My training had been cut short after a week. Hertz wanted to test my skill with actual combat.
The town of Herwitz had several reports of thefts and sightings of Rats since spring, the same time that the Rite of Exodus was performed. Rodien colonies grew incredibly fast once their female population became stable, so an exilement ritual was established to remove the accumulating excess.
"It's a big thing for them. As much food to go around as the harvest can bring in and apparently the Rats make shit fuck tons of ale to go around." Nathaniel explained, his face lighting up with the thought of massive amounts of free beer as he stuffed the last suit of armor into the wagon cart.
"Yeah, and then the greedy priesthood just kick them out with a smile, talking about how every other great Rodien Baron once also had to do the same. I almost feel sorry for those vermin at times." Gareth said,
"Fucking Suka fucked my sister! I'm gonna fuck one of their precious females until she becomes my god damn cocksleeve!"
"Artyom calm the fuck down!" Captain Hertz roared at him.
"Sorry sir." Artyom apologized as he straddled up on his horse.
"Mejg, Amshy, you're both on wagon duty. Voricz, Nathaniel and I will take front. Jakob, Artyom, Malavitz and Jeremiah will guard Gareth. Saddle up and ride out!"
Snow was lightly covering the deep green foliage by the time we reached the Hill Fort of Herwitz.
"Fuck, I thought we'd have more time before the snows started, but searching the forest is going to be a pain with this shit." Nathaniel said.
"The Rat's will all be in one place at the least." Gareth noted.
"Quiet everyone, I want to at least give the impression of nobility here." Herzt said.
We reached the Palisade Gate and the Sheep-man sentry on watch bellowed his question.
"Who goes there?"
"Captain Herzt under the liege of King Vladimir! We believe you have a Rat problem?"
The sentry just seemed puzzled for a second, thinking about the non-humanoid variety, before he finally got it. Shrugging, he climbed down the outpost ladder and opened the gate.
Inside the gate there weren't many houses per say, rather elongated taverns where the communal and gregarian Sheep lived. Riding through the central street, we were getting a lot of attention, wool laden heads peeking out from every hole, with the roofs reserved for the more adventurous kids. We could already hear their mothers calling to them to get down from there.
We dismounted from our horses, tying their reins away in the stables before heading towards the Grand Hall, its planks ridden with etchings of horns.
Before the doors stood a single totem in the image of a bearded and horned sheep with a teardrop-shield and a sword at his hip.
As the doors swung open the wood smoke buffeted and stung my face, leaving me coughing for a moment as the central firepit painted the planks of the hall with gold.
"Herzt you magnificent bastard you!" The bearded chief hollered over the roaring fire, laughing as he made his way towards the captain.
The two men embraced with a fierce warrior hug that could have broken bones.
"About time you got here."
"Yeah, had to teach this little shit that the Demon dumped on my doorstep." Herzt said pointing at me.
"Huh, black hair and face looks a bit weird."
"You don't know the half of it. Used to be some city clerk who's supposed to be good at 'magic', although the only thing he's done so far is flood his armor with it and paralyze his dumb ass."
"Sounds like a fun lad if 'ya ask me."
"Amshy, get over here! This is Chief Taran."
"The Ofcza greet you all with open arms and hot meat! A rather new face aren't you?"
"Buck up lad! I've seen brides less anxious than you!"
"I… take a while to warm to things is all."
"Well we have meat, women, ale and plenty of them! There'll be something you're interested in by the end of the night, so just relax and enjoy!"
"I'll try." I said.
Herzt elbowed me in my sides in annoyance.
"We'll gladly oblige your accommodation." Herzt declared.
"Ha! 'Ya were made for each other! Now shut up and drown yourself before you start thinking too hard!"
It was exactly like the Wake. Consider myself not interested in drowning myself in beer.
I had some of the meat though. It just tasted like smoke.
I sprawled out on the bed, my thoughts straying to the smoke that crawled along the ceiling.
Our rooms were all on the second floor of the hall. We even had our own rooms. I wonder if they made a conscious decision when building this to allow us, allow vampires, to stay here.
Knock knock knock…
"Sir Amshy, are you in there?" A womanly voice asked at the door.
The girl was large.
Okay, I should be more precise about that.
She was like… a lumberjack girl… I guess.
Her breasts were big, her face was big, but her muscles were also big. This ended up melting the other two into "Yeah, she's pretty big."
She had long fluffy locks of white wool with two flaps for ears that hung low, her amber eyes averted from me at all times.
She sat down at the bottom of the bed and undid her top, revealing her right shoulder to me.
I was stunned into silence.
Like seriously, who would even do that? How is this even possible that a woman like her would enter into my room? I literally can't even imagine how that could even be a-
"Can you just get it over with. I need the money."
"Oh-okay… Just uhh… clench your hands if it starts to hurt."
The sheep-woman just nodded.
So, I rested my teeth on her and drank.
As my teeth left her shoulder, she fainted for a moment. Her body fell back on me, pinning me down from her frame alone.
Then, our gazes met.
Her cheeks flushed red, quickly uprighting herself away from me. She quickly rustled her clothes back into position and made her way towards the door.
She stopped and turned back to me.
"S-sir, can I have the money now?"
"Oh, uh, yeah sure."
I scrounged through my coat and tossed her the small coin purse that Hertz had given to me.
The sheep-woman curtsied at me and went on her way.
I lay back down on the bed, my mind consumed by a single thought.
"She was cute."
Moments passed by, and the woodwork started to creak a little. I sat up and glanced at the door, partly hoping that she would come back.
The door was shut.
I bounced up and down on the bed briefly, trying to diagnose the problem. It wasn't that creaky.
It wasn't this bed though.
The bed in the other room was the one creaking. And the bed in the other room.
Then I heard the words I wish I never did.
"Oh Fuck! Oh Fuck! Oh Fuck Yes!"
Oh fuck no!
I stuffed the pillow over my head, desperately trying to get everything out of my head.
Instead I almost suffocated myself.
I gasped for air, but the creaking was getting louder and louder.
Fuck it, I'm out of here.
The cold night air turned my breath to mist. Fuck it's colder than I thought. And a lot darker. I'd heard about the concept of light pollution, something astrologists complained about since it prevented them from looking at the stars due to how much latent light a city gives off.
Honestly though, I was actually kind of pining for those blinding neon advertisements. Here, the dark censored everything that wasn't several meters away from a torch or brazier.
It was a lot quieter now that everyone had gone to sleep too, so quiet that I could hear the woods that lie outside the walls of the hillfort. I could hear the crunching of twigs, the hooting of owls, the howl of wolves, and the opening gate.
The gate was maybe fifty meters off, but something had let itself in. The darkness didn't help my imagination. Cast against the light of the braziers, the desiccated skull of an elk let itself in. It definitely wasn't just an animated elk though, as the skull was leveraged a good few meters or so higher than what would have made sense.
The… beast… wore the skull like a helmet, a thick mane or primitive cloak covering its shoulders, impossible to say at this distance. A furred arm extended into the torchlight, balancing on its burly knuckles like a land-ape. Its muscled legs crept into the torchlight, and I finally got a complete picture of its monstrous size.
It glanced up at the torch that was revealing it. The beast nudged the torch out of its holder. The torch fell to the ground and went out, letting the night engulf the beast into the shadows of the imagination.
NOPE! NOPE! NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE!
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