Ashes in the Snow - Chapter 1

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Ashes in the Snow

by Jei H

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A young woman hired as a noble family's maid comes to realize that the eldest son was the one who saved her from an attack 10 years ago that no one else remembers. But the strangest thing of all is that he hasn't aged in the slightest since then.

_____________________________ Prologue: Ten Years Ago

- A i o n -

"My Lord. The west corner has been overrun. I fear we may not be able to fend them off much longer." I could taste the bitterness in the back of my mind like a bad aftertaste from his words. It was overwhelming and ugly. The soldiers face was scrunched together in a scowl, and his nose wrinkled from the smell of fresh blood and burning flesh.

"Have them hold out long enough to evacuate the citizens, then we can eliminate them more effectively." I could feel a swelling sensation rising in the pit of my chest, obviously coming from the solider, the feeling of pride and excitement to replace the bitterness that he held for the weaker human race. I was almost disgusted over how easily these men could allow their emotions to take over their minds to cloud their better judgment, which is one of the many reasons why I filtered them out; not bottled up like many tried. I could never do that. Feeling every sort of emotion that every single person around me resonated was like getting crushed by a title wave, it hits your entire body with such force that it could nearly knock you right off your feet. However, I invented a way to filter through all of these by simply not letting myself feel any of my own at all.

The soldier attempted to stare me down, in a hopeful attempt to use his raw lust for blood shed and revenge to overwhelm my own judgment, even though he and every other soldier knew that it was a one-sided battle that I always won in the end. After seeing no resolve to dispatch him before the evacuation of the humans, he forced his fist stubbornly over his heart and bowed before disappearing with inhuman speed to rejoin his comrades on the battlefield.

 

How long had it been since the four Spirits of the Earth were last found? I really couldn't recall. This useless attempt at coup dat would have been much faster to eliminate if they were on our side, but there was little time to dwell on such wishful thinking. There was work to be done here.

 

My insides shook every time I heard the scream of a woman, a young man, or a child. All around me their lifeless bodies lay castrated, mutilated, piled over one another. Their necks were completely ravished. Many of their clothes were ripped to shreds, either because of their own retaliation and futile attempts to escape, or because their attackers were hungry for something more than just their blood. It was revolting having to feel that kind of hunger that was so easily stimulated by death. So graceless. So primal.

We have a name for creatures like these: the Raveners . They were once humans that survived the attack of a vampire long enough to be transformed by their venom, but had given up on their control and gave in to the raging beast inside after being left alone. This often resulted in the victim turning primal out of madness because of their fragile minds and bodies. That wasnt to say that they lost all of their former intelligence. In fact, we have now have reason to believe that they are capable of creating underground communities, and it was our job to insure that they were kept under control. However, it seemed that tonight a rebellion had been secretly forming, and tonight was their night to strike.

As I rushed through the burning city I could see that many of the civilians had managed to escape. We had created an evacuation party that had ushered the people into the nearby mountains to an emergency safe haven where they would be able reside in for at least a year before we could allow them back into the city, if they even bothered to return. I assumed that many would flee after a month of staying in the mountains if they could survive the winter. There was going to be nothing left for them here after these monsters were done.

I felt a sudden pain strike my minds side, making me stop in mid stride. I looked over to my right and could feel a powerful sense of hunger and excitement, but extreme fear and terror. As fast as I could, I launched myself down into the street, making a small crater at my feet from the force of the sudden movement. I kicked back the broken doors and rubble that blocked my way through the entrance. There, at the front of the church, near the altar, stood a hunched-back Ravener. His face was covered in silver scars and his knobbly fingers were clinging onto a limp human that I couldnt even recognize. The human body was so mutilated that the face was unidentifiable, the clothes torn to shreds...

 

The ravenous snarls grew more excited when a high-pitched scream of a little human girl, hardly ten years old, pierced through the night and echoed off of the stone walls of the ancient church. The very range of its pitch was enough to make me flinch a little. The mother of the child, cut, bruised and bleeding clamped a trembling hand over the girls mouth to muffle the scream. I could only assume that the child had just taken a look at the feast the head Ravener was partaking in. The Raveners hadnt even noticed my entrance yet, and I could work that to my advantage. I could save those two human females.

I moved what looked like a fraction, everything seemed perfectly normal to my eyes, but I knew that to human eyes my speed would have made me temporarily invisible. My rigid fingers pierced right through the chest of the Ravener that was eating. It froze in mid chew the second my hand pierced through its back. All time seemed to hold still for that brief second as its grasp weakened on the skinless, and faceless feast that I now assumed to be the father of the screaming child. Both bodies dropped to the ground, and I could see the young woman tightening her hold on her child, trying her hardest to keep her quiet. I could sense the new type of terror that she felt when she looked at me.

I looked to my left, seeing the second Ravener launch itself to attack, the one on my right was doing the same. I quickly pulled my hand out from the creatures chest and launched myself into the air. The Raveners managed to stop themselves before they could collide into each other, but they were not prepared for what I had planned next. I came down in a flip, extending my right leg, keeping it firm and rigid. With a whip-like crack my heal came down on the skull of the Ravener, and nearly decapitated it from the raw force.

The third had decided that it would try to make a quick meal of the childs mother before I could get to kill it. I could see as I fended off the second it had snatched the woman away from the child, shaking them apart as if she were some sort of rag doll. The womans frightened screams irritated it more and it struck her hard across the face, making a fresh trail of blood spill from between her cracked lips. The child clung to the hem of her mothers dress, screaming in a slur of Italian that I couldnt quite make out between her choking sobs. The mother continued to squirm in the creatures grasp as it quickly started to make a feast out of the open wound on the side of her back.

I righted myself quickly. There was no time to make this kill as clean and precise as the first, not with the human woman so close to it. I came up from behind it and grasped its neck with both of my hands, strangling the breath right out of it. There was a fierce strain in the back of my mind as the creature struggled for breath. It dropped the unconscious woman at the feet of the child, and squirmed like a terrified cat as it attempted to claw free from my grasp. I could feel the throat convulsing for air. There was no fear of death, only the pain and the anger that was fuelled by it. I was struggling. This particular creature was a lot stronger than I had given it credit for. It broke free from my grasp and knocked me right off of my feet. The little girl was shaking her mothers shoulder in a desperate attempt to revive her. The creature lurched forward, eyes bulging and tongue lulling as it reached forward and snatched the little girls arm.

I could hear the woman moan in response to her childs screaming. She was moaning a name but I couldnt make sense of it. There was no time. That child was going to die. I could hear the snap that came as the creature broke her wrist with its grip. At that very instant I had lost all resolve. Out of my own desperation that was fuelled by the raging emotions of that moaning woman, I grabbed the closest piece of broken wood that I could find and stabbed it right in the creatures back. It wasnt deep enough to kill it instantly like the first. The Ravener dropped the girl and reared backwards, squirming and screaming in a voice unlike anything I had ever heard before. The child curled beside her motionless mother, clutching at her bruising wrist and screaming just as loud as the monster that had attacked her. I couldnt take it anymore! I jumped onto the back of the creature, and gripped the sides of its head with both hands and snapped it quickly to the left, then to the right until the screams turned into a low, gurgling moan that soon dissolved into nothing at all.

The girl was still screaming but I soon realized that it was because of the pain from her wrist. Her emotions was so confused, I couldnt even tell what was what. I lowered myself down to one knee and quickly examined the woman. Her side was bleeding quite badly, but the rest of her wounds werent as devastating as I had originally feared. I removed my cloak and tore strips off of it, using it to wrap around her body to keep the bleeding at bay.

The child had managed to stop her screaming long enough to watch me aid her mother, though her sniffling sobs were far from being completely subdued any time soon. I rose my eyes from the mother to look up at the child. Her round face was flushed and smeared with blood and dirt, but with a clean trail of tears that flowed from each dark eye. The woman twitched in pain as she slowly regained consciousness, whispering.

"Victoria, Victoria."

"She is here. She is safe." The calm voice sounded so out of place, even to myself. It seemed to have some sort of effect that helped eased the womans own panic back down a touch.

I rose my eyes to look at this little Victoria, now holding her mothers hand with her uninjured one. I used what little piece of cloth I had left from my cape and made a small sling for the child. It wasnt very good, but it would be good enough until a real doctor was able to assist her.

I gathered some rope from the curtains and used them to tie the woman carefully to my back. I used one arm to hold her in place, while the second I outstretched to this little Victoria. I didnt say anything, and since she wasnt crying anymore, I presumed she trusted me enough. I took her good hand in mine and carefully, and as quickly as her little feet would let her move, lead her outside.

 

There were three soldiers outside, all of which were attempting to usher a few other citizens to the citys outskirts to join with the rest while the last of the renegades were being destroyed. As I approached them they knew immediately what to do. The first soldier removed the woman from my back and carried her like a cradled child, and was careful of her injuries. The little girl hid behind my legs and refused to let go of my hand. How could she trust me so easily after what she had seen me do? I dont think I could ever understand this human nature.

I tried to pull my hand from her grasp, but I didnt wish to hurt her anymore than what she had already endured. She shook her head no, her large eyes were already swelling with tears again, staring up at my vacant and indifferent expression. I knelt down in front of her, holding up my fist that she clung to so desperately.

"You must let me go." She shook her head again, her eyes were blinking against the fresh flow of tears.

"You must." I said these words more slowly. I looked directly at her, then to her mother. The second soldier was properly bandaging her side.

I looked at the child again, and I could feel in her mind that she was beginning to understand. I could feel each thin, little muscle in each of her fingers slowly weaken as her grip slowly gave way, but I didnt move until her little hand had dropped to her side in defeat. I rose to my full height, and felt her suddenly clinging to my waist after a soldier had offered her to take his hand. I looked down at her again, this time sensing a deliberate and childish rebellion. My eyes narrowed down at hers, and she immediately let go, lowering her eyes to the ground. I sensed a small bit of shame, but the stubbornness was still there. For a minute I almost thought she might survive through all of this, but I wasnt about to hold my breath.

Just before she allowed herself to be taken away, I could feel a sudden sense of nervousness swelling in the pit of my stomach, but it wasn't mine. The little girl looked over her shoulder at me, her dark eyes were squinting against the tears that began to free-fall faster. She really was afraid. I knew she wasn't about to leave unless I offered her some form of human reassurance. So I did the only human form of comfort I could think to offer her. I let the corners of my mouth turn up, and I smiled. She seemed to go into a small stunned state as she stared up at my face. I could feel another weird churning in my stomach that came from her, but this one I wasn't entirely familiar with, and, judging by her own sudden discomfort, she didn't understand it either. Slowly she offered a weak smile back and reluctantly walked to the soldier.

The soldier picked her up in the same manner her mother was being held, and the two took off running, in their human pace, down the street to catch up with the other refuges. I looked over my shoulder at the destroyed church, flexing my fingers into a tight fist.

"It is finished."

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