Depravity

By: M.J. Haag

A Beastly Tale Part 1



One


I wrapped my hands around the cold bars of the massive, black iron gate and glared after the smith’s sons, Tennen and Splane Coalre. The pair cast nervous glances back at me as they scurried away from the beast’s shadowy garden. They had locked me inside because of misdirected spite. It wasn’t my fault I’d seen what I had.


“This is what you get, Benella,” Tennen had said as he had pushed me into the beast’s lair.

Tennen thought his treatment just. However, the current situation was anything but just.

A strand of my dark hair, loosened from my braid by the encounter, fell across my cheek and partially obstructed my view of my retreating tormentors. I shook the hair away from my eyes and took stock of my situation.

Outside the gate, early morning mist floated around the trunks of the trees, and blue sky shimmered through the gently moving canopy. Inside the gate, neither the light mist nor blue sky penetrated the garden in which I stood. Cast in shadow and eerie silence, the beast’s domain welcomed nothing from beyond its walls.

Sides still heaving, I struggled to quiet my breathing. I needed to leave quickly. Tennen and Splane hadn’t departed quietly, and it wouldn’t be long before the creature came looking for me.

I studied the top of the gate. The iron should have been easy enough to scale, but vines climbed the rock walls and twined with the iron rods. I didn’t trust the vines. They tended to move on their own. I didn’t much trust the gate, either. It should have been closed and locked.

The birds outside the gate fell eerily silent, and my stomach gave a sickening twist as I realized I’d run out of time. I dropped my head and squeezed my eyes shut.

The beast had come.

A heavy breath gusted across my neck, sending shivers of fear over my skin, and my hands twitched on the gate. In the distance, I heard the mocking laughter of the smith’s sons as they raced home.

Taking a slow breath, I forced my fingers from the bars and dropped my hands to my sides. I didn’t turn to look at the beast. I didn’t need to. Once before, I’d seen his dark shape hidden in mist when strangers, worked into a righteous fit, had come to Konrall and tried to storm the estate.

My breath left me when he clasped my arms, and I suddenly found myself sailing over the wall. I flipped, spun, then floated for a moment before I felt myself drawn back to earth.

I braced myself for the bone-jarring collision. Instead, I bounced slightly on impact. Puzzled, I quickly sat up.

A woven mesh of vines strung between trees had cushioned me from the hard landing I had expected. I scrambled off and turned to stare at the tangled vegetation that had saved me. The vines slithered back from the trees, releasing their hold on each other. Slowly, they withdrew to disappear over the wall from where they’d come.

I stood panting and shaking, looking at the stone wall that extended beyond sight in each direction. The bars I’d held only a moment ago broke the monotony of the stonescape far to my left. He’d tossed me a good distance. Had it not been for the vines, I would have broken a limb or worse.

My stomach growled hungrily as I bent to inspect my clothes. Father couldn’t afford to replace them. Other than dirt and a few small tears, which I could mend, the old worn pants and shirt would last a while longer. I sighed and straightened.

The day hadn’t started well. I’d set out to trade for bread using the wild carrots I’d foraged at dawn. Carrots, typically a fall crop, were easy to find in early spring if one knew where to look. The beast’s enchanted gardens grew year round. Though he allowed no one inside, a clever girl could still benefit from the estate. On the east side of the property, the plants crept through a section of crumbling wall. Amidst the fallen rocks, I could find any variety of fruit or vegetable. The type changed every day, depending on the mood of the magic.

▶ Also By M.J. Haag

▶ Hot Read

▶ Last Updated

▶ Recommend

Top Books