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VALKARIE

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Dean wiped the sweat from his eyes for what seemed like the fifth time in three minutes. The smithy had seemed especially hot today and he hadn’t been able to find the bandana he usually wore around his head to keep the sweat from dripping into his eyes. He was currently working on the blade for a new plow, a rather arduous task, and it had taken him about a week to get to this point. But once he finished he could set it and his old donkey Louis to work in the fields on his dads farm; their old plow had broken last week. After about an hour and a half he finally finished the last of it, sitting back and admiring his work with a satisfied smile.

Not the best I’ve ever done, but it’ll work. He thought, attempting to wipe some of the excess dust off of his faded green tunic. Just then the door to the smithy opened and his boss Mr. Crowley appeared.

“You still here at this hour?” He spoke in a heavy Scottish accent.

“It’s only 8 sir; not terribly late.”

“It’s late for me.” He replied, glancing around the room, probably looking for anything that was out of place. Mr. Crowley had emigrated from Scotland a few years back and truthfully, Dean could barely stand the man. He didn’t know how he landed the position as top smithy in town. (He had a hunch that it was just because of his accent) He was always eager to boss people around and get after you if you forgot to leave things EXACTLY the way that he liked it, but he would hardly get his own precious hands dirty.

“I just wanted to quickly finish this.” Dean explained, motioning to the plow. “I’m going to be heading home now. He shrugged his gloves and apron off and gathered his things.

“You do know that you’re absolutely filthy don’t you?” Crowley spoke, giving him a once over and a disapproving frown.

Yea, that’s kind of what happens when you’re in this line of work; sometimes you get dirty your highness. Dean thought as he rolled his eyes behind his boss’s back. Distant thunder rumbled across the sky as he finished. “Yup, well I’ve gotta get old Louis home before this storm breaks. She’s jumpy enough under clear skies.”

“Alright, I’ll see you in two days then.” Crowley called as Dean strode out the door, eager to get away from the man.

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say he was in love with me.” He whispered to Louis as he fastened his pack to the old donkeys back. She shook her head in response, snorting nervously. “Scary, I know.” He chuckled. “He’s waay too old for me; then there’s the problem of him being the drama queen of his imagined fortress.” The clouds had turned twilight into night, looming ever closer on the horizon, and his family’s farm lay about 3 miles outside of town. Another roll of thunder sounded and Louis brayed, skipping on her feet a bit.

“Alright alright, let’s get you home then if you’re so eager.” He told the donkey, leading her down the darkening road towards home.

Not two minutes after he arrived and put Louis in the barn the storm broke, dumping buckets of rain on the earth with brute force. He set up the old donkey for the night and ran to the house as fast as he could. Even though he had only been out in the rain for 30 seconds tops he still found himself soaked from head to toe by the time he got in the door.

“There you are, I was starting to wonder if you were ever coming home.” His little brother Sam spoke from a seat by the fireplace, brushing his shoulder length brown hair out of the way. You wouldn’t guess that he was 4 years younger, being almost taller than Dean.

“Sorry bout that Sammy, I needed to finish the plow tonight though.” He apologized, shrugging out of his coat and boots and going over to the fire to warm himself.

“I finished something as well, look.” Sammy stated proudly, handing Dean a hunk of wood shaped like a mountain goat; its head was low, lunging forward to butt an invisible something, and the detail was incredible.

“It’s amazing, you really need to start selling these, people would pay good money for something like this.” Dean exclaimed honestly, handing the goat back to his brother with a proud smile.

“Yea, that’s how you can pay me back for all the firewood you use.” A gruff voice spoke as John, a well built man with dark brownish black hair came into the room. Sam looked down at the ground like he was ashamed. “C’mon sport, I’m just kidding, they’re beautiful.” He laughed, walking over and tousling the young boys hair playfully. Sam beamed with pride.

“Did you get the plow done tonight like I asked son?” John asked, looking from Sam to Dean, his soft smile dissapearing.

“Yes sir, done and ready for work.” Dean nodded, tousling his own hair a bit and making water droplets fly everywhere.

“Good, you can get started on that as soon as the storm clears up. It looks like it’s fixin to be quite a bad one though; we might have our work cut out for us cleaning up tomorrow.” John added as another crack of thunder rattled the thin window panes.

“Yes sir, is it alright if I check my traps first thing in the morning though; I haven’t for a few days and I’m sure the storm is going to do a number on them.” Dean asked.

“We’ll decide in the morning, I’m heading to bed now.” John spoke.

Dean sighed a bit but hid his annoyance. He was eager to go check them, he had been getting this feeling lately that something amazing was about to happen to him, and the only thing he could think of that would make him excited was catching another Valkarie and hanging another set of wings up by the ones he already had in his room.

He went to get ready for bed and paused by where they were stuffed and hung on the wall; flaming red one’s he had gotten off a female with a bad temper a few years ago. He stroked the soft, strong feathers, admiring how beautiful they were. He had been the youngest in the village to ever catch a Valkarie, and ever since he had been working hard to catch an even more impressive set of wings.

Capturing Valkarie was the only hobby really worth doing in the small village in Deans opinion; the thrill he had gotten while wrestling with the last one he had caught was pretty intense. Valkarie were winged sky creatures that resembled humans, except for the talons on the three middle fingers, fangs, and the fact that they had wings of course. Despite their close resemblance to humans the people of the village referred to them as animals, varmints more like, for lately they had begun making a nuisance of themselves by stealing livestock. The hobby of Valkarie hunting had gone up significantly after that had started. He had found that setting traps up in the tops of trees was the best way to catch the things.

They often gathered eggs from birds’ nests, so Dean had found that was the best spot for a trap. Working much like a Venus fly trap, it was set around the birds nest, and when the thing landed to get it’s spoils, the chained netting would snap up and around them, locking their wings against their bodies and rendering them useless. They had started to use chain instead of rope about a year ago, owing to the fact that the Valkaries had been chewing and cutting through the rope to escape.

Climbing into bed he closed his eyes and sighed contentedly, letting the roar of the wind and rain slapping against his window calm relax his aching muscles. It didn’t take long for sleep to overtake his senses, and his last thought was of the set of wings that he’d always wanted to have, gigantic, majestic, easily twice as long as him; and black as midnight.

***

The next morning, after finishing his morning chores and fighting off an eager Sam that wanted to come with him, he headed out to check the traps. It wasn’t that he didn’t want his younger brother tagging along. Just as his dad has predicted, the storm had made quite a mess of the farm, and he felt that he would be a better help here, cleaning with his dad.

“I’ll be back in about an hour to help more.” Dean told his dad as he was walking out the door. He wore a brown tunic that hung down to his thighs with darker brown pants disappearing into his boots. A long sleeve white shirt stuck out from the short sleeves of the tunic, tucked into the belt he wore on each wrist to hold two small knives.

“Okay, just hurry; there’s lot of work to be done today.” He heard his dad call back; he acknowledged it with a wave of his hand. Whistling to himself he headed up the mountain, picking a path through the mist. It was a wet misty morning, more humid than usual thanks to last night’s freak rainstorm. It was overcast and the clouds hung low to the ground up the mountain, making it even harder to see. Dean cursed as his booted foot slipped and sunk halfway up his thigh in a particularly muddy spot. Luckily he had worn his knee high boots that he usually reserved for shoveling cow manure and they protected his legs from the muck quite nicely. Yanking his foot out of the mud with a sickening slurp, he continued to where he had planted his first trap.

Just as he thought, the first two he found were in shreds, both had been set in the tops of trees with multiple kinds of bird nests in them. The chains had been tossed down to the ground, with some of them wound hopelessly around the branches and trunk.

After gathering up the ruined traps (unfortunately he had to leave a bit of one of them that had all but molded itself to the tree) he threw the chains around his shoulders and started out for his last one. The first clue he found that the trap may not be empty was all the feathers. Big, blackish blue feathers littered the ground around the base of the tree, way too big to be from a regular bird. Dropping the chains, he quickly slipped one of his knives out of his wrist belt, in full caution mode. He didn’t have to look far to find it.

The first thing he noticed was the wings. Just like the ones of his dreams, they were hopelessly tangled in the chains, the left one was stretched out at a weird angle, there was a good chance it was broken, the other still pressed flat against the creatures body like the trap was supposed to work. It had somehow unhinged the trap, but it had backfired horribly. It looked like the Valkarie had fallen halfway out of the tree before the chains had caught again, suspending it in mid air, and there it hung, swaying gently. Looking closer, he saw that its eyes were closed. The closer he got the more gruesome it became. It looked like the thing had been struggling most of the night, and Dean wondered if it had gotten caught before the storm had started.

He wasn’t prepared for the pang of horror and guilt that flashed through him as he stood looking up at the poor creature, but then reprimanded himself for feeling bad for it. This wasn’t a human, it was a vicious animal; it might have been the one that had stolen three of their pigs for all he knew. They were vermin and sympathy was the last thing he should be feeling for the thing. Nevertheless he felt horrible.

The chains that held him, it, not him, he corrected himself in his mind; that held IT up had rubbed the skin raw, and dark blood stained the metal where it cut into flesh. Putting the knife between his teeth, Dean climbed up to the left wing that was broken and twisted. Twigs and leaves were tangled in the feathers, and some had all but rubbed off, leaving gaping wounds for the chains to dig further into. He tried to be just disappointed that such wonderful wings were ruined, as they wouldn’t look as good to display, but all he felt was despair and again, sticky clingy guilt for what he had done. Without thinking much about it he reached out to touch the oily black feathers. Water droplets decorated them, gathering in tiny jewels on the slick membranes.

Then without warning there was an inhuman shriek and the broken wing lashed out, smacking into him and making him lose his grip on the tree. The knife went flying as he fell back, and he just managed to catch onto another branch with his right arm. That was when he found himself eye to eye with his victim. Slitted cat eyes glared at him, not inches away from his own bright green ones. Those eyes, the color of the clear blue summer sky shone with a rage Dean had never experienced before; they terrified and excited him all in one. Somehow the thing got its bloodied torn hand around Deans throat and, showing its fangs squeezed with all its might. Dean felt the taloned fingers digging into the back of his neck. He had a passing thought that he might have just made the last mistake of his life and the last thing he was ever going to see is these furiously blue eyes glaring at him in hatred. He faintly remembered that he kept an extra knife in his right boot and strained to reach down to grab it as little black dots popped up all over his vision, rapidly blocking out the world around him…

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