Title: Eternity and a Day
Prompt: Request from DanaIsis
Fandom: Van Helsing (Slight AU)
A/N: This is a three part shot requested by the talented writer, DanaIsis. This is my first time writing a short fic centered in this fandom, so, be nice…please?
I shifted uncomfortably as I watched him place the gun in his pack, the exterior glittering off the little light that flooded from the bedside candle, covering the room in an eerie shadow of orange pained walls. It was ever so often that he did this, venturing into the heart of the unknown with only so much as a group of men that could barely call themselves any type of protection; farmers and boys barely even older than myself. Wrapping the raggedy shawl around my shoulders I stood up, slipping my already freezing toes into the equally tattered shoes that were by the beside. His designated side of the makeshift bed was still warm, and his smell lingered in the air above it. Every time I looked at him I still couldn't understand, or maybe I just didn't want to believe it, how fortunate I was to have been chosen by him, a prince of all people. It was the epitome of the very fairytales that had been told to me over the years by my keepers, yes, keepers; I didn't remember having much of a family in France were I grew up for the first eight years of my life, living on the streets, wallowing in my own filth while the upper class ignored the dark girl with graven hair and sad brown eyes that sat on the streets, begging for money; everyday I waited to die, to close my eyes and never wake up. I still shivered as I remembered the many winters I'd sat alone, weakening with every day that passed. The orphanage had refused the take me in, stating that they were too full and couldn't accept any more strays…that was a lie. It wasn't until that one fortunate day, just as I was on the brink of death that Jaelle, a woman with enough kids to open her own factory, found me and took me in.
"Velkan," I asked softly, even after all these years I was still embarrassed to have him in this small shack that I called my home; knowing that he had to sleep on a bad that wasn't even fit for a cow, made of loose straw and old fabrics that we had accumulate over the years in the tiny village, but, not once had he abandoned it for the comfort of a different bed…even one suitable for a prince. He turned slowly, his tunic fitting him loosely. "Do you have to do this?" his lips twitched slightly, we had this conversation many a times, nothing ever seemed to change in their outcome. With the shawl still wrapped around my shoulders, warming my frigid body I stepped closer to him, reaching out with a tentative hand I wrapped it around his wrist. "Just-just stay with me…please." I begged.
"Analiese," he sighed, my eyes flashed to his hand, the silver bullets glistening in the tanned palm as he promptly covered them up; I hated this side of him, the one that wanted to avenge his family, these were the days that I cursed myself for falling in love with a Valerious, and by any right it was destiny that we should have. The Valerious' were known for using our small village as their outposts during excursions and trading, each and everyone one of us had helped Anna and Velkan at least once during the last few years, though, 1887 was a particular time when much in Transylvania came to a standstill. "You know I have to do this." His accent became more prevalent whenever he was strict with me, which wasn't very often, but often enough that I had now come to know when a reprimanding was in order. I watched with growing nausea as he continued to place the casings into the saddle bat that sat on the small wooden desk at the end of the room near the door.
"I'm not letting you leave, Velkan" I said defiantly, dropping the shawl to the ground, my body moving to block the doorway. He sighed, dropping the saddle bag to ground. "There's plenty of other men that can handle this." I knew that my information was skewed, and biased to a degree. The Valerious' were the only ones that could defeat Dracula and everything he'd created, just the thought of Velkan coming into contact with a creature of that lore was daunting. "Let them go…stay with me please." "Ana-" I didn't realize he was bidding me to quiet my words as my ravings continued, tears pulling at the corner of my eyes.
"Analiese!" my lips promptly stopped the hysterical ravings, the warms pads of his hands cradling my face in them. I melted into the touch, closing my eyes for a moment so I could remember what it felt like…every time he did this I felt as if it was going to be the last time. "You needn't worry about me, alright?" he whispered, his thumbs softly running over the flesh just under my eye, wiping the phantom tears away. He smiled softly, the green/grey wise eyes lookin oddly calming in this light.
"How can I not worry?" my voice pleaded, my own dainty hands reaching up to grip his wrists. They wrapped around them like fleshy shackles, trapping him to me. "You're out there fighting a- a beast." I closed my eyes for a moment. Even though I had never witnessed first hand the creature he was after, and I never planned or hoped I would. Snarling and snapping jaws, teeth like knives, and the chilling howl that reverberated in the stories of old that were told around the camp fire when I had joined Jaelle and the rest of her gypsy kin were enough to frighten me from venturing out at night. The hair on the back of my stood on end, heart palpitating, "Velkan, what if you-" my eyes snapped open at the revelation, in those stories that were told the cruse was always passed on to an unexpected bearer; I couldn't think of anything worse than living out your life as a…
"Shhh," he shushed me quickly. "You always say that…" I could see the smirk creeping onto his lips as he pulled me closer to him, our toes meeting. "And you've always ended up being…what?" I chuckled slightly as he brushed a piece of hair behind my ear, never ceasing to flatter me in one way or another.
"Wrong." I admitted; it was true. My knack for predicting the outcome of these "hunts" was normally inaccurate, and far fetched according to his sister. He smiled, slowly dropping his hands from my cheeks, fingers dancing across the skin for a moment. I shivered at his touch and mentally recited the sign of the cross as I closed my eyes. Jaelle had taught me, as well as her other four daughters, that relations out of wedlock were forbidden, no exceptions. Jaelle couldn't have been so naïve as to think that something wasn't going on.
"That's right," his fingers lightly slid over my shoulder, holding it tightly. "And that's the way it's going to stay". Fighting the urge to move closer to him was impossible at this point, and as if some unknown force was pulling me towards him I went, willingly, falling right into his arms. "I'll always come back to you." As much as I wanted to hear the skepticism and uneasiness in his voice…I couldn't find it. He wasn't afraid of whatever was out there for I was his driving force to return unharmed and well.
"You promise?" I asked, needing to hear the reassurance one last time. Slowly and with much care he reached forward, cupping my face in his hands once again. He nodded his head once, my own neck stretching to reach his lips.
"Of course." His voice was soft and sincere, and oddly enough the fears coursing though the pit of my stomach seemed to dissipate in an instant, though I could still feel the lingering doubt swimming in the very bottom.
"Velkan!" I knitted my brows together at the sound of the familiar voice; accent heavy, and not mannish in any way, but, very feminine. Turning my head towards the door the voice continued, "Where are you? We're ready to leave!" I whipped my head back around to meet Velkan's face; it was trained towards the ground in a knowing glance.
"You're taking your sister?" I inquired hastily, I stepped back as he bent down to retrieve the pack from the ground. The bulging saddle bag looked as if he had stuffed everything in the small room but the bed itself into it. "Why don't you ever take me?" It wasn't the best question I could have asked in a situation like this, and it was clear that it wasn't what I or Velkan desired in any way. He studied my face for a moment; hulling the pack of his shoulder he grabbed both of my hands. I shivered as he held them to his lips, the thin lines pressed against the chilling ice cubes I called hands.
"It's too dangerous." He looked passed my hands, still clutching them tightly though. I followed his gaze, my brown eyes meeting the object he was so intently starring at. You could see the reflection of the golden flame in the emerald green stone that was embedded in the golden casting. Velkan told me it had been his mother's ring, one that his father had inherited from her before her unfortunate passing; I could only presume that it had been passed down for generations at a time. "If something happened to you-" his voice faltered as he looked up, my own eyes meeting his instantly. As if it were possible to pull me closer against him he did, my hands resting on his upper arm lightly, gripping at the eggshell colored tunic. "I would never forgive myself." I smiled slightly, I always did when he spoke about my safety, as if it was his job to protect me from everything that had happened and that could happen. I could tell even in this dim lighting that he was three shades away from total embarrassment, his hand pressing against my lower back slightly.
"Such a gentlemen," I whispered, placing my knuckle under his chin. He slowly lifted his head to accommodate mine, his lips curled in a soft smile. It was these moments that I lived for, the ones when Velkan and I were the only ones on this good earth; no monsters, no prophecy, no vengeance…just him and I. His lips found mine just as they always did the kiss never urgent but laced with enough passion to keep me going for days. Lifting my hand I tangled it in the back of his, gripping at the roots slightly. Something churned in my stomach, a fluttering sensation. "Velkan! Hurry up, it's getting late!" Anna's echo cut though the sensation, but Velkan's lips continued to linger weaning off ever so lightly. I didn't want to let him go, the face before me was blurry as I opened my eyes, kissing his lips once more.
"I should go." He stated regretfully, his eyes trailing over every inch of me, remembering everything. I looked down at the floor again, nothing that it needed to be dusted badly, the sheets needed to be cleaned, and the quilts folded. I busied myself with chores whenever Velkan wasn't around, he chose to stay here rather than go to his own village, naturally this made me want to make my home as much like his as possible even if mine wasn't fortified with walls of stone and brick.
"You should," I stated looking back up at him, his hand already resting on the door knob. "But that doesn't mean you have to." The rest of the hut was just as shanty as the room where I slept and only the essentials were needed; a table, a few chairs and a fire place to cook and boil water. It wasn't much, but, it was home to me…and home to Velkan if you believed it or not. The embers from the fire that previous night still shone in the stove, their orange light flickering as a soft went blew attempting to revive them, but to no avail. Velkan's hand found mine as we exited the small structure only to be greeted with a day that exquisitely matched my mood; dreary. The sky was covered with the ominous gray clouds that seemed to ever linger over the land, and the air was still and smelled of unrelieved tension that was everlasting.
"So this is what was taking you so long, Velkan." Anna observed; the princess was beyond gorgeous and blessed with the face of an angel and long brown hair that cascaded down her back. If she wasn't so wild and hell-bent on avenging her family's name she would have made a decent bride. I couldn't help but feel a hint of jealously towards her sometimes; I looked different than most of the people around these parts, skin brown as dirt, and my hair was a mess of tangled black curls. I was what many would call exotic, alien…and something that Velkan called striking. The woman strutted towards us giving her brother a knowing smirk to which he returned with a locked jaw expression and kissing my hand before starting on his duties of readying the horses for the journey.
"Hello, Anna." I bowed my head slightly in acknowledgement. I could tell from the lack of activity of the settlement that it was still early in the morn, despite the tough exterior and the ruthless vibe she radiated she had the warmest smile I'd ever laid my eyes on, just like her brother. She opened her arms in a welcoming gesture as she reached me; the hug seemed to be something of a foreign nature to her, they were stoic and tense. Holding me out in front of her she studied my face, her eyes noting every small wrinkle and the lack luster glint in my eye as she placed a hand on the side of my face.
"You're alright?" she asked carefully, knowing full well that I wasn't going to be okay. I wished I could have been more like her at times like these; unafraid, courageous, strong…I was none of those things. Instead I was the timid, love sick fiancé that was doomed to wallowing in their self pity until the day their love came back to them. I nodded anyway, trying to put my best front forward her gloved hands left the side of my face promptly.
"Yes, I'm fine." I mustered a smile, but, it only lasted for brief instant. She nodded in reply mouthing the words 'good, good' before she turned on her hells, heading towards the horses that were visibly getting restless by the second. Velkan's stocky frame still looked as if it dwarfed the animal he sat upon, the saddle bag handing off the back doing the same. I stepped back, closer to the small cottage as he pulled the horse into a small walk, the hooves clicking across the ground ominously before he came to a halt. I reached out tentatively my fingers shaking as the cold air nipped at the tips, I couldn't stop the feeling that washed over my heart as his warm hand grasped mine, squeezing it tightly.
"I'll be back." He reassured me; try as he might to hide it but I could still hear the misleading quality of his words, that last words he seemed to say to me sounded unsure about his earlier promises. My stomach churned, turning ways I didn't even know it could turn as his grasp began to slip, and the magnificent dappled grey beauty he sat upon propelled itself slowly towards the others that were already heading towards the trees; looking like an army. I tried to hold on as long as I could, my feet tripping over the rock and dirt as I tried to keep up the horses lengthening gait. "In a few days." His gaze lingered on me as our fingers slipped apart, the hooves echoed sounding more distant than they actually were as he rode away, the rest of the village becoming alive with life around me as the rump of the animal disappeared behind the trees.
Two days; the stick comprising of several twined clumps of hay brushed against the matt just outside the cottage, and from the corner of my eye I could still see the original broom that I had accidentally broken during my duties earlier that morning. I cursed the Valerious' and Dracula under my breath as I continued to sweep the dirty from the matt, though it couldn't have been doing much to help its décor. It had been two days since Velkan left, leaving me with nothing but empty promises and a house to myself.
"Slow down, Analiese." I could faintly make out Jaelle's voice through my own thoughts. This wasn't any different than the last few times he'd left to days at a time, but, for some reason my gut was twisting in ways incomprehensible to me, like something was stirring within me. These phantom feelings lingered in the back of my mind, popping up at the oddest of times through my day, but they never overshadowed my constant worrying over Velkan…like an obsession. "Analiese!"
"What!" I snapped, dropping the broom onto the ground; eyes wild and starring. Jaelle looked at me, the movements of her fingers across the tunic as she scrubbed it in the basin faltered until they did nothing. My small outburst had already called unwanted attention to bestowed upon us, but, like almost everything in this tiny village it didn't last long and in a matter of moments the few that had stopped to stare and mumble words of displeasure had gone back to their normal routines, some heading towards the stables, the others towing along their goods. Bending over I quickly swiped the broom from the ground before leaning it up against the face of the wooden structure, snow dusted the ground before my feet as I sat down on the stood just outside the door; this wasn't like me. My nerves seemed to be tied in knots, and even the smallest sounds could irritate me to no end.
"You can't kill dust," Jaelle sighed, resuming her earlier duty; steam from the water continued to rise into the cold air that was floating around us, chilling the inhabitants to their very core. "Besides," she snorted, I turned and looked at her, pulling the tatted shawl tighter around me and oh how did it smell of him. "If you break that one it'll be the second in the two days." She sighed, wringing the eggshell cored tunic out before she reached up, clipping it to the line that extended out of the cottage. "Heaven knows my daughter won't stand for making anymore of them." Jaelle's oldest daughter, Esmeralda, was nine years my senior and had a bundle of her own kids to take care of now; I wouldn't dare venture towards her cottage in search of another one, knowing that she was under enough pressure as it was.
"I'm sorry Jaelle." I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose; we needed at new topic of conversation for a change, but I couldn't for the life of me bring myself to talk about anything but Velkan's return, it's what I lived…it's what I breathed. "It's just that," I bit my bottom lip slightly, pushing the thoughts away from my mind. "Velkan said a few days; and I haven't heard from him or-"Close your eyes and focus, I always tried to tell myself, if I didn't I'd throw myself into a dark corner. Jaelle could visibly see the signs of my demise settling, reaching out she grabbed a hold of my arm, shaking me slightly.
"Calm yourself, dear," she demanded softly, her thumb brushed over my wrist as I closed my eyes, letting a shaky breath escape my lips. "If anything had of happened to anyone, Velkan would have been back here by now." She reassured me, I opened my eyes slowly. This woman was like the mother I never knew; she clothed me, fed me, and kept a roof over my head even though she had her own children to take care of and teach. "I've never seen a boy more in love." She chuckled. She knew just the right strings to pull to get me to calm down, and almost instantly a wave of contentment washed over me, setting in my bones. "When is that wedding of yours by the way?" she probed, shaking my arm once more before she went back to earlier duties; her wrinkled fingers wringing the excess water from yet another garment before she hung it upon the line. A cold breeze blew though the small village, chilling me instantly, tensing my muscles; something about this breeze didn't feel right, my stomach churned uneasily. Settling my hand on my stomach the wave of nausea subsided slightly.
"In a months time." I answered, shaking away the impulse to empty the contents of my half empty stomach onto the ground; it had happened once or twice before this, the foreign feeling in my stomach, followed by the regurgitating of whatever I had eaten earlier that evening or the evening before that. Velkan didn't seem to hear the sounds in the early morning, thank goodness, although, maybe I should have told him about me feeling ill…maybe he wouldn't have left then.
"You don't seem very enthused." Jaelle commented, I could hear the skepticism controlling the usually hardy voice that she possessed. Turning in the small stood that I sat upon I glanced in her direction, noting that the look in her eyes was one of concern, again, I wrapped the dirtied shawl around my shoulders tighter, the smell of burning wood filled the air as the fireplace in side continued to heat.
"I'm-"I stopped my self short of my own reply, I myself not knowing the reason for my lack of enthusiasm of the subject; it was all I had mused about since the day he asked for my hand in marriage and that was over four months prior to this date. "I'm just worried," I shrugged, looking away from here once more. "I can't imagine living without him." Her reaction to my sentiment wasn't one that I was expecting; giving her a look of confusion I bushed the bouncing raven black tendrils behind my ear. My expression enquiring her to explain what amusement she found in my worry, her lips parted still in a silent laugher.
"Oh," she howled, "I'm sure that's not true." Water splashed about in the bucket as she hung yet another piece of clothing onto the line; I glanced back in the direction of the woven basket, noting that she only had but a few articles left to wash. "You made it years without knowing him before, besides," she continued, I still didn't see the reason not to be worried. "My own love died ages ago…and I'm still here." The perkiness in her voice didn't fool me; I'd seen her cry more times over her dead husband than any of her actually children had, it was shame that I only came to know him for a few years before he fell ill with a cold and passed away during the night.
Arguing my opinions with the seasoned old woman would prove futile for she had more years and experience than I; shrugging in shook my head once more, silently disagreeing with everything she revealed. "I still don't understand why he needs to do this." I could hear the whining in my voice overshadow any fear that was shaking in it before. "Theres plenty of other men that should be out there…ridding the word of those- those creatures." My taupe toned hand waved towards the forest that lined the edge of town; several men stood at a few of the posts, positioned there because of Velkan's orders. Jaelle's frail hands wrapped themselves in her own knitted shawl as she looked in my direction, having finally finished her laundry, her eyes blank and lips curled into a knowing smirk; my eyes rolled.
"He is the last male of Valerious bloodline," she reminded me; almost instantaneously my heart leapt in my chest as her reprimanding, but not because of the fear of being put in my place…but because of what she said. Yes, I had been ill the last few weeks off and on, but nothing too serious, I figured it was just an illness that was being passed along the village…until the startling realization of being the only "ill" individual in the village presented itself to me. I told myself I was foolish to think that it could have been anything else but that, but, over the last month…I started to feel odd…and not so much myself. "You knew what you were stepping into."
"Well," I answered lowly, silencing for a few more moments before I could bring myself to utter the words that I had only ever thought about, but never repeating them aloud, "He might be the last…" And for some strange reason as the words rolled off my tongue it felt as if an immense weight had been lifted from my shoulders and tossed carelessly to the side; I was able to breathe easier, sit up straighter, but the churning in my stomach still continued. I only looked up when I felt Jaelle's hand wrap around my wrist, and rather tightly I may add, squeezing it. I glanced down ay the wrinkled whitening knuckles as she starred up at me, eyes bulging and full of what looked like fear.
"Why do you speak like that child?" she hissed, her head whipping from side to side, almost as if she was looking for an intruder of some sort. My eyes danced around the rather empty village as well, noting the snow capped trees and children bundled up tightly as they ran though the streets, parents walking behind them slowly; one little boy caught my eye as his father picked him up in his arms, holding him close. An odd lump filled my throat, sending a small jolt up my spine. I'd never looked at children like that…a family. The realization was being even more prevalent as I vent down towards her once again, eyes wide.
"You must keep this to yourself….do you promise?" I hissed back, fear etching each syllable. The old woman before me nodded her head quickly, mumbling a series of yes'. "Well," I began to explain slowly; I'd never rehearsed how to bring about this news, and what if there was no news to tell anyway. "I've been feeling," I sifted though the words the floated around in my skull, trying to pick the best word to describe exactly how I had felt for the last month; scared, worried, shocked, skeptical…. "different." I finally answered; eye twitching slightly as the word left my mouth…it was a good different though.
"Oh my heavens," it was almost as if Jaelle couldn't contain her excitement as she mumbled the blessing, her hand quickly covering her mouth as if she had uttered a dire secret. Her knee began to shake as she grasped my face in her hands, I swallowed hard; Jaelle had mothered nine children of her own…of course she would known when someone was carrying another human being inside of them. She had even once commented on me being absolutely glowing at once point over the last few weeks…it seemed that neither she nor I thought anything of it. "Oh, bless you child." She continued to whisper.
"I'm- I'm not sure yet." I tried to explain to her, no yet understanding that the damage was already done; now that the supposed truth was out there, I was almost positive that I would not be able to convince her otherwise.
Seeming to completely neglect the other information of it's accuracy she continued on with her ramblings, most of them being spoken too fast for me to even understand. "Does Velkan know?" she suddenly asked, eyes locking with mine instantly. I shook my head slowly, glancing at the stones beneath our boots before looking back up.
"No, I didn't want to tell him unless it was accurate." I replied back just as quickly, I could already see an array of questions circling in her pale eyes as she continued to look up at me. A spark lit in them just as quickly, I wasn't even aware that a woman of her age could move so quickly, or swiftly. Before I knew it she was towering over me, her hand still grasping my wrist tightly.
"Well then," she looked around again, "You must find out. Have you been feeling ill recently?" I continued to stare up at her, knitting my brows together at the feeling of Déjà vu that washed over me; the very questions she was grilling me with were the very questions that I had been asking myself constantly.
"Yes, but-"I stumbled over the words as I stood up from the stool, my feet crunching the blanket of snow that sat beneath me, teeth chattering. "But I just thought it was a illness being passed about-"with her hand still grasped around my wrist she began to pull me towards the entrance of the small cottage, quickly opening the door we were both greeted by the smell of burning wood, the warmth not at the level of satisfaction for such a cold day, but, it was manageable.
"And what about your cycle?" she rounded on me as soon as the door was closed; taking the shawl from around my shoulders I set it on the small chair closest to the door, wrapping my arms around myself as I stared at the burning flames the licked towards the top of the chimney. "Has it continued this month-"
"No." I answered loudly, immediately apologizing to the woman with an uneasy glance; this was all too much to take in at once. Whenever I thought about it, the news didn't seem so bad, or this important…but know that she knew. I watched as Jaelle began to pace in a small circle, her worn boots turning into the wooden floor, making it creak. Her hand was held up near her lips, those thin lines mumbling. I could vaguely make out a few 'oh lords' and 'bless her souls' that fumbled from her lips; I involuntary placed a hand on my stomach, closing my eyes. Maybe some women just know when they're carrying a child within themselves, maybe some didn't; obviously I was the latter. But even so, my thumb caressed the flat fabric, and I would be lying if I said this wasn't a good feeling.
"Ohhhhhhhh," Jaelle sighed; the tone of the old woman's voice sent a shiver up my spine, and my stomach into a frenzy as it dropped. I immediately opened my eyes, the images of a small child in Velkan's arms fading away as her worrisome tone drifted though my ears. "Do you know what this means?" I was startled by her jerky movements as she rushed forward, placing her own hand on top of mine that was still resting on the fabric of my dress. "If you are in fact carrying Velkan's child…" she paused yet again, "You could continue the bloodline." The revelation that she had just revealed to me was something that hadn't crossed my mind, as far as we were all concern Velkan and Anna were the last two children of the Valerious family…but if I was in fact carrying Velkan's child then… My face grew cold as the blood traveling in my veins froze in an instant, my mouth becoming very dry. "Analiese, you must tell Velkan the news as soon as he returns…you are not safe here anymore."
Slowly looked up towards the woman I froze yet again; I'd never seen so much fear in one person's eyes, radiating out of every pore of her body. "What do I do?" I inquired almost mechanically, as if by some natural force I was programmed to say exactly that, no emotion underlying the words.
"You and Velkan," she placed her hands on either of my shoulders, I blinked feeling the tears flutter to my eyes, "Must leave Transylvania…for the sake of this child." I nodded slowly, not really comprehending the words that were coming from her lips, but, nether the less I agreed to them; I continued to stand by the fire place as Jaelle spoke, her sentences never ending, nor did she seem to realize that she was changing subjects every moment. I only interrupted her when she began speaking of the forest, the very one that was considered dangerous and off limits to travelers…especially the hours ranging from dusk until dawn. "Theres a woman who lives on the outskirts of the village; just a small way from here, through the forest." She spoke quickly, speaking of the "witch" woman, supposedly Lucine had predicted all of Jaelle's children; or so she'd explained to me.
"Jaelle," I tried to overpower the woman's voice, but as stubborn and excited as she, it was futile. She continued to ramble, only stopping a few times to rest her hand on her hip to catch her breath, before she was back to her ramblings.
"We'll go there tonight. She'll be able to give us the truth."
"Jaelle!" I hadn't expected my voice to rise that much, but alas it had. Closing my eyes for a moment I tried to calm myself, reassuring my nerves that everything was going to be fine. "It's- it's too dangerous to walk in the forest at night," I explained, "and what if Velkan comes back." This was me confessing my wishful thinking, "He'll be distraught if he finds I'm not here…"
"Do you want to figure this out or not?" the old woman snapped, hands resting on her hips as she ignored my pleas; there was no way I was going to be able to change her mind, and the fact that it would be dark soon didn't provide any solace to me whatsoever.
"Are you sure this is safe?" I inquired for the hundredth time it seemed; I kept my voice low, the lantern in my hand giving off minimal light as it reflected off the snow covered ground. Dead leaves and fallen branches littered the small trail before us, and it seemed as if the temperature had dropped significantly; but it wasn't only the cold that was sending a shiver up my spine, and it certainly wasn't the only culprit that was forcing my hair to stand on end, all of my senses on high alert. Pulling the fabric tighter around me the wind blew slightly, chilling me as well as the sounds that accompanied the breeze as it wrestled though the bare branches. Every sound that the night produced frightened me, no matter if it was the flutter of a bird late to its nest or the chattering of the mammals that had come out of hibernation a little too early; it was always in the back of my mind that it could be something much worse than that.
"You shouldn't doubt your elders, Analiese." Jaelle scolded me; I was surprised by the lack of fear of the unknown that the woman possessed as she trekked though the dead, icy earth ahead of me "I wouldn't put you in any danger."
"I know, Jaelle," I commented, speeding up my pace slightly until I was practically in synch with the woman in front of me. "It's just- I'm not getting a good feeling about this." I turned and looked behind me, an automatic response to the rustling that was coming from the bushes at the end of the trail; I half expected it to be one of the guards that usually kept watch at night, I still wasn't sure how Jaelle and I were able to get past them.
"She does that to everyone, dear." She commented "Come along now, it's not much farther." Our destination was practically right around the corner, we hadn't been walking for more than and extra three minutes with a lonely hut came into view; spoke rose from the oddly crafted chimney of twisted stone, the grass and trail leading to the entrance of the hut was still covered with snow and dead leaves, and it hadn't looked as if this place had had a proper cleaning in decades. My eyes roamed about the yard, though I could barely see anything in the dim lightly that the lanterns provided us with, holding the fire out in front of me I moved it from left to right, trying to take note of everything I saw. I jumped as bark filled the air, my heart beating rapidly against my chest; it didn't sound nearly as menacing as the barks that the dogs in the village acquired, and it wasn't vicious enough to be something of a monstrous proportion; swinging the lantern in the direction of the bark my nerves continued to clamor. It was rather large animal, dark black fur covering its body, and even in the dim light I could see the tense tendons rippling beneath its skin, it barked again.
"Visitors, I presume." I turned sharply on my heels as the monotone voice rang through the air; it was more of a statement than a question to begin with. I could feel my heart beating in my ears as I watched the frail figure move from the door way, her back hunched, and a walking stick prodding the earth as she shuffled. I stood still as I watched Jaelle approach her half way, bowing her head quickly.
"Lucine, it's Jaelle." She greeted her; Jaelle turned to be quickly, her hand motioning for me to come forward. I stood unmoving for a few moments, Jaelle's lantern providing enough light for me to get a good look at the woman, Lucine's, face; it was wrinkled, scars covering portions of the leathery looking skin, and her eyes…I'd never seen eyes like hers, they looked dead, glazed off and hyaline. I looked towards the ground before moving slowly towards the two of them, avoiding the woman's dead gaze as she shifted her attention to what I assumed to be the sounds of my footsteps.
"Ah," she croaked, "Yes, it's been a long time since your last visit." She observed, "Who have you brought with you this time?" The curved stick held in her hand stretched towards me, prodding at my leg as she hobbled towards me slightly, I blinked a few times as her eyes lifted to meet mine; it was almost as if she was looking threw me instead of at me, I wasn't even sure if she could see me… "I don't think we've met-"
"No," I answered slowly, but loudly, trying not to show the fear that was clearly evident in my voice. "Indeed we haven't. I'm Analiese." I introduced myself, embarrassed by the way I was starring at the woman. She smiled slightly, and I couldn't really say it was a toothy smile seeing that she didn't necessarily have all of her teeth to begin with.
"Oh, yes, yes…Velkan's girl."
"How-"I began to stutter, surely I'd never seen her around the village before, I didn't even know of her existence until earlier this evening actually. I knitted my brows together, watching as she closed her mouth, showing off a tight lipped smile in the process.
"I'm blind, my dear, not deaf. I presume you've come for my help?" the woman went on; there was a certain air to her that was welcoming in a sense.
"Yes, Lucine," Jaelle responded for me. "We are in need of answers." I looked towards Jaelle as she spoke quickly, knitting my brows together as the lantern continued to sway back and forth in her grasp, teetering this way and that; whether he hand was shaking from the cold or fear I couldn't tell. Lucine waved her hand in a response, her body turning towards the cottage from whence she came, feet shuffling against the snow covered ground.
"You want to know if she is with child?" the hag stated more than questioned, stopping as in the middle of the snow filled walkway; an eerie wind rustled though the branches of the overhanging branches of the trees, the bright moonlight filling the sky, illuminating the snow beneath our feet like crystals, and a sound, certainly not one made by the wind radiated off the still earth, the wind carrying it to our ears; a howl, loud and menacing. The dog that was chained to the far side of the house cowered in his own shadow, retreating and whimpering; I, myself, had become quite weary as the howl continued to fade into the distance, a terrible case of dry mouth settling in as I wondered how this woman knew all of these things, and wondering how close that creature was. I was surprised that the other two women hadn't become uneasy at the sound. My eyes darted around the small space, half awaiting the beast to make its self known; I was so engrossed in my own thoughts of terror I hadn't realized that the hold woman had already shuffled up to the door, Jaelle directly in tow like the woman's much younger shadow as she turned towards me, my mentor doing the same. "Well, are you going to stand out there all night? Come in." she beckoned.
I will never look at my own home and question neither its poise nor its lack of decoration or cleanliness; compared to this cottage anyone would call it a castle fit for a king. The walls were dirty, covered with strange pictures and lined with bookshelves containing foreign objects that made my stomach churn; fingers, toes, and what looked like animal skulls and dried bat wings were just a few of the said objects that were lining the shelves, and the smell that radiated though out the two vacant rooms were horrible. I covered my nose with my shawl, politely so, if that were even possible as I passed through the foyer, noting a stack of cages, some empty, but, most full that were lining the walls; chickens, rabbits, and other small animals sniffed the air as I passed, their claws and teeth gnawing at the iron bars of their prison. The room she was leading was into didn't seem to be any different from the rest of the less than spacious area; the décor was bland, and only a small bed sat in the corner of the room, a table at the foot of the makeshift sleeping area that was nothing but straw and old sheets that she had come into her possession by mere chance, some even containing an intricate design or two. A few candles were lit around the room, and basin sat on the desk; well, it seemed that she knew we were coming…odd.
"Do not me afraid of me, Analiese." I looked up slowly, but didn't meet the woman's blind gaze as she looked in my supposed direction, and I must say her stare was spot on; perhaps senses heightened to accommodate for the absence of one such as important as sight, or perhaps I was just easy to figure out. Swallowing the lump in my throat I moved forward slowly, unwrapping the shawl from my shoulders, but did not meet the ground, Jaelle's hand stretched forward, taking the brown fabric from my grasp. "Come, lay down," the wrinkled hand stretched towards the bed. There was no turning back now, propelling myself forward was pure courage and it was the last of mine, it seemed. Gently lying on the bundled fabric I let my hands float to my stomach, almost instinctually protecting it, but from what? I wasn't even sure if there was anything in there to begin with, but I just had this feeling… "When did you first believe you were with child?" the questions arose immediately, my eyes avoided the woman's gaze at all costs as her hand probed my clothed stomach, the leathery hands cold against my skin.
"A month ago." I answered slowly; the probing stopped for a few moments, her tongue clicking against the roof of her mouth in what seemed in disappointment. Frowning I looked at her, a shiver running up my spine as I watched her lips mumbling; for a moment I though she was damning me to hell.
"A month?" she scolded me again, her hand pressing harder against my abdomen, "Oh, you foolish girl, and you wait until now to seek my knowledge?" I was tight lipped on the subject, having been scolded enough for one day, she pressed lower on my stomach, mumbling words under her breath in an almost secretive way. I closed my eyes, her voice somewhat soothing…calming in a sense; what would Velkan think of this? I'm sure we'd have to be married right away when he found out the news, if there was any to tell. We wouldn't want God to frown upon us for having a child out of wedlock, especially not now. A gasp from the woman caught my attention, her hand having stopped in one place as she pressed a little harder, I jerked slightly. "Oh," her voice was surprised.
"Oh?" I questioned back, my voice on edge. "Oh what? Did- did you feel something?" Her lips curled into a tantalizing grin as she moved her hand across my stomach once again, mumbling word and 'Oh' 'Mmmm' and 'Yes' under her breath; almost as if she was communicating with someone, silently debating on my condition. She nodded her head in my direction once more. What? What was happening…did she find something? Was something wrong?
"Yes, my dear." She croaked and Jaelle gave a squeal of delight from above me, her hand suddenly resting on my shoulder as I looked up at the ceiling; it was as if all of the air had been pushed from my lungs, butterflies fluttering within me….I was… "I suppose congratulations are in order…"
A/N: I'm 'so-so' on this one; this is my first time ever writing something for this Fandom as I have said, and it was my first time writing something that was set in the 'modern age', so, I hope I didn't disappoint. I promise, the next one will be better, and I sincerely apologize for the terrible terrible ending.