Photo via Visual Hunt
Sadie shivered as the eerie hoot of an owl echoed around her. “Mark my words,” her grandfather said as he helped her gather the wood in the growing darkness. “Someone in this house will die tonight.”
Sadie didn’t argue with him, though her father would have. Merrick Stonehammer didn’t put up with such nonsense. In the city where he came from, such things were foolish superstitions, and were relegated to tavern talk. Just about every belief the simple country folk he lived amongst now was “tavern talk” or “superstition.” Sadie thought her father a fool, but chose not to say anything. Merrick was also free with his fist if you lived in his household and spoke against him, especially if you were his wife and daughter.
Sadie and her grandfather carried the wood back into the house. Sadie glanced at her mother. Kai Stonehammer was pale and gaunt, other than the swelling in her abdomen where Sadie’s new sibling grew. Merrick didn’t seem to notice his wife’s distress. Or if he did, he didn’t care.
Sadie set the wood down next to the fireplace and went to her mother’s side. “Mother, is there anything I can do for you?” she asked softly.
“No Sadie. Go to your father. See what else he wants you to do,” Kai said, smiling.
Sadie reluctantly walked over to where her father sat at the table, drinking from a tankard. His face was flushed and his eyes were dull. Her heart sank. He was drunk, which meant even more trouble for them all.
“Father, Grandfather and I have brought in the wood as you asked. Is there anything else you would like me to do?” she asked, trying to stand out of reach.
“Come closer you stupid chit,” he said, slurring his words. “I can’t talk to you properly when you’re so far away.”
Sadie got closer and allowed her body to go limp. It was a good thing she did. He leaned back and kicked her, aiming for her stomach. She shifted slightly and he only hit her hip, but she still went flying.
“Merrick,” Kai cried, struggling to stand. Her father put a hand on her shoulder and she sat back down.
“That’s for going to your mother first, you useless little whore,” Merrick snarled. He stood and loomed over her. Sadie tried to get up but her leg wouldn’t support her weight. “Get up.”
“I can’t. I think you broke my leg,” Sadie said.
Merrick kicked her again, this time slamming into her ribs. Sadie felt something break then and she screamed. “That’s what you get for defying me. Get up.”
“Merrick, you broke her leg and you just broke some of her ribs,” her grandfather said. “She won’t be able to get up at all now.”
“Then she deserves to die,” Merrick said, preparing to kick her again.
A rush of anger filled Sadie. Her life meant nothing to him. Her mother’s life meant nothing to him. No one’s life meant anything to him. He would kill them all and move on to another woman, where he’d do the same thing to her.
A strength she didn’t know she had filled her. In spite of her pain, in spite of her injuries, she rose to her feet. She heard the gasps of her mother and grandfather. “You are an evil, sadistic, cruel bastard,” she said through gritted teeth. Tears of pain filled her eyes as she stalked towards her father. “You don’t deserve to live.”
“My last wife told me the same thing,” Merrick said with a smirk. “I cut her open from naval to breast. You think you frighten me?”
Sadie cast around for a weapon. She saw the axe where it sat up against the wall. She lunged over and grabbed it just as he tried to seize her. She whirled around and swung it at him with all her might, ignoring the agony in her ribs as she did so.
Merrick screamed as it struck his shoulder. Sadie didn’t stop. She continued swinging the axe until he was nothing more than a bloody mass on the floor. She panted, soaked in blood, unable to catch her breath.
She glanced over at her mother and grandfather, expecting to see fear and horror. Her grandfather was smiling. Kai looked relieved. “Well done, Sadie,” Kai said.
“The owl spoke true,” her grandfather said.