Friday, February 1, 2019

#FridayFlash - Lost Little Lamb part 2


We reconvened for early dinner after a day of tasks. Aidan and I had worked through the market, gathering supplies and rumors. Brenna had spoken with the town guard again, Chen explored the outskirts, and Dirk continued to stare at his maps.

Brenna took an enormous bite of bread, and started speaking around her food. “That young one, Simon, finally gave me a little more on the stories. Says it's really only travelers and strangers that disappear. Townsfolk and regulars seem untouched.”

Dirk shook his head, only barely poking at his food. “We're as strange as can be, and we haven't had even a hint of an encounter. Nothing that even whiffs of monster, let alone a vampire.”

“There is unease amongst some of the merchants, especially the older wives.” Aidan mopped at his food, looking up at our leader as he spoke. “I think they know something, but they do not want the town's reputation to flounder. They don't want to scare anyone off, won't respond to direct questions. They don't even like to answer hints or acknowledge that we've brought the killings up.”

Chen shrugged slightly. “Perhaps we should just put Brook out near the docks, see who finds her.” He was only partly joking.

We'd used that tactic before; let the lamb stroll down the lane, all lost and helpless, and just delectable as could be. The rest of the hunters would watch while my presence lured our target to the slaughter, the monster unable to care about anything but having me in his clutches.

“Don't think that will be feasible.” Brenna took a swig of her ale. “There isn't exactly a curfew, but the guards will certainly notice an unescorted girl, will try to make sure she's okay.”

“And that will either drive off our target, or get the guards hurt in the fray.” Dirk took a deep drink, knuckles white with tension. “This is bullshit.”

“Maybe we should move on,” Aidan said.

Our entire group fell silent, no one making eye contact. I'd only hunted with them for a few years, a fraction of the time they'd been together, and I'd never seen them back down from anything. There had been a few times they'd asked me to stay out of the way, especially in the first year, yet danger had never deterred them.

Dirk was like a terrier once he caught scent of his prey. Relentless, driven, tenacious. Unstoppable. Determined. There was nothing he wouldn't do to win.

“There has to be another way,” I said. I might not understand what was going on between us, but Dirk was my second father. It was my duty to defend him, to make things easier, to be a supportive daughter. “There has to be something we haven't thought of yet.”

Dirk shoved away from the table and rose to pace. “Only thing we haven't thought of is that the town is protecting him.”

Brenna laughed, then took another drink. Aidan muttered a prayer, and Chen shook his head. I frowned at each of them, my gaze finally settling on Dirk. “That happens?” I certainly had a lot to learn about hunting still; why would humans protect a vampire?

After a moment of silence, Aidan finally spoke. “It's been known to happen, but rarely in a town of this size. When it occurs, it is normally a very small village or a hamlet, isolated, struggling, and they see the vampire or werewolf pack or lich as a savior. He promises to help and protect them in exchange for the...”

He wouldn't say it, but I could draw a conclusion. “Occasional sacrifice? Meal?” My family had been a meal, and I knew how it worked. It's why we hunted.

“Something like that.” Brenna poured the last of the ale into her glass. “We need a refill.”

“I'll go,” I said, rising. I needed to clear my head, let them talk things over. Plans involving me usually went better if they didn't have to look at me while deciding about my bait status. Grabbing the flagon, I left our suite and headed downstairs.

The inn was bustling, and I had to wait at the bar for a few minutes before the keeper came to me. His smile was large and generous, and I wondered if he was the kind to feed little girls to monsters. Did he know what was happening? Maybe he wasn't even aware of the years of murders occurring, all the lives lost to some monster.

A chill presence surrounded me, and I stiffened as a voice filled my ears. “I believe you're looking for me.”

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