The Woman Who Breathes Death (Part One)

“I saw death before my own eyes. Quick, painless, almost euphoric of a sensation.” The driver laughed before finishing, “Perhaps I was a lucky one, and nature had finished its plans for me in life. My time came, and I accepted. Death is real, and Haegard’s tale is an entertaining farce.”

I remained silent well after the driver finished his story. The amber hair on his head, the wrinkles that decorated his forehead, even the rugged tone in his voice seemed to be aging. However, this man blossomed with life, his energetic personality shining through the dark carriage ride. He must have been the same way when he was truly alive.

I felt the carriage come to a slow full stop.

“We’re here.”

I opened the carriage door and got out, closing it behind me. Upon stepping out I noticed that the murder of crows that accompanied my carriage had ceased, only a single crow following it now. I looked up into the trees and quickly caught a glimpse of its bright golden eyes staring at me. Feeling an urge dwelling within I stuck my hand out palm up and kept my eyes on it. Within seconds a black mass shot up from under the trees, diving straight for me. A pair of razor-sharp talons latched onto my hand, a black feather drifted down from above, and a golden eye moved around in place until it caught a glimpse of me. Its caw pierced through the silence.

I was never one truly fond of wildlife; I never even wanted to have an animal companion to travel with me during those long journeys from town to town. I’ve heard tales of people bonding with animals they’ve met on the side of roads and paths, often seeing them withering away in pain or weakness, and becoming close companions. These stalking crows, however, were no such case. For a while now they would appear during nights when I was out on a task. Whether it was by foot, horseback, carriage, those crows somehow found where I was and would accompany me. I picked up their presence early on, but found no reason to try and scare them off. This night, I felt strangely compelled to get a better view at my stalkers.

“It seems like you have quite a way with nature.”

I looked back and noticed the driver leaning out of his side window looking at me. “I don’t usually don’t care much for animals,” I started. I looked at the crow and gently rubbed the top of his head with my free hand, “However, I think I can handle a simple bird landing onto me.”

The driver laughed, “It suits ya, the crow does. Anyways, I’ll be waitin’ ‘round here for some time.”

“You’re staying place?”

“Seein’ as where I dropped ya, might as well stay for another fare. Have a drink for ye ol’ man.”

I nodded and headed forward towards my destination. Just a couple of steps down the dirt road was a large house, lit torches poking out of the ground lighting up every side of it. From the raised floor and up to the roof, three floors of glass windows patterned the front; most of the windows were covered with red curtains. In front of the steps that lead to the front porch was a hanging sign that read “Irliya’s Tavern and Inn.” I walked up the steps and placed my hand next to a railing, telling the crow to wait for me here. It understood my words, jumping off of my hand and landing onto the rail. I pushed the open the heavy wooden door and headed inside.

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Copyright © 2020 by Luka Tatsujo

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