My father told me stories my entire life about the Beasts. He said that if I ever came into contact with one I would know. It’s a strange thing being terrified and enamored all at once. I can feel the heat of his body behind me yet my blood runs cold.
I tense when I feel the warmth move around my body. He’s moving around my body, until he is in front of me. He still isn’t wearing a shirt so I can see the ripple of pure muscle that adorns his body. I can also see the scars that have healed that wrap around his chest and shoulders. Whoever he is, he’s been through literal hell. I can only hope it wasn’t by humanity’s hand. Because mercy will be the last thing on his mind at this moment.
I squeeze my eyes shut as his hand slowly reaches up, touching my face. I can feel myself shaking, my muscles gaining a mind of their own. His touch is warm. And oddly gentle as he caresses my cheek. He uses the pad of his thumb to test the texture of my skin. He pushes my hair out of my face, leaning in close to me. His nose hovers over the base of my throat and I hear him inhaling my scent followed by a low rumble in his chest.
“Please...” I whimper. I’m met with a soft chuckle as he steps back from me.
“Look at me, human,” He quips. His voice is low and smooth. A savory sound that caresses my ears leaving a positive ringing in its wake. I slowly open my eyes, my gaze rising to meet his. My legs begin to shake as I look into the soulless depths that are his eyes. They are dark blue. A very dark blue. The color reminds me of the ocean. Not the shallow end, but when the land falls off and you can see nothing but the dark abyss looking back at you. I can barely decipher the separation of his pupil and Iris. Against my better judgement more tears streak down my face. I can’t help but wonder if I am staring death in the face.
He smiles at my reaction, revealing his straight white teeth. I half expected fangs. His smile drops as he searches my face, and the terror I feel only rises.
“Answer me.” His voice is cold and deadly. I open my mouth willing myself to speak as I wrack my brain for a plausible lie.
“I... I’ve been living in the forest on my own for years... I didn’t come from anywhere...” I whisper. He narrows his gaze at me and I know immediately he doesn’t believe me.
My eyes drift to the blade in his hand. His grip is loose, meaning he’s relaxed. Off guard. This could be my only chance. I lunge for the sword, but he sees right through my plan moving it out of the way and stepping to the side. As he does so, my body’s momentum continues to carry me forward. I feel a sharp pain across my back and cry out in pain as I collapse onto the ground. Air hits my now naked back as blood trickles down from the new wound. I grit my teeth as a pained moan escapes me.
He sliced through my flesh easy and without hesitation.
I hear his amused chuckle and when I turn around, I catch him just in time licking my blood off the sword. His eyes meet mine, and I shiver as a smile creeps onto his face.
“You are a brave one.”
He makes his way to where I am in the grass, dragging the sword along with him. I try and move, but he sliced so deep into my back my body can’t hold itself up. I look up at him through strained vision. He’s walking towards me with not a care in the world, dragging the sword he just used to slice through my back.
His smile slowly drops as he towers over me, kneeling so that he is at my level. He reaches towards me and I immediately squeeze my eyes shut waiting for death. I tense, feeling his hand as he caresses my cheek.
My eyes slowly open and he’s watching me with a terrifying expression.
“But I don’t believe you.”
I wish more than anything I could look away from his intimidating gaze. But I can’t. It’s swallowing me whole. His eyes finally leave me but fall towards the direction I came from. The corner of his mouth twitches.
“As a matter of fact, I know exactly where you came from.”
“No...” I squeak. It comes out small and pathetic, but he hears it nonetheless. He looks back to me with a deadly expression.
I don’t know if he expects a response from me or is just shocked that I spoke. Either way, I’m shocked that I’m still alive at this point. He immediately stands, grabbing a fistful of my hair and I reach up trying to claw his hands away staunch the pain. He chuckles above me as he drags me along.
“Let’s just see where this scent leads to then, shall we?”
I can hear them. I can hear the laughter of the village. I can smell the scent of freshly baked bread as it wafts through the air. Usually the sound would bring me comfort and joy. But now, it only brings me horror. He found it.
He followed my scent back to the village. He never needed me to tell him where it was. I groan in pain as he steps over a rock, causing my body to jar against his. I can taste the blood in my mouth, my lip is split and I’m pretty sure my arm is broken. And he carries me like a sack of flour under his arm with ease.
I slowly try and lift my head and I can see we are just at the edge of the village, where the trees meet the open area. My stomach lurches as he drops me into the dirt and I cry out in pain. When I open my eyes and look up, he’s looking down at me in irritation.
He points ahead of us towards the village.
“Go on,” He says. I slowly sit up, trying my best to stand but fail miserably. I drop to my knee, gritting my teeth in pain.
“What... do you... want... from me...” I manage. His face morphs from a blank canvas to a slight raise of his brow. Slowly, his lips curve into that smile as he pulls his blade from its sheath. I can feel my back stinging as I imagine what he is about to do with it. He places the tip of the blade in the center of my chest and I flinch from small pinch of it biting my flesh.
His emotionless eyes slink past me to the village beyond.
“Is this not your village?” He asks. I don’t know how to respond. He’s made it horribly clear that he knows I came from here. But I’m scared of the consequence of admitting I lied to him.
More tears spill over as I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to stay brave. I nod my head slowly.
“Yes...” I whisper. I open my eyes when he removes his blade. He’s watching me with an amused expression.
“So what do we do now do you suppose?” He asks. I hate that he’s toying with me like this. He’s holding not only my life but everyone beyond these trees lives in his hands as he drags it out for his twisted pleasure. His smile drops and his eyes take on that murderous glare.
“Answer me.” He growls. I sob shaking my head.
“I don’t know...” I whisper.
“Look at me, human.”
I slowly lift my gaze meeting his head on. If I live through this his gaze will haunt me for the rest of my life. He tilts his chin studying me for some reason.
“Go,” He says. I glare at him in confusion, not completely understanding his sudden change in mood.
“I said go. Before I change my mind.”
I slowly take a step back and he watches me the entire time. His gaze never wavering. He’s taking me in as if memorizing my physicality. He tilts his head slightly before a small smile graces his lips. It’s so small I almost miss it. And in an instant, he vanishes.
I gasp in shock but don’t waste time trying to understand what just happened.
I turn away from him, and try my best to run but fail miserably. So I limp my way through the village the best speed I can manage. I make my way through the familiar houses and alleyways. All of which I know are about to be a thing of the past. A ruin in history.
Everyone in the village is centered in one spot; At my father’s bakery enjoying the feast. They have no idea what’s about to happen to them. I whimper in pain trying my best to get to where I need to be. I need to warn them. I have to.
I finally round the corner and immediately see my father. It isn’t hard since he’s a large man. He has a smile on his face as someone is speaking to him. Something I haven’t seen in a long time.
“Anna!” I turn just in time to see Dimitri coming towards me with a smile. But as he gets closer and his eyes adjust to the condition of my body, his joy slowly morphs into horror.
I collapse in his arms just as he reaches.
“Anna, what the hell happened to you?” He asks. I can hear the worry in his voice. A small part of me wishes the worry would stay this tiny. But with a few words his entire existence will be shattered.
“He’s here...” I manage. Dimitri doesn’t hear me though as he places his hands under my legs hoisting me up. I immediately look around, trying my best to find signs of the beast but he’s nowhere in sight. I even look towards the woods for good measure but still I don’t see him.
I grab ahold of Dimitri’s shirt trying to get his attention.
“Take me to my father.” I whimper. Dimitri looks at me in shock before shaking his head.
“Anna, we need to get you to the doctor-”
“Dimitri! They’re here... you need to take me to my father.” I whisper. His eyes widen as everything clicks in to place in his brain. He turns the opposite direction moving quickly through the crowd to get me to my father.
“Paul!” He shouts over the crowd. My father looks our direction and sees me in Dimitri’s arms and immediately stands from his seat.
“Anna? What happened! I thought you said you knew the trail!” He hisses as Dimitri reaches him. He reaches out taking me from Dimitri, already walking towards our house.
“No, Papa... They’re here... We have to warn everyone...” I sob. My father pauses mid step looking down at me with wide eyes.
“Who, Anna?” He asks. But I know he already knows the answer.
No sooner do the words leave my lips does the whole mood of the night shift. I tense. I can feel it. And I know everyone else can too. I hear gasps and murmurs as everyone’s eyes fall in one direction. I follow everyone’s gaze and feel my heart sputter in my chest. It’s him. All alone. Walking towards us with a deadly expression.
I let out an audible gasp as fear wracks my soul, my body shaking in my father’s arms.
“Papa...” I squeak. I can feel him slowly backing away. The beast looks over the entire crowd before speaking.
“This is where you pathetic weasels run to lick your wounds then?” He looks around at all the men turning his nose in disgust. He chuckles softly and begins to pace slowly in front of us.
“Rejoice. The Kingdom is in need of more slaves. Surrender yourselves now, or die by my hand.”
Silence washes over us. No one dares to speak or move. Being a slave is a fate worse than death. You suffer and starve in the worst conditions known to man. The stories of liberated towns are enough to give you nightmares.
One of the guards next to us lets out a loud laugh. He pulls his sword out placing it on the table.
“You come in here alone, beast, and expect us to surrender our freedom to the likes of you?” He asks. More men begin to stand in agreement and I can see the beast growing even more amused with the direction of conversation. It makes me more nervous. He clearly is powerful if he’s confident enough to come into our village giving the option of surrender. But the soldiers don’t see it that way.
“We are trained men of the King. We won our last battle against your people. Do you think we came here to recover? We came to celebrate! Your Kings reign is ending! This will be our world as it once was. And we will die before we let you take that away from us, beast.” He growls. The men all stand and cheer, a loud cry that roars across the field. I look around at the faces of the villagers. Faces that have hope on them. But when I look at my father, I see no hope there. I see desperation.
“You will die today, beast. And no one will be left to mourn you!” The men all stand and cheer grabbing their swords and charge towards the beast. I shudder when I see him smile. And it isn’t the same smile that he had previously. It’s sinister.
I take note that Dimitri moves next to us but my father grabs him around the collar.
“No, Dimitri! Don’t be foolish!” He snaps. Dimitri looks at him in shock but my father drags him away from the upending battle along with me.
My father is moving fast on his feet, making his way to our home. He barges in the door placing me on the cushions before running towards the center of the room. Dimitri comes next to me and we both watch in shock as my father uses his bare hands to split the floorboards.
He reaches in and pulls out a sword and a chest. He lifts open the chest and begins rummaging through it. I finally manage to pull myself out of my shock and begin to question him.
“Papa, what are you doing?” I ask trying to hobble from the cushion. He tosses a small bag out, reaching in and pulling out a necklace. He makes his way towards me with a determined look on his face as he begins fastening it around my neck. He looks over my shoulder at Dimitri.
“Take her into the woods. Stay away from the streams. Make sure you escape from the East.” He hisses. Dimitri shakes his head in confusion.
“What do you mean? The King’s army is out there right now fightin-”
“They are useless! Did you not listen to me when I told you? There is a reason they call these things Beasts! Listen!” He shouts. We quiet down and that’s when I hear it. The screams.
“Oh my God.” I whisper. One man. Just one is causing all of this turmoil.
“Those men won’t keep him busy for long. Soon he’ll turn on the town.” He grabs his bags shoving them in Dimitri’s hands.
“There’s money in there. Go somewhere far from here. Make a life for yourselves. Never look back.” He growls. Dimitri grabs me, lifting me from the cushions but I look at my father with wide eyes.
“Wait, Papa. You’re coming with us, right?” I ask. Tears are already beginning to spill over as I watch him come towards me with sad eyes.
“No... This is where our journey ends, Annlise.” He places a soft kiss on my forehead.
“Never take that necklace off. It is your protection against them.” He whispers. He looks away from me back to Dimitri.
Dimitri begins moving towards the back door, but I struggle against his arms.
“No... No! No, Dimitri we can’t just leave him, no! Papa!” I screech but he keeps his back to me as we run out. I look around and see we aren’t the only ones running into the forest. The villagers are as well. Blood coats some of them while others have looks of terror etched into their faces.
I look back towards the village as we disappear into the woods, and bury my face in Dimitri’s chest. My heart bleeding from the screams that will haunt me forever.