“When the sky is filled with Shadows and the rivers run with blood, take heed and count your blessings for your final days have come.”
Usually when my house smells like fresh-baked molasses ginger cookies, nothing could get me down. The sweet and spicy aroma drifted through my house like a fat cat after a large meal, but I made sure to wipe the frown from my face before it cost me my life. My irritation might have something to do with my visitor, though I try to not blame others for my poor moods.
As she tapped an immaculate fingernail impatiently on my table, I could only clench my flour-covered, cherry blossom apron to hide the dark, golden brown dough coating mine. She had caught me unexpectedly in the middle of rolling the tasty treats into little balls, and my hands were covered in it.
“I don’t know why you couldn’t at least have had some decent coffee going. I told you I was coming over.” Condescension oozed from her mouth and she pursed her full lips in irritation, leaving only a thin line of her crimson lipstick visible. If I did that I’d somehow end up with lipstick all over my face. Make-up, among many things, was not my forte.
I counted quietly in my head to avoid throwing her out on her perfectly fashionable fanny, or at least wishing I had the guts or means to do it.
“Would you like me to make a fresh pot?” I kept my voice polite and respectful. It was the last thing I wanted to do. What I wished was to remind her of all the times she’d say she was dropping by, only to leave me hanging with a pot of coffee to dump in the sink. I loathe coffee, and I only keep it around for her.
She sniffed, and touched the back of her thick, fallow hair to make sure no strands had escaped the tidy bun. Of course, with all the hairspray she’d used it’d probably take a MOAB to dislodge it.
“No, that would take far too long and we have business to discuss.”
Her haughty demeanor was enhanced by the rigid way she held her spine perfectly straight, shoulders back, and pointed chin tilted a touch upward so she had to look down her precisely proportionate Greek nose at others. The posture also might have been helped by the pressed and fitted black dress suit, complete with jacket and pencil skirt. I know dressy clothing inspired a better bearing for me.
I did my best to keep eye contact and not look down at my faded t-shirt and jeans, and lack of shoes. There was something about not wearing shoes that inspired a sense of vulnerability, not to mention being around someone you knew could clean your clock.
“I’m not sure what this business could be about, considering I’ve paid my dues for this year.” This time I let the irritation stray into my voice, and the responding look of fury in her eyes sent them flashing from the very human, honey brown, to a red the color of rubies.
“You will show the proper respect, half-kin,” she spat out, voice deepening to a level that should not have come from human vocal chords.
Piss buckets. I was out of practice with this dominant-submissive behavior the Clan expected—it had been weeks since she’d visited. Bowing my head, I bit my tongue against the response I wanted to give her, and instead I let the words of penance flow past my lips as they had done a hundred times before in my childhood and teenaged years.
“My apologies, Provost Danika, will you offer me your forgiveness?”
The responding hiss dropped me from the tall bar stool into a child’s pose. My knees hit the ground painfully and my forehead rested against the cool, porcelain tile floor.
Her stool scraped back, and the sound jangled along my nerves. I gritted my teeth against it and squeezed my eyes closed. I could picture in my mind her tall, lean body standing up with nary a wrinkle on her suit. Long legs that seemed to go on forever were accomplishing a balancing act with stilettos I could never master, and clicked ominously through the kitchen as she made her way down the counter to me.
She came to a stop behind and to the left of my prone form. She knelt down and put her lips near my ear. “You forget your place in the order of our world, half-kin, and you would do well to remember before something unfortunate happens,” she crooned, continuing in the deep timbre.
Those fingernails I’d been admiring moments before scraped along the back of my scalp toward the front, and left a burning trail as skin was scraped away almost to the point of bleeding. She stopped near my crown, where her strong fingers grasped my pixie-cut, night black hair by the roots, and yanked my head backward.
I remained as still as possible. If I raised my body up with her hand, it would make things worse, and Dark Goddess have mercy on my soul if I make a sound from the pain.
Barely able to breathe, let alone speak, I managed to wheeze out a reply. “It will never happen again, Provost Danika. I swear it.” No matter how much I might hate myself for it later, I put a pleading note in my voice. It would please the sadist in her, and maybe I’d get out of this without having to clean my blood from my floor.
She held onto me for a moment more, then released my hair and pushed with enough force that my head almost connected with the tile. If I’d been human with human reflexes, it likely would have.
“We have another charge for you to look after, and this one will require care in her handling,” Danika said, her voice precise, as though to drive home through my thick skull the care the charge would need.
“As you say, Provost Danika,” I replied, my words echoing back from the floor and my ragged breath leaving moisture there.
The fabric of her skirt made a slithering sound over her nude stockings as she stood up, but I dared not do the same. She left me there, prone and helpless, just as she preferred. Full-blooded Drakken, or Dragon people, tended toward violence as their preferred method of communication, discipline, and just about anything else you could possibly imagine. It was even worse when it came to half-kins, or half-bloods, and it didn’t matter if they were merely half one kind of Drakken and half another kind, like me: impure was impure.
After what seemed like a year and a day, she finally spoke. “Get up, Erryn, and be thankful I have not taken your tongue.” Her voice was back to normal, and relief washed through me like heavy storm water through a gutter.
I stood, and she was dangerously close, but with her voice back to normal and her eyes back to their human color, I could almost guarantee she wouldn’t attack me. Almost.
“The child will be delivered to you tomorrow. Be ready for her. If any harm should come to her it will be the last thing you witness on the Dark Goddess’ earth. Do you understand?” The grim reality of her statement was driven home by her ruthless tone and cruel gleam in her eyes.
“I understand, Provost Danika,” I meekly replied, and bowed my head to break eye contact.
She didn’t say another word, just turned on her heel and left, and I did not raise my eyes to look around the room until I heard the front door slam shut. The engine of whatever pricey vehicle she drove these days roared to life, and eventually faded.
I blew out a gusty sigh and turned to look at the delicious cookies, my appetite now soured from the Danika encounter. Not to mention I now had to get a room ready for my new charge, and let the two current ones know they’d be getting another housemate.
But why all the warnings about caution? Full-blooded Drakkens rarely cared what happened to the half-kins, and they’d never send a full-blooded Drakken child to me. The more I considered the words, the more anxious I grew.
“As worried as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” I muttered to myself and sighed again. “No use twisting myself up about it now. What’s done is done.” With that new resolution settling in my mind, I went about preparations for tomorrow. And honestly, how bad could it be?