The stench of death, decay and shit permeated the air.
The surrounding fields were littered with dead soldiers and civilians. There was nothing in site for miles, not a tree, not a blade of grass, nothing. Just plowed dirt and dead bodies.
Grayson’s lip curled in disgust at his enemies’ lack of hygiene.
‘Fuckers can’t even dispose of a goddamn body right,’ he thought as he kicked a half-decayed soldier out of his walking path. He could hear a couple of his battalion men silently gag at the sight. He could not blame them; it was a gruesome scene.
Even so, Grayson turned his head and glared at the weak men.
“Sorry sir,” one of them whispered while wiping his mouth.
With that, Grayson turned back around, continuing their advance. Off in the distance, he saw a leafless dead-looking tree. Beyond the tree was a tall, abandoned building. According to his scouts, this was where the enemies where hiding out. He decided the tree was where they would get ready for their attack.
As they got closer to the tree, they noticed several black birds circling above it while many others perched on the limbs and... something else. He stopped his battalion with an out reached hand and continued alone.
Another whiff of death tickled his nose fervently. Stifling a sneeze, Grayson stopped suddenly. His eyes widen while his mouth parted slightly.
The tree was tall with a thick trunk. The branches extended out like claws, making it easy for the fifteen decomposed bodies to hang from a noose around their necks. The black birds that appeared to be perched on the tree limbs were actually perched on the dead’s heads and bodies, pecking at their rotting flesh.
Their croaks, caws, and ripping of the flesh was the only sounds filling the silence that surrounded him.
Many of the bodies were women. They were stripped naked with whip marks canvasing their bodies. Dried blood stained their skins, but what truly shocked Grayson was the blood between their legs.
He clenched his teeth. He could practically smell the seed left inside them.
The few men that were amongst the women only had whip marks. But from their bulging eyes and swollen blue-gray faces, they were hung while still alive.
Grayson silently growled. He turned back to his battalion with a dark look in his eyes. They cautiously approached him.
“We will set up here, under this tree. I do not care if you vomit or have horrific dreams of this day, but we WILL avenge their last moments of death.” He said without question.
Each one of his men saluted him and did their best to avoid looking. Noticing, Grayson stopped them.
“Look at them. They suffered a terrible fate, worse than what we will face. LOOK AT THESE VICTIMS.”
The men slowly lifted their gazes. Almost every one of their faces turned pale. Several of them vomited, while others took in the horrific scene. Those men will suffer.
Grayson took pride in those that did not show weakness. He watched as their eyes filled with rage and determination to avenge the victims death. Those were his best soldiers.
As Grayson sat down to prepare himself for the fight, he felt a sudden change in the air from above his head. As he looked up, he truly did not expect what was waiting for him.
A small boy, most likely no older than eleven, was above him. He was hanging from a noose, like all the other victims. He had whip marks, like all the other victims. He was covered in dried blood, like all the other victims. The only severe difference was his age.
He seemed to sway with the wind.
This confused Grayson because he remembered no wind as his battalion traveled out here. This fact caused him to stand and look around at the other victims. They were still, not one swung even slightly.
He also noted that all the black birds were suddenly gone. He knew he would have heard their wings flapping or their craws of warning. Unease began to crawl up his spine and spread throughout his body.
Grayson brought his attention back to the boy. His wounds seemed to be different from the others. He tilted his head to exam the boy more. His wounds were not just from whips, but also bits of skin were missing, his nails were all torn off, and his feet were severely burned.
All this angered Grayson, but what caused his blood to boil, was the amount of blood between his legs. They were covered, and barely dry. The boy was sodomized then hung from a tree no more than a few hours before they got there.
Just as Grayson was about to yell at his battalion, a painful moan sounded above him. Eyes wide, he turned back to the boy.
The boy was staring at him. There was no haze like the other dead people had in their eyes, he was strictly focused on him.
He opened his dry, cracked lips slowly.
“Help...” he croaked.
Grayson’s vision turned red while a horrified scream came from the distance.
Eleanor was making tea when she heard the scream. She jumped and dropped her cup, pieces of it scattering across the floor. Placing a hand on her chest, she tried calming her racing heart before she realized what caused the scream.
‘Another war dream,’ thought Eleanor as she ran to the bedroom, frowning at the broken cup as she tipped toed around it.
When she burst through their bedroom door, she saw Grayson tangled in the sheets and sweat covering his body. Eleanor quickly went to his side. “Grayson. Grayson wake up! It’s just a dream!” She gently shook his shoulder but prepped herself to back up. The first time she woke him from one of these dreams, he hit her in the face. He thought she was the enemy trying to kill him.
Left a nasty bruise on her cheek that stayed there for weeks.
And just as expected, Grayson threw a punch. Luckily, Eleanor was quick and backed up just in time. Her hair moved from the wind of the punch, telling her how powerful it was. She was grateful she missed that one.
Grayson was breathing heavily, staring at Eleanor. “Ellie?” he asked, his voice laced with sleep and shaky from terror. She nodded her head, waiting for him to be broken out of his daze.
He sighed deeply and put his head in his hands. Eleanor took that chance to study him. He was completely naked under the sheets, showing his many scars from swords and bullets. It made her blush. His dark brown hair hung close to his eyes, the ends curling up a little. His cheeks were covered in a brown beard streaked with blond, and his thin lips were pressed into an even thinner line. As he turned to look at her, she felt her heart skip a beat. His eyes truly mesmerized her. The hazel turned a different color concerning his mood. Many people had assumed he dabbled in voodoo or sorcery because of his eyes. Along with the way he looked at anyone, like he was able to look directly into that person’s soul. Almost like he is judging their inner being. This caused them to move away from the populated town, too many people trying to convict him of dark magic.
Right now, they were brown with blue speckles.
“Ellie, are you ok?” Grayson asked, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. She snorted silently at his nakedness that was starting to become more apparent and turned around.
“I’m fine,” she forced out. “Come to the kitchen when you’ve bathed and dressed, I’ll have some tea waiting.” She quickly walked out of the room before he could say anything.
When Eleanor made it into the kitchen, she stopped at the table and sighed. The thought of Grayson’s naked, sweaty body popped into her mind, making her entire body tingle until it settled to her core. She unconsciously crossed her legs. Taking another deep breath, she reached for the cabinet.
As she reached for the door of the cabinet, she stopped to look at her reflection in the window where she stored the tea kettle and cups. Her ash brown hair that normally flowed down to her waist, was pinned up under the handkerchief. Her eyes were a deep blue, a definite contrast to her pale porcelain skin. Her cheeks were still flushed from her earlier bashfulness, making her look more zoetic. She looked at her lips. Even though they were pale pink and plump, they were dry and peeling. Her skin and lips gave away the fact that she was ill.
Licking and lightly nibbling on her lips, she tried to bring back life to them. Grayson did not know about her illness, and she planned on keeping it that way.
Feeling somewhat satisfied with the small tinge of dark pink on her lips, she turned away from her reflection.
Eleanor looked under her boot and spotted the broken cup. Her eyebrows furrowed, feeling tired already from the commotion, but knowing she had to clean up her mess.
After cleaning up and making the tea, Eleanor sat down. She sniffed her tea and sighed in content. Just then, Grayson walked into the room with a blank look on his face. He wore brown slacks, light brown tunic, and a worn-down leather vest. Eleanor raised a brow when she realized that he was in his work clothes.
“Feel better?” She asked.
“Hmm.” Grayson replied, walking over to the tea kettle. He poured himself a cup and sat across from Eleanor, noticing her questioning look. “I have work to do over at the Mattis household, are you still planning on going to the market?”
“Yes, I need to pick up a few things. Flower seeds and teacups to be exact.” Eleanor replied. “What business do you have over at the Mattis household? You were just there yesterday and the day before. Come to think of it, you’ve been there every day for over two weeks.”
Grayson sipped his cup, cringing at the taste of bitter black tea. “They need more help with the fields. According to Gregory, they are behind schedule.” He shrugged.
“Alright, is there anything you need at the market?” Eleanor asked.
“Yes, pick up some more whiskey.”
Eleanor stared at him. “You need more? I just picked some up four days ago...” she closed her mouth when she saw Grayson’s blue specks turn green.
“You know why I need more. It’s the only thing that helps me fall asleep.” Grayson said through clenched teeth.
“Well, chamomile tea could do the same thing without you feeling like death in the morning. And if you would just talk to me, maybe I could- ”
Grayson stood up so fast the chair fell back with a loud BANG. Without saying another word, he walked out the door and slammed it shut, putting an end to the conversation.
Eleanor slammed her cup down, breaking another one. ‘Dammit! I just can’t keep my mouth shut, can I?’ She knew she was crossing a line by saying such things, a true lady never does. But she couldn’t help herself. She was an outspoken woman and although Grayson let her speak her mind at home, she had to be careful with her words and where she spoke them. She could earn herself a black eye from any man within hearing distance.
Not bothering to clean up the mess, Eleanor grabbed the money she had stashed away in a flowerpot and went out the door.
Once she stepped outside, a cool breeze blew by her, causing her to shiver. The smell of rain was mixed in with the air, making Eleanor realize she needed to make haste. Glancing at the small barn they had, she noticed Grayson took their only horse. Furrowing her eyebrows in anger, she tucked the money into one of her many pockets she made within her apron and started the long walk to the market.