Prey

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Bedtime Story

Aric watched Liberty enjoy the dinner, using a roll she’d found to wipe the last of the gravy from the pie tin.

When she was done, Aric stood waiting for her to do the same.

Seeing the impatience in his eyes, Liberty got to her feet.

“Do you need to use the bathroom before bed?” he asked, looking down at her.

Shaking her head, she walked towards her cage.

Aric watched her pause for just a moment, taking a deep breath before stepping inside, her body visibly shrinking in on itself.

Closing the door behind her, he deliberated about whether or not he needed to actually lock it.

Reaching a decision he left it in barred.

Circling the cage so he was standing in front of her, Aric waited until she looked him in the eyes.

“I’m not going to lock you in,” he sighed, hoping the gesture would ease her fear. “You can let yourself out if you need to use the bathroom during the night, but you have to promise that you’ll go right back in once you’re done.”

“I will,” Liberty breathed, some of the sorrow melting from her face. “I promise.”

Stepping away, Aric left the room to change for bed. When he came back he saw his pet on her knees next to her bed mumbling something under her breath before crossing herself.

“You know that Christ was one of us, right?” he asked, leaning against the door frame.

“What?” Liberty asked, stumbling as she started to rise.

“Christ, he was a vampire,” Aric replied. “He was a direct decedent of Saint Januarias.”

Seeing her confusion, he couldn’t help but chuckle.

“How about I tell you a bedtime story?” he offered, moving to sit on the side of his bed facing her.

Liberty sank onto her own cot, nodding warily.

“King Januarias ruled Sumeria thousands of years ago,” he began, resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned towards her. “He ruled over a vast city-state called Larsa. It was a prosperous and glorious city, with a large ziggurat dedicated to the Goddess Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. Januarias believed that no matter what, we all end up in her realm and she should be worshiped.

“One spring the floods failed to crest the banks of the great Euphrates River. All of the cities that relied on it for their crops suffered,” he continued, trying to remember the story properly. “As the spring became summer and other cities suffered famine, Larsa still thrived. Their closest neighbor’s saw this and plotted to raid the city for its vast grain stores.

“King Januarias got news of the coming attack and sealed the city gates, confident that his grain stores would keep his people alive and the walls would keep his enemies out.

“What he didn’t account for was that his wells running dry. Soon his people had enough to eat, but nothing to drink.

“Day after day he prayed to Ereshkigal for her assistance and blessings. He burned mountains of grain and sacrificed numerous animals to her, but nothing worked.

“In desperation he decided to make the greatest sacrifice he could, himself.

“As he lay on the altar, prepared to deliver the killing blow to himself, Ereshkigal appeared to him.

"In exchange for destroying the army's at his gates and filling his wells with water, all she required was that he pledge his soul to her through marriage.

"Knowing how much his people were suffering, Januarias immediately agreed to the proposal.

"What he didn't realize," Aric sighed, brushing his hair out of his face, "was that Ereshkigal's proposal was a curse, not a blessing.

"The destruction of his enemy's would be at Januarias' own hand. For every drop of blood he spilled, a drop of water would be added to the city's wells.

"In one night, Januarias killed over fifty thousand soldiers, their blood soaking into the ground while his city's wells overflowed."

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