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|the second chapter to my little string of things like usual.||
Karnath had been with me throughout my sleep. I remember recounting all I had done to my prey in such detail as to give him a pleasurable shudder. He’d fawned over me and coddled me the whole night through. In my dream he’d come to me in a semi-physical form and sat with me in my pondering and machinations. I’d sorted them all out in colors and shapes that made sense only to me. He’d sat as a little boy would and watched with that childlike fascination.
Even though I wasn't drawn to him in the way he was to me, he didn’t seem to give it much thought. He was much larger than I was in this form or any other, but always in my dreams, I seemed so many years older than the current time. I was always garbed in a sheer white shift. It was little more than a square of white fabric folded in half with the sides sewn up and a hole cut in the top with collar and arm holes sewn into a fringe so that it left the arms bare. My hair was longer and loose in a cascade of silver. A silver circlet on my brow, my bangs brushed to one side. My hand had a ring on the middle finger with a bracelet attached by a bit of delicately linked chain mail. I was crouched on the cold floor that was smooth and patterned. My little painted memories littered the tiles like a pile of building blocks made for children. I scooted a few around and he reached over to run a gentle finger over the links on my idle hand.
I didn’t react and barely felt the touch at all, though I knew he was dying for my attentions to be turned on him. I also knew he feared that I might, one day, acknowledge him in the way that would bring us closer. He longed for it even as his apprehensions grew. Of course it made me think that he had more things to sort out than even I did. He reminded me off a little wolf pup my sister had found at the edge of the forest one day. Its mother had previously been killed in some sort of earthly disaster and my sister was bent on babying it herself. She loved on it and devoted all her attentions to it, but it wanted my brother’s attentions more. Tyrell was to have nothing to do with it and often times just ignored it. It would rise up onto its hind paws and rest the forepaws upon Tyrell's shins and he would only give it a little kick to shoo it away. It would raise the biggest fuss and wag his gray tail and whimper despite the actions to deter it from such behavior.
My sister never did find out what had happened to that pup. It was dead now. Killed on that same night she was. The same wolf that my father and brother had felled with their arrows. I’d taken it one night off of the porch deep into the forest and planted it with another wolf bitch to nurse as her own. She accepted it after much time as I helped it by brushing all lingering scents of human from it with a brief gust of wynd. It grew well enough wouldn’t you say? I never really understood where these fanciful little ideas would come into my head from.
I’d just built up the little shapes into some semblance of order when Armoth made himself known and carefully walked around the patterns. Karnath rose quickly and scrambled away from his brother. Giving him the proper, respectful space. Armoth reached down to me and grasped me by my upper arm and lifted me rather harshly.
He gave me a cruel shove back into reality and I let my eyes focus. My body shuddered as I could feel the weight of another’s gaze on me and the cold, damp dew coated my body and face. Silver beads of liquid were settled on the ends of my eyelashes. I blinked and it to an onlooker that I cried as I sat up and the moisture trickled downward and off my nose and hair. I could feel him watching me through the surreal link between us. He was upset about my game last night. I felt as much as his eyes burned into my silver soul.
"What is wrong, Armoth?" I asked innocently. No matter how disappointed or angry he got. He was hardly ever more than gentle. I knew this and used it to my advantage. Karnath was near, but not close enough to see me. The link between worlds was much like a little window. Only one being could see through at a time, depending on the size, and seldom could he reach through to actually touch the actors and props of the intricate plays set before him.
"You should know what is wrong, child. You had no need to harm that man as you did last night. Why did you do it? He meant you no harm and his death was not slated for another decade or so."He spoke with a rather pained tone. He’d taken the incident to heart. Thinking it his own fault and letting the guilt eat at him. For once I didn’t try to dispute his belief and reach to consume the grief into my own heart. It was my purpose as his negative counter-being to assuage anything negative that touched him. I let him feel it. I let it course like poison in his soul. He flinched a bit and, of course, accepted my choice, though I could tell by the way that he spoke next that he was in much pain. It nagged at me until I conceded and drew it into myself so that he sighed with relief. Love would have probably felt the same way to me, I decided; a stinging in the soul until someone could bleed the infection from my body and soul.
"You would rather have let him live those pointless years only to drink himself to his death in the end? You have the gift to see into the future part ways. I have seen pieces as well through my own logical reasoning. I doubt anything productive would have come from him in any time in the future." He sighed again, seeing that I didn’t understand. He paused to phrase his words carefully.
"Xeopholite, it’s not just that you claimed his life early. It is because of the way you took him. He died in much fear and great pain, when in the end his drunken stupor in which his life would have faded would seem to him a blessing."I sneered a bit. I refused to let his guilt find a place in me. I’d not done anything that hadn’t brought me pleasure. He should have been relieved that I wasn’t so restless anymore.
"It matters not. Past slights cannot be erased by good deeds done presently. " I’d heard that somewhere. I’m not sure when. It was most likely in one of my Outings as an infant. I had often times traveled to a frightening realm of Eyrth. The speed at which that world progressed had startled me from the moment I touched it and I’d sought to avoid it, no matter how many great wonders there were there to see. I was silent now as Karnath spoke with Armoth within their realm and out of my hearing.
"I suppose I should form a compromise. I understand that you have a blood lust. It’s in your nature. You were created in that fashion to accomplish all the things I hadn’t the heart and Karnath had not the physical body to do."I listened now. Somewhat curious as to what he was proposing. "I will leave you to take the lives of your victims as you wish, but take them only under my consent. I will send to you a small number of beings to claim in short amounts of time or, at times, in masses at once over many hundred years. Life must be continuous. You have chosen your name wisely and we have accepted it. You will now employ it as fit. What think you, daughter?" 'Daughter'? I couldn’t think of him as a father figure, but that is what he wished to remain and I was forced to accept it as fact. He would be lost to me as a lover but never far from being there to comfort and guide as a father could. As any daughter should do I considered his proposal and found it to be acceptable. What else could be thought of it? I had no purpose and this, at least, would give me some meaning to the life they’d bestowed upon me.
"As you wish, dear Armoth." I felt his approval shine upon me and for once, the light and warmth gave the emptiness in me no solace, nor did it shine into the dark things in me that were becoming stronger than all the small, luminous flecks in myself. Silver turned to steel.
And so I became, for a time, The Silver Death… I had no other purpose or thoughts of my own save for the pleasure in the killing and the thrill of stalking. I could play with my victims as I chose, but they, themselves, were not of my choosing. Armoth refused to actually speak to me of which mortals I was to claim, and so Karnath was allowed to accompany me for longer periods of time as he explained to me which were to die and which to live. He enjoyed it when I would let his conscious thought into mine so that he might experience, through me, the ecstasy in the kill. He and I were of the same breed. He was perhaps a fraternal twin; born of the same desires and wants, but bound by different chains and bloods.
I can’t say that we grew close. He was merely a chaperone in my eyes and I refused to let him become little else more. For the many years he was with me, I sensed, all the while, that Armoth was with another. Devoting his time to another that was not myself. Caring more for them than he did for me. I who adored him and wished for nothing more than a time with him; I who wished for impossible things to come to me. I was bitter and would speak cruelly to Karnath. I liked when he was angry. It made the time pass more quickly and with more interesting attributes. There were times when he wouldn’t speak to me even when I bade him to. I quickly found things to bait him with when I wanted him to come back, but most times I let him sulk about in his own corner of the realm.
All that was left for me was to kill … and to live as best as a soulless creature can. That wouldn’t satisfy me for long. It couldn’t for anything with a mind, if not a heart. Soon the deaths came too easy and I was soon to stop aging. I was nearly 17 when I made a choice of my own. I wanted the extra strength, power, and I wanted back the pleasure that killing could grant me. I believed I was ready for the immortality that I figured was owed me…
"What is wrong with you?? Why are you being so difficult? I was only asking you a simple question. You needn’t get so moody!"Karnath quailed pitifully when I had snapped at him to be silent. The worn boots on my feet crunched on the dirt of the road that I walked on. They kicked up dust that collected with the rest on my dirty brown slacks that were secured upon my narrow, boyish, hips by a bit of rope. A simple shirt was worn over my upper torso with a pale vest that did nothing to show off any feminine curves I might have had. My hair was coming loose out of a long pale ponytail that I’d neglected to redo for a while now. I had a tendency to be rather lazy in these times when there was so much still new to me that I had to learn.
"I don’t want to speak with you right now, Karnath. Do us both a favor, and leave me be. Go to your wives and find pleasure in them. You’ll get nothing but rejection here. I refuse to caress your soul as your psychic whores are trained to do. You’re no better than the Lessers. Go, and sate yourself there." I smirked as I felt the fury rise in him. He had not even asked anything of me but where I was going this day and what I had planned to do. He was more than slightly embarrassed that I knew of the personal habits he had. He was much more powerful than a Lesser and my words had insulted him for they still took wives and were still very much human. He’d graduated from that level some time ago when he’d left his physical body for his ethereal that he could will into physical manifestation whenever he chose to. He started to "storm off" and I allowed my self a moment of satisfaction before I heard his last departing words in the back of my mind.
"At least Ican take pleasure in another’s company without losing my soul…" I stopped and blinked a bit. I hadn’t expected such a retort from his lips. I thought on it and found that it was irrelevant to anything. I, and my kind, were made to carry out the whims of the Elders, not to find love. Physical pleasure was lost to me after all the blood was gone. They’d bound us in that way so that if we were to share a night with another, as lovers did, we would be trading in our souls (for we all had one) for that one pleasure. A soul was what gave us free will. A total lacking of a mind and sense of life seemed a worse fate than ceasing to exist. I was jarred out of the though as I finally took notice that I’d stumbled into the market of a small commercial village. I moved through the masses of darkly tanned people speaking many dialects till I found the stall I was looking for.
A rather portly man with a staunch expression hidden in his rough black beard and mustache was tending a counter full of rather coarse materials and a few thinly spun and tightly woven kerchiefs. He had his pudgy little hands balled into fists on his sides and seemed to be beaming with pride at his little collection. After a few glances at these I spoke to him without actually looking at him.
"Have you no other cloths you keep for higher lords and nobles of the town. Or perhaps saved for the baron himself?" I could tell he surveying my rather drab form. I wasn’t very imposing in size, tall, but not built as if I had any strength in me at all. He was staring at my hair for long time as if appraising it. Though it was in dire need of trimming, it could still fetch a pretty price to a wig maker or even more should the hair be sold with the body to a slaver. He grunted in distaste as his thoughts ran away with him and barked a response to me.
"I might. What of you, then? Are you claiming to be one of those lady nobles?" he was, of course, indicating my ragged clothing and I suppose that I wasn’t exactly the cleanest of people at the moment, though I bathed almost every other night whenever I happened upon a body of water large enough.
"I claim nothing of the sort, though, I might posses as much wealth, if not more as they. Will you show me the material?" I still didn’t do him the courtesy of looking at him, even when he leaned over the wooden counter and reached to clasp me in a none too respectable fashion. Only after his hand groped a little did I actually raise my eyes to him, icy and severe.
"You don’t look like you can afford such treasures, my dear. You look almost fit to put into the poorest of the brothel-" he didn’t get a chance to finish his statement as I’d swiftly reached over to grip his shirt collar in my left hand and practically pulled his whole massive body onto the counter so that I could position my knife over his treasures. My voice, though calm, was like cold steel as he wriggled like a worm on a hot stone, his little pudgy legs kicking out as he held to the collar of his shirt to tug it loose enough to take breath.
"I had hoped not to stain your worthless cloth with blood but I will be forced to if you desire to irk me further." His eyes were wide with shock and horror as my knife pressed a little more into him to express my point. He stopped wriggling as a few onlookers only glanced at us with the usual curiosity that such a situation my call for.
"Will you consent to show me the finer material?" He nodded quickly and emphatically, quick to ameliorate his attitude, and I released him so that he reached up to rub his neck and stumble back, out of my reach, to a small chest at the far end of his little stall. He straightened his shirt and retrieved the fabric in query.
His grubby little fingers were surprisingly nimble as he smoothed out and sorted through a small pile of silks, then a few squares of light velvets of all colors that one could have desired. Not surprising that he wouldn’t dare to bring the whole bolts of these fabrics, they were worth almost more than the rest of his cottons combined. I reached my slender fingers to clasp the small square of black velvet; it was cool and smooth under my hand as I stroked it softly. He watched me and whetted his lips a bit with his tongue.
"It is for the local priest here. The one in the church a few yards out of the town. He usually doesn’t have to place an order too often. Prides himself on frugality, that one…" I’d seen all I could and only faintly heard him speaking. He rambled on about other things that I didn’t think were too important. I interrupted his train of babble to insert a question.
"Where is the town’s tailor?" I looked directly into his eyes and he shuddered and looked away and pointed offhandedly down the street.
"A little farther down the street, next to the grocer, but if you like, I can get one of my wives to fashion you the garment you desire, she is the one who wove these silks you see here." He made a brave attempt at a smile, but faltered when I only stared back at him.
"I would commission you if you could have what I required in around 2 days. Could you do that?" I knew this to be a rather insane request, but I was curious to see if he could accomplish it. Much to my amusement, he nodded an affirmative rambling about how he could get his daughters to help him in the task. He gestured for me to step behind the counter as he drew the flap down over his stall and put his samples back into the chest after retrieving a bit of rope to tie knots in with my measurements. His hands shook a bit as he caught sight of the numerous weapons that were stuck into the waist of my trousers.
It didn’t take much bartering to bring the price down to around 250 silver or 25 gold for the finished outfit that would consist of pair of rather tight fitting trousers, vest, and then a white shirt made of some loose-fitting material. I paid him and he set about to ordering his little crew of wives and daughters to working and even the adept little sons he had.
"I’ll return in two days to retrieve it. Have it ready." I didn’t feel it necessary to give them an idea of what would happen if they should fail to accomplish this. I tossed the coins onto a convenient flat surface so that they all landed almost neatly. One coin threatened to teeter off the edge and, though, he reached to stop it, I only curled one finger to coax a wynd to lift it back and place it with the rest. He gaped as I pushed the flap to the side and stepped back out into the streets. They had quieted some as the sun was starting to set. I decided to find a place to stay for the night. I hadn’t ever stayed in an inn before and thought it might be an interesting venture.
The door to a rather respectable inn was propped open as I approached it. There were one or two individuals lurking around the steps. They watched me silently as I passed. I spent a moment looking at them. One was a woman, pretty, with a child. Both of them had the most beautiful pale brown hair. I remember the mother looking away as she gave me one look over. She turned her daughter’s face toward her blue skirts protectively. I allowed her the courtesy of a slight nod before returning the curious glances her child was entreating through the folds of her mother’s dress. I remember wanting to touch her, hold her as if she were mine. This startled me and I pushed it from my mind and looked away and to the innkeeper at the desk.
There was really nothing nondescript about the whole establishment. Everything seemed much like a tavern with room accommodations, which, I'd figured, was not too far from the actual truth. A singster had claimed a corner for himself and was entertaining with boisterous songs. Nothing really special about him sticks in my mind. The same held true for the innkeeper. Though, he reminded me of a weasel, I believe, and I figured if all my weapons hadn’t been in plain view that we might have had a different idea on the amount of money one night’s stay was worth to him. I think the reason why so many of the people actually watched me was because they couldn’t discern if I was a woman or a man.
I’d label that as pretty reasonable as I did look quite a mess and the merchant had only figured it out by the way I spoke. He gave me a sorry looking brass key and sent for one of the little girls waiting by the counter to show me where the room was. I waved her away and went immediately up to the room. I ascended a flight of steps till I reached the second landing and moved down the narrow corridor to a room on the left. To the right was a rail and you could see down to where three long wooden tables with benches on either side were sitting men and women eating their early supper. The place smelled like many unwashed people, I wrinkled my nose at that, but since I happened to be one of them, I couldn't say anything, now, could I?
I locked the door again from the other side and looked at the small apartment that contained only one small, narrow window, no glass, but rather a single, wooden shade on which the locking clasp was broken. The bed was a cot with a covering of a rough woolen blanket and a pillow made of scraps of material too small to be made into anything useful. There was a single table with a candlestick on it. The candle was absent and there wasn’t anything to light one. It didn't matter. I didn’t need to see anything. All I felt was a longing to lie down and just sleep. That happened every so often where I suppose the world just bored me. It seemed common enough for the rest of the world to get in such a mood as well.
I didn’t even bother to pull off the old boots off my feet when I sat down on the edge of the cot. It rocked a little as one of the legs seemed to be a just a little shorter than the rest. I swung my legs up and lay back slowly. The shade over the window was left open, but I couldn’t see out of it as my head was at the same wall that it was. I sat up again and switched sides so that my head was closest to the door and I could now see the other roof and tree tops out of the window.
I tucked my hands under my head and just stared out of it, counting the stars perhaps. I smirked a moment as this felt rather familiar. Just lying there and looking out of a small hole in the wall, whereas before it was a small hole in the roof. I yawned once and moved a little to better position myself on the cot. I closed my eyes and almost conjured the sleep to come to me as I looked once more at the star I’d been staring at.
I was to awaken the next morning to the sound of a timid knocking on my door. I opened my eyes and winced a little at the light that was shining on me directly from the window. I wonder, still, if it had been fated that the sun should rise on this side of the inn so it could deal me such a blow first thing in the morning. As it was, I sat up slowly and stretched my arms out. I’d not moved at all when I’d slept. Again there was a quiet little knock. I looked over my shoulder at the door debating whether I should bother to even open it or not. The third knock decided it. I didn’t think they would leave if they were that persistent to get my attention.
"What do you want?" I was busy stretching my legs when the soft answer sounded muffled through the door. There was a rather long pause until someone finally answered.
"I-I have a message from the cobbler." I sighed and I have to admit I was a bit irritated, but I stood to open the door nonetheless. I looked out, then had to scan down as my visitor happened to be the lovely little girl-child I’d seen the day before. She was dolled up in a neat brown dress and pinafore, a white bonnet was tied over her hair. She clasped her hands behind her back and smiled up at me, rather bravely, even when I didn’t return it. She was quite young as she was missing her two front teeth. But somehow, that seemed, only, to increase her charm. I found myself speaking a little softer to her as I inquired. She giggled a little and twisted her little body side to side as children were oft to do, I raised a brow at her.
"What’s the message?" I didn’t have much patience for children, no matter how attractive. She took her time trying to recall her message, then cleared her throat, and replied. She stood up straight and tall and seemed to look up at the ceiling as she recited it in her head before it came out of her mouth. She lisped slightly.
"Cobbler Stephen Martier, … would like to ex-tend…" she looked to me to be sure that she’d said that word correctly then continued when I gave no response. " and in- invitation to his shop after hearing of your pur- chases from the cloth merchant." After completing her recital she smiled her snaggle-toothed smile again. I thought a moment and mentally checked my money. I had more than enough, of course. I really had nothing better to do for the day so why not go and finally get a decent pair of boots to go with the pending outfit?
"Very well. Is the cobbler your father?" How could he not be? He surely wouldn’t send any other than his prettiest daughter for such an errand would he? In either case, she nodded her head emphatically and numerous times. "Tell your father that he can expect me in an hour." The girl’s smile widened and she made a small curtsey and scampered off. Her little bare feet sounding on the boards softly. She grasped the rail of the steps and descended them one at a time with great concentration before taking the last one in a little jump and rushing out the inn door.
I watched this from the rail in front of my room. I leaned over the edge a little and looked over the rest of the room while I was there. I sighed and drug myself away from the view back inside my room, closing the door. I did a quick inventory of my knives. I reached up while I thought and scratched an itch at the back of my neck before tucking a wisp of hair behind my elven-shaped ears. I paused and reached to grasp another lock and stretch the loose curl to examine it in front of my eyes.
I should look at least somewhat presentable, no? I moved to the door again and opened it to reach for the little cord next to the handle to sound for a servant. I gave it a little tug and could hear a little chime of a bell from down below. I shut the door again and sat on the cot to begin to untie the knotted laces of the boots until another knock sounded on the door. It was followed by a sharp inquiry. I didn’t even bother to stand to answer the door. I only shouted through that I needed a comb and scissors. A short pause before a soft parade of steps faded away. It didn’t take her long to return with a companion to carry a small basin of water and a mirror. Her companion had a towel and a slip of soapstone. I let them come into the room and set the basin on the little table then after they didn’t leave I got up and "helped" them out. They were rather eager to help such a money-ridden resident in such matters. I flinched and shut the door on them, turning the key in the lock.
I looked at the water and the little slip of soap. I just stood there a long while, not really knowing why before setting up the mirror so that I could see myself. Then, removed my shirt and such before getting my hair wet and proceeding to wash it out in the water that soon turned dirty with the bits of straw from the cot and just dust. I wrung the wet mass out and then set to work with the comb. It took quite a while to get the tangles out. I clipped some of the ends off all around then separated a little row of hair in the front and cut that shorter than all the rest so that I had neater bangs now. I combed at these until they dried. The rest I had tied back in a ponytail using the same cord that held it before.
I reached into the little pouch at my waist and pulled out a rather long length of yarn dyed black that I’d proffered from a shepherd’s stores when I’d passed one night. I measured a piece of this and took one of my knives and cut it and quite a few other pieces of the same length. Rolling up the rest of the yarn and placing it back in the pouch, I moved the pieces so that they were in a row on the cot. I moved them without touching them and only with a thought. I separated my hair into smaller parts and set to plaiting them into tight braids before tying them with a piece of the yarn in the modern gentleman’s fashion where the cord wound through the braid and coiled around the ends. After I’d finished I looked at my reflection in the mirror and worried at the end of my thumbnail. I looked, then, at my nails and submitted to need and took one of my knives and carefully trimmed them.
I stood again and washed my hands and feet in the soapy water before putting on the boots again. I left the water and scissors there, not really knowing what else to do with them and left the room, not bothering to lock it. If anyone wanted anything in there they could take it. I left without speaking a word to anyone and walked the streets in search of the proper shop the child had told me of. It took me a rather long time to find it as people kept getting in my way, and rather than help them along, I just let them move of their own accord. The way they all moved was something I rather liked to watch for some reason.
I stepped up the steps to the door and lifted the latch; the little bit of wood hung on a string on the back of the door knocked as I closed it and looked around the humble little shop. It had a few worn rugs on the floor to battle the chill of stone tiles. I believe I flinched a bit as a small rabble of older children came parading into the room and about me before I let a few sparks jump from my fingertips and growled softly at them. They squealed and skittered away like little swine.
The cobbler greeted me after a short while and managed to have a pair of black boots (in my size) in the making. They would be lined with soft black fur. I didn’t really like the smell of them, but what could be expected. Let’s see, oh, yes. Well after I managed to escape from that little haven of compliments and such, I slipped my hands into the pockets of my tattered trousers and stared at the dirt whilst I walked. I was deep in thoughts of things I can’t recall even now, I only half paid attention to the street, but I remember seeing a horse’s hoofs imprinted in the powdery dirt, and then a little chorus of giggles behind me.
I stopped and looked behind me and the little crowd of children scattered and broke into peals of laughter. I sighed, rather exasperated and turned back to my course, or would have, had a small little temple not impeded my path. I was rather appalled at how gaudy it was. There was so much incense burning in the little brass burners on either side of the door that I could scarcely breathe! There were filmy trains of silks hanging from the walls adorning stone figures. Ascending the little dais at the far end, I could sense someone’s gaze on me. I looked over my shoulder to a small woman watching me. Upon finding that I had sighted her she backed up quickly and into one of the stands holding a fragile idol.
It shattered into several pieces on the floor with a loud crash. The soft harmony of voices from side rooms ceased and a few pale and femininely oval faces peered into the main room at us. The woman was distraught and fell onto her knees and I suppose she muttered a few words of forgiveness. Whether to me or to the priestesses, I don’t know. But she tried to gather the pieces up and place them back together with the sheer will of her mind… and tears? I watched her silently as the soft chirps of anger were flaring up in the side rooms where the train of slim-figured redheads were moving around her and catching her up by her arms. I still watched as she released the pieces in her hands to fall into even smaller fragments.
I still won’t ever come to an answer why I bothered. I knelt down on one knee and held my hand out over the pieces, moving it in circles over them, and concentrated so that they moved together in a flurry into the same form that they had once been before the incident. They all grew very silent and looked to me with almost terror and awe. I lifted the little figure carefully into my hands and placed it back in its proper place and turned to leave the temple as they murmured amongst themselves as to who I could be.
A short while later the woman hurried to me and grasped my smudged and half rolled up sleeves in her fingers and looked up to face me as I looked down at her. I was much taller for some reason. Either that, or she was very short. She spoke hurried and offered her thanks repeatedly. I could tell she was trying to see which sex I was. I’ll have to admit it again, that I didn’t really look much like either. I had shifted the wynds around my form to hide it even more and she was still peering at me with narrowed eyes.
I found it quite funny, but did nothing more than shrug her off and return back to the inn to leave her to stand in the middle of the street staring after me. With this small illusion up, hardly anyone gave me a second glance, for I altered it to shadow my hair a bit more to make it more gray than silver. Ennui struck up a light yawn and took the steps two at a time, a bit uncomfortable at the odd feeling stirring in me. The reaction from the woman was making me uneasy. I lifted the latch to my room and closed it behind me as I leaned with my back against it. I looked out the window to another little apartment across the street. Two lovers were taking their pleasure of each other in the room opposite mine. I could make out their shapes easily through the glass window for the glare was moving to the other side of the buildings. I stood watching this with my hands overlapped between the door and the small of my back. My palms were against the dry wood. I watched them climb to their peak then collapse, spent, against each other before he brushed his hand over the woman’s body affectionately. I think I might have felt a little guilt for a moment before I looked away and to the cot. The table next to it had been cleared of the water and comb and the rest of the mess I’d left earlier. I removed my boots and lay down on the cot to sleep.
It took me a rather long time to fall back into the depths of surrealism. Though dreamless, I was resting until late in the evening. Voices could be heard through the wall I was closest to. I remained motionless and listened. They were two people quarreling. Or it seemed that there should have been two people, but by the tones, they were one in the same. I’d never heard anyone converse with him or herself. I found this rather interesting and just listened. I believe it was a conversation over "who" had the shiniest shoes. I never quite understood it, but the sound of the debate humming back and forth managed to lull me back to sleep again. I slept like this for another day. Waking only a few times when the mealtime bells were rung so that the guests could attend if they wished. I only found it annoying. How is a person to sleep in a place where there is a constant clamor? It mattered little after I pulled my conscious thought further into myself and fell into a deeper sleep. There must have been a bard in the inn this night, for the shoe debate had finished and was replaced by the sound of a lute being played quietly to different songs that I hadn’t heard before.
I set them to memory in the back of my mind hoping that it would come of use sometime in the in the future. I rather liked music, I still do. I like to take songs I’ve heard and … well improve them if I can. I have managed to fashion a new instrument of sorts. It’s a bit difficult to explain, and I digress in attempting.
I was able to learn a few words of many other languages by concentrating hard enough to lift them from the bard’s mind. Of course, it surprised me again when his music faltered when I did this, bad enough so that he had to start over again the piece he had just been busy playing. For another day I lay like this making my stay in the inn a total of three days, two of which were spent on the cot. I withdrew into myself, now, until the evening came up on the little village and the twilight colored all the buildings with the fiery colors that were like the dawn, but so much surpassed by the dusk. I was awake for the most part, merely lying there and listening, as I liked to do, when the boards outside my room were creaking in a soft chorus. The latch on my door rattled some then lifted slowly to allow the door to ease open with a soft groan from the hinges.
I didn’t move even as I heard the whispers from my intruders. I didn’t pay much attention to exactly what they were saying. They were doing their best not to make much noise. Quite a slipshod job if you were to ask me. I remained quiet while the little key in the keyhole dropped to a little clatter on the ground and the little hushed whispers that demanded silence to prevent further noise. They moved to stand by me. They murmured to each other softly as if discussing something. When I lay as still as I usually did, I might seem dead. I was like to play on this as much as possible. They must have thought me lacking life now, for I could sense the younger of the two reaching for the money pouch tied to the rope round my waist. It must have been the innkeeper and his son. Now I wasn’t very fond of thieves, being one myself, I found it rather offending that this one tried to steal from me. So, I made use of my little knife and let him know this by removing the offending digits that were so clumsily attempting to snatch at the purse. I swear that if I had been dead I still would have felt him trying to cut it loose.
My, well the poor boy went into hysterics. So very unbecoming of a young lad approaching 20. Well you should have seen the look on their faces once I reached down pluck up one of the now loose fingers from the cot and drop it over the edge with a look of distaste. I’ll tell you now, that the dear boy went pale from shock and dropped down to faint, holding that hand. His father, for I’m sure it was his father, was blubbering some sort of excuse to me. I only half listened to. He didn’t really know what to make of either situation. One of his guests rising from the dead right in front of him and his son’s finger rolling up to the toe of his shoe and against it. He quickly recoiled from it.
"We meant no harm, lor- lady! We had not seen you for so long that we thought something might have happened. We came only … to be sure that you were still in good health." I think I might have laughed at him, scornfully, for he drew back from me almost as quickly as he had his son’s detached digit.
"Ah, and you thought you could lighten my purse a little while you were at it, did you?" He looked abashed and didn’t much know what to say. It wouldn’t have mattered. I collected my boots from the edge of the bed and considered them before I dropped them back onto the floor on my way out of the room. I brushed back some of the braids from my face and descended the steps, ignoring the people who were drawn from their rooms at the shouts of the innkeeper for help to get his son off the floor. I went for the main door casually so that no one would think to try to stop me. I was not in the mood to battle against a few angry patrons at the moment.
The night was cool and so much more refreshing than the stuffy air in the inn could be. I don’t think I’ve ever liked staying in an inn after that first experience. Once in a while you could manage to find one that wasn’t so bad of company and of atmosphere that you could manage to actually get a few days of rest on your journey. But on most cases this was not to be expected. I decided that it might be a wise choice to take my leave of this village and so set out for the merchant’s home. Much to my surprise, a few lights were still lit in the home. I was rude enough at this age to just open the door and let myself in. The merchant, himself, wasn’t too thrilled about my late arrival as he and his wife were dining while his children were already asleep in their little cupboard beds. He got to his feet as the legs of the chair up on which he sat whined in resistance to the floor.
" What are you doing in my home??" he wasn’t entirely sure it was such a good idea to be questioning me when I didn’t seem in such a delightful mood. (Not that I ever really was in a good mood.)
" I need my purchases, Merchant. Would you be so kind as to retrieve them?" He bristled a bit, but curtly strode over to the big bed in the corner and reached under to withdraw a paper-wrapped parcel and then hand it to me. I didn’t even give him thanks and just took it under one arm and out the door. He went out to stand in his doorway with one arm back to keep his wife within the house while I crossed the dusty streets. I was on route to the cobbler now, only hoping that he’d managed to get the boots done. I asked after knocking upon his door as he’d had the sense to keep it locked. He sent for them via his little daughter and I asked for a journey pack to carry them in. He looked as if he wished to charge me for that as well, but one look killed the idea before it had a chance to breathe past his lips. I put them inside along with the parcel.
I started down the road once more only to be cut off by a rather large group of villagers, headed by the innkeeper himself. I had to admit I was rather impressed. I hadn’t thought the man was capable of retaliation. His son was absent so I assumed he was either still fainted or just too afraid to show up. I didn’t like this at all. Too many people at once were not my idea of a pleasant time. Too many people to spell at once and too big a crowd to try to summon elementals. Another thing that I knew could not possibly be good was the fact that one of them was very familiar.
"Greetings to you again, child." It was the man from that village time ago. The comrade to the man I’d killed that time ago. My first human kill. How sweet it had been…and how ephemeral. Seeing him there suddenly brought back an entourage of wonderful images and scents of that death, but also with it, caution. I was able to get a good look at him once more. He’d grown scruffier; whether with mere neglect or with stress I wouldn’t know nor care. He seemed to find a satisfaction in the fact that I had realized whom he was and had the sense to think him a threat. I did, but not as big of one as he seemed to think. I suppose I considered him more of a nuisance than any real danger to my life. I don’t remember replying to him and my silence was rewarded with a question.
"Where is thy mother and father? Or rather, where is the man with the sword that frightened you so?" I did not wish to begin anything here with the crowd that was slowly turning into a mob. As strong as I could be, the numbers were not in my favor and much to my dismay I couldn’t sense any strong Elemental taps. They were there, of course, but they were weak. The technology and agriculture of this little town had destroyed most of them or severely lowered their usefulness.
I was hoping to grope for some stronger fyre or eyrth ones, but they were lost to me and so I merely attempted to pass him only to find that my way was deterred as he side-stepped into my path. He pushed me back into the rail of one of the scraggly homes. The wood of the rail had splintered in places and the little slivers of wood stabbed into my elbow with the tiniest of pains. I glared at him, still giving him the chance to back away. I could still decimate this town if I so chose. Wynds were not only my friends, they were part of me and I could call them out of myself and into the rest to a great power. The only thing keeping me from pulling this off was the 'compromise' I'd made with Armoth about which to kill and which were to live. He'd not said I could kill these.
"Let me pass, or Regret it later." That irritating smile remained on his face at my warning. He raised his eyebrows in what would seem as a mockery of shock or surprise, or perhaps just extreme amusement. Either way it was corrosive to my nerves and grew broader with every second he let linger before he finally deigning to give me an answer.
"What will you do with me if I should not, Death?" He’d put just enough emphasis on my translated name to cause a ripple of whispers and gasps to radiate through the crowd; anonymity was lost. "Will you kill me just as you murdered my brother?" I did not have time for this. I had to get away before they decided that they didn’t want the Silver Death in their town, or world, any longer and would try to take matters into their own hands. I was lax to use the power I had at my discretion for they tended to leave me for long stretches after they’d serviced me. If confrontation could be avoided I would take the path that expended the least amount of energy to keep my reserves. While I looked over him, I noticed that his throat dragged my gaze to it. At the odd little patterns the dirt and dust had made upon his flesh. I pulled my eyes away from that sight. It would be time, soon. As soon as I could manage it, but this came first.
"I warn you again. Let me pass." He shook his head and let it hang and I thought I heard him sob. I canted my head to the side a bit when I realized it was laughter. Laughter? That was a puzzle. I hadn’t expected that reaction, but neither was I too startled. And I also forgot to be startled, as I knew the cold taste of metal against my throat. What did startle me, was the scent. The scent that wafted up to my nostrils was blood; old blood. Familiar in it’s particular tang, but distant as a dried rose’s perfume fades to only the memory of it. I cast my eyes down to view what there was to see. The blade was covered –no- stained with blood. Almost black instead of the bright, silvery metal it should have been. I knew the knife. It was the exact one I’d used on the man’s brother. The very knife that had slid with a slight grate into his skull to drive into the soft mass that was his brain and let the inky red blood trace over the bridge of his nose and drip down to the ground. How hard it was to keep from running my tongue over the blade to freshen the crust to a sweet paste to lap at. Those eyes of his that were burning with hatred saw how I recognized the knife and his maniacal smile was quickly fading.
"You remember now, don’t you?" He demanded to know. I answered simply, as always, with a slight nod. I was careful not to let the point of the knife stab into me deep enough to break the skin. I slowly let a smile that lacked feeling spread over my face as I chose my words to cut deeper than any blade could have.
"I remember…" I slowly started to draw forward a step, straightening to what little height I had to match him. "I remember how pitifully he screamed for you, and you could not hear…or did not want to. I remember how his blood warmed my hands so deliciously, that I would have taken it and rubbed it over them as a lady would a valuable cosmetic to savor the fragrance. I-" My words were lost in my mouth as my cheek found his fist as he struck me hard. I regretted braiding my hair as they now snapped against my face as a second punishment. I couldn’t help but laugh, spitting my own blood upon the floor before I tongued the wound that was already closing with a familiar hunger. He dared to hit me, having an idea of whom and what I was. He obviously didn’t know well enough. A shame for him I suppose.
"I’ll kill you, bitch! For what you did to him. You butchered him… I’ll do the same for you as well. I’ll leave you for the wolves and crows to pluck your demon’s eyes from your skull. Let the sun sear your flesh till the stench could only be endured by the worms and maggots that would fester in your mouth and nose… And even that would be nothing to equal the worth of his life." He flipped the knife in his hands as the onlookers pressed back against those behind them, whilst others crowded forward for a better view. He lunged at me, then, as he thrust the knife toward my stomach. I narrowed my eyes and stepped to the side, nimbly. My hand was brought to my side clasping a globe of swirling Ayr that met with his stomach to causing the breath to expel from him in a choked cough. The cough reinforced by the blood gurgling up into his airway from a rib that had broken to send to splinters into his lung along with the knife that was now nestled into his belly where I'd guided it. All of this was done swiftly and deftly, as I was eager to be away from them all. I had to close my eyes forcefully against the powerful swoon that followed the scent of blood to my nostrils. I had to get away. Now!
I turned to go but he grasped the hem of my trousers, tugging them low over my rather angular hips. He was dying, of course, but the death was not coming as quickly as I would have hoped. And so I had to look down upon him as he rasped up to me through his wide, gasping mouth; his fingers trembling as he gripped the cloth as if he could pull himself away from death’s hold. His eyes were as wide as his mouth as he held my form hostage in the facets in which the pupils were already dilating.
"Why are you?" another half gasp of a cough sputtered out of his mouth as blood dribbled over his lips along with the lilting query. I think for one moment, aside for the lust of that blood and the urge to snatch him up and tear into his throat, I might have felt a slight glimmer of pity. It was a waste that he had to die without being of some use to me. I don’t’ think I would have felt sorry for his death for any other reason than the fact that I couldn’t claim anything from him yet without being a danger to myself afterward with so many others around. His words did not make sense. More logical to ask whom I was rather than why…Perhaps a misjudgment in his speech. I took it as such. I let a cold, empty smile touch upon my usually stolid features as I thought upon this for a moment.
"I am what I am…Xeopholite Tarise… Silver Death." Now my name did not necessarily mean exactly that. That was a rough translation. I believe it was more ‘shimmering end’ or ‘silver one who claims life’ something poetic along those lines. But simplicity seemed to work best with these people and so I left it be. They knew the name as that anyhow. Why disappoint them? Why bother with it? They’d be dead seconds after leaving this realm anyhow. Time was always different in each realm. While in this realm, time passed in seconds here while days leapt elsewhere. The same held true where the days flew in seconds in others crossing other spatial tangents. In others, still, time flowed almost backwards in spurts and gulps of segments of time. In any case, I could hear something cutting through the wynds. It was a stone cast from the disorganized ranks of spectators as they all analyzed their half-shocked minds.
They had quite an array of emotion bleeding from them. Some felt fury, fear, disgust, while others still held awe, and disbelief dearer to them. The man had collapsed dead upon the ground, as the stone still loomed closer to striking me. I whispered to the wynds to catch it up and send it veering back toward the one who’d cast it in the first place. A fleshy crack resounded for a moment before a woman screamed. Whether it was a scream of shock or pain wasn’t discernible. I felt free to leave now and so I turned and moved from the end of the little porch to the house with a little boost of elevation from my strong legs. My parcel was held close under my arm, as my feet never touched the ground. The winds caught me up in their many-fingered "hands" to bear me the short distance into the depths of the woods; my sanctuary.
Once I’d settled upon the ground once more near a small lake or an overly large pond, whichever you chose to describe it as, I shucked out of my clothes and tossing them to the side atop my parcel, waded into the water. The water rejuvenated mind as well as body. The water was deliciously cold and it seemed to nibble away all of the ache and weariness within it’s frozen maws. I remember swimming to the bottom of the water till I felt the soft powdery sand upon the watery floor. I slowly exhaled and let my body sink against it till I lay upon my back. I opened my eyes. After the stinging from the dirt and unclean water had passed, I could see the sky. It was late night or early morning; whichever seemed closer. The sky was black and only the moon filtered through the depths to a single distorted ray. I closed my eyes once more and let my lungs begin to feel the strain of being still. Of not having the luxury of breathing the air that was above, but not around. Eventually I emerged and waded out of the water to the shore. The wind lapped at my body with an icy tongue as I wrung out my braids and tied them back with one cord loosed from the rest.
"Be aware, child. Someone comes."Armoth whispered to me softly as I heard the light tread upon the dried leaves and twigs upon the forest floor. I turned to face it and listened as it drew nearer. Armoth had said someone…not something. Perhaps I had not moved far enough away from the village and they had followed me. No. It came from the opposite direction. I took a few steps toward the sound until a boy stumbled out of the line of trees, dropping his fagot of branches upon the ground and cursing softly as he collected himself. He bent to take the wood as he stopped and stared at me. I must admit I had not expected it to be a boy of such an age or with such a look about him. He looked as a young man would that should have already settled and had a mild-tempered wife to be set upon him. Perhaps, even, with a few offspring clinging to his ankles. He was not exactly handsome as most would judge it to be. He was rather straggly with an unruly mass of dirty hair that hung rather short about his face. His nose was overly large and his eyes seemed too close under a low brow and his stature was perhaps less than flattering.
Yet still, I was drawn to him. He seemed to be one of the most attractive beings I had ever encountered because of how human he was and because he was not an idolized image. He was whom he was for none other reason. Perhaps it was just the bloodlust that had a secret knowledge that soon it would be sated in such a way that I could not have imagined. He slowly stood as if I was a deer and he was afraid of startling me. He swallowed hard and even from this distance I could see the muscles in his neck working to make that saliva slip down his throat. His neck was lovely if not for the dirt that was ringed round it. I let my hand fall from my hair where it had finished twisting the cord to the proper knot. I was sure I was staring at that soft bit of skin just above the shoulder and just under the line of his jaw. Then Thirst struck me hard.
"Be cautious, Xeopholite. Be sure that you are ready."I made a face at him as if to give an answer as I started to give into the thirst and move closer to him. I can only imagine what he was thinking find some wraith of a woman, strikingly nude and with eyes ablaze with hunger. I suppose he could be thinking that I, and my body, hungered for him, and it did, but for what was crawling within his veins beneath his skin. He drew back involuntarily as I laid a hand upon his shoulder and let the other set upon his chest where I could feel his heart kick up in a stronger rhythm. He was scared and somewhat delighted at this discovery.
He would have pushed me onto my back, but I halted that by catching his lips up in a kiss sweetened by whatever blood I could claim to have gotten from the fae. He gave a little start of pained pleasure as my nails raked small cuts into his side below his ribs. Again my lips and tongue sought this new blood. The joy felt as I savored the heated flavor was voiced in a soft little moan to which my prey though his prowess had withdrawn from me. This was true enough and he was enjoying himself almost as much as I was enjoying him. I drug my tongue from those four lines I’d made on his side up over the one down the dip of his chest and to his neck. I set my lips on that place that the blood coursed vigorously through with such a beat. He had his arms around me now, though I still wouldn’t let him turn me upon my back as he’d have wished.
I was done with play now and let my teeth push into the skin and deep mindful not to punch directly into the vein so that he would not drain too quickly. Most of it was instinct now that I examine it. He tensed with the pain and then gave a shuddering groan and clutched me to him. I drank the fever from his unsmooth skin nearly as much as I did from the hot blood that spurted from his neck into my mouth. Tongue and lips worked now over that wound and he breathed as heavily as I moved one hand over his heart to monitor the beat as I nearly lost myself to the ecstasy that came from feeding. I could feel Karnath’s temper rising in jealousy and then his imposing thought trying to weasel into my mind to share in the emotions the experience wrought. I slammed my mind shut against him and I could feel the hurt that came from him even as my body trembled and shuddered as the boy's did when all his life left his body. His grip upon me weakened to nothing and fell away as the petals from a wilted flower.
I suddenly felt very drowsy and I drew away from the boy. He seemed asleep now, but in a pleasant one since he had a sort of rakish smile etched upon his face, his eyes closed. My body felt as if on fire and I fell onto my back as it raged within me. Too hot; too much painful light. None of the deaths I’d experienced had been like this. My moon… where was it? I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see anything at all. I was confused and my mind reached out for either of my guardians and Armoth was there, as I knew he would be along with Karnath who was struck with a fear for me. My body jerked with a spasm every so often and my back finally arched as the pain piqued then gradually ebbed in lighter tides and cool light flooded my senses. It took away the hurt and slowly I could see the stars…and the moon that slowly focused into the orb that it should be. More than it should. It took breath and expelled it, swelling in my vision as the soft white underbelly of a frog.
Each vein in the bright leaves had a heartbeat in which the juices were transported like water dripping from each finger of a hand recently brought out of a warm tub. I breathed deeply of the air that had seemed to elude me while the metamorphosis had occurred. So many sounds were pulled from the background and put into a chorus of their own. The beating of the trees, the respiration of the moon, the euphonic voices of the world lulled me. My eyes lost focus as the stars smiled sweetly to my drowsing mind that was soon lost to all conscious thought.
|Stained (chapter one)||Shadowslain|