You know me. It starts with a first chapter and then it simmers. I wrote this one about a year ago, I think. I’ve reworked the opening a bit because the exposition – though insanely short by Tolkien’s standards – was killing me.
This might turn into this year’s NaNo. Or not. Or something else. I don’t know yet. I just know it’s a fantasy something with a weird take on werethings. *shrugs*
I hope you enjoy the first half of the would-be first chapter. I’ll post the second half tomorrow. 😉
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They thought we were savages. They murmured legends about us at dawn so children would behave and eat their vegetables. Our ancestors’ bloodlust menaced anyone who threatened the greater good, even the innocents wrongly accused of the slightest misdeed. The harshness of the judges matched the era in which they lived and – predictably – made great horror stories.
“I need your help, Dianae,” the boy repeated.
I blinked several times, stunned by what I heard though I had heard it twice now. We adapted to the evolution of the world by softening our manners and breaking ourselves in half. For centuries, my human self blended in the crowd; I could hardly believe that a boy not only requested my help but requested it to my Personae.
In the forest nearby, my Animae, an immense white tiger, hissed at the threat we faced. The masses thought it was the only face of the local Dianae.
I surveyed my surroundings. Finding no immediate onlookers, I pulled the boy to the back of my store. He resisted but even if he was mature by human standards, his strength didn’t equal mine. My glare stopped his futile struggle. I pushed him against the wall and forced him still with the weight of my body.
“How do you know what I am?” I growled in the nape of his neck. He shivered half from fear, half from pleasure. I groaned and retreated.
“I won’t tell anyone,” he replied, massaging the arm I squeezed.
“Obviously not. Unless you explain yourself to my satisfaction, you won’t make it out of here.”
He swallowed hard. A retort flashed in his irises but, to his honour, he refrained from speaking. Threatening my cover was no use. The secret of our identity guaranteed us Dianaes – the Great Hunters – would never again become the hunted. I would protect that at all cost. As judge and jury, it was easy to blame the murder on a deserving scumbag.
“I’m waiting for my answer.” I brushed my hands against my skirts to rid them of the boy’s sweat.
Man, I corrected myself, when hair grows on their face, they call themselves man.
“I should have approached the tiger, shouldn’t I?” I raised a fist. “I notice things. It’s a quirk or a curse. As you wish,” he blurted. His eyes roamed around, carefully avoiding my body and taking an interest in the plants drying on the ceiling. I grunted for him to continue. “The tiger and you have… I don’t know… family resemblance? You’re completing each other in a weird way. You’re an animalistic person who fakes gentleness and it’s a gentle animal who fakes fierceness.”
“This doesn’t make us a Dianae.”
“No but it nicely fits in the legend’s blanks.” He paused and stole a glance at my face. “And I followed you one night.” I growled. “I won’t tell. I swear. I don’t know who else to talk to.”
I pointed a stool in the corner by the alchemist set and he obediently sat. Any other Dianae would break his neck and solve this predicament as we had for centuries. In a way, the man was lucky in his stupid move; bending the rules, even changing them altogether, was my birthright. Foolishness wasn’t in my character, though.
“Then you won’t mind me testing your heart.” I closed on him and extended my right hand. He instinctively inclined backward on his seat but, after a loud gulp, placed his right wrist in my palm. I stifled my surprise. Lying to a Dianae was punishable by death, no questions asked. That he willingly underwent this test told a lot about his character.
Or his desperation.
“I thought only the animal could do that.”
I bared my teeth and bowed to his wrist. Nervousness shook his resolve but his limb, though tense, remained in my grasp. Human scared off so easily. I licked his pulsing vein to disinfect the surrounding skin. A shiver littered his flesh with goose bump.
“Your feelings contradict themselves, young man.” I laughed as I pulled a pin out of the cushion on the counter. I gave it a good lick and locked my gaze to my visitor’s eyes.
“I can’t help it. You’re so… peculiar.” He blushed then jerked when I punctured his exposed vein. I swiftly caught the pearl of blood on my tongue and swirled it in my mouth. His wound was already closing, courtesy of Dianae saliva.
The blood’s coppery taste dissolved into stories of the past and future. Tasting a lie was a simple thing but deeper analysis demanded both energy and attention. However, no matter the cost, I wasn’t passing on an opportunity to know more about that boy. The Animae part of me interrupted nervous circles in the woods so all my mind concentrated on a single task.
The boy didn’t lie, nor would he ever be any good at it. His cells carried the soft taste of grass over a tart note of righteousness. Abandon spiced up the mix and pain plagued the aftertaste. Altogether, the flavour comprised the classics traits of these generations along with a couple of surprises. What really impressed me was the roundness of the bouquet despite its youth but the blood had dissolved before I could investigate.
“What is your talent, Tuomas?” He jumped. It seemed very mystical, me pulling his name out of a drop of blood, but I actually knew everyone in this village and the other five I protected.
“Talent?” The boy shifted his weight on his stool. “No talent.”
“Wrong.” My answer snapped him back to immobility. “Blood doesn’t lie. What is your talent? Or should I drain you to find out?” Truth be told, I only needed one or two additional drops but if I couldn’t have secrecy with this man, I would at least keep fear.
“I notice things. That’s all. Nothing magic in it.”
I believed he didn’t know the half of it. By finding me, he proved he didn’t only notice details invisible to the average human but also thought sufficiently outside preconceptions to assemble details into a coherent whole, however outlandish it might seem at first. From the taste of it, there was something more behind his skills than sheer intuition.
“Because you’re intelligent enough not to risk your life for trivialities, I will hear you out. Don’t try my patience.”
I folded myself to the ground.