Some time in the distant future, monsters and demonic forces invade our world. One Hunter, named Adrul, is a sword for hire who hunts monsters and Witches for the bounties placed on them. On his quest to eliminate the Witch Lucinda, Adrul quickly learns he is at the bottom of the food chain as far as hunting goes as he is about to face defeat at the hands of his quarry. CH6 is up.
Chapter Description: Desperate for money as his own funds are running dry, Adrul agrees to hunt the Witch Lucinda. Unbeknownst to Adrul, Lucinda happens to be a more formidable foe than he had originally anticipated.
Clip-clop clip-clop clip-clop. The sound of hooves was all the caravan’s passengers could hear. It was a very hot, humid day, which had all citizens of the tiny nation of Olmunoff very agitated at the best of times and very unruly at the worst. In spite of the heat, the horses pulled the wagon forward, towards their destination. They had been on the road for several days now and the trip was finally coming to an end as they approached the small town.
Addy woke with a start. He began to cry from hunger. “SHHH!!! Hush, little one, we’re almost to your new home,” the blond holding him answered in a very soothing tone. The woman who appeared to be the child’s mother was wearing very ragged clothing and looked as though she’d been traveling for a while. In spite of that, she was very attractive and were it not for the child she had in her lap, would probably have had many a conversation. She cradled the baby in her arms and rocked him back and forth, humming softly in an effort to calm him. He continued to cry very loudly.
“Someone shut that baby up!!!” the driver exclaimed, very exasperated, "As if this damn heat weren’t enough to deal with, now we have all that noise! I swear I’ll pull this carriage over and let whoever..." Addy only cried louder in response to the yelling, which the driver ignored during the driver’s rant, all the while the child’s mother gave a look of disgust toward the driver. The curtain opened slightly and the shotgun rider made eye contact with the woman, nodded, and closed the curtain. A loud thump was heard shortly thereafter, upon which the driver shut up.
“We’re very sorry about that, Miss Heather. Is there anything we can get for you to make the trip more pleasant for you?”
“My child needs a blanket.” She demanded.
The man immediately walked from his seat to a chest in the caravan and retrieved a baby blanket which was very soft and fluffy to the touch. It had been one of their finest goods that they were selling. "Will this do?" Heather gave a quick nod in response. The man returned to his seat at the front of the caravan.
The driver had known what his associate had given away, he glared at him as he roared, "The he-” another thump.
“That is the head merchant’s wife back there, so one bad word from her and we get the boot.” they could hear the man hissing at the driver. He turned back to Heather, “Is there anything else... anything at all?”
Heather shook her head. “That will do for now. Thank you, Jack.”
Jack looked down at the infant in Heather’s lap "What’s his name?"
Heather gave Jack a confused look. "His name?"
"Yes, doesn’t he have a name?"
The thought of a name hadn’t occurred to Heather, after a few second’s pondering she replied, "His name’s Addy." She wrapped Addy in the blanket. Honestly, that was the first name that popped into her head, but he might have had another name that she didn’t know of.
Jack looked from Addy back to Heather, "With all due respect, Miss Heather, I didn’t notice you were pregnant at all last year."
Heather looked a little taken aback, but then politely responded, "You’re right. This child isn’t mine."
"Is he related?" Jack asked.
"No... it’s a long story, but I found him abandoned a few days ago and feel like I should be the one to raise him." Heather replied, feeling a little bit probed.
"Well, I’m sure you’ll make a fine mother."
"Thank you." Heather replied. She broke eye contact with Jack in favor of attending to her adopted son.
Jack nodded and returned to his post. There were usually monsters on the road. They weren’t typically very strong, in which case Jack’s services sufficed in protecting the goods and the passengers. If a powerful monster that he couldn’t kill approached the caravan, he knew that he would be expected to jump off the wagon and distract the attacker while the driver got the merchandise to safety. In the event that Jack failed at this task yet made it back to town, he would be shunned by the community and forced to fend for himself, which would ultimately mean a death sentence. Being a shotgun was indeed a rough life.
Heather started to bounce and placate little Addy. He stopped crying and started cooing for a few minutes. Heather started to rock him back and forth in an effort to put him back to sleep. Addy closed his eyes within minutes. "You are just the most adorable little thing!!!" Heather whispered.
Addy wasn’t quite asleep, in spite of his eyes being closed. His thoughts were now on how annoyed he was with Heather. It wasn’t the fact that Addy disliked the woman, in fact he thought her very beautiful and she would have definitely caught his eye were he not in this current predicament. The truth was that he wasn’t really an infant at all. He had once been a hulking giant of a man, over six feet tall with very bulky muscles, and a yell so fierce that it could strike fear in the hearts of any who heard him. The fact that he could now fit in a somewhat small woman’s lap and cried in response to hunger or any need he couldn’t fulfill on his own was very humiliating to him to say the least. He drifted into deep thought as the caravan moved on in relative silence.
It was a dark, starless night. Adrul had been accustomed to seeing in spite of this, but he had to focus a lot harder. When he saw that he had approached the tavern, he left his mount at the stable where a boy who didn’t look a day over eighteen tended to it. He silently entered the tavern. If all went well, he would leave with his pockets lined with loot.
He was careful not to make too big an entrance, Demon Hunters, or just Hunters for short, were a feared people. He knew from experience that if he brought too much attention to himself, he would have all eyes on him, which, in turn, would scare away his client. One glance at his Cursed Blade could send any onlooker running in the opposite direction. Hell, if he spoke at all it would send shivers down any normal man’s spine. With one word, he could completely empty out the Tavern and scavenge the place of valuables. In spite of this power, Adrul knew that there would be a bounty on his head if he abused his talents in such a manner, which another Hunter would be more than willing to hunt, which Adrul knew all too well from his share of hunts for rogue Hunters.
Careful to keep his hood up, he approached the bartender and in as quiet and low a voice as he could, he asked where he could find a Mr Gilis, which the bartender only answered with a point, equally fearful of drawing attention to the stranger in the bar, for he too had had his share of experiences with Hunters.
Adrul found the old man telling tales of Before. Adrul hated the tales himself; belief that the world used to have such technology that even common-folk had three square meals a day and the most impressive conveniences with a touch of a fingertip was very nonsensical as far as he was concerned. All that concerned him was that man had to offer him tonight.
Adrul made direct eye contact with him, which cut him off. The man felt a sense of dread that accompanied being approached by a Hunter. Mr. Gilis fell silent as fear gripped him; he almost felt strangled as Adrul’s eyes seemingly tore into him. Not wanting to cause any further panic, Adrul pointed outside, signalling that they would speak out there.
Gilis slowly looked up from his booze. “Ah, yes.” he said nervously as he turned to the other guys with whom he was sharing drinks, “Sorry boys, but I must go now. I will be back.” Gilis slowly got up from the table and followed Adrul outside.
Once they were outside, Adrul cut to the chase. He lowered his hood to reveal very shaggy long hair and a very unkempt beard. His most distinguishing feature was his black, soulless eyes, which could paralyze men with fear. He cleared his throat before hissing in a very low voice, “I’m here for the mark. Half up front or I walk away and you’ll never see or hear from me again.”
Gilis nervously scratched his head. He had hoped to avoid discussing the payment entirely, but it had been two months since he’d posted the bounty and plenty of people that he knew had already gone missing. “Th-that’s a lot of g-g-gold considering you haven’t done the j-j-j-job yet. Th-th-this is a very fierce W-witch we’re dealing with here.” In spite of his many rehearsals, Gilis found negotiating with a Hunter was no simple matter. Adrul’s very aura was one that suggested that he was not one to be triffled with.
Adrul glared into Gilis’s eyes, making him stagger backward, "Half up front. I am familiar with these tricks."
“I-I-I cannot pay you up f-front. P-please, vanquish the Witch Lucinda, and then I shall pay you in f-f-full.” Adrul didn’t know which he hated more, Gilis’s stuttering or the fact that he was trying to take advantage of him. It was a very common trick of which Hunters had to be wary. If they hunted the mark without being fronted a certain amount then chances were very high that the client wouldn’t pay, in which case the Hunter would either be forced to pillage a town or make it on his own in the wild, which would usually spell out certain death either way. Considering Adrul’s funds were running low, he didn’t have the option of walking away.
Adrul turned around and began to walk. He’d simply have to look for other marks. Desperate, Gilis grabbed his arm and let go as fast as he had taken it. The Hunter turned around and looked at the man cowering behind him.
The old man sighed. He produced a bag of coins from his pocket. “Here,” he said, tossing the bag to the Hunter, “that’s not quite half, but should you return with Lucinda’s head, you will receive double that amount.”
Adrul weighed the bag in his hand and scowled. He doubted it was anywhere close to the amount that “half” was, but still... in all honesty he’d been very low on funds for months and couldn’t afford not to take the job. “Triple this amount." Gilis cringed, but Adrul continued, "I’ll take your job, but there will be the devil to pay if you don’t have my money ready for me when I get back.” With that he walked off towards the stable to retrieve his horse as Gilis nervously walked back into the tavern.
Adrul crouched in the shadows as he stalked his prey. The witch seemed a bit young to have warranted such a huge bounty, but then again, just about every hunt had its surprises, this was a fairly small one by comparison to previous battles. He’d just wait for now. If he caught her completely off guard then this would be a lot easier. Ideally he’d wait for her to start spell-casting before he attacked. She would either have to finish the spell or it would be interrupted and she would have to quit casting, but both consumed a heavy toll on a witch’s mind, which would slow her down. Adrul waited for such an opportune chance to strike.
“Lucinda...” a raspy voice came from just beyond the young witch, causing her to turn around.
“Yes, Ceser, what is it?” she gave it her complete, undivided attention.
“My lord will see you now,” it hissed. Adrul could finally make out that it was just a lowly imp. He’d wanted to wait until Lucinda had started a spell before he’d engage, but seeing as she was about to leave through a portal that the imp had opened, he realized this was no longer possible. Figuring he could take them both on. He gave his usual battle cry. Both the imp and the Witch froze in fear. Adrul charged from the shadows where he had been hiding.
The imp and the Witch, both frightened, turned their attention toward the charging hooded figure. The imp’s movements were locked by its fear of a vastly superior being. The Witch showed the same signs of submission that had gripped the imp, but in spite of the easy targets Adrul felt uneasy. Witches were supposed to be able to put up more of a fight than that. As Adrul closed the gap between him and his prey, without warning the Witch seemingly broke free of his aura and exerted some of her own onto him as she locked eyes with his own. Adrul was now the one who could not move his body.
She looked into his black eyes with her glowing green eyes. “Hunter, I will say this but once. Now is your chance to flee. I will not be this patient for long.” the imp and the hunter both stared at her, surprised at her resilience to Adrul’s presence.
Adrul snapped out of his daze; this was the first time he’d exerted his aura only to be resisted by the target, “Not before I take your head!!!” he roared. Imps were mere vultures of the demonic forces, so he could just ignore it until his battle with Lucinda was over. It wouldn’t even be able to flee because of its lack of power over his own.
The witch shot lightning from her fingertips to Adrul’s chest, which he easily deflected with his Cursed Blade. The lightning flew back towards Lucinda, which she simply caught in her palm. “You’ve had your warning,” she grinned. Chills ran down Adrul’s spine
As Adrul held Lucinda’s gaze, he noticed a change in her eyes... they were darkening. Her skin turned completely pale and her hair shortened to shoulder length. Her eyes were now the same soulless shade of black that any Hunter’s would be, except they spelled out absolute despair for those who chanced to look into them. This was no Witch. He was fighting a Sorceress. Adrul froze. Witches were weak enough to fight alone, but fighting a Sorceress typically required a team of Hunters which took a lot of time to assemble and was near impossible to do, even for nobility. Adrul had only fought a Sorceress once, but he’d seen comrades die right before his soulless eyes, and he’d narrowly escaped with his life. Sorceresses were avatars of the demons, their power almost rivaling those atrocities. Adrul charged at the Sorceress, knowing any attempt at anything else would be futile. He knew that she could obliterate him with one word were he to turn his back on her, seeing as there was nothing else that required her attention.
As Adrul was forced back by a very strong sudden gust, he noticed the sparks forming at the Sorceress’s fingertips, bracing himself for impact, Adrul readied his sword to deflect the lightning as he had done before. The Sorceress let out a very shrill, disheartening laugh, "Little one, your weapon, nay your very presence is as insignificant to me as a fly is to you," Adrul tried to pay her no heed, and kept charging, he was almost within striking distance, "What you see here now is but a small portion of my power." The sparks joined at her fingertips, these were smaller than the sparks she had sent his way before, which made Adrul think she may not be as powerful as a typical sorceress, which gave him a false sense of hope.
She was now at arms’ reach. Adrul let down his Cursed Blade in a powerful slash, just as the Sorceress sent one tiny spark at him. Not fearing such a small attack, Adrul proceeded to slash through it.
The next thing Adrul knew, he was at the other end of the cave. The spark had been absorbed by his sword and sent him flying. As much as he tried, Adrul could no longer move. He was paralyzed. The paralysis would wear off, given time, but against a Sorceress the seconds of immobility meant the victory was her’s.
The sorceress laughed at the stunned heap across the cave, "I have mastery of the Dark Arts and you... you only know how to use them as if they were mere tools. Did you honestly think you stood a chance? You truly humor me, Hunter. Now die."
“Y-you’re the Sorceress Vanessia!!!” the imp squealed. Vanessia turned her attention toward the lowly creature.
."Ah, yes, I would have forgotten all about you." The sorceress cackled. Her laughter could be heard throughout the cave. Her laughter would be enough to give any living creature a heart attack from the shrillness and fear it instilled.
The imp whimpered as the air surrounding it grew thicker and thicker, "Oh, please no, I swear my allegiance to you!" The air surrounding it continued to thicken.as if its pleas fell on deaf ears, "No, NO!!!" Without warning the imp popped. Instead of gory organs spewing from its corpse it turned into a puff of smoke, which Vanessia inhaled through her nostrils.
"Ahh, that’s refreshing." She turned her attention back to Adrul."You’ve interfered with my hunt,” she spat at her victim. “I honestly don’t know what I should do with you... kill you here on the spot, make you suffer... on the other hand I could always use a comrade. Someone of your caliber should make a decent champion.”
Adrul almost couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Be a lapdog to a sorceress? He would rather die. With all his might, he sprang to his feet, gave a deafening, ear-splitting, bone-chilling shout, and charged, for what he knew would be the last time. Pride be damned, if he was going down, this was how it was going to end.
Vanessia shook her head. “You would have made a fine ally, but I suppose I have no other choice.” What could only be described as black ribbons materialized out of thin air and wrapped themselves around Adrul’s wrists and ankles. He tried to snap them with sheer force, but they would not break. By the time he tried to cut them, they had already worked their way down his arms and up his legs, making control of his limbs impossible for him. Adrul dropped his sword again as the restraints tightened. Vanessia smirked triumphantly at his capture as his bonds engulfed his whole body.
Adrul could neither breathe nor speak, he felt suffocated beneath the strange material summoned to subdue him.
Vanessia picked up Adrul’s Cursed Blade. “I’ve seen one of these before. No normal human can handle one and the very sight of it is enough to send a chill down their spine, most would even flee before the sight of it." She held it up closer for a more thorough examination, "You killed your master, didn’t you?”
Adrul turned pale. It was a closely guarded secret that Hunters contracted with Demons for the power to kill them. Most Hunters were slaves to other Demons, but Adrul had managed to kill the Demon that lorded over him. Adrul was finally terrified of her. Vanessia must have tortured many other Hunters to get this information.
“How ironic would it be if a Hunter were found, impaled by his own sword?” she gave a wry laugh and aimed the tip at his chest.
Adrul just couldn’t do anything about his impending doom. He braced himself for his last moment. Seconds seemed to last forever as he waited for his own sword to pierce his heart. As the Sorceress brought the blade closer and closer, Adrul resigned himself to his defeat. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable.
"NOOOO!!!!" he heard Vanessia shriek. A brilliant white light started to envelope her. The Sorceress seemed to disintegrate as the light engulfed her. Soon the Sorceress was gone and all that remained was the light. Adrul’s bindings disappeared, but he was now captivated by the brilliant, white light. Never before had he heard of such a miracle.
The voice that spoke was very powerful. Adrul didn’t feel fear, but awe, as it spoke, "I do not have much time," it said, "my presence in this world is very limited. Brave soul, I thank you for your intervention, but I am afraid I cannot let you go." Adrul couldn’t even think a response or wonder what the voice of the light meant, he was simply captivated as it continued, "I have never done such a horrid act before, but know that I am sorry."
Adrul was simply bewildered as the light seemed to flow into his body. It felt very warm as all the pains of his plagued existance seemed to wash away. Adrul fell into a very deep, restful sleep.
When Adrul came to, he was lying on the flat of his back, the light engulfing the sorceress nothing more than a fading dream to him. He had to struggle in order to piece his memory back together. He recalled his life as a soldier, then as a Hunter, moments later he realized he was on a hunt and had not yet vanquished his quarry.
Adrul tried to get up, but he just couldn’t coordinate his arms and legs to perform such a feat. He looked around the dimly lit cave. His attention was caught by a fairly short, blond-haired woman, who, like he, was passed out on the floor. He stared at her until she woke up.
The woman woke with a start. "Oh god, what am I doing in this place!" she moaned after looking around.
Adrul tried to tell her about the sorceress, but all he heard himself say was "Aaaaa", which drew the woman’s attention.
"Oh, my..." She rushed over to Adrul’s side as he began to cry, "You poor little baby." She picked up Adrul, careful to support his neck. "I bet this was one of those Witch attacks," she muttered to herself as she cradled the crying infant Adrul to her chest, "I bet they killed this poor little guy’s parents." Adrul’s sobs got louder as the gravity of his situation began to hit home. He was now... a baby.
She rocked Adrul back and forth, "Don’t worry, little guy. I’ll take you with me. You’ll be my baby now." Adrul only cried louder upon hearing those words. He could not be a baby! What sorcery was this? Sorceresses were not known to take prisoners, let alone rewind an adversary’s life. "Hush, hush, hush, SHHhhh!!! Make too much noise and the Witches will come back for us. You just sleep and let Mommy worry about getting us out of here." she whispered. Those words weren’t very reassuring to Adrul, but he did recognize that they did not want to be discovered by Vanessia, so he fell silent as his new mother made her way into town and sought a caravan by which to travel home.
Addy started wailing again after he’d gone over his scenario another time. It just didn’t make any sense to him. He had never heard of Sorceresses having the ability to transform people into something else. He didn’t even see what Vanessia had to gain from such an act, or what a sorceress was even doing in the company of an imp. He opened his eyes and looked around the caravan at the other travelors.
"Just go back to sleep, little one." Heather said as she stroked his head. Addy knew he shouldn’t let himself get lulled into a sense of complacency, but at this point he just couldn’t help it. He cherished the gentle touch of apparently the one friend he had left in this world as she rocked him to sleep as they traveled the rest of the way home.
NEXT: CH2: New Battle
Stories of Age/Time Transformation