Friday, January 25, 2019

#FridayFlash - Lost Little Lamb part 1

As the title implies, this will be a multi-part FridayFlash. A very short serial story. One of the many stories I've written based on a dream.

***

“You should get some sleep,” I said, laying hands on Dirk's shoulders. The rest of the hunters had retired to their beds, and Brenna's snores suggested she was deep asleep. I should be asleep too, but our leader was far too stressed about this monster hunt, and as his adopted daughter, I felt it was my duty to help him if I could.

Dirk remained at the table of our little suite, the nicest set of rooms at this inn, poring over a set of maps, and what few church accounts of the attacks we could find. Like so many places, many of the unexplained deaths were labeled as animal attacks or accidents. Unlike other hunts, the only leads we had were from outside the town, from people who had passed through when someone else went missing.

He was frustrated and at his wit's end. “I will, Lamb, just...” Dirk closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. There seemed to be more gray hair than normal. “Just as soon as it makes sense.”

I dug my thumbs into thick knots in his shoulders; aiding relaxation was one of my talents. One of the very few things unique to me, that no one else could do. Or would do. “If it hasn't made sense by now, it won't matter if you burn through another lamp. Just take a break.”

He groaned as muscles relaxed beneath my attentions, then leaned back in the creaking chair. This was not the first night I'd rubbed his shoulders, but it was one of the few times he'd been so vocal with his enjoyment. “You're right, my Lamb. When did you get to be so smart?” Dirk tipped his head back to smile at me, a little too knowingly.

“Might be I've learned a few things.” I smiled back, then stopped kneading him. “Now get into bed.” I went to my own, aware of his gaze following me the whole way, and managed not to rub my hands on my trousers.

Even after Dirk turned down the lamp and went to his bed, I laid awake for a while, mind too restless to sleep. So many thoughts insisted on spinning around, chasing each other, keeping me awake.

Why was this hunt so different from the others? Why did the town seem to be protecting the vampire? Why did Dirk keep looking at me like a wife instead of a daughter?

The first two thoughts were hardly my concern. I was the youngest member of the hunters, and while I helped out with anything that needed doing, I only had one specific task. Brenna was a shieldmaiden, Chris the martial artist and thief, Aidan the cleric, and Dirk was the brains. I was the bait.

Sweet and innocent and barely eighteen, all the monsters just wanted to gobble me up. Not dumb or naive, and certainly able to take care of myself if I needed to, but there was just something about me that lured the beasts out of the shadows. Aidan called it my grace, like a saint, but Dirk said I was just like a little lamb. He'd called me that since the first slavering werewolf had tried to eat me.

My thoughts spun round and round Dirk. He'd found me after my family had been slaughtered three years ago, taking me in because I had nowhere else to go. Then he'd found out about my special nature, and he'd started using me on their hunts. My fellow hunters treated me like their kid sister, but he treated me like the daughter he'd lost. He called me his Lamb, while everyone else called me by my given name, Brook.

But something had changed after the last hunt. The ambush hadn't gone quite right, and the vampire had gotten to feed on me. It wasn't the first time I'd been bitten, wouldn't be the last; it was a small price to pay to keep other young women safe.

This time, it had lasted longer than ever before. I'd actually started to enjoy it before Dirk got to me, and I'd been moaning and shaking when he killed the vampire.

Since then, Dirk had a different look in his eyes. I didn't understand it, and didn't want to ask him about it. We all had a good thing going here, like our own crazy family. I couldn't lose another dad.

Maybe it was just the stress of this hunt. After we made this kill, everything would go back to normal.

It couldn't get worse, could it?

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