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4/5/2020 22:40:34   
NagisaXIkari
Member

"Still lingering about? What's wrong? A hunter, unnerved by a few beasts? Heh heh... No matter. Without fear in our hearts, we're little different from the beasts themselves... Enough trembling in your boots. A hunter must hunt."

Prelude: The Dream Lands

It was a strange realm that while identical to Lore in terms of geography was vastly different in many ways. It had not been the first time they had visited this world and likely would not be the last. Although for the life of them, they were unsure what it was that brought them here only that they would appear here whenever they shut their eyes and sleep took over.

"Welcome back, Hunter," the familiar voice of a woman said in an accent unlike one they had ever heard before. If there was anyone in the waking world who spoke with such an accent, they were not of the Land of Dragons.

The woman always looked the same with hair grey like smoke, skin as white if not whiter than any snowfield they had seen before, and attire composed of strange hues of red and gold that could be described as formal if not outright extravagant to the eyes of someone seeing this possibly foreign garb for the first time.

"I trust the hunt has been going well," she implored, a hint of concern in her voice.

"Yes," the Hunter flatly responded.

"Wonderful," she said, relieved.

There was something almost maternal about the woman as she always inquired about their actions in the waking world with the same tone which changed to relief or concern based on the answer.

It was unnerving due to the mysterious nature of the woman, but also touching. The Hunter lived a solitary life travelling from one place to another in search of prey to slaughter where each day could very well be their last.

"You'll be awakening soon," she said.

The Hunter had never doubted these words as soon enough, they would awaken back in the world they were familiar with.

Looking around, they could see they stood on the shores of a secluded beach, the surrounding trees acting as a barrier of sorts. The location was identical to where they were in the waking world and the next time they enter this strange world, it would be identical to where they were in the waking world as though they travelled two different worlds at once.

"Farewell, Hunter. May you ever continue to dream," the woman said as she and the world began to fade from existence.

Chapter I: Sunset

The Hunter awoke, their back against a tree facing the sea, the sun slowly descending on the horizon and the blue waters would slowly fade to black. It was just like in the Dream Lands, a secluded beach nearly surrounded by forest as if to conceal it from prying eyes.

Picking themself up, they shook the sand from their clothes and prepared to complete their task. With flint and steel, they lit a small lantern hanging from their hip shedding just enough light to check their pistol and load the appropriate shot into it and see into the woods where they would stalk their prey.

A small farming community in a distant corner of Surewould was plagued by a wolf slaughtering livestock and those foolish enough to try and hunt it themselves as though a couple farmers with axes and pitchforks would be enough to slay it.

Its isolation made contacting either Oaklore or Swordhaven difficult if not impossible and the reward was too meager for any adequate adventurer to try and those who would try for no reason other than to do the right thing would find out at the cost of their lives, doing the right thing is often the foolish thing.

As the sun set and the woods grew darker, the Hunter slowly proceeded, having chosen a rest spot near where there were plenty of signs of a large animal having passed through on multiple occasions. Tracks both new and old, broken branches, all revealed its den was near.

One would assume a wolf wouldn't be worth the effort of someone trained as a Shadow Hunter when there are far more vicious creatures in the world, but to the Hunter, a beast was a beast whether it had fangs and claws or came from a long forgotten horror like The Baron whose castle had since been abandoned years ago and even by its watcher even longer ago which truth be told, she wouldn't have been able to keep watch over it before time began to affect her as it does us all.

They entered a clearing of crushed brush and scattered bone which gleamed in the light of their lantern and the moon above. Further in was a low cavern, the wolf's den.

The Hunter drew their sword and gun and pulled the hammer back. The villagers said it attacked at night and with their hunt concluded only the kill was left.

A low growl came from the den and soon a massive black wolf that towered over others with the exception of those infected by lycanthropy.

The wolf bared its fangs and claws, the moon bathing them in a silver light as it began to circle the clearing.

This was not the first wolf the Hunter would slay and it likely wouldn't be last and much like the wolf, the Hunter began to circle the clearing.both waiting for an opening in their prey.

When the wolf stopped and prepared to lunge, the Hunter stopped in kind and raised their pistol. A beast this size would take multiple shots, but that wasn't the purpose of the pistol.

The wolf lunged and in a flash came the crash of thunder and the flash of the shot leaving the barrel.The wolf staggered for a moment, more annoyed than wounded by the shot, but a good start regardless. A second shot would all but guarantee the Hunter would get their prey.

The wolf's movements eventually became sluggish and as the second shot pierced its hide which combined with the wounds sustained by the Hunter's blade reduced it to a crawl.

With one final swing, the beast's head was removed and it was no more, but before the reward could be collected, an offering was to be made.
DF  Post #: 1
4/5/2020 22:57:04   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter II: The Offering & The Village

The Hunter dragged the wolf's corpse to the beach, leaving the head near the tree they slumbered against prior to the hunt.

With a container of pitch from their waist to douse the body and steel and flint to light the body, the offering was complete and providing Nodens answered, the next hunt would also be a success.

***

"That's it, that's the wolf," a middle aged farmer exclaimed at the sight of the head the Hunter brought to the town square.

"Thank you, so much," a townsperson cheered.

Words of gratitude and even praise would come from others as they gathered around to see the beast that ravaged their village had been slain, but to the Hunter it was nothing.

Even the reward was unimportant because all that mattered was the hunt and the meager amount of money the villagers could scrape together would contribute to it.

***

The Hunter sat in a small tavern musing just a little bit on how all these small obscure towns seem to have one despite the lack of travellers, but chalked it up to even the townspeople needed a place to unwind.

Come morning, they'd set out to find new prey and the hunt would continue.

A young woman approached the Hunter, pulling up a chair without waiting to be prompted, but they paid her no mind at first.

"How'd you do it?" she asked.

"Wait for an opening and strike as it would," the Hunter said nonchalantly.

"And the shots? Not everyday someone with a gun comes into town. Not everyday someone comes into town in general. Especially with a gun though, probably not many of those in general," she said growing more and more interested in her own words.

"Another tool to be used in the hunt."

She began to lean forward, fascinated by the Hunter's words. "If you have that, why do you need a sword? Isn't a gun a better weapon?"

"Not strong enough for such a large beast. Too few shots to rely on."

The Hunter in contrast to the woman was bored, but a small part of them was grateful for her company. The hunt is a lonesome journey across Lore and their methods refined to the point they could be performed while dazed.

"So why use it then? Does it slow your prey down?"

Her use of the word "prey" piqued the Hunter's interest. They used it as it made sense to do so, but her use of it seemed different somehow.

"Yes. How much depends on the shot used," the Hunter said, their tone softening up to an extent.

"There are different kinds of shot? What did you use for that wolf?" she asked, her excitement growing.

"Wolfsbane," they began. "Poisonous and in large doses lethal to wolves. Small doses will slow them down."

"Can't you use silver as well?"

"Silver costs more and only has the same effects on lycans. Wolfsbane is less costly and easier to make myself."

The woman's eyes grew wide with awe as she took in everything the Hunter had said.

"Do you use anything other than silver or wolfsbane? Do you only hunt wolves and lycans or do you hunt other monsters as well?" she asked her excitement growing more and more.

"Black powder which is a general use shot. Powdered dragonbane ore for drakes and dravir. St-"

"Dragonbane? Like what Dragonslayers use to make their weapons and armour? she exclaimed, her jaw nearly hitting the floor.

"I've never hunted anything larger than a drake."

"Oh," she said a tinge of disappointment in her voice. "What's it like being a hunter? Seeing all kinds of places and tracking all kinds of monsters. It's kind of scary, isn't it?"

The Hunter thought hard about the question. It had been a long time since they had felt fear during the hunt or anything else for that matter.

"At one point long ago maybe, but recently, no. After enough kills, it becomes second nature and all I feel is...nothing."

The young woman looked at the Hunter, her eyes wide in both shock and awe.

"That's...that's actually kind of sad. Every time you pursue a mark, you run the risk of dying and...you don't feel anything?"

"Death comes quick, I just have to be quicker," the Hunter said nonchalantly.

The young woman went silent as she took the Hunter's words in and processed them. What they had to say fascinated and excited her, but the more she pressed the more she began to regret her decision.

She thought back to a time many years ago when the Rose was an active part in the lives of the people throughout the Land of Dragons and how many people that'd be her age now wanted to join them. Get away from the monotony of living in an obscure farm community and actually do something even if they didn't actually know what they wanted to do or what they were getting into.

She remembered one boy who was always trying to fix and build things, but the moment someone raised their voice to him, he'd start crying. She actually couldn't remember his name and that made her feel even sadder.

Was that the case with the Hunter? Finding an escape from a monotonous life in the hunting of beasts or was it something else?

Upon realizing she was lost in her thoughts, she realized the Hunter was gone and she was alone at the table.
DF  Post #: 2
4/5/2020 23:03:46   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter III: Lonesome Road

It was a rotten thing to do, leaving her alone like that, but she seemed deep in thought and it seemed like it was for the best to leave her alone.

The sun was barely over the horizon when the Hunter began to make their way out of the town. In the town center was the head of the wolf impaled on a stake. Whether or not it was for celebration or a strange religious practice was unknown to them and in the case of the latter, not their place to judge.

It was still dark enough to require using their lantern to see their way through the woods and most people were still asleep or just beginning to wake up. It would be some time still before the Hunter would sleep and visit the Dream Lands.

The Hunter could feel another presence nearby, following them, but not tracking.

At the clearing near the beach, the Hunter spun around, gun drawn and hammer cocked.

"Step out," the Hunter barked, gun aimed into the trees.

"Don't shoot, please!" the young woman from the town pleaded as she stepped out of the trees, knees shaking with a bow and quiver over her shoulder.

"What do you want?" the Hunter asked lowering their gun.

"I...I'd like to come with you."

"No," the Hunter said sternly. "Whatever possessed you to think this was a good idea, forget it and go home."

"Why do you do it? Why do you hunt?"

"Someone has to kill the beasts that prey on others. It's not something one just stumbles in and expects to succeed at. It's not worth risking your life, so go home."

"I can fight. I can learn to hunt," she protested.

"Then start with the creatures around here or go to Oaklore. There's probably some Vurrmen the knights want slain."

"Why are you so against someone joining you? Wouldn't you at least like to have some company?"

"You know what that wolf did to the people of your town. Beasts like that are what I hunt. Beasts like that which have killed not only people you know, but people I've known."

"That's it. It's because you don't want to lose anyone else," she said, a hint of sadness creeping into her voice.

She had only known the Hunter since the day before from her prodding and while they did seem eager to talk about what they do as though they enjoyed it to some extent, there was a hint of something else in their voice. Loneliness perhaps.

"You don't have to be alone," she said.

"It's better this way," the Hunter said, holstering their gun and turning away from the young woman before continuing their journey to wherever it may lead them.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/7/2020 22:40:37 >
DF  Post #: 3
4/6/2020 0:39:17   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter IV: Painful Memories

The distant tide wasn't enough to mask the sound of leaves and sticks crunching and breaking beneath the footsteps of the Hunter, but it was still a soothing sound in a way until it was no longer audible.

They could still hear the young woman following, but not tracking them. She was as persistent as any predator they've hunted, but far less deadly and that was her weakness.

The Hunter thought about calling out and telling her once more to go back, but it would've just been another waste of their breath and a waste of time.

"That one wolf won't be the end our trouble," she called out. "We've always had a problem with wolves since before I was born."

A problem that persisted and kept revealing itself no matter how many times it was cut down like a weed. The Hunter knew all too well about such issues.

And if they were to ever go back to that place, they'd likely find the problem was still rampant to this day many years later.

"I'm not going to pretend to be the townwatch," the Hunter said, putting on a front.

"You said someone has to hunt the beasts of this world, so why won't you hunt the ones that will continue to plague us?" she pleaded. "Do you only do it for money and because we can't throw mounds of gold at you, you'll just ignore us?"

"If I was only interested in money, I'd have never accepted the hunt your people proposed," the Hunter said stopping in their tracks. "Now go home. Organize a hunting party in your community, but do not follow me."

The Hunter continued on their way to wherever they were going. There was no road beyond a rough one made by the footsteps of various people over several years if not even longer that would eventually lead to a road or perhaps somewhere else one would not find on a map.

"What if I said I know the source of the wolves plaguing the town?" She said.

"Then organize a hunting party and kill it yourselves," the Hunter retorted. "Your people are not the only ones in need of help."

"It's not so simple," she said. "It's not like it's just a large pack that never moved on, it's...it's something more. Something worse."

The Hunter was uncertain if she were telling the truth or concocting an elaborate lie to convince them to stay, but one thing was certain is she would not take no for an answer.

"Explain."

The woman took a deep breath to calm herself and stall to gather her thoughts. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, she spoke of a ghastly vaguely canine-like monster that spawned the wolves from its very body like how an amoeba may reproduce or some grisly amalgamation of beast and insect.

"You could have petitioned Oaklore or even The Rose all those years ago to slay the monster, but you did not. Why?" The Hunter asked.

The monster itself sounded too unreal to be true even with all they had seen over the years, but why try to petition its removal now?

The mention of The Rose reminded her of that someone from days long past. Someone who tried to do what was right, failed then tried to find redemption elsewhere until finally leaving unsure if what he was even doing was right.

"You doubt it exists, don't you?" She asked. "If so, you know why it's not something we could have just asked anyone and everyone to hunt."

"Take me to it," the Hunter ordered.

***

As the young woman led The Hunter through the forest and away from the makeshift road and the sea, they noticed a change in her movement.

While she was following them, her movement was quick and restless, but while moving through the forest, her movements became methodical and tempered as though she thought about every step she took, seeing some of themself in her movement.

She wasn't just leading them through the forest, she was hunting.

It reminded them of a time long past and their first hunt in the far reaches of Doomwood tracking one of Baron Valtrith's monsters some time before the abomination that was Caitiff brought about The Black Winter and terror and loss that came with it.

They crept through the decrepit trees, doing everything in their power to mind their steps to make as little noise as possible for if they were to hunt what lurked in the shadows, they'd have to move like the shadows.

The woman came to a stop, raising an arm to signal the Hunter to stop just as they had done during hunts with their comrades.

Peering through the brush, they could see a swamp-like clearing and once again, the Hunter thought of that hunt from long ago, but unlike their prey then, what they sought now could not traverse the potentially deep waters of the swamp with ease.

"Further in, if you squint you might be able to make out its den," the woman said in a hushed tone.

"Stay back, I'll handle the rest," the Hunter ordered, treading lightly as they began to circle the swamp, the water gradually rising above their ankles and then knees.

It was exactly like the hunt in Doomwood, but it would be different this time. The Hunter was alone as intended and unlike then only one would die, but it would not be any comrades and it would certainly not be them.

It's true that the hunt is a lonely journey, but it's out of necessity. Attachment and dependence were detriments that could not be afforded.

Eventually they would reach the mouth of the den, the heavy breathing of something coming from deep within. Whatever lurked inside was not only big, but was no ordinary wolf if it even was a wolf.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/6/2020 6:16:10 >
DF  Post #: 4
4/6/2020 20:10:21   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter V: Natural Born Killer

The Hunter lit their hip lantern and crept into the den, the dim light of the lantern giving them just enough light to see more than a couple paces in front of them, but also made the hunt far more riskier if not reckless.

Under other circumstances, they'd have used a different means and if worse came to worse, they'd spill their supply of pitch and ignite the entire den regardless of what it'd do to their prey. As long as its head remained, it wouldn't be a suitable offering to begin with.

The inside of the den was larger then expected almost cavern-like and went in deeper still. Perhaps it was meant to be a mine shaft or it was just a naturally formed cave.

Their presence was not known at this point giving them the opportunity to go over their load out, chamber their pistol with wolfsbane which for all the Hunter knew wouldn't be effective, a pair of firebombs, and a roll of a paper that to the touch with bare hands could be described as like sandpaper, but when friction was applied would ignite.

Wrapping the paper around the blade of their sword the Hunter continued deeper into the den, their lantern showing tiny glimpses of bone from either former prey or anything that was unfortunate enough to find its way inside.

Along the floor were tracks, some old while others were relatively fresh as well as the half eaten and decaying remains of recent prey.

What manner of wolf has that many teeth? The Hunter thought upon looking over the corpse of a freshly slain animal that was mangled beyond recognition.

The marks left in the carcase almost looked as though they were left by something aquatic like a shark or one of the more ghastly creatures that often lurked in Doomwood, but most certainly not a wolf.

Unless the woman spoke true and it was no ordinary wolf that was responsible for the plague upon her community.

Going deeper still into the den, the breathing of the monster grew louder until it seemed like the wind itself was blowing directly at them, the air growing rancid with waste and decay.

The Hunter entered the main chamber striking their hand across the blade of their sword igniting the paper and illuminating the room, the fire dancing and flickering along the walls and showing the monster that called the den home.

The monster was a disgusting, bloated creature that sat upright several heads taller than the Hunter. Its body was vaguely like that of a wolf, but its pelt was patchy as though it were diseased, but among the most striking feature was the faces and appendages of various wolf breeds protruding from as if growing or spawning from the monster as well as its head having what appeared to be a second set of jaws spawning from it.

It was a hideous, malformed, degenerate creature belonging not in this world or any other.

The wretched wolf thing lurched forward, standing on all fours where it still stood taller than The Hunter and let out a cacophonous growl that emitted from the various heads along its body as it began to barrel towards the Hunter.

The things massive and malformed body made it slow and difficult to maneuver giving the Hunter the advantage in terms of mobility which they exploited with an effortless dodge followed up with a swing from their sword, fire and steel ripping into the beast, taking off pieces of the partially formed wolfs emerging from or clinging to the body of the creature.

The creature yowled in multiple tones and spun around, the Hunter narrowly avoiding a swipe from its multi-appendaged claw and countering with another swing of their sword.

The Hunter jumped back to reassess the situation. The flame on their sword was dying and with it, they'd lose most of their visibility and the monster was much too large to cut up and decapitate.

The creature limped slightly with the gash in its leg slowing it, but not enough to make a difference as it prepared another charge.

The Hunter strafed around the monster as it barreled towards them, producing one of the firebombs, a balsa wood tube packed with black powder and a fuse.

Lighting the fuse on the dying flame of their sword, the Hunter hurled the explosive at the beast which had stopped and began to groan not as though it were wounded, but as though it were straining itself.

As the flame of their sword died, the crude explosive erupted in a pillar of fire, igniting the monster as it spawned a pitiful, malformed creature that scarsley resembled a wolf, the stench of burnt flesh filling the air as the creatures let out pained roars.

The Hunter drew their pistol, cocking the hammer and firing, filling the cave with the sound of thunder as the first shot tore into the newborn monster.

With another crack, the second shot tore into the degenerate thing that spawned the monster.

As the flames died, the monsters largely disappeared from the Hunter's view, their outlines barely visible in the darkness as their eyes adjusted.

The newborn thing wasn't a main concern due to its malformed nature, it could barely move and would eventually die on its own, but the beast that spawned it was still very much alive and not likely to die on its own anytime soon.

The Hunter began to circle the den trying to determine which way the monster was facing, cocking the hammer on their pistol, firing as the monster raised a claw to swipe at the Hunter, the monster roaring and recoiling in pain, but not from the shot, but from an arrow to the eye fired from within the den halls.

The Hunter holstered their pistol and produced their remaining firebomb, lighting it with their hip lantern, throwing it at the monster, another arrow piercing its eye as it went up in flames.

The monster howled in its many voices as the Hunter's blade tore through it until it and its many appendages ceased to move.

"I told you to stay back," the Hunter called out as the young woman stepped into the main chamber.

The Hunter was quite impressed with the woman only making her presence known by the arrows in the monster, but also her ability to hit her mark in such conditions.

She wasn't someone who wanted to hunt, she was a hunter.

"You were taking too long. How was I supposed to know if you were even alive?"

"You don't and neither do I," the Hunter began. "I do appreciate the assistance. You're more than capable of being a hunter in your own right. Take pride in that."

The darkness concealed the woman's embarrassment as well as her joy.

"Thank you."

The Hunter began to work on removing the monster's head. Unlike the wolf from the day before, this thing was more durable than its disgusting appearance would have one believe.

"What are you doing?" The young woman asked, squeamish from the sounds of steel tearing into flesh and sawing bone and the spilling of blood of who knows what other fluids.

"Proof of the kill we'll take back to your home," the Hunter replied nonchalantly.

With the head removed, the Hunter doused the body in pitch and set it alight, illuminating the den and exposing the burned, malformed body of the thing that was birthed by the creature.

"Quickly, we're leaving," the Hunter said, beginning to drag the head of the monster away as its den began to fill with smoke.

Would such an offering appease Nodens? The Hunter had offered many things over the course of their life, but few if any of their previous kills were anything close to the abhorrent creature that burned in that den.

***

The two dragged the head to the beach, dropping it in the sand. It was no easy task getting it through the swamp, but the Hunter insisted on absolute proof of the kill and a malformed appendage wouldn't do.

"Why did you burn the body?" The young woman asked, slumping against a tree, exhausted.

"An offering in hopes that the next hunt will be successful," the Hunter responded while gathering driftwood and other sources of kindling.

"An offering to who?"

"The one to whom I owe my success to. It is not only my own abilities or the assistance of others that leads to a successful hunt, but the blessing of Nodens."

The Hunter said all of this in a very matter of fact tone as though they were speaking of something as mundane as the weather or how the sun hung low in the sky.

"Shouldn't we continue to the village?" The young woman asked.

"In the morning. You're free to continue if you wish, but you won't get far with that head. And there may be remnants of its pack left."

"Won't the fire bring them here?"

"Beasts like man fear fire, but unlike man who learned to utilize fire and carve away at the darkness, the beasts shy away from it and cling to the darkness. The darkness became more frightening than the fire."

The two sat without a word, the calming sound of the tide lulling them to sleep, the Hunter knowing full well what was to come next as they dreamed.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/27/2020 10:32:28 >
DF  Post #: 5
4/7/2020 0:58:29   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter VI: The Sea Always Seems to Put Me at Ease

"Welcome back, Hunter," the familiar voice of the woman greeted.

The Hunter was back on the beach in the dream world as they were the day before, the woman in her usual attire standing before them.

"I trust the hunt has been going well," she implored like the day before, a hint of concern in her voice.

"Yes," the Hunter said, going through the motions.

"Wonderful," she said with relief.

The Hunter looked out to the sea, the sound of the tide somehow more soothing than it was in the waking world, like someone singing a gentle almost lullaby-like tune.

The sky above was different than the waking world in a perpetual state of twilight, but also with a light cloud cover that somewhat obscured the light of the sun if it even was the sun creating the light they saw.

"What brings me to this world?" The Hunter asked. "Is it you?"

"It is not I who brings you here, Hunter," the woman said. "There are forces greater than yourself at work in this realm, some you may be familiar with yourself."

"You speak of Nodens, don't you?"

The woman nodded. "The Lord of the Great Abyss does reside in this realm from time to time, but they are not the only one at work here. It is they who may be the one who brings you, but it may also be others as well."

"Who might those others be?"

"I'm afraid I cannot say, Hunter. There are many who reside in this realm either permanently or only if they choose to come here themselves. I cannot help, but reside here permanently, but I am also powerless to leave if I so chose."

There was a hint of sadness in the woman's voice as she spoke of being unable to leave this realm as though she were a prisoner.

"What is this place?"

"This realm is called the Dream Lands. It is a world similar to your own, but also different in many ways. Those from the waking world such as yourself are often summoned here by the various beings that hold power over this realm."

"You speak of the Avatars?" The Hunter inquired despite likely already knowing the answer.

"No. I speak of beings who may be as powerful if not more powerful than what those from your world call the Avatars."

The Hunter stared out at the sea, processing what the woman had told them, the soothing song of the sea putting their mind at ease.

"You'll be awakening soon," the woman said, her words always true. "Farewell, Hunter. May you ever continue to dream."

***

The Hunter awoke, the sound of the tide being the only noise in the darkness brought on by the fire dying, the moon covered by clouds.

The Hunter had not slept long as was normal for them. Being transported to the Dream Lands whenever they slept was a welcome change from the time before when their sleep only brought them back to the time they wished they could forget.

I should have asked why I had been brought to that world. Was there a purpose to it?

The young woman stirred in her sleep, but she was not troubled. Quite the opposite in fact, she seemed to be at peace which the Hunter found themselves to be envious of to some extent.

It was an uncomfortable feeling.

***

The young woman awoke with a yawn and a stretch, her spirits high.

"I had some reservations at first, but that was probably the best I had ever slept," she said looking towards the Hunter who unbeknownst to her had been awake for several hours. "I think it has something to do with the tide, it's so calming."

"The sea always seems to put me at ease," the Hunter said.

"Are you from somewhere near the sea?" She asked, curious about the Hunter suddenly seeming to be opening up about themselves.

"No."

"Oh. Then where are you from, if you don't mind me asking."

"Somewhere far away that may not even exist anymore."

The young woman was saddened by the Hunter's words. She couldn't imagine what it'd be like to no longer have a home to return to, but perhaps that's why the Hunter was always moving.

There was a certain kind of freedom to not being tied down to one place for any given time and the ability to settle anywhere they chose. Maybe they were just looking for that special place to call home?

"Let's go," the Hunter said.

***

"By the Avatars, what is that?!" A townsperson exclaimed as the two dragged the head of the monster into the town square.

"I've never seen such a thing," another townsperson called out.

"The monster responsible for the wolves plaguing your community," the Hunter said matter of factly.

"What? We never contracted another job, how're we supposed to pay for that?" A third townsperson shouted.

"I don't expect to be paid for it nor do I want your money."

"What's she doing with them?" A townsperson called out, gesturing to the young woman. "You dare to drag one of our own into this?"

"The Hunter didn't drag me into anything. If anything, I dragged them into it!" The young woman exclaimed at the growing crowd that now viewed them, but especially the Hunter with growing suspicion.

A larger, older man approached the two, staring them down.

"Return home," the man gruffly said to the young woman before turning his attention to the Hunter, his dark hazel eyes locking with the icy blue eyes of the Hunter visible between the collar of their great coat and wide brim of their hat.

"Leave this place and never return," he said to the Hunter, his tone far more harsh than it was with the young woman.

***

The Hunter returned to the beach, the sound of the tide washing away all of their worries and concerns about the Dream Lands.

The events in the village were unfortunate and while the Hunter was sincere in their praise of the young woman, they could not in good consciousness allow someone else to join them in the hunt.

The hunt was something that was best done solo.
DF  Post #: 6
4/9/2020 5:25:33   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter VII: I Now Know Why You Cry

The young woman sat on a bed in the house the older man told her to return to, wondering what was to come and what of the Hunter?

You're more than capable of being a hunter in your own right. Take pride in that, she recalled the Hunter saying and considered maybe she could make a difference in her community or possibly others.

She thought about the freedom of being able to go anywhere at anytime following the road or making her own path. It was a liberatory idea.

The older man from the town square barging into her bedroom brought her back to the present, a look of anger and concern on his face.

"Just what were you thinking, Sasha?" The man barked.

"I was thinking of the people here, father. Our friends, family, and everyone else that calls this community home," the woman identified as Sasha said.

"You not only put yourself at risk, but also our entire way of life."

"People were dying. If not from the wolves directly, then the lack of food when our livestock is killed. And now the thing that had been causing the problem since before I was born is gone. I did what was right for us, father."

"You sound just like he did when confronted with his actions," Sasha's father began. "Do you want to end up like Cry?"

The name Cry brought back a multitude of memories from a time that seemed so long ago. Sasha recalled not only his name, but his face, and the times they spoke and how she felt about him.

She also remembered the day he left to join the Rose and his uncertainty that it would mean making a difference.

"He did what he thought was right and you punished him for it."

"We don't make decisions on our own, we make them as a collective. That's what it means to be a community," Sasha's father said.

"The choice I made will ensure our continued survival and let us be less dependent on hunters and adventurers."

"We will adapt to changing conditions as we always have. We survived the wolves before you were born and we'd have continued to survive."

"Neither you nor anyone else can guarantee that. Even now, no one can be certain if tomorrow will even come," Sasha said with a sigh. "You're my father and I love you and appreciate everything you've done for me, but there's more to life than just surviving and scraping out an existence while we're constantly under threat. I won't ask for forgiveness nor do I expect any, but I don't regret what I did and if I could, I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

"It's because you're not only my daughter, but my only child that I expect more from you," Sasha's father began. "You went off on your own without warning and no one knew if you'd have even returned. But you're not the only person I have to be concerned with and just because you're-"

"Are you going to do to me what you did to Cry? Strip me of my identity and treat me like I'm beneath you until I leave?" Sasha asked, accusingly.

The worst part of Cry's loss of identity was just how effective it was to the point she had forgotten his true name which hurt more than anything.

"Actually, don't answer that, I don't want to hear it and I don't intend of staying here any longer."

Sasha's father stood silent, his face like stone. While he didn't show it and refused to show it, his daughter's words hurt him more than anything. Even if he tried to stop her, it would not last for long.

"I see... Take whatever you think you'll need and...good luck," her father said before leaving the room.

With the door closed behind him and the heavy thuds of his footsteps growing more distant, Sasha began to silently weep. She cried for the hardest decision she made in her life to this point and for those she'd be leaving behind.

She cried for the young man whose name she could no longer remember who only wanted to do what's right.
DF  Post #: 7
4/14/2020 7:16:37   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter VIII: The Things We Leave Behind

Sasha made her way down the road, putting the house and community she was born and raised in to her back.

Various townspeople gawked at her as she left, bow and quiver over her shoulder and a pack containing what she hoped would be enough rations for a couple of days, and a dark blue travelling cloak over her regular clothing.

They gossiped amongst themselves speculating what had happened between her and her father, the community leader as chosen by the people.

The head of the monster she and the Hunter had slain was nowhere in sight unlike the head of the wolf the Hunter had slain themself.

It was a far more macabre sight than the regular wolf head which if she were being honest was also an unnerving sight.

As she put her home to her back, she felt an intense sadness, but knew it was what needed to be done. She knew what was right for her.

She thought of Cry and wondered if he had similar feelings when he left and wondered what had happened to him over the last several years especially with the Rose no longer existing.

Wherever you are, I hope you've found happiness.

***

The Hunter made their way through the forest, the beach and obscure farming community at their back, fading more and more with every step.

Take care of yourself, they recalled someone saying, thinking of a time long since passed.

As the road formed by nothing but the feet and cartwheels of those who previously walked it merged with a man made and maintained road and the bounty of new places to go and leave behind when the job is done if there even is one.

The Hunter gazed up at the sun and began to head out west towards the Oaklore region, Surewould, the entire Maguswood region and the woman from the obscure farming community left behind like so many other place and people.

***

The Hunter's tracks were still fresh as were the signs of their presence on the beach. If they were heading anywhere, it would be the main road.

Sasha knew she'd have to hurry if she wanted to catch up with the Hunter as much as she knew the Hunter would dislike her finding them again, but this time was different. It wasn't just a search, it was a hunt.

Besides, she could never go back to the place she once called home. Her name was Sasha and that is what it would always be. She would never allow herself to be addressed by whatever name or title her father and the council decided for her as punishment for her so called transgression.

Although as much as she told herself leaving her home is right for her, the feeling of sadness that came with leaving everything she had ever known behind continued to linger and hunted her much like she hunted the Hunter.

Maybe one day I will return, she thought to herself. Or maybe one day I will forget all about home.

Sasha once again thought of Cry and how he never returned to what was once his home. Did he ever think of it while he was away or think of returning?

Or did he leave it behind as she was doing now?

Sasha stopped along the makeshift road to wipe the tears forming in her eyes away. Today was the hardest day of her life and they were only going to get harder before they got easier.
DF  Post #: 8
4/17/2020 5:20:52   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter IX: Time For Sleep

The sun began to hang low in the sky telling the Hunter it was time to sleep and make a trip to the Dream Lands where the mysterious woman would then ask them about the hunt.

The side of a road wasn't the best place to spend the night no matter how many times they've done so even along less travelled roads, but the sun would no longer be up before they made it to Oaklore.

Travelling by night was not usually a problem when there was prey to hunt, but without a purpose, the Hunter was more likely to become the hunted. And if there was one thing the Hunter knew, it was about just what kind of monsters lurked within the darkness when not warded off with fire.

***

Sasha continued down the makeshift road, following the Hunter's tracks until finally coming to the main road. The sun hung too low in the sky to make out any fresh tracks to determine which direction they went.

Going east would eventually lead to Falconreach, but would there be any reason for the Hunter to go there or would they have gone west towards Oaklore?

Sasha weighed her options, determining Oaklore was most likely as Falconreach was the hub town of Lore's major heroes especially the one who'd possess the Dragon Amulet and tame the dragon.

The thought of the hero's dragon as night fell upon her brought back memories of another time when darkness fell over the land and from the sky like ash and the terrible creature responsible that no matter how dark it was remained visible.

Chills ran down her spine as she thought of the corrupted dragon and suddenly the night felt as though it would be as long now as it did then all those years ago.

***

The fire roared to life before the Hunter sat against a tree on the side of the road, the light offering a sense of safety and comfort despite the absence of the sea and the exposure of being outside.

It wasn't long before sleep took over and the Hunter found themselves in the Dream Lands, along a cobblestone road, the mysterious woman standing before them.

"Welcome back, Hunter," the woman began as usual. "I trust the hunt has been going well?" She implored in her usual tone with a hint of concern.

"Yes."

"Wonderful," she said, relieved.

"Why have I been brought to this world?" The Hunter asked.

"The powers that lord over this world beseech your aid, Hunter. And in time, they will contact you directly."

"Aid with what? What makes them think I can or even want to help?"The Hunter said.

"I do not know, Hunter," she said with uncertainty. "I am merely a messenger and a guide."

The Hunter's attire concealed their annoyance at the woman's vague and often cryptic statements as they looked down the road they stood.

The surroundings were similar to that of the waking world, but the road being cobblestone rather than smoothed over dirt and rocks was an obvious difference between the vaguely similar worlds, but where did it lead?

"Where does this road lead?" The Hunter asked.

"In the waking world, it leads to Oaklore as you," the woman began. "In this world, it leads to the Iron Citadel. It's meant to defend the inhabitants from the monsters of this region, but..."

"But?"

"Heavy walls can't defend against some of monsters that inhabit this world," the woman said dejectedly.

"Is that where I come in?"

The woman shook her head. "Your abilities might be of use there, but there are some things even the gods question facing."

Things even the gods fear? The Hunter thought. If the Avatars can be knocked down a peg, then even those supposedly stronger than they can be brought down.

"Take me there," the Hunter said.

"As you wish."

***

Sasha approached the Hunter as they slept. Even with their features obscured, she could see they were troubled by something, perhaps the loss they experienced in their past as she theorized during their encounter in the forest.

Sitting by the fire, she thought of those lost over the years either to the wolves or having left their home behind in search of a new life.

How many of them found what they were looking for, she wondered. And how many of them lost their way or even their lives?

***

The surroundings leading to the Iron Citadel mimicked that of the road leading to Oaklore as expected except for the major difference of large sections of the forest having been ravaged by a massive creature leaving great holes in its wake.

"Is this the result of what even the gods fear?" The Hunter asked, gazing out at the ravaged landscape.

"Yes," the woman said. "The creatures responsible for this are called Bholes. They normally avoid the daylight, but something has them acting strangely."

"Am I expected to hunt one of these 'Bholes?'"

"No, Hunter, but you'll be awakening soon."

The Hunter looked at the massive iron walls and gates of the citadel that was incapable of defending anyone against the monster the woman spoke of, knowing she was right about their awakening.

"Farewell, Hunter. May you ever continue to dream."

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 5/4/2020 12:10:47 >
DF  Post #: 9
4/17/2020 9:31:00   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter X: Into the Woods

The Hunter stirred awake, catching a glimpse of something on the other side of the dying fire through half-closed eyes, immediately reaching for their gun, until seeing it was the woman from the farming community, asleep on the side of the road as they were.

We were supposed to part ways, the Hunter thought. It's not supposed to be like this.

The moon still hung high in the sky as it often was when they would awake, seldomly sleeping for long.

The Hunter looked down the dark road ahead where Oaklore Keep would be found in this realm, the thought of its iron counterpart and the creatures that lurked outside if not beneath it still fresh in their mind.

The Hunter looked at the sleeping young woman then back down the road. They never wanted her to follow, but they would be lying if they said they weren't impressed by her ability to track them down so quickly.

Her uncanny ability at tracking meant it would be difficult to lose her, but the Hunter couldn't in good conscious leave her while she slept on the side of the road.

The Hunter leaned back and looked up at the moon, feeling strangely captivated, almost mesmerized by it, but not at ease like they felt when hearing the tide.

The night was when they did the most hunting as it was usually when their prey was active. Some would say it would be best and easier to kill, but there was no thrill in killing something in its sleep. Nothing to make one feel alive and as though they cheated Death.

***

The young woman awoke and while she could not see any of the Hunter's features beyond their eyes that showed they weren't happy to see her.

"Go home," the Hunter said.

"I...I can't do that," Sasha said. "I don't think I can ever go back."

"Then walk your own path," the Hunter began. "But do not follow me."

"You don't have to be afraid of losing anyone again."

"Stop talking like you know me," the Hunter growled, a fire raging in their otherwise cold eyes.

Sasha shrunk back at the anger she induced in the Hunter. "I'm sorry," she said.

Without another word, the Hunter continued down the road towards Oaklore, leaving Sasha alone by the long dead fire.

Oaklore Keep would be their next destination to replenish materials for making their tools as perhaps gather information on another hunt, assuming they weren't interrupted by an unwanted tagalong.

I can't go home, Sasha thought to herself. So what can I do?

***

Finding the materials they needed wasn't a tremendously difficult task, but the person manning the counter's expression alone told the Hunter they found their requests peculiar.

"If you don't mind me asking," the Hunter began. "You wouldn't have happened to have heard about any animals or monsters bothering any of the communities in the surrounding area?"

The person manning the Keep's shop scratched their chin in thought.

"Well, the knights usually tend to such issues, but I've heard some talk about about a woman who comes here from time to time who mentioned some kind of monster has been plaguing the town she's from. Knights have gone to investigate, but beyond the aftermath, they haven't been able to find any lead on the monster."

The merchant looked the Hunter over, their eyes stopping on the gun hanging on the Hunter's hip in a leather holster.

"You're a Shadow Hunter, aren't you?" The merchant asked. "Don't see many of those, but I heard your type specialize in slaying the more monstrous types of...well, monsters."

"That's one way of putting it. Tell me about this woman. Where might I find her?"

"I haven't seen her around today, but she's got black hair with some red in it, kind of faded, wears a monocle over her left eye, keeps her other eye obscured with her hair and..." the merchant trailed off, their tone shifting to a whisper. "There's some talk she used to be with The Rose. Caught a glimpse of one of those energy things Energizer's used on her."

"Is that a problem?"

"Shouldn't be since they're no longer a thing, but for some people that's still a sore topic. Apparently this woman used to come around years ago before all that Rose stuff, so that might be why she doesn't get any flak around here as far as I can tell."

"Where is this town?"

"It's somewhere in or around the Arborvale Forest. They do a lot of logging around there, so shouldn't be hard to find once you start seeing some cut trees."

"I see, thank you," the Hunter said before leaving.

***

Outside of the gates of Oaklore Keep, the Hunter looked out to the forest, the Tower of Brightmist visible out in the distance thinking about how it could be a potential hiding spot for whatever they would end up hunting.

While the tower would be an obvious place to search, it was all speculation until they could make contact with the woman or someone from the town plagued by the monster.
As it stood now, it was time to trek through the woods and begin the first step to every successful hunt.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/23/2020 15:55:14 >
DF  Post #: 10
4/23/2020 16:10:15   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Interlude I: Visions

Young with youth outside of time, it stood in contrast with the ancient and frail looking Lord of the Great Abyss.

While both were as old if not older than time itself, one stood as the picture of perfection, a strong Olympian brow, and dense locks, waving and poppy-crowned that no one denizen of the Dream Lands could hope to replicate in the busts they carved of the being.

The Hunter who pledged their faith to The Lord of the Great Abyss had caught their eye and in due time, they would know barring any interruptions from the one who strikes fear even in the Outer Gods.

Chapter XI: Hunted

The woods making up the Arborvale Forest were no different than any other forest they had trekked through over the years beyond the forests of Doomwood.

The trees were lush and full of life while the various noises of animals told the Hunter there was life in those trees.

But beyond the trees, the Hunter could tell there was something more to this forest and it wasn't just whatever may inhabit the Tower of Brightmist that stood over the treeline.

Something just out of sight, writhing and clutching at their sleeves from the shadows.

As the trees began to disappear leaving only stumps behind and the sun shined down on the Hunter, the writhing and clutching feeling at their sleeves ceased as the only shadow was their own.

The Hunter looked back towards the forest, an ominous veil cast upon it. Was it the monster they would be hunting or something else?

Continuing through the cleared trees, a village or likely a hamlet began to come into view and with it, the next hunt and possibly more if the strange wolf thing was any indication of a pattern.

***

Sasha made her way through the forest, the Hunter appearing to have not noticed her or was perhaps ignoring her. It felt odd and even wrong to be pursuing them when the world was open to her to walk her own path as the Hunter had said, but if the Hunter was being genuine when they said she was a Hunter in her own right, why not walk that path as well?

A guard outside Oaklore Keep said someone matching the Hunter's description had went into the woods, but said nothing else. Was it another hunt or was there another factor?

As Sasha began to lose herself in her thoughts, she began to feel a writhing and clutching at her sleeves from something just out of sight. It was close enough to touch at her, but appeared just far enough away to be obscured by the canopy of the woods as though whatever it is doesn't obey any natural law.

As the forest began to dwindle, Sasha pressed herself against a tree to conceal herself from the Hunter who was visible in the distance, the strange writhing and clutching feeling tugging at her sleeve.

***

She's good, but not undetectable, the Hunter thought. And persistent. Too persistent.

There was no point in calling out to her and with whatever may be lurking in the woods, potentially dangerous.

The Hunter looked back towards the woods and the tree the young woman hid behind, something lurking just out of sight over her shoulder. Was she aware of it like they were?

***

Sasha stared out at the Hunter, the Hunter staring back. She had been found out which she honestly expected, but the Hunter wasn't calling out to her or doing anything except stare and not at her, but at something else as though there was something they could see, but she could not.

She looked over her shoulder and could see something just out of sight further into the trees, but is that how the Hunter seen it? Was it lurking behind the trees or did it appear closer to her through their view than it did through her own view?

There was no use hiding and the longer she stayed in the trees, the greater the risk she put herself at, so she made a mad dash from the trees towards the Hunter.

"You felt it too, didn't you?" The Hunter asked.

"That grabbing feeling? Yeah, but I couldn't see it. It was always just out of sight even though it felt like it was so close."

"The merchant at Oaklore Keep says someone from a nearby village has been telling them of a monster, but they don't have any leads on it beyond the aftermath. Whatever is in those woods may be it," the Hunter said.

The two looked out towards the woods, seeing something just out of sight, but making no move to pursue them.

"I think it fears the light," Sasha said.

"As it should. Just like man fears the dark, the things lurking in the dark fear the light."

"So we're going to kill it?" Sasha asked.

"I am going to kill it. Once it's done, you're on your own."

"You told me to walk my own path and that I am capable of being a hunter in my own right. I want to be a hunter. I want to help those who can't help themselves," Sasha protested.

"You already have the abilities. With time, you'll get better."

"I'll get better sooner with someone to teach me," Sasha began. "You don't have to take on the world by yourself."

The Hunter did not respond instead continuing towards the village or likely hamlet.

Maybe one day you'll understand.
DF  Post #: 11
4/26/2020 21:11:41   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XII: A Little Bit Broken

The village was indeed a hamlet similar in appearance to the one the young woman was from other than the signs of what their economy was based off of.

While in the community the young woman was from, the smell of livestock and fertilizer clung to the air, but here it was the smell of sawdust and tree sap which while preferable was still less than desirable than the scent of salt and water than clung to the air when near the sea.

The people who called this hamlet home went about their day to day lives, but there was a feeling of unease among them.

The Hunter looked around at the people for the one the merchant in Oaklore Keep spoke of, no one matching her description in sight.

If there was one thing the Hunter learned over the years, was the local tavern, and there was always a tavern was the place to find any and all information.

***

The tavern resembled that of most other towns except for the liveliness. In a place where people would come to unwind and have a good time, the people patronizing this particular were looking for an escape or at least a way to forget their lives if only for a moment.

At the counter, the tavernmaster eyed the two newcomers as they approached, especially the Hunter whose attire made them stand out from anyone else in the building and town for that matter. Even Sasha looked more in place than they.

"What brings you two here?" The tavernmaster, an older man whose face looked as though he had experienced more than just serving drinks asked.

"I've heard you have a monster problem and was told a woman with a monocle could tell me about it," the Hunter said, oblivious to or ignoring the looks from patrons boring into them.

"You want to speak to Elisa then," the tavernmaster said. "Well, you won't find her here. You'll find her house not far from here. Pretty typical looking other than some kind of triangle contraption above the door."

"Thank you," the Hunter said, leaving the tavern.

***

"Stay here," the Hunter said to the young woman, her name still unknown to them.

"You're just going to talk to her. It's not like the monster will attack in her house," Sasha protested.

"No one knows that and I've said, you're not to be involved in this."

"You're just going to talk to her," Sasha repeated. "I bet she'll be more open to someone from a similar place to this one than...well, you're not exactly the most approachable person."

"That hasn't stopped you from trying," the Hunter said, walking away from the tavern.

Was that their attempt at a joke? Sasha wondered, following after the Hunter.

***

The home of Elisa looked much like the other houses in the hamlet, although while other houses had flower boxes as personal touches the closest thing to a personal touch present was a triangular contraption made of sticks and twine with a rock hanging in the center and upon a closer look, a series of runes etched into the sticks.

"What is it?" Sasha asked.

"Some people believe they trap evil spirits. Most don't have runes etched into them though."

Sasha looked back at the triangular contraption, squinting to see the runes before knocking on the door.

A few moments later, the door opened partially, a woman matching the description the Hunter was given peering out.

"Yes?"

"Hello, my name's Sasha and this is..." Sasha gestured between herself and the Hunter. "I never actually got your name."

"It doesn't matter. We heard there's a monster plaguing this town and you were the one to talk to about it."

The woman opened the door to let them in. Her features were as the merchant described to the Hunter, faded black and red hair styled to obscure her right eye that upon a closer look, is further covered by a black patch while over her left eye, she wore a monocle that looked like it was fashioned from a pair of eyeglasses while partially concealed beneath her sleeves one each hand was a contraption like those once used by the Energizer's of The Rose.

"I'm Elisa and..." she trailed off noticing the Hunter's firearm. "You're a Shadow Hunter. Just like..."

"Just like...?" The Hunter wondered.

"Apologies, it's nothing," Elisa began. "There is indeed a monster plaguing this community. Those who have met their end to it looked as though they've been drained, their shrunken faces faces stained or even scarred in a way that looks like their faces are streaked with tears."

"With the logging, could it be a vengeful nature spirit?" The Hunter asked.

"It's a recent event while logging has been this communities source of commerce for far longer. Elementals and spirits typically don't inhabit this region and if nothing occurred after a forest fire ravaged a section of the forest years ago, there's no reason to believe such a thing would happen now. Not to dismiss such a possibility."

"You believe it's not a spirit, but you have a devil net outside your door," the Hunter said.

"The runes etched into it are the most significant part of it in terms of functionality."

"Runes like the ones used on the shackles employed by the Rose, correct?" The Hunter asked.

"You were in the Rose?" Sasha asked.

"Yes to both questions."

"Did you...did you know someone who went by the name Cry?" Sasha asked.

A look of sadness came over Elisa's face as she recalled a time that felt like a completely different life. Her least favourite life.

"He and I were in the same squad. You're from the same town he was from, I assume?"

"Yes. He hasn't returned and...I don't blame him," Sasha said, her expression matching Elisa's.

"Do you believe the creature is magical in origin and that those runes will keep it bay?" The Hunter asked, interrupting the two.

"Some things in this world may be magical, but that doesn't mean they are magical in origin. It may very well be from another world."

"Tell me more about the monster," the Hunter began. "Tell me about its behaviour and its victims."

"Due to the markings left behind, people have called it the Tear Collector and it seems to specifically go after people who are...broken."

"Broken?" Sasha asked.

"We're all a little bit broken in some way," Elisa began. "All of our faults, flaws, fears, and doubts that go into making us who we are. Some people are more broken than others and those are who the Tear Collector targets."

"So what you're saying is there's no pattern in who in stalks?" The Hunter asked, Elisa's words cutting into them more than they'd ever admit.

"Anyone who's feeling dread is potential prey for it," Elisa said.

"What does it look like and when does it strike?"

"No one has ever seen it. No one alive at least. Anyone who fell victim to it was found the next morning, meaning it likely attacks at night," Elisa said.

Or perhaps it fears the light, the Hunter thought.

"All right, I'll kill this 'Tear Collector.'" The Hunter said.

"On behalf of everyone here, thank you," Elisa said, sounding happy for the first time since her least favourite life.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 5/4/2020 12:00:57 >
DF  Post #: 12
4/29/2020 18:43:36   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XIII: Hunter & Hunted

Sasha and the Hunter sat in the hamlet's tavern, Elisa's words weighing heavily on the two of them.

"Anyone could be next and no one even knows what it looks like," Sasha said, Elisa's mention of Cry weighing not only on her mind, but her heart as well.

"We'll have to scour the streets and hope we see it."

"Does that mean you're willing to let me work with you?" Sasha asked, somewhat joyful.

"Out of necessity, yes."

The tavernmaster approached them, an expression of worry on their otherwise hardened face.

"I trust you've spoken to Elisa?" He asked.

"Yes," the Hunter said. "Is there anything you can tell us about the 'Tear Collector?' Anything said by the townspeople or even your own experience."

"Well, some of the loggers have said they've felt something groping at them in the woods, but it's always just out of sight, so no one actually knows what it looks like. Or if it even is the Tear Collector."

"What do you think it is? Vengeful nature spirit or elemental, something else entirely?" The Hunter continued.

"Certain it's nothing like that. Such things have never been spotted around here outside of some strange events years ago and even then it's only a recent development given how nothing like that appeared after a forest fire a ways away some time ago."

"Elisa told us all of that except for what you said the loggers experienced," Sasha said. "It sounds like that's our only lead."

"Anyway, I'll be handling payment once the deed is done," the tavernmaster said. "How does two hundred gold sound?"

"Five hundred," the Hunter said.

"Two-fifty."

"Three-fifty," the Hunter said. "There's two of us and we're going on very little information, not to mention we don't know what this thing is capable of when confronted."

"Fine, three-fifty," the tavernmaster growled, staring into the icy blue eyes of the Hunter. "But you best not pull anything."

"We'll bring its head," the Hunter said sternly, their eyes betraying no emotion.

***

The two stood in the center of the hamlet at nightfall when the streets were empty and the moon hung high in the sky bathing the hamlet and the duo in its silver light.

The Hunter gazed up at the moon, mesmerized by its captivating light.

"So what's the plan? Who searches what area?" Sasha asked, the Hunter unresponsive. "Hello? Are you okay?"

"What's that?" The Hunter asked, the moon's spell on them broken.

"Who searches where for a sign of the monster?" Sasha asked, mildly irritated.

What was that about? It's like they were hypnotized.

"Right. I'll canvass the forest, you search around the residencies, but do not engage if you see anything," the Hunter ordered before setting off towards the forest.

***

The Hunter moved along the stumps of the felled tree, unsure of what they were even looking for as they scanned the trees.

It preys on those who are...broken. The Hunter thought. I am its prey.

The Hunter continued to scan the treeline looking for some kind of movement within it unless the monster feared all light and not just the sun's light.

The Hunter once more looked up at the moon, an enormous silver disc like a coin suspended in the sky, scarred side up.

What is it about you that captivates me so? The Hunter wondered as though the moon could hear their thoughts.

***

Sasha wandered down the streets and between various buildings, her mind racing over the idea of what the monster may look like and how it could be hunting her at this very moment.

Did you ever have to hunt for such a monster, Cry? She wondered. What are you doing at this time? Have you reclaimed your name or adopted a new one of your own?

Along the dirt street, Sasha could hear the faint sounds of movement as something skittered its way like a giant insect, but there was nothing in sight.

Sasha hunkered down and crept along the road, searching for tracks in the silver light of the moon.

Eventually she would find some tracks that looked almost like human hand and footprints like whatever they were hunting was actually human or at least had some similarities to one.

The tracks continued down the street appearing and disappearing at irregular intervals as though the monster was capable of levitating for brief moments or disappearing in such a way that it doesn't leave track, possibly shifting between having a material and immaterial form.

***

The Hunter ventured back into the hamlet, the monster either not originating from the forest or already made its way from the forest into the hamlet in which case it may already be too late.

Moving along the streets, the Hunter began to search for tracks, finding exactly what Sasha was finding elsewhere.

What are you? The Hunter wondered.

Sasha and the Hunter grouped, looking over a set of tracks leading towards a house that disappeared at the door.

Through the window, a blue light shown followed by a scream.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 6/19/2020 1:16:31 >
DF  Post #: 13
5/4/2020 11:33:41   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XIV: The Tear Collector

With a kick, the door to the house swung open with a crash and the two hurried in, the Hunter drawing their gun, hammer cocked.

Standing over a bed was a quadrupedal monster, its limbs far longer than its body bent at right angles as it lurched over its prey, a blue light emitting from the mouth of its vaguely humanoid head that illuminated the moisture, possibly the very life of its prey made physical it extracted from their eyes.

With a crack of thunder, the Hunter fired at the monster.

The monster tumbled off the bed, recovering not long after, stretching its unnaturally long forelegs that ended in human-like hands over the bed, giving them a good look at its uncanny almost human face, its open mouth a perfect circle with multiple rows of needle-like teeth and a growl that sounded like the rattling of bones.

Thunder cracked as the Hunter fired another shot, the monster becoming immaterial and seemingly fleeing.

"That was our monster, wasn't it?" Sasha asked.

"It would seem so," the Hunter said, looking over the shrunken body of its prey.

"What kind of monster was that?"

"The kind people like me hunt," the Hunter said as they left the room and the house.

***

Outside the house, the monster was still nowhere in sight, but something told them it was near.

Spinning around, the Hunter could see the monster materializing on the roof of the house it had just fed in. Standing upright on its unnaturally long limbs, it was as tall the predominantly single story houses of the hamlet, the silver light of the moon reflecting off its saucer-like eyes like a mirror.

The people gathered at their windows and peered out their doors, awakened by the shots and seeing the monster that plagued their community for the first time.

The monster made a leap for the Hunter who rolled and in one swift motion, drew their sword and swung at one of the monster's legs, slicing through it at what could only be assumed to be the ankle, staining the street and the Hunter's blade with its blood that's black like tar.

The monster howled, its cry sending chills through the bones of the onlookers as it began to convulse and spasm, two new feet sprouting from the fresh wound.

The Hunter began to back away from the monster, sizing it up and reevaluating their approach. If dismemberment won't work and they lacked the opportunity to augment their blade with fire, that only left decapitation and disembowelment, but first the monster would need to get on their level.

Sasha stepped outside the house, notching an arrow, the monster becoming more unsettling the more of it she saw.

The monster lurched forward, each movement a stride while the Hunter rolled and attempted to run it through only for the monster to shift and avoid the attack by performing what could only be described as a handstand.

Sasha released her arrow, the creature staggering as the arrow pierced its torso, the Hunter spinning around and cutting through the monster's arms at the wrist.

The monster howled in pain, its strange vocals horrifying the onlooking locals.

The monster began to spasm and convulse, new hands beginning to sprout forth as it tried to stand.

With a single swing of their sword, the Hunter removed the head of the monster, it's unnatural vocals continuing to ring out while two sets of hands emerged from the arms of the monster, a pair of heads beginning to sprout from the body.

What are you? The Hunter wondered.

From the severed head, a new body began to sprout and slowly grow. In time there would be a second Tear Collector.

"Finish it!" A townsperson shouted from their ajar door.

While the headless Tear Collector stood, Sasha loose another arrow into one of its legs, the arrow tearing through the spindly appendage, causing it to fall while the Hunter scrambled to retrieve their ritual implements.

The Hunter thrust their sword up through the body of the Tear Collector, its alien blood coating their blade.

Dousing the monster in pitch, the Hunter struck their blade with their flint, igniting the creature which began to flail around violently before melting, leaving only a puddle of its strange blood behind and the smell of burning tar.

The severe head of the Tear Collector lied motionless, civilians slowly exiting their homes to view the aftermath.

"What exactly was that thing?" Sasha asked.

"Prey as far I'm concerned," the Hunter said. "We'll collect the bounty and tomorrow we part ways."

You're still set on that, aren't you? Sasha wondered.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 6/19/2020 1:17:06 >
DF  Post #: 14
5/23/2020 4:28:25   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XV: Behind the Wall of Sleep

The Hunter found themselves behind the walls of the Iron Citadel, the layout of the courtyard similar to that of Oaklore, but with some subtle differences such as the knights were adorned in far heavier armour than those of Oaklore, but there was also a strange scent in the air.

The scent of decay.

"Welcome back, Hunter," the woman began as usual. "I trust the hunt has been going well?" She implored in her usual tone with a hint of concern.

"What do you know of the waking world?" The Hunter asked, forgoing all formalities.

"I know it is the world you are from, why do you ask?"

"I have slain monsters unlike anything I have ever seen," the Hunter began. "Is there a way monster from this world could cross over to the waking world?"

"Your world like this one is full of mysteries. Some of those mysteries may take the form of monsters."

"Then tell me more about this Iron Citadel. How did I get on this side of the gate despite not passing through it on my own?" The Hunter asked, a hint of annoyance in their voice.

"When you enter this world, you are brought to where the powers that be want you to be. And they want you behind the gates of the Iron Citadel. For what reason, I do not know."

The woman looked into the Hunter's eyes, her worry reflected in their frustration.

"I'm sorry, Hunter," she began. "I do not understand the will of the gods."

"And the knights? Will they be of any assistance?"

"The knights only serve to protect those within these walls, their loyalty to not only the inhabitants of the Citadel, but also the Iron Lord carrying them even in death. They will only assist if ordered to by their lord."

Why not just say that in the first place? The Hunter wondered, their frustration growing.

"Take me to this Iron Lord," the Hunter ordered.

"I will do what I can."

***

Sasha lie awake in a backroom of the hamlet's tavern in place of an inn which was lacking.

She could see the Hunter, their back against a wall, their sleep troubled and restless.

What do you dream about? She wondered as she watched the Hunter stir and shift. What haunts you?

Sasha thought about the things she dreamed about and her worries and once again thought of Cry.

I should've been a better person.

***

The woman led the Hunter through the Iron Citadel, its various undead soldiers standing watch among various points with no other signs of life to show there even is anything worth defending behind the walls.

The area resembled Oaklore Keep in a way, but among anywhere there may be a merchant or any other civilian, there was only the smell of decay either coming from the knights or what remains of the citadel's inhabitants.

"Where are the inhabitants of this place?" The Hunter asked, gazing at the stables and stalls lined along the walls.

"Those who did not flee lived out their remaining days behind these walls. Only the knights and their lord remain."

This isn't a citadel, it's a necropolis, the Hunter thought as the woman led them to a pair of massive iron gates that showed signs of sinking into the earth and if they looked closer at the walls and rest of the citadel's structure they would see it is also sinking into the earth.

A pair of halberd and tower shield wielding knights flanked the door, staring the two down from beneath their helmets.

"We seek an audience with the Iron Lord," the woman said.

"The Iron Lord does not speak with those not of this world," one guard said.

"Nor does the Iron Lord speak with those associated with his enemies," the other guard said specifically to the woman.

"You'll be awakening soon," the woman began as though the exchange with the guards had never happened. "Farewell, Hunter. May you ever continue to dream."

***

The Hunter awoke, feeling the curious gaze of Sasha upon them.

"You don't sleep well, do you?" She asked.

"If only it could be called sleep. Instead I only dream."
DF  Post #: 15
5/28/2020 12:40:31   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XVI: Far From Any Road

"What do you dream of?" Sasha asked as the Hunter stood up and collected their things.

"Nothing important," they said dismissively. "But when it ends, it's time to move on."

"It's still dark," Sasha protested. "Do you really expect to go through the forest before sunrise?"

"I prefer it this way, not that it's of any concern to you. Your cut from The Tear Collector bounty should take you anywhere in Greenguard."

The darkness of the windowless backroom concealed Sasha's growing frustration with the Hunter.

"You know I can track you. And it'd be better for both of us to stick together," she said.

"Leaving without a trace isn't difficult," the Hunter countered. "And don't try to use me as a substitute for the person from your home who left. Besides, if I wanted a partner, I'd find one."

Sasha's expression turned to anger and then realization. Maybe they were right and she was trying to find someone to make up for what she began to consider as a betrayal to Cry.

While Sasha was lost in thought, the Hunter silently slipped from the room and eventually out to the streets of the logging community, the moon's light beginning to weaken as sunrise drew closer.

***

The Hunter traversed the road from the hamlet's tavern, the road devoid of life until coming across Elisa.

"Thank you for slaying that monster," Elisa said, her voice barely above a whisper, the Hunter stopping in their tracks.

"You were with the Rose. Why didn't you kill it?"

"These devices haven't functioned in a long time. And truth be told...I was afraid of the monster. What it could do and who it'd prey on brought back some painful memories," Elisa said recalling Arkham Asylum and the thing gave it life.

"Then why do you wear them? If they cannot be mended, then dispose of them."

"They hold a certain sentimental value to me as well as serve as shackles to remind me of happier times, but consequently worse times as well," she said, gazing almost lovingly at the device on her left hand.

"Why would you keep something that acts as shackles? Those happier times and worse times will live on in your heart and mind as long as they remain intact."

"You are correct. But after so long, they almost feel apart of me and to be without them and what they represent would be lose part of myself," she said looking towards the Hunter, their back to her. "Besides, everyone is bound by some sort of shackles be they material or otherwise."

Elisa's words danced around the Hunter's mind as they thought back to a time long since passed and what they meant to them and how they were shaped by that time.
"Where does this road lead?"

"Further into the forest eventually coming to an end," Elisa began. "Going deeper beyond the end will eventually take you Betrubung Swamp. Perhaps you'll encounter the Vind, perhaps you won't."

"Thank you," the Hunter said before carrying on down the road.

***

The road was flanked by the stumps of long since felled trees that seemed to stretch until the horizon where the road would eventually end.

Gazing between and into the trees, the Hunter looked for signs of life or unknown being or things such as what they and Sasha had encountered in the forest leading to the hamlet, but no such thing made an appearance.

Perhaps what had been feeling at them was The Tear Collector or perhaps it was something else that only inhabited that particular section of the forest.

Pressing onward, the Hunter would emerge in a clearing of ash and debris, the scent of smoke and char lingering in the air as though the fire had occurred recently, but how only a large circle had been burned rather than most of if not the entirety of the forest was a mystery.

Perhaps it was the fire Elisa spoke of the day before, but how was it so contained? And if it occurred long ago like she said, why does it smell as if it were recent and ongoing?

The woman from the Dream Lands was right about Lore being full of mysteries, but would this one take the form of a monster?

***

Am I just trying to assuage my guilt? Sasha wondered. Maybe it would be better for me to leave them be. There are countless roads to take afterall. And I could always carve out my own.

Outside the tavern, the streets were beginning to become more lively as lumberers began to leave their homes and start their day.

Among them, milling about the hamlet was Elisa who appeared as she did the day before.

Sasha considered approaching her, hoping to learn more about Cry, but decided against it believing she needs to move on from her pain and guilt.

"Do you wish to know where the Hunter went?" Elisa asked, her hushed tone, surprising Sasha.

"No," Sasha began. "I've bothered them enough."

"What do you intend to do now then?"

"I don't know," Sasha began. "There's an entire world ahead of me where I can find my place or even make one for myself. To be honest, it's probably more frightening than that monster or any other."

"It's okay to be afraid. To be honest, I'm still unsure of where my place is or what I intend to do with my life."

"Is that why you joined the Rose?" Sasha asked.

"Yes. I had hoped I could find some sort of purpose, but instead I found mostly misery, but also love despite how fleeting it was."

Elisa stared down at her left hand, placing her other hand on the inert device she wore.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Sasha said.

"It's okay. It was a mutual decision and for the best given the circumstances. What I want to say is you may not find your place or the road you want to walk, but that's okay."

Sasha thought about Elisa's words and while the idea of failing in her vaguely defined quest scared her, there was also a sort of small comfort in the idea that just trying was more than enough.

"Thank you, Elisa," Sasha began. "I hope we can meet again someday."

"You're welcome. I'd appreciate that very much."

***

Pressing beyond the charred section of forest, the Hunter would eventually emerge in a great swamp, its murky waters and partially submerged vegetations visible for what seemed like eternity.

There was a new level of treachery traversing the unfamiliar Betrubung Swamp compared to the swamp the strange wolf monster had inhabited or even the swamps of their youth and the monsters that effortlessly glided on the surface.

Slowly making their way through, knowing one wrong step could lead to a murky downfall had the Hunter feeling a small sensation they hadn't felt in a long time, uncertainty.

Slogging through the the mire, the Hunter felt the unmistakable feeling they weren't alone and it wasn't Sasha following them, but someone or something else watching them.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 6/11/2020 2:51:31 >
DF  Post #: 16
5/30/2020 18:05:27   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XVII: Somebody's Watching

Sasha left the hamlet the way she and the Hunter had entered near Oaklore Keep and down the road, her thoughts on her conversation with Elisa and what could possibly be at the end of the road she walked.

As she progressed further down the road, it began to diverge, a sign posted indicating that continuing forward would lead into Greenguard proper and more specifically towards Swordhaven while the divergence in the road was not marked and showed signs of disuse as plant life had begun to sprout from it and in time would consume the road and claim it as its own.

Continuing on to Swordhaven had plenty of advantage, but Sasha could not deny the allure of the road that would eventually be claimed by nature and the potential mysteries it added to the already present mystery of what lie ahead.

Was it reckless? Absolutely, but perhaps she found her road.

***

The Hunter stopped their trek through the mire and simply listened, tuning out the sounds of foliage rustling in the wind, the singing of birds, and the sounds of various life forms moving beneath the surface until all they could hear was the subtle movements of those that followed them.

They weren't hunting them or tracking them, but something about how they seemed to be as much of a part of the swamp as the water, plants, and animals as though they weren't just birthed in the swamp, but birthed by the swamp made them seem more unnatural to the Hunter as any of the monsters they had slain recently.

For the first time in many years, the Hunter felt exposed and vulnerable, but not threatened.

"It seems we've been spotted," a female voice said.

"Most impressive," a male voice said.

The source of the voices stepped away from a pair of trees they had managed to blend in with, their skin metamorphosize from that of being identical in both appearance and possibly texture to that of the tree to reveal two figures identical in appearance and attire that could barely be considered rags so far gone it seemed to merely being a formality that they even wore them.

Their skin and hair showed signs of being touched by the sun indicating they could very well have originally come from anywhere within the kingdom except the Sandsea and both carried staves that appeared to be made of a strange white wood or bone that the Hunter had never seen before.

"Your senses are most impressive," the woman began. "Even creatures with keen senses of smell and hearing can't find us."

"It just means we must continue our training with even more vigor," the man said.

"Do you two intend to impede my passage?" The Hunter asked, knowing full well they were at a disadvantage if the two turned out to be hostile.

"Absolutely not," the man began. "Unless you threaten the sanctity of the mire, that is."

"But given how you struggle to move, we don't see that as a possibility," the woman said.

"Who are you two?"

"Oh my, how rude of us," the woman said. "I am Ariandel."

"I am Ariamis," the man said. "We came here from the Maguswood to perfect our magic."

"But one can't just refine their minds, they must refine their bodies," Ariandel said. "We had thought we had reached our peak and become one with the swamp, but you've proved us wrong."

"I'm not interested in what you two are doing here," the Hunter began. "I'm looking to pass through."

"Perhaps you shouldn't have taken the dead end road from that logging hamlet then," Ariamis began. "Or perhaps you could've turned around when you saw the swamp."

"Something brought you here, perhaps the will of the mire or your own unsated curiosity," Ariandel said. "If it were indeed the will of the mire, then you must prove yourself capable."

"Speak plainly," the Hunter growled.

"If you wish to pass through, you must traverse the Great Lake of Mud," Ariamis began.

"And commune with the Witchtree at the center," Ariandel said, picking up from Ariamis.

"But to do that, you must best the one we aspire to be like. The Will of the Mire itself," Ariamis finished.

***

The road Sasha walked came to an end before some trees, a great swamp visible beyond.

Pushing beyond the trees and into the swamp, Sasha found herself knee deep in the murky waters of a swamp far different than the one that was a short distance away from the place she called home.

Slogging through the mire, Sasha was captivated by the magnitude of the swamp and just how sheltered she was in the small farming community as she slogged through the shallows of what may as well have been an ocean to her.

In spite of the overwhelming feeling of being in the outside world for the first time, there was a genuine feeling of wonder as all around her, she could hear the sounds of foliage rustling in the wind, birds singing and the splashing of fish as they jumped from the deeper water to catch low flying insects.

While the sounds were by no means new to her, the context of experiencing and hearing them in a new and unfamiliar place was like hearing them for the very first time.

But with every new sensation there was one that was older than any other and that was fear.

Beneath the serenity of stumbling upon a new environment was the fear that something wasn't right with the swamp. And with fear came paranoia.

Something just under the surface or perhaps in the trees was watching and it was made all the worse by her inability to see it for herself.

***

The Hunter grew more annoyed with the two and their cryptic way of speaking.

"What is this Wi-"

"Silence," Ariamis said, raising his hand. "Another intrudes."

The Hunter's patience grew thinner and thinner with each passing moment the strange duo continued to impede their journey.

"It seems The Will of the Mire has caught sight of the intruder" Ariandel began. "It won't be long before it's over."

"What is this Will of the Mire?" The Hunter demanded.

"A great being who watches over the mire, of course," Ariamis said as though it were common knowledge.

"And we are its disciples," Ariandel said, the Hunter finally noting that the two seemed to blend with the water as they had blended with the trees.

"As with the Will of the Mire," Ariamis began. "We too seek to become one with the mire," Ariandel finished.

The longer the Hunter stayed with the duo, the more irritated and unnerved they became.

There were many questions that warranted asking, but the two wouldn't give a straight answer and they had no reason to believe they wouldn't reveal themselves as hostile.


"If you would be so kind as to follow, we will take you to our teacher," Ariamis said, slinking further into and becoming one with the water.

***

Sasha crept through the shallows, straining her ears out of some hope of detecting who or what was stalking her, but only hearing the sounds of her movement through the swamp as though the unseen presence that preyed upon her muted the surrounding world.

Sasha dared not draw her bow fearing a swift retaliation before she could even try and at this moment, she could only believe that this would be where her journey ends.
DF  Post #: 17
6/2/2020 18:06:52   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XVIII: Chameleon

Ariandel stayed partially above the surface of the water as she and Ariamis led the Hunter deeper into the swamp, the natural sounds of their surroundings growing more and more muted until the Hunter could only hear the sound of their own movement within the water.

The Hunter could see creeping up from the small of her back if not lower, some sort of growth if not a parasite of sorts.

Was it the source of their abilities, their zeal or both the Hunter wondered.

Coming up to a small patch of land, Ariamis emerged from the water, his body metamorphosing to match the mud and bits of greenery present, the same growth on Ariandel present on him for only a moment before blending back in with the water now far more shallow, but still enough of a hindrance to put the Hunter at a disadvantage should the two prove to be hostile.

***

With the paranoia that came from being stalked by whatever unseen thing came regret as Sasha began to wonder and chastise herself for not staying on the road that would have eventually lead to Swordhaven.

The road less travelled is that way for a reason, she thought. I'm so careless, so stupid.

Sasha froze in her tracks as she felt something brush against her, taunting and playing with her. It wanted her to feel it.

It wanted her to know she was being hunted.

In the distance, she could see a slight elevation protruding from the surface of the water, a small island in what felt like an ocean, but as tempting as it was to rush to it, it would offer no security or safety.

In spite of the inevitable threat, Sasha made her way to the island, the stretch of damp earth serving to heighten her feelings of fear and paranoia.

***

Standing in the shallows, the Hunter rifled through their pack and retrieved two capsules made of thin paper containing powdered energy dragon scales mixed with resin which they tucked into the breast pocket of their coat.

If there was a battle to come, they'd need all the advantages they can muster as their pistol would be too wet to be usable restricting them to only their sword.

"Is there a problem?" Ariandel asked, looking back at the Hunter, her eyes narrowed.

"No."

The tool of choice for the potential encounter operated in a manner similar to the paper used against the wolf-like monster days before in its application. Striking it against their blade would imbue it with lightning for a short while.

If not for the location, the Hunter would resort to fire due to the scarcity of the materials needed for this particular tool and the lack of alchemists capable of making it.

Following deeper into the swamp, Sasha standing amidst the murky waters on a patch of damp earth became visible.

You should've never come here, the Hunter thought.

"This one's different from you," Ariandel said. "She's timid and weak. Unfit to tread these hallowed grounds."

Sasha caught sight of the Hunter, a feeling of relief coming over that struggled with the feeling of fright at the sight of the woman and soon the man who appeared before her from the water.

"You do not belong here," Ariamis said, Sasha's fear reflecting in his reptilian-like eyes. "The Will of the Mire will see that your intrusion is punished soon enough."

"She poses no threat to the swamp," the Hunter said. "Let her through."

"We cannot do that," Ariandel began. "The Will of the Mire must feed and you...you inspire fear in them."

"You prey on the weak to feed the monster..."

"How dare you insult The Will of the Mire?" Ariandel hissed, beginning with a sweep of her staff.

The swing was quick, but she would not be the first staff wielder the Hunter had encountered and was quick to draw their sword and block, Ariandel's staff clashing with the Hunter's sword, the sound of steel clashing with stone ringing in the air.

Ariamis spun around, Sasha attempting to take the opportunity to draw her bow only to be interrupted by being swept off her feet by what felt like a great gale.

Sasha attempted to pick herself up while on the water, a strange reptilian creature materialized.

The creature possessed a long head with jaws like an alligator, bulbous rotating eyes like a chameleon, long almost human-like limbs on a slender body like a snake that seemed to expand and retract similar to some species of toad and a long, powerful tail to compliment its body.

Sasha caught a brief glimpse of Ariamis as he melded into the water before looking back at the monster as it rotated its head one hundred eighty degrees and snapped its jaws at her, fear and adrenaline being the only thing keeping her from being devoured.

Ariandel pulled back with her staff and leaned forward, jabbing at the Hunter with her staff, again and again, forcing them to slog backwards into the emerging Ariamis.

With a strike of his palm into the back of the Hunter, Ariamis propelled them forward into the incoming jabs from Ariandel's staff, the collar of the Hunter's great coat catching the blood and bile forced from their body.

The monster attempted to circle around Sasha who pulled an arrow out of desperation and stabbed into the monster, the tip breaking against its hide as it shifted and blended into its environment.

Sasha notched an arrow and fired at Ariandel who spun around and caught the arrow, moving to hurl it back.

The Hunter seized the opportunity to run Ariandel through, Ariamis striking them with his staff before conjuring a spell using their staff as a catalyst.

Water began to shift and converge around Ariandel, mending and closing her wound.

Taking advantage of the situation, the Hunter produced one of the paper capsules from their breast pocket and smeared its contents across the blade of their sword, electricity surging to life.

While Ariandel picked herself up, Ariamis glided along the surface of the water, knowing the disadvantage the Hunter's weapon put them at.

Steel and lightning bit into Ariandel's flesh, her pained cries echoing through the swamp as her lifeless body sunk into the murky waters and eventually the mud below.

"You...you cur!" Ariamis shouted, his reptilian eyes ablaze with an almost primal fury as he glided across the surface of the water.

Sasha pivoted on the spot, trying to determine where the monster will strike, her bow in one hand, and an arrow in the other as useless as they would be against it.

Materializing, the monster snapped at Sasha with its vertical jaws, tearing her cloak as she rolled.

Picking herself up beside the monster, her fear visible in its bulbous eye like looking into a horrific mirror, she could see herself plunge an arrow into the eye of the monster.

The Hunter waded through the mire, taking swings behind themself to keep Ariamis at bay while they tried to get to Sasha.

Tendrils made of water and mud as well as vines and roots emerged from the water to ensnare the Hunter as Ariamis manipulated the very swamp itself in an attempt to avenge the fallen Ariandel, their concentration broke by the pained roar of the Will of the Mire which he mimicked either out of solidarity with the monster or perhaps something more.

As Sasha fled from the small landmass to avoid the wild flailing of the monster, the Hunter spun around and plunged their sword into the abdomen of Ariamis, the lightning that circled their blade fizzling out.

The Hunter gazed into the eye of Ariamis, his other eye ruptured and destroyed and with a twist of their blade, watched the life fade from the remaining eye of Ariamis as he joined Ariandel at the bottom of the swamp.

Turning their attention back to Sasha and the monster, the two could see it blend into the surroundings once more, but did not make another attack.
"You shouldn't be here," the Hunter said.

"I didn't follow if that's what you're thinking."

"Even if I do give you the benefit of the doubt, you're not equipped for this place," the Hunter began. "Had I not been here, they'd have fed you to that monster."

"Is that why you're here? To stop them."

"It was only by chance I encountered them," the Hunter explained. "And it was only by my abilities that they now reside at the bottom of the swamp. Abilities you lack."

"Despite being human, you still cut them down like you would a monster."

"Opposition be it man or beast must be approached with fire and steel," the Hunter said coldly.

"You're going to kill the monster, aren't you?"

"It cannot be allowed to live any longer," the Hunter said, their tone colder than before, but with a hint of ferocity as thought they craved the hunt.
DF  Post #: 18
6/11/2020 2:48:19   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XIX: Great Lake of Mud

The Hunter pushed through the mire, ignoring the pain from the hits sustained by the two swamp dwellers as much as their body screamed at them to stop, Sasha following closely behind.

"Turn back," the Hunter ordered.

"You don't know where that monster could be or when it may strike," Sasha countered. "It's safer for both of us to stay together."

The further the two pressed through the swamp, the darker it became as the canopy grew more and more dense with the setting sun, the encroaching darkness engulfing the surrounding landscape.

The Hunter lit their hip lantern that by some miracle had not been ruined by the swamp, the faint light doing little to illuminate the path forward.

"How do you intend on killing it with so little visibility?" Sasha asked.

"If I cannot rely on my sight, I must rely on my other senses. You would do well to do the same."

As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they could scarcely see the water give way to mud that stretched far beyond their field of vision.

"It's near," the Hunter hissed.

There was a slight shimmer in the air as the monster appeared, its remaining eye glowing like a dying ember.

The Hunter's blade roared to life with electricity while the monster let out a roar of its own, its rage echoing through the swamp.

Sasha maintained her distance, the faint glow of the Hunter's lantern allowing her to keep track of them and thus the monster that the Hunter began to circle around, their movements like that of a predatory animal.

The monster shrieked, rotating its head as it charged in an attempt to swallow the Hunter whole. It was a move the Hunter exerted little effort to dodge and counter, jabbing their sword in the monster's hide, the blade barely penetrating its hide by itself, but the lightning served to peel away the hard outer layer of the monster, eliciting a pained roar from it.

The monster reared up as it roared, Sasha knocked an arrow, her target barely visible. If the monster's body was protected by tough scales then like the animal it shares its jaws with, its underside should be vulnerable.

It was a gamble based only on a hypothesis, but one she took regardless as she loosed the arrow, another pained roar came from the monster, directing its fury towards her.

The monster slammed down on all four, shaking the very earth Sasha and the Hunter stood on, the two staggering in the mud.

Under normal circumstances, Sasha would've wondered how the Hunter seemed to be less hindered by the mud than she was as she knocked another arrow knowing she had no hope of avoiding the monster and no time to make peace with herself in what could very well be her final act.

With another roar and a turn of its head, Sasha loosed her arrow, the monster stopping before it could begin to move, a wet choking sound coming from it that grew more pained as the Hunter drove their sword into its flank, lightning peeling away its hide.

Sasha began to back away, dragging her feet through ankle deep mud, part of her thanking whichever deity was responsible for her arrow flying true.

The Hunter rolled, the light of their hip lantern dying while the monster spun around with such force it knocked Sasha to the ground the furious and dying ember of the monster's remaining eye and the fading lightning surrounding the Hunter's sword the only light she had.

Recovering and with little time left before the lightning would expire, the Hunter charged, driving their sword into the monster, its eye no longer a dying ember, but ablaze with a primal wrath.

In a desperate attempt to finish the monster, the Hunter drove a fist into its remaining eye, blood and various fluid soaking through their glove and sleeve as the fire in its eye was snuffed out and its world went dark, dying not with a final ferocious roar, but a gargled growl as it choked on Sasha's arrow.

In the darkness of the lake of mud, Sasha could not see the Hunter, but she could only imagine the gruesome scene that unfolded before her and from that day on, there would be a part of her that would fear the Hunter.

"You did good," the Hunter said seemingly unphased by what had happened and what they did.

"Th-thank you," Sasha stammered, wincing at the noises of the Hunter pulling their arm from the monster, her heart beating against her ribcage as though it wanted to escape.

***

The two continued in silence with only the sounds of their feet sloshing through the mud indicating either of them were present.

As they slogged through the mud, neither could help but notice the strange aura that seemed to radiate from all around them as though they weren't just passing through a seemingly endless field of mud, but also walking on grounds some might consider holy.

In the distance, a pale blue light broke through the canopy above, illuminating something in the distance like a spotlight.

What would come next would indeed have been not only a holy site to some, but a thing of worship.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 6/11/2020 3:03:23 >
DF  Post #: 19
6/19/2020 1:29:04   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XX: Witchtree

At what they could only guess was the center of what the swamp dwellers referred to as the Great Lake of Mud was something that could almost be described as a being, but at the same time it seemed like that would not be accurate.

Beneath the pale light of the moon stood some sort of entity shaped almost like it could maybe be a woman in a wide bottomed dress or perhaps a bell made completely from bone white branches and roots like the staves wielded by Ariamis and Ariandel.

The strange entity leaned forward, gazing at the two with unseen, judgmental eyes, turning its focus towards Sasha.

You show fear despite making it this far? The strange entity communicated, its unearthly voice prodding into her mind.

Sasha stepped back, the sanctity of her own mind being breached while the strange entity shifted as though it were attempting the emulate gestures of curiosity or wonder.

"What...what are you?" Sasha asked.

The two magi referred to my guardian as The Will of the Mire while only referring to me as a witchtree, but it is I who is The Will of the Mire. Nothing that enters this swamp or the fertile grounds of this lake of mud are free from my gaze.

The strange entity shifted its gaze to the Hunter, its unseen eyes peering deep into the Hunter's heart and mind.

You do not show fear as though you do not know fear.

"I'm not afraid of anything," the Hunter said. "Neither man, beast, or monster."

You say that now, but the dreams you walk may push your resolve. Your eyes have yet to open to the powers beyond this realm.

"What do you know of the Dream Lands?" The Hunter asked, attempting to maintain their composure.

A sound that could best be described as laughter echoed through the Hunter's mind, the Witchtree further reinforcing its knowledge it had no intention in sharing.

You've come here seeking communion, did you not? The Witchtree began, addressing the two of them. Only through contact with the most foundational elements will you hope to even begin finding the answers you seek.

"What do you mean?" Sasha asked.

Feel the wind on your skin, the Witchtree began, a light breeze blowing through the swamp as if on command. Sink your hands into the sun dried earth at my base and feel the wet mud through your fingers and become one with the land.

The two kneeled before the Witchtree, plunging their hands deep into the dried mud into the wet and cold mud beneath, the Hunter feeling the moisture through their gloves.

Become one with the land and seek the answers to your quest, the Witchtree said it's voice soothing and almost paternalistic in a way.

As the Hunter began to feel themself slip away and become one with the land, their eyes slowly beginning to close.

If it's answers you seek, you must find them on your own. Books and those with knowledge on the subject are fine and all, but in the end, it's your own experience where you find real answers, a voice from the Hunter's past said.

A voice the Hunter knew was always right, but could not be relied on as the Hunter could not rely on anyone.

The Hunter wrenched their hand free from the mud, a screeching lamprey-like creature flailing about as if the air above the surface was toxic that went silent as the Hunter crushed it in their grip.

Sasha began to drift as though sleep was coming upon her, snapping back into reality at the sound of the lamprey-like creature screeching, another one gazing back at her from beneath the surface.

You dare reject me? The Witchtree exclaimed, reaching out to them, its branches spread like long, spindly fingers.

The Hunter drew their sword, the blade clashing against the tree, the sound of steel clashing against stone ringing in the air, the Witchtree recoiling.

"Those two were your thralls," the Hunter said.

They sought enlightenment and I bestowed it upon them.

Memories of a time long passed began to cloud the Hunter's mind and the sound of steel clashing against steel, the cracks of thunder, and the spilling of blood on black snow.

Sasha backed away from the Witchtree unsure of where to even aim, but drew her bow and knocked an arrow anyways while the Hunter merely stood before it as though they were entranced by it.

The Witchtree made another attempt to grab at the Hunter, their grasp catching only air as the Hunter crouched and despite if not in spite of the mud, lunged forward with supernatural agility and ran their sword through the center of the Witchtree.

The Witchtree spasmed violently, a pale yellow light erupting from the wound that grew brighter as the Hunter twisted the blade.

Raising their off-hand, fingers bent like the claws of a beast masquerading as human and plunged it deep within what could be described as the face of the Witchtree, the light fading and the Witchtree no longer moving, the white of its body fading to black and turning to dust, the Hunter dropping into the mud.

The Hunter stood up and returned their sword to its sheath before turning their gaze up to the pale light of the moon, partially obscured by the clouds.

A feeling of serenity came over the Hunter that pushed away the anger and pain if only for now.
DF  Post #: 20
6/28/2020 3:31:39   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Interlude II: Wrath of the Gods

They glided soundlessly on ancient wings, the knights of the Iron Citadel unable to react in time before being carried off to their demise.

The Lord of the Great Abyss not being one to tolerate anything that'd hinder their plans desired all obstacles removed swiftly and without mercy as even the gods had schedules to adhere to.

Soon the Hunter would make their trip to the Dream Lands and the messenger would lead them to the Iron Lord who if necessary would fall.

Chapter XXI: Under A Clouded Moon

Sasha lowered her bow, returning her arrow to her dwindling quiver.

She watched in silence as the Hunter continued to stare at the partially cloud covered moon, once again entranced by it as they were in the logging hamlet prior to hunting the Tear Collector.

Sasha approached the Hunter who seemed unaware of her presence in their enthrallment, not even acknowledging her hand on their shoulder.

"Are you okay?"

The Hunter was unresponsive, only snapping back to the present after being shaken slightly.

"Hm?" The Hunter began. "Let's go. There's nothing for us here."

The two walked in a heavy, uncomfortable silence, the weight of what they witnessed and did weighing on them.

Two people under the control of some kind of sentient tree and they...they killed them.

Sasha wanted to speak to the Hunter, but something inside her knew the Hunter would be even less willing to talk now more than ever.

***

The swamp eventually gave way to trees and then a road that theoretically would eventually lead to Swordhaven assuming they didn't end up near another road while traversing the Great Lake of Mud.

The two travelled down the road for a bit longer before the Hunter stopped and slouched against a tree without a word before slowly dropping to the ground, knees bent and arms wrapped around them.

It would be as good as any time to sleep, but while Sasha's body felt ready to fall apart at the seams, the weight of the day's events weighed heavily on her heart and mind.

Is this what their life is? Sasha thought, watching the Hunter as they groaned and stirred in their sleep that came instantaneously. A life of horror and death even if it's not to protect others?

Sasha looked up at the cloud covered moon and once again thought of the Hunter and how they seemed captivated by it and could not understand why.

To her, the moon reminded her of home and the wolves that plagued it since before she was born and the wolves reminded her of Cry.

Is this what lies ahead for me? A life of horror, sadness, and death?
DF  Post #: 21
7/6/2020 4:38:06   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XXII: The Lord of Sleep

The Hunter found themself in the courtyard of the Iron Citadel, the grounds littered with the broken armour of the citadel's soldiers and the entrance to the keep wide open.
"Welcome back, Hunter," the woman said, unphased by the destruction around her.

"What happened here?" The Hunter asked.

"The Iron Lord's refusal to assist you and the alliance they have formed with one who I dare not name resulted in them earning the ire of one of this world's gods," the woman explained. "The ire of that god is your opportunity to meet the Iron Lord and perhaps request if not demand their cooperation."

"And I'm expected to perform errands for the gods for what reason?" The Hunter asked, growing irritated. "Because they want me to."

"I am afraid so."

The Hunter stepped through the open doors and into the grand hall of the citadel's keep, a massive room of iron, stone, and fire.

At the end of the hall was not a powerful lord whose presence commanded authority, but a sentient mass of stone and molting iron that at one point in time may have been a colossal being at one point in time now passed their prime and perhaps nearing the end of their life.

"State your purpose, mortal," the Iron Lord or atleast the thing that could only be assumed to be the Iron Lord said, its voice tired and hoarse as though it may cease to live at any moment.

"You have formed an alliance with a particular god and I'd like to formally request for you to dissolve that alliance," the Hunter said.

The mass of stone and molting iron shifted and slid towards the Hunter.

"You...you are the one chosen to act as a herald for The Lord of the Great Abyss."

The Hunter stepped back as the thing assumed to be the Iron Lord pooled closer to them.

"I repeat, dissolve your alliance with whomever you ally yourself with and form one with Nodens," the Hunter said, firmly.

"And why would I dissolve my alliance with the Faceless God and join forces with one who decimated my army?"

"What benefit has that alliance brought you?" The Hunter began. "Your army is in shambles, your empty fortress is sinking into the ground, and massive beasts threaten what sanctity remains right outside your walls."

"Benefits of alliances are more than just aid or protection, mortal," the Iron Lord began. "By not drawing the ire of those more powerful than I, I can continue to live out what remains of my already long life. Whatever The Lord of the Great Abyss has planned, his assault on my citadel did not result in him ending my life despite having the opportunity to do so. Assuming he even has a plan to begin with."

"This is a waste of time," the Hunter said, turning away from the pooling mass that is the dying lord.

As the Hunter made their exit, a pillar of golden light enveloped them and in a flash, they were gone.

***

The light dissipated and the Hunter found themself in a white marble temple untouched by time and the elements, a towering figure standing before them atop a podium.
 The figure was draped in robes whiter than the temple they resided in, dense, waving and poppy-crowned locks atop their head, they looked down at the Hunter their brow furrowed.

"So you're the one chosen by The Lord of the Great Abyss," they said, their voice betraying their eternally youthful appearance. "Interesting that they'd choose someone so...ordinary out of all the great beings that inhabit your world."

"Who are you and what do you know about why I'm here?"

"I am Hypnos, The Lord of Sleep. I am the one who rightfully rules over this realm," they said. "The Lord of the Great Abyss, the one you have put your faith in has chosen you for a purpose."

"What purpose?"

"That I cannot say," Hypnos said. "You would need to ask Nodens yourself should they reveal themselves to you rather than sending an emissary. It is quite curious that they'd send you to act as a diplomat with the Iron Lord given who they've pledged allegiance to."

"Who did the Iron Lord pledge allegiance to?" The Hunter asked, growing more and more irritated as time went on and more and more questions began to pile up.

"A being of immeasurable power which Nodens continues to hunt as they have for millenia," Hypnos began, their lips curling into a smile. "But their prey is ever the most elusive which is perhaps where you come in."

The Hunter thought of the possibility that they were being used as bait to lure out Nodens prey, but it was clear from what they saw of the Iron Citadel that who or what the Iron Lord had pledged allegiance to, they did not care about the fate or wellbeing of them.

It was never an alliance.

"You have a lot on your mind," Hypnos began. "You will be brought back to this world again and again so long as you require sleep and next time we meet, perhaps more of this mystery will have unfolded."

***

The Hunter awoke with the sun for what seemed to be the first in a long time that came with a strange feeling most people would not feel. It was that of normalcy.

The Hunter could not tell if Sasha had also awoken at the same time or if she had not slept at all following the events leading up to this moment.

She had the abilities to be a hunter, but she lacked the will, retaining enough empathy to feel guilt over the loss of any human life regardless of circumstances.

An admirable trait that would only serve as a liability.
DF  Post #: 22
7/24/2020 5:43:52   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XXIII: Rain of Mourning

Without a word between them, the two continued to travel down the road, the sun eventually beginning to fade as the clouds overtake it and the rain began to fall, slowly and barely noticeable at first, but soon enough it began to pour.

Where Sasha was from, rain was seen as a blessing despite not being the most devout community, but as the rain fell and puddles formed and the road turned to mud, her thoughts returned to the swamp and the Great Lake of Mud.

Her thoughts returned to the two people slain, their bodies claimed by the mire. She did not know them, but she knew it wasn't their fault for being a threat and she knew she was powerless to stop what happened.

Sasha did not cry, for the skies above cried for her.

***

The two passed through the Swordhaven gates, all markings of The Rose having been expunged from the city years ago.

"If you still want to walk this path, you'll need to accept that not everything you'll come across will be a monster or beast," the Hunter said for the first time since the Great Lake of Mud.

The Hunter went deeper into Swordhaven, away from Sasha with those parting words weighing on her, Sasha did the only thing that really made sense and sought out Swordhaven's tavern.

The tavern was similar to the one in her home community and the logging community although much larger and more lively than either of them.

She went to the tavern to find information, but who could she ask or talk to?

***

The Hunter found where they needed quickly, an apothecary and alchemical shop operated by the only alchemist the Hunter knew could fulfill their requests.

The shop was lined with shelves with various jars, bags, and other containers containing a number of different reagents, some the Hunter had heard of and could recognize just by looking at them without reading the label while others they had not heard of even after reading the label.

It was one reason they Hunter recognized their chosen alchemist as someone who is capable.

From behind the front counter, an older man dressed in attire that made them look like a stage magician rather than a merchant sprung up from behind the counter like a spring-loaded toy.

"Well, if it isn't my favourite customer," the alchemist exclaimed. "What can I do for you?"

The Hunter had met the alchemist when he had considered himself an apothecary, the Hunter unsure and unconcerned about the difference if there even was one many years earlier in the town of Dunwich during its final moments.

His name is Jackson and he's an eccentric alchemist.

"Lightning resins and fire paper," the Hunter said matter of factly.

"I see you've taken quite a liking to those," Jackson exclaimed. "Some of my finest work, I must say."

"Will you synthesize them or not?"

"Of course, usual fee, for the usual order, made in the usual timeframe," Jackson began as he leaned on the counter, staring into the Hunter's icy blue eyes circled by black. "Have you been sleeping lately? Or at all for that matter?"

Jackson vaulted over the counter and stepped closer to the Hunter who took a step back.

"I can whip something together quickly to help alleviate your sleeping issues, if you'd oblige me."

"Let's keep matters strictly professional, Jackson," the Hunter said.

"If you say so," Jackson said with a shrug. "At least no one can say I don't care about my customers."

***

Sasha gazed towards a window, water droplets running down it as more rain fell.

"Mind if I join you?" An unfamiliar voice asked.

Sasha looked away from the window to the source of the voice to see a man around her age dark shoulder length hair that showed signs of greying with eyes that were similar in colour to the Hunter's, but warmer and more welcoming.

He wore a heavy leather coat over a suit of bluish-silver armour that seemed nearly fitted to him with a straight sword sheathed on his right.

"I...guess," she said.

"Thank you," the man said as he pulled up a chair across from her. "I suppose you're wondering why I'd ask to share a table with you when there are plenty of open ones."

"That would be a good place to start."

The man put a hand to his chin in thought as he pondered his words.

"Hopefully I don't come across too strong, but there's this...aura about you," he began. "You're conflicted about death, mortality, and whether or not you could play a part in that cycle."

Sasha looked at him as though he was speaking in a foreign tongue.

"Pardon me, I suppose I still got too ahead of myself, I'm Theo, once a member of the Order of Paladins and now...now I'm not totally sure."

"I'm Sasha and I'm not sure what I am either," she said, her resolve shaken.

"Start from the beginning, Sasha, and perhaps from there you may be able to determine that yourself. Perhaps we could help each other out, maybe."

Sasha began with the day the Hunter arrived at her home town until the present with the words the Hunter left her with. It had only been a few days, but it felt like months had passed.

A hunter? Theo thought, putting a hand to his chin in thought.

"I can't say I agree with letting those two sink to the bottom of the swamp, but sometimes giving the dead a proper place to rest isn't possible," Theo began. "If you intend to continue down this path, all I can ask is that you respect the dead, they deserve their final rest."

The two looked to the entrance as the Hunter entered and sat at an empty table, Theo looking them up and down as if sizing them up.

Just like the one guarding the asylum, Theo thought.

"That's them, isn't it?" Theo asked in a hushed tone. "They're not someone who respects the dead be it man or otherwise. Taking lives with no regard for their soul, preventing them from finding peace"

"Yes, that's them," Sasha said. "What do you mean by respect for the soul and final rest? You make it sound like they're just sleeping."

Theo thought back to his journey and the things he was told and saw among the graves.

"As long as the soul remains and stirs, no one truly dies, they're in a deep slumber. If the soul is not at rest, the body reanimates."

The Hunter observed Sasha and Theo, hearing everything they said and taking note of how Sasha's disposition had changed since they entered Swordhaven.

It wasn't a complete change, it was clear to them she still felt some guilt for what had happened, but she was no longer silent and brooding and all the Hunter could do was watch from behind the walls they had surrounded themself with all those years ago.

< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 7/24/2020 5:44:33 >
DF  Post #: 23
8/8/2020 3:10:46   
NagisaXIkari
Member

Chapter XXIV: Lure of the Moon

Sasha sat in a room at the inn, staring at her clothing as it hung over a water basin having tried to wash the mud and blood off of them, her mind focused on her conversation with Theo earlier in the day.

To help others, I must respect those whose lives I have to take to help them find peace, she thought. If they can find peace, maybe I can find peace as well.

***

In their own room, the Hunter cleaned and maintained their weapons, thinking only of what could happen next, be it in the Dreamlands or the waking world they inhabited.

Falconreach would be their next stop and from there, they were uncertain.

The Hunter looked to the window, the silver-blue light of the moon shining in, capturing them with its allure that continued to perplex them.

The Hunter closed the cylinder on their firearm and returned it to its hard leather holster and stood up, the moon's call too enticing to ignore.

***

Sasha could hear movement in another room as its occupant left in the middle of the night for reasons unknown to her.

"What is it about the moon that captivates them so much?" Sasha wondered aloud.

Sasha gazed out the window of her room to the moonlit streets where she could see the Hunter seemingly wandering aimlessly, their gaze turned upwards at the moon.

***

The air had a certain freshness to it that only came after the rain, washing away the scent of modernity. A scent typically found only when on the road.

Much like the moon's light, the fresh post-rain scent had a strange power over them, but it was somewhat different. There was a certain nostalgia to it.

But with nostalgia came a feeling of melancholy and memories of blood spilled and lives not only lost, but wasted away.
The Hunter shook their head to dispel the emerging feelings then looked up at the moon, a feeling of serenity coming over them.

Why do you do this to me?

The Hunter resumed their wandering of the Swordhaven streets, their boots splashing in the fresh puddles while the moon's light reflected off the wet cobblestones.

They had no destination in mind, not that there would be one during the nighttime hours, but passing the notice board, they could scarcely make out the writing of the water damaged postings.

Under the light of the moon, the Hunter could make out a scant few words among the posting, the word Moon Lake standing out as if due to some contrivancy.

Was this your doing? The Hunter wondered, turning their gaze to the moon.

What was it about the moon that seemed to captivate them so much? Did the one who inhabited it take some sort of interest in them or was it something more?
DF  Post #: 24
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