Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part II by Brian Joseph Johns
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
She had no idea for how long she was falling, but only that she was as much so and that she could not remember anything before her descent. She was plummeting through a void of complete darkness and she could feel air brushing past her skin. She seemed to be accelerating, which she could only tell by the sensation in her abdomen and by the pressure in her ears. She moved her hands before eyes her but could not see them, though she could feel her face and her body. She was still material.
She began to hear voices as if they were being played back at a tenth of their speed. She could not make out what they were saying as it was too low in tone and slow in speech. She could only tell that they were voices. As she accelerated so too did the voices and before long they had gotten much closer to real time. She realized it was somebody saying a name over and over again. She wasn't sure whose name it was but she knew that it was a name. Then she felt a pressure on her chest and then something pushing air into her and a moment later she hit the ground.
"Mila! Mila! Its Barris! Come on honey!" Barris massaged her chest applying the cardiopulmonary stimulation that he'd studied many years ago though doing it without thinking about it. He did it by feel because he wanted to find her.
As he checked her breathing Mila began coughing in a furious and forced manner exhaling any air that she had contained in her lungs and unable to inhale. Her face immediately flushed dark red as she gasped, her eyes bulging when finally she gulped down a volume of air. After that her breaths were deep but even and gradually began to recede. Barris massaged her chest muscles and her shoulders as she lay on her back.
They were outside in what appeared to be a forest. It was night and the forest around them was very dark. It was early or late summer. The air was crisp and the forest floor was slightly damp. She stared up at the trunks of the trees which ascended into the canopy revealing more detail as her eyes adjusted. She caught the occasional glimpse of star light through the canopy and before long she pulled herself up to a sitting position.
"Where are we?" She asked Barris, still a little shaken as her memory returned.
"I don't know. I woke up the same way beside you about two minutes before you did." He replied still in mild shock.
He wasn't wearing any clothing except for his favourite under shorts. The same ones that he would often wear to bed. Mila was wearing a comfortable nighty that she sometimes wore to sleep. Fortunately for the both of them the air was warm enough that they could have slept on the forest floor if they'd wanted to. When she wore that nighty she often meant that she'd rather not play. Barris held his humour for the moment in respect of his wife to be and waited for her to let him know when she was ready to feel better.
"What time is it?" She asked him.
"I don't know. We need to get to a clearing so we can see the sky. I'll know where we are and what time it is when we can." He replied looking up into the canopy.
A few feet away they heard the sound of a snapping twig and coughing. Barris immediately stood doing his best to be defensive. Peering in the direction of the noise he saw a familiar face.
"Sato!" Barris spoke up.
"We did go to sleep in the house last night, did we not?" Sato spoke making up for Barris' restraint of humour.
"Obviously. Why in the world would you ask something like that?" Barris responded sarcastically prancing back to Mila in his underwear.
Barris caught the corner of Mila's mouth rising: the hint of a smile present.
"Did you remember to bring the marshmallows honey?" Barris' held out his hands to her hoping he wasn't pushing his luck.
"I didn't see a campfire. Besides, you know what they do to your figure." She replied accepting his hands pulling herself up her smile waivered a little.
"Is it that obvious?" Barris replied trying to maintain his dignity as he walked through an unfamiliar forest at night wearing his undershorts to help Sato to his feet.
Sato arched his back and flipped himself to a standing position in one quick move.
"Don't think that because I'm older that I can't... thank you young man." Sato started to lecture him before thinking better of it, instead withdrawing to the safety of the elderly cliche.
"Your tattoos!" Mila pointed observantly to Sato's forearms.
The symbols on his arms glowed in the night but far from the show they put on before he arrived.
"So they are. That is disturbing. Very disturbing." Sato's brows furled as he shook his head.
"They're not in the modern symbol set of your language. They're talismans aren't they?" Mila asked him thoughtfully.
"Your attention to detail astounds me, Mila. Yes they are talismans. Only something very ancient or very powerful or both could activate them like that." He replied.
"We need to find our way back to the house assuming that we're near it." Barris interrupted.
"We'll need some help." Mila took a look around before looking up to the forest canopy.
She closed her eyes and put both her hands above her head clasping her hands together. Her voice pierced the air in tone and vibrato her incantation taking a musical form. Her leg raised gracefully knee first before extending forward. She swung it around to twist behind her causing her body to spin in a perfect pirouette her hands spreading outward away from her body and folding back across her chest as her spin stopped and she shrunk to the forest floor.
A dome of energy folded out from above her head like a tiara and rose to the forest canopy expanding in size at it did. By the time it had reached the height of the canopy it encompassed the three in a dome whose apex was the height of the tallest trees. In this dome of energy Sato and Barris spied a familar pattern of dancing lights superimposed upon the dome in one direction.
"That must be the Aurora Borealis. That's beautiful Mila. As are you." Barris looked at her the poet finding way back into his heart.
"Maybe one day we'll see the real one together." She replied to him.
They paused for a while and enjoyed the moment her art had brought them before Sato broke the silence.
"Now we know our directions." He spoke.
"But which way do we proceed?" Mila asked.
"Lets assume that we're not far from the house but we don't know which direction we are from it. Alivale and the closest populated areas are just to the west of us. I say we travel west through the forest and if we miss the house we're bound to hit a populated area and figure our where we are." Barris proposed to them.
"I like that idea." Mila agreed holding out her hand for him to take.
"I agree as well but we should be very cautious. I am still concerned about the indications from the talismans." Sato responded.
"Can anyone else see this dome?" Barris asked.
"Only from the inside and not from the outside at all." Mila replied.
"I'll proceed and scout ahead. If I spot anything I'll signal the two of you and we'll decide what to do from there." Sato seemed content to suddenly have an important purpose and goal and he disappeared ahead of them.
"I wonder if this is going to be another L'Arbour De La Noir." Barris asked Mila.
"I'm more worried about it being another Alivale battle." Mila replied as the two of them proceeded on their journey, Mila's dome remaining perfectly centered over her as they did.
She didn't feel it when she was consumed by the black void that spread from her assailant's hand. It merely enveloped her, pile of clothing and all and before she knew what was happening she was falling through the emptiness of space. She thought at first that she had tried so hard to duck into the shadow realm to avoid her pursuer that she had fallen completely into it herself. When she realized that she was falling and that the voices had subsided she knew that she was not inside the shadow realm.
The air streamed by her faster and faster until she stopped suddenly by the impact of what she presumed was the floor. She curled up into a ball winded by the sudden stop as she gasped for her breath. She didn't feel the smooth surface of a hardwood beneath her but instead a bed of gravelly stone. By the time she caught her breath she had been splayed out on the gravel for ten minutes. She sat up looking around seeing that she was near a river under the darkness of night. A river that she did not recognize as the one that passed near her home. There was too much wilderness around for it to be that river and she'd never seen a gravel bed beside it. She stood up walking carefully on the tiny stones with her bare feet and spied the clothes that she had concealed herself under to hide from the hooded figures.
Shaela grabbed her clothing using the illumination the star light provided her. The night sky was spectacular and immense, as she'd never seen such a clear view of it before with no light pollution to obscure its brilliance. She admired it for a moment before she began to move. She had to walk carefully as the pebbles were sharp on her feet. As she took each step she cursed under her breath.
"What I wouldn't give for a pair of slippers." She spoke aloud.
When she had gathered enough of her clothing, she found that she had a small blanket amidst the collection of clothes. A few tee shirts. two pairs of track pants she'd wear around the house to be comfortable. She had another dress much like her favourite one which was currently at the cleaners after the mishap in the labyrinth. She also had three pairs of socks. She put on all three pairs to use as shoes and bundled up the rest of her clothing in the blanket, tying the corners together and using it as a ruck sack.
Being an avid astrologer she quickly picked up on the pattern of the night sky and determined the time and her location. The stars were a little bit off but she assumed that to be a problem with her memory and accuracy rather than the stars being in the wrong places. According to the sky she wasn't far from home and the time was close to twelve midnight, the time she'd awakened to witness the accident and subsequent arrival of the hooded figures in her neighborhood.
"Maybe I'm dead." the thought occurred to Shaela before she quickly discarded it.
She concentrated on what she could remember about the prior hour and she recalled the symbol on the their vehicle. She had seen it somewhere else before but she couldn't place where. She didn't see them physically assault anyone as they just seemed to consume them in that aetheric ochre that they spewed from their hand. She'd been consumed by it and then she'd fallen onto these rocks but not far enough to cause her injury. She stumbled on the rocks momentarily towards the soft sands of the land fall.
She suddenly heard the clollop of horse hooves in the distance. The sound echoed through the hills into the river valley making it difficult for her to tell from which direction they were coming or how many there were. She momentarily panicked realizing that she hide. What if the hooded figures found her, she'd be done for.
She quickly found her way to where the gravel bed was sparse and the ground a little softer. She spread her arms and began her summoning incantation. The wind picked up as the shadow realm touched with the material plane opening a portal. There was an eerie and troubling silence as Shaela awaited her Shadow Cat protector. Another moment passed, and she was greeted by a shocking sight. A much larger and more mature cat beast hesitantly stepped of Shaela's portal, a shadow kitten in its mouth. It stepped into place in front of Shaela before dropping the shadow kitten to the ground. The Shadow Cat was at least four or five meters tall at the shoulders. Its head was nearly the size of a compact car, while its paws could easily cover and crush the entirety of one's abdomen. The kitten whined into the night air, mewling for its parent which stepped forward to confront Shaela.
"You're not..." Shaela's jaw dropped when she spied the fully mature shadow cat, its ears back, hissing at her as it's breath blew her hair backwards of of her back.
It stepped forward pouncing onto Shaela before she could react. She was instantly under the large beast's paw with only her head visible. The beast held her in place just barely crushing her under its enormous weight. It was much larger than her own familiar protector, at least two to three times its size in all. The shadow cat drew in a gulp of air tasting it with its specialized organ inhaling with both its nostrils and mouth simultaneously. The beast paused a moment not recognizing Shaela by her looks or her smell and so could not decide if she was a threat. It had been sound asleep in the shadow plane where it had not consumed a meal for nearly two of our days. Both it and her kitten were hungry and it toyed with Shaela for a moment looking at her with it's large red glowing eyes before deciding to silence its catch. Shaela screamed as the giant cat opened its tremendous jaws to consume her head. Before the shadow beast could bite down, the kitten had jumped onto Shaela's head blocking its parent from making the kill. The kitten licked Shaela's face mewling happily.
Shaela spit shadow fur from her mouth, coughing profusely. The kitten became more amused and licked her face some more.
"Ok, ok. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt your family meeting. Really." She spoke sarcastically to the giant cat.
The giant shadowy beast lifted its paw from her and stepped back, its ears adjusting and changing shape and direction in puzzlement. It hissed again looking around as if distracted by some distant threat.
The kitten jumped towards it's larger relative to protect Shaela even from its own parent. It crouched to the ground hissing up at its senior which was many times the size of either the kitten or Shaela.
Shaela sat up slowly and carefully.
"You see. Even your kitten trusts me." Shaela offered to the giant cat.
The giant cat roared in reply, sniffing the air once before grabbing the kitten in it's mouth and leaping off into the darkness of night leaving her alone to face what that from which it had fled.
"Well that certainly complicated things." Shaela spoke aloud to herself as a means of coping with her stress.
She then sat quietly for a moment in the darkness before she saw what the big cat had run from.
The horses rode into the valley and were just barely visible coming off the trail from inside the brush. They had a tracker in their lead who was riding directly towards Shaela.
"Aye, she's thar. As I told ye she'd be. Yer coins well spent and mine well earnt!" the rider shouted as the horse thrashed the ground on its approach.
Shaela immediately jumped to her feet readying a spell. The scout came to within twenty feet of her when she threw it towards their group. Her hand exploded in a tremendous and brilliant energy and a tiny ball flew the distance and impacted the ground before the horses. The two lead horses reared up startled by the flash dropping both their riders from a height of ten feet in the air. They fell onto the gravel bed which although it was much less dense here, it was still very unforgiving. The first rolled over onto his feet grabbing a sabre from its hilt while the other fallen rider didn't move after impact with the ground.
The scout who pulled a great sabre from a sheath tied around his waist leapt forward holding it in front of his step and towards his quarry.
"Die wytch!" he spat as he swung the blade in a wide arc holding a crucifix before him.
Shaela jumped back just barely avoiding the scout's swing. He clearly wanted to see blood, though certainly not his own.
A thunderous crash sounded through the air as one of the remaining riders fired an ancient arquebus at the sky.
A thick smoke floated away from him as the steaming barrel cooled. If he'd have needed to reload, it would have taken him a minute or more but it had served its purpose as it had in similar fashion many times before. It was a great attention getter when the unruly needed reminding.
"Enough! I'll not have unwarranted death! Her's is the right to stand trial before the people and the crown. You are not the justice giver. Unhand her!" Evan Edwards, a law man demanded of the scout as he holstered the cannon and drew forth a saber of his own.
The scout spat on the ground at Shaela who held her ground. The scout ignored Evan as his pay for such missions came from the coffers of the town, which was paid by the local farmers and traders guild. Out here even the law had little sway.
"C'mon wytch. D'ya have it in yer spine to try that demon's trick again?" the scout kept the point of his saber in thrusting distance.
Shaela gestured and a shadowy blade materialized extended from her hand. She brandished it ready to defend herself if she had to.
"I said leave her alone!" Evan ordered the scout who completely ignored him.
"Back a bit farther east, they'll pay a pretty penny for this one's head and even more after a showing like that one of her demon powers." the scout kept his guard and focused on Shaela, the hate apparent in his eyes.
Hate was the fuel that those who'd organized the Wytch hunt in the first place used to sort out the wicked from the innocent. They had a method of hunting the Wytches and demons that involved their own rituals that they'd developed over an ancient history of searching out such evils as they'd explained at their recruitment meetings. The scout thought about the group and when they'd first arrived at how his bounty business had picked up as a result of their new rituals for "sorting them out".
Evan had been a law man for some time before these Wytch hunting strangers had showed up. The strangers had setup specific townships in his jurisdiction, creating organized Wytch hunting centers with Alivale far to the east being the headquarters for the whole thing. The town was even born of a line of such Wytch hunters a century ago before it grew into a farming community. They would meet at night to teach their methods of finding and exposing the evil and wicked. Evan had even attended one to evaluate whether the strangers' methods were lawful or lawless.
He had little time to investigate as his schedule had picked up immensely as a direct result of their methods and his discerning eye demanded that he made sure that suspects weren't killed on apprehension as was common. Many bounties were guaranteed this way and justice had suffered greatly as a result. His office was responsible to the pioneers and pilgrims of the land, to the Natives who'd helped many pilgrims find settlements, and ultimately to the Crown Merchants who'd invested in the colony initially.
The Crown Merchants were a unilateral trade organization whose office was mandated by the Royal Throne Of England and included the participating French, Spanish and the Dutch all of whom were in a trade pact and precariously balanced peace. Each facing their own changing empires as a great power struggled ensued between the Crown, the Parliamentarians, the Military, the Merchants and finally, the people. Evan's law office dealt with every one of the colonies across the early frontier and even had dealings to the north on the continent and south to the Americas. They'd helped to setup the first bastion of law amongst the colonies by a business tax fund that protected the growing trade interests between the colonies and outposts. From what would become Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to Rhode Island to California and into New Mexico. This was the frontier and the first bastion for good people of all walks of life to shape an optimistic future in light of the European unrest and the recent civil war in England.
During times of conflict with one another, those signed to this unilateral trade pact would often hire privateer fleets. They would use these fleets to skirmish their enemies' merchant ships and their private armies to harass caravans. These privateers would often bear no flag whilst they attacked to prevent any action from being traced to its origins and to curb the threat of full scale war. The agreement to work together to found colonies in the Americas was their effort to forge a lasting peace albeit an unstable one.
Many of the businesses paid into the tax fund which covered the costs of early law offices. Often those who ran such law offices would be subjected to forces which sought to bias them in one way or another which of course contradicted the idea of law in the first place. An extremely high pressure job and difficult task for even the most honest and earnest of people.
Evan's was one of the few founding law offices which sought fair and equal law. There were few running offices similar to his own in the town of West View and the local colony. In the offices their case logs were often overloaded with Wytch hunts since the strangers had brought their ancient franchise to the frontier.
Evan's skepticism remained but he still did his duty relying on the few good people that he knew to uphold the rights of the so called Wytches and the Natives of the land. As long as he kept to his principles he maintained that all good people of freewill and conscience might do the same and that together good might prevail. He believed in the system he defended because he believed the people thrived with the rise of good and mutual prosperity. His optimism had wavered many times since the strangers had arrived, teaching others of their Wytch hunting methods even turning it into a franchise like business, paid by a bounties fund which they'd convinced the businesses were needed in the face of the threat of Wytches. If you didn't pay into this fund, then nobody would guarantee that something wouldn't happen to your business. Most who didn't pay often experienced vandalism or outright sabotage. Some of the trade partners had even agreed to fund the bounties as well bringing coin from afar to fund the already growing madness.
The three remaining riders abandoned Evan dismounting their horses as they joined the scout offering up their arms and support effectively cutting off Shaela from any means of escape.
"Damn you! If you'd follow that one you'll be selling your soul for the weight of a coinpurse! She deserves to tell her side and to have a lawful defense! Not to be sold in pieces for the price of a bounty!" Evan yelled from his horse, his voice more commanding than the arquebus he'd fired a moment ago.
One of the markets that had become popular amongst those running bounties was to break up their bounties into pieces, as superstition held that the ears and fingers of Wytches served as sources of good luck and defense against other Wytches. Some of the strangers who taught the methods of Wytch hunting even bought such trinkets for many coin.
The four of them ignored Evan instead concentrating on Shaela. They'd never seen a display like the one she'd given them a moment ago. They hadn't believed that such magic had existed and this was the first real Wytch they'd seen. They'd collected money for the heads of other supposed Wytches with no guilt about the absence of proof. With the proof Shaela had just given them, the thought of fame and fortune ran through their heads as a payment for the price of hers.
"Do you even believe in that crucifix yer holding to protect yourself from her?" Evan asked the scout hoping to appeal to his religious conscience never realizing that the scout had lost it years ago.
"I sure do. It will be the same one that will garner me the forgiveness of the lord for murdering a wytch. My sin has already been paid for." the scout's grin spread before Shaela, several of his teeth rotting or missing.
The rider dismounted his horse and approached the men fearlessly, clearly trying to maintain commanding order.
"I said lower your arms! Now!" he demanded.
Once again the group of men ignored him. He stepped between them and Shaela with his Sabre drawn in their mutual defense.
The scout paused a moment and considered the situation before deciding that Evan was just as guilty for siding in her protection. He knew that the townsfolk would believe his explanation of the truth before buying Evan's as he had lost support with many of the locals. The lucrative market for bounties had eroded the sensibilities of those who thought they could earn an easy coin.
Many had attended the strangers' nightly meetings in hopes of profiting from the lucrative bounties being offered. Many wanted to make sure that they were on the right side and thus chose a side out of fear without considering the morality of it at all. The townsfolk had seen the people they had least suspected as Wytches behaving like they were possessed, prodded and provoked by some unseen assailant. This of course had started increasing in frequency when the strangers had arrived and set up to teaching the townsfolk how to find Wytches using rituals of their own. In fact it was the strangers' rituals that had resulted in causing the anxious and erratic behavior of the townsfolk who they'd targeted as Wytches. In a sense it was their means of turning the public opinion against certain citizens, many of whom were Women so that the strangers themselves could eventually usurp the power of the colony and the land for themselves. From the point of view of the men there to collect on Shaela's bounty, Evan had clearly lost his mind and was likely possessed right this very second by the devil itself.
"It's not too late. If you lower your weapons right now, I'll consider that an act of conscience on your part in the interest of the good." Evan offered the men another chance.
"Well it looks like we got us two bounties gents." the scout smiled again as the four of them closed in on their prey clearly ignoring Evan's offer.
As they carefully closed in on their prey, one of them screamed. His blood curdling cry echoed through the valley as he saw a giant shadowy demon pounce into their midst from the surrounding forest onto the gravel bed, flanking their position. It was larger than the horses by some and could make a quick meal of a few. It wasted no time as it leapt, landing on one of the assailants who'd sided with the scout, grabbing him up in its mouth and flinging him from side to side. The gnawed assailant's screams stopped, his broken and lifeless body flew threw the air and landed in the river, floating downstream slowly with the current.
The remaining three turned to engage the new threat. One of them jumped forward thrusting his saber into the leg of the beast. It easily dodged the blow trapping the attacker under its enormous paw. The other moved in to attack the beast's throat with a wide swing of his blade when Shaela shot forth instinctively swiping at the attacker's weapon disarming him.
"Consider that my act of mercy!" Shaela shouted at him.
Evan was completely caught off guard by these events but these men had made their choice and the devil was taking his due.
The scout was the only man left armed and he wasted no time when he spotted the kitten. He dove at it swinging his saber wildly laughing as he did. The kitten dodged the blade clumsily and the parent roared viciously upon seeing this. As it turned to deal with this threat to its young, its claws flexed out of it's paw and into the man it had pinned earlier skewering him. The disarmed man fell backwards crying for his life as the shadow cat's enormous jaws closed around the mid section of the scout. It bit down with a crunch throwing its head side to side violently. The scout hung limp from its mouth his head twisted completely around backwards.
The unarmed man clasped his hands together praying furiously for his life.
"Oh Lord please show me thy forgiveness!" his cries filled the valley.
The shadow cat dropped the scout's lifeless body and sniffed the kitten, then licked it once tenderly when it was sure of it's safety. A moment of silence engulfed the lot of them and they each became aware of their presence in this mess.
The Law And The Wytch
Evan turned to Shaela angrily and spoke hastily.
"What was the meaning of that! Those men had done many an ill but they didn't deserve to die before a fair trial!" he shouted at her.
"They got their trial. Right here. They made their choices and you were witness to that fact. Besides, they'd have given us a taste of their blade before they'd have dealt either of us their mercy!" Shaela spoke committed to her principles much as the law man was to his.
Evan's expression intensified as he questioned his better judgement in siding with the Wytch. She had done no wrong and clearly the scout and the others sought to use her for their profit. Evan failed to see the disarmed man retrieve his saber and thrust it towards Evan's back.
Shaela wasted no time firing a bolt of energy which skirted around Evan and into his attacker. The attacker gasped still trying to push forward with his blade before falling limp.
"West View should have dispatched you long ago you worthless coward!" he said to Evan as he died.
"You killed him! You didn't have to kill..." Evan pleaded angrily with Shaela before he heard the great cat behind him.
The giant shadowy cat beast roared and hissed at Evan rising from its place on the ground. The man who'd been skewered under the cat's great paws exhaled under the cat's weight though he wasn't alive to benefit from the forced breath. The beast closed the distance between itself and Evan in one bound then it held its place watching him for any quick movements and growling as it did.
Evan turned to see it for a moment then completely ignored it as he continued with his convictions. There was more at stake in these times than to be sniveling and begging for his own life before a demon such as that.
"If more t'were like that did stand trial for the malice they'd wrought, less innocents might die in their place and we might unearth the real devil here!" he spoke as determined as he did before minding his movements.
The cat beast bore its teeth and ingested a healthy volume of the air around Evan inhaling it directly behind him and tasting it. It was filled with his pheromones in a sampling of his sweat. The beast tasted it and found it to be pure of intent and sensed no malice from his smell. He was also absent of conscious malice and his intent for any was untainted. It immediately ignored him turning its attention back to its young, licking the kitten clean carefully. The kitten mewed and then lay still purring.
Shaela stared at Evan seeing a man that stood by his beliefs and worthy of his office with the law. His convictions did not have an arbitrary dollar value attached to them like the men whose bodies lay scattered on the ground. He could not be bought. Not even for the price of the sizable bounty that he might have made for her head.
The crows feet on his eyes indicated that he either smiled a lot or squinted a lot or both. A white handlebar mustache straddled his upper lip. His lower lip bore a scar that others who liked him boasted he'd earned in battle but the truth was that he'd gotten it falling from his mount ages ago. There was more damage to his ego than his body at that time.
Shaela figured his age to be in his late thirties or early fourties possibly ten to fifteen years older than herself. He smelled like a mixture of sweat and riding leather with a hint of pot-potpourri which his wife had fixed for him every morning to wear in a sachet around his neck. She figured it would keep the demons away and if not then at least he would smell good when he got home.
He had already seated his saber in its sheath and his hand went to his head to remove his hat, revealing a slightly messy thinning grey mat of hair.
"I am Evan, Evan Edwards M'aam of the West View Legal Office." he held his hat to his chest and bowed to Shaela, who blushed profusely.
"I am Shaela Of The Night..." she paused carefully before slipping again as she almost did "Just call me Shaela. Shaela Sheowellyn." Shaela responded to the law man.
"I've never seen a beast such as that, but I do reckon it to be a large mammal. Feline if I am not mistaken. Is it yours?" Evan asked Shaela.
"No. But I think that it's safe to say that its my friend though." She answered looking around at the dead bodies of the men who moments ago were going to kill her for the price of a few horses.
"Where are you from?" He asked her.
"Where are we now?" She asked him.
"We're a few miles from West View. Its just east of here about an hour by horse." He replied dryly.
"We had been in a search afore escaped fugitives. I'd think it more was the story of others in search for a quick bounty before the festival in Alivale though." Evan explained to her of their travels at this time.
"Alivale?" Shaela confirmed with Evan.
"Yes. The headquarters for the Wytch hunters. In that distant township you'll find the great festival of the Wytch Fall. Townfolk often increase their account of Wytches and the like in search of quick bounty before the Wytch Fall." Evan explained to her before continuing his story.
"Many of those fleeing the hunt leave the safety of West View in favour of the wilds and I've found many much farther than this at an hour much deeper into night. None have been criminals. Most are just scared. Tired. Hungry and lost." He continued obviously referring to the Wytch and demon hunt that had fueled a fertile bounty driven market for many towns across the country.
Shaela paused a moment while she thought about his answer. If there were no other major settlements and she'd never heard of West View then either they were nowhere near her home on a map or they were nowhere near her home on a calendar.
"What time is it and what year is it?" Shaela asked him again trying not to sound troubled.
His face contorted momentarily perhaps startled by her question but then he attempted to answer her realistically.
"The time is after midnight as far as I can tell. The year is 1654." Evan answered as best as he could though Shaela's face immediately turned pale as she fell backward and onto her rump.
"I think I'm going to throw up." She said nonchalantly before she did and the last vestiges of any nourishment she'd brought with her from the twentieth century were spewed onto the gravel bed surrounding them.
The kitten got up from its place beside its parent carefully sniffing her vomit before beginning to eat the perfectly size meal.
"I think I'm going to be sick." said Evan despite the fact that he'd seen a lot of death in his life.
This night's activity had finally gotten him right down to his insides.
"I'd say we should both be grateful that one's not hungry." Shaela motioned towards the giant cat.
It looked over to her upon hearing mention of itself and sniffed the air gently. As if on cue it turned its attention to the broken body of the scout his head still twisted around backwards. The shadowy cat beast snatched him up in its mouth and chewed crunching him then swallowing the scout whole, clothes and all.
Shaela and Evan both vomited in unison much to the delight and in benefit of the appetite of the growing shadow kitten.
The Last Arrival
Yirfir struggled against the tension in her solar plexus finally able to breath. She gasped furiously taking in big gulps of air making up for her minute of breathlessness. She sat up, immediately looking around and jumped to her feet when she could not see him.
"Jasmer!" she yelled.
"Fine. I'm fine honey." he stood and ran to her still trying to catch his own breath.
They caressed each other for a moment as the air in their lungs caught up with their need for it. They stood in their night wear in the midst of a large field. The air was warm and the soil was soft and healthy beneath their feet.
Yirfir bent down to sample a bit with her fingers and upon recognizing plough marks in the soil, she spoke.
"A farm. We're on a farm." She said to Jasmer.
"But where? This doesn't look like..." he hadn't time to answer before their answer came looking for them.
"Who there goes by way of the night?" A man's voice spoke from a half a football field's distance, an oil lamp dangled from a chain in his hand.
Yirfir looked at Jasmer as they considered whether it might be ok to answer.
"Hide in the field, I'll talk." Jasmer said to Yirfir, motioning her to a section of outgrowth.
She wasted no time and crouched her body and crept back to the spot Jasmer had indicated.
"There friend, I mean you no harm. I'm lost on this night and have most certainly stumbled my way into your field." Jasmer raised his hands indicating that he was unarmed and was of no ill intent.
He stepped forward towards the lamp bearing figure who approached in like. Upon having crossed the distance the man with the lamp examined Jasmer.
"From where'd ye collect such fine garments?" the man spoke of Jasmer's pyjamas, which although comfortable were far from fine clothing.
"I know of a tailor I'd give you tell of for a cup and directions." Jasmer answered trying to match the language of the man who confronted him.
"The crops are still too young to be of your worth. Are ye artificers of the Wytch?" he asked Jasmer, gesturing towards Yirfir who he'd obviously seen.
"Naye. Be th'art ask ye of one whose words bare no sharpened edges?" Jasmer smiled invitingly while gesturing to Yirfir.
She revealed herself and joined them, the man keeping his eyes on the two of them.
"Yirfir of the eld. My bride to be." Jasmer introduced her and she did her best to curtsy for the man taking Jasmer's cue.
"Aye and a beauty as her name is of the old land be it not?" The lamp baring man asked respectfully.
"One and the same." Yirfir answered maintaining a shy stance.
"I am Jasmer, just as I stand upon thy ground." Jasmer bowed for the man.
"Well met. I am Thedrick but most call me Thed." The man returned a bow.
Thedrick was an older man, at the ripe old age of forty nine he'd lived a pretty full life of hard work on his family farm. His hair was mostly grey as was the hair on the thick skin of his face. He was second generation and had helped build the stables with his father twenty nine years earlier who'd built the whole farm with his wife fifteen years before that. His life was a fruitful one and he'd done well with the farm until recently but he rarely spoke of that with friends nevermind strangers, especially since the loss of his wife.
"Well I'll be. I've not had company under such a moon for as many. Come and you'll get your cup, and a warm bed too if need ye. Daylight I'd reckon be yer best directions but you are close enough to town by foot." The man's smile stretched and he indicated his trust by giving them his back as he made his way to the house.
Yirfir pecked Jasmer's cheek and he winked back to her taking her hand. They followed the man back to his house. The night air led most of the way and Thed's lamp lit the rest of it for them. They stepped through an old wooden gate and through a pen, which during the day was active with hens, two roosters, three pigs and a cow. There was a stable with horses judging by the smell all of which were fast asleep.
They made their way around to the front door of a modest wooden house where Thed opened the door for Yirfir and Jasmer. It was a modest house made with a stone and mortar foundation topped with thick wooden walls and a storage area in the roof. The entirety of the home was one room with bedrooms sectioned off away from each other. None of the interior walls went right to the roof and this gave it an open look and made it appear quite large. All of the furniture had been hand built by Thedrick's father and the quilts hand sewn by Thedrick's mother. There was a stone oven which served both as heating for the house and as an oven for baking or a grill on its top face. It was filled with coal and embers still glowing from its use the prior day. He closed the door and offered his guests a seat by the stove.
"Home as t'were and by my father built with his own two. Find comfort here." Thed offered them, the loneliness in his voice apparent.
Jasmer pulled a chair for Yirfir and presented it to her. She took it graciously and he sat beside his wife to be.
"Would a mug of mead be to yer liking?" Thed asked them both.
"That would be most kind, Thed." Yirfir replied.
"And for I as well." Jasmer answered enthusiastically.
Yirfir looked around the room taking in the rustic look of the building when she noticed a row of paintings on the wall. Each was a portrait presumably painted by a local artist with a hand carved plaque under each of their names.
"If pray tell I do ask of you, who are they the paintings?" Jasmer asked noticing Yirfir's curiosity.
"The left is my father and the a next is my mother. The lady of the right is my wife. Rest their souls each with the Lord. I'm grateful for yer want of the know." Thed said with dignity returning with a steel mug for each of them.
They examined the contents of the mug seeing a thick and murky fluid with a pungent but fruity smell. They thanked him and each took a drink. They were greeted with a pleasant but aged taste with a bit of an after bite. Jasmer held his mouth for a moment after trying it to make sure he didn't cough it onto the floor of which Thed took no notice.
"Your wife, is she still here at the farm?" Yirfir asked Thed compassionately.
"No. She is not. I... She was taken by... by them in the day. A half year ago." Thed took a seat across from them.
"Whom would take yours?" Jasmer asked a look of serious inquiry upon his face.
"The hunters. They're a plenty now. She was possessed by the spirit Wytch of Widow Dainla they said. We'd best not speak of..." Thed's voice tapered off.
Yirfir looked to Jasmer once again, a serious look of concern on her face.
"On our way to this place, we had an accident. Jasmer's head is still amiss. What is the date this day?" Yirfir asked, once again her compassion apparent.
"This day as far as I reckon be the eighth day of the seventh moon of the year sixteen hundred and fifty four. That I can as a worker of the land be sure. A moon or three before the bountiful gathering from the dirt." Thed offered them happy to get off the prior subject.
Yirfir's face flushed momentarily as Jasmer caught her.
"We'll take the bed you offered if you'd be so kind." Jasmer confirmed with Thed holding his wife.
Yirfir and Jasmer quickly settled into bed quietly discussing their options. The situation was much worse than they'd thought.
Copyright © 2014 Brian Joseph Johns