The Ravening

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Who He Was

Something cracked closer behind us and Van twisted. His gaze flicking to gold as he assessed the trees. Looking for someone out there.

His tension made me nervous. I pulled my cloak tighter around me and the hood low over my face so I could appear as a small man or a large child if someone came upon us.

But no one should be wandering these woods when it’s this dark.

It was far too dangerous with the fey of the Warwood running rampant at night. Only kept at bay by a warm fire.

Everyone knows that.


“Who were you, Van?” I asked as he turned back.

“I was a brother.”

I frowned at him in confusion.

He was staring at the dancing firelight as if he were somewhere else. He grabbed a log from next to him and tossed it in. Feeding the licking orange and red flames and making them bloom more brightly.

Did he think fey were hunting us tonight?

For whatever reason, I calmed when he did as the fire grew. I was less afraid with him next to me then I would’ve been were I alone.

Who feels more safe when a demon is around?

I’m a fool. I cursed myself. Wondering what I was thinking.

“I had five little brothers.” He said pensively.

“So many!” I gasped. “Where were your parents?”

He shot me a sharp look and I saw the sudden flare of anger in his eyes.

“My father had an accident when cutting trees for the crown. And after that he wasn’t right.” Van tapped his skull pointedly.

“And your mum?” I asked hesitantly. Sensing where some of the animosity toward women might have been born.

“She liked to make a bit of extra coin by servicing men in our hut when father wasn’t home. Something I had to help hide from my little brothers. Then she’d hide that coin away even on days the youngest of us was starving as father waited for his monthly purse. I thought little of her to begin with. But after father’s incident she was quick to bolt. Saying she’d not have no weakling man.”

His face pinched inward and I thought I saw the flash of the demon’s face. Making me lurch sideways to put distance between Van and I.


He caught my forearm and pulled me back. Staring at the fire rather than looking at me and facing the fear he knew would be on my face. “You’re safe. ’Tis only my anger at her.”

“Is she why you hate women?”

“She is part of why.” He shrugged. “I learned to hunt and trap to take care of the family. To put food on the table when father could not and then to sell the pelts at market for coin.”

“How ingenious of you. How old were you?”

“Young.” He swallowed. Corded throat working with some bit of emotion. He leaned back onto his palms and stretched his long legs out before him. Crossing them at the ankle.

Though he still wore the dark breeches and the gray cloak I noted the hard lines of his bare feet and the rippled muscled of his abdomen. Even as he sat so leisurely, he looked like an animal coiled to pounce.

“Perhaps on you.” He remarked.

My gaze shot to his face and I realized he was assessing me now. Watching me watching him.

Desiring him. I admitted to myself in shock. My dark eyes widening.


“Why else do you hate women?” I asked reluctantly. My curiosity pressing me to ask questions that I suspected I’d not want to know the answers to.

“I met a girl.” He said so quietly, I wasn’t sure I heard the words at first. “I had a lover.”

“A lover or a love?” I asked raptly.

Did he care for her?

“She was everything to me.” He adjusted the waistband of his breeches. Plucking bits of branches from his pantleg. “I cared for her. I wanted to give her everything.”

“But?”

“But she didn’t much care for the idea of spending her life helping me care for my father and young brothers.”

“Your brothers just needed tending until they were old enough to make lives of their own.”

“I was aware of that. But she was young. And to her, that much time seemed to take forever. We fought often.”

“That was all?”

“No.” He admitted. Emotion darkening his tone. “After a particularly despicable fight I left to go check my traps and when I returned, I found her with a neighbor man in our bed.”

“She was unfaithful.”

“But somehow it seemed worse because I’d not touched her. I thought her whole.”

“But she wasn’t.” Then my eyes widened. “She was like your mother.”

“Yes.” He said tightly. “The neighbor man was older than my father with three beautiful young daughters slightly older than me.”

“Oh, no…” I murmured. “You did not.”

He nodded firmly. Lips tight. “I most certainly did.”

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