Blood in the Snow (Chapter 1)

Bulumko pulled down a small iron tube by the tip of her fingers, iron strings attached vibrated as though possessed. The strings vibrated up the four necks, letting out a slow haunting wail before her fingers moved to twist ear like screws on the tips. The sound changed, losing the wail, tuning to a whine, transitioning to a hum. Iron strings, tied to a single point, created a choir of dozens.


 

Applause, mixed in with the music.


 

She waited, the sound moving on its own, vibrations running off its own energy.


 

The carriage bounced on an upturned piece of road. She had to rock her hips in order to keep her hold on the Mofisa light. She touched the tube next to the first, ever so slightly.


 

A wholly new whine erupted, a soprano, speaking in a new distant language. Bulumko pulled on the first, creating a duet that filled carriage and applause quickly followed suit.


 

Howling from outside snapped all eyes to the windows. Half a dozen furred creatures were sprinting, with the carriage. There was a roar, heavy and guttural. The creatures broke away, needle spikes of bone and cartilage bouncing between their fur, glistening wet in the moonlight.


 

Someone yelled upfront and the carriage sped up.


 

"I think, it's best to call it." Bulumko said,


 

Those inside clapped and started fussing, caught in the moment. Bulumko had fussing of her own, loosening each individual screw carefully, placing them five at a time in a different box. Each in a silk blanket and placed into a larger one which had a cushioned mold with her initials. It had a family crest, a fist with a sword coming out from the knuckle and running the length of the arm.


 

She closed it, snapping on a lock, turning it with a key.


 

Turn left, turn right, push forward, pull, hard, then lift.


 

Buluku could feel eyes on her. She didn't look up, instead of putting the key into a locket on her neck. The silver locket glistened against the moonlight. Her gaze lifted, finding the eyes of three races of women staring at her.


 

The first had grey fur, thin, light, cut short. She had a short snout with wet lips barely hiding fangs. She wore a thin leather coat. The collar wrapped its way around her neck, like a scarf. Her neck, supported by a silver pillow.


 

Next was a woman with literally no mouth, pure white skin, white enough to turn the snow green, black hair combed over to cover her face, she wore a silken top, with a fur hide jacket and waist coast, her leather pants had thick sticky and stopped at her knees pearly white toes wiggling on their own as though searching.

 

Next was the only human, in woolen, polo neck pulled up to her nose. She wore an eye patch, but it didn't do enough. The scaring didn't end at the eye, running their way through to her cheek and to her ear. Her skin had been pale caramel at some point but had earned a leathery chocolate tan. Through an ocean of uneven unmatching bleach blonde hair, her breathing was so light one would have thought she was not breathing. She couldn't help but wonder if all humans breathed that light. Her eyes focused and she spotted a glint when the cover opened and saw a milky white glint, it took her back and she turned away, pretending not to see.


 

Her breath was quick, her heart racing. She was being absurd, the girl was young, Bulumko was sure of it. Late teens, maybe, the early twenties.


 

She was a kid. And yet it was unnerving. She sighed breathing deep, melting into her seat, pull her hood up, letting the side flaps cover her face before sleep took over.


 
----
 

There was chaos, that same roar and yelling all around. Suddenly a bang on the door snapped her awake, she wasn't sure why she was terrified.


Then she understood. She was staring directly into the eye of the human. It was all the explanation needed. Did that mean she disliked her? No, right? In her own way, the girl was beautiful. Or, had been. Bulumko didn't know, she just knew her heart was still racing. The racing


 

The woman popped the carriage door open.


 

"How can we help you?" She said, her voice wasn't deep, or rather, it wasn't meant to be deep, but rather forced to be low and raspy, very much like a wife imitating a husband when mad.


 

"How can we help you?" She said, her voice wasn't deep, or rather it wasn't meant to be deep, but rather forced to be low and raspy very much like a wife imitating a husband when mad.


 

"You're at the border crossing between Nonneng and Sedimo Diamond Foot. We need your identifications and declarations," Said the man at the door, he was just under two meters tall, with faded red skin and eight slits for eyes.


 

Four were centered, front-facing and a distance away from four more to the side of his head. When he spoke she saw thick teeth, but intensity long and thin canines.


Two of the eight looked directly at Bulumko. It was her expected out first.


The guard even had his hand out, with a sigh she grabbed her wooden case and stepped out, her bags followed in the hands of the others.


 

She was eye to eye with Abulele another Abesante woman with even longer grey hair which had been braided. Her eyes brightened in a way that she could only guess was a smile, one struggled to appreciate the value of lips when it came to reading people.


 

"This should be fun." She said from inside Bulumko's mind, as chilling as it had been, it was something a person could get used to, her sarcasm, made Bulumko smile as she took her bags.


 

Getting up, she found herself almost a full head taller than the man who waved her down the road. Her white eyes widened the needle tip pupils, shrinking against the glare of pure snow. She stopped when she heard a shallow grunt and swung around and, catching sight of the human who clutched her face and fell forwards. The guard remained frozen in place and Bulumko lunged, catching her.


 

"You call yourself a man." She scolded.


 

"Let go, I can handle myself." The human said glowering


 

Despite the eye and the attire and the rude growling, she couldn't help but notice how small she was. That had to be half a meter between them, but at the same time, she couldn't help but feel like she was holding boulders.


 

"I can't do that, do you have dragon glass?"


 

"I said, I don't need your help."


 

"Only you do." She was terrified of being stabbed, entirely unsure of whether if or when was the concern.


 

"You don't have to trust me, but I can't steal from you. Not in the middle of a border crossing at daybreak. You need help if you don't have tinted glasses. You can use my scarf."


 

Bulumko didn't get stabbed, what she got was silence, one that grew increasingly awkward as they were blocking the door. The human pushed away, her eyes snapped shut, her shoulders bunched before they dropped. Her left hand outstretched.


It was the hope, yet was all it had been. Bulumko didn't smile, that would ruin it. Even if no one could see. Snatching up her hand, she led the way.


 

Bulumko walked slow, waiting for the ladies to line up in a row behind her as they made their way to a wooden lodge which looked as though dozens of large logs had simply been stacked and hammered and left. The closer they got the more so it looked. Further, in the white, she saw plumes of smoke marking a city, no, a village, most likely something created for the soldiers by those hoping to earn an extra and constant penny.


 

Inside the two women separated with the short warrior opening her eyes slowly. There both were met with that looked to have been a hall at some point but now, had been filled with chest-high wooden barriers, forming what one would have thought was a maze, it separated everything, sections, all holding people, all dealing with ink and paper.


 

"Thank you." The human breathed,


 

Bulumko smiled. "Bulumko. Lumko for short. And your name?"


 

"It's Nompilo."


 

"It's a pleasure to meet you finally."


 

"Finally?"


 

"Yes, all we did way share a space with each other silence."


 

"Talking is overrated."


 

"For something overrated, it feels pretty good. And before you say what I can tell you want to say. If I loved the sound of my voice. I wouldn't have dedicated my life to playing an instrument that does its own singing."


 

Nomplio said nothing instead of shaking her head and letting herself be led. For Lumko it was a start.



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