The Ravening

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Darkening

“Did you force them?” I asked fearfully.

“No.” He dismissed. Shaking his head. “There was none of that then. Not from me. I seduced them each and ruined them. Tainted them in my bed as I felt he’d done to my Tarin.”

“Tarin was her name?”

“Yes.” He said.

“She’s the reason you’re evil now.”

“No.” He murmured. Before drawing a steadying breath and focusing on the fire again. “I’ve no one to blame for that but me. After destroying the Bayall girls, I set out on a mission to drink what spare coin I could from my traps and pelts and to roguishly seduce and destroy.”

“You hated women after that.”

“I was on a single-minded mission to destroy them all. To have them all. But every woman that landed in my bed only proved to me how little value they had.” He said disgustedly.

“Is-is that how you see me, Van?” I asked hesitantly.

He rolled onto his knees before me so fast that it was merely a blur of gray cloak flying.

I squawked and threw up an arm to shield myself. When I tenuously lowered my arm, I found him staring at me with those dark, glinting eyes. Waiting patiently.

He caught my chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Not in the least, Zira. You’ve changed everything I thought I knew.”


I frowned at him.

“I thought that women were all the same. Vicious little hateful beasts needing to be used by men. To be destroyed from within. I loved their screams the sounds of their suffering as I remembered the sounds my starving brothers had made. The noises my mother had faked as she lie with men for coin. Then the sounds Tarin had made while she laid with an ugly old man.”

“But you don’t now?” My bottom lip quivered at his touch. My whole body feeling as though it heated from where he touched me.

“You deserved nothing I did to you. Nothing that’s…” He paused and swallowed that lump of emotion that seemed to form in his throat every time he recalled what he-his demon, had done to me so few nights’ past. “happened to you. If I could take it all back now, I would.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re a clever, fierce creature. But you have honor, intelligence. Not a betrayer’s heart beating in your chest. If you were ever to love a man, he’d be the luckiest man alive.”

I blinked at him in shock. Never having expected to hear such a thing from a man. Least of all the demon that’d been mercilessly torturing me for weeks.


“Did you hunt all women, Van?”

“Not all. Much of my time still went to tending my father and brothers. But I made as much time as possible to savor the bodies of women. Hunting innocent ones to destroy.”

“Destroy?” I asked worriedly.

He was hurting them too? Even as a mortal?

“No.” He chuckled coldly. “I never physically harmed them. I coaxed them to me easily enough. For most women have the heart of whores. But what I destroyed was their reputations. Their prospects to find husbands.”

“But that would only happen if men in the village were to find out.”

“I told them.” He said fiercely. Mouth white and eyes dark. “I told them all. I boasted of every conquest. And if the other men said there was a woman that could resist me, I relentlessly seduced her and ruined her. Then boasted about her too.”

“I was a callous bastard.” He admitted. Contempt entering his voice.

At them or himself? Or both.

“Both.” He answered in that way he seemed to have to know what I was thinking.

“How’d the demons find you?” Curiosity had built in me to know this part of it all.

“When you create that much darkness. Spread that kind of evil and damage and harm, eventually you summon one to you. They couldn’t not come to me. At first, he came to me in the form of a man. Calling himself Zel.”

“Zel?”

“It’s old language for ‘Hollow’.”

“Oh.” I said as if that explained everything. I supposed that Hollow was probably a suitable name for a demon that recruited other demons.

But what do I know of such things?

“You’re damn near an expert now, Zira.” Van said. The hint of humor entering his voice.


“Why do you want to make love to me, Van?” I asked. My voice nearly choked as I gathered the courage to ask the words I’d been desperately wanting to.

“Because I want so badly to do it. But even I know that it’s something you can’t possibly force on a woman. She’ll only ever let you make love to her if she decides to let you. And I’d find it a great honor to get to touch you like that…To teach you.”

“To teach me?” My voice rose slightly.

“That not everything must be the way of men. That it doesn’t have to hurt or be uncomfortable. That it could all mean something else.” He was staring at me steadily, but I noticed that his grip on my chin was shaking. That he seemed entirely unsteady as he awaited an answer.

An answer I’d stalled long enough in giving.

“So, Zira. Will you risk everything. Will you take one more chance on me. Will you let me lie you down and make love to every inch of your body?”

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