I wrote this story a few months ago (darn almost a year), it has some fantasy and supernatural elemetns, so if you have an opinion you are really wlecome.
"It's as if the gods are crying," says the old coachman as his vehicle moves along the forested path. It certainly feels as if the sky is collapsing above us. Maybe the old man is right
"Stop speaking nonsense Vrae," spits Anna, the old woman sitting with me in the back of the coach. "What will our guest think of us after such heresy?" The woman's tone make it sound more as an apology to me than a reprimand at her husband, but her eyes and thoughts are elsewhere. She watches every shadow outside the coach nervously. I had been lucky to find them this late at night. These days few travelers use this path anymore; it had just become too dangerous with bandits, and worse.
"It's ok ma'am, it certainly seems like an awful night," I shrug with a smile, an awkward gesture with my drenched tunic, soaked after hours below the rain.
"Gods above, where I have left my manners tonight? Girl, priestess or not, you need to change clothes or you will catch a cold." Her words are kind, but they sting at my heart. Since I left the order the only thing I had left of my faith were the clothes on my back. I had not even been allowed to keep Her holy symbol at my side.
"I will be ok ma'am," I say as she searches among her things for something proper for me to wear.
"Nonsense child, you are like Vrae working too hard and not taking proper care of yourself, right Vrae?" says the woman as she produces a long blanket.
"Right Ma," says Vrae without any enthusiasm. "No sense on resisting priestess, that woman has her way. Always."
I laugh at Vrae's comment and with a sigh I stop resisting as the woman helps me out of my tunics.
"Child! We should have done this earlier, you are freezing!" Says the woman as her hand touches my skin.
"What is this girl? You have seen battle?" The woman asked casually, her eyes focused on between old scars and the sword at my side. The scars are from another life, a time when my faith was strong. The sword, taken from a rival's cold hands, is more recent. I nod as I pull the big blanket over me, keeping the wind away from my already cold skin. I feel like a wet rat now.
"Yes. Long ago." I say. So long in fact, that I have forgotten a good part of it.
"Well child, with some luck you won't need to remember such days. On nights like this not even the devil dares walk outside," the woman says reassuringly, but that same confidence doesn't reach her eyes. I notice she is afraid, but at least now she feels some kind of relief at having an experienced holy warrior traveling with them. Surely the goddess would be amused at the irony.
I sigh and recline myself against the old woman, her warm body enticing my own cold one, her arms hold me, reassuringly like a mother. That brings memories of another life, the pangs of guilt and regret fresh on my chest. The pain in my belly is there too and I can do nothing to stop it as I move closer to her. After a few moments the woman is snoring lightly. I move my head over her shoulder, turning my eyes to look at her with a sigh, but she awakens as the coach stops and the moment is lost.
"What is it Vrae?" The woman asks in high-pitched tone. There is fear in her voice, as if she senses an unseen predator close at hand. Slowly my hand moves towards my sword at my side.
"There's a tree on the road, Ma! I'll have to clear it," says old Vrae as he jumps from the coach and becomes lost in the darkness of the night.
My common sense takes a moment too long to scream to me. When it does I jump forward, sword in hand, toward the reigns. "Vrae! Come back we should take another path!"
But as I hear the muffled sounds in the rain, I know it's already too late. I see Vrae's body laying in the mud just a few steps from the coach. There is a shadow besides him, a burly man dressing in a thick coat and a hat with wide brims. He is holding a bloody sword in his right.
Murder in my eyes, I rise to jump over the assassin, but as I do I feel a sharp pain striking my ribs. I look down and I see an arrow piecing my side. My eyes follow where it came from and I find another bandit almost at point blank, his soaked bowstring useless farther away.
With a cry of anger I raise my sword and let it fall onto the archer's head, splitting his skull as if cutting a melon with a butcher's knife. I hadn't killed a man in a while; still the crunching sound is satisfactory. Soon the rain will take his blood away.
The man's death distracts me. Suddenly I feel a burning pain deep in my back just a moment before someone pulls me from the coach and into the mud. It hurts. Badly. The weapon's blade stings with magic. I try to move but two bandits are on me almost immediately, one stepping on my sword, the other one stabbing into my chest with his cursed blade, over and over.
I cry as the dagger cuts easily and deeply through my skin. I can see the cloth above my chest drenching in red, the vital liquid pouring from me as I gasp, unable to contain it. My chest burns and aches with the wounds, the blood loss slowly making me feel weak and lightheaded. As I am stabbed again, I cry for the man to stop but I cough only blood. Curse all bandits to hell.
"What are you doing idiot?" says the other bandit as he takes my sword.
"Mac, this bitch killed Lou! She needs to pay!" says the attacker, intent to strike again, but his momentum is lost.
"I know, Gus, he was also my friend... but damn you don't go and waste a prize like this," says Mac as he opens the cloth covering my almost naked body. None of them noticing how little blood the rain cleans away.
"Damn, she looks good..." curses my attacker, "She would have been fun to play with. We might have even got a good price for her in the slave market."
"Exactly, idiot. Roy, what about the other?"
Roy, Vrae's murderer, pulls Anna out of the coach, his hand firmly grasping her hair. "This old bitch? She is just dead weight, Mac. And they have very little of value with them."
Mac curses vehemently beside me, kicking Gus a couple times. "Idiot, the only thing of worth on that coach and you had to kill her!"
"Hey, she isn't dead yet. Maybe the boss can heal her?" says Gus hopefully.
Mac kicks my side but I don't react. No need to fake it, I can't feel the pain of the blow. Still the kick reminds me I should stay still a moment longer, even as my precious blood keeps flowing from my chest. "No, idiot, she is nothing but cold meat now, no reason to lose our time, much less under this dreadful weather. Roy, be done with the old bitch."
Roy's ghastly smile shines under his brimmed hat as he throws Anna besides me. Her eyes look toward my still form and there is only regret in them as she is stabbed in the back. I know that she thinks that if they had not picked me up I would still be alive. Poor woman.
The bandits are gone. They took whatever of value we had on us and left Lou's body behind. I sigh as I pull myself toward Anna. The old woman's blood is pooling beneth her. I close her eyes before I embrace her. I stay like that until Anna's warmth is forever gone.
Following the bandits' trail, I find their lair in a hidden cave just overlooking the road. They celebrate today's victory drinking and singing songs that once would have made me blush.
I can see six of them, including Mac, Roy and Gus, the one who stabbed me. And a hostage, a pretty girl they all keep teasing and abusing. I lick my lips as I watch them, my soaked clothes clinging on my body.
I can't just simply rush in. I am still too weak from their attack and the months of fasting. But soon I see my opportunity as Roy leaves the cave to relieve himself. I move silently, waiting for the right moment to strike. As he moves into the darkness he is mine.
I appear in front of the murderer so suddenly that he is unable to scream even as I crash my knee between his legs. Before he is able to defend himself or call for help I tackle him, my hand grabbing his neck, muffling his screams. He looks surprised that my light body keeps him pinned to the ground.
I strike Roy's liver as hard as I can. The man's face contorts in pain and fear and for a single moment I feel ashamed of the pleasure that fills me at the sight.
"How many?" I have already smelled them; I just need to be certain there are no more out there. I let him grab just enough air to answer.
"Ju... just the three of us!" He lies and I can almost see his smile in the darkness as he threads a trap for me, "I can take you in, we can heal you!" The Fool.
Then distant thunder lightens my face for him to see and his own turns white. I know that he sees death, and I smile... I haven't smiled like that for a long time.
"Again. How many?" My voice is calm and cool. There is no anger toward him, just the sharp edge of my nails as they claw his side with enough strength to pierce his skin.
"So... sorry, there are six of us... and, and a hostage." He is now paralyzed by panic, no need for me to make an extra effort to pin him down. He is like a rat under the serpent's gaze.
"Any magic?" I say, my face even closer to his, my nails pushing harder inside his body.
"Har.. Harden... he knows... he knows some magic," says Roy shaking... his face already paling from blood loss, his body shivering from the creeping cold inside him, mirroring my growing pain. "That is how we got the girl; he enchanted her with his magic..." He begins to trail off.
I look down at the wound on his side and my eyes narrow... too deep
. Now my whole hand is soaked in Roy's blood. My body shakes in pain at the sight, but I control myself, at least for now.
"Which one is Harden?" I ask and Roy answers, his voice slowly trailing off. Tall, handsome, redhaired, and strong. A very peculiar witch indeed.
"Can, can I go?" asks Roy timidly.
I move my head slightly to my right, looking him directly in the eyes. "But of course, you can." Roy feels the coldness and shudders as I rip his neck, the sight of the flowing blood mesmerizing me for a moment before, trembling, I bend myself over him.
"Roy? That took you long enough! No more drinking. Harden said that you and I will do the first guard," clamors Mac as I approach the cave. The thick coat and the brimmed hat covering most of my face shield my identity from the bandit; the rest is the ale's work.
I nod and enter into the cave's warmth, under the heavy clothes it feels suffocating. At the same time if feels glorious after so long in the cold, but it doesn't last.
A gust of wind threatens for a moment to extinguish the fire as I enter the cave. A sudden shudder appears through the whole group. Most of them are just too drunk to notice the strangeness of it, but not Harden. As I enter I can see in his eyes the spark of recognition. There is no panic as with Roy, but I can smell his fear. He stands, but his ale-dulled wits slow him. He is the farthest from me, with the exception of the girl, but still he has no chance, not as drunk as he is. I need but moments to complete the deed. Moments that feel like an eternity, painted as they are in the red tones of hunger and rage.
There is only blood; no matter where I turn there is only blood. I try to stop myself but the pain, the hunger won't let me. Hansen died quick, and when I recovered the sword Mac stole from me the rest followed suit.
I can feel the tears flowing, they form crimson pools in the ground a few inches from my face, but I lick them clean almost as soon as they form. I don't know if I cry from the pleasure of finally delivering myself from the pain or if it's for my broken soul as I let the last threads of my humanity fade away. Maybe both.
For years I have tried to quench the thirst, partaking as little as I can, taking it as the goddess' test to my faith, but as the years pass by the hunger only grows worse. Poor Anna, I can still see her deluded eyes blaming themselves for my early death when I have been dead far longer than I want to remember. She felt the same regret I would have felt after feasting on her and old Vrae.
A sound brings me back from the blood and the memories. Sobbing. With what is left of my will I look toward it. I see the hostage, a young, black haired girl with eyes as red as the blood in my hands - red from crying, otherwise they might be ice-blue. I lick my lips and see her shudder in terror. And then I have an epiphany. I see myself in her eyes. Pale as the death I brought to the cave, except for my bloodstained chin and hands. My own dark hair falls at the sides of my face and the hot coals I now wear for eyes look directly into the girl's terrified soul.
She is wearing a white tunic, a novice dress; she is committed to the gods, maybe even my goddess. I feel the borrowed blood in my veins stirring, for a moment I hate her and only want to see her dead. But as I see myself reflected in her I tremble in shame from what I had become.
The howl of the wind fills the cave, but it's not the wind. It's a wail, deep and profound, from the bottom of my soul, and I can't move. I don't want to move, even as the hunger and hate call for the girl's lifeblood, to deny her what was denied to me.
But something in me prevails. Trembling, I take the still bloody dagger, the same cursed thing that wounded me outside in the rain, and throw it toward her, close enough for her to take.
The sound feels unnatural in my throat, as if trying to stay inside. She doesn't understand. Silly girl she is so afraid that she can't see death offering her a way out.
"I said GO!"
I scream now, my hunger and the blood giving me strength. The girl, still in panic, understands and cuts the rope. It takes her longer to stand than to run away. I don't regret seeing her go. The sight of her brought dark memories, but it brought reason too.
I drink deep from the still warm corpses, but not as a beast any more. I don't dare thank the goddess for it, but somehow I feel a bit warm in my heart. Soon it will be dawn. At least it has stopped raining.