“So what do we have today?”
“Well, we have a new entry in the horror fantasy series I’m writing. It’s about a medieval-era world in the wake of a catastrophic war that nearly saw the end of all civilization. It’s a sequence of vignettes centred around a small mercenary party as they take on jobs to deal with threats both mundane and metaphysical. The current arc is about a vampire stalking a small town and a group of murderous bandits attacking a city.”
“That sounds pretty good. What’s happening in the current chapter?”
“A farm girl is having a mental breakdown.”
“…what genre did you say this was again?”
There’s a snippet below of what’s in this chapter, but for the full story and to start Scars from the beginning, check out the links above!
The elf nodded to the very large hat Jilene was wearing. “Is that yours?” It wasn’t. It was too big for her and it didn’t smell enough like her.
Jilene touched the wide brim self-consciously. “No,” she said. “I think it used to belong to Mrs. Halnz, but she passed in the spring. I didn’t have any clothes, so Rysa brought me something from the church’s charity box.” She tried to glance up and feel the sun’s warmth directly on her, but she quickly stopped. It didn’t feel like she was used to, warm and fulfilling. Instead, it was an itching and uncomfortable, like a rash spreading across and beneath her skin. She lowered her head, removing her face from direct sunlight. Khy-kala was still staring at her, the she-elf’s head tilted slightly. “What?”
“Nothing,” the elf told her. “It just didn’t seem like you.”
Jilene couldn’t really argue. It wasn’t, but Khy-kala had spent only a few minutes with her; how could she know that? Feeling awkward, Jilene tucked her hands into her long sleeves, walking alongside the elf in silence. Khy-kala had a long stride and Jilene had to hurry somewhat to match her, but she didn’t complain. Two decades of working on family farm had given her fit, toned muscles. Again, the young woman had to marvel at Khy-kala’s abilities. She knew how badly she’d been injured. Even if she’d survived, she might never have walked right. Now she could keep pace with the long-legged elf’s strides, even if it took a bit of work.
They talked some more, but little of consequence. Mostly, it was Jilene finding herself babbling again, though the elf didn’t seem to mind. She was either very diplomatic, or long used to the annoyances of humans. When they arrived at the old Frenyt homestead, Khy-kala told her to remain by the road as she examined the buildings, Jilene anxiously shifting from one foot to the other as the minutes passed, wanting to see what was happening, but terrified of what she might find.
Khy-kala returned, giving Jilene a shake of her head. “Nothing,” she affirmed, the young woman feeling both a sense of relief and disappointment. There was no encounter with the beast that had murdered her family, but there was also no reckoning. Not yet at least. The next farm was the Elisz estates; they’d been one of the first to leave when the Scarring started, travelling to Allona. They’d died when the Black Kin laid siege to the city.
As they approached the Elisz homestead, Jilene caught a change in the she-elf’s demeanour. “What?” she’d demanded. Khy-kala had said little, only telling her that she’d caught an odd scent and repeating the order to stay behind while she investigated.
This time, Jilene couldn’t do that. She’d waited until the she-elf entered the house and then hurried after her. She pulled out the knife she’d borrowed from doctor Metzhola, her heart beating faster. Was the vampire here? Was it hiding in this house?
–the breath went out of her as she was knocked to the ground by something large and heavy and she was rolled onto her back, a hand reaching for her throat and fangs glinting in the moonlight but the knife was still in her hand and she swung it up at those hungry red eyes-
“I told you to stay behind,” Khy-kala chided Jilene from inside the house as soon as the young woman set foot on the porch.
“What’s there?” Jilene demanded, ignoring the she-elf’s comment. “What have you found? Is it here?”
“No,” the she-elf replied as Jilene followed her voice through the grey, peeling walls and rotted floorboards. Khy-kala was in the kitchen, standing just outside the pantry. There were dark stains on the floor, the table thrown to one side of the room. “But it was.”