“I need your help,” Sebastiano told Letha, “but oh…” His breath caught at the thought of her seeing what he had seen. “It is too much to ask.”
She came down the steps as he spoke, reached out and took his hand.
“Tell me,” she said, looking up into his face and the sound of the love and worry in her voice undid him. He collapsed to his knees, burying his face in her skirts, and sobbed like a child of five whose worst nightmare has come true.
She held him without speaking, let him sob away all the horror and terror of those moments and the coppery stench of the blood and the horrible way its sheen changed as it dried. Finally he drew away and she released him. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, pressing hard on his eyeballs, as though to extract what he had seen.
“A murder,” he said. “No, a slaughter, really. And they think it was a Beast.”
“Beasts do not murder,” she said. “They may kill in the moment, but they do not plan and enact such acts.”
“This one did. I think. I don’t know.” In his head he ran through lists. “Are there any creatures that thrive on death?”
“There are the Mandrakes, which suffocate and then try to put their infants in place of the human child,” she said. “There are the fairies, which sting so many travelers, but they must be provoked or drawn by injury, usually. You mean a creature that is fed by killing. That is not a Beast, Sebastiano. That is sorcery.”
He knew the truth of her words the minute he heard them. How had he not realized that before? Perhaps some clouding spell had overlaid the house? A golem, constructed by sorcery, using Beasts. Was that possible?
He must have spoken his thoughts aloud, because Letha replied to them, her voice tart as a winter apple. “Of course it is. What else does Tabat do with Beasts but use them to fuel magic?”
I’m also finishing up edits for the story that will appear next year in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Red in Tooth and Cog.” A recent publication is As the Crow Flies, So Does the Road in GrendelSong.
If you want some NaNoWriMo inspiration, here’s a post about why if you’re writing, you’re doing things right. Here’s a fun but low-pay call for submissions that might spark some ideas.