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

2. Haunted Warmth

Rivka woke up with a silent scream, her eyes bulging from her sockets. She gasped and jolted forward as if the creature was still there.

 

All is well Rivka....

 

Although the air was thick and grassy pastures drowned in rainwater, the sun tried its best to peak over grey puffs of thick smoke blanketing the sky. On a rare sunny day, Rivka wondered how anyone would ever purposely soil it by bestrewing the sky with fumes.

 

She sighed, she hadn't had a nightmare like that in years. She thought she had finally moved on. Rivka knew better though.

 

Clicking for her horse to come, she rose from her spot under a tree. She kicked off brambles that circled her as a result of her nightmare, she observed her arms as small pearls of blood dripped. She hated when nature responded to her moods, it made it difficult to hide her abilities.

 

"What an awful nap, huh Moondancer?" She cooed, the gelding eyed her and pawed at the ground, anxious to finish their patrol. Rivka sighed and mounted him.

 

Hooves sinking in mud, Moondancer trudged along with every step, a loud and heaving schlep noise in the dead silence of afternoon. Rivka’s gelding usually trotted with a pride and vigor, but closer he was to the source of smoke the lower his head hung.

 

As Rivka neared outskirts of a small village in which smoke billowed, a frigid gust of morning wind lightly stroked her neck. Blood filled her cheeks as Rivka stiffened in the saddle. Patrols such as these around the farmlands were equally uneventful as they were potentially dangerous. There was an effort to keeping an eye out, there could be another attack any day, but that notion didn’t stop Rivka’s eyes from glazing over. In effort to relieve existential boredom, she pursed her lips sucking cold moist air into her mouth to sigh.

 

A hot-sour flavor penetrated her taste catching her breath, the strong and forbidden essence of charred flesh. Smoke racked her senses, leaving an awful churning in her stomach. Sensing tension, Moondancer paused without command, ears flicking back and forth between Rivka and what lay on their patrol.

 

She leisurely squeezed Moondancer’s sides urging him forward. Rivka knew what they were burning. She chose not to think about those things as they bothered her more than she was allowed to be. As she reached the village, she gripped her reins in tight fists. She had passed off the other villages as they were done with the burnings, this one was a little delayed and seemed to be taking advantage of the sunny morning before the rain came back. With so much to burn they must have been attacked the hardest.  

 

Small bodies lay on pyres, some already being consumed by greedy flames. A few of their eyes still open before the heat stretched the skin to pop and their pupils melted and fried into white. Little lifeless hands clenched and opened as the flames caught the skin pulling muscles taunt. Rivka turned from the scene, swallowing bile that found its way into her throat. Baby boys a day or two old, killed by the chance of what they could become. She felt as though helplessness was her enemy, that no matter how many rounds she made through villages of Ginseng, she couldn’t prevent this.

 

Rivka hated the pleasure she received from feeling warm. Like many of the unfortunate people in this outlying village, she approached the fire still riding Moondancer to warm her hands. As she dismounted from her horse she noticed a pair of eyes on her, staring. People would look to her and watch as she was the first and only female guardsmen, but this pair that demanded her attention was a man nearly a foot taller than her and twice the width. She chose to ignore him, one hand on the hilt of her sword.

 

She straightened her uniform with her other hand. Rivka wore fitted brown pants, loose black shirt and a forest green hood that went down to her calves. Above her right breast was a pendent showing her status as a royal guardsman.

 

Rivka unpinned it looking over the iron crest, a crow perched on a branch within a small circle. She rubbed it between her fingers, the crow was the symbol animal of Badb, the goddess of war and death. Not many believed in such beings anymore, but the meaning was enough to bring citizens to their knees in fear at the sight of the pendant. Being that Rivka was a woman though, it was slightly different. Reactions to her varied, most men didn’t take her serious, women looked to her for help. She wanted more though, Rivka wanted to be feared, she wanted control.

 

Amidst her thoughts she didn’t realize someone tugging at Moondancer’s reigns.

 

“Huh-help, help muh-m-me.” A pitiful young woman about Rivka’s own age croaked, as if the wind had been knocked out of her. 

 

She clutched a bundle of cloth to her bosom. This woman was slightly beautiful despite her ragged clothes and a yellowing bruise above her right cheekbone. Young women like her were only meant for one thing, pleasure. She was one of the many women who became a prostitute when she couldn’t marry off to a suitor. Unmarried men existed but they were sparse. She clung to Rivka’s reigns ignoring fact that any royal guardsmen would strike her senseless for this. Rivka didn’t appreciate how the woman gripped Moondancer’s reins as if holding him hostage.

 

The woman continued to beg, “p-please, please.... He human, I know’d. He my baby, he muh-my first baby.”

 

Snapping into attention Rivka pinned her pendant back on and turned slowly to the woman clutching Moondancer’s reins and responded, “How young?” The woman's hardly intelligible speaking was annoying but couldn't be helped. Most women like her were abused and neglected to the point that they couldn't properly speak from either trauma or literal brain damage.

 

At first, she looked confused loosening her grip. Maybe she didn’t know how old the boy was, many die so often that young people didn’t bother with age.

 

The prostitute thought through her words, “I not sure of huh-how many days, b-but I know’d he more than a-a month and a half old. L-look, look at him. He not a mu-monster.”

 

Rivka wanted to argue that none of the babies looked like their true fathers, that it was all a trick for women to raise their young, but the woman insistently revealed the baby’s face and torso. He gazed up at Rivka confused at the sudden new face. She bent down a bit smiled down at him stroking his cheek, he grinned back softly, his bright blue eyes watching hers. Rivka knew he was too old for the pyre. Newborns don’t usually smile for two months, this was a rule when determining the actual age of babies.

 

 He was conceived before the most recent pillage. He was safe.

 

“There is no need to worry Miss, I can tell he was born before the pyre children. If anyone asks, make him smile. If a sight like me could make him grin, then surely his own mother can as well.” As she spoke, Rivka’s hand left the baby’s face to her own left cheek. She felt the raggedness of her scar and traced it up to her eyepatch. Moondancer huffed as if tired of everyone’s stupidity. He hated staying still, and Rivka was sure he was growing impatient, ready to continue their patrol back to the main gates.

 

Despite Rivka’s reassurance, the woman didn’t let go of Moondancer’s reins. She wasn’t even looking at Rivka anymore but a man behind her. The same man who was watching her earlier.

 

This male stranger observed Rivka up and down, grunted and shifted his feet crossing his arms. He challenged her with his presence, trying to establish his authority before he spoke, Rivka felt his power but rivaled with her own, hand back on the hilt of her sword.

 

“Is there something you need sir?” She questioned cautiously. He blocked the warmth of the fire allowing the frigid air to wreak havoc with wisps of hair not contained in her braid. It began to lightly drizzle, clouds in the sky grey and stretched hiding the sun.

 

He chuckled although it seemed fake and malicious.

 

“I was just helping with the disposal of the bodies when I noticed this stupid stray and her little bundle not participating. As both of you women know it is the law, I don’t want to get physical.” He eyed the baby as the woman clung to the reins tighter.

 

"Yu-you know he yu-your baby,” the woman chided, “you just d-don’t want yu-your whore to find out.”

 

She side-stepped behind Moondancer, Rivka stepped forward completely blocking her from sight. She wasn’t sure what kind of dispute this was, but she was sure this man wanted to kill to keep his dirty secrets.

           

Rivka felt a white-hot fury flood into her cheeks, she was filled with disbelief. Their entire world revolved around the burning of children that might grow up to be vile rapist creatures and despite obvious truth that this baby is his own, this man wanted to murder it.

 

She wasn’t always sure between right and wrong, but she knew she wanted to kill and didn’t feel any desire to observe possible consequences. In her mind, this stranger deserved what he wanted done onto him, but with more agony. To the man’s surprise, she unsheathed her sword.

 

In an instant there was blood. Not deep red gushing blood, but enough for him to stagger and tumble backwards into the pyre where she repeatedly stabbed him as he simmered in the now small flames. Pin him there so he could slowly burn along with all the other innocent babies that didn’t get the chance his baby could.

 

Rivka sighed as all the images delighted her, tickled the lackluster hero she wanted to be, but it was just a vision. A vision of what could be and slicing through it felt good and tempting. They always felt real and alive, these short experiences of what could happen keep her from killing every piece of irredeemable horseshit she came across.

 

As she contemplated how to scold and end the dispute between the married pig and the unintelligible waif she suddenly heard a thumping, rhythmic and deep. She didn’t quite understand it at first, the disgruntled man and the terrified woman both grew wide-eyed and pale. The prostitute dropped the reins, both arms wrapped around her baby who began to wale at the tightness she held him.

 

No longer held at the reins by the woman, Moondancer slightly reared out of edge forcing the multitude of people around them to stop and listen. Eerily quiet and deathly, people listened to the thumping. They all knew what was to come, but their fear paralyzed them for the few nanoseconds that they listened and before Rivka could respond to the ritualistic fear she just witnessed, they began to dash in all directions.

 

“They are co-coming!” The woman hurried off with her child, desperate.

 

The pig gazed at her backside as she ran, then to whatever direction his own home was and then back at Rivka. He seemed to question what battle to choose.

 

The thumping grew louder as they neared. Rivka understood now that it was a march, they were about to be attacked.

 

She wondered what the man had to lose, what woman would leave him in a world where being married is a status of safety and not destitution. Could killing him seal the fate of his wife? Rather than just think about it, Rivka acted. There was no time to question morality.

 

Amidst chaos Rivka grinned wildly, nodding for him to run home. He nodded back although with a smirk and turned on his heal to run as if he had won whatever mental game he thought they were playing. She couldn’t, wouldn’t kill a married man. She could maim him though.

 

With a swift motion she sliced the back of his right leg and he tumbled down, no one seemed to notice him crash into the smoldering wood. It was finally raining now, and he might get a light burn but nothing too serious in Rivka’s mind.

 

He turned and looked up at her with anger and self-pity.

 

“I have a family to protect, I have children to care for. What have you done? You’ve killed me.” The pig spat at the ground rolling in agony and clutching his leg.

 

Rivka looked at him, the wisps of hair now clinging to her face. Nearly everyone in the village had disappeared in their homes, it was just the two of them and the loudening thump of drums nearing the town.

 

“I think your children would rather I tell them you died to protect some slut and their half-brother than to explain your true intentions.”

 

Without a second thought, Rivka mounted Moondancer and galloped to the closest street alley to hide and observe.

 

Moondancer leapt over a short crumbling rock wall. Passing a few shacks and turning to the right, Rivka dismounted again to him under a market tent abandoned in the confusion and chaos. She could hide out for information and reach Moondancer with ease.

 

“Be a good boy.” She patted his side and he huffed.

 

Running back to the street, she could hear the thumping grow, the only thing louder was her heartbeat in her ears. As she sprinted, Rivka threw on her hood and drew up a scarf to hide her face up to her eyes. The scarf wasn’t usual attire for her uniform, but Rivka had to wear it anytime she was around Fomorians. She couldn’t let them know that she was female. Hiding as much as she can in her features was her best bet to keep from being raped.

 

As she neared the rock wall, Rivka got down and leaned her back against the wall. She could feel water seep into her hood and down her back. She would listen to see if she could gather any information then race to report back to King Craedel. If nothing could be learned, she would report of their presence.

 

Rivka waited until the thumping stopped, they were only a few feet away from the wall. There was a moment of silence, rain pattered, and quiet footsteps crept. She slowed her breathing and let the rain soothe her mind. She slowly turned around and peered through a hole in the rock wall.

 

The Fomorians were here.

 

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