Chapter 2 - Ismene-Eirene

My nose wrinkled as my sleep was interrupted by the smell of smoke and the ringing of alarm bells.  

“Miss... Miss Ismene-Eirene… you need to wake. The village is under attack.” My maid’s fear-filled voice filled my ears as she shook me gently.  

“Rea? What? What’s going on? What time is it?” I asked, sitting up.  

“The village is under attack. I don’t know by what, but we must evacuate. Your parents are waiting.” she said, pulling me up by the arm. “Hurry,” she said, pulling me along.  

I suppose I should be used to this. It has been the way of my life since I was born. I was born without sight and have never been without my parents or a servant guiding me. Though generally, it was not in such a rush. I could hear yelling outside and hurried to keep up. I didn’t know what had come to attack our village, but I didn’t want to be here when it got closer.  

“Yes, let’s hurry, Rea.” I agreed. 

“Rea… Eirene… over here. Hurry. Leander and Eline are waiting.” the distressed voice of Alkaios called out to us to my right.  

Alkaios has been my closest friend since we were young. And recently, that friendship has started to become something more. Alkaios is always so sweet, doting on me. Alkaios’s family has always worked for mine, and he recently pledged to Poseidon. I think because it is the House my family always pledges. I have the feeling.. the hope that maybe he will soon ask my father to marry me.  

I can feel my face flushing as I even considered the notion of me marrying my friend. “Miss Ismene-Eirene are you okay? You are flushed.” Rea asked as she hurried us over to Alkaios.  

“I’m fine, Rea,” I assured her as we reached Alkaios, and I felt him take my hand.  

“Hurry this way. We need to catch up with the others. The soldiers are starting to arrive to drive the beast off.” he assured me, but his voice still shook.  

Whatever this was, it was something frightful. I nodded and let Alkaios lead us away from the house. 

“Eirene!” my father’s voice called out.  

“Ismene!” my mother’s panicked voice joined him.  

Alkaios hurried us in their direction before suddenly stopping. I could hear a roaring sound hissing, and then I felt the immense heat of a fire.  

“Get behind me!” Alkaios shouted, putting himself in front of me.  

“Father!? Mother?!” I called out, worried for my parents.  

“M’lord… m’lady go! I’ll see Eirene and Rea to safety!” Alkaios urged them.   

I faintly heard my mother cry out ‘no,’ dulled by the sound of something crashing under the monster. Based on where we started and the turns we’d taken, it sounded like it had knocked down one of the barns. I could only hope the horses were not inside.  

Alkaios tightened his grip on my hand. “This way,” he said, leading us around the destruction.  

“Please be careful, miss. Alkaios, watch where you are guiding Miss Ismene-Eirene!” Rea instructed, her voice filled with panic.  

“We’ll be fine. Just all stay close together.” Alkaios suggested. 

If only his words were valid. We hadn’t gotten much further before I heard the strange sounds of whatever monster was closing in on us. I heard a crash behind me and Rea’s scream.  

“REA!” I yelled, turning my head, wanting to turn back. But Alkaios pulled me forward.  

“We need to keep moving forward. I’m sure Rae is okay, but there is rubble between her and us,” he explained though his tone didn’t assure me that he genuinely felt she was okay.  

I could feel hot tears streaming down my face as I worried for Rea. What if the rubble fell on her? What if the monster had gotten her? She was far more than a servant to me. Far more than my eyes. She was my dear friend.  

As Alkaios pulled me along, I said a silent prayer to any of the old Gods and Goddesses to protect Rea, my parents, and us. To save us from this monster that ravages our small town. I’m not sure how much it will help, but it was all I could do. It helped me focus on anything that wasn’t the strange cries of the monster, the cries of people injured, and the distinct iron smell of blood in the air.  

As we tried to find our way, I tripped and stumbled more than once. Alkaios was always there to help me and try his best to encourage me to keep going.  

“Just a little further, Eirene. We’ll find your parents and Rae at the evacuation point.” he urged.  

I wanted to believe that. I honestly did, but even though Alkaios tried his best to remain calm for my sake, I could hear his fear. But we continued till I fell again. My right leg felt like it was on fire, and I knew I was bleeding as I could smell the fresh blood.  

“Eirene..” Alkaios called, but his voice trailed off, and all I could hear was the heavy rumbling footfalls of something behind me.  

I listened to a roar as my head turned, and I felt grateful that I was blind. This way, I could not see what monster was about to kill me. I couldn’t help but scream as I waited for the inevitable killing blow.  

I felt something large and sharp rake across my shoulder, but something impeded it, stopping it from getting too deep. But it didn’t come. At least not a killing blow.  

“Eirene… run.” Alkaios coughed, his voice coming from in front of me.  

Alkaios ...he put himself between the beast and me. I realized what stopped the monster from probably slicing me to shreds. I felt a warm liquid squirt across my face leaving the distinct and pungent smell of blood to fill my nose.  

“Alkaios… no… I… you…” I couldn’t even form a sentence as I began to cry.  

He’d saved my life. But at the cost of his. He was my first love. I thought he’d be my husband.  

“” he choked out, and I could hear him coughing. It sounded wet. Then I realized he was probably coughing up blood.  

I tried to reach for him, to hold him, anything but the monster roared and hissed, and Alkaios was out of my reach. I stumbled to my feet, trying to find a wall or anything to hold onto as I backed away. I think even if I weren’t blind, I would not be able to see as I fled.  

My eyes were stinging with tears as they flowed uncontrollably down my face. I fell so many times. My clothes ripped each fall, and I’m confident I was bleeding and bruised. I tried to follow the sound of voices.  

“Soldiers…” I whispered in relief. The monster would be killed or driven away from the town if soldiers were here.  

“Help!” I called out. “I’m over here!” I shouted, waving my right arm as my left hurt too much from where I’d been attached to rise.  

No one answered my cries. They didn’t care. “Get out of the way, girl.” I heard one command kicking me away as I stumbled in the path they were taking.  

I hurried back, just avoiding getting trampled by their horses. I heard another rip to my clothes as a warhorse snorted. I guess it must have stepped on it while I tried to move out of the way. 

There were still some screams of pain and fear, so I knew the beast wasn’t far. It was moving away from the ruins of the village, but I could smell fires in the distance. The soldiers and those brought to help us must have started them. If I can follow the smell of the fires, I may be able to find help. Possibly find my parents.   

I stumbled on a piece of rubble and called out in pain twice. Once when I hit the stonework rubble, and another hit the ground on my injured shoulder, holding the wound, I started sobbing. I wouldn’t be able to get to the fires on my own. And the soldiers passing me hadn’t wanted to help me. I was going to die. Alkaios gave his life for me, and in the end, it would be for nothing. 

I heard the sounds of horses coming closer again. I cried out in fear. This time I tried to scurry away, to not be in their way. The sounds faded, but I could tell from the smell and the sound of a warhorse breathing that one was still near. It had stopped. 

Wait, it has stopped?!

“Are you badly injured? I can take you further back to the healing tents of Lord Apollo.” a rich deep masculine voice spoke out.  

There was a calmness to his voice. He didn’t sound panicked in the least. I am sure I must look a fright to him. Following the sound of his voice, I raised my head. My hair was wild from the chaos the village went through. My clothes were ripped and stained with blood and dirt. Cuts and bruises probably covered me, especially my legs and hands, and my shoulder felt like it was on fire.  

A cursory glance at my milky-white eyes, which I’m sure wasn’t focused on him, made it clear to him that I was blind. That him coming closer meant he would help me. I just hoped he wouldn’t be like the other soldiers.  

I reached for him, trying to put my hands on his chest. I had no idea whom I was reaching out to, even as my hands found his chest and moved up to rest one hand on the side of his neck, needing to feel his pulse to be sure he was alive.  

“I- I don’t know...” I managed out. “My shoulder and leg hurt so much and...” I tried to explain. But tears came anew as I remembered the screams and metallic liquid splattering over my face.  

“All I can hear is screaming, and all I can smell is blood,” I said, my voice shaking.  

His heartbeat. That is what I needed to focus on. I couldn’t see anything, never could see anything. But I can feel, smell, and feel. That is what I needed to do. I let out a sob as I felt his calm, steady pulse, relief, and weariness washing over me. If the soldier was peaceful, it meant it was over. It meant that people would be safe now. God, I hoped Rae and Alkaios were safe. But in my heart, I knew… I knew Alkaios was dead.   

“I’m...” the soldier started to speak. I’m not sure why he paused. 

Maybe because some crying, dirty, bleeding blind girl was feeling his pulse. 

“I'm Andy." he finally finished. "I am here to help. I'll try my best to be careful, but if you allow it, I will pick you up to take you to the healers," he explained, his voice never wavering.  

“Andy…” I repeated shakily, thumb still slightly pressed into his neck.  

My breathing slowly matched his pulse, trying to control myself. However, I was still a mess, with tears running down my face.  

“Thank you, thank you,” I said, shaking and leaning into his chest as what was left of my energy left me. “I- I can’t make it there myself. I’m sorry.” I said. 

"No need to apologize. The chimera has been chased further away, but the area is still unsafe."  he dismissed.  

"I'm just going to grab something from my horse for your shoulder," he said, reassuring me.  

He slowly and carefully moved away, ensuring I would stay upright without him. At least he seemed to be thinking things through. And he sounded confident that I was safe right now, though honest, by not telling me I was completely safe. 

"A chimera..." I said softly.  

That explained the terrible sounds. A mix of roaring, shrieking, hissing... I shuddered, and even a fool could probably tell I was thinking about what I had heard.  

"Okay..." I said softly, sitting up on her own but wavering.  

I did my best to stay upright though I wish he hadn’t needed to move. It was nice to have someone for support, and I could no longer feel his steady pulse. I could hear his footsteps go not far away before returning, tearing something as he walked. When he returned, I leaned on my good arm, unable to hold myself off without the support.  

"This may hurt, but please hold still," he warned.  

I could hear the ripping of fabric before the sting of him bandaging the deep mark from the claws to try and slow the bleeding. Then using the rest, he gently shifted my arm into a sling to take pressure off the injury.  

"Do you have a name? Is there anyone I should tell them to look for to notify them of your status?" he asked as he worked.  

I didn't collapse—pride or the fear that if I collapsed, I’d die kept me upright. And even then, most would do the same as me. I called out in pain but gritted my teeth, flinching but not pulling away. I whimpered in pain as he set my arm in the sling, but well, I’m not a soldier.  

"I'm Ismene-Eirene," I said softly. "I... I go by either one," she said. "My parents are Leander and Elaine, and I was with Rae and… and Alkaios,” I answered, holding back from sobbing when I mentioned Alkaios.  

"I hope they're okay,” I added, though my tone wasn't hopeful.

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