A Dr. Eldritch Adventure
A NaNoWriMo Novel Entry by Evan M. Nichols
"Eldritch," Meeker said. "See that my daughter gets home safely, and come right back. Leave your shovel." He turned and left before Eldritch could do more than sputter an assent. He looked at Camille, whose eyes were dancing happily.
"Milady," he said. "I believe I am to walk you home. Shall we?" The left the building and were a way up the street before Eldritch asked the question that was nagging him.
"What did you say to him to have him ask me to go with you?" he asked. Camille dimpled, and Eldritch enjoyed the look of her face as she smiled so.
"I heard that there were ruffians about," she said. "And with your background, you were the best choice to escort me."
"I see," Eldritch said. "And how would you know of my background?"
"I hear rumors," she said. "I spend little time at the warehouse, but I speak often with the wives of the men. There are some strange tales about you, I daresay." Eldritch was silent, trying to think what he had told the other laborers.
"So, what have they told you?" he asked.
"That you've traveled around the world, and fought fabulous monsters everywhere you went!" Camille giggled excitedly. "They say you've fought a hundred men raised from the dead single-handed, and drove a graveyard full of ghosts from a monastery. You've killed vampires, and werewolves, and horrible ogres. It's all quite exciting, really."
"Excitement is not always a good thing," Eldritch said. "And do you believe any of these tales?"
"Oh, no, of course not," she said. "I can believe that you have traveled, but there aren't ghosts and monsters. I know those are just stories to frighten children." She looked at him, and the smile faded from her face when she saw his expression.
"Oh, Eldritch," she said. "Have I made you angry?" He shook his head.
"No," he said. "I am not angry at you."
"But I've said something wrong," she said. "I'm often doing that. I say the wrong things. Mother says it comes from spending too much time at Father's warehouse, but I just get to saying what I think, and it often isn't what a young lady is supposed to say. I'm sorry if I've offended you. Please don't be angry with me."
"I'm not angry," he repeated. "If anything, I am a little sad. These stories of my life that I've told are true. The versions you have heard have been changed, such is the way of storytellers, but I have done these things. Well, I haven't fought ogres. I don't think they exist." He stopped walking, and rolled up the left sleeve of his doublet, revealing a jagged scar.
"I wasn't the only one fighting those men raised from the dead, but this is where one bit me. He seemed real enough." Fascinated, she ran her fingers along the rough edge of the mark, and he felt an electric tingle at her touch. He rested her hand upon his arm. It was soft and warm.
"But I've always been told such things are just fairy tales," she said. He pushed his sleeve back into place, and resumed walking. She followed, a little meekly.
"I take it you have lived in the city all your life," he said. "You've never roamed the wilderness, or walked a graveyard at midnight. I have seen such things that... that are not right for young women to know about. I shouldn't speak of them."
"Oh, please," she said. "If you tell me they're true, I'll believe you." Once again, Eldritch stopped, and turned to face her.
"You are very kind," he said. "But it's in my past. I wish I had not spoken of it to the others, but for a very long time it was the only life I knew. It is not that you would disbelieve me, but I have seen things that cause brave men to fall to the ground, frozen in fear. I've fought creatures that most people do not believe even exist. I have done terrible things. None of these are appropriate for a woman like you to know about. I would not be the one to tell you."
"Do you know the most exciting thing that happened to me last year?" Camille said. "I got a new hat. How pathetic does that makes me feel, talking to a man who has traveled in distant lands and fought monsters that I thought were merely children's stories?"
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