PETRICHOR

Rivka, a young female royal guardsman, is tasked with a daunting mission to assist a species known for brutality against her own.

Caine, a prince of a dying race, seeks aid from those his kind feast upon.

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Author's note

This story will include graphic images and attempt at horror. If gore is not something you are comfortable with, I recommend to not read. Certain themes maybe too much such as infanticide and noncon. While noncon will never be described in this version, it will be mentioned as a fact that it does happen. Please steer away if you might be triggered.
AA

4. Of Green and Gold

She crouched into a proper battle stance, her blade steadied between them, radiating light despite overcast skies.

 

Caine watched her wearily, “When did King Craedel start allowing women join his militia?”

 

“He hasn’t,” She responded, “I am a special case,” Her own cocky grin suddenly became a scowl, “and my name is Rivka. I’m not just some woman.”

 

Rivka slashed at him again, he backed up to a pile of soaked lumber and quickly scrambled his way on to the roof of a dilapidated hut. He would’ve escaped more gracefully had he been less awestruck by this anomaly. A woman in their militia? Craedel must be desperate, even more reason to trust Caine.

 

Rivka watched him but didn’t pursue. He sat down, legs dangling as he contemplated what to do. She was wasting his precious time.

 

Now that he thought about it though, the fact that she was a royal guardsman, the fact that she was a woman, made her an asset to him. He had to make her trust him. Craedel would have a harder time accepting his proposal regarding the women of his kingdom if his only female with any kind of power did not trust Caine.

 

She chuckled, “What are you? Scared?”

 

This girl was incredibly rude and quite fast. She must have been very skilled at the sword but her sudden switch from fearful to masterful opponent was odd.

 

Caine rolled his eyes and sighed. Beside the new reason to deem himself trustworthy, he couldn’t help but wonder why her scent was so familiar and comforting. She was trying to kill him; shouldn’t he have the instinct to stay away from her?

 

Besides the now obvious reason for gaining her trust, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should keep Rivka around, he didn’t understand it. Caine assumed that it was maybe the strange familiarity of her scent… He just had to convince her, and he could ride out his strange feelings and move on.

 

“Hello up there?” Caine could hear the annoyance in her voice.

 

“Okay, Rivka,” Caine spoke as he refrained from rolling his eyes. “How about I turn myself in to you. You can bring me to Craedel, alive and in chains.” Caine smiled, trying to look sincere. Not only was he trying to keep up a difficult genuine persona, he was also growing tired from keeping up his glamour. His true physical appearance might convince her otherwise. Not only did he appear human, but he could also manipulate her view of his personality.

 

She didn’t seem to be affected by charm, no matter how much he laced his words with magical sugarcoating, she brushed them off with a cold shoulder. She was intelligent then, charms didn’t affect people who can think for themselves.

 

Rivka eyed him thoughtfully. Caine knew she was considering his deal. He was sure that she thought herself a proper match yet the prospect of bringing him in alive was more appealing. He knew that fomorians were difficult to capture alive, especially a one of his status.

 

Her face calmed as she sheathed her sword, scratching underneath the crisscrossing eyepatch straps that ended behind her head. Now that she was out of her hood, the feminine details of her body and face became clearer. She was of average height and bigger than other women, she had large hips and thighs. Rivka’s face was also round and almost sweet and childlike, but Caine decided that her eyepatch marred any innocence she would appear to have, (or any quality facial features for that matter).

 

Rivka had damp ringlets of curled burgundy hair wadded up into an ugly red mass of bun on her head. Caine assumed that she purposely kept all her that way to keep wondering eyes from staring but in his opinion, it made it seem even more ridiculous. He also wondered if her hair looked brighter when dry, it would better suite the massive number of freckles that littered her face.

 

She observed him, ignoring the heavier rain that battered her face.

 

“I suppose it won’t hurt to bring you to him, I don’t think any fomorian could take down a king surrounded by his men anyways.”

 

Caine grinned ear to ear with a genuine, white glow. He scooted off the roof landing on his feet as if he were a cat and bowed at Rivka’s feet. From his bowed stance he beamed up at her hoping to settle trust between them once and for all. He wanted to seem graceful, cool, and, most of all, honest.

 

This calmer more agreeable Rivka was much more appealing to befriend than the aggressive and overly confident version.

 

She didn’t respond to his bow, only to turn and motion him to follow her into the alley. Despite her rude attitude, he was slightly grateful. He wasn’t used to being mistrusted. After all, Caine had never left Haven before and humans didn’t exactly like what he was, and with somewhat of a good reason.

 

Caine didn’t like humans either.

 

His thoughts wondered to the piles of wet ashes that he picked through earlier. All the little bodies that knew no right or wrong with innocent eyes glazed over, staring into nothing. If anything, humans were more vindictive and cruel than his kind could ever be. At least they had a choice.

 

Caine pushed those thoughts aside as they stopped next to what he could only assume an abandoned merchant tent. If he was going to succeed in bringing their worlds together, he had to ignore any of his own past… grievances.

 

He looked past her to see a horse under the tent, it was clad in minimal leather armor dyed brown and green with gold trimmings.

 

As they approached, the animal pawed at the ground and shook angrily, eyeing Caine warily. The horse could smell him. Caine chuckled but his grin vanished as he realized Rivka was digging into the side saddle sack, pulling out a pair of metal cuffs.

 

He took a step back, “I didn’t mean actual chains, sweetheart…”

 

Rivka looked back at him with a scowl, “I am no sweetheart, and you are in no place to charm me.”

 

Caine sighed, once he got to the castle, Craedel would settle this. Rivka was a smart one, but Caine was her ally, and she would figure it out soon enough. He gingerly raised his wrists to her and smirked.

 

She ignored his look and clicked cuffs on both his wrists, a chain between them. Caine’s grin faltered. The cuffs… they were hot.

 

They burned.

 

Caine jolted back shaking his hands unable to break the chains, a normally easy act for him. He glared at Rivka, seething.

 

“What the hell is this?” He spat at her.

 

She calmly responded, “Iron.”

 

Iron. Iron was unbreakable to fomorians and burned once they’ve reached maturity. Caine swore but kept himself calm. He couldn’t get angry, he couldn’t lash out. Caine had to keep himself in check.

 

“Understandable,” Caine spoke between clenched teeth.

 

The stinging continued but it was bearable for the time being. It wasn’t too far of a walk, he thought at least and the length of the chain between his wrists was comfortable, allowing him to stretch slightly.

 

They had a horse, he wondered how they would go about reaching the castle. Would they both ride? Would he walk?

 

Considering her treatment so far, he assumed he would walk.

 

“Why do you want to speak to Craedel? Why have all your men accompany you here just to speak with him alone? It is suspicious and stupid.” Rivka did ask the right questions.

 

Caine shifted and watched her loop her foot into a stirrup and swing herself on to the horse. He cleared his throat, “I’m on a mission to save our people.”

 

Simple. That’s all he needed to say.

 

“Alright then…” Rivka seemed unconvinced. She then patted the space behind her on the saddle, Caine had to fight himself to not scoff at her proposal.

 

There was hardly any room for two people, even if her large horse could easily carry them. Rivka’s horse shifted weight underneath her and huffed as if understanding her proposition. If she was so untrustworthy before, why be trusting enough now to let him ride right behind her? She was a woman and he was the kind of monster known for…

 

“There isn’t enough space for both of us. You trust me enough to ride behind you as well? Especially after how you have reacted to me until now.” Caine reached up to grab the horn of her saddle.

 

She didn’t speak as he swung himself behind her and into the saddle. His hands lingered around her waist before he thought better. She was a soldier, but she was also a woman. Maybe she was testing him, seeing if he had control over himself.

 

He scowled at the back of her head as she squeezed the horse forward. The horse jolted, right into a jarring canter. Caine immediately felt himself fall backwards. He reached out for something to hold, tentatively grabbing Rivka’s sides.

 

He could hear Rivka snickering, “Moondancer can get a little agitated.”

 

As they rode through the countryside, Rivka lowered her hood over her head to block out the rain. Caine didn’t mind the water, he watched small enclosures of gardens and cottages. People worked in the rain still, their clothes ragged. Most, if not all were women.

 

He sighed.

 

It had been a long time since he had been in Ginseng, not that he could remember.

 

Caine held tightly to Rivka and took in her smells. Despite her aggravating behavior, he was really drawn to her. She smelled like a memory, almost like intoxicating blueberry wine (his favorite). He wanted to sink his teeth in her.

 

Figuratively of course.

 

Caine couldn’t possibly give in to any instincts with such an important mission. He was cursed but he could fight it.

 

Only an hour had passed when Caine could finally see the beginnings of larger structures and more people. The dirt path Rivka followed developed into a large stone street where large crowds (made up of mostly women and the occasional authoritative man) pooled towards a large marketplace. Moondancer slowed to a walk as the mass of people became too much to avoid.

 

To Caine’s relief, very few people paid them any attention. He looked long and hard at the different tents as they passed by venders. One vender was selling wine and spirits and he just had to lean a little closer, holding on to Rivka as well as he could. The chains between his wrists tightened against her back as he tried to keep balance.

 

“Could you refrain?” She took his hands off her sides as technically he no longer needed to hold on to her for support now that they were going slow.

 

Caine leaned back into the saddle and thanked God that his face was out of her vision as he was slightly blushing.

 

“I apologize,” he murmured, “I didn’t realize I was still holding on. I promise I am not lingering on purpose.”

 

She didn’t respond. If he wasn’t careful, Caine was sure she would see him as a devious creature no better than his brothers, trying to soften her up where his magic couldn’t.

 

Rivka and Caine finally reached the entrance of the castle. Just as Caine was told, the castle wasn’t much to look at. It was dull and lacked any serious architecture or garnish. The stone that made up the walls were deteriorating, and many windows lacked stained glass.

 

Rivka rode through the gates without so much as a glance from the guards. They went through a large courtyard filled mainly with greenery. Despite the castle’s disuse, the garden that lay in the courtyard was immaculate, almost magical even.   

 

There were aspen trees, trimmed bushes, trained vines, and so many gold and white flowers of diverse kinds that Caine couldn’t identify. He began to wonder if this really was just a courtyard or a sacred area.

 

Moondancer followed a pebble trail that ran past a small pond with a large willow tree that almost seemed to cover the entire body of water. Even during the rain, the willow tree was beautiful and proud. A couple of swans took shelter underneath its hanging branches.

 

Towards the end of the path was another crumbling wall that led inside, a servant waited patiently.

“Would you take Moondancer to the stables? Tell Marco to give him a treat, he was more behaved than usual.” Rivka told the young servant. He was about fifteen Caine was sure. He assumed the boy was trying to climb the ranks to avoid being a soldier. The lack of men would deter his efforts.

 

The boy simply nodded, taking the horse’s reigns. Rivka nudged Caine to get off Moondancer and as he swung his leg over the animal’s rump, the servant noticed his chains and took a slight step back. Rivka followed suite and waved the adolescent off.

 

Rivka did not spare a moment to watch her horse be led to the side of the garden where a tunnel of bricks led to the stables. She marched through a pair of double doors expecting Caine to follow close behind.

 

It was time to meet Craedel.

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