Ch. 4 Never Any Peace
A\N: Took an awful long time to get this chapter going this time around. But, I think it’ll be a good one.
“Your sheep should be just fine now. I removed any infections I found. Just so you know, that ewe is pregnant,” Daine pointed to a grazing sheep a few feet away. “From what I can tell it looks like twins. That’ll be a difficult birth. Please call if you should need my assistance.”
“Daine I can’t thank you enough for all your help,” the village woman said. “Since Ket was injured in the war I’ve had to take over with the farm. I don’t know what I would do if you didn’t come by to help out.”
“It’s really no trouble,” Daine replied. She bent down to pet one of the new lambs who had come up to nudge her leg.
Standing up a few moments later and brushing herself off Daine said, “I really must get going on to the next farm. Karin’s horse over a couple lots has a badly twisted foot she wants me to take a look at.”
Daine whistled and Cloud came cantering over moments later from out of the fields where she had been grazing while she waited for Daine to finish.
Are we almost done for the day? Cloud said testily. I’m ready to be back in my stall with a nice bag of oats already.
“You’ve been awful sour lately miss and I am not entirely sure you have a reason to be,” Daine retorted back as she mounted the pony. “Let’s get going or you won’t be getting home anytime soon.”
Cloud just snorted and kept walking on to the next farm up the way. A while back, before the war, Daine had taken to making rounds every few days to the farms just outside the main city to help with all the animals. She enjoyed the visits, as did the animals, and it gave her a chance to practice her skills.
The saddle bag on the back of Daine’s saddle chirped and a few minutes later a glittering blue head emerged to take in the surrounding area. Kitten chirped a question at Daine.
“Yes Kit, we’ll be done soon,” she said in way of answering the dragon’s question. “Just one more farm and then it’s back home.”
Kitten emitted a series of whistles, clicks, and trills after which Daine simply replied, “Yes Kit, we’ll have dinner when we get back.”
The dragonet chortled happily and climbed back inside her carrying pouch for the rest of the ride.
Upon arriving at Karin and Ira’s farm, Daine knew instantly something was very wrong. The usually cheerful voices of the animals in her mind were frightened and confused. Daine quickly dismounted Cloud and pulled the bow that she always carried with her into town off her shoulder. In seconds she notched an arrow and was silently circumvented the small farmhouse to where the barn and fields lay. No humans were in sight and the animals were eerily quiet. Except for the damn chickens.
Stupid birds, Daine thought quietly to herself. Cloud, take Kit and go hide in the wooded area across from here.
Cloud was silent. Her thoughts were no longer coherent to Daine. They had become a mix of frightened and confused energies, the same as the other animals on the farm. Daine could even hear Skysong in her carrying case making an angry trilling sound that ended in a kind of bark. From the sound of her voice, Kit would be an angry red color at that moment.
Still using her mind speak, Well if you’re not going to hide then don’t move, Daine ordered Cloud.
She closed her eyes for a moment and let her magic crawl free across the fields to see what she could find. All of the animals she touched became slightly less panicked as they realized her presence. Finding nothing dangerous in the near vicinity, Daine walked back to the house and knocked on the front door. When no one answered after the third knock, she tried the door.
Upon entering, Daine found a chaotic mess as if there had been a great struggle. The dining room table was overturned as were all of the chairs. The walk-in pantry where the farmers would keep their food looked as if it had been ripped open by someone on the outside. Daine took special interest in this particular find and ventured forward to have a closer look.
The inside was covered in blood.
She stood there for a moment shocked at the sight of so much blood. No one could have survived a loss so great. Moving some parchments which had been strewn across the ground, Daine discovered a smear of blood which ran from the pantry to the back door. She followed the gruesome trail to the back porch where it stopped as if whatever, or whoever was dragged, had been picked up by whatever (or whoever…) was dragging them. Crouching down on the ground Daine examined a print that very much resembled that of a wolf with a few minor differences. The toes were elongated and the print was much too deeply imbedded in the hard soil for it to have belonged to any normal beast.
“My gods,” Daine whispered. “What has happened here?”
Returning to the barn still with the image of so much blood imprinted in her mind, Daine tended to the animals who clearly had not been feed yet that day.
The farmers must have been attacked sometime in the night. That’s why no one would notice their absence.
After seeing that all the animals were taken care of, and the twisted foot of the horse she had originally come to see was repaired, Daine remounted Cloud and rode back up the path to Ket’s farm. Telling the farmers there what she had seen, she asked that they look after the farm for now so the animals wouldn’t have to starve. When she was done there, Daine rode as fast as Cloud’s legs could carry her up to the castle to tell the king.
Damn Daine silently cursed. Just when I was expecting life to get easier too.
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Shock and confusion painted every face in the room as Daine finished telling her story. Jon and Thayet looked worriedly at each other and Numair paced the room as he always did when pondering a particularly troubling thought. Alanna had called him via speech spell upon Daine’s arrival when she said she had an urgent matter which desperately needed the king’s attention. Alanna’s purple eyes now stared blankly in front of her, seeing no one and signaling that her thoughts were extremely distressed.
“You’re sure Daine? A wolf print?”
“T’was no wolf’s print, your majesty. It belonged to somethin’ big an’ heavy. Never seen nothin’ like it before.” When Daine was especially anxious, her speech slipped back into the familiar lilt that came with living in the impoverished northern towns.
“How do you know this?” Numair inquired, his attention now focused completely on Daine.
“I seen ‘em sunken into the ground. The soil was hard, had to ‘ave been somethin’ with weight.”
Numair began pacing again.
“Arram stop that blasted pacing, I can’t think with you walking back and forth like that,” Alanna said impatiently. “Sire, Buri said she saw something on her rounds a few nights back. I told her she was crazy but what if she was correct? What if what she saw was what attacked those villagers? We must send out a search party, immediately. I will lead it.”
“Gather the riders and some of my soldiers as well. Do not go unarmed. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous and not to be taken lightly.”
Alanna bowed to the king and jogged out of the room to gather the search party.
“Daine, I need eyes all around, can you can Numair give us an above ground view? You may be able to find whatever it is much faster than men on foot.”
Daine and Numair exchanged glances, then both nodded their consent and ran out into the courtyard and out of the castle gates. Finding a secluded area, Daine and Numair began their change.
Eyes grew smaller, sharper, more tuned to movement, and arms grew shorter and began to sprout feathers. Both mage and wild mage shrank in size and within moments one became a large black hawk, while the other chose the form of a smaller faster falcon.
Taking flight they began their search over the woods directly behind the fields where the queen’s riders kept their mounts. After a few moments Daine spoke to Numair telepathically.
I can’t see or sense anything. If it even closely resembled a wolf I would sense it don’t you think?
Just keep looking magelet, I haven’t any idea what we could be looking for Numair replied.
Those poor people.. Numair said nothing in return but he sent her comforting thoughts in way of reassurance. After an hour of flying, both mages returned to where they had left their things and returned to the king to report back.
“Nothing out of the ordinary my lord,” Numair told Jon. “Daine and I both used our gifts to search the area and found nothing.”
“Jon,” Alanna said as she walked into the room having only just returned. “We found something.”
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“Fur?” Jon inquired while turning the specimen over in his hand. “It could be from any number of creatures,” he reasoned.
“There were prints matching the ones Daine described to us below the tree in which that was caught on. They went a little farther into the wood and then stopped as if the thing had suddenly vanished. We searched but the trail never picked up again.”
“What in Mithros’ name is going on now,” Jon said quietly to himself. “Rauol!” he called the captain of the King’s Own.
Seconds later Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie’s peak entered the room. “Sire,” he said as he bowed before the king.
“I want men stationed in the villages at night from now until I give notice otherwise. This beast must be stopped. I can’t have innocent people killed in cold blood while there is something to be done about it.”
“At once your majesty, it shall be done.” Turning on his heel, the giant of a knight turned on his heel and left just as swiftly as he had entered, beckoning the two soldiers stationed at the doors of the throne room to follow as he left.
“That ought to make the people feel a bit more safe. They will know soon enough that there is a monster loose out there somewhere. For now, all we can do is wait and pray the beast was simply passing through. Daine, will you go back to that farm and let Ket and his wife know they may seize the animals from the attacked farm for now at least. I fear the worst has come to pass for the two missing.”
Daine left to do as Jon bid. Numair watched her go, a worried expression in his eyes.
“She will be fine,” Jon said, noticing Numair’s worried glace. “She’s quite a young woman that one.” He smiled before pouring himself a glass of mead. Motioning Numair to join, he poured another glass for the mage.
After taking a sip of the rich oaky liquid, “She is something else,” Numair responded.
Jon regarded his friend with a mix of humor and pity over the rim of his glass. “She’ll come around,” he told the mage.
“How do you..”
“Women talk my friend. Daine talked to Alanna and Thayet the other day and Thayet told me. Though, I am not sure that you are supposed to know. I didn’t tell you, alright?”
Numair chuckled. “Alright he agreed. I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Good. If Thayet learned of my treachery, I would never have any peace.”
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A\N: Yep. I did just make up a new threat and kill two villagers and all in one chapter! No jk. Anyways umm.. Yeah. This chapter was hard because I didn’t know where I wanted to go with the story. But eventually it came to me!;D
A\N: Questions!! What do you think the beast could be!? I’m going to take a few days to get the next couple chapters going so savor this last one(If you have found my story pleasing thus far that is :3) for now and I will get back to it. I think I might take a couple days and work on some art stuff. Maybe. We shall see lol. Thanks for reading!