This is a work in progress! Forgive errors. It will all be edited soon. 🙂 As for context, here is the quick-summary of Notte, plus an idea of where this is in his tale.
This 15,000 year old biological weapon had a long way to go before he became the perfect gentleman.
Notte’s makers (or should we say, unmakers) never meant him to have a thought of his own. The damage they did to Notte’s brain was extensive, and he could neither speak, nor learn to understand the spoken word. He was supposed to be a monster, driven by hunger, the bringer of death.
They never counted on him remembering how to appreciate beauty. They never counted on him learning stealth, or that there was a time to kill and a time to spare. They never counted on his soul.
They certainly never counted on him falling in love.
Three days later, I found and took a man I should have left alone.
He dwelt in an unpleasant city. The area’s limited water supply made crammed cohabitation a necessity, but the dwellers of this city did not do it with grace. Offal lined the streets, and livestock stood, forlorn, in muddy troughs best left unimagined.
Only one structure of any significance rose from the place, and it had been built not only with mud and rocks, but also bones. Human, animal, and unknown – if it once comprised something’s skeletal structure, it was evidently good enough for these squalid architects.
I did not care about any of this. Humans lived here, we could wash mud and filth from our bodies later, and their blood was still good.
My daughter’s unease had been growing all day. Though I sensed nothing stalking us, she behaved as though we were prey; every noise, every breath of wind, took her attention away from me to our empty surroundings. But there was nothing to see; brown land, dead grass and flat, rumpled earth alone met our feet, stretching in all directions until it kissed the distant blue and black mountains.
I could not ask her what was wrong. Truth be told, I did not even think to do so.
We split paths in this nasty place, unable to hunt effectively in such cramped quarters. There was barely room for a goat and a man to pass one another in these streets, and very few places of privacy. I thought it a perfect time to let my Beast loose for a full assault, but she took her usual tack, quiet, stealthy, and as quick as a shadow.
With a sigh, I did the same.
I could find no one alone. Frustrated, and perhaps drawn by something I did not understand, I made my way toward the temple of mud and bone.
This comprised the only open area in the whole so-called city. The ground was scraped clean, free even of the hints of plant-life, and a row of blackened stones – no doubt volcanic rock – lined the way to the crudely gated door like a path left by fire. The gate itself was nothing; sticks, woven together in a loose parody of a cage. And of course, the bones.
The builders had been none too careful about cleaning those bones before using them, either. The whole edifice stank of rot, and insects swarmed it as if it were a dead animal left to rot in the woods. Curious and repelled at once, I circled, and the dry earth crunched beneath my bare feet. It was as if the ground itself were dead, and my own nervehs sent me a single, panicked warning before he attacked.
At least he was alone. The man’s head was scraped bald and his skin covered in tattoos, and his rough brown robe of untreated animal skin clung to the fact that he’d never bathed. He was fast, however, and strong for a human Had I not been who I am, what I am, he would have stabbed me in the back with great ease.
As it was, his stench nearly stopped me from drinking him. I, all that was I, did not want that on my mouth – but my Beast was hungry, and gave me no choice. My sole contribution was to grip his head at an angle from his body, so he would not come into contact with my robe.
His blood was terrible.
He screamed something, some words I had no chance of understanding, shuddered five or six times as though seizing, and died.
This was so fast that it hadn’t been worth it. His taste lingered when I let his body fall, and I spat, then wiped my tongue on my arm in an attempt to remove the flavor, but only succeeding in adding the salt of sweat and the dirt of my surroundings. Making faces like a child, I smacked my lips and tongue and looked for something else to use.
I was miserably chewing leaves when my daughter found me.
Only prey screams.
I do not have the words to emphasize what this did to me. My Beast and I panicked, territorial and enraged, and I lunged for her as if nothing but her mattered in all the world.
She startled back, but her speed was nothing compared to mine. I only knew this place had scared her, had made her prey, and my single thought was to take her to where she would again be safe.
I ran through the town and over people, trampling or smashing through anything in my way, and clutched her all the while as a thing most precious. She screamed at me, babbling, hitting me with her fists, but I could neither understand her words, nor her fury. I ran and ran and ran, because all that mattered was that she be safe.
She was so very afraid.
Oh, my friend, my friend, I wish I could have understood her. I did not know why she was afraid, and I could not understand her in order to avoid whatever had scared her.
By this point, I had left this horrible plain behind. Foothills and trees, once blue and nondescript, now filled our vision in every direction,and yet still, l ran. We came to a place which I believe were part of the Carpathian Mountains, though the topography has changed so much since then that I cannot pinpoint it more clearly.
The mountains were and are full of caves. Today, they are tourist traps – literally, if one is not careful! Then, they were simply holes in the bones of the earth. Cool and dark, they sometimes had water in their depths, and I knew once we reached them that nothing could chase her now.
When I released her, she collapsed to her knees and sobbed.
One kind of man is deeply uncomfortable around weeping women, and the other kind is not. I, being unaware of both, simply wanted her to be happy again. I knelt and wrapped my arms around her, vaguely aware that my white cloth was hopelessly lost somewhere behind us, but that hardly mattered. I kissed her. Calmed, she leaned into me.
Then she looked up in my face, scowled, and began to babble.
I suppose she was telling me what I did wrong. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand a word.
This finally seemed to dawn on her. She asked a question; waited. Asked it again, more emphatically. And there I sat, soulful in expression but utterly confused, giving her no response at all.
Again, I must emphasize that she was not a stupid woman. She assumed I was a demon, remember? She still had some fear of me, in spite of being made like me; an entire lifetime of beliefs is difficult to overthrow. I think that until that time, she had assumed I understood her and simply chose not to respond or do as she asked. Now, she could not put the realization off any further. I – her maker, her lover – was damaged.
I saw the knowledge wash over her face like ill paint, stealing color, stilling her with shock. Then, my stomach informed me that I had erred.
The priest’s blood hurtled out of me like a living thing, and only her new reflexes saved her from a wash of a different kind. My body cramped, rebelled; it was the first time since I woke that waste left from every possible exit, and I was so horrified – horrified, I tell you – that I panicked and ran out of the cave like a shrieking child.
To her immense credit, she came after me.
She knew, somehow, that I was still the same man who loved her, if… unfortunately simple. She calmed me with sounds – cooing sounds, comforting, repeated words that I did not know, and lead me to a nearby stream, where she cleaned me with her own delicate hands. All the way, she kept talking, gently, soothingly. I understood no words, but I knew and loved her tone.
We chose another, less befouled cave to call home as the sun rose, but she did not sleep well that day, and neither did I.