The Ravening

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Free From Her

Vandiel crouched next to a fire. Outstretching his hands to warm them. This Winter was finding it exceptionally cold. Colder without her.

He’d had a cooked squirrel for dinner and laid back on his tattered gray cloak. Tipping so his bare feet could warm next to the flame.

He heard the rustling in the trees.

“I know you’re there, Fey. You won’t get me tonight. Same as every other night.” He warned them.

Ever since he’d separated from his demon, they’d become increasingly more persistent.

Sensing I’m only human now.

But despite their determination, he’d been savoring what he’d become. Eating, breathing, bathing, shitting.

I can feel everything now. He set one hand on his belly and propped the other along the back of his head. Staring up at a velvet night sky. Flecked with silvery stars. The beginnings of a late Winter snowfall were floating down. Making it seem like the stars themselves were falling in a tunnel to land on his face.

Making the dirt and trees smell more potent.

Van chewed his cheek and let himself get lost in that hazy white tunnel. Closing his eyes, he immediately remembered just a few days past.

I shouldn’t have gone to her.

But there’d been no chance of him resisting. He was drawn back to check on her, like a magnet.

He’d adapted a trail through the woods and along the country that helped him find himself again. Taking the time to hunt and live. To sit in streets and listen to the laughter of children playing ball.

To think about something other than ravishing women.

Now it seemed a different life.

A different man.

Van felt like a totally different man than the one that had made so many women suffer. The urges that had been nearly overwhelming were hollow now.

I only think of her.

But tomorrow…

It’ll be the ultimate test.

Van was ready for it. Still, he inhaled a long breath. Staring up at the tavern with a fearful look.

It was the Bawdy Barmaid. Known for its lustful, beautiful barmaids.

Who are known for being more than accommodating.

But I’m not here for them. Van’s hands shook and his hazel eyes were a mix of green and gold. Assessing the tavern.

What if I’m wrong?

What if I’m not ready? He swallowed hard.

She changed me. He told himself and he took the first long step toward the tavern.

Walking in was like entering his memories.

How many times did I hunt in such a place before?

There were drunken men roaring heartily.

Lustful barmaids crooning and shaking their ample breasts at prospective buyers.

Of their wares.

Vandiel had flourished in places like this. They were my favorite hunting grounds.

He recalled numerous taverns he’d haunted. Where he could go chamber to chamber and take the women while they slept.

Making them suffer unconscionably.

How could I do it. He was sickened by the memories as he slid into a back booth. Watching the interactions of the couples.

Men delving their large hands beneath their necklines to fondle them.

Then the women playfully swatting their hands and demanding coin for their time.

Women I’d have told myself deserved what I was doing to them.

Van watched all their movements. Sipping from a tankard.

One barmaid hiked her skirt to offer him a bountiful view of creamy thigh. Dirtied from lack of bathing.

But fair enough, nonetheless.

Still, it didn’t stir him.

I’m limp as a dead hound. But that filled him with pride.

Maybe one day… He told himself.

I can go back to her.

It was cold in the woods. I rubbed my upper arms. Rising from my crouching position.

If I keep moving, I won’t be so cold. But my legs ached, and my body was begging for a break.

I haven’t slept in days. But I was close.

His tracks had been slowing the last few days.

He’s tired.

Or reluctant to be going wherever he is.

Further from me? I thought hopefully. But I dismissed the thought roughly. Thinking that I should keep pressing on. And I could ask him myself, soon enough.

“Vandiel.” I whispered. No longer afraid of his name.

No longer afraid of the monster. He beat it. I was sure of it. Certain I knew what manner of man I fell in love with.

Not the demon. The man.

I wasn’t cold beneath all the weight of my furs, but I was beyond tired.

And then I emerged from the Warwood to see something truly horrifying.

The one thing I was hoping he wasn’t heading for.

It was a tavern.

One known for the pretty barmaids.

My stomach sunk and I was suddenly fearful.

What if I’m wrong?

What if I am tracking the demon?

Or a half man, half demon again? I wondered briefly if I’d be able to bear it if I saw that Van was once again the demon’s captive.


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