See Chapter 1.
“Come on, girl; quit draggin’ ya feet.” The command came out harshly, but the speaker’s face was gentle.
A glaring sun frowned on two women a few paces from a river, a mother and daughter who had been gathering rushes at the river for baskets. The mother, who had chided her daughter for dawdling, strode purposefully.
She appeared tall, although if a man had been standing next to her she would not look so. Her wiry figure and the proud tilt of her head gave her the illusion of a few added inches. Neat braids were pulled back expertly and artistically. Her regal carriage seemed out of place in the barren desert, but her clothing said she was in her home. Mismatched bits of cloth and animal hide were stitched together to form a short sleeveless tunic.
The younger girl whom she had chided was her daughter, although except for the frame of their faces, it would have been difficult to recognize the familial relationship. Unlike her mother, the girl was stout and muscular. She was also slightly hunched, as if she had spent her growing years trying to curl in ball. Her eyes darted, watchful and wary as she trundled along behind with her mother.
Both of the women’s arms were now laden with several bundles each, and they were now on their way back to the camp. They had been fortunate to camp near a river this time. Times were difficult. Food and shelter were a constant need, but even more pressing was the need to spot and evade the demons.
The shuffling girl cautiously glanced back toward the river. A creature had risen out the water and was now stalking towards them. Its skin was the color of grey river mud and equally as slimy. Its claws were sharpened stone.
Terror flooded the girl. Managing to maintain her grasp on the reeds, she tore off running. As she passed her mother, she frantically pointed, reeds bouncing in her hand.
Startled the woman shot a look over her shoulder to see what had frightened her daughter so. At the sight of the river demon, she too began sprinting.
The demon gave chase. Like the water from whence it rose, it was swift. It wanted its food. It had felt the women enter the river and had swum upstream to hunt them. Although it had gorged on a water buffalo the previous night, it was still ready to eat. It was always ready to eat, especially humans. Women’s flesh tasted especially sweet, and they were much more entertaining in the before-the-feast games.
But like the water, the demon had boundaries. The women were only a claw’s breadth away when the invisible leash that tethered it to the water snapped to its full length. The demon was jerked back from its prey like a dog reaching the end of a staked chain.
Howling in anger for being deprived of its kill, it gnashed its teeth and foamed at the mouth. When it realized that the women were not stupid enough to come back within it reach, the demon slunk back to the river to find a catchable prey.
Mother and daughter collapsed against each other in relief and exhaustion. The adrenaline coursing through their bodies, the panting set in.
“I am so glad ya look back. We must be more careful, always more careful.” The mother stroked her daughter’s head. “Marka, you’re shakin’, child. Why are you shaking? There’s no need be shaking. We safe now.”
The girl shook her head. Whatever still frightened her would remain locked inside to torture only her.
Her mother continued to comfort her. “Don’t you worry. The demon can’t get us now. And your father is working to keep that so.” Her eyes swept back to glare at the river. The terror that had made her the fleet of foot to outrun the demon had been usurped by another emotion. Hatred now reigned in her dark eyes.
“Anything is better than living a slave to fear.”
Dun dun dun...
Hope you enjoyed! More coming soon.