the attic was around eight, the boy had to be six or so.
It might be possible that he’d been abducted, but outside of three corpses on the front lawn, I hadn’t seen anyone else. There did appear to be some commotion a ways off beyond the gate, which I had closed and locked for the time being.
So he was likely still in the house somewhere, I assumed. It was as good as an assumption as any to operate on.
So, these men had broken into the house. It was past dusk now, it had been afternoon bleeding into evening when I awoke, and so likely this raid had started about then.
The mother was either caught in the bedroom or had already been there. The girl had been hit, then fled to where I was. What was I doing in their attic?
Again, distraction tried to turn me from my job. I put the question aside. So she went for help, me apparently. Then what would a six-year-old boy do, hearing shrieking and yelling?
My odd memory told me one of two things. Hide, or come out swinging. And hiding was the far more likely course. I returned to his room.
It was pretty obvious once I got there and looked around with an eye for detail. Clothes thrown haphazardly out of a large drawer built-in below the boy’s raised bed was enough of a clue, and sure enough, when I opened it, I found a very frightened lad looking out at me.
Yet, when he saw my face, he smiled, and when I motioned he came out willingly.
So the girl and boy knew me and trusted me. But who was I?
Maybe I was their father? That might be why I had some kind of instinct level knowledge of them and their wounded mother.
But no. I saw family pictures as I searched. The man in them was fair of skin and hair, not unlike his wife and children. I was ruddy with dark hair and noticeably thicker of limb. Not so much fat as just thickly corded muscle. What had I been doing in my life before this?
I carried the boy to his mother’s room. Perhaps not the best thing to do, but I had to get the family together and with some semblance of protection before I could risk leaving to find medical help for the woman.
I left the boy at the edge of the woman’s bed. He was looking with concern at his mother but didn’t cry. I left and returned to the attic.
I found the girl asleep in the chest. Her face streaked in tears and dried blood with the bruised side of her face up to the air. I gently lifted her out, although she woke up nonetheless.
She put her arms around my neck and I carried her to her mother’s room as well.
Now that I had the three with whom I was tasked to protect in one place, it was on to the next part of the job. Would that I knew who had tasked me with this or why.
But again that deep down knowledge reared. It wasn’t my place to question – it was my place to serve.
I obeyed it. With that knowledge came the revelation that while I was no doctor, I did know enough field medicine to at least try to make the woman more comfortable, though she’d need real medical care soon. But she’d be better off for what little treatment I could offer first.
I found a sewing basket on her bed stand. The den yielded a bottle of strong rum. The woman’s eyes also held recognition, but also awe and a little fear, something I hadn’t seen in the children. They watched silently as I carefully removed the knife, then slopped the rum on the wound. I knew it wasn’t the best antiseptic, but it was better than nothing. I took out a needle and threaded it with surprising dexterity for my hands, which were on the large side. But then I ran into a problem.
Dexterous or not, I wasn’t going to be able to do a good job of sewing the wound shut. The girl seemed to understand my plight, and came over and took the needle out of my hand. I looked at her solemnly, and she looked back with an expression that should never be seen on the face of a preteen. One of pain so worldly my own heart wept.
She started in on her mother’s shoulder, quickly but carefully sewing the wound. I was amazed. Had she done this before? Where did a child of eight learn to stitch so neatly?
Then I realized, likely she could sew. Skin wasn’t the same as cloth, but the idea was the same.
I gave the mother the bottle of rum, and she took a deep swallow. She too was a strong woman, and barely cried out as her daughter helped patch her up.
Once the stitches were in, the girl left momentarily. She returned with a wicker basket in which there were clean bandages. It worried me at just how competent and prepared this family was for tragedy.
We applied the bandages and wrapped the mother’s shoulder, then made her as comfortable as we could. The woman spoke to her children and appeared to direct some words at me, but I had to shake my head at her to make them understand that I didn’t speak their language.
The girl seemed to understand first, so she took my hand, and led me downstairs to the gate. She shrieked a little when she spotted the first body in the yard and ducked behind me. But after a few moments when they didn’t move, she dared peek out and approach them.
She prodded them a few times with a dirty foot. Then she spat on them, once for each body, and again took my hand and guided me to the gate.
I had locked it using my bare hands. This was impressive as the mechanism was rusted and old, and looked to have not been used in a very long time. It was the work of the moment to get it open again, rusty metal screeching as I lifted the u shaped latch. It groaned again on rusty hinges. In the back of my mind I noted this, as it was a thing I would have to fix later, for their safety.
The girl led me on until she stepped on something hard or sharp and cut her foot. From then I picked her up and carried her with her pointing directions. She matched each direction with a word, but as of then, I was still unversed in her language. It could have meant “That way!”, or “North!” or “Turn here!” I had no clue.
The first sign of trouble was when we reached the village, a goodly ways down the road, and no one was there. I could hear shouting some ways in.
However, the girl was with me. And that made her a liability. I couldn’t risk her getting hurt. Yet I also couldn’t safely leave her anywhere, I knew nothing of this place.
I stepped into what I was sure was a leatherworker’s store. It had all the tools and materials of such, and a few tools that I thought were out of place, such as a very advanced looking hole punch with a latex grip. Again seeing little details that didn’t quite mesh with the overall atmosphere of the place.
I didn’t have time to investigate, as I was there with a purpose. I found what I was looking for fairly quickly, a large leather backpack. The girl wasn’t very large, and the nightgown she was in didn’t add much to her weight. But I needed my arms free to act, so after a couple of false starts, while I tried to get her to understand my purpose, we eventually came to an agreement.
I left the shop with the girl’s arms around my shoulders and about two-thirds of her body in the backpack. This arrangement let her see what was going on and let me use my hands and arms if needed.
The shouting was coming from the church. It was a classic large one-room building with a stone wall around it and the attached cemetery.
More men in hauberks surrounded it and were barring the heavy doors. Shouts could be heard from inside.
What were they doing? The girl said something, but I just shook my head, I couldn’t understand. She said it again more insistently, but I shook again.
She grabbed the sides of my face in her tiny hands and turned my head to look at another group of men coming up the way. They were rolling a barrel and one had a lit torch and several others.
We were behind the corner of a nearby building, and with full dark on they didn’t spot us. The girl had the presence of mind to speak quietly into my ear.
I watched as they rolled the barrel to the door, then broke the top of it open. Buckets were found and they began slopping whatever was in the barrel onto the sides of the wooden church building.
Oil, I realized, lamp oil or something similar. They were going to fire the church with the citizens in it. And likely whatever doctor this village had too!
That was a problem. I gingerly took the backpack off, and set it and the girl down with a motion I hoped meant “Stay here.” She nodded, solemn-faced, with a resigned look for me and a horrified look for the soldiers.
I made my way across the small town square. One of the men saw me and dropped the bucket he had to draw his sword.
He came at me, but I had no time for theatrics. Another of the men had put a torch to the oil and the fire was quickly spreading around the building.
The man leveled his sword at me and said something to me in what I realized must be Spanish. I didn’t speak the language myself but knew a word or two. It was that or a very similar language.
He charged at me. I let the blade hit the dead center of my core, further shredding a coat that was already mostly ribbon from the armpits down, and grabbed the blade with my bare hand. It failed to cut anything but cloth. I yanked it from the man’s grip, and with a muttered “Thanks.” I reversed it so I was holding it correctly, and took a vicious slash at the man’s throat.
I felt some resistance and the man’s surprised expression was frozen as his head fell sideways from his collapsing body. There was no spray of blood, just a gush as his confused heart pumped a few more times before ceasing.
Others cried out in dismay at the execution of their fellow. Fellows, if they only knew. They came at me in a group, likely swearing vengeance or something, I didn’t know for sure.
It was a short, bloody fight. I had an unfair advantage in that they couldn’t seem to do any harm to me, and even when one got the bright idea to try to simply restrain me after I’d handily decapitated two more of his fellows, he learned I was also stronger than I looked, which considering my build, was saying something. I threw him at the burning church wall, hard, and he didn’t get back up.
This left only a trio of remaining soldiers. One broke and ran. The other two, however, wouldn’t back down.
Screams were starting to sound from the church, which had windows, but so high up no one could reach them. Some of the glass had already broken from the heat of the fire, and I imagined it was no better inside.
I had to do something quick. I ran at the remaining pair, ducked down as I approached and grabbed an ankle each.
Heaving one man with both arms took a bit of effort. Picking up two told me this was the limit of what I could do. Had they been heavier likely I couldn’t have done what I had in mind.
I ran at the burning door and kicked the barrel out of the way. It was only half empty, but it tipped and spilled and rolled away until it hit the low stone wall.
Then I proceeded to beat down the doors using my pair of makeshift hammers. Those hauberks and helms made the men handy tools to smash and splinter the heavy old wood, though the force I had to use meant both men were dead long before I managed to do enough damage to make a hole.
I threw the bludgeoned bodies aside and put a fist into a partial hole, then heaved and felt the door start to give. The bastards had nailed the doors shut with several pieces of wood, but with the leverage I had, I was able to pull one door open, in turn pulling the nailed boards off the other door. I threw both doors open and townsfolk began to evacuate the burning building in haste.
For the most part, they appeared to be alright. Bruises and some coughing seemed to be the worst of it. However, I didn’t have time to take an inventory.
I returned to the girl and found her still waiting. She had a look in her eyes like one who had just seen a miracle happen, and it was directed at me. I found it unsettling.
While I didn’t technically need the backpack anymore, I found it prudent to just put it back on with her in it, and returned to where the townsfolk were milling about. Some were talking, some were crying. A few came over to me upon seeing me return and greeted me with more words I didn’t understand.
The girl spoke to them from over my shoulder with the tone of one giving an explanation. She sounded a little smug to my ears, and the responses from others seemed to agree. Then one asked a question and the girl gave a chagrined response.
At this point, they then led us to an older man who was busy checking over a young woman in her late teens. She seemed fine to me but he was paying her some careful attention nonetheless. I heard the girl sigh and make a comment, and I had a feeling that while I didn’t understand the words, their meaning was clear. This man was the doctor, and also something of a lecher.
She sighed again, then called out and the man turned. His eyes alighted on me with a nonplussed expression, but when he found the girl’s face over my shoulder, a smile dawned. He came over to talk to her, essentially ignoring my presence.
I decided I didn’t much like him. But my likes or dislikes were immaterial. If he was indeed the doctor, then we had need of him.
Apparently, my passenger was intoning just that, as, after a few moments of conversation, she then turned me by dint of using her hands to turn my head to indicate we needed to go back. I nodded and began walking back towards the house, the route already burned into my mind. I realized that in just a quick viewing of the city, after dark no less, I now knew the layout of every part of it I’d been in.
That would be a handy skill to have more than once.
We led the doctor to the house, but not without incident. He had a habit of catching up to me so that he could pat the bottom of my passenger through the pack in which she was being carried. After the third squeak from the girl, I stopped and grabbed the man’s hand and held it up. She had been saying things to him after each pat, and his tone was one of a person brushing off the complaints of a child.
I held it in a manner that required him to be on his tiptoes or bear the weight of his overweight body by his wrist. It wasn’t pleasant for him, but it did get the point across. He said several things to me in a sharp tone as we completed the walk, but as I didn’t understand him, I didn’t care.
I did get a peck on the cheek from my passenger, though.
We got to the house, and as we went in I locked the recalcitrant gate behind us. The doctor looked less than pleased at this, but it wasn’t his comfort I was concerned with.
We found the girl’s mother in an uneasy sleep, with her son curled up with her. I’d had to leave her in her partially dressed state, the nightgown without anything on underneath and torn off at the shoulder, but at the least, she was covered up.
That hadn’t been a concern at the time. Now, though, I wished I’d put her in something less revealing, as the doctor’s eyes lit up upon seeing the woman as she was.
He promptly put a hand on her calf and started sliding it up towards her thigh. I promptly grabbed it with a growl and moved it up to near her injured shoulder with a meaningful look.
He frowned at me. He said a few things in an injured tone with that “I was just kidding” expression, though I heard a voice over my shoulder say something like “connard” quietly to me.
This reminded me of her presence and I let her down, setting the borrowed backpack aside. I planned to return it to the shop I’d gotten it from, likely as I walked the perverted doctor back to town later.
He looked displeased when he pulled the torn part of the woman’s nightgown back and it didn’t fold back far enough to reveal her breast. But after a glance at me, he went back to work.
He poked and prodded, which naturally woke the woman up. She didn’t look best pleased to see him over her, but then her eye caught my presence and for some reason, she relaxed. I wish I knew how these people seemed to know me. I wished I knew who I even was.
After several minutes of prodding and at least one instance of her slapping his hand away when it meandered a bit too far from the injured location and a bit too close to the nearest breast, he pronounced something that sounded like he wasn’t worried about her injury. The girl said something in return, all politeness. He asked her a question, pointing to the stitching, and she gave a proud response. He reached forward to lay what was meant to look like a congratulatory pat, but as the hand went over her shoulder to head towards her rear end, I caught it again. I gave it a squeeze that I could tell hurt but wasn’t too damaging. I had the idea that the doctor would need his hands to help people, but I felt a warning was in order.
He gave me a grimace as I let go, then patted the girl gently on the shoulder and got up. I could read his body language, he was ready to leave. I presumed that he’d given the woman a good prognosis, or at least that there was little for him to do for her at this time.
I motioned with a hand and led him back out, and indeed walked him to town. He tried to strike up a conversation with me several times, but again I had no idea what he was saying and had an inkling that I probably wouldn’t much like what he said either, so I just ignored him.
We reached the village, where I returned the borrowed backpack to the still empty leatherworking shop. The church was still burning but was now at a late stage where it was just the remaining timbers in a collapsed pile. By morning it would likely be nothing more than a ruin of the thickest well-charred timbers.
There was some greeting for our return. The doctor was led off to deal with whoever else needed his services. I personally hoped the remaining patients were all men, big, insecure males who didn’t like other guys touching them.
A few of the townsfolk came to me to offer what I guessed were thanks. However, I couldn’t understand them and had to simply nod politely at them and returned home.
As I walked I reflected on the night’s events. The road was dark but the moon was full, so there was enough light to see by. The countryside, or what I could see of it, was lightly forested. The path I walked had been a cobble paved lane but was falling into disrepair. It only traveled to the front gate of the walled manor house towards which I was heading.
Again I locked the gate behind me, resolving that come morning I would see to its restoration, and getting it a proper lock once the mechanism was working again. For now, though, it would take a lot of effort and noise for someone to get through it. That should be warning enough, though I had a feeling that we were done with raiders for at least the rest of that night.
I found my charges all asleep on the master bed. The mother still didn’t look comfortable, and I imagine the chill night air coming in through the broken window and her scanty shift were part of the issue. The children looked like they had fallen asleep just where they lay.
I found a chest at the foot of the bed had blankets in it. While there were some on the bed, obviously they weren’t going to be of much use as the occupants were all laying on them. So I pulled out the spares and threw them over the sleeping family. I also put a heavier blanket up over the window that I’d broken. Another thing I’d need to fix on the morrow. But for the time being, the room became less chilled and the family looked to be sleeping more comfortably.
I learned something after that. I don’t sleep. Not in the way normal people do. I didn’t feel particularly tired, but as there wasn’t anything else for me to be doing until morning, I went to the living room. There I sat in one of the overstuffed chairs and laid my head back.
I no more than closed my eyes then I reopened them to find the remainder of the night had passed. The source of my awakening was the girl. She was on my lap, poking at my chest through the ribbons of my suit jacket, shirt, and undershirt. She looked to be fooling about with what was left of my tie.
She looked up to see me looking at her. She squeaked and jumped off my lap, laughing. I stood and took a moment to get my bearings.
I hadn’t dreamed. I had just been off, then on, almost like a machine.
Yet, very unlike a machine, I was hungry. I realized this was because I could smell food cooking.
I followed the girl to the kitchen where I found the mother frying sausages and scrambling eggs over a stove.
An electric range, in fact, not a wood-fired potbellied stove or larger oven one would have expected. At the least, it didn’t have anything like an LED clock on it, but nonetheless, it was out of place.
As I had no real reason to say why it was out of place, I instead went in to check on the mother. She was favoring her right arm, letting her left just hang about. I knew this couldn’t be good for her, so I left to find something.
A scarf ended up being the needed item, and I used it to momentarily interrupt her breakfast making and put her left arm into a sling, binding it up against her to keep the shoulder from moving. She looked a bit pained while I got her situated.
I had to honestly wonder how she’d managed to change clothes. Maybe she’d had her daughter help her.
Once I got her taken care of, she became a bit insistent that I sit with them and eat. My stomach agreed and I enjoyed breakfast with them.
As I ate, I noticed the toaster and a refrigerator. Two items completely at home in any modern kitchen, but next to an old pump style faucet and cast iron sink, as well as other cruder and more medieval equipment, were again oddities.
However, they’d have to just remain odd to my eyes.
The next several months were ones of learning. To begin with, I had to learn to speak French.
The dialect they used was very old fashioned, which is to say, it fit in nicely with the mostly 16th century setting of the place. It was just those anachronistic oddities that kept putting me off.
And I couldn’t even say why they put me off. Again until I woke up that morning I had no personal experience with anything to speak of. But somewhere in the depths of my mind, there was a voice that would occasionally say that this or that was out of place, for example, electricity. They had crude lines stretched to each house, all powered by a coal-burning plant further in on the island. The coal was shipped in, literally.
I learned we were on an island. A largish one, it took a day to walk a complete circuit of it, and it was more than large enough for the four dozen or so people living here, myself included.
The mother’s name was Estelle. The boy was Pierre, the girl was Etienne.
They had been the richest family of the island, and the woman’s husband Jean had been the island’s de facto governor. However, a raid several years ago by the same Spanish speaking soldiers had resulted in his death and the deaths of several others. He had managed to drive the raiders off but took a mortal wound in doing so.
With him gone the mother had to let the staff go and was raising the children herself. The family had coin enough if they scrimped, but Jean had been the breadwinner, and it would be a decade yet before Pierre could find work anywhere and begin earning coin again.
There was no question of either woman seeking work. In their society, this was simply Not Done.
When the topic turned to me things didn’t get much clearer. For at least a decade Estelle knew me only as The Man in the Box, a curiosity that Jean had returned with after a particularly lucrative trading expedition. He said he’d found me at a fair in the New Lands, The Undying Man, the ones who had sold me to him had called me.
The box was a thing of heavy mahogany. It stood upright with a glass door. Inside of it, I had stood upright as well. Rigid and unmoving, I looked like I was simply asleep, save I didn’t breathe. I didn’t look dead, and obviously, I wasn’t decomposing.
I had been the talk of the town for a while, but eventually, the curiosity wore off and I became more of a morbidity than a wonder, as people began to wonder and worry. I went from curiosity to curse, and as such, I ended up in the attic.
Etienne didn’t know how she’d woken me. She just knew that she was frightened, the men had taken her mother and knocked her aside, and she couldn’t think of anyone else to ask for help, so she came to me.
She’d opened the door and begged me to wake up and please help her.
I could only relate that I’d heard her ask the last when I awoke and that as far as I knew, that was my job from here on out. I was to help them.
In those first couple of months, that help was mostly mundane. I did odd jobs around the house. I escorted the family to and from the village when they needed to go.
Occasionally I found myself loaned out as manual labor in lieu of coin. This didn’t bother me as I tended to find the tasks simple and I would quickly finish them so I could return home.
But as I settled into life in this strange island village, questions still arose in my mind.
Where was I from? Why did I have the knowledge I did, but not know how I got it?
I didn’t even have a name. The townsfolk had taken to calling me The Lord. I never asked the reason why – perhaps because I rescued them from the burning church, which was never rebuilt, or perhaps because I lived with The Lady (as they tended to call Estelle) in the manor house.
There was even some muttering that The Lady had taken me as her husband, and so I was due the title.
This was not the case, though. As far as our relationship went, I was simply a servant she was most fond of. The closest we ever came to intimacy was one of many early misunderstandings.
I had just started learning how to speak with them. Etienne was my tutor as Estelle was often busy trying to keep up the house or teach Pierre.
Etienne was a willing teacher, though, and I think she liked the little bit of power she had over me during that tutelage. However, I also think she had a mind for mischief.
The Lady was slow to heal from her injury, partially because she simply would not rest. And after nearly a week, her children were complaining that their mother didn’t smell like a lady. Or maybe smelled too much like lady, as the case may have been.
So it was that I learned she’d been avoiding baths because it was too much of a hassle. I then offered to assist her in bathing. Unfortunately both she and I had different ideas about what assist meant, and my concept was more direct than hers. Whatever life I’d led before I ended up in that box, it hadn’t been one of courtly manners, but more down-home realism.
The injured woman needed help bathing, so I helped bathe her. Their nearly palatial master bath had a large tub that could easily fit two people. However, I did not join her for the ablutions. Instead, I drew the bath for her, noting another oddity of both the indoor plumbing and a hot and cold tap on the tub.
Then I came for her. She had disrobed to a shift with a little help from Etienne. I proceeded to carefully lift the Lady bodily and carry her to the bath. She protested a little when I lifted the shift off of her, though oddly she raised her arms for me to do so. Then I just lifted and sat her in the tub.
This, of course, soaked the sleeves of the shirt I was wearing, and I had to remove it. I didn’t realize until I’d done so that the Lady was watching me with interest, and seemed disappointed when I stopped with the shirt.
Beyond that I’d assisted her in scrubbing her back and drying her off, acting with no other improprieties save for the simple state of undress that existed during the process.
I became a regular part of her bathing ritual well after her shoulder had healed, but as I say, no real intimacy developed.
As the years passed, it became clearer that I was more or less the property of Etienne. The girl was blooming into a beautiful young woman, and among the young men of the island, she began to attract suitors.
However, Etienne used my presence as a temper against some of the more forward young men. It became clear after time that the Lady was still the ruler of the house, and so these social climbers were looking to become lords in their own right through marriage.
By the time she was fifteen, Etienne was well aware of the upward aspirations of the town’s many young men and even a young lordlet or two that liked to visit the island from time to time. Each of them imagined themselves to be cultivating a wife in my young Lady, though from what I could see none of those seeds were taking root.
In this time the deeds of my awakening night had well faded, and I had gone from something of a local celebrity to something of a local backdrop. The Lord was simply always there. Others took the villagers’ saying this for religion and would sometimes respond with scripture, often to confused looks by the locals.
But this was all background noise to me. In the nearly eight years I had been awake, I had but one job, to protect the family, and that was what I did.
The house was looking much better for my work. Not only did I fix the window I’d broken, and the gate, but to fill the days I would often find myself doing whatever projects needed doing. Once the idea of trading my labor as barter for goods had taken hold, I learned I could get most any material I needed in return for a few hours of my strength, stamina, or just my invulnerability.
There was one occasion where I had to use said invulnerability to retrieve some goods from a ship that had sunk not far off the coast of our island.
To prevent me from wrecking yet another set of clothes, something I was notorious for, I had opted to strip off on the beach. Only I hadn’t told Etienne I was doing so, to her dismay.
“Lord! What are you doing? Why are you getting naked?” She had asked me.
“You always complain about my ruining perfectly good suits. So I will avoid ruining this one. Please watch my clothes until I get back.” I explained calmly. By this time my clothes were in a neatly folded pile, and I turned to enter the waters, which were chilly but otherwise didn’t affect me.
I found that while I could feel warm or cool, I couldn’t be burned or frostbitten.
The job was time-consuming but not difficult. However, by the time I returned to the surface via that same beach, there was a small crowd of onlookers, mostly female. I got some catcalls and a couple of offers as I set the chest down then went to retrieve my clothes from Etienne.
She, however, had other ideas.
“You cannot put on dry clothes while wet! You must dry off first!” She told me but had a grin that said this was one of her little mischiefs.
However, I had no shame nor modesty to speak of. As there was no towel available, and the day was cool and overcast, I simply walked home, in the nude, to dry off. Etienne followed me. At first, she was laughing with the others, but as the walk went on, and I didn’t respond to those following me, her laughs fell silent.
Once we reached the gate we left the now reduced group of onlookers behind. We entered the manor house, where I got a look at Etienne.
She looked miserable as if she was now holding back tears.
“Are you alright, my lady?” I asked solicitously of her.
“I am not. I have just done a very cruel thing.” She told me, and tears started to crawl down her cheeks.
“What cruel thing? I did not see it.” I told her, for I wasn’t aware of what she was talking about. Had she kicked someone while we were going home?
“To you! I have shamed you!” She told me.
“When did this happen?” I was still confused.
“Just now! Everyone laughing at you as I forced you to walk home nude.” She told me in exasperation.
“That was not cruel. You are right, I should dry off before putting my suit back on.” I told her carefully.
“But it was! I could have fetched you a towel or something! But I wanted to teach you a lesson. You had embarrassed me by removing your clothes like that.” She said miserably.
“I did not realize I was embarrassing you. I will endeavor to avoid such behavior in the future. If you will excuse me, I really should dry off and dress so I do not cause you further discomfort.” I said, thinking I had a handle on her problem.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t even close but wouldn’t realize it until well after the fact.
But nonetheless, this did have an effect on our relationship. We both changed in little ways. She stopped her tricks that were once meant to shame others for her amusement, and I learned to be more circumspect in my actions in her presence. Even if it wasn’t for quite the right reason, it was something worth doing anyway.
I had become so accustomed to the things in my life that were mysteries that I had almost ceased to even notice them.
My history was no longer a concern to me. However I had come to be in Etienne’s service, I was happy in my role.
I’d also long since stopped cataloging the anachronistic elements I kept spotting. Especially since I learned what year it was, 2945. I wasn’t an expert on history, but this number made no sense to me in any context, so I chose to just ignore that aspect of things.
The last item was one that was relatively recent. I had started to hoard things. Perhaps hoard isn’t quite the right word, but for some reason, I was stockpiling very specific things and had no idea why – certain herbs, a specific type of wine, and even some odd elements when I could get my hands on them.
These were all acquired throughout my normal daily activities, and as they didn’t seem to raise any question in the minds of those I spoke with, traded with, or worked with, I decided it was just another of my oddities.
My Lady, that is to say, Etienne was now twenty years of age. The time had passed quickly to my mind. It seemed like I could remember the mischievous imp who liked to poke at me and teach me dirty phrases in her native language, or the young lady leading suitors on but refusing to commit to any of them.
But now she was a woman grown. Her younger brother had left the island the year before. He had taken on with one of the lady’s former suitors and would work as a trade agent.
My Lady’s suitors had dwindled as they eventually met other girls and married off, or simply realized that after years of courtship things simply weren’t progressing with her.
Her mother had tried to pressure her into taking up with a couple of the more affluent suitors, but my Lady was picky. She would say that none of them met her standards.
No amount of arguing would sway my lady, and so long as the arguments didn’t come to blows, I would leave them to it. It was my place to protect them, not interfere with their normal lives.
For myself, I was comfortable enough with my apparent immortality. I didn’t age. I didn’t actually have to eat, but even an indestructible machine needs energy to work, and if I didn’t eat I became lethargic or required longer periods of rest before I could resume activity.
I wondered if my lot in life was to be the guardian of my Lady’s bloodline. Although I could no longer be considered her brother’s guardian, it was apparent by then that I wasn’t necessarily meant to. Should she have a son or daughter, I pondered whether I would then pass to the offspring as guardian.
These thoughts were all for naught, however, as I had my answer that year.
One of my lady’s suitors was particularly aggressive. He’d heard of the island beauty who seduced men with her lovely visage but wouldn’t allow any to get close to her, and so he decided that she would be his.
He first appeared on a trade ship. We were long used to foreign nobility visiting our little island, some to vacation, others still seeking to climb the social ladder.
But unlike most, he was very direct and very physical.
Upon first meeting my lady, he took her hand and solidly kissed it. This was something of a breach in the unofficial protocol, but as there wasn’t really anything to do about it, I had to let it pass. He wasn’t hurting her, after all.
But then it started to progress from there. He would let his hand rest on her shoulder or arm. Seemingly harmless actions, but they put me in mind of our lecherous doctor, who could still be found harassing the women of the island. It was a wonder to me that no one had ended him yet, but it wasn’t my place to judge, and my Lady and her mother were both in excellent health.
For her part, my Lady seemed to be a mix of scandalized and pleased at the forward young man. As looks go he was probably attractive. He had a graceful look, all soft lines and delicate features – a complete contrast to myself, for example.
He left after a few days, and I could tell he had quite the effect on my Lady.
I knew this because of what happened the next morning.
I had entered her room to awaken her for breakfast. Her mother cooked for her every morning, it was something of a passion of hers.
But passion was also something Etienne was currently engaged in, with herself.
“My Lady, it is time for breakfast,” I told her solemnly.
“Just a moment, Lord, I’m nearly done.” She told me breathlessly, with closed eyes.
Nearly done with what? But as I watched, the answer became apparent. There wasn’t much movement to her activity, save for one spot below her covers. Should a young woman be doing such a thing in the presence of her guardian? I didn’t know the protocol for such a situation, so I did what I normally did.
I stood and looked out through the window until my Lady was ready. In fact, I did such a good job of distracting myself that she startled me when she kissed my cheek, dressed and ready for the morning meal.
As always I preceded her down the stairs. I held the chair for her and helped her to be properly seated, her mother sat her food before her.
“Sleeping in today, were we?” The older woman asked pleasantly.
“Er, something like that. I, uh, really should wash my hands before I eat.” Etienne added, before getting up to do so at the water pump.
Her mother looked at me and raised an eyebrow. However, as I had no idea what this was supposed to mean, I just looked back at her with a bland expression. She watched me for a moment more, then sighed.
“Etienne, today we’re going to the village to meet with a new trader. After breakfast would you please bathe and put on your finest summer dress?”
“But mother! I bathed just yesterday morning!” The young woman protested.
“I know, but we must look our best, we need to make a good impression on him.” Her mother countered. “Take Lord with you to make sure your back is good and clean, that dress shows off your shoulders you know.” She finished.
“Mother! Take Lord into the bath! That’s…” She trailed off.
“That’s what dear? He’s been my bath servant for years. You know he will do nothing improper.” She advised. This was true. It was not my place to do improper things with those in my care, or that was my understanding.
My Lady muttered something her mother didn’t hear. “What was that, dear?”
“Nothing. Come on, Lord.” Etienne replied a little peevishly.
I, however, had heard the words. “That’s the problem.”
The meaning of her statement was lost on me, and I did as I was commanded.
My lady’s bathing chamber wasn’t quite as palatial as the master bath, but still spacious enough that I could see to her needs without crowding her. I drew the water at the temperature I knew she liked, as I did most days. Only most days I left after this and she took care of her own ablutions.
But today she was to look her best, and apparently, this meant I was to make sure she was well-scrubbed. I had never seen any deficiency in her bathing habits before, but then again perhaps I wasn’t a good judge on such things. I myself washed daily using the cold water pump in the stable.
She entered the room and gave me a long look. I stood beside the tub, sleeves rolled up.
“Mother says you bathe her while shirtless.” She told me. This was true. After the first time when I’d gotten my sleeves wet, the next I’d simply rolled them up, but my Lady’s mother had insisted that I should just go without a shirt when keeping her clean. I didn’t know if my Lady had the same preference, so I had put some thought towards avoiding impropriety.
“Does my lady prefer that I bathe her without my shirt on?” I thought it best to clarify.
“Yes. And without pants. If I have to be naked you can be naked too.” She told me with a smirk.
She’d already seen me nude on other occasions, so I saw no reason to disagree, and I proceeded to disrobe, neatly folding my clothes and placing them out of the way.
“I should make you get in the tub with me too.” She said.
“I do not believe it can support both of us comfortably,” I told her, eyeing the vessel.
She looked at me oddly for a moment, then sighed. “No, I suppose not.”
Without further ado, she removed her shift and walked to the tub. I assisted her in getting in, as she liked the water just short of scalding. This means she had to get in slowly, so I offered her an arm for balance.
She said something about my offering her a better handle to hold on to, but I didn’t understand.
Once she settled in, her skin going red in the hot water, I proceeded to soap up a scrubbing cloth and went to work on her shoulders. While I worked she spoke to me.
“Lord, do you prefer women?” She asked.
“I do not understand your meaning. Do I prefer women for what?”
“For, ah, companionship?” She clarified after a moment.
I took a little time to reflect before answering. Certainly, as I did odd jobs I found myself in the company of men and women alike, sometimes mixed.
“I find that men tend to be coarser and make more jokes that I do not understand. I like the sensibility women show when I am in their presence.” I stated.
“No! I don’t mean just being around them. I mean intimately. You know, naked!”
“I have only ever really been naked in your presence, so it would be difficult to give an educated answer,” I explained reasonably.
“Dammit, Lord! I mean, do you prefer sex with men, or sex with women?”
“I don’t know what sex is,” I told her. It wasn’t something that I could remember. Possibly because knowledge of such would likely require personal context, and that was something I was lacking.
“What!? How can you not know what it is? What about before you were in the box, did you never have sex then?” She asked me incredulously.
“I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t remember anything about it. What is it?”
At this Etienne got quiet. “Did you see what I was doing this morning?” she asked quietly after a couple of minutes.
“Resting?” I guessed.
“Sort of. Well, not really. Oh dammit, I can’t explain this to you. Just finish washing my back, then get dressed and get out, I’ll see you downstairs.” She told me in a rushed tone of voice.
I did as I was told, a little mystified at her behavior. She did amend her instructions, when I went to get my clothes, she demanded I get dressed in front of her. I did so, not understanding why. Besides which, by the time I was dressed and looked at her, she was leaning back in the tub with her eyes closed.
The day was otherwise like any other, save that at times I found Etienne to be staring at me like she couldn’t make up her mind about something.
A month later her aggressive suitor returned. Only, this time, when he went for Etienne’s hand, she pulled it away. She was all smiles and politeness towards the man but shied away from his touch.
I thought she seemed to enjoy it last time and was curious as to why now she found it something she wanted to avoid. However, this meant that my Lady was indicating a preference that he not lay a hand on her, and the next time he attempted to put one on her shoulder, I caught the encroaching appendage. I held it a moment until I caught his eye.
“Please do not do that,” I told him and then released the hand. He rubbed it and I saw a flash of hatred in his eyes, but he hid it quickly, and put the smile back on. He made a few empty apologies and they went back to their verbal fencing.
Unfortunately, the young man was not one to be easily put off.
First, he began trying to find opportunities to be alone in Etienne’s presence. The first time I caught him trying to again place a hand on her shoulder in the parlor was after she’d requested I bring them a drink. She didn’t look happy about his once again forward action. Or at the least, I saw her frown when he left it there a moment, then removed it as I was closing in.
He smirked at me as if he’d won some kind of challenge.
It went downhill from there. He would find any excuse to get near her and place a hand on her if I was any distance away.
I longed to bash his head in. I even voiced this opinion to my lady during her bath one morning. It had been two weeks since the suitor had arrived, and he appeared to be making a long stay.
“Lord! I’ve never heard you speak so!” Etienne told me, but her voice held a tone that was both scandalized and pleased. “In fact, I cannot remember the last time you did anyone violence.” She added.
I pondered this. Save for the day I drove off the raiders, who had never returned, I had been living a somewhat pacifist lifestyle. I didn’t do violence casually. I did so if there was a need, and usually only in defense of others. Since that raid, there hadn’t been any need. None of the locals had ever offered the Lady or my Lady anything in the way of physical threat. Frequently they were even careful about using harsh words in their presence, though I tolerated rough language, as I knew both women could dish it right back out anyway.
And it was beneath me to be thinking any such thing about my Lady’s suitor. He wasn’t doing her harm. It was just a childish game he was playing. His way of seeing what he could get away with.
“No, I do remember. When you killed those men who attacked the village.” Etienne interrupted my thoughts. “You were so casual about it. No anger, no passion. They were in the way, they were trying to kill us, and so you killed them.”
“Should I have done that differently?” I inquired of her.
“No. I’ve just haven’t thought about it in a long time. Did you like it, killing them?”
“No. Nor did I dislike it. It was what needed doing at the time. They had stabbed your mother and were trying to burn the townsfolk alive. And one of them had struck you.” I added.
“A crime worthy of death, certainly.” She responded lightly. Her voice tended to get breathy towards the end of her bath. Sometime she would breathe quickly for a few moments, then hold her breath and exhale after a bit longer. Nowadays after I washed her back I was to stand by the door, nude, and await her to finish bathing so I could dry and dress her.
I patiently waited for her to finish, but instead of getting up like she normally did after her long sigh, she opened her eyes to look at me and stared.
“Doesn’t that do anything for you?” She asked me, her voice a little petulant.
“Doesn’t what do anything for me?” I asked her, confused.
“When I take care of myself. It doesn’t arouse you?”
“You’re a woman grown. I can’t see how your knowing how to bathe yourself would make me angry.” I explained in a confused tone. “Do you mean, do I miss taking care of you like when you were little?” I tried.
“No! Goodness, if you’d taken care of me like this when I was little, you’d be in the lock-up!” She said, again exasperated with me. She got up and got out, and we once again began the day.
Things hit a sort of medium. Her zealous suitor became a part of every day, finding whatever method he could to be in her presence.
My Lady’s mother caught on to his little game of trying to paw her when he could get away with it and took a dislike to him. However, given that he was from a noble family on the mainland, she didn’t dare tell him off.
Instead, she conspired with me to keep me in my Lady’s presence when he was near. This helped to curb his little activities, and I think Etienne caught on quickly, finding humor in watching us thwart him. He never dared confront me directly, instead preferring to try to stick to his subterfuge.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to take no for an answer. Despite her first favorable impression of him, his antics had long since caused her to cool towards him, and where once they had banter, now it mostly consisted of tired conversation where she could only just keep up a veneer of civility towards him.
By this point, the entirety of the household just wished he’d return home.
And by providence, it seemed that time was finally approaching. He began to mention he’d have to go home soon and seemed to be trying to use that as a pressure tactic.
Etienne was having none of it, though, and besides halfhearted farewells when he’d bring it up, she wasn’t rising to the bait.
This caused a noticeable shift in the young man. He began to get desperate. The lady’s own mother even commented on it more than once. It was as if he absolutely had to have… something from Etienne before he went home, or he’d be ruined.
It began to get so pathetic that even Etienne was starting to pity him.
Unfortunately, no one saw that this was yet another tactic until it was far too late.
The trouble began when I had to leave the house.
It wasn’t uncommon for the townsfolk to send for me if there was need of a local rescue. I could simply do things others couldn’t, and once in a while someone would find themselves in a dangerous place they couldn’t get out of.
And while my Lady was the core of my purpose for being, she had decreed that I should extend that protection to the town when I could.
So when word of an emergency reached us, I had to respond.
As it turned out, however, the young man sent to fetch us had been a ruse. It had been late in the evening, and my Lady and her mother were having drinks in the parlor before bed, a common practice. I myself didn’t drink as the alcohol had no effect on me, we’d discovered during a particularly adventurous evening.
And so I had to leave my slightly tipsy household. I locked the gate behind me, something I always did.
But when I realized there was no emergency, I returned to find it unlocked.
The little bastard had gotten a key made.
I felt something rise in me I couldn’t recall ever feeling before. Panic.
While certainly, the young man hadn’t ever been anything except politely forward, there was still an undercurrent to his actions that spoke of potential not yet released.
When I entered the manor and made my way to the parlor, I found that trap had sprung.
Estelle lay sprawled on the floor. The glass she’d been holding had spilled its contents into the thick rug where it landed. The same rug was absorbing Estelle’s blood from her slit throat.
A noise emerged from me that I had never heard before. Part grief and part rage, I gingerly bent down to pick up the dead woman and held her to me.
I had seen others cry. I had never understood tears, until this day.
Lightning struck outside. I perversely thought how well the shift in weather suited my mood. I had killed before, but that had been in defense. Now I wanted to kill in revenge. I wanted to murder.
I gently laid Estelle’s corpse back onto the carpet. I had failed her, but I wouldn’t fail Etienne.
In addition to sharp senses of sight and sound, I had a sense of smell that could rival a bloodhound. I don’t know what it was about me that made me something slightly more than human, but that night I was grateful. Etienne’s scent, something I always took comfort in, was now something that made me fear, for if I lost it, I could lose her.
First I searched the manor, and quickly. Unfortunately, it turned up not a living soul. So I exited the grounds.
The lightning was still in evidence, but the storm had not yet broken. It was a summer squall. They blew in frequently during the hot months and would come in, blast the island with rain and wind, and be gone in almost as quickly. This one seemed to be intent of suiting my mood, as it was shaping up to be a monster.
Just as I was.
I followed her scent to the gate. This wasn’t uncommon, but she rarely went anywhere but the cobbled road that I carefully maintained. So that her smell went off towards the sparse woods across from the house told me where to hunt.
I don’t know what madness had taken her suitor to drive him to kill her mother, then drag her off into the forest at night. However, it was powering him well, as it took nearly half an hour before I finally caught up to them.
And not a moment too soon. Etienne was feebly fighting him off, but he had her clothes partially removed and was doing his best to take her.
She was kicking and bucking as best she could under his weight, but her moves were sluggish.
I rushed in and grabbed the young man. I took his head in my other hand, intent on snapping his neck.
“No! Lord, don’t!” Etienne feebly called, but it was enough to stop me. I looked at her and froze in horror.
From her heart was the same Cinquedea that had once been in her mother’s shoulder. It had likely finished the job that night as well and now sought to claim another.
“No!” I shouted, flinging the lordling away. I had enough cognizance to throw him at some nearby bushes. He’d be bruised and scratched, but he’d live. It was the first time I’d disobeyed my lady, even if it was only slightly.
“Lord. Don’t kill him. Don’t become a monster. He’s…the…m” She faded as she tried to talk to me. How? How could she want to forgive her mother’s killer? Her killer?
But I had to obey. It was the last command of my lady. I may have failed her, and her mother, but I wouldn’t fail this. I looked to see the young man emerge from the bush. He saw that she was no longer moving. He laughed, shrilly.
“Fine! Fine! If I can’t have her, no one can! I still win the bet!” He nearly shrieked. Then he saw my face. I don’t know what he saw in it, but he paled and ran.
I was glad he didn’t know that I couldn’t pursue him, that I couldn’t take revenge. Let him run. Let him leave my island, never to return.
I looked back at my Etienne. The rain broke, and there in that sad glade, I looked upon the unmoving face of my lady.
Then a shock hit my head so hard I thought I’d been struck by lightning. But after my vision cleared, I realized it wasn’t lightning, it was a memory. It was my memory.
I’d been here before. A dark forest, a storm. A person lay dying, though others thought that person already dead.
Only, I was the person dying.
A woman was over me, crying, shrieking at me that I wasn’t allowed to die, only in my native language. I had no details except for that flash. Then what came next.
They could save me. It was risky, but it had been almost done once before. They’d failed, but this time they could do it right.
Without realizing what I was doing, I lifted Etienne. Her body was still warm, and the dagger remained in her breast. She may not be dead just yet.
I ran, as fast as I could while gingerly holding her. In the stable, I had a room. The family had offered me a choice of any of the available rooms, but I felt at home in the stable, though there hadn’t been horses in there for years.
But in that room, things were best suited.
Best suited for what? I tried to remember, and for the first time, the memory came.
They had carried my body. The woman, blonde like dear Etienne, with almost the same features, only with another twenty years of life experience in them, she was my wife.
The other person, I couldn’t remember their face. But they were the one who knew the technique.
The storm outside was still building. Another flash and I was back on that stretcher, being dragged out of the forest into a lighthouse. We’d been near the sea when I was attacked.
There was something odd about the lighthouse, I remembered. A copper rod ran down the center. People liked to slide down it from the top, but they told everyone to stay away from it during storms. It grounded the building or something.
I laid Etienne down on a work table. Almost without realizing it I pushed the table up against a similar grounding rod in the center of the room. When had I put that in?
The next memory hit. They had cut my clothes from me and were wiping me down in something. It burned where it hit my wound, I remembered.
Large jars of wine with herbs already mixed were sitting on the shelf. I stared at them, afraid. I didn’t remember doing that, either. But there they were. How many things had I done that I couldn’t remember?
A lifetime’s worth, I realized, and pushed that fear aside. Whatever the cause, this was Etienne’s only chance. The wound was fatal unless this worked. That part I remembered well.
I tore off what was left of Etienne’s ragged clothes, and began dumping the wine on her. She flinched when it started into her wound, signs she wasn’t yet dead, and I was heartened.
The storm had raged around us, but even after several minutes, no lightning was striking the lighthouse’s rod. My wife’s tears as seen through my half-lidded eyes, as she raged at the storm to give her back what was hers.
Then a blast, white-hot pain throughout my body, then blackness.
That was it. Those were all the memories I had of my previous life. But I knew enough from them for what had to be done.
But I’d already done everything. No, wait, there was one last thing I had to do.
Carefully I removed the knife from her heart. The gush of blood from it was disheartening, but I plugged it with some of the same herbs as best as I could to stem it.
Then I had to do the same thing that my wife had to do for me. Wait and hope.
The storm outside was still raging. The wind was whipping the rain around and lightning was still flashing close. I only hoped it would flash close enough.
Estelle’s funeral was a somber affair. The whole village turned up for it, dressed in mourning black, from the oldest grandmother to the youngest child. Mothers even had their babies draped to show mourning, children who would never actually know the woman.
Some said she was with her husband now. She’d survived him a decade, though both had died by violence.
However, at the very least, her legacy would live on.
Etienne remained until the very last mourner had departed. Per her mother’s wishes, the body was cremated, so all that remained of Estelle was now in a tasteful urn. That urn would soon be emptied over the same part of the island that Etienne’s father’s ashes resided, and then the empty urn would take its place on the mantle next to its twin.
“Somehow we need to let Pierre know,” Etienne told me after we were alone.
I nodded somberly. Then a thought occurred.
“What all do you want to tell him?”
Etienne could now speak English, my native language. When the lightning struck it had gotten both of us in the blast, and shared something of each of us with each other. We were now both invulnerable, and inseparably tied to each other in mind and body. It seemed like she had access to more of my memories than I did at times. That or even with some small part of it restored, I just had a bad memory anyway.
“You mean about our immortality? He knows about yours. Mine will probably be a shock.” She admitted. No one else on the island could speak English, and so it had become a language we’d use when we were just talking to each other, even if no one else was around.
“You loved her very much, didn’t you?” Etienne asked.
I nodded. “In my way. She was in my care, and you can’t do that without some love for the person you’re protecting, can you?” I asked. With the small part of my memory restored, some of my old personality had come with it. I was still lacking a lot of my life experiences, but sometimes I got flashes of things from my old life.
“Is it because she reminded you of Shayna?” Shayna had been my wife. I never remembered the name, but somehow Etienne had. Once she’d said it the first time, though, it had come back to me.
“Partially. I think you remind me of her more.” I admitted. It was true.
Etienne just nodded. “Don’t you think it’s strange? How much I look like her? I know you can’t remember, but when she was my age we could have been twins.”
“There are so many things in my life that are strange that I’ve stopped keeping track. At this point, I’ve just learned to be grateful for what I have.” I told her.
She reached out and took my hand. While she’d gotten a lion share of my memories, I’d gotten just a breath, but the ones I’d gotten were enough to tell me that Etienne had been in love with me for a long time. From the crush she’d formed on me when she first saw me in the glass, to the near infatuation when I came to life to save her and had become a combination of her servant and guardian, to what she was pretty sure was actual love, although this had not been all that long ago.
I had love for her as well. And like hers, mine had been evolving, albeit far more slowly. But that was partially because I’d been watching her grow up, which had an effect, and because now of who she looked like, which made me skittish.
“So, beyond getting in contact with Pierre, what do we do now?” She asked me.
I shrugged. “Short of becoming his bodyguard, there’s naught left for me to protect. I’m aimless. You certainly don’t need me to protect you anymore.” I told her, but with some sarcasm. Something I hadn’t used in a long, long time.
“Don’t be so sure of that. There’s more to protecting a person than just their physical body. I’ll need your emotional support too. Especially when…” She trailed off. But I knew what she was saying.
We wouldn’t age. We couldn’t die. The people of the village would be born, live, marry, have kids, age, and die, and we’d have to watch, over and over.
It was a harsh reality to face. And I hadn’t yet truly done so. But, with Etienne by my side, and me at her side, there was a chance we could manage to do so. Well, without going mad, anyway.
“Well, whatever we do, before we face eternity together, there’s something that I absolutely have to do.” She stood up.
“Where are you going?”
“We’re going home.”
“I need to teach you what sex is.”