Dear Reader: Please understand that this story is now a published novel and purchasable from my website; hopefully soon it will be available on both amazon and similar book websites. Although this started out as a fictionpress story, I can no longer post the full version because of publishing restrictions; however, I have left the first half posted for your reading pleasure. I invite you to enjoy what parts of the story I have left posted, and you may contact me if you have any questions or concerns about availability of the book and other things. Thank you for reading!
Volcrian looked down at the body, watching the crimson tears seep from the woman's wounds.
His every sense was attuned, his muscles tense, every breath quivering in his lungs along with the sweet smell of death; it permeated the air along with the blood, a thick scent full of spent panic and wasted breath. It was a smell he was used to. Slowly he knelt to the ground, and passed a gentle hand over the woman's head, saying a silent prayer over the body. His pointed ears twitched slightly as he listened to the blood dripping through the floorboards in syncopated rhythm, pooling in the kitchen below where soon the heat from the hearth would dry it. Every nerve in him was aching to reach out and touch the precious water of life, the salty liquid that bore more power than any other magic.
But he wasn't here for a sacrifice.
He was here for vengeance.
"That's the last time you house a murderer," he whispered to the woman's corpse, then his icy blue eyes flashed to the corner where an equally dead man was laying. The smell of blood was so strong in the room that his nostrils flared, and despite himself Volcrian's thin tongue whipped out to lick his lips.
The power that he drew from the blood was energizing, a heady rush that made his body sing. With a hollow laugh he flicked his silver braid over his shoulder and turned from the massacred bedroom, shutting the door neatly behind him. He couldn't have any innocent wanderers coming through and finding the bodies until he was long gone.
You think you've covered your trail well, Viper, he thought in grim satisfaction. But I have found you again, and once more all those you touch experience your fate. One day it will be your neck I slit!
Volcrian walked out onto the landing and looked down at the sparsely decorated living room. It was a small family he had called upon that evening, middle-class and hardworking. They had been eating dinner, talking about the merchant husband's coming voyage overseas. The woman hadn't wanted him to go.
Well, safe to say he wouldn't be going anywhere. Ever.
The Wolfy mage chuckled to himself, unsure what had brought on this good humor after so many months of brooding. Maybe it was the fact that he had finally picked up the assassin's trail again, or perhaps the life he had drawn from the blood upstairs, or maybe it was that his belly was full and the future was looking bright for the first time in a long time; the first time since the assassin Viper had killed his brother.
Volcrian's smile faded slowly as he descended the steps and headed for the front door. For the last year his quest for vengeance had consumed his every waking moment - even in his sleep, the Wolfy mage dreamed of killing the monster who had murdered Etienne. It was not just a personal matter - Wolfy law called for the death of the killer, and Volcrian was not one to turn away from tradition and honor.
Floorboards creaked behind Volcrian, alerting him that he was not alone.
"Mister?" a small voice asked. Volcrian paused, his hand on the doorknob. Slowly he turned around, his breathing light. His eyes flickered around the room. Standing near a doorway was a small child in pajamas, probably close to four years old, a rather oversized stuffed bear in his grasp. Volcrian smiled again, this time indulgently. He loved children.
"Yes, little one?" he asked, stooping down to seem less threatening. He watched in utmost joy as the child took a tentative step towards him.
"Where's Mum?" the boy murmured sleepily. "I'm thirsty."
Volcrian frowned again, and he held out one pale, long boned hand to the boy. "Your mum is asleep now, little one," he said softly. "But I'll take you somewhere you can get a drink."
The boy looked at him for a long moment, then slowly shuffled his way across the room, still awkward on his feet. Volcrian felt his heart melt slightly at the sight - what a sweet child, so innocent and young. That's what he loved about children - their purity. They were untouched by the darkness around them, seeing with unbiased eyes.
Finally the boy was close enough to place his tiny hand in Volcrian's own, and the mage stood up carefully. "It's not far," he murmured, and opened the door into the night. The two stepped out into the darkness.
Then the mage took the boy to a water trough, sank him in, and didn't move until the child had stopped struggling. He couldn't have the child speaking of what he had seen. It was justice, after all - those who helped Viper deserved to die.
And to Volcrian's mind, the mind of a killer, he had not sinned.