Of Blood and Rain

The bitter reek of blood mixed with the sweet scent of pine and morning dew. Kyah’s nose wrinkled against the smell as she emerged from the underground burrow. Her pale skin flushed with the increase of her heart rate. The tips of her fingers pulsed almost painfully—her body’s warning that something was very wrong. She clutched her shawl, fending off the chill skittering down her spine.

The forest was much too quiet.

Kyah inhaled deeply, closing her eyes to track the direction of the blood. Her breath plumed before her in a silver cloud with each exhale. With her bare toes sinking into the damp leaves of the forest floor, she sprinted west. The smell of blood intensified with every step. She clenched her jaw, wondering why no one had come for her, but in the back of her mind knew it was much too early—there was too much blood.

“Spirit please, not another.” The prayer spilled from her lips as she hurried between the giant redwoods and dodged the branches of pines clawing her.

It wasn’t long before she found the wolves. The pack was gathered near the border of the territory, their strong bodies of gray and brown fur forming a circle around something Kyah couldn’t see. Her stomach sank at the stillness of them all. She stumbled as she rushed forward down the sloping terrain. Twigs snapped beneath her toes, yet none of wolves acknowledged her approach. Every lupine eye was fixed on the ground.

“Let me pass!” Kyah huffed, nearly choking on the stench of blood. The nearest wolf, barely older than a pup, backed up to let her slip through the circle. Nadie was crouched near the center, head hung low.

The exact thing Kyah had prayed not to see was sprawled out before her. Black pools of blood clung to the leaves, splattering the remains of the pale skin. The mutilated body was unrecognizable. The eyes were gouged out and the mouth was a gaping hole of splintered teeth. Its chest and abdomen were ripped open, organs and entrails spread out along the ground. Like all the others before, nothing was eaten, only slashed and gnawed. Just senseless death.

A cold nose pressed into Kyah’s sweating palm, grounding her. She didn’t know which wolf had come to offer her comfort, but she leaned into its sturdy body.

“We have to move her.” Nadie’s wild, knotted white hair fell over her face as she spoke without looking up. “The rest of the tribe cannot see this.”

Kyah glanced down at the wolf beside her. The animal’s clear amber eyes reflected
the sadness that festered in her gut. She was thankful for the pack. The wolves offered them companionship and safety. But sometimes, even the strongest of wolves could not protect them all.

“Thank you,” she whispered, stroking its head. It whined softly as Kyah left the warmth of its brown fur to kneel. Nadie’s gaze was frozen on the body; fisted hands smeared with blood. Kyah lightly touched Nadie’s shoulder, but she did not stir.

“Do you know who she is?” Kyah asked.

Nadie’s hands unclenched, splaying out as if straining to touch the lifeless hand mere inches away, but then she dug her nails into the skin above her knees. Her face crumpled, tears welled in her eyes but one never fell.

“Not…not yet,” she stammered.

This vulnerability was foreign on Nadie’s face. Neither of the two women were strangers to death—yet in the early morning with no one but Kyah as witness—Nadie didn’t have to hold herself together. She was free to feel her grief and Kyah was not going to stop her.

Nadie’s nails dug into her skin far enough to draw blood; a few more scars to add to the hundreds that crisscrossed her flesh. Kyah silently squeezed Nadie’s shoulder. Even the birds were even quiet as the moments passed.

Eventually, Nadie sighed. “We should bring her to the Den.”

Kyah’s stomach churned as she glanced back down at the body. There wasn’t much left holding the corpse together and it was a long way up to the Den.

Kyah gnawed on her brittle nails. “We should wrap her up. It would make it…easier.”

Nadie glanced helplessly down at her bare legs. She wore nothing more than her short, deer-skin dress. Kyah wondered how she bared the chill in such clothes. Nadie never seemed cold. Her blood was as fiery as her soul.
K
yah unwrapped her warm shawl, stifling a shiver as the cold wind caressed her exposed skin.

“This might help,” she offered, holding it out to Nadie.
Nadie held the shawl with reverence. Her eyes wide as she drew the it to her chest.

“Thank you,” she said, voice thick. “I appreciate your sacrifice.”
She closed her eyes and whispered a quiet prayer. They did not speak again until Nadie’s eyes fluttered open.

“Nadie,” Kyah murmured, “this is not your fault.”

Nadie stiffened. “This should not have happened.”

Kyah shook her head. “No, this should never happen, but it’s not your fault. You know what’s to blame for this.”

Nadie’s crimson eyes flared with something deeper than hatred. “I know what they are,” she spat between clenched teeth. “But this happened on my watch. The burden falls on my shoulders.”

“But—”

“Enough, Kyah,” she snapped, raising a hand. “Let us get her to the Den before the others wake. Now.” Nadie slipped smoothly back into her usual, commanding self. She was the leader, and even though Kyah wanted to protest, she had to respect her position in the tribe.

Together the two of them wrapped the body in Kyah’s shawl. It wasn’t easy, and every time Kyah’s fingers grazed the broken, dead flesh a spike of nausea shot through her. There was no thrum of life—nothing but cold emptiness. Kyah looked away as Nadie retrieved some of the more delicate pieces of the body and placed them carefully into the cocoon of fabric they were fashioning.

They did not speak a word as they finished the task, lifted their fellow tribe member, and made their way to the wolf’s Den.

5 thoughts on “Of Blood and Rain

  1. Anonymous says:

    This was great! Thank you so much for sharing. Even though you only had 250-ish words to work with, it had a full story arc.
    Just a couple thoughts that you can disregard if not pertinent:
    – I’d love to know the relationship of Kyah to the wolves and specifically Nadie. Is Kyah a werewolf or a human that is accepted by the community of wolves? I’d love the relationship dynamics to be more clear, even among the wolves- I get the sense of a hierarchy, but not how other than Nadie is chief…?
    – Do wolves speak English or does Kyah speak wolf? If you gave some small indication, we could picture how communication is happening.
    This is a really strong piece, so good work! I have such few notes, solid writing. As a reader, you’ve got me hooked.

    -Risto

  2. passmoreskittles says:

    Very strong opener! I’m sure many unanswered questions with the hierarchy of wolves and the relationship of Nadie and Kyah will be explained further on. My one complaint is the destruction the wolves made to the body. Eyes gouged out.. It doesn’t seem like something wolves would do. It’s not like they’d poke their paws or nose into the sockets to harm the eyes, so I can’t see that happening. Also, it’s hard to believe that wolves would be able to destroy the body’s teeth. You described the mouth as a “gaping hole of splintered teeth”. I was a dental assistant for three years, and I find this hard to believe that wolves’ jaws would have the capability to leave teeth “splintered”. Other than those two things, I found this beginning to be well written and very intriguing!

  3. thescribblerssite says:

    Really enjoyed this opening. Full of excellent sensory detail and I was intrigued by the world and
    wanted to know more about the group and their culture, which seems very different in the best possible way. The description of the body is a little graphic, but I didn’t mind…maybe some readers might? But it’s done it’s job – I’m hooked, I want know more and the MC seems like someone I could root for.

    One or two wee points to have a look at –
    ‘The bitter reek of blood mixed with the sweet scent of pine and morning dew. Kyah’s nose wrinkled against the smell as she emerged from the underground burrow.’
    That first sentence doesn’t make sense on it’s own, but if you combine it with the next, it will be really effective and we experience the smell through the eyes of the MC. We can also lose the filter word ‘smell.’

    ‘The bitter reek of blood mixed with the sweet scent of pine and morning dew made Kyah’s nose wrinkle, as she emerged from the underground burrow.’

    And having done so well in the first para to show us how Kyah feels, it’s a little spoiled when you then also tell us – ‘warning that something was very wrong’ – I’d take that out. Would be stronger without.

    Overall though, I got a really great sense of place and the sense of emotion from Nadie and Kyah, which really drew me in.

  4. Sarah says:

    I was really grabbed by this opening, from the forest, to the wolves and the reveal of what they were crowded around. I was curious as to Kyah and Nadie’s relationship and their relationship with the wolves, as well as how they come to be covered in scars – are they warriors, sentries, scouts? Do their people have an enemy that they have to watch for in the woods? I think a little more context could make this pop as well as some varying sentence length in the beginning to really weave your reader in. For example, the line, “The forest was much too quiet,” as its own paragraph is really engaging. The paragraph that follows is full of sentences that are all the same length which, for me at least, can make the pacing redundant. All in all I would definitely read more. The tension throughout is great and leaves me really curious about what happens next!

  5. suzanna says:

    Really great opening full of sensory detail. Definitely want to read more as there are lots of questions to be answered.

    Well done.

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