"Did you hear about Lake Victory?" Grace asked that faithful afternoon as walked though the shop door. Her father, John Botkin, was an artist; he was often commissioned to carve wooden statues or toys by the people of Norte De Lago. Norte De Lago was the name of her city. It was named by Campoidian immigrants; it meant "North Lake." It wasn't very creative. The city contained both a healthy White and Samonali population. The city like most in central Nowaziemia was integrated. Grace's childhood friend Althea Oyintsa was a member of the local White-Duck tribe.
"No, what happened to Lake Victory?" John asked, looking up from the rocking horse he was sanding.
"All the fish died, ALL of them, just washed up on the shore. The game disappeared too, like something scarred them off." Grace lifted up he skirt and made her way through the shop to sit on a stool to watch her father work. John frowned.
"Lake Victory isn't far from here, if the price of food increases, the price of everything else will to pay for it." John sighed; he disliked the Idea of being forced to up his own prices in order to pay the bills.
"The Oak-bows will be forced to move in closer to Norte De Lago, this will make supplies even MORE scarce. Perhaps I should grab a job while there are jobs left." Grace sighed. John kissed her cheek.
"The only things I want you do to are go to school and make dinner, you're too young to worry about paying the bills. We'll do fine, just don't leave the lights on."
"Thanks Papa." Grace touched his shoulder affectionately. A large purple scar ran down it towards his chest. Actually it wasn't a scar, just an odd birthmark. A skin discoloration several people she knew had. It was genetic, she had one too, same place as her father. "I'm making stew; we need to use the beef before it spoils." She climbed the stairs to the apartment above.
Grace had cleaned the apartment before she left for school, and as always John had disassembled it while she was away. She sighed and began to tidy up the kitchen area. She was grateful to her father. Most of her friends had dropped out of the Norte Academy for Girls. Most women weren't suspected to have a full length education. Her old friends either helped out around their houses or had part-time jobs as receptionists. Two of her friends were even married. Most people said 17 years old was too old to be going to school, her dad didn't. He boiled water in a pot and began to chop up the remains of the vegetables she had bought earlier that week. She looked up at the gas light at her work-station. She turned the knob at its base and the flame flickered out. She pulled open the curtains. It was the least she could do for Papa.
John dusted the saw-dust off his clothes and then sat at the table with Grace.
"Perhaps we should move." He said suddenly. Grace put her spoon down.
"Papa! We can't do that! You love this place and I love it too!"
"It will be difficult to get by with the on-coming food-shortage, and you always mentioned wanting a garden."
"Ah Papa." Grace sighed and looked out the window, it was raining outside. Their were too many trees on the property. Papa was right; grace WOULD like a garden, but not as much as she wanted to stay. "Maybe we should just move to another shop, if our house wasn't out of view we'd get more business." The bell mounted on the wall began to swing back-and-forth. Someone was at the door downstairs. John sighed and headed down the stairs, Grace followed like a shadow.
"We're closed." John said as he opened the door.
"Oh, I'm not looking for business, I just wondering if I could get out of the rain." The man who stood at the door was much taller than Papa, he was at least 200cm if not taller. He was Samonalian, and not just a Samonalian, a deep-woods Samonalian. Judging by the fur cloak he wore he was from an actual tribal village. He hair was knotted in stings that fell in front of his face, and he had a peculiar smell about him. He was definitely not a white-duck. Grace wanted her papa to send him down the road, why on her would someone show up on THEIR door-step for shelter? John looked outside, the rain was turning into hale.
"Come inside, you can join us for dinner."
Grace never wanted to hit her father more. This man SCARED her.
Grace set another spot at the table for their guest, he accepted the soup happily.
"So what brings you down here?" Grace said with slight annoyance, John gave her a look.
"I'm visiting my sister; I haven't seen her for many years." He replied in a faint accent.
"So why don't you stay with her? OW!" John kicked her from under the table. Chetanluta, or so his name was given, took no offense, he just laughed.
"She doesn't live here, two cities over." He held up two fingers.
"Wait you're WALKING to her house?" Grace exclaimed, clearly impressed. Traversing through the woods would explain why he came to their house first.
"Not hard, walking is good for body." Chetanluta replied.
They finished dinner and began to talk in the small living room. The conversation was light-hearted and cheerful until John rubbed his sore shoulder, bringing it to Chetanluta's attention.
"You're a Hawk-Hunter?" He questioned? Looking out through stringy hair like a sheep-dog. John looked confused.
"The mark." Chetanluta gestured to his shoulder. "It's a scar that was given to the hawk hunters. The cut was mystical so the scar is passed down through the generations."
"Hmm, sounds interesting." Grace commented.
"You're daughter has one too." Chetanluta turned to face John. "I think I'll have YOU kill her." The sudden comment made grace jump, John didn't take it lightly. "I think it's time for you to go, there's a inn down the street, stay there." Chetanluta brushed back his hair; Grace saw for the first time that his eyes were blood-red.
"Just like a Hawk-Hunter to throw me out in the cold."
"Out!" John said sharply.
"No. I've had quite the time coming back to this mortal plain and I'm not leaving until YOU pay for your families crimes. I think watching you cannibalize your daughter should be enough." John charged the Salmonalian and put his hands around his neck.
"My magic is stronger than your grip." He wheezed. He raised his hand; his fingernails grew like sharp talons. He brought them down onto John's scar. When his claws struck John's shoulder, John recoiled. His became distorted like boiling water. His eyes grew wider and his body taller. Grace screamed. John morphed into what seemed like a large black-and-white striped serpent. Grace stepped back and fumbled for the door knob, it was stuck. She looked up the snake was getting it's bearings; he looked at her.
"P-p-papa?" Grace stammered. The snake hissed and struck.