(Originally from October 2007)
This is a study in free flow writing. It may not make sense when it’s finished. Oh well.
**Mature content warning**
The voice that issued forth from the figure was tight and raspy, like dried nettles. “So, you’ve come at last?” it asked. The creature could have been either male or female, and thought it had a human shape there was something not right about it; something that made a person take pause as they tried to determine what was incorrect. But Keena knew what it was and why it seemed strange and foreign.
Eseldra had been human once, not so long ago. Not only human but a woman, though now it was hard to tell. Despite the heavy skin that wrinkled around her eyes and spoke of old age, she wasn’t yet forty, and only two years ago had been considered beautiful. But that was before the Great Winter.
Snow had come early that year and with it a bitter cold to rival any winter before. Things died in that cold and lay frozen where they’d fallen. And if that weren’t enough the wolves came. First it was a child, then another and another and soon a grown woman went missing. That was when the men of the village banded together to seek out the wolves and destroy them in their lair. They were tall and brave, their fur wrapped bodies a stark contrast against the white snow. They laughed and joked despite their grim task, and left with promises of wolf pelts on their return. But, they didn’t return.
Eseldra’s husband had been one of the men in the hunting party and when search parties failed to find some sign of the missing men she’d gone herself, leaving with the first thaw. It had been late summer before she’d returned on the brink of death; haggard and starved with a strange something lurking in her eyes. It was a haunted look, the kind that men return with after a great battle. She sealed herself up in the house away from town and would see only one woman; her niece. Though, even to her, she did not reveal what she’d seen to effect such a change.
Keena forced a smile across her pale features. “Of course I came. I did promise you.”
The old crone waved her niece’s words away like smoke. “The promise of youth is fleeting and ever changing. Words mean very little.” Her strange eyes studied the young woman before her. “Did you bring it?”
“Yes, of course.” Keena drew out a parcel from beneath her cloak. The wrapping was still warm from being under her arm throughout her journey. She held it out and resisted flinching as her aunt took it from her.
The old woman laid the bundle upon the table and opened it slowly. A smile twisted across her features, coupling with the bitterness in her eyes to make her look maniacal. “Yes…. Yes this will be perfect.”
She turned around, the gory contents clutched in her hands. Clots of blood glistened, staining wrinkled hands and fingernails, as she lifted her prize in the air, holding it aloft as if asking a blessing of the Gods. She either did not notice or else ignored Keena’s revulsion as she lowered her burden and brought it near her face and sniffed it.
“It’s nearly fresh,” Keena whisper, her stomach churning.
The old woman nodded in agreement. “Yes, it does not yet have the stink. Come, my child, and together we put things to right. Let not this babe’s life, though never started, be taken for naught.”