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Affiliates

Outcasts

Opening Scene

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to rain after all” Kagome Higurashi commented quietly to herself as she lay out under the stars, merely a few scattered clouds drifting along above.

The young woman was comfortable among the long grass within the field, her back upon the green couch and her eyes staring upward in admiration. Nature presented a beautiful picture before her, interrupted only at times by the clouds, but still creating a work of art no artist could hope to reproduce from their imagination. Sighing, she slowly turned over, looking around herself at the dark shadows with interest rather than fear, musing about her life as she did most nights.

Kagome belonged to a large household, and yet held no affections for most of the people she knew. She was a servant girl to the local voivode, being in his employ since she was a small child. The young woman held faint memories of her parents before they died, but these left no bittersweet taste upon her mind, as they were too vague to wholly believe.

Thinking back upon her short life, as she often did within her sanctuary, Kagome silently mourned her fate. She had been adopted into the household of the manor, the voivode and his wife, the only family willing to take the orphan. They had been cold toward her welcome, though, and remained so until this day. She was not unaware of why they treated her with such indifference, or even contempt, during most confrontations. The young woman was special.

Kagome knew she was different than others, her odd abilities becoming more prominent with every year she grew older. At first there had only been feelings of unease, and then terrible incidents had occurred within the household. A death, even the minor calamity of broken dishes, were felt by her before they happened. At first she had tried to warn the mistress before these occurrences, but had been soundly ignored until the event took place. After the suspicious and accusing glances from both the staff and masters of the house, she had avoided any discussion of her feelings.

However, Kagome had made many friendships among the staff, easing her aching loneliness. Most especially her relationship with Sango, the cook of the household, had become important to her. Her male companionship was fulfilled by Miroku the houshi, and Inuyasha, a hanyou, both servicemen given command of the guard. A young woman named Kikyou, newly arrived from one of the local villages to act as handmaiden to the mistress and assist the local priest in his duties, completed their odd little group.

Kagome sighed wistfully, her thoughts wandering in both envy and happiness. She had noticed of late the looks Inuyasha and Kikyou had been giving one another, the long gazes hinting at the emotions they wished to share. Miroku and Sango had also been spending much of their limited free time together, enjoying the company of the other. Though with the actions of the warrior houshi, Kagome much doubted their blissful nights went unmolested by his incessant attempts to grope the tough cook. Her female friend would tolerate none of the hentai’s touches, though secretly she had informed the lonely young woman that she silently enjoyed his attentions.

Rolling over so she once more lay upon her back, Kagome closed her eyes and breathed deeply the scent of the heavy, ancient forest surrounding her. She knew there would be no one to interrupt her solitude in this place, the villagers and manor household avoiding venturing far into the woods. The young woman had heard stories of werewolves, vampires, and other creatures stalking the dark woods, but never paid heed to such tales.

Even the beginning of the fantasies lay steeped in legend, told only by the grandmothers of the local villages. Several centuries ago a young voivode had lived within sight of the manor she now resided in, his castle elegant and wondrous to behold. Nobility from great distances came to admire the grandeur and riches, though the prince of the lands was said to attract much of the attention. Apparently he had garnered many admirers but had refused all offers, much to his father’s remonstrations. For such filial impiety, the legend spoke, he was cursed with a terrible disease and soon after his father perished mysteriously. The lands were now his but he had done nothing but banish the servants and seclude himself within the castle, answering no heeds from visitors and allowing the grounds to become wild with woods. With time most details of the tale were lost and only scattered parts remained of the end, allowing the legend to grow into such preposterous stories of ghouls and goblins.

However, some truth evidently lay ground within the tale, as the castle’s remains could still be seen far beyond the populated lands. Looming over the forest she now lay amidst, the imposing structure darkened the sky with its presence.

But Kagome heeded not the fanciful tales of her elders, though she was greatly appreciative of their concerns. After all, they were merely meant to scare the children from wandering far from the homes. Many adults were even known to become lost in the large forest, though most of those were inexperienced with the paths. Many were never found, though many a searcher had stumbled upon the poor, decomposed corpse of a fallen traveler during their hunts. Considering disease was common in the area and a broken bone, if infected, could mean death, the villagers looked upon the body as one whose fate lay out of their hands. They had thus allowed the bodies to lie in their resting places and halted any further searches, knowing after a time that the fellow missing would not be recovered from the forest.

Fortunately, Kagome did not fear the remoteness and loneliness of the woods. She had ventured into the trees countless times since she was a young girl, having had only one mishap when being caught after sundown when she was but a child. However, she had learnt well the few paths which wandered into the great forest, finding ancient roads and hidden meadows which thrilled her adventurous spirit. Now she had memorized all the walkways and was well capable of traveling through the woods in the dark, her favorite time of the day.

However, Kagome was little aware of the danger she found herself in.

The shadows surrounding her cloaked more than the vegetation seen only by the light of the sun. Within the darkness, upon the edge of the meadow, a flutter of cloth could be seen moving slowly around the young girl’s sanctuary. The dark cloak hid the tall figure of a stranger, their movements silent as bright golden eyes surveyed the young woman with a cold mix of curiosity, disdain, and indifference.

“Why can’t I find someone?” Kagome asked herself aloud, stretching out upon the tall grass. “But who would take someone like me, anyway?” she added with a sad, small smile upon her face. A few loose tears slid down her cheeks as she gazed at the starry sky. “I’m just a nobody” she bemoaned, her thoughts bringing to mind the images of her female companions. “Sango can cook and hold her own in any fight with Miroku. And then there’s Kikyou.” There she paused, thinking of the interest Inuyasha had acquired for the new arrival.

They had known one another from the village, Kagome had learnt that much about their relationship. Apparently a falling out had occurred some time before the hanyou had acquired his job at the manor, something about their occupations and species not matching well. The young woman was well aware hanyou were disdained by many of the peoples, but her friend’s breeding had never been a bother. He was crude but had a good heart, and many times she had wondered what he would have been like as a husband and father. However, her hopes were now dashed with Kikyou’s coming, her kind heart unwilling to interrupt the growing fondness regardless of her own emotions. Besides, though the handmaiden had been cold to her the few times they have conversed, she had not found fault with the beautiful and talented priestess.

Now here Kagome lay, wondering about her friend’s relationships with both envy and happiness. With a heavy heart she thought perhaps someday she would find her knight in shining armor, but for now her hopes were soundly squashed. It would do her no good to sulk about her situation, allowing time and God’s will to lead her to happiness.

Sitting up, Kagome hugged her knees to her chin and smiled with some mirth within the expression. She remained looking upward, her admiration of the sky leading to her inattentiveness of her surroundings.

With careful steps the stranger stalked his victim, a cruel smile upon pale, red lips. The figure entered the meadow, and the fading light of the sky, with slow steps, creeping upon the young woman with easy grace. However, the oblivious prey was saved by the sudden intervention of nature.

It started to rain.

“Dang it” Kagome quietly cursed, picking herself off the lawn and racing toward the trees. Thankfully the village was not far away, so the water would not damage her clothing which now only hung upon her body in rags.

The stranger watched the intended victim leave with narrowed eyes, looking upward to the dark sky with unmistakable vexation. However, the figure was not soon with the known intentions, their face quickly returning to the stoic expression so rightly suited.

“Kagome, where have you been?” Sango asked as she watched her bedraggled friend enter the kitchen, her dress soaked. “If the mistress catches you she won’t hesitate to throw you out” she scolded, though she assisted in leading Kagome to the newly made fire within the stove.

“I’m sorry” Kagome shook out, clutching at herself in an attempt to heat her cool body. She was shivering from the dampness, the distance from the meadow to the manor longer than she had supposed. “Besides, the mistress needs me too badly” she added with a smile, thinking of the cleaning which compromised her chores.

“Well, no harm done I suppose” Sango replied with a sigh, shaking her head in amusement as she stoked the fire. “At least I was planning on starting the fire, since her majesty was demanding warmth.”

“The night is pretty cold” Kagome commented, sighing as her clothes began to steam around her. “I didn’t expect the clouds to come in so fast as they did, and the trees weren’t much help.” She regretted her words as her friend stiffened and slowly turned to gaze at her with accusing eyes.

“You were out in the woods again, weren’t you” Sango stated rather than asked, knowing the answer and shaking the poker at her. “You know everyone is strictly prohibited from going into there by the priest.” With a sigh she lowered her weapon and placed the steel stick next to the stove, turning toward the young woman with a worried look upon her face. “Why do you do these things, Kagome?”

“I just needed some time to myself” Kagome slowly and quietly explained, shaking off the loose water remaining on her dress and stepping back from the fire. “Well, I think I’ll go to bed now. Thanks for the warmth and talk.”

With those words, and not bothering to wait for more reprimanding from her concerned friend, Kagome left the kitchen and climbed the servant stairs to her small bedroom. The room was little more than a hole in the wall, being able to only hold her bed and few belongings. However, it was hers and hers alone, which made the space ever the more special and dear to the woman. Carefully she stripped off the wrinkled dress and carefully folded the cloth, placing the bundle at the foot of her bed mat.

Sighing Kagome slid beneath the heavy covers of the sheets she had made herself, closing her eyes after a hard day’s work and a night of exercise. Perhaps her dreams would sooth her sore body and create a world which could only exist within her thoughts and wishes. Maybe then her knight would arrive and present her with a life full of happiness and love.

Laughing softly at her childish thoughts, Kagome smiled as she drifted off into the blessed realm of Morpheus.