Welcome back to the exciting fun of #OctoberFrights! Today, as promised, I have a short story in The Hunters Saga for you. This is a prequel story and those who are fans of the urban fantasy series may love some of the Easter eggs presented. I know finally getting to write the origin story for one of the characters has been such a pleasure for me and I hope you enjoy it as well.
Do not miss the other awesome stops in the blog hop. You can find them in the links at the end of the sample read.
Kishar swept her long black hair back over her shoulder and lifted her head from her basket to gaze out across the heads bent over their own basket. Her icy blue eyes met Cadeyrn’s soft honey brown eyes and a smile danced across his lips. She resisted the urge to smile back as she saw other heads popping up as they finished this section of the basket.
“Now, to finish a sturdy frame, we will take this piece of willow here…” she picked up the willow stick and began deftly weaving it around her basket frame. “And be sure that as you weave it, it is lined up properly. You cannot scoot it down several rows in, like you could with the fronds.”
As heads bent back over their work she spared a small smile at Cadeyrn. He winked at her and she could feel herself blush. She turned back to her work hoping he had not noticed.
Most of the people who had come to learn to make baskets had already left. The sun was quickly setting and only a young girl and her grandmother were left. Kishar smiled as she watched the young girl pointing out how to finish the willow weave for her grandmother.
“Good evening Isthal, Ninhursag. See you again next week.”
She gathered up her tools and the leftover materials and placed them in a couple of baskets. Then attached those to her yolk and scooped them up. Cadeyrn was bidding good night to the others but promptly turned and joined her as she headed out of the main gates. Kishar side-eyed his small basket, the only thing he carried besides his cloak.
“Would you like me to carry that for you?” Cadeyrn’s voice warmed the night chill. He was already reaching for her yolk and she ducked away.
“No!” She righted the swaying baskets. “You should stop,” Kishar admonished. “You know they will respect me less if they know.”
“Belteshazzar says that, but I do not know. I think he gives humans too little credit.”
“I think you see the best in humans, but he knows the worst. He is only trying to protect everyone. Like with the magic…”
Cadeyrn huffed. “I disagree. Why should we not teach those who are adept how to help others?”
Kishar bowed her head. There was no point in arguing this with him yet again. Especially as part of her didn’t necessarily disagree. Belteshazzar’s warnings of human greed and selfishness seemed void. They had worked with hundreds of humans in Babel and the surrounding cities. They all seemed good and kind and very community-led. Other than their short lifespans and the way they aged, Kishar felt that they were much like the Immortals. Or at least, much as her people were before. She could not fathom how helping them learn simple tools construction was allowed, but teaching them more advanced skills to help them make technological leaps was not. But the mission was to help them develop the knowledge to discover that greatness on their own.
Cadeyrn stiffened beside her and Kishar glanced up to see what was happening. A man stood in the road before them.
“Ba’el?” Cadeyrn called out.
A sob came from the loan figure and he collapsed before them. Cadeyrn dropped his basket and ran to the man. It took Kishar a moment longer to set down her yolk and go to them. Cadeyrn was cradling the man as he sobbed unintelligibly. He clutched a leather pouch in his hand and Kishar drew up straight. Those were used to keep sacred stones. Why did this human have them?
She was able to catch some of what he was sobbing. Someone had died. The stones did not work. Her guts wrenched at this man’s grief but cold dread settled at her spine. Cadeyrn had been teaching far more than simple herbal recipes and nature magic. Even many of the advanced practitioners among her own people did not have the skills to manage the sacred stones. If Belteshazzar knew then who knew what he would do to Cadeyrn.
Ba’el suddenly sat up, clutching Cadeyrn’s tunic and shaking him. “You can bring her back! We can still save her!”
Cadeyrn took the man’s hands gently and shook his head, such deep sadness in his eyes. “I am so sorry, Ba’el. Nature magic works up to the point of death. But bringing someone back from the dead… it cannot…. Should not be done.” The man’s face crumpled into more tears. His face was swollen and he had obviously been crying for a long time. As Kishar leaned over him to offer comfort she could smell death and decay clinging to him. Her nose wrinkled at the stench. Whoever had died had been very ill and the scent clung to the poor man.
He recoiled from her touch then sat back on his haunches, looking up into Cadeyrn’s face. A hardness stole across his face. “Cannot, or should not, Cadeyrn?”
Cadeyrn hesitated at the hard look on the man’s face. “Both. I do not know of any way to bring a person back from the dead. It is not possible with nature magic. It is unnatural and it should not be done.I am so sorry for your loss.”
Ba’el pushed away from Cadeyrn and rose. “You immortals!” he spat in disgust. “You claim to love us, to want to help us be our best selves, but you keep the most important things from us so you can lord over us. Why do you get to never age, never get sick, but you will not share that with us?” With that, Ba’el stumbled into the night, taking the sacred stones with him.
Kishar watched Cadeyrn as he watched Ba’el walk into the night. Cadeyrn’s shoulders slumped. “His wife Zariaa has been so sick since they lost their child in child birth. I… was just trying to help. He is so adept at magic, you can normally taste it on him….” tears glistened in Cadeyrn’s eyes. “But he does not understand that magic cannot fix everything.”
“He is so angry,” Kishar murmured.
“Of course he is. Their love was much like ours.” Cadeyrn scooped her up into a crushing hug and sobbed. “I could not fathom losing you. I can only begin to grasp his heartbreak.” Kishtar hugged him back with all her might. Tears leaked from her eyes, dripping onto his cheeks and mingling with his own tears. She pulled back, wiping his face. “Shhh,” she murmured, kissing him gently on his cheeks, his nose, his forehead. She hugged him tight again. “Such a loss is unimaginable.” She buried her face in his neck and breathed deeply of his vitality and life. How could mortals bear such loss?
Kishar wiped the sweat from her face and arched her back, gazing out across the field. She stood and stretched her back again, glancing down at the half finished rug she was weaving. A small white butterfly danced across the long grass at the edge of her station. Sighing, she scooped up a ladle of water in the bucket beside her. Taking a sip, she then poured a little over her hand and wiped her face with it.
Studying the others in the field practicing with their weapons, Kishar sighed. It had been 20 years since Belteshazzar began withdrawing their people from interaction with the humans.
Only months after they’d seen Ba’el on the road. In only a few months, the people of Babel had turned against them. As the hate, anger, and distrust spread throughout the land, her people withdrew even further from the humans.
After their fellow Immortal Azucar had been murdered on the high road, Belteshazzar ordered that defense training commence. They had not had to fight in battle in more than 500 years and the thought sickened Kishar. She watched as Cadeyrn swung his morningstar, wrapping it around poles and ripping them from the ground. While she could admire his grace and skill, the thought of him killing humans, even in defense, sickened her. The fear that he could fall clung to their every interaction of late.
This is not how life should be. But Belteshazzar had been right about humans and their greed and selfishness. He had not predicted their worst trait, though. Their fear. Someone had been whipping up that fear against the immortals. Kishar shaded her eyes to get a better look as a black spot appeared on the horizon. She squinted into the afternoon light to watch a bird as it swung over the field, searching. The bird dove towards their battle commander, Ichin. A messenger. It landed on his shoulder and leaned into his ear. He marched to the large horn in the field and blew it to bring everyone in. This could not be good.
Kishar gathered with the others in the field. Those who had been training brought their weapons with them. Those who had been working, left their projects where they were. As the crowd gathered, they whispered among themselves, wondering what new trial was upon them. Kishar observed Ichin’s normally bright countenance. No smile, no light twinkle of mischief in his eye.
“This must be serious,” she murmured. Hands snaked around her waist and Cadeyrn whispered in her ear.
“Serious, indeed.” He kissed her temple gently, smearing sweat across her cheek and hair. She leaned into him, the strong musk of his labor comforting her. She glanced about as more gathered, pressing in close enough to hear when Ichin spoke. Many others were also snuggled together. She waved to their friends Kitar and Shandahar who held hands talking to the side of them. Kitar pushed his way through the crowd, holding onto Shandahar to cut the crowd for the smaller man. They finally maneuvered next to Kishar and Cadeyrn.
“Dark days ahead,” Kitar muttered. “Word is they are stoning those like us,” he jutted a chin towards Shandahar, “in Babel.”
“There are no more of our people in Babel?” Kishar whispered.
“Not our people,” Shandahar clarified. “Men who love other men.”
Kishar couldn’t stop her gasp of surprise. “They are killing humans because of who they love? What madness!”
“They say it is because it is unnatural, like the immortals themselves.” Kitar sighed.
Cadeyrn let loose an incredulous laugh. “Humans do not understand nature at all.”
The men all nodded in agreement.
Ichin raised his hand for silence. As the murmur of the crowd died down he touched his throat and murmured an incantation that enhanced his voice so all could hear.
“A messenger has informed me that there is a hoard just over the Western mountains descending on the valley. He reports that there is all sorts of dark magic at play. We must prepare our defenses.”
Cadeyrn hugged Kishar tight and she realized she was trembling. Dark magic.
“The magi will lead the defenses. Regiments will provide backup support. Those magi here will join me now. We do not have time to delay. The rest of you relay the news to those still in the village and join us with supplies and weapons as soon as you can. We must hurry!”
Cadeyrn pulled Kishar into a tight embrace. “I must go. You warn the others.”
Kishar wrapped her arms around him tight, a cold dread wrapping around them. Tears eked from her eyes and she swiped them away with one hand. “My beloved, be safe. I will join you as soon as I can!”
He kissed her in a way he had never kissed her before. As if he were memorizing every detail. As if there would never be another. When the kiss ended she was weak in the knees. She cupped his face, gazing into those soft honey brown eyes filled with sorrow and dread. The lump in her throat prevented her from saying more. There was no more to be said. Now was the time for action.
She bolted through the crowd of people dispersing on their tasks, glancing back only once to see Cadeyrn already gathering with the other magi. Her long legs and the urgent fear drove her to the village before any of the others. She ran to the ramshorn at the townsquare and gasped to blow it, the wind escaping her momentarily and the sound came out as a plaintive whine that drew surprised stares from those in the marketplace. She caught her breath and blew into it again. The people of the village gathered, all staring at their comrade drenched in sweat and still winded.
Kishar focused on calming her breathing so she could speak as loud as she could. She was not gifted with magic and could not amplify her voice as Ichin had done.
She raised her arms for silence which fell quickly across the crowd.
“The humans are coming with dark magic from the Western mountains. Ichin and the magi are already on their way. Gather weapons and supplies, tell your neighbors, and then go to support the battle. Quickly!” With that, she leapt from the ramshorn and bolted through the crowd that was already in motion. Weaving through the people, she headed down a side street to the small home she and Cadeyrn shared in the south of the village. Snatching up Cadeyrn’s hunting pack, she began stuffing it with food and supplies. When it was full, she grabbed her sword and sheath, strapping it to her waist, and grabbed Cadeyrn’s sheath of throwing blades, tossing them over her shoulder.
The village was a scramble, everyone gathering weapons and supplies. Kishar pushed through the crowds, heading for the western path. As soon as she was clear of the throng, she picked up her pace, jogging towards the western mountains. It felt like only moments had passed since Ichin had given his directives, yet Kishar could tell by the long shadows cast before her that it had been hours. With each bound the shadows grew longer and Kishar’s heart grew heavier. The fear of the unknown that awaited them pulled at her, weighing her down. But the fear for Cadeyrn was keeping her from collapsing under this weight.
As the gloom of dusk settled over the valley, Kishar had to slow her steps so as not to trip. She could hear the sounds of battle above her somewhere on the trail into the mountains. Small explosions of light let her know she was still about 2 miles away from the battle. The ground rumbled with other blasts. She wondered if the magi were calling the trees for help.
A deep rumble shook the ground, nearly knocking her off her gait and sending rocks and scree down on her from the trail above. She skipped and dodged the largest stones, but one sharp stone sliced across her cheek and she could feel her warm blood streaming down her face as she continued to pick her way through the trail.
A flurry of motion tackled her from the side of the trail and she and her assailant slammed into a tree. Her sword was pinned behind her and she struggled with all her might to push the man away from her so she could defend herself. She could smell death in the air as she fought for purchase. How was this human so strong?
A blast of magic shot into the air, lighting around her. In horror, she saw her assailant. What was once a man was now something dark and twisted. There was no intelligence in his eyes. He lunged desperately for her face as if drawn to the blood still streaming from her cut. She was squeezing his throat to keep him back and realized that his trachea had collapsed, but it was not stopping him.
Scrabbling to create some distance between them so she could get to a weapon, she felt a fear she had never known. The fear of dying. There was a boulder between the tree and the mountain on her left so no escape that way. She tried to shift them to her right, getting some space around the tree. Her attacker slipped in some scree and she was able to break free, running into the trees behind her. She pulled her sword from her sheath and whirled on the attacker again as he came after her. One strong cut and his head dropped to the ground. The body stopped, hanging lifeless for one moment. Instead of collapsing as she had expected, it began stumbling about towards the head. Looking over, she saw the head looking towards the body. Bolting around the flailing body she kicked the head away from them as hard as she could, then headed back to the trail.
As she moved further into the battle, she was met with many more grizzly scenes that she had no time to process. Occasionally she would stop to assist one from her community who was in danger of being overwhelmed. But all the time her heart demanded she keep searching for Cadeyrn.
As the grey morning light began to tinge the tops of the mountain ahead, the enemy began to disperse. Kishar kept fighting even as they fled, searching desperately for Cadeyrn. But there was no sign of him. As the sun peeked over the mountain it seemed there were no more humans to battle. The immortals began retrieving their dead and wounded.
“Kishar, we have need of your healing!” a voice called to her as she searched among the dead. She stumbled over to assist. It was Shandahar. He was holding compresses to a fellow immortal’s face. “I cannot stop the bleeding,” Shandahar muttered. Kishar dropped her gear and moved over to examine the patient. Her face was tatters with muscle and bone exposed. Kishar gulped back the bile rising in her throat. “We need a magi,” she informed Shandahar. He shook his head. She glanced around. There were few still on their feet around them and none of them were magi. Taking a deep breath, she looked about them. A magi could fix everything later but she needed to stop the bleeding now or there would be nothing to fix.
White flowers in a clump near a tree caught her eyes. Staunchweed! She gathered up all the flowers, hoping it would be enough. Chewing the flower petals up, she applied the poultice to the poor woman’s face and wrapped it with clean bandages. “Look for more of this plant on your way down. I fear many will have need of it.” She handed one of the flowers to Shandahar. “Have you seen or heard anything of Cadeyrn?”
Shandahar averted his gaze. “I have not seen him since last night. When I saw him, he was further up, fighting with the other magi.” He pointed up the trail further into the mountains. Kishar thanked him and continued her search.
It was past midday. She had searched all the way up the path of blood and gore, finding very few injured and still living. Finding many more monstrosities like the one that had attacked her. They were maimed and unable to attack, but could only be put down with a blow to the brain. After going to the top of the mountain, she was systematically working her way back down, putting down all the dead things and dragging her comrades who had died to the edge of the trail so their bodies could be recovered for cremation.
Her back and legs ached from stooping and sorting through the dead, but it was nothing compared to the ache in her soul. So many lost lives, human and immortal alike. What could be worth this? As she was picking her way through a cluster of death, she found one of their soldiers beneath. He was still alive! She began pulling the dead off of him, to help him get free. As he reached his hand out from the pile it began to smolder and burn. He yanked it back quickly, howling in pain. She could smell the dark magic on him.
“Gandahar, what happened?”
“I… I do not know,” he moaned from under the pile. “The light hurts.”
“Were you injured before that? Is it dark magic?”
“He bit me!” Gandahar growled. “That monster, he… ripped out my throat!”
Kishar pulled back. “Ripped out your throat or was trying to?” she asked.
“What? Oh…. he must have only been trying to.” There was a change to his tone that made Kishar pull back further.
“I will get help. One of the magi to heal this dark magic upon you.”
“Do not leave me,” Gandahar begged. “Please!”
Kishar hurried down the path until she came upon a group of her people. One was a magi. She rushed through what she had seen and heard. The magi’s face was dark and brooding. “Gandahar is gone. What is left must be killed or he will kill us tonight like those other monsters.” He marched the way she had come. She scrambled to keep up.
“Is this different from the undying ones?” she asked, pointing to a head with a spear through it.
“Indeed. The undying ones seem to have no memory of who they were or of anything beyond feeding on brains. But the others crave blood. They look like their former selves, can even think like their former selves, but they are stronger and more violent than any human I have ever known. They stink of death and dark magic. They are so difficult to kill. I will hold him in place with magic and you must pierce his heart. It is the fastest and kindest way.”
Kishar froze. Was he ordering her to kill one of their own?
“He is not like us anymore. You are doing him a kindness, letting him pass on.”
“Pass on?” she asked.
“It is a human notion that when we die we go to the Gods.”
“But are their Gods not based on our people?”
“Yes. We think. But it is a nice sentiment. Perhaps if we died as they do, we would have found our own eternal belief systems to ease our grief.”
That grief. It weighed down on her. Where was Cadeyrn?
After disposing of the Gandahar-that-was, Kishar collapsed to the ground weeping. The magi stood by quietly. As her sobs subsided to mere gasps and hiccups, he coughed gently then spoke. “What were you doing up here by yourself?”
“I am searching for Cadeyrn. No one has seen him. Have you seen him?” She turned imploring eyes up to the magi.
The man’s eyes were filled with more sadness than she could stand. All at once she knew she did not want the answer he was searching to give her. He cleared his throat. “He is a magi, yes?” She nodded mutely. “Most of us did not survive.” He looked at the gore and bloodshed around them. “This is precisely why Belteshazzar forbade teaching humans more.” He shook his head in sadness. “So much waste and death. For what? Because they are greedy and wish to live like us? But they have children and families, simple lives filled with so much pleasure all because they know life will eventually end. Why trade that?”
Kishar sighed. “Perhaps they do not realize. Perhaps they hope to have both?” She looked out over the sea of dead. “And now none of us can have either.”
Kishar stared up at the ceiling as the soft afternoon light danced across the rafters. She sighed in bone weary exhaustion. Immortals were not meant to sleep during the day, but the hordes only came at night. She tried to go back to sleep but images of Cadyern as one of the undying ones flitted across her lids. Slamming her fist into the bed, she wept again for the millionth time in five days. Her mind told her he was dead. Her heart begged for it to be true. He could not be one of the undying. All chance of sleep gone, she pulled herself out of bed, performed ablutions, dressed in a tunic and pants, and went to assist with building the wall.
The wall was more of a barricade of pointed spears surrounding the village than an actual wall. Each night the hordes threw themselves against it with little mind or care, but it held them in place so the villagers could finish them off. Every day teams worked in shifts to replace broken sections. She found a group working on a section near her home and sat down to whittle the points on each end of the shaft.
“Kishar, this is not your shift. You should be resting.” Kitar stood before her with a water gourd in hand.
Kishar shook her head. “Sleep eludes me.”
“You are not alone.” Kitar looked around the village. Kishar’s gaze joined his. Many more than were scheduled to work were out and about. Some were cleaning stalls that had been knocked over in the night, others were preparing food and passing it around, and many more were sharpening weapons and working on the walls. The unusually light and airy village felt subdued and closed in. Very few spoke as they went about their work.
“Any word of Cadeyrn?” Kitar asked.
Kishar shook her head, focusing on attacking the point of the stick to get it sharper as it kept her eyes dry. Every day more of their dead were recovered from the mountain and the surrounding forests where the undying would drag them after snatching them through the walls or from the outposts. Their village had once held nearly 500 people. Now they barely had 100 left. The fact that the undying’s numbers were dropping at a much higher rate did not seem to stop whoever led them from attacking within the hour of sundown and not fleeing until the light began to be tinged with daylight.
“Any word from the other villages?” Kishar asked. Kitar had a much closer connection to those controlling the war effort. He had told her the other day that word was sent to Allandia and Uruk that first night by magi but no word had returned so messengers were sent.
“Allandia is gone. No word on Uruk yet.”
Allandia was gone? How? “Do you mean they fled?”
Kitar’s face went dark. “No, it and all of its people are just gone. No bodies, no animals. The few buildings that were still there were burning piles of rubble.”
Kishar blinked rapidly to keep the tears from flowing yet again. There were almost a thousand immortals in Allandia. How could they all just disappear? She gazed about the people working. Was that to be their fate as well?
Kitar cleared his throat. “Well, I had better get back to work. Get some rest. We have everything in hand.” He rested a hand on her shoulder and the unbidden tears spilled down her cheeks. She swiped them away furiously, nodding as she handed him the spear she had been working on. “Thank you,” he murmured as she stumbled away.
Kishar wandered aimlessly about the village, looking for some way to help. But she could not settle on any task. Finally, her feet found her at the gates.
“Do you need to go out?” the sentry called to her. She peered up at the man, his name escaping her. She nodded. “What is your business?”
Kishar stared at him blankly.
“You are not the first to wish to look for a loved one.”
She shook her head and pulled herself together. “I am a healer. I was going to gather herbs.”
The guard looked her over. “We could definitely use more healing.” he nodded for her to go through the gates. The other guards pulled them open for her. “Be sure to return before the sun falls behind the mountains. And do not go too far. Some of the undying still travel in the light.”
Kishar nodded to the warning and stepped through the small gap in the gate. As the gate closed behind her, she wondered if she should just go back. Ignoring her gut, she clutched her small blade tighter. It was more of a tool for cutting shoots and digging up roots, but could certainly puncture the skull if need be. She stalked across the open field towards the tree line. At the treeline she hesitated. The forest at the base of the mountain was not that thick, but in the shade of the mountain it was much darker than the field. She peered through the gloom looking for any movement.
The forest was unusually quiet. She could see dead bodies here and there. Two steps in and still no movement. Shifting her path to stay along the edge of the tree line, she began looking for herbs. She found more staunchweed, which is always needed. Some arrow bells which when mixed in water provided a cooling drink to stave off fever, Along the stream she found several more healing plants. Scooping up some fresh water, she slaked her thirst and decided to take a moment in the lovely patch of sunshine to rinse some of the roots and herbs she’d found. Setting them out on the rocks to air dry, she sat back for a moment and closed her eyes.
A cracking twig in the distance brought her to. Her eyes snapped open, scanning the gloom around her. She must have fallen asleep! The sun was below the mountain peak and no light trickled down to her. Sho slowly turned her head right and left looking for what could have caused the sound. There was no movement in the darkness. No rustling. Nothing to ease her fear. She quietly gathered up the herbs and roots she’d rinsed earlier, all well past dry and mentally cursed herself for being so foolish.
With her plants gathered, Kishar took one more look around then carefully crept along the stream towards the field. While the stream muffled her sounds of movement, she also knew it would likely muffle the sounds of any pursuer so she kept her eyes wide and stopped periodically to check her surroundings. No more sounds reached her ears and she could see the field up ahead. She hurried her pace.
Just as she was about to clear the last set of trees, a pale hand snaked out behind the nearest. She barely dodged its grasp, slashing at it with her tiny blade and diving away, rolling to a crouch she faced her would-be attacker and froze.
Cadeyrn was staring at his hand where she had slashed him, a puzzled expression on his face. “Why Kishar?” His voice sounded different. She couldn’t quite place it.
“Cadeyrn?” She looked him over. He was filthy, his tunic torn and stained, but he seemed uninjured.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked.
“Where have you been?” she asked at the same time.
He chuckled and shrugged. “I woke up in one of the caverns of the mountain. Took me forever to find the exit. Then to find my way home. And you. What are you doing out here?”
Kishar gestured to the basket. “Gathering herbs. There are many wounded.”
“Are they still attacking?” Cadeyrn asked.
Kishar gazed at him, longing for it to be her Cadeyrn, but there was a coldness to him that she had never seen, felt, or heard. He smiled uncomfortably under her scrutiny. Even the smile felt forced and unnatural. She took a step back towards the field.
“Do the others know you are here?” he asked as he took a step towards her.
She nodded. He smiled. The smile was cold and calculating. He took two steps forward. It took everything in her to stand her ground. “Let us return to the others then,” Cadeyrn waved her ahead. She stared at his hand. Nodding, she turned towards the village, keeping several steps ahead of this thing that looked like her Cadeyrn but not.
They cleared the trees and she picked up the pace. He was right behind her. Halfway across the field a gust of wind blew across her back carrying the scent of death. She spun on Cadeyrn. He had gained on her more than she realized and barrelled into her, knocking them both to the ground. She slashed at his face and he threw himself back, barely missing her blade.
“What are you?” she whispered, staring into cold dark eyes that were definitely not Cadeyrn’s.
He pulled back and a sneer crossed his face.
“That is a fair question. One I have not been able to ascertain. What makes you believe I am not Cadeyrn?”
“I know Cadeyrn. You are not him.”
Pain flashed across his features. “I do feel different, but I am Cadeyrn. I have all of Cadeyrn’s memories. His thoughts and feelings. I remember loving you. I remember kissing you.” he looked at her lips hungrily, making her gasp at the intensity of the stare.
“Look at your hand. The hand I cut.”
Cadeyrn stared at it thoughtfully. The gaping wound had hardly bled at all. The blood that came out was dark and putrid. He sniffed at it. “That is different. But I still love you.”
Kishar hesitated. Perhaps one of the magi could fix this.
Cadeyrn stopped studying his hand and looked to Kishar. “Oh, Kishar. I long for you.” There was a hunger in his face. A hunger that scared her. He knelt down to her level, still clear of her reach with the blade. “My sweet Kishar. I can hear your heart beating. Does it beat faster in the thrill of seeing me, or in the fear of seeing me?” He tilted his head and his mouth opened. “In fear. I can taste your fear, Kishar.” He scooted forward still just out of reach. “But why are you afraid? I just told you I love you!” There was a pleading in those dark bottomless eyes.
Kishar’s chest heaved as she tried to hold in the sob. Tears came unbidden to her eyes.
“Oh, Kishar, my love, do not cry.”
She did not have the heart to swing at him as he crept forward. The scent of death enveloped her and she tried not to gag. He reached the unmaimed hand out to her and with one finger caught her tear that slid down her cheek. He licked his finger. “Such tears. You have cried too much.” He leaned in closer and she closed her eyes longing for the kiss. Something wet touched her cheek and her eyes flashed open to Cadeyrns look of surprise on his face. She touched her cheek. He had licked her!
His eyes flickered in the moonlight and a strange red hue seemed to settle over them. Kishar raised the dagger as he lunged at her. He growled as she slashed at him. Snatching one of her hands, he jerked her up so she dangled half kneeling, and dove at her face again. She stabbed at one of his eyes and he jerked back with a howl. She scrambled to her feet and took off running as fast as she could back towards the camp, he was right behind her. She was not going to make it.
She tripped right before the gates and once again he was upon her. In the fall, she lost her blade. She hooked a finger in his now-empty eye socket and pushed him back with all her might.
“You had better kill me, you witch, or I will drink you dry!” he howled, pushing all the way up to her knuckle into his eye as he scrabbled blindly at her arms and face. She could feel him ripping her skin and warm blood splattering everywhere in his ferocious attack. She thought about letting go. There was nothing left in this world without him.
“Please, my love,” she gasped. “Please Cadeyrn, stop!”
He ripped away from her, and her finger lost purchase on his cheekbone. In their tussle, she discovered that the dagger was now within reach. But he did not lunge at her.
“Do you still love me?” Cadeyrn whispered. “Like this? Can you love this?” The disgust in his voice hurt her.
“Do you still love me?” She returned the challenge. “Can you still love me like this?” she pointed at him.
He sighed. His eyes closed. She reached for the blade and tucked it in her hand. He did not seem to notice. “I do love you. I told you I will always love you….. But your blood. It is so…” He sniffed the air and grinned in delight.
Kishar heard her fellows at the gate. Please, somebody stop him, she prayed. Maybe we can help him. Her heart raced as she heard the gates open. They would be here any moment.
“If I drink your blood, you will be with me always, forever, in love!” He lunged on her again.
The blade pierced him right below his breast. He looked down in shock. Then he looked to her with such love that she hesitated. Tears streamed down her face. “My love, you must go deeper or Ba’el will have won.” He leaned into her blade. She felt it catch on a rib then slip free deep into his tissue.
“Ba’el, is he who did this to you?” Kishar sobbed.
“No, my love. I did this to him. This is all my fault. Do not let your death be my fault as well.” He licked her arm… no, the blood on her arm. Then he bit her. She screamed, slamming the blade up into his heart.
As the others gathered around her, Kishar felt wind whooshing in her ears and the world going dark.
Kishar awoke to searing pain. She could not move. Opening her eyes, she saw herbs hanging and drying on the ceiling all around her. She tried to sit up and realized she was bound. Looking around the room, she tried to call for help. Her throat was so dry.
The rasping of air across her parched throat threw her into a coughing fit and that set off needles of pain all through her face and arms. A cup quickly came to her lips and she slurped the water to soothe her throat. As the coughing subsided, she gulped the cool liquid down while the person shifted her to a semi-sitting position on their lap. When the glass was empty she opened her eyes and nodded thanks to Zana, their head healer.
“How are you feeling, then?” Zana asked.
Kishar felt confused. Why was she here? What had happened? The sun was shining and it made her feel safe. Why? The events of the night flashed into her mind and she crumpled into tears.
“Oh, my dear!” Zana rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. “You have been through so much.”
“Cadeyrn?” Kishar croaked. The look of pity on Zana’s face told her all she needed to know.
She crumpled into tears again. When she cried herself into exhaustion, she heard Zana murmur as she drifted back into the abyss. “Rest, dear. I am here.”
It took weeks for Kishar’s body to recover from the attack. Not just the physical wounds, but the dark magic that had invaded her body from Cadeyrn’s bite. Each day her body improved, but her heart and soul would not heal. Life was empty and cold and pointless without Cadeyrn and it was her fault he was gone. She was too numb to cry anymore.
One day Zana took her for a walk around the village to get fresh air and sun. They made it to the town square before Kishar asked to rest. She sat on the stairs to the meetinghouse while Zana searched through the shops. The market was busy and loud on this beautiful warm day. The warmth and comforting sounds helped to ease the emptiness and Kishar closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sun.
She became aware of two women chatting under the tree next to the meeting house.
“Poor Kishar,” the one woman said. “You know she and Cadeyrn had been together for some time. I cannot imagine how awful it must have been.”
“We have all been through the worst, and I hear it is all because of Cadeyrn. I am glad she killed him!” the woman spat.
“How can you say that?” The other woman sighed. “I am glad he is gone too, but none of it was her fault. I could never have killed him, and I was not in love with him.”
Kishar squinted into the sun, her ears buzzing as the rage built up within her.
“I could have and would have if I had known his dabbling would lead to this. Immortal populations have been decimated because of him!”
“I did not kill him!” Kishar growled loud enough for the women to hear.
The first woman stepped toward her, “Oh, Kishar, how are you?”
Kishar sent a frosty glare that froze the woman in her tracks. She turned the glare on to her compatriot. “And you could never have killed him, despite your slandering him in death.”
“You did kill him,” the compatriot hissed. “I saw it with my own eyes.”
Kishar laughed as feelings burgeoned within her. New and powerful feelings. They were an aphrodisiac after weeks of numbness.
Both women looked at her as if she had lost her mind. She sighed. Not her mind. Just her soul. The last of the laughter died off in a cold chuckle. A warmth spread through her chest and into her limbs.
The first woman hesitantly asked, “You said you did not kill him. If not you, then who?”
A metallic tinge hit her tongue as Kishar snapped her mouth shut in rage. “Ba’el killed him. And I will kill him if it takes me eternity,” she vowed, letting the fury course through her.
There you are, the enigmatic Fury origin story. Want to read more of Fury’s stories?
Grab The Hunters and The Hunted, the first two full-length novels in The Hunters Saga. I have about 30 copies left of the 1st edition paperback edition of The Hunters available for those who love collecting 1st editions. I also have some hand-crafted wooden stakes designed for Fury herself!
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